The Department of Justice's Office of the Special Counsel issued a blistering memo Thursday accusing White Houes senior adviser Kellyanne Conway of being a "repeat offender" of the Hatch Act and suggesting she should be removed from the President's staff immediately.
The move was not connected to former special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the 22-month probe into Russian election meddling and possible collusion by President Trump's campaign.
It said that in multiple media interviews and through social media postings beginning early this year, the 52-year-old Conway, acting as a White House spokesperson, engaged in partisan attacks on Democratic presidential hopefuls including USA senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, and former congressman Beto O'Rourke. Trump has praised her for her "success" in her career.
When asked during the interview about the Hatch Act, Conway replied: "If you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work". In those meetings, White House officials challenged the OSC's authority to issue rules for the use of social media.
In a statement, White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves called the OSC's recommendation "deeply flawed" and said it violates Conway's constitutional rights to free speech and due process.
The Office of Special Counsel has found numerous Hatch Act violations by Conway.
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"Conway's repeated violations and publicly expressed disdain for the law show a unsafe disregard for governmental ethics, the rule of law and the long-held understanding that government officials should not use their official positions to advance partisan politics", Bookbinder said.
The Hatch Act states that no administrative employee may run for partisan political office or "use his official authority or influence for the objective of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for office".
"Anytime I express a feeling about a candidate, people who want to make themselves relevant get air time and Twitter time, so I won't go there", she said. The motivations included pressure to address media inquiries about Conway's remarks on May 29 and "the need to be mindful of interest from politicians outside the office".
"The OSC has stepped up and made crystal clear the inappropriate nature of a White House employee defying the law in plain sight", said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for the group, in a statement.
The report stated that Conway had run afoul of the Hatch Act on several occasions.
Whatever the merits of these legal arguments, what the report seems to expect is that anyone at the White House below the president himself should have to take political abuse from the media and the opposition but is forbidden to respond. "Let me know when the jail sentence starts". "Why would I give you a reaction?"