DHS employees were told not to engage in 'partisan political activities' 2 days after their boss appeared at the RNC for a naturalization ceremony

  • The Department of Homeland Security sent an email to its employees reminding them to avoid participation in partisan political events on Thursday.
  • Acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf appeared at a partisan event just two days ago.
  • Wolf oversaw a naturalization ceremony for five immigrants alongside President Donald Trump during the Republican National Convention — a possible violation of federal law.
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Department of Homeland Security employees are being reminded to not engage in "partisan political events," just two days after acting DHS chief Chad Wolf appeared at the Republican National Convention.

The agency notified staff in an email on Thursday that they are prohibited from "conducting any political activity while on duty or while in a government room, building, vehicle" or participating in political activity "wearing a DHS badge or insignia, or while using government equipment." The email was first reported on Twitter by Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampbell. Politico also obtained a copy. 

"We, as a department, are under heightened scrutiny during the presidential election cycle," the email read. "It is important that we, DHS employees, are familiar with the policies surrounding partisan political activity to make sure we comply with them" by not using "official authority or influence for the purpose of impacting the result of an election."

The email served as a reminder of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that prohibits federal employees, excluding the president and vice president, from engaging in certain forms of political campaigning.

Wolf was widely criticized earlier this week by ethics watchdogs who claim he violated the Hatch Act after he conducted a naturalization ceremony that was aired during the second night of the RNC, politicizing an official duty in the process. Standing next to President Donald Trump, Wolf officiated the oaths of citizenship for five immigrants, some of whom said they were not warned they would be featured on primetime TV as part of the convention. 

Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter, in a tweet on the RNC naturalization ceremony said, "I have never seen an unethical abuse of public office like this one. This was absolutely shocking. Short of bribery or other serious criminality, I cannot recall anything remotely close to this."

 

This was not the first time members of the Trump administration have been accused of exploiting their government positions and the powers that come with them for political purposes. 

Other officials have also come under attack for defying ethical norms by appearing at the RNC, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

Pompeo delivered a speech during the RNC on Tuesday while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Jerusalem. It was the first time in at least 75 years that America's top diplomat delivered a speech at a political convention. House Democrats are investigating the speech and whether it violated the Hatch Act. 

Two professors filed a complaint with the State Department's inspector general that said Pompeo's speech was in violation of the law. 

"This video is an egregious violation of the Hatch Act," Claire O. Finkelstein and Richard W. Painter, both law professors, said in the complaint. "Secretary Pompeo at the same time as he was on a diplomatic mission to Israel gave a partisan political speech for an RNC campaign video in which he referred to the U.S. embassy in Israel, said that a candidate in a partisan election — Donald Trump — should get credit for the relocation of that embassy."

The Trump administration has defended Pompeo's actions, stating that he delivered the speech in a personal capacity and that no tax-dollars were spent in the production. The speech was pretaped for the convention. 

Pompeo sent a cable to State Department employees last month on the limitations presented by the Hatch Act, warning them against engaging in "partisan political activity while posted or on [temporary duty] abroad, even on personal time." 

The cable added that "presidential and political appointees" are barred from "any partisan political activity in concert with a partisan campaign, political party, or partisan political group, even on personal time and outside of the federal workplace." 

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act, has determined on more than one occasion that members of the Trump administration violated the law. 

In 2019, the OSC determined that Conway had violated the Hatch Act by "disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in an official capacity during television interviews and on social media." The OSC recommended that Conway be fired, but she continues to serve in a top role in the Trump administration. Conway also defied a House subpoena to testify on the issue. 

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in a Wednesday conversation with Politico said that "nobody outside of the Beltway really cares" if members of the Trump administration violate the Hatch Act.

 

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