President Donald Trump's new appointee to lead the Office of Government Ethics has displayed a free-wheeling approach and disregard to ethics rules for federal employees, including those in the Trump administration, according to former colleagues.
David Apol was named acting director of the OGE head last week, after Walter Shaub resigned in protest. Shaub has raised concerns about ethics violations in the White House including Trump's frequent trips to his business properties. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Shaub said such activities "[affect] our credibility" in the global community and that "we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point."
Shaub has not been shy about his disapproval of the decision to elevate Apol to the agency's senior director position, characterizing Apol's view on ethics as "loosey-goosey." While the head position generally goes to the senior director's chief of staff in the event of resignation, the White House can choose to appoint a preferred candidate, allowing the appointee to avoid a Senate confirmation hearing.
Get your eyebrows out. You'll need to raise them over this latest stunt. pic.twitter.com/PkvREL6YQB— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) July 21, 2017
According to a report in the Times, prior to his appointment, Apol "played a central role in making major ethics decisions related to the Trump administration, including reviewing the financial disclosure report and issuing certificates of divestiture for Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and for other senior appointees."
During his tenure over the past decade at the OGE, Apol has frequently clashed with Shaub and other colleagues on whether conflict-of-interest laws should be strictly enforced. Earlier this year Apol argued that the new head of policy at the Department of Transportation, Derek Kan, should not have to sell his stock options in the car-sharing company Lyft, where he had been an executive.
Apol has also shown a desire for an ethics agency that would work less independently of the executive branch than it has in the past. As the Times reports:
Mr. Apol has advocated consulting with the White House before he issues certain policies—like one establishing rules related to legal defense funds that some Trump administration officials are setting up. He also wants to check with the White House before the office sends letters to members of Congress who have raised questions about White House ethics matters.
Other issues Apol has clashed with colleagues on include allowing federal employees to make government decisions about companies they have previously worked for and "revolving-door rules," which limit the kinds of jobs federal employees can take after leaving government. In the latter case, Apol argued that an official who had managed a government contract should be able to take a job with the company that held the contract—which is generally viewed as a way to influence the government.