Government ethics chief blasts Trump’s business plan as ‘meaningless’ Express News
The government’s top ethics monitor sharply criticized President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to avoid conflicts of interest with his business holdings Wednesday, calling the measures “wholly inadequate.”
Earlier in the day, Trump said at a news conference he would hand off running his business to his two adult sons, but will not set up a blind trust or sell off his holdings. In an unusual public response, Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub issued a harsh critique of Trump’s plans during a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective,” Shaub said. “This is not a blind trust. It’s not even close.”
Shaub said Trump is turning his back on 40 years of presidential norms, which were put in place after the Watergate scandal. “The plan the president-elect has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met,” he said.
Trump has said he is voluntarily separating himself from his business holdings but has no legal obligation to do so. “The law’s totally on my side” he said in November, “the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”
“That is quite obviously not true,” Shaub said Wednesday. “I think the most charitable way to understand such statements is that they are referring to a particular conflict of interest law that doesn’t apply to the president. . . . Common sense dictates that a president can, of course, have very real conflicts of interest.”
Trump Turning Over Control of His Business to Sons
President-elect Donald Trump says that he, as president, could run the Trump organization. But, Trump says, “I don’t like the way that looks,” so he will have his two sons, Don and Eric run the company. Photo: Getty.
While admitting that Trump fully divesting his business holdings would be a sacrifice, “It’s important to understand that the president is now entering the world of public service,” Shaub said. “He’s going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He’s going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world. So, no, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America.”
Shaub noted that he was proud of the ethics agreements his office reached with Secretary of State nominee — and former Exxon Mobile Corp.
chief executive — Rex Tillerson, who fully divested himself from the oil giant, and with other Cabinet nominees, and offered his personal assistance to help Trump eliminate his conflicts of interest.
The Office of Government Ethics is an independent, nonpartisan agency that oversees ethics standards for 2.7 million federal workers. It has no enforcement authority, and exists only to prevent conflicts of interest. “Ethics has no party,” Shaub said.