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13 senior Trump officials violated Hatch Act, investigation finds

13 senior Trump officials violated Hatch Act, investigation finds
Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act in interviews with Fox News Channel on August 12 and 18, 2020, federal investigators said in a report released Tuesday. File Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Thirteen senior Trump officials violated the Hatch Act, which prohibited them from campaigning for his reelection while on duty, federal investigators said in a report released Tuesday.

The Office of Special Counsel Henry Kerner found in the report that the 13 senior Trump officials violated the federal law prior to the last presidential election.

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Eleven of the 13 Trump officials violated the Hatch Act during interviews or media appearances, including Dan Brouilette, Kellyanne Conway, Alyssa Farah, David Friedman, Jared Kushner, Kayleigh McEnany, Mark Meadows, Stephen Miller, Brian Morgenstern, Robert O'Brien and Marc Short.

Conway, senior counselor to the then-president Trump, violated the Hatch Act by promoting Trump's reelection campaign during official interviews on Fox News Channel on Aug. 12 and 18, 2020, the report found.

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The report noted that one federal court said this environment allowed for Conway to continue violating the Hatch Act "with seeming impunity."

In each case, the official spoke from the White House grounds in campaign statements for Trump's reelection campaign, the report noted.

Some remarks were made close to the November election, such as then-White House Press Secretary McEnany campaigning for Trump's reelection in statements to reporters from White House grounds 11 days prior to the election.

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"The administration's willful disregard for the law was especially pernicious considering the timing of when many of these violations took place," the report said.

Another two officials violated the federal law during the August 2020 Republican National Convention, including then-Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, by similarly campaigning for Trump's election while on duty, the report found.

The OSC may seek disciplinary action up to removal from federal service against most federal employees who violate the Hatch Act by prosecuting alleged violations before the Merit Systems Protection Board, according to the report.

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"But in the case of violations by Senate-confirmed presidential appointees -- and, in OSC's view, also by commissioned officers within the executive office of the president--OSC may only submit a report to the president," the report stated. "This is both legally required, as OSC believes there is significant constitutional concerns with the MPSB disciplining commissioned officers, and as a practical matter the only recourse available to OSC when there is no MSPB quorum, as was the case during the entirety of the Trump administration."

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Since its hands were tied, the OSC said it was up to then-President Donald Trump to discipline the 13 federal employees, but he "failed to do so."

The OSC further found in the report that Trump "not only failed to do so, but he publicly defended an employee OSC found to have repeatedly violated the Hatch Act."

"This failure to impose discipline created the conditions for what appeared to be a taxpayer-funded campaign apparatus within the upper echelons of the executive branch," the report stated.

"The cumulative effect of these repeated and public violations was to undermine public confidence in the nonpartisan operation of government," the report concluded.

An official from President Joe Biden's administration, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge has also been cited for violating the Hatch Act in March by promoting Democrats for the Ohio Senate race from the White House, The Washington Post reported.

The OSC issued Fudge a warning letter and closed the case after Fudge "expressed remorse about her statement," Ana Galindo-Marrone, the chief of the office's Hatch Act unit, wrote in a letter to Americans for Public Trust, a conservative group that filed the complaint.

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Last month, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed a complaint against current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, accusing her of violating the Hatch Act by endorsing the campaign of Terry McAuliffe, when he sought to regain his seat as governor of Virginia.

In April, the OSC reached a settlement agreement with Lynne Patton, a former Trump administration political appointee who served as Region II administrator for HUD.

Under the agreement, Patton admitted to violating the Hatch Act by using her official position to produce a video about housing conditions for the 2020 Republican National Convention and agreed to accept a 48-month debarment from federal employment and pay a $1,000 fine.

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