Sen. Elizabeth Warren has made fighting government corruption a key part of her political career and her 2020 presidential campaign. And in a confirmation hearing Tuesday with Defense secretary nominee Mark Esper, the Massachusetts Democrat made clear she thought he was part of the problem.
She pressed him repeatedly about whether he would take steps to reduce his financial conflicts of interest in the job, and he repeatedly declined. In particular, Warren wanted Esper to recuse from any decisions in the role as head of the Pentagon that relate to the Defense contractor Raytheon, where he has worked as a lobbyist.
“This smacks of corruption, plain and simple,” she said.
She also wanted him to say that he would decline to return to work for any defense contractor firms for at least four years after he leaves government.
Esper said that since current ethics rules don’t require these commitments, he wouldn’t make them.
“So let me get this straight,” Warren said. “You’re still due to get at least a million-dollar payout from when you lobbied for Raytheon. You won’t commit to recuse yourself from Raytheon’s decisions. You insist on being free to seek a waiver that would let you be free to make decisions affecting Raytheon’s bottom line and your remaining financial interest. And you won’t rule out taking a trip right through the revolving door on your way out of government service — or even just delaying that trip for four years after you leave government. Secretary Esper, the American people deserve to know that you’re making decisions in our country’s best security interests, not in your own financial interest. You can’t make those commitments to this committee. That means you should not be confirmed as secretary of Defense.”
Watch the clip below: