White House adviser Peter Navarro violated a law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in politics while on duty, a watchdog said on Monday.
The Office of Special Counsel, helmed by President Donald Trump appointee Henry Kerner, said in a report that Navarro “violated the Hatch Act on several occasions when he engaged in political activity in his official capacity,” Kerner told Trump in a letter dated Dec. 7.
According to the report, Navarro violated the act’s prohibition against using his official authority or influence to affect an election when he engaged in political activity in at least six interviews and on Twitter, between May 26 and Oct. 19.
During that period of time, Navarro “repeatedly attacked” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and/or his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the report stated. Navarro often focused on Biden’s relationship with China, nicknaming him “Beijing Biden” and accusing him of being “compromised” and susceptible to being “bought.” Navarro, a trade adviser, also argued that Biden being elected would devastate the American economy.
Navarro was given an opportunity to respond to the finding but did not accept, Kerner said.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Don Breyer (D-Va.), a vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, said on Twitter that Trump’s administration “has shown open contempt for good governance, ethics, and anti-corruption laws, and Navarro has lots of company in violating the Hatch Act.”
The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), also drew attention to the report.
Kerner last year found that Kellyanne Conway, at the time a senior adviser to Trump, violated the Hatch Act by making statements during televised interviews directed at the success of Trump’s reelection campaign or at the failure of candidates for the Democrat Party’s nomination for president, Kerner told Trump in a letter.
The White House responded with an 11-page rebuttal, arguing that the report contained multiple fundamental errors and made unfair and unsupported claims.
Trump said after the report was published that he would not fire Conway, calling the matter one of free speech.
Other Trump administration members, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have been probed for possible Hatch Act violations.