The Washington Post reported late yesterday that Joel Clement, a scientist and policy expert at the Interior Department, was “removed from his job by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke shortly after” he disclosed how climate change affects Alaska Native communities. Clement was reassigned “to an accounting position for which he has no experience,” prompting him to resign.
On his way out, however, the scientist noted that there are laws in place to prevent this kind of mistreatment – laws that Donald Trump’s cabinet secretary appears to have ignored. The department’s inspector general has launched an investigation into this and related reassignments.
And while that obviously seems like a worthwhile probe, let’s not forget an important detail: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, less than a year at his post, is also facing an investigation into his controversial travel habits, which isn’t to be confused with an unrelated probe into his alleged intimidation tactics against Republican senators during the health care fight.
That’s quite a few probes for one cabinet secretary in one year, but as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie noted last night, the problem extends well beyond the Interior Department.
Amid the chaos and dysfunction that marks Washington in the age of Trump, it can be easy to miss that this White House is corrupt. Remarkably, unbelievably, corrupt. […]
Democracy needs trust to survive, and corruption erodes that trust. The longer it continues, the more it becomes just the background noise of our politics, the harder it is to plot a correction and restore the democratic faith necessary to tackle collective problems. If, like many in the Republican Party, one does not believe in collective action for public good, then this is not a problem. For those of us who do, however, it is a crisis.
HHS Secretary Tom Price was under investigation, and the scandal led to his resignation. Zinke is facing more than one investigation. VA Secretary David Shulkin is under investigation. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is under investigation. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was investigated for violating the Hatch Act. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been caught up in so many controversies, it’s been genuinely difficult to keep up with all of them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has faced accusations of lying under oath about his interactions with Russian officials during the campaign.
And that’s just Trump’s cabinet.
The president himself, of course, is under investigation in the Russia scandal, where he faces all kinds of allegations ranging from colluding with a foreign power to obstructing justice, with plenty of potential misdeeds in between. There are also lower-profile controversies, such as Trump’s indifference towards the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.What’s more, new allegations pop up all the time. Just yesterday ProPublica put a spotlight on allegations that two of Donald Trump’s adult children – Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. – were nearly indicted on felony fraud charges, before a district attorney intervened. The D.A. reportedly made the decision that helped the Trumps after meeting with Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz.
It’s possible some cynical political observers will see a list like this one and assume this is somehow normal – politics is a dirty business, where controversies are as common as the sunrise – but it’s not. Americans just went eight years without any major executive-branch scandals, offering compelling proof that the public doesn’t have to tolerate a steady stream of allegations as simply the price of doing business.