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Federal office says Kellyanne Conway should be removed for violating Hatch Act

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(CNN) — A federal agency is recommending that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway be removed from federal service, saying she violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions.

The US Office of Special Counsel said Conway erred by making “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.”

The office is unrelated to Robert Mueller and his investigation.

Special counsel Henry Kerner wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump Thursday that his office’s investigative report found that Conway, whose title is counselor to the President, was a “repeat offender” of the Hatch Act.

“Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law,” the letter said.

The recommendation carries no actual power to remove Conway. That decision is up to Trump.

And White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves called the special counsel’s actions against Conway “deeply flawed,” claiming they “violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process.”

“Others, of all political views, have objected to the (the office’s) unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees. Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations — and perhaps (the Office of the Special Counsel) should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act,” Groves said.

A separate statement from the Office of the Special Counsel, issued alongside the report, said: “Like with other presidential appointees, the President has the authority to discipline Ms. Conway for violating the Hatch Act. Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, (the office) recommends that she be removed from federal service.”

The office said Conway violated the Hatch Act during two television interviews “in which she advocated for and against candidates in the 2017 Alabama special election for US Senate.” Additionally, the office says Conway downplayed the significance of the law as applied to her in a May interview when she said: “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” and “let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

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