Kellyanne Conway under federal investigation after ethics complaint

Federal officials have opened an investigation into activities by senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway following a complaint that she violated ethics laws.

The probe aims to determine if Conway broke the law when she slammed Democrat Doug Jones — who is battling Republican Roy Moore to become Alabama’s next senator — on national TV.

Conway said on “Fox & Friends” last week that Jones “will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”

The Hatch Act forbids federal government employees from using their positions to influence the result of an election.

Former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint after Conway’s interview, accusing her of violating the law. The complaint argues that Conway, in her official capacity, attacked Jones to convince voters to choose Moore so that Donald Trump will have a tax plan ally in the Senate.

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White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (L) laughs with other aides before U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered joint statements from the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway arrives for a meeting with the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Vice President Mike Pence and White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway leave after attending a Republican party policy lunch meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway holds up a memorandum from the Justice Department's Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein critical of Comey's position as director of the FBI at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
(L-R) Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Senior Advisor Stephen Miller walk on the South Lawn of the White House upon their return with President Donald Trump to Washington, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway arrives at Newark International airport in Newark, NJ U.S., with President Donald Trump, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Keith Schiller, deputy assistant to the president and director of Oval Office operations, follow U.S. President Donald Trump to Marine One as he departs for a day trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway takes part in a strategic and policy CEO discussion with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Eisenhower Execution Office Building in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway waves as she arrives to speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, attended the joint press conference of President Donald Trump and President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Friday, June 9, 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: White House Senior Advisor, Kellyanne Conway (L), stand with White House Communications Director, Hope Hicks, during a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump and King Abdullah II of Jordan, at the White House April 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump held talks on Middle East peace process and other bilateral issues with King Abdullah II. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to US President Donald Trump, walks to a House Republican conference meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2017. US President Donald Trump held last-minute negotiations with fellow Republicans to avoid a humiliating defeat Thursday in his biggest legislative test to date, as lawmakers vote on an Obamacare replacement plan which conservatives threaten to sink. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 21: Kellyanne Conway, aide to President Donald Trump, arrives in the Capitol for Trump's meeting with the House Republican Conference on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: Counselor to the President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway attends the swearing in ceremony of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be the new Health and Human Services Secretary., on February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Conway has been under fire for her comments about Ivanka Trump's clothing line during a TV interview. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Ana Galindo-Marrone, the chief of the Hatch Act unit of the federal Office of Special Counsel, informed Shaub on Wednesday that her office has opened a case file to investigate the complaint. The OSC is a small agency tasked with investigating Hatch Act violations. It’s not part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

Shaub’s complaint states that Conway was clearly speaking in her official capacity as she ripped Jones in a direct effort to get Moore into the Senate to back Trump’s tax bill.

“It seems pretty clear she was appearing in her official capacity when she advocated against a candidate,” Shaub said, something he characterized as a “slam dunk” violation of the law.

The White House claimed that Conway’s comments did not violate the Hatch Act because she “did not advocate for or against a particular candidate” and was “speaking about issues and her support for the president’s agenda.” 

Shaub said in an amended complaint that the statement “reads more like an admission than a defense.”

Quoting the head of the Office of Special Counsel in the complaint, Shaub noted that the “law is clear: public officials paid by taxpayers cannot use their position to engage in political activities.”

“This case presents as clear a violation by a senior administration appointee as OSC is likely to encounter in the next five years,” the complaint read.

In February, when Shaub was still in office, he also complained to the White House after Conway plugged first daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand on Fox News. The White House refused to discipline Conway, saying she peddled the products in a “light, off-hand manner.”

Read the complaint below.

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  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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