Oversight Dems press for probe into possible Hatch Act violations

House Oversight Committee Democrats on Thursday called on the Office of Special Counsel to investigate a series of events at last week’s Republican National Convention where government officials appeared to use their official position to bolster President TrumpDonald John TrumpKenosha mayor lifts curfew citing several ‘peaceful’ nights MSNBC’s Joy Reid concedes ‘framing’ of Muslim comments ‘didn’t work’ Conway says even more ‘hidden, undercover’ Trump voters will help him win reelection MORE’s reelection campaign.

That would be a potential violation of the federal Hatch Act, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyOvernight Health Care: US won’t join global coronavirus vaccine initiative | Federal panel lays out initial priorities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution | NIH panel: ‘Insufficient data’ to show treatment touted by Trump works Democrats release key interview in Pompeo probe House Oversight Democrats to subpoena AbbVie in drug pricing probe MORE (D-N.Y.) and other top Democrats on the panel wrote to Special Counsel Henry Kerner in a letter. 

The Democrats pointed to Trump’s pardon during the GOP political convention of Jon Ponder, a convicted bank robber who later founded an organization to help former prisoners reenter society. Video was also used during the convention of a White House naturalization ceremony, where Trump and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfHillicon Valley: Democrats demand answers over Russian interference bulletin | Google Cloud wins defense contract for cancer research | Cyberattack disrupts virtual classes Democrats demand answers on report DHS withheld Russian election interference intelligence DHS withheld bulletin warning of Russian planned attack on Biden’s mental health: report MORE presided over the surprise ceremony that gave five immigrants their citizenship.

One of the most egregious violations, Democrats said, was when Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: US sanctions ICC prosecutor amid probe of alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan | Senators urge Pentagon to keep Stars and Stripes running Pompeo: State Department review found GOP convention speech lawful Senate Democrats raise concerns over ability of US overseas voters to cast ballots MORE delivered taped remarks at the RNC from Jerusalem. He was the first sitting secretary of State to speak at a political convention in 75 years.

“We are particularly concerned with the consequences of White House actions on career employees who may have felt pressured to help organize and put on these events, potentially subjecting them to legal jeopardy,” the Oversight Democrats wrote in their letter. “Career employees have faced severe consequences for behavior far less egregious than what the country witnessed last week.”

Trump and his team, who have made “law and order” the focus of his reelection campaign, are unapologetic for staging much of last week’s political convention at the White House. The campaign has said RNC events planned for North Carolina and Florida had to be moved to Washington due to the coronavirus, but Democrats said the president showed a disregard for the law.  

“We are alarmed that President Trump and some senior Administration officials are actively undermining compliance with—and respect for—the law,” the Democrats wrote.

The Hatch Act bars public officials from using their official platforms for political purposes, though it includes exceptions for the president and vice president.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act, previously told Democrats that federal employees would not be able to attend or “take part in an RNC event “while they are on duty or in a federal room or building.” However, they could attend if they “take leave” or if the event is held on the White House lawn or in the residence.

Last year, the OSC recommended Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayConway says even more ‘hidden, undercover’ Trump voters will help him win reelection The 2020 stage is set: character, chaos and the Marx Brothers Time for Biden to blitz Trump MORE, then a top aide to Trump, be fired from the White House for Hatch Act violations, but she remained on the job until recently. Conway also spoke during the RNC but not from the White House. 

Oversight Committee Democrats have asked Kerner to respond by Sept. 17. House Democrats on the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees also are pressing for investigations into Hatch Act violations.

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