OSC Rules In Favor Of Kushner On Hatch Act Violation (Sort of)


The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on whether he violated the Hatch Act in boasting Trump’s reelection in an interview. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked for the complaint to be reopened. There is an interesting twist in the case separate from the merits. The OSC rejected the claim not because it found Kushner’s comments were apolitical but because the interview was apparently not aired on television but was posted online. That seems like a bizarre and facially invalid distinction under the Act.

As we have discussed previously, the Trump Administration has had a long history of violations of Hatch Act, which remains the law in prohibiting electioneering activities by executive branch employees. There have also been alleged Hatch Act violations on the Democratic side and prior administrations have faced valid complaints. The Hatch Act can be a delicate balance for officials who are often asked questions that easily lead to a type of political advocacy or defense. However, the Trump Administration has had a litany of such complaints, including clear violations of the Act as we have discussed over the years.

This controversy was triggered by Kushner’s February appearance on CNN with host Fareed Zakaria where he defended the president in a piece captioned as a discussion of “Trump’s Reelection.” The discussion is clearly political and focused on the election and the Trump strategy:

“KUSHNER: Yes, I think there’s just a big difference between what the voters see and what the voters want, and from what the — what people maybe in the Washington or in the media are calling for. What we’ve seen since the impeachment started is that most people by the way are not paying attention to it. We’ve seen the president’s numbers go up by seven points. We got polling back last night that showed that the president’s approval rating nationally was over 50 percent. It was the highest that it’s been since right after the inauguration. So we’ve seen —

ZAKARIA: Yes, the RealClearPolitics average is more like 44 percent.

KUSHNER: I think it was about 46 percent, but again everything is relative, right? Again there is a lot of polls that were wrong in the last election. I think our data proved to be more right than the public holds and I think that it will continue to be. But I’ll also say about approval, though, is in the last election, when Romney ran, two percent of the people who disapproved of him voted for him.

In the last election, 15 percent of the people who disapproved of president — of Donald Trump as a candidate, and they’re voting for him. So look, I think his base is strong, getting stronger. Last night we were in Iowa, we had a massive crowd. We were around in New Jersey this week. About 160,000 people signed up for it. I mean, the energy that I’m feeling today was stronger than what we felt at the end of the campaign last year. I think that President Trump has not lost many supporters. If any at all. And I think that a lot of people who say well, what he’s talking about, now he’s actually done all the things he’s promised. He’s actually done more things than he’s promised. He got done criminal justice reform work done. He did promise he was going to do that. He did a lot of things that he didn’t even promise he was going to do.
And again, the American consumer has never been stronger. He’s created seven million jobs. You have 2.5 million Americans that have been — that have entered the work force, and 2.5 million Americans who’ve been lifted out of poverty, almost 10 million Americans that have come off of food stamps.
The numbers are unbelievable. But I will say this, the more time we spend in Washington and the more the administration gets better and better at it, and the more the president has his vision for what he wants to do, he believes that the potential for this country is unbelievable. And so as we finish implementing our deregulation agenda, our tax reform agenda, hopefully we’ll do more tax cuts as we, you know, focus on becoming energy independent, which is critical to our nation’s security, bringing down energy cost for people, folks on workforce training, training people for the future economy.
We have a lot of things. We have folks in the judiciary where the president has been very successful. The potential for making this country strong is unbelievable and the president has been very enthusiastic about what he’s been able to accomplish so far.”

That does seem to stray pretty deeply into electioneering under the language of the Act. Kushner is clearly identified as speaking as an adviser in the White House and Act prohibits the “use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”

The Hatch Act now appears honored primarily in the breach and this interview certainly danced along the edge of the law, if it did not blow past it. However, I am less interested in the merits than the technicality cited by the OSC. I think that there is a valid argument raised in CREW’s open letter to OSC Henry Kerner. I know of no precondition of a broadcasted interview or a particular form of media for violations. Such a distinction would be nonsensical and effectively gut the Hatch Act. It also ignores the shift over to online coverage and interviews.

What is particularly bizarre is that the OSC seems to view Kushner’s statements as unacceptable under the Act and confirmed that he did use his official title in the segments. However, the means of the communication appears to be determinative in the analysis.

The key prohibition is that executive branch employees from “us[ing their] official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” This has been violated in the past in a way array of forms. I think the OSC got this one wrong as a matter of law. It should rule on the merits and not the means of the interview.

161 thoughts on “OSC Rules In Favor Of Kushner On Hatch Act Violation (Sort of)”

  1. “Last fiscal year, the Trump family took more trips that required Secret Service protection than the Obama family took in seven, according to a budget document released by the Treasury Department. On average, Obama’s family took 133.3 protected trips per year, while the Trump family has taken an average of 1,625 annually. Much of the Trump family’s known travel has been to promote Trump Organization businesses, which President Trump still owns and profits from. Every President and his family deserve Secret Service protection. But the President’s private business should reimburse taxpayers for money spent at Trump’s businesses or in support of them.

    While previous presidents have separated themselves from their assets and placed them in a blind trust, President Trump appointed his two adult sons to manage the international businesses that continue to make him hundreds of millions of dollars a year on his behalf. The Trump family’s extremely high number of protected trips can be partially explained by the fact that Eric and Don Jr. have traveled the world promoting Trump-branded businesses throughout the Trump presidency. This explanation does less to settle concerns than to highlight the extent to which the American people are subsidizing the Trump family business. Despite running up a high tab, the Trump Organization has not paid the American people back for the security taxpayers have subsidized when Trump family members travel to support a business that regularly cashes in on the presidency….”

    https://www.citizensforethics.org/trump-family-travel-12x-obama-family/

  2. Respond Young did bother
    To me, the doggerel author,
    So rendering counterfactual
    What was written prose actual.

    😎

    1. Obama was a poor speaker. He looked like he was watching a tennis match as his head swung left and right to the teleprompters. He had a sleep inducing monotone. Off teleprompter he was fun to watch. He kept babbling and screwing up, not Biden bad, but bad enough for a laugh.

      Remember when he said the world couldn’t drill it’s way out of oil shortages?

      Drilling was done and now we are flooded with it.

      Remember when he promised 17 times that with O Care you could keep your plan and your doctor and save $2,000 a year? Didn’t happen.

      Remember when he said doctors don’t treat diabetes because they make more money amputating limbs? A slander on the medical profession and he clearly didn’t know that the primary care physicians who treat diabetes don’t do the surgery if amputation is required. They get nothing from it.

      He was a fraud.

      1. Young, remember Obama’s Twitter tirades? How he would diss people every day while encouraging supporters to troll them? Remember all the attacks he made against women?? Remember those irrational Tweets in the predawn hours that White House staffers would have to walk back?

        Wait, that wasn’t Obama, that’s Donald Trump!

        1. SETH Remember when Obama tapped journalists phones and computers? Remember when he unleashed multiple federal agencies on True the Vote to suppress their legal activities. Remember when he sold guns to Mexican cartels to make a case that American guns were going to gangster’s in Mexico? Remember when an American Border Patrol officer was murdered by one of those guns as well as many innocent Mexicans? Remember when Obama’s AG shipped a gang of activists to surround police headquarters and demand that George Zimmerman be prosecuted? And on and on and on.

          1. Young, I dont follow rightwing media. I dont have cable, either. But I know this: ‘The Obama of rightwing media bore no resemblance to that president. Fox News could never get that Obama was’nt a Leftist. So they created this Mixed race Clinton type.

            1. I don’t have cable either. Catherine Englebrect of True the Vote testified in Congress and sued the IRS with success. The accounts of the reporters being tapped aand computers hacked were on many media. I followed the Zimmerman trial online every day. The Obama agents behavior against one man was abhorrent. The Fast and Furious scheme to deliver guns to Mexican gangsters is well verified and you can easily learn it for yourself.

              Declaring everything you don’t agree with as right wing propaganda and dissmissable is a shabby, illogical trick of the sort used by adolescents.

              So, of course, you like to employ that deception.

              1. Young, you’re just running around with a torch lighting brush fires and expecting me to put them out. It’s a cheap little trick people use to create the impression they’re scoring debate points. You just make vague references to several unrelated issues without exploring any. No argument is ever actually made. It’s like dropping names, but you just drop issues instead.

                1. Paint chips, Young brought up substantial issues some of which you have ducked away from in the past. You do not wish to go into depth on any of the important issues. You have some poll numbers and a lot of opinions based mostly on talking points but no substantial knowledge of any of the important subjects that have come up on the blog.

                  Take note how in answer to substantial issues you side step and call them brush fires but say nothing about the issues. Instead you simply attack the other saying they live in a right wing bubble and are racist.

    2. Obama was an entirely malleable, empty-suit, pothead, bad actor and do-nothing communisty organizer who was ensconced by the Deep Deep State to hold down the beach towel. Obama never held a job or met a payroll. Obama never had a penny’s worth of character or created a penny’s worth of wealth. Charlatan is the word you’re searching for.

      The Real Yo-Bamo:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V6SokexKqQ

      Larry Sinclair stated that Obama smoked crack cocaine, had homosexual relations with him and implied that Obama had homosexual relations with a “Donald Young” who was murdered on Dec. 23, 2007, and was the openly gay choir director for Reverend Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Is this true? Did CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, PMSNBC, HLN or other outlets of the MSM report this? Why has America not heard this news? Why was the photo of Obama enjoying a visit with Louis Farrakhan not displayed in the MSM?

      1. GEORGE- America hasn’t heard anything like that because the media covers for him.

        We still know next to nothing about his background, his professors, his classes, his associates, or some of his dealings in Chicago.

        Firing an IG now is a big deal, but when Obama did it nobody cared.

      2. George – have you forgotten that Obama held the important positions of community organizer and adjunct professor?

        1. Paul, did you have a problem with a Black man serving as president?? It sure sounds like it. It sounds like you want to promote the lie that Obama went from Community Orgznizer to The Whie House, a decidedly racist narrative. Like you want to completely minimize Obama’s 10 years as State Senator and 4 years as U.S. Senator. Like none of that counts for a Black man.

          1. “Paul, did you have a problem with a Black man serving as president?”

            Though Karen might feel sorry for the names you have been called she shouldn’t be. You are a race baiter. You create race hatred which leads to all sorts of hate and death. Based on the way you insult others and promote race hatred I find any name attached to you to be a much lesser evil.

            Look around the world not focused on the 8 million Jews that were killed but at all the others that were killed because they were different. You should be ashamed.

            1. Diaper Man, your idiot buddy is what’s known as ‘Bi-Curious’. That’s why he keeps writing that gay-centric crap. Real guys dont write garbage like that. And the fact you think he’s okay shows how clueless you are.

              1. Paint Chips, only a person with very low confidence in oneself would react to that type of insult. Why would you care if someone called you gay? You aren’t looking to marry him. Is it an insult to be called gay? Why? Who cares what another’s sexual orientation is? However, your comments about real groups of people and your race baiting is a danger. That is how a lot of killing begins.

                1. Diaper Man I’m ‘not’ gay and never said I was. I have never even argued for gzy rights on this blog. It’s just a malicious lie that started when Absurd claimed he knows I live in West Hollywood. I dont live in West Hollywood and never did. I live in the Hills. The idea is to smear someone with a lie and keep repeating the lie over and over until it becomes and accepted truth. Trump practices that malice every day with references to Deep State and Fake News.

                  1. “It’s just a malicious lie ”

                    That is what you do all the time Paint Chips. You draw distinctions between groups labelling them using all sorts of distasteful names. You just don’t like it when others label you in the same way. Maybe that is why you get strange labels from so many different ends.

                    “Trump practices that malice every day with references to Deep State and Fake News.”

                    There you go with statements you can’t and won’t even attempt to prove. At the same time you label the people that favor him as filled with malice as well along with racism. Not as obvious in the above statement but quite obvious when reading all your posts. We see continuous malice and race baiting.

                    ” I’m ‘not’ gay and never said I was.”

                    I don’t understand why this makes you so upset. Do you have something against gays? Is your masculinity in jeopardy? Are you in the closet? Are you a homophobe? If you know who you are why would this matter to the extreme it does?

              2. SETH–So you are also homophobic? Very Progressive of you. “Gay-centric crap?” Really?

                I noticed that a lot of the Progressvis here quickly reach for vile name calling. Certainly BTB does and now so you have done.

          2. Peter – I had problems with Obama being President, not a black. There are several blacks I would pull the lever for, but Obama was an empty suit. I had problems with Hillary being President, not a woman, but as part of a criminal enterprise.

            1. Paul, every Republican knows that Obama was a U.S. Senator. But for some reason a large share of conservatives insist on promoting the lie that Obama was nothing but a ‘Community Organizer’. In reality that was Obama’s first job out of College. A job he didnt even need to take. His education could have gotten Obama a much better entry level job.

              Even for a Black, going door to door in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods is dangerous to say the least. It took a lot of bravery on Obama’s part to organize at that level. And one can guess Obama learned a lot about urban issues from meeting poor people in their own neighborhoods.

              I have read that Black professionals are more aware of racism than less educated Blacks. And this malicious pretense that Obama was nothing but a Community Organizer illustrates how racist Whites like to minimize the achievements of Blacks.

              1. Peter – you ignorant twit. George said Obama had never had a job and I mentioned his two most important jobs. What is your problem?

            1. Young, you mistake me for the liberal caricatures Fox News promotes. And that’s what happens to people in the rightwing bubble: they think in terms of caricatures.

              1. ” people in the rightwing bubble”

                Everyone that doesn’t believe in what you believe ends up in that rightwing bubble. Then you call them all Nazi’s and racists. This is your continuous non stop theme.

                Then you are shocked when they call you names. Do you think being called gay is worse than being called a Nazi or a racist? The latter has much greater implications. We saw the implications in WW2 and we see the same with Antifa.

              2. SETH—You have made yourself a caricature right here. Quick to rant about racism in every direction and now expressing your hostilities to gays sketches you well.

                I do see the point made by others that your feverish denial that you might remotely be gay, that you don’t live in West Hollywood, suggest an inner panic that you might really be gay.

                If so, relax. It is no big deal these days. Go to Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood next Halloween. You will have fun.

                But do stop banging about that everyone who does not share your twisted views must be racist.

                1. Young, that is the ‘Race Card’: sneering at Obama’s work as a Community Organizer. Like registering poor voters is just such a joke! It’s a joke that only racists get.

                  Just this week the court’s conservative majority actually gave approval to a voter suppression scheme. That’s what the Wisconsin primary became: a big voter suppression scheme happening in broad daylight. Residents of Milwaukee were forced to wait in line for hours amid pandemic conditions. Republicans knew that would happen and that was the scheme. To discourage Democrats from braving those conditions.

                  1. Sneering at Obama’s work as a ‘Community Organizer’ is hardly racist. It is a bit racist for you to say any criticism of a black man is racist.

                    A black man, like a white one, can be criticized for making a mess of things and Obama did in Chicago. The neighborhood he ‘helped’ is a mess. But he came out of it in rather good shape.

                    You just love tossing ugly and untrue accusations against anyone you disagree with.

                    And your anti-gang comments are also ugly.

                    Stop with the accusstions.

                    1. Young, you keep referencing rightwing media stories while denying you’re in the bubble. What Chicago community did Obama allegedly ‘mess up’?? It sounds like an Alex Jones story. Free free to post a mainstream media story to support your allegations.

    3. lin…………. imo, Obama was a horrible speaker. He clipped the ends of words and phrases, spoke in a monotonal robotic style and showed little to no sincerety. I never experienced the Obama “magic”.

        1. Paul, I once saw Evagelist Earnest Angely at a live rally. And as ridiculous as he is, Angely was entertaining on stage. But anyone with half a brain can see that Angely is a fraud. And I knew that when I saw him.

      1. All caps? Let me check. Fish. Nope. That’s taking literary license. It’s supposed to be completed in lower case. C-minus.

        On the bright side, that’s the first sensible thing you’ve said on the Turley Forum.

        Your joy at Mr. Fish’s tears brings me joy.

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