May 16, 2017

Warren, Whitehouse, Carper, Leahy, Cummings Question Office of Government Ethics about Key White House Ethics Officer's Conflicts of Interest

Previous Financial Connections to Carl Icahn, other Trump Administration Officials Raise Concerns

Text of the letter is available here (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), today sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Director Walter Shaub to request information about the ethics rules that apply to President Trump's Deputy White House Counsel and Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO), Stefan Passantino.

According to his own financial disclosures, prior to joining the Administration, Mr. Passantino provided paid legal services to Carl Icahn, a senior advisor to President Trump), Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.  As DAEO, Mr. Passantino is now responsible for implementing and overseeing the ethics requirements that apply to Mr. Icahn and to other White House officials.

The members write that given explicit ethics requirements for executive branch employees, "it appears that Mr. Passantino may be legally required to recuse himself from (or receive a waiver allowing him to participate in) any matters related to Mr. Icahn, Dr. Carson, or Dr. Price. But there is no record of Mr. Passantino recusing himself, and on at least one occasion, he has commented to the media on Mr. Icahn's relationship with the Administration - indicating that he has not recused himself."

The letter to OGE follows a letter sent on April 21, 2017 by the members to Mr. Passantino directly, asking for clarifications on his financial connections to other members of the Trump Administration and resulting conflicts of interest. Mr. Passantino has not replied.