Ethics Office Director Just Quit Over Trump’s ‘Blatant Violations’
The head of the federal government’s ethics office has submitted his resignation following several clashes with President Donald Trump over the president’s “conflict of interest,” several news outlets reported Thursday.
In a letter posted to his Twitter account, Walter Shaub revealed he will officially step down from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on July 19, nearly six months before the end of his term.
The letter was a not-so-veiled shot at the Trump administration, which has routinely clashed with the small independent agency over the appearances of conflicts of interest.
“The great privilege and honor of my career has been to lead OGE’s staff and the community of ethics officials in the federal executive branch,” Shaub wrote. “They are committed to protecting the principle that public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principals 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,” the letter closes.
Schaub has served in OGE under both Republican and Democratic presidents, starting his tenure during the George W. Bush administration. He became director under former President Barack Obama.
He has worked for more than a decade in the ethics office — as the attorney in charge of the presidential nomination program, then as deputy general counsel. Obama named him as the agency’s director in 2013.
In a rare public appearance at the Brookings Institution in Washington in January, Shaub criticized Trump after the White House unveiled how the president would structure his businesses while working from the Oval Office. Rather than completely divesting, Trump would maintain connections to his business empire.
Shaub forcefully disagreed with the arrangement, calling it “wholly inadequate” in resolving any potential conflicts of interest.
“The plan the president-elect has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met,” Shaub said during the Brookings speech.
Several former White House ethics counsels expressed surprise that either White House officials or the president himself pushed back against some of the OGE guidance.
In May, when the OGE issued a routine data call for financial disclosure forms, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney questioned its authority to make the request.
“OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive by June 1, 2017,” Shaub shot back in a letter to Mulvaney. “Public confidence in the integrity of government decision-making demands no less.”
Ultimately, Mulvaney said the whole thing was a miscommunication, and the financial disclosures were finally released last month.
“In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program. I look forward to working toward that aim at Campaign Legal Center, as well as working on ethics reforms at all levels of government,” Shaub said in a statement released by the center on Thursday.
The Campaign Legal Center is helmed by Trevor Potter, a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission.
“It’s imperative that we sustain a culture of high ethical standards in our government,” Potter said in a statement. “Walt, in serving the American public at the OGE under three presidents, has demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and integrity. All of us at CLC are thrilled to have him join us in our continuing work to protect and improve our democracy.”