Sarah Sanders' photo with Kanye is illegal, DC ethics group says
The nonprofit ethics watchdog claims Trump's press secretary violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from using government property to engage in certain types of political activity.
CREW claimed Kanye's choice of headgear – a red Trump "Make America Great Again" cap – turned the selfie into a political act. Executive Director Noah Bookbinder condemned the "misuse of government resources for political activity," apparently referring to Sanders' official government Twitter account.
While the Hatch Act has recently been interpreted by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to mean that staff should avoid using their official government social media accounts to "engage in political activity," which it defines as "any activity directed at the success or failure of a political party or partisan group…or candidate."
The OSC is surprisingly specific on this point, "explicitly prohibiting an employee from using the slogan 'Make America Great Again,' hashtags such as #MAGA, or 'any other materials from President Trump's 2016 or 2020 campaigns." Bookbinder was mum on whether he thought Sanders should have grabbed Kanye's hat off his head before taking the photo.
This isn't the first time Sanders has run afoul of CREW. In August, the group filed Hatch Act complaints against her and nine other staffers for using their Twitter accounts for "political activity," with some of the violations taking place just days after the OSC informed them of the social media restrictions.
While the group itself claims to be a nonpartisan watchdog, it has almost exclusively pursued action against Republicans, especially since the arrival of Democratic political consultant David Brock as chairman in 2014. As of January 2018, CREW had filed 180 lawsuits against members of the Trump administration.
Media from all political camps couldn't get enough of the unusual summit between the president and the rapper, and Kanye and Trump – two natural entertainers – played to the crowd as they chatted in the Oval Office. Kanye praised the president, telling him he was on a "hero's journey" and that wearing the iconic red hat "made [him] feel like Superman." Asked about Kanye's presidential potential, Trump told a reporter the rapper "could very well be" a candidate.
Mainstream outlets lost no time in attacking Kanye for the meeting, which CNN's Don Lemon likened to a "minstrel show" while others concern-trolled the rapper about his "mental health." Not content to give Lemon a monopoly on racist slurs, Bakari Sellers added that "Kanye West is what happens when Negroes don't read" in a bout of racialized hostility liberals normally condemn.