The ethics watchdog for government employees said it was not consulted about first daughter Ivanka Trump’s role in the White House.
Office of Government Ethics director Walter M. Shaub Jr. sent a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Thomas Carper, both of whom are Democrats, saying that while his office was not consulted, he contacted Ivanka’s attorney to say she appeared to meet legal standards to be considered a government employee.
“Although OGE was not consulted by the White House on this issue, I contacted both Ms. Trump’s attorney and the White House’s ethics official on March 24, 2017, 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 said in the letter.
Ivanka was initially brought on to serve in a voluntary capacity in her father’s administration. Few details emerged about the responsibilities of her new role, though her lawyer said that she would be President Trump’s “eyes and ears” in the White House.
When contacted by Business Insider in March about whether it had been in the loop regarding Ivanka’s new role, a spokesman for the OGE said that the office “had been notified of the general contours of her plan,” though they did not confirm that office had been consulted before she accepted the position.
Following intense public backlash and questions from ethics experts regarding the voluntary nature of her position, Ivanka became an official government employee, taking on the role of an unpaid adviser to the president.
“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’s letter said.
Shaub sent the letter to Warren and Carper after they voiced concerns about the potential conflicts of interest raised by having the first daughter work in the White House while still maintaining ownership of her eponymous fashion and jewelry brands.
“With regard to your questions about the steps Ms. Trump must take to remedy any potential or actual conflicts of interest identified through her financial disclosures, the primary criminal conflict of interest statute prohibits senior White House appointees and other executive branch employees” from weighing in on issues and policy decisions that may affect their financial interests, the letter said. It added that the best way for Ivanka Trump to do that is to recuse herself from pertinent matters.
The White House, however, is primarily responsible for providing the first daughter with legal and ethical guidance, the letter said, as well as monitoring her compliance with the ethical standards that are placed on government employees.