Trump could face up to three years in prison for violations of the Hatch Act, according to legal experts

Two legal experts argue that the Justice Department has additional grounds to file charges against former President Donald Trump following the Office of the Office’s special counsel’s announcement that 13 senior administration officials violated the Hatch Act.

Writing in a column for slate, Professor Claire Finkelstein of the University of Pennsylvania and Professor Richard Painter of the University of Minnesota School of Law argue that the CSO report is added to the case for a criminal investigation.

Both professors filed a criminal complaint against Trump before the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Division in October 2020.

They wrote, “Although the president and vice president are immune to the ordinary prohibitions of the Hatch Act on the use of public office for political purposes, there is a separate provision (18 USC § 610) under which it is an offense to anyone to “intimidate, threaten, harass or coerce … any employee of the Federal Government … to participate in any political activity.” Offenses are punishable by up to three years in prison. “

Therefore, the decision to investigate rests with Attorney General Merrick Garland. They write: “The limit legal determination that Garland, or a special prosecutor appointed by Garland, must make is whether Trump coerced or ordered political activity identified as violations of the Hatch Act by the CSO. If so, Trump could be prosecuted for political coercion in by virtue of the said statute.

They point to multiple accounts of Trump as the president exerted exactly this kind of pressure on members of his inner circle: James Comey as head of the FBI; White House attorney Don McGahn; and even state election officials like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Vice President Mike Pence has also been subject to Trump’s coercive tactics, they argue, adding, “The pattern of behavior throughout Trump’s presidency suggests that violations of the Hatch Act that CSOs identified did not occur spontaneously.”

The CSO report states: “CSOs have concluded that the Trump administration has tacitly or expressly approved countless violations of the Hatch Act committed in that critical period immediately preceding the 2020 elections.”

And they pointed to incidents involving former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, stating: “Both violations stemmed from requests originating in the White House or, in the case of Secretary Pompeo, possibly the Trump campaign or President Trump himself. … and so they reflect the Trump administration’s willingness to manipulate government business for partisan political purposes. ”

Professors Finkelstein and Painter point out that the fact that the Justice Department failed to act on his complaint in October 2020 while Trump was still in office “was a missed opportunity to stop his appalling behavior on track.”

They write: “If the DOJ had acted on our denunciation in late 2020, the January 6 attack may not have taken place. In addition, Trump will continue from outside the presidency by pressuring officials to break the law while still having political ambitions. That is why it is imperative that the Department of Justice address the content of our criminal complaint against Trump against Trump and the events following our complaint by January 6, as soon as possible.

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