Actions by President Trump and his administration have created a historic ethics crisis, the departing head of the Office of Government Ethics said. He called for major changes in federal law to expand the power and reach of the oversight office and combat the threat. Walter M. Shaub Jr., who is resigning as the federal government’s top ethics watchdog on Tuesday, said the Trump administration had flouted or directly challenged long-accepted norms in a way that threatened to undermine the United States’ ethical standards, which have been admired around the world.
The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who have work in the White House or federal agencies. The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.
The move by emboldened Republicans on the eve of a new Congress would strip power and independence from an investigative body and give lawmakers control over ethics inquiries. In place of the office, Republicans would create a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review that would report to the House Ethics Committee, which has been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.
The meeting, with Indian executives linked to an apartment tower bearing Mr. Trump’s name, raises questions about how he will separate his business dealings from his politics. Washington ethics lawyers said that a meeting with Indian real estate partners, regardless of what was discussed, raised conflict of interest questions for Mr. Trump, who could be perceived as using the presidency to advance his business interests.