Who’s Watching Trump’s Ethics Watchdogs?


Darren Samuelsohn

February 25, 2017

The president and his business interests have more than two dozen lawyers policing potential conflicts, but a POLITICO investigation finds oversight is lacking.

The lawyers tasked with policing Donald Trump’s potential conflicts of interest are grappling with an oversight system that’s disjointed and ineffective — and one they say is mostly unnecessary.

More than two dozen lawyers working inside and outside government have a part of the Trump ethics portfolio, but no one individual has visibility into the full picture. The set up means that in some cases the lawyers are overlapping while other areas of potential conflict go uncovered entirely.

“There’s not a clear distinction of roles between and among these different lawyers. That’s the problem,” said a Washington-based attorney who requested anonymity because he’s working on ethics issues. “There’s just going to be a huge amount of overlap.”

Perhaps a bigger issue for the watchdog effort is that the lawyers who have the job of safeguarding either the White House or the president and his family business don’t see the conflict of interest issues as deserving the significant attention they have received since Trump’s upset election win last November.

“This is a very difficult scenario because no matter how they try to set up the system there will always be a group that has an issue with anything and everything related to Trump,” said Michael Cohen, a former longtime Trump Organization lawyer who recently stepped down to work as the president’s personal attorney.