After Oversight Committee Call for Investigation Into 2020 RNC Convention, Special Counsel Finds Trump Administration Officials Showed “Willful Disregard” for Hatch Act
Washington, D.C. (November 9, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) found 13 senior Trump Administration officials, including top White House aides and cabinet members, violated the Hatch Act. This included violations committed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf related to the 2020 Republican National Convention (RNC).
“Today’s independent Office of Special Counsel report confirms that at least 13 senior Trump Administration officials broke the law when they used their official positions to bolster President Trump’s reelection campaign,” Chairwoman Maloney stated. “OSC found that the Trump Administration engaged in a pattern of egregious violations of the law intended to protect the government from political interference and that President Trump defended the violations rather than holding anyone accountable. I introduced the Hatch Act Accountability Act, included in the Protecting Our Democracy Act, in order to strengthen Hatch Act enforcement and penalties for political appointees. We cannot allow these types of abuses to happen again.”
On September 3, 2020, Chairwoman Maloney was joined by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, and former Committee Member Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett in a letter urging OSC to investigate reports of multiple, repeated Hatch Act violations at the Republican National Convention in support of President Trump’s reelection.
“Thirteen senior Trump officials rampantly abused their oath of office, using their powerful positions for electoral gain instead of public service. President Trump endorsed their deplorable behavior on each occasion, as they ripped off taxpayers and fostered mistrust in government. Federal service is an honor, and will not be for sale,” said Chairman Connolly. “These actions were clear violations of law, and I will work to hold these individuals accountable. But there are additional gray areas in the Hatch Act that I will work to clarify and codify. Public trust in our government is vital to democracy.”
“Today’s Office of Special Counsel report is the latest in a long pattern of evidence that Donald Trump and his Administration repeatedly, willfully, and flagrantly leveraged the powers of government—not to serve and protect the American people—but to preserve their own political power,” said Chairman Lynch. “Democracy is weakened when our institutions are co-opted for personal, partisan purposes. I thank the Office of Special Counsel for their patriotic work, and I look forward to working with Chairwoman Maloney and my Oversight Committee colleagues to strengthen the Hatch Act and to protect our democracy from improper political influence.”
The report found the following violations:
- The Trump Administration Ignored the Hatch Act and Approved of Senior Officials Illegally Campaigning on Behalf of President Trump: According to the report, “senior Trump administration officials chose to use their official authority not for the legitimate functions of the government, but to promote the reelection of President Trump in violation of the law.” OSC found that “one of Congress’s goals in passing the Hatch Act was to ensure that the power and prestige of the government would not be corrupted to create a taxpayer-funded campaign apparatus within the executive branch. Congress’s fear was realized here.” OSC found it was “incumbent upon President Trump to discipline employees where appropriate” but that “[i]nstead, he defended and supported even the most egregious of the violators. In so doing, the administration sent a clear message to similarly-situated officials—there will be no consequences for breaking the law by campaigning on behalf of President Trump and other Republican candidates at taxpayer expense.”
- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo Violated the Hatch Act: Secretary of State Pompeo changed State Department policy, against the advice of senior State Department lawyers, that would have restricted him from addressing a political party convention. Secretary Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by recording a speech for the RNC while on official State Department travel to Jerusalem, Israel.
- Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf Violated the Hatch Act: Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf presided over a naturalization ceremony that was conducted for the purpose of producing content to be used at the RNC. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and within the Trump White House were instrumental in orchestrating the ceremony for the RNC.
- Eleven Other Senior Trump Administration Officials Violated the Hatch Act: The officials violated the Hatch Act over the course of 18 different official interviews or media appearances, and in each case made official statements directed toward the success of President Trump’s reelection campaign and/or the failure of now-President Bident’s campaign. The report found the following senior officials violated the Hatch Act:
- Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President;
- Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff;
- Kayleigh McEnany, White House Press Secretary;
- Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to the President;
- Stephen Miller, Senior Advisor to the President for Policy;
- Dan Brouillette, Secretary of Energy;
- David Friedman, U.S. Ambassador to Israel;
- Robert O’Brien, National Security Advisor;
- Marc Short, Chief of Staff to the Vice President;
- Alyssa Farah, White House Director of Strategic Communications; and
- Brian Morgenstern, White House Deputy Press Secretary.
On September 21, 2021, Chairwoman Maloney joined Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Chairman Connolly, and other Committee Chairs in introducing the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 5314), which includes the Hatch Act Accountability Act, to strengthen enforcement and penalties for political appointees who violate the Hatch Act. The bill would:
- Strengthen OSC’s ability to investigate violations of the Hatch Act;
- Clarify that employees of the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President can be investigated and disciplined for Hatch Act violations;
- Authorize the Merit Systems Protection Board to issue fines for Hatch Act violations committed by senior political appointees; and
- Increase the maximum fine for Hatch Act violations by senior political appointees to $50,000.
Read OSC’s report here.