Democratic opposition research group American Bridge publicly released its files on several of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees on Monday, a rare step ahead of this week’s slew of confirmation hearings.
The group released books on four high-level nominees for Trump’s administration: Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general, Ben Carson for housing secretary and Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. Each book contains hundreds of pages detailing each nominee’s background, financial interests and past comments or actions relevant to the work they’d be doing in their respective roles.
Typically, groups like American Bridge keep research books like these under tight wraps, and selectively provide information to other political groups or reporters when it’s politically advantageous to do so. But after Senate Republicans scheduled several of the most high-profile confirmation hearings for the same day, the group decided to take the unusual step of releasing all their research at once.
“Senate Republicans are cynically slamming through Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees and covering up the nominees’ conflicts of interest from their constituents,” said American Bridge president Jessica Mackler. “American Bridge is the antidote ― we’re releasing hundreds of pages of research on some of Trump’s most dangerous nominees so people can learn about the nominees for themselves.”
The sheer amount of newsworthy events happening Tuesday and Wednesday ― in addition to the cabinet hearings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scheduled a series of votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and president-elect Trump plans to hold a long-awaited press conference Wednesday ― has raised many eyebrows in Washington. Also of concern: Four of the nine nominees set to testify this week have not completed ethics disclosures.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Republicans to adjust the schedule, accusing them of “trying to ram [nominees] through as quickly as possible.”
On Friday, the director of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics wrote a letter to Senate leaders raising concerns about the schedule, pointing out that not all of the nominees have been thoroughly vetted.
“The announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me. This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews,” wrote director Walter Shaub.
American Bridge hopes that by releasing its research books, the public can do some of this vetting themselves.
“This research exposes Trump’s nominees as predatory billionaires and ideologues who built their careers by hurting working families, just like Trump,” Mackler said. “And just like Trump, his cabinet will protect their fellow billionaires at the expense of the American people.”
McConnell, meanwhile, has dismissed calls to slow the process.
“All of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate,” he said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.”
Confirmation hearings are set to kick off Tuesday, when Sessions and Homeland Security pick John Kelly are set to testify.