Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday said it was “silly” for the director of the Office of Government Ethics to criticize Donald Trump’s plan to sever himself from his business.
Spicer was asked about Walter Shaub, Jr.’s criticism on a conference call with reporters. In a speech at the Brookings Institution Wednesday, the OGE director called Trump’s plans to separate himself from his business “wholly inadequate.”
“I don’t know how many times it can be stated,” Spicer began in response. “The president, by law, doesn’t have conflicts. I mean, it’s somewhat of a silly discussion.”
“Second, and foremost, I think that Sheri Dillon just did a phenomenal job yesterday of outlining the additional steps—the unnecessary steps, frankly—that he is going to show the American people how focused he wants to be on moving the country forward,” he added.
Trump brought lawyer Sheri Dillon on stage Wednesday at a press conference to outline his plan to have his adult sons run his business and to limit communication with them as president. Dillon also said the Trump Organization would terminate all new foreign deals and donate revenue from foreign governments booking Trump hotels to the U.S. treasury.
“Anything but the actions that he took are ridiculous, and the steps that he did take are frankly extraordinary,” Spicer argued. “At some point, people need to understand that it’s very clear that he can’t have a conflict, and that secondly, what he did is go above and beyond.”
In his remarks at the Brookings Institution, Shaub had pointed out that presidents can, in fact, have conflicts of interest even if those conflicts don’t violate the law.
“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, according to pre-written remarks published by Brookings.
Shaub added “common sense dictates that the president can of course have very real conflicts of interests.”