On Feb. 10, President Trump had a meeting at Mar-A-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Trump and Abe discussed state affairs – including North Korea launching a missile toward Japan – in a controversial meeting that took place in a public dining area at Trump’s Florida golf club in Palm Beach.
The point of contention on the meeting wasn’t its content, but that Mar-A-Lago members pay a membership fee of $200,000 (doubled from the previous $100,000) that gives them “access to the president” – allowing them to be present in the dining area where Trump held the meeting.
There are reports that there were documents visible to patrons in the restaurant, and that Donald Trump and Abe were talking about North Korea launching a missile towards Japan among other things.
“The part that might involve illegality is sharing classified information,” said Political Science Professor and LEAP Center Director Richard Yawn. “That’s just a matter of whether the [information] was classified and whether his actions were illegal according to the protection of that information.”
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway is facing discipline of her own after supporting Ivanka Trump’s brand on national television – which is against policy for government employees.
After Nordstrom and other retailers decided to pull the brand from their shelves, Conway went onto live television and told viewers that they should go out and buy her products.
“I think this is interesting if minor,” Yawn said. “According to ethics rules laid out by President [George] H.W. Bush, ‘an employee shall not use his public office for […] the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise.’”
Yawn believes that Conway did break the rules in promoting Ivanka Trump’s brand and advocating that viewers “go buy it today everybody, you can find it online.”
“The rules particularly highlight things like appearing in a commercial or using the endorsement opportunity for financial gain,” Yawn said. “So this may be an infraction that ranks low on the scale of egregiousness, but it appears pretty clear. Apparently the White House enforces the penalty for this type of thing, and the White House [has] ‘counseled’ Conway, so that might be the punishment for the violation.”
Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor, stepped down from his position on February 13 due to pressures concerning his communication with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
According to his resignation letter, he “inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.”
“The Flynn case is an issue because he didn’t tell the truth to his boss,” Yawn said. “Since bosses need to trust their subordinates and advisors, it’s a fireable offence.”
Flynn is also currently under investigation because he’s been accused of taking money from the Russian government in 2015.
“[…]He took money from a media source, but since much of what happens in Russia is owned by the government, it’s considered taking money from the government,” Yawn added. “Flynn apparently informed the defense department, but did not inform or get approved by congress.”
If Flynn did in fact take money from a government entity in Russia, then as a former military official Flynn may have committed a crime – though Yawn said that this is murky.