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 Mulvaney 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 Trump 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.
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.
Great again: “The U.S. is likely to overtake Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer”https://t.co/d5giJR686Y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 6, 2018
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.”
#MAGAnomics is a simple formula, you just have to believe in capitalism, hard work and our people. You must believe in America. We certainly do. https://t.co/wrErZiRTFs
— Mick Mulvaney (@MickMulvaneyOMB) April 5, 2018
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 Pence 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 Trump’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 Conway violated the Hatch Act on two separate occasions, once after using her official position to promote products from the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Conway refused to acknowledge publicly if she faced a punishment for the violations.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley 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 Amash (R-Mich.) in an upcoming primary.
Both Haley and Scavino were given warnings from the OSC.
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