What Saved Kellyanne Conway’s Job?
For the most part, President Trump saved Kellyanne Conway’s job, but there is more to the story. She was in violations of the Hatch Act which the President feels it takes away a person’s Freedom of Speech. If other White House aides follow in her example, then it could seal the deal that others cannot be touched when it comes to violations. The Hatch Act was passed in 1939 and prohibits political speech among government employees while they are handling official duties.
The Merit Systems Protection Board which overseen the case is not in favor of the Trump administration, and the feeling is mutual. The Trump administration pledged war on the “deep state” civil service, and the MSPB did not appreciate the publicity of President Trump calling the “deep state” out publicly.
A small group of three people makes up the agency who rule against government workers more than they favor them. Experts say a Republican-controlled MSPB would have ruled against Conway, but there were not enough members to have a ruling, so her case was moved to the White House where President Trump threw out the case. Conway was the tenth official from the Trump administration to be ruled in violation of the act. She was the only one out of the ten the punishment would have been termination.
The Office of Special Counsel, which handles the investigations for the MSPB recommended to the president that he remove Conway from office for her “egregious, notorious, and ongoing violations.” He wrote a statement saying, “If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position by the Merit Systems Protection Board. If Conway’s violations were left unpunished, that would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.” President Trump refused to fire her and told Fox News, “It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech.”
This angered Democrat representatives and senators, and they pushed to pass a bill for the president to respond publicly within 30 days upon receiving a notice of referral from the OSC about a Hatch Act violation. The bill will not get far with a Republican-controlled Senate.
Within the last four decades, not counting the Trump administration, there were only three times the OSC referred recommendations for terminating political appointees. All three were referred to the White House. Now that Trump is president, the same rules apply, but the Democrats want to raise hell because President Trump would not fire someone who tells the truth. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 clearly states these cases can be referred to the White House, “in a confidential, policy-making, policy-determining, or policy-advocating position appointed by the president.”
An argument was brought up about the 1926 Supreme Court decision where the parties would be limited “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.” Donald Sherman, the deputy director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, argued, “The carveout in the statute seems pretty clear, and refers explicitly to presidential appointees who were confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate. Ms. Conway is not a Senate-confirmed appointee.”
The OSC was to refer the case to the MSPB, but it has been closed since March. The nominees are still awaiting approval from the Senate. So the case went straight to the White House and the president dropped the case.
The White House is also demanding the OSC withdraw the recommendation of termination as it is “deeply flawed and violated Conway’s due process rights.” White House spokesperson Steve Groves stated, “Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees. Under the influence of media pressure and liberal organizations, is trying to weaponize the Hatch Act.”
Democrats put out a congressional subpoena for Conway, but she declined to show up to testify about the ordeal. They now want to hold her in contempt of court. Elijah Cummings, the House Oversight Chairman, stated, “The independent Office of Special Counsel found that Kellyanne Conway violated the law dozens of times and recommended that President Trump remove her from office. It sends the wrong message to federal employees when Ms. Conway refuses to change her behavior and faces no consequences.” It is sad when there are consequences for telling the truth.