Thursday, July 6, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He outlasted the head of the Office of Government Ethics.

Walter Shaub, director of the once-obscure executive branch office responsible for ensuring ethics compliance in the White House, resigned today, six months ahead of schedule. He posted his brief resignation letter to Twitter, where he once memorably made a desperate effort to communicate with Trump in Trump's own language about the absolute impossibility of serving both the United States and a multi-billion dollar business empire at the same time.

Shaub had no legal power whatsoever over Trump, and very little over the rest of the executive branch without Trump's assistance. Nevertheless, he succeeded in calling public attention to the most obvious of Trump administration overreaches, such as the practice of issuing secret, blanket, and retroactive waivers to officials who ran afoul of ethical rules. He also called for the disciplining of Kellyanne Conway when she endorsed an Ivanka Trump product line in her official capacity. The Trump administration's response was typical of its regard for Shaub and his office: "The Office of Government Ethics needn't be concerned with how the White House implements its own conflicts of interest policy, over which it has zero authority."

Shaub leaves to join the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan government watchdog group that promotes transparency in elections. He made no secret of his frustration with the lawlessness of the Trump administration, saying that "the current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is."

So what?

  • An ethics officer resigning in protest over unethical behavior more or less speaks for itself.