Scandal, it just seems to be synonymous with the Trump administration. There are 24 members of President Trump’s Cabinet. Nine, or just over one-third, have been implicated in scandals. One, Tom Price, was already forced to resign due to a scandal. If you add in those with suspect backgrounds or who are manifestly unqualified you get to 16 or two-thirds. Let’s explore.
Currently the “leadoff hitter” is HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson; he of the $31,000 dining set and $5,000 chair. His problems are not limited to furniture. Carson also has a nepotism problem with family involved in matters many feel they shouldn’t be. Ethic start at the top in any organization and this administration is no exception.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be in line for criminal charges by Robert Mueller. From his public testimony to Congressional Committees he either is senile or has selective amnesia. Pretending to forget is much like alternative facts – it’s commonly referred to as lying and in the right circumstances that is a felony.
Speaking of credibility and good reputation, (although I’m not sure Sessions ever had the latter), Chief of Staff, John Kelly has lost his. When he was proven to have slandered Florida Representative Frederica Wilson he refused to acknowledge his error or apologize. In my book that turns a possible mistake into an intention lie. Despite several attempts to “set the record straight” in the Rob Porter scandal his timelines still don’t make sense.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin appears to be the classic case of a rich guy that marries a trophy wife knowing he wouldn’t get the time of day from her if it wasn’t for what his money and position can buy. The problem is that Mnuchin overplayed his hand on several occasions and used the government’s dime to entertain/impress his wife.
Perhaps one good thing that has come out of the Trump administration is that more east coast Americans than ever can name the Secretary of the Interior. The problem is that Ryan Zinke is famous because of the scandals he has been involved in. Zinke’s scandals are too numerous to list but here are a few: Whitefish, the seemingly unqualified winner of a no bid contract for part of the Puerto Rico disaster recovery effort that just so happened to be domiciled in Zinke’s hometown. Multiple expensive charter flight with difficult to justify destinations. Several trips that may well have violated the Hatch Act including one encounter with the Las Vegas Knights of the NHL.
That brings me to Scott Pruitt the EPA administrator who has a history of suing the EPA and doesn’t believe in the science that is at the core of the EPA’s mission. As if that wasn’t bad enough Pruitt has a history of flying first class on the government’s dime to avoid the people in coach whose taxes supply those dimes.
The lone Obama-era holdover (at a lower level in the Obama administration) appears to enjoy this administration’s disregard of ethics. Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin apparently thinks the Treasury is his family’s private piggy bank. Shulkin and his wife took a long and expensive European vacation on the government’s dime and came under fire for it.
Unless you include idiocy Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hasn’t been proven to be involved in multiple scandals to date. (Justifying the threatening to start a trade war isn’t scandalous, it is just idiotic.) Ross did lie on his federal filings, (something that is commonplace in this administration). Ross’ real talent appears to be in facilitating international money laundering and that is a snake that will bite him before Russiagate has concluded.
Now I come to the scandal in the Cabinet that hasn’t gotten much press – Vice President Mike Pence’s actions. Pence was the head of the Trump transition team. As such he was ultimately responsible for vetting people. Now, I’m reasonable and didn’t expect Pence to be intimately involved in the vetting of lower level appointees and nominees, but Cabinet level people and National Security Advisors are quite another thing! Remember Mike Flynn, Trump’s first National Security Advisor, was forced to resign 24 days into the job and has subsequently pled guilty to multiple felonies. I have long stated that I don’t think Pence was involved in many of the initial crimes of Russiagate. He joined the campaign too late and was never part of the inner circle. However, only a fool would believe he is not involved in the cover-up.
The “second tier” of Cabinet level officials who are of dubious character, are unquestionably unqualified or both include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (Mrs. Mitch McConnell), Energy Secretary Rick Perry, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and SBA Administrator Linda McMahon. I don’t have time to go into detail about this “sad seven” other than to say their appointments were the fodder of many jokes by late night comedians.
If this represents the Trump promised, “Nothing but the best, the best!” then I have no ability to judge character. I’ll let my readers decide who could put together a better Cabinet, me or the Trump/Pence team. Of course, I wouldn’t be concerned about insulation from the 25th Amendment or be trying to line my pockets.
NOTE: The inspiration for this article was Lydia Wheeler’s article in The Hill entitled: Ethics issues pile up for Trump Cabinet Officials, which was a valuable resource in its writing.
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