US Government risks being seen as 'kleptocracy' under Trump: former ethics chief

The United States is at risk of being viewed as a "kleptocracy" under President Donald Trump, the former head of the US government ethics office said in an interview published Monday.

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Police officers outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC play

Police officers outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC

(GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File)
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The United States is at risk of being viewed as a "kleptocracy" under President Donald Trump, the former head of the US government ethics office said in an interview published Monday.

"His actions create the appearance of profiting from the presidency, and the appearance here is everything," Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), told the Guardian newspaper.

"The fact that we're having to ask questions about whether he's intentionally using the presidency for profit is bad enough, because the appearance itself undermines confidence in government," Shaub said.

"It certainly risks people starting to refer to us as a kleptocracy," he added. "America really should stand for more than that."

Shaub, who stepped down from his post in July, said Trump did not appear to be violating any laws but the intermingling of his business and political interests presents problems.

"We can't know whether his decisions are motivated by his policy aims or his financial interests," he said.

Upon reaching the White House, Trump put his vast real estate, golf course and merchandising empire in a trust run by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

But Trump, since taking office in January, has spent numerous weekends at his golf course properties and has also dined at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

“It's wildly inappropriate for him to be running a hotel that he's leasing from the federal government," Shaub told the Guardian. "As a president, you shouldn't be doing business with the United States government.

"He's his own landlord at this point."

Shaub said Trump should refrain from frequenting his own properties while he is in the White House.

“But he's not willing to do that because he’s too busy running around giving free advertising to his properties,” he said.

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