GOP convention features 15 speakers with legal or ethical issues


The swamp is on full display at the Republican National Convention this week.

Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 on a promise of ethics reform. This week, he released a 50-point agenda for a second term, again promising that he would "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, at least 14 of the announced speakers for the 2020 Republican National Convention have been accused of legal or ethical wrongdoing — including Trump himself.

Donald Trump

From the beginning of his term, Trump has been battling legal and ethical issues. He is being sued for violation of the emoluments clause of Article 1 of the Constitution, which includes a ban on the acceptance by government officials of "any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." The House of Representatives impeached Trump last December for abusing his office and obstruction; though most members of the Senate believed he behaved improperly, the chamber acquitted him anyway. His companies are also under investigation for insurance and bank fraud and for inflating the value of their assets. Trump has repeatedly denied ever doing anything wrong.

Ivanka Trump

An ethics watchdog group and two Democratic senators asked the Office of Government Ethics to investigate Trump's elder daughter and White House adviser last month. They flagged social media posts by Ivanka Trump advertising Goya Foods products after the company's CEO publicly praised her father. The White House dismissed the concern, saying she had acted "in her personal capacity."

As part of an order issued by the New York Supreme Court in October 2019 and a settlement with New York Attorney General Letitia James, Ivanka and her brothers Eric and Don Jr. were ordered to undergo mandatory training in how to operate a charity. The three and and their father were all defendants in a lawsuit against the now-shuttered Donald J. Trump Foundation alleging misuse of funds.

Donald Trump Jr.

The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee told the Department of Justice in June 2019 that they believed several people around Donald Trump had provided misleading testimony during the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported earlier this month. Among the people named were Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., who had participated in a 2016 meeting with a Russian operative who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump's lawyer denied the allegations, telling the paper, "We are fully confident in the testimony and information provided by Donald J. Trump, Jr."

Eric Trump

New York Attorney General Letitia James said earlier this week that she is investigating whether the Trump Organization improperly claimed inflated asset values. Donald Trump's son Eric, who now leads the day-to-day operations of his father's company, cancelled an interview with James' office and refused to comply with a subpoena. He cited the "rights afforded to every individual under the Constitution," the Fifth Amendment to which protects individuals from self-incrimination.

Kimberly Guilfoyle

The Trump campaign fundraising chair and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. reportedly left her position as a Fox News host in 2018 after a human resources investigation into sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behavior. Six sources told HuffPost that she showed photographs of men's genitals to colleagues. Her lawyer denied the allegations: "Any accusations of Kimberly engaging in inappropriate work-place conduct are unequivocally baseless and have been viciously made by disgruntled and self-interested employees."

Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was reportedly being investigated by his department's inspector general when Donald Trump announced he would remove the watchdog from his position. The investigation stemmed from allegations that Pompeo improperly had an aide do personal errands. Pompeo denied wrongdoing.

The speech Pompeo broadcast from Jerusalem on Tuesday to the Republican National Convention has raised ethics concerns: House Democrats plan to investigate whether it violated the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by federal employees while they're on the job.

Kellyanne Conway

In June 2019, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined that Trump's White House counselor had "violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media." The same office had made a similar determination about Conway's behavior in March 2018. Though the report recommended Conway be "removed from federal service," Trump dismissed it as an unfair attempt to "take away right of free speech."

Rudy Giuliani

In October 2019, CNN reported that Trump's personal attorney's financial dealings with two associates indicted on charges of campaign finance violations were being investigated by the FBI and prosecutors. Bloomberg reported the following month that Giuliani himself was under investigation for campaign finance and lobbying violations. He has denied wrongdoing.

Pam Bondi

The former Florida attorney general has worked on Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and defended Trump during his impeachment. Before that, she made headlines for accepting an improper $25,000 donation in 2013 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation — just before deciding not to investigate allegations of fraud at Trump University. Bondi denied any connection between the money and her office's decision.

Matt Gaetz

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was admonished last week by the House Ethics Committee for a tweet in February 2019 attacking the family of Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer. Gaetz apologized for and deleted the tweet, but the panel determined his actions "did not reflect creditably upon the House of Representatives, in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 1 of the Code of Official Conduct."

Last month, Politico reported Gaetz's House office may have improperly used taxpayer funds; Gaetz denied any wrongdoing.

Jim Jordan

Rep. Jordan (R-OH) has been repeatedly accused of ignoring sexual abuse at the Ohio State University during his tenure as an assistant wrestling coach at the school. Jordan has denied any knowledge of abuse.

Vernon Jones

Jones, a Georgia state representative, was sued in May for illegally blocking critical commenters from his official Facebook page. In 2010, he was found guilty in federal court of racial discrimination during his tenure as DeKalb County CEO after he tried to replace white employees with Black people.

Madison Cawthorn

Cawthorn won the Republican nomination in June for the open seat in North Carolina's 11th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier this month, multiple women came forward to accuse him of sexual predation. Cawthorn acknowledged one of the encounters, though he suggested a conspiracy by Democrats to hurt his campaign, and said: "If I did make her feel unsafe, I feel bad. I'm glad that she stated that she didn't feel like a victim but I'm not sure what she was trying to insinuate that I was trying to do."

Mark and Patricia McCloskey

The McCloskeys were actually featured at the convention because of their legal issues. The pair made national news in June for pointing guns at anti-racism protesters in St. Louis. Both were charged in July with unlawful use of weapons; they pleaded not guilty. Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson had promised to pardon them if they were charged.

Jack Brewer

Brewer, a former professional football player who now works in financial services, was charged earlier this month by the Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trading. Brewer did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story; reached by NPR and asked about the allegations by phone, he said that he was "taking off" on a flight and hung up.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.