A senior adviser to President Donald Trump on Saturday urged a primary challenge against a House Freedom Caucus member, prompting charges that he may have violated federal law against using his official position to sway an election campaign.
Dan Scavino Jr., director of social media and senior White House adviser, tweeted that Michigan Rep. Justin Amash is a “big liability” for the state and encouraged a GOP primary opponent to oust him in 2018.
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“.@realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary,” Scavino wrote.
But that tweet, sent from Scavino’s personal Twitter account, immediately landed him in controversy as ethics lawyers called out Scavino for possibly violating the Hatch Act, a Depression-era law that regulates campaigning by government officials.
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) April 1, 2017
“Look at the official photo on this page. Read the Hatch Act and fire this man NOW. Someone call OSC,” Richard Painter, the former ethics attorney in the George W. Bush White House, wrote on Twitter, referring to the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency charged with monitoring and enforcing the law.
White House press officials and Scavino did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump has waged an ongoing battle with leaders and members of the hardline Freedom Caucus following the defeat of the American Health Care Act, the bill backed by Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan that aimed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The president blamed caucus members including North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, and Amash, as well as Democrats, after the bill was pulled as a result of the lack of lawmakers’ support.
Amash responded to Scavino Saturday afternoon, saying: “Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.”
More than an hour later, he tweeted a link to a fundraising site: “Bring it on. I’ll always stand up for liberty, the Constitution & Americans of every background. You can help here: https://causes.anedot.com/justin-amash.”
Amash, a four-term congressman, hit back at Trump this past week after the president criticized the Freedom Caucus.
“It didn’t take long for the swamp to drain @realDonaldTrump. No shame, Mr. President. Almost everyone succumbs to the D.C. Establishment,” Amash tweeted Thursday.
Amash has been a consistent thorn in the side of establishment Republicans, who have tried to oust the 36-year-old lawmaker before, notably when Republican leaders backed businessman Brian Ellis over the incumbent in the 2014 primary. Amash bested Ellis 57 percent to 43 percent.