Washington, DC—Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon may have violated the “Ethics Pledge” he signed when joining the Trump administration by repeatedly communicating about official matters with Breitbart News, according to a request for investigation sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to White House Counsel Donald McGahn.
As part of the Ethics Pledge created by President Trump’s Executive Order, Bannon promised not to participate in certain matters related to his former employers for two years after being appointed. These prohibited matters include “any meeting or other communication relating to the performance of one’s official duties.” Since taking the White House job, Bannon apparently repeatedly engaged in communications with Breitbart’s Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow and Washington Editor Matthew Boyle, often about Breitbart’s coverage of the Trump White House. Those communications appear to be directly related to Bannon’s job responsibilities, and seemingly resulted in Breitbart landing interviews with top administration officials, including President Trump.
“The purpose of the Ethics Pledge is to ensure government officials have no conflict of interest between their current and former employers,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “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.”
These potential violations are more in what has become a disturbingly long line of ethics issues by White House staff. In just two months, CREW already requested McGahn investigate ethics issues with presidential advisors Kellyanne Conway and Chris Liddell, as well as potential violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
“This is only the latest of the many questions that have been raised about ethics pledge compliance issues in the Trump administration,” said CREW Board Chair Norman Eisen. “This matter is particularly significant because of Mr. Bannon’s prominent role, and that of Breitbart, in connection with the President. It deserves the closest scrutiny.”