WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. government watchdog agency on Thursday recommended Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, be fired for repeatedly violating U.S. law with political comments while serving in the White House.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway speaks with the news media after giving an interview to Fox News outside of the White House in Washington, U.S. May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
The White House immediately rejected the special counsel office’s ruling and demanded that it withdraw the report.
A statement from the Office of Special Counsel cited Conway’s comments in television interviews and social media posts as violations of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law prohibiting executive branch employees from engaging in some political activities. The president, vice president and certain other senior officials are exempted.
The OSC referred to disparaging comments Conway made about Democratic presidential candidates.
“Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service,” the statement said.
Conway, 52, served as Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, becoming the first woman to head a winning presidential campaign, and is one of his most loyal aides and fiercest defenders.
She currently is leading White House efforts on reducing deaths by opioids and Trump likely would be loathe to have her leave the White House right when he is cranking up his re-election campaign.
White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves said the OSC action violated Conway’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process and was pushed by media pressure and liberal organizations.
“Based on the numerous errors in the report and the flawed process under which it was issued, we ask that you withdraw and retract the report and continue the dialogue with this office that should have taken place and that could have avoided many of the errors in the current draft,” said a letter to the OSC from White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone.
Last month Conway was critical of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the leading Democrats seeking to unseat Trump in 2020, in conversations with reporters at the White House. In recent television she attacked another challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, and scoffed at candidate Seth Moulton, a member of the House of Representatives, as an unknown.
The special counsel office cited Conway last year for favoring a Republican candidate over a Democrat in an interview discussing a special Senate election in Alabama in 2017. The White House said she was only expressing Trump’s preference.
Conway’s husband, Republican lawyer George Conway, is a vociferous Trump critic who has called for impeachment and said Trump is “mentally unwell.”
Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Trott, Susan Thomas and Sonya Hepinstall