Trump’s Harshest Official Critic Says Conflict Rules Aren’t Strong Enough to Rein In This White House
Ethics challenges. Ethics watchdog Walter Shaub has had enough. The director of the Office of Government Ethics is resigning, effective July 19. His five-year term was supposed to expire in January 2018. Shaub was one of the few people to publicly confront Trump and his administration. Before the inauguration, he said Trump’s plan for avoiding conflicts of interest “doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the past four decades has met.” He told NPR on Thursday that “the current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is.” The agency can only advise on ethics, not enforce rules. Shaub, an attorney, has accepted a job with the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization of election-law experts, where, Shaub said, “I’ll have more freedom to push for reform. I’ll also be broadening my focus to include ethics issues at all levels of government.” Trump can appoint Shaub’s replacement.
Trump-CNN feud. There’s growing concern that Trump’s war with CNN could escalate beyond insults and Twitter posts. White House advisers have discussed using Trump’s Justice Department as leverage to get CNN President Jeff Zucker fired. Justice is expected to decide within 60 days whether to approve the $85 billion merger between Time Warner and AT&T, according to The New York Times. The Daily Caller reported that the White House won’t support the mega-media deal if Zucker remains atop the news network. In 2004, Zucker was the NBC executive who put Trump’s “The Apprentice” program on the air. When AT&T announced the deal in October, candidate Trump expressed opposition. The deal, he said, would put “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
Nuclear hackers. Hackers working for a foreign government have penetrated the computer networks of a dozen or more U.S. power plants, including a nuclear power plant near Burlington, Kan. The chief suspect is Russia whose hackers have previously taken down parts of the electrical grid in Ukraine. It is unclear whether Trump is planning to address the cyber attacks at his meeting today with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Governor loses. The Democratic-controlled legislature of Illinois delivered a resounding rebuff to the state’s hedge-funder-turned-first-term Republican governor Thursday, overriding his veto and passing its first budget in two years. Ten Republican lawmakers joined with Democrats to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a budget that included a 1.2 percentage-point increase in the state income tax. The state Republican party, which is heavily funded by the billionaire governor, immediately threatened that primary opponents could await GOP lawmakers who broke with the governor. This was the second state-level defeat handed radical Republican governors in recent weeks. The Republican-controlled Kansas legislature agreed to raise revenues by rolling back some of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts.
Trumpcare on life support. Trumpcare is looking like an increasingly bad idea even to extremist Republicans. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who held a town hall Thursday in Palco, Kan., criticized how Senate leaders wrote Trumpcare in secret. Moran was one of only four Republican senators who scheduled town halls during the recess.
Paperwork rules. The commission Trump set up to investigate bogus claims of election fraud may be violating a 1980 law known as the Paperwork Reduction Act. The law requires federal agencies to seek public input before making a request for information. The White House contends that the election commission co-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t subject to the act. Forty-four states led by Republican and Democratic governments and the District of Columbia are resisting turning over information about voter records. Six Republicans and four Democrats are on the commission.