WH ethics office asked to investigate top Trump ethics aide

WH ethics office asked to investigate top Trump ethics aide

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) sent a letter to the White House Thursday raising concerns about a possible ethics violation by top White House aide Stefan Passantino.

Five Senate Democrats wrote to the top ethics watchdog group after Passantino delivered to the media the White House's legal position on the employment status of Carl Icahn, a billionaire adviser to President Trump. Passantino, who lists Icahn among his former clients, is required to recuse himself from personnel matters regarding any individuals for whom he previously worked.

The Senate Democrats alleged in their letter that Passantino violated an ethics rule in delivering the legal position. 

The letter is signed by Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren, Cummings seek 0B to fight opioid epidemic Dem senators call on FCC to protect against robocalls Dem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseWatchdog requests probe into relationship between top EPA aide and man investigating him Overnight Energy: Former Pruitt aide alleges more wasteful spending, retaliation | Senate confirms EPA No. 2 | Zinke backs off big park fee increases Senate approves Trump’s pick for No. 2 at EPA MORE (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Tech: Zuckerberg grilled by lawmakers over data scandal | What we learned from marathon hearing | Facebook hit with class action lawsuit | Twitter endorses political ad disclosure bill | Uber buys bike share Overnight Cybersecurity: Zuckerberg faces grilling in marathon hearing | What we learned from Facebook chief | Dems press Ryan to help get Russia hacking records | Top Trump security adviser resigning Shelby approved as Appropriations panel chairman MORE (D-Vt.).

Passantino works for the White House as its agency ethics official tasked with ensuring compliance of conflict-of-interest provisions imposed by Trump in January.

In the OGE's response to the senators, the agency's director wrote that he lacked the information to proceed with the investigation and asked White House counsel Don McGahn to look into the issue further.

"OGE lacks the information needed to assess this news report," director Walter Shaub wrote. "Specifically, OGE does not know whether Mr. Passantino participated in the formulation of the White House's legal position."

"However," Shaub continued, "the White House is in a position to ascertain the relevant facts and is responsible for monitoring its appointees' compliance with ethics requirements.

"Therefore, by copy of this letter, I am bringing this matter to the attention of the Counsel to the President for his review."