White House blasts Chaffetz for threatening to subpoena ethics watchdog

White House blasts Chaffetz for threatening to subpoena ethics watchdog
© Greg Nash
The White House on Friday tore into House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) for threatening to subpoena the top federal ethics watchdog. 
 
White House press secretary Josh Earnest accused Chaffetz of “seeking to intimidate a senior executive branch official who is responsible for enforcing federal ethics rules.”
 
Earnest defended the official in question, Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, saying he is “doing the job that Jason Chaffetz himself is refusing to do."
 
“It’s outrageous,” he added. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The comments came a day after Republicans on the House Oversight panel asked Shaub, who was appointed by President Obama, to appear privately before the committee after he criticized President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Esper: Military personnel could help treat coronavirus patients 'if push comes to shove' Schumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar MORE’s plan to resolve possible conflicts of interest.
 
Chaffetz said in an interview with Politico he would subpoena Shaub “if he had to.”
 
Shaub has publicly criticized Trump’s plan to separate himself from his business empire. 
 
In an unusually blunt speech on Wednesday, the director called the plan “meaningless” in erasing potential conflicts.
 
Trump has pledged to hand over control of his business to his two adults sons and place his assets into a trust. 
 
That falls short of the standard laid out by ethics advocates, who say the only way to resolve conflicts would be to fully divest from his businesses and move his assets into a blind trust. 
 
Earnest went on a lengthy diatribe against Chaffetz on Friday, dubbing his latest action “the completion of the congressional Republicans’ swamp-filling hat trick.”
 
He pointed to two other incidents: A failed attempt by House Republicans to overhaul the Office of Congressional Ethics and accusations that Senate Republicans tried to rush Trump Cabinet nominees through the confirmation process. 
 
But Republicans have said by calling out Trump publicly, Shaub acted in a political manner. 
 
Chaffetz wrote in a letter to Shaub that he is “blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance.”