Rep. Jason Chaffetz drew criticism Friday for going after the federal ethics official who spoke out against President-elect Donald Trump's handling of potential conflicts of interest.
A big chunk of Donald Trump's press conference on Wednesday was devoted to describing arrangements the president-elect will make to avoid conflicts of interest after his inauguration.
Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, took the stage at a Wednesday event for the Brookings Institution think tank to say that Trump's decision "doesn't meet the standards ... that every president of the past four decades has met".
Under the law, the Office and Government Ethics may require executive branch officials to divest assets that could pose conflicts of interest. Unlike other US government officials, the president is not required by law to steer clear of conflicts of interest. Trump's plan included giving control of his businesses through a trust to his sons, hiring an ethics adviser to review business deals and barring any Trump Organization deals with foreign entities. He added he had initially been encouraged by a Trump tweet previous year that "no way" would he allow any conflicts of interest. Trump's debts will be paid down, according to their schedules.
In his first press conference in six months, Trump and his lawyer on Wednesday repeatedly noted that he is taking these steps even though federal conflict-of-interest laws don't apply to the USA president.
The OGE was created by Congress to oversee and approve blind trusts in the Ethics in Government Act, passed in 1978.More news: National Football League pushes back Steelers-Chiefs to Sunday night, cites forecast
Some have wondered if, for example, a foreign visitor were to rent a room at Trump's new hotel here in Washington, would that amount to an illegal gift? Profits from his hotels that come from foreign governments will be forwarded to the U.S. Treasury, so the new Trump hotel not far from the White House will not be a moneymaking annex as quarters for diplomats and heads of state.
President-elect Donald Trump will leave his positions at the various companies of the Trump Organisation, but he will not divest his ownership, raising questions about whether he has adequately addressed conflict-of-interest concerns.
In late November House Democrats urged Chaffetz to investigate President-elect Trump's huge conflicts of interest and vast inappropriate actions even before taking office. He should sell his assets and place the proceeds in a blind trust. The Trump Organization's assets are hotels, golf courses and other highly visible properties branded with the Trump name.
He can, and should, go further than simply handing over control of the company to a trust run by his sons and agreeing to not interfere in the business.
Josh Kanter, founder of the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, said Chaffetz "is selectively using his power to threaten and intimidate this independent ethics watchdog" instead of looking at the "ethical controversies" surrounding Trump. "Should be fine", said David Kleppinger, who supports Trump.
If Trump sold his businesses, she said, it would raise questions about whether buyers were paying an inflated value to curry favor with the president.