conflicts of interest

The Trump administration agreed late Friday to disclose records regarding former lobbyists it has hired, and the ethics rules it has waived for them. The move defuses a brewing conflict between the White House and one of Washington's smallest agencies, the tiny, 71-worker Office of Government Ethics.

Updated at 10:08 p.m. ET.

The Office of Government Ethics has rejected a White House attempt to block the agency's compilation of federal ethics rules waivers granted to officials hired into the Trump administration from corporations and lobbying firms.

When the Senate was preparing to confirm President Trump's Cabinet and other top officials, the nominees negotiated ethics agreements, promising to rearrange their financial lives to avoid conflicts of interest.

Now the Office of Government Ethics wants to know if they kept their word.

OGE is requiring the Cabinet secretaries and other Senate-confirmed officials to fill out a new Certification of Ethics Agreement Compliance. NPR obtained a copy of the form before its release Thursday.

Networking, connecting, pitching — it's all routine in the business world.

But a connection pitched in China over the weekend — involving ties between President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and a real-estate project — has prompted ethics experts to raise objections, and some lawmakers to call for change. There are concerns about potential conflicts of interests, but also about a visa program for investors.

Updated: 10:26 a.m. ET

Two plaintiffs involved in the hotel and restaurant industry have joined a lawsuit alleging President Trump is violating the Constitution, potentially bolstering the effort. The lawsuit centers on whether Trump is breaching the Emoluments Clause — a provision in the Constitution that prevents government officials from accepting gifts, benefits and the like from foreign leaders.

President Trump has donated his salary from his first few months in office to the National Park Service, making good on a campaign pledge to forego a presidential paycheck.

His gift represents a small fraction, however, of the money the Park Service stands to lose if Trump's budget were adopted.

Instead of collecting a salary of $400,000 a year, Trump has volunteered to donate that money to charity. He chose the Park Service as the beneficiary of his first installment, $78,333, which covers the first ten weeks Trump was in office.

With an oversized check for $78,333, written to the National Park Service, White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday took the first step in fulfilling President Trump's pledge to give away his presidential salary.

Spicer said that the sum equaled Trump's salary for the first quarter of 2017, and that similar charitable contributions will be made each quarter.

When Donald Trump was elected president, his daughter Ivanka Trump said she would move to Washington, D.C., but not into a White House office.

Many people these days might be getting worked up about the fact that President Trump owns a lot of businesses. Not Chris Kinney.

"I think this country really needs to be run more like a business at this point," says the 51-year-old Lino Lakes, Minn., resident, a former business owner who fixes printers for a living. The United States faces a lot of serious problems, such as the growing federal deficit, and the fact that Trump brings a businessman's sensibility to solving them is a plus, Kinney says.

Federal records indicate that a key adviser to President Trump held substantial investments in 18 companies when he joined Trump in meetings with their CEOs.

The investments of Christopher Liddell, the president's director of strategic initiatives, totaled between $3 million and $4 million. Among the companies in Liddell's portfolio, and whose CEOs were in the meetings: Dell Technologies, Dow Chemical, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin and Wal-Mart.

The Office of Government Ethics has informed the Trump administration that the White House has an "incorrect" view of ethics laws.

In a Thursday letter, OGE director Walter Shaub contradicted what he called the White House's "extraordinary assertion," made in a recent letter, that "many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics ('OGE') do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President."

Shaub was having no part of that: "The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it."

Updated at 4:56 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from any investigations into possible Russian involvement in the 2016 elections.

"Let me be clear: I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign," Sessions reiterated during an afternoon news conference in response to reports that he had met twice with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. last year.

"I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in," Sessions said.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D)
Jo Ingles / Ohio Public Radio

Democratic Ohio legislators want candidates for president and vice president to disclose their tax returns as a requirement to get on the statewide presidential ballot. 

Democratic Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent is sponsoring the legislation called the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act, or "TRUMP Act.”

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter M. Shaub Jr. is recommending an investigation and possible disciplinary action be taken against Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Trump, for urging shoppers to buy fashion products sold by Trump's daughter Ivanka.

Andrew Puzder, President Trump's nominee for secretary of labor, has agreed to divest his holdings in CKE Restaurants — the fast-food giant of which he is CEO — forfeit unvested compensation and liquidate his extensive investment portfolio if he is confirmed.

CKE Restaurants is the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast-food restaurants.

The details of his divestiture were in Puzder's financial disclosure report, which was obtained by NPR News.

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