ABC NEWS: Ethics Office pushed White House to hire Ivanka Trump amid concerns about her being informal adviser
May 01 2017
By Ali Rogin
The Office of Government Ethics encouraged the White House to hire Ivanka Trump as a government employee amid concerns that as an informal adviser she would not be bound by the standards that accompany an official position, according to a new documents provided to ABC News.
OGE Director Walter M. Shaub said in a letter to Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that he contacted Trump’s attorney and the White House’s ethics official on March 24 “to express OGE’s view that Ms. Trump appeared to meet the legal standard to be considered an employee covered by the executive branch ethics rules.”
Shaub added that both officials “seemed open” to having President Donald Trump’s daughter be recognized as an employee through formal appointment. Five days later, the White House announced her decision to accept a role as an employee of the White House.
“With her newly recognized status as an executive branch employee, Ms. Trump is covered by the ethics laws and regulations applicable to executive branch employees,” Shaub wrote.
Carper and Warren initially wrote to Shaub asking for clarification about Ivanka Trump’s informal adviser status.
“Ms. Trump’s increasing, albeit unspecified, White House role, her potential conflicts of interest, and her commitment to voluntarily comply with relevant ethics and conflicts of interest laws have resulted in substantial confusion,” they wrote. They sent their letter on March 29, the day that Trump announced she would be joining the administration as an employee.
Trump’s new status as an executive branch employee means she is required to submit periodic financial disclosures, including one within 30 days of becoming an executive branch employee, the OGE director said. Ivanka Trump, like all such employees, also has the ability to extend that initial disclosure deadline up to 90 days.
ABC News’ requests for Ivanka Trump's disclosure documents, which would have originally become due April 30, have not yet been fulfilled. The White House has previously noted that most of her financial information was included in the disclosures of her husband, Jared Kushner, who as an official adviser to the president from his inauguration, submitted his own disclosure forms at the end of March.
The OGE director also noted in his letter that Ivanka Trump is, like all senior White House appointees, prohibited from “participating personally and substantially in particular matters directly and predictably affecting their financial interests.”
Shaub says that while there are several means for resolving conflicts of interest, the most common is for officials to recuse themselves from matters that would affect their financial interests.
The question of whether Ivanka Trump’s financial interests and official government work were overlapping was raised when her company received new China trademarks for her namesake brand, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, on the very day she and her father were meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
While ethics officials at the time raised concerns that this was a conflict of interest, Ivanka Trump’s attorney Jamie Gorelick pushed back.
“The federal ethics rules do not require you to recuse from any matter concerning a foreign country just because a business that you have an ownership interest in has a trademark application pending there. Ivanka will recuse from particular matters where she has a conflict of interest or where the White House Counsel determines her participation would present appearance or impartiality concerns.”
The OGE letter, released Monday but originally sent on April 25, did not address the China issue or any other specific instances in which outside officials had raised questions about Ivanka Trump’s business and government actions.
A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.