watching over DC

Top Federal Watchdog: White House Has Not Explained Use of Ethics Waivers

In a recent letter from the Office of Government Ethics – the federal government’s top watchdog – the agency’s acting director noted the White House had provided minimal guidance pertaining to the Trump administration’s “oversight and implementation of Executive Order 13770, which establishes an ethics pledge for certain executive branch appointees, including White House personnel.”

The letter was sent to Senator Claire McCaskill, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

As explained by GovExec, the Executive Order in question “prohibits his appointees, upon leaving government, from working for any foreign government or political party that would require registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Additionally, appointees entering government must pledge to refrain from participating in any matters substantially related to their former employer or clients, ‘including regulations and contracts,’ for two years from the date of their appointment.”

At issue, however, is not primarily the ethics pledge itself, but a portion of the language giving the president the ability to give waivers to White House staff, allowing them to forego the ethics pledge.

Asked whether OGE has been provided with the criteria used when approving ethics waivers, Acting Director David J. Apol wrote, “The White House has not provided OGE with such criteria. The White House posted waivers that contain a determination that ‘it is appropriate and in the public interest to provide a limited waiver,’ but the documents do not provide the criteria used to make those determinations.”

Apol also noted that OGE has not been provided with a list of parties authorized to grant ethics waivers within the White House and has not received copies of the ethics pledge waivers. “Rather, the White House posted electronic copies of such waivers on the White House website,” the letter reads, “Most of the waivers posted on the White House website are undated and unsigned.”

Posted in From the Hill

Tags: ethics, Donald Trump, Office of Government Ethics, Trump Administration, Sen. Claire McCaskill

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