Standard Form 86 is a questionnaire the federal government uses for “conducting background investigations, reinvestigations, and continuous evaluations of persons under consideration for, or retention of, national security positions. . . and for individuals requiring eligibility for access to classified information.” If you lie on this form, or omit key pieces of information—such as, say, the time you met with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank, or the time you suggested to the Russian ambassador that a backchannel be set up via his country’s embassy—it’s a big fucking deal, punishable by serious prison time:
On his SF-86, Jared Kushner omitted key meetings with Putin cronies that took place a few months before he signed the thing—which is like Ben Affleck making a list of his ex-girlfriends and leaving off J-Lo. Do you happen to recall what the consequences were for that lie by omission? He got to fix it and submit it again. And again. And one more time after that. The civil servant who oversees background checks said, in shock, “I have never seen that level of mistakes.”
Rep. Ted Lieu, bless his heart, tweeted about this incessantly for months, and eventually made a criminal referral to the DOJ. That was the only consequence for Kushner’s felony. Literally nothing was done. Boy Plunder went on to commit bigger crimes, with graver consequences for the American people—including his decision to greenlight a Blue State Genocide during the early days of the pandemic. Ten months into the Biden Administration, Kushner walks free, and there is little indication that the Justice Department is interested in indicting him for. . . well, take your pick.
Among other things, the Hatch Act of 1939, An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities—named, incidentally, for Carl Hatch, a Senator from New Mexico, and not Orrin Hatch of Utah—prohibits federal civil service employees from engaging in overt political activity. Kellyanne Conway, in her capacity as Counselor to the President, violated the Hatch Act so many times that Trump’s own Office of Special Counsel wrote a damning report about her illicit activities:
Ms. Conway’s disregard for the restrictions the Hatch Act places on executive branch employees is unacceptable. If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her position. . . As a highly visible member of the [Trump] Administration, Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that the need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law.
When Conway got wind of this, she responded with maximum snark: “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” The jail sentence, needless to say, has yet to begin, and never will. The OSC wrote that report in 2019. Conway remained at her job for a year and a half after that, almost until the bitter end. The supine Beltway press covers her like she isn’t a recidivist, like this never happened.
One federal employee who didn’t get the message that she need not abide by the Hatch Acts restrictions was the West liaison for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her name was Allison Gill. She lived in San Diego, where the offices of the West liaison were, logically, located. In November of 2017, soon after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, Gill began a podcast, Mueller, She Wrote, that covered the news of the day, especially as it pertained to the Mueller investigation and Trump/Russia in general.
That podcast was about politics, but it was not political, per se; Gill was opposed to Trump because he was a criminal, not because he was a Republican (back then, it was not yet obvious that these were synonyms). Even so, she took great pains to avoid violating the Hatch Act—she used a pseudonym (AG), she never revealed what her actual job was, she didn’t work on it during business hours, and so on. She even hired an attorney to make sure she wasn’t running afoul of the Hatch Act.
So it came as some surprise when her bosses flew to San Diego to confront her about her hobby. Given that Trump intimates like Kushner and Conway violated the law willy-nilly, brazenly, as if to rub our collective nose in it, Gill being called out for her sideline gig was, and remains, preposterous. In today’s PREVAIL podcast, she recounts the Kafkaesque story of her self-important supervisor refusing to allow her to call her lawyer, making her open her laptop and type in “muellershewrote.com,” and carefully studying her response like he was running a Voight-Kampff test on a suspected replicant. In our discussion, she takes care not to say anything bad about this guy, but he is pretty clearly a sniveling worm, sent by a bully’s corrupt administration to harass an innocent woman. Shame on him.
After this encounter, Gill was informed that her job was being relocated. The West liaison for Veteran’s Affairs—that is, the office that handles the Western half of the United States—would now be located in the great Western city of Washington, D.C. Not able to relocate, she had no choice but to leave. Later, she discovered that this petty tactic—getting an employee to quit by moving her job somewhere else—was the brainchild of the sycophantic Smithers to Trump’s corpulent Mr. Burns, Mick Mulvaney. Gill has made his surname a verb: “I got Mulvaneyed!”
Happily, Allison Gill landed on her feet. Her MSW Media podcast network—which, full disclosure, hosts my PREVAIL podcast—is a success, buoyed by its two flagship programs, Mueller, She Wrote and The Daily Beans. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs lost an excellent employee. And for what? So Trump and his strongman acolytes could bully a woman who dared speak truth to power.
Needless to say, there is a double standard at work here. Republicans in general, and Trump cronies in particular, are for all intents and purposes above the law. Worse, our government and our media are perfectly fine with this. We coddle insurrectionists, normalize obstructionists, provide platforms to toxic buffoons, countenance dark money and foreign influence on our politicians and elections, give a free pass to the mob money launderer who violated the sanctity of our Oval Office, let his cronies and henchmen blow off subpoenas, and get pissy when anyone on Twitter demands that Merrick Garland show some fucking urgency.
Our democracy is at its breaking point. The Justice Department can help save it, by issuing indictments. Charge Conway with Hatch Act violations. Charge Kushner with lying on his SF-86. Charge Trump with obstruction of justice, as painstakingly blueprinted in the Mueller Report. Charge Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Donald Trump. Jr. for their role in the insurrection. Challenge the corrupt pardons to Flynn, Stone, Manafort, and Bannon. To quote Trump’s own OSC, their “actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law.” Mulvaney them all to ADX Florence.
She’s the host of “Mueller, She Wrote” and “The Daily Beans,” two of the country’s most popular political podcasts. But who is AG? Allison Gill talks to Greg Olear about her origin story: growing up in Ohio and Arizona, studying nuclear submarine propulsion in the U.S. Navy, slinging drinks while doing stand-up and playing in a band, and working for the Department of Veterans Affairs until being “Mulvaneyed” by the Former Guy. Plus: an offshore that’s stateside.
Follow Allison on Twitter:
Mueller, She Wrote:
Photo credit: Still shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark.