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Politics Watchdog group accuses Stephen Miller of violating Hatch Act with Biden comments

20:08  01 august  2020
20:08  01 august  2020 Source:   thehill.com

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a screen shot of Donald Trump in a suit and tie: Watchdog group accuses Stephen Miller of violating Hatch Act with Biden comments © Screenshot Watchdog group accuses Stephen Miller of violating Hatch Act with Biden comments

A watchdog group alleges that President Trump's senior policy adviser Stephen Miller violated federal law when he made comments on Friday about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) calls for an investigation into Miller's comments criticizing Biden on Fox News.

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"This administration continues to use its official powers improperly to assist the president's re-election and to chip away at the checks and balances that preserve our democracy," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

"It is well past time for those like Stephen Miller, who show an open disdain for ethics laws like the Hatch Act and who illegally use official resources to promote the president's re-election bid, to be held accountable for their actions," he added.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

The Hatch Act bars federal employees from certain partisan political activity that could influence an election while using their official titles. Those found to have violated it can be fined as much as $1,000 and face disciplinary action such as suspension or termination.

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The complaint highlights comments Miller made in a "Fox & Friends" interview during which he was seen standing on the White House grounds and was identified by his official title.

Miller was discussing a variety of issues, including Trump's claims about voting by mail and ongoing protests in Portland, Ore., before he was asked to comment on former President Obama's eulogy for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

The adviser lashed out at the former president, saying the speech was "shockingly political" and "scandalously, outrageously false."

Fox host Brian Kilmeade noted that Miller is "not necessarily on the campaign side, political side" but asked if the president feels like he is running against Obama or Biden.

"Well, as you know, Joe Biden is stuck in a basement somewhere, and he just emerges every now and again, and somebody hands him a notecard, and he says whatever his 23-year-old staffer tells him to say, and then he dutifully disappears to be seen a week later," Miller said. "As for former President Obama, the reality is that for eight years he delivered nothing but failure and betrayal to the people of this country."

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CREW alleges in the complaint that Miller likely violated the Hatch Act by mixing official government business with his political views about Biden.

"There is also no doubt that Miller's statements were aimed at influencing the success or failure of a candidate in a partisan election," CREW wrote. "Miller responded to a question specifically prefaced as 'political' in nature related to Biden by attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee for president as being stuck in the basement and taking direction from young staffers."

The Trump campaign also used the clip of Miller's appearance on social media.

Several other Trump officials have been accused of violating the Hatch Act, including the president's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who both serve in the White House as his senior advisers.

The watchdog group also filed a complaint against White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in July for making disparaging comments about Biden as well as offering an apparent endorsement of a Republican congressional candidate.

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CREW compared Meadows's conduct with the OSC's description of Hatch Act violations committed by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway last year.

A 17-page report submitted to the White House found that Conway violated the law in more than half a dozen television interviews and tweets by "disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity."

The OSC publicly said Conway should be removed from office, calling her a "repeat offender" who has flouted the law barring federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official duties.

Trump rebuked the recommendation and said he would not fire Conway for the violations.

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