The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on Thursday raised concerns about a possible ethics violation by top White House aide Stefan Passantino, The Hill reports.
Five Senate Democrats wrote to the top ethics watchdog group after Passantino delivered the White House’s legal position on billionaire Trump adviser Carl Icahn’s employment status to the media. Passantino, who lists Icahn among his former clients, is required to recuse himself from personnel matters regarding any individuals for whom he previously worked.
The Senate Democrats alleged in their letter that Passantino violated an ethics rule in delivering the legal position. The letter is signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, Thomas Carper, Elijah Cummings, and Patrick Leahy.
Passantino works for the White House as its agency ethics official who is tasked with ensuring compliance of conflict-of-interest provisions imposed by President Donald Trump in January.
In the OGE’s response to the senators, the agency’s director wrote that he lacked the information to proceed with the investigation, and asked White House Counsel Don McGahn to look into the issue further.
“OGE lacks the information needed to assess this news report. Specifically, OGE does not know whether Mr. Passantino participated in the formulation of the White House’s legal position”, director Walter Shaub wrote.
“However, the White House is in a position to ascertain the relevant facts and is responsible for monitoring its appointees compliance with ethics requirements. Therefore, by copy of this letter, I am bringing this matter to the attention of the Counsel to the President for his review”, Shaub stated.