“The Trump administration has made a mockery of our ethics laws,” said Lizzy Price, Director of Restore Public Trust. “Time and again, we’ve seen the administration flagrantly breaking federal law, and now they’ve systematically dismantled the checks that protect our ethics laws. From violating the Hatch Act to refusing to divest stock and misusing taxpayer dollars for personal gain, members of Trump’s administration have repeatedly taken advantage of their positions. This is not normal behavior – and we will continue to call out corruption as we see it.”
Politico: How Kellyanne Conway saved her White House job
REBECCA RAINEY 08/12/2019
Senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway avoided getting fired for “egregious and ongoing” violations of the Hatch Act in large part because a little-known oversight agency was unable to weigh in — and will likely remain so if additional White House aides are found to have followed Conway’s example.
The agency in question, the Merit Systems Protection Board, is no favorite of the Trump administration, which has pledged to wage war on the “deep state” civil service. Critics have argued that the MSPB, a three-person panel that adjudicates contested disciplinary actions against federal employees, makes it too difficult to fire a government worker by imposing elaborate due process procedures intended to bar whistleblower retaliation and other management abuses.
But in fact, the MSPB rules against government employees about 90 percent of the time, according to John W. York, a policy analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation. Given the extensive and highly public evidence against Conway, there’s a good chance even a Republican-controlled MSPB would have ruled against her.
Conway was spared that fate because the MSPB didn’t have enough sitting members to issue any rulings; since March it hasn’t had any. Instead, Conway’s case was referred to the White House.
That never should have happened, say attorneys at the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a former MSPB executive director under former President Barack Obama. Putting the decision in the president’s hands, they say, sets a dangerous precedent that may shield other Trump White House advisers from enforcement of the Hatch Act, the 1939 law that prohibits government employees from engaging in political speech while performing official duties.
Conway was the tenth Trump administration official to be ruled in violation of the Hatch Act (though the first for whom the recommended punishment was dismissal). The others include then-United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, White House social media director Dan Scavino and Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah. One Trump official who could soon benefit from the MSPB’s mothballed state is Ivanka Trump, who has also been flagged for alleged Hatch Act violations by CREW.
The Office of Special Counsel, an investigative arm of the MSPB, recommended to President Donald Trump in June that he fire Conway for her “egregious, notorious, and ongoing” violations.
“If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee,” wrote Special Counsel Henry Kerner, “her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position by the Merit Systems Protection Board.” If Conway’s violations were “left unpunished,” Kerner warned, that would “send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.” …