President Trump can accept the Republican presidential nomination from the White House, according to a ruling by the Office of Special Counsel, the independent federal agency that polices the intersection between government and politics.
For White House employees, it’s a bit more complicated, the OSC said. Commissioned officers, who usually are the president’s top-level advisers, are not subject to the political activities ban while on duty or in federal buildings.
Non-commissioned officers would have to be careful of their involvement, but if they were off duty and the event were held outdoors they would not be barred by the Hatch Act, which governs political activities by federal employees.
“The president and vice president are not covered by any of the provisions of the Hatch Act. Accordingly, the Hatch Act does not prohibit President Trump from delivering his RNC acceptance speech on White House grounds,” wrote Erica S. Hamrick, deputy chief at the OSC.
She did caution that employees, including commissioned officers, are not allowed to attempt to influence an election using their official authority. So supervisors might run afoul of the law if they were to “task subordinate staff with work in support of the political event.”
With the party nominating conventions dramatically scaled back because of coronavirus-related shutdown orders, both Democrats and Republicans have looked for ways to maintain the grand theater of the events.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat and chairwoman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, requested that the OSC rule on the matter.
After the opinion was issued Wednesday, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the panel, said it should settle the matter.
“Truth be told, Democrats should be comforted knowing that the President can deliver his acceptance speech from home since they are so concerned about him traveling for events these days,” he said.
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