Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Ethics Chief Blasts Trump Empire Plan

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Ethics Chief Blasts Trump Empire Plan

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - The director of the federal government's ethics agency Wednesday blasted President-elect Donald Trump's plan to maintain his business empire by turning it over to his sons instead of selling off all his corporate assets and placing remaining profits in a government-approved blind trust. U.S. Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub took the rare step of commenting publicly about a presidential ethics decision, warning that Trump's solution to a potential cascade of conflicts spurred by his global business holdings breaks 40 years of precedent by presidents from both parties.

Shaub, a 2013 Obama appointee who also worked at the agency during the George W. Bush administration, openly pleaded with Trump to reconsider his plan before his inauguration. Shaub said Trump should commit to "divestiture," a process under which he would sell his corporate assets and place the profit in a blind trust administered by a neutral trustee approved by the OGE.

Emails between the OGE and the Trump transition team obtained by the Associated Press show that Shaub repeatedly tried to engage with Trump's aides late last year to persuade the president-elect and his Cabinet choices to agree to divestiture as the cleanest way to clear aware potential ethics conflicts posed by their investments and businesses.

But while lawyers for several Trump picks, including prospective Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and senior adviser Jared Kushner, have worked closely with the OGE in shaping divestiture plans, Trump's own lawyers and aides gave the federal agency no official advance notice of his plan to turn over his global empire to his sons, according to an official familiar with interactions between the two sides.

The official, who requested anonymity to detail the sensitive contacts between the two sides, said that Shaub met once with Trump's prospective White House counsel, Don McGahn, in recent weeks, but only to discuss ethics plans for several of Trump's picks, not for Trump's own plan to deal with his holdings. …

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