White House

Federal Agency Recommends Kellyanne Conway Be Fired for Violating Hatch Act

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway speaks with the media after giving an interview to Fox News outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recommended Thursday that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political advocacy while serving in their official capacity.

The OSC — a watchdog agency that is charged with enforcing the Hatch Act and is unrelated to Robert Mueller — sent a letter to Trump Thursday morning that accuses Conway of “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.”

Due to Conway’s status as a “repeat offender,” the OSC, which is run by Trump appointee Henry Kerner, recommended that she be removed so that her fellow federal employees understand there will be consequences for violating the law.

“Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law,” the letter said.

The letter comes after a March 2018 report in which the OSC detailed a series of violations that occurred over the course of two television interviews wherein Conway openly advocated for disgraced Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and disparaged his ultimately victorious opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.

The OSC also notes in the letter that Conway “downplayed the significance of the law as applied to her” during a May 29 interview.

“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway said when asked about her alleged violations, adding “let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

The White House responded to the report by impugning the OSC’s motives.

“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,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Steven Groves said in a statement. “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, nonpolitical manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act.”

In addition to her comments regarding the Alabama Senate race, Conway has publicly disparaged Democratic 2020 presidential candidates in a number of instances noted by Kerner. At various points, she has lashed out at senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as former representative Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden. Many of the critical comments were made on Conway’s Twitter account, which, Kerner pointed out, she also uses to conduct officials business.

Update 3:20p.m.: House Oversight and reform Committee chairman Elijah Cummings announced Thursday afternoon that he has scheduled a hearing to speak to the OSC about its recommendation that Conway be fired.

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