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Government ethics agency: We ‘seem to have lost contact’ with the Trump team

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The government agency in charge of overseeing ethics in the federal government and policing conflicts of interest has struggled to contact members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team since Election Day.

In emails obtained by MSNBC, Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Director Walter Shaub wrote that his agency’s attempts at outreach to the incoming administration have been met with silence.

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“We seem to have lost contact with the Trump-Pence transition since the election,” Shaub said.

In a letter to Trump advisers, Shaub warned that by announcing its cabinet picks without proper vetting by the ethics office, the team runs the risk of causing “embarrassment for the President-elect.”

Requirements for White House aides are even more stringent with regards to conflicts of interest and incoming aides to Trump may be in violation of federal law.

“They run the risk of having inadvertently violated the criminal conflicts of interest restriction at 18 USC 208,” Shaub wrote.

Furthermore, he said, “If we don’t get involved early to prevent problems,” he added, “we won’t be able to help them after the fact.”

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Throughout history, U.S. presidents have placed their assets in a so-called “blind trust” for the duration of their presidency. Trump and his advisors have made vague public statements about the Trust, saying it would be managed by the former reality TV star’s adult children.

This is far from adequate, said Shaub. The ethics office only considers a trust blind when its assets have been “sold off” and liquidated.

The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by federal employment lawyer Bradley Moss. They show a confused tangle of unanswered queries, delayed responses and comments that Trump and his legal team are hard to reach and nearly impossible to “pin down” on issues.

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Moss said that the emails show a surprising lack of interest on the part of the Trump team in divestment of assets to avoid conflicts of interest.

“Conspicuously absent is any evidence of the preparations allegedly being undertaken by President-Elect Trump to resolve potential conflicts of interest through some manner of divestment,” Moss said to NBC News.

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He asked, “If the President-Elect’s lawyers and compliance officers are not coordinating with OGE, who, if anyone, within the government are they coordinating on these matters?”

For weeks, Trump has been postponing a planned press conference where he says that he will explain in detail his plan to divest himself of his holdings and hand over his businesses.


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Buffalo has a long history of protecting cops from criminal charges: report

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On Saturday, The Daily Beast documented the recent history of use of force in the Buffalo Police Department, which is reeling from controversy as two officers face assault charges for shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground.

"As shocking as this all may be to outsiders, the shoving of demonstrator Martin Gugino and the defiant response of officers to an effort to discipline two of their own is indicative of the state of police affairs in Buffalo," wrote Jim Heaney. "Has been for a long time, not that you have to go back too far to find other episodes of brutality that have been captured on video."

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Internet disgusted after Buffalo first responders cheer cops charged with assaulting 75-year-old protester

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Commenters on Twitter expressed both contempt and disgust for Buffalo firefighters and police officers who turned out in front of Buffalo City Court to support two suspended police officers with applause and cheering.

Moments after officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault and then released without having to post bail, they were greeted as heroes outside the courthouse.

After a video was posted showing the celebration, commenters on Twitter vented at cops and firefighters for defending the two officers who assaulted the 75-year-old man who had to be rushed to a hospital after they shoved him to the ground where he sustained a head injury.

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Donald Trump’s lurch toward fascism is backfiring spectacularly

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

During the 2016 campaign, as Donald Trump railed against "Mexican rapists" and other "criminal aliens," pollsters found that the share of Americans who said that immigrants worked hard and made a positive contribution to our society increased significantly, and noticed a similar decline in the share who said they take citizens' jobs and burden our social safety net. After Trump was elected and began pursuing his Muslim ban, the share of respondents who held a positive view of Islam also increased pretty dramatically. I'm not aware of any polling of the general public about transgender troops serving in the military before Trump decided to discharge them, but Gallup found that 71 percent of respondents opposed his position after he did.

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