Donald Trump warned over 'unprecedented' plan to appoint cabinet without ethics office checks, emails reveal

Disclosed emails from the head of the ethics office warn President aides staffing a cabinet with robust oversight is a 'tradition evolved as a result of hard lessons' 

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The Independent US

Donald Trump was warned by the US government's ethics watchdog that his “unprecedented” approach to recruiting his cabinet "created a risk" for him and his staff, but he did not do anything about it, newly released emails have revealed. 

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) attempted to coordinate with the new President's transition team, but it did not engage despite the warning. 

Emails obtained via a freedom of information request by NBC News, show that shortly after Mr Trump was elected, the director of the OGE, Walter Shaub, wrote to Mr Trump’s top lawyer Don McGhan, who now serves as White House counsel.

He warned him that announcing the cabinet without coordinating with the OGE, was taking “a risk”. 

"I am not sure whether you are aware that announcing the cabinet without first coordinating with OGE is unprecedented” Mr Shaub wrote, adding that it created "unnecessary risk for both the President-elect and the prospective nominees.” 

Founded in 1978, the ethics office “is designed to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest” in the government's executive branch, while providing “leadership and oversight”, its website says.  

Mr Shaub also sent a letter to the Senate last month, explaining the ethics office had not received one draft of financial disclosure for any of the nominees. 

He added the process for “complete and accurate financial disclosure” could take weeks. 

Mr Shaub then warned senators confirmation hearings should take place after the ethics office carried out checks on nominees’ financial situation for any potential conflicts of interests. 

“I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process,” he wrote. 

Mr Shaub previously said Mr Trump could be embarrassed if he announced his cabinet choices before the ethics office review and that White House staff “run the risk of having inadvertently violated the criminal conflicts of interest” because they had not received appropriate guidance. 

But Mr Trump’s aides ignored or rebuffed requests to schedule a meeting, the letter from Mr Shaub said. 

“At present, we have no reliable lines of communication with the transition team — a circumstance that is also unprecedented," he wrote.

In another email, Mr Shaub wrote Trump’s aides were "under no obligation to follow the tradition” but that staffing a cabinet with robust ethics oversight was a "tradition evolved as a result of hard lessons".

Press secretary Sean Spicer previously told American reporters that nominees had submitted all required information to the ethics office.