Amid outcry over Trump administration officials potentially violating the law by speaking at the Republican National Convention, the White House chief of staff said on Wednesday that Americans don’t care about the alleged lawbreaking.
In a Politico interview, Mark Meadows claimed that “nobody outside of the Beltway really cares” about Cabinet officials possibly violating the Hatch Act, a 1939 law passed to prevent federal officials from misusing their taxpayer-funded positions for partisan purposes. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and other officials appeared during the RNC to endorse Trump’s reelection bid and participate in political theater designed to bolster his chances in November.
Pompeo delivered his pre-recorded address from Jerusalem, which he was visiting in his capacity as secretary of state. Wolf, who the Government Accountability Office has said is illegally serving as head of Homeland Security, performed a pre-recorded naturalization ceremony staged in the White House.
Government ethics and anti-corruption experts have raised concerns about many aspects of the ongoing GOP convention, which reportedly involve as many as “hundreds” of federal employees producing some aspect of the proceedings.
Meadows claimed that Americans aren’t bothered by the potential misuse of federal employees because “they expect that Donald Trump is going to promote Republican values.”
The chief of staff also falsely claimed that the law was designed merely to prevent legislators ― “people like me,” the former GOP congressman said ― from forcing federal employees to endorse their political positions. In fact, the law is meant to prevent federal employees from using their publicly funded offices for any partisan political purpose, forced or not. In June 2019, for example, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent watchdog agency, declared that White House aide Kellyanne Conway should be removed from federal service for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act. Conway made multiple appearances on television in 2017 to endorse disgraced Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and she has been accused of using her office to bolster Trump’s campaign in several other instances.
In calling for Conway’s removal, Special Counsel Henry Kerner, a Trump appointee, warned that her violations, if left unpunished, “would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.” He said allowing Conway to continue violating the Hatch Act with impunity would destroy the “principal foundation of the democratic system — namely, the rule of law.”
But Conway retained her high-level White House post.
In his interview Wednesday, Meadows claimed that “a lot of hoopla” has been made about the most recent allegations of lawbreaking because the Republican convention “has been so unbelievably successful.”