Watchdog group says top Trump trade adviser should be fired for Hatch Act violations

A watchdog group on Monday called for President Trump’s top trade adviser to be fired for violating a law that bans federal employees for engaging in political activity in their professional capacity.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint Monday against Peter Navarro, claiming he violated the Hatch Act by criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden while also discussing his work for the White House.

“By mixing official government business with political activity, Mr. Navarro impermissibly used his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” CREW alleged in the complaint to the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency charged with enforcing ethics laws.

“In light of Mr. Navarro’s egregious, notorious, and ongoing violations of the Hatch Act, he should immediately resign his post. If he does not, OSC should recommend to the President that Mr. Navarro be removed from federal service, and the President should do so.”

Navarro is the White House director of trade and manufacturing policy and one of the administration’s most vicious critics of the Chinese government. Trump also tapped Navarro to oversee the administration’s use of the Defense Production Act to help boost the manufacturing of medical equipment and supplies essential to fighting the coronavirus pandemic. 

CREW alleges that Navarro violated the Hatch Act in nearly two dozen media appearances and tweets from a now-deleted Twitter account by criticizing Biden, Trump’s Democratic challenger in the 2020 presidential election, while discussing his official work for the White House.

In several TV interviews cited by CREW in which Navarro discussed administration trade policy, Navarro also accused Biden of driving manufacturing jobs to China, criticized the Obama administration’s response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, and said Biden was “compromised” and “can be bought” by the Chinese government.

CREW also cited several tweets Navarro appeared to send under the handle “@PeterNavarro45” that criticized Biden’s past support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and calling for Trump’s reelection.

The account was not verified by Twitter, but it featured Navarro’s official White House portrait, briefly included the Twitter disclaimer attached to all White House accounts, and followed the naming convention used for Trump White House accounts—the staffer’s first and last name followed by “45,” signifying Trump’s election as the 45th president.

The original account appeared to be deleted Monday and has since been replaced with several posts criticizing Trump and praising Biden, making Navarro’s alleged previous tweets inaccessible.

A White House spokesman did not comment on the complaint against Navarro nor the status of the Twitter account he appeared to previously use.

Navarro is among several Trump administration officials who have been either accused of violating or found by OSC to have violated the Hatch Act.

House Democrats are also investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by delivering a recorded speech to the Republican National Convention while he was on diplomatic travel in Israel.

Politico reported in September that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is under investigation by OSC over whether she violated the Hatch Act by criticizing Biden’s education policy proposals in a cable interview that was later shared on the department’s official YouTube page.

OSC also urged Trump in 2019 to fire former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for violating the Hatch Act several times. Trump refused to do so and Conway left the White House in August citing a desire to focus on family matters.

Tags Betsy DeVos Betsy DeVos CREW Donald Trump Donald Trump Hatch Act Joe Biden Kellyanne Conway Mike Pompeo Mike Pompeo Peter Navarro
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