Too afraid to ask: Is that ethical?

    America has survived four weeks under the Trump administration – with only (potentially) 204 more weeks to go! Nevertheless, crossing this crucial month milestone has not come without scandal, controversy and general disdain for political norms for President Trump. At this point, many journalists and media outlets have started questioning the ethics politicians are (or should be) held to when it comes to these major conflicts.

    Kellyanne Conway's conflicts with Ivanka Trump's line:

    On Feb. 9, Trump’s Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox & Friends where she discussed the decision of several retail companies’ to drop Ivanka’s clothing line, and additionally implored the American public to “Go buy Ivanka's stuff.”

    Ethical Backlash: Since Conway’s mini infomercial on Ivanka’s line aired, The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has asked the White House to open an investigation into whether or not Conway’s comments violated federal standards of conduct. OGE director Walter M. Shaub Jr. penned a letter to Deputy White Counsel Stefan C. Passantino in which he wrote, “These facts, if true, would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position. Therefore, I recommend that the White House investigate Ms. Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her.” It is still unclear whether or not serious action will be taken to reprimand Conway for her actions, however, press secretary Sean Spicer did say that Conway “has been counseled on the subject.”

    Michael Flynn’s Resignation:

    On the night of Feb. 13, Trump’s national security advisor Michael T. Flynn handed in his letter of resignation amidst allegations that he had given “incomplete information” to Vice President Pence and other White House officials regarding conversations he’d had with the Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak – back in December about American sanctions against Russia. Ironically, Kellyanne Conway stated that Flynn enjoyed “the full confidence of the president” on national TV a day before he resigned. Flynn’s tenure under the Trump administration, which lasted a grand total of less than a month, is now characterized by his interactions with Russian officials, and the implications that his miscommunications about the nature of these calls had on the White House’s image.

    Ethical Backlash: According to the New York Times, The Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow as a result of his not being fully up front about his conversations with the ambassador. In addition, the FBI had been examining Mr. Flynn’s phone calls as the Russians knew what had been said on the call; thus, if they wanted Flynn to do something, they could have threatened to expose the lies Flynn told his bosses to cover his tracks if he refused. While Flynn did resign from his position quickly after all these revelations came out, additional ethical questions continue to be raised – such as if his conversations breached diplomatic protocol or violated the Logan Act – a law that bars private citizens from meddling with diplomatic relations between the U.S. and foreign governments.

    Jared Kushner's conflicts of interest in the Middle East:

    Trump’s son-in-law was cleared to serve as a senior White House adviser in late January. Although he won’t be paid for his position, red flags have been raised about hiring him being a conflict of interest for the Trump administration. Beyond just being a relative, Kushner also has a loan from an Israeli bank that’s under Justice Department investigation, does business with Chinese companies the Obama administration flagged as a potential national security risk and has had investors from Russia and China (amongst other countries) invest in his real estate companies.

    Ethical Backlash: According to The Independent, Democrats on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee have asked the US government to review “a number of legal issues” over Mr. Kushner’s appointment. The US Office of Government Ethics has been involved yet again along with the Justice Department, to determine whether or not Kushner’s divestments and resignations from various posts will “be sufficient to avoid potential conflicts.”

    Mar-a-Lago National Security Crisis:

    On Feb. 11, Trump and his aides met with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at his luxurious Mar-a-Lago resort/hotel in Florida. During this meeting, Trump received a call in which he learned that North Korea had conducted an unexpected missile launch test that demanded the United State’s attention.

    Ethical Backlash: President Trump and his team openly conversed about the test not only in a public space, but also while sitting at the same table as Japanese officials who felt that the missile launch demanded an immediate response considering its proximity to their country. Furthermore, aides used flashlights on their phone cameras to read documents regarding the matter, which made the pressing matter even less confidential. Mar-a-Lago club member Richard DeAgazio posted pictures of the scene unfolding in front of his eyes to Facebook captioned, “Wow … the center of the action!!!” according to CNN. The fact that such a briefing took place in open public raised even more eyebrows to the ethical concerns that President Trump seems to keep disregarding, despite what press secretary Sean Spicer states after the fact.


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