Trump has plunged America into an ethics crisis and made country a 'laughingstock', says ethics chief who resigned

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub is speaking out against the President

Emily Shugerman
New York
Monday 17 July 2017 16:56 BST
Director of US Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub speaks at the Brookings Institution
Director of US Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub speaks at the Brookings Institution

Donald Trump’s former ethics chief has claimed the President is making the United States an international laughingstock.

Mr Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interest – and unwillingness to disentangle from them – have created an ethics crisis, former Director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub said.

“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anti-corruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility,” Mr Shaub told The New York Times. “I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”

Mr Shaub, who was appointed to his position by former President Barack Obama in 2013, announced his 19 July resignation earlier this month. His role as OGE Director was to promote laws concerning conflicts of interest in government, while overseeing White House employees' financial disclosures and providing ethics training.

“It’s clear that there isn’t more I could accomplish [at the OGE],” Mr Shaub told The Washington Post of his resignation.

He added: “In working with the current administration, it has become clear that we need to strengthen the ethics program."

The Director has clashed with the Trump administration frequently since inauguration day, pushing the President to divest from his businesses and reprimanding one of his top advisers, Kellyanne Conway.

In November, the OGE tweeted at Mr Trump to say it was "delighted that you’ve decided to divest your businesses. Right decision!” The President had not, in fact, divested.

Later, Mr Shaub publicly criticised Mr Trump’s decision to set up a blind trust for his business interests, deeming it "not even halfway blind”.

In a statement to the Times, the White House accused Mr Shaub of “grandstanding” and” lobbying for more expansive powers in the office he holds”.

“Mr. Schaub’s[sic] penchant for raising concerns on matters well outside his scope with the media before ever raising them with the White House – which happens to be his actual day job – is rather telling,” Lindsay E. Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

In his new role at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group of election law experts based in Washington DC, Mr Shaub will work to promote better ethics in government.

He has already proposed several changes to executive ethics laws, including giving the OGE power to subpoena records, and revising financial disclosure rules – plus, of course, requiring all presidents to hand over their tax returns.

The two ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Trey Gowdy and Democrat Elijah Cummings, have already signalled their interest in meeting with Mr Shaub.

Despite his well-earned reputation for pushing back against the President, however, Mr Shaub said he never intended to start a rift with Mr Trump.

“I would not have picked this fight,” he told the Times. “But I have never been one to shy away from bullies.”

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