Trump Trade Adviser Violated Hatch Act With Biden Attacks, Watchdog Says
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro repeatedly violated a federal law that prohibits some members of the federal government from engaging in political activity, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel reported Monday.
Navarro, one of the White House’s most vocal Trump defenders, violated the Hatch Act during TV interviews and on social media leading up to the Nov. 3 election in which he bashed then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the OSC stated in its report.
Navarro’s violations were “knowing and willful” since all White House employees receive mandatory ethics trainings, including on the Hatch Act, according to OSC’s report. What’s more, Navarro was made aware that the OSC was investigating him for potential Hatch Act violations in July and yet he continued to attack Biden in his official capacity in at least five subsequent interviews.
Under the Hatch Act, violations made by senior officials appointed by the president are referred to the president for disciplinary action, making it unlikely that Navarro will face any consequences for his actions under Trump.
The White House declined to comment.
“Navarro often attacked Mr. Biden about his relationship with China and at times accused him of being ‘compromised’ and susceptible to being ‘bought’ by China,” the OSC wrote in its report. “His comments were directed at undermining Mr. Biden’s presidential candidacy and persuading voters not to support him in the 2020 election.”
The report lays out six examples of TV interviews in which Navarro violated the Hatch Act ― five of which occurred on Fox News (the other, on MSNBC). In one instance, Navarro disparaged Biden as “Beijing Biden” on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” in September.
“So, Beijing Biden vs. Made in America Donald J. Trump, I think that’s one of the stark differences between the two sides,” Navarro told host Maria Bartiromo.
Democrats “won’t say the word China virus,” he added. “If you try to say it, they cancel you. And the reason is, the whole Biden Democratic Party strategy, it’s a dangerous one for them and for us because it is predicated on being able to blame Donald J. Trump on the pandemic.”
The OSC also outlined several instances in which Navarro used his official Twitter account to attack Biden in an attempt to influence the election.
Over a dozen members of the Trump White House ― including Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser ― have been accused of violating the Hatch Act over the last few years. In 2019, the OSC recommended then-White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed from federal service after repeatedly violating the act.
The OSC announced in October that it was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for potential Hatch Act violations after he addressed the Republican National Convention in August while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Jerusalem.