On November 27, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) — not Robert Mueller’s but the federal agency with authorities to investigate cases related to the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) — issued a new guidance regarding political activity. It says that its Hatch Act Unit has received several questions regarding whether the following constitute “political activity” for purposes of the Hatch Act:
1. Is strong criticism or praise of an administration’s policies and actions considered political activity?
Criticism or praise that is directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group is political activity. Absent evidence that the criticism or praise is so directed, criticism or praise of an administration’s policies and actions is not considered political activity. Whether a particular statement constitutes political activity depends upon the facts and circumstances.
Consider, for example, the administration’s recent decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. An employee who strongly criticizes or praises that decision during a workplace discussion with a colleague in the days immediately following the decision is less likely to be engaging in political activity than one making those same statements in the run-up to the next presidential election—when the decision will likely have been out of the news for several years—to a colleague that the employee knows has strong feelings about
Read more here.
2. Is advocating for or against impeachment of a candidate for federal office considered political activity?
Yes. Read more here.
3. Is activity related to “the Resistance” considered political activity?
To the extent that the statement relates to resistance to President Donald J. Trump, usage of the terms “resistance,” “#resist,” and derivatives thereof is political activity. We understand that the “resistance” and “#resist” originally gained prominence shortly after President Trump’s election in 2016 and generally related to efforts to oppose administration policies. However, “resistance,” “#resist,” and similar terms have become inextricably linked with the electoral success (or failure) of the president. During the period when President Trump was not considered by OSC to be a candidate for reelection the terms did not raise any Hatch Act concerns. Now that President Trump is a candidate for reelection, we must presume that the use or display of “resistance,” “#resist,” “#resistTrump,” and similar statements is political activity unless the facts and circumstances indicate otherwise.
Note that this presumption is only relevant to employee conduct that takes place on duty, in the workplace, while wearing an agency uniform or insignia, or while invoking any official authority or inﬂuence. Provided that they comply with the Hatch Act’s restrictions, employees are free to engage in political activity while off-duty and away from the federal workplace.
In OSC’s example, if you tweet “I must #resist the temptation to eat another donut from the break room” – you would not/not be engaging in political activity but OSC would presume that “the use or display of the hashtags #resist and #resistTrump, in isolation, is political activity under the Hatch Act.” Read in full here.
The thing is, Foreign Service folks are considered on duty 24/7, so what does this guidance means in the real world? We’ve asked the OSC; will update if we hear anything back.
You may also call the Hatch Act Unit at 202-804-7002 or send an e-mail to Hatchact@osc.gov for your Hatch Act-related questions.
— Nick Schwellenbach (@schwellenbach) November 30, 2018
Federal Employees Barred From Discussing Trump’s Impeachment at Work https://t.co/kkmlXe1p8k
— Intelligencer (@intelligencer) November 30, 2018
Two million federal workers receive memo warning they can’t use the word ‘resist’ or discuss Trump impeachment at workhttps://t.co/jakRSeFtAB
— Raw Story (@RawStory) November 30, 2018
NEW: Office of Special Counsel (not Mueller) Hatch Act guidance effectively bans federal employees from advocating for impeachment or using the words “resist” or “resistance” to oppose administration policies. We’re calling on OSC to rescind the guidance: https://t.co/AZuRXZo1Rn pic.twitter.com/lG1kSZcjER
— American Oversight (@weareoversight) November 29, 2018
— Kathleen Clark (@clarkkathleen) November 30, 2018
The point of the Hatch Act is to prevent an Administration from misusing federal employees for its own political purposes. Overzealous enforcement to bar federal employees from publicly _resisting_ bad policies turns the Hatch Act on its head. https://t.co/vxBnhNAmSM
— Sasha Samberg-Champion (@ssamcham) November 30, 2018
Related item: Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF) | September, 2018 (Congressional Research Service).
The Trump Administration’s effort to rebuild the U.S.-#Saudi partnership isn’t popular in the salons of Washington, but the kingdom is a force for stability in the Mideast. Degrading our ties would be a mistake for U.S. national security. Read my op-ed: https://t.co/DcUyXYd1os
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 28, 2018
Mike Pompeo’s Faustian bargain – The Washington Post https://t.co/D8z5tLW7GF
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) November 29, 2018
Pompeo: “Saudi Arabia is a powerful force for stability.”🤦🏽♀️
– The Saudis backed the coup in Egypt
– Support oppression in Bahrain
– Bomb/starve Yemen
-kidnapped Lebanese PM
MBS is many things, but a force for stability isn’t one of them https://t.co/9ZXvIad9XN
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) November 28, 2018
Opinion: Pompeo goes from diplomat to hack https://t.co/4sT3IwIDIf
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 29, 2018
"Pompeo’s latest apologia on behalf of Saudi Arabia is a desperate effort by the Secretary of State to discourage senators from voting for S.J.Res. 54 later this week, and it should be dismissed as the mendacious piece of propaganda that it clearly is." https://t.co/TLJsOMSUXQ
— Daniel Larison (@DanielLarison) November 28, 2018
Pompeo’s outrageously unconvincing Wall Street Journal op-ed reads as if it were dictated by the crown prince’s high-priced public relations agents (which, for all we know, it might have been). My latest in @PostOpinions: https://t.co/aW70VVDmy3
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) November 29, 2018
The Saudis will ruthlessly torture their cousins to accrue powerhttps://t.co/cnDVJZ6KVM
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) November 28, 2018
This Pompeo op-ed is BANANAS.
After several paragraphs of lavish fawning praise for Riyadh, Pompeo drops the HAMMER:
“The US doesn’t condone the Khashoggi killing.”
Huh? So wait…there was a chance we might?? Awesome.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) November 28, 2018
My favorite part of this absurd piece is how Pompeo tries to present support for the US-Saudi relationship as a bold rejection of DC establishment thinking. Bravo. https://t.co/5d27DbHqnq
— Matt Duss (@mattduss) November 28, 2018
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) September 6, 2018
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) November 27, 2018
US ambassador clashes with Warsaw over media freedom https://t.co/j5Orre6SfE
— Jakub Janda (@_JakubJanda) November 27, 2018
A tak wygląda list Pani Ambasador do premiera pic.twitter.com/MUbYuGzTLA
— Bartek Goduslawski (@BGoduslawski) November 27, 2018
A short and amusing tale of two ambassadors (US ambos to Poland)
1. Until recently, the ambassador was career diplomat John Wayne Jones. He was nice enough, but he wasn't particularly well liked by the government here.
— Oskar Górzyński (@OskarGie) November 27, 2018
Deputy PM @Jaroslaw_Gowin has cancelled a meeting with @USAmbPoland Georgette Mosbacher because of her recent comments warning about freedom of speech in Poland, reports @DoRzeczy_pl. The report claims Gowin took the comments as "pressure" on lawmakers. https://t.co/he2EWb2kj2
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱💯 (@notesfrompoland) November 26, 2018
US-Owned Broadcaster Says It Faces Intimidation From Poland https://t.co/s5PcgpaDxX
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) November 25, 2018
Shame on #FakeNewsweek for helping @JZarif spread lies. The truth is: the U.S. does not, and never did, sanction food and medicine. They are exempt from sanctions, as are financial transactions related to humanitarian needs.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 12, 2018
.@SecPompeo is upset w/ the way @Newsweek reported part of his Int. with @BBCPersian in its headline. Here is the text of what he said and also US allies acknowledging that the exemption for food and medicine is insufficient when banks are scared off from any dealings w/ #Iran. pic.twitter.com/jDfsgdP26T
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) November 12, 2018
last wk @SecPompeo told me that US is going to make sure "things that are permitted to happen [under Iran sanctions] can in fact happen."
in reaction, Iran FM published letters that appear to show examples of how pharmaceutical imports to Iran cannot happen because of sanctions. https://t.co/ply4GYmrkz
— Hadi Nili (@HadiNili) November 13, 2018
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) November 9, 2018
Despite what Sec. Pompeo says, US #sanctions on #Iran are impacting the availability of medicine. I spoke with Iranians who can't get medicine, doctors and drug importers to bring you the story of the reality on the ground: https://t.co/ktzUuz64vx
(Photo: Arash Khamooshi) pic.twitter.com/vuhkIRr1dx
— Nilo Tabrizy (@ntabrizy) November 11, 2018
Newsweek accurately quoted Pompeo’s remarks to the BBC Persian service, in which he said Iran’s ‘leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat. They have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine…’ https://t.co/hQs4Er4g6e https://t.co/mQzYXFinJ4
— Jeff Stein (@SpyTalker) November 13, 2018
AND NOW THIS:
While President Trump insults our closest allies in Europe over Twitter and Secretary Pompeo threatens Iran in the context of its citizens starving, Natl Security Adviser Bolton made his own not-so-diplomatic declarations after apparently feeling left out: https://t.co/Cp2A1fNGnB
— Shahed Ghoreishi (@shahedghoreishi) November 13, 2018
BREAKING: Pompeo's Cheese Meltdown: "Pompeo was absolutely livid when he read Bloomberg reported he’d eaten processed, Velveeta-style cheese during his diplomatic jaunt. He demanded a `head on a plate.'" https://t.co/mZwcCWVQfM @thedailybeast
— Mike Dorning (@MikeDorning) November 12, 2018
In July, Nauert barred Bloomberg's @nwadhams from flying with @SecPompeo to Helsinki after he reported info she insisted was off the record. One of the contested details involved Pompeo eating toast & processed cheese in NK. https://t.co/s3Kj12niuv pic.twitter.com/hhnogWdGqA
— Eliza Relman (@eliza_relman) August 6, 2018
One night in #Pyongyang: From "American Cola" to processed cheese as we take you inside #Pompeo's chaotic and fraught #NorthKorea trip https://t.co/m1i8ou9Xps @bpolitics @nwadhams @SecPompeo #KimJongUn #Trump @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Bi64msVqmw
— Rosalind Mathieson (@RosMathieson) July 9, 2018
On October 26, Mother Jones reported that Radio Televisión Martí went after George Soros in a two-part piece that aired in May 2018. The hit piece called the philanthropist a “multimillionaire Jew” and “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.” The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) oversees Radio and Television Martí at its headquarters in Miami. The U.S. Agency for Global Media (formerly BBG), a U.S. taxpayer-funded entity oversees OCB. The videos have been taken down but are still available on YouTube here and here. The State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs serves as the Secretary of State’s representative on the Board. Heather Nauert became Acting Under Secretary on March 13, 2018 until October 10. 2018. As of this writing, we have not seen anything out of the State Department regarding these segments targeting a private American citizen.
“It was brought to my attention this weekend that the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which is overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), earlier this year aired a video segment about George Soros that is inconsistent with our professional standards and ethics. USAGM networks’ content is required to adhere to the highest standards of professional journalism.
Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct. Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.
Tomás P. Regalado, the director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, told Mother Jones in an email, “Judicial Watch is a good source, but having said that, it should not have been the only source. The two part series was not precise and did not have on the record sources to balance the story.” Regalado noted that he became OCB director on June 6, several weeks after the segment aired, and three days later he appointed a new news director and assignment editor.
“To be fair and to show that we in the new administration are committed to journalistic integrity, the stories have been pulled out of the digital page, not because we want to hide anything, but because we want to be transparent if we say that the story did not have the required balance, then it should not be on the air,” he said.
Holy guacamole! Senator Flake tweeted “TV Marti director says its program on George Soros lacked “balance.” Sorry, there is no balance that makes anti-Semitism right. BBG must investigate how such programming was produced and and why it aired.”
OCB has an annual budget of $28.1 million, it has 117 employees, and an audience estimated at 1 million.
The federal government’s state-funded broadcasting arm is placing a number of employees on administrative leave and investigating how it ended up airing a story this year attacking liberal financier George Soros as a malignant “multimillionaire Jew" https://t.co/JzQw10cYb6
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) October 30, 2018
ICYMI: Five months before George Soros received a pipe bomb in the mail, a US government-funded broadcasting network produced a segment that attacked him as a “multimillionaire Jew” https://t.co/ZXY7IW4k60
— Aaron Wiener (@aaronwiener) October 29, 2018
— William M. LeoGrande (@WMLeoGrande) October 26, 2018
A TV Marti program that was introduced with the phrase, “George Soros, a multimillionaire Jew,” was paid for by the American taxpayer, and broadcast to Latin America last summer, in our name. This is taxpayer-funded anti-semitism.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) October 28, 2018
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) October 27, 2018
AND NOW THIS —
— Justice Initiative (@OSFJustice) October 31, 2018
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice current as of October 29 notes the reporting on a number of suspicious packages and devices have been sent to prominent locations in New York City and Washington DC in the last few days, including the CNN offices at the Time Warner Center and the homes of former Presidents Clinton and Obama. “The FBI continue to investigate, but there is currently nothing to suggest that there is a specific threat to British nationals.” It also says “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times.”
Ireland’s travel advice, current as of October 28 notes that “There is an increased threat of terrorism and extremist violence worldwide and this should be borne in mind by Irish citizens living and working in the USA. The USA has also witnessed a number of mass shootings in recent years.” They forgot to add that massshootingtracker.org indicates that there has been 363 mass shootings in the United States in 2018 alone (a mass shooting defined to be an incident of violence in which 4 or more people are shot).
Australia’s travel advice says “The United States has more violent crime than Australia, although it rarely involves tourists. Shootings, including mass shootings, can occur in public places.” (We must add that these public places include a concert venue, a nightclub, elementary schools, colleges, churches, synagogues, a fast food restaurant, post office, a movie theater, private residences, military headquarters, neighborhoods, an immigration center, workplaces, and cafeterias).
New Zealand’s alert is the only one that specifically mentions the risk of domestic-based extremists that we’ve seen in 72 hours: “The United States remains a likely target for terrorist activity by domestic-based extremists and internationally-trained individuals and groups, and we continue to receive reports that terrorist groups are planning attacks against the United States. Terrorist attacks have occurred in the United States in recent years and a significant number of terror plots have been disrupted.”
11 Stars of David now stand in front of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. 11 people were murdered here while worshipping. A grey sky, on a misty, cold night, matches the mood of Squirrel Hill: somber. pic.twitter.com/Spacz9VsdT
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 29, 2018
— FBI (@FBI) October 26, 2018
Since Monday, 10 pipe bombs and suspicious packages have been mailed to top Democrats including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, news channel CNN and other hate figures for supporters of US President Donald Trump.
AFP explains more about the targets https://t.co/U9GxoO98uq
— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 25, 2018
In the calm of a sunny afternoon, at a Kroger grocery store in the east side of Louisville, Kentucky, a 51-year-old white man named Gregory Bush walked right into the store with a loaded gun, targeted two black customers, and killed them. https://t.co/jzcapdUT9Q by @ShaunKing
— Bruno J. Navarro (@Bruno_J_Navarro) October 26, 2018
Straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Just moments ago, Lou Dobbs guest Chris Farrell (head of Judicial Watch) says Caravan is being funded/directed by the "Soros-occupied State Department". pic.twitter.com/QBSong7uk1
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) October 27, 2018
Who smiles while saying this? Kirstjen Nielsen on whether migrants will be shot at the border: "We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people," but agents "do have the ability, of course, to defend themselves." pic.twitter.com/wHqfdz8xwv
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) October 26, 2018
AND NOW THIS FROM CANADA’S BRUCE MACKINNON:
— The Chronicle Herald (@chronicleherald) October 25, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the Khashoggi murder during his remarks to the press on October 23 (via state.gov):
… the State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts, consult with Congress, and work with other nations, and work to hold accountable those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The administration is also taking appropriate actions now, given the information currently available to the United States.
We have identified at least some of the individuals responsible, including those in the intelligence services, the Royal Court, the foreign ministry, and other Saudi ministries who we suspect to have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s death. We are taking appropriate actions, which include revoking visas, entering visa lookouts, and other measures. We are also working with the Treasury Department to review the applicability of Global Magnitsky sanctions to those individuals.
These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable. We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence. We continue to maintain a strong partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Neither the President nor I am happy with this situation.
Our shared strategic interests with Saudi Arabia remain. We continue to view as achievable the twin imperatives of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.
Trump on Khashoggi's killing: "They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups. It's very simple. Bad deal. Should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/w9L4yDwsHe
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 23, 2018
With news–"US to Revoke Visas of Some Saudi Officials Implicated in Death of Washington Post Writer Jamal #Khashoggi"
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) October 23, 2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the eighteen suspects Saudi Arabia arrested for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be put on trial in Istanbul. More in the Daily News Brief: https://t.co/G5sJHaqFQh (Photo: Umit Bektas/Reuters) pic.twitter.com/xYTfp9vRge
— CFR (@CFR_org) October 23, 2018