Update: The White House has rejected the ethics allegations against Conway, saying "Kellyanne Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. She simply expressed the President’s obvious position that he have people in the House and Senate who support his agenda. In fact, Kellyanne’s statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act - as she twice declined to respond to the host’s specific invitation to encourage Alabamans to vote for the Republican," Hogan Gidley Dep. Press Sec.
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Less than a week after Hope Hicks, one of the most prominent women serving in the senior ranks of the White House staff, announced that she's planning on leaving the West Wing, The Office Of Special Counsel has released a statement attacking Kellyanne Conway - not for anything related to the Russia probe, of course, but instead for the serious sin of uttering a partisan opinion on a cable news show.
According to a statement released by the Office of the Special Counsel, On Nov. 20 and Dec. 6 2017, Conway appeared to try and influence a partisan election while serving in her "official capacity" as a "commissioned officer" of the West Wing.
Subsequently, the special counsel's office decided there was grounds to accuse her of violating the Hatch Act, and are recommending that the president punish her. They made their recommendation in a report submitted to the president.
OSC Concludes Hatch Act Investigation of Kellyanne Conway, Finds Two Violations, and Refers Findings to President for Appropriate Disciplinary Action
WASHINGTON, D.C./March 6, 2018 — The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today sent an investigative report to President Donald Trump finding that Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act in two television interviews. According to the report, in both instances, Conway appeared in her official capacity.
In the first interview, Conway advocated against one Senate candidate and gave an implied endorsement of another candidate.
In the second interview, she advocated for the defeat of one Senate candidate and the election of another candidate.
Both instances constituted prohibited political activity under the Hatch Act and occurred after Conway received significant training on Hatch Act prohibitions, according to the report.
OSC submitted the report to the President for appropriate disciplinary action. The report states that OSC gave Conway the opportunity to respond to the allegations during the OSC investigation and in response to the completed report and that she did not respond. The Office of White House Counsel provided brief explanations of Conway's statements. The report includes and analyzes those explanations.
According to the report, on November 20, 2017, Conway appeared in her official capacity on Fox News's Fox & Friends and discussed why voters should not support Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate. On December 6, 2017, Conway appeared in her official capacity on CNN's New Day and discussed why voters should support Republican Roy Moore and not Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate.
"While the Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, it restricts employees from using their official government positions for partisan political purposes, including by trying to influence partisan elections," the report says.
"In passing this law, Congress intended to promote public confidence in the Executive branch by ensuring the federal government is working for all Americans without regard to their political views. Ms. Conway's statements during the Fox & Friends and New Day interviews impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate."
The report continues,
"The U.S. Constitution confers on the President authority to appoint senior officers of the United States, such as Ms. Conway. Considering the President's constitutional authority, the proper course of action, in the case of violations of the Hatch Act by such officers, is to refer the violations to the President. OSC hereby submits this Report of Prohibited Political Activity to the President for appropriate disciplinary action. See 5 U.S.C. § 1215(b):' Some presidentially appointed White House employees and other officials, such as Cabinet secretaries, generally fall under the President's authority to discipline for Hatch Act violations. For all other federal employees, OSC may pursue disciplinary action with the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Federal employees, including employees designated as "commissioned officers" at the White House, are subject to the Hatch Act. While commissioned officers may engage in some political activity, they are still barred from using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect elections. Although the President and Vice President are exempt from the Hatch Act, their employees are not.
That is, Conway appeared on CNN's New Day and discussed why voters should support Republican Roy Moore over Democrat Doug Jones in an Alabama special election for the Senate, and later made similar remarks during a taping of Fox & Friends.
Conway was reportedly given the opportunity to respond to the OSC's allegations during the course of the investigation, but chose not to. The office will now pass along its findings to the president and advise him to discipline Conway.
Of course, it's doubtful Trump will do anything to push Conway out, given the number of senior staffers who have left in recent months. But another scandal involving his staff is certainly not what the president wants to see.