White House Counsel Pat Cipollone lashed out at the Office of Special Counsel for demanding that Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, calling it “outrageous” and accusing the watchdog agency’s chief of acting out of emotion.
The White House released Cipollone’s June 11 letter an hour after the OSC released a report accusing Conway of repeatedly violating the federal law barring and recommending that Trump dismiss her.
“OSC’s ‘call’ upon the President ‘to remove Ms. Conway from her federal position immediately’ is as outrageous as it is unprecedented,” Cipollone wrote.
The dispute appears to have begun after Conway mocked the Hatch Act and OSC in comments the morning of May 29.
“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway said. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
Cipollone’s letter recounts how at 5:03 pm ET the same day, the OSC sent White House ethics officials a 17-page report outlining Conway’s Hatch Act violations, while demanding a response by 9:00 am ET the following day.
Cipollone wrote that OSC chief Henry Kerner’s actions “were prompted” by the OSC receiving media reports about Conway’s ridicule.
The White House counsel goes on to cite Kerner’s “purported personal ‘offense’ that you took to those comments — even though you made no effort to investigate before rushing to judgment.”
The fight between the White House and one of Trump’s own nominees burst out into the open late Thursday morning, after the OSC released the report. Kerner put out an accompanying statement saying that Conway’s “actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law.” The watchdog had first condemned Conway in March 2018 for violating the Hatch Act through her vocal public support for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate whose bid collapsed under the weight of pedophilia allegations.
In his letter pushing back on the new report, Cipollone accuses the OSC of violating Conway’s “due process rights, and abus[ing] its discretion by issuing a Report tainted by inappropriate external influences.” Cipollone also says that the OSC’s interpretation of the Hatch Act — forbidding the use of official positions for partisan political purposes — is violative of Conway’s First Amendment rights.
He claims that OSC has no right to tell federal employees what to do on Twitter or other social media platforms.
The recommendation for Conway’s firing is, in Cipollone’s words, “draconian and patently ridiculous.”
The White House counsel also claimed that negotiations between OSC and his office were proceeding over Conway’s compliance with the Hatch Act. That ended, Cipollone wrote, when Conway made the disparaging remarks about OSC.
“The most alarming fact is that personal pique appears to have influenced the outcome of this investigation, including the decision to make the extraordinary recommendation that the President remove one of his closest advisors,” the letter reads.
“The fact that personal bias and the desire to respond to a media article apparently prompted the decision to release the Report seven hours later eviscerates the credibility of the Report,” Cipollone wrote.
Later in the letter, Cipollone finds himself debating the contents of Conway’s Twitter presence, calling her a “prolific Twitter user, posting regularly on public policy and political issues,” before arguing that Conway uses her account in her personal, and not official, capacity.
Cipollone demands that the OSC provide documents and correspondence surrounding the report’s creation by June 21.
This post has been updated.
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