Newly released government emails show how the Office of Government Ethics dealt with the Trump administration during its early weeks.
The email exchanges from Jan. 20, 2017, to July 24, 2017, reveal numerous questions the president and key members of the administration faced as they navigated murky ethical waters with the Office of Government Ethics.
In an effort to gain insight into potential conflicts of interest in the administration, the Center for Public Integrity filed a FOIA request for the emails in early 2017.
The Office of Government Ethics, a part of the executive branch, is tasked with preventing conflicts of interest by executive branch members and monitoring employees’ compliance with federal law. But the agency only has the power to file complaints and no tangible power to force the administration’s compliance or penalize those who don’t follow established rules.
Even before entering the White House, Trump’s presidential campaign provoked concerns about conflicts of interest. The president-elect’s statements inspired a sarcastic tweetstorm in November 2016 from the Office of Government Ethics’ official Twitter account about Trump divesting his businesses.
The Center for Public Integrity’s FOIA request, along with similar requests from other news organizations, came at a time when Trump was refusing to release his federal tax returns or fully divest from his business empire. (To date, Trump has not done either, although he did today release his annual personal financial disclosure — a separate document.)
The email exchanges below are just a snapshot of the sometimes-fraught relations between the Trump administration and Office of Government Ethics.