If the Trump Administration is allowed to blatantly ignore accountability recommended by federal ethics agencies, then our government’s ethics infrastructure is broken. As OSC wrote in its report on Kellyanne Conway’s numerous violations following CREW complaints, these abuses erode our democracy and they cannot be allowed to stand. When OSC called for Conway to be removed from federal service for those violations, CREW led the charge, opening a petition to raise grassroots support for her removal.
On June 26, 2019, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the Trump administration’s numerous, repeated and flagrant violations of the Hatch Act. Representative Ayanna Pressley submitted CREW’s petition to the record, which at the time of the hearing had more than 30,000 signatures.
CREW Chief Ethics Counsel Virginia Canter also sent a written testimony to the committee in advance of the hearing, emphasizing the importance of clear guidance, and enforcement of the law leading up to the 2020 election. Canter also pointed out several ways that Congress could force compliance, regardless of President Trump’s disregard for the Hatch Act.
Members of the Trump administration started violating the law early, and have continued to do so ever since. On April 1, 2017, the White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino did so by posting a tweet calling for Justin Amash’s defeat in a primary. Since then, at least twelve senior officials have been found in violation including cabinet members Nikki Haley and Ryan Zinke and, most recently and most egregiously, Kellyanne Conway.
President Trump does not take the violations seriously, and has dismissed every recommendation for discipline, even when the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) took the unprecedented step of calling for Conway to be fired for her violations. Not only does Trump not care, but the White House has unleashed attacks on the decision, calling it “biased” and “influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations.”
Canter made several recommendations for congressional action, including using the federal appropriations process to compel compliance. Canter concluded that “the problem facing the Hatch Act is not with the law, but with President Trump and his administration’s open hostility to the rule of law.”