An enduring ethics question of the Trump White House has been answered.
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon sold his stake in Cambridge Analytica — the controversial data firm Donald Trump’s campaign employed to reach voters with hyper-targeted online messaging — in April, as required by his ethics requirement.
But Bannon only notified the government of the sale in November, three months after he had left the White House and one month after McClatchy asked him whether he still had an interest in the company. He was fined for the late report about the sale, joining a growing number of Trump administration officials who have been fined for late ethics filings.
Bannon’s report wasn’t approved by ethics officials at the White House and the Office of Government ethics until February.
He also sold his stake in the production company Glittering Steel, LLC in April, according to the report.
Bannon and the White House did not return requests for comment about the report and the delays in its submission and approval.
Bannon also filed his termination report – which federal law requires within 30 days after leaving office — in late December, after receiving a 45-day extension. His filing came more than a month after McClatchy had asked Bannon and other departed White House staffers about the status of their termination reports.
Termination reports provide information about potential conflicts of interest that existed when the staffer was employed by the government and any arrangements the staffer had for future employment once leaving the government.
Bannon was supposed to sell his $1 million to $5 million stake in Cambridge Analytica while he served in the administration as part of his ethics agreement, but it was never clear if he did until now.
While Bannon has departed the White House, he has continued to make news. Comments he made about Trump and his family to author Michael Wolff for his book Fire and Fury, which came out in early January, caused a possibly irreparable breach with the president. In addition, he has been a vocal critic of the Gulf nation of Qatar; a firm with the same parent company as Cambridge Analytica was hired by the United Arab Emirates in September to launch a social media campaign against Qatar.
Last week, Bannon was interviewed twice by investigators with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Moscow. He also spoke with the House Intelligence Committee, though members of that panel, frustrated that Bannon hasn’t been more forthcoming, are considering action against him that could include holding him in contempt.
The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who both serve as senior advisers in the White House, have been fined for late financial transaction reports, Kushner twice. Former deputy national security advisers K.T. McFarland and Dina Powell were also both fined for late transaction reports, Powell twice. A National Security Council spokesman previously said Powell’s late filings were due to computer error. Sean Cairncross, former senior adviser to the chief of staff and a nominee to lead the federal Millennium Challenge Corporation, had a late filing fine waived for a late report.
Late fees on such reports are relatively rare. They were assessed on only 3.6 percent of the more than 12,000 periodic transaction reports filed by federal government employees in 2016, according to an OGE survey of all executive branch agencies.
Under federal law, filers who are required to publicly report their finances must pay a $200 fine if they file a report more than 30 days late. The fine can be waived if the White House ethic’s officer determines the late filing was due to "extraordinary circumstances . . . which made the delay reasonably necessary," including the agency’s failure to notify a worker of the need to file the disclosure report.