Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who happens to head the House Oversight Committee, jumped to the defense of Donald Trump’s complete lack of ethics in order to instead attack the ethics watchdog, Director of Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub.
Because Schaub criticized Trump over his plan to deal with his multitudinous conflicts of interest, Chaffetz has threatened to subpoena him, claiming, outrageously,
“He seems to be acting prematurely at best, without doing investigations or thorough looks. He’s rendering opinions publicly that really cause you to scratch your head. We need the Office of Government Ethics to act ethically. Ironically, that’s not what they’re doing.”
A remarkable statement indeed coming from the party that has refused to pursue any kind of investigation of Trump or his cabinet appointees.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took a strong stance, issuing a statement condemning Chaffetz’s attempt to bully the ethics office:
“The Republicans are at it again, filling the swamp instead of draining it. First, House Republicans tried to gut the Office of Congressional ethics. Now they’re trying to handcuff the Office of Government ethics. Mr. Chaffetz’s attempt to bully Mr. Shaub out of doing his job are absolutely despicable.
“During his service, which began under Bush and continued under both political parties, Mr. Shaub and the Office of Government ethics have worked diligently and in a nonpartisan way to ensure that the individuals working in our government are serving the American people, not their own bottom line. Few have tried to drain the swamp more than Mr. Shaub, and he did it equally well under Democratic and Republican administrations.
“House republicans know they’re in a pickle. The President-elect has refused to divest from his business, and has nominated people for cabinet posts who have made billions from the industries they would be charged with regulating, making this office more important than ever.
“Mr. Chaffetz’s attempt to intimidate the office is deplorable, and would be a distraction that would make it harder for OGE to do it’s already difficult job. It is totally out of line when Americans want clean and accountable government. Mr. Chaffetz should instead focus on his job and let Mr. Shaub and OGE focus on theirs.”
This action by Chaffetz has naturally caused some consternation from people who understand the value of actually having ethics. For example, the American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein, who tweeted:
It is nothing short of outrageous thuggish behavior for Chaffetz to move to intimidate independent ethics officer. Protecting kleptocracy https://t.co/My030bD0RT
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) January 13, 2017
When Chaffetz claims, “We need a fair person behind the plate that’s going to call balls and strikes,” what he is really saying is that we need a Trump apologist. You will remember that Chaffetz is the de-boned chicken who claimed during the campaign that voting for Trump didn’t mean he was endorsing him.
After making a fuss about Hillary Clinton’s private email server, he is also the guy who turned out to have one himself, and to have been reported because of it to the FBI, an exercise, perhaps, in futility, given the FBI’s own very public endorsement of Donald Trump.
It would be nice if Chaffetz had the same expectations of Donald Trump as Republicans and Democrats both have had of past presidents, including Barack Obama, but as PFAW’s Marge Baker puts it,
“Trump refuses to put American interests first by adhering to the same ethical standards as his predecessors.”
And Chaffetz is proving eager to enable that behavior and to silence those who rightly criticize it, even those whose job it is to do so.
As Mindy Finn, Evan McMullin’s VP pick asked, “Why would @jasoninthehouse come down on the ethics watchdog and not the ethics offender?” Because, as Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert says, “Jason Chaffetz is exactly who you thought he was.”
And it is impossible, by the way, to make that sound like a good thing.
The problem is not the Office of Government Ethics or its director, but Donald Trump’s lack of ethics and Jason Chaffetz’s attempt to muzzle anyone who dares say so.
Though the GOP as a whole has not done this for the eight years of the Obama presidency, as Chuck Schumer says, Chaffetz should “focus on his job and let the OGE focus on theirs.”
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.