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Ethics Office Presses White House on Undated Conflict-of-Interest Waivers and More in Politics Today

by Countable | 6.2.17

It’s difficult to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in this country and to break through the clutter, so we’re here to make it easier. Here’s what we at Countable are reading today:

1. Ethics office will press White House on undated conflict-of-interest waivers

The Office of Government Ethics plans to press the White House to clarify when it issued a slew of ethics waivers giving its staffers permission to interact with their former employers or clients, an indication that the exemptions might not have been properly granted.

Ten of the 14 waivers publicly disclosed this week by the White House are undated and unsigned, raising questions about when they were put in place.

Particularly troubling, ethics experts said, was a blanket waiver allowing White House appointees to communicate with media organizations where they previously worked that was described as "retroactive" — a maneuver that the ethics office said was not permitted.

Read more at the Washington Post.

2. Trump’s tweets ‘a gold mine’ for Mueller probe

President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed – packed with more than 35,000 time-stamped missives dating to 2009 – offers a treasure trove of evidence for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his growing team of investigators, according to lawyers and veterans of past White House scandals.

Like emails, handwritten notes or transcribed Oval Office conversations, the @realdonaldtrump account gives investigators a detailed timeline of Trump’s thoughts and opinions – including where they might differ from official accounts – and can also be used to establish intent, which can be critical in a criminal investigation.

The president’s social media history also gives investigators a benchmark for questioning witnesses, and where evasive or muddy testimony could expose someone to perjury or obstruction of justice charges.

Read more at Politico.

3. Could Trump Muzzle Comey? A Look at Executive Privilege

James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday. That prospect raises a question for President Trump’s legal and political advisers: Should the president invoke executive privilege to try to block Mr. Comey from talking?

Presidents have claimed the power under the Constitution to prevent the other branches of government from gaining access to certain internal executive branch information...The scope and limits of this power are fuzzy. In practice, executive privilege disputes between the White House and Congress have often been resolved through deals to accommodate investigators’ needs without reaching definitive judicial rulings.

Read more at the New York Times.

4. Lawmakers ask whether looming debt left Jared Kushner vulnerable to Russian influence

Congressional investigators are seeking to determine whether President Trump’s son-in-law was vulnerable to Russian influence during and after the campaign because of financial stress facing his family firm’s signature real estate holding – a Manhattan skyscraper purchased at the height of the real estate boom.

And they are focused, officials told ABC News, on a December meeting Jared Kushner held with executives from a Russian bank.

Read more at ABC News.

5. Hurricane season starts with nobody in charge at FEMA or NOAA

The 2017 hurricane season started Thursday without anyone in charge at the two federal agencies most involved in dealing with hurricanes, National Public Radio notes.

Five months after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, no one has taken the reins at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is in charge of preparing for and then dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane...Trump finally nominated someone at the end of April, but he has yet to be confirmed.

Trump meanwhile has made no move to appoint a new boss at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency in charge of the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service, which provide hurricane forecasts and hurricane warnings in advance of a storm.

Read more at Tampa Bay Times.

6. Some Hires by Betsy DeVos Are a Stark Departure From Her Reputation

Since her confirmation as the education secretary, Betsy DeVos has been the Trump cabinet member liberals love to hate, denouncing her as an out-of-touch, evangelical billionaire without the desire or capacity to protect vulnerable poor, black, immigrant, gay or transgender students.

But while Ms. DeVos has been reluctant to express sympathy for those groups, she has stacked her administration with appointees whose personal and professional backgrounds challenge the narrative that she has no interest in protecting those vulnerable students.

Read more at the New York Times.

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Michael Vadon via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(78)
  • Ticktock
    06/03/2017
    ···

    No President should be able to grant conflict of interest waivers without the Ethics Chair co-signing with the President. The way this Administration flouants ethical standards can only be called corrupt and the violations of the current ethic standards should be the first thing Congress should address to reign in this Administration. This is an example of what Trump has done all his business life, exploit any entity for his own benefit. When he's done usually he's rich and the entity he's raided is bankrupt. Check out the story behind the Atlantic City casinos or Trump University. Trump is a glorified con man. Second issue, who did Kushner say they got all the financing from that they needed? Wasn't US banks. If Kushner goes bankrupt who will own him? The Russians?

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  • Azrael
    06/03/2017
    ···

    Why are we allowing these people in the White House? They shouldn't be allowed in a White Castle

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  • Jean
    06/03/2017
    ···

    We have a corrupt and emboldened administration and it's very apparent with the fact that many of these were back dated to January 20,2017. Showing that ethic violations have more than likely already been committed. The fact that Brietbart or other companies can be involved in policy making more so than any other time in our country's history should be alarming to every American including our government Representatives. I for the first time in my adult life feel hostage to a Man in our White House and the GOP and as many times I have pleaded to my Oklahoma Congressional Representatives I have no representation from my state. I pray and request those who aren't registered to vote to please do such and to PLEASE become informed on ALL issues and policies being made because, thinking they aren't affecting you or your family so it doesn't matter is a very wrong way of thinking. When things are already done and you don't know what happened then you have no one to blame but, yourself. It's hard with so much movement in this administration right now but, this is a blatant smack in the faces of ALL AMERICANS AND WE CANT DO A DAMN THING ABOUT IT. EXCEPT WATCH AND PAY ATTENTION TO POLICY. Contact your representatives and don't be afraid to let your voice be heard. We Are the People. We Are the Government of the United States of America! Don't let them forget that.

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  • Cynthia
    06/03/2017
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    Why is this happening? Enforce the laws and rules.

    Like (11)
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  • wedensmore
    06/03/2017
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    It comes as no surprise that one of the basest administrations to take office would lay claim to a slew of ethical issues so soon into their reign. Please hold the feet of these usurpers to the fire!

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  • Derrek
    06/03/2017
    ···

    I am disgusted wth the incessant desire for the current administration to operate as if it is above the law. It's inadmissible that we as citizens must allow this kind of behavior which is the very definition of hypocrisy. This administration prefers self-interest over public servitude. Please hear your constituency representatives.

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  • Jan
    06/03/2017
    ···

    Undated and unsigned ethics waivers? If these people were a laboratory and they were inspected by a regulatory inspector, unsigned and undated waivers would be the equivalent of no waiver. Let's get real here. I would consider it an ethics violation.

    Like (7)
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  • mikesindahouse
    06/03/2017
    ···

    This is just more evidence of corruption in the Trump administration. Do your jobs, demand truthful answers, investigate to be sure, and hold Trump accountable.

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  • Dave
    06/04/2017
    ···

    The Trump administration is an administration that keep giving corruption as a distraction, that way the senate and congress keep chancing shining balls! Trump is a master at miss and fake information and lies!

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  • Patty
    06/03/2017
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    No president should be able to give conflict of interest waivers without approval of the Ethics office. Especially retroactive! If you need a retroactive waiver you have already done something wrong.

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  • EricOlson
    06/03/2017
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    It's important to uphold ethics practice when it's under attack. This is a hundred times more important when the unprincipled "leader" of our country is the one undermining ethical norms and acting as a bad example. Please send a public message of support to Mr. Traub at the Ethics Office and do everything possible to force the Administration to date and responsibly justify Ethics waivers. Thanks for your good work!

    Like (4)
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  • PLD
    06/03/2017
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    There's no question that the Trump White House feels no compunction to follow any type of ethical code of conduct. In establishing the kleptocracy, it's "grab what you can and to heck with the democratic ideals of the country." President Bannon sought to destroy and he's certainly moving towards success with no one attempting to stop him. 😢

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  • Rosa
    06/03/2017
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    Impeach

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  • Babs
    06/03/2017
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    ETHICS are not something that good people need, ask for, or even want! Only crooks would ask for this type of waver. 🐒

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  • Chris
    06/03/2017
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    Wow. With all of this stuff adding up if you do not take quick and consequential action it will be all out political civil war. America looses and Trump laughs all the way to the bank.

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  • Melanie
    06/04/2017
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    This administration doesn't know the meaning of the word ethics. And is it any surprise? Trump University, Atlantic City casinos, discriminatory rental property. If it is good for Trump, it is ethical, questions?

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  • AndreB
    06/03/2017
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    If the president and his supporters wish to drain the swamp of Washington, then they should be outraged at this. These ethics waivers that are undated and partially filled out show the true disregard for the American public. Congress needs to expose this ethics violation and our republican lawmakers are either complicit in this elitist abuse of power, or they can show their patriotic support for helping to root out this corruption. I am starting to believe the phrase that there are only republicans and Americans now. The GOP is losing any sense of moral high ground and will not recover easily.

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  • operaman
    06/03/2017
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    I really wanted to comment on the Ethics Board, but I'm updating the software of my crystal ball. Many of the Countable members who are complaining of Trumps actions are using the Rights complaints of the last 8 years. Would that be plagiarism from the Left? As Obama watches his legacy of straw and mud slowly be destroyed, has he ever considered his rashness over patience without reaching consensus with Congress who votes on permanent laws and treaties. No, didn't think so! And we all should be thankful for his carbon footprint.

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  • Dan
    06/03/2017
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    I speak loudly against Executive Privilege with respect to Comey. This would be covering up the truth.

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  • Vanessa
    06/03/2017
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    I am amazed that this administration can continually break rules and no one NO ONE takes them to task....Either they are just breaking some White House etiquette and we are being barraged by party jargon, or we are saddled with a inept congress and are screwed......

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