White House official seemingly violates federal law in calling for the defeat of GOP congressman

Someone tell the administration the Hatch Act hasn’t been repealed yet.

Dan Scavino, Jr. (center) is the White House Director of Social Media. (Credit: AP Photo)
Dan Scavino, Jr. (center) is the White House Director of Social Media. (Credit: AP Photo)

Last week, White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino Jr. found himself in hot water after he sent a series of tweets from his personal and organizational twitter accounts directly calling on his followers to lobby members of Congress, on behalf of the failed AHCA.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer deflected criticism by arguing that the executive branch was exempt from anti-lobbying laws, an interpretation disputed by legal experts who spoke with ThinkProgress.

Scavino Jr. was undeterred by the backlash, because he was back on Twitter Saturday morning, testing the limits of the Hatch Act.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus who helped derail the White House’s disastrous health care bill last week have become top targets of the White House.

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But the 1939 Hatch Act specifically prohibits White House staff from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or affecting the result thereof.” Openly calling for the defeat of a member of Congress would seem to be a clear violation of the law.

Last month, on the same day Scavino sent his problematic AHCA tweets, the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency tasked with enforcing the Hatch Act, tweeted out a link to a one-page document on social media restrictions for federal employees. Item number one on their list of prohibited behavior: “Use a social media account in your official capacity to engage in political activity at any time.”

Though the tweet was sent from what is ostensibly his personal account, Scavino lists his White House title in his bio.

Legal questions aside, the substance of Scavino’s tweet is equally untethered from reality. Donald Trump has done nothing to bring back auto jobs to Justin Amash’s district, or any other district in Michigan. Instead, he has repeatedly taken credit for creating jobs that had been announced years before he took office. As recently as last week, the White House proudly announced that Ford was investing more than a billion dollars in U.S. auto plants and creating 13o new jobs, neglecting to mention the investment was originally announced in 2015 and negotiated by the United Autoworkers Union.

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UPDATE: The chief ethics counsel for George W. Bush says Scavino would have been fired for this tweet in Bush’s White House: