CREW filed complaints with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) against ten Trump administration officials for their apparent violations of the Hatch Act. The administration officials named in the complaints are: Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Deputy Director of Communications Jessica Ditto, Executive Assistant to the President Madeleine Westerhout, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah, Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters, Director of Media Affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré, Press Secretary for Vice President Mike Pence Alyssa Farah, and OMB Deputy Communications Director Jacob Wood.
In the months since President Trump announced his candidacy for re-election, these ten White House officials appear to have violated the Hatch Act by using their official government Twitter accounts for partisan political activity. CREW’s complaints detail instances from ten Trump Administration officials who posted tweets in support of candidate Trump or the Republican Party, including six who tweeted the Trump campaign slogans “Make America Great Again” or “#MAGA.” Each Twitter account that was used for this political activity is clearly intended and used for official White House or government business.
The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from “us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” OSC guidance on applying the Hatch Act prohibitions to social media specifically advises that an employee may not “use a Facebook or Twitter account in his official capacity to engage in political activity” and requires that “any social media account created in a federal employee’s official capacity should be limited to official business and remain politically neutral.” On March 5, 2018, following multiple Hatch Act violations by a Trump Administration official, OSC offered additional clarification explicitly prohibiting an employee from using the slogan “Make America Great Again,” hashtags such as #MAGA, or “any other materials from President Trump’s 2016 or 2020 campaigns.”
Some of the violations occurred within days of the OSC guidance, and many used the prohibited language verbatim. These violations are part of a larger pattern of disregard for the Hatch Act by Trump administration officials. OSC should commence an immediate investigation and take or recommend appropriate disciplinary action against these officials.