Trump administration officials confused election campaigns with government duties: federal inquiry
At least 13 former Trump administration officials have violated the Hatch Act by campaigning with their official government duties, according to a new federal investigation.
The Office of the Special Counsel report released Tuesday said officials broke the law inconsequentially and with admiration approval as part of a “willful breach of the Hatch Act,” which bars officials from government to use their official roles to influence elections, including supporting candidates in the performance of their official duties.
“The cumulative effect of these repeated and public violations was to undermine public confidence in the non-partisan functioning of government,” they wrote, adding that “such blatant and unpunished violations erode the main foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law”.
The office investigated comments from officials in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, including the Republican National Convention, held at the White House in major departure from historical norms.
While the Office of Special Counsel concluded that the organization of the White House event did not in itself violate the Hatch Law, it found numerous other cases where Trump officials did, mainly by promoting the re-election of the former president in media interviews in which they appeared. in their official capacity.
Among the officials cited are former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, who served as senior advisor to the president, former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Kellyanne Conway, and later advisor to the president, Stephen Miller, who served as Trump’s senior policy adviser, and Robert O’Brien, the former national security adviser. Conway had been quoted several times by the office, which at one point went so far as to ask for her dismissal.
“In each case, the official concerned was identified by his official title, discussed administrative policies and priorities related to his official duties and / or spoke from within the precincts of the White House,” the report said.
The investigation also found that then Secretary of State Michael Pompeo changed State Department policy to allow himself to speak at Trump’s convention and then referred to work. official in his speech. And he found that then Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf violated Hatch Law by presiding over an orchestrated naturalization ceremony for the convention’s programming.
“Both reflect the Trump administration’s willingness to manipulate government affairs for partisan political gain,” the report read, adding that “the administration’s willful disregard for the law was particularly pernicious given the when many of these violations took place “.
The report notes that the office has repeatedly warned Trump’s White House officials of their violations, but the former president who is responsible for law enforcement for senior officials never bothered. to do.
Given the office’s limited power to enforce violations, the report suggests potential changes to the law, including a statutory amendment that would allow it to impose fines on Senate appointees and commissioned officers, as well. than greater investigative power. They also recommended an amendment to clarify which areas of the White House should be closed to political activity.
“(L) the 2020 election revealed that, at least for most senior officials in an administration, the Hatch Act is only as effective as the White House decides. ‘is produced here, the White House chooses to ignore the According to the requirements of the Hatch Act, the American public is then no longer protected from senior administration officials who use their official authority for partisan political purposes in violation of the law “, we can read.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit watchdog group, said the report underscored the need for better enforcement.
“This report confirms that there has been nothing less than a systematic co-opting of powers from the federal government to keep Donald Trump in power,” said Noah Bookbinder, chairman of the group. “Congress must act now to make sure this never happens again.”