Wednesday, July 19, 2017

TPM -- Former Ethics Chief: I Was ‘Horrified’ By Trump Lawyer Request

Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), who criticized the President for failing to relinquish ownership of his real-estate and licensing businesses, as well as on other matters, announced his resignation on July 6. He officially left his position today. Shaub's term as OGE director would have expired next year.

In 2006, he joined the Office of Government Ethics to become the attorney in charge of the Presidential nomination program and later Deputy General Counsel under President George W. Bush. In 2013, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to a five-year term as the director of the Office of Government Ethics.

When asked by CBS News if the Trump family was using the president's office to "enrich themselves," Shaub said: "I can't know what their intention is. I know that the effect is that there's an appearance that the businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency. And appearance matters as much as reality, so even aside from whether or not that's actually happening, we need to send a message to the world that the United States is going to have the gold standard for an ethics program in government, which is what we've always had.

America should have the right to know what the motivations of its leaders are, and they need to know that financial interests, personal financial interests, aren't among them."

Shaub’s resignation means Trump is now tasked with selecting the next federal ethics watchdog, a five-year position that requires Senate confirmation.

The day after he left his post as head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, former director Walter Shaub appeared on CNN Wednesday morning, spouting off a list of ethical abnormalities he encountered working under the President Donald Trump administration.

1. Shaub said he was “horrified” by an incident in which Trump’s lawyer asked if the President could file his financial disclosure form without signing it. “It was truly the weirdest moment of my entire career. I practically had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. I thought, ‘This is the embodiment of exactly how far we’ve departed from the ethical norms that the American people are entitled to expect their leaders to live up to,’”

2. Trump is giving the appearance (if not the reality) that he is “profiting from the presidency” by hosting foreign governmental events at his hotels.

3. Even now, the ethics office doesn't have all the information it needs. “I got to be honest with you, I don’t think we know 100 percent for sure that we understand what all of the underlying holdings are at OGE, but ... technically the conflict of interest laws don’t apply even though Presidents have always followed them,” he said.

4. Trump's disregard for ethical norms is echoed throughout the administration. “You need to set a strong ethical tone from the top. Tone is everything in government ethics,” he said. “And what your appointees do is going to follow what you do. We’ve seen a number of incidents that I’ve tried to highlight over the past several months where they’re not following the traditional ethical tone and behaving in a way government officials always behave, and that has really hurt us along the way.”

By Nicole Lafond