Trump Waives Ethics Rules for Top Pence Aide to Meet With PAC

  • Nick Ayers previously worked for Pence’s leadership committee
  • Ayers called for purge of GOP lawmakers in meeting with donors

The White House waived ethics rules for Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, allowing him to meet with political organizations he worked with previously, according to a document released Thursday.

The undated, unsigned “limited waiver” permits Nick Ayers to participate in meetings and make decisions on specific matters with former clients and employers, but doesn’t name them. Before he joined Pence’s staff, Ayers worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, co-founded America First Policies, a nonprofit that supports Trump, and served as spokesman for Great America Committee, Pence’s leadership PAC.

Pence, left and Ayers.

Photographer: Zurab Kurtsikidze/AP Photo

America First Policies has been politically active in 2017, spending $3.3 million on digital political ads, including $904,510 to support Senator Luther Strange’s failed bid in special and runoff elections in Alabama. Strange, who had the backing of the GOP establishment, lost to Roy Moore, a former state supreme court judge. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House adviser, backed Moore.

On Oct. 3, Ayers told GOP donors at a closed-door meeting that there should be a “purge” of Republican lawmakers who don’t support Trump and his agenda. Ayers also suggested donors contribute their money to committees and super PACs that would attack GOP incumbents. His remarks stirred a growing backlash within the party by voters and well-heeled contributors frustrated that Republicans haven’t won a significant legislative victory despite having the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Under federal ethics rules, political appointees are supposed to recuse themselves from matters involving former employers and clients for one year. Trump signed an ethics order in January that extended the recusal period to two years. The rules can be waived when the government’s interest outweighs the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Ayers, a longtime adviser to Pence, joined his staff in July. He served as the vice president’s campaign manager in the 2016 race, and was a senior adviser to the presidential transition team.

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