When Will the Trump Administration Tell the Whole Truth About Its Conflicts of Interest?
The Trump administration appears intent on not telling the public much of anything about its ethics policies.
Unlike the wave of unjustified (and even undated) waivers for White House personnel readily granted by the White House counsel, the agency waivers released today and approved by ethics officers outside the White House include relatively untroubling matters, with a few possible exceptions.
We don’t know whether other waivers should have been granted, or if the vast number of conflicted officials in the administration are following recusal standards that avoid the need for waivers, or if the administration just hasn’t gotten around to doing enough actual work to require waivers.
What we do know is that conflicts of interest and revolving door problems are pervasive in the thinly staffed administration, from the corporate Cabinet to second- and third-tier positions, including nomination of a lawyer who represented BP in the Gulf disaster to head the U.S. Department of Justice’s environment division.
Indeed, for the Trump administration, conflicts of interest seem to be qualifications for a position.
The administration affirmatively aims to put the fox in charge of the henhouse – that is, to have representatives and lawyers from regulated corporations in charge of making regulatory, enforcement and policy decisions related to those businesses.
A summary of ethics waivers for 10 Trump administration officials released by the Office of Government ethics is below. But these waivers don’t even begin to illustrate the story of extensive Trump administration conflicts.
For example, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has significant conflicts related to the pharmaceutical industry, which aren’t implicated by the waiver. And Noel Francisco, the nominee for Solicitor General, has represented the tobacco industry among a raft of corporate clients, but issues related to these significant conflicts aren’t covered by his waiver.
|NAME||DATES||AGENCY||JOB TITLE||BIO||SCOPE OF WAIVER||NATURE OF CONFLICT|
|Anthony Sayegh||3/9/2017, 3/15/2017||Treasury||Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs||Former Fox News Contributor||Allows Sayegh to interact with Fox News||Connection/relationship with former employer, Fox News|
|Brian Calllanan||3/24/2017, 3/29/2017||Treasury||Deputy General Counsel and Treasury "regulatory reform" officer||Former staff director and general counsel of Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, briefly partner at Cooper & Kirk PLLC||Permits participation in Treasury's housing finance reform policy discussions despite Cooper & Kirk PLLC pending litigation against Treasury and FHFA||Cooper & Kirk PLLC|
|Chad Readler||2/6/2017, 2/15/2017||DOJ||Acting Assistant Attorney General||Former Jones Day partner||Allows Readler to participate in immigration case before Supreme Court despite Jones Day amicus brief on behalf of nonprofit orgs involved in case.||Jones Day|
|Heather (Nauert) Norby||4/6/2017, 4/26/2017||State||Spokesperson||Former Fox News and "Fox and Friends" contributor||Allows Norby to interact with Fox News||Fox News|
|John Kelly||5/13/2017||Homeland Security||Secretary||Military, a general who served in Iraq||Allows Kelly to interact with members of Australia's government||Kelly was paid by the government of Australia to be a Senior Course Mentor for the Australian Defense Joint Task Force Commanders course.|
|Lance Leggitt||4/24/2017||HHS||Chief of Staff||Former health care lobbyist at Baker Donelson||Allows him to work on issue areas he lobbed on but must recuse himself from particular matters related to law firm clients.||Lobbied for health care clients|
|Mike Murray||2/9/17||DOJ||Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General||Former Jones Day associate||Allows Francisco to participate in legal work related to Trump's travel ban despite Jones Day amicus brief in case on behalf of law professors||Jones Day amicus brief|
|Noel Francisco||2/6/17, 2/7/17, 2/19/17||Justice||Principal Deputy Solicitor General/Nominee For Solicitor General||Former Jones Day partner||Allows Francisco to participate in Trump travel ban as well as immigration case before Supreme Court despite Jones Day amicus briefs.||Jones Day amicus brief; stock holdings in tech firms represented by Jones Day in amicus brief|
|Seema Verma||3/14/2017||Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services||Administrator||Former consultant||Allows interactions with state officials||Did consulting work for Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa,
Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia
|Tom Price||42807||HHS||Secretary||Former Congressman||Allows interactions with state officials||Price's wife, Betty, is a Georgia state lawmaker|