A retroactive ethics waiver that applies to Steve Bannon may have broken ethics rules

"If you need a retroactive waiver, you have violated a rule"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 2, 2017 9:26AM (EDT)

Steve Bannon (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Steve Bannon (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It appears that at least one of the 17 ethics waivers that President Donald Trump has issued may have actually broken ethics rules.

The White House issued a retroactive ethics exemption that it claims allows White House aides to remain in contact with news organizations even if they were formerly employers or clients, according to a report by The New York Times. One of the main beneficiaries of this exemption was chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who is currently the subject of an ethics complaint regarding his contacts with Breitbart, a right-wing news site that he used to head.

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Although the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claims that Bannon has remained in contact with Breitbart since assuming office on Jan. 20, Trump signed an executive order that would have prohibited Bannon from contacting Breitbart employees for two years about anything that he would have managed while he led that company.

Walter M. Shaub, Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, told the Times that "there is no such thing as a retroactive waiver. If you need a retroactive waiver, you have violated a rule."

In addition to the controversy over the waiver that applies to Bannon, the Trump White House's exemptions are also controversial because of the four lobbyists who were appointed to influential positions. Three of them work for the National Economic Council and the fourth is chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence. Waivers were also granted to counselor Kellyanne Conway, chief legal counsel Donald McGahn and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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