The way the Obama administration is acting in its final days reminds one of a wounded beast in its death throes. It knows it has been turned out of office but it is doing its level best to damage the incoming administration to the greatest extent possible. For instance:
The director of the federal Office of Government Ethics Office on Saturday accused Senate Republicans of rushing confirmations for nominees in President-elect Trump’s administration.
In a letter to leading Senate Democrats, Walter Shaub, Jr., the ethics office director, and the busy hearing schedule had overwhelmed his office. He said it had not completed doing ethics screening reviews on several nominees, which he described as a concern.
“As OGE’s director, the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me,” Walter Shaub, Jr., said in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Saturday. “This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.”
Shaub’s letter to the senators comes just days before the Senate is set to hold a flurry of confirmation hearings beginning on Tuesday. In the letter, Shaub said that the schedule could leave some nominees with “potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues.”
Despite the lofty and noble sounding title, keep two issues in mind. Shaub is a political appointee of Barack Obama. This letter was addressed to Democrats, not the actual leadership of the Senate. McConnell is only on the .cc line. Shaub, is, if you recall, the guy who used the official account of his agency to troll Donald Trump, the president-elect:
At the time he knew Trump had not engaged in any divestiture and had said, accurately, that the President is not covered by OGE rules.
Shaub actually has no statutory authority to intervene in the confirmation process. His office has no legal role in “clearing” nominees. Clearing nominees is done by the Senate. The sole function of that office is to ensure that government employees covered by the ethics statue comply with the substance of the act, that is, avoiding conflicts of interest, and file the appropriate paperwork. The only legal requirement is simply that the appropriate reports be filed:
5 U.S.C. app. § 101. Persons required to file
(a) Within thirty days of assuming the position of an officer or employee described in subsection (f), an individual shall file a report containing the information described in section
102(b) unless the individual has left another position described in subsection (f) within thirty days prior to assuming such new position or has already filed a report under this title with
respect to nomination for the new position or as a candidate for the position.
Those “employee[s] described in subsection (f)” are the appointees Shaub is bitching about. Their legal requirement is to file forms within 30 days of being confirmed. And then to conform to the directives and advice the OGE gives them if their are real or potential conflicts.
“I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process,” he said.
This is a statement that The Hill helpfully points out is bullsh**.
The upcoming whirlwind of hearings isn’t the first time the Senate has pushed for such quick confirmations. In 2009, the Democratically controlled Senate confirmed seven of President Barack Obama’s cabinet picks in a single day.
And this is the closing paragraph
SPOILER. Shaub leaves his job on January 20 with the rest of the Obama trash.
This is all pretty amusing coming from the office that decided the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s speechifying presented No ethical dilemma for Hillary Clinton.
Conflicts of interest are not trivial. If conflicts of interest are discovered after confirmation they are still required to be fixed or you lose your job and maybe end up in jail. The law doesn’t give you safe harbor because you sneaked past the confirmation hearing. If a Senate committee feels that the information it has is insufficient for confirmation, well, they can wait until they get the information. The OGE has no role in this process beyond ensuring ethics laws are followed unless the Senate decides to give it one.
What Shaub is doing is crying because he doesn’t have enough time to use his federal staff to dig up oppo for confirmation hearings.