Here’s the embedded feed for those watching on their computers. Read on.
The big question tonight: Can the White House shoehorn more violations of the Hatch Act into two and a half hours than they did last night? The bar will be high. Although Trump himself is immune from the statute by dint of being head of the executive branch, lesser officials like Chad Wolf and Mike Pompeo are subject to it. Wolf helped officiate at the naturalization ceremony at the White House that aired yesterday and Pompeo delivered a convention speech while on diplomatic business in Israel. The State Department insisted that he was speaking on his own personal time, not during some official state function, but that distinction reportedly didn’t matter when Pompeo warned other State Department employees about stuff like this recently.
His speech appears to flout his own recently issued guidelines. Last month Pompeo sent a memo to all State Department staff overseas, repeating a standard warning that they not engage in “any partisan political activity in concert with a partisan campaign, political party, or partisan political group, even on personal time and outside of the federal workplace.”
That’s an unusually stark example of the general hypocrisy here noted by others. It’d be one thing if the White House and the DOJ declared as a rule that the statute would no longer be enforced. That would be bad in a different way, since the executive swears that he’ll take care that the laws are faithfully executed; and certainly, we don’t a free-for-all of politicking by all federal employees on the job. But at least it would be consistent. Granting special exemptions *only* to Trump’s highest officers, the very people whose violations of the Act have the most potential to influence the election, is not only corrupt but shows how elitist this “populist” administration can be. The Act still applies to the plebes down the chain in the executive branch, just not the guys who get face time with the president. Relatedly:
Last week, the Pentagon acknowledged within hours a violation of policy during the DNC (there was one, as was widely covered).
Asked to comment on the use of Marines in uniform during the RNC, the Pentagon referred me this morning to the White House. No other response. https://t.co/2UOWmAHBeg
— Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) August 26, 2020
“Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares,” said Mark Meadows when asked about enlisting government officers for partisan ends last night. Meadows came to political fame complaining about deficits and the corruption of the federal government under Obama. It’s good to see he’s now abandoned all pretense of caring about either under Trump. In fact, although Trump himself committed no crime last night, his violation of the ethical spirit behind the Hatch Act was even more glaring than Wolf’s or Pompeo’s. They used the trappings of official authority while participating in a partisan pageant. Trump actually exercised his official authority as part of the show. The pardon he granted and the naturalization ceremony he presided over are functions of his office; he turned them into a reality show, replete with “prizes,” to help him win votes.
“I just can’t even imagine what Republicans on Capitol Hill would be doing if Democrats were doing these types of activities during a convention,” said Jake Tapper afterward. “They would be rioting, quite frankly.” They’d be holding hearings, at least, and there’d be lots of hot rhetoric about the “swamp.” A White House naturalization ceremony presided over by Obama would have been received especially poorly. Since when do Trump and his base support making immigrants, illegal or legal, into citizens? Especially ones who appear to have come from what the president once delicately described as “sh*thole countries”? It reminds me again of what Tim Miller said yesterday about “Earth Two Trumpers.” On Earth Two and at the convention, when swing voters are taking a good look at him, Trump’s quite welcoming of immigrants. After the convention, when we’re back on Earth, the story’s different.
Anyway, there’s a decent shot that tonight will top last night. Among the speakers is Kellyanne Conway, who’s violated the Hatch Act so many times that a federal agency recommended last year that she be “removed from federal service.” That advice went right into the same trash can where the White House tosses all of its ethical issues, but ironically Conway *is* finally removing herself from federal service. She’s stepping down after the convention to see if the damage that’s been done to her family by the “George vs. Kellyanne” saga can be undone. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem will also speak, likely to tout the virtues of staying open for business while other states were locking down over COVID. And the keynote will go to Mike Pence, who may end up facing off against Noem plus a zillion other Republican hopefuls in the 2024 primaries. There were actually rumors not long ago that Noem might replace Pence on the ticket this year, and they grew loud enough that she reportedly met with him in person to assure him that she wasn’t trying to push him out. The atmosphere tonight should be friendlier now that he’s officially the VP nominee again.
Here’s the Twitter widget for live commentary during the show. The comments are open. One small mystery to chew on: Why didn’t the CEO of Goya foods end up speaking tonight? Trump’s own campaign spokesman told reporters that he would be this morning, as a nod to the controversy of a few weeks ago. Then Goya’s spokesman said he wouldn’t be. Maybe the company concluded that less, not more, public attention to its executives’ politics would be better for business.