The Trump Administration continues to be a presidency of firsts, but not in a good way. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency that oversees compliance with the Hatch Act, sent a report to Trump today recommending that he fire White House Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway. This marks the first time in the agency’s 40-year history that it has made such a removal recommendation for a White House official, according to Politico.
Enacted in 1939 and amended in 2012, the Hatch Act is a federal law that limits certain political activities by federal employees. Not to be confused with Mueller and his team, the OSC is an agency with a mission “to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices,” including Hatch Act noncompliance.
The OSC’s report cites Conway for “repeatedly” violating the Hatch Act while calling her disregard for the law’s provisions “unacceptable.” The report notes that Conway used her position “as a highly visible member of the Administration” to make statements “to advocate for or against declared candidates for partisan political office.” On top of the violations, the OSC points out that Conway has consistently ignored the agency’s requests for coming into compliance with the Hatch Act and has refused to respond to prior communications. As just one recent example of Conway’s “defiant attitude” and “continued pattern of misconduct,” the report cites Conway’s dismissive reply to a reporter’s question in late May: “Blah, blah, blah. If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
The best Trump’s folks can come up with in response to the report today is claiming that the OSC’s recommendations somehow “violates Conway’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process,” according to White House spokesman Steve Groves. He went on to make the laughable suggestion that “liberal organizations” are improperly influencing the OSC, leading the agency to weaponize the Hatch Act for political reasons.
Nice try. The OSC is actually run by a Trump nominee, Henry Kerner, who Trump promoted for the position in 2017 despite bipartisan calls to keep former Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner in office. Kerner put his name on today’s letter to Trump recommending the unprecedented step of Conway’s firing. Trump should know by now that Americans are not that stupid. Ignoring this OSC report fits that word’s definition perfectly.