White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday scoffed at a government office’s findings that she violated a decades-old law barring officials from weighing in on elections in their government capacity as she railed against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden‘s record.
Conway tore into the former vice president and senator over his vote on the 1994 crime bill, his role in overseeing the 1991 Anita Hill hearing and his record on immigration as she fielded questions from reporters outside the White House. But she insisted she was not commenting on the 2020 election and that she has a right to size up the record of her boss’s potential opponent.
“I’m going to talk about people’s records because I have the right to,” Conway said.
“I’m not concerned about Joe Biden,” she added. “I’m concerned about the failures of the last administration to deal with the issues of the day, including North Korea.”
When reporters noted the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) found she violated the Hatch Act with two interviews she gave in late 2017, Conway was dismissive.
“Blah, blah, blah,” she said as one reporter recounted the OSC’s findings.
“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway said.
“Let me know when the jail sentence starts,” she added.
The OSC — an entity separate from special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation — determined in March 2018 that Conway had violated the Hatch Act with two separate interviews related to the Alabama Senate special election in 2017.
The report cited interviews Conway gave in her official capacity to “Fox & Friends” on Fox News and “New Day” on CNN in which she described then-candidate Doug Jones as “weak on crime” and a likely vote against Trump-backed tax cuts. Jones went on to defeat Roy Moore.
The OSC referred its findings to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.”
However, the White House maintained at the time Conway had done nothing wrong, saying she did not explicitly tell viewers which candidate to vote for.
In response to an assertion by Conway that she was misquoted in the March 2018 report outlining her violation, an OSC spokesman told The Hill in a statement that the agency “stands by its findings.”
Under the Hatch Act, enacted in 1939, federal employees are barred from making partisan comments that could sway an election or advocating for political candidates while using their official designations. Civil penalties for violations can include fines or dismissal.
Politico reported that formal complaints to the OSC about potential Hatch Act violations increased nearly 30 percent during Trump’s first year in office.