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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: 308737

Reported Deaths: 7139
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20901250
Hinds19953410
Harrison17551302
Rankin13358276
Jackson13141243
Madison9949211
Lee9886170
Jones8308161
Forrest7537147
Lauderdale7221237
Lowndes6286144
Lamar613284
Lafayette6063117
Washington5288133
Bolivar4775129
Oktibbeha457097
Panola4456103
Pearl River4433141
Warren4294118
Marshall4283101
Pontotoc417572
Monroe4061132
Union404675
Neshoba4001176
Lincoln3883109
Hancock373385
Leflore3470124
Sunflower330789
Tate325082
Pike3205105
Scott311272
Yazoo304769
Alcorn298865
Itawamba297477
Copiah293965
Coahoma290378
Simpson289486
Tippah285168
Prentiss276559
Marion266279
Leake261473
Wayne261441
Grenada256284
Covington254980
Adams246882
Newton245561
George238347
Winston226081
Tishomingo222467
Jasper219948
Attala213573
Chickasaw205257
Holmes186972
Clay183054
Stone179531
Clarke177576
Tallahatchie175940
Calhoun165231
Yalobusha159736
Smith159234
Walthall131043
Greene129633
Lawrence126623
Noxubee126533
Montgomery125742
Perry125238
Carroll120926
Amite120741
Webster113732
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica103025
Claiborne101330
Benton97425
Kemper95628
Humphreys94432
Franklin82723
Quitman78916
Choctaw73717
Wilkinson64928
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 521201

Reported Deaths: 10736
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753981490
Mobile39011799
Madison34002496
Tuscaloosa25329444
Montgomery23996567
Shelby23160239
Baldwin20674302
Lee15567165
Calhoun14330311
Morgan14152271
Etowah13677346
Marshall11988220
Houston10402278
Elmore10008200
Limestone9843147
Cullman9501189
St. Clair9449234
Lauderdale9254228
DeKalb8756181
Talladega8104171
Walker7126275
Jackson6751110
Autauga6748103
Blount6511134
Colbert6225130
Coffee5418113
Dale4771111
Russell429338
Franklin420582
Chilton4100109
Covington4059114
Tallapoosa3904146
Escambia389574
Dallas3522149
Chambers3513122
Clarke346760
Marion3072100
Pike306176
Lawrence295395
Winston273072
Bibb256059
Marengo248261
Geneva245975
Pickens233059
Barbour226255
Hale218675
Butler212867
Fayette209460
Henry188044
Cherokee182544
Randolph177041
Monroe172440
Washington164738
Macon155548
Clay150055
Crenshaw149457
Cleburne146341
Lamar139634
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124527
Bullock121540
Conecuh109428
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91334
Choctaw58724
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