White House: Special Counsel Report Violates Conway's Free Tweet Rights

President Trump said Friday that he would not fire presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway after the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel (a separate entity from special counsel Robert Mueller) issued a report recommending she be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act prohibition on certain political activities by federal branch employees.

The White House has responded by saying it is the special counsel report that is wrong, and chills her rights to express herself on social media.

Conway has repeatedly commented on 2020 presidential candidates in media interviews, said special counsel Henry Kerner. The White House said Kerner should withdraw the recommendation, according to the response published by CNN, calling it the product of a "blatantly unfair" process and alleging that the result would chill speech, including her right to tweet from a personal account.

The President said on Fox and Friends that it looked like the special counsel was trying to take away her right of free speech. "I think she is a terrific spokesperson. She has been loyal," he said in her defense.

The President said that because former Vice President Joe Biden criticized him, she was just returning the criticism, which he suggested was her free speech right.

The Hatch Act prevents government employees from using their posts to affect the outcome of an election, including by using it to promoting or opposing candidates for office.

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly, for example, got a warning from the special counsel's office last year that he had violated the act by remarking at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference that the only way to prevent the ongoing regulatory ping-pong of changing administrations was to keep the the same administration, or as he put it, "make sure that President Trump gets reelected."

O'Rielly disputed that his remark had violated the act, but said he took the warning seriously.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.