Cummings Asks Chaffetz to Allow All Oversight Members to Join Meeting with Ethics Director After Chairman’s Reversal on Subpoena Threat

Jan 19, 2017
Press Release

Cummings Asks Chaffetz to Allow All Oversight Members to Join Meeting with Ethics Director After Chairman’s Reversal on Subpoena Threat


Urges Chairman to Apologize to Shaub


Washington, D.C. (Jan. 19, 2016)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that all Committee Members be allowed to participate in a private meeting on Monday with the Office of Government Ethics Director Walter M. Schaub, Jr., after Chaffetz reversed his threat to subpoena Director Shaub for a transcribed interview.

“Since you will not allow the American people to witness the meeting with Director Shaub, I am requesting that you at least allow the other Members of our Committee to participate—including Democrats and Republicans,” Cummings wrote.  “I cannot think of any reason to deny all Members of our Committee the opportunity to hear first-hand what Mr. Shaub has to say.”

Cummings also asked Chaffetz to apologize for claiming on national television that Director Shaub refused to meet with him, when in fact he was willing to do so.  According to documents obtained by the Huffington Post through FOIA, it was Chaffetz who missed a previously discussed meeting in early December.  “Based on this report,” Cummings said, “it seems that you owe Mr. Shaub an apology for these inaccurate public attacks against him.”

On Monday, Director Shaub sent a letter agreeing to meet—again—but requesting this time that the meeting be held in public, and that he would participate even if Chaffetz did not agree.  “Given the misrepresentations that have been made about Director Shaub to date, one can hardly blame him,” Cummings wrote.

In response, Chaffetz withdrew his subpoena threat and will not hold a transcribed interview, which Cummings called a “positive step in the right direction.”  However, instead of a public meeting, Chaffetz scheduled a closed-door meeting on Monday with himself, Director Shaub, and Cummings.

Over the past week, a growing group of conservative and liberal columnists and editorial boards have sharply criticized Chaffetz’s actions for publicly attacking Director Shaub while refusing to investigate President-Elect Trump’s refusal to divest:


  • The Salt Lake Tribune:  “Utahns overwhelmingly want Rep. Jason Chaffetz, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to investigate President-elect Donald Trump's potential conflicts of interests—an endeavor Chaffetz has strongly resisted.  A new poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics found 65 percent of registered voters surveyed in the state support such a probe, compared to just 31 percent opposed.  The poll comes out amidst ongoing friction between Chaffetz and a top federal ethics official critical about Trump’s handling of his widespread business interests, including foreign ties to Russia.”
  • Jennifer Rubin—Washington Post:  “Chaffetz’s effort to evade his constitutional obligations and his committee’s oversight responsibilities does not sit well with voters back home.  His refusal to hold an open hearing only underscores his intent—to protect the president-elect, not to get to the bottom of serious issues of governance, corruption and constitutional fidelity.  Should Chaffetz not consent to an open hearing, Shaub should hold a news conference afterward to summarize the conversation for voters.”
  • Jennifer Rubin—Washington Post:  “In the wake of jaw-dropping evidence of Russian interference with the election and, specifically, members of the Trump campaign having contacts with the Russian government, Chaffetz has shown zero interest in investigating.  He has shown no interest in forcing disclosure of Trump’s financial ties to Russia. … Chaffetz’s passivity in the face of well-publicized concerns about the Emoluments Clause stands in stark contrast to his aggressive, self-initiating action during the Obama years.  He is not alone.  Indeed, the entire Republican House seems entirely uninterested in keeping its promise to act as a check on Trump.”
  • Bloomberg View:  “Chaffetz is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which used its almost-unlimited investigative jurisdiction to probe Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while at the State Department, says he has no interest in going on ‘fishing expeditions’ to examine the incoming administration of President Donald Trump. … Instead, he has aimed his fire at the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, whose director had the temerity to criticize Trump’s announced plan to address conflicts-of-interest involving his business.  Many Republican and Democratic government-ethics specialists agree with the ethics director, Walter Shaub, that Trump’s plan to turn over management of his company to his children falls short of accepted conflict-of-interest standards.  Yet Shaub’s criticism infuriated Chaffetz.”
  • Des Moines Register Editorial Board: The congressman is plainly trying to intimidate and bully the Office of Government Ethics into silence. That would be irresponsible for any member of Congress, but it’s particularly galling to see the head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee go down this path.
  • Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for President George W. Bush, and Norm Eisen, Special Counsel and Special Assistant to President Barack Obama:  “For speaking up about the shortcomings of this plan, Shaub found himself in the Republican crosshairs.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that has jurisdiction over the White House, demanded Shaub appear for a Star Chamber-style recorded inquisition and implicitly threatened to shut down the Office of Government Ethics if Shaub did not submit.  Chaffetz ought to have been doing the exact opposite, supporting OGE and demanding documents from Trump about any financial ties to Russia or other foreign governments.”
  • Washington Post Editorial Board:  “As Congress’s chief watchdog, with an open-ended charge to review all sorts of executive branch activity, Mr. Chaffetz should be raising questions about Mr. Trump’s ethics plan. Before November’s election, he promised ‘years’ of investigations of Hillary Clinton, if she won. His tune changed after Mr. Trump’s victory; he said Sunday he has no interest in a ‘fishing expedition’ to assess Mr. Trump’s business entanglements.”
  • New York Times Editorial Board:  “Representative Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week showed where the investigative priorities of House Republicans lie as President-elect Donald Trump and his myriad conflicts of interest prepare to move to the White House.  On Thursday, he sent a letter summoning the head of the federal Office of Government Ethics for questioning, suggesting that the agency and its budget are ripe for review.”


Click here to read today’s letter.

115th Congress