Departing ethics director denounces President Donald Trump's conflicts of interest

Walter Schaub, who's leaving his post as an independent ethics chief, says Trump businesses are profiting

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 7, 2017 9:17AM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics who announced his impending resignation on Thursday, is publicly stating that President Donald Trump's conflicts of interest are impairing his ability to do his job.

I can't know what their intention is," Schaub told CBS News when asked about the Trump family using the White House to enrich themselves. "I know that the effect is that there's an appearance that the businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency. And appearance matters as much as reality."

Shaub added, "So even aside from whether or not that's actually happening, we need to send a message to the world that the United States is gonna have the gold standard for an ethics program in government, which is what we've always had."

As Shaub observed, the fact that there is reasonable doubt about Trump's ability to govern without thinking about his business empire is in its own right cause for concern. That fact means it "almost doesn't matter" whether or not they are unethically profiting from public office.

"America should have the right to know what the motivations of its leaders are," Shaub explained, "and they need to know that financial interests, personal financial interests, aren't among them."

Shaub was also unsympathetic to the argument by Trump's attorneys that he couldn't sell off his troublesome assets without incurring a financial loss.

"I mean, he's in a position where he's going to have to send young men and women to die in combat potentially, or risk their lives at least. They're paying a much higher price," Shaub said. "So, no, it's not too much to ask for somebody to incur a bit of a financial loss if they have to sell things off."

Watch the interview below:

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Conflict Of Interest Donald Trump Ethics Partner Video Walter Shaub