Government watchdog calls for Kellyanne Conway to be removed from office for violating the Hatch Act

A government watchdog agency recommended Thursday that Kellyanne Conway, a top aide to President Donald Trump, be removed from federal office for repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from engaging in certain political activity.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that enforces the act, said it sent a report to Trump detailing “numerous occasions” in which Conway violated the law by saying disparaging things about Democratic presidential candidates in television interviews and on social media while acting in her official capacity as counselor to the president.

The act provides an exception for the president and vice president, but not employees of the White House, the agency said in a statement.

“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. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law,” the agency added.

The OSC ruled in March 2018 that Conway violated the Hatch Act in 2017 when she expressed support for GOP candidate Roy Moore, and against Democratic candidate Doug Jones, in Alabama’s special Senate election.

In November, the agency also found that six Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act after they tweeted support for Republicans or Trump from their government accounts, but declined to recommend disciplinary action.

Last month, Conway went after former Vice President Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential campaign and mocked the Hatch Act after a reporter told her that her comments could violate the law.

“Blah, blah, blah,” she said after a reporter recounted the OSC’s past findings.

“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway added. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

The agency said that Trump has the authority to punish Conway for violating the act, calling her a “repeat offender.”

Steven Groves, the White House deputy press secretary, slammed the decision and indicated that Conway would not face disciplinary action.

“The Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate 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,” he said.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone also excoriated the agency in an 11-page letter Thursday, calling it a “draconian and patently ridiculous recommendation that the President remove one of his closest advisers.” He also questioned the watchdog’s impartiality and demanded that the OSC withdraw its 17-page report until Conway has a reasonable time to respond to allegations. The OSC report, he said, cited over a dozen allegations spanning eight months and contained “numerous errors.”

Cipollone said the administration received the report Wednesday night and was asked to respond by Thursday morning and as such “violated Ms. Conway’s due process rights” and abused its statutory authority.

“If you choose not to withdraw the report we will need additional information to prepare our full response,” he said.

Cipollone also wrote that the agency never cited any official complaints it received for each allegation in the report. He argued that the office was guided by “external influences,” such as public reaction and press inquiries after Conway mocked the Hatch Act in May.

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