A government watchdog agency found that six Trump government officials have violated ethics laws around political campaign support. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on Friday ruled that six staffers, including deputy press secretary Raj Shah, engaged in behavior that violates the Hatch Act — which prohibits federal employees from using their office to participate in political activity — according to NBC News.
According to the ruling, Shah, along with President Trump’s executive assistance Madeleine Westerhout, White House Deputy Director of Communications Jessica Ditto, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah, former Director of Media Affairs Helen Aguirre Ferre, and OMB Deputy Communications Director Jacob Wood all tweeted apparent support for Donald Trump’s 2020 presidency bid using their official government Twitter accounts. The watchdog group found that all of these individuals used the phrase “Make America Great Again” or “MAGA” or re-tweeted posts that used the phrase.
The OSC isn’t taking disciplinary action against the individuals, but all have been warned and future violations could result in “further action.”
“They all have been advised that if in the future they engage in prohibited political activity while employed in a position covered by the Hatch Act, we will consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action,” the OSC ruling said.
The Hatch Act was passed in order to prevent “pernicious political activities,” and in March, the OSC advised employees that since Trump had officially announced his intention to run in 2020, any use of his campaign slogan would be a violation of that act. The law also applies to wearing, displaying, or distributing items with Trump’s campaign slogan. Still, six staffers continued to use the term on social media.
For example, Westerhout re-tweeted the following post from President Trump. The Hatch Act doesn’t apply to the president or vice president, so Trump’s use the phrase doesn’t constitute a violation. The executive assistant’s use of the term, however, was found to be political activity on an official government account.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2018
The six staffers aren’t the first to be investigated for violations of the 1939 Hatch Act. Sarah Sanders tweeted the phrase “Great again” in March of this year, but complaints about the tweet were found to be acceptable because the use of the term was too vague to count as political speech or support.
Great again: “The U.S. is likely to overtake Russia to become the world's largest oil producer”https://t.co/d5giJR686Y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 6, 2018
Mick Mulvaney was also cleared of any violations when he used the term “#MAGAnomics,” because the term is part of an official economic plan.
The “Trump Administration branded its economic plan with the name ‘MAGAnomics,’ [and] OMB’s continued use of the name was not for the purpose of affecting the result of an election but rather to further the Administration’s economic agenda,” an investigation concluded.