Alex Brandon / AP
This year has been a dismal one for ethics in Washington. Even without a repeat of the 2017 tide of sexual harassment cases in Mueller investigation, the D.C. "Swamp" remains as stagnant as ever.
Secretary David Shulkin at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Ryan Zinke at Interior and Administrator Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Shulkin gets into trouble first, over the winter. Lawmakers faulted him for vacationing, on the government's tab, in between two important conferences. Hey what's apologetic, telling a house committee, "I do not accept the optics of this, I accept responsibility for that."
Colorado GOP Rep. Mike Coffman snapped back at that: "It's not the optics that are good."
Besides the travel issue, another factor was at play here. Shulkin had been forced to privatize some veterans services. He told NPR after his dismissal that political adversaries in the White House kept him from defending himself in the scandal.
Trump's nominee to succeed Shulkin was unlikely pick: the president's personal physician, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson.
He withdrew when he was questioned about his professional behavior, and said he was worried. Finally Trump himself ushered Jackson out the door by bad-mouthing the job. He told reporters, "Adm Jackson, Dr. Jackson is a wonderful man."
Meanwhile, Pruitt sets out more than a dozen ethics investigations. Among the issues: flying first class against federal regulations; using his 24-hour security detail – himself an unusual arrangement for Cabinet officers – to take him or her across town with sirens and lights going; constructing a soundproof booth built in his office, costing $ 43,000;
Pruitt, in an interview with Ed Henry Fox News, said he was under attack because he was so effective. With the changes he brought to EPA, he said, "worldviews clash." That's clearing the swamp. " After Pruitt's departure, the most intensely investigated Cabinet member was Zinke. Allegations against him (noun, feminine) The halliburton.
Zinke's final error may have come in late November. Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat, has written that Zinke should resign immediately, and Zinke tweeted about Grijalva, "without explanation.
prong sent the tweet Nov. 30. Trump announced Zinke's resignation Dec. 15. Grijalva is expected to become chair of the House's Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Interior Department, in January.
Law professor Kathleen Clark, who studies ethics in government at Washington University in St Louis, said the procession of problematic appointees, combined with the administration's other ethical problems, leads to a clear conclusion: "The tone from the top of this administration is quite clear And it's contempt for ethics standards.