The decision by the Republican National Convention to feature President Trump conducting official business inside the White House underscores how he is leveraging the powers of his office for political gain, raising questions about whether an event featured Tuesday night violated federal law.
In a remarkable pretaped scene packaged as part of the convention’s prime time programming, Trump took part in a naturalization ceremony for five new citizens as acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf administered the Oath of Allegiance….
Kathleen Clark, a legal and government ethics professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, said that the event appeared to be designed as part of the convention, an action that would violate a criminal provision of the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from participating in politics in their official capacity.
Under the act, federal employees are prohibited from using their authority to influence the election of a presidential candidate, she said, calling Trump and Wolf “breathtaking in their contempt for the law.”
A White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the legal basis of the event, said it was part of the president’s official schedule that was publicized on a public website.
“The campaign decided to use the publicly available content for campaign purposes,” the official said. “There was no violation of law.”
The most widely known civil provisions of the Hatch Act do not apply to the president and the vice president. But the law applies to executive branch employees who are involved in planning or executing any political events staged at the White House, including video segments filmed there, experts said.