High number of ethics waivers issued in Trump administration

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 

Ethics Watch

Reporter Reis Thebault is following the Trump administration's ethics policies and conflicts for the Investigative Reporting Workshop.


New documents released Wednesday show that the Trump Administration has granted another handful of waivers that allow government employees to disregard the administration’s own ethics rules.

This new batch of waivers — from agencies across the federal government — brings the total number granted to more than 20 through April. At the same time in 2009, the Obama Administration had issued six such waivers

This government-wide disclosure comes about a week after the White House released details on the waivers granted to only its staffers, and drew sharp criticism for issuing so-called “retroactive” and “blanket” waivers. 

“If you need a retroactive waiver, you have violated a rule,” said Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics after the White House disclosures.

The nature of the two blanket waivers — they could cover every employee in the Executive Office of the President and "all commissioned officers in the White House" — also makes it difficult to pinpoint precisely how many officials are covered.

The latest release comes in response to an ethics office call between Shaub, his office and Trump.

Many of the waivers Trump has granted have gone to former lobbyists, something that watchdog groups have been quick to criticize. 

“It’s shown that this administration clearly doesn’t have a problem with former lobbyists and Washington insiders mixing their business with the people's business,” said Jordan Libowitz, spokesperson at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The question becomes, are they making policy decisions based on what’s best for the country, or what people who used to pay them want? That’s not a question we should be having to ask.”

Here’s a list of some of the prominent individuals working outside of the White House who have received ethics waivers:

John Kelly, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

Lance Leggitt, Chief of Staff at the Department of Health and Human Services

Heather Nauert, Spokesperson at the Department of State

Anthony Sayegh, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of the Treasury

Brian Callanan, Deputy General Counsel at the Department of the Treasury

Read The Workshop’s prior coverage of the Trump Administration’s ethics waivers here.

Recent News

Amid rush to deploy driverless cars, federal regulators urged to keep hands on the wheel

The era of driverless vehicles appears to be rapidly approaching, raising a bevy of urgent questions about how to prevent the emergence of new hazards on the nation’s roads.

So how much preparation have federal transportation authorities carried out to meet the challenge of the advent of self-driving cars and trucks? Not nearly enough, according to a new 44-page report by the Government Accountability Office, a Congressional watchdog agency.

After a long hold out, tobacco companies to issue mea culpas

In a matter of days, the American tobacco industry will begin publicly admitting some ugly truths about its dark history and the health effects of smoking.

Incubating new economic models for journalism.

Latest from iLab

How drones are changing disaster coverage

Drones, small unmanned aircraft, have changed how some news organizations cover disasters. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria represent a “defining moment for the use of unmanned aerial systems in news gathering,” Greg Agvent, the senior director of National News Technology and CNN AIR, said. 


Offenses in youth centers send teens to adult prisons

A ProPublica reporter wondered why a Southwest Illinois juvenile facility was sending teenage inmates to adult prisons. Here's the story behind the story.


Blogs

Most Recent Posts

Explore The Workshop's 2017 holiday gift guide

This year's holiday gift-giving guide will impress those journalists in your life who love swag (and irony).

Science march film will turn on scientists turned political candidates, leaders

A new documentary will tell stories about scientists who want to counter the Trump administration’s “war on science." Director Larry Kirkman, who teaches at the AU School of Communication, shares his vision for the film, along with his "work-in-progress" video featuring footage from the March for Science on April 22.

A shortlist of fall media

The autumn news cycle boiled over like some Northwestern river amid a peak salmon run. Here are exceptional examples of storytelling I’ve spent time with in the last few weeks. They pinball and rebound between the most salient topics in media of the moment: extreme wealth, the White House and race.

FRONTLINE, IRW launch new fellowship

The PBS series FRONTLINE and the Investigative Reporting Workshop (IRW) at American University’s School of Communication announce a new journalism fellowship.

Barriers still keep disabled voters from polls

Nearly 28 years since the passing of the American’s with Disabilities Act, some polling places and voting systems still are not accessible.

Partners

Workshop Partners

We publish online and in print, often teaming up with other news organizations. We're working now on a new program with FRONTLINE producers, to air later in the year, and on the "Years of Living Dangerously," a series on climate change that has begun airing on Showtime. A story last year on the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention centers was co-published with The New York Times. Our updates to our long-running BankTracker project, in which you can view the financial health of every bank and credit union in the country, have been published with msnbc.com, now nbcnews.com, and we co-published stories in our What Went Wrong series on the economy with The Philadelphia Inquirer and New America Media. Our graduate students are working as researchers with Washington Post reporters, and our new senior editor is a member of the Post's investigative team. Learn more on our partners page.

Projects

Investigating Power update

Investigating Power update

Profiles of notable journalists and their stories of key moments in U.S. history in the last 50 years can be found on the Investigating Power site. See Workshop Executive Editor Charles Lewis' latest video interviews as well as historic footage and timelines. You can also read more about the project and why we documented these groundbreaking examples of original, investigative journalism that helped shape or change public perceptions on key issues of our time, from civil rights to Iraq, here.