“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.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s chief of staff “doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer,” the Washington Post reports.
“Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government — then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael Missal said in a report released Wednesday.”
“The account of how the government paid travel expenses for the secretary’s wife is one finding in an unsparing investigation that concluded that Shulkin and his staff misled agency ethics officials and the public about key details of the trip.”
Politico: “The House Ethics Committee announced late Thursday that it was expanding its investigation into GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold to include allegations he improperly used official resources for campaign activities, as well as lying to the panel. Farenthold is already under investigation over claims that he sexually harassed at least one former staffer. Thursday’s announcement, however, means the stakes have gone up dramatically for the Texas Republican, as misuse of official resources is a potential violation of both House rules and federal law.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “is privately telling colleagues he will not back off of an ethics investigation if Roy Moore (R) is elected,” CNN reports.
“Senate Republicans plan to convene a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss their next steps if Moore wins the race.”
“State lawmakers around the country have introduced and supported policies that directly and indirectly help their own businesses, their employers and sometimes their personal finances,” according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press.
“The news organizations found numerous examples in which lawmakers’ votes had the effect of promoting their private interests. Even then, the votes did not necessarily represent a conflict of interest as defined by the state. That’s because legislatures set their own rules for when lawmakers should recuse themselves. In some states, lawmakers are required to vote despite any ethical dilemmas.”
Mike Allen: “Capitol Hill veterans expect that ‘a lot more’ sexual-harassment settlements by lawmakers will be uncovered. So now there’s a race to strengthen workplace rules that are scandalously archaic.”
“The existing system is a racket. Settlements are secret, and the Ethics Committee is notorious for protecting its own. We — as in all of us taxpayers — pay the hush money, because that’s who foots the bills for these settlements. Only a few lawmakers have publicly pushed for broad, quick change.”
Politico: “Pressure is mounting on congressional leaders to release the names of lawmakers who have secretly settled sexual harassment claims at taxpayer expense — a move that some members of Congress are loath to make. President Donald Trump told reporters this week that he believes Congress should disclose the settlements.”
“A handful of House members from both parties are calling on Republican leadership to do the same. And Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) proposed legislation Wednesday that would mandate public disclosure of sexual harassment settlements — and ban Congress from footing the bill for such deals in the future. Within a few hours of introducing his bill, DeSantis had been contacted by several Republican and Democratic lawmakers asking to sign on.”
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Congressional ethics investigators have concluded there is “substantial reason to believe” Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) “engaged in insider trading and either took or requested official actions” to benefit a company in which he’s the largest shareholder, USA Today reports.
“Those may violations of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.”
“Collins — who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — is a board member of an Australian biotechnology company called Innate Immunotherapeutics.”
The House Ethics Committee is reviewing allegations that Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) “engaged in misconduct, four months after his personal investment practices came under scrutiny in the media,” the Washington Post reports.
“The New York Republican, who has denied wrongdoing, received a barrage of negative headlines in April and May after the Daily Beast reported that he wrote legislation that would benefit a pharmaceutical company in which he held a substantial interest.”
“Important White House ethics rule: don’t lie to a grand jury.”
— Bush White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, on Twitter.
“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility. I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”
— Outgoing government ethics chief Walter Shaub, quoted by the New York Times.
Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub told NPR he is turning in his resignation.
“The move follows months of clashes with the White House over issues such as President Trump’s refusal to divest his businesses and the administration’s delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees.”
Said Schaub: “The current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is.”