“We, as a department, are under heightened scrutiny during the presidential election cycle,” the email read. “It is important that we, DHS employees, are familiar with the policies surrounding partisan political activity to make sure we comply with them.”
The email further listed the employees who are subject to “greater restrictions by law,” including “political appointees in the Department” who are “prohibited from actively participating in partisan related political activities at any time and must seek the Office of the Secretary’s approval to passively attend partisan political events.”
The existence of the email was first disclosed on Twitter by Washington Post opinion columnist Catherine Rampell.
“DHS employee emails on the Hatch Act are sent out frequently during every election season,” Homeland Security spokesperson Alexei Woltornist said in a statement to POLITICO. “The one you reference was posted on the DHS internal website early Tuesday morning. Acting Secretary Wolf appeared at an official White House event and the video of that event was made public.”
Several Trump administration officials, including Wolf, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, have faced criticism for delivering speeches or otherwise appearing at the RNC, roles critics have claimed violate the Hatch Act.
Conway in particular has repeatedly run afoul of the Hatch Act, the federal office in charge of monitoring it found last year. That agency, the Office of Special Counsel, recommended that she be removed from the federal workforce.
The White House has largely ignored those concerns.
“Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday. “They expect that Donald Trump is going to promote Republican values and they would expect that Barack Obama, when he was in office, that he would do the same for Democrats. So listen, this is a lot of hoopla that’s being made about things, mainly because the convention has been so unbelievably successful.”
In response to Democrats’ questions about the use of the White House to host political events, the Hatch Act Unit at the Office of Special Counsel said in a letter on Aug. 12 that while the Act does not apply to the president and therefore would not prohibit him from delivering his RNC acceptance speech on White House grounds, there could be implications for White House employees who participate, “depending on their level of involvement with the event and their position in the White House.”