Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are calling for the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to investigate what they say are “multiple” potential violations of the Hatch Act at the Republican National Convention (RNC) by top Trump administration officials.
“Throughout the Convention, administration officials repeatedly used their official positions and the White House itself to bolster President Trump’s reelection campaign,” said the letter, penned by Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney and other members. “We are alarmed that President Trump and some senior Administration officials are actively undermining compliance with — and respect for — the law.”
The Hatch Act is a 1939 federal law that limits federal executive branch employees from engaging in political activities while on the job, but exempts the president and vice president from violations. The House Democrats in their letter cited a lengthy list of alleged violations.
They include a naturalization ceremony of five new Americans that was administered by acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who administered the oath of allegiance to five people — from Bolivia, Lebanon, India, Sudan and Ghana — as President Trump looked on. It was used to tout Trump’s support for legal immigration.
The Democrats also cited a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo filmed in Jerusalem as part of his official trip to Israel.
In addition to those incidents, which drew controversy during the week of the convention itself, the members cited segments filmed on federal property — including President Trump speaking to former hostages. The Democrats also said that Vice President Pence’s filmed segment and address raised questions about the use of White House employees and resources.
“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,” they said. “Career employees have faced severe consequences for behavior far less egregious than what the country witnessed last week.”
The Office of Special Counsel confirmed to Fox News it has received the Democrats’ request but declined to comment any further.
Multiple Democrats have accused Trump officials of Hatch Act violations, zeroing in particular on the participation of both Wolf and Pompeo.
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Joacquin Castro has said his subcommittee is investigating Pompeo’s speech over concerns that it violated both federal regulations and the Hatch Act.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable that a sitting U.S. Secretary of State, America’s top diplomat, would use official taxpayer-funded business to participate in a political party convention, particularly after the State Department published guidance that explicitly prohibits such activity,” Castro wrote in a letter to Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun.
Pompeo brushed off those concerns at a news conference on Wednesday, saying the remarks were made in his personal capacity.
“All I can say in my role as Secretary of State is the State Department reviewed this, it was lawful, and I personally felt it was important that the world hear the message of what this administration has accomplished,” he said.
Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security Committee requested last week that the Office of Special Counsel investigate Wolf’s participation in the naturalization ceremony.
But it seems unlikely the office will investigate, as it released a statement last week saying the Justice Department is in charge of criminal provisions of the Hatch Act and the office will not be “grandstanding” about potential violations.
“OSC’s role does not include grandstanding or holding press conferences about potential violations that may or may not occur,” Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said in a statement. “Ultimately, officials and employees choose whether to comply with the law. Once they make that choice, it is OSC’s statutory role to receive complaints, investigate alleged Hatch Act violations, and determine which ones warrant prosecution.”
Kerner added: “OSC holds officials and employees accountable when they don’t comply with the law. OSC takes its job seriously and in recent months has increased the number of Hatch Act Unit staff to respond to the growing number of complaints typically received during election years. OSC will continue to vigorously and even-handedly enforce the Hatch Act, consistent with its statutory authorities.”
Republicans have accused Democrats of overstretching the meaning of the act and dismissed the complaints as Beltway talk.
“Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Politico. “They expect that Donald Trump is going to promote Republican values and they would expect that Barack Obama, when he was in office, that he would do the same for Democrats.
“So listen, this is a lot of hoopla that’s being made about things, mainly because the convention has been so unbelievably successful,” he said.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz, Chad Pergram and Megan Henney contributed to this report.