The U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Monday urged President Donald Trump to take “appropriate disciplinary action,” such as a fine or removal from office, against White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for violating the Hatch Act.
“From May 26 through October 19, 2020, during at least six media interviews where he appeared in his official capacity as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office on Trade and Manufacturing Policy, Dr. Navarro repeatedly attacked presidential candidate Joe Biden and/or vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris,” the office said in a report to Trump.
Navarro also made frequent use of his Twitter account to attack both Biden and Harris. The Hatch Act bars White House and other executive branch officials from engaging in political activity.
“He committed these violations after having received training on the Hatch Act and, for most of the violations, while knowing that OSC was investigating him for engaging in the same prohibited political activity,” the report said.
The Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, whose responsibilities include enforcing the Hatch Act. Navarro did not provide a formal response to the report, and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Under the relevant statute, the punishments for a Hatch Act violation can include removal from office, a reduction in grade, debarment from federal employment for up to five years, suspension or reprimand. Navarro could also face a fine of up to $1,000 or some combination of a fine and employment action.
However, it’s far from certain that Trump will take any action against Navarro during the six to seven weeks they have left in office. Trump refused to fire senior adviser Kellyanne Conway after the OSC recommended that he take that action for her repeatedly breaking the Hatch Act.
Others in the administration have also come under the Special Counsel’s scrutiny for activities that appeared to cross the line in support of Trump’s reelection.
OSC ordered Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in October to reimburse taxpayers for using an official event to promote Trump’s reelection and is currently investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for remarks she made about Biden in a Fox News interview and later posted on YouTube.
The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed several complaints against Navarro for Hatch Act violations, applauded the Special Counsel’s report.
“In an administration full of people illegally using their government positions to influence an election, Navarro has been one of the worst,” the group’s executive director, Noah Bookbinder, said in a statement.
“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,” he added.