The memo, which went out last Tuesday, read that it was “illegal for them to participate in such discussions at work.”
Federal employees have always been allowed to express opinions about politics, as long as they did not advocate voting for or against specific candidates in partisan elections. But because Trump is already running for reelection in 2020, the memo contents “Advocating for a candidate to be impeached, and thus potentially disqualified from holding federal office, is clearly directed at the failure of that candidate’s campaign for federal office.”
Perhaps more worryingly is that the memo tells workers they are not allowed to use the terms “resistance” or “resist,” since they are intrinsically calling for impeachment and are in 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,” read the memo. “However, ‘resistance,’ ‘#resist’ and similar terms have become inextricably linked with the electoral success (or failure) of the president.”
The Times reports that this is the first time in history such a memo has been sent out, and legal specialists are concerned that “it would intimidate people into avoiding even casual discussions with colleagues that should not be deemed banned by the statute.”
“If they are going to go after anyone who mentions the word ‘impeachment’ in emails to co-workers, that will be overreach,” said the assistant general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees union.
Obama-era White House lawyer Daniel Jacobson argued: “People who use the term ‘resist’ could be expressing views about any number of matters, and the presumption that they are specifically advocating for the defeat of a candidate in 2020 strikes me as crazy and raises significant First Amendment concerns.”
And Kathleen Clark, law professor at Washington University said that “This goes beyond past guidance about what partisan political activity is, and is more restrictive of speech of federal employees than past guidance that I’ve been able to find.”
“I think their legal analysis is wrong in this attempt to outlaw all discussion of impeachment of Trump in the federal workplace.”
Maybe, just a thought, but maybe we’d stop comparing this administration to Nazis if they stopped acting so Nazi-ish. pic.twitter.com/kHWvp0liMt
— The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt) November 30, 2018
As one of those federal employees who knows full well the details of the Hatch Act, and agrees with it, this new added detail is so out of line with being a federal employee that it’s outright unconstitutional. Basically they’re saying that we should respect the dictator.
— JonRoss (@NativeNYer4ever) November 30, 2018
Federal employees were told that it may be illegal for them to talk at the office about impeaching or resisting Trump, citing the Hatch Act’s prohibition of partisan political campaign activity while on the job. Authoritarianism at work, literally. https://t.co/OT3xu4xl08
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) November 30, 2018
There's a big difference between a public employee working for a candidate or political party — activity the Hatch Act is intended to prohibit — and expressing opinions about vital issues of the day. We hope @US_OSC reconsiders and rescinds this restrictive language. https://t.co/1YI6Hbt7vY
— Sunlight Foundation (@SunFoundation) November 30, 2018
As a US Army Officer, I write this tweet in direct violation of the updated Hatch Act and the Uniform Military Code of Justice:
Trump is a threat to our nation and global democratic ideals. I #RESIST.
JAIL ME NOW, ASSHOLES.
— Elizabethberry (@Elizabe20184507) November 30, 2018
THIS IS ILLEGAL. I’m aware of a case where creepy Trumper allowed to keep a “Hillary” nutcracker. Federal employees do not sacrifice their free speech as public servants – EVER. #ImpeachTrump https://t.co/bwuQKdA4GV
— ASquared (@kokoswatching) November 30, 2018
Wow the USA is fast becoming a fascist state? https://t.co/tjPwc9umNv
— OnTheRoad2NoWhere (@NoTolls1) November 30, 2018