Ethics Office Congratulates Trump for Something He’s Not Planning to Do


This is weird as hell. Between 12:55 and 12:57 pm on the East Coast this afternoon, the Office of Government Ethics sent out a tweetstorm addressed to Donald Trump:

We can’t repeat enough how good this total divestiture will be….Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, very good for America!….OGE applauds the “total” divestiture decision. Bravo!….As we discussed with your counsel, divestiture is the way to resolve these conflicts….OGE is delighted that you’ve decided to divest your businesses. Right decision!….Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest . Good call!….this aligns with OGE opinion that POTUS should act as if 18 USC 208 applies. http://bit.ly/2fRpIG0….this divestiture does what handing over control could never have done….we told your counsel we’d sing your praises if you divested, we meant it.

Needless to say, Trump has made no decision to divest his holdings. He has said only that he plans to hand over control of “business operations” to his kids.

So what happened? Here’s a few theories:

  1. Trump really does plan to divest, and his lawyers have told OGE this. Then OGE screwed up and scheduled a tweetstorm about it before Trump’s announcement.
  2. OGE did this “accidentally” in order to put pressure on Trump to divest.
  3. OGE did this deliberately in order to put pressure on Trump to divest.
  4. Something else.

As near as I can tell, #4 is the winner. Here’s what the New York Times reports:

In a statement, Seth Jaffe, an agency spokesman, said that officials there were “excited” by Mr. Trump’s announcements on conflicts of interest and that the messages were not based on any information about the president-elect’s plans beyond what was shared on his Twitter feed.

Asked later about the disclosure of the advice that the Office of Government Ethics had given to Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Mr. Jaffe said he could not provide additional comment. But the agency has left the posts on its official government account.

So…they just misinterpreted Trump’s tweets and got so excited that they couldn’t contain themselves. I can’t say that this seems especially likely, but I guess anything is possible.

UPDATE: NPR has more here. Their account seems to imply that maybe #3 is the right answer. If it is, then bravo. After all, if Donald Trump can make waves via Twitter, then so can everyone else.