If Trump has no ethics, why have an ethics committee? Another ethics lawyer jumps ship.

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Screencapture / CNN trump mocks reporter...
Screencapture / CNN

As Queen used to sing, “Buh-da-da-da-da-da, another one bites the dust.” For most Presidents, losing a department head is a huge pain in the ass. You have to appoint a new one, usually requiring Senate confirmation, and rumors fly around for the reason the person left. But when it comes to the ethics department, Trump’s response is “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”

I’ve previously stated that one of my favorite old phrases is, “Once is an accident, twice is a habit, three times is a fetish.” As far as the government ethics office is concerned, we’re up to it being a habit, and we’re not even a year in. Back in July, Walter Schaub, the director of the government ethics office abruptly departed, and he left no doubt as to why he was going. He was frustrated with his constant battle with Trump and his inner circle over their flagrant violation, and he said so. He admitted there was nothing more he could do in the office, and opined that the United States was turning into a “laughingstock” in world perception. Trump promptly skipped over 3 more senior, qualified candidates to appoint an interim director who seems to spell office name “gubmint ethiks.”

And now the ethics department is down another hand. Politico is reporting that after almost a year of swimming against the tide, White Hose ethics lawyer James Schultz resigned last week. Schultz put the best face possible on it, saying that there was no one particular issue that led him to resign, he simply wanted to return to his private legal practice. Read that as, “I wanted out while I still had a private practice left.” And you don’t need a 1,000 stone to break your back, 20 50 lb stones will have the same effect.

This is something that both congress and the media need to zero in on. Ask yourself this question, “Up until Trump, when is the last time I heard about the ethics department?” Normally, the ethics department flies under the radar, and their job is simple. They look at what anybody in the administration, from the President on down is doing, and determines if there are ethical problems with their conduct. If there are, then they counsel said individual on what they need to do to be following the existing ethics rules. 0% of the time you never hear about it, because the individual listens to the advice, and makes the necessary changes. It was the Justice Department ethics office that counseled Attorney General Jeff Sessions that ethically he had no choice but to recuse himself from overseeing the Trump-Russia investigation, advice Sessions followed, raising Trump’s wrath.

This is important, and both we and congress need to pay attention. Normally the ethics departments run quietly and smoothly. When you have not only one, but two top government ethics lawyers resigning less than six months apart, that isn’t just because they’re busy, officials can accidentally engage in unethical activity accidentally, that’s what the office is for, to set them back on the path of the righteous. But, if you’re going to point out unethical behavior, and the offenders are going to flip you the bird in response, why bother doing the job. 

It is rapidly becoming clear that even excluding the Trump-Russia kerfuffle, we’re being governed by almost literally a corrupt crime cartel. Obviously the only people with any ethics are the lawyers resigning rather than to ignore or whitewash it. And to be perfectly honest, if they can’t do the job they’re hired to do, why waste the money paying them. It’s time to clean house instead.

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