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Bill Shine Departing White House Under Ethical Cloud

Bill Shine, the former president of Fox News, resigned from his position as White House communications director on Friday, the fifth person to leave that role under President Donald Trump. He will be joining the president’s re-election campaign, which is not an uncommon transition for a White House official to make mid-term.

But Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, pointed out that there’s an ominous cloud hanging over Shine’s White House tenure:

Indeed, New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer found in a bombshell article this week that Shine has been receiving a $7 million payout from Fox News while he’s been working at the White House. Some speculated it may even have been Mayer’s revelations that triggered Shine’s departure.

“In December, four Democratic senators sent a letter to the White House counsel’s office, demanding proof that Fox’s payments to Shine don’t violate federal ethics and conflict-of-interest statutes,” said Mayer.

“Because Bill Shine had Fox stock options, the criminal conflict of interest law required him to recuse from any ‘particular matter’ affecting Fox’s interests. A ‘particular matter’ includes a matter affecting an industry (news media) or parties (the outlets with WH credentials),” said Shaub Friday on Twitter.

The pulling of the press credentials, mentioned in the tweet above, refers an incident in which Trump’s White House pulled CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s pass in November 2018. CNN challenged the decision in court and won immediate relief, and the White House essentially backed down. But Shine had initially signed a letter revoking the pass, a decision Shaub now suggests he shouldn’t have been involved in.

“Shine received an authorization under an impartiality regulation to meet with Fox. But that authorization did not waive the conflict of interest law. I wonder if anyone can explain how the WH communications director meets with Fox without affecting its financial interests,” said Shaub. “I have no idea why Shine resigned, and I’m not implying these things caused his resignation. But these are things the media ought to be asking the WH about. Fox News could start by sharing information about any meetings it had with Bill Shine. Or does state media not do that?”

Shine’s highly dubious arrangement receiving pay from both the White House and Fox News at the same time, all the while making government decisions that affect Fox’s bottom line, raises serious concerns. But the fact that these highly irregular conflicts have gone largely under the radar also speaks to the fact that Trump’s administration is so wildly scandalous that many people may feel they’re able to get away with behavior that would not otherwise be tolerated.

White House Comms Chief Shine Ousted As Scandals Explode

Bill Shine, Trump’s sixth communications director in just over two years and the disgraced former co-president of Fox News, resigned on Friday from his White House position.

“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life,” he said in a statement. He will be working for Trump’s re-election campaign as an adviser.

His ouster comes as numerous Trump scandals are rising in the public consciousness, some of them directly involving Shine. During his tenure, Shine was unable to do anything to improve Trump’s popularity, which has never risen above 45 percent, while his unfavorable rating has held at 54 percent.

Trump reportedly blamed Shine for the overwhelmingly negative public reaction to his decision to shut down the federal government over his racist border wall.

The New York Times reported that during the shutdown, Trump repeatedly asked people “whether Mr. Shine has been ‘good’ for him.” Trump also belittled a meaningless photo-op at the border that had been arranged by the communications chief, blaming the propaganda moment on “these people behind you” as he pointed to Shine and other aides while speaking to the Times.

During Shine’s tenure at Fox News, he presided over the massive cover-up of sexual abuse by network founder Roger Ailes.

Despite his work covering up abuse — or perhaps because of it — Trump went ahead and hired the former Ailes aide. Trump himself is an admitted sexual assailant.

Shine was recommended by Fox News host Sean Hannity, a fan of Trump’s and one of his most high-profile propagandists, who functions as a shadow chief of staff for the White House. For years, Shine was a producer on Hannity’s show.

Trump is also facing multiple revelations about his unethical and possibly criminal conduct, including violating federal law by paying off porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election — a story Fox News reportedly had and killed prior to the election to help Trump win, while Shine was still at Fox.

Trump has maintained that public relations are the key to avoiding the consequences of his actions, but Shine was unable to convince Americans to look away from Trump’s misdeeds. And Trump has struggled to keep communications directors and spokespeople — as well as Cabinet members and other top officials — at the White House.

By comparison, President Barack Obama had five communications directors over eight years. George W. Bush had four during his two terms.

Getting rid of Bill Shine won’t stop Trump from being Trump, which is Trump’s biggest problem.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Report: Top White House Aides Losing Patience With Trump

 

President Donald Trump’s White House and administration have seen unprecedented turnover, and according to a new report from Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman, the boss is continuing to frustrate and alienate many of his top advisers.

Sherman reported that Communications Director Bill Shine, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and economic adviser Larry Kudlow are all growing frustrated with Trump, particularly after the disastrous government shutdown.

The report explained:

White House Communications Director Bill Shine has told friends he’s angry that Trump has singled him out for the bad press during the government shutdown. “Bill is like, ‘you’re the guy who steps on the message more than anyone,’” said a Republican who’s spoken with Shine recently. Economic adviser Larry Kudlow has told people he’s probably got six months left. “Larry’s really tired of it all,” a source close to Kudlow said.

…The special privileges and access afforded to Kushner and Ivanka have been alienating Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. “Mick is not entirely thrilled with the family,” a Republican close to Mulvaney told me. Multiple sources said Mulvaney is looking for a way out of the West Wing. He’s said to be interested in a Cabinet position, either at the Commerce Department or Treasury, and he’s reportedly been pursuing the University of South Carolina presidency. A senior White House official recently lobbied a friend of Mulvaney’s to convince Mulvaney to stay.

Sherman also reported that Trump was generally pleased with the reaction to his State of the Union, which drew some praise from conservative corners.

But the continuing dysfunction in the White House — and Trump’s reported habit of primarily relying on his family members — indicates that the president’s worst tendencies are not abating. He’s not capable of running a well-managed administration that competently handles complex situations as they arise or creates effective decision-making procedures to drive a positive political agenda.

“Trump is hated by everyone inside the White House,” a former White House official reportedly told Sherman. “It’s total misery. People feel trapped.”

Why New York’s District Attorney Should Reopen That Fox News Investigation

For well over three decades, Robert M. Morgenthau served as the Manhattan District Attorney. A law enforcement legend, Morgenthau became renowned for his zealous pursuit of white-collar offenders.

He believed that “crime in the suites” deserved to be punished just as consistently as crime in the streets — and as a former federal prosecutor, he ignored minor issues such as jurisdiction when he thought justice needed to be done. And he sought expansive interpretations of law wherever he saw the federal government failing to do justice.

Recently I asked a ranking federal prosecutor who once worked for D.A. Morgenthau whether his old boss would have allowed Fox News Channel executives to escape accountability for the crimes of Roger Ailes and their alleged concealment of those crimes from auditors and shareholders.

The answer was a resounding “NO.”

Before New Yorkers first elected him D.A. in 1974, Morgenthau had served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District, appointed by President Kennedy. He resisted fiercely when Richard Nixon sought to remove him under dubious circumstances in 1969. So he would understand the predicament of Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney abruptly fired by Trump last year, after Bharara commenced an investigation of Trump’s friend Ailes and the company’s hidden payoffs to the women he tormented.

As reviewed in this space yesterday, that investigation potentially implicated top executives at Fox, continuing for several months after Ailes died in May 2017. Among those subpoenaed to explain how Fox had paid off those women and concealed those illicit payments was former Fox vice president Bill Shine, who was eventually fired by the network — and then appointed deputy White House chief of staff by Trump last month.

Yet somehow during the period when federal prosecutors questioned Shine and his appointment by Trump, the Fox News investigation went “dormant,” according to major news outlets. During that same period, the acting U.S. Attorney who had replaced Bharara, his former deputy Joon Kim, was replaced in turn by Geoffrey Berman — a former managing partner at Greenberg Traurig, whose clients had included Ailes and News Corp, the parent company of Fox News. Berman was personally interviewed by Trump and recommended by his former law partner Rudolph Giuliani, a confidant of both Ailes and Trump.

Many troubling questions remain unanswered in this matter. When did the Southern District end the investigation of Fox News? Why did prosecutors decide to drop the case? Did Berman recuse himself from that decision? Why was Shine called to testify in that investigation? What was he asked, and what were his answers? Did the White House or the FBI conduct due diligence when Shine was appointed to one of the most powerful positions in government?

Indeed, very little in this narrative inspires confidence — and the absence of transparency only inflames suspicions of wrongdoing. But there is a potential remedy under law.

If crimes were committed in the suites at Fox, those offenses occurred in Manhattan — where Morgenthau’s successor, Cyrus Vance, Jr. now serves as District Attorney. Fairly or not, Vance’s own integrity has been questioned over his decision not to prosecute the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault. Although Vance insists he rejected prosecution of Weinstein due solely to a lack of evidence, that decision is currently under examination by the New York Attorney General.

Should he wish to affirm his integrity and fearlessness, Vance should look into the Fox News case — where a sexual predator just as monstrous as Weinstein escaped punishment for years because his employer, a publicly held company, secretly paid out tens of millions of dollars to hide his misdeeds. For reasons that remain suspiciously opaque, New York’s federal prosecutor let that case lapse. And now a key witness sits in one of the most sensitive positions in the Trump White House, which is notorious for failing to properly vet top officials.

It’s time for Vance should ask himself: “What would Morgenthau do?”