Thursday, December 2, 2021

Probe reveals Trump officials have repeatedly violated the Hatch Act

NEW YORK (AP). At least 13 former Trump administration officials violated the law by mixing campaigning with their official government responsibilities, according to a new federal investigation released Tuesday.

The Office of the Special Adviser said in a report that officials violated the law without consequences and with approval of admiration as part of “willful disregard for the Hatch Act,” which prohibits government officials from using their official roles to influence elections, including supporting candidates. on duty.

“The cumulative effect of these repeated and public violations was to undermine public confidence in the nonpartisan activities of the government,” they wrote, adding that “such egregious and unpunished violations undermine the fundamental foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law.”

The office investigated comments from officials ahead of the 2020 presidential election, including the Republican National Convention, which was held at the White House in violation of historical norms.

While the Office of the Special Adviser concluded that holding the event at the White House was not in itself a violation of the Trapdoor Act, it found numerous other cases of Trump officials doing so, mostly by promoting the former president’s re-election in media interviews. in which they appeared in their interviews. official legal capacity.

Among the officials mentioned are former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, who was a senior adviser to the president, former White House press secretary Kaley Makinani, Kellyanne Conway, then adviser to the president Stephen Miller, who served as Trump’s spokesman. senior policy advisor; and Robert O’Brien, former national security adviser. The office has repeatedly quoted Conway as going so far as to demand her removal at one point.

“In each case, the appropriate official was identified by his official position, discussed the administration’s policies and priorities related to their official duties, and / or spoke from the White House grounds,” the report says.

The investigation also revealed that then-Secretary of State Michael Pompeo changed State Department policy to allow himself to speak at Trump’s convention, and then referred to the official job in his speech. And it turned out that the then acting. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolff violated the Luke Act by presiding over a naturalization ceremony that was organized to program the convention.

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“Both of them reflect the Trump administration’s willingness to manipulate state business for political ends,” the report said, adding that “the administration’s deliberate disregard for the law was especially detrimental given the time when many of these violations took place.”

The report notes that the office has repeatedly warned Trump White House officials of their violations, but the former president, who is responsible for enforcing the law against senior officials, never bothered to do so.

Given the office’s limited enforcement powers, the report suggested possible changes to the law, including an amendment to the law that would allow it to fine Senate-approved presidential appointees and officers and expand investigative powers. They also recommended an amendment to clarify which areas of the White House should be closed to political activity.

“The 2020 election showed that, at least for the most senior administration officials, the Hatch Act is as effective as the White House decides. In cases where, as has happened here, the White House chooses to ignore the demands of the Hatch Act, the American public is not left without protection from senior administration officials who use their official powers for party political gain in violation of the law.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit watchdog group, said the report highlighted the need for improved enforcement.

“This report confirms that there was nothing but the systematic use of the federal government’s powers to keep Donald Trump in power,” said Noah Bookbinder, president of the group. “Congress must act now so that this never happens again.”

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