Trump: I’ll defend freedom of speech by not firing Kellyanne Conway


Come on, man. Was this ever in doubt? Regardless of the opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, Donald Trump isn’t going to fire Kellyanne Conway for allegedly violating the Hatch Act — in order to defend Trump and push his agenda. “It sounds to me like a free-speech thing,” Trump said:

“It really sounds to me like a free-speech thing. It doesn’t sound fair,” Trump said during an interview with “Fox & Friends.”

“No, I’m not going to fire her, I think she’s a tremendous person, tremendous spokesperson,” Trump added. “They have tried to take away her speech and I think you’re entitled to free speech in the country.”

How about asking her to dial it down? No way, Trump replied:

He even suggested he would not counsel Conway to tone it down.

“It doesn’t work that way,” Trump said, arguing that Conway was merely responding to political attacks against him. “A person wouldn’t be able to express themselves, and I just don’t see it.”

Trump noted that he will be getting a briefing on the findings.

Expect plenty of handwringing over this today, and lots of quotes from the OSC letter that recommended firing Conway. Will Trump’s refusal to fire Conway put an end to enforcement of the Hatch Act and the politicization of the federal bureaucracy? Here’s the money quote from OLC:

“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.

“If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in her removal from her federal position,” Kerner’s letter said. “Never has (the office) had to issue multiple reports to the President concerning Hatch Act violations by the same individual.”

That argument might have more credence if Conway was, in fact, like any other federal employee. But she’s not. Her job isn’t to regulate an industry or to issue a license; it’s to provide political advice to the president. The Hatch Act was passed to keep federal employees from using their positions to engage in partisan politics and provide unfair advantage to the incumbent parties. It’s a good law when applied properly, providing more confidence that federal bureaucracies follow the law rather than the party line.

What risk, however, is being contained by applying a no-politics statute to a presidential adviser whose entire job is political strategy on behalf of the president? As Allahpundit noted yesterday, OSC determined that the violations occurred because she was operating in her “official capacity” when making those comments. Er, right … in her official capacity as Trump’s political “counselor.” How does that corrupt whatever her “official capacity” otherwise provides? In fact, what exactly does the OSC think Conway’s doing all day long anyway?

Perhaps the issuing of multiple reports on Conway’s behavior reflects less on her than it does on the application of this statute to her office. The only option for a person in that position would be to never speak publicly. Trump may be overstating the free-speech issues here, but it’s not by much.

Like Allahpundit, though, I wonder how much longer Conway will remain in that position. She has to be growing tired of the tension at home and the tension at work, and now perhaps with potential legal issues after Trump heads into the sunset. A position on the Trump campaign might look more attractive these days.

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