Amid Scandals, Report Shows Trump Team Declined Ethics Training

As members of President Donald Trump's team are grilled for lying to Congress, reports reveal that the staff could have used important ethics training during transition.

Having five cabinet members under scrutiny for allegedly misleading Congress seems like a lot, but not for the President Donald Trump administration.

That's because his team rejected a course for senior White House staff, nominees, and political appointees that could have helped them to understand what is expected of them.

The report comes from Politico, and it highlights the Trump administration's disregard for basic governance principles.

The program in question would have cost $1 million, Politico reports. It's designed to prepare officials to work with current laws and executive orders, providing guidance on how to deal with congressional and media pressure and how to navigate the Senate confirmation process.

The program also helps the president's team to better work with lawmakers while also keeping an open line of communication with agencies.

Some of the points stressed in the program, Politico suggests, could have helped the Trump team with the issues that have now become major scandals in the early days of Trump's administration.

Prior to Trump, both the President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush transition teams received the training, which was first authorized in 2000. But once the election was over, Trump and his staff shifted their priorities, declining to take part in it.

“It has been determined that the requirements as defined in the RFQ [request for quotation] do not accurately reflect the current needs of the Presidential Transition Team,” Matthew Gormley, the General Services Administration (GSA) contracting officer, wrote in a Jan. 10 letter to bidders.

“As a result of a change in Presidential Transition Team leadership after the Nov. 8, 2016, election, there have been changes in the PTT’s goals for the political appointee orientation program,” Gormley continued.

This indicated that the change of heart could be due to the shift in transition team leaders, since Vice President Mike Pence took over from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shortly after the election.

Gormley's notice also added that the new team wanted to control “all the speakers and content,” Politico reports.

In a statement to the publication, a White House spokeswoman said that while the Trump transition team declined to take part in the ethics program, “[s]everal sessions on ethics issues were done in the Transition office as a prerequisite to employees being allowed to get on the White House campus for the first time, and get their badges. The Office of the White House Counsel continues to work to provide employees of the Executive Office of the President with direct instruction on the standards they are expected to follow during their employment at the White House.”

Despite having money to spend on the transition, the administration returned millions to the government and slashed this particular program in the process.

Since many Republicans saw the ethics course as wasteful spending, declining to pay for it might have made the Trump team seem austere to conservative supporters. But as Trump now says he's willing to increase spending to the tune of $54 billion just to boost the military, it seems that fiscal conservatism has gone out the window.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Mike Segar

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