Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub announced his resignation from the post last week, citing an inability to accomplish anything more in the role under the Trump administration. Today he took to a Sunday show to elaborate. The network helpfully provided a clip of Reince Priebus opining during a January interview that Shaub “ought to be careful” in his Trump criticisms.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos played a pre-inauguration clip of Priebus, the former head of the Republican National Committee now serving as Trump’s chief of staff.
“The head of the government ethics ought to be careful, because that person is becoming extremely political,” Priebus said in the clip. His comment was in response to Shaub’s statement days earlier that Trump’s ethics arrangement regarding his massive business empire was “meaningless from a conflicts of interest perspective.”
Shaub acknowledged he saw the January statement as a “fairly explicit threat” from Priebus.
“I think the fairly explicit threat from Reince Priebus during that show really is emblematic of how the interactions with the White House have been since the beginning of this administration,” said Shaub, who has accepted a position with the Campaign Legal Center as senior direct of ethics.
This should serve as another reminder that it is not Donald Trump eroding or tossing aside ethics restrictions that were considered sacrosanct during previous administrations. Trump may have wanted to do it, but it was his surrounding staff that both made sure it happened and have launched regular attacks on both the press and on the federal government’s own ethics watchdogs in response to any who have exposed the behavior.
This was the head of the Republican National Committee itself going on television to dispense these threats to the Office of Government Ethics director, a mere two days after Trump announced Priebus would be his new Chief of Staff. Trump may have been the one to decide he’d be keeping his business empire and would be using the presidency to boost its revenues, but it was the entire Republican leadership, from committee heads to lawmakers, that continue to back the gutting of rules that stood in his way.