Constitution

Trump’s team nixed ethics course for White House staff

President Donald Trump’s team rejected a course for senior White House staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

The documents suggest the program could have better prepared officials for working within existing laws and executive orders, and provided guidance on how to navigate Senate confirmation for nominees and political appointees, how to deal with congressional and media scrutiny, and how to work with Congress and collaborate with agencies — some of the same issues that have become major stumbling blocks in the early days of the administration.

But the contract was never awarded because after the election the transition team shifted its priorities, according to a letter the General Services Administration sent to bidders such as the Partnership for Public Service. The program was expected to cost $1 million, the documents show. The contract-based training program was authorized in 2000, and the Obama and Bush transitions both received the training.

“It has been determined that the requirements as defined in the RFQ do not accurately reflect the current needs of the Presidential Transition Team,” the GSA contracting officer, Matthew Gormley, wrote in the Jan. 10 letter.

The agency’s cancellation notice elaborated on the reasons for dropping the program.

“As a result of a change in Presidential Transition Team leadership after the Nov. 8, 2016, election, there have been changes in the PTT’s goals for the political appointee orientation program,” it said. Shortly after the election, Vice President Mike Pence took over running the transition from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The changes included the transition team’s desire to control all the speakers and content, according to the notice.

Gormley referred questions to an agency spokesperson who didn’t answer a request for comment.

After the story was published, a White House spokeswoman said in a statement, “Several sessions on ethics issues were done in the Transition office as a prerequisite to employees being allowed to get on the White House campus for the first time, and get their badges. The Office of the White House Counsel continues to work to provide employees of the Executive Office of the President with direct instruction on the standards they are expected to follow during their employment at the White House.”

The Trump team has said it was determined not to spend all of its transition funds, and it returned millions to the government. To some Republicans, the program could be seen as wasteful.

Several political appointees at agencies said they received very little training and that the period between the election and Inauguration Day was hectic. There has also been little contact between the political appointees at agencies and the longtime civil servants because of a lack of trust, several of these people said.

The lack of training likely fueled a series of early missteps in the presidency, as aides fired off executive orders and new rules without briefing Congress or their peers at agencies.

“It looks like a good program, and I wish they had implemented it,” said Norm Eisen, a White House ethics lawyer in the Obama administration who now leads the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It might have spared them the numerous ethics and other messes they have encountered.”

President Donald Trump’s team rejected a course for senior White House staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

The documents suggest the program could have better prepared officials for working within existing laws and executive orders, and provided guidance on how to navigate Senate confirmation for nominees and political appointees, how to deal with congressional and media scrutiny, and how to work with Congress and collaborate with agencies — some of the same issues that have become major stumbling blocks in the early days of the administration.

But the contract was never awarded because after the election the transition team shifted its priorities, according to a letter the General Services Administration sent to bidders such as the Partnership for Public Service. The program was expected to cost $1 million, the documents show. The contract-based training program was authorized in 2000, and the Obama and Bush transitions both received the training.

“It has been determined that the requirements as defined in the RFQ do not accurately reflect the current needs of the Presidential Transition Team,” the GSA contracting officer, Matthew Gormley, wrote in the Jan. 10 letter.

The agency’s cancellation notice elaborated on the reasons for dropping the program.

“As a result of a change in Presidential Transition Team leadership after the Nov. 8, 2016, election, there have been changes in the PTT’s goals for the political appointee orientation program,” it said. Shortly after the election, Vice President Mike Pence took over running the transition from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The changes included the transition team’s desire to control all the speakers and content, according to the notice.

Gormley referred questions to an agency spokesperson who didn’t answer a request for comment.

After the story was published, a White House spokeswoman said in a statement, “Several sessions on ethics issues were done in the Transition office as a prerequisite to employees being allowed to get on the White House campus for the first time, and get their badges. The Office of the White House Counsel continues to work to provide employees of the Executive Office of the President with direct instruction on the standards they are expected to follow during their employment at the White House.”

The Trump team has said it was determined not to spend all of its transition funds, and it returned millions to the government. To some Republicans, the program could be seen as wasteful.

Several political appointees at agencies said they received very little training and that the period between the election and Inauguration Day was hectic. There has also been little contact between the political appointees at agencies and the longtime civil servants because of a lack of trust, several of these people said.

The lack of training likely fueled a series of early missteps in the presidency, as aides fired off executive orders and new rules without briefing Congress or their peers at agencies.

“It looks like a good program, and I wish they had implemented it,” said Norm Eisen, a White House ethics lawyer in the Obama administration who now leads the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It might have spared them the numerous ethics and other messes they have encountered.”

Categories: Constitution, Corruption, Democracy, Ethics

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