Whitaker's missing public financial disclosure forms angers critics

Petition sent to government ethics office

By DAVID SHORTELL AND LAURA JARRETT, CNN
Leah Millis/REUTERS via CNN

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker

(CNN) - Ethics experts are crying foul after requests for the public financial disclosures of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker have gone unfulfilled.

In a letter sent to the US Office of Government Ethics Friday, American Oversight, an outside watchdog group, said that the Department of Justice had not produced a copy of Whitaker's public financial disclosure reports, despite regulations requiring them to do so, and asked the ethics agency to investigate.

Whitaker, who served as chief of staff to the former attorney general up until his appointment to the top role earlier this month, would likely have had to file two sets of public financial disclosures since joining the Justice Department last year. According to federal ethics law, agencies must make those reports available to public requestors within 30 days of their filing -- a deadline that would have already passed for Whitaker.

"The idea that they wouldn't release this report promptly is mind-boggling," said Walter Shaub, the former director of the US Office of Government Ethics.

Shaub, a senior adviser to another ethics watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and a CNN contributor, said Monday that his own outside group had also requested Whitaker's financial disclosures nearly two weeks ago, and has been told their request is "processing."

"There's nothing to process," Shaub said. Federal regulation "doesn't allow for any redactions. They just simply have to release them. So the entire process consists of them hitting print to PDF and attaching that PDF to an email."

Shaub said the DOJ responses amounted to a "temporary denial," which he called illegal.

The Justice Department declined to comment for CNN's request about the status of Whitaker's forms.

CNN has also requested Whitaker's financial disclosure forms from the DOJ and a spokeswoman for the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee said Monday that the minority was "in the process of trying to get" the forms.

In a statement Monday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said the forms should be made public "immediately."

"It is unclear why Acting Attorney General Whitaker's financial disclosures have not already been made public, and I think that they should be made public immediately," Cummings said. "The Department of Justice relied on an argument that Mr. Whitaker was a senior staffer in order to have him serve in his acting position. Based on that same argument, I would expect that DOJ's position would be that Mr. Whitaker's financial disclosures should have already been made publicly available."

American Oversight told CNN on Monday that it had not yet received a response to its letter from OGE.

This story has been updated to add additional comment from lawmakers.

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