Zinke tweet sharing Trump socks may have violated federal ethics law

Zinke tweet sharing Trump socks may have violated federal ethics law
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeNew policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press Overnight Energy: EPA proposes scrapping limits on coal plant waste | Appointee overseeing federal lands once advocated selling them | EPA lifts Obama-era block on controversial mine Latest appointee overseeing federal public lands once advocated to sell them MORE has apologized and deleted a tweet that may have broken federal ethics laws prohibiting government officials from engaging in political activity.

The tweet showed Zinke wearing a pair of socks with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE’s face on them Tuesday while attending a meeting of the Western Governors Association at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, according to Reuters. The socks also had the Trump campaign's “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan on them.

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“Breaking in new socks on a hike with the governors today,” the official @SecretaryZinke Twitter account said in a now-deleted tweet.

 

Zinke apologized for the tweet, which was deleted, on his official account later on Tuesday.

“Earlier I tweeted a pic of my new socks not realizing it had what could be viewed as a political slogan. I’ve deleted it and apologize for the mistake. I remain excited about all the incredible policy work POTUS is doing,” the tweet said, with the campaign slogan blacked out in the photo.

The Campaign for Accountability, a nonpartisan public accountability group, filed a complaint on Wednesday with the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel calling for an investigation and claiming Zinke's tweet violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by government officials on the job. 

“Secretary Zinke continues to play fast and loose with federal ethics laws,” Executive Director Daniel Stevens said in a statement. “The Secretary of the Interior should know better than to promote a campaign slogan while touring a national park. The Office of Special Counsel should investigate Secretary Zinke’s conduct and sanction him for violating the Hatch Act.”

The watchdog also shared a March 2018 memo from the Office of Special Counsel, an independent investigative office that has oversight on the Hatch Act and is separate from the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE, stating that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan or nonofficial pictures of Trump may not be displayed or worn.

Another member of Trump’s administration was found to have been in violation of the Hatch Act earlier this year.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayIllinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Trump health chief: Officials actively 'working on' ObamaCare replacement plan Campaign aide: Trump asking questions shared by 'millions of Americans' with Epstein conspiracy theory MORE violated the Hatch Act on two separate occasions by endorsing and advocating political candidates while appearing in her official capacity.