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Outgoing Gov’t Ethics Chief Speaks Out: Ethics Program a ‘Very Serious Disappointment’ in Trump WH

Walter Shaub, the outgoing director of the Office of Government Ethics, spoke to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tonight just a day after he announced he’ll be stepping down on July 19th.

Shaub talked to Hayes about the function of the office as a “prevention mechanism” trying to help federal employees avoid potential ethical issues. Hayes asked him to compare his experience under President Trump to working in the office under the past two presidents.

“I have only got really good things to say,” Shaub responded, “about the ethics program that President Bush ran and the ethics program that President Obama ran.”

He went on to say that while he was initially looking forward to working with the Trump administration, “the ethics program has been a very serious disappointment in the White House.”

When Hayes asked him to elaborate, Shaub explained, “The ethics program is a compliance-based program in many ways, in the sense that we have very basic bare-bones criminal laws, civil laws, and administrative regulations that say here’s the absolute minimum you’re going to do.”

But that’s just the “skeleton,” he said, because “the meat of the program has been the ethical traditions and the norms that has evolved over 40 years. And we’re able to say, in most cases, that we have the gold standard of ethics programs internationally.”

At one point, Hayes asked him directly, “Can you definitively say, sitting here today, that everyone in that White House is, including the president, free of conflicts of interest?” Shaub responded:

“Well, no. We’ve received very little information about what the individuals in the White House do on a day-to-day basis for a living. They’ve negotiated ethics agreements with them and they’ve refused to even let the Office of Government Ethics so much as see those ethics agreements… We’ve asked for information, and it’s like pulling teeth. Weeks go by before we get answers in many cases. And after I issued a data call for all of the waivers and authorizations that had been issued at the end of April, they refused for over a month to answer any questions from my staff as to whether any individuals had received waivers, because they were still deciding whether they were gonna comply with that data call.”

He added, “I’d like to say that I don’t have any basis for believing that there are any specific violations. Now, I don’t have enough information to be able to say definitively there could not possibly be any.”

Shaub did say that based on his observations, “it’s become clear that they have a much higher tolerance for risk than we do.”

Watch the full segment above, via MSNBC.

[image via screengrab]

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Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

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