Peter Navarro (right) at the White House with Wilbur Ross and President Trump. Image from White House video

President Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro knowingly and willfully violated federal law by attacking then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden while serving in his official capacity, a federal watchdog said Monday.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel drew that conclusion in a 13-page report to Trump, but left it up the president to determine what it called “appropriate disciplinary action” against the one-time San Diego politician.

Navarro ran unsuccessfully for mayor, City Council and Congress five times between 1992 and 2001 while living in San Diego and teaching economics at UC Irvine. He ran as a Democrat in most the races.

After his last unsuccessful City Council bid in San Diego, Navarro moved to Laguna Beach and continued to teach at UC Irvine, where the one-time real estate economist became known for his strident anti-China positions. That ultimately brought him to the attention of the Trump administration, where Navarro led the trade war against China.

The Hatch Act of 1939 limits the political activities of federal employees except the president and vice president.

“OSC’s investigation determined that Dr. Navarro violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using his official authority or influence to affect an election by engaging in political activity during official media appearances and on his official Twitter account,” the agency said.

From May 26 through Oct. 19, Navarro lambasted Biden, who won the Nov. 3 presidential election, and his running mate Kamala Harris, during at least six media interviews in which he appeared in his official capacity, the report said.

“Dr. Navarro often attacked Mr. Biden about his relationship with China and at times accused him of being ‘compromised’ and susceptible to being ‘bought’ by China, even nicknaming him ‘Beijing Biden,’” it said.

The Office of Special Counsel said Navarro chose not to respond to the report. It said he continued to engage in the behavior despite being trained on the Hatch Act, and even after OSC launched its investigation.

The White House had no immediate comment.

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.