The U.S. Office of Government Ethics let loose on Donald Trump via Twitter Wednesday, apparently trying to goad the president-elect into divesting his businesses to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
“We can’t repeat enough how good this total divestiture will be,” the federal watchdog wrote in a series of nine tweets that were deleted and then later reposted. “Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, very good for America!”
The tweets apparently came in response to Trump’s early morning Twitter statement that he would be “leaving” his businesses to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, an announcement that has been criticized as too vague to be meaningful.
Trump promised to hold a news conference on Dec. 15 at which he would reveal legal documents to take him “completely out of [Trump] business operations,” though detractors say only a complete divestiture would be the only way to completely avoid any appearance of impropriety.
“Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest. Good call!” read one of the OGE’s Wednesday tweets, though Trump notably did not announce any plans of this sort. “We told your counsel we’d sing your praises if you divested, we meant it,” said another.
After the agency’s tweets began to gain attention, they mysteriously disappeared before being re-posted later in the afternoon. In a statement to NPR, the agency confirmed that the tweets were real and that the account had not been hacked.
“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,” spokesperson Seth Jaffe said. “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.”
After the tweets led to some speculation that the agency knew more about Trump’s plans, the OGE issued a second statement clarifying that they had no additional information beyond what was shared on Twitter:
“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.”
According to the OGE website, the agency “provides overall leadership and oversight of the executive branch ethics program designed to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest,” an issue that has plagued Trump since he won the presidential election earlier this month.
The agency has rules meant to prevent conflicts of interest within the executive branch, however the president and vice president are exempt. Still, previous presidents including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have placed assets in a “blind trust” in an effort to prevent business deals and investments from influencing policy during their term in the Oval Office.