2nd complaint filed in connection with Canadian steelmaker's alleged involvement in Trump support

According to Campaign Legal Center, a former U.S. trade official met with a steelmaker who was a former client to discuss official business within two years of his appointment.

A U.S. non-partisan organization is accusing a former U.S. trade official of violating the ethics pledge

The U.S. imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum on June 1, 2018. Those tariffs weren't lifted until almost a year later. (Dale Molnar CBC News)

A former acting U.S. trade representative is being accused of violating the ethics pledge by meeting with Barry Zekelman, a Canadian steelmaker, behind closed doors.

According to emails and building records shown by Campaign Legal Center, Stephen P. Vaughn met with Zekelman more than a year before three donations were made from a Zekelman Industries subsidiary to an organization supporting U.S. President Donald Trump.

CLC, a non-partisan non-profit organization, said in a letter to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, that Vaughn shouldn't "discuss official business" with Zekelman, a former lobbying client.

Prior to his role as the acting U.S. trade representative, Vaughn was employed by King & Spalding, a lobbying and law firm that had Zekelman Industries as a client, the letter reads.

Zekelman Industries CEO, Barry Zekelman, was open about his support for the steel tariffs imposed by the U.S. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"Full-time political appointees cannot participate in matters involving former employers for two years after appointment," said Corey Goldstone, spokesperson for CLC.

"The purpose of this ethics pledge, which is legally binding, is to address concerns about giving privileged access, which they may exploit to influence an appointee out of the public view."

CLC wants the government ethics office to investigate Vaughn's conduct.

Complaint against Zekelman

Just over a year after Vaughn and Zekelman's meeting, Wheatland Tube, a Zekelman Industries subsidiary, made a $1-million donation to America First Action.

There were two more donations made in June, then October of 2018.

On June 1, 2018, the U.S. imposed a 25 per cent tariff on all imported steel.

CLC has also filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, alleging that Zekelman had violated U.S. law by being involved in those donations.


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