Trump's federal ethics chief resigns after clashing with President

Walter Shaub had been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration's ethics practices

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 06 July 2017 20:03 BST
Former Office for Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub speaks at a Brookings Institution event
Former Office for Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub speaks at a Brookings Institution event (YouTube/Brookings Institution)

The director of the Office for Government Ethics (OGE), a frequent critic of the Trump administration's ethics practises, has resigned from his post six months early.

Director Walter Shaub has been outspoken about the Trump family's conflicts of interest, urging President Donald Trump to divest from his businesses, and coming down harshly on senior adviser Kellyanne Conway for violating federal ethics rules.

Despite attracting the ire of many within the administration, Mr Shaub told the Washington Post he had not left his position under pressure from the White House.

Instead, the Director said, he felt there was simply nothing more he could accomplish under the current administration. He added that the new administration had convinced him of the need to improve the existing ethics programme.

Mr Shaub announced his 19 July resignation in a letter to the President, complete with some carefully placed italics.

The Director praised his OGE colleagues for "protecting the principle that public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain".

"I am grateful for the efforts of this dedicated and patriotic assembly of public servants, and I am proud to have served with them," he wrote.

Mr Shaub also announced that he would be joining the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group of election law experts based in Washington DC. The organisation said Mr Shaub would join in its "fight for better ethics in government".

The OGE was created to promote and protect laws concerning conflicts of interest in government. Among other things, the office oversees White House employees' financial disclosures and provides ethics training.

Former President Barack Obama appointed Mr Shaub to his position in 2013. The five-year term is intended to span multiple presidencies, in an effort to keep the Director independent of the executive.

Mr Shaub, however, quickly clashed with Mr Trump's incoming administration. Of particular issue were the former billionaire's business ties, which many felt presented unprecedented conflicts of interest.

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.

After Mr Trump formally announced his decision not to divest, Mr Shaub aired his grievances publicly, telling an audience at the Brookings Institution that the President's plan for his businesses "doesn't meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the past four decades has met".

The "blind trust" of business interests that Mr Trump entrusted to his sons was "not even halfway blind," the Director continued.

"His sons are still running the businesses, and, of course, he knows what he owns," Mr Shaub said.

The Director's resignation comes as his office is facing more work than ever. According to the OGE, the office received 733 contacts from the public in the early months of the Obama administration. During the same six-month period this year, it received 39,105 contacts — an increase of 5,235 percent.

“In working with the current administration, it has become clear that we need to strengthen the ethics program,” Mr Shaub told the Post.

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