Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin became the first federal lawmaker to call for Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman to recuse himself from helping to shape Trump administration policy that affects Schwarzman’s private equity firm. Another influential Democrat joined in — and the White House, under fire Friday, began to distance itself from the billionaire adviser.
The Donald Trump administration now argues that even though Schwarzman chairs the White House Strategic and Policy Council — the members of that panel are appointed by Trump — the Blackstone CEO is not working for the White House in any official capacity, and is merely operating his own outside group.
The criticism, call for recusal and abrupt moves by the White House followed an International Business Times report that detailed how Schwarzman’s White House panel is overseeing regulatory, energy and infrastructure policies that could enrich Blackstone.
In December, Trump’s transition team announced the creation of the Strategic and Policy Forum, whose members “will be called upon to meet with the President frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge” and “to provide direct input to the President” on policy matters. Trump himself appointed the members of the panel and named Schwarzman as chair. The group has convened meetings at the White House; Cabinet officials have presented policies to the group for review. Trump and Schwarzman led a session of the Strategic and Policy Forum at the White House earlier this month.