Walter Shaub Jr., who will resign as director of the Office of Government Ethics on Tuesday, lamented in a New York Times interview published Monday that President Donald Trump has had a damaging attitude toward ethics, undermining the United States’ position as a role model on ethics.
“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility,” he told the New York Times over the weekend. “I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”
He said that Trump’s frequent trips to his own properties has raised ethics concerns.
“It creates the appearance of profiting from the presidency,” he said. “Misuse of position is really the heart of the ethics program, and the internationally accepted definition of corruption is abuse of entrusted power. It undermines the government ethics program by casting doubt on the integrity of government decision making.”
The White House dismissed Shaub’s concerns in a statement to the New York Times.
“Mr. Schaub’s penchant for raising concerns on matters well outside his scope with the media before ever raising them with the White House — which happens to be his actual day job — is rather telling,” spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told the Times. “The truth is, Mr. Schaub is not interested in advising the executive branch on ethics. He’s interested in grandstanding and lobbying for more expansive powers in the office he holds.”
Shaub announced earlier this month that he will resign as director of OGE after challenging the White House on ethics issues for six months. In an interview with the Washington Post earlier this month, Shaub said he felt he couldn’t accomplish anything else from within the Trump administration.
He told the New York Times that he would like to push several changes to ethics procedures in the executive branch and argued that the ethics office should be strengthened. He specifically called for giving OGE some subpoena power and requiring that presidential candidates release their tax returns. Shaub also said that Congress should create new conflict of interest standards for the president and clarify the role of OGE.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the new chair of the House Oversight Committee, told the Times that he plans on meeting with Shaub before he leaves OGE. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on that committee, will also meet with Shaub and is working on ethics reform legislation, per the New York Times.
Correction: The original post incorrectly identified Rep. Elijah Cummings as a Republican. He is a Democrat. We regret the error.