Democrats want GOP committee head to open up ethics meeting

AP News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2017 2:29 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats want all members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to participate in a private meeting with the director of the Office of Government Ethics, and are frustrated that the Republican chairman has targeted the official for raising questions about President-elect Donald Trump's possible conflicts of interest.

In a letter Thursday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., asked that Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, invite all committee members to the Monday meeting with Walter Shaub Jr. Currently, the meeting is not open to the public, and Chaffetz and Cummings are the only lawmakers scheduled to attend.

Chaffetz summoned Shaub to Capitol Hill after the ethics official challenged some of Trump's business arrangements. Last week, Shaub issued a scathing review of Trump's plan to turn over control of his business to his sons, saying the only way Trump could avoid a conflict of interest as president would be to divest from his business and have his assets placed in a blind trust.

Chaffetz has said Shaub is acting unethically by offering opinions on conflicts of interest without fully researching the circumstances.

Democrats have countered that Chaffetz is engaging in a coordinated effort to undermine the office responsible for ethics reviews of Cabinet nominees and ensuring they will avoid conflicts of interests.

"Since you will not allow the American people to witness the meeting with Director Shaub, I am requesting that you at least allow the other members of our committee to participate — including Democrats and Republicans," Cummings wrote. "I cannot think of any reason to deny all members of our committee the opportunity to hear first-hand what Mr. Shaub has to say."

A spokeswoman for Chaffetz said she had no comment on Cummings' letter.

Earlier this week, Shaub wrote Chaffetz and asked for the meeting to be public.

"I believe passionately that ethics matters and that if Americans do not have confidence that their government leaders' decisions are free from conflicts, the integrity of our government suffers," Shaub wrote.