Federal watchdog to testify Conway's indifference toward Hatch Act 'hurts' the American people

The federal watchdog that recommended President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE fire Kelllyanne Conway will testify this week that the White House counselor's repeated violations of the Hatch Act and subsequent indifference toward the law is doing harm to taxpayers and other government workers.

Henry Kerner, an attorney with the Office of Special Counsel, will tell the House Oversight and Reform Committee that Conway's comments about Democratic lawmakers over the past couple years are often "indistinguishable from the partisan attacks that a campaign official would make."


"Her conduct hurts both federal employees, who may believe that senior officials can act with complete disregard for the Hatch Act, and the American people, who may question the nonpartisan operation of their government," Kerner will say, according to prepared testimony.

Kerner is set to appear before the committee on Wednesday as part of a hearing on the Hatch Act, which bars federal officials from weighing in on elections in their government capacity.

Conway has also been invited to attend, and the panel is expected to vote to subpoena her if she does not appear voluntarily.

In his prepared remarks, Kerner will address some of the defenses Conway offered earlier Monday in an interview with "Fox & Friends." Conway has simultaneously argued she did not violate the law, that the law may not apply to assistants to the president and that the OSC's ruling restricts her free speech.

Kerner will note that the Hatch Act has held up against multiple legal challenges on First Amendment grounds, including at the Supreme Court. He is expected to say that the Hatch Act is not intended to regulate speech advocating for policies and legislation, and that Conway's rhetoric has gone beyond that. 

"Ms. Conway used her official authority, not to persuade lawmakers or the public about particular policies, but to argue in support of President Trump’s reelection and in opposition to the election of the Democratic Party’s candidates for president," he said.

Kerner will assert in his testimony that "there is a distinction between working as a senior advisor who promotes the administration’s policies and engaging in political campaigning."

The Daily Beast first reported Kerner's planned testimony.

In its report to Trump earlier earlier this month, the OSC found Conway violated the law with comments about 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, and cited her lax attitude about past citations. The watchdog previously found her in violation of the Hatch Act for her comments on a 2017 special U.S. Senate election in Alabama.

Trump has said he has no plans to fire Conway at OSC's recommendation, and the White House has defended the senior aide's conduct. White House counsel Pat Cippolone said issued a lengthy response disputing the OSC's findings, saying the report violated Conway's free speech rights.