Night Two of the Republican National Convention Tuesday was nothing less than the televised flouting of federal law by the law-and-order party and its presidential candidate. The Hatch Act of 1939 forbids federal employees or resources from being used in political campaigns. Period. Yet there was the taxpayers' Rose Garden as the backdrop for first lady Melania Trump's political endorsement of her husband. There was the signing of a presidential pardon and a naturalization ceremony — both governmental functions — used as convention props. And there was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivering an endorsement speech from Israel while on an official visit.
Donald Trump was trying to convey an image of a president at work, but the real message voters should take away is one he has been sending for almost four years: This president doesn't respect American laws and doesn't believe himself to be bound by them.
The Hatch Act is supposed to prevent incumbent administrations from using government — that is, taxpayer resources — as a campaign tool. It's why past national conventions of both major parties haven't featured federal employees or government settings even when one of the candidates was an incumbent president. Trump has long thumbed his nose at such niceties. Less than two years into his tenure, regulators flagged six White House officials for violating the Hatch Act by using official government social media accounts to promote political messages of support for Trump. That flagrant misuse of tax-funded employees and resources looks like a parking-ticket infraction next to the gross violations evident in this week's convention.
The pre-taped naturalization ceremony at the White House featured Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf administering the Oath of Allegiance to five new citizens, then turning to Trump and gushing gratitude. The Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, specifies that federal employees "may not engage in political activity ... while the employee is on duty, [or] in any federal room or building." Wolf was on duty (he couldn't administer the oath if he wasn't), the White House is clearly a federal building, and the whole exercise was packaged as a virtual campaign ad for the convention. None of this abuse is debatable.
Pompeo's stunt was more egregious. His own State Department issued a memo in February specifying that "Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event." Yet there was Pompeo, with Jerusalem as his backdrop after he traveled there on the taxpayers' dime — lauding Trump before the camera.
Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, shrugged off this blatant lawbreaking by an incumbent administration, saying: "Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares." What a touching testimony to this president's respect for the rule of law. Hopefully, the voters will prove Meadows wrong in November.
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