Outgoing Ethics Chief Calls Trump’s America a “Laughing Stock”

“Shaub claimed that Trump’s use of family-owned facilities for his frequent outings is creating a scenario in which the president can, allegedly, profit off of the Oval Office.”

Walter M. Shaub Jr. has resigned as the United States’ top ethics watchdog, and in a frank interview with the New York Times, he argued that under Trump, the United States was close to becoming a “laughing stock.” Shaub blasted the Trump administration for allegedly flouting long-standing ethics norms and rules. He also argued that past presidents had been quite willing to work closely with the ethics office but that the Trump administration was refusing to do so.

Among other accusations, Shaub claimed that Trump’s use of family-owned facilities for his frequent outings is creating a scenario in which the president can, allegedly, profit off of the Oval Office. Trump has been prolific in regards to his vacation time, having visited his golf courses nearly 40 times so far. It’s estimated that these outings have cost taxpayers nearly $50 million dollars.

According to Shaub, the lack of ethics compliance has resulted in the United States being “close to a laughing stock at this point.” Shaub also said “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.”

The Trump administration has already fired back, arguing that Shaub was trying to raise matters well outside of his mandate. Whitehouse spokesperson Lindsay E. Walters argued that “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 further criticized the president for not releasing his tax returns and divesting from his vast business interests. Most modern presidents with substantial wealth had placed their wealth in a blind trust before assuming office. President Trump has thus far refused to do so. The president’s supporters have argued that forcing the president to give up the company he himself built is unfair.

Critics allege that without divestment, it will be easy for the president to profit off of his presidency, and for other parties to curry favor from him by using Trump-owned facilities. Trump hotels and other venues have become quite popular for foreign governments and officials, as well as lobbyist groups and others. For example, it was recently reported that Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel received $270,000 dollars’ worth of business from the Saudis.

Shaub also blasted Democrats, who apparently tried to raise money off of his work. He further blasted “fair weather fans” of the ethics office who just want to use the office to go after the current administration. While Shaub was critical of the president, he also embraced the non-partisan nature of his job. He is now calling for legal reforms that would compel the president to release tax returns, and several other reforms to help ensure ethics compliance.

Many Democrats and some Republicans have signaled a desire to increase the strength of the ethics office. For example, Shaub and others have called for allowing the ethics office some limited subpoena powers so that it can compel administration officials to answer questions.

Brian Brinker

Brian Brinker is an OpsLens Contributor and political consultant. Brinker has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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