- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The office of special counsel on Tuesday called for President Trump to take disciplinary action against Kellyanne Conway for political activity while in her White House role.

The federal watchdog said Mrs. Conway violated a ban on federal employees campaigning when during television interviews she promoted Republican candidate Roy Moore and discouraged voters from supporting Democratic candidate Doug Jones in last year’s Alabama race for U.S. Senate

It is unclear what disciplinary action Mrs. Conway, a counselor to the president, could face, but the law allows for her removal or deductions to pay.

The two interviews cited in the counsel’s report were appearances on Fox News and CNN in which she acted in her “official capacity” as counselor to the president. This is a violation of the Hatch Act, which stipulates that White House officials can have opinions on candidates but cannot actively campaign while in their role.

“In passing this law, Congress intended to promote public confidence in the Executive branch by ensuring the federal government is working for all Americans without regard to their political views,” according to the watchdog’s report. “Ms. Conway’s statements during the Fox & Friends and New Day interviews impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate.”

The White House pushed back against the office’s findings, saying Mrs. Conway complied with the law.

“Kellyanne Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate,” said White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley. “She simply expressed the president’s obvious position that he have people in the House and Senate who support his agenda.”

He added, “Kellyanne’s statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act, as she twice declined to respond to the [interviewer’s] specific invitation to encourage Alabamans to vote for the Republican.”

Walter Shaub, senior director of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center and former head of the government ethics office, called the case “a slam dunk.” He filed the ethics complaint against Mrs. Conway and has been a frequent critic of the administration.

“She has made clear that she’s not interested in following government ethics rules,” Mr. Shaub said of Mrs. Conway. “It’s time for the president to act.”

The Campaign Legal Center said the president should either suspend Mrs. Conway without pay or fire her.

“Anything less than removal from the federal service or a lengthy unpaid suspension will not deter future misconduct on her part,” the group said.

Mr. Shaub said it “couldn’t have been easy for special counsel Henry Kerner to issue a finding that one of the president’s top advisors violated an ethics law.”

“Kerner was only recently appointed to the position of special counsel, and he knew he risked upsetting the White House with this finding,” Mr. Shaub said.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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