White House Ethics Loophole for Ivanka 'Doesn't Work,' Say Watchdogs

Ivanka Trump’s bizarre new White House role that grants her a West Wing office and security clearance, but no official title or salary, simply does not work.

That’s the message from government watchdogs Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy 21, and the Campaign Legal Center, in a letter (pdf) sent Friday to White House counsel Don McGahn.

The ethics advocates express “deep concern about the highly unusual and inappropriate arrangement that is being proposed for Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter, to play a formalized role in the White House without being required to comply with the ethics and disclosure requirements that apply to White House employees,” arguing that the “arrangement appears designed to allow Ms. Trump to avoid the ethics, conflict-of-interest, and other rules that apply to White House employees.”

The letter, signed by former White House legal counsels Norm Eisen and Richard Painter, goes on to describe the myriad ethics problems with Ivanka’s role:

“The basic problem in the proposed relationship is that it appears to be trying to create a middle space that does not exist,” the letter explains. “On the one hand Ms. Trump’s position will provide her with the privileges and opportunities for public service that attach to being a White House employee. On the other hand, she remains the owner of a private business who is free from the ethics and conflicts rules that apply to White House employees.”

Citing a prior decision from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) regarding President Donald Trump’s appointment of his son-in-law, Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, to an advisor role, the groups say that the president “cannot have it both ways” when it comes to giving family members prominent roles in his staff.