The toxic political atmosphere which has led to the deaths of five journalists and threats to lynch a black Congresswoman, just this week, is being promulgated regularly by midlevel appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services. Weaponizing social media by imitating Donald Trump’s tweets is the first order of business. Politico:
“Just saw where Crazy @BobCorker called the #TrumpTrain a ‘cult!,'” Gavin Smith, an HHS staffer who identifies himself as deputy communications director, publicly posted on Twitter this month, criticizing the Tennessee senator and frequent administration critic, who is retiring this year. “Let’s be clear sir, we’re not a cult — we’re a movement that defeated Crooked @HillaryClinton and that’s committed to ridding Washington of politicians like you. Good riddance — DC will be better off with you!”
Jon Cordova, the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration, was initially allowed back in his old role after a two-week administrative review of his social media posts that spread conspiracy theories… Cordova in 2016 publicly shared posts that suggested with no evidence that Khizr Khan — the Gold Star father who spoke at the Democratic National Convention and criticized Trump — was a Muslim Brotherhood agent.
Ximena Barreto, a deputy communications director who worked on the Trump campaign, was placed on administrative review after CNN revealed her history of spreading conspiracy theories, including that Hillary Clinton was engaged in a child-sex ring at a Washington pizza shop, was involved in the murder of aide Seth Rich and employed pedophiles in her campaign.
Quite a crew at HHS. Take a look at what else Gavin Smith has written and see if you can even distinguish his comments from Trump’s tweets, which sometimes he quotes.
[Reporters, Media Outlets]
NBC’s Chuck Todd (‘sleepy eyes’), Hallie Jackson (‘hateful’) and Katy Tur ‘hypocrisy at its finest’); CNN’s Jim Acosta (‘fake news showboating’), Chris Cillizza (‘playing dumb on TV’) and April Ryan (‘pure garbage’); NYT’s Maggie Haberman (‘a joke’); WSJ’s Rebecca Ballhaus (‘fake news’); and the entire Washington Post (‘nauseating’).
Sens. Bob Corker (‘crazy’), Lindsey Graham (‘clueless’) and Tim Kaine (‘Horrific – disgusting – SAD!’); Ohio Gov. John Kasich (‘Getting your ass kicked once just wasn’t enough for you, was it’); Mitt Romney (‘a clown’); former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (‘#LockThemUp’).”
This is disturbing, but is it illegal as well?
Veterans of past administrations say that midlevel political appointees can be critical of the press, a president’s rivals and even lawmakers in their own party — but they should keep their views private.
Government transparency experts said that some of Smith’s tweets could violate the Hatch Act’s prohibitions on executive branch employees engaging in partisan messages, pointing to February 2018 guidance released by the Office of Special Counsel.
“The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity, including posting on Twitter or Facebook, while on duty or in the federal workplace,” said Daniel Stevens of the Center for Accountability. “If James [another name Gavin Smith uses on Twitter] posted comments regarding McMaster while in a federal building or during his work hours, he likely violated the Hatch Act.”
Politics is a rough and tumble business, not for the faint of heart. However, pre-Trump it used to be an endeavor where superficially, at least, opponents spoke civilly to one another. Good taste and decorum were respected qualities, not anachronisms from a bygone and quaint era. In the age of Trump the public dialogue has coarsened considerably and we can only hope that we can get it back on the rails once Trump and his cabal are finally ousted. Personally, I have doubts. A pickle never goes back to being a cucumber and I wonder if this is how political expression is going to stay. Of all of the effects the Trump phenomenon has wrought, this is the most egregious and certainly the most regrettable.