WASHINGTON (CN) — During the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, 13 senior Trump officials abused their roles as federal employees to further a political agenda, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel reported Tuesday.
President Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, his adviser Jared Kushner, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and several members of Trump’s cabinet as well as multiple White House aides were found in violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while in office.
According to the report, these officials used their roles to influence the 2020 presidential election, with the approval of the Trump administration.
The report paints a picture of a White House that openly flouted the Hatch Act, with Trump refusing to sanction employees that violated the law and leading an administration that "intentionally ignored the law’s requirements and tacitly or expressly approved of senior administration officials violating the law.”
While the Office of Special Counsel can call for the removal or punishment of most federal employees who violate the Hatch Act, it can only submit a report notifying the president of a violation if a presidential appointee or commissioned officer violates the law.
Trump was the only person with the authority to sanction or remove members of his staff who violated the law and declined to do so despite multiple Office of Special Counsel reports of misconduct within his administration.
The Hatch Act does not apply to the president and vice president and cannot be used to punish officials who have left office, leaving the Office of Special Counsel without recourse in response to the latest findings.
"This failure to impose discipline created the conditions for what appeared to be a taxpayer-funded campaign apparatus
within the upper echelons of the executive branch," the report states.
Many of the violations were committed right before the 2020 presidential election, preventing the office from investigating and notifying the president of the violations before Election Day.
The Office of Special Counsel said it still released the report "to educate employees about Hatch Act-prohibited activities, highlight the enforcement challenges that OSC confronted during its investigations, and deter similar violations in the future."
The report is the result of more than 100 complaints alleging that Trump officials violated the Hatch Act. Many of these instances stemmed from the 2020 Republican National Convention, which was held at the White House due to Covid-19. Notably, the office concluded that the convention itselfdid not violate the Hatch Act.
During the event, however, former Secretary Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by altering State Department policy to give a speech in which he talked about President Trump's campaign as well as his work in the State Department, according to the report.
Former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf also violated the Hatch Act that day, according to the report, by presiding over a naturalization ceremony that was videotaped and played at the convention.
A slew of Trump officials also violated the act by commenting on now-President Joe Biden during interviews with reporters.
Brian Morgenstern, former White House deputy press secretary, said in an interview that Biden was “hiding away” because “the more America sees of their ticket, the less they like them.”
The report describes an OSC that was under a near-constant barrage from average citizens calling with violations to report and federal employees enquiring on whether they still had to follow the Hatch Act.
"The cumulative effect of these repeated and public violations was to undermine public confidence in the nonpartisan operation of government," the report states.
The Office of Special Counsel called for policy revisions to the Hatch Act, including amendments allowing the office to pursue financial sanctions against presidential appointees who violate the law and giving greater power to the office's subpoenas and investigations.
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