Aug 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House chairman demands Hatch Act investigation into Chad Wolf

President Trump speaks as acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf watches`
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

House Homeland Security chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to the Office of Special Counsel Wednesday urging an ethics investigation into acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf after he participated in a naturalization ceremony aired at the Republican National Convention.

Why it matters: Thompson alleges that Wolf violated the Hatch Act, which restricts federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity but does not apply to the president or vice president. The Office of Special Counsel is the independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act.

What they're saying: "This is an unprecedented politicization of the naturalization ceremony – an official function of the Department of Homeland Security," Thompson wrote.

  • "Mr. Wolf's participation appears to constitute engaging in political activity while acting in an official capacity."
  • "It also sets a bad example for the Department’s 240,000 employees who are required to comply with the Hatch Act. Accordingly, I urge you to investigate Mr. Wolf’s participation in this event to determine whether it violated the law."

The big picture: The Hatch Act hasn't been particularly effective in the Trump era.

  • The Office of Special Counsel determined last year that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and recommended she be removed from the federal workforce, but no action was enforced.
  • During the RNC, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered his address from Jerusalem, which has prompted a separate Hatch Act investigation led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).
  • The administration has denied that President Trump's decision to deliver his RNC speeches from the White House is a violation of the Hatch Act. On Wednesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows downplayed Hatch Act concerns, telling Politico: "Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares."

Axios has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment but has not heard back.

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