Donald Trump can no more remove Kellyanne Conway from his administration than the Louvre could banish the Mona Lisa. She has been a stalwart defender of Trump both during his campaign and presidency. There are few members of the Trump camp that possess her talent for the zinger. While the old fighters like Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski fell by the wayside, Conway has proven the supreme survivor. Even Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump announced on Thursday afternoon on Twitter, is headed back to Arkansas.
The latest kerfuffle surrounding Conway began on Thursday when Henry Kerner, the head of the US Office of Special Counsel, released a letter and document stating that Conway violated the Hatch Act by ‘disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.’ Ooh la la. This charge is unlikely to faze Conway, let alone her boss. On the contrary, it should further raise her stock with Trump.
Trump officials that have already been dinged by the Office of Special Counsel include Nikki Haley, Ryan Zinke and Stephanie Grisham. Most likely, Kerner, not Conway, will soon be searching for a new post outside of government. Maybe Trump will simply abolish the Office of Special Counsel tout court as part of his war against the administrative state. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said that Kerner’s report was ‘based on numerous grave legal, factual, and procedural errors.’
Kerner’s report is in fact based on a fundamental misapprehension. This is not your grandfather’s White House. Disparagement is not incidental to the Trump administration, but its raison d’être. And Conway is one of its most seasoned practitioners. She got into hot water with Kerner for, among other things, referring to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders as ‘two old white straight men career politicians.’ Could North Korea have put it better?
An embattled Trump can hardly afford to lose her. Removing her would be like a great hockey team, in a sudden spasm of virtuousness, depriving itself of its best cheap shot artist. The Office of Special Counsel piously observes, ‘Ms Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.’ Well, yes. But that’s why Trump will never let her go. She is doing what he wants done.
Nor is this all. One of the most entertaining aspects of the Trump presidency has been watching the sheer weirdness of the relationship between Conway and her husband George. A Conway departure from the White House would be bad for both parties. George has profited from the dramatic tension of assailing the White House that his wife toils for so tirelessly. Each appears to loathe what the other loves. Just today George has an op-ed together with Neal Katyl in the Washington Post demanding that Congress begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. Now Kellyanne’s Trump troubles with the law seem tailor-made for an op-ed, or at least a tweet, from George. Will he weigh in on his wife’s current troubles or be MIA?