Not for one minute did we think that President Donald Trump's administration was one that cared about ethics, so when it was revealed that the president had granted ethics waivers to 17 senior White House staff members, we weren't surprised. However, it's no less frustrating.
The White House disclosed on Wednesday that ethics waivers have been issued to high-profile staffers and advisers who work for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. They're calling it a "part of the president's commitment to the American people to be transparent," but actually the data was requested by the Office of Government Ethics.
Some notable names on that list of ethics exemptees are Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway, White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, and Senior Strategist Stephen Bannon. All were permitted to engage with their former clients and places of employment, and a blanket waiver was given to all staff members permitting them to interact with news organizations, an imaginably welcome decision to Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive chair.
In addition, some former lobbyists now working in the White House have been given permission to maintain their previous professional connections, blatantly violating a Trump campaign pledge to not allow lobbyists to influence his presidency. For example, Pence's Chief of Staff Joshua Pitcock, a former lobbyist for Indiana, was given a waiver to work on policies he'd already lobbied for in the past, such as the opioid crisis, refugees, and education policy, among others. How that will not somehow impact the Trump administration is something the president himself will have to explain.
“The ethics waivers the White House finally released reveal what we already suspected: that this administration is chock full of senior officials working on issues on which they lobbied, meeting with companies in which they have a financial interest, or working closely with former employers," said Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to POLITICO.
The total number of waivers granted to the entire administration is currently unknown as only the details of Trump and Pence's offices have been released at the moment. According to Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, the 17 issued waivers to the president's and vice president's staffers already "vastly exceed the number issued in the early months of the Obama administration and — more importantly — authorize conflicts not permitted in the Obama administration, signify[ing] both the corporate takeover of the government and the Trump administration’s utter disregard for ethical standards."
Trump set some high moral benchmarks for his administration in his 2016 campaign speeches and sold himself as the non-political politician Americans needed to challenge corruption in Washington D.C. He swore he'd "drain the swamp," but in reality, he just looks like another swamp monster.