Dem senators ask Bannon for more info about Breitbart contact
© Greg Nash
Senate Democrats want White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon to clarify recent contact he's had with Breitbart News, the conservative outlet he once ran.
 
The senators also want to know if Bannon's contact with the site complies with ethics rules.
 
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas Sanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' MORE (Mass.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyRon Johnson calls cyber attacks an 'existential' threat following Colonial Pipeline shutdown Senators ask airlines to offer cash refunds for unused flight credits Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide MORE (Mass.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoMore than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House If you want Julie Su at the DOL, don't point to her resume MORE (Hawaii) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseLawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats Judge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction MORE (R.I.) sent letters Thursday to Bannon and Stefan Passantino, the White House's designated agency ethics official. 
 
"Given the clear restrictions on communicating with former employers outlined in Executive Order 13770, as well as regulatory requirements that you 'maintain the appearance of impartiality' regarding your former employers, we were concerned to hear about your recent communications with Breitbart News Network," the senators wrote in the letter to Bannon. 
 
They added that "your communications with Breitbart appear to violate the ethics pledge outlined in Executive Order 13770."
 
The senators point to a string of articles in their letter as proof of contact between Breitbart and Bannon, including reports that Bannon called Breitbart’s Washington political editor Matthew Boyle to complain about a critical article speculating that Reince Priebus's future as Trump's chief of staff was "in doubt."
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Executive agency employees have to sign an ethics pledge that includes a two-year ban from the date of their appointment on participating in "any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients," according to an order Trump signed in January. 
 
The senators asked both Bannon and Passantino whether the former Breitbart executive signed an ethics pledge. If he did, they want a copy of the agreement. 
 
They also want to know if Bannon received any guidance from White House counsel or the Office of Government Ethics over his ethics agreement or communicating with Breitbart, and if he was granted a waiver. 
 
A White House spokesperson told The Daily Beast late last month that every Trump appointee signed an ethics pledge and no White House employee has received a waiver. 
 
The senators are asking both Bannon and Passantino for an update on if he has been granted a waiver, and if the communications were a violation of ethics rules if Bannon was disciplined by White House counsel. 
 
Bannon has repeatedly been suspected of continued connections to Breitbart, with the chief strategist reportedly blamed within the White House after Breitbart ran a string of stories critical of Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. 
 
And Breitbart has had some struggles of its own with the relationship. Applying for congressional press credentials, the news outlet had to provide Bannon's letter of resignation as proof that he's no longer involved with the site's operations.
 
Ethics groups and Democrats have been putting pressure on the Trump administration for not doing enough to ensure transparency. Lawmakers sent a separate letter to Trump on Thursday asking him to release any ethics waivers and the White House visitor logs.