WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's chief of staff violated the law by retweeting a political message on his government Twitter account, and a warning letter was sent to him, according to a memo from the Office of Special Counsel. Top aide Ron Klain “got it wrong this time” and will be more careful, the White House said Thursday.
The memo dated Wednesday said Klain ran afoul of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their official roles to influence elections, including supporting candidates, while acting in their official capacities. The message Klain retweeted on May 22 from STRIKE PAC, a Democratic group, was about delivering infant formula to Americans. But the message also included the encouragement, “Get your Democrats Deliver merch today!”
Klain removed the retweet as soon as he was notified of the complaint. No disciplinary action will be pursued and the office, an independent government watchdog that monitors violations of the Hatch Act, considers the matter closed. Klain was warned to be more careful in the future.
The conservative legal group America First Legal, led by Donald Trump adviser Stephen Miller, complained about the tweet and sought an investigation.
Miller and at least a dozen other former Trump administration officials repeatedly violated that same law, without consequence and with Trump's approval, as part of a “willful disregard for the Hatch Act,” the Office of Special Counsel found in 2021. The office investigated comments by Trump officials leading into the 2020 presidential election, including at the Republican National Convention, which was held at the White House in a major break from historical norms.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that "we are not perfect, but our violations have been few.”
“Ron is very careful and takes the Hatch Act very seriously in his media appearances and his use of Twitter, but he got it wrong this time,” she said. “He fixed it as soon as it was pointed out and and took the warning to be more more careful seriously.”
Jean-Pierre often cites the Hatch Act in deflecting political questions during news briefings. Earlier this week she was asked whether Biden was doing everything he can possibly do to get Democrats across the finish line in the Nov. 8 elections.
"I have to be careful of what I say, because we do respect the Hatch Act here in this administration,” she said.
Colleen Long, The Associated Press