The U.S. Office of Government Ethics is not prone to getting super involved with social media, which led some news organizations to wonder if their Twitter account had been hacked on Wednesday. The watchdog agency used an unusually light-hearted tone in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that he would be leaving his business empire behind to focus on his new job.
“While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses,” Trump said, promising to expand on the details in a December 15 news conference.
Trump said that he would be completely removed from his business operations, but the OGE appeared to hear a plan to go much further than that. In their Twitter response, they said, “Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest. Good call!”
They followed that up with another: “OGE is delighted that you’ve decided to divest your businesses. Right decision!”
Of course, Trump has not indicated that he will divest his holdings; in fact, he has never even hinted at the possibility that he might liquidate his ownership stake in the family real estate empire. And in his latest comments, he has only promised to remove himself from the day-to-day operations of the company.
In a statement to NPR, OGE spokesman Seth Jaffe said, “Like everyone else, we were excited this morning to read the President-elect’s twitter feed indicating that he wants to be free of conflicts of interest. OGE applauds that goal, which is consistent with an opinion OGE issued in 1983. Divestiture resolves conflicts of interest in a way that transferring control does not. We don’t know the details of their plan, but we are willing and eager to help them with it.”
So, we have one of two possibilities. One, OGE is taunting Trump publicly, trying to pressure him into a course of action he clearly has no intention of pursuing. Or two, they know something we don’t and accidentally spilled the beans ahead of Trump’s press conference.
In a subsequent statement, the agency seemed to shut the door on the second possibility:
“The tweets that OGE posted today were responding only to the public statement that the President-elect made on his Twitter feed about his plans regarding conflicts of interest. OGE’s tweets were not based on any information about the President-elect’s plans beyond what was shared on his Twitter feed. OGE is non-partisan and does not endorse any individual.”
Well, maybe you can avoid accusations of partisanship by not getting cute on social media.