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Republicans Lash Out at Head of Ethics Office Instead of Pressing Trump to Comply with Constitution

Adam Lioz

In a scary indication of just how far Republicans will go to carry water for Donald Trump, high-level party figures are now trying to bully the head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE)—the obscure agency responsible for helping government officials comply with ethics laws.

The head of the Republican Party is the most ethically-challenged and unpopular President-Elect in modern history. Last week Trump announced that he would take no meaningful steps to resolve the unprecedented tangle of conflicts that have put him on a crash course with the U.S. Constitution, which he will violate the moment he takes office.

In response, OGE Director Walter Shaub spoke up to point out that Trump’s plan is wholly inadequate and “doesn’t meet the standard…that every president in the past four decades has met,” which is a consensus among ethics experts.

Trump Republicans didn’t like this one bit.

Sunday, Trump’s incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus threatened Shaub on ABC’s This Week, in a move that Obama’s and Bush’s ethics chiefs took to the Washington Post to label “something out of a gangster B-movie.”

Priebus’s pointed words come on the heels of a similar attack by Republican House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz, who sent Shaub a threatening letter on Thursday.

Public interest groups—including Demos—have responded with a letter to Chaffetz and another to Priebus calling out their outrageous threats and urging them to focus on pushing Trump to actually resolve his dizzying conflicts rather than attacking the messenger.

House Republicans could be working to reassure the American people that disregard for moral principle and untainted public service is a bug, not a feature of the party brand. They could be stepping up to press Trump to resolve his litany of business conflicts and foreign entanglements and leading by example in their own affairs. 

They’ve instead chosen to embrace Trumpian ethics: might makes right, no accountability, principle be damned.

On Congress’ first day back in session, House Republicans tried to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics and were thwarted only by swift and strong blowback from constituents. Now they are attacking the Office of Government Ethics.

This is not a party that wants to drain the swamp.