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US ethics watchdog chief Walter Shaub steps down, calls for 'improvements'

The head of the US Office of Government Ethics, who clashed with the Trump administration over conflicts of interest, is resigning from his post. Walter Shaub said there was a need for "improvements" to ethics laws.

Walter Shaub announced Thursday he would step down as director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on July 19 to take up a new job with a nonprofit focusing on campaign finance and ethics law.

Shaub was appointed OGE head in 2013 by former President Barack Obama. His term was set to expire in January.

The White House said it had accepted the resignation, and that President Donald Trump would nominate a successor "in short order."

"I have had the honour and privilege of serving the American public at the US Office of Government Ethics under three presidents - George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump," Shaub said in a parting statement published on Twitter.

"In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program."

Conflicts with the White House

Shaub has been at loggerheads with Trump administration officials over the president's decision to hand over control of his global business empire to his sons rather than sell it off. He also voiced his concerns publicly, saying that Trump's refusal to divest his assets, for example by placing them in a blind trust, exposed the tycoon to conflicts of interestand did not "meet the standards" of four decades of previous presidents.

"I don't think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America," he said.

The OGE forced the White House to release ethics waivers it had granted to lobbyists and others now working in the government to allow them to continue having contact with their previous employers. However, Shaub had less success pressuring the administration to take action against senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway after she promoted a fashion line owned by the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, during a TV interview.

Watch video 05:10

Trump's conflicts of interest

Shaub: Out of possibilities

Shaub told the Washington Post in an interview that he was not pressured to leave by anyone in the government, but that it was "clear that there isn't more I could accomplish."

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said he hoped the Trump's nominee to replace Shaub would prevent lobbyists and private interests from "rigging the system against working families under the cover of darkness."

Shaub will take up the post of senior director at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based nonprofit. 

nm/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

 

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