Trump’s Interior Dept Removes ‘Sexual Orientation’ From Ethics Guide

Donald Trump

The Trump administration just can’t stop trying to erase the LGBTQ community.

The Department of the Interior removed language regarding lesbian, gay and bisexual people from its anti-discrimination guidelines.

According to HuffPost, the words “sexual orientation” were removed from the department’s ethics manual.

On page four of the 2017 edition of the manual regarding Basic Obligations of Public Service, one principle reads, “You shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunities for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, or handicap.”

However, the 2009 version of the ethics guide – during Barack Obama’s administration – included the categories “race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.”

Bolding is mine.

HuffPost also reports that on his first day on the job in August 2017, then-Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt redlined the words “sexual orientation” on an email to agency staff.

When HuffPost asked the Interior Department about the edits, agency spokesperson Carol Danko replied saying the new language – substituting the word “sex” for “gender” and “sexual orientation” – was merely an effort to avoid redundancy.

“Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under Title VII the term ‘sex’ includes gender, gender identity, transgender status, sexual orientation, and pregnancy,” Danko told HuffPost.

The confusing part of that statement is the Trump administration’s Department of Justice recently took the completely opposite position on the issue at the U.S. Supreme Court. The DOJ argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not provide protections for LBG people via the word “sex” in the legislation.

Assuring HuffPost that the Interior Department has “zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind,” Danko told the news site that since Bernhardt became the agency chief in April 2019, “our internal policies have been redrafted with a broader brushstroke to explicitly capture inappropriate conduct beyond the legal standards of harassment and discrimination such as political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, and status as a parent.”

However the Interior Department parses this language, the fact is the Trump administration has led a continued assault on LGBTQ people since Donald Trump took office.

GLAAD has been tracking the many ways the community has been diminished or erased since January 2017 including banning transgender people from serving in the military, making no mention of the LGBTQ community in World AIDS Day proclamations, and allowing tax-payer funded adoption agencies to use “religious beliefs” to deny placing children in homes of LGBTQ couples.

(source: HuffPost, GLAAD)

Ethics Office: Kellyanne Conway Should Be Fired For Violating Hatch Act

Kellyanne Conway

The office that oversees ethics for the White House has recommended that White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed from federal service after repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which “prohibits government employees from making political statements while acting in an official capacity,” according to CBS News.

The Office of the Special Counsel — the ethics office for the White House, which is unrelated to former special counsel Robert Mueller — sent a report to the president Thursday finding that Conway had violated the act “on numerous occasions” by criticizing Democratic presidential candidates in TV interviews and on social media.

While the president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act, that privilege does not extend to federal employees.

“Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law,” the OSC said in the letter to Mr. Trump, calling Conway a “repeat offender.”

Click to enlarge

Conway has laughed at the violations in the past.

“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” she told reporters in May. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

News Round-Up: September 15, 2017

Ian Ziering

Some news items you may have missed:

• #FlashbackFriday to when 90210/Sharknado star headlined in Las Vegas as the Chippendales’ Celebrity Guest host. Clearly, Ian had that “action hero” bod ready to rock.

• The ACLU has filed a preliminary injunction asking a court to immediately halt Trump’s proposed ban on transgender folks in the U.S. military.

• For the second time in two weeks, Donald Trump made a point of not being able to fit his hands into  protective gloves visiting sites hit by recent hurricanes. Get it? “These are too small, my hands are too big, just like my anatomy…” #sad

• White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been hit with an ethics complaint for calling for the firing of an ESPN employee. Federal law states executive branch employees are prohibited from influencing the employment decisions or practices of a private entity or company “solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.”

• The White House says former FBI Director violated  federal laws when he shared a memo he wrote detailing Donald Trump’s request to “drop” the investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. But fact checkers say not so.

• Harvard University invited, then uninvited, Chelsea Manning to be a visiting Fellow.

Happy Friday!

A post shared by Steve Raider (@steve_raider) on Sep 15, 2017 at 1:02pm PDT

Trump Under Fire For Promoting $40 Campaign Hat During Hurricane Harvey

I remember when I saw the photo of Donald Trump wearing that silly red hat during his Hurricane Harvey teleconference wondering, “Why is he wearing that hat?”

Now we know.

The Trumpster is coming under fire for promoting a $40 campaign hat on sale at his website while tending to Hurricane Harvey.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has raised questions as well as Trump’s former head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), Walter Shaub.

News Round-Up: March 10, 2017

Some news items you may have missed:

• Don’t forget to turn your clocks forward early Sunday morning. Of course, I have my own thoughts on the subject above.

• Arnold Schwarzenegger is trolling President Trump with rumors of a possible run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

The Washington Blade, which the New York Times rightfully calls the “newspaper of record for the LGBT community,” is set to launch a west coast sister publication, the Los Angeles Blade.

• The Office of Government Ethics isn’t happy with the White House deciding to let Kellyanne Conway off with just a slap on the wrist after promoting Ivanka Trump’s merchandise line at Nordstroms.

• With a shortage of Catholic priests, the Pope signals he may be open to allowing married men be priests.

• Out singer/songwriter Wrabel follows up his hit “11 Blocks” with new single, “Bloodstain:” “I’m used to wearing my heart on my sleeve but this time it’s bleeding. I would rather love and bleed than never feel love at all.” Watch the lyric video below.

Did White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway Violate Federal Laws?

Ethics experts are amazed at a promotional shout out from White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway today on FOX News.

Kellyanne Conway used an interview from the White House this morning to officially endorse the Ivanka Trump product line at Nordstrom department store, a clear violation of federal law.

A federal employee (that would be Ms. Conway) may not “use his public office for his own private gain [or] for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated…”

And this was clearly an endorsement. Conway said, “This is just wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

UPDATE – Congressman Elijah Cummings has sent a formal request for potential disciplinary action regarding Conway’s “free commercial.” See below – click on image to enlarge.

Breaking: House Republicans Reverse On Gutting Ethics Rules Change

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

House Republicans have now u-turned on their plan to gut the Congressional independent ethics panel.

From CNN:

House Republican leaders have pulled a proposal that would gut its independent ethics panel, amid widespread criticism of the plan, multiple lawmakers tell CNN.

The decision comes less than two hours after President-elect Donald Trump criticized the timing of the vote, which was scheduled for the first day of the new congressional session.

Trump called out his fellow Republicans Tuesday for proposing to curb the powers of the independent ethics panel as their first move of the year, although the President-elect suggested the ethics panel was “unfair.”

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it … may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,” Trump said over two consecutive tweets.

The decision came after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters the vote was moving forward. He admitted he opposed the change and said he believed it should be done in a “bipartisan fashion” but said House Speaker Paul Ryan created an open process and “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

House Republicans voted 119-74 during a closed-door meeting in favor of Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposal, which would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those very lawmakers, a move that outraged Democrats and outside ethics organizations. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on it as part of a larger rules package up for consideration Tuesday.

Did Marco Rubio Just Violate Senate Ethics Rules On Fundraising?

Rubio gave an interview to Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Tuesday, speaking from the Russell Senate Office Building. When asked about lagging behind some of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, the senator attempted to tout the strength of his fundraising.

In doing so, however, Rubio made a direct appeal for donations.

“I knew we wouldn’t be the leading fundraiser in this race, because we are not the top choice of the entrenched political establishment,” Rubio told Cavuto. “But I’m confident we have the resources and continue to build the resources to be able to communicate our message. And obviously if somebody watching this program wants to help us, they should go to marcorubio.com and chip in.”

According to Senate ethics rules, “Senate Members and staff may not receive or solicit campaign contributions in any federal building.”

(via Huffington Post)

FBI Launches Investigation Into Aaron Schock Campaign Expenses

Earlier this week, Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock surprised many with his sudden resignation from Congress.  Many saw the departure as a way to escape an ethics investigation.

That may have ended the congressional ethics issue, but now the FBI is looking into his campaign fund expenses which could lead to serious legal troubles.

From CNN:

Schock in recent days announced plans to resign, citing controversy surrounding allegations that he improperly accounted for travel and other contributions from donors and reimbursements for campaign use of a personal car. But the probe managed by prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Springfield, Ill., means his legal troubles are just beginning.

The FBI has now begun delivering subpoenas seeking testimony before a grand jury in Springfield, Ill.

A controversy that began with questions sparked by a light-hearted profile of Schock’s “Downton Abbey”-themed office ballooned into a full-blown scandal over the past month that caused the rising GOP star’s rapid fall from grace.

A U.S. law enforcement official says the investigation is at an early stage. Justice Department officials were monitoring published reports about Schock’s expense troubles and were taken by surprise when he announced his resignation, according to another U.S. law enforcement official.

Rep. Aaron Schock Reimburses Government $35,000 For Office Decor

Rep. Aaron Schock (L) talks with ABC News

USA Today is reporting that Congressman Aaron Schock has repaid the government $35,000 for office renovations after allegations of improper use of government funds.

“As he said he would, Congressman Schock has fulfilled his commitment to pay for all the renovation costs of the 18th Congressional District office in Washington,” said a statement released by Schock’s office Friday. “Even though office expenses are often covered by the Member Representational Allowance, the Congressman believed it appropriate to pay these costs himself as part of the office review process.”

USA TODAY has reported that Schock had spent more $100,000 than of his taxpayer-funded account on office renovations in prior years. The expenses included thousands for leather furniture, hardwood floors and marble countertops for his offices in his central Illinois congressional district.

According to the report, the government had apparently been paid $35,000 through Schock’s office. As the story now goes, his decorator refunded that $35,000 to the government and Schock then paid via his own personal funds.

Schock has drawn much attention lately for questionable real estate sales and expenses through his office.

He retained high powered ethics lawyers this week, and he’s announced full reviews of office spending to help ensure compliance with Congressional rules.