White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has become the latest Trump administration official found to have violated the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting federal employees from engaging in certain political activities.
In a report made public Monday, a government watchdog, the Office of Special Counsel, said Navarro violated the law when he made political comments, “disparaging” then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris in television interviews while appearing in his official capacity. The report found Navarro had also disparaged Mr. Biden on Twitter. Moreover, Navarro continued to violate the Hatch Act after he learned OSC was investigating him for just that, the report said.
“Dr. Navarro’s violations of the Hatch Act were knowing and willful,” OSC wrote. “The White House Counsel’s Office attorney explained that all White House employees receive mandatory ethics training, which includes training on the Hatch Act. And five of the interviews discussed above occurred after OSC sent its July 21, 2020 letter to Dr. Navarro, putting him on notice of the allegations OSC was investigating. Yet Dr. Navarro continued to violate the Hatch Act by attacking presidential candidate Joe Biden during official interviews despite knowing that OSC was investigating him for engaging in that very activity.”
Navarro’s comments generally attacked the Biden-Harris ticket on China, trade and manufacturing.
Other Trump administration officials, including former top aide Kellyanne Conway, have also been found in violation of the law, but the White House has never enforced it. That’s because the report is submitted to President Trump for “appropriate disciplinary action,” and he has never accepted the office’s findings.
Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington, which filed several complaints against Navarro over his TV hits, thanked OSC for its probe.
“Navarro’s blatant violations of the Hatch Act are rivaled only by Kellyanne Conway,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This isn’t about not knowing better, it is about a lack of interest in following the law, even when the cost to our democracy is severe.”