New watchdog group formed to investigate Trump conflicts

New watchdog group formed to investigate Trump conflicts
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A former State Department lawyer and the founder of another Washington watchdog group have joined forces to form an organization they say will serve as a check on the Trump administration.

American Oversight will primarily use litigation and open records laws to “uncover and publicize information about malfeasance and corruption by administration officials,” it said in a release announcing its creation on Monday. 

“Congress has abdicated its constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities of the executive branch — from failing to vet individuals before they take office to explicitly refusing to investigate conflicts of interest and misconduct,” the announcement says.

While key figures in the group have ties to Democrats, American Oversight bills itself as non-partisan.

Austin Evers, who most recently served as a senior counsel at the State Department, will lead the non-profit and Melanie Sloan, who founded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, will be working as a senior adviser. She served as executive director of CREW for more than a decade and left in 2014 after David Brock was elected to the board of directors.

Brock, who founded liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America and the super PACs Correct the Record and American Bridge 21st Century, stepped down late last year.

"Right now, there's a perfect storm of corruption and scandal brewing. President Trump is creating a culture of impunity across his administration and yet Congress refuses to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of conducting oversight," said Evers, who has also worked for law firm Williams & Connolly. 

One of American Oversight’s first projects tackles concerns that federal record-keeping laws are being broken with the reported use of non-governmental messaging apps for official purposes. 

It is asking the Justice Department and the National Archives and Records Administration to look into the use of these apps, some of which delete messages after a set time, and determine whether such use is in violation of the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act. 

During the presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans invest nearly 0,000 in red Arizona district Al Franken: Sessions firing McCabe ‘is hypocrisy at its worst’ Papadopoulos encouraged by Trump campaign staffer to make contact with Russians: report MORE came under scrutiny for her use of a private email server to conduct government work while secretary of State.

“American Oversight will hold the administration accountable by filling the void left by Congress," Sloan said in a statement. “Americans across the political spectrum demand an ethical government. If Congress won't do its job and investigate wrongdoing, we will.”