Embattled ethics director seeks public House oversight hearing

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In a letter released to CNN, Walter M. Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics, told House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, that he wants any hearing about his office's role in guarding against conflicts of interest in the incoming administration to be open to the public.

WASHINGTON — The political war on Capitol Hill over an embattled federal ethics office rages on, but this time the man in the center of the controversy has weighed in — again.

In a letter released to CNN, Walter M. Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics, told House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, that he wants any hearing about his office’s role in guarding against conflicts of interest in the incoming administration to be open to the public.

Shaub faced sharp criticism from Republicans last week after he called President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed plan for separating from his businesses “wholly inadequate.”

Shaub’s blunt talk triggered a quick response from the House Oversight Committee — with top Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings seeking a public hearing to hear directly from Shaub on the President-elect’s business entanglements, and Chaffetz calling for a closed-door “transcribed interview” with Shaub.

But Shaub wants Chaffetz to “reconsider” his request for a private meeting.

“Allowing the public to attend our meeting — or, at the very least, to view it through live broadcast or the attendance of the news media — would ensure transparency and educate the public about how OGE guards the executive branch against conflicts of interest,” Shaub wrote.

“Our office has received an unprecedented volume of telephone calls, emails, and letters from members of the public related to our executive branch ethics program,” he added.

No date has been set for the hearing — private or public — yet.

On Sunday, Cummings urged Congress to try to obtain documents on Trump’s financial holdings.

“Republicans should start doing their job under the Constitution rather than doubling-down on their retaliatory attacks against ethics officials, acting as the President-elect’s personal cheerleaders, and doing back-flips to avoid doing any real oversight,” Cummings said.

But Chaffetz told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week,” that criticisms of Trump’s conflicts plan were “premature.”

“The President-elect hasn’t even been sworn in yet,” he said. “So, all this flailing about how he’s done everything wrong is a little premature at best.”