Departing Ethics Boss Says Trump Making U.S. a ‘Laughingstock”
Departing Ethics Boss Says Trump Making U.S. a 'Laughingstock"
America’s standing as the world’s leading ambassador for democratic, transparent government is in danger thanks to the ethical shortcomings of the Trump administration, the federal government’s top ethics officer argues in an interview published today.
Walter M. Shaub Jr., who is set to leave his post as director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) this week, told The New York Times that the U.S. “is pretty close to a laughingstock.” He said Congress needs to strengthen OGE’s ability to enforce ethical standards inside the executive branch.
“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,” Shaub said.
Shaub announced earlier this month that he will join the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit group that advocates for tougher campaign finance laws. He was not forced to resign but concluded that in the Trump era he had done as much as he could inside OGE to improve ethics enforcement.
Shaub’s usually obscure office gained public attention after the November election, when Shaub urged Trump to follow the example of other recent presidents by releasing his tax returns and putting his assets in a blind trust.
Trump, a billionaire, declined to take either step. Instead, he is retaining ownership of his international real estate empire and has turned management of his businesses over to his adult sons. His frequent visits to Trump-branded hotels, resorts and golf courses – he has visited a Trump property on at least 54 days during his first six months in office, the Times reported – has led to complaints that Trump is trying to use the presidency to enrich his businesses.
“It creates the appearance of profiting from the presidency,” Mr. Shaub told the Times. “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.”