POLITICS

Former Obama staffers launch Trump watchdog group, encourage insiders to report waste and fraud

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Former Obama administration staffers have launched an organization to closely monitor President Donald Trump and his administration.

Known as American Oversight, the group will search for anything that seems amiss, whether it touches on ethics or fraud, among other potential problems, the group’s executive director, Austin Evers, told Fox News.

“We are conducting oversight because Congress won’t,” said Evers, who was a State Department lawyer in the Obama administration. “We are using tools available to American citizens to investigate instances of fraud, corruption, violation of ethics rules, you name it. If there’s something that Congress should be investigating, we will be.”

Evers founded the group with Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who worked for Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Joe Biden when he was a senator. The group's website notes that Ms. Magazine once called Sloan “the most feared woman in Washington."

Sloan and Evers also brought in three more attorneys. 

John Bies’s work for the Obama administration included serving as counselor to former Attorney General Eric Holder. Cerissa Cafasso’s work for the administration included being counsel in the Department of Labor. Sara Kaiser Creighton worked for private law firms, and clerked for federal judges.

It happens that right now, the people in power are of one party. The principles we'll be applying apply to anybody.

- Austin Evers, executive director, American Oversight

The group stresses that it is nonpartisan, despite the Obama affiliation of some of its top officers. Evers said that American Oversight will hold government officials and career staffers accountable, regardless of party affiliation.

The idea for the creation American Oversight came about on the heels of nominations by the administration and what the lawyers see as a lack of qualifications of some Trump nominees and appointees, the group says.

“We’ve seen more ethics violations and conflicts of interest across the administration,” the website says, “since Inauguration Day than in all eight years of the Obama administration. And this misconduct doesn’t end with President Trump — it starts there.”

Evers said that the objective of the group is “to invigorate the oversight process across the board, and invigorate [members of] Congress, who have a tremendous number of tools at their disposal.

The group declined to disclose its donors.

”We are a 501(c)3 organization and will comply with all pertinent disclosure and filing requirements," it said in an email to Fox News. "Like many other non-profits, we don't disclose our funders."

To those who are skeptical about the group's self-description as non-partisan, Evers said: “Watch what we do.”

“It happens that right now, the people in power are of one party,” he said. “The principles we’ll be applying apply to anybody.”

Evers and Sloan, a senior adviser for the organization, plan to extend scrutiny to employees at the middle and lower levels. They already are sending requests to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the National Archives and Records Administration to investigate whether administration officials and government staffers are trying to circumvent laws that prohibit them from handling official business in an under-the-radar fashion.

Organizations that keep close watch on government officials are not new, of course.

USA Today noted that the conservative Judicial Watch made public State Department emails that kept a cloud over Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Sloan told USA Today that the organization plans to make its records requests available online without regard to what they disclose.

The group tells potential tipsters on its website not to submit classified information.

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.