The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has changed an internal policy which previously kept staff members from accepting anonymous donations from lobbyists for their legal defense funds.
White House staff members, such as the ones currently embroiled in Robert Mueller’s Russia-Trump campaign investigation, may now receive donations from these lobbyists, a reversal of a previously understood guideline dating back to President Clinton’s time in office.
“It’s very depressing,” said Walter Shaub, who ran the OGE until resigning last July, partly over his frustration with the Trump administration disregard for ethical concerns. “It’s unseemly for the ethics office to be doing something sneaky like that.”
Shaub wrote on Twitter the change in guidelines “disgusts” him.
This story disgusts me. I was hoping it was a technical website glitch. But the acting Director doesn't feel you deserve any answer, America https://t.co/qVpJXx1ziW
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) September 14, 2017
Current Trump officials with legal defense funds tied to Mueller’s investigation include Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, senior adviser Jared Kushner, White House Counsel Don McGahn, and White House Communications Director Hope Hicks. Assuming they’re employing top dollar lawyers, legal fees could add up to as much as $1,500 an hour.
“You can picture a whole army of people with business before the government willing to step in here and make [the debt] go away,” said Marilyn Glynn, who ran the OGE during the Bush administration and worked in the office for 17 years.
The White House said that it was not changing OGE policy, but rather enforcing the correct language of preexisting policy.
“This is another example of Walter Shaub — who has no direct knowledge of anything the White House is doing or assisting with — trying to make himself feel relevant,” said Lindsay Walters, spokeswoman for the White House.