Lawyers from the two previous administrations have accused an aide to President Donald Trump of violating federal law after a tweet calling for the "defeat" of a Republican congressman.
Tensions between Trump's camp and the House Freedom Caucus appeared to escalate over the weekend after the president's social media director, Dan Scavino, tweeted Saturday that Michigan Rep. Justin Amash was "a liability," and called for his defeat in primaries.
Danscavino tweet: .@realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.
Amash is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has come under fire from the administration after the GOP's failure to pass — or even get a vote on — the Trump-backed American Health Care Act last month. Amash is also one of the few Republican lawmakers who have criticized Trump publicly since his election.
Although Scavino's tweet came from his personal Twitter account, ex-government lawyers on both sides of the aisle accused him of potentially violating the Hatch Act — a rule designed to keep government officials from using their authority to sway elections.
But the exact rules governing social media and the Hatch Act, which was first passed in 1939, are unclear.
The website of the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency, says federal executive branch employees may not engage in any political activity on social media while on duty or in the work place or from any accounts "created in a federal employees official capacity."
Scavino's tweet came just after noon on a Saturday.
The OSC says that U.S. government employees can express their opinions about partisan groups or candidates from their personal accounts, but with limitations — including that they cannot "refer to their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity at any time."