Washington — Federal prosecutors should investigate whether Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo and Chad Wolf committed criminal violations of the Hatch Act, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Evidence suggests that the former president and two of his Cabinet secretaries violated criminal law with their actions around the 2020 Republican National Convention.
A criminal provision of the Hatch Act prohibits public officers from using their official authority to interfere with or affect the nomination or election of a candidate for federal office. The Office of Special Counsel found that Pompeo violated a civil provision of the Hatch Act after he delivered to the RNC a pre-recorded speech that focused almost exclusively on his official responsibilities, which he taped while on official travel to Jerusalem. Pompeo not only disregarded decades-long State Department advice on how to comply with the Hatch Act, but further violated the Hatch Act by changing its policy which, until then, prohibited State Department political appointees from engaging in partisan political activities including addressing a political party convention.
OSC also determined that Wolf violated the Hatch Act by presiding over a naturalization ceremony at the White House with Trump. The ceremony had been rescheduled to coincide with the RNC, and footage from the event was broadcasted by the RNC later that evening. In both instances, there is evidence suggesting that Trump likely used his presidential authority to effectuate Pompeo’s and Wolf’s breaking the law in order to promote his own reelection efforts.
“President Trump laid the foundation for these and other Hatch Act violations by consistently refusing to hold top officials accountable for even the most flagrant and clear-cut violations,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “The actions that Trump, Pompeo, and Wolf took around the Republican National Convention were part of a broad-based effort to illegally use the powers of the government to secure Trump’s reelection.”
A recent report issued by the Office of Special Counsel found evidence that Pompeo and Wolf’s violations of the Hatch Act arose from requests from the White House, Trump campaign or with Trump himself. Trump undermined the efficacy of the law by refusing to enforce it when his staff repeatedly violated it.
“President Trump made a mockery of federal ethics law, and Mike Pompeo and Chad Wolf helped him do it. If the law is to have any meaning, it is absolutely essential that the Department of Justice take action to ensure accountability and prevent this from becoming a pattern for future administrations,” said Bookbinder.