© Greg Nash
Senate Democrats want White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon to clarify recent contact he's had with Breitbart News, the conservative outlet he once ran.
The senators also want to know if Bannon's contact with the site complies with ethics rules.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren builds her brand with 2020 down the road Warren: Trump 'all talk' on Wall Street Dem senators ask Bannon for more info about Breitbart contact MORE (Mass.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyDem senators ask Bannon for more info about Breitbart contact Dem lawmaker: FCC now stands for 'Forgetting Choice and Competition' Senate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs MORE (Mass.), Mazie HironoMazie Hirono March for Science rallies draw huge crowds around US Dems knock Trump on Earth Day Hawaii senators fire back at Sessions' 'island in the Pacific' comment MORE (Hawaii) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senators ask Bannon for more info about Breitbart contact Senate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs Senators offer bill to boost police training in cyber crime MORE (R.I.) sent letters Thursday to Bannon and Stefan Passantino, the White House's designated agency ethics official.
"Given the clear restrictions on communicating with former employers outlined in Executive Order 13770, as well as regulatory requirements that you 'maintain the appearance of impartiality' regarding your former employers, we were concerned to hear about your recent communications with Breitbart News Network," the senators wrote in the letter to Bannon.
They added that "your communications with Breitbart appear to violate the ethics pledge outlined in Executive Order 13770."
The senators point to a string of articles in their letter as proof of contact between Breitbart and Bannon, including reports that Bannon called Breitbart’s Washington political editor Matthew Boyle to complain about a critical article speculating that Reince Priebus's future as Trump's chief of staff was "in doubt."
Executive agency employees have to sign an ethics pledge that includes a two-year ban from the date of their appointment on participating in "any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients," according to an order Trump signed in January.
The senators asked both Bannon and Passantino whether the former Breitbart executive signed an ethics pledge. If he did, they want a copy of the agreement.
They also want to know if Bannon received any guidance from White House counsel or the Office of Government Ethics over his ethics agreement or communicating with Breitbart, and if he was granted a waiver.
A White House spokesperson told The Daily Beast late last month that every Trump appointee signed an ethics pledge and no White House employee has received a waiver.
The senators are asking both Bannon and Passantino for an update on if he has been granted a waiver, and if the communications were a violation of ethics rules if Bannon was disciplined by White House counsel.
Bannon has repeatedly been suspected of continued connections to Breitbart, with the chief strategist reportedly blamed within the White House after Breitbart ran a string of stories critical of Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
And Breitbart has had some struggles of its own with the relationship. Applying for congressional press credentials, the news outlet had to provide Bannon's letter of resignation as proof that he's no longer involved with the site's operations.
Ethics groups and Democrats have been putting pressure on the Trump administration for not doing enough to ensure transparency. Lawmakers sent a separate letter to Trump on Thursday asking him to release any ethics waivers and the White House visitor logs.