Before Kellyanne Conway went to work for President Trump, she was a prominent pollster and pundit. She even attacked her future boss on the air on multiple occasions, over his lying, “whining” and refusing to release his tax returns. He was just not the kind of person we’d want in the Oval Office, she insisted.
But once she signed on with him, she not only gave him her undying loyalty but also adopted his values, to whatever extent she didn’t share them to begin with. Which includes a brazen contempt for the law:
The Office of Special Counsel on Thursday recommended the removal of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway from federal office for violating the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their work.
The report submitted to President Trump found that Conway violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.” The agency described her as a “repeat offender.”
The decision about whether to remove Conway is up to Trump. A senior White House official said Thursday the president is unlikely to punish Conway and instead will defend her.
Just to be clear, the Office of Special Counsel has nothing to do with Robert S. Mueller III. It’s a relatively small agency whose job is to police the federal workforce in certain areas such as Hatch Act violations. The director, Henry Kerner, is a former Republican congressional staffer who was appointed to his position by Trump.
What seems to have gotten Kerner and the OSC so outraged here is not only Conway’s repeated violations of the Hatch Act but also her public proclamations that she knew she was breaking the law and just didn’t care.
“Blah, blah, blah,” Conway said recently when asked about her Hatch Act violations. “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
Is there anything more Trumpian? Sure, I’m breaking the law, but you’re pathetic for even raising an objection. You can’t touch me, so bug off. It must have put a smile on the president’s face.
In Kerner’s letter to the White House, his outrage comes through:
Ms. Conway’s disregard for the restrictions the Hatch Act places on executive branch employees is unacceptable. If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position by the Merit Systems Protection Board. As a highly visible member of the Administration, Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.
Lots of people in Washington view the Hatch Act as bothersome. Some even think it would be better if the Hatch Act were repealed. But even if that’s your opinion, you don’t get to violate the law just because you don’t like it.
As the OSC report emphasizes, people who work in federal agencies other than the White House have lost their jobs for doing what Conway has done repeatedly, and what she has made clear she’ll do again. But she doesn’t care, and her boss certainly doesn’t.
The Trump administration has a fundamentally different view of the law than any that came before it, Democratic or Republican. It starts at the top, with a president who spent a lifetime acting as though rules and laws don’t apply to him, who with his family perpetrated a massive tax fraud worth hundreds of millions of dollars, who brags about cheating on his taxes, who has run one scam and con after another, who says that cooperating with authorities to testify against criminal associates “almost ought to be illegal,” and who just proclaimed that if once again a hostile foreign power tries to help him in 2020, he’ll welcome the assistance.
Put that all together, along with everything else he says and does, and it’s perfectly clear that Trump believes that people who are conscientious about obeying the law are nothing more than suckers. If that’s who you go to work every day to serve, after a while you’re going to assimilate his perspective and his values.
On a day like this, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Trump’s administration is a moral and ethical plague. It will take years before we fully understand how far the pestilence spread and what its effects have been. But Trump wouldn’t have been able to do it on his own. It’s the people who advocate for him, justify him, excuse him and imitate him — people such as Kellyanne Conway — who make the real damage possible.