By Brilee Carey 3/12/2018
Nine audits, several reviews, and some investigations into President Trump’s Cabinet members and their agencies have been launched by watchdog organizations. Storie
s about first-class travel, expensive office furniture, and internal strife have also been reported as common within the Cabinet departments.
Officials from the White House Counsel’s office and the Cabinet’s liaison officer met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. These meetings emphasized to the Secretaries that “optics matter,” according to Chief of Staff John Kelly. These meetings addressed specific issues with members, such as this one with VA Secretary Shulkin. He was told that he could no longer discuss purging insubordinate members of his various program offices.
While not all the details of the internal meetings are known, the White House gave the Cabinet Secretaries a list of guidelines titled, “Creating a Culture of Compliance,” according to CNN. Some of the advice in the document includes: “Even if legal, does not mean you should do it — always consider optics” and whether the event or travel further the President’s priorities and the Department’s mission; or whether an activity appears to be “recreational or entertainment in nature.”
Despite these meetings and the recommendations list for agencies, not everyone is convinced that there will be a noticeable change. Soon after Interior’s Zinke finished his meeting, several watchdog agencies raised questions about whether he is misusing his travel privileges. Secretary Carson canceled a $31,000 furniture purchase for the Housing and Urban Development offices last week, after an official said she was demoted for refusing to break the law and authorize overspending on Carson’s dining room set. Shulkin of the VA is having his travel come under review.