Ethics chief sum­moned over crit­i­cism of Trump

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NATION - By Stephen Oh­lemacher Stephen Oh­lemacher is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

WASHINGTON — A top House Repub­li­can is ac­cus­ing the head of a fed­eral ethics of­fice of abus­ing his po­si­tion for hav­ing the temer­ity to chal­lenge Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s ethics.

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, chair­man of the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee, said he wants an­swers from Wal­ter Shaub Jr., the di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Gov­ern­ment Ethics, who has is­sued a scathing re­view of Trump’s plan to turn over con­trol of his busi­ness to his sons. Shaub said in a speech Wed­nes­day that the only way Trump could avoid a con­flict of in­ter­est as pres­i­dent would be to di­vest from his busi­ness and have his as­sets placed in a blind trust.

Chaf­fetz, a Utah Repub­li­can, sent Shaub a sternly worded let­ter late Thurs­day re­quest­ing that Shaub sit for a tran­scribed in­ter­view. He said the in­ter­view would “help the com­mit­tee un­der­stand how you per­ceive OGE’s role, among other things.”

“Your agency’s mis­sion is to pro­vide clear ethics guid­ance, not en­gage in pub­lic re­la­tions,” Chaf­fetz wrote.

Chaf­fetz’ let­ter cited a se­ries of tweets by Shaub in Novem­ber. In the tweets, Schaub con­grat­u­lated Trump for agree­ing to di­vest from his busi­ness — an agree­ment that Trump never made.

The let­ter did not men­tion Shaub’s speech. In the speech, Schaub noted that mem­bers of Trump’s Cab­i­net — some of them very wealthy, like Trump — must place their as­sets in a blind trust. Schaub said the pres­i­dent should be held to the same stan­dard.

“The plan the pres­i­dent-elect has an­nounced doesn’t meet the stan­dards that the best of his nom­i­nees are meet­ing and that ev­ery pres­i­dent in the past four decades has met,” Schaub said.

Chaf­fetz’s let­ter was first re­ported by the Wall Street Jour­nal.

Con­gres­sional Democrats sharply crit­i­cized Chaf­fetz for sum­mon­ing Schaub.

“It’s to­tally in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Mary­land, the No. 2 Demo­crat in the House. “Clearly an ef­fort to de­ter and in­tim­i­date, and that’s a shame.”

The OGE is re­spon­si­ble for ethics re­views of Cab­i­net nom­i­nees and en­sur­ing they will avoid con­flicts of in­ter­ests.

“Mr. Chaf­fetz’s at­tempt to in­tim­i­date the of­fice is de­plorable and would be a dis­trac­tion that would make it harder for OGE to do its al­ready dif­fi­cult job,” said Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

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