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

Fire danger persists for Polaris off-road vehicles

The leading producer of off-road vehicles has recalled thousands of its machines because of fire danger. The vechicles are responsible for three deaths so far, resulting in multiple lawsuits. 

Incubating new economic models for journalism.

Latest from iLab

Future of DC transparency

The future of transparency in D.C. government is murky, open records advocates say.

Since its creation in 2011, the Office of Open Government has been tasked with keeping more than 90 District agencies in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. But the board that oversees the office will not reappoint its inaugural director, Traci L. Hughes, making transparency advocates worried about the office’s future.  

The power of reporters, working together

Workshop Executive Editor Charles Lewis writes about global teamwork in investigative reporting in his chapter for a new book published by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford. 

Blogs

Most Recent Posts

Apprehensions at U.S.-Mexico border down from 2017

The number of people apprehended or denied entry into the U.S. dropped from 2017.

Donations to nonprofit newsrooms continue to grow after 'Trump bump'

Despite his persistent claims of fake news and shoddy reporting, President Donald Trump’s contentious relationship with the media has actually provided a much-needed financial boost for many nonprofit,  investigative journalism organizations across the country.

Asbestos, highway safety and child strangulation prevention

Check out our three reprints from FairWarning.

Stories include preventions in child strangulation, Johnson & Johnsons carcinogen worries and highway safety.

 

How Trump is shaping immigration policy

“It is time to reform these outdated immigration rules, and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century," said President Donald Trump at his first State of the Union. 

What Trump didn’t talk about were the ups and downs of immigration under his administration. The Investigative Reporting Workshop built a timeline of immigration during Trump’s first year, and we’ll continue to update it.

American trust in the media is low, but majority believes it is necessary

More than 80 percent of U.S. adults believe the news media are critical or very important to our democracy, according to a recent survey by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.

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.