Donald Trump said repeatedly during his campaign that he wants to gut the Department of Education. What did the Department of Education think about that? An internal memo released to Gizmodo today shows that the federal agency cautioned its employees not to say anything controversial about the election—especially about Donald Trump.
Americans became acutely aware of The Hatch Act in the past month after FBI Director James Comey made a surprise announcement just 11 days out from Election Day. His letter to Congress explained that the FBI was investigating emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer, and it rankled Democrats, especially after it was discovered that they didn’t include anything remotely scandalous. Supporters of Hillary Clinton pointed to a long held tradition that forbids federal employees from trying to influence elections. The Hatch Act of 1939 was the formal law that banned that kind of interference.
An emailed memo, first requested through a Freedom of Information Act request in May, was finally released today. The memo specifically notes that media relations employees at the Department of Education had received “refresher” training on The Hatch Act.
The memo also includes talking points for Department of Education employees who might be asked by members of the media about the election. The talking points include two headers: “Which Democratic candidate do you support” and “What do you think of Donald Trump?”
The first answer to both questions was supposed to be “I’m not here to discuss the candidates or the election...” The talking points then explain that “you should pivot from campaign to priorities,” though it does specify that employees can “set the record straight factually if one of the candidates says something inaccurate.”
The entire memo appears below.
Donald Trump has said again and again that he dislikes the Department of Education and wants to cut funding for the agency.
“We want to bring education local so we’re going to be cutting the Department of Education big league because we’re running our education from Washington DC, which is ridiculous, instead of running it out of Miami or running it out of the different place that we have so many people,” Trump said back in August.
When this newly released memo was originally sent out in May of 2016, Donald Trump was running roughly even with Clinton in the polls and FiveThirtyEight dismissed the idea of secret Trump voters as nonsense:
Indeed, there’s little reason to think that we’re in for a surprise in the general election because of Trump outperforming his polling on Election Day. As Cohn pointed out, the difference in Hillary Clinton’s margin over Trump between live-interview and online polls is fairly small right now at 2.5 percentage points, and that may have more to do with how the horse-race question is asked than the survey mode. This doesn’t mean that Trump won’t greatly outperform his polls or that people won’t be afraid to voice their support for him. But when you look at the evidence from the primary season and the general election survey results so far, I would bet on the polls getting Trump right again.
FiveThirtyEight hedges in there, of course, because the site is filled with pundits dressed up as “just the facts, ma’am” statisticians. But I guess at the end of the day the joke’s on us, the voters. And perhaps on the Department of Education, which will no doubt face drastic cuts under a government controlled by Donald Trump and Republicans in both the House and the Senate.