While in office, U.S. President Donald Trump has worked to redefine the presidency for his own purposes. He has already appeared time and time again at campaign rallies, and some of his staffers have joined him in those campaign efforts. However, as a new set of complaints with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) from an outside ethics group notes, their actions may be illegal.
The Hatch Act, as it stands, prohibits government employees from using their official positions to campaign. Yet, ten Trump administration officials have pushed Trump campaign messaging in their official capacity, the complaints from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, note.
The targeted officials include:
- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
- Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney
- deputy press secretaries Raj Shah, Hogan Gidley, and Lindsay Walters
- deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto
- Executive Assistant to the President Madeleine Westerhout,
- Director of Media Affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré
- Press Secretary for the vice president Alyssa Farah
- OMB deputy communications director Jacob Wood
CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder commented:
‘We continue to see Trump Administration officials at all levels engaged in unprecedented partisan political activity using their official Twitter accounts in direct violation of the Hatch Act. Despite multiple investigations and violations found, the Trump Administration clearly has no intention to stop the misuse of government offices and resources for political purposes.’
Bookbinder added that his organization is “now calling on the OSC to consider additional measures to prevent the rampant abuses coming from this administration,” although what precisely he may have in mind isn’t immediately clear. Possible ramifications for violating the Hatch Act include fines and disciplinary actions like suspension, but according to CREW, the White House has ignored previous ethics rules violations. Specifically, the administration “affirmatively rejected OSC’s findings related to [Kellyanne] Conway,” who was cited by the Office of Special Counsel for promoting Ivanka Trump branded products in her official capacity as an adviser to the president.
Ironically, the Ivanka Trump fashion company is now shutting down, and Conway has also in the past been cited for meddling in the late 2017 Alabama U.S. Senate race in her official capacity. For the record, the candidate she was supporting lost.
Complaints against Trump officials filed Thursday by CREW center on the incorporation of the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” into items like an op-ed that Mulvaney wrote and promoted called, “‘MAGAnomics’ is working and defying critics.”
— Mick Mulvaney (@MickMulvaneyOMB) April 5, 2018
The farmers and industry interests currently suffering under the weight of the Trump-induced trade wars would beg to differ with Mulvaney, but that’s not the point here.
In the past, the Office of Special Counsel has specifically noted that using Trump’s campaign slogan in official messaging constitutes a Hatch Act violation for an administration employee. Obviously, that hasn’t stopped Trump officials, who now face yet another new round of scrutiny. CREW has been successful in bringing ethics violations to light in the past; they pushed a complaint over Conway advocating for Ivanka Trump products. The weight of scandal enveloping the Trump administration just remains so huge.
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