A top White House staffer broke a federal law that bars most government officials from engaging in political activities by calling for a member of Congress’s defeat on Twitter two months ago, a federal watchdog agency said Friday.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Dan Scavino, a White House communications official who oversees President Trump’s social-media accounts, violated the Hatch Act on April 1 by posting the following message on Twitter, targeted at voters in Michigan Representative Justin Amash’s district:
The tweet immediately raised red flags: “As a former congressional press secretary I can confidently tell you that you have violated the Hatch Act with this tweet,” read one reply to Scavino’s post, from journalist Jim Heath. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog organization that has frequently criticized the Trump administration’s approach to ethics issues, filed a complaint with the OSC following Scavino’s tweet. Ana Galindo-Marrone, who leads the agency’s Hatch Act unit, said in a letter to CREW on June 5 that the tweet had indeed crossed a legal line.
“Accordingly, we issued Mr. Scavino a warning letter,” Galindo-Marrone wrote. “In addition, we note that Mr. Scavino was recently counseled about the Hatch Act by the Office of the White House Counsel.” She also noted that Scavino had not posted any potentially unlawful messages since the April 1 tweet.