White House: Our Employees Don't Have To Follow Ethics Rules

Mar 13, 2017, 01:12
White House: Our Employees Don't Have To Follow Ethics Rules

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway prepares to appear on the Sunday morning show "Meet The Press", from the north lawn at the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, D.C. The Office of Government Ethics on Thursday, March 9, 2017, fired back at the White House for choosing to not discipline Conway after she endorsed Ivanka Trump's clothing line during an appearance on Fox News.

White House Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway is interviewed by Mercedes Schlapp during the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, 2017. Last week, however, in reply to a letter from the OGE, the White House said that Conway's endorsement came "without nefarious motives". Additionally, Shaub said he was alarmed that White House lawyers have argued that many ethics rules aren't applicable to people working for the president.

Conway's urging TV viewers on February 9 to "go buy Ivanka's stuff" - an attempt to support the businesswoman after luxury retailer Nordstrom dropped her brand - prompted the House Oversight Committee to send a letter notifying Shaub. "When they violate these rules, the president must impose discipline, not invent a legal fiction that these rules do not apply".

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"Not taking disciplinary action against a senior official under such circumstances risks undermining the ethics program", Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), wrote in a letter dated March 9 to White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino. He says, "It is critical to the public's faith in the integrity of government that the White House employees be held to the same standard of ethical accountability as other executive branch employees". There was no mention of discipline in the letter.

A lawyer for the administration even said later that many ethics agency rules do not apply to the President's staff. She called that assertion "astounding".

The exchange highlighted ongoing tensions between Shaub, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013, and the White House over the intertwining of the Trump family's private business interests and the president's public duties. "Officials in any administration need their president to show ethics matters, not only through words but also through deeds", Shaub said in a January 11 appearance at the Brookings Institution.