New guidance says federal employees can't use the word 'resist' or mention impeachment.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration handed down a startling document. It bars nearly two million federal employees from speaking in any negative fashion about Trump, including using the word "resist" or "resistance," or discussing impeachment. Several legal scholars say this goes much too far, and they're right.
All federal employees are subject to the Hatch Act. It restricts them from participating in partisan political campaigns while at work or appearing in any official capacity. For a long time, the Trump administration refused to enforce it against any Trump officials, even when Kellyanne Conway went on "Fox & Friends" to stump for Roy Moore.
Finally, after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) complained multiple times, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) — no, not the Mueller one — found that several Trump officials had violated the act by doing things like using their official Twitter account to tweet out #MAGA and retweeting partisan research from the RNC.
Of course, if the OSC was going to gently rap the knuckles of some Republicans, they were at the same time going to restrict what all federal employees could say drastically.
The OSC told all federal employees that the terms "resistance" and "#resist" are now forbidden because they have become "inextricably linked with the electoral success (or failure) of the president."
Similarly, since impeachment makes someone ineligible to hold the office of the presidency, advocating for impeachment is advocating against Trump because he is already running for office.
In other words, all of these restrictions happen because Trump decided, almost immediately, that he would run for re-election, which means he's a candidate for his second term for the entirety of his first term. And, in the eyes of his administration and the OSC, that means no one can speak out about him in a negative way.
Civil rights lawyers say that this is the opposite of what the Hatch Act says. The act is there to stop the Trump administration from using federal employees as campaign staff or political props. Instead, this guidance stops federal employees from having any publicly expressed opinion on the administration — which goes much too far.
The specificity of the guidance is also troubling in that it refers only to those things that are perceived as anti-Trump — impeachment and resisting — rather than a more extensive discussion of prohibitions.
The Trump administration doesn't value free speech or robust discourse. It does value suppressing the speech of millions of federal employees if they dare speak out against Trump, and this guidance shows they'll use every tool at their disposal to do so.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.