White House apology for ethics violations marks a change of tone from Trump

White House Chief of Staff Ron Crane

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

WASHINGTON — Earlier this week, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein was found to have violated federal law by using the government’s Twitter account to get a Democratic candidate into office.

of wednesday letterthe special counsel’s office (not to be confused with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked with investigating election interference in 2017) said it “decided not to pursue disciplinary action, instead issued a warning letter to

By then, Klain had already deleted the message in question, a retweet of a Democratic group called Strike PAC.

The White House quickly apologized. “We are not perfect, but we have had very few violations,” spokeswoman Carine Jeanpierre said. told reporters on Thursdayshe was referring to violations hatch method, a 1939 law prohibiting federal employees from engaging in political activity. Only the President and Vice President are exempt from that restriction.

And that was it. Crane will not be subject to disciplinary action from the President, whom he has advised closely over the years. In an age of nuclear terror and economic instability, this episode was but a fleeting moment on the crowded political radar. need a break from social media.

But to some in Washington, Crane’s ethical violations stood in contrast to the way the Trump administration handled such situations. Submitted by Chief Counsel Stephen Miller added an ironic note.

“I remember when there was a Hatch Act violation at the White House. It was a badge of honor. It was a joke at the White House,” said Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s former communications director. you said last year.

May 29, 2019 has never been more revealing than May 29, 2019, the Trump administration’s complacent attitude toward government ethics.

That day, Kellyanne Conway stepped into a row of microphones on the sidewalk outside the White House, known as “Pebble Beach.” Government officials regularly conduct interviews there, but rarely. The kindness that Conway gave me that day.

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway dismissed concerns about Hatch Act violations speaking to reporters on May 29, 2019. (Kevin Lamarck/Reuters)

With the Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential nomination underway, Conway, a longtime Republican operative who has been a senior adviser to President Trump since the start of his term, was not impressed. She criticized the Obama administration’s foreign and domestic policies and pointed out the shortcomings of Vice President Joe Biden.

“We inherited the turmoil from the previous administration in which he had a major role,” Conway told reporters.

But Biden is no longer just a former vice president or a 30-year senator veteran. A month ago he announced that he would run for the White House. By accusing Biden from the White House grounds, Conway appeared to be violating the Hatch Act. she had already been there several times before.

But when confronted by reporters about possible violations, Conway defiantly dismissed the concerns. she said.

A government ethicist at the time said it was typical of conversations in which Mr. Conway and other senior Trump administration officials often confused government work with raw political concerns.

Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller

Conway and Senior Counsel Stephen Miller at the White House in 2017. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Many officials in previous Democratic and Republican administrations have violated the Hatch Act. For Trump, the difference was a matter of scale. Supporters of the former president argued that the government’s ethics lawyers were part of a “deep state” that was fundamentally hostile to his administration and intended to undermine the president at every turn. Those supporters argued that Trump was chosen to break the norm, and that was exactly what he was doing in his own unconventional way.

But breaking the code is not the same as breaking the law. Two weeks later, the OSC (the same office that warned Klein earlier this week) urged Trump to fire Conway, claiming she was an overzealous rule-breaker. I have never had to issue more than one report to the President regarding Hatch Act violations by the same individual.” the report said“Thus, her actions are undermining a key foundation of our democratic system: the rule of law.”

White House adviser Pat Cipollone, refuted in his own report, calling the OSC charges against Conway “outrageous” and “unprecedented.” Trump said much the same thing. “It looks like they’re trying to take away her free speech, but that’s not fair.” he told Fox NewsConway remained in the White House for another year before announcing his resignation in late August 2020.

A few days later, Trump hosted the Republican National Convention on the White House grounds, which to many pundits seemed like a significant conflict of interest. “The Hatch Act was a wall between government power and candidates. Tonight a candidate took down that wall and used his powers for his own campaign.” claimed Former White House ethics counselor Walt Schaub. (Some have made similar accusations about President Biden’s recent speech in Philadelphia about threats to American democracy, although Biden was not explicitly seeking re-election at the time).

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump addresses a live audience on the South Lawn of the White House on the final night of the Republican National Convention on August 27, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/Washington Post via Getty Images)

The following year, an OSC report found that 13 members of the Trump administration had violated the Hatch Act. “The cumulative effect of these repeated public violations was to undermine public confidence in the bipartisan management of government.” Report foundThe violation was committed not only by Conway, but also by senior adviser Jared Kushner. In an interview with CNN, Kushner accused Democrats of offering “a very dark vision of America” ​​without any policy solutions. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows endorsed Madison Cawthorne for Congress in an interview with Fox News. and Steven Miller, another senior adviser who described Biden as “stuck in a basement somewhere” during the 2020 election.

The Biden administration has tried to avoid the Hatch Act controversy as part of an effort to restore democratic norms trampled by Trump. Her Second White House Press ConferenceBiden’s first press secretary, Jen Saki, assured reporters that “you won’t see a political rally on White’s South Lawn,” a reference to the RNC Trump staged there.

Neither the White House nor Klein himself responded to Yahoo News’ request for comment.

As the midterm elections approach, Saki’s successor, Carine Jean-Pierre, faces daily questions about the Democratic Party’s prospects.

“This administration respects the Hatch Act, so I have to be careful with what I say,” Jean-Pierre was asked on Monday. If Biden had done enough To support congressional candidates by November 8