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An illegal trend could be emerging after Trump let Kellyanne Conway off the hook for breaking federal law

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Federal workplaces are supposed to be free of politics, but a Trump administration appointee used a government forum Wednesday to express support for the president’s reelection.

At a conference on religious freedom hosted by the State Department, an official told the crowd of several hundred people that “hopefully he will be reelected,” referring to President Donald Trump.

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It’s illegal for federal employees to engage in political activities while they are on the job.

“It’s a violation of the Hatch Act for a federal official, to say in her official capacity, to hope that the president will be reelected,” said Kathleen Clark, an expert on legal ethics at the Washington University in St. Louis.

It’s not the first time a Trump administration official has appeared to cross a line. In a harsh report, a government ethics office concluded that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was a “repeat offender” and recommended she be fired.

“Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions,” the ethics office wrote. “Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”

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Trump did not punish Conway.

The latest questionable comment came from Samah Norquist, a special adviser on religious pluralism in the Middle East at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Norquist is also the wife of conservative tax activist Grover Norquist.

In response to ProPublica’s questions, Tom Babington, a USAID spokesman, said in a written statement that agency personnel “immediately alerted” USAID’s chief legal officer about the comment. The legal office sent the issue to USAID’s ethics official for review and action.

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“The Agency takes the Hatch Act very seriously and requires all employees to receive annual ethics training, which includes training on the Hatch Act,” Babington said. “No final decision has been made regarding a determination of a violation or potential appropriate administrative action.”

The political references began when the panel moderator, Norquist, read a written question from an audience member. “What happens to U.S. involvement in Iraq if Trump loses the election?” the query said, sparking awkward laughter.

Max Primorac, the USAID special representative for minority assistance programs in Iraq, answered first, noting that Congress had passed in 2018 a bipartisan bill authorizing the State Department to give relief to the victims of Islamic State, particularly religious minorities such as Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims, holding it up as proof that the whole country supports the policy.

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Primorac then added, “President Trump will win again, but I’m very confident that this is now an American project.”

Norquist echoed his remarks about religious minorities in Iraq, calling it “an American issue” rather than a partisan one. Then, she veered into politics. She added, “And we all hope whether it’s Trump, and hopefully he will be reelected, or not, that it continues to be a priority for our government.”

Here is the exchange.

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Norquist and Primorac did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Couple who ran demon-obsessed gay ‘conversion therapy’ camp indicted on human trafficking charges

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An Alabama couple who operated a controversial gay "conversion therapy" camp has been indicted on human trafficking charges in connection with a new religious facility they set up in Texas.

A grand jury indicted 49-year-old Gary Wiggins and 34-year-old Meghann Wiggins after investigators found they had forced children to work at their Joshua Home for troubled boys, reported KXAN-TV.

Burnet County officials raided the 10-acre property near Bertram in July 2018, where they removed eight boys between 10 and 17 years old as part of an investigation into possible abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations and human trafficking.

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Trump officials to face congressional grilling over president’s link to white nationalist terrorism

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Next week, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are poised to question members of the Trump administration about the dangerous rise in white nationalist violence.

Just last weekend, a man slaughtered dozens of people in El Paso, Texas, after citing an "invasion" on the Southwest border.

In addition to questioning senior national security officials about the rise in white nationalism violence, they also plan to ask them whether they think President Donald Trump is instigating violent acts with his rhetoric, reports Greg Sargent in the Washington Post.

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Rev. Barber uses Bible to school Trump over crazed ‘Chosen One’ rant: ‘Quit your wicked life’

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The Rev. William Barber on Thursday schooled President Donald Trump for declaring himself the "Chosen One," while also approvingly quoting a talk-show host who described him as the "Second Coming of God."

In response to a tweet from "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough that highlighted the president's messianic quotes, Barber quoted from the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel, which describes the ruin of Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar, a prideful ruler who bragged about the great city he had built.

"King Nebuchadnezzar... boasted, 'Look at this, Babylon the great! And I built it all by myself... to display my honor and glory!'" Barber wrote. "The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a voice out of heaven spoke, 'This is the verdict... your kingdom is taken from you.'"

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