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Watchdog Calls for Conflict-of-Interest Probe Into Trump Adviser

Christopher Liddell, a presidential aide who was previously the CFO of Microsoft, speaks at the New Zealand Tech Ed conference on September 14, 2009. (Photo: Ignite New Zealand)

A Washington-based non-profit organization is calling on the White House counsel to determine if one of Trump’s assistants broke laws on self-dealing.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint on Tuesday, alleging that Christopher Liddell — a presidential aide and the Director of Strategic Initiatives — blended governmental duties with his own private interests.

In a letter to White House Counsel Donald McGahn, the liberal watchdog group laid out its case against Liddell, and suggested the matter be turned over to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.

CREW drew attention to three meetings alongside President Trump that featured sit-downs with executives of companies that Liddell was personally invested in, to the tune of millions of dollars.

For example, a January 23 meeting featured business leaders from 10 companies that Liddell was holding more than $2 million worth of shares in, including Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, and Whirlpool.

During a sit-down with American auto manufactures and President Trump a day later, Liddell once again found himself in the room with companies he was invested in. He and his wife, at the time, owned $72,000 worth of GM and Ford stock, according to CREW.

Liddell also had more than $2.3 million invested in companies such as BlackRock, JP Morgan Chase, and Walmart. The trio attended a February 3 meeting with Trump, where Liddell was present.

It wasn’t until February 9, weeks after Liddell assumed his role as assistant to the president, that the Office of Government Ethics issued Certificates of Divestiture on the holdings in question. CREW said the late certification “strongly indicates Mr. Liddell still held stock in the companies at that point.”

Conflict of interest statures prohibit federal employees from participating in activities that could touch on personal finances.

“It appears that Liddell may have violated these laws with his participation in closed door meetings between the president and companies in which Lidell held millions of dollars of stock,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a press release.

Bookbinder added that his organization has now reached out to WH Counsel McGahn regarding several possible ethics violations, including advisor Kellyanne Conway’s naked appeal on TV last month for Americans to buy First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s products.

From the onset, the Trump administration has flouted ethical norms. Rather than a full divestiture of his own multi-billion dollar business holdings, President Trump signed his company over to his two sons — an arrangement that has been deemed insufficient by the Office of Government Ethics.

A Bloomberg report on Monday caught whiff of another potential conflict within the Trump White House. The family of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who also serves as an advisor to the President, just inked a $400 million property deal with a Chinese insurance group.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to meet with Trump next month.

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