On Thursday, Jun 14, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, a federal watchdog agency recommended that President Donald Trump fire counselor Kellyanne Conway, for repeatedly violating a law that prohibits employees of the executive branch from engaging in some forms of political activity. Here is how the counselor interacted with the press recently.
Reporter: Kellyanne, what was the exchange between you and the speaker (Pelosi) in the meeting that blew up?’
Kellyanne Conway: I treated her the way I treat you. I started out saying ‘Respectfully Madam Speaker would you like to address the specific points the President raised.’ That was it. And she did what she does all the time which is said. ‘I talk to the President not to staff’ because after all she thinks we are all staff. I believe she’s a sixth or so richest member of Congress and behaves that way. She treats me as she might treat her maid or her pilots or makeup artists or her wardrobe consultants and all, I told her she ‘That’s so pro-woman of you.’ My whole point was the President spoke for three minutes and was very specific about why he was turning around and walking out very calmly. She did not address any of that. She did what she often does, which was get off topic, way off message and she started talking about Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. (We) might be here a while. And what they had done on infrastructure. So everybody let her finish. No idea what that was about. Let her finish. And then I filled the air just saying, ‘Respectfully Madam Speaker,’ which is the way I started I showed great respect because I always do. I was raised by a woman not a wolf. So I show everybody respect, even when they don’t show me respect, and that’s all she had to say and then she stormed.”
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel claimed in a letter to President Trump that Conway has been a “repeat offender” by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media. A previously released report from the agency cited her description of former Vice President Joe Biden as lacking “vision” and that she retweeted a March 31 message that referred to Biden as “Creepy Uncle Joe.”
Conway said, “But I think it’s kind of obsessive and weird, it’s just downright goofy that Vice President Biden doesn’t mention President Obama, but a few times in his speech, but he mentions President Trump 76 times. I mean that’s just kind of weird. I guess one time for every candle on his birthday cake, but it is weird.”
While the 1939 law exempts the president and vice president, career government officials found to have violated the Hatch Act can be fired, suspended, or demoted, and fined up to $1,000. Since the agency does not have the authority to fire Conway, her dismissal is the president’s decision.
Syracuse University College of Law professor William C. Banks said, “There’s very little question on the basis of what the inspector general found that Miss Conway violated the Hatch Act multiple times by seeking out and naming political opponents and criticizing them publicly while serving in her official capacity. That’s a clear violation of the Hatch Act, but of course, now it’s a question of what the President or anyone else does with that information. The chance of her being sanctioned or dismissed for having violated the Hatch Act are pretty slim I would think.”
The recommendation to fire Conway is the first time the watchdog office has recommended the removal of a White House official over Hatch Act violations and White House spokesman Steven Groves called the agency’s decision “unprecedented” and “deeply flawed” and said it violated Conway’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process.
Includes reporting from the Associated Press