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Watchdog group files Hatch Act complaint against Meadows

The watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) says in a complaint filed on Wednesday that White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show Trump endorsement shakes up GOP Senate primary in NC MORE violated the federal Hatch Act during two separate interviews on Fox News earlier this month.

CREW’s complaint to the Official of the Special Counsel (OSC) calls for an investigation into Meadows’s unprompted comments advocating for President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE’s reelection against his opponent, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE, as well as an apparent endorsement of a Republican congressional candidate.

“It is alarming and disturbing to see the president’s Chief of Staff so blatantly violate the law by using his official position for politics. As one of the highest ranking officials in the White House, he should know better,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “Meadows’ behavior is beyond inappropriate for someone in such a powerful government position, and OSC ought to swiftly investigate to determine whether he violated the law.” 

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The Hatch Act bars federal employees from making partisan remarks that could influence an election while using their official titles. Those found to have violated it can be fined as much as $1,000 and face disciplinary actions such as suspension or termination.

The complaint highlights Meadows’s two different appearances on Fox News on July 6 in which he allegedly expressed his own personal political views while identified by his official title of Trump's chief of staff and initially appearing from the grounds of the White House. 

During the first segment, which was his first official television interview since being named chief of staff in March, Meadows discussed several matters, including the administration's reaction to nationwide protests against racial injustice and the distribution of bailout funds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Without being prompted by the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” Meadows compared Trump’s reelection chances to those of the former vice president.

“The interesting thing is this president will do more in the next four weeks than Joe Biden and his team did in the last 40 years,” Meadows said.

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He was then asked about the contest to fill his former congressional seat in North Carolina, which he left to join the administration. Meadows endorsed GOP candidate Madison Cawthorn, who he said would make “a great member of Congress.”

“The people of Western North Carolina have rallied behind him, will continue to do so, and in November, we will keep that seat — but not only that seat, we will pick up additional seats because it’s time that Congress starts getting things done and helping this president instead of being an obstructionist,” Meadows said.

Later on that same day, Meadows again launched an unprompted attack on Biden while discussing the White House’s reaction to the protests and the deployment of federal resources during an interview with Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityPoll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Book claims Trump believed Democrats would replace Biden with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama in 2020 election 9 Republicans not named Trump who could run in 2024 MORE.

“It is time that Joe Biden eventually condemns all of these people that are saying that we should defund the police,” Meadows said. “It’s not enough be against the policy, he needs to come out and say you have to go the other way and support our law enforcement officers.”

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Meadows made a “stark” comparison between Biden and Trump, the complaint states, accusing Biden of representing “anarchy” while Trump represents “rule of law.”

CREW compared Meadows’s conduct with the OSC’s description of Hatch Act violations committed by White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayKaren Pence confirms move back to Indiana: 'No place like home' Pence urges 'positive' agenda to counter Biden in first speech since leaving office Kellyanne Conway joins Ohio Senate candidate's campaign MORE last year.

A 17-page report submitted to the White House found that Conway violated the law in more than half a dozen television interviews and tweets by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity.”

The OSC publicly said Conway should be removed from office, calling her a “repeat offender” who has flouted the law barring federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official duties.

Trump rebuked the recommendation and said he would not fire Conway for the violations. 

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

Several other Trump officials have been accused of violating the Hatch Act, including the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who both serve in the White House as his senior advisers.