Government ethics experts slam Trump’s use of the White House for his RNC speech as an ‘abuse of power’

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Guests gather to watch U.S. President Donald Trump deliver his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Former government ethics chief Walter Shaub said President Donald Trump was violating ethics codes when he hosted the final night of the Republican National Convention on the White House lawn.
  • Shaub called it an abuse of power for personal gain.
  • Experts have accused Trump and his administration of violating the Hatch Act several times during the convention.
  • The act bars federal employees excluding the president and vice president from engaging in any political activities, including campaigning, in their official capacities.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Government ethics experts criticised President Donald Trump’s decision to hold the final night of the Republican National Convention on the White House lawn Thursday night.

Walter Shaub, the director of the United States Office of Government Ethics between 2013 and 2017, described it as an abuse of power for personal gain.

“This abomination may be the most visible misuse of official position for private gain in America’s history,” he wrote on Twitter. “It is an abuse of the power entrusted to this man, the breach of a sacred trust. It is the civic equivalent of a mortal sin-maybe a religious one too. And it is a harbinger.”

“Almost the entire RNC convention was a Hatch Act violation,” Richard Painter, the White House chief ethics lawyer between 2005 and 2007 wrote on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/waltshaub/status/1299162605345550336?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

https://twitter.com/waltshaub/status/1299133074584875009?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

“Won’t anyone in DC enforce the Hatch Act?” University of Michigan law professor Barb McQuade wrote on Twitter.

On Thursday night, around 1,500 people gathered on the South Lawn of the White House to hear Trump speak. Photos of the event show attendees not socially distancing and only a few wearing masks.

Business Insider previously reported that Trump broke ethical norms by using the powers of the presidency to promote his reelection campaign during several moments in the RNC so far.

Trump was criticised for abusing his office for partisan purposes when he pardoned Jon Ponder, a bank robber turned activist, at the White House.

He also had his acting secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf, conduct a naturalization ceremony for five new US citizens at the White House. The individuals who were being sworn in said they weren’t aware Trump was going to be there or that they would be featured at the convention.

The ceremony was criticised as a blatant violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law that the bars federal employees from engaging in any political activities, including campaigning, in their official capacities. The president and vice president are excluded from the law, but some experts believe the law bans the use of public spaces for political activities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also accused of violating the Hatch Act when he delivered a speech praising Trump’s presidency from Jerusalem. Pompeo was on a taxpayer-funded diplomatic trip but State Department aides said he was acting in his personal capacity.

“A reminder that using government locations, government functions, and executive branch officials as part of a giant political campaign event is anti-democratic and in many cases illegal,” tweeted Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “They keep blowing through law and democratic principles and assume no one will care.”