The Office of Special Counsel is recommending that Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway be fired for violating the Hatch Act.
In a letter sent to President Trump, OSC Special Counsel Henry Kerner cited “numerous violations” of the Hatch Act as grounds for the recommendation.
“If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position by the Merit Systems Protection Board,” wrote Kerner. “As a highly visible member of the Administration, Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.”
This is not the first time that Conway has come under fire for violating the Hatch Act. Last year, for instance, OSC issued a report in which it concluded that Conway had violated this law on two separate occasions.
Conway, however, has not showed any remorse for OSC’s findings. Last month, she told reporters who asked her about the OSC reports on violating the Hatch Act, “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.”
Her reported statement is apparently part of what got OSC’s attention that led to issuing its recommendation for her removal as it was mentioned prominently in the accompanying report included with the letter.
The White House was quick to rebuke the OSC letter today, however. White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves said in a statement, “The Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process. Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees. 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 a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act.”
A copy of OSC’s letter to President Trump is included below.
Update: In an interview with Fox News Thursday afternoon, Kerner defended OSC’s recommendation but deferred to the president on the final decision. “We respect his decision and, of course, the president has any option he’d like—to reprimand or not to reprimand,” Kerner said. “It is up to the president’s discretion and we respect that.”
Kerner also added that OSC had been in discussions with the Trump administration “for weeks” and said the letter was not issued out of the blue.
“I am a Trump appointee—I have no animus toward Kellyanne whatsoever,” Kerner said. “My job is to make sure the federal workforce stays as depoliticized and as fair as possible.”
President Trump said in an interview with Fox News Friday morning that he has no intentions of firing Conway.
“I’m not gonna fire her. I think she’s a terrific person. She’s a tremendous spokesperson,” Trump said.
About the Hatch Act
Originally passed into law in 1939, the Hatch Act prohibits federal civilian executive branch employees from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election. “Political activity” is defined as activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office. Civil penalties for violations can include fines or dismissal.