The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on Tuesday found that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act during two separate television interviews about the Alabama special election last year.
In two cable news interviews late last year, Conway either advocated for Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones to lose or for Republican Roy Moore to win, even though the Hatch Act prohibits federal officials from engaging in political activity, the OSC found.
During a Nov. 20 appearance on “Fox and Friends,” Conway charged that voting for Jones is “a vote against tax cuts.” Asked if people should vote for Moore, Conway followed up by saying, “I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.”
Then on Dec. 6, Conway again offered reasons not to vote for Jones in a CNN interview, describing him as a “liberal Democrat” and warning that he would against tax cuts, border security, and the Second Amendment.
Kellyanne Conway defends Trump’s endorsement of Roy Moore: “The President has tremendous moral standards… He doesn’t want a liberal democrat representing Alabama in the US Senate” https://t.co/Zejo99jpca
— New Day (@NewDay) December 6, 2017
The OSC found that Conway used her official title as counselor to the president — which was noted in the chyron for both interviews — to engage in political activity in both interviews, which violates the Hatch Act.
The finding from the OSC notes that during the “Fox and Friends” interview, Conway brought up Jones on her own when asked about tax reform.
“Ms. Conway’s introduction of Doug Jones into the interview was unprompted, unresponsive to the question asked by the Fox & Friends host, and surprising given that she knew the four identified interview topics did not include Doug Jones, Roy Moore, or the Alabama special election. Her intentional partisan jabs against Doug Jones were made in her official capacity and meant to persuade voters” on the race, per the OSC.
OSC noted that Conway should have been well aware of the Hatch Act’s limitations and listed several trainings and memos Conway received on the matter before the interviews took place. White House Counsel Don McGahn also approached Conway on Nov. 20 after the “Fox and Friends” interview about Hatch Act concerns raised by the interview and gave her additional guidance. McGahn sent another warning to several White House employees on Dec. 4 reminding them about the Hatch Act, according to the OSC.
OSC referred Conway’s violations to President Donald Trump, and it is up to him whether Conway should be disciplined.
Conway’s comments during the Alabama special election were not the first time she got into hot water for her comments in a television interview. In February 2017, the Office of Government Ethics called on the White House to look into whether Conway’s comments promoting Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on Fox News violated ethics rules.
The White House on Tuesday dismissed the finding from OSC and claimed that Conway did not actually violate the Hatch Act.
— Fin Gomez (@finnygo) March 6, 2018