President Donald Trump said Friday that he has no plans to fire White House counselor Kellyanne Conway despite a recommendation from a federal watchdog agency.
“I’m not going to fire her,” the president said Friday in an interview “Fox and Friends” on Fox News. “I think she’s a terrific person. She’s a tremendous spokesperson. She’s been loyal. ... Based on what I saw yesterday, how could you do that?”
In a letter sent Thursday to Trump, officials with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel detailed several instances in which Conway attacked Trump’s Democratic rivals in the 2020 presidential race on social media and in official interviews, which is a violation of the Hatch Act. The law bars federal officials from using their offices to campaign for political candidates.
“It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech and that’s just not fair,” Trump said Friday. “It doesn’t sound fair so I’m going to look at it very carefully.”
The president framed Conway’s violations of the Hatch Act as necessary in response to criticism of him or in response to questions from the media.
“You ask a person a question and every time you’re supposed to say, ‘I can’t answer, I can’t answer,’” Trump said. “I mean, she’s got to have a right of responding to questions.”
The White House counsel issued a letter Thursday calling for the Office of Special Counsel to rescind the recommendation, though the agency declined, according to The Washington Post. Special counsel Henry Kerner told the newspaper his recommendation was “unprecedented,” but he added that Conway’s conduct was as well.
“In interview after interview, she uses her official capacity to disparage announced candidates, which is not allowed,” he told the Post. “What kind of example does that send to the federal workforce? If you’re high enough up in the White House, you can break the law, but if you’re a postal carrier or a regular federal worker, you lose your job?”
Kerner told Fox News the decision on whether to fire Conway ultimately falls to the president.
“We respect his decision and, of course, the president has any option he’d like — to reprimand or not to reprimand,” Kerner said, according to the news network. “I am a Trump appointee — I have no animus toward Kellyanne whatsoever. ... My job is to make sure the federal workforce stays as depoliticized and as fair as possible.”
In its 17-page report, the Office of Special Counsel noted that Conway minimized the significance of the Hatch Act during a May 29 interview.
“If you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work," she said, according to The Hill. Later, she added, "Let me know when the jail sentence starts."
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