Taxpayers pay legal bill to protect Trump business profits

Taxpayers are footing the legal bill for at least 10 Justice Department lawyers and paralegals to work on lawsuits related to President Trump’s private businesses.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department will say how much it is costing taxpayers, but federal payroll records show the salaries of the government lawyers assigned to the cases range from about $133,000 to $185,000.

The government legal team is defending President Trump in four lawsuits stemming from his unusual decision not to divest himself from hundreds of his companies that are entangled with customers that include foreign governments and officials.
In the cases, Justice Department attorneys are not defending policy actions Trump took as president. Instead, the taxpayer-funded lawyers are making the case that it is not unconstitutional for the president’s private companies to earn profits from foreign governments and officials while he’s in office.

The government lawyers and Trump’s private attorneys are making the same arguments — that the Constitution’s ban on a president taking gifts from foreign interests in exchange for official actions does not apply to foreign government customers buying things from Trump’s companies. The plaintiffs, including ethics groups and competing businesses, argue the payments pose an unconstitutional conflict of interest.

The Justice Department for weeks refused to answer questions about how many employees were working on the cases and for how long, falsely saying the agency doesn’t track such information. USA TODAY identified the government legal staff who are defending Trump’s business profits using the agency’s own internal case-tracking database, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Justice Department traditionally defends the office of the president and its occupants’ rights in court, sometimes under novel circumstances. However, the cases about Trump’s businesses create a historically awkward and unusual position for the public lawyers: the result of their arguments in court is to protect the president’s potential customer base.

“We’ve never before had a president who was branded and it’s impossible to divorce from that brand,” said Stuart Gerson, who served as chief of the Justice Department’s civil division for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “It’s blurring the lines because it’s so unusual. I can’t think of a precedent where another civil division lawyer has been called on to defend the president under these circumstances.”

[USA Today]

Trump Tells Republicans to Cut Taxes for the Rich, Like Trump

President Donald Trump pushed Republicans on Monday to cut taxes on the rich by using money that’s slated to help lower-income Americans purchase health insurance.

Trump’s request, which the president relayed by Twitter from his trip through Asia, comes at a sensitive moment in tax negotiations. It also goes against his repeated insistence that tax legislation should be focused on providing middle-class tax relief rather than cutting taxes for wealthy filers like himself.

At times, the president has even predicted that he would pay more under a GOP plan (Trump has not released his tax returns, but multiple provisions in the House and Senate bills appear likely to benefit his business and family).

The House and Senate have released competing bills, neither of which ends the individual Obamacare mandate to maintain insurance coverage or lowers the top rate nearly as far as the president requested on Monday.

In the case of the House bill, the top rate would stay at the current 39.6 percent but would apply it to a higher income threshold: For married couples, it would only kick in after the first $1,000,000 in income versus $470,000 now.

The Senate bill would lower the top rate to 38.5 percent and also have a $1,000,000 threshold for married filers.

Republicans have weighed repealing the individual mandate in recent weeks, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would free up $338 billion over 10 years for tax reform.

But the savings occur only because CBO predicts 13 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2027. It’s not clear whether that’s enough to reduce top rates to Trump’s desired levels or provide additional middle-class benefits.

In general, rich households already do well in analyses of the current tax plans thanks to provisions like ending the alternative minimum tax, reducing or repealing the estate tax, and cutting taxes for pass-through entities, all of which could potentially benefit Trump himself.

Under the new Senate bill, for example, the conservative Tax Foundation estimates the top 1 percent of taxpayers would see a 7.5 percent increase in after-tax income, versus less than 2 percent for the bottom 80 percent.

Democrats, who have spent weeks attacking the Republican tax bills as a boon to the rich, quickly seized on Trump’s remarks.

“Sooner or later, President Trump’s core supporters will realize that he’s selling them out,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “This proposal would send premiums for millions of Americans skyrocketing, all so that the wealthy can get an even bigger tax giveaway than they’d get under the original Republican plan.”

[NBC News]

Trump chooses not to deport wealthy Chinese fugitive – after finding out he’s a Mar-a-Lago member

President Donald Trump was reportedly on the verge of deporting billionaire Chinese fugitive Guo Wengui, but changed his mind after aides informed him that Guo is a fellow billionaire and a member in good standing at the president’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.

According to Vanity Fair‘s Isobel Thompson, Guo is wanted on charges of rape, bribery and kidnapping in his native China.

Much like Trump, the international fugitive is a wealthy real-estate developer with a massive Twitter following and an intense interest in building and promoting his personal brand.

Longtime Trump friend and casino magnate Steve Wynn delivered Trump a letter from the Chinese government demanding Guo’s extradition. Trump was inclined to take his friend’s advice, in spite of the conflict of interest posed by the fact that Wynn is dependent upon China’s approval to obtain licenses for his casinos in Macau.

Guo built a real estate empire in Beijing, but fled China in 2014 after being informed that he was about to be arrested. Since then he has taunted the Chinese government on Twitter, telling sensational — and possibly apocryphal — stories about Chinese government corruption.

There is no extradition treaty between China and the U.S. — meaning Trump is not obligated to hand over criminals wanted in China. Guo bought a $67.5 million apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City.

In May, Chinese government operatives visited Guo at his apartment — in violation of their visa status.

Thompson explained, “Entering the country on a visa that allows foreign government officials to travel through America en route to another destination without conducting official business, they met Guo at his apartment and pressured him to return to China and drop his accusations.”

The officials were nearly arrested at JFK airport, which could have sparked an international incident.

In June, Trump met with aides to discuss foreign policy toward China. He stunned the group by producing the letter forwarded to him by Wynn and saying that he was inclined to agree to the extradition.

Fearing that the handover would make the U.S. look weak and establish a dangerous precedent with foreign governments, aides urged set about trying to convince Trump not to fulfill China’s request.

They informed Trump that Guo “happens to be a member of his Mar-a-Lago resort (a privilege that costs $200,000 in initiation fees plus $14,000 in annual dues),” Thompson said. “The president subsequently changed his mind, exposing a secondary set of even more problematic biases. Apparently, Trump was more than happy to allow a wealthy friend to pressure him on foreign policy — until he was made aware of an even more pressing concern,” the possibility of losing a paying member of Mar-a-Lago.

[Raw Story]

Small company from Trump Interior chief’s hometown wins massive contract to restore Puerto Rico’s power

A small Montana company located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown has signed a $300 million contract to help get the power back on in Puerto Rico, The Washington Post reported.

Whitefish Energy had only two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, according to the Post. The company signed the contract – the largest yet issued to help restore Puerto Rico – with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to fix the island’s electrical infrastructure.

The company now has 280 workers on the island, the Post reported, a majority of whom are subcontractors.

A former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies said it was “odd” that Whitefish Energy would be chosen.

The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” Susan F. Tierney said.

“I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”

Whitefish Energy happened to be the first firm “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA,” Ricardo Ramos, the executive director of PREPA, the island’s power authority, told reporters.

“The doubts that have been raised about Whitefish, from my point of view, are completely unfounded,” he added.

Whitefish Energy spokesman Chris Chiames told the newspaper that the company is taking “personal risks and business risks working in perilous physical and financial conditions.”

“So the carping by others is unfounded, and we stand by our work and our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

Zinke’s office said in an email to the Post that Zinke and Whitefish Energy’s chief executive know each other.

“Everybody knows everybody” in the town, Zinke’s office said, adding that Zinke wasn’t involved in the contract.

[The Hill]

The Strongest Evidence Yet Donald Trump Is Violating Constitutional Anti-Corruption Clauses

Since Donald Trump took office in January, his presidency has been dogged by concerns about how he may be profiting off the executive office. Now, thanks to receipts obtained by the transparency group Property of the People via the Freedom of Information Act, there’s evidence that the White House’s National Security Council paid more than $1,000 for a two-night stay at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 3 and 4 of this year. Trump owns the resort, and the profits are stored in a trust managed by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen H. Weisselberg that the president can pull funds from at any time. As a consequence, these receipts may be evidence of a violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the president from receiving any compensation from federal, state, or local governments beyond the salary he earns as chief executive.

The Mar-a-Lago documents, which Property of the People obtained through the Coast Guard (a division of the Department of Homeland Security), show the National Security Council paid full price—the “rack rate”—for the rooms using a government travel charge card. The room cost $546 a night, according to the receipt. The Trump administration has at times referred to the Mar-a-Lago estate as the “Winter White House” or the “Southern White House.”

On Saturday, March 4, the second of the two days in question, President Trump was seen mingling at a lavish charity ball hosted by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at Mar-a-Lago, where he reportedly had dinner earlier that evening with then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, John Kelly, former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, and White House counsel Don McGahn. This was Trump’s third visit to his Palm Beach golf estate since his inauguration in January and two days after Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into the president’s ties with Russia. Saturday, March 4, was also a prolific day for President Trump on Twitter; he found the time to lodge an unfounded claim that President Obama had wiretapped Trump’s office at the White House and take a jab at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “bad (pathetic) ratings” on the television show Trump used to host, Celebrity Apprentice.

The documents obtained by Property of the People also show that a government travel charge card was used to pay a March hotel bill at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas at a cost of $186. Trump himself owns 50 percent of the property. The documents also detail three February charges totaling $62, also paid by government card, at the restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

The documents obtained by Property of the People further show that the U.S. Embassy paid $632 for four nights in June at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama. Though Trump does not own this property, he collected more than $800,000 in fees from his Panamanian hotel management corporation, which he does own. That $632 bill was paid for with a government travel charge card. For competitive reasons, businesses do their best to keep the specifics of such licensing and management deals private, but court records have shown that Trump has struck deals connected to similar properties in which his payout was tied to the project’s success.

In February, the Washington Post reported that the State Department had spent $15,000 to rent 19 rooms at a Trump property in Vancouver shortly after Trump took office. That property isn’t directly owned by Donald Trump but rather by a Canadian company called the Holborn Group. Still, Trump makes money from licensing the Trump brand. According to his 2017 financial disclosure, which covers the period from January 2016 through April 2017, Trump earned $5 million in royalties from the Vancouver hotel.

Under the Domestic Emoluments Clause, “it doesn’t matter whether the benefit results from a payment made in the United States or outside it,” said Brianne Gorod, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center. “Likewise, any payment made to a business owned, in whole or in part, by the president raises serious questions under the clause because the president will ultimately enjoy a portion of any financial benefit these businesses receive.”

On June 14, the Constitutional Accountability Center filed a lawsuit against Trump for violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, is the lead plaintiff in that suit, and 200 additional members of Congress have also joined the case. The Foreign Emoluments Clause states that anyone holding office in the United States cannot accept any benefit or gift from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. But Congress can’t waive the Domestic Emoluments Clause, according to Gorod.

In addition to the Blumenthal lawsuit, the attorneys general of Washington, D.C., and Maryland sued Trump over alleged emolument violations in June. The attorney general of Washington argues that the Trump International Hotel is taking away business from the taxpayer-owned convention center, as foreign embassies are opting to hold events and rent rooms at the Trump hotel instead. The Maryland attorney general likewise says Trump’s D.C. hotel is drawing business out of the state. And in January, the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit accusing the president of violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause by accepting money from foreign governments at his Washington hotel. The CREW case is moving forward with oral arguments next month.

Ryan Shapiro, the co-founder of Property of the People, said, “We’re targeting government charge card records at numerous federal agencies.” He noted that while the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security were responsive with handing over federal records, others have been less forthcoming. Those less-responsive agencies, he said, “include the Secret Service, the State Department, the Department of Commerce, Customs and Border Patrol, the General Services Administration, and the Department of Defense.”

[Slate]

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Requested Government Jet for European Honeymoon

Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested use of a government jet to take him and his wife on their honeymoon in Scotland, France and Italy earlier this summer, sparking an “inquiry” by the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General, sources tell ABC News.

Officials familiar with the matter say the highly unusual ask for a U.S. Air Force jet, which according to an Air Force spokesman could cost roughly $25,000 per hour to operate, was put in writing by the secretary’s office but eventually deemed unnecessary after further consideration of by Treasury Department officials.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview with ABC News that Mnuchin’s request for a government jet on his honeymoon defies common sense.

“You don’t need a giant rulebook of government requirements to just say yourself, ‘This is common sense, it’s wrong,'” Wyden said. “That’s just slap your forehead stuff.”

Mnuchin, an independently wealthy former Goldman Sachs banker, has already triggered a review of his travel for using government jet to travel to Louisville and Fort Knox, Kentucky last month. The inspector general is reviewing whether he improperly used that trip to catch a prime view of the solar eclipse with his wife, a Scottish actress and model named Louise Linton.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) met with Mnuchin during that trip and tweeted a photo of them watching the eclipse together, complete with proper eyewear.

Mnuchin’s office denied he took that trip to watch the eclipse and said he was there to attend meetings on tax reform, and the Treasury Department said the Mnuchins would reimburse the government for Linton’s travel costs.

An official within The Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General said that in addition to reviewing the Kentucky trip, it has started an official “inquiry” into Mnuchin’s honeymoon travel request.

A spokesman for the Treasury Department told ABC News that the secretary requested government travel for his honeymoon out of a concern for maintaining a secure method of communication.

“The Secretary is a member of the National Security Council and has responsibility for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence,” the spokesman said in a statement. “It is imperative that he have access to secure communications, and it is our practice to consider a wide range of options to ensure he has these capabilities during his travel, including the possible use of military aircraft.”

The spokesman added the secretary’s office ultimately decided the use of military aircraft was “unnecessary” after it became apparent that other methods for secure communication were available.

Aside from the President and Vice President, travel on military aircraft is typically reserved for cabinet members who deal directly with national security, such as the Secretaries of Defense and State.

One senior Treasury official who has worked with a number of past secretaries said that military aircraft are only used in “extreme” circumstances, such as if the secretary had to be rushed back to a meeting in Washington, D.C., with the President.

Another former senior Treasury official who worked closely with Mnuchin’s predecessor, Secretary Jack Lew, said it would have been “exceedingly rare” for Secretary Lew to use military aircraft for official business. The only exception to the rule was foreign business travel. As for private travel, “there’s not a chance in hell that Secretary Lew would have considered using military air,” this former official said.

Adam Stump, a spokesman with the Department of Defense, which oversees and operates all government air travel for the executive branch, declined to comment on the specific request made by Mnuchin’s office but cited existing departmental policies regarding the use of government aircraft.

“Generally, when other federal executive agency’s request use of military airlift, it is provided on a reimbursable basis pursuant to Title 31 U.S.C., section 1535 and 1536, otherwise known as the ‘Economy Act,’” Stump said.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a Washington, DC-based ethics watchdog, was critical of Mnuchin’s request.

“People can do whatever they want on their own time, on their vacations and in the houses that they live in, but they can’t be expecting taxpayers to foot the bill for a Hollywood lifestyle,” Bookbinder said.

Meanwhile, Mnuchin’s wife managed to stir her own controversy surrounding that August trip to Kentucky when she lashed out at a stranger on Instagram, an incident for which she later issued a public apology. Linton posted a photo of herself and her husband stepping off a government jet and wrote, “Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #nicest #people #beautiful #countryside.”

She went on to include hashtags of various luxury designers she was wearing: “#rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa,” prompting one user to reply, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable.”

Linton responded by belittling the woman in a series of comments and even mentioned her honeymoon.

“Aw!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! Did you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol.”

Two people familiar with the matter say Linton was not aware that her husband had requested government travel for their honeymoon before making that comment.

[ABC News]

Trump Pardons His Friend Sheriff Joe Arpaio

President Donald Trump has pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt, the White House said Friday night.

Arpaio, who was a sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, was found guilty of criminal contempt last month for disregarding a court order in a racial profiling case. Arpaio’s sentencing had been scheduled for October 5.

“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order.

Trump indicated he would pardon Arpaio at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday: “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy.”

“I’ll make a prediction,” Trump said, adding, “I think he’s going to be just fine.”

However, civil rights groups have pushed back against the possibility of Arpaio’s pardon.

After Trump’s comments at the Phoenix rally, the ACLU tweeted: “President Trump should not pardon Joe Arpaio. #PhoenixRally #noarpaiopardon,” accompanied with a graphic that reads, “No, President Trump. Arpaio was not ‘just doing his job.’ He was violating the Constitution and discriminating against Latinos.”

Arpaio, who has called himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” was an early Trump supporter, but his stance on illegal immigration was what had earned him national recognition.

[CNN]

Trump White House Grants Waivers of Ethics Rules

President Donald Trump’s executive order on ethics has been waived at least 11 times since the administration came into office in January, according to records the White House posted online Wednesday night.

The waivers allow White House staffers to work on matters that could affect their former employers or clients or involve issues from which the aides would be normally be excluded because of past lobbying work.

About a week after taking office, Trump signed an executive order restricting the role of lobbyists in his administration and limiting the work government employees could do relating to former clients and former employers. However, the newly disclosed waivers show how often the White House has set those rules aside in order to allow key staffers to oversee issues they worked on in the private sector.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway received a waiver that allows her to take part in “communications and meetings involving former clients which are political, advocacy, trade, or non-profit organizations,” the White House said. Conway’s polling firm, The Polling Company/WomanTrend had a variety of clients including the American Conservative Union, Catholic University, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.

Several waivers were broad in scope, but appear to affect some of the highest-profile White House aides. An undated waiver issued by White House Counsel Don McGahn allows White House aides to interact with news organizations despite prior ties the officials might have to those outlets.

Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon was executive chairman of the conservative website Breitbart before joining the Trump campaign last year. Under the waiver, he is free to engage with Breitbart even when some news organizations are excluded.

“The Administration has an interest in interacting with news organizations on issues of importance to the Administration. It is important that all appointees be able to communicate and meet with news organizations, and disqualification from such meetings or communications would limit the ability of the White House Office to effectively carry out Administration priorities,” McGahn wrote.

The media-focused waiver doesn’t allow officials who formerly worked at news organizations to become involved in business disputes or any government actions related to the companies.

Four former lobbyists were also granted waivers of provisions in a Trump executive order that would typically preclude ex-lobbyists for two years from doing government work in the subject area on which they previously lobbied.

The White House waived the rule for Trump energy policy adviser Michael Catanzaro, a former lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. He was given approval to work on “energy and environmental policy issues” including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule and other environmental regulations.

Tax policy adviser Shahira Knight, a former Fidelity executive, was approved to deal with tax, retirement and financial services issues even though she’d previously lobbied on those topics.

“The National Economic Council has been tasked with addressing issues relating to tax, retirement and financial services. The Administration has an interest in you working on matters in those areas due to your expertise and prior experience,” the waiver reads.

White House economic aide Andrew Olmem was cleared to work on a variety of finance-related issues despite his lobbying for several big insurance companies and banks.

Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Joshua Pitcock, also got a waiver. He’d worked as a lobbyist for the state of Indiana on various issues, but was given approval to deal with Indiana state officials in his current job and to work on issues he’d lobbied on for the state, including refugee policy, opioid abuse, trade and education policy and wide variety of other areas.

Six lawyers of the Jones Day law firm, including McGahn, were granted approval to take part in meetings with their former Jones Day colleagues relating to the firm’s ongoing legal representation of Trump, his campaign and related entities.

A White House spokesman stressed the “limited number” of waivers granted.

“The White House has voluntarily released the ethics waivers as part of the President’s commitment to the American people to be transparent,” the statement said. “The White House Counsel’s Office worked closely with all White House officials to avoid conflicts arising from their former places of employment or investment holdings. To the furthest extent possible, counsel worked with each staffer to recuse from conflicting conduct rather than being granted waivers, which has led to the limited number of waivers being issued.”

However, ethics watchdogs were quick to jump on the Trump team for ignoring its own rules.

“The ethics waivers the White House finally released reveal what we already suspected: that this administration is chock full of senior officials working on issues on which they lobbied, meeting with companies in which they have a financial interest, or working closely with former employers,” said Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Bookbinder added: “No one has believed for months that this president or his administration had any interest in ethics, but these waivers make clear the remarkable extent to which they are comfortable mixing their own personal interests with the country’s. It’s no wonder they waited for the cover of night to release them.”

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said that the waivers showed that “for the Trump White House, even its own, highly touted ethics rules are no more than an inconvenience to be waived aside if they interfere with corporate business as usual.”

He said the waivers “vastly exceed the number issued in the early months of the Obama administration and — more importantly — authorize conflicts not permitted in the Obama administration, signify both the corporate takeover of the government and the Trump administration’s utter disregard for ethical standards.”

The complete number of waivers across the entire administration is not yet known because the data released by the White House on Wednesday included only staffers in the Executive Office of the President and the Vice President’s office.

Until last week, Trump aides had been largely noncommittal about releasing the waivers, particularly for White House staffers, although the documents were posted online under President Barack Obama. Trump’s team did say it would disclose waivers of a federal conflict of interest law, but staffers evaded questions about how those records could be requested.

Last month, the Office of Government Ethics said it was launching a “data call” for all ethics and conflict of interest waivers from all agencies including the White House. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney initially raised legal questions about the ethics office’s authority to gather the data, but last week the White House said the administration would comply with the request.

[Politico]

Trump sons met with GOP officials over political strategy

Family members of President Trump, including his two sons, met for hours Thursday with Republican Party officials to discuss political strategy, ABC News has learned from sources with direct knowledge of the meeting.

The president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, in addition to Eric’s wife, Lara, attended the meeting at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., sources told ABC News.

The meeting was first reported by the Washington Post, who said the Trump family members were invited by the RNC and that their appearance there bothered at least two prominent Republicans over questions of whether the president’s sons should be involved in high-level party discussions considering they run the Trump real estate business

The Post reported that some other people familiar with the meeting thought it was fine for Trump family members who helped with the president’s election campaign to offer their views ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race.

[ABC News]

White House, Ethics Office Feud Escalates

An escalating feud between the White House and the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has boiled over, with the Trump administration refusing to produce waivers it has granted to lobbyists that allow them to work in government agencies.

Walter Shaub, the office’s director, wants to review the waivers and make them public to ensure the Trump administration is adhering to publicly stated policies and an executive order signed by the president.

That would bring the Trump administration in line with practices followed under former President Barack Obama, who appointed Shaub to his current role.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is refusing to turn over the waivers. He wants time to consult with the Justice Department about the scope of Shaub’s authority.

In a letter to Shaub, which Mulvaney distributed widely throughout the government, the budget director called the request burdensome and questioned whether the OGE had the power to obtain the waivers. Republicans have in the past bristled at Shaub’s tactics and believe he is politicizing his office.

Shaub went public on Monday with the administration’s refusal to turn the waivers over.

In a blistering 10-page letter sent to Congress and Mulvaney — and subsequently tweeted out through the official OGE account — Shaub told Mulvaney that he has the authority to “institute corrective action proceedings” against individuals who “improperly prevent” ethics officials from doing their jobs.

“OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive by June 1, 2017,” Shaub wrote. “Public confidence in the integrity of government decision-making demands no less.”

It’s just the latest fight between the Trump administration and Shaub, whose five-year term will end early next year if he is not fired or doesn’t resign first.

Shortly after the election, Shaub used his office’s Twitter account to urge then-President-elect Donald Trump to divest himself from his business holdings. The tweets were written in Trump’s vernacular and viewed as mocking by many Republicans.

In January, after Trump announced he would hand his business empire over to his adult sons, Shaub publicly rebuked the president at a Washington forum for not putting his assets in a blind trust.

And in February, Shaub recommended disciplinary action for White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway after she urged viewers to buy first daughter Ivanka Trump’s products during a television interview from the briefing room.

Republicans say Shaub is politicizing his position to make a name for himself as part of the Trump “resistance.”

“Walter Shaub has acted like a partisan candidate for office and not like the director of a government ethics office,” said conservative lawyer Charlie Spies. “He’s brought discredit to what the office does through totally inappropriate tweets and press conferences and clear bias against the Trump administration.

“There may be legitimate issues that need to be addressed, but those are totally overshadowed by Shaub’s grandstanding.”

Trump signed an executive order in January that indicated the new administration would follow practices established during the Obama administration. Lobbyists hired into the government would be prohibited from working with former clients or on issues they had been involved with unless they received a waiver.

The Trump administration’s refusal to comply with the request has raised suspicions among government watchdogs over how many waivers the Trump administration is handing out and to whom.

Democrats in Congress have said they’ll seek the waivers directly if the Trump administration doesn’t turn them over. Government watchdog groups are suing for the records.

Legal and ethics experts interviewed by The Hill were flabbergasted that the administration would break with precedent by refusing to comply with the request for the documents.

“The Trump administration is going to lose this fight,” said Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush. “The Office of Government Ethics is not a political agency and Walter Shaub is not a political guy. Picking a fight with the OGE is the dumbest thing the administration can do at this juncture. Just give them the stupid waivers.”

Even some of Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill are standing with Shaub.

In 2009, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a letter to the OGE asking the Obama administration to “live up to its word” by being “open, transparent and accountable” about the government employees that received waivers.

“Senator Grassley stands by his letter from 2009 calling for greater government transparency of ethics waivers, and is grateful to see that, eight years later, the Office of Government Ethics now explicitly agrees with his assessment of its authority,” a Grassley spokesperson told The Hill. “He’s also been exploring the matter with Democrat colleagues in the last few weeks, and welcomes their newfound interest in improving this transparency.”

The controversy has raised questions about Shaub’s future eight months before his term ends.

The administration is frustrated by what it views as lifelong bureaucrats within the government that refuse to accept the legitimacy of the new regime.

Trump has already fired FBI Director James Comey and acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

And in a television appearance earlier this year, Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, warned Shaub to “be careful.”

Still, firing an ethics watchdog who is ostensibly fighting for greater transparency could backfire at a time when Trump is dealing with blowback for firing Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

“The outcry would be tremendous, and it would only raise further questions about what they’re hiding,” said Larry Noble, senior director at the Campaign Legal Center. “You can’t just keep firing everyone for looking into what you’re doing.”

[The Hill]

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