Donald Trump and his band of lackeys aren’t exactly known for their fidelity to the law — particularly the Hatch Act, which prohibits elected officials from leveraging their position for political purposes.
The most notable of many examples of the Trump administration using taxpayer money for politicking came last August, when it decided to hold key Republican National Convention events at the White House. The administration’s violations of the Hatch Act went far beyond the RNC, though, as a sprawling new report from the Office of the Special Counsel makes clear. In total, the OSC found that 13 Trump officials — including two Cabinet officials — demonstrated an “especially pernicious” disregard for the law as they used their position to promote the president’s reelection campaign.
The president and vice president are exempted from the Hatch Act, but the OSC places the blame on Trump’s shoulders for creating an environment where adhering to the law was an afterthought. “The president’s refusal to require compliance with the law laid the foundation for the violations,” the investigators wrote. “In each of these instances, senior administration officials used their official authority or influence to campaign for President Trump. Based upon the Trump administration’s reaction to the violations, OSC concludes that the most logical inference is that the administration approved of these taxpayer-funded campaign activities.”
Here’s a breakdown of the violations identified by the OSC, most of which are Trump officials promoting his bid for another term in office during media appearances ahead of the election:
- Mike Pompeo: The secretary of State gave a speech from Israel as part of the RNC. The report notes that Pompeo even changed the State Department’s policy prohibiting political appointees from engaging in partisan activity in order to speak at the convention, and that he ignored multiple warnings from ethics officials that doing so would violate the law.
- Chad Wolf: The Homeland Security director filmed a naturalization ceremony for new citizens at the White House during the RNC. The report notes that Wolf, too, was warned by ethics officials that the naturalization ceremony would be in violation of the Hatch Act (one warning even came less than an hour before the ceremony began), but he did it anyway. Wolf claimed after the fact that he didn’t know how the tape of the ceremony would be used.
- Stephen Miller: Trump’s immigration guru promoted another four years of Trump during an interview on Fox News in July.
- Jared Kushner: The White House senior adviser promoted his father-in-law’s reelection effort during a CNN interview in August.
- Mark Meadows: Trump’s chief of staff not only promoted Trump’s reelection campaign over the course of multiple media appearances, but he also promoted the ultimately successful congressional campaign of fellow North Carolinian Madison Cawthorn.
- Kellyanne Conway: The longtime Trump adviser promoted Trump’s reelection campaign in multiple Fox News appearances in August. (Conway has been under the OSC’s microscope for Hatch Act violations for … a while.)
- Kayleigh McEnany: The White House press secretary promoted Trump’s campaign during a Fox News appearance in August, and again in official remarks to the press in October.
- Alyssa Farah: The director of White House strategic communications went on Fox News to bash Joe Biden weeks before the 2020 election.
- Robert O’Brien: The national security adviser went on Hugh Hewitt’s show in June and argued that Trump would be better equipped to handle China than Biden.
- Brian Morgenstern: The deputy press secretary went on One American News on multiple occasions to promote Trump’s campaign in the weeks leading up to the election.
- Marc Short: The chief of staff to Vice President Pence promoted Trump’s reelection campaign in multiple interviews over the course of the summer.
- Dan Brouillette: The energy secretary promoted Trump’s bid for reelection during an appearance on The Brian Kilmeade Show the week before the election.
- David Friedman: The ambassador to Israel promoted Trump’s campaign in an interview with al-Ain in October.
The OSC’s investigation was spurred by a flurry of complaints stemming from the administration’s pretty blatant violations of the act around the RNC. Are any of the offenders going to face any consequences? Of course not. The Washington Post notes that most legal interpretations of the act find that the only person who can dole out any sort of punishment is the president in office at the time of the violations. The OSC’s report even notes that the law suffers from “enforcement challenges.” The figures in the “upper echelons,” as the report puts it, of the Trump administration may have violated the law without consequence, but as the Post notes, the OSC fined or fired “hundreds” of career officials for violating the act while Trump was in office.