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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. 

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The letter is signed by Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump's SEC may negate investors' ability to fight securities fraud Schatz's ignorance of our Anglo-American legal heritage illustrates problem with government Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee MORE (D-Mass.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseCommittee chairman aims for House vote on opioid bills by Memorial Day Regulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage Prison sentencing bill advances over Sessions objections MORE (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal Judiciary Dems want public hearings with Kushner, Trump Jr. 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."