“The Justice Department’s public integrity section is examining whether newly departed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to his agency’s inspector general investigators, according to three people familiar with the matter, a potential criminal violation that would exacerbate Zinke’s legal woes,” the Washington Post reports.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) “introduced an ethics reform package of bills that included proposals to require presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their income tax returns and ban members of Congress from ever becoming paid lobbyists,” the Lincoln Journal Star reports.
Said Sasse: “Drain the swamp for real. Both parties talk a big game on the campaign trail, but then look the other way as soon as they get a taste of power.”
Gallup: “A majority of Americans say President Trump’s ethical standards are lower than those of each of six U.S. presidents elected in the past 50 years. Less than half say Trump’s ethics are lower than Richard Nixon’s, but the 43% saying this still outweighs the 37% who say Trump’s ethics are higher than Nixon’s.”
“Texas Democrats targeting Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) in Houston are challenging nearly $50,000 in campaign spending since 2004 on books, coins, Civil War memorabilia and other collectibles, some reported as ‘donor gifts’,” the Houston Chronicle reports.
“Draft copies of complaints to the Federal Election Commission and the independent Office of Congressional Ethics question the expenses in light of Culberson’s personal interest in military history.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)” wants to ban members of Congress and the White House staff from owning individual stocks — and replace them with government-managed investment accounts,” CNBC reports.
“Those are just two of the dozens of proposals dotting the Massachusetts Democrat’s sweeping new legislative package, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which she unveiled Tuesday. Warren said the bill is designed to ‘eliminate the influence of money in federal government.'”
Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) “is the subject of two separate investigations by the House Ethics Committee and Office of Congressional Ethics, including questions over whether his drinking impacted the Virginia Republican’s ability to do his job,” Politico reports.
“Investigators are looking into allegations that Garrett and his wife improperly ordered congressional aides to conduct personal errands for them while on official time. These errands allegedly included picking up groceries, chauffeuring Garrett’s daughters to and from his Virginia district, fetching clothes that the congressman forgot at his Washington apartment, or even cleaning up after his dog.”
”Garrett’s use of alcohol or other substances is a focus of both probes as well.”
A detailed review of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ calendar from February to November 2017 — his first months in office — “reveals dozens of meetings with companies tied to his personal fortune, which he built up over years in private equity,” Forbes reports.
Politico: “Scott Pruitt may be out of the EPA, but that doesn’t mean his troubles are over. Pruitt is still facing more than a dozen federal probes from his tenure as EPA administrator, and EPA’s watchdog and congressional investigators are promising to continue looking into his long list of ethical woes and lavish spending allegations. Those investigations have already prompted Pruitt to turn to an outside attorney for advice and set up a legal defense fund before his resignation.”
“EPA’s inspector general expects to finish and release as many as four separate reports on Pruitt this summer.”
The House Ethics Committee announced that it had voted unanimously to open an investigation into whether Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) or his chief of staff wrongly spent or received illegal campaign contributions, the Arizona Republic reports.
The rare move from the secretive panel follows an investigation by the House Office of Congressional Ethics.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “shorted stock in a shipping firm — an investment tactic for profiting if share prices fall — days after learning that reporters were preparing a potentially negative story about his dealings with the Kremlin-linked company,” the New York Times reports.
“Do you really want to know what I think about those jerks? I think they’re a waste of time. They’re guys who can’t get a real job, ethics watchdog? Who gets a job — ethics watchdog? Give me a break.”
— Charles Kushner, in an interview with The Real Deal, about his son’s ethics problems in the White House.
“In at least a dozen interviews with Chinese and Chinese-American media outlets since her nomination, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has appeared beside her shipping magnate father, whose company carries goods between the United States and Asia, and who has given Chao and her husband at least $5 million in the past 10 years,” Politico reports.
“In many of the videos, James Chao is introduced as founder and chairman of the Foremost Group shipping company, and, in discussing a 2016 biography about his life, speaks proudly of his daughter’s role as secretary of transportation, as she sits beaming by his side.”
“The federal government’s top ethics official has taken the unusual step of sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency questioning a series of actions by Administrator Scott Pruitt and asking the agency to take ‘appropriate actions to address any violations,'” the New York Times reports.
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s top ethics watchdog clarified his earlier analysis of whether Administrator Scott Pruitt’s rental arrangement broke the federal gift rule, saying he didn’t have all the facts when evaluating the lease,” according to a memo provided to CNN.
“The official also made clear that he didn’t evaluate whether Pruitt had violated other ethics rules.”
“John Bolton, who is days away from becoming President Trump’s national security advisor, has been meeting with White House attorneys about possible conflicts of interest,” CNBC reports.
“The exact sticking points for Bolton are unclear, but ethics experts say the appearance of a possible future role for Bolton with an entity such as a political action committee could be a cause for concern for White House officials.”
“A key aide to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has been granted permission to make extra money moonlighting for private clients whose identities are being kept secret,” the AP reports.
Norm Eisen: “This is insane. In the Obama White House, I even made people quit uncompensated non-profit outside positions because of conflicts risks. This is FOR profit work that could conflict with official duties. Prediction: by end of Trump admin, prisons will be full of his associates.”
Politico: “The past year in Congress has been a lowlight reel of nonstop unethical — and, in some cases, potentially illegal — behavior. Three House members resigned over alleged misconduct. Four others announced they won’t seek reelection, an option they took to head off party leaders forcing them out.”
An APM Reports review of news coverage, ethics agreements and government financial disclosure forms has found that more than half of President Trump’s 20-person Cabinet has engaged in questionable or unethical conduct.