Donald Trump’s upcoming Fourth of July “Salute to America” event may wind up being an illegal act, if Trump makes the slightest misstep when giving his speech, Slate reports.
The event, planned for Thursday, is set to include tanks, flyovers by military aircraft and appearances by high-ranking military officials, as well as the more traditional pomp and circumstance that accompanies a Fourth of July celebration, such as fireworks and musical performances.
However, the planned event has drawn harsh criticism from observers, who say Trump is using the event to make it all about him. And, in fact, if he does make it all about him, he may wind up violating the law.
At issue here is the Hatch Act, a bit of 1939 legislation that has come up in the news quite a bit recently. The law forbids virtually all federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities, and Trump’s former counselor, Kellyanne Conway, has been accused of repeatedly and egregiously violating it, so much so that the Office of Special Counsel recommended that she be removed from her position.
If Trump’s remarks during the event are non-partisan, neutral and generalized, then no harm, no foul. But if he turns it into a campaign rally, as some observers suspect he will, then it could very well be a Hatch Act violation.
Watchdog groups will be keeping a close eye on things. Citizens for Ethics, for example, tweeted that it would be monitoring Trump’s speech carefully.
“The president has routinely put his political interests over the public interest. We’ll see if he does again on July 4th.”
The administration, for its part, has insisted that the event will be non-partisan, a salute to “how wonderful this country is… Our troops and military… Our great democracy. And great call to patriotism.”
Similarly, Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, said that he will be watching Trump’s speech for a few key points that may turn it into a violation of the Hatch Act. For example, if Trump uses his campaign slogans (“Make America Great Again” or “Keep America Great”), or if he mentions his re-election or the campaigns of either party.
Apart from potential violations of the Hatch Act, Trump’s “Salute to America” has been roundly criticized for a host of other reasons. For example, the costs of the event are being kept under wraps, but the price of moving the tanks to Washington reportedly cost $870,000.