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Federal agency refuses to discipline Trump appointee who broke the law

The Office of Special Counsel, an ‘independent agency’ lead by a Trump appointee, found that Lynne Patton violated the Hatch Act, but decided not to punish her for it at all.

By Josh Israel - September 18, 2019
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Lynne Patton

Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump associate now serving in a high ranking Department of Housing and Urban Development position, was cited by the Office of Special Counsel for violations of the Hatch Act on Wednesday. Her punishment? A sternly worded letter.

The Hatch Act, a 1939 anti-corruption law, prohibits executive branch officials from using government resources for political campaigning or engaging in electioneering while on the clock. Patton, who made national news earlier this year when she showed up at a congressional hearing with Michael Cohen and denounced claims that Trump is racist, was cited for illegally wearing a red Trump campaign “USA” hat in her government office and for using her official government Twitter account for political tweets.

“OSC concluded that the alleged activities were Hatch Act violations and issued her a warning letter. Although OSC concluded that Ms. Patton violated the Hatch Act, we decided her violations do not warrant disciplinary action and are closing our files without further action,” wrote the deputy chief of the OSC’s Hatch Act unit.

According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — the watchdog group that filed the complaint against Patton — she is the 13th Trump administration official to have been found in violation of the law.

While this list includes several prominent officials, including former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, the administration has done basically nothing to hold their appointees accountable for these violations. The OSC, lead by Trump appointee Henry Kerner, has opted to limit its enforcement to reprimanding letters, and the administration has decried the law as an attack on “free speech.” The office did take real action against a former immigration judge who praised Hillary Clinton’s 2016 immigration plan, however — she was fined $1,000 and debarred from federal service for a month.

But Patton’s refusal to comply with the Hatch Act was unusually brazen. In May, she posted on Facebook that while her political activity on her professional pages “may be a Hatch Act violation” or might not be, “Either way, I honestly don’t care anymore.”

Trump spent much of his 2016 presidential campaign accusing Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration of violating the public trust and vowing to “drain the swamp.” Three years later, he has not.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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