On August 24, Donald Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, traveled to the North Carolina battlefield for an official departmental event for food producers affected by the pandemic. But Perdue’s speech to those present included a campaign talk about Trump, who was also there.
At one point, Purdue sang a chant for “another four years” and called Trump the champion of the “forgotten people.”
The blurring of lines between an official meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture and Trump’s rally by Perdue sparked a complaint to the Federal Office for Special Advice by non-partisan citizens on responsibility and ethics in Washington (crew), who accused him of violating the hatch law , a 1939 law that prohibits most federal officials from using their government positions to engage in various political activities.
In sharp rebuke to Perdue, the OSC ruled on October 8 that it had violated the Hatches Act and ordered it to reimburse taxpayers for travel and other expenses related to the event.
But Perdue is hardly an isolated example of Trump’s top officials mixing their work with political activity, which critics and watchdogs say is a worrying violation of laws and regulations designed to stop corruption and keep America’s state machine without political interference.
Reports show that 14 of Trump’s top political appointments have been cited by the OSC for violations of the hatch law, including some repeat offenders. Former Trump political adviser Kelian Conway has been accused of about two dozen violations of the hatch law, according to Crew, which prompted the OSC in 2019 to recommend her dismissal, a statement that Trump ignored.
“Trump openly ignored the hatch law and did not fire Conway when the OSC recommended it,” said Donald Sherman, Crew’s deputy director in Washington, who has filed a number of complaints. “This administration has committed violations of the Hatch Act with greater scope, scale and frequency than any administration in recent memory.”
By comparison, only two senior Obama officials have been cited by the OSC for violations of the Hatches Act.
Several Trump officials, including Secretary of Housing Ben Carson and Commercial Adviser Peter Navarro, were cited this year in crew complaints to the OSC for violating the act in their writings and public comments.
Carson wrote a written document with Trump that attacked “Obama-Biden’s dystopian vision of building low-income housing next to your suburban home,” published in the Wall Street Journal and circulated to housing officials by email.
Navarro is alleged to have violated the act of two interviews he gave to Fox News, where as Trump’s chief trade adviser he attacked Biden’s trade register and claimed without evidence that China supported him, “because they know that it can be bought. “
The team also filed a complaint against Attorney General William Barr, alleging he violated the Hatches Act by conducting an interview broadcast on the Chicago Tribune and broadcast as a podcast. Barr admitted, “I must not enter politics,” but warned that if “Trump loses this election,” we “will be irrevocably committed to the socialist path.”
Separately, two key House Democrats recently stepped up an investigation into possible violations of the hatch law by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, including recent speeches to conservative, religious and political groups in the states of Florida, Texas and Wisconsin.
On October 3, Pompeo spoke remotely with the Conservative Florida Family Policy Council and flew to Texas last month to address Prestonwood Baptist Church.
Doubts about the correctness of Pompeo’s talks prompted Elliott Engel, who chairs Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and Congressman Joaquin Castro, who heads a key subcommittee, to write to two senior State Department officials seeking documents on Pompeo’s recent talks and ask how they relate to “his official duties as a leading American diplomat.”
The letter notes that his travels and speeches “appear to be becoming more frequent as the November 3 elections approach” and are “probably illegal”.
In a statement, Castro said their investigation into “the use of taxpayers’ resources for political activity in violation of the Hatches Act is just beginning and I expect [it] will continue in the next congress. Even His Holiness Pope Francis will not meet with Secretary Pompeo because he has politicized our foreign policy as a party issue, ”referring to the Pope in Pompeo earlier this month, when the Vatican refused to meet with him for fear it could be used to politically ends.
In addition, after Trump insulted Pompeo for not releasing Hillary Clinton’s emails, Pompeo quickly told Fox News on Oct. 9 that he had access to Clinton’s emails and intended to release them soon. “I certainly think there will be more to see before the election.”
Trump’s appeasement of Pompeo prompted Austin Evers, executive director of the US Oversight Monitoring Group, to say: “If Mike Pompeo spins the gears of the State Department to influence the election, he and all those who carry out his orders violate the Hatches Act. . Evers added that: “Pompeo has gutted the non-partisan, non-political values that underpin the diplomatic service.”
It is unclear whether Pompeo is under OSC control.
Other senior officials, including acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolfe, have faced complaints from Crew about mixing their official positions with the Trump campaign.
The crew’s complaint mentions Wolf’s role in Trump’s naturalization ceremony at the White House during the Republican National Convention, which appears to have been created “in support of President Trump’s re-election campaign.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also filed a complaint with the crew of violations of the Hatches Act for two interviews he gave to Fox News on July 6, in which he was identified as chief of staff and advocated the re-election of Trump. and criticizes Biden. The Meadows mocked the Hatches Act, calling it very “hooligan” and claiming that “no one outside Beltway really cares.”