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White House blasts Walter Shaub on his way out



Donald
Trump.

Pool/Getty
Images


The White House blasted the outgoing head of the Office of
Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, just days before he’s set to
leave the post.

The White House’s statement, provided to The New
York Times
, came in response to Shaub’s persistent criticism
of the administration in the days since he announced his
resignation.

“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,” White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters, said
in a statement to the Times that misspelled Shaub’s name.

“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.”

Walters’ statement came in response to a Times interview with
Shaub in which he criticized the administration’s handling
of ethics guidelines and made a laundry list of
new proposals
he recommends the government takes to help
limit and handle ethical snafus.

Shaub said the administration has made the US “pretty close
to a laughingstock at this point.”

“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,” Shaub told the Times. “It
affects our credibility. … I think we are pretty close to a
laughingstock at this point.”

Shaub was particularly critical of President Donald Trump’s
constant weekend trips to his clubs and golf courses. Just this
past weekend, Trump attended the US Women’s Open golf tournament
being held at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. The president
repeatedly promoted the event on Twitter while he was in
attendance.

“It creates the appearance of profiting from the presidency,”
Shaub 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.”

Shaub’s recommendations included forcing presidential candidates
to release their tax returns, providing the OGE with subpoena
power, and giving the office additional power when it comes to
dealing with presidential conflicts of interest.

Prior to Trump, every major party candidate since 1976 released
their tax returns. Additionally, the victorious candidates have
divested from their holdings. Trump, with holdings that far
outpace any president before him, has not, instead allowing his
two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, in addition to a senior
Trump Organization employee, to control his assets.

“Other presidents have understood it is a pragmatic necessity,”
Shaub, who is joining the Campaign Legal Center after he leaves
office, said. “This president seems to think it is a perk of high
office.”

Shaub, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to a five-year
term as head of the OGE that began in January of 2013, said he
did not want his role to be that of challenging the president.

“I would not have picked this fight,” he said. “But I have never
been one to shy away from bullies.”


Walter Shaub
Walter
Shaub.

AP Photo/J. Scott
Applewhite


Shaub announced in a
letter to Trump earlier this month
that he would resign ahead
of the end of his term, which was scheduled to end in January
2018. Shaub’s last day is Wednesday.

In an interview with NPR
shortly after his announcement, Shaub said “the current situation
has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger
than it is. 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.”

Shaub has been sharply critical of both Trump and his
administration’s ethical quandaries during the president’s
early months in office.

The OGE pushed Trump to fully divest from his businesses ahead
of taking office and placing his assets into a blind trust, a
move Trump subsequently did not make. Shaub criticized the plan
that involved Donald Jr. and Eric during a speech at the
Brookings Institution prior to Trump’s inauguration, saying it
“doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are
meeting and that every president in the past four decades has
met.”

“His sons are still running the businesses, and, of course, he
knows what he owns,” Shaub said.

Shaub has had a fraught relationship with the administration in
the months since.

He battled Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of
Management and Budget, to release the ethics waivers of White
House employees, a move with which the White House later
complied after initially stonewalling. The release of the
waivers showed that several top White House officials, such as
counselor Kellyanne Conway and chief strategist Steve Bannon,
received ethics waivers for certain areas.

Shaub was later critical of
Bannon’s waiver
, calling it “problematic.”


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