U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro looks to be off the hook with the White House after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Castro violated federal law.
At issue is the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that prohibits some of the political activities of federal employees, and an April interview with Katie Couric during which Castro answered questions from the journalist of a political nature. The problem, according to the Office of Special Counsel, is that Castro gave the interview in his "official capacity" as a Cabinet member.
"I saw the statement from Secretary Castro, who acknowledged the inadvertent error," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, when asked if a punishment was in store. "And he indicated that he would participate in some additional training and get an additional briefing to make sure that when he’s doing interviews in the future that he understands what the Hatch Act requires."
"I think to his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made," Earnest added. "He owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again. I think that’s the expectation that people have when you make a mistake, particularly in a situation like this."
The episode proved embarrassing and untimely for the former San Antonio mayor.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the final stages of choosing her running mate. Castro is on the shortlist, but sources close to the Clinton inner circle say he is unlikely to be her choice.
The vice presidential attention magnified the negative publicity around the flare-up.
"Look, I’m going to leave it to both candidates," Earnest said, when asked if violating federal law is grounds for disqualification from a presidential ticket.
"Obviously, one candidate has already decided about who he believes should serve with him on the ticket," he added. "And so as it relates to the decision that Secretary Clinton still has to make about who should be added to her ticket, she’s getting plenty of advice from people, and I’ll let her make that decision."