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Trump official’s Twitter swipe at Rep. Amash appears to violate federal law

Apr 3, 2017

The tweet came at 12:33 p.m. last Saturday.

Justin Amash is, of course, the Congressman from Michigan's Third District in West Michigan.

And that tweet? It came from Dan Scavino Jr., a senior advisor to President Donald Trump.

Immediately, critics accused Scavino of violating the Hatch Act, a vintage law dating back to the Depression. Some ethics lawyers called for him to be fired.

Stephen Vladeck is a law professor at the University of Texas and a Supreme Court analyst for CNN. Vladeck joined Stateside to explain what the Hatch Act is and why it was created back in 1939.

"It's basically a law that prohibits federal government employees from actively engaging in what the statute calls 'political activities,'" Vladeck said. "Basically, in taking public positions on who should run for office, on who should win elections, on other matters [of] partisan political preferences."

"It's designed basically to ensure that lower-level government employees don't feel pressured by their superiors to engage in partisan political activity and to avoid the appearance of corruption," he added. "That is to say, that government employees might be using their offices to advance other people's political and partisan ends." 

This law covers all federal government employees, except for the President and the Vice President.

According to Vladeck, since Scavino Jr. is the President's director of social media, and he publicly called for a sitting Congressman to be defeated in an upcoming primary ("primaried"), he has violated the Hatch Act.

Listen to the full interview above to hear what exceptions exist within the Hatch Act and why the average citizen should care about a violation of a law from the 1930s. 

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