White House blasts GOP for ethics moves, says senators formed 'cheap suit caucus'

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest escalated his post-election criticism of Donald Trump, insisting it was plainly obvious to the Republican's team that Russia was interfering in the US election to bolster their chances of victory.

Story highlights

  • Democrats complained Trump's Cabinet picks had not disclosed enough information
  • A slate of confirmation hearings is set to begin this week

(CNN)The White House lambasted Senate Republicans Monday for allowing confirmation hearings to proceed on some of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees before their government ethics vetting is complete.

Calling such a move a disservice to the American people, White House spokesman Josh Earnest declared GOP lawmakers were buckling under pressure from the soon-to-be Republican president.
"It does appear now that Republicans in the Senate are forming their own 'cheap suit caucus.' That's not a commentary on their wardrobe, it's a commentary on the fact they are folding and rubber stamping ... the nominees of the incoming Trump administration," Earnest said, suggesting the moves run counter to Trump's campaign message.
    "It sounds like a lot of Americans who voted to drain the swamp aren't getting what they hoped for, even before their guy takes office," he said.
    Democrats complained over the weekend that Senate Republicans, in conjunction with Trump's transition team, were rushing the confirmations of key Cabinet picks before the required vetting by the Office of Government Ethics.
    A slate of confirmation hearings is set to begin this week for the nominees Trump has put forward, many of whom come with complex financial holdings. The ethics panel said it hasn't yet certified the paperwork that's been filed for many of the nominees.
    Democrats in a letter said the front-loaded schedule of confirmation hearings had "created undue pressure on OGE's staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews."
    Trump's transition countered that all the required paperwork was filed, and that final certification from the ethics office wasn't required for the hearings to proceed.
    "Everyone who has a hearing this week has their paperwork in," Sean Spicer, a transition spokesman and the incoming White House press secretary, said Monday.
    Earnest insisted that some of Trump's nominees carry "obvious conflicts of interest" and that it was an "egregious" breach of precedent to hold hearings before the ethics office signed off on disclosure paperwork.
    He sought to contrast the Obama administration's own record on ethics when asked about the prospects of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner assuming a senior role in the West Wing. Federal anti-nepotism laws bar federal managers from hiring a relative.
    "I'll let President-elect Trump select whomever he would like to have around him, and obviously that's what he will do," Earnest said. "I can tell you President Obama, and all of us who served on his senior staff here at the White House, went to great lengths to comply with the strict ethical requirements that the American people people expect from the people who are entrusted with so much authority."
    He said Obama's team took steps to "not just abide by the letter of the law when it comes to ethics, but actually to aspire to a higher standard."