Monday’s well-anticipated meeting between the director of the Office of Government Ethics and the House Oversight chairman produced one surprise: an assertion that President Trump’s attorney handling his planned transfer of his business holdings never submitted papers to the federal ethics overseer.
The meeting with OGE Director Walter Shaub, demanded by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, followed disputes over whether Chaffetz was seeking to intimidate the Obama appointee and whether the panel should hold public full committee hearings on how to handle Trump’s unusual approach to rules designed to help government officials avoid conflicts of interest.
According to a recap of the private meeting by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the panel’s ranking member, Shaub told the lawmakers that the ethics office never received copies of the documents that then-President elect Trump displayed on television at his press conference on Jan. 11 regarding his potential conflicts of interest. Nor has OGE received any new information from Trump’s attorney since that day.
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“After hearing directly from Director Shaub today, I am more concerned than ever about President Trump’s refusal to follow the advice of Republican and Democratic ethics experts and divest himself of his corporate ownership interests, liquidate his business assets, and place them in a truly blind trust operated by an independent entity, Cummings said. “As I told Director Shaub in the meeting, I will fight to the death for OGE employees, government watchdogs and whistleblowers to be protected when they perform their duties.”
Cummings also quoted Shaub as saying he found “chilling” comments made on television last week by Trump Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, who had warned Shaub “to be careful” in his comments that Trump’s plans for turning his holdings over to his adult children were insufficient. Shaub also said he is willing to help the president take further steps.
Chaffetz, following the meeting, told reporters only that "it was a very productive meeting. I think we better understand each other. I [was able to] express my frustration and I think it happened in a bipartisan way."
Government Executive did not receive responses to inquiries to OGE, Trump attorney Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis and the Trump Organization by publication time.