Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway addressed for the first time on Thursday the findings of a report this week that said she twice violated a federal law prohibiting government employees from engaging in political activities.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which is in not affiliated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, announced Tuesday that Conway violated the Hatch Act when she weighed in on Alabama’s special election in two separate television interviews.
In a Fox News appearance Thursday, Conway refused to comment much further on the ethics spat other than confirming she has discussed the issue with President Trump directly.
“We have spoken about this,” Conway said. “I have not made a comment on this at all and I won’t today.”
Conway would not say whether she was punished or reprimanded in any way, but the White House has defended Conway against the OSC’s report saying there’s no proof she violated the Hatch Act.
“She didn’t advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in her briefing on Wednesday. “She simply expressed the President’s obvious position specific to policy, that he have people in the House and Senate who would support his agenda.”
Conway’s appearances under scrutiny were last November and December when President Donald Trump came out in support of Judge Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election. Conway appeared in her official capacity as counselor to the president on both “Fox and Friends” and CNN’s “New Day” and “discussed why voters should support” Moore over his Democratic opponent Doug Jones, the OSC said.
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“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,” according to the OSC.
“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks don’t be fooled,” Conway said during her “Fox and Friends” interview. “He’ll be a vote against tax cuts. He’s weak on crime, weak on borders. He’s strong on raising your taxes. He’s terrible for property owners. And Doug Jones is a doctrinaire liberal, which is why he’s not saying anything and why the media are trying to boost him.”
The OSC says it referred its report to President Trump, but the White House quickly disputed the report’s findings, making it unlikely Conway would face any serious discipline.
The report also details how Conway was briefed in some manner at least five separate times on the Hatch Act and the consequences for violating it.
According to the OSC’s website, the Hatch Act dates back to 1939, and is intended “to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.” There are a few exceptions to the rule, including the president, vice president and some other federal employees.