President Donald Trump's aide Kellyanne Conway has violated federal law by advocating for or against candidates for political office so many times that she should be fired, a federal watchdog said Thursday in a report to the president.
Conway, the White House counselor perhaps most famous for coining the phrase "alternative facts" in the second day of Trump's presidency, has repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an oversight agency in the Justice Department that monitors federal workers. The office is unrelated to former special counsel Robert Mueller's office.
"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. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law," OSC officials wrote to Trump in a letter accompanying the report that labeled Conway a "repeat offender."
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Conway told reporters who encountered her in the White House press office, "I have no reaction."
The White House rejected the report as "unprecedented," "deeply flawed" and swayed by pressure from the media and liberals.
"Perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act," a spokesman said in a statement.
In response to the report, Rep. Elijah Cumming of Maryland announced Thursday afternoon that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will have a joint hearing with the OSC on June 26 to discuss its findings and recommendations and will invite Conway "to answer for her violations."
Last year, the OSC found that Conway twice violated the Hatch Act during the 2017 special election to fill the open U.S. Senate seat in Alabama by advocating for and against candidates during two television interviews. The 1939 law prevents all but the senior most members of the executive branch from certain forms of political advocacy.
A summary of the investigation into Conway stated that beginning in February, Conway engaged in a pattern of partisan attacks on Democratic presidential candidates. She called Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey "sexist" and a "tinny" motivational speaker. In another interview, she accused Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts of "lying" about her ethnicity and "appropriating somebody else's heritage." And she attacked former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas for not thinking the women running "are good enough to be president." It also cited her description of former Vice President Joe Biden as lacking "vision."
The summary also noted that she used her Twitter account to conduct political activity. For example, she retweeted a March 31 message that referred to Biden as "Creepy Uncle Joe" and "took it upon herself to outline other faults she found in Mr. Biden's candidacy," the report said.
Career government officials found to have violated the Hatch Act can be fired, suspended or demoted, and fined up to $1,000.
The agency does not have the authority to fire Conway, who was appointed by Trump, so it would be up to the president to follow its recommendation and dismiss one of his most unwavering defenders.
The recommendation to fire Conway is the first time the watchdog office has recommended the removal of a White House official over Hatch Act violations.
Conway has been an unwavering defender of Trump on cable news. Her reference to "alternative facts" came as she was defending the White House press secretary over the size of the Trump inauguration. Trump has praised her for her "success" in her career.
Conway told a reporter asking last month about those Hatch Act violations cited in the report, "If you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not gonna work. ... Let me know when the jail sentence starts."