13 Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act, according to a federal investigation led by a Trump appointee

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the virtual convention in a pre-recorded video from Jerusalem, Israel, on August 25, 2020.
Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the virtual convention in a pre-recorded video from Jerusalem, Israel, on August 25, 2020. Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images
  • 13 senior Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act, an internal government watchdog found.
  • The watchdog group, the Office of Special Counsel, is led by Trump appointee Henry Kerner.
  • The Hatch Act bans executive branch employees from engaging in political activity like elections.

The Office of Special Counsel, an internal federal government watchdog agency, issued a report on Tuesday that said 13 senior Trump administration officials – most of them household names – violated the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting executing branch employees from getting involved in political activity.

The group is led by Henry Kerner, who was appointed to the post by former President Donald Trump in 2017 after serving as staff on the House Oversight Committee under Republican chairmen Rep. Darrell Issa and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

The report also states that despite several complaints to the contrary, the hosting of last year’s Republican National Convention on the grounds of the White House was not a violation of the Hatch Act. But the watchdog did find that several officials did violate the act, primarily by speaking about the 2020 presidential election in interviews with the media.

“This report confirms that there was nothing less than a systematic co-opting of the powers of the federal government to keep Donald Trump in office,” said Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, in a statement. CREW had filed numerous Hatch Act complaints against senior Trump officials.

“Senior Trump administration officials showed an open contempt for the law meant to protect the American people from the use of taxpayer resources and government power for partisan politics,” he also said.

Last month, CREW filed a Hatch Act complaint against White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki after she said from the podium that “we’re going to do everything we can to help former governor McAuliffe and we believe in the agenda he’s representing”

The OSC report also noted that the agency is unable to do anything on its own about Hatch Act violations by Senate-confirmed officials and “commissioned officers within the Executive Office of the President,” with enforcement for these officials ultimately falling to the president.

“President Trump not only failed to do so, but he publicly defended an employee OSC found to have repeatedly violated the Hatch Act,” the report said. “This failure to impose discipline created the conditions for what appeared to be a taxpayer-funded campaign apparatus within the upper echelons of the executive branch.”

Bookbinder, for his part, said the report underscores the need for reforms to the law.

“OSC notes that there are significant enforcement challenges to enforcing the Hatch Act. Legislation like the Protecting Our Democracy Act would fix that,” said Bookbinder. “Congress must act now so that this never happens again.”

Here are the 13 Trump administration officials who were found to have violated the Hatch Act in 2020:

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – changed State Department policy to allow himself to speak at the RNC from Jerusalem.
  • Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on Fox News on August 12 and 18.
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on Fox News on August 20 and during official remarks to the press on October 23.
  • Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on CNN on August 23.
  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign and Madison Cawthorn’s House campaign on Fox News on July 6.
  • Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Stephen Miller – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on Fox News on July 31.
  • US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on Al-Ain on October 4.
  • National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on the Hugh Hewitt Show on June 25.
  • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf – presided over a naturalization ceremony for the purpose of creating content for the RNC.
  • White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farah – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on Fox News on October 9.
  • Chief of Staff to the Vice President Marc Short – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on Fox Business on June 22 and August 13, and with Campus Reform on August 27.
  • White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on One America News Network (OAN) on October 9 and 27.
  • Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette – promoted Trump’s reelection campaign on the Brian Kilmeade’s Fox News Show on October 26.