Monday, July 3, 2017

Something About Hen Houses and Foxes

In response to a letter from congressional Democrats, the Office of Government Ethics this week asked the White House Counsel’s office to review whether a top White House ethics official violated ethics rules himself.

Seriously? Is there any official in the Trump administration who would hand down a charge of ethics violation?
Several Democrats sent a letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub in May that asked him to look into whether Stefan Passantino, the White House’s ethics official, violated ethics rules barring him from being involved in personnel matters for former clients who are executive branch appointees.


Passantino shared with Bloomberg News the administration’s determination that Carl Icahn, who serves as an adviser to President Donald Trump, is not an official White House employee, according to Shaub’s letter. Passantino used to work at the law firm that provided services to Icahn.

Shaub wrote in his Wednesday letter to the Democrats that he did not have enough information to reach a conclusion on the matter.
I wonder what other information he needs.
Shaub said he has asked the White House counsel to look into the matter and determine “whether action is warranted.” He said that the White House “is in a position to ascertain the relevant facts and is responsible for monitoring its appointees’ compliance with ethics requirements.”
In other words: fuck off.

You remember Walter Shaub.
[T]he White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.


[Walter] Shaub, who is in the final year of a five-year term after being appointed by President Barack Obama [to head the Office of Government Ethics], said he had no intention of backing down. “It is an extraordinary thing,” Mr. Shaub said of the White House request. “I have never seen anything like it.”

And that was his last battle.

Also, in ethics news:
In a scathing post on LinkedIn, Justice Department compliance counsel Hui Chen announced her decision to resign last month, saying it was impossible to go after corporate fraud and corruption when President Donald Trump himself was engaging in such practices.

Serving as the Fraud Section’s compliance counsel had given me not only the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated, intelligent, and innovative prosecutors in the federal government, it had also given me a platform from which I believed I could make a positive difference. Now, my reason for leaving is the same: to make a difference.


The management of the Criminal Division, of which the Fraud Section is a part, has persistently prohibited me from public speaking.


To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic. Even as I engaged in those questioning and evaluations, on my mind were the numerous lawsuits pending against the President of the United States for everything from violations of the Constitution to conflict of interest, the ongoing investigations of potentially treasonous conducts, and the investigators and prosecutors fired for their pursuits of principles and facts. Those are conducts I would not tolerate seeing in a company, yet I worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conduct. I wanted no more part in it.

  Hui Chen
Kudos to Hui Chen. More often, officials tell the truth after their term is up, and very few quit in protest.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

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