13 Trump Officials Found to Have Violated the Hatch Act Ahead of 2020 Election
The Trump administration had a “willful disregard” for the law, Office of Special Counsel says.
At least 13 senior Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, particularly surrounding the Republican convention, an independent agency that oversees civil service law announced on Tuesday.
The Office of Special Counsel released an extensive report following over 100 complaints it received regarding Trump officials’ actions during the election. While there were numerous allegations and findings of violations of the Hatch Act throughout the Trump administration, it was a particular issue surrounding the Republican Convention since Trump gave his acceptance speech from the White House South Lawn. The Hatch Act limits the partisan political activity of government employees.
OSC “determined that hosting the [Republican National Convention] at the White House did not itself violate the Hatch Act, but that at least 13 senior Trump administration officials did violate the Hatch Act prior to the election,” the report said. “The individual violations fell broadly within two categories: eleven officials committed violations during official interviews or media appearances, and two officials committed violations in connection with the RNC.”
The officials with violations were: Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette; Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway; White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssah Farah; U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman; Senior Adviser Jared Kushner; Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany; White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Senior Adviser Stephen Miller; Deputy White House Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern; Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence Marc Short; National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien; acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf; and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
These officials were “well aware” of what was and was not allowed under the Hatch Act, but they violated it anyway, said OSC. “The administration’s willful disregard for the law was especially pernicious considering the timing of when many of these violations took place.”
Discipline is no longer possible since the officials are out of office, but OSC said it's issuing the report to document these violations, show the challenges it faced doing its investigations and prevent similar violations going forward.
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were exempt from the Hatch Act, the report notes.
“The 2020 election revealed that, at least with respect to an administration’s senior most officials, the Hatch Act is only as effective as the White House decides it will be,” said the report. OSC listed some suggestions for reform to bolster the ability to enforce and oversee the Hatch Act.
In a statement on the report, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., noted that she has introduced legislation as part of the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 5314) aimed at improving enforcement of the Hatch Act and strengthening penalties for those who violate the law. "We cannot allow these types of abuses to happen again," she said.
“Senior Trump administration officials showed an open contempt for the law meant to protect the American people from the use of taxpayer resources and government power for partisan politics,” said Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in a statement. “OSC notes that there are significant enforcement challenges to enforcing the Hatch Act. Legislation like the Protecting Our Democracy Act would fix that.”
Update: This article has been updated with the full list of 13 Trump officials.