Open Thread: An Ethics Win, If We Can Keep It

Despite BettyC’s (quite sensible!) complaints, I choose to believe that scaring the Repubs into dropping their plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics is a victory for us decent Democrats. This is a good Washington Post summary — and if they’d left the last two words off their headline, it’d be even better — “House Republicans back off gutting ethics watchdog after backlash from Trump“:

… In a complete reversal, the House GOP moved to withdraw proposed changes they approved the day before to official rules that would rein in the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). Instead, the House will study changes to the office with an August deadline.

The about-face came hours after Trump took to Twitter to slam House Republicans for voting behind closed doors Monday night in favor of immediately weakening the independent ethics office. The vote defied House GOP leaders and complicated Trump’s “drain the swamp” campaign mantra…

Democrats and other watchdog groups were also critical of the Monday night vote. A coalition of more than a dozen organizations and activists expressed their frustration in a Tuesday morning letter to House Democratic and Republican leadership. Members also faced a barrage of angry phone calls from constituents.

“I can tell you the calls we’ve gotten in my district office and here in Washington surprised me, meaning the numbers of calls. People are just sick and tired,” Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) said of the simmering outrage over the proposed change. “People are just losing confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington.”

In a statement, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “Republicans should remember the strength of public outrage they faced in the space of 12 hours as they scheme to do lasting damage to the health and economic security of millions and millions of hard-working families.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) pushed for the weakening of the OCE on Monday. His office said it would have provided “protections against any disclosures to the public or other government entities.”

A government official familiar with the internal operations of the OCE disputed Goodlatte’s assertion that the amendment would “strengthen” the office.

“Representative Goodlatte’s statement that this is an effort to strengthen ethics is a bald-faced lie,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This will do nothing but weaken the office and weaken ethics in Congress.”…

Also, note that we can use public outrage to leverage the difference between President-Asterisk Trump’s goals, and those of Zombie-Eyed Granny-Starver Paul Ryan and his fellow Repub thieves, fanatics, and grifters…

A timeline, of sorts:

(A whole smorgasboard of mostly-petty illegality, ranging from the classics — travel freebies for Congresscritters’ families, Alan Grayspan’s insufficiently blind hedge funds, special amendments to protect some Texan Repub’s auto dealership — to a guy getting too close to endorsing the video game League of Legends.)


.
Team Trump, lunging for credit:

Yet just an hour or so earlier, TT was all aboard gutting any oversight:


.

Here’s the proposed “Goodlatte Amendment”, for future reference:

67 replies
  1. 1
    Roger Moore says:

    “rank and file GOP members don’t like having the ethics committee around making them feel vulnerable all the time.”

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear!

  2. 2
    Baud says:

    (A whole smorgasboard of mostly-petty illegality, ranging from the classics — travel freebies for Congresscritters’ families, Alan Grayspan’s insufficiently blind hedge funds, special amendments to protect some Texan Repub’s auto dealership — to a guy getting too close to endorsing the video game League of Legends.)

    But no emails. SAD!

  3. 3
    Hunter Gathers says:

    This is somehow Obama’s fault. Everything is.

  4. 4
    dmsilev says:

    Maybe we should empower the Capitol Police to employ stop-and-frisk tactics on the GOP.

  5. 5
    Schlemazel says:

    “People are just losing confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington.”

    Odd that, I have not lost confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington. I have every confidence it will continue its malignant grow with the fertilization provided by the GOP.

  6. 6
    Jeffro says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    This is somehow Obama’s fault. Everything is.

    Have to agree. Just look at how exposed we are to lawnmower deaths under his iron fist!

    More Americans died in domestic terrorist incidents in 2016 than in any year since 2001. However, those 63 deaths, while tragic, are about the same as the number of Americans killed annually by lawn mowers.

    (j/k folks…article details all the good-and-getting-even-better ways Obama is leaving office after eight years)

  7. 7
    bago says:

    Remember, After the revolution, Ethics are going to be the first against the wall!

  8. 8
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    This is a significant win. The Republicans overreached and were forced by an outraged public to retract within 12 hours. Public blowback does have an impact.

    Of course they’ll try again, maybe a little more sneakily next time. But the overreach will continue. They, like scorpions, can’t help themselves. And we, the public, must continue to mount massive resistance. Gutting the ethics office was just the opening salvo in a protracted war, but I believe we can take heart from this outcome.

  9. 9
    hovercraft says:

    @Roger Moore:

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear!

    This is what they keep telling young men of color, when they tell them that stop and frisk is no big deal. How did Peter King of NY vote? He is very gung ho when it comes to spying on muslims, and he is a big fan of profiling. Congresscritters have a high level of corruption, so why not keep them under the microscope?
    Sauce for the……

  10. 10
    GregB says:

    Has anyone dusted off the old chestnut:

    If they have nothing to hide?

  11. 11
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    Speaking of ethics and collective action, the League of Women Voters is supporting a “Call-In Day” to Congress tomorrow to challenge Trump’s conflicts of interest:

    The League is joining with allied organizations for a Hill Call-In Day urging Congress to address President-elect Trump’s unprecedented and unconstitutional conflicts of interest. The calls will support a forthcoming bill from Senator Elizabeth Warren that will require the President to divest ownership of businesses and disclose all business dealings in order to avoid severe unconstitutional conflicts of interest.

    For more background, read what the NYT had to say about these conflicts of interest.

    Congress needs to hear from you. When you act, Congress will listen.

    To participate, call the below numbers to connect with your two Senators and your one Representative between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm EST tomorrow, Wednesday, when congressional offices are open. You will be automatically connected to your appropriate congressional offices based on the zip code you provide.

    Senate – 1-866-985-2543
    House – 1-866-948-8977

    Script:
    President-elect Trump has conflicts of interest that are unprecedented for an American president. He could violate the Constitution and the law on his first day in office because of prohibited payments to him from his foreign and domestic businesses. Every other President and cabinet official before him has acted to avoid these types of conflicts of interest.
    Mr. Trump has not fully disclosed how he will resolve these dangerous conflicts. Americans have been given little more than vague pledges about transferring operations and nothing about transferring ownership. Bi-partisan ethics officials from Republican and Democratic administrations agree this is completely inadequate and does not resolve his dangerous conflicts.
    Congress must act to protect the interests of the American people and the integrity of the presidency. President-elect Trump must resolve his conflicts of interest and Congress must require that he disclose his finances and divest his business conflicts.

    House call: Ask your Representative to call for a congressional investigation to review Mr. Trump’s business dealings in order to identify and protect against conflicts of interest.

    Senate calls: Ask your Senators to call for an investigation to review Mr. Trump’s financial arrangements. Urge Senators to support Senator Warren’s new bill that will require the President-elect to divest ownership and disclose all business dealings in order to avoid serious and unconstitutional conflicts of interest.

  12. 12
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    “People are just sick and tired,” Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) said of the simmering outrage over the proposed change. “People are just losing confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington.”

    On the contrary, I have complete confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington.

    ETA: @Schlemazel:

    Bastard!

  13. 13
    Jeffro says:

    Btw I’m sure at least some folks saw that Trump said he’d have an “inside scoop” on what he calls “so-called Russian hacking” on Tuesday or Wednesday while he was at his New Year’s Eve bash?

    Guess what?

    An hour ago he just Tweeted that

    The “Intelligence” briefing on so-called “Russian hacking” was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!

    (all quote marks his)

    WOW

    Here’s the kicker, according to CNN:

    Intelligence officials tell CNN briefing by DNI Clapper & CIA Dir Brennan on hacking review never scheduled for today.

    Caught lying, again, in denial and in the service of a hostile foreign power, again.

  14. 14
    Mike in NC says:

    Before the end of the month the federal government will be controlled by a bunch of villains from a shitty Batman movie.

  15. 15
    Jeffro says:

    @Jeffro: And besides all that…why would he need a briefing from “intelligence” anyway in order to enlighten all of us? After all, he already “knows things that others don’t”

  16. 16
    JPL says:

    @Jeffro: It was a misunderstanding.. easy peasy.. Trump will not be held accountable, and Hillary had emails.

  17. 17
    Jeffro says:

    @Schlemazel: @Steeplejack (tablet): LOL to you both…buuut…we need to note (and push back on media) that we actually do have confidence in Democrats’ ethics in government. The GOP? The party that not only created a need for the Ethics Office but pushed to do away with it? Yeah, them, not so much.

  18. 18
    debbie says:

    @O. Felix Culpa:

    I agree, but even more, they overreached in the first minutes of the new session!

  19. 19
    Schlemazel says:

    @Steeplejack (tablet):
    great minds think alike

  20. 20
    Jeffro says:

    @JPL: He’ll be held accountable by the intelligence services over the course of the next four years, I do believe that.

    Not optimal, but certainly satisfactory.

  21. 21
    Mary G says:

    Trump is already breaking promises right and left. Remember his Dec. 15 press conference on his business conflicts? Oh, right he reneged on that.

  22. 22
    Schlemazel says:

    @Jeffro:
    Yeah, I changed my comment to take that shot out & put it in the last line

  23. 23
    joel hanes says:

    It’s nice of Goodlatte and the other would-be crooks in the R House caucus to self-identify in this way.
    Now we know whom to watch carefully, because they’ve declared their intention to commit shady acts.

  24. 24
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jeffro:

    The “Intelligence” briefing on so-called “Russian hacking” was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!

    He repeatedly said he didn’t believe any of their conclusions anyway, and knew better than them.
    So why would that stop him from doing a presser tomorrow?

  25. 25
    The Pale Scot says:

    Too early for sidebars, but I got sleep. Sorry

    For reasons I was researching The Palladium back in NYC circa postwar.
    And came across this

    Over a decade later, in 1847, the Isaiah Rogers-designed Astor Opera House opened on Astor Place,[6] only to close several years later after a riot provoked by competing performances of Macbeth by English actor William Charles Macready at the Opera House and American Edwin Forrest at the nearby Broadway Theatre.

    Back when theater was fucking serious yo

  26. 26
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    @debbie:

    I agree, but even more, they overreached in the first minutes of the new session!

    I know. Impressive, right? //

  27. 27
    GregB says:

    Perhaps someone can create a meme identifying the Republican Crooked Caucus then send it everywhere.

  28. 28
    Jeffro says:

    @Corner Stone: My point in #15. Show us your cards, Orange Jowlius!

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    Media is so desperate to run with the “There’s a NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN! DRAINING THAT SWAMP!”
    So fucking gross.

  30. 30
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jeffro: God. How many fucking comments of yours do you think I can be bothered to read in any thread? This is two and I am running outta Simon Cowell’s.

  31. 31
    Jeffro says:

    @Corner Stone: In all seriousness though, let’s walk through this…

    1) Friday briefing happens
    2) Trump comes out and says, eh, that’s not definitive and I’m not convinced (or better yet, “I know more than they do, I just don’t want to betray my sources”)
    3) All eighty kazillion US intelligence agencies that KNOW Russia was behind the hacking are pissed, down to the receptionist level. New sense of purpose and mission!
    4) All kinds of good Trump stuff starts turning up in reporters’ hands
    5) Popcorn shortages across the US

  32. 32
    Jeffro says:

    @Corner Stone:

    How many fucking comments of yours do you think I can be bothered to read in any thread? This is two and I am running outta Simon Cowell’s.

    Well if you made it this far, four.

    What’s a Simon Cowell? Is that like a writing award or something?

  33. 33
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @Mike in NC:

    Dick Cheney makes a comeback as the Penguin!

  34. 34
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Jeffro:

    Caught lying, again

    He thinks he can direct reality thru his cell phone.

    It’s like a student project at the Monty Python’s Very Very Film Academy

  35. 35
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @Jeffro:

    Well, we were referring to the majority.

  36. 36
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    @Schlemazel:

    Some just more glacially than others.

  37. 37
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    @Jeffro: Hah! I expected that. He hasn’t come through on any promised “reveal” events yet. At some point even the media and the public…as stupid as they are…will twig on to his bait-and-switch M.O.

    Trigger warning: The emperor has no clothes and he won’t be able to hide his nekkidness indefinitely.

  38. 38
    Jeffro says:

    Probably late to the party as usual on this, but y’all need to follow @PaulRyanGosling on Twitter

    Hey girl, it’s true. The GOP voted to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. But in our defense, we thought it said “Ethnics.”

    Hey girl, just because @realDonaldTrump is a racist doesn’t mean that I am. I’ll take away your Medicare no matter WHAT color you are.

    Hey girl, Kid Rock & Nugent are the only musicians willing to play Trump’s inauguration. Note to self: Cut Medicare, buy Chachi a harmonica.

  39. 39
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Mike in NC: OK, you’re right, the situation is horrible but *that* comment, my friend, made me LOL.

  40. 40
    hovercraft says:

    @Mary G:
    Kellyanne said there may be one on the 11th, but don’t hold your breath.

  41. 41
    tobie says:

    @Jeffro:

    4) All kinds of good Trump stuff starts turning up in reporters’ hands
    5) Popcorn shortages across the US

    From your lips to FSM’s ears.

  42. 42
    Corner Stone says:

    Oh, baby.

  43. 43
    Corner Stone says:

    Oh, Jen Psaki.

  44. 44
    Emerald says:

    We can force them to keep their ethics committee, but we can’t force them to use it!

  45. 45
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @efgoldman: David Cay Johnston alluded to Ivana’s rape charge on the O’Donnell show (edited for clarity). Apparently it was first reported in the book by the guy Trump had thrown off his golf course. The Trump rage meter is going to be high tonight

  46. 46
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman: And the guy from Newsweek.

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:

    Here’s the difference between us and Russia: for all our innumerable flaws, we’ve had a democratic form of government for over 200 years, and that tradition runs very deep. I know I’ve been guilty of spinning off into OMG Trump is going to make himself a dictator! paranoias, but we do still have some checks and balances, and one of them is public opinion. Namely, us. We need to scream our heads off at every goddamned thing they try. Every. Single. Thing.

  48. 48
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman: I get your point, but, in a world where most journalists are useless, I want the people who actually do their jobs to get noticed.

  49. 49
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, too, since I seem to be in the mood for exhortations right now:

    Obama is not coming to save us.
    Hillary is not coming to save us.
    Bernie is not coming to save us.
    We have to save ourselves.
    Let’s get on with it.

  50. 50
    Mnemosyne says:

    @efgoldman:

    Well, we can try screaming about every little thing and re-adjust if needed, or we can sit on our asses. I know which one I’m going to choose.

  51. 51
    Jeffro says:

    @efgoldman: @Omnes Omnibus:

    The difference being that now, there’s no Hillz/emails to distract – it’ll take the media a while, but now when they ask the question, there is no “BUT HILLAREEZ EMAILZ!!!!?!” as a lame response/distraction.

    Trust me. I was just having funsies with a Trump supporter (sister of a friend) on FB and when I asked her why the GOP’s first order of business this Congress was to gut the Ethics Oversight office, her two responses were (this is verbatim): “To piss you off”, followed by, “Now answer my question, why did your girl Hillary lose?” That is all they have in their quiver, their ammo box, their pile of snowballs.

    So let’s have at it. For any given issue that comes up like gutting the Ethics office, or the rationale for eliminating Obamacare, or anything else: ANSWER THE QUESTION, GOOPERS! No dodging, no changing the question, no Hillary slams: just answer the question.

  52. 52
    Jeffro says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    We have to save ourselves. Let’s get on with it.

    “Justice” and “just us” – homophonic coincidence, or evidence of a higher power that wants us to kick Trump’s and Ryan’s and McConnell’s asses?

  53. 53
    Jeffro says:

    Hey here’s a new one (for us, anyway – the Soviets have been airbrushing dissidents out of official photos for a century now): Steve King wants all SCOTUS citations of Obamacare outlawed in future decisions.

    If I understand the honorable Rep from Hell correctly, he’s trying to get SCOTUS to not be able to cite its prior affirmations of Obamacare’s provisions in future SCOTUS decisions. Sure, that’ll work Steve…tell SCOTUS it can’t reference its own decisions in future decisions. I mean I see what he’s trying to do, but this is the real world, where you don’t get to click your ruby slippers and wish yourself back to a land where Obamacare never existed (or at least, couldn’t be defended/upheld).

    Picture a 2-year old doing this to their parents: “I know you said I couldn’t have cookies for breakfast yesterday. But that was yesterday, and today you should be banned from noting you already told me ‘no’ when I ask you again (or otherwise steal cookies) today”

  54. 54
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne: For some reason, that brought this to mind. Bonus: Peter Garrett’s dance moves.

  55. 55
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Jeffro: Your summary makes no sense, but I have complete faith that it is accurate.

  56. 56
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman: I know. You seem particularly full of piss and vinegar tonight.

  57. 57
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I do love me some Midnight Oil.

  58. 58
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman:

    Democrats may occasionally be feckless, less than competent politically, and really good at circular firing squads, but at least we want to accomplish good for people.

    You had me at “Hello.”

    @Mnemosyne: As you should.

  59. 59
    Raoul says:

    The view — once again! — into the abject shittiness of many in our media notwithstanding (I don’t watch, but it seems from twit-land that the major networks bought the Rump did it line), this was an important win for progressives and really anyone who wants the GOP not to be utterly craven fuckups.

    Sure the grassroots won’t really get credit, but those rank and file members whose phones went berzerk will actually remember today. Their staffs certainly will.

    Now we just have to have the endurance to pull this off many, many more times. Success on a first try will help. And when some GOPer does have an ethical lapse in office, we can trot out this moment for a bit of wound-salting. I look forward to it.

  60. 60
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Raoul: RalfW, that was, yes? Just checking.

  61. 61
    TriassicSands says:

    Headline from the WaPo:

    Trump alleges delay in his briefing on ‘so-called’ Russian hacking; U.S. official says there wasn’t one

    There is nothing this monstrous POS won’t lie about.

    I wonder how foreign leaders will react when Trump comes out of a meeting and lies his ass off to the media about what transpired?

    As for the GOP’s change of heart concerning the ethics disaster. Does anyone really think that if the Democrats and media hadn’t loudly condemned this appalling move that Trump would have bothered to tweet about it?

    Trump, already on a collision course for violating the Constitution the second he takes the oath of office, thinks there are more important things for the House Republicans to do. I agree. They should be preparing Articles of Impeachment for delivery on January 20, 2017.

  62. 62
    pattonbt says:

    Wait a minute, wasn’t the OCE put in during Obama’s reign of terror? Shouldn’t gutting it be a priority for the R’s on principle? Otherwise, something Obama did was…..good?

  63. 63
    pattonbt says:

    Also too, all that will happen is in a couple of days the same changes will be made, ignored by all and the OCE forgotten to history. All that will remain is that “Trump tweeted and Congress backed down!”.

    Yes, I am a cynic.

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:

    @TriassicSands:

    Does anyone really think that if the Democrats and media hadn’t loudly condemned this appalling move that Trump would have bothered to tweet about it?

    Nope. That’s why we need to make as much noise as possible when they try to pull this shit. If nothing else, Trump wants to protect his image.

  65. 65
    TriassicSands says:

    @efgoldman:

    There is nothing in what I wrote that should give any reasonable person the impression that I think the Republicans “will” be filing articles of impeachment. I wrote they “should.” And they should.

    On the other hand, I would not say that the Republicans will never impeach Trump. After all, I’ll bet the vast majority would prefer to have Pence as president. Since Trump is given to causing trouble and being really disrespectful, I could imagine circumstances in which getting rid of Trump might be good for the Republicans. If Pence were president, I would agree, there is no way, no matter what he did (short of a video taped murder), that the GOP would impeach him. But Trump is not Pence. He could conceivably become a huge liability for the Republican Party. Never say never. That said, I’m not holding my breath — the Republicans are very stupid.

  66. 66

    […] we just saw with the aborted attempt to scuttle the Office of Congressional Ethics, we can be effective so long as we don’t just roll over like the Gushing Over Putin party […]

  67. 67
    terraformer says:

    This is great and all, but I’m more than a bit concerned that the apparent media gist of this is that the Rs walked this back only after Trump weighed in, and not because of the people blazing up the phone lines. Clearly this was due to the phone calls – not der Fuhrer.

    Concerted effort to de-legitimize the power of the people in terms of what they can do? Sure reads like it.

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