Trump Administration Accused of 'Rampant' Ethics Abuses After 6 More Officials Cited for Hatch Act Violations

Six members of the Trump administration have been found guilty of violating the Hatch Act for using their official social media accounts to promote the president’s political messages and “Make America Great Again” campaign slogans.

On Friday, the Office of the Special Counsel, the investigative and prosecutorial agency that is responsible for handling cases of government corruption, cited six staffers with violating federal law. The office was informed of the infractions with a complaint filed from the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

Some of the more noteworthy offenders include White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah; Trump’s executive assistant Madeleine Westerhout; Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah; and White House deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto. Jacob Wood, the deputy communications director for the Office of Management and Budget, and former White House director of media affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré were also found to be in violation of the federal rule.

Under the Hatch Act, executive branch employees are barred from using their offices to influence elections or for political purposes. The relatively small infraction had been committed by many high-profile Trump officials, including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Melania Trump’s former communications director Stephanie Grisham and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

Earlier this year, the Office of the Special Counsel determined that any use of Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” or “MAGA” was a violation of the federal law. In this batch of violations, four of the staffers had included the campaign phrase in their social media posts.

Shah, the White House deputy press secretary, violated the rule by tweeting, “Fantastic @RNCResearch release #Winning: 500 Days of American Greatness.” He included in his tweet a link to an RNC web page titled “#Winning: 500 Days of American Greatness.”

trump administration officials, hatch act violations The press secretary's podium in the White House press briefing room. On Friday, the Office of Special Counsel found six Trump staffers in violation of the Hatch Act. Evan Semones/Getty Images

Westerhout, Trump’s executive assistant, broke the Hatch Act when she posted the message “Congratulations to Mike Pompeo! He was a great CIA Director and will be an extraordinary Secretary of State! #MAGA.” In another post in violation of the rule, she retweeted a message from Donald Trump’s account, which read, “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! #MAGA.”

Officials who violate the Hatch Act can face a $1,000 fine and disciplinary action such as suspension or termination.

Noah Bookbinder, the watchdog group’s director, celebrated the Office of Special Counsel’s findings in a statement, but added that “warnings have not been enough to deter Trump Administration officials from using their official positions to engage in partisan political activity in direct violation of the law.”

“Simply put, [the Office of Special Counsel] must consider additional measures to prevent these rampant abuses,” Bookbinder wrote.

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