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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Departing Ethics Chief: Sure Looks Like Trump Is Profiting From Presidency

"The specter of a conflict of interest is always looming."

Related imageFollowing his abrupt resignation on July 6—which lawmakers and watchdog groups said should be "deeply unnerving" to advocates of government accountability—Office of Government Ethics (OGE) head Walter Shaub said in a televised interview on CBS that it appears Donald Trump and members of his family are profiting from his presidency.

"I can't know what their intention is," Shaub said. "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."

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

Shaub, who had repeatedly battled Trump over his numerous attempts to flout federal ethics and transparency requirements, said that the United States needs to "have the gold standard for an ethics program in government."

Speaking with NPR shortly after he announced his decision to resign, Shaub argued that "the current situation" indicates a failure to live up to that standard.

Responding to Shaub's resignation, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged the Senate to resist any attempt by the Trump White House to use the vacancy at the OGE to further undercut ethical standards.

"The Senate is responsible for confirming the new head of this post-Watergate ethics watchdog," Warren said, "and every senator—regardless of party—should insist upon a tough, fiercely independent replacement who will follow Shaub's example of enforcing the law, even in the face of relentless pressure from the Trump administration to ignore ethics rules."