The House Republicans’ move to subjugate the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics — without debate, and in the middle of the night — probably started in December, when longtime political blowhard Newt Gingrich suggested to NPR talk-show host Diane Rehm that the normal rules of presidential ethics don’t apply to Trump, and that, as president, Trump can appoint whomever he wants regardless of ethical concerns.
“He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules.’ Period,” he told Rehm. “Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”
Under the new plan, the ethics office, which since its establishment in 2008 has sent several lobbyists and elected officials to jail, would fall under the purview of the House Committee on Ethics, which is controlled by the party in power and has never sent anyone to jail, not even Charlie Rangel, who probably should have done time.
The story gets more interesting by the minute.
It was rank-and-file House Republicans who set this plan in motion and executed it, against the wishes of GOP leadership like Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to the Washington Post.
But then, on Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that the House GOP should be focusing on tax reform and healthcare instead of weakening the “unfair” independent ethics watchdog. From there, strange things started happening pretty quickly.
Ryan, who was against de-clawing the ethics office, issued a statement an hour after Trump’s tweet defending the action. Interesting, because later in the day the House would hold its election for speaker, which Ryan won just before press time.
At around the same time, House Republicans started backing off their plan, falling in line with their president-elect on this one. And Kellyanne Conway, who at this point is nothing but a Trump spokesperson though she is expected to be in his cabinet, appeared on MSNBC the same day supporting the House Republicans, who by that time had already started singing a different tune. By the time the legislation came up for a vote on Tuesday, all language about the OCE had been removed.
It’s pretty obvious that Trump is just tweeting on the fly here, against even his own self-interests. But the beehive frenzy in the wake of these announcements is fantastical, even if they always seem to happen at press time.