US ethics chief quits after repeated confrontations with Trump and his administration
Walter Shaub Jr, director of the US Office of Government Ethics (OGE), announced on Thursday he would resign, following a rocky relationship with President Donald Trump and repeated confrontations with the administration.
Shaub, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013, had unsuccessfully pressed Trump to divest his business interests to avoid potential conflicts of interest, something Trump refused to do.
The ethics watchdog also engaged in a public battle with the White House over his demands for more information about former lobbyists and other appointees who had been granted waivers from ethics rules. After initially balking, the White House eventually released the requested information about the waivers.
Shaub called for a harsher punishment for presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway after she flouted ethics rules by publicly endorsing Ivanka Trump’s clothing line during a television appearance.
Shaub did not specify a reason for his resignation in a letter to Trump, which he released on Twitter on Thursday afternoon. He told The Washington Post he was not leaving under pressure.
He said in a separate statement that his time working with the Trump administration made it “clear to (him) that we need improvements to the existing ethics programme.”
Shaub’s resignation, effective July 19, comes nearly six months before his term expires in January. He will join the non-partisan Campaign Legal Centre as senior director for ethics.
In his letter of resignation to the president, Shaub said the office was “committed to protecting the principle that public service is a public trust,” and employees must place loyalty to ethics over private gain.
Shaub had come under fire from Trump supporters for being politically motivated and some had called for his resignation.
Interest in the office has soared recently. Since Trump took office, the OGE has seen a rise in public contacts, which it defines as phone calls, emails or combined correspondence, about recent events.
In the first two quarters of fiscal year 2017, the office received 39,105 public contacts, compared with 164 during the same period in 2016.
The OGE does not have investigative or enforcement authority but can provide guidance to other agencies responsible for conducting investigations.