When Walter Shaub retires as director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), it will be up to President Trump to appoint his successor.
The OGE helps vet the White House’s nominees, which happens right before they’re considered in the Senate. However, Trump also has the option not to nominate anyone, which would leave the agency powerless.
“In the Trump administration, they could do a lot just by doing nothing,” said Marilyn Glynn, who served as acting director at OGE during the George W. Bush administration and hired Shaub at the agency, in a report from The Hill.
Created after the Watergate scandal in 1978, the 70-person OGE was is responsible for writing federal ethics rules. They also guide ethics officials throughout the government on compliance.
Appointed by President Obama in 2013, Shaub has been critical of the Trump administration, but claims that this is not the reason he’s stepping down.
“There isn’t much more I could accomplish at the Office of Government Ethics, given the current situation,” Shaub told The New York Times on Thursday after announcing his resignation.
His next move is to lead the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center to head in its ethics practice and advocate for reforms from there.
An acting director; probably a longtime employee, will take control of the agency until Trump nominates a permanent replacement.
“We intend to nominate someone in short order but have no additional personnel announcements at this time,” Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said on Monday.
Glynn explained that it’s best for the position to be filled as quickly as possible. “An acting director is rightly viewed as a placeholder, and that makes sense if you’re an acting [director] for several months. When it drags on for years, then I think it’s a disservice to the agency because you feel hamstrung in making needed changes that are more than just administrational things,” she said, speaking from experience after having held the acting director post herself for two years.
Glynn cites the fact that she sometimes had to wait weeks or months to schedule meetings with administration officials during her acting director tenure at OGE as one of the biggest frustrations.
Already, the Trump administration has a backlog of more than 100 nominees for key posts that require Senate confirmation, including at the State Department, Treasury Department and Justice Department, and most of them must be cleared by ethics officials before they can move forward.
“I don’t think Congress will stand for it for very long. They’ll want it filled. The pressure would mount if it went for a long period without trying to nominate somebody,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who tracks judicial appointments.
“He will feel some need to nominate and then hopefully somebody’s not as strict, if you will, as the person who just resigned. That’s my guess,” added Tobias.
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