It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s administration cares little about the basic rules of the political game. Few people in the White House exemplify this mentality better than Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It has been amply established that Sanders has few qualms about explaining the contortions, distortions, alternative facts, and outright lies that roll out from this White House on a near-daily basis. That’s why I call her the “Princess of Lies.” For those who don’t know, “Sarah” means “princess.”
She also has few qualms about defending Trump when he is at his most boorish. While most of us roll our eyes whenever Sanders tries to explain and defend such insanity, Sanders apparently thinks she’s just doing her job. Last month, she told her dad, Mike Huckabee, that her primary duty is to “give his message and try to explain his policies.” Never mind that she is the second-highest ranking evangelical in the West Wing, or that she is a mom to three kids.
But on Wednesday, we learned that the truth isn’t the only thing that Sanders brushes aside when she feels the need to “give his message.” Apparently such matters as ethics rules are just things in her way as well.
On Wednesday afternoon, The New York Times detonated a bombshell–an op-ed from an anonymous White House staffer who claimed he and several of his colleagues worked on almost a daily basis to thwart Trump’s “worst inclinations” and “more misguided impulses.” Trump’s reaction was predictable.
While feting several sheriffs at the White House, Trump blasted the op-ed’s author as “gutless,” but suggested it was a sign that he was doing the right thing.
Sanders issued a statement of her own that was somewhat less diplomatic.
Um, Sarah? Have you considered that this staffer was reluctant to use his name because some pro-Trump “patriot” might take it upon himself to do him or his family harm? While many people on both sides of the aisle have questioned why this staffer chose to remain anonymous, anyone who has seen how Trump’s diehards react to even the mildest criticism of their dear one will understand why the staffer went that route.
If possible, Sanders may have justified that staffer’s decision to remain anonymous–at least for now–with a statement that would have done her boss proud.
Asking a mob of Trump diehards to call The Times–excuse me, “the failing New York Times,” in Trumpese–to demand why it chose to let this staffer stay anonymous? Gee, what could go wrong? Then again, you have to remember that Sanders works for a president who had no qualms about plastering a private cell phone number on social media.
At least two ethics experts believe that Sanders’ decision to call an air strike on the Old Grey Lady wasn’t just sleazy. It violated ethics rules. Norm Eisen, the White House ethics counsel in the early part of the Obama administration, was quick to pounce.
The relevant provision is part 2635, subpart G, paragraph (b), which bars a government official from using “any authority associated with his public office” to suggest that the federal government “sanctions or endorses his personal activities or those of another.” In this case, Sanders used her official Twitter account to urge Trump supporters to crash The Times’ switchboard.
Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer in the latter part of the George W. Bush administration, was even more blunt. He believes that in a normal White House, this would be a firing offense.
Painter told Newsweek that by urging Trump diehards to flood The Times, Sanders was “using her official position to interfere with freedom of the press”–and in a manner that was even more egregious than Trump’s 280-character rants about the mainstream media being “the enemy of the people.”
So now we know that Sanders doesn’t care about the truth or basic decency, or even ethics rules and the First Amendment. But hey, all she’s doing is just giving his message.
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