The US Office of Special Counsel has recommended that White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway be removed from office for violating the US ethics laws ”on numerous occasions”.
The recommendation purportedly follows after Ms Conway attacked Democratic presidential candidates during television appearances in which she was acting on an official capacity for the White House, violating the US Hatch Act that requires a separation between official duties and campaigning efforts.
“The US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) calls on President Donald J Trump to remove Ms Conway from her federal position immediately,” the letter, which was delivered to the White House on Thursday, says.
The report recommendation says that, since February of this year, Ms Conway “repeatedly violated the Hatch Act during her official media appearances by making statements directed at the success of your re-election campaign or at the failure of candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.”
It continues, noting that the OSC had previously contacted Ms Conway about the violations: “In doing so, she has used her official authority to advocate for or against declared candidates for partisan political office.”
In response to the recommendation, White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves called the letter “unprecedented”, and insisted that Ms Conway’s rights were being violated.
“The Office of Special Counsel’s unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process,” Mr Groves said. “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 organisations – and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponise the Hatch Act.”
Ms Conway did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has challenged accusations that her television appearances violate the Hatch Act previously.
In a May interview, for instance, Ms Conway told CNN: “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. ... Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
The Hatch Act was first passed in 1939, and prohibits all federal employees except the president, vice president, and certain other high-level government officials from engaging in election activities while serving in their official capacities.
Violations can be as small as a tweet sent from an official account, and can result in consequences like termination, or even a fine.
But, the law gives broad discretion to the president and other officials whose employees appear to violate the Hatch Act – and staffers for both Democrats and Republicans have previously appeared to fall foul of the law and faced little punishment.
Violating the Hatch Act is not a criminal activity, so Ms Conway is not threatened with jail time for the accused violations, as she said in that previous interview.
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