During a Cabinet meeting at the White House last October, President Trump extolled the virtues of the men and women surrounding him at the table.“A great trust has been placed upon each member of our Cabinet,” he declared. “We have a Cabinet that — there are those that are saying it’s one of the finest group of people ever assembled . . . as a Cabinet. And I happen to agree with that.”Less than five months later, Trump finds himself presiding over a Cabinet in which a number of members stand accused of living large at taxpayer expense — often by aggressively embracing the trappings of their high government posts.
At least a half-dozen current or former Trump Cabinet officials have been mired in federal investigations over everything from high-end travel and spending on items such as a soundproof phone booth to the role of family members weighing in on official business. On Wednesday alone, newly disclosed documents revealed fresh details about spending scandals at both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“If the government is going to be run efficiently, he’s got to clean up a lot of the messes that have gone on at these agencies and, to be honest, replace a lot of people,” said Shermichael Singleton, a former adviser to HUD Secretary Ben Carson who left after his criticism of Trump surfaced during the vetting process.
The controversies surrounding members of Trump’s Cabinet have caused upheaval within the administration, prompting White House officials to scramble in an effort to avert any further political fallout and to summon agency leaders for face-to-face ethics meetings.
Revelations about repeated use of chartered airplanes forced the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in September. More recently, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has continued to wrestle with the fallout of news that taxpayers covered the expenses for his wife during a 10-day trip to Europe last year — and more recently that his chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to justify the payments.
A half-dozen senior officials are now mired in federal investigations over high-end travel and extravagant expenses.