Government watchdog finds six Trump staffers violated Hatch Act

The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) on Friday found that six members of the Trump administration violated the Hatch Act.

The OSC cited six staffers with violating the federal law in response to a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in August.

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

{mosads}The office concluded that deputy press secretary Raj Shah, President Trump’s executive assistant Madeleine Westerhout, Vice President Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah, White House Deputy Director of Communications Jessica Ditto and two others violated the Hatch Act.

The six officials found in violation of the Hatch Act had tweeted Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” or “MAGA” for short, on their official Twitter accounts. 

The OSC clarified in March that any reference to the slogan was a clear violation. 

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

Helen Aguirre Ferré, a former special assistant to the president and director of media affairs, deleted her Twitter account when she left the position earlier this year.

The OSC decided not to pursue disciplinary action against any of the officials since they deleted their posts once they became aware of the violation.  

“They all have been advised that if in the future they engage in prohibited political activity while employed in a position covered by the Hatch Act, we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action,” the OSC wrote in the ruling. 

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

CREW’s original complaint also included four other Trump officials who were found to have not violated the act. 

The complaint against White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was directed at a March 6 tweet from her official @PressSec Twitter account that includes part of the Trump slogan.

“Great again: ‘The U.S. 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 OSC found that it could not determine if the words “great again” could be considered political activity. 

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters was not in violation of the Hatch Act by retweeting the message. 

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, who was named in the complaint for his use of #MAGA on Twitter, was not cited because he made the post the same day the OSC issued the clarification. 

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was also accused of violating the law by writing an op-ed entitled “’MAGAnomics’ is working and defying critics” and shared the link on his official Twitter page. 

The OSC found that since the Trump administration has branded its economic plan with the name “MAGAnomics,” Mulvaney was not referring to Trump’s candidacy. 

CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder celebrated the OSC’s findings in a statement on Friday, but added that warnings “have not been enough” to deter Trump officials from engaging in partisan politics. 

“Since the time that these violations were committed, CREW has filed 11 additional Hatch Act complaints against Trump officials Simply put, OSC must consider additional measures to prevent these rampant abuses,” Bookbinder wrote. 

Tags Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington CREW Donald Trump Hatch Act Mick Mulvaney Office of the Special Counsel

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