Trump aide Conway should be removed from office, watchdog rules

White House adviser ‘repeat offender’ engaging in partisan politics, ethics body says

February 3rd, 2017: Ms Conway, the US president’s former campaign manager, cited the “Bowling Green massacre” - an incident that never occurred - in an interview in which she backed the travel ban imposed on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. Video: MSNBC

 

Kellyanne Conway, a senior aide to US president Donald Trump, should be removed from government office for engaging in partisan politics, a federal agency has ruled.

The Office of Special Counsel – an independent body that monitors partisan politics within the government and is distinct from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller – recommended that Ms Conway be dismissed, branding her a “repeat offender”.

Ms Conway was censured for violating the Hatch Act – a law that bars those in government positions from making partisan statements. While the president and the vice-president are exempt from the 1939 law, other White House employees are not.

The agency states that Ms Conway criticised Democratic presidential candidates on television and social media. It also references a 2018 report by it that highlighted Ms Conway’s comments in support of Roy Moore, a candidate for a special election in Alabama in 2017.

Ms Conway also fell foul of ethics watchdogs in the first few months of the Trump presidency for encouraging people to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing products during a television interview.

“Ms Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions,” the agency said in a statement announcing the findings on Thursday. “Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law.”

The White House dismissed the findings as “deeply flawed”, arguing that they violated Ms Conway’s “constitutional rights to free speech and due process”. Ultimately it will fall to the president to decide whether to dismiss Ms Conway.

Prince of Whales

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump found himself at the centre of a social media storm when he tweeted that he had met the “Prince of Whales”. The embarrassing tweet remained on Twitter for 25 minutes before being removed and replaced by one with the correct spelling.

The tweet also referenced Mr Trump’s meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, as the president attempted to stall a controversy over comments he made in an interview to ABC in which he said he would accept information from foreign countries.

“I meet and talk to “foreign governments” every day. I just met with Queen of England (U.K.), Prince of Whales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about “Everything !” he tweeted.

Mr Trump’s suggestion that he would accept information from a foreign power prompted a backlash, not only from Democrats but also from his own party.

Mr Trump told ABC News that he would accept “oppo research” – opposition research – from a foreign entity. “I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” he said. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent,’ oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

He pushed back on suggestions that it constituted election interference and indicated that he would not necessarily report it to the FBI.

“It’s not an interference, they have information – I think I’d take it,” Mr Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong.”

His comments prompted a strong rebuke from Republican senator Lindsey Graham, usually a supporter of the president. Speaking in the US capitol on Thursday he said it was a “mistake” for Mr Trump to say he would accept the information.

He later tweeted: “American electoral campaigns should be run by, for, and decided by the American people. Foreign influence in our electoral process is and has been a problem.”

House speaker Nancy Pelosi also hit out at the president. “It’s a very sad thing that he does not know right from wrong,” she said. “It’s so against any sense of decency.”