Questions get uncomfortable for Trump nominees

WASHINGTON • As if being thoroughly grilled in their senate confirmation hearings was not enough, some of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet picks have now come under fire for ethical issues that could derail their nominations.

The most serious concerns raised on Wednesday surround personal investments by Mr Trump's health and human services nominee, Mr Tom Price, in healthcare companies that benefited from legislation that he was pushing at the time.

Mr Mick Mulvaney, Mr Trump's choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, has acknowledged that he failed to pay more than US$15,000 (S$21,450) in taxes for a household employee.

Meanwhile, Commerce Department nominee Wilbur Ross revealed that one of the "dozen or so" housekeepers he has hired since 2009 was undocumented. The employee was fired as a result, he added.

And the Democrats are set to keep up the pressure. When plagiarism charges surfaced against conservative pundit Monica Crowley, whom Mr Trump had named senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, the evidence and pressure accumulated until she announced on Monday that she would relinquish the post.

Questions are growing most rapidly around Mr Price whose investments, according to senate minority leader Charles Schumer, appear to show "a clear and troubling pattern".

In addition to fielding complaints that background checks and financial disclosures have not been prepared in time, the nominees are also being criticised for lacking depth in their knowledge of the policy areas of the Cabinet departments they will run.

Billionaire school choice activist and nominee for education secretary Betsy DeVos, for instance, was widely ridiculed for answering a Democratic question about whether it is proper to have guns in school by saying firearms may be needed in places like Wyoming to protect against grizzly bears.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Attorney-General Scott Pruitt, Mr Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, did not know what level of lead consumption would be acceptable for children. There is no safe level of lead.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway accused Democrats of attempting to score political points.

"The idea of humiliating and trying to embarrass qualified men and women who just wish to serve this nation is reprehensible," she said.

WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'Questions get uncomfortable for Trump nominees'. Print Edition | Subscribe