WASHINGTON — Ending a confrontation with the government's top ethics official, the White House says it will publicly release the waivers it gave to lobbyists to allow them to work in the administration.
The change comes after Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney asked the Office of Government Ethics to hold off on a request to seek and publicly disclose any waivers the Trump administration granted to allow former lobbyists to take jobs in the administration. Mulvaney also questioned whether the ethics office had legal authority to seek the information.
The public showdown between Mulvaney and the ethics Director Walter Shaub grabbed headlines this week, with Shaub refusing to back down and firing off a scathing response to Mulvaney's request,
In a letter sent Friday to Shaub, OMB's Mulvaney said he had no objection to the "substance" of Shaub's request, only the process.
"OMB shares the belief that the executive branch must uphold the highest ethical standards in accordance with the law," Mulvaney wrote. "Contrary to your assertions, OMB has never sought to impede OGE nor to prevent others, including agencies, from acting as required by law," he added, using an abbreviation for the Office of Government Ethics.
Independent ethics groups and some congressional Democrats have expressed alarm at reports that dozens of ex-lobbyists and others with ties to Wall Street and energy companies have found jobs in the Trump administration.
President Trump signed ethics rules earlier this year that barred lobbyists joining the administration from working on matters that involved their former clients. At the time, however, Trump made no commitment to disclose whether his administration granted any waivers to that provision or other parts of his ethics order. President Obama routinely made public any waivers to his ethic rules.
In his letter to Shaub, Mulvaney said OMB had not granted any waivers.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told The New York Times that about a dozen waivers were been granted to White House employees, and those would be made public within the next week. Mulvaney's letter also was sent to the ethics officials at all government agencies, signaling they could comply with Shaub's request.