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Top Government Ethics Official Resigns With Jab at Trump

Walter Shaub ends his five-year term early to join Campaign Legal Center.

After eight months of wrangling with Donald Trump the businessman, president-elect and now president, Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, on Thursday tendered his resignation.

“I have had the honor and privilege of serving the American public at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under three presidents—George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump,” Shaub said in a release from the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, his new employer.

“In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program. I look forward to working toward that aim at Campaign Legal Center, as well as working on ethics reforms at all levels of government,” he said.

Shaub, an attorney appointed by President Obama for a five-year term in 2013, posted a perfunctory note on his Office of Government Ethics Twitter account. His departure date is July 19.

He clashed with Trump and some Republicans in Congress over his insistence that members of Trump’s transition team, Cabinet nominees and White House staff adhere to OGE rules on financial disclosure and avoidance of conflicts of interest. Not only does Trump continue to own more business holdings than previous presidents, many of his appointees are wealthy individuals with complex portfolios that make divestment tricky.

OGE has little enforcement power, but conducts education and monitoring of ethics practices governmentwide.

Before being named OGE director, Shaub was OGE’s deputy general counsel and a supervisory attorney. Previously, he practiced employment law at Shaw, Bransford, Veilleux and Roth, P.C., and worked before that for several federal agencies.

At the legal center, Shaub will seek to expand the nonprofit’s ethics program, working with Larry Noble, senior director and general counsel, and Trevor Potter, a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “It’s imperative that we sustain a culture of high ethical standards in our government,” Potter said. “Walt, in serving the American public at the OGE under three presidents, has demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and integrity.”

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement that it was "a sad day for the government’s ethics program.” He thanked Shaub “for his staunch defense of the American people against the recent unprecedented violations of ethical standards by executive branch officials.”