After her viral performance in a hearing on prescription drug prices last week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez again distilled a complicated issue into a moment of clarity, this time about ethical governance.

In a Wednesday hearing, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Schaub, testified before the House Oversight Committee that President Trump has not even tried to avoid conflicts of interest.

“The momentum of four decades of ethics reform came to an abrupt halt on Jan. 11, 2017,” he said. “The integrity of a nation is at stake.”

Under questioning from Ocasio-Cortez, Schaub drew comparisons between the ethical standards of Congress and those of the Oval Office, and the result was startling.

“The limits that are placed on me, as a congresswoman, compared to the executive branch and compared to say, the President of the United States, would you say that Congress has the same sort of standard of accountability?” asked Ocasio-Cortez.

“In terms of laws that apply to the President?” asked Schaub. “There’s almost no laws at all that apply to the President.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded with the point that every member of Congress is held to a higher ethical standard than the President of the United States.

The Wednesday hearing was exploring an “ethical crisis” that according to one witness “jeopardizes not only public trust in government but also national security.”

“You can be on the correct side of history and support reforms that strengthen our democracy and empower the voices of all Americans, or you can be on the side of the status quo and turn a blind eye to conflicts of interest, corruption, and abuse of power,” testified Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “It’s past time for Congress to enact strong ethics and other democracy reform laws because no American is above the law, not even the President.”

While Schaub and Flynn testified, no current administration official is scheduled to.

This ethics hearing happened just twelve hours after the State of the Union address, where President Trump bemoaned “ridiculous partisan investigations.”


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.


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