Rep. Jason Chaffetz Vs. Obama Appointee at The OGE

ethics

The following story appeared on Fox New’s online news page this morning:

“Chaffetz calls on ethics head to testify day after chief criticized Trump”

House Republicans, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, have summoned the head of the independent federal ethics office to answer questions about his agency and his public criticism of President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to separate from his real estate empire.

Chaffetz, the chairman of the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he sent a letter Thursday to Walter Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to appear before lawmakers in a closed-door, transcribed interview.

Shaub is not being subpoenaed, but asked to respond to questions in a setting like a deposition, committee staff said.

“I want to talk about the whole department,” Chaffetz said in an interview. “Mr. Shaub has taken a very aggressive stance on issues he’s never looked at. He’s raised a bunch of eyebrows.”

Shaub, appointed by President Barack Obama to a five-year term that has a year to go, gave an extraordinary [emphasis mine] public admonishment on Wednesday of Trump’s plan to place his businesses in a trust managed by his elder sons. The ethics chief said the plan was “wholly inadequate” to protect the incoming president from conflicts of interest.

“Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict-of-interest perspective,” Shaub said at a forum at the Brookings Institution.

Chaffetz said he has not yet decided whether to ask Shaub to testify at a public committee hearing but will wait for the transcribed interview, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The comments followed a tweetstorm from Shaub’s office in late November that congratulated Trump on divesting himself of his business holdings. The tweets were composed, public records requests have revealed, by Shaub himself. Trump had not agreed to divest, however.

Chaffetz said that after the election he asked Shaub to meet with him to discuss the tweets and other operations of the ethics office, which is up for reauthorization by Congress. But the congressman said Shaub refused to meet.

OGE spokesman Vincent Salamone declined to comment early Thursday when asked about Chaffetz’s claim. Salamone could not immediately be reached for comment later on the committee’s request for a transcribed interview.

Last year, Chaffetz accused Shaub of going silent on potential conflicts of interest for Hillary Clinton as she accepted speaking fees for speeches, money that went to the Clinton Foundation. Republicans said she was required to disclose it. Shaub told the oversight committee at the time that the law did not require disclosure.

Richard W. Painter, who served as an ethics lawyer for George W. Bush said Republicans appear to be “strong-arming” the agency.

“They are obviously very upset the Office of Government Ethics is leaning on Trump and not willing to jam through his nominees. It is political retaliation,” he told The New York Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

Walter Shaub was appointed by Barack Obama.  That pretty much says it all.  One would think that in Shaub’s official capacity as Director of the OGE there would be a standard protocol for looking into and reporting findings on potential ethics violations and that such protocol would rise above the level of a tweet.  Given how he came into his position and the following news from NPR surrounding his controversial tweets on Trump, it’s obvious to me that his goal is to set Trump up as a target of his committee and taint him as unethical before he even takes office:

From NPR on 12/30/2016;

In November, the typically straitlaced Office of Government Ethics surprised observers with a series of tweets mimicking Donald Trump’s bombastic style, exclamation points and all: “Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, good for America!”

The controversy was two-fold: (1) The OGE doesn’t typically air its positions publicly, advising White House transition teams behind the scenes. (2) Trump hadn’t promised the total divestitures of business interests implied by the tweets.

 New records shared with NPR on Friday show that behind the curious tweets was the head of the OGE himself, Director Walter Shaub Jr.

In two emails, dated Nov. 30, just several minutes apart, Shaub sent to OGE Chief of Staff Shelley Finlayson the nine tweets that took the Internet by storm that day. He then followed up with a link to a legal document referenced in one of the tweets and writes: “Get all of these tweets posted as soon as humanly possible.”

 

Of course we should expect Trump to behave ethically and to not use his office to enrich himself, but the expectation that Donald Trump should have to entirely divest himself of a multi-billion dollar empire in order to be POTUS is so impractical as to be absurd.  It would take years and all of Trump’s focus to make that happen, so it’s dumb to suggest or expect it.  I’m no cheerleader for Trump, but as a constituent I was satisfied with the plan presented by his advisers with respect to distancing himself from his business empire. BTW I went back through Shaub’s tweets in the days following Loretta Lynch’s infamous ethical lapse when she met clandestinely with the husband of a high-profile investigative target (that would be Hillary, of course) and – surprise! – Shaub apparently had no opinion on that.

Now let’s have a look at ethics “expert” Richard W. Painter.  This “Republican” wrote an op-ed for the StarTribune on July 25, 2016 endorsing………….wait for it………… Hillary Clinton.  Again, actions speak louder than words and that pretty much says it all.  We still don’t know what we’re going to get from Trump as a government official, ethically speaking, but we damn sure knew what we would get from Hillary.  So much for Mr. Painter’s lofty ethics standards.

Shaub and Painter are leftwing hacks and the OGE has undoubtedly been politicized, so I applaud Chaffetz and other Republicans for not sitting idly by while the Left does its dirty work, as Republicans usually do.  This also demonstrates that the current Republican congress was correctly following its instincts when they sought to shut down this partisan agency as their first official act, but they were  publicly admonished by Donald Trump.  It will be interesting to see if he has a change of heart somewhere along the way.

You go, Congressman Chaffetz!

~CW



Categories: Political

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4 replies

  1. I’d seen headlines on this topic, but hadn’t really followed it, so I appreciate you posting this. I’m guessing Trump objected to shutting them down because he didn’t want it to appear that he was waging a vendetta on them for personal reasons, but you’re right – he may have a change of heart after this.

    It’s funny how more and more of the dems’ double standards are becoming apparent – sure hope their die-hard voters are paying attention.

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    • As I said to Tannngl, Kathy, one can see how the optics of taking power from an ethics oversight agency wouldn’t look good when Trump just won an election by promising to drain the swamp; but I think he’ll soon find out that an ethics agency run by Democrats is a joke and a menace, and he may rue the day that he spoke too soon.

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  2. Here’s the story, Tannngl:

    It was an amendment to the House rules package and from what I read the intentions were basically good but the optics – in light of Trump’s plan to “drain the swamp” were terrible:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/01/02/house-republicans-vote-to-rein-in-independent-ethics-office/?utm_term=.cad3e138478a

    “House Republicans voted behind closed doors Monday night to rein in the independent ethics office created eight years ago in the wake of a series of embarrassing congressional scandals.”

    “Under the proposed new rules, the office could not employ a spokesman, investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the express consent of the Ethics Committee, which would gain the power to summarily end any OCE probe.”

    “Feedback from Members and staff having gone through review by the OCE has been that those under investigation need increased protection of their due process rights, greater access to basic evidentiary standards, and a process that does not discriminate against them for invoking those rights,” the summary said. “The amendment seeks to strengthen each of these needs while maintaining the basic core of OCE’s functions.”

    Sounds to me like an office that had become politicized. It was started in 2008 to look into certain events and now it looks like another agency with the potential to run amok. I don’t blame Republicans for wanting to get rid of it. You could argue that the timing was bad but when is a good time to look like you’re taking away ethics oversight? The problem was with the failure to explain it, and perhaps to get Trump on board first.

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  3. Didn’t the House try to do something that sounded very unethical with the ‘ethics committee’ or something with the word ethics in it? Can’t quite remember but other congressmen embarrassed whever put forward this bill. Wonder if it had anything to do with this stellar ethics genius. I could be wrong but stuff doesn’t usually happen in a vacuum.

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