Watchdog files Hatch Act violation complaints against 10 Trump administration officials

A Washington-based ethics group has filed complaints arguing that 10 Trump administration officials violated the federal Hatch Act. 

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on Thursday against White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyProtect the Military Lending Act On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Warren suggests Mulvaney broke law by speaking to GOP donors MORE and deputy press secretaries Raj Shah and Hogan Gidley, along with six others.

CREW’s complaint details how all 10 Trump officials posted tweets that support President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE as a candidate for the Republican Party in 2020 — a direct violation of the Hatch Act, according to the watchdog's executive director, Noah Bookbinder.

ADVERTISEMENT

The act bars federal employees from using their offices and resources for political purposes. 

Those found to have violated it can be fined as much as $1,000 and face disciplinary actions like suspension or termination.

Six of the officials tweeted Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” or “MAGA” for short, CREW said in a Thursday statement

The OSC clarified this March that any reference to the slogan was a clear violation, the watchdog noted. 

The complaint against Sanders is directed at a March 6 tweet from her official @PressSec Twitter account that includes part of the Trump slogan.

“Great again: ‘The U.S. is likely to overtake Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer,’” Sanders tweeted, linking to a Wall Street Journal article about U.S. oil production.

The complaint against Mulvaney follows an op-ed he wrote in April for CNBC. The opinion, entitled “'MAGAnomics' is working and defying critics,” discusses his perceived merits of the Trump administration’s economic policy and features Trump's MAGA slogan several times.

The byline includes Mulvaney’s official title and was shared on the White House’s website.

Mulvaney also shared the op-ed on Twitter in April with the hashtag "MAGAnomics."

The Hill has reached out to the White House and OMB for comment.

The other Trump administration officials named in the complaints are: deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto, Executive Assistant to the President Madeleine Westerhout, deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, Director of Media Affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré, Press Secretary for Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceIndiana sisters with history of opposing Pence donate millions to Dems Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law Overnight Defense: Trump marks 9/11 anniversary | Mattis says Assad 'has been warned' on chemical weapons | US identifies first remains of returned Korean war troops MORE Alyssa Farah and OMB deputy communications director Jacob Wood.

“We continue to see Trump Administration officials at all levels engaged in unprecedented partisan political activity using their official Twitter accounts in direct violation of the Hatch Act,” Bookbinder said in a statement.

“Despite multiple investigations and violations found, the Trump Administration clearly has no intention to stop the misuse of government offices and resources for political purposes,” Bookbinder continued. “We are now calling on the OSC to consider additional measures to prevent the rampant abuses coming from this administration.”

Several members of the Trump administration have been accused of violating the Hatch Act, though none appear to have been punished.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet Pamela Anderson claims she convinced Melania Trump to stop wearing fur MORE’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, was accused by CREW last month of violating the federal act by using #MAGA on her official Twitter account.

An investigation from the special counsel in March found that White House Counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Conway to CNN's Cuomo in heated debate: 'I'll walk away' if you continue to interrupt me On The Money: Cohen reportedly questioned over Trump dealings with Russia | Trump hails economy | Tells workers to 'start looking' if they want a better job | Internal poll shows tax law backfiring on GOP MORE violated the Hatch Act on two separate occasions, once after using her official position to promote products from the president's daughter, Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpHard choices in training Americans for AI workplace of future Ex-Trump, progressive strategists battle over charges of anti-Semitism surrounding Eric Trump Ethics watchdog requests probe into Trump officials traveling to campaign events MORE.

Conway refused to acknowledge publicly if she faced a punishment for the violations. 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleySunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Trump previews UN message: Body 'has not lived up to' its potential Trump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' MORE was also found to have violated the act by retweeting an endorsement from Trump in October. 

Dan Scavino, the White House social media director, was also found to have violated the act last year after CREW filed a complaint accusing him of encouraging potential GOP challengers to oust Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashRand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump Ethics watchdog requests probe into Trump officials traveling to campaign events Kavanaugh’s views on privacy, Fourth Amendment should make Republicans think twice MORE (R-Mich.) in an upcoming primary.

Both Haley and Scavino were given warnings from the OSC.