Top White House trade adviser violated Hatch Act, watchdog finds

Top White House trade adviser violated Hatch Act, watchdog finds
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The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the federal government’s internal watchdog, on Monday accused President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE’s top trade adviser of repeatedly flouting a ban on executive branch employees using their office for political purposes.

Peter Navarro, the White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, violated the Hatch Act by criticizing President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE and advocating for Trump’s reelection while speaking in his capacity as a top administration official, according to an OSC report released Monday.

The Hatch Act bars executive branch employees from campaigning or engaging in political activity in anything but their personal capacity. The OSC cited six media interviews leading up to the election and a handful of tweets in which Navarro made explicitly political comments while also discussing policy on behalf of the president.

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Navarro was also warned twice before several of the violating comments, the OSC said.

“Dr. Navarro’s violations of the Hatch Act were knowing and willful,” the OSC wrote. “Dr. Navarro’s attempt to influence voters in the 2020 presidential election, while speaking as a representative of their government, is just what the Hatch Act is intended to prevent.”

Most of Navarro’s alleged violations of the Hatch Act involve baselessly accusing Biden of being subservient to the Chinese government and pushing manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. He also claimed Biden’s economic policies would destroy the U.S. economy and bashed Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisCIA chief team member reported Havana syndrome symptoms during trip to India: report Harris booked for first in-studio talk show appearance as VP on 'The View' Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE as a “mouthpiece” who should not be taken seriously.

Navarro’s conduct was the subject of an October complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group.

The White House declined to comment.

Navarro is the latest of several Trump administration officials to be reprimanded or investigated for violating the Hatch Act, including Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoPoll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability Majority of voters disapprove of execution of Afghanistan withdrawal: poll Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant MORE, Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosGOP lawmakers urge Cardona against executive student loan wipeout More insidious power grab than one attempted Jan. 6? Betsy DeVos not running for Michigan governor MORE and former White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayPsaki defends move to oust Trump appointees from military academy boards Defense & National Security: The post-airlift evacuation struggle Conway and Spicer fire back at White House over board resignation requests MORE.

Updated at 4:17 p.m.