President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming chief of staff warned the head of a top government watchdog organization on Sunday to be careful of its public criticism of Trump.
Reince Priebus blasted Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub on “This Week” after he dubbed Trump’s attempts to separate himself from his business interests this week “wholly inadequate.”
“The head of the government ethics ought to be careful, because that person is becoming extremely political,” Priebus said.
The incoming chief of staff incorrectly alleged that Shaub supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election – Republicans accused Shaub of partisanship for refusing to criticize Clinton’s public speaking fees. Priebus also praised Rep. Jason Chaffetz for last week summoning Shaub to Capitol Hill to address his public criticism of Trump’s actions.
“I’m not so sure what this person at Government Ethics, what sort of standing he has anymore in giving these opinions. I think Jason Chaffetz was correct to call for an investigation into the Government Ethics Department in the government for the positions that they’ve taken in this campaign,” Priebus said.
Trump attempted during a press conference last week to address concerns about potential conflicts, announcing he would hand over control of his businesses to his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr, and promised that his businesses would not pursue any foreign deals while Trump is in office.
But top ethics officials have argued that the president-elect’s continued ownership of businesses abroad is a potential violation of the US constitution, as it could allow foreign entities to curry favor with the president-elect by pumping money or favors into his businesses.
Shaub, whose organization is the primary independent government watchdog that monitors the executive branch for potential conflicts of interest, has drawn criticism from Republicans over his outspoken skepticism that Trump has done enough to disentangle himself from conflicts of interest.
“The plan that the president-elect has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the past four decades has met,” Shaub said last week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.
He continued: “Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflicts-of-interest perspective. The presidency is a full-time job, and he would’ve had to step back anyway. The idea of setting up a trust to hold his operating businesses adds nothing to the equation. This is not a blind trust – it’s not even close.”