Federal investigators found that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the Hatch Act when he tweeted out a picture of himself wearing socks with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, according to a December letter made public on Thursday.
The Hatch Act forbids most federal employees from using their position to promote partisan politics.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel wrote in a December letter that Zinke broke the law when he posted the picture of his socks from his government account and wore them to a government event.
“Secretary Zinke engaged in political activity when he wore the above-referenced socks,” Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the Hatch Act Unit at the Office of Special Counsel, wrote in a Dec. 20 letter to the watchdog group Campaign for Accountability. The letter was first obtained by The Washington Post.
“Because Secretary Zinke wore these socks to an official event and also authorized their display on his official Twitter account, he violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using his official position to influence an election.”
The former secretary did not face repercussions since he deleted the tweet shortly after learning it could have violated the Hatch Act.
“We do not believe that his violation was willful,” Galindo-Marrone wrote.
Punishments for a Hatch Act violation, which are generally decided by the president, could include a $1,000 civil penalty, a reduction in grade or removal from office.
Zinke received a warning letter on Dec. 20, according to the Post, but it came after he submitted his resignation letter but before he officially left his office. He was in the midst of several ethics probes when he resigned.
Several other Trump administration officials including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah and deputy director of communications Jessica Ditto have received warning letters for promoting pro-Trump political messages.
“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway said last month after she was scrutinized over comments she made about former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”