Federal watchdog: White House should sack Trump aide Conway

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway attends a working lunch with governors on workforce freedom and mobility in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday. — AFP

WASHINGTON — A US watchdog agency recommended Thursday that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired, saying the close aide to President Donald Trump repeatedly violated a law restricting political activity during her official work.

The White House swiftly responded by calling the process "blatantly unfair" and demanding the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) retract its "outrageous" recommendation.

In the finding sent to the president, the OSC said Conway has engaged in a pattern of unacceptable conduct, including sniping at 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, that likely would have led to the removal of virtually any other federal employee.

It said that in multiple media interviews and through social media postings beginning early this year, the 52-year-old Conway, acting as a White House spokesperson, engaged in partisan attacks on Democratic presidential hopefuls including US senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, and former congressman Beto O'Rourke.

On her official Twitter account @KellyannePolls, which has 2.7 million followers, Conway has attacked Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden as "Creepy Uncle Joe," and retweeted articles and video clips criticizing Democrats and urging Americans to elect Republicans.

"Ms. Conway's advocacy against the Democratic candidates and open endorsement of the president's reelection effort during both official media appearances and on her Twitter account constitute prohibited political activity under the Hatch Act," the report stated.

The Hatch Act bars civilian federal employees from using their official authority to wade into election politics.

"Ms. Conway continues to violate the Hatch Act and signals that she will not comply with the law," according to the report.

Liberal Senator Bernie Sanders, a 2020 candidate whose ideas Conway has publicly described as "terrible for America," supported the OSC's call for her removal.

The White House fired back at the OSC, saying it did not give Conway sufficient time to respond, and that the Hatch Act should not apply to senior White House figures.

"OSC's overbroad and unsupported interpretation of the Hatch act risks violating Ms. Conway's First Amendment rights and chills the free speech of all government employees," Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, said in a letter. — AFP