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Outgoing Ethics Director: Appearances Count on Trump Financial Conflicts
WASHINGTON — The outgoing head of the federal government’s ethics watchdog agency said he is leaving his post still unsure whether President Donald Trump is using the White House to enrich his businesses and himself.
"I can't know what their intention is," Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, said in an interview with CBS News. "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 wrote Trump on Thursday to inform him he would be resigning later this month. The government ethics director clashed with the White House even before Trump was sworn in, especially when it came to how the real estate mogul handled his business interests after his election victory.
Trump's Frequent Travel to Trump Properties Prompts Ethics Concerns
During the campaign, Trump argued that Americans should vote for him because he would rarely leave Washington. He promised that he wouldn't go golfing or take vacations, because there was too much work to do.
But President Donald Trump frequently uses his luxury properties for government business and leisure, prompting ethics concerns over a president appearing to promote his private enterprise at public cost.
As of July 4, Trump has spent 50 days at his properties since taking office — and 36 of those were at one of his golf properties. The precise number of times Trump has played golf isn't known, however. His administration has tried to hide Trump's activity, keeping his traveling press pool away and often refusing to confirm whether he has played golf. Instead, social media has become a source of crowd-sourced reporting into the president's whereabouts.
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"The president in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary."
— Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, June 29, 2017
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WASHINGTON — Drain the swamp?
Michael Catanzaro, a former oil and gas lobbyist, can help shape the Trump administration's energy policies. Shahira Knight can weigh in on retirement matters even though she previously worked for Fidelity, a financial company specializing in retirement services.
The White House posted on its website ethics waivers granted to four ex-lobbyists and numerous others who have joined government. In all, the White House has granted 14 ethics waivers.
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Hours after the president tweeted alleging that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, Clapper set the record straight on MSNBC.
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100 Days In: How's Trump Doing on Honesty?
Status: Some action, much of it potentially detrimental
Trump promised that one of his first actions as president would be to propose a constitutional amendment imposing congressional term limits. He has failed to do so, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said it won't happen.
The president used executive authority to institute some of the ethics reforms he promised from the campaign trail, imposing a lifetime ban on White House staffers lobbying for foreign governments and imposing a five-year ban on lobbying for domestic clients.
But he also weakened an Obama-era lobbying restriction that barred lobbyists from taking a job within an agency they had tried to influence in the last two years, which gives lobbyists more power to take jobs in the Trump White House as soon as they quit from their lobbying roles.
Meanwhile, the swamp has hardly vanished: Dozens of lobbyists were found in Trump administration hiring rolls by ProPublica, who also discovered three hires working on the issues they’d lobbied on previously, like Shahira Knight, a former Fidelity lobbyist who had lobbied on retirement and tax issues and now is the president’s special assistant for tax and retirement policy. The White House may have given Knight a waiver, the investigative outlet reported, but there’s no way to know because the administration has also ended the government’s publication of those waivers through the Office of Government Ethics.