Kellyanne Conway should be fined and removed from her position in the White House for continued violations of the Hatch Act, according to a non-profit government watchdog organization.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a 23-page lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday requesting that Conway be referred to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), who would then file a complaint against the high-ranking presidential advisor.
“Conway was appointed Counselor to the President on January 20, 2017,” the lawsuit notes. “Since her appointment, she has openly violated the Hatch Act no fewer than 60 times (and counting). She has done so by using her official White House position to influence a 2017 special election, the 2018 midterm elections, and the 2020 presidential election through press appearances and social media.”
Many of those 60 alleged violations have been confirmed by the OSC.
“OSC issued reports in March 2018 and June 2019 finding that Conway violated the Hatch Act multiple times,” the filing explains–in reference to comments made by Conway deemed to have been attempts to interfere in various electoral outcomes. “And in the June 2019 report—which OSC issued in response to complaints by CREW—the agency deemed Conway’s violations so egregious that they warranted the disciplinary action of her removal from federal service.”
The March 2018 OSC report was in response to on-air commentary directing voters to support Republican Roy Moore over attorney and Democrat Doug Jones in the December 2017 special election to fill the Alabama Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.
The June 2019 report issued by OSC was in response to a CREW complaint which detailed alleged violations of the Hatch Act committed by Conway due to her participation “in media interviews given in her official capacity and in which she discussed government business, but in which she also expressed her political views about candidates in upcoming partisan elections,” which “were directed specifically toward the success or failure of a political party and candidates in partisan races, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Seth Moulton, Cory Booker, and Donald J. Trump.”
Conway’s behavior was deemed so egregious and voluminous by OSC that the agency advised President Trump to “remove Ms. Conway from her federal position immediately.”
“Never has OSC had to issue multiple reports to the President concerning Hatch Act violations by the same individual,” the agency said, adding that if Conway “were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position by the Merit Systems Protection Board.”
The OSC also issued the following rebuke and warning:
As a highly visible member of the Administration, Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law.
CREW’s lawsuit is essentially an attempt to force OSC’s hand by making the agency itself act against Conway instead of relying upon sternly-worded letters and suggestions to the president.
“Since assuming her role in the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway has continued to unabashedly abuse the power of her position as a high-ranking government official, and to illegally use her official position for partisan politics,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “We commend OSC for bravely concluding that Conway’s behavior is unacceptable and that she must be removed from her job. But now they must take the next step and file this long-overdue MSPB complaint.”
Per their Tuesday filing, CREW argues that OSC must file a written complaint against Conway and “present” it to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in accordance with the regulations governing the agency under the relevant federal statute.
“Under the statute’s plain terms, OSC’s duty to file an MSPB complaint is mandatory, not discretionary, if the triggering conditions are met,” the lawsuit notes–explaining that Conway does not qualify for the sole statutory exception because she was never confirmed by the U.S. Senate. “[The statute’s] conditions for filing an MSPB complaint are indisputably met in Conway’s case.”
CREW also rubbished OSC’s prior appeal to Trump:
Even though OSC found, in response to CREW’s complaints, repeated Hatch Act violations by Conway that warranted disciplinary action, the agency did not file an MSPB complaint against her as required by [the statute]. It instead referred Conway’s violations to the President for him to take disciplinary action pursuant to [the Senate-confirmed employee exception], notwithstanding that Conway is not a Senate-confirmed appointee and thus falls outside of the…exemption.
“OSC is legally required to file an MSPB complaint to formally discipline Conway for violating the Hatch Act, yet it did not follow through on its statutory obligations,” CREW said in a press release. “The law explicitly states that should OSC determine disciplinary actions should be taken against an employee, it must immediately prepare and present a written complaint to MSPB. The lawsuit would compel OSC to comply with its duty to begin enforcement proceedings with MSPB against Conway.”
“The Trump administration’s use of the executive branch of government for the political advancement of the President and his allies is a problem that cuts at the core of our democracy, and it is why he is at risk of being impeached,” Bookbinder added. “Conway’s blatant and repeated disregard for the law against misusing her office for electoral politics is one more piece of this crisis, and it is time for OSC to take the necessary and appropriate enforcement actions to hold her accountable.”
[Image via screengrab/Fox News]