That strange situation made Shaub, a stocky, nondescript, bureaucrat, into an unlikely heartthrob and hero for some of the president’s critics. His face appeared on t-shirts and a Facebook fan group, surely a strange reversal for an office accustomed to toiling in dusty obscurity—and for Shaub, a man so self-effacing and austere that he stripped his office of all decorations.
“I wanted to not be so attached to this office that I’d be afraid to lose it,” he told The New York Times.
The president has refused to make the customary disclosure of his tax returns, and while most commanders in chief have placed their assets in a blind trust, Trump established a structure that hands control of his company over to his sons, and which was universally dismissed by ethics experts as inadequate. He controls a hotel in Washington, in what some lawyers contend is a violation of both government rules and the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. In area after area, the president has appeared to be using his office as a method of enriching himself, most recently with a Republican National Committee fundraiser hosted at the the hotel.
Shaub’s relationship with the new president began on a contentious note. In November 2016, after President-elect Trump said he was developing plans to remove himself from running his businesses, the OGE Twitter account delivered a string of missives, apparently written in mock-Trumpian tone, saying that the office recommended total divestiture and noting that OGE had delivered that advice to the president’s aides privately as well. The tweets were a break in protocol for an agency that typically does its business behind closed doors. They were briefly removed, then added again, and public records later revealed that Shaub himself had composed the tweets.
After Trump released his separation plan in January, Shaub branded it “wholly inadequate” and said, “This is not a blind trust. It’s not even close.”
That earned Shaub a rebuke from then-Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, who said OGE should not engage in public relations. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus seemed to threaten Shaub, saying he must “be careful” about criticizing Trump.
Shaub also sparred with the White House over waivers granted to former lobbyists to serve in the administration. Like previous presidents, Trump issued a series of rules intended to show he would keep tainted lobbyists out of the government, and like previous presidents, he granted waivers to some people to get around the rules. Unlike previous presidents, however, Trump attempted to keep the waivers secret. In April, Shaub requested information on them. The following month, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, suggested OGE had no authority to seek the waivers and asked that Shaub suspend his inquiry. Shaub refused.