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Senior counselor to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Charanya Krishnaswami. Photo: Alli Jarrar / Amnesty International

The Biden administration has waived ethics rules to allow a top Department of Homeland Security official to make policy in areas on which she lobbied for her former employer, Amnesty International.

Why it matters: The waiver is the first granted under Biden's new ethics pledge, which allows the White House to shelve restrictions on former lobbyists in the administration if doing so is deemed in the national interest.

What's new: A memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget, dated Feb. 9 and released publicly on Friday, spelled out the rationale for waiving those rules for Charanya Krishnaswami, the senior counselor to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

  • The waiver applied to the portion of Biden's ethics pledge governing former lobbyists' work on specific policy issues. Krishnaswami will still be barred from participating in matters that could financially impact Amnesty itself.
  • "Without this waiver, the adjustments that would be necessary to maintain Ms. Krishnaswami’s recusal are anticipated to result in serious limitations and inefficiencies in the Department," acting OMB director Robert Fairweather wrote.

Background: Krishnaswami was a registered lobbyist for Amnesty prior to joining the administration.

  • She directed the organization's advocacy programs for the Americas, and, along with a team of in-house lobbyists, reported working on numerous federal policy issues and pieces of legislation.
  • Under the terms of Biden's ethics pledge, Krishnaswami would normally be barred from participating in any policymaking decisions relating to issues on which she'd lobbied, making a host of policy areas in DHS's portfolio effectively off-limits.
  • "Here, these factors demonstrate that it is in the public interest to grant a limited waiver to Ms. Krishnaswami," Fairweather wrote.

Between the lines: The language of Biden's ethics pledge suggested that waiver requests will be given more weight for officials who worked for nonprofits than other private sector enterprises.

Go deeper

McConnell, McCarthy say 2017 tax law is "red line" in infrastructure talks

The top Republicans in the House and Senate told reporters after meeting with President Biden at the White House that "there is a bipartisan desire to get an outcome" on an infrastructure package, but stressed that revisiting the 2017 tax cuts is a "red line."

Why it matters: Wednesday marked the first time that Biden has hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House.

McCarthy: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy" of Biden's win

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked Wednesday whether he was concerned about elevating Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to GOP leadership after she has promoted baseless claims about the election. He responded: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election."

Why it matters: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was ousted as House GOP conference chair earlier Wednesday — in a vote that McCarthy supported — over her continued criticisms of former President Trump and his lies about election fraud.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Gaza crisis: Casualties pile up with no signs of ceasefire from Israel, Hamas

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip leave their neighborhood on Wednesday following an explosion. Photo: li Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tel Aviv — With Israel and Hamas now engaged in their most destructive fight in seven years, the Biden administration is dispatching a State Department official to join the de-escalation efforts.

The latest: The Israeli air force attacked a meeting of senior Hamas military leaders on Wednesday in Gaza and reported it had killed the Gaza City Brigade commander and the heads of Hamas’ cyber arm and weapons research and development department, along with at least three other senior officials.