Despite recommendations from a top federal watchdog, President Donald Trump said on Friday that he has no plans to fire Kellyanne Conway for violating the Hatch Act. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recommended on Thursday that the White House counselor should be removed from office for repeatedly violating a law that bars federal employees from engaging in political activity, but according to an interview with Fox News, the president isn’t considering removing her.
“I’m not gonna fire her. I think she’s a terrific person. She’s a tremendous spokesperson,” Trump said on Fox & Friends.
The Hatch Act stipulates that federal employees can’t make political statements while acting in their official duties. According to the OSC, Conway has repeatedly violated this act while making statements about Democratic presidential candidates.
For instance, Conway called Senator Elizabeth Warren out for “lying” about her ethnicity during the scandal over her heritage. She also went after former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Senator Corey Booker — who, like Warren, are running for president in 2020.
But Trump sees her statements as part of her right to exercise “free speech.”
“It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech.”
He went on to say that he believes she was defending him and should be able to say what she thinks.
“It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “A person wouldn’t be able to express themselves, and I just don’t see it.”
Trump said that he would review the 17-page briefing that he got on Conway’s Hatch Act violations, but he doesn’t have any plan to ask her to limit the way she speaks. The report details that Conway has full knowledge of the Hatch Act and has violated it on numerous occasions in the past.
What Is the Hatch Act? Here’s your guide to the 1939 law that a federal agency cited in calling for Kellyanne Conway’s dismissal. https://t.co/OZfOyebMKc
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 14, 2019
Special counsel Henry Kerner said that while his office’s work — which isn’t related in any way to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — was accurate and he stood by it, he would also defer to the president’s decision.
“We respect his decision and, of course, the president has any option he’d like—to reprimand or not to reprimand,” he said. “It is up to the president’s discretion and we respect that.”
Kerner, who was appointed by Trump, said that it was his job to make sure that federal employees are adhering to the law and that the federal workforce stays “as depoliticized and as fair as possible.”
Kerner added that leaving Conway’s violations unpunished sent a bad message to the rest of the federal workforce.