DANGER ZONE

Rep. Jason Chaffetz Hints at Ethics Office Probe

In an unusual move, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, released a letter condemning the Office of Government Ethics and threatening an investigation into the watchdog. The group, the federal government’s top ethics guardian, this week publicly expressed doubts about President-elect Donald Trump’s efforts to limit his potential conflicts of interest. Director Walter M. Shaub said Trump’s stated plan is inadequate and breaks from tradition of past presidents. “This is not a blind trust,” he said. “It’s not even close.” He noted that Trump has left himself open to “suspicions of corruption.” In his letter, Chaffetz condemns Shaub for “blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance” with tweets he posted about Trump and his alleged divestiture plans in November. Trump had not made any commitments at the time of the tweets, and many noted the peculiar nature of the comments. The letter, notably, did not specifically reference Shaub’s most recent comments condemning Trump. His memo asked that the director present himself for an interview with the committee by the end of January. Richard W. Painter, an ethics lawyer who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, said Chaffetz appears to be punishing Shaub for the criticisms of the president-elect. “They are strong-arming them. 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.”