"Feel Free to Say Nothing" & Keep Your Thought Crimes to Yourself: Fed Agency Claims it is Unlawful for Federal Employees to Discuss Trump Impeachment or Politics at Work, Issues Warning

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“FEEL FREE TO SAY NOTHING.” From [HERE] At workplaces across the United States, it is routine for Americans’ conversations to turn to President Trump — whether his policies are good, whether he should be impeached, what to think about the “resistance.” Some drink from MAGA mugs; others tape cartoons to their cubicle walls portraying Mr. Trump as a Russian quisling.

But roughly two million people who work for the federal government have now been told that it may be illegal for them to participate in such discussions at work — a pronouncement that legal specialists say breaks new ground, and that some criticized as going too far.

Generally, federal employees have been free to express opinions about policies and legislative activity at work as long as they do not advocate voting for or against particular candidates in partisan elections. But in a guidance document distributed on Wednesday, the independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act, a law that bars federal employees from taking part in partisan political campaigns at work or in an official capacity, warned that making or displaying statements at work about impeaching or resisting Mr. Trump is likely to amount to illegal political activity.

[Read the new Hatch Act guidance.]

The guidance was issued by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act, including by investigating complaints of improper political activity and recommending discipline — like a reprimand or firing — for violators. The agency also enforces the Hatch Act against state and local government officials whose salaries come from federal grants.

(The agency, led by Henry Kerner, is not related to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department to investigate whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during its interference in the 2016 election.)

The reasoning behind the guidance centers on the fact that Mr. Trump is already running for re-election in 2020. It contends that arguments about his policies or impeachment prospects are effectively statements in support or opposition to his campaign.

“We understand that the ‘resistance’ and ‘#resist’ originally gained prominence shortly after President Trump’s election in 2016 and generally related to efforts to oppose administration policies,” the guidance said. “However, ‘resistance,’ ‘#resist’ and similar terms have become inextricably linked with the electoral success (or failure) of the president.”

And while impeachment is primarily about removing a president from office, the agency said that because a removed president would also apparently become disqualified from holding federal office in the future, supporting or opposing Mr. Trump’s impeachment amounts to taking a stand on his potential re-election. [MORE]