Ethics

GOP Lawmaker Invested In Company He Tried to Help

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) purchased $2.2 million worth of stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics as part of its initial public offering in late 2013, the Daily Beast reports.

“The IPO prospectus said Innate would seek FDA approval of its drug to treat multiple sclerosis. More than a year later, Collins wrote into a bill language to expedite the FDA’s approval process for such drugs. Four months before the bill was signed into law, Collins again purchased stock in Innate, this time as much as $1 million.”

Kushner and Trump Can’t Escape Conflict of Interest Laws

New York Times: “The husband-and-wife team of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, now both senior federal government officials, has been alongside President Trump as the White House has hosted dozens of chief executives and a handful of world leaders in recent weeks.”

“But the financial disclosure report released late Friday for Mr. Kushner, which shows that he and his wife still benefit financially from a real estate and investment empire worth as much as $740 million, makes clear that this most powerful Washington couple is walking on perilous legal and ethical ground.”

“Unlike Mr. Trump, who is exempt from conflict of interest laws, both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump — who took a formal White House position this past week — are forbidden under federal criminal and civil law to take any action that might benefit their particular financial holdings.”

Trump’s Team Skipped Ethics Course

President Trump’s team “rejected a course for senior White House staff, cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management,” according to documents obtained by Politico.

“The documents suggest the program could have better prepared officials for working within existing laws and executive orders, and provided guidance on how to navigate Senate confirmation for nominees and political appointees, how to deal with congressional and media scrutiny, and how to work with Congress and collaborate with agencies — some of the same issues that have become major stumbling blocks in the early days of the administration.”

Trump Hotels Plots Big Expansion

President Donald Trump’s hotel-management company wants to expand its namesake luxury hotels across the U.S. while it holds off on new overseas business, Bloomberg reports.

Said Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danzinger: “There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we’re in five. I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.”

Price Proposed Another Bill to Benefit His Investments

“Three months after investing in four companies with manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary introduced legislation that would directly benefit those companies,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The proposed House legislation by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) — which would have made permanent an expiring tax deduction for Puerto Rican facilities — didn’t pass… The bill nevertheless marks another instance in which Mr. Price was involved in legislation that could have benefited his stock holdings.”

Trump’s D.C. Hotel Is an Ethical Minefield

New York Times: “Conflicts that for months have been theoretical are now about to become real — most immediately a possible challenge by the federal government. It owns the building that houses Mr. Trump’s hotel and has granted him a 60-year lease. From the moment he is sworn in as president at noon Friday, Mr. Trump may be in violation of that lease, given a provision that appears to prohibit federal elected officials from renting the Old Post Office building, the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark that houses the hotel, from the government.”

“Guests at the hotel include foreign diplomats and politicians who could be looking to curry favor with Mr. Trump — but even the act of paying their bills as they check out after the inauguration may open Mr. Trump to a challenge that he has violated the United States Constitution, which prohibits federal government officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments.”

Political Wire Conversations: Is Donald Trump Above the Law?

Top GOP Lawmaker Hints at Investigating Ethics Chief

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, issued a stern letter which including a veiled threat of an investigation to the federal government’s top ethics monitor, who this week had questioned President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to confront his potential conflicts of interest, the New York Times reports.

Playbook: “Going after the government’s ethics watchdog is not easy, and laced with political peril. We bet Chaffetz will get close supervision from GOP leadership on this.”

Top Ethics Official Calls Trump’s Plan Inadequate

“Just hours after President-elect Donald Trump said he would not sell his vast business empire and would instead hand it over to a trust controlled by his two oldest sons, the government’s top ethics monitor said his plan was wholly inadequate and would leave the president vulnerable to ‘suspicions of corruption,” the New York Times reports.

“The unusual public criticism from Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, followed Mr. Trump’s most detailed explanation yet of his plans to distance himself from the global business operations of the Trump Organization. No modern president has entered the White House with such a complicated array of holdings.”

Ethics Lawyers Call for Delay to Confirmation Hearings

Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, White House ethics lawyers for Obama and Bush, respectively:

The tone of ethical leadership and conduct is set at the top. The failure of Trump as president-elect to address the conflicts of interest and constitutional problems deriving from his own business interests is a serious problem.

Last week, there was a failed attempt by some congressional Republicans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (President-elect Trump rightly dressed them down for that – on Twitter of course – and they quickly backed down). This week the serious and independent work of the Office of Government Ethics appears to be in jeopardy unless the Senate slows down and insists that each nominee take both financial disclosure and ethics agreements seriously.

To preserve the integrity of the ethics review process, we urge Senate leadership to postpone any confirmation hearing unless the nominee’s financial disclosure reports and ethics agreements are finalized in advance.

Trump Son-In-Law Has His Own Conflicts of Interest

New York Times: “Since the election, intense scrutiny has been trained on Mr. Trump’s company and the potential conflicts of interest he will face. But with Mr. Kushner laying the groundwork for his own White House role, the meeting at the Waldorf shines a light on his family’s multibillion-dollar business, Kushner Companies, and on the ethical thicket he would have to navigate while advising his father-in-law on policy that could affect his bottom line.”

“Unlike the Trump Organization, which has shifted its focus from acquisition to branding of the Trump name, the Kushner family business, led by Mr. Kushner, is a major real estate investor across the New York area and beyond. The company has participated in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions in the last decade, many of them backed by opaque foreign money, as well as financial institutions Mr. Kushner’s father-in-law will soon have a hand in regulating.”