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Ethics Watchdog Resigns Amid Contentious Relationship With Trump Administration

Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. found his oversight efforts often stymied by President Trump.

Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he arrives at a campaign event at the International Air Response facility on December 16, 2015, in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo: Ralph Freso / Getty Images)

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. announced on Thursday he would be stepping down from his post later this month.

Shaub, entrusted with patrolling conflicts of interest within the Executive Branch, found his oversight efforts often stymied by President Trump, who resisted a full divestiture from his business holdings before taking office.

“There isn’t much more I could accomplish at the Office of Government Ethics, given the current situation,” Schaub said in an interview with NPR.

He added that recent experiences at OGE “made it clear that the ethics program needs to be strengthened.”

Shortly before Trump was inaugurated in January, Shaub gave a speech at the Brookings Institute criticizing the President-elect’s plans to eliminate conflicts of interest by handing his business over to his two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.

“His sons are still running the businesses, and, of course, he knows what he owns,” Shaub said, noting the arrangement wasn’t even “halfway blind.”

In the same speech, he went on to state that Trump’s ethics plan doesn’t “meet the standards that … every president in the past four decades has met.”

More recently, OGE has pressed the White House to publicly release ethics waivers issued to staff. Those exemptions have allowed more than a dozen former lobbyists and industry insiders to work in the administration crafting policy.

In February, Schaub pushed for disciplinary action against presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway, after she hawked First Lady Ivanka Trump’s clothing line on Fox News.

Shaub said he was not pressured to step down, and was instead accepting a gig as the senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center — a DC-based non-profit that would afford him more freedom to advocate for reform.

In a short letter to President Trump announcing his resignation, Shaub made no reference to past disputes with the administration.

In what may have been a veiled shot at the President, however, Shaub did say that OGE was committed to protecting “the principle that public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain.”

Shaub is departing as Director six months before his five-year term was set to expire in January. The vacancy will allow President Trump to appoint a new OGE chief who will have to be confirmed by the US Senate.

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