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.

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