MPR – The Office of Government Ethics has informed the Trump administration that the White House has an “incorrect” view of ethics laws.
In a Thursday letter, OGE director Walter Shaub contradicted what he called the White House’s “extraordinary assertion,” made in a recent letter, that “many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics (‘OGE’) do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President.”
Shaub was having no part of that: “The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it.”
The exchange over ethics rules first unfolded as a result of Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on Fox & Friends.
After that, Shaub informed the White House that there was “strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct” by promoting private gain for the president’s family. In addition, he concluded that “disciplinary action is warranted.”
White House deputy council Stefan Passantino responded in a letter that Conway had “acted inadvertently,” and he did not say that the White House would take any disciplinary action.
In that letter, he also said this:
“We note initially that although many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics (“OGE”) do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President, the Office of the White House Counsel has instructed all such employees to abide by 3 CFR 100.1,” the segment of ethics law that pertains to Executive Office employees.
In Thursday’s letter, Shaub said he “remain[s] concerned” about the White House’s Conway response (or lack thereof). He was more forceful about the ethics claim, however:
“I am more concerned about the extraordinary assertion that ‘many’ of OGE’s regulations are inapplicable to employees of the Executive Office of the President. The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it. Presidential administrations have not considered it appropriate to challenge the applicability of ethics rules to the entire executive branch.”