The Office of the Special Counsel has launched an investigation into allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign violated federal law by using the White House as a campaign command center on Election Day.
The investigation was apparently launched in response to a complaint Tuesday from Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
The “Office of the Special Counsel informed me they’re investigating the Trump campaign’s use of the White House as an Election Day campaign command center and party room for violating the Hatch Act,” Pascrell said in a statement Thursday.
The Hatch Act limits the political activities of federal employees but does not apply to the president or vice president.
The Special Counsel’s Office offered no other details on the investigation.
Trump monitored election returns in the living room of the White House residence Tuesday — and then later addressed about 200 supporters in the East Room.
In addition, Trump’s campaign set up a “war room” in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just west of the White House, to monitor election returns. Trump was briefed Tuesday “in the White House residence and the Oval Office throughout the day by campaign officials,” Pascrell noted in his letter to the special counsel, Henry Kerner, and indicated it was almost impossible for White House staff not to be swept up in the campaign activity.
“These actions put executive branch officials at risk of blatant violations of the law, including the Hatch Act,” he wrote.
The war room “needed to be in close proximity to the president,” campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh explained in a statement this week. He insisted there was “no expense whatsoever to American taxpayers.”
“Every piece of equipment, including wifi and computers, was paid for by the campaign, and no White House staff is involved,” he insisted.
Pascrell questioned if the Office of the Special Counsel was consulted about the legality of setting up the war room. Pascrell also questioned if the internet system for a campaign posed a security risk to official government communication in the White House.
The White House denied any violation of the law. All activity was “conducted in compliance with the Hatch Act,” spokesperson Judd Deere said.
A number of federal officials have openly campaigned for Trump in apparent violation of the law.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany appeared on television several times promoting Trump’s campaign. On Tuesday, she declared that Trump would trounce Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden in a landslide.
Kerner’s office is already investigating if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by helping the Trump campaign, including with a speech to the Republican National Convention while he was on a diplomatic trip to Jerusalem.
Trump has used the White House as a backdrop for his campaign and relied on federal personnel to help him do so. He accepted the Republican nomination on the South Lawn of the White House, followed by a fireworks display on the Mall.