It’s safe to say that the current White House administration isn’t too concerned about ethics. This isn’t surprising considering one of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to kill the wives and children of terrorists. There have been various displays of disregard for ethical and moral codes of conduct, most notably by Kellyanne Conway who endorsed Ivanka Trump’s brand on live TV in flagrant violation of White House Standards of Conduct.
In response to this incident, White House deputy counsel Stefan Passatino wrote a pathetic letter that tried to absolve Conway of her transgression by claiming that ethics rules don’t apply to White House staff. He wrote:
We note initially that although many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics (“OGE”) do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President, the Office of the White House Counsel has instructed all such employees to abide by 3 CFR 100.1 [the segment of ethics law that pertains to Executive Office employees.]
There are inconsistencies in Passatino’s letter. Which regulations don’t apply? Why don’t they apply? Why has the White House said they don’t apply to staff while simultaneously advising staff to abide by them? This letter feels like a poor and rushed attempt at damage control by someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing.
The Office of Government Ethics didn’t like the letter either, and it’s director, Walter Shaub, wrote a reply:
I am more concerned about the extraordinary assertion that ‘many’ of OGE’s regulations are inapplicable to employees of the Executive Office of the President. The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it. Presidential administrations have not considered it appropriate to challenge the applicability of ethics rules to the entire executive branch.
Shaub also added:
Not taking disciplinary action against a senior official under such circumstances risks undermining the ethics program…It is critical to the public’s faith in the integrity of government that White House employees be held to the same standard of ethical accountability as other executive branch employees.
This development is an extraordinary display of the lack of know-how and competence in the White House. Trump’s staff don’t even know what rules apply to them, but then again neither does their boss. It’s likely that Conway will only get a slap on the wrist unless Democrats and oversight committees push for a just punishment befitting her transgression.
On the campaign trail Trump claimed to be a man of the people, not one of the political elite. The behavior of the president and his administration show that they actually believe the opposite. Trump thinks he is untouchable in his ivory tower. he’s wrong. When will Trump’s supporters wake up and realize that he isn’t going to drain the swamp, he isn’t going to work for them and he isn’t going to benefit middle America? The only people that will benefit from the Trump presidency are his family, his lackeys and Wall Street.