CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
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Washington—Despite determining that Jared Kushner acted improperly during a televised CNN interview, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) used a flawed line of reasoning in its decision to reject finding Kushner in violation of the Hatch Act, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). OSC declined to consider remarks that it deemed inappropriate in reaching its conclusion because CNN published them in an article instead of airing them on television.
CREW’s request for reconsideration comes in response to OSC’s March 20 decision to decline finding Kushner – both Senior Advisor to the President and President Trump’s son-in-law – in violation of the Hatch Act after a complaint was filed by CREW in early February. While OSC found that Kushner was appearing in his official capacity and that some of his comments concerning President Trump’s re-election were inappropriate for someone appearing in their official role, it determined that because CNN chose to publish some of his remarks in an article instead of airing them on television, Kushner was not in violation of the Hatch Act. There is, however, no basis in the law for this approach to Hatch Act enforcement.
“Nothing in the Hatch Act provides that an executive branch employee’s words can violate the law only if they are released in the form of video or a transcript of a video,” the letter reads. “To the contrary, OSC has found other employees guilty of Hatch Act violations based on written remarks.”
The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from “us[ing their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” There is no question Kushner knew he was talking about the campaign when he discussed two Trump campaign rallies, voters, polling data, the possibility of the impeachment hurting his chances, two past elections, and a former presidential candidate. As OSC found, CNN host Fareed Zakaria intended to use part of the interview to discuss Kushner’s role in running the President’s re-election campaign. Given that CNN’s online content receives over 200 million unique visitors each month, Kushner was effectively able to broadcast his role and work on President Trump’s campaign.
“We encourage OSC to treat Mr. Kushner the same as it has treated other executive branch employees whose unlawful political remarks were released in written form,” concluded the letter.