What the heck is going on at the Office of Government Ethics?
On Wednesday afternoon, the OGE tweeted out a series of messages directed to President-elect Donald Trump regarding his recent decision to “fully” cut ties with his business empire ahead of his inauguration in January.
The tweets, which praise Trump for his “divesture” from his businesses—a move Trump has not publicly said he would do—are a stark departure in tone and substance for the @OfficeGovEthics account, which primarily tweets serious, boring things like this:
And here are the tweets praising Trump:
.@realDonaldTrump We can't repeat enough how good this total divestiture will be— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, very good for America!— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump OGE applauds the "total" divestiture decision. Bravo!— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
.@realDonalTrump As we discussed with your counsel, divestiture is the way to resolve these conflicts.— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump OGE is delighted that you've decided to divest your businesses. Right decision!— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest . Good call!— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump this divestiture does what handing over control could never have done.— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
.@realDonaldTrump – we told your counsel we'd sing your praises if you divested, we meant it.— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) November 30, 2016
The use of “Bravo!” and “Good call!” throughout these tweets appears to mock Trump’s signature “Sad!” that so often punctuates his tweets. But, honestly, who knows if that’s intentional or just a meaningless detail.
For those just learning of the existence of the OGE: The office guides policies to prevent conflicts of interest within the executive branch, which is led by the president. It also guides executive branch employees in when and how to disclose financial holdings and trains them on how to avoid conflicts of interest. The director of the OGE is appointed by the president—who, along with the vice president, is simply speaking largely exempt from federal laws governing conflicts of interest.
In a statement provided to the media, an OGE spokesperson stood by the tweets and clarified that the agency was responding with excitement only to Trump’s public statements regarding his plan to avoid conflicts of interest.
Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the president-elect’s Twitter feed indicating that he wants to be free of conflicts of interest. OGE applauds that goal, which is consistent with an opinion OGE issued in 1983. Divesture resolves conflicts of interest in a way that transferring control does not. We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.
The tweets that OGE posted today were responding only to the public statements that the president-elect made on his Twitter feed about his plans regarding conflicts of interest. OGE’s tweets were not based on any information about the president-elect’s plans beyond what was shared on his Twitter feed. OGE is non-partisan and does not endorse any individual.
Trump plans to formally announce the details of how he plans to sever business ties with himself—a move government ethics experts say is imperative for him to govern properly—during a press conference on Dec. 15.
Until then, we’ll just have to keep an eye on the OGE account to see what else pops up.