Federal employees warned not discuss Trump impeachment or ‘the Resistance’ at work: report

The Trump administration has reportedly issued a new guidance for the political activity of federal government workers, warning that participation in discussion about impeachment or about “the Resistance” may be prohibited activity. 

The Washington Post reported on Friday that the unsigned guidance, also known as the “Guidance Regarding Political Activity,” was issued by the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency that also enforces the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from using their work resources and social media accounts for political purposes. 

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Under the new guidance, federal workers are reportedly prohibited from supporting the impeachment of a candidate for federal office, as it would be construed as political due to its implications for elections in the future.

Federal workers would also reportedly be prohibited from using terms like “resistance” and “#resist.”

According to the Post, the ethics nonprofit American Oversight has expressed “significant concerns” about the new guidance in a letter sent to the office on Thursday and called for the memo to be withdrawn.

“OSC’s position on impeachment advocacy or opinions goes too far,” Austin Evers, the group’s executive director, said in the letter seen by the Post. He added that “certainly there is a difference between advocating that an official should (or should not) be elected and advocating that an official did (or did not) commit treason or high crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution.” 

Evers also expressed concerns about the potential constraints the new guidance could have on whistleblowers. 

“As OSC knows well, it is critically important to ensure public employees are comfortable raising concerns about waste, fraud, or abuse in the government,” he wrote in the letter. 

“Impeachment is primarily a remedy for severe misconduct,” he added. “If public employees are aware of conduct that could be impeachable but fear civil or criminal liability under the Hatch Act for saying so, they may be reluctant to approach OSA, inspectors general, or Congress.”

Nick Schwellenbach, who was an employee in the OSC from 2014 to 2017, told the Post he feels the new guidelines could have a harmful effect on the government employees’ First Amendment rights.

“The way OSC has traditionally balanced its enforcement of that statute with the First Amendment is [focused on] supporting a candidate or political party for election. I think once you start talking about more general political views, you’re starting to infringe upon people’s rights,” he told the newspaper.

“This one, I think, goes too far for them," he added. "It runs the risk of turning the OSC into an Orwellian enforcer inside the federal workforce."