President Donald Trump barreled through yet another norm when he campaigned against Joe Biden on foreign soil, using Kim Jong Un as his wingman.
That would be yet another legitimate reason for removing Trump from office, if he weren’t exempt under what’s known as the Hatch Act, barring public servants from political activity. If, for instance, an aide had written that broadside, the aide would be subject to removal. That’s how serious the Hatch Act—officially An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities—is.
Or was until Housing and Urban Development honcho Lynne Patton blew off violations of it with a profane tweet of her own.
This takes an exceptionally brazen Trump lackey. The White House aides put forth by the stable genius to vouch that he was calm and collected when he stormed out of a planned meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on infrastructure after three minutes at least looked like they were making a hostage tape.
Serial Hatch violator Patton, on the other hand, is a government official who sees defending political appointees like her boss and the ultimate one, the president, as part of her job—and then goes after critics who call her out for doing that in a fury. She once falsely accused CNN’s Anderson Cooper of fake-standing in chest-high water in a hurricane for sport, and when she was exposed for it responded with a photoshopped picture of a shark next to Cooper, suggesting he might be eaten by it.
Most recently, after her boss and HUD Secretary Ben Carson embarrassed himself by initially confusing REO, a real-estate industry term used to describe foreclosed property whose sale hurts consumers, with Oreo, the cookie, Patton took to Twitter—to rip liberals.
Patton, the regional administrator charged with overseeing public housing in New York and New Jersey, has also continued attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio since he joined the presidential field: “You know what else has GONE TO SHIT under the watch of the @NYCMayor? The largest public housing authority in the Western Hemisphere.”
She ended a Facebook post responding to an article about her Hatch Law violations with “P.S. Since when do Democrats care about the law anyway?” and a shrugging woman emoji.
She’s got lots to shrug about. Once you scrub her background of its padding —her résumé has cited Quinnipiac University School of Law, which she attended briefly, and Yale, which she didn’t attend at all—Patton’s experience for her $200,000 job administering America’s largest public housing projects consists of serving as the wedding planner for son No. 2’s nuptials and then aide to the family.
You may remember Patton for her cameo appearance at the congressional hearings where former Trump fixer Michael Cohen accused him of being a racist. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) brought in Patton to stand behind Republicans on the dais, a mute public servant serving as a political prop. (The Washington Post reported just after the hearing that Patton has asked for permission to star in a reality TV show while continuing to serve at HUD.)
Like Trump, Patton’s a tweet hound whose tweets wouldn’t matter if it weren’t for her government job. Patton is in California and on vacation right now, which we know because she’s tweeting political screeds from there along with offering a defense of her on-the-clock tweets that boils down to “so what,” “Democrats did it too,” and “what are you going to be do about it?”
It’s not a laughing matter. Patton knows her efforts might be a Hatch Act violation, or maybe not. “Either way, “ she wrote, “I honestly don’t care anymore.”
That’s the way to go. Just get it all out. Not caring is the redoubt of 6-year-olds who take their ball and go home when they don’t get their way. It’s hard to hear Patton’s response without thinking of the first lady’s designer jacket: “I don’t really care, do you?” But here’s there’s no possible irony to hide behind.
HUD was the perfect place to stash Patton. The fact that Patton’s boss Ben Carson is totally unqualified for his job takes attention away from the fact that she is, too. At least she hasn’t bought a $31,000 dining room table for her office, that we know of.
Patton is a loose cannon. She’s mocked the allegations of sexual assault leveled at then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and attacked another critic, journalist April Ryan, as “Miss Piggy” before deleting that tweet and apologizing for it (and later deleting her tweet apologizing, too).
But this administration is a herd of cats, a collection of loose cannons. Patton is just unique in no longer bothering to deny it as she breaks the law.
Trump’s administration is crowded with aides like her, who emulate the boss for whom brazenness is a signature characteristic. It worked in the Mueller probe. If he’s colluding in plain sight—“Russia, if you’re listening”—there’s no collusion; if he’s firing James Comey out loud for the Russia probe, then he isn’t obstructing justice because anyone else would do that secretly.
That so many rules are violated shouldn’t inure us to the enormity of the violations. There will be more this week so we forget last week’s. But the stain doesn’t go away.