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Exclusive: Pentagon spokeswoman under investigation for misusing staff, retaliating against complaints

One of Defense Secretary James Mattis' most senior civilian advisers is being investigated by the Defense De...

Posted: Aug 15, 2018 1:22 PM
Updated: Aug 15, 2018 1:22 PM

One of Defense Secretary James Mattis' most senior civilian advisers is being investigated by the Defense Department Office of Inspector General for allegedly retaliating against staff members after she used some of them to conduct her personal errands and business matters, according to four sources familiar with the probe.

Dana White, the Trump administration political appointee who serves as the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, has been under investigation for several weeks after multiple complaints were filed against her.

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White is alleged to have misused support staff, asking them, among other things, to fetch her drycleaning, run to the pharmacy for her and work on her mortgage paperwork. Staffers also charge that she inappropriately transferred personnel after they filed complaints about her.

White has not been found in violation of any federal regulation or policy at this point. The inspector general's office declined to comment.

As many as half a dozen defense personnel, and possibly more, have been interviewed, the sources say. All the officials CNN spoke to asked that their names be withheld, not just because the investigation remains ongoing, but because of concerns about reprisal.

Dry cleaning and lunch runs

White did not respond to CNN's request for comment about the allegations. Charles Summers, the principal deputy assistant to the secretary for public affairs, said: "This is an ongoing review about which we cannot comment." White became spokeswoman in April 2017 and reports directly to Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Pentagon ethics standards state that "a DoD official may not direct or request subordinates to use official time to perform any activities other than official activities."

CNN was told that some staffers did White's errands and personal chores voluntarily because they thought she was very busy during the work day. But department standards are iron-clad: They apply even if a staff member doesn't object to performing non-official tasks.

Multiple officials tell CNN that White on occasion told her staff to fetch her dry cleaning, purchase personal items for her and drive her to work on snowy days. After a complaint, White reimbursed a staffer for the cost of mileage incurred driving her to the Pentagon.

One staff member made repeated trips to the pharmacy inside the Pentagon to purchase snacks and pantyhose for White. Staffers were repeatedly dispatched to the cafeteria to get her lunch, the officials say.

Those officials say the IG is looking into allegations that White also directed military and civilian staff to work on her mortgage application and other personal financial paperwork, and arrange her personal leisure travel. They say the IG is also looking into allegations that White had staff make numerous appointments with her personal hair and makeup artist, whose services she paid for herself, to come to her home and Pentagon office.

A request to review ethics rules

Many of the allegations center on the months prior to May 2018. Matters came to a head that month, when at least two staffers raised concerns with more senior officials about White's use of their time. The staffers were transferred soon after and complained to the IG that they were moved in reprisal for their complaints.

CNN has reviewed information that confirms the IG is looking at many of the events described for potential misuse of staff. CNN has also learned from sources familiar with the matter that White had been told certain requests to staff were not allowed and that she subsequently asked to review ethics rules so she could stay within the Pentagon's guidelines.

All the allegations against White, if proven, would be administrative violations. But the probe makes White just the latest in a series of Trump associates and appointees to face scrutiny for their conduct.

White used to hold regular televised press briefings, but has not appeared since May. It is not clear if that is related to the investigation. Reporters have been told the White House wanted to see more briefings by senior uniformed officers.

Mattis decides

White previously served as a foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, worked on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee and as a director of communications for the Renault-Nissan Alliance in France. She also served an earlier stint at the Pentagon, working as Taiwan country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

After the inspector general's office concludes its probe, it will forward a report to Mattis that details whether any of the allegations are considered misconduct and also details charges that aren't found to have merit.

In IG investigations, allegations of wrongdoing are not always substantiated.

The final report could include recommendations on how to proceed, but it would be up to Mattis to decide what, if anything, to do, officials say.

There is no indication that Mattis was aware of White's alleged violations prior to the investigation.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333180

Reported Deaths: 7502
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22901279
Hinds22780438
Harrison19569326
Rankin14851287
Jackson14342251
Madison10692227
Lee10437179
Jones8746169
Forrest8210157
Lauderdale7561243
Lowndes6790150
Lamar669688
Lafayette6459124
Washington5516139
Pearl River4915149
Bolivar4909134
Oktibbeha478498
Panola4723112
Marshall4654106
Warren4640127
Pontotoc440473
Monroe4255137
Union425379
Neshoba4182180
Lincoln4098115
Hancock405088
Leflore3565125
Pike3530112
Tate349588
Alcorn343974
Sunflower343093
Adams333387
Scott331775
Yazoo331173
Simpson314890
Copiah313867
Itawamba310180
Coahoma308785
Tippah298868
Prentiss292963
Covington282483
Marion279580
Leake278475
Wayne270743
Grenada266388
George261651
Newton256664
Tishomingo236869
Winston235584
Jasper226148
Attala220873
Chickasaw216360
Stone210237
Holmes195674
Clay192254
Clarke182080
Tallahatchie181742
Calhoun177532
Smith175935
Yalobusha169440
Walthall141548
Lawrence137726
Greene135734
Amite132843
Noxubee131635
Perry131038
Montgomery130944
Carroll124531
Webster117532
Jefferson Davis113334
Tunica111127
Benton104625
Claiborne104331
Kemper100729
Humphreys99133
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw81319
Wilkinson74632
Jefferson69728
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 569131

Reported Deaths: 11483
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson831881584
Mobile45534855
Madison36714532
Tuscaloosa26717465
Shelby26527255
Montgomery25707624
Baldwin23668325
Lee16753181
Calhoun15107332
Morgan14916289
Etowah14637368
Marshall12786235
Houston11462292
Elmore10636217
St. Clair10500251
Limestone10468158
Cullman10236204
Lauderdale9968253
DeKalb9278191
Talladega8721187
Walker7581286
Autauga7402113
Jackson7263117
Blount7182139
Colbert6577142
Coffee6024131
Dale5307117
Russell465542
Chilton4630117
Covington4555125
Franklin442081
Tallapoosa4372157
Escambia419182
Chambers3842125
Dallas3687163
Clarke364262
Marion3378106
Pike324279
Lawrence3188101
Winston290772
Bibb279565
Geneva270983
Marengo258367
Barbour243161
Pickens239162
Butler235672
Hale231678
Fayette224364
Henry204845
Randolph194244
Cherokee193848
Monroe191841
Washington176239
Macon167252
Crenshaw163958
Clay162159
Cleburne159045
Lamar149438
Lowndes144254
Wilcox129131
Bullock125642
Conecuh118030
Coosa115829
Perry109728
Sumter108032
Greene97336
Choctaw63825
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