April 24, 2017

Senators Question Steve Bannon, White House Ethics Official on Violations of Trump Ethics Pledge

Bannon's Continued Communications with Breitbart News Appear to Clearly Violate Trump Plege, OGE Regulations

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), today raised questions about reported communications between Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to President Trump, and his former employer, Breitbart News.

In letters addressed to Mr. Bannon and Stefan Passantino, the designated agency ethics official for the White House, the senators asked for clarification on recent reports detailing Mr. Bannon’s extensive interactions with Breitbart, where he formerly served as Executive Chairman, and raised concerns about whether those actions were in compliance with President Trump’s Executive Order 13770 and other federal ethics requirements, or whether Bannon received a waiver from the requirements.

The order requires all executive appointees to sign an “Ethics Pledge,” which prevents them from participating in matters related to their former employer, unless a waiver is issued by the president or his designee. In addition, federal ethics regulations prohibit executive branch employees from participating in “particular matters” that involve a former employer. But according to multiple media accounts, Mr. Bannon has communicated with Breitbart News on numerous occasions and granted the organization exclusive access to White House officials.  

“Your communications with Breitbart appear to violate the Ethics Pledge outlined in Executive Order 13770. Because they relate to news coverage of the Trump Administration, your conversations appear to qualify as ‘communications relating to the performance of your official duties with a former employer,'” wrote the senators to Mr. Bannon. “In addition, because you left your position at Breitbart less than one year ago, these communications appear to be in clear violation of both the pledge and OGE regulations.”

The senators asked Mr. Bannon and Mr. Passantino whether Mr. Bannon had signed the Ethics Pledge, and to provide a copy if so. Additionally, they asked if Mr. Bannon had received a waiver from Executive Order 13770 or other federal regulations, what guidance had been issued by the White House Counsel or the Office of Government Ethics regarding his compliance with ethics regulations, and whether Mr. Bannon had been subsequently disciplined by the Office of the White House Counsel for violating the pledge.

A copy of the letter to Mr. Bannon is available here. A copy of the letter to Mr. Passantino is available here


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