WH: Trump Attacked Gillibrand To Boost Administration’s Ethics Pledges

Evan Vucci/AP

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was “controlled by special interests,” “a wholly-owned subsidiary of people that donate to her campaign,” “a puppet of Chuck Schumer” and “somebody that is controlled by people that help donate money to her cause.”

“That’s simply all I’m stating,” she said, after defending President Donald Trump’s claim in a tweet that Gillibrand would “do anything” for campaign donations.

The tweet, Sanders said, was not only not sexist, but rather was Trump’s attempt to highlight his administration’s commitment to “draining the swamp” and reforming the campaign finance system.

“What kind of campaign finance reform does the President want?” NPR’s Mara Liasson asked.

Sanders seemed to hesitate. The issue doesn’t come up a lot.

“Look, the President has been talking about the need for us to put a stronger ban on lobbyists participating in the government process,” Sanders said. “We have taken a stronger ethics pledge under this administration than previous administrations. I think those are some of the first steps and something that we’re going to continue working on over the next seven years.”

But on both points — lobbyist participation in government and the administration’s ethics pledge — the administration’s record is poor.

From the arms industry to pharmaceutical companies, Trump has picked up lobbyists and other representatives of private interests to lead and run the federal government, and his administration regularly takes guidance from current lobbyists, donors and industry executives.

In one particularly vivid recent example, In These Times’ Kate Arnoff published photos of Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray — Trump donor, coal baron — handing a document to Energy Secretary Rick Perry outlining what closely resembled a proposal the Department of Energy would later put forward: essentially, a plan to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants.

And on the administration’s ethics pledge, supposedly “stronger” than previous administrations’? Walter Shaub, who ran the Office of Government Ethics before he resigned in July and was responsible in that role for overseeing such pledges, objected to the claim on Twitter.

The “unsigned, undated, retroactive waivers” he mentions are just that: waivers for a weak ethics pledge issued after the violations in question, rendering the pledges themselves somewhat meaningless.

In June, Shaub said of the faulty waivers:“There’s no such thing as a retroactive waiver” and “[i]ssuing a waiver after the fact won’t fix the problem.”