Democrats ask: How could Trump have nominated this man for FEMA?

WASHINGTON — After the sudden withdrawal this week of President Donald Trump's nominee for a top post at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Senate Democrats are raising concerns about the White House's vetting process.

"The White House may have thought, 'Well, no one will pay any attention to this — this will be ignored.' Obviously, it was not ignored," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which had been considering Daniel A. Craig's nomination for the No. 2 spot at FEMA.

Craig withdrew his nomination on Wednesday after NBC News questioned him about the findings of an unreleased 2011 federal investigation, which concluded that he had submitted a fraudulent travel voucher and falsified timekeeping records during his time in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Carper said Craig's nomination may have slipped through the cracks given the mounting pressure to fill top executive branch posts that have remained vacant given the sluggish pace of Trump's nominations and political appointments. The White House "is under the gun" because it has been so slow in sending nominations to the Senate for confirmation, he said.

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Cabinet nominee withdrawals through the years
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Cabinet nominee withdrawals through the years

Judd Gregg, nominated by President Obama

Nominated by President Obama in 2009, Gregg withdrew his name for consideration over disagreement in economic ideology with the president.

(Photo via REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Zoe Baird, nominated by President Clinton

Nominated by President Clinton, Baird withdrew her name from consideration when the “Nannygate” scandal erupted over her hiring undocumented workers.

(Photo by Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Linda Chavez, nominated by President George W. Bush

Nominated by President George W. Bush, Chavez withdrew from consideration in 2001 when allegations were published over her employing an undocumented immigrant more than 10 years prior.

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bill Richardson, nominated by President Obama

President Obama chose former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson as his first secretary of commerce pick in 2008. He then withdrew his name, though, because of a federal grand jury investigation into allegations of pay-to-play activities.

(Photo credit JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Tom Daschle, nominated by President Obama

The former Senate majority leader was appointed by President Obama to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, but Daschle withdrew when reports of his over $140,000 in unpaid taxes surfaced.

(Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bernard Kerik, nominated by President George W. Bush

Kerik was the 43rd president's 2004 pick for secretary of homeland security. Kerik withdrew his nomination after acknowledging that he unknowingly hired an undocumented worker as a nanny.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Kimba Wood, nominated by President Clinton

Wood was President Clinton's second choice for Attorney General. She also hired an undocumented worker, though, and later withdrew her consideration.

(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Bobby Ray Inman, nominated by President Clinton

Inman was selected as Clinton's pick for secretary of defense in 1993. He withdrew his nomination when he accused a New York Times columnist of recruiting Senator Bob Dole to attack him -- something Dole denied.

(Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

Anthony Lake, nominated by President Clinton

President Clinton nominated Anthony Lake to become Director of Central Intelligence in 1996. He withdrew in March of 1997 after contentious questioning by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

(Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity)
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"The administration is in the situation now where they need to put their foot on the accelerator, to crank out more nominees, to vet them and, at the same time, to make sure that the quality is good," Carper said. "In the case of this one nominee [Craig], they may have moved it through the process but not checked it as well as they should have."

Craig had been under investigation by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for allegedly violating federal conflict-of-interest laws in 2005 by seeking employment at firms that received huge contracts to build FEMA trailers after Hurricane Katrina. The 2011 report, issued by DHS's Office of Inspector General, said there wasn't enough evidence to show that Craig had violated federal ethics laws but claimed that he had falsified records during his time at FEMA.

The office of Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said Craig's nomination was another example of the White House's inadequate vetting process.

"From former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to former advisor to the President Sebastian Gorka, the Trump administration's vetting process has lacked thoroughness and overlooked obvious red flags that could jeopardize national security," said Ricki Eshman, press secretary for Hassan, another member of the Senate committee that had considered Craig.

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Net worths of Trump's Cabinet members
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Net worths of Trump's Cabinet members

Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior: $800,000

Before serving in Congress, Zinke, who has an MBA, started Continental Divide International in 2005, a property management and business development consulting company. He later formed a consulting company, On Point Montana, in 2009.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Mike Pence, Vice President: $800,000

Pence became an attorney in a private practice after graduating from law school before serving in Congress and then becoming the Governor of Indiana.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy: $2 million 

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry banks at least $100,000 from speeches and $250,000 from consulting Caterpillar. Additionally, the politician has about 20% of his portfolio invested in in oil-and gas partnerships and energy stocks, according to Forbes.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security: $4 million 

Kelly, who spent over four decades in the military, amassed the majority of his wealth from government pension. 

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

James Mattis, Secretary of Defense: $5 million

Like Kelly, the four-star general made most of his money from government pension. He also sits as a director of General Dynamics. 

REUTERS/Ed Jones/Pool

Jeff Sessions: $6 million (Attorney General)

Sessions owns more than 1,500 acres in Alabma that are worth at least $2.5 million. The rest of his fortune is in Vanguard mutual funds and municipal bonds, according to Forbes.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services: $10 million

Price ran an orthopedic clinic in Atlanta for 20 years, then taught orthopedic surgery as an assistant porfessor at his alma mater, Emory.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation: $24 million

The daughter of a shipping magnate owes the buld of her and her husband Mitch McConnell’s wealth to her family. 

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: $29 million 

The neurosurgeon earned millions from books he penned, media roles and speaking gigs. He also served as a director at Kellogg and Costco, accumulating more than $6 million in stocks. 

REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus/File Photo

Andy Puzder, Secretary of Labor: $45 million 

The CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has earned at least $25 million in salary and bonuses since 2000.

(Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury: $300 million 

The former Goldman Sachs partner purchased subprime mortgage lender IndyMac for $1.6 billion in 2009 with a group of billionaire investors and sold it for $3.4 billion six years later.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: $325 million

The former ExxonMobil chairman and CEO accumulated more than 2.6 million shares of company stock in his tenure and hefty pay packages, according to Forbes.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education: $1.25 billion

The daughter of a shipping magnate owes the bulk of her and her husband Mitch McConnell’s wealth to her family.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce: $2.5 billion 

Known as the "King of Bankruptcy," the former banker bought bankrupt companies and later selling them for a large profit.

 REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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Craig has denied any wrongdoing. He did not respond to a request for further comment about the White House's vetting process.

The White House defended the vetting process. "The Trump Administration's clearance process is the same as previous Presidents — we work in coordination with the FBI and Office of Government Ethics," White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said he developed concerns about Craig since Trump had nominated him in July.

The inspector general's report from 2011 encompassed only part of the paper trail surrounding the FBI-DHS investigation into Craig that he had been reviewing, Lankford said. "There was a lot of questions leading up into it," he said. "The farther they went in the investigation, the more information was still rising up."

Lankford, however, maintained that the White House had been upfront with the Senate about Craig's background.

"They were not withholding anything on that," he said. "We had information about the IG report, and then we started digging, as well, and started asking questions."

Craig said that he had disclosed the investigation to both the White House and the Senate during his nomination process and that he had not seen the 2011 report itself until Monday.

Senators from both parties stressed the importance of filling critical vacancies at FEMA in the wake of two disastrous hurricanes. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Daniel Kaniewski, Trump's nominee for FEMA's deputy administrator for national preparedness.

Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group that has also raised questions about Craig's past, said he was surprised that the White House had nominated him in the first place.

"With everything that has happened in Texas and Florida, the last thing the administration and FEMA need is bad press about a FEMA nominee, when they need to focus on protecting people, property and infrastructure," Amey said.

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