Here is a political hot potato ready to be tossed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
When White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway went on Fox & Friends Monday to attack Alabama Democratic Senatorial candidate Doug Jones and boost the candidacy of Republican contender Roy Moore, she violated the Hatch Act, according to the former head of the government ethics office and President G.W. Bush’s former ethics lawyer.
The Hatch Act is a law that prohibits executive branch employees (except the president and vice president) form taking an active part in a political campaign while acting in an official capacity, or doing so while being identified as a White House official.
Today, Walter Shaub, the former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics filed an official complaint about Conway’s actions with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the Justice Department agency which investigates violations of The Hatch Act.
The only question was whether she was speaking on her own or in her capacity as a White House official? Shaub, who now leads the ethics practice at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, watched the video and came to his conclusion.
“It seems pretty clear she was appearing in her official capacity when she advocated against a candidate,” Shaub said Wednesday.
I found the video. She’s standing In front of the White House. It seems pretty clear she was appearing in her official capacity when she advocated against a candidate. This is at least as clear a violation of 5 U.S.C. § 7323(a)(1) as OSC identified with regard to Castro. pic.twitter.com/EwTwPriaVX
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 21, 2017
Shaub is referring to a ruling by the OSC in July 2016 that the then Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro violated the Hatch Act when during media interviews he gave his opinion on various presidential candidates.
Shaub is not the only one who thinks Conway is in violation of the law, which comes with a penalty that includes being fired from her job if she is convicted. An ethics lawyer who served under President George W. Bush also believes she violated federal law.
This is an official interview. She has violated the Hatch Act by using her position to take sides in a partisan election. That is a firing offense. And for her this is strike two. https://t.co/U4kjbLu4NT
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) November 22, 2017
By “strike two” Painter is referring to a ruling by the ethics office in March after Conway promoted Ivanka Trump’s clothing brand ina TV interview. At that time it was ruled she had “acted inadvertently.”
At that time it was reported that Conway was counseled about The Hatch Act and what the law says and means.
That means she was well aware of The Hatch Act restrictions. Now, she no longer can claim she did not know about or understand the law.
Shaub says that now puts the pressure on the OSC to issue a correct finding.
This will be the first test of POTUS’s new head of the Office of Special Counsel. Will he hold Presidential appointees in this administration to the standard to which his predecessor held Presidential appointees in the last administration? https://t.co/t7Y9gU8Gs6
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 21, 2017
If the OSC rules that Conway has violated the law, it will be up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take further action, which could lead to her dismissal from her position. Sessions, of course, has a mixed record in terms of violations, usually avoiding anything that President Trump would not like, which may be the case here.
A CNN correspondent tweeted that Conway spoke to Trump just before she went in front of the cameras, so that provides a direct link to the president just before she apparently broke the law.
I’m told Kellyanne Conway spoke with Trump about the Alabama Senate race before she went on Fox yesterday. During that interview, she said a vote for Jones was a vote against tax reform & stopped short of endorsing Moore.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) November 21, 2017
So that is the “hot potato” he may be tossed, and this time he can’t claim that his incredibly poor memory is a problem. If he wants to do unto Democrats, then he will also have to occasionally do unto a Republican, or he will be the one on the hot seat.
Conway has acted as the voice of the president since she joined his campaign in 2016, and continued that role as a spokesperson on TV, at events and in the press ever since.
She has been mocked at times for her single-minded adherence to the Trump party line but while that has slowed her down at times, it has not stopped her from talking everytime the red light on a camera is lit.
To many, she has been an embarrassment to the president, to herself and to the White House for phrases like calling a bald-faced lie by the president “alternative news.”
This time there is no “alternate law,” just the law of the land, which she seems to clearly have violated. Now we will see if the OSC and the Attorney General will do their job, or show themselves to be nothing but a part of the Trump propaganda and misinformation agenda.