Trump aide comes under fire after tweet urging GOP primary challenge

Trump aide comes under fire after tweet urging GOP primary challenge
© Greg Nash

A former chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House is calling on the Trump administration to fire a top aide, alleging he violated a longstanding prohibition on using an official position to influence an election.

Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, argued Saturday that White House social media director Dan Scavino violated the Hatch Act.

The Trump aide had sent a tweet Saturday calling for a primary challenge to Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE (R-Mich.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who opposed the GOP healthcare plan last month.

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While the aide sent the tweet from an account labeled as his "personal" account, Painter pointed to the account's image — Scavino pictured in the White House — and called for him to be fired.

"Look at the official photo on this page. Read the Hatch Act and fire this man NOW. Someone call OSC," Painter wrote on Twitter, referring to the Office of Special Counsel, which oversees prohibited personnel practices.

"This is use of official position to influence an election. Look at the photo and description underneath. Bush WH would have fired him," he added.

"Ethics 101- You can't put official titles and WH photos all over your 'personal' Twitter page and use it for partisan politics. Hatch Act."

An email to the White House seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from using their offices to try to sway elections or influence campaigns.

In a tweet Saturday, Scavino called for Amash to be ousted from office in the 2018 midterm elections.

Amash was among a slew of conservative and moderate lawmakers who opposed the GOP leaders' healthcare plan last month aimed at repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

The bill's failure sparked a feud between the Trump White House and members of the Freedom Caucus, whose members overwhelmingly opposed the bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act.

Daniel Jacobson, a former lawyer for the Obama White House, also accused Scavino of violating the Hatch Act on Saturday, saying that Scavino's "personal" Twitter account amounted to a "de facto" government account.

"This violates the Hatch Act. WH staff can't use an official or de facto govt Twitter acct (which this is) to call for defeat of a candidate," he wrote on Twitter.