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Former White House Ethics Czar Warns WH Staff Against Helping Trump With 'Fake News Awards'

As the Trump White House continues reeling over the potential legal ramifications of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, the president remains steadfast in painting the media as the problem, despite his own history of dishonesty and legally questionable behavior.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, President Trump suggested on Twitter: "We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!"

In response to President Trump's stated plan to host the 'Fake News Awards,' Former Obama White House Ethics Czar Norm Eisen tweeted a stern warning to Trump administration officials on Sunday: "WARNING to White House staff: the president may be exempt from the rules at 5 CFR § 2635.701 et seq. on misuse of position BUT YOU ARE NOT. If you help with the below, you risk violating §§ 702, 704 & 705 forbidding use of gov time & $$$ to harm some media & aid others."

Walter Schaub, former Director of the Office of Government Ethics, simplified the potential consequences in a direct tweet to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: "Hey & , Norm is right. If you or *ANY* WH staffers work on this or post it on the WH website, it will be a violation of the Standards of Conduct. Beware of laws on using federal appropriations too, if there are any visuals, certificates, handouts, or trophies."

On December 28, 2017, Trump's 2020 re-election campaign sent an email with the 'finalists,' according to a report from Axios. Recipients were encouraged to vote for one of three stories to be named the "King of Fake News:"

  1. "The ABC News story incorrectly claiming Trump ordered Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials while a candidate. He actually did this as president-elect. ABC has since corrected the story
  2. The CNN story claiming Trump and Trump Jr. were given access to WikiLeaks documents. This was actually publicly available information, and CNN has corrected the story.
  3. TIME reporting that a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. was removed from the Oval Office by Trump. TIME corrected that story, and the reporter apologized."

In response to the Axios story, White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino Jr. insists that White House staff have nothing to do with the 'Fake News Awards,' tweeting: "

Twitter users also had some suggestions for the president. One user, Libby Black, responded to Eisen: "Dear The Donald, Shouldn't you be working on your upcoming SOTU speech? Or is *this* it, and you just got the date wrong? Is *anybody* at the WH working on it? Does anybody at the WH even know how to write a SOTU speech? Sincerely, A Concerned Citizen"

The president habitually refers to negative press coverage as "fake news."

President Trump initially promised the awards ceremony would take place on January 7, but has postponed it: "The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated"

Trump doesn't want Fox included in his contest, though ironically, a Rasmussen Poll on November 30, 2017 showed that 40 percent of voters think pro-Trump Fox News should win the 'Fake News Awards.' CNN received 25 percent of the vote and MSNBC, which is known for its anti-Trump slant, only got 9 percent of the vote.