On Friday, CNN reported on a White House Cabinet meeting that was called by Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly. The purpose of the meeting was apparently to “scold” officials in the Cabinet and just generally in the White House circle about a seemingly endless litany of scandals that have been hounding this administration. But while Cabinet-level officials just love to blame their mistakes on their staff, it was actually four specific members of Trump’s hand-picked team that Chief Kelly gave a dressing-down.
Housing Secretary Ben Carson, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, VA Secretary David Shulkin, and EPA Director Scott Pruitt were all on the president’s naughty list for having been embroiled in various gaffes or even more noteworthy screw-ups.
Mostly they were spending issues, which of course leads to questions of ethics at every level of government. What the hell would Ben Carson need a $31,000 dining set for? Why would Zinke keep trying to give sweetheart deals to his hometown pals on the taxpayer’s dime?
But the real scandal among all of these scandals is what happened in the meeting last month that just came to light in the CNN report.
Rather than coaching the administration leaders to stop doing shady things, Chief Kelly opted instead to make it a lesson in not getting caught.
CNN got their hands on an internal document titled “Creating a Culture of Compliance,” and while that sounds like they’re about to get down to doing things the correct, ethical way, what the guidelines inside preached comprised a very different message, indeed.
- “You are the best guardian of your reputation. Your recordkeeping practices must be designed with a purpose to prove innocence at the complaint phase or with the press.”
- “Even if legal, does not mean you should do it — always consider optics.”
- “Optics questions: Does the event or travel further the President’s priorities, your department or agency’s mission; or, does it appear recreational or entertainment in nature.”
- “Remember, an ethics opinion matters only if the ethics officer received all of the information.”
There’s nothing like internal White House guidelines that include the phrase “an ethics opinion matters only if…”
Nothing in there about NOT wasting money, NOT flying on private jets, NOT staying in luxury hotels — just an admonition to keep up appearances of good, ethical behavior.
But that’s this administration in a nutshell.
Featured image via Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images
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