White House Discloses Ethics Waivers For Presidential Aides | KUOW News and Information

White House Discloses Ethics Waivers For Presidential Aides

Jun 1, 2017
Originally published on June 1, 2017 10:52 am

The White House on Wednesday night released 14 ethics waivers — documents that exempt some top presidential aides from important ethics rules.

The disclosures came after a quiet but tough battle between Trump administration officials and the Office of Government Ethics.

The waivers are considered public documents, but for weeks after President Trump took office, they weren't made public.

In April, the Office of Government Ethics began to push the issue.

The White House initially said OGE didn't have the legal authority to do that, but on Wednesday it agreed to post the waivers online.

Office Director Walter Shaub Jr. had a terse response: "I'm pleased that the White House has released the waivers on its website. Having the waivers is critical to ensuring that agencies and individual appointees are adhering to ethics requirements."

The 14 waivers issued by the White House include 11 for specific individuals, and three covering groups of people — among them White House counsel Don McGahn and five other lawyers from the Jones Day law firm.

Among those getting ethics waivers: White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who was allowed to take bonuses of $175,000 from his old job running the Republican National Committee.

Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway was allowed to communicate with clients from her former consulting firm, but only on "broad policy matters."

Three former corporate lobbyists will keep working on the issues they dealt with before: finance, energy and the environment.

And chief strategist Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, may meet privately with the media outlet.

More waivers are out there, and the Office of Government Ethics expects to make them public as it collects them from other federal agencies.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Last night, the White House released 14 ethics waivers, documents that exempt some top presidential aides from important ethics rules. As NPR's Peter Overby reports, the disclosures came after a quiet but tough battle between the Trump administration and the Office of Government Ethics.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The waivers are considered public documents, but for weeks after President Trump took office, they weren't made public. In April, the Office of Government Ethics began to push the issue. The White House initially said OGE didn't have the legal authority to do that. But yesterday, it agreed to post the waivers online. OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr. had a terse response.

WALTER SHAUB JR.: I was pleased to see the White House release the waivers on its website. Having the waivers is critical to ensuring that agencies and individual appointees are adhering to the ethics requirements.

OVERBY: Among those getting ethics waivers, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was allowed to take bonuses of a $175,000 from his old job running the Republican National Committee. Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway was allowed to communicate with clients from her former consulting firm but only on broad policy matters. Three former corporate lobbyists will keep working on the issues they dealt with before - finance and energy and the environment. And Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, can meet privately with that media outlet.

More waivers are out there, and the Office of Government Ethics expects to make them public as it collects them from other federal agencies. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.