Senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway should be removed from federal service for repeatedly violating a law that prohibits government employees from engaging in political campaigns, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Thursday.
The independent federal agency ― which is different from the Justice Department office once operated by Robert Mueller ― sent a report to President Donald Trump on Thursday outlining numerous occasions in which Conway violated the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity on TV and in social media.
“Like with other presidential appointees, the President has the authority to discipline Ms. Conway for violating the Hatch Act,” the OSC said a statement. “Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service.”
It’s unusual for the OSC to make such a recommendation, and it is unlikely the Trump White House will heed its call.
The White House quickly fired back at the OSC’s statement, accusing the agency of taking “unprecedented actions” that violate Conway’s “constitutional rights” and attempting to “weaponize” the Hatch Act.
“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 fair, impartial, non-political manner,” White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves said in a statement.
When asked for a reaction to the OSC’s recommendation, Conway told CNBC’s Eamon Javers that she had “no reaction.”
“Why would I give you a reaction?” she asked him.
Conway did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
In his letter to Trump on Thursday, OSC special counsel Henry Kerner, a Trump appointee, described Conway as a “repeat offender.” His office issued a report in March 2018 that accused Conway of violating the law twice.
In two separate TV interviews she gave at the end of 2017, Conway discussed the then-looming Alabama Senate race and unlawfully expressed support for Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in that race, according to the OSC’s report last year.
OSC investigators in their report Thursday referenced an incident on May 29, 2019, in which Conway scoffed at a reporter who reminded the White House official about last year’s report.
“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway had said. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
Kerner warned in his letter Thursday that 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,” he wrote.
In an 11-page rebuttal, White House counsel Pat Cipollone claimed the OSC’s report is based on “numerous grave legal, factual and procedural errors” and called on the agency to withdraw the report.
The OSC said it would do no such thing.
“OSC respects the White House Counsel’s office but respectfully disagrees with their position, and will not withdraw the report,” OSC spokesman Zac Kurz told HuffPost in a statement.