Ethics chief Shaub leaving gov’t after 6 months of Trump clashes

Walter Shaub, Jr., announced Thursday he will resign as director of the Office of Government Ethics, effective July 19, after serving in the post since 2013. Photo courtesy Office of Government Ethics

July 6 (UPI) — After sparring with the Trump White House for six months, the head of the U.S. executive branch’s top watchdog agency announced Thursday he is leaving the post for the private sector.

Walter Shaub, Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, submitted a resignation letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday — the man he has clashed with a few times since he took office five and-a-half months ago.

“The great privilege and honor of my career has been to lead OGE’s staff and the community of ethics officials,” he wrote in the letter. “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 principles above private gain.”

Shaub, an attorney by trade, will next join the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit and non-partisan group that supports enforcement of U.S. campaign finance laws. His last day at OGE will be July 19.

As chief of the independent White House ethics watchdog, Shaub has investigated multiple ethics claims against Trump’s administration since it arrived in January.

Before Trump took office, Shaub locked horns with the president-elect over potential conflicts of interest relating to his vast business empire. He called Trump’s plan to hand control of his empire to his sons “meaningless from a conflicts of interest perspective.”

A month later, Shaub recommended disciplinary action against adviser Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump‘s private fashion line on Fox News, “a clear violation” of federal rules. The White House did nothing — a decision Shaub vehemently opposed.

In April, Shaub received another ethics complaint about the Trump administration’s online promotion of the president’s private luxury resort, Mar-a-Lago, in South Florida.

Last month, Shaub again found himself looking into another ethics complaintagainst the administration over a series of conflict of interest waivers granted to numerous members of Trump’s team — including senior advisers Steve Bannon and, again, Conway. Shaub looked at several of the waivers because they were undated and unsigned, an indication that they could have been issued retroactively — a violation of federal ethics rules.

“If you need a retroactive waiver, you have violated a rule,” Shaub said June 2.

Although it’s the top executive watchdog, the OGE has no authority over the White House or the president. It can only recommend disciplinary actions. Shaub was appointed to a five-year term as OGE director in 2013 by President Barack Obama.

Shaub did not detail in his letter exactly why he is leaving his post at the OGE, but hinted to National Public Radio Thursday that it has something to do with the Trump administration.

“The current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is,” he said. “At the Campaign Legal Center, I’ll have more freedom to push for reform. I’ll also be broadening my focus to include ethics issues at all levels of government.”


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