Ex-ethics director under Trump says the president is in the late stage of 'an authoritarian coup'

Ex-ethics director under Trump says the president is in the late stage of 'an authoritarian coup'
President Donald J. Trump listens and responds to questions from members of the press Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

When Donald Trump was running for president in 2016, he vowed to “drain the swamp” if elected — which was his way of promising to clean up the political environment in Washington, D.C. and make the federal government more accountable. But former ethics official Walter Shaub, in an op-ed for USA Today, argues that Trump’s presidency has been a nonstop attack on accountability.


Shaub served as director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics from 2013-2017. He resigned in the middle of Trump's first year in office in protest of the White House's complete disregard for ethics rules. And in his new op-ed, Shaub details some of the many ways in which accountability has been under attack during Trump’s presidency — from his “assault on inspectors general” to “open presidential profiteering” to the firing of officials who stood up to him, including former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“The Sessions firing should have triggered Trump’s removal from office,” Shaub asserts, “but wild-eyed senators were hot on the trail of confirming conservative judges.”

As president, Shaub notes, Trump didn’t receive any real “oversight” from Congress until Democrats achieved a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives thanks to the 2018 midterms. However, Shaub quickly adds, “Trump’s hold on the Senate was absolute” — and so, he was acquitted by the GOP-controlled Senate on two articles of impeachment after being indicted by the House.

To make matters worse, Shaub adds, Trump has been declaring war on the “inspector general community,” which Shaub describes as “a last line of defense in this war on ethics and law.”

Accountability, according to Shaub, can come during the November election — when U.S. voters will have a chance to vote Trump out of office. But Shaub fears that Republican dirty tricks and other factors could help Trump win reelection seven months from now.

“The obstacles are tremendous,” Shaub warns. “Trump has the advantages of incumbency, decades of Republican voter suppression, and a third branch that increasingly seems political. A sign of things to come, the Supreme Court ramped up the voter suppression by sending Wisconsin voters into a war zone in our species’ fight against an ancient enemy: disease. A global pandemic has ground America to a halt, complicating the upcoming presidential election.”

He concluded:

All is not lost. The American people are fired up. But it’ll be hard and the outcome’s uncertain. That’s why we must understand how big a deal it is that Trump is going after inspectors general. This is a late-stage move in an authoritarian coup against the rule of law.

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