Trump stunned ethics experts with his surprising, ‘excellent choice’ to lead the government office that’s been a huge thorn in his side

Walter Shaub.

Walter Shaub.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

  • Ethics experts love President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Office of Government Ethics.
  • These are the same ethicists who’ve repeatedly clashed with the president and his administration.

Ethics experts were over the moon with President Donald Trump’s selection to lead the Office of Government Ethics, Emory Rounds.

That includes two high-profile ethicists who have been among the most prominent critics of Trump: Walter Shaub, the former head of OGE who resigned before completing his term, and Richard Painter, top ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush who has repeatedly clashed with the White House.

Rounds served with Painter in the White House counsel’s office during the Bush administration before joining OGE in 2009.

“HOOOOORAY!!!!!!!!” Shaub tweeted when asked for his thoughts on the nomination.

He added in a separate tweet that the decision “is very good news!”

“Emory Rounds is a good and decent man who has devoted his life to public service,” said Shaub, who clashed with Trump repeatedly over his administration’s ethical entanglements. “He was Richard Painter’s right hand in the Bush White House. Emory will lead OGE ably. I hope the Senate confirms him quickly.”

Painter tweeted that Rounds “is an excellent choice.”

“Worked with him for 2 1/2 years on White House ethics,” he wrote. “Very smart, no nonsense, plays by the rules, no politics.”

Norm Eisen, who served as the top ethics official for President Barack Obama, retweeted Painter’s praise for Rounds. And Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, tweeted that if Shaub and Painter “are game for this guy then I’m thrilled!”

Trump’s nomination of Rounds to a five-year term that requires Senate confirmation came two days after the acting OGE head, David Apol, seemed to criticize the president and his administration in a blog post.

The post warned that some government officials are acting in an unethical manner.

“Those who are doing things that undermine the public’s trust, even if they don’t violate a rule, need to stop,” Apol wrote. “Nothing you could gain economically or politically could possibly justify putting our democracy at risk. These are perilous times.”

After Shaub resigned last year, Trump passed up the next-in-line candidate to replace the outgoing director with Apol, spurring some controversy.

“Emory Rounds is by all accounts a smart, honest, and rigorous ethics attorney,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Business Insider in an email. “We have high hopes that he will bring exacting standards and unimpeachable ethics to the job of director of the Office of Government Ethics. The country faces an unprecedented ethics crisis with its roots at the White House, and a strong and bold Office of Government Ethics can play an essential role in helping to call out and contain the abuses that have become all too common.”