Trump picks crit­i­cized for ‘slow walk­ing’ dis­clo­sures

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

Se­nate Democrats sounded alarms Thurs­day that Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nees are “slow walk­ing” ethics and fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures, set­ting the stage for con­fir­ma­tion fights next month and prompt­ing Repub­li­cans to charge Demo­cratic coun­ter­parts with im­pos­ing un­prece­dented lev­els of scru­tiny.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer and the rank­ing mem­bers of 16 Se­nate com­mit­tees is­sued a joint state­ment de­mand­ing that be­fore nom­i­nees ad­vance in com­mit­tee they clear FBI back­ground checks, pro­vide com­plete fi­nance dis­clo­sures and signed ethics agree­ments and sat­isfy “rea­son­able re­quests for ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion.”

“The United States Se­nate has a rich, bi­par­ti­san tra­di­tion of vet­ting nom­i­nees to the Pres­i­dent’s Cabi­net. We hope

to con­tinue that tra­di­tion with our col­leagues in the Repub­li­can Ma­jor­ity be­cause the Amer­i­can peo­ple are en­ti­tled to a fair and open con­sid­er­a­tion process for all ex­ec­u­tive nom­i­na­tions,” said the state­ment.

The sen­a­tors’ said their claim that the nom­i­nees were “slow walk­ing” dis­clo­sures was based on a re­port this week in The New York Times. The re­port promi­nently fea­tured com­ments by Mr. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, who ex­pressed con­cerns about sev­eral of the nom­i­nees’ com­plex fi­nan­cial hold­ings and the need to turn over rel­e­vant fi­nan­cial and back­ground in­for­ma­tion.

Repub­li­cans coun­tered that Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nees are com­ply­ing with the same re­quire­ments pre­vi­ously ap­plied to Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­nees.

Sen. Bob Corker, chair­man of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on For­eign Re­la­tions, said he was “deeply dis­ap­pointed my col­leagues con­tinue to im­ply other­wise.”

Democrats face an up­hill bat­tle to block the nom­i­nees, how­ever, be­cause Mr. Trump’s picks can win con­fir­ma­tion with a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote in the Repub­li­can-run cham­ber.

Still, the Democrats’ early ma­neu­vers ap­peared de­signed to counter Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell’s prom­ise for swift ac­tion on nom­i­na­tions.

McCon­nell spokesman Don Ste­wart said Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nees de­serve the same treat­ment Mr. Obama’s nom­i­nees re­ceived when he first took of­fice and Democrats ran the Se­nate.

“When Pres­i­dent Obama was elected, Repub­li­cans and Democrats worked to­gether and ex­pe­di­tiously to care­fully con­sider his nom­i­nees. The Se­nate held hear­ings on mul­ti­ple nom­i­nees be­fore he was even sworn in,” Mr. Ste­wart said.

“The Se­nate con­firmed seven of his nom­i­nees on Day One — and nearly all were con­firmed within two weeks. Sen. Schumer and oth­ers ap­proved whole­heart­edly of this ap­proach at the time, so surely they won’t ob­ject to treat­ing the in­com­ing pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nees with the same cour­tesy and se­ri­ous­ness with which the Se­nate acted on Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­nees,” he said. “Our com­mit­tees and chair­men are fully ca­pa­ble of re­view­ing the in­com­ing Cabi­net nom­i­na­tions with the same rules and pro­ce­dures as the same com­mit­tees did with Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tions.”

Democrats have raised ob­jec­tions to the bil­lion­aires tapped for Mr. Trump’s Cabi­net, in­clud­ing Steven Mnuchin for trea­sury sec­re­tary, Wil­bur Ross for com­merce sec­re­tary and Betsy DeVos for ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary.

Lib­eral groups moved against At­tor­ney Gen­er­aldes­ig­nate Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, ac­cus­ing him of be­ing a racist. But the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee ap­peared poised to quickly ad­vance the nom­i­na­tion, with Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can, sched­ul­ing a hear­ing be­fore the Jan. 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion.

In the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, rank­ing mem­ber Sen. Ben­jamin L. Cardin crit­i­cized Sec­re­tary of State-des­ig­nate Rex Tiller­son for not com­ply­ing with a request to sub­mit his tax returns from the last three years.

“I think it is an im­por­tant part of vet­ting this can­di­date be­cause he has never made pub­lic dis­clo­sures of this type, as he has worked at ExxonMo­bil for his en­tire ca­reer and has never been in pub­lic ser­vice,” said Mr. Cardin, a Mary­land Demo­crat. The request was re­buffed by Mr. Corker. “As is long-stand­ing prece­dent for nom­i­nees con­sid­ered by the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, the com­mit­tee has not asked Mr. Tiller­son to pro­vide copies of his tax returns,” said the Ten­nessee Repub­li­can. “By all ac­counts, Mr. Tiller­son is cur­rently ahead of schedule in pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion to the com­mit­tee. He al­ready has sub­mit­ted a com­pleted nom­i­nee ques­tion­naire and will soon sub­mit an ex­ten­sive fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure.”

Tax returns are not typ­i­cally re­quired of all Cabi­net nom­i­nees, though Se­nate Democrats have pro­posed mak­ing such dis­clo­sures a re­quire­ment in re­sponse to Mr. Trump’s picks.

Nom­i­nees for trea­sury sec­re­tary, how­ever, are typ­i­cally re­quested to sup­ply three years of tax returns.

Mr. Mnuchin, the hedge fund man­ager who helped craft Mr. Trump’s tax re­form agenda and has been tapped for trea­sury, filed three years of tax returns and a com­pleted ques­tion­naire this week, ac­cord­ing to the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Fi­nance.

“Prior to his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, he will go through the same ethics and FBI checks as pre­vi­ous sec­re­tary of state nom­i­nees. That has al­ways been the plan, it is al­ready in progress, and I am deeply dis­ap­pointed my col­leagues con­tinue to im­ply other­wise,” Mr. Corker said. “Our com­mit­tee will carry out ex­actly the same pro­ce­dures for Mr. Tiller­son’s nom­i­na­tion that have been car­ried out since well be­fore I joined the com­mit­tee 10 years ago.”

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