Spicer’s Statements Against Federal Employees Could Violate Whistleblower Protection Act

WASHINGTON – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to investigate potentially threatening statements made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer against federal government employees who question President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration.

In a letter to Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, Tom Devine, legal director at GAP, and Ambassador (ret.) Norman Eisen, chairman of the board at CREW, argue Spicer may have violated the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) by commenting on State Department employees who disagreed with Trump’s immigration order through legitimate channels of dissent. By suggesting Trump’s executive order on immigration could pose substantial and specific dangers to the health and safety of Americans living abroad, and cut off billions of dollars of revenue that refugees contribute to the U.S. economy annually, the dissenters were expressing reasonable evidence of gross mismanagement and waste, which is protected under the WPA.

During the January 30, 2017 White House press briefing, Spicer stated: “These career bureaucrats have a problem with it? They should either get with the program or they can go. The President has a very clear vision. He’s been clear on it since the campaign, he’s been clear on it since taking office — that he’s going to put the country first.  If somebody has a problem with that agenda, that does call into question whether or not they should continue in that post.”

Federal employees who become unsure of whether they will be retaliated against for voicing legitimate concerns through legal means may be inclined to instead find other channels to vent their frustrations. As GAP Legal Director Tom Devine noted:

“The administration is playing with fire by driving employees away from dissent channels. If they can’t safely blow the whistle through internal channels, they’ll turn to anonymous media leaks and the White House will lose control.”

As a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norman Eisen had a deep understanding of high-level operations within the State Department and appreciation for maintaining channels of dissent. Eisen stated:

“As a member myself of the State Department family, I know how important dissenting voices are to making good policy. I am troubled by anything that tends to suppress independent voices within government. I and all of us here at CREW look forward to OSC review of this matter.”

Contact: Andrew Harman, GAP Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 156
Email: [email protected]

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

CREW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization composed of a small but nimble group of lawyers, researchers, and communicators. Together we not only highlight the negative impact of money in politics, but take direct action to ensure accountability for those who abuse the political system and to change that system for the better.