President Trump, in an exclusive interview with “Fox & Friends,” said he will not fire adviser Kellyanne Conway in the wake of a government watchdog’s recommendation that she be removed over violations of the Hatch Act.
“I’m not ganna fire her. I think she’s a terrific person. She’s a tremendous spokesperson,” Trump said.
The Hatch Act limits certain political activities of federal employees. In an explosive report released on June 13, the day before the Fox interview the Office of Special Counsel (which is separate from the office with a similar name previously run by Robert Mueller) cited Conway for repeatedly violating the law with political statements about Democratic presidential candidates in media interviews and on Twitter.
Trump, though, said, “It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech.” He even suggested he would not counsel Conway to tone it down.
“It doesn’t work that way,” Trump said, arguing that Conway was merely responding to political attacks against him. “A person wouldn’t be able to express themselves, and I just don’t see it.”
Trump noted that he will be getting a briefing on the findings.
Special Counsel’s Office Defends Its Findings on Conway
Special Counsel Henry Kerner, meanwhile, defended his office’s work in an interview with Fox News. Still, he was deferential to Trump, making clear the decision on whether to fire Conway is his, and his alone to make.
“We respect his decision and, of course, the president has any option he’d like—to reprimand or not to reprimand,” Kerner said. “It is up to the president’s discretion and we respect that.”
In the interview, Kerner said, “I am a Trump appointee—I have no animus toward Kellyanne whatsoever. My job is to make sure the federal workforce stay as depoliticized and as fair as possible.”
Julian Castro Wants Kellyanne Terminated
Meanwhile, former Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary and current Democratic presidential candidate, Julian Castro, wants to hear those famous two words from Trump regarding Kellyanne – “You’re fired.”
Castro told Fox News that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway should be fired for violating the Hatch Act, which interestingly enough, is the same federal law that Castro himself was found to have violated in 2016.
In 2016, the same office that is now leveling its recommendations at Conway, “concluded that Secretary Castro violated the Hatch Act by advocating for and against Presidential candidates,” the OSC wrote in a letter to Obama. “Secretary Castro’s statements during [a televised] interview impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official agency business despite his efforts to clarify that some answers were being given in his personal capacity.”
Castro was responding to a question from Katie Couric in an interview that focused on HUD policy before pivoting to the then-upcoming 2016 presidential race.
“Now, taking off my HUD hat for a second and just speaking individually, it is very clear that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced, thoughtful, and prepared candidate for president that we have this year,” Castro told Couric.
The Obama White House took no action, and OSC did not recommend Castro’s termination. Castro, pressed by Baier, argued that his case was different from Conway’s, primarily because his violation was an isolated episode and he tried to learn from it.
“Instead of saying, ‘Look, I’m going to take these efforts to make sure that doesn’t happen again,'” Castro said, “she said, ‘To hell with that, I’m going to keep doing it. They said she had repeatedly done that. That’s the difference.”
Trump stands by his support of Conway, insisting that she is merely exercising her right of free speech and that in each of the incidents in the report, she did not give spontaneous political commentary, but was responding to specific questions from the press about his Democratic rivals. He said, what are you supposed to do [when asked about democratic candidates] say, “‘I can’t answer, I can’t answer’?”