Donald Trump bends, folds, and spindles the law until it is nearly unrecognizable. Take Alex Acosta. He gave the child trafficker and the president’s buddy Jeffrey Epstein a slap on the wrist and ended up as the Secretary of Labor. Many of Trump’s 2016 campaign staff have been convicted of crimes, yet Attorney General William Barr has done his best to spring them from jail. So when another Cabinet member got caught, it was a bit of a surprise.
News just broke that the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has opened an investigation into the vacuous Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She came from the billionaire Amway family, and her brother Erik Prince, who founded the mercenary firm Blackwater, has been on the Trump fringes.
DeVos got into trouble when during a Fox News interview, she came down hard on her boss’ opponent Joe Biden. Then, her office promoted the interview clip through its official YouTube page, according to The Daily Beast. DeVos has been a talking head for Trump at the Iowa caucuses this year and showed up at a Pennsylvania Women for Trump rally, too.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigates the Hatch Act independently, according to The POLITICO. Before 2012, those who violated the Hatch Act, both political appointees and career civil servants, received the harsh punishment of being fired. Now, people might face “fines, demotions, suspensions, or being barred from federal government work for a period of time.” OSC can discipline staff members, while others would be referred back to the employee’s supervisor.
DeVos has long been a proponent for government funding private and charter schools. She has also advocated for students returning to school in spite of the pandemic casualties.
Her former chief of staff Josh Venable became another anti-Trump supporter last week.
Watchdog blog Checks and Balances Project’s Scott Peterson noted that OSC Hatch Act attorney Eric Johnson said he had been assigned to the investigation. Johnson told Peterson that due to the COVID-19 pandemic consequence of remote work at home meant that the timeline on this investigation was a little wobbly:
‘We’ll investigate matters in your complaint. The incident seems very well documented.’
DeVos told the Fox interviewer:
‘Today he’s turned his back on the kids that we’re talking about and he’s turned his face in favor of the teachers union and what they have to say and what they have to demand and it’s really shameful.’
The Hatch Act does not allow most political activity by people employed by the government. Of course, Trump has basically ignored it. Former Counsel to the President Kellyanne Conway broke that law repeatedly but basically said “so sue me.” The commander-in-chief even held portions of the GOP National Convention in the Rose Garden. A number of the Cabinet members even gave “primetime addresses” those evenings.
Johnson emailed Peterson with the news that OSC “will open a file to address this matter” as is routine. Of course, that does not necessarily mean there is an investigation.
Education Department Spokesperson Angela Morabito released a statement that said this complaint was “a classic statement of an allegation not being based in fact:”
‘The Secretary was asked to respond to oft-repeated criticism of her and her policies, and she defended her policies, including discussing the history of that criticism. The Hatch Act does not prohibit that kind of exchange with a journalist. Case closed. Of course, we will cooperate with OSC, should they choose to open an investigation of this frivolous complaint.’
OSC Spokesperson Zachary Kurz released a statement that read:
‘OSC generally cannot comment on or confirm the status of Hatch Act investigations.’
The Education Department’s YouTube channel included the interview, which was also touted in an official message from the agency. OSC was not affiliated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Twitter world went nuts over DeVos’ investigation. Check out some of our favorites below:
— Dr. Zec Turd (@ZecTurd) September 22, 2020
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.
The Mueller Report Adventures: In Bite-Sizes on this Facebook page. These quick, two-minute reads interpret the report in normal English for busy people. Mueller Bite-Sizes uncovers what is essentially a compelling spy mystery. Interestingly enough, Mueller Bite-Sizes can be read in any order.