US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley broke the law — by retweeting President Donald Trump.
That’s according to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which today concluded that Haley violated the Hatch Act, which restricts federal officials (excluding the president and vice president) from engaging in certain political activities to ensure federal resources aren’t used for solely political means.
Here’s what happened: On June 19, Trump took to Twitter to endorse Ralph Norman, a Republican running for Congress in South Carolina, the state where Haley was governor until she joined the president’s Cabinet this year.
Ralph Norman, who is running for Congress in SC's 5th District, will be a fantastic help to me in cutting taxes, and....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2017
Now, under the Hatch Act, the president is allowed to do that sort of thing. Haley, on the other hand, is not. So when she retweeted Trump’s tweet endorsing Norman, people who track these sorts of ethical violations noticed.
Haley quickly deleted the offending tweet, but it was too late. An ethics watchdog group, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had already seen it and subsequently filed an official complaint.
And on Tuesday the OSC agreed that Haley broke the law:
OSC has concluded that Ambassador Haley violated the Hatch Act when she retweeted President Trump’s June 19 message about Ralph Norman on an account that repeatedly invoked her official position as Ambassador to the United Nations.
However, because Haley didn’t continue to engage in political activity on Twitter, she will not receive an official punishment. Instead, she received a warning letter and training on how to avoid such violations again in the future.
This is unlikely to hurt Haley
There is a bit of irony that it is Haley — and not Trump — who gets an official rebuke for using Twitter inappropriately.
However, what’s more important is that Haley is among the frontrunners to take over as secretary of state should Trump fire Rex Tillerson. Haley would go through a confirmation hearing in the Senate, and a senator may bring up this issue.
That said, it’s unlikely this episode would derail Haley’s political ambitions — including running for president someday. And if something like this retweet happens again, law enforcement would consider it “a willful and knowing violation of the law,” which could get her into more trouble down the line.
But for now, Haley gets to keep her job — and her Twitter account.