Nikki Haley is the latest Trump Cabinet official to leave under an ethics cloud

We have no idea if her abrupt decision was somehow connected to her ethics woes. But they are substantial, and she departs with her once-spotless reputation badly tarnished. As our watchdog group has documented, Haley has, over the course of her tenure in the Trump administration, exemplified the ethical problems that have afflicted it from the president on down. Indeed, her resignation became public a day after we filed our latest of several complaints against her,

.. a disregard for our most basic ethics laws — in her case, ethics regulations governing gifts to officials and the Hatch Act limiting her political activity.

.. Haley accepted flights on private planes likely worth tens of thousands of dollars from several businesspeople who had supported her past campaigns, which could violate ethics rules and standards. In doing so, she risked creating at least the appearance that she sold access to the highest level of American foreign policy to businesses that had donated to her campaign for governor. Like Pruitt’s notorious luxury condo rental that he priced at $50 a night, far below market rates, Haley reported the value of her flights on these private jets at only hundreds of dollars apiece. That strains credulity when flights on private jets routinely cost far more.

.. many of her flights were on aircraft owned by the donors’ companies, and it is unclear whether the executives repaid the companies for the full value of the flights.

.. Haley’s obsequious performance during her resignation announcement underscored this president’s complete personal sway over his administration. She entered the job as a former adversary of Trump’s, and she showed an independent streak while serving. That was not in evidence as she praised the president, sang the unseen “genius” of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and declared that “the U.S. is respected.” The president’s disdain for ethical values, which Haley has regrettably emulated, has helped make the opposite true.

The Trump Administration’s Undrained Swamp

Many executive officials seem okay with spending public money on personal expenses, but how would they react if Hillary Clinton were doing it?

.. But if ever there were a crew less suited to drain the swamp in Washington, the Trump team would have to be it.

.. Remember Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price? You may not, since his tenure was less than nine months long. But in that time, according to Politico, he ran up $400,000 in private-plane trips and $500,000 for military flights to Asia, Africa, and Europe.

.. There were also questions raised about his private investment in a company that stood to benefit from his public action.

.. Steven Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton jetted off to Kentucky last August on a government plane to (depending upon whom you believe): do Treasury business or view the solar eclipse.

.. The couple also apparently requested a military plane for their honeymoon trip to Europe.

.. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin also took his wife to Europe for a ten-day trip.

.. Environment Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, reports the Washington Post, is also being investigated for “at least four noncommercial and military flights

..  I find it hard to think of an EPA emergency that would require Scott Pruitt to fly on a military jet

.. the complicated web of loans and investments and connections Jared Kushner brought with him to the swamp

.. one of the reasons his security clearance was downgraded this week involved accepting loans from a private equity billionaire named Joshua Harris.

 

Select the Worst Trump Minion

Just this week we had a top aide with multiple domestic abuse allegations, plus a chief of staff who never seemed to bother to pursue the matter. And a communications director — third one in a little over a year — who helped write the statement defending said aide, whom she happened to also be dating.

.. Tenure is irrelevant. Kirstjen Nielsen has only been secretary of homeland security for a couple of months, but we already know her as the woman who tried to support her boss by claiming she wasn’t sure whether Norway was a predominately white country.

.. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar .. Azar’s mission is supposed to be bringing down prescription prices, and his main qualification is having run the American division of a drug company during the five years when the price of its insulin rose from $122 to $274 a vial.

.. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ..  “The bureaucracy is much more formidable and difficult than I had anticipated,” she complained.

.. Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency

.. “Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100? … That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

.. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is busy pushing the federal death penalty and trying to prosecute the marijuana industry in states where grass is legal.

..  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is trying to dismember the World Trade Organization. Smaller minds are fascinated by reports that Lighthizer has a life-size portrait of himself hanging on the wall at home.

.. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is in charge of the upcoming census, which is underfunded, and rumors are that the chief candidate for deputy director is a highly partisan Texas professor whose book on reapportionment is subtitled “Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

..Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin .. The new Trump nominee to lead the I.R.S. is a tax lawyer who specializes in defending wealthy clients against — yes! — the I.R.S. To cheer things up, we can go back to recalling the time Mnuchin posed with his wife, dressed in black opera gloves and a come-hither hairdo, admiring his signature on bills at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is well known for his enthusiasm for fossil fuel drilling. But even some of his fans were a little perplexed when he announced a policy for expanding offshore oil and gas drilling, and then abruptly added that there would be an exception for … Florida. Think it was all about Mar-a-Lago?

.. taxpayers paid $6,000 to helicopter Zinke to a critical appointment going horseback riding with Mike Pence.