Monday, 19 August, 2019

Federal agency says Kellyanne Conway should be fired from White House

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Patty Aguilar | 13 June, 2019, 23:27

"Never has OSC had to issue multiple reports to the president concerning Hatch Act violations by the same individual", he wrote.

A federal watchdog recommended Thursday that President Trump immediately fire adviser Kellyanne Conway-but that looks highly unlikely.

Kerner said that the recommendation to remove Conway from the White House was a "recommendation" only.

Special Counsel Henry Kerner's letter to Trump states: "Ms Conway's violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act's restrictions".

According to the law, the OSC should present its findings to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which will then set a hearing for the employee in question to determine a course of action.

Others sanctioned by the Office of Special Counsel for political messages include former interior secretary Ryan Zinke; Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman; Dan Scavino, former White House social media director; and Nikki Haley, former US ambassador to the United Nations.

Spokesman Steve Groves accused the Office of the Special Counsel of chilling free speech and "weaponizing" the Hatch Act against the White House. "Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations - and 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", Groves said. At various points, she has lashed out at senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of MA, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as former representative Beto O'Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden. In another interview, she accused Senator Elizabeth Warren of MA of "lying" about her ethnicity and "appropriating somebody else's heritage". Conway also "attacked" former Rep. Beto O'Rourke for not "thinking the women running are good enough to be President".

Conway, whose formal title is Counselor to the President, commented on the Alabama election in multiple interviews at the time, though the White House defended her comments as reflecting the president's positions on policy.

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The agency described one episode in which she appears to shrug off the Hatch Act, saying "if you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work", and "let me know when the jail sentence starts".

In late 2018, the Office of Special Counsel found six White House officials in violation of the law for using their official Twitter accounts to send or display political messages supporting Trump. But as those briefings have dried up, less formal "gaggles" have occurred daily in the White House's north driveway after Sanders and others do television interviews.

Cipollone also said that Conway's social media statements and media interviews did not constitute Hatch Act violations.

Cipollone gave the agency until June 21 to hand over all the documents on Conway it used to come to its recommendation.

The special counsel office cited Conway past year for favoring a Republican candidate over a Democrat in an interview discussing a special Senate election in Alabama in 2017.

It is a separate agency than the office run by now-former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who led the investigation into Russian interference.

"OSC's overbroad and unsupported interpretation of the Hatch Act risks violating Ms. Conway's First Amendment rights and chills the free speech of all government employees", Cipollone said. She said the administration conducted regular ethics training to ensure everyone appreciated what was allowed to be expressed from the White House. She has said Mexico is willing to "do more" to secure America's southern border than congressional Democrats.

Kerner concluded his letter to Trump by recommending that Conway be fired.

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