The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies.
The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.
.. Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.
.. Ethics watchdogs, as well as Democrats in Congress, have expressed concern at the number of former lobbyists taking high-ranking political jobs in the Trump administration. In many cases, they appear to be working on the exact topics they had previously handled on behalf of private-sector clients — including oil and gas companies and Wall Street banks — as recently as January.
A top House Republican has denied a request from the federal ethics chief for a public meeting to hear lawmakers’ grievances against him for speaking out against President-elect Donald Trump — but also backed down on calling him to testify in a closed-door interview similar to a deposition.
Instead, Walter Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, is scheduled to meet Monday with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
.. Chaffetz sent Shaub a letter summoning him to appear before lawmakers for a transcribed interview that congressional staffers said would be similar to a deposition in a court case.
.. Chaffetz noted in the letter that the ethics office is up for reauthorization from Congress, a sentence Shaub’s supporters viewed as a veiled threat to strip the office’s funding.