House Democrats push probe of potential Hatch Act violations during GOP convention

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The House Oversight Committee has asked the Office of Special Counsel to open up numerous Hatch Act investigations connected to the just-finished Republican National Convention. 

In a scathing letter to the office, which is separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, House Oversight chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York said the White House ‘staged’ a pardon and naturalization ceremony as part of the convention, and sought probes of taxpayer-funded employees who may have participated.

She also singled out Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech to the convention from Jerusalem on an official government trip. 

The leaders of the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee are asking the Office of Special Counsel to probe potential Hatch Act violations from the Republican National Convention, which was held at the White House

The leaders of the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee are asking the Office of Special Counsel to probe potential Hatch Act violations from the Republican National Convention, which was held at the White House

‘Throughout the Convention, Administration officials repeatedly used their official positions and the White House itself to bolster President Trump’s reelection campaign,’ Maloney and fellow Democratic subcommittee chairmen wrote. 

‘The Trump Administration staged a pardon and naturalization ceremony in order to use video of the event during the Convention later that day, they repeatedly used the White House for Convention speaking engagements, and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo engaged in political activity speaking at the Convention while on official travel abroad.’

Maloney wants the office to probe numerous activities which she says could be violations of the law. The Hatch Act, which does not apply to the president or vice president himself, prohibits government employees from engaging in politics on the job, though it provides exceptions and lets people engage in political activities on personal time.

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is demanding a probe of potential Hatch Act violations tied to the GOP convention

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is demanding a probe of potential Hatch Act violations tied to the GOP convention

‘The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,”‘ the letter notes.

After nixing planned convention activities in Jacksonville and an original convention slated for Charlotte due to the pandemic, Trump held his last week at the South Lawn of the White House, complete with a fireworks display.

'He made it very clear that he was talking in his personal capacity he used no federal assets to do that,' Meadows said of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's convention speech from Jerusalem

‘He made it very clear that he was talking in his personal capacity he used no federal assets to do that,’ Meadows said of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s convention speech from Jerusalem

Trump issued a 'surprise' pardon of three-time felon Jon Ponder. A tape of their meeting played at the convention, which was staged in the East Wing

Trump issued a ‘surprise’ pardon of three-time felon Jon Ponder. A tape of their meeting played at the convention, which was staged in the East Wing

President Donald Trump holds a Naturalization Certificate while posing with a candidate for naturalization that was declared as U.S. citizen, during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, U.S. August 25, 2020

President Donald Trump holds a Naturalization Certificate while posing with a candidate for naturalization that was declared as U.S. citizen, during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, U.S. August 25, 2020

President Donald Trump holds a Naturalization Certificate while posing with a candidate for naturalization that was declared as U.S. citizen, during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, U.S. August 25, 2020

President Donald Trump holds a Naturalization Certificate while posing with a candidate for naturalization that was declared as U.S. citizen, during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, U.S. August 25, 2020

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, (R-L, second row) Viktor Knavs and Amalija Knavs, parents of the first lady Melania Trump, listen to the first lady's address to the Republican National Convention from the Rose Garden at the White House on August 25, 2020 in Washington, DC

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, (R-L, second row) Viktor Knavs and Amalija Knavs, parents of the first lady Melania Trump, listen to the first lady’s address to the Republican National Convention from the Rose Garden at the White House on August 25, 2020 in Washington, DC

First Lady Melania Trump spoke from the White House Rose Garden. Vice President Mike Pence spoke from Fort McHenry, a federal park in Baltimore for his convention speech.

The convention featured Trump Acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf swearing in five new U.S. citizens at the White House, and Trump granting a presidential pardon in a pre-taped video showed at the convention. It also featured Trump issuing a ‘surprise’ pardon of three-time felon Jon Ponder.

‘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,’ wrote Maloney. 

The pardon ceremony ‘appeared to have been planned and designed as content for the Convention broadcast in support of President Trump’s reelection campaign. We are concerned that White House officials who are subject to the Hatch Act may have assisted in planning and carrying out these actions in a manner that violated the law,’ Maloney wrote. 

The White House has said they were official events and were allowable, and that the video was available on a public website beforehand. It also said steps were taken to hold events in allowable parts of the White House complex.

The letter also says HUD official Lynne M. Patton, a Trump family loyalist, ‘may have misused her official position for political purposes’ when she oversaw production of a scathing video segment that interviewed public housing tenants and bashed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Trump rival. Some of the people interviewed said afterward they had no idea they were contributing to the GOP convention.

‘President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump gave addresses on the White House grounds,’ according to the letter. ‘There were also multiple pre-recorded segments filmed in the White House. These segments include President Trump speaking with former hostages and Americans impacted by coronavirus. These segments raise serious questions about the use of White House employees and resources in coordinating and executing Convention programming,’ Maloney wrote. 

The letter was signed by Maloney, Rep. Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.), and Del. Stacey Plaskett (V.I.).  

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