Trump slaps GOP for vote on ethics watchdog

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President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday morning criticized House Republicans for a vote “weakening” Congress’s independent ethics watchdog. 

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!” Trump tweeted, adding the hashtag #DTS — an acronym for drain the swamp, the anti-corruption slogan from Trump’s campaign.

House Republicans voted Monday evening to change the rules governing the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent watchdog agency that the House created in 2008.

The new rules would give the House Ethics Committee oversight of the OCE and address complaints that lawmakers have long had about the office and its operations.

The new rules, passed over the oppositions of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), would restrict the OCE from making public statements, allow the House to halt investigations, and stop anonymous reporting, among other things.


Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stressed during a conference call with reporters Tuesday that Trump is more concerned about the timing of the move than the substance of the plan.

“He says their focus should be on tax reform and healthcare. It’s not a question of strengthening or weakening, it’s a question of priorities,” Spicer said.

The Democratic Party seized on the distinction, blasting Trump for not speaking out against the House’s move.

“To be clear, Donald Trump did not oppose gutting the Congressional ethics watchdog — in fact, he called the office ‘unfair’ and his top advisor defended weakening the program just this morning. Trump just said it was much more urgent for Republicans to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and throw as many as 30 million Americans off their health insurance,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Eric Walker said in a statement.  

“Any comments Donald Trump makes regarding the ethics of public officials must be understood within the context of his own corruption, and taken with a mountain of salt.”

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s incoming White House counselor, downplayed criticism of the Republican move during an interview with MSNBC Tuesday morning. 

While Conway said in the interview three hours before Trump’s tweet that she hadn’t talked to him about the issue, she said it would be to characterize the House’s plan as weakening ethics rules.  
“The abuse of the process has led to some of those being investigated — either House members, or their staffers and witnesses — some have complained they’ve been denied or have had their due process rights compromised,” she said. 
Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spearheaded the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics when she took over the leadership after the 2006 midterm elections. 
As part of her push to clean up corruption in Congress, she promised to “drain the swamp,” according to The Associated Press — the same mantra Trump embraced during his campaign. 
Updated at 11:54 a.m.
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