Trump , this week has used the White House as a backdrop for other programming, including a surprise pardon and immigration naturalization ceremony. The presidents in some way use the powers of their office when it comes time for reelection . Including highlighting executive orders that benefits key voting blocs or touting foreign policy achievements available only to the sitting commander in chief.
But never have those moves been so blatantly staged for political gain. There is a shrugging attitude toward the Hatch Act among many of Trump’s aides, people familiar with the West Wing dynamics say, after the president made clear early in his tenure he would not admonish advisers found to have violated the law restricting political activity by government officials.
Mark Meadows, on Wednesday said “Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares. They expect that Trump is going to promote Republican values. This is a lot of hoopla that is being made out things.
Another administration official asked, “What are the consequences? No one gets punished.”
The general relaxed attitude has pervaded among Trump’s staff, though they say they are still taking a bare minimum approach to avoid running afoul of the law.”
Lawyer have been consulted on this week’s convention activities, White House Officials said. But they have clearly weighed in favor of stretching ethical boundaries, as evidenced by Tuesday nights proceedings.
The two videos aired on Tuesday popped up on the official White House YouTube channel just before the RNC began and were clearly taped for airing during the convention.
One video showed Trump holding a naturalization ceremony with Wolf and a handful of immigrants. In the second video, Trump pardoned Joe Ponder, a former bank robber who is the founder of a prison reintegration program, the same day Ponder was scheduled to speak at the convention.
The President’s use of the White House as a convention speaking venue garnered criticism from ethics experts, but the US Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency tasked with enforcing the law said Trump could deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House.
A letter explaining the determination said, “The president and VP are not covered by any of the provisions of the Hatch Act. Accordingly, the Hatch Act does not prohibit Trump from delivering his RNC acceptance speech on White House grounds.” Adding “However, White House employees are covered by the Hatch Act. so they may be Hatch Act. implications for those employees, depending on their level of involvement with the event and their position in the White House.”
Some previous officeholders have sought to limit political activity in the White House, for instance by holding political events elsewhere or in the residential spaces of the presidential mansion.
The use of the White House for blatant campaign events has surprised members of previous administrations, who worked to navigate the legal boundaries between official and political work.
An official who worked in Obama’s administration said they regularly consulted the White House counsel’s office before any event staged on the White House grounds, even those without obvious political connotations, to ensure they would not be challenged.
In 2019, the Office of Special Counsel had called counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway a ‘ repeat offender’ of the Hatch Act. and recommended her removal But ultimately the decision was left up to Trump and Conway was not fired.