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The former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics said that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ tweet Saturday about being kicked out of a Virginia restaurant violated federal ethics laws, The Slate reported.
Walter Shaub, the federal government’s top ethics watchdog for five years until mid-2017, said the tweet was a violation of the law because Sanders used her government account -- instead of her personal Twitter account -- to address the issue.
“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. “It’s the same as if an ATF agent pulled out his badge when a restaurant tried to throw him/her out.”
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). It’s the same as if an ATF agent pulled out his badge when a restaurant tried to throw him/her out. https://t.co/Fj6OfBAdew— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 23, 2018
Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, on Friday night. She confirmed the incident with her Saturday tweet.
Sanders’ tweet from her official @PressSec account noted that the restaurant owner’s actions “say far more about her than about me.”
Sanders used her official govt account to condemn a private business for personal reasons. Seeks to coerce business by using her office to get public to pressure it. Violates endorsements ban too, which has an obvious corollary for discouraging patronage. Misuse reg covers both.— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 23, 2018
Shaub later tweeted that Sanders used her official government account “to condemn a private business for personal reasons.”
Former White House lawyer Ian Bassin said on Twitter that Sanders’ tweet would have been acceptable under her personal account, but not from her White House one.
“I think there’d have to be some argument that it was in service of the American people and not me personally. But read Sanders’ tweet. It doesn’t claim to be about public; the whole thing is ‘I’ and ‘me.’” Reads like it’s personal, which is fine from a personal account, not WH one,”” Bassin tweeted.
When I was a WH lawyer we trained all staff they couldn’t use their WH titles or resources (like Twitter acct) for personal uses like making restaurant reservations or promoting businesses. So yes, this tweet violates federal ethics rules. I’m sure Don McGahn will remind her. https://t.co/2t2JCVb5B7— Ian Bassin (@ianbassin) June 24, 2018
Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson said she personally asked Sanders to leave the restaurant.
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson told The Washington Post. “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.”
When asked to leave, Sanders’ response was immediate, Wilkinson told the Post. “‘That’s fine. I’ll go.’ ”
The Red Hen’s Facebook and Yelp pages were bombarded with reviews from people from both sides.
While some praised the restaurant, many others said the owner was being “intolerant.”
This comes after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen bolted from a Washington, D.C. Mexican restaurant after protesters confronted her at her table -- with the blessing of the manager.