First it was more than 60 House Democrats refusing to attend Friday’s inauguration. Now it’s several Cabinet nominees under fire for ethical lapses.

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition has not had an easy week.

With just one more day until Trump is sworn in, three of his nominees are receiving scrutiny for questionable actions of the sort that have sunk prospective Cabinet members in past administrations.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), nominated for Health and Human Services secretary, bought and sold stock in health care companies that would benefit from legislation he was pushing.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, acknowledged that he failed to pay more than $15,000 in state and federal payroll taxes for a household employee.

And Wilbur Ross, nominated to lead the Department of Commerce, said he unknowingly employed a housekeeper who was undocumented.

Whether these lapses will doom the nominees is unclear, but the example of Trump himself makes the possibility less likely. That’s because the president-elect flouted ethical norms himself on the way to the White House by refusing to release his tax returns or divest from his business interests.

Republican senators now face a conundrum: do they vote to uphold higher ethical standards, or risk an angry tweetstorm from the incoming president?


Inaugurations typically bring a spirit of celebration to Washington, with revelers taking part in both official and unofficial gatherings to honor the new president.

This year, that spirit already seems to be lacking.

Trump himself is hosting only three official balls, far fewer than his predecessors after their first inaugurations. One inaugural ball was reportedly canceled due to lack of interest. And the smaller parties that typically consume Washington “appear smaller and fewer,” as our colleague wrote, with event spaces and hotel rooms alike standing empty.


Senate confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet nominees continue to yield telling moments.

Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, declined to say Wednesday if he would recuse him from cases he brought against the EPA in his current role. “If directed to do so, I will do so,” Pruitt said, indicating he would follow the advice of ethics advisers on a case-by-case basis.

On climate change, Pruitt said “science tells us the climate is changing,” but said it’s open “to debate and dialogue” how much human activity is contributing to the changes. Democrats were dismayed by both answers.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), meanwhile, deviated from Trump’s prior statements by voicing skepticism about Russia and strong support of NATO during her hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Haley is Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.


On Thursday:

  • Former Texas governor Rick Perry, nominated for energy secretary, goes before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources at 10 a.m.
  • Steven Mnuchin, nominated for treasury secretary, goes before the Senate Finance Committee at 10 a.m.