Weeks after confidently crooning “Blah, blah, blah,” and “Let me know when the jail sentence starts” when asked by reporters about repeated Hatch Act violations, a top internal government watchdog recommended the firing of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for doing exactly that.
In a report that the Office of Special Counsel (a permanent position completely separate from the Robert Mueller-led Office of Special Counsel) Harry Kerner sent to President Donald Trump today, the office found that Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from using their government positions to promote partisan politics. Conway is one of at least seven White House officials who the OSC has found to have violated the Hatch Act, though none of the OSC’s reports and recommendations had previously included more than a slap on the wrist for offenders.
In Thursday’s report, Kerner said Conway committed violations on “numerous occasions by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.” In a press release about the report, the OSC also mentioned a March 2018 report finding that Conway violated the Hatch Act in advocating for and against Alabama Senate candidates.
Kerner—who was was appointed by Trump and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate in 2017—also wrote that Conway is a “repeat offender,” and that without consequence, her actions would “send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide” to the federal law, and subsequently “erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law.”
The most *chef’s kiss* part of this entire thing, however, isn’t the OSC’s recommendation that Conway be fired, but their inclusion of her “Let me know when the jail sentence starts” comments she made last month. Because of these comments, Kerner concluded, Conway “downplayed the significance of the law as it applied to her.”
Surely Conway said such things with the confidence of someone who thought these comments would never come back to bite her, and that federal laws do not apply to her anyway. So how is she reacting to the report now? Reportedly, cool as a very not mad at all cucumber:
Alas, this has been the White House’s exact response, too. In an email to Splinter, White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves shared a statement slamming the Office of Special Counsel for “violat[ing] her constitutional rights to free speech and due process,” and saying that the OSC’s “decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations.”
A reminder: Trump himself nominated Kerner.
“The Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process. Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees. Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations – and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act.”
I’m sure Conway’s already prepared her biting retorts for the next time reporters so much as say the word “Hatch” in front of her. In the meantime, you can read the OSC’s full report here.