Six Trump White House officials including Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah violated the Hatch Act by using their official government Twitter accounts to engage in partisan political activity, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) ruled based on complaints filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
OSC reprimanded each staffer noting that any future engagement in prohibited political activity will be considered “a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action.”
The six Trump Administration officials cited for Hatch Act violations are: Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah, Deputy Director of Communications Jessica Ditto, Executive Assistant to the President Madeleine Westerhout, former Director of Media Affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré, Press Secretary for Vice President Mike Pence Alyssa Farah, and OMB Deputy Communications Director Jacob Wood.
As noted in CREW’s complaints, these officials posted tweets in support of candidate Trump or the Republican Party including the Trump campaign slogans “Make America Great Again” or “#MAGA.”
Each Twitter account that was used for political activity is clearly intended and used for official White House or government business.
“While we are glad to see the OSC confirm CREW’s findings of Hatch Act violations, warnings have not been enough to deter Trump Administration officials from using their official positions to engage in partisan political activity in direct violation of the law,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “Since the time that these violations were committed, CREW has filed 11 additional Hatch Act complaints against Trump officials. Simply put, OSC must consider additional measures to prevent these rampant abuses.”
The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from “us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”
OSC guidance on applying the Hatch Act prohibitions to social media, including Twitter, specifically advises that an employee may not “use a Facebook or Twitter account in his official capacity to engage in political activity” and requires that any social media account created in a federal employee’s official capacity “remain politically neutral.”
In March, OSC offered additional clarification explicitly prohibiting an employee from using the slogan “Make America Great Again,” hashtags such as #MAGA, or “any other materials from President Trump’s 2016 or 2020 campaigns.”
Following CREW complaints, nine Trump Administration officials have been cited for Hatch Act violations, including former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Deputy Assistant to the President and Communications Director for the Office of the First Lady Stephanie Grisham and White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino.
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