This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: When the watchdog leaves

Donald Trump goes abroad, and his interests get a lot murkier

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 8, 2017 6:30AM (EDT)

 (Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Shutterstock/Salon)
(Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Shutterstock/Salon)

It was a big week for President Donald Trump's conflicts of interest — and not in a way that would put critics and fans of good government at ease. Let's get started.

The top watchdog responsible for governmental ethics resigned, pointing to Trump

Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics, has already butted heads with the Trump White House over everything from Trump's business conflicts to disclosing ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists. And Shaub has made it clear that he is deeply disturbed by Trump's behavior, telling CBS News that "there’s an appearance that the businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency. And appearance matters as much as reality."

A compliance expert left Trump's Justice Department because of his conflicts of interest

As Hui Chen explained in a LinkedIn post discussing her reasons for resigning, "To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic. I wanted no more part in it." As she later told the Washington Post, "How do I sit across the table from companies and ask about their policies on conflict of interest, when everybody had woken up and read the same news? I didn’t want to be a part of the administration whose job it is to question others about these precise things."

That's two employees of the government who cited Trump when announcing they were leaving their posts.

Jared Kushner failed to disclose important investments

The president's son-in-law and close adviser is the subject of an ethics complaint filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The reason? According to CREW, Kushner "appears to have failed to make the required disclosure of his ownership interest in an online real estate investment company called Cadre, and likely must divest from Cadre to prevent having a conflict of interest."

Kevin Terry, the contracting officer at the General Services Administration, told Trump's company he thought concerns about a conflict of interest were "nonsense"

According to Bloomberg, four months before he allowed Trump's business empire to hold its lease on the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., Terry sent out an email referring to reports that the agency believed it was a potential conflict of interest as "a fair amount of nonsense." This is the same hotel where it was revealed in June that lobbyists for Saudi Arabia's government spent $250,000 on food and lodging.

Pro-Trump lobbyists are filling Donald Trump's swamp

Remember when Trump promised to "drain the swamp"? Apparently that was just to make room for his own bog monsters, as the Center for Public Integrity claims that Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard has signed 35 federal-level clients since moving his lobbying from Florida's capital to Washington after Trump became president. If true, this calls into question the accuracy of Ballard's claim that "it's easy to say ‘oh you are Trump’s person, you get this and that,’ but I don't think it works out that way."

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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