“Ethics” and “Trump”: A Predictable Paradox

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The only thing amazing about the resignation of Walter Shaub, Head of the US Department of Government Ethics, is that it didn’t happen sooner.  Shaub’s resignation comes after “months of clashes with the White House,”

Shaub told NPR that “the current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is.”

The battle began in late November when the ethics office began issuing a series of tweets that mimicked Trump’s style, exclaiming: “Brilliant! Divestiture is good for you, good for America!”

The tweets were clearly intended as pointed satire, given that Trump had not promised total divestiture.  On  Jan. 11 Shaub spoke out at the Brookings Institution, causing a stir when he said Trump’s plan for avoiding conflicts of interest “doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the past four decades has met.”

Trump’s plan involved moving his business interests into a trust run by his two oldest sons and a longtime business associate. Trump is the sole beneficiary of the trust. Since the 1970s, presidents have moved their assets into blind trusts run by third parties.

But the  OGE is a small agency and an only advise on ethics, but has no power to enforce rules.  As an example of the strenuous work load of the OGE since Trump was inaugurated, the agency reports that during the six months between October 2008 and March 2009, as the Obama presidency was taking shape, it got 733 public contacts, such as calls, letters and emails. During the October 2016 to March 2017 period in the Trump era, it was swamped with 39,105 contacts — an increase of 5,235 percent.

“We’ve even had a couple days where the volume was so huge it filled up the voicemail box, and we couldn’t clear the calls as fast as they were coming in,” Shaub said in an NPR interview in April.

Additionally Trump has issued waivers to many in his cabinet.  The OGE is reportedly set to release copies of roughly two dozen ethics waivers for federal officials showing which officials are focusing on issues that they worked on in their private sector jobs.

The waivers are in addition to the ones the Trump administration released this week, The Wall Street Journal reports. The White House released those ethics pledge waivers Wednesday, exempting at least a dozen White House officials.

Shaub has sounded many alarms over the Trump administration’s business entanglements. He urged Trump to divest from his business empire rather than turn management of it over to his sons.  Shaub also  and chastised the White House for not disciplining presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway after she endorsed a fashion line sold by Ivanka.

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A pattern seems to be emerging.  Anyone who disagrees with Trump, or anyone who has the temerity to challenge Trump resigns or gets fired! The list is getting longer by the day:

Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary Of State For Management — Quit January 1

Joyce Anne Barr,  Assistant Secretary of State for Administration

Michele Bond, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs

Gentry O Smith,  Director of the Office of Foreign Missions

Sally Yates, United States Deputy Attorney General — Fired January 30

Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor — Fired February 14

Craig Deare, National Security Council Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs — Fired February 17

Preet Bharara, United States Attorney For The Southern District Of New York — Fired March 11

Trump ordered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys, a request Bharara promptly refused. Bharara is known for investigating cases of insider trading and was considered a Wall Street’s “enforcer.” He was fired shortly after he refused to leave his post.

Angella Reid, White House Chief Usher — Fired May 5

James Comey, Director Of The FBI — Fired May 9

Michael Dubke, White House Communications Director 

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