NYT: Interim Ethics Chief Pushed To Consult WH Before Taking Actions

President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden, Wednesday, June 1, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump arrives in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 1, 2017, to speak about the US role in the Paris climate change accord. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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The official tapped by President Donald Trump last week to serve as the interim director of the Office of Government Ethics has pushed for the agency to consult with the White House before responding to congressional inquiries or issuing new policies, according to a Wednesday New York Times report.

Walter Shaub, who resigned as director of OGE earlier this month, had slammed the White House’s decision to appoint David Apol last week in a statement that suggested the Trump administration chose someone who would favor the White House.

Per the Times:

Already, according to staff members at the Office of Government Ethics, Mr. Apol has advocated consulting with the White House before he issues certain policies — like one establishing rules related to legal defense funds that some Trump administration officials are setting up. He also wants to check with the White House before the office sends letters to members of Congress who have raised questions about White House ethics matters.

Apol formerly served as the general counsel at the agency. Had the White House not intervened to appoint an interim director, the chief of staff at OGE would have automatically taken over that role.

“It’s unfortunate that the White House decided to play politics with the interim director role,” Shaub said in his statement. “This sort of political interference creates the appearance that the White House may be hoping to engineer looser oversight by reaching down and leapfrogging a career employee over his own supervisor temporarily.”

Apol has a history of pushing the boundaries at OGE, according staffers who spoke with the newspaper. Shaub told the Times that while he was still director, Apol pushed to allow an executive at Lyft to maintain his stock in the company when he took a position at the Department of Transportation. Apol told the Times that he did question whether divestment was warranted in that case, but that he ultimately agreed with Shaub that the Lyft executive sell his stock.

As interim director, Apol will be tasked with deciding whether Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, receives a tax break for selling his share of the investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Administration appointees are sometimes granted certificates of divestiture, giving them a tax break on the sale of stock, to make it easier for them to take an administration job. However, Scaramucci initiated the sale of his share in SkyBridge before he was named to the position, raising questions about whether he should be granted the tax breaks.

Apol told the New York Times that he has yet to make a decision on that point.

“The test whether we issue a CD is whether or not it meets the requirements in the law,” he said. “If it does, we will; if it doesn’t, we won’t.”


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