Feds Think Trump Should Play By the Same Rules They Have to Follow
Two-thirds are concerned by his potential business conflicts of interest and appointments of family members, survey shows.
For federal employees accustomed to following agency ethics guidelines, the first 100 days with businessman Donald Trump in the White House brought out concerns about his potential conflicts of interests, bypassing of anti-nepotism rules and his emphasis on the special prerogatives of the president.
Sixty percent of 1,295 survey respondents agreed with the statement that Trump’s “business relationships pose a conflict of interest with his presidential duties.” Some 31 percent disagreed, and 7 percent were neutral in the sampling of mostly GS-11s and higher, primarily in the Washington area. The Government Business Council conducted the online survey of readers of Government Executive, Defense One, Nextgov and Route Fifty from April 20-25.
Trump has drawn criticism from ethics advocates and many Democrats for declining to place his vast business holdings in a blind trust (he turned them over to his adult children) and for retaining his lucrative lease for the luxury hotel he built in the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion building in Washington.
As he retained lawyers and fended off pleas from the Office of Government Ethics for greater financial disclosure, Trump has frequently emphasized that the ethics laws do not, for the most part, apply to the president and vice president. Asked in the survey whether they believed “President Trump should be held to the same standards as other federal employees,” 86 percent of federal employee readers said yes, while 10 percent said no. (The remainder had no opinion.)
Trump also takes heat from federal employees for appointing his daughter Ivanka as a special (unpaid) White House adviser while also naming her husband, Jared Kushner, to a huge portfolio of White House agenda items ranging from reorganizing government to reform of the criminal justice system to achieving peace in the Middle East. Only 19 percent of respondents approved of “Trump’s recent appointment of family members to high-level positions in his administration” versus 62 percent who disapproved, and 18 percent who were neutral.
The potentially largest ethics issue surrounding Trump during his first 100 days—with no resolution in sight—are the allegations and evidence that some of his advisers have unexplained ties to business people or government officials in Russia, whose clandestine services have been accused of hacking U.S. computers to interfere in the 2016 election.
Asked “to what extent do you believe the investigation into President Trump’s associations with the Russian government has negatively impacted his ability to lead the country?” respondents were were divided. Thirty-seven percent said the investigation posted a “significant impact” while 28 percent said it posed “some impact.” Thirty percent said the probe had “no impact.” (Five percent did not answer).
Currently, the FBI and two congressional panels are investigating the extent of Russian involvement in the Trump election campaign.