Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, questions FBI Director James Comey during a hearing on the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email system while serving as Secretary of State, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on July 7, 2016. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz has requested a closed-door meeting with federal ethics chief Walter Shaub Jr. over comments he made about President-elect Donald Trump's potential conflicts of interest.
A letter sent late Thursday by Rep. Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the Republican-led House oversight and Government Reform Committee to Shaub, head of the independent Office of Government Ethics, asks for a private but transcribed interview. It comes after Shaub called Trump's promise to yield day-to-day operations of his business empire to his sons merely a symbolic gesture.
Trump, at a press conference Wednesday, displayed stacks of papers in folders which he said were signed statements putting his various businesses entities into a trust to be managed by two of his sons. The action is different from, and weaker than, Trump's actual divestiture from the businesses, which Shaub seeks and recommends.
Shaub later said that Trump's gesture was irrelevant and inadequate.
"Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict-of-interest perspective," Shaub said.
The ethics head said earlier that Trump's plan "doesn't meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the past four decades has met."
Regarding the committee's summoning of Shaub, Chaffetz said in an interview, "I want to talk about the whole department. Mr. Shaub has taken a very aggressive stance on issues he's never looked at. He's raised a bunch of eyebrows."
The letter from Chaffetz to Shaub mentions the committee funds the OGE, which some observers say is a partisan indication the ethics office could be defunded or reduced in authority.
Richard Painter, ethics adviser to former President George W. Bush, said the letter is a "clear threat to pull the funding of the Office of Government Ethics" unless the agency follows the wishes of Trump and the Republican leadership. "They are saying lay off Trump and push through these nominees or we'll kill the funding of OGE."