Administration Official Violated Law by Retweeting Trump, Watchdog Says

Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley deleted the problematic message and has not engaged in any prohibited activity since. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley deleted the problematic message and has not engaged in any prohibited activity since. Bebeto Matthews / AP

Another member of President Trump’s team is in trouble for violating the Hatch Act, with a watchdog now citing his ambassador to the United Nations for improperly engaging in political activity.

Nikki Haley transgressed when retweeting a message from Trump that endorsed then-congressional candidate Ralph Norman, a Republican from Haley’s home state of South Carolina. Her @NikkiHaley account is a personal one, but the Office of Special Counsel still said the retweet violated the Hatch Act because her biography on the page described her position of UN ambassador. OSC, which investigated the incident in response to a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, issued a warning letter to Haley.

“The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official position to advance or oppose candidates for partisan office,” OSC wrote in a letter to CREW. “Here, because Ambassador Haley’s personal Twitter account included so much indicia of her official role as ambassador and was even linked to the U.S. Mission to the UN website, it gave the impression that she was acting in her official capacity when she used this account to retweet President Trump’s message.”

OSC said Haley subsequently deleted the message and has not engaged in any prohibited activity since, so it did not pursue any disciplinary action. It has provided the ambassador with advice on how to avoid future violations and said it will consider any future slip ups a “willful and knowing violation of the law.”

OSC issued a letter of reprimand against Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, in June for a tweet he sent criticizing Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. The office recently cleared Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson from any wrongdoing after he was introduced with his official title at a Trump campaign event. The White House subjected Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway to ethics counseling after she promoted products made by Ivanka Trump’s clothing line.

“One is unfortunate, two is a coincidence, but three in less than a year is a pattern,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This all stems from the president’s permissive attitude toward ethics; the tone is set at the top.”

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