Federal Ethics Chief Wants Meeting With GOP Oversight Chair To Be Public

Walter Shaub/ Office of Government Ethics
|
January 18, 2017 10:27 a.m.

The director of the Office of Government Ethics has requested that a private interview with House Oversight Committee leadership and staff be held in public, given “the significant public interest” in government ethics since Election Day.

In a letter dated Monday, Shaub responded to House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) request for him to meet with committee leadership and staff in response to the office’s public statements, including a series of bizarre tweets Shaub’s office had sent urging President-elect Donald Trump to divest from his business interests.

A day before Chaffetz sent Shaub the interview request, the OGE chief delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution that was harshly critical of Trump’s plan to separate himself from his businesses, calling it “wholly inadequate.”

Shaub noted in his letter that over the weekend Chaffetz’s office had “modified your original request and proposed a private meeting with you and the Ranking Member and your respective staffs.”

“Since the election, there has been significant public interest in OGE and government ethics issues,” Shaub wrote to Chaffetz. “Our office has received an unprecedented volume of telephone calls, emails, and letters from members of the public related to our executive branch ethics program. As these communications make clear, the public wants to understand conflicts of interest in government and the role that OGE plays in preventing conflicts from hindering effective governance. Holding our meeting in public is in accordance with OGE’s educational function and will further ensure transparency in how we approach ethical governance.”

A spokesperson for Chaffetz had no comment in response to TPM’s inquiries Wednesday morning.

Chaffetz had said Sunday that he would not go on a “fishing expedition” to look for Trump’s potential conflicts of interest.

The House Oversight Committee chair has faced criticism from the likes of White House press secretary Josh Earnest, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and ethics watchdog groups for his initial interview request, which many interpreted as a veiled threat against Shaub for criticizing Trump.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) echoed those sentiments on Sunday.

“Republicans should start doing their job under the Constitution rather than doubling-down on their retaliatory attacks against ethics officials, acting as the president-elect’s personal cheerleaders, and doing back-flips to avoid doing any real oversight,” he said, according to a CNN report.

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