A federal watchdog has recommended that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway should be fired for repeated violations of the Hatch Act.
In a report on Thursday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Conway had used TV appearances and social media platforms to disparage Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity.
“Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions,” the report states. “Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”
In response, a White House spokesman called the report “deeply flawed,” and said it violates “her constitutional rights to free speech and due process.”
“Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees,” said Steven Groves, deputy White House press secretary. “Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations — and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act.”
The Hatch Act dates from 1939, and puts limits on federal officials’ ability to participate in party politics. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel — not to be confused with the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller — is an independent federal agency tasked with enforcing civil service laws.
The report faulted Conway for disparaging Democratic candidates for president, and noted that she had earlier been cited for weighing in on the 2017 Alabama Senate race. The report noted that Conway has previously brushed off concerns about the Hatch Act.
“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” she said in an interview on May 29. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
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