Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law

Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law
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The Hatch Act is an 80-year-old anti-corruption law that bars civilian executive branch employees from using their official positions and authority to influence elections.

But when it comes to complying with the Hatch Act, White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayObama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' Journalists, political heavyweights pay respects to Cokie Roberts: 'A pioneer for so many' Iran's supreme leader rules out talks with US at all levels MORE’s attitude amounts to: Whatever I can get away with I will — and I can get away with anything. Some would argue that, in fact, this attitude only reflects President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE’s reelection campaign strategy. 

If so, Conway’s lawless conduct is just a taste of what we can expect in 2020. Not to mention, Trump’s willingness to accept foreign assistance in his re-election campaign without informing the FBI, which he has since partly backed away from. 


The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which is unrelated to Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE, investigates Hatch Act violations. Last week, an obviously fed-up OSC issued a blistering report on Conway. 

Appreciate that the OSC is not headed by an Obama-era holdover. It’s run by Henry J. Kerner, a Trump appointee and former prosecutor with sterling conservative Republican credentials. Kerner had previously worked for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Issa says he will run for Congress if not confirmed to trade post by Nov. 3 The Hill's Campaign Report: Pressure builds for Democrats who missed third debate cut MORE (R-Calif.) and he is an alumnus of the conservative Federalist Society.

According to the report, Conway is a “repeat” Hatch Act violator who has “used her official authority to advocate for or against declared candidates for partisan political office.” The report found that Conway is incorrigible and unrepentant. She “willfully and openly disregarded the law in full public view . . . And she made it clear that she has no plans to cease abusing her official position to influence voters.” As one example, the OSC cited Conway’s contemptuous response to criticism of her conduct: “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

Conway’s conduct was so egregious that she made Hatch Act history. “Never has OSC had to issue multiple reports to the President concerning Hatch act violations by the same individual.” Kerner personally recommended that Trump fire her. “Her actions erode the principal foundations of our democratic system--the rule of law.”

The White House flatly rejected his recommendation. White House lawyer Pat A. Cipolone argued that Conway was only criticizing the “policy proposals” of Democratic candidates.  


As the proverb goes, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. The OSC cited numerous examples of Conway’s partisan political attacks in her official media appearances as counselor the president or at the White House. None had the faintest resemblance to “policy” criticism.  

On Feb. 11, 2019, Conway appeared on “Fox & Friends,” where she was introduced by her official title. She claimed that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument MORE (D-Mass.) “spent decades, folks, decades appropriating somebody else’s heritage and ethnicity” and “she’s been lying about it.” 

On the same program, Conway said of Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR MORE (D-N.Y.), “This weekend in her fifties, apparently was the first time she’s ever eaten fried chicken, and she waited for the cameras to roll. I mean this is just silly stuff.” 

In an interview on April 30, 2019 in the White House driveway Conway called former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (I-Vt.) “two old white straight men career politicians” and claimed that their polling leads proved that the Democratic primary electorate is “sexist” and “racist.” I could go on. 

Perhaps Conway and the White House are betting that the American public secretly cheers for colorful outlaws. But this isn’t about butter-on-your-popcorn entertainment. It’s about Trump’s constitutional obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Conway and the White House are telling us that the president is running for reelection and the American constitution and the rule of law had better get out of the way. 

Gregory J. Wallance was a federal prosecutor during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He is the author most recently of “The Woman Who Fought An Empire: Sarah Aaronsohn and Her Nili Spy Ring.” Follow him on Twitter at @gregorywallance.