A federal watchdog has recommended that President Trump remove White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, one of his top advisers, from federal service due to her repeat violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from making political statements while acting in an official capacity.
The Office of the Special Counsel — the ethics office for the White House, which is unrelated to former special counsel Robert Mueller — sent a report to the president Thursday finding that Conway had violated the act "on numerous occasions" by criticizing Democratic presidential candidates in TV interviews and on social media. While the president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act, that privilege does not extend to federal employees.
"Ms. Conway's violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act's restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law," the OSC said in the letter to Mr. Trump, calling Conway a "repeat offender."
The White House was quick to defend Conway. "The Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process," White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves said in a statement. "Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC's unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees. Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations – and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act."
Analso found that Conway violated the Hatch Act by advocated for and against certain candidates in the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama.
However, Conway has scoffed at the significance of these violations, saying in May that "if you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work."
"Let me know when the jail sentence starts," Conway retorted.
The report said that Conway has ignored multiple opportunities pointed out by the OSC to come into compliance with the Hatch Act.
"Ms. Conway's actions and statements stand in stark contrast to the culture of compliance promised by your White House Counsel and undermine your efforts to create and enforce such a culture," the letter to Mr. Trump said.