In an extraordinary move, the director of the Office of Government Ethics publicly criticized Trump’s plan to separate his business interests from his presidential tenure, saying the plan Trump announced Wednesday at a news conference “doesn’t meet the standards” that other presidents, or even some of Trump’s nominees, had met.
“I wish circumstances were different and I didn’t feel the need to make public remarks today,” Walter Shaub Jr. said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Trump announced Wednesday that he would not sell his illiquid business assets or even put them in a blind trust. Rather, he would allow his sons to run his business, terminate all new foreign deals, and donate profits made from business dealings with foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury.
The Hill, which first reported Shaub made the remarks at the Brookings Institution, quoted him as saying Trump’s plan to separate himself from his business was “wholly inadequate.”
According to a transcript of Shaub’s prepared remarks posted on Brookings’ website, he called Trump’s plan to “limit direct communication” about the business “wholly inadequate.”
“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. “We can’t risk the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for professional profit.”
Sheri Dillon, a lawyer assisting Trump with transferring his business to his children, said at Trump’s press conference that selling off Trump’s assets would result in a “fire sale,” or could lead to Trump being accused of receiving an improperly high sum for his properties. Shaub responded by saying that he didn’t think “divestiture is too high a price to be president of the United States of America.”
Responding to Trump’s repeated comment during the press conference, and previously since his election, that presidents cannot have conflicts of interest, Shaub called the assertion “quite obviously not true.”
“I think the most charitable way to understand such statements is that they are referring to a particular conflict-of-interest law that does not apply to the president,” he said, adding “common sense dictates that the president can of course have very real conflicts of interests.”
In late December, a Freedom of Information Act request from NPR revealed that Shaub was behind an odd series of tweets from the Office of Government Ethics’ official Twitter account applauding what ended up being the incorrect belief that Trump would divest all of his business holdings.
“Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest. Good call!” one of them read.
Last week, CNBC published leaked emails from Shaub in which he told aides that he had “lost contact” with Trump’s transition team following his electoral victory.
Read Shaub’s full prepared remarks below, via the Brookings Institution:
This post has been updated.