Health and Human Services Secretary-designate, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, at his confirmation...
Carolyn Kaster

Trump cabinet nominees face questions about their sworn testimony

Donald Trump's choice for Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told the Senate Finance Committee that his bank did not use "robo-signing" on mortgage documents. The Columbus Dispatch pointed to documents, however, that suggest Mnuchin, who was aggressive in foreclosing on families' homes, "was untruthful with the Senate during the confirmation process."

And as it turns out, he's not the only Trump cabinet nominee whose honesty is under question. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

Rep. Tom Price got a privileged offer to buy a biomedical stock at a discount, the company's officials said, contrary to his congressional testimony this month.

The Georgia Republican tapped by President Donald Trump to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services testified in his Senate confirmation hearings on Jan. 18 and 24 that the discounted shares he bought in Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd., an Australian medical biotechnology company, "were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time."

In fact, the cabinet nominee was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors who were invited last year to buy discounted shares of the company -- an opportunity that, for Mr. Price, arose from an invitation from a company director and fellow congressmen.

The Journal's reporting added that the discounted stock offer was made to investors in Australia and New Zealand, but not here. Price told senators in his sworn testimony that he paid the same price as anyone else, but he didn't say "that the 12% discount wasn't available to ordinary investors or that he was one of a select few who were invited to participate in the deal."

I can appreciate why a powerful congressman might be embarrassed about getting a sweetheart deal, but this is a curious thing for a cabinet nominee to lie about during a confirmation hearing.

The broader question, however, remains the same: do any Senate Republicans care enough to even consider voting against Price and nominees like him? In a 52-48 Senate, it only takes three GOP senators to defeat the worst of Trump's cabinet choices, but so far, a grand total of zero Republicans have expressed concerns about Price, his investment controversies, and his apparently deceptive testimony.

NYU Professor Paul Light, who has worked on Capitol Hill as an adviser on presidential transitions, recently told the New York Times that standards for cabinet nominees have clearly changed -- and not necessarily for the better.

"There doesn't seem to be any controversy about things that used to be controversial," Light lamented. "We've lowered the bar in terms of offenses that would have taken out nominees."

In 2017, with Trump in the White House and a radicalized Republican Party in control on Capitol Hill, it's not clear if the bar still exists at all. As we discussed last week, under normal political conditions, Price's nomination would be hanging by a thread. If he's confirmed anyway, cabinet standards may never be the same.