WASHINGTON _ President Donald Trump said he won't fire White House adviser Kellyanne Conway following a government watchdog's recommendation she be "removed from federal service" for disparaging Democratic presidential candidates in her official capacity as a senior White House adviser.
"No, I'm not going to fire her," Trump said Friday during a phone interview with Fox News. "She's been loyal."
Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from conducting politics while acting in their capacity as a federal employee, the independent U.S. Office of Special Counsel said in a report released Thursday.
Trump said he was briefed on the report Thursday and he's going to get another "very strong briefing on it."
"I think you're entitled to free speech in this country," Trump told Fox, initiating a defense that would likely resonate with his conservative base.
The agency has no enforcement powers, so it would be up to Trump to discipline her.
The White House immediately blasted the report, saying it was "deeply flawed" and violated Conway's constitutional right to free speech.
It came hours before White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she is leaving the Trump administration after a turbulent tenure marked by attacks on the media, dissemination of false information and the near-disappearance of the daily press briefing.
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