White House defense for using immigrants as campaign props doesn't add up

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The Trump administration claims the naturalization ceremony aired at the GOP convention was publicized before hand. That's simply not true.

The Trump campaign is being slammed for flagrantly breaking the law at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, including an incident in which a video of a naturalization ceremony at the White House with Donald Trump and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was played.

Wolf, who was recently determined to have been appointed to his position illegally, is a federal employee and bound by the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from engaging in partisan political activity while on the job. Yet he was part of the naturalization ceremony that was broadcast during the Republican convention, leading to allegations that he violated the law.

The White House has sought to defend its actions by claiming that the naturalization ceremony was not a violation of the Hatch Act because it was publicized before it ran during the GOP convention, according to the Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Ballhaus.

That excuse does not add up. The naturalization ceremony was not listed on the public White House schedule that is emailed to reporters each day. There was also no news release from either the White House nor DHS about the event.

The press pool — a rotating group of reporters that chronicle Trump's moves for history — was not notified of the event, nor was the pool called in to capture video of it to broadcast.

The video is not on the DHS nor the White House website.

The White House, for its part, did not immediately return request for comment on why the event wasn't on the president's schedule; why the White House press pool was not called in to film the event taking place; and why the event wasn't announced in a news release anywhere on the White House or DHS website.

The video was quietly posted to the White House's YouTube page just before the convention aired, but ethics experts said that wasn't enough to sidestep a Hatch Act violation.

"There's no 'post it somewhere first and alakazam it's magically not a Hatch Act violation' rule," Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted. "That a lawyer would come up with such rubbish is a disgrace to the profession."

Shaub added, "This argument doesn’t pass the laugh test, but I'm too disgusted to laugh. If [the Office of Special Counsel] signed off on this lunacy, its leader should resign at once."

Kathleen Clark, an expert on government ethics at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, told the Washington Post that Trump and Wolf's actions were "breathtaking in their contempt for the law."

"We just witnessed President Trump and DHS official Chad Wolf violate a criminal Hatch Act provision that prohibits anyone employed in ‘an administrative position’ from using his official authority to affect the nomination or election of any Presidential candidate," she said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.