Says OSC, “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.” That’s, ah, not going to chasten Trump. It might do the opposite. He’d love to see his deputies use their federal soapboxes to campaign overtly against Democrats. If refusing to punish Kellyanne encourages Mike Pompeo to stick an anti-Biden riff into his next diplomatic briefing, so much the better for POTUS. Remember, all Trump ethics are situational, and are always aimed at his own benefit. OSC undermined its own recommendation by suggesting how he might benefit from ignoring them.
U.S. Office of Special Counsel finds Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act: “Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service.” https://t.co/97JW3IKhMW pic.twitter.com/yF4a6t6c9Y
— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) June 13, 2019
Indeed, they did reprimand Kellyanne last year for twice suggesting during “official” appearances that voters in Alabama should support Roy Moore over Doug Jones. Ed wrote about it at the time. A few weeks ago she criticized Biden during another “official” interview, leading to today’s second reprimand. In fact, Conway’s been crossing ethical lines in some of her official media appearances since practically day one of the administration. Three weeks after Trump was sworn in, standing in the White House briefing room for an interview with Fox, she encouraged viewers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff” after Trump’s clothing line was dropped by Nordstrom. That earned her a reprimand from a different federal ethics agency. Didn’t matter.
The White House has already issued a statement on OSC’s recommendation that’s — what else? — defiant:
The WH response to OSC recommending Conway be removed from federal service: pic.twitter.com/qJHwbmP9vQ
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 13, 2019
The last time the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the Hatch Act was 1973, upholding it in the face of a First Amendment challenge. (All Republican appointees were in the majority.) The key to OSC’s opinion, as I understand it, is the fact that Conway was speaking “in her official capacity” when she plugged Moore over Jones and derided Biden. She has the same First Amendment rights as everyone else when she’s off duty but when she’s doing an interview on White House grounds or otherwise seemingly speaking as a White House official she needs to draw a line at campaigning against candidates. It’s not unlike how U.S. soldiers enjoy more freedom to engage in political activities when they’re out of uniform than when they’re in uniform. In both cases, a public servant that purports to represent the entire country is asked to maintain a greater appearance of neutrality while “on duty.”
She was reminded recently of last year’s OSC reprimand by reporters after she criticized Biden and replied (as the OSC notes in today’s announcement), “Blah, blah, blah. If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” That’s the sound of an official who knows she’s free to act with impunity so long as she stays on the right side of her boss, whatever the law might say. It’s also the diametric opposite of what George Conway would say, I suspect. In fact, George just so happens to have a new op-ed in WaPo today calling for Trump’s impeachment, which will now have to compete for column inches with news that his better half is formally accused of having broken an ethics law and has nothing but Trumpy disdain for the prospect of facing consequences for it. This is the first time he’s effectively gagged from sh*t-talking a Trump official who’s been accused of petty corruption. The two of them should do a point/counterpoint op-ed pairing for WaPo. George: “Repeatedly flouting ethics laws will erode the rule of law.” Kellyanne: “Ethics are for cucks.”
I’m tempted to ask whether Bill Barr will prosecute her for this but we all know the answer. Exit question: Will Kellyanne quit? She’s got to be tired of this circus after three years. Here’s her excuse.
Update: George just retweeted this message from December, lamenting the foolish loyalty of another Trump crony who got into legal trouble because they didn’t have the good sense to walk away.
Truer words were never spoken. https://t.co/vHbvFKbAuT
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) December 14, 2018