UPDATED: Without warning, after hours, House GOP dismantles ethics watchdog

Update: They've backed down because Trump warned them it would be a distraction from taking away healthcare and giving tax cuts to rich people.

The independent Office of Congressional Ethics — created in 2008 after three Congressmen were jailed for corruption — has been stripped of its powers by the House GOP, who held an after-hours vote, with no notice, on Monday night.

Under the new rules, the House will be in charge of its own oversight, and the new investigatory body will be banned from communicating any irregularities or crimes discovered in Congress — indeed, it is not permitted to have a spokesperson. It will also end the practice of accepting anonymous tips about wrongdoing by the some of the richest, most powerful people in America, forcing whistleblowers to expose themselves to retaliation from their bosses.

The House GOP vote overrode the preferences of the House GOP leadership. The charge to eliminate ethical oversight was led by Representative Robert W Goodlatte [R-VA], who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

The House Ethics Committee has advised Congress to cease the practice of hiring their relatives.

Rep Goodlatte's Congressional office phone number is +1-202-225-5431.

The Office of Congressional Ethics has been controversial since its creation and has faced intense criticism from many of its lawmaker targets — both Democrats and Republicans — as its investigations have consistently been more aggressive than those conducted by the House Ethics Committee.

The body was created after a string of serious ethical issues starting a decade ago, including bribery allegations against Representatives Duke Cunningham, Republican of California; William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana; and Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio. All three were ultimately convicted and served time in jail.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, which is overseen by a six-member outside board, does not have subpoena power. But it has its own staff of investigators who spend weeks conducting confidential interviews and collecting documents based on complaints they receive from the public, or news media reports, before issuing findings that detail any possible violation of federal rules or laws. The board then votes on whether to refer the matter to the full House Ethics Committee, which conducts its own review.

With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office
[Eric Lipton/NYT]

(Image: Saladin Ahmed)