A new report in Washington D.C. is proving to be a major embarrassment for President Donald Trump and could lead to the end of adviser Steve Bannon’s political career.
The leader of the federal Office of Government Ethics told lawmakers this week that the Trump administration acted inappropriately when they attempted to retroactively give Bannon clearance to conduct political work outside the administration. The new revelation is part of an ongoing controversy relating to Trump staff members’ secret political dealings outside the White House.
During his testimony to lawmakers, Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub said the Trump team’s request to grant waivers retroactively suggests that don’t know what the wod “waiver” means.
The waiver to President Trump’s ethics pledge issued to White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is “problematic,” the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) told inquiring lawmakers on Tuesday.
The issues stem from a waiver, posted to the White House website on May 31, that is unsigned, undated and lists the waiver as being retroactive to Trump’s first day in office on Jan. 20.
“The putative retroactivity is inconsistent with the very concept of a waiver, which is to take decisions regarding the appropriateness of an employee’s participation in covered matters out of the employee’s hands. By engaging in a prohibited matter at a time when the appointee does not possess a waiver, the appointee violates the rule,” OGE Director Walter Shaub wrote in a letter to four Democratic senators.
In the first days of his presidency, Trump signed a so-called “ethics pledge” which said his staff would not be allowed to participate in outside work. The policy is meant to protect against corruption and conflicts of interest.
Trump later went back on his word and gave all of his staffers permission to do outside work. But before they were approved to do so, Bannon had apparently already been making inappropriate contacts with the staff at his former news website, Breitbart.
Government ethics officials say this is just one more terrible violation by the Trump administration.
“The purpose of the Ethics Pledge is to ensure government officials have no conflict of interest between their current and former employers,” one leading government accountability advocate said in a statement.
He continued, “If Bannon discussed White House matters with Breitbart, tried to drive favorable coverage of the White House with his former employer, and gave Breitbart favored access, that would be a serious problem and may have violated the Ethics Pledge he took when he joined the administration.”