As President Donald Trump scrambled to hold major swing states accountable for his victory four years earlier, one of his top White House aides got to work to sell the president’s re-election dossier . And he did so at the taxpayer’s expense.
Peter Navarro, director of the White House’s Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, spent the month of October producing half a dozen glossy reports, printed on White House stationery using resources from the federal government, extolling the virtues of Donald Trump’s economic policies. But these were not reports on the general health of the US economy; they were designed to sell the president to residents of six crucial swing states: Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
The reports do not explicitly call on voters to re-elect the president. But Navarro’s office doesn’t appear to have designed them for states that aren’t crucial battlefield competitions on Tuesday. And the political nuances are clear in the language used in the reports.
“The Obama-Biden administration has raised taxes, increased regulation, suppressed the development of American natural resources, reduced the defense budget and failed to crack down on the unfair trade practices of countries like Communist China,” we read in the first sentence of three of the reports. . “The Trump-Pence administration has pursued exactly the opposite policies while pursuing an ‘all job creation is local’ strategy to spur economic growth.”
None of the state-specific reports contain an explicit political message, but experts say they are pushing the boundaries of laws prohibiting the use of federal resources for political activity. Navarro himself appears to have circumvented these laws in recent days. And his office’s efforts to bolster the president’s image with swing state voters over the last few weeks of the campaign show how Trump’s White House has used the levers of government power to advance the political goals of the government. President.
In the final weeks of the election, senior White House officials have been increasingly converted into tools of the presidential political apparatus. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Senior Advisor Steven Miller have both been sent on cable news shows to appear as spokespersons – not for the White House but for the president’s re-election campaign. The White House itself has even been converted into a forum for pro-Trump politics: Republicans held part of their nomination convention at the White House itself, and Trump plans to host a party for around 400. people in his East Room.
Such activities have sparked persistent allegations that Trump and his team blatantly violated the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting the use of official government titles or resources for partisan political purposes. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-wing watchdog group, says that in October alone at least 16 Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act, the federal law prohibiting the use of official titles or resources government for partisan political purposes. “The Trump administration appears to have adopted an affirmative policy of abusing federal resources to support Trump’s re-election campaign,” the group wrote.
In an emailed statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere said that “the official activity of administration officials, as well as any political activity undertaken by members of the administration, is conducted in accordance with the Hatch Act ”.
The extensive overlap between the Trump administration and political operations closes the four-year tenure as president in which the blurred lines between the president’s public and private efforts have consistently enveloped the administration in controversy – and even led upon his dismissal. As Trump faces an uphill battle for re-election, this overlap has extended beyond normal daily messages. In Navarro, Trump appears to have deputized for a senior political aide in an attempt to woo crucial voters on Tuesday.
CREW’s report on the Trump administration’s allegedly illicit policy highlighted two appearances on Navarro’s TV news last month in which he promoted the new reports from his office. In a letter to the Office of the Special Advisor, which is investigating violations of the Hatch Act, the group also noted that Navarro had used his official Twitter account to explicitly call for Trump’s re-election.
On the day that CREW sent this letter to the OSC, Navarro removed “45” from his Twitter handle and edited his bio to describe it as a personal account.
Reports on the state of transition from Navarro’s office are not so blatant. But during his Oct. 19 appearance on Fox Business, Navarro presented his office’s reports as drawing a “contrast between the policies of President Trump and Joe Biden.” The reports themselves are self-explanatory on this front. In attacking various policies of the former president, reports consistently refer not to the “Obama administration” but to the “Obama-Biden administration”.
It is not known to what extent these reports have been disseminated. Beyond Navarro’s take on Fox Business, him and senior White House official Andrew Giuliani, the son of the president’s personal attorney, both promoted the Florida report through their respective Twitter accounts while Trump held a campaign rally in the state.
This Fox Business appearance culminated in a second OSC complaint filed by CREW last month, which highlighted similar political language that Navarro himself used on air. And while CREW deputy director Donald Sherman acknowledges that Navarro’s state of transition reports do not contain explicit calls to vote for or against a candidate for office, he says they could still go to against prohibitions on the political use of federal resources.
“The OSC has found that context matters” in assessing whether a policy, statement or official government action violates the Hatch Law, Sherman told The Daily Beast in an interview. He pointed to repeated references to the “Obama-Biden administration” and references to a policy that “sets Trump” apart from his political opposition as evidence that the reports are, by their nature, political.
More fundamentally, Sherman said, the White House’s focus on these six states shows why taxpayer-backed policy is so problematic.
“What the White House is essentially telling the American public is that despite a global pandemic and economic crisis affecting 50 states and all of our American territories … that these few states are the only ones that need the help. attention from whites. House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, ”Sherman said. “It’s a slap in the face for the people who are suffering in the deep blue states, the dark red states and all the states not included in this list of battlefield states that the president is desperately trying to use up the resources.” federal to win.
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