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The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) refused to certify Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ financial disclosure form — because Ross lied about owning certain stocks.

The move comes after the OGE warned Ross in the summer of 2018 about the consequences of his repeated problems with inaccurate disclosures.

In a letter dated Feb. 15, 2019, OGE Director Emory A. Rounds declared that the office would not certify Ross’ disclosure because the “report was not accurate and he was not in compliance with his ethics agreement at the time of the report.”

Ross lied about owning BankUnited stock, the Center for Public Integrity reported in December 2018. According to the ethics agreement Ross signed in early 2017, Ross was supposed to divest this stock no later than the end of May 2017.

But he didn’t. In fact, he continued to own some stock in the company all the way until the end of October 2018, despite signing several financial disclosure forms saying he sold them all in the intervening months.

“Wilbur Ross clearly is not taking his ethics obligations seriously,” Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, told the Center for Public Integrity in December. “He’s been warned and at this point he needs a full audit by OGE and probably Congress to make sure he’s not operating with blatant conflict of interest.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill took notice as well. In December, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the Center for Public Integrity that this “administration’s contempt for the most basic checks on corruption is bottomless.”

Lying on an ethics form isn’t the only way Ross makes headlines. During the Trump shutdown, Ross was baffled that some federal workers were struggling after not being paid for 35 days. When a reporter asked Ross about federal workers who were visiting homeless shelters to get food, Ross replied that he knew about it, but, he said, “I don’t really quite understand why.”

Like many in Trump’s Cabinet, Ross may see himself as above the rule of law. Unfortunately, his attitude, according to Delaney Marsco, ethics counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, “shows a lack of reverence towards the ethics program and a disregard for the rules.”

In Trump’s Cabinet, the culture of corruption is just par for the course.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Donald Trump looks on as Wilbur Ross departs after their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.