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White House Ethics Oversight Chief Resigns After Clashes With Trump Administration

"It's become clear to me that changes are needed to strengthen the executive branch ethics program," Walter Shaub said

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    White House Ethics Oversight Chief Resigns After Clashes With Trump Administration
    AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
    This Jan. 23, 2017, file photo shows Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, arrive for a meeting with the leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

    The government ethics director who prodded President Donald Trump's administration over conflicts of interest is resigning to take a new job.

    Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, is joining the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit in Washington that mostly focuses on violations of campaign finance law. 

    Both Shaub and the Campaign Legal Center posted the news on their Twitter accounts, and Shaub confirmed his move to The Associated Press. 

    He told The Washington Post he wasn't leaving under pressure but "it's clear that there isn’t more I could accomplish."

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    "The White House accepts Mr. Shaub's resignation and appreciates his service. The President will be nominating a successor in short order," a White House official told NBC News.

    "Director Shaub’s resignation is a sad consequence of the Trump Administration’s constant ethical breaches, and comes at a moment of crisis for the democratic process," Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

    The Office of Government Ethics oversees the executive branch, evaluating whether ethics rules are being followed and offering training for officials.

    President Barack Obama appointed Shaub, a longtime OGE employee, to director of the office in 2013. His term was set to expire next year. In his resignation letter to Trump, dated Thursday, Shaub wrote that the employees he led "are committed to protecting the principle that public service is a public trust." 

    Beginning shortly after Election Day, Shaub and Trump's attorneys have engaged in an unusual bit of warfare that played out in eight months of OGE tweets, letters between them and OGE responses to congressional requests. 

    After Trump made it clear in January that he would not sell off his global business empire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, Shaub spoke out. 

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    He said Trump's plan to retain financial interests in the Trump Organization while handing over leadership to his adult sons and a senior executive "doesn't meet the standards" of Trump's own Cabinet nominees and four decades of previous presidents. 

    Since then, the OGE has unsuccessfully asked the White House to punish a senior adviser to the president, Kellyanne Conway, over inappropriately promoting Ivanka Trump's fashion line.

    "I am more concerned about the extraordinary assertion that 'many' [ethics] regulations are inapplicable" to the president's employees, he wrote in a letter to a Trump lawyer, NBC News reported.

    The office succeeded in pressuring the White House to release information about ethics waivers it has granted to employees seeking to avoid running afoul of rules against interacting with previous employers. However, Shaub objected to White House lawyers handing over undated waivers — suggesting some of them may have been given retroactively. 

    "It's become clear to me that changes are needed to strengthen the executive branch ethics program," Shaub said Thursday. 

    Shaub said his work at the Campaign Legal Center will focus on government ethics, including at the congressional and state level. He said he will work from the outside to strengthen an executive branch ethics program that is designed to help thousands of federal employees avoid conflicts of interest.

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