White House: It’s in ‘Public Interest’ for Staff to Skirt Ethics Rules to Meet With Fox News

It is “in the public interest” for the White House’s top communicator to be excused from federal ethics laws so he can meet with Fox News, according to President Donald Trump’s top lawyer.

Bill Shine, Trump’s newly minted communications director, and Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economist, who worked at CNBC before his White House post, have both been excused from provisions of the law, which seeks to prevent administration officials from advancing the financial interests of relatives or former employers.

“The Administration has an interest in you interacting with Covered Organizations such as Fox News,” wrote White House counsel Don McGahn in a July 13 memo granting an ethics waivers to Shine, a former Fox executive. “[T]he need for your services outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the White House Office’s programs and operations.”

Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.

Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.

The news media has been a particular object of those waivers. Early in the administration, after The Daily Beast questioned the propriety of then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s communications with employees of Breitbart News, the pro-Trump outlet he led before and after his White House tenure, the White House issued a blanket ethics waiver allowing all senior West Wing appointees to freely communicate with the press.

That move was widely seen as an effort to retroactively cover Bannon for previous meetings that would’ve otherwise run afoul of ethics rules—a move that may itself have constituted a violation of those rules.

Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.

Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.

The news media has been a particular object of those waivers. Early in the administration, after The Daily Beast questioned the propriety of then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s communications with employees of Breitbart News, the pro-Trump outlet he led before and after his White House tenure, the White House issued a blanket ethics waiver allowing all senior West Wing appointees to freely communicate with the press.

That move was widely seen as an effort to retroactively cover Bannon for previous meetings that would’ve otherwise run afoul of ethics rules—a move that may itself have constituted a violation of those rules.

[The Daily Beast]

Kudlow: Trudeau ‘stabbed us in the back’

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow repeatedly accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of “betrayal” and saying he “stabbed us in the back” for standing up to President Donald Trump after the G-7 meeting.

Speaking hours after Trump ordered the U.S. not to endorse the G-7 communique, Kudlow slammed Trudeau for a “sophomoric play” in holding a press conference after the G-7 meetings and saying Canadians “will not be pushed around.” Soon afterward, Trump tweeted that the U.S. would not participate in the G-7 communique agreed to earlier on Saturday.

“He really kind of stabbed us in the back,” said Kudlow, the White House National Economic Council director, speaking on CNN‘s “State of the Union.“

Kudlow, who said he was in the bilateral meeting with Trudeau and Trump, said the two leaders “were getting along famously.”

“We were very close to making a deal with Canada on NAFTA, bilaterally perhaps, and then we leave and Trudeau pulls this sophomoric, political stunt for domestic consumption.”

Kudlow told Jake Tapper he likes Trudeau personally, but that the Canadian leader was trying to score political points in attacking Trump.

“Trudeau made an error. He should take it back. He should pull back on his statements,” Kudlow said.

[Politico]

Reality

Trump left the G-7 and did a news conference bashing Canada on trade. Then Trudeau did a news conference in which he said the same things about the steel/aluminum tariffs he’s been saying for a week.

They were not close to making a bilateral NAFTA deal. He’s just making things up.

Ah, Kudlow finally explains what’s going on here: “Now, POTUS is not gonna let a Canadian prime minister push him around, push him, POTUS, around, President Trump, on the eve of this — he is not going to permit any show of weakness on a trip to negotiate with North Korea.”

So…per the White House, Trump is insulting the prime minister of Canada because he wants to impress Kim Jong Un.

Kudlow: ‘Don’t blame Trump’ for the trade conflicts he created

Top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow contended Wednesday that President Donald Trump should not be held responsible for mounting trade conflicts with American allies, as the president gets set to face world leaders angered by tariffs imposed by the U.S.

“Don’t blame Trump. Blame the nations that have broken away” from fair trade practices, he told reporters. The global trade system “is broken and President Trump is trying to fix it. And that’s the key point,” Kudlow added.

The National Economic Council director downplayed concerns about tensions with key American allies ahead of Trump’s trip to Canada at the end of the week for a summit with leaders of the Group of 7 economies. Trump recently imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from countries including the other six members — Canada, FranceGermanyItalyJapan and the United Kingdom — prompting retaliatory measures against the U.S.

The developments have prompted concerns about a trade war that could damage the U.S. economy or cause frayed relations with allies. The tariffs have sparked backlash not only abroad but at home, where Trump is trying to stop an effort from free trade Republicans to push back against the measures. Both U.S. lawmakers and foreign officials have questioned Trump’s national security justification for imposing the tariffs.

Ahead of Trump’s G-7 meetings, Kudlow, a former CNBC senior contributor, downplayed the prospect of a “trade war” with allies — calling the tensions “disputes that need to be solved.” He said he hopes the summit, where Trump will have bilateral talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, will lead to substantive discussions on trade.

Last week, the Trump administration said it would not exempt Canada, Mexico and the European Union from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The decision came as the U.S., Canada and Mexico have faltered in efforts to strike a revised North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump has long pledged to crack down on what he calls unfair trade practices and bad trade deals. He contends foreign countries had punished U.S. companies and stolen jobs away from American workers — one component of the appeal that carried him to the White House. Ultimately, he wants to increase U.S. exports and reduce trade deficits.

While numerous Republicans who support Trump — and Democrats who typically do not — have backed tough responses to alleged trade abuses by China, the tariffs on the key American allies brought the harshest response yet to Trump’s trade actions both domestically and abroad. Trudeau reportedly said he wanted to have “frank” talks with Trump during the G-7 meetings.

Asked whether Trump had damaged relations with Canada, Kudlow answered that he was not worried about temporary tensions.

“I have no doubt the United States and Canada will remain firm friends and allies,” Kudlow said.

The White House economic advisor also denied reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed for a tariff exemption for Canada during a meeting this week. Kudlow said both he and the Treasury secretary attended the meeting and did not say a word.

The U.S. has also sought help from allies as it tries to reach a deal to reduce trade deficits with China and stop alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property by Chinese companies. The U.S. has reached neither a broad deal with China to avoid potentially damaging tariffs, nor an agreement to revive Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, according to Kudlow.

He said he believes the rest of the world agrees with Trump about Chinese trade practices.

[CNBC]