The Office of Special Counsel has found Hatch Act violations by 13 Trump administration political officials even while conceding that it is too late to take action against them, the latest of similar findings that resulted in no action taken even when that administration still was in office.
The OSC said the officials “used their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of the 2020 presidential election. Taken together, the report concludes that the violations demonstrate both a willingness by some in the Trump administration to leverage the power of the executive branch to promote President Trump’s reelection and the limits of OSC’s enforcement power.”
“Though discipline is no longer possible once subjects leave government service, OSC is issuing this report to fully document the violations, highlight the enforcement challenges that OSC confronted in investigating the violations, and to deter similar violations in the future,” it said.
Many of the violations the OSC found related to interviews in which the appointed officials supported the Trump-Pence ticket in which they were “identified by their official title, discussed administration policies and priorities related to their official duties, and/or spoke from the White House grounds.” Among them was then-senior presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, whom the OSC had recommended be fired on similar grounds, with no action taken in response.
While violations of Hatch Act restrictions on partisan politics result in penalties up to firing for career employees, the law’s application to political appointees has increasingly been caught up in partisan “whataboutism.” For example, a complaint recently was filed against White House spokeswoman Jen Pasaki for comments she made during an official briefing in support of the Democratic candidate in this year’s campaign for Virginia governor.
The OSC added it in the course of its investigation, it determined that the Hatch Act “does not prohibit political events from being held on certain White House grounds, nor would it broadly prohibit federal employees from participating.” The President and Vice-President are exempt from the law, it added.