Oct 11, 2017, 6:54 PM ET

Watchdog groups flag Trump administration's ethics troubles

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Two separate assessments from government watchdog institutions made public this week show growing concerns about the Trump administration’s ethical behavior.

On Tuesday, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) made public a memo by acting director David Apol sent to all government agency heads on Oct. 5 stating he’s "deeply concerned that the actions of some in government leadership have harmed perceptions about the importance of ethics and what conduct is, and is not, permissible."

Apol stepped in to replace Walter Shaub after he resigned this summer. Upon his departure, Shaub said the rules must be tougher for the agency to properly conduct oversight on the executive office.

"I encourage you to consider taking action to re-double your commitment to ethics in Government," Apol implored agency leaders in the letter.

Apol’s memo comes in the wake of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's resignation over the use of taxpayer-funded private travel – and amid a growing number of similar ethical breaches made by other agency heads who are now being investigated.

In addition, each memo included a second, supplementary sheet with a checklist of helpful reminders for agency heads to consider, such as employing a "Should I do it," vs. "Can I do it" mentality, as well as providing a refresher on what is and is not permissible ethically in their leadership positions.

The second strike arrived in a new report –- also made public for the first time on Tuesday and dated Sept. 7 –- from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled "Presidential Transition: Information on Ethics, Funding, and Agency Services."

Commissioned at the request of three key Democratic lawmakers -- Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Tom Carper, D-Del., and ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. – the report notes that while investigating Trump’s transition period, GAO was largely met with an administration whose members refused to cooperate.

In addition, the GAO’s comprehensive compilation explicitly states that the Trump-Pence presidential transition process broke with past precedent during the administration-elect’s move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., declining advice from the GAO and failing to seek counsel from the Office of Government Ethics.

“Overall, the GAO findings show a lack of attention to ethics and that precedents from previous Administrations were frequently broken - with little recourse from Congress,” wrote the trio of Democrats in a statement reacting to the findings of the report they requested.

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  • Lee Thompson

    No surprise the cabinet members and aides are not observing ethics standards. In any organization, the person in charge sets the tone. Trump is ethically challenged, so it's no surprise his cabinet members and staff are not observing standard ethics.

  • Rascal262

    Drain the swamp! Pull the drain plug in the White House!

  • AngeredVoter

    Can you have ethics troubles if you don't have any ethics?

  • Riceburner Ray

    NBC headlines "Trump Attacks Puerto Rico, Threatens To Pull Emergency Responders"

    But what you won't hear on NBC is almost all Hotels and Gambling resorts are up and running while 89% of their people still out of water and electricity. We heard from the nasty mayor in San Juan but what about the other mayors and government officials ? What are they doing for their people ?

  • Prophet With Honor

    Trump is unconcerned by all of this since he doesn't know what an ethic is.

  • thinkmore

    How can you have ethics troubles when you have no ethics?

  • Evan German

    So what is the problem here? Is it complacency or a lack of teeth in ethics monitorig, or is it a President who just doesn't care about ethics and honor and integrity, along with a host of other things he cares less for, like non-English-speaking hurricane victims' lives

  • Gargos

    Trump's administration is an ethical nightmare. In other news, the sky is blue!

  • cephalo

    If you don't care about basic truth, you aren't going to care about ethics. This is a post ethics America.

  • Mck dan

    Watchdogs? More like liberal community organizers! When was the last time one of these "watchdogs" went after a major Democrat politician?

  • Whitesp48843

    It starts at the top, he's a con man. Why would we expect any less?

  • Thomas

    Great, all this means is that the worker bees will have to sit through yet another ethics briefing, while the senior management still continues with their behaviour.

  • Mike Hogan

    The term "Office of Government Ethics" is a joke, right? I mean, no one at the highest levels of government takes these guys seriously. And, what we read about with the abuse of air travel is only the tip of the iceberg. 90% of supposed ethics violations that occur never make it to the news. In the inner circles of D.C. politics it is widely accepted that politicians are the most important people on planet earth -- taxpayers be damned.

  • John Barron

    So the administration was flagged. 15 yard penalty for personal foul, and eject him from office, err.. the game.

  • Nick

    Throw it on the impeachment evidence pile.

  • kritikosman

    It's not the greatest fine-tuned machine for sure--as a matter of fact (not alternatives either), it's a #clanker!

  • Pi_Boson

    This so-called administration is actually operating as a kakistocracy, so ethics is, "what can I get away with" mentality. Dotard is incapable of operating with socially acceptable ethics as we observed throughout his campaign, and now in the White House. There is nothing substantive or meaningful from the inept, so-called administration.

  • Ursus Sapiens II

    "Watchdog groups flag Trump administration's ethics troubles"
    I'm going to invest heavily in the flag market tomorrow. I'll be a millionaire by next Friday.

  • RedSoxPatriotsCelticsBruinsFan

    Trump has a tough job, obama and the fed literally screwed the world. When the fed slashed rates so did the world. the yield curve on savings account is almost zero, no one has made any money to spend and we have been in stagflation for 9 years. I really dont know the fix.

  • thee1truth

    Dictators dont do ethics.....Just ask Trumps galpals Kim Jong Un and Putin.

  • Andrew

    A lack of ethics will get Trump impeached, because he has no ethics.

  • Badger land 2

    Trump administration: Ethics? We don't need no stinkin ethics....

  • george

    Trump's swamp doesn't know the meaning of ethics.

  • Devliz_Tower

    I'm sure the ethics violation book on Trump is longer than War and Peace.

  • Drakarus

    So the last administration illegally unmasking conversations of private citizens was fine, but Trump tweeting is just outrageous...