Vice President Mike Pence’s team is forcefully responding to attacks from a George Soros-funded organization on the vice president’s chief of staff Marc Short, telling Breitbart News that the attacks represent “disgraceful hypocrisy.”
Earlier this week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)—a left-wing group that purports to be a watchdog organization but is actually a leftist group funded by Democrat billionaire George Soros—filed a formal complaint against Short. The organization issued a press release calling the complaint against Short a “criminal complaint,” which is technically inaccurate since only the Justice Department can bring a criminal complaint against somebody.
The group is now led by Walter Shaub, a former government ethics official. Before heading over to run the Soros-funded CREW, Shaub was the director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) for the end of former President Barack Obama’s administration and the beginning of President Trump’s administration. During that timeframe, Shaub actually oversaw—and his office approved—financial disclosures for Trump administration officials at the beginning. One such official was Short—whose financial arrangement Shaub’s office signed off on before now criticizing it in this CREW filing.
“By criticizing Marc Short’s ethics arrangement submitted to the office he ran, when he ran it, and then certified by that office three times, Walter Shaub has reached the pinnacle of disgraceful hypocrisy,” Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley told Breitbart News. “Marc has done nothing improper, and this accusation is so pathetic and intellectually dishonest that CREW donors should consider asking for a refund.”
Several other experts on government ethics reviewed the charges for Breitbart News and determined Shaub’s claims against Short to be similarly baseless.
“As someone who has called out plenty of Republicans and Democrats for conflict of interest and insider trading on the stock market, this is a silly and ridiculous charge. Period,” Peter Schweizer, the president of the Government Accountability Institute and a senior contributor to Breitbart News, said.
Jim Schultz, an attorney who was associate White House counsel to President Trump and now is the chair of government and regulatory matters for the law firm Cozen O’Connor, as well as a political and legal contributor to CNN, also ripped Shaub in a statement to Breitbart News.
“My thoughts on this are that Walt Schaub is nothing more than a political operative funded by left-wing organizations masquerading as a watchdog,” Schultz said. “He’s blatantly engaging in the politics of character assassination. In this particular instance, he’s relying upon pure speculation and I believe it to be disingenuous that he would so much as raise a complaint given the fact that he and his staff were involved at the outset of the administration with Marc Short’s ethics filings. For him to now cry foul because of Marc’s inability to divest of his assets is nothing more than a political stunt. Furthermore, he knows all too well that the job and duties of chief of staff to the vice president would rarely rise to the level where Marc would need to recuse himself. However, in instances where he was required to recuse, the administration has publicly stated that he has done so.”
Nonetheless, the complaint alleges that Short—Pence’s chief of staff—has holdings in several major companies that were directly involved in the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Obviously, since Pence is the chairman of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, tapped by the president to lead the U.S. government response to the pandemic, his chief of staff Short would be in a series of meetings with private sector partners to the administration’s response.
In a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray, Shaub and CREW’s executive director, Noah Bookbinder, demand an investigation into whether Short “violated the primary conflict of interest law applicable to executive branch employees.”
BREAKING: CREW has filed a criminal complaint against VP Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short. New evidence shows he participated personally and substantially in particular matters affecting companies whose stock he held while leading the COVID-19 response.https://t.co/nHFZyv0wYw
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 4, 2020
As evidence, the CREW officials point to an article on the website of National Public Radio (NPR) by Tim Mak from May 28 headlined: “Pence Chief Of Staff Owns Stocks That Could Conflict With Coronavirus Response.”
Mak has a history of printing fake news, dating back years. During his time at the Daily Beast, for instance, in 2015 he falsely reported that then-candidate Donald Trump raped his ex-wife Ivana Trump. As Breitbart News reported at the time, just days after Trump entered the 2016 presidential primary, Mak was the co-author of a 1,700-word article that claimed Ivana Trump alleged Donald Trump raped her. CNN, of all places, shot down—with a statement from none other than Ivana Trump dismissing the false report—what amounted to probably the first vicious fake news attack that now-President Trump has faced in a very long line of them over his years now in politics.
The taxpayer-funded NPR has since hired Mak, and in this latest hit on the Trump team, he claims that Short’s financial holdings represent a potential conflict of interest in the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic. While sources familiar with the matter told Breitbart News that several other media outlets passed on the story that Mak eventually ran—it was being pitched by somebody to several outlets, who one by one declined to run it after looking into the specifics—what he claimed is that Short holds stock in many of the U.S. companies that were central players in the bresponse to the pandemic. Mak wrote:
Many of the medical, pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies – including 3M, Abbott Laboratories, Gilead Sciences, Procter & Gamble, Medtronic, Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson – in which Short and his wife hold stock have been directly affected by or involved in the work of the coronavirus task force chaired by Pence. Other companies among his holdings, such as CVS, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Walmart and Roche, have been publicly touted by the White House for their work with the federal government on the coronavirus response.
A sign of who may have been pushing this narrative to the several media outlets who passed on the story—and to Mak, who eventually ran the hit piece on Short—is who is quoted in it criticizing Short: CREW’s senior adviser, Shaub. Shaub then turned around and used the NPR piece to frame the hit on Short in the letter to the FBI, which set off a series of media attacks against the vice president’s chief of staff.
Despite that, the CREW letter does not actually cite any alleged conduct by Short that would violate conflict rules. it just strings together that Short was at a series of meetings with companies in which his personal financial disclosure form shows holdings. But,the holdings at issue are all held by Short in generation-skipping trusts—which were created by relatives of his who have since passed away, created for the benefit of Short’s children.
The CREW letter continued by noting that Mak’s story in NPR noted that Short “had not divested his stock interests.”
Short did twice from OGE seek a formal certificate of divestiture (CD) to divest from any and all investments, but was denied twice—including one time when Shaub was still leading OGE. But again, since Short does not control or own several of these holdings—including the ones at issue in the CREW complaint and NPR story—he would technically not be able to divest from those, and as such was denied a CD when it comes to other investments. Government officials regularly seek such a CD, which allows them to avoid capital gains taxes when entering government – an incentive to serve the country – but sometimes are denied them for various reason. In Short’s case it appears to be because he would not have been able to divest from the generation-skipping trusts in his family for his children since he does not control them.
CREW did not reply to a request for comment from Breitbart News for this story.