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Trump to Congressional GOP: Be craftier about gutting your ethics watchdog.

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Republicans on Capitol Hill are facing severe backlash for agreeing in principle to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of its power. But now that these Republicans are essentially agents of President-elect Donald Trump, they can no longer maintain the campaign-time fiction that Trump is Trump, Republicans are Republicans, and their various controversies are purely incidental. The House GOP’s decision to preemptively coverup congressional corruption reflects on Trump, and Trump can’t easily ignore it. But what he can do is teach these amateurs how best to engineer a huge swindle without getting caught. 

A number of politicos are interpreting this statement as a scolding. And it is a scolding of a sort, but not for “proposing that independent ethics watchdog be gutted,” as CNN’s breaking news alert had it. Trump is specifically upset that House Republicans have made this ethics end-run “their number one act and priority.” 

If Trump has recognized anything it’s that politicians can escape sustained scrutiny for all kinds of gross behavior, so long as the political press is distracted by something more of-the-moment. He isn’t telling congressional Republicans to save the OCE. He’s telling them to gut it later, under the cover of bigger news.