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Cummings Issues Statement After Closed-Door Meeting with Top Government Ethics Official

Jan 23, 2017
Press Release

Cummings Issues Statement After Closed-Door  Meeting with Top Government Ethics Official

 

 

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 23, 2017)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement after Members of the Committee held a meeting with Walter Shaub, the Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE):

“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.  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.”

Below are key takeaways from today’s meeting with Director Shaub:

  • Director Shaub told Committee Members that the Office of Government Ethics never received copies of the documents that then-President-Elect Trump brought to his press conference on January 11, 2017, regarding his conflicts of interest.
  • In fact, Director Shaub said that the Office of Government Ethics has received no new information since this press conference.
  • Director Shaub described comments by President Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, as “chilling.” Priebus had issued a not-so-subtle threat on national television, warning that Director Shaub “ought to be careful” in his criticism of Trump.
  • Despite this criticism, Director Shaub said that he is willing and ready to help President Trump address his conflicts of interest.

Chaffetz originally threatened to subpoena Shaub, accusing him on national television of refusing to meet with him when in fact he was willing to do so.  According to documents obtained by the Huffington Post through FOIA, it was Chaffetz who missed a previously discussed meeting in early December. 

Two weeks ago, Chaffetz sent a letter attacking Director Shaub after he warned that Trump’s plan to deal with his conflicts of interest was “wholly inadequate.”  Director Shaub also stated:  “We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit.” 

His position was identical to that of Antonin Scalia when he served more than 40 years ago at the Department of Justice before becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

Chaffetz threatened funding for the Office of Government Ethics and demanded that Director Shaub appear for an interrogation behind closed doors—a move that President Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, commended.  Priebus also issued a not-so-subtle threat, warning that Director Shaub “ought to be careful” in his criticism of Trump.

Over the past two weeks, a growing group of good-government groups, Republican and Democratic ethics experts, and Members of Congress have sharply criticized Chaffetz’s actions for publicly attacking Director Shaub while refusing to investigate President-Elect Trump’s refusal to divest. 

In response, Chaffetz withdrew his subpoena threat and reversed his decision to hold a transcribed interview, which Cummings called a “positive step in the right direction.”  Instead of a public meeting, Chaffetz scheduled a closed-door meeting today with Director Shaub, after which Cummings requested that all Committee Members at least be allowed to participate.

 

115th Congress