The Office of Special Counsel’s report to Donald Trump about Kellyanne Conway was straightforward and emphatic and useless. Conway, the report said, had repeatedly used her office as Counselor to the President for partisan politicking, in clear violation of the Hatch Act. “OSC recommends that she should be removed from federal service,” the office wrote in its accompanying press release.
There was nothing to dispute about the facts. Conway is an open partisan, and always has been one, while collecting a paycheck as an executive-branch official. The Office of Special Counsel has been saying so all along:
Ms. Conway’s persistent, notorious, and deliberate Hatch Act violations have created an unprecedented challenge to this office’s ability to enforce the Act, as we are statutorily charged. She has willfully and openly disregarded the law in full public view.
The president did not fire Conway on receiving the report. Conway did not resign. Everyone knows what she is, and knows that there is a law that plainly says she can’t be what she is. And they also know that the law has exactly as much force as the president has willingness to follow the law—that is, none at all.
One of the most tedious and depressing parts of the argument about impeachment, as the Republicans hold fast to their president and the Democratic leadership stalls and dithers, has been the way people keep asking what impeachable offenses Trump has really committed. It’s a troll question, the very baldness of which makes it seem hard to answer—the president is, if you feel the need to get your bearings, personally collecting money from foreign governments and state governments, through his hotels, for his own enrichment—but here was an actual discrete incident, not just an open-ended festival of corruption and casual misuse of power. There is a law. The president has been informed that his staffer is breaking the law. He will not do anything about it, because he likes having Conway break the law; the illegal thing she does is the thing he sees on television, and it makes him feel good that she does it.
The Hatch Act, like the Emoluments Clause, describes a reality that the president has decided cannot apply to him. This refusal to go along with the law—the report described Conway publicly mocking the idea of being punished for Hatch Act violations—is the defining feature of the presidency. It will not change until someone makes it change, or ends the presidency. The New York Times featured the report as an index entry down at the bottom of today’s front page, right below “Trump Spokeswoman Leaving.” The story itself was on A14.