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Conway says calls for her firing are efforts to 'put a big roll of masking tape over my mouth'

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Senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway said a federal agency's report calling for her dismissal over Hatch Act violations is little more than an effort to silence her as one of the most prominent spokespeople for President Donald Trump and his agenda.

"They want to put a big roll of masking tape over my mouth," Conway told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning. “They want to chill free speech because they don’t know how to beat [Trump] at the ballot box."

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel — which is unrelated to the office of former special counsel Robert Mueller — recommended last week that Conway be removed from her job over violations of the Hatch Act, a law that prohibits all but the highest-ranking officials in the government's executive branch from certain political activities. In its report, the office of special counsel called Conway a "repeat offender" for her regular criticism of Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her capacity as a senior White House aide.

President Trump disregarded the counsel’s recommendation, telling "Fox & Friends" last week that Conway is a “tremendous spokesperson” and that everyone is “entitled to free speech in the country.”

Conway, whose official title is counselor to the president, questioned whether the Hatch Act applied to her, telling Fox News that “it was not even clear what the Hatch Act allowed.”

"It's not even clear to us here at the White House, according to the counsel, that the Hatch Act applies to assistants to the president," she said.

This is the first time the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has recommended that a White House official be removed from office, a fact Conway was quick to point out, saying that she “would be the first member of the West Wing to be hauled in front of Congress to talk about the Hatch Act.”

On Sunday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee revealed that it will vote to authorize a subpoena if Conway does not appear Wednesday for the panel’s hearings on alleged Hatch Act violations.

Conway was chastised for overstepping boundaries as a spokeswoman in 2017, when the Office of Government Ethics said she committed a "clear violation" in offering what she called a "free commercial" for the clothing and footwear line of Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and aide, in an appearance on "Fox & Friends."


Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine


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pdeshpande@politico.com (Pia Deshpande), Khareem Sudlow