IIP Photo Archive / Flickr trump smiling and clapping...
IIP Photo Archive / Flickr

Outgoing Office of Government Ethics head Walter Shaub has made it loud and clear that he’s resigning due to the agency’s inability to enforce much of anything in the face of the ethics-averse Donald Trump. He will be departing explicitly to advocate for stronger ethics laws from outside the government.

Trump’s behavior is costing the nation, Shaub says: To the international community, “I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”

Mr. Shaub recommended giving the ethics office limited power to subpoena records, as well as authority to negotiate prohibitions on presidential conflicts of interest; mandating that presidential candidates release tax returns; and revising financial disclosure rules.

He’s proposing each of those things as the direct result of Trump simply ignoring past ethical norms that, back when his party gave a damn, were considered obvious and inviolate. Shaub wants Congress to give the agency some subpoena powers because the Trump White House stonewalled the agency even on which staffers had been granted waivers from administration ethics rules; the prohibitions on conflicts of interest are necessary because Trump’s use of his private clubs for government business—while getting paid for doing that—was exactly the sort of crookery the nation’s ethics rules were intended to nix, before Trump came along; the previous understanding that candidates would release tax returns now needs to be a law because Trump refused to do so; financial disclosure rules need to be rewritten because Donald Effing Trump at this point could be collecting cash from Vladimir Putin himself and, Donald Trump says, nobody in America needs to know.

Historically, presidential candidates and officeholders have voluntarily released their tax returns and divested their holdings. Mr. Trump has not. “Other presidents have understood it is a pragmatic necessity,” Mr. Shaub said. “This president seems to think it is a perk of high office.”

Most of what Shaub proposes would have to be done by Congress, which is currently comprised of Trump toadies and petty crooks. So it probably won’t go anywhere until Trump does something so crooked that the public begins showing up on their doorsteps with pitchforks and torches, at which point Republicans will hastily pass half-ish or so of those things in an attempt to demonstrate they cared about ethics all along. Or they’ll lose the House, in which case Democrats will do it for them.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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