Federal ethics chief resists House GOP call for private interview

Federal ethics chief resists House GOP call for private interview

A top government ethics official recently critical of President-Elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE is resisting efforts by House Republicans to bring him in for a private interview.

Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, told lawmakers Monday that if members want to interview him about his recent critiques of Trump's handling of his business, the meeting should be in public rather than private.

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In a letter sent to House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges MORE (R-Utah), Shaub said that if the panel had questions about his ethics oversight, they should open the discussion up to a broader audience.

“Through staff, I requested that meeting be open to the public. I recently received word from your Chief of Staff that you are not able to accommodate that request. I write to ask you to reconsider,” he wrote. “Allowing the public to attend our meeting—or, at the very least, to view it through live broadcast or the attendance of the news media—would ensure transparency and educate the public about how OGE guards the executive branch against conflicts of interest.”

The panel's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) had also called for a public hearing Friday, as well as an investigation into Trump's business endeavors.

Earlier this month, Chaffetz sent a letter to Shaub requesting an interview, after Shaub had publicly dismissed Trump’s efforts to reduce conflicts of interest with his business empire as “meaningless.” Shaub's concerns about Trump's business plans gained attention after Shaub ordered a series of curiously phrased late November tweets sent from OGE's Twitter account calling for Trump to divest from his business empire.

Instead of publicly divesting from his assets and placing them in a blind trust, as has been standard practice for presidents in both parties for 40 years, Trump announced last week that he retain ownership of his businesses. Trump said he would step away from managing business operations, handing the reins to his two adult sons. A newly created compliance position at the Trump Organization will monitor its operations.

Ethics experts have argued for weeks that such an arrangement does nothing to address potential conflicts of interest, as Trump still retains a personal financial stake in the business and any profits it could derive.

In response to Trump’s unprecedented steps, Shaub has stepped up his criticism of those efforts. That culminated with public remarks delivered hours after Trump outlined his business plan, where Shaub dismissed Trump’s efforts as far short of what should be expected of an incoming president by the public.

In his letter, Shaub reiterated his concerns.

“My remarks were intended to educate the public about the shortcomings of the President Elect’s current plan and made in the hopes of persuading him to make adjustments that will resolve his conflicts of interest,” he wrote.

Chaffetz argued that Shaub was perhaps overstepping his bounds as an ethics adviser to the executive branch by bringing his criticism of Trump into the public arena.

Shaub ended his letter by saying that if Chaffetz insists on a private meeting, he would accommodate him. In the meantime, though, Shaub said he would be happy to consider alternate dates for a public hearing as well.

This post updated at 7:20pm.