Donald Rumsfeld once famously said, “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns.”
If I’m being charitable, it looks like the Trump Administration may be running afoul of long standing ethical norms. There are lots of ethical and legal rules that apply to the West Wing, but the Trump team just may be such neophytes that they don’t know where the lines are.
From the now-deleted reference to her QVC jewelry line on the First Lady’s White House webpage, to Kellyanne Conway hawking Ivanka’s products live from the White House briefing room, to Trump’s use of his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate which is also the site of a private club in which he holds an interest, to his status as landlord to the Bank of China, to the President’s overall refusal to divest from his businesses, the Trump White House is stumbling over its shoe laces ethically and it seems that part of the problem is that it doesn’t know what it doesn’t know.
Now there’s news from Politico that the Trump team decided to forego ethics training for senior White House staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees. Apparently, the training was a casualty of when Vice President Mike Pence took over the transition from Chris Christie. Perhaps Pence did not believe the training was worth its $1 million price.
But if any administration needed some ethics training, it’s clearly one where the president, his chief of staff (Rence Priebus), and his chief strategist (Steven Bannon), have no government experience. And although White House Counsel Donald McGahn once was a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, he has no White House experience. While their ethics specialist, Deputy White House Counsel Stefan Passantino, has provided ethics training to House members, he also has no government or White House experience. Since the White House skipped the…