Trump's 'Fake News Awards' Could Put Staff in a Pinch

Ethics rules likely bar them from helping out, say experts
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2018 1:30 PM CST
In this Jan. 10, 2018, file photo, President Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(Newser) – The "losers" are set to get their moment in the spotlight Wednesday, when President Trump will reportedly hold his "Fake News Awards," and its impending nature has spurred Politico and Politifact to speculate on what form it could take—and the thorns involved. The blind spot seems to mostly be around who else Trump might have involved in the prep and execution of the awards. Having any member of his White House staff pitch in would be a no-no, per comments by a trio of ethics experts who say ethics standards bar members of the executive branch—though not the president himself—from endorsing (or, in this case, anti-endorsing) private enterprises unless there is a "legitimate official government reason." (Politico gives the example of sounding the alarm on a bus company that was sidestepping safety regulations.)

But an ethics expert with Columbia Law School is less convinced this would be a problem. "It's got to be unrelated to the office. Criticizing the president's critics strikes me as related." While Politifact notes the US Office of Government Ethics employs 4,500 ethics officials, Politico reports the White House is actually the one tasked with enforcing ethics violations, so as one expert puts it, the most savage response could come from the "court of public opinion." Trump could ethically get support from other sources at his disposal: the Trump campaign or the RNC. The latter had no comment. White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino only vaguely offered that the awards are "from a campaign." GOP Sen. Jeff Flake on Sunday said that on the day of the awards, he plans to give a speech comparing Trump's attacks on the media to Stalin's, Bloomberg reports.

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