The White House’s top trade advisor has now become the latest administration official to have violated the firewall between politics and government.
Peter Navarro repeatedly violated the Hatch Act over several months in 2020 with attacks against Joe Biden, the Office of Special Counsel said in a report released Monday.
The Hatch Act, which Trump officials are famously fond of violating, is the decades-old law that prohibits federal employees from using their positions for political purposes. In August, the Daily Beast reported that senior administration officials “widely view the law as a joke.”
Navarro, per the OSC’s findings, certainly treated it like one. Even after being alerted in July that he was the subject of a Hatch Act complaint, the White House adviser violated the law over and over again in the months that followed.
Between May and October, the office’s report found, Navarro violated the Hatch Act in at least six separate interviews, referring to then-candidate Joe Biden at various times as being “compromised” and susceptible to being “bought” by China. Navarro, in interviews and on Twitter, even took to calling Biden “Beijing Biden” — all while working as a public servant employed by the American people.
“We need a tough president like Donald J. Trump in the White House, not the pushover in Joe,” the report quoted Navarro as saying in one late-August interview.
The report is entirely based on public interviews and tweets from Navarro. Among other things, Navarro attacked Biden in October over the content of emails that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed had come from Hunter Biden’s laptop.
“We know who’s laid down for China and now all this news about Hunter and emails and all that stuff,” Navarro told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “You wonder why the mainstream media won’t cover that, but my gosh, if any of that stuff is true it’s just unbelievable.”
Perhaps the lasting legacy of the Hatch Act in the Trump administration is its total toothless-ness. For example, after OSC recommended in 2019 that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway lose her job after multiple violations… nothing happened.
In October of this year, OSC determined that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had committed a fairly obvious violation of the law when he led a “four more years” chant in North Carolina during an official department event. In all, fourteen senior Trump political appointees have been cited by OSC for violations, according to The Guardian’s count.
A few days after the Perdue decision, OSC confirmed that it was launching an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over his stated expectation that the department would publish more of former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails before the 2020 election.
Pompeo, who also faces a separate Hatch Act investigation for delivering a Republican National Convention speech from Jerusalem, showed no signs of stopping Monday: The Associated Press reported that he was set to travel to Georgia — the state, not the country — this week to deliver a speech, just weeks before two crucial U.S. Senate runoff elections there.
TPM’s request for comment to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany — who’s also served as a spokesperson for the Trump campaign’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 election results — went unanswered.