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Kellyanne’s Endorsement Of Moore Wasn’t Just Disgusting–It May Have Been Illegal (TWEETS)

Donald Trump’s presidency absolutely, positively jumped the shark on Tuesday, when he gave Roy Moore’s Senate campaign a full-throated endorsement even in the face of mounting evidence that the former Alabama chief justice molested women and girls and improperly pursued girls young enough to be his daughter. But none of that mattered to Trump. All that mattered was that his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, was a “liberal person.”

But the chain of events that led to this embarrassing episode actually began 24 hours earlier, when White House information minister Kellyanne Conway warned Alabama voters that if they wanted tax reform, they’d better not vote for Jones. The message was obvious–tax reform mattered to Conway more than the prospect of a depraved and debauched jerk in the Senate.

Any fair-minded American, regardless of party, should have found that suggestion appalling. But according to a number of government ethics experts, it may have also broken the law.

When Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, saw the interview, it raised a number of red flags. For one thing, it sure looked like Conway was acting in her official capacity as a White House counselor when she slammed Jones. He suspected that in so doing, Conway violated the Hatch Act, which limits political activities by executive branch officials other than the president and vice president.

Shaub was referring to a 2016 interview in which the Office of Special Counsel found that former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro violated the Hatch Act when he called Hillary Clinton “the most experienced, thoughtful, and prepared candidate” for president in an interview with Yahoo’s Katie Couric. Castro later conceded that while he was speaking in his personal capacity, he made a mistake by allowing the interview to veer into personal topics in the first place.

On Wednesday afternoon, Shaub and his colleagues at the Campaign Legal Center, where he has served as senior ethics director since leaving the OGE in July, filed a formal complaint against Conway for Hatch Act violations.

In case you missed it, Shaub has been very critical about Trump’s approach to ethics. He believes, like most of us, that Trump is using the presidency to line his own pockets, and has set a tone that ethical standards really don’t matter.

Ethics experts from both parties also believe that Conway’s statement was a Hatch Act violation. Richard Painter, the former chief ethics counsel to George W. Bush and current vice chairman of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, loudly called for Conway to be fired.

In case you missed it, Conway was busted in the chops earlier this year for promoting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from the White House briefing room. While the OSC ultimately found this was a violation, only the president can punish Hatch Act violations–and Trump took no action against Conway.

Norman Eisen, the special ethics counsel during the early part of the Obama administration and CREW’s current chairman, also believes that statement was illegal.

For now, the White House is standing by Conway. Principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said that Conway “did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate,” and was merely “speaking on issues.” That would be believable if Conway hadn’t added, “I’m telling you, we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.” The message was obvious–we can’t pass tax reform without Moore’s vote.

Of course, though, there is no dispute that Conway’s statement was absolutely wrong and disgusting, even if there is any question about its legality. It cannot be stated enough–the White House has thrown its weight behind a man who, based on all available evidence, is a depraved and debauched jerk.

(featured image courtesy James McNellis, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)

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Written by Darrell Lucus

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.