December 13, 2018
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Trump critic praises Maine lawyer tapped to head White House ethics office

WASHINGTON — A Maine lawyer who served under former President George W. Bush has been tapped to serve as director of the White House Office of Government Ethics.

The Trump administration announced Thursday the nomination Emory A. Rounds III to replace Obama appointee Walter Shaub, who has blasted the Trump White House for creating an “ethics crisis.”

Shaub now is offering praise for the administration’s choice for his successor. The office offers counsel to government officials about how to avoid potential conflicts of interest and violations of ethics statutes. Shaub said he was “excited” about the nomination.

“Emory is a good and decent man who has devoted his life to public service. He believes in the government ethics program, and he will ably lead OGE,” said Shaub, now a senior director of ethics at the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center. “I’m sure the staff is relieved to learn the nominee is someone steeped in knowledge of — and concern for — the ethics program, rather than a political appointee with a partisan agenda. I hope the Senate confirms Emory quickly. He’s a great pick for this position.”

The Office of Government Ethics, which came into the spotlight last year amid Trump’s refusal to divest his business holdings, does not act as an enforcement agency.

Shaub made no secret of his concerns about the president, some of his Cabinet members and other top aides’ seemingly lackluster approach to federal ethics laws. He left the office in July, before his term ended, and promptly called on Congress to shore up the nation’s ethics laws.

“Some challenges will be insurmountable, such as persuading the president to divest his conflicting financial interests or getting the White House to be more transparent about the ethics problems of its immediate staff,” Shaub said on Thursday. “However, Emory is the right person to hold OGE together and preserve as much of the ethics program as possible. As a nominee to be director, I think he represents a degree of stability in a sea of chaos.”

Rounds previously served as an ethics counsel in the George W. Bush administration, working as deputy to Richard Painter, who has been one of the toughest critics of the Trump administration’s approach to ethics matters.

Rounds also once served in the ethics office of the Commerce Department, served in the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps and earned his law degree at University of Akron School of Law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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