Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign corrupt Donald Trump promised his gullible supporters that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington. Instead, he turned what he claimed was a swamp into a putrid rotting cesspool of Wall Street titans and profit-driven corporate lobbyists from every industry under the Sun. It is just what a lying con man would do. And, as an aspiring fascist tyrant the Trump imagined that as president he would be immune to any investigation into his corrupt appointments from ethics agencies and watchdogs.
However, the head of the Office of Government Ethics (O.G.E.) is a man dedicated to doing his job and began ethics inquiries into Trump’s cesspool by demanding the names of every former lobbyist who was granted a waiver to work inside the White House, as well as all the federal agencies Trump inserted special interest operatives into. That inquiry by Walter M. Shaub Jr didn’t comport with Trump’s corrupt White House and they sent him a letter “asking” him to withdraw his request for copies of waivers from every federal agency Trump staffed thus far.
Although remarkable in any other era, the Trump administration challenged Mr. Shaub’s legal authority as head of the Office of Government Ethics to do his due diligence in demanding the information. Mr. Shaub’s demand for the waivers is not unwarranted or out of the ordinary because as the New York Times noted:
“Federal law gives the Office of Government Ethics, which was created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, clear legal authority to issue such a “data request” to the ethics officers at federal agencies.” Those “data requests” constitute the primary means the government ethics office has to oversee compliance with federal ethics standards; not that Trump believes he or anyone in his administration has to comply with any ethics standards.
The Trump’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) chimed in and claimed that, for its part, complying with the Ethics investigation request requires that it “seek further legal guidance” about exactly whose ethical standards the Trump OMB has to follow. A statement claimed that “the very fact that this internal discussion was leaked implies that the data being sought is not being collected to satisfy our mutual high standard of ethics.”
The Trump OMB didn’t clarify what “leaks” it was referring to, but it is inconsequential. The O.G.E.’s mandated duty is to investigate any and all suspected ethics violations and in this case, Trump’s intent to keep waivers secret and away from the public, or ethics investigators, justifies a robust investigation.
Eighteen congressional Democrats agree this O.G.E. investigation has to go forward and they issued a “public” letter to Mr. Shaub informing him they were taking up the O.G.E. cause. The Democrats wrote in part:
“If O.M.B. does not stand down from its attempt to prevent designated agency ethics officials from responding to the O.G.E. data call, we will seek the waivers directly ourselves. The administration certainly cannot dispute that Congress has the right to this information.”
It is noteworthy to mention that Trump did, in fact, sign an executive order very early on banning lobbyists from working on “particular” government matters when there was a question of conflicts of interest with former clients. However, like everything Trump does, he “reserved his right” to issue waivers to circumvent his own executive order. And to keep his corrupt cesspool out the public eye he arranged it so any waiver “that he granted” would not automatically be made public; a practice every other president has followed religiously. Thus, Mr. Shaub as head of the O.G.E. demanded to see the waivers to ensure the public there were no conflicts.
In response to Trump’s claim the O.G.E. has no legal authority to investigate his government ethics violations, Mr. Shaub sent a “scathing” 10-page letter to Trump, every single federal agency’s ethics officer, the six members of Congress overseeing government operations and the inspectors general from “agencies government wide.”
Mr. Shaub wrote, in part, to Trump:
“O.G.E. declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive. Public confidence in the integrity of government decision making demands no less.”
As a man of character and conviction to ensure ethics in the people’s government, Mr. Shaub said he is not backing down from Trump. He is in the final year of his five-year term and remarked that Trump’s resistance to ethics inquiries is “an extraordinary thing. I have never seen anything like it.”
That sentiment was shared by Marilyn L. Glynn who called the move by Trump’s White House “unprecedented and extremely troubling.” Ms. Glynn was a general counsel and acting director of the O.G.E. during the George W. Bush administration. She continued that Trump’s refusal to comply with an Ethics Office inquiry, as well as assert that the Office has no legal authority, is a dangerous move. “It challenges the very authority of the director of the agency and his ability to carry out the functions of the office.”
It is noteworthy that during Ms. Glynn’s tenure as chief of the O.G.E., she recalled how the Bush White House would intervene on her office’s behalf with a federal agency to get information that she needed. Mr. Shaub is getting precisely the opposite treatment because Trump is corrupt and his willingness to challenge the legal authority of a simple O.G.E. request is a dead giveaway that he has something to hide; something Walter M. Shaub is well-practiced in discerning.
There is a damn good reason Shaub is demanding to see the waivers Trump allegedly issued to his special-interest swamp creatures. Trump has already installed literally dozens of former corporate and special interest lobbyists and industry lawyers to work and govern in the corrupt Trump administration. In fact, Trump has hired “industry lawyers and corporate lobbyists” at a far higher rate than any previous administration which is why he is desperate to keep the waivers, if they even exist, concealed to cover the corruption. It makes it impossible to know when officials are violating federal ethics rules and impossible to know if Trump gave the former lobbyists and corporate lawyers permission to ignore something Trump doesn’t believe in; ethics rules.
This latest signal from Trump’s administration that it fully intends to continue violating ethics rule is not unique to Trump and appears to be a Republican “thing.” Remember, one of the first acts on the first day of the new congress was House Republicans voting to abolish the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Their plan was putting ethics investigations under the purview of House Republicans who have shown they are as averse to adhering to ethics rules as their standard bearer, dirty Donald Trump.
It would seem reasonable that Republicans in the Senate might offer some “counsel” to Trump to comply with the OGE request and put the issue to rest, but they are as corrupt as Trump. Republicans in the Senate ethics committee have allowed at least five of Trump’s cabinet appointees to commit perjury under oath, a federal crime, before rewarding them with high-level Cabinet posts.
It is unclear how Trump will proceed from here, but it is crystal clear that the O.G.E. chief is not intimidated and will not fall victim to Trump’s bullying tactics. What will not be a surprise is to learn that Trump launches a flurry of angry tweets about witch hunts, persecution, leaks, and inauguration crowd size hours before firing the Office of Government Ethics director just prior to abolishing every government ethics watchdog by virtue of an executive order.