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 ConwayKellyanne Conway says she meant 'no disrespect' with question about reporter's ethnicity Kellyanne Conway asks reporter 'what's your ethnicity' while defending Trump's 'go back' comments about minority lawmakers Conway: Progressive congresswomen represent 'dark underbelly in this country' 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 TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist 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 MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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 Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Darrell Issa eyes return to Congress Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law 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 WarrenHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Democrats fret over Trump cash machine 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 Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet 'Game of Thrones' scores record-breaking 32 Emmy nominations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet 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 BidenHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Sanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll 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.