A government watchdog recommended that top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway be removed from her post, citing repeated alleged violations of a rule that prohibits political activity by executive-branch staff, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In a statement Thursday, the Office of Special Counsel, which isn’t affiliated with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, described Conway as a “repeat offender” of the Hatch Act for attacking Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity as a White House adviser.
“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.
In response, the White House rejected the recommendation, calling the actions against Conway “deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process.”
The White House added that the OSC’s 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.”
The Hatch Act stipulates that most executive-branch officials must not engage in political activity in an official capacity at any time. The President is one of few exceptions to that rule, the Journal adds.
The Office of Special Counsel is a government body charged with enforcing the Hatch Act, a law passed in 1939 that aims to prevent the government from influencing elections or acting in a partisan manner.
According to the Journal, Conway has been reprimanded by the OSC a number of times since Trump took office, including once for advocating for Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election for Senate in a television interview while appearing in her official capacity.
White House social-media director Dan Scavino and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also received official warnings over tweets that the OSC said broke the rules.
Hatch Act penalties can range from an official reprimand to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. More serious infringements can bring suspension, termination or a ban of up to five years from federal employment for individuals, the Journal adds.