After repeated clashes with Trump, Government Ethics Director abruptly resigns

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Walter Shaub argued President Trump needed to divest from his business interests.

Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, arrives for a scheduled meeting with the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The director of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, announced on Thursday that he would be resigning effective July 19th.

In his resignation letter, which he posted to Twitter, Shaub reiterated his support for his staff at OGE and to “the principle that the public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.”

Shaub has repeatedly clashed with the President Donald Trump and his White House team, who have ignored the OGE’s recommendations that President Trump meet the standard of every other modern president and fully divest from his businesses.

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Speaking to NPR on Thursday morning, Shaub said that he was dissatisfied with the current strength of the government’s ethics program, and was leaving to go to a role where he could advocate to strengthen it.

“The current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is,” he said.

The OGE is tasked with advising the executive branch on ethical matters, such as how to avoid conflict of interest. The office, however, only has the power to advise and recommend, not to enforce the rules. And since President Trump’s election, the once-obscure office has become increasingly visible as a result of several high-profile clashes between Shaub and the Trump administration.

In November, the OGE’s official Twitter stream fired off a string of satirical tweets mimicking Trump’s bombastic style, congratulating him on fully divesting from his businesses — tweets that confounded the internet, as Trump had promised no such thing.

According to a records request, Shaub himself ordered the tweets, which were designed to attempt to coax Trump to divest using Trump’s own tactics. During the same time period, the OGE was having difficulty even getting a response from the Trump team, according to another records request by MSNBC.

Despite the OGE’s advice, Trump did not divest from his businesses. In January, his lawyer announced that instead, he would step back from management and hand the reins over to his son, while his own assets would be placed in a trust managed by them and his longtime lawyer.

Republicans are threatening the head of the Office of Government Ethics for criticizing Trump

Shaub, who had previously issued specific guidance that Trump needed to fully divest, and that handing his businesses to his children wouldn’t be enough, gave a blistering address on Trump’s solution later that day at the Brookings Institution.

“I think Politico called this a ‘half-blind’ trust, but it’s not even halfway blind,” said Shaub. “It’s important to understand that the President is now entering the world of public service. He’s going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He’s going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world. So, no, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be President of the United States of America.”

As he announced his departure from the OGE, Shaub also announced his next step — joining the Campaign Legal Center as Senior Director for Ethics.

Shaub told NPR that his new role would give him the freedom to push for stronger ethics that he lacked in his role as the director of the OGE.

“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.”

After repeated clashes with Trump, Government Ethics Director abruptly resigns was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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