President Trump said he will not fire White House counselor Kellyanne Conway despite the Office of Special Counsel recommending she be “removed from federal service” for disparaging Democratic presidential candidates in her official capacity as a senior White House adviser.
“No, I’m not going to fire her,” Trump said Friday morning during a phone interview with ‘Fox & Friends,’ “She’s been loyal, and she’s just a great person.”
Conway is accused of repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from conducting politics while acting in their capacity as a federal employee, the independent U.S. Office of Special Counsel said in a report released Thursday.
“I think you’re entitled to free speech in this country,” Trump told Fox, initiating a defense that would likely resonate with his conservative base.
Trump said he was briefed on the report Thursday and he’s going to get another “very strong briefing on it.”
Regardless of the Special Council’s report, the First Amendment clearly states:
Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Trump said that although Conway is a government official, she should be able to answer the questions about any topic proposed by the press.
He described Conway as “terrific” in her job and defended her responses to political questions on television.
“It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right on free speech,” Trump said. “And that’s just not fair.”
Trump said it would be ridiculous for her to decline to answer questions during her media interviews, especially if she was responding to attacks from political candidates.
“She’s got to have a right of responding to questions,” he said.
Trump said that he would get a “very strong briefing” about the recommendation.
In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Special Counsel Henry Kerner defended his office’s work making clear the decision on whether to remove Conway is his alone.
“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 his office had “several discussions” with the White House counsel and they had the OSC report “for weeks.” He said this was “not some sort of a drop-it-on-them situation.”
“I am a Trump appointee—I have no animus toward Kellyanne whatsoever,” he added. “My job is to make sure the federal workforce stay as depoliticized and as fair as possible.”
Kerner stated that in one Feb. 19 interview on “Fox & Friends,” Conway “insinuated that Senator Booker was ‘sexist’ and a ‘tinny’ ‘motivational speaker,’” and claimed Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was “’lying’” about her ethnicity. Conway also “attacked” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke for not “thinking the women running are good enough to be President.”
In its conclusion, the OSC said that Conway “has substantial knowledge of the Hatch Act and was previously found to have violated the law by engaging in similar conduct.”
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