White House staff leaked threats to fire the head of a Trump dark money group for talking to Michael Wolff. It is illegal for the White House to be in charge of that group at all.
Michael Wolffs explosive book, Fire and Fury, which details the private doubts and criticisms of Donald Trump by his own White House officials, is sending the administration into a panic.
Trump officials who had previously threatened to sue to stop publication of the book, only for the publisher to move up the release date are desperately trying to stamp out the media firestorm.
And in the process, they accidentally confessed to a blatant violation of federal law.
Axios reports that the White House is debating whether to fire Katie Walsh, the former White House deputy chief of staff.
But Walsh doesn’t work for the White House. She works for America First Policies, which as Josh Israel of ThinkProgress points out, is a 501(c)(4) dark money group.
It is illegal for Trump or anyone in his administration to be directly managing this organization in the first place.
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) January 4, 2018
The entire line of reasoning behind the Supreme Courts reviled Citizens United decision was that if an outside group is supporting a candidate, regardless of the amount of money spent, it is not really campaign activity, but political speech, and therefore cannot be restricted. But the corollary to that logic is it has to really be an outside group, not something in the control of politicians.
In practice, that is an almost impossible firewall to enforce, and politicians illegally coordinate with dark money groups on a regular basis. Indeed, Republicans around the country have dismantled laws that police these violations. But it is rare for such an arrangement to be as blatantly advertised as Trumps White House just did.
Trump officials seem to have no legal recognition of when campaign activity is permissible, as evidenced by the litany of Hatch Act violations.
If the administration wants to silence talk of the inability of Trump and his team to govern properly, this reckless and incompetent damage control is doing exactly the reverse.