Ethics Questions Still Dogging Trump Nominees

Ethics Questions Still Dogging Trump Nominees

There are more ethical questions about President-elect Trump's Cabinet nominees

Mnuchin, Price, Ross, Mulvaney Run Into Trouble on the Hill

On the last full day of the Obama presidency, Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees are continuing to find some rough going on Capitol Hill. 

And as usual, questions about the nominees’ ethics are front and center. 

As the Senate Finance Committee opened its hearing on Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary-designate, The Washington Post reported that his initial financial disclosure report omitted more than $100 million in personal assets, plus his interest in a Cayman Islands corporation. Mnuchin has since filed an amended report. 

The Treasury nominee also is being grilled about allegations that a bank he owned took unfair advantage of vulnerable homeowners when the housing market crashed in 2007-08. 

Mnuchin is a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund manager who has helped finance several Hollywood films. The Huffington Post reports  that in early questioning, Sen. Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, attacked Mnuchin’s use of Caribbean tax havens to shelter hedge fund profits. 

Over in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry opened his confirmation hearing by retracting and apologizing for his 1912 call for the Energy Department’s abolition. 

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.” 

The then-Texas governor’s presidential campaign imploded when he called for shutting down three Cabinet departments but during a debate could only recall the names of two of them. Energy was the missing link. Perry’s embarrassed “oops” at his memory lapse made him a national laughingstock. 

On Wednesday, three Trump nominees came under questioning on ethics issues.  

  • Rep. Tom Price, R-GA, the Health and Human Services Secretary-designate, is taking fire from Democrats over investments in health care firms that benefited from a bill he was pushing.  

  • Rep. Nick Mulvaney, R-SC, who Trump wants to head the Office of Management and Budget, has acknowledged that he did not pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee. 

  • Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross disclosed that he has fired a housekeeper after discovering that she was an undocumented immigrant.