President Donald Trump provided Indiana rally-goers with a rare treat when he invited invited White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway on stage.
The crowd at Monday’s rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana to support Senate candidate Mike Braun went wild when the president introduced the women.
“I have two other great women with me. You’ve never heard of them,” Trump said, “They’re very shy and retiring, they want to keep it that way.”
Sanders, who does not typically attend the president’s campaign rallies, was welcomed with roars of approval.
“Thank you Indiana. You’ll have to forgive Kellyanne and I, we’re maybe a little speechless. We’re not used to friendly crowds,” she said.
Though critics were quick to bring up federal law banning taxpayer-funded employees from campaigning in their official government capacities, Sanders deftly avoided using her White House title or mentioning the name of the Indiana Republican candidate.
“A lot of people know me in my official capacity, and it’s one of the greatest honors of my life to serve in your administration, and one of the most important jobs I’ll ever have,” Sanders said. “But the greatest job I’ll ever have, and the greatest title I’ll ever have, is that of a mom. And that’s why I work for this president, because I care about my kids’ future, and I care about the future of this country.”
Conway also avoided using her official title, noting she was appearing in a “personal capacity” as she took to the microphone.
“Let me just say in my personal capacity, because this election is very personal to me, Joe must go,” Conway said, attacking Braun’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Joe Donnelly. “Get him out.”
The crowd followed her lead with a raucous chant of “Joe’s Gotta Go!”
— Mike Braun (@braun4indiana) November 5, 2018
“If you think your vote doesn’t count, if you think it doesn’t matter to have a small majority in the US Senate, you did not live through the Brett Kavanaugh hearings,” Conway continued.
The crowd loved the appearance by the women who joined the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka Trump joins President Trump at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio.
“This president, my father, promised that he would fight to give you all a voice … and he is fighting hard. I see it every single day, and the fight is paying off” https://t.co/AfEIFrfeM5 pic.twitter.com/oVMGq0WgLy
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 5, 2018
Within hours, a watchdog group and critics were raising concerns about the women possibly violating the federal law known as the Hatch Act.
“This event raises serious questions about their compliance with the Hatch Act, not the least because of the fact that the remarks were delivered in front of the Presidential seal. We will be taking a closer look at this rally and the Office of Special Counsel’s precedents,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told DailyMail.com.
Former head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, tweeted that he was being asked about the possibility of an ethics violation.
Lots of folks are tagging me in tweets asking if WH staff can speak at campaign rallies. The answer is yes. What they can’t do is use their govt titles (e.g., “Assistant to the President” or “Press Secretary”). Feel free to let @CREWcrew, @NormEisen or me know if that happens.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) November 6, 2018
Shaub noted what officials are allowed to do, explaining that expressing political views at a campaign event is allowed.
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