Sen. Hirono Continues Effort to Uncover Bannon’s Communications with Breitbart
U.S. Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today sent a letter to White House Designated Agency Ethics Official Stefan Passantino requesting clarification on White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon’s compliance with federal ethics laws.
“Earlier this month, we received new information from the Office of Government Ethics indicating that Steven Bannon may have violated President Trump’s Executive Order on Ethics and other ethics rules via his communications with Breitbart News Network, and that the ethics waivers provided to Mr. Bannon and others may not appropriately address these matters,” wrote the Senators. “Based on this new information, we are writing to you—again—to seek clarification on and understand Mr. Bannon’s compliance with Executive Order 13770.”
The Senators initially wrote to Mr. Passantino in April following media reports that Bannon had discussions with his former employer, Breitbart News, potentially violating the Ethics Pledge outlined in Executive Order 13770. That request, along with a similar inquiry sent directly to Bannon, went unanswered. The Senators then asked the Office of Government Ethics to provide information on the federal ethics requirements that applied to Bannon’s communications with Breitbart.
OGE’s response outlined Bannon’s ethics obligations and described a retroactive waiver issued by the White House in May, allowing Mr. Bannon and other executive office appointees to communicate in some cases with news organizations, as “problematic” and “inconsistent with the very concept of a waiver.”
It also made clear that the May 31 waiver was “limited” and that Bannon was still barred from communicating with Breitbart regarding “particular matters[s] involving specific parties,” indicating that Mr. Bannon may still be in violation of Executive Order 13770.
The Senators asked Passantino to provide additional information about the White House waiver, as well as Bannon’s prior communications with Breitbart and any recusals he may have made to avoid any conflicts of interest involving his former employer.