According to The New York Times all federal workers received a memo this week telling them that they cannot discuss the possibility of Donald Trump being impeached at work. The Times said the memo went to over two million federal employees telling them that it was “illegal for them to participate in such discussions at work.”
This is the first time such a memo has been sent out, the paper reports, and critics say it’s overreaching.
“Advocating for a candidate to be impeached, and thus potentially disqualified from holding federal office, is clearly directed at the failure of that candidate’s campaign for federal office,” the memo said.
Because Trump is already running for re-election in 2020, the letter contends that arguments about his policies or impeachment prospects are “effectively statements in support or opposition to his campaign,” the Times reported.
The memo from the Office of Special Counsel also warned federal employees not to engage in “strong criticism or praise of a presidential administration’s policies and actions.”
The memo also tells workers they cannot use the word “resist,” saying:
“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.”
The Office of Special Counsel, or OSC, enforces the Hatch Act, a 79-year-old law aimed at keeping partisan politics out of the federal bureaucracy. The act basically bars explicit partisan advocacy on office time.
A law professor at Washington University criticized the memo, saying:
“This goes beyond past guidance about what partisan political activity is, and is more restrictive of speech of federal employees than past guidance that I’ve been able to find. I think their legal analysis is wrong in this attempt to outlaw all discussion of impeachment of Trump in the federal workplace.”
Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the OSC Hatch Act unit, said the guidance was written in response to questions from federal workers and agencies’ ethics officers, and wasn’t intended to be sharply different from existing standards. “To me, it’s no different from the language we’ve used before,” she said.
American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group, wants OSC to revoke the new rules. Austin Evers, the group’s director, said the agency should enforce the Hatch Act, but the memo “opens a dangerous door for the Trump administration to crack down on dissent.”