Gov’t Ethics Chief Warned Trump Cabinet Staffing Process Was ‘Unprecedented’

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February 2, 2017 7:03 p.m.
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The director of the Office of Government Ethics warned President Donald Trump against announcing cabinet appointments without first having them vetted by his office, according to records obtained by NBC News and The James Madison Project under a Freedom of Information request.

“I am not sure whether you are aware that announcing the cabinet without first coordinating with OGE is unprecedented,” OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr. wrote in a November email to top Trump lawyer Don McGahn, as quoted in a report by NBC News.

He said OGE had “not been involved in the process as to any of these individuals” and warned Trump that his lack of coordination with the office created “unnecessary risk for both the President-elect and the prospective nominees.”

Shaub wrote that OGE was in contact with Trump’s campaign before the election, per the report, but said the process had “broken down” and that Trump aides ignored or rebuffed “several” attempts the office made to contact McGahn.

“At present, we have no reliable lines of communication with the transition team — a circumstance that is also unprecedented,” he wrote.

Trump White House officials did not immediately return requests for comment by NBC News.

In January, Shaub told top Senate Democrats that the stacked hearing schedule for Trump’s nominees left his office unable to complete ethics reviews on several appointees.

“I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process,” he wrote in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

CNBC published on the same day emails from Shaub to Trump aides in November in which the director said his office “lost contact with the Trump-Pence transition since the election.”

The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Request from MSNBC and The James Madison Project.

And just four days after that, the Senate Commerce Committee postponed its confirmation hearing for Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick to lead the Commerce Department, because the committee had not received Ross’ ethics agreement.

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