A watchdog group contends that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley violated the Hatch Act for retweeting a political message from President Donald Trump, NPR reports.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the Office of Special Counsel, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested an investigation into whether the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, improperly used Twitter for political activity.
CREW charges that Haley violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election”. Neither Haley nor her office would comment on CREW’s complaint.
At issue is the president’s tweet on June 19, in which he stated his support for Ralph Norman, the Republican running for Congress in South Carolina’s 5th District. Norman went on to win the special election. Haley retweeted Trump’s endorsement of the candidate.
Later she removed her retweet, but not before the message may have reached her more than 350,000 followers on the social media platform, CREW said.
“As the recent former governor of South Carolina, Ambassador Haley may care deeply about her party’s electoral performance in the state, but the rules separating politics from official government work still apply”, CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
The Hatch Act does not apply to the president or vice president. “There is a certain irony that Haley could get in trouble for retweeting what the president tweeted”, said Kathleen Clark, an ethics law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
Clark believes CREW’s letter makes a strong case that a violation occurred, as the organization has had success with similar complaints before.
As NPR reported in April, the organization filed a complaint against White House social media director Dan Scavino for a tweet advocating for the defeat of Representative Justin Amash. On June 5, the Office of Special Counsel responded by sending Scavino a warning letter that future political activity would result in further action.
The Scavino and Haley cases do differ, in that Scavino posted his comments directly to Twitter, while Haley retweeted, but Clark says that may not matter.
“People retweet for various purposes. Sometimes people say that retweets are not endorsements, but she does not say that or warn people that way. It appears to be partisan political activity in support of this South Carolina candidate”, Clark said.