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House Republicans Threaten Government Ethics Official Who Criticized Trump


House Republicans Threaten Government Ethics Official Who Criticized Trump

House Republicans, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, sent a threatening letter to Walter Shaub, the head of the Office of Government Ethics after Shaub expressed his concerns about Trump’s conflict of interests.

Shaub told the lawmakers that Trump’s plan to address potential conflicts is “meaningless,” and that more needed to be done. But instead of asking the ethics chief how to fix Trump’s plan, House Republicans have their own idea: Threaten the ethics official, according to The Huffington Post.

In a sternly worded letter sent to Shaub on Thursday, Chaffetz confronted the head of the OGE, telling him that he is “blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance.”

Chaffetz, the Republican who announced last year that he wouldn’t be able to look his daughter in the eye if he endorsed Trump and then went on to vote for Trump, demanded that Shaub show up for a private interview on Capitol Hill as soon as possible — or else face a subpoena forcing him to do so.

“He’s coming in,” Chaffetz told Politico. “This is not going to be an optional exercise.”


Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) | Imgur

Chaffetz made clear in the letter that his committee has the power to reauthorize the ethics office. What Chaffetz didn’t have to say is that his committee could also push to shutter the office entirely. Earlier this month, House Republicans tried to gut another ethics watchdog, the Office of Congressional Ethics, before backing down due to public outcry.

“Chaffetz is trying to punish Shaub for criticizing Trump,” Richard Painter, former President George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer, told The New York Times Thursday.

“They are strong-arming them,” Painter said. “They are obviously very upset the Office of Government Ethics is leaning on Trump and not willing to jam through his nominees. It is political retaliation.”

Democrats, who have been pushing the Republican-run Congress to investigate Trump’s conflicts, are livid.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that Chaffetz had “appointed himself President-elect Trump’s chief strongman and enforcer.”

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) issued a statement saying the Office of Government Ethics “must be allowed to do its job, free from political interference.”

“The Oversight Committee is supposed to protect whistleblowers and independent government watchdogs like the Office of Government Ethics instead of retaliating against them for political reasons,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in a statement Friday morning.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest reportedly said on Friday that Chaffetz was “threatening to shut down the office of the guy who is doing the job that Jason Chaffetz himself is refusing to do.”

Cummings revealed that he sent a letter to Chaffetz on Thursday calling for a public hearing with Shaub as the main witness, prior to Chaffetz threatening to summon Shaub for a closed-door meeting.

“The Oversight Committee has not held one hearing, conducted one interview, or obtained one document about President-Elect Donald Trump’s massive global entanglements,” Cummings said, “yet it is now apparently rushing to launch an investigation of the key government official for warning against the risks caused by President-Elect Donald Trump’s current plans.”

According to Chaffetz, a closed-door hearing is necessary because the OGE’s statutory authority lapsed in 2007. Ethics experts, however, disagreed with his assertion.

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