Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws

The former director of the Office of Government Ethics said on Saturday that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s decision to tweet about being kicked out of a Virginia restaurant violated ethics laws.

Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., on Friday night, but confirmed the incident in a Saturday morning tweet.

“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for [President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE] and I politely left,” Sanders tweeted. “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

Walter ShaubWalter Michael ShaubPence lands in controversy with stay at Trump hotel Ex-ethics chief rips Trump July 4 event as 'taxpayer-funded campaign ad' Here are the top paid White House staffers MORE, the federal government's former top ethics watchdog, tweeted that Sanders's response, which was made from her official White House account, was a clear violation of federal law.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Sarah, I know you don’t care even a tiny little bit about the ethics rules, but using your official account for this is a clear violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a),” Shaub tweeted Saturday, referencing the law that states government employees cannot use public office for private gain.

“It’s the same as if [a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] agent pulled out his badge when a restaurant tried to throw him/her out,” he added.

The tweet also violated the endorsements ban, Shaub argued, since Sanders’s tweet was “an obvious corollary for discouraging patronage."

“She can lob attacks on her own time but not using her official position,” he added in another tweet.

Stephanie Wilkinson, the co-owner of the restaurant, said she asked Sanders and her family to leave because of previous comments she had made defending the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military members.

The restaurant employs several LGBT employees, some of whom voiced concerns over having to serve Sanders, Wilkinson told The Washington Post.

“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson added. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”

Wilkinson blasted the Trump administration as “inhumane and unethical.”

Shaub, who had previously clashed with Trump over the president's business interests, resigned last year, leaving office nearly six months before the end of his term.

He frequently criticizes the Trump administration and called on another Trump spokeswoman, White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayVaping advocates feel confident Trump will turn from flavor ban Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Krystal Ball praises former McConnell aide's historic win in Kentucky MORE, to be fired for violating the Hatch Act.