Henry Kerner is the Special Counsel at the US Office of Special Counsel, a government watchdog agency.
Kerner has served in the position since October 2017, when he was confirmed by the Senate. He was nominated by President Donald Trump in May 2017.
He also worked as the staff director under Ranking Member Sen. John McCain on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
In June 2019, Kerner became the first Special Counsel to recommend that a White House official be fired when he recommended that longtime Trump aide Kellyanne Conway be removed from her position for repeated violations of the Hatch Act, a law that bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official capacity.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kerner is the First Special Counsel to Recommend a White House Official Be Fired
Kerner submitted a report to President Trump on June 13 recommending that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway be fired for violating the Hatch Act multiple times.
A spokesperson for the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) told ABC News it was the first time that the office had recommended a White House official be terminated.
Kerner’s recommendation came after the office found that Conway violated the Hatch Act multiple times by disparaging Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign in television interviews. The office similarly found that she violated the Hatch Act multiple times when she advocated against Democrat Doug Jones during his 2017 Alabama special election race against Roy Moore.
Kerner wrote that Conway’s “disregard for the restrictions of the Hatch Act … is unacceptable.”
“If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position,” he wrote. “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”
“OSC respectfully requests that Ms. Conway be held to the same standards as all other federal employees, and, as such, you find the removal from federal service to be appropriate disciplinary action,” he concluded.
The recommendation came after Conway scoffed at questions about her Hatch Act violations.
“Blah, blah, blah,” she said when a reporter asked her about the OSC’s findings. “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
2. Kerner Was Appointed by President Trump
The White House announced Trump’s nomination of Kerner to head the OSC in May of 2017.
A White House press release touted him as a longtime prosecutor who went on to work for top Congressional Republicans on key investigative committees.
Kerner was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote in October 2017.
3. Kerner Worked For Republicans on Top Congressional Investigative Committees
In 2011, Kerner joined the staff of the House Oversight Committee under then-Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, according to his Federalist Society bio.
He later served in the same position under then-Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah.
According to his resume, Kerner was the co-lead investigator of Fast and Furious.
Kerner also worked as the Staff Director to then-Ranking Member John McCain on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
“He led investigations of the Federal bureaucracy and fought on behalf of whistleblowers to protect American taxpayers,” the White House said.
While working for McCain, Kerner drew the ire of conservatives after it was revealed he urged the IRS to investigate conservative 501(c)4 groups, nonprofit organizations that are tax exempt, The Washington Times reported.
4. Kerner Worked at Pro-Whistleblower Group Cause of Action
Kerner left Capitol Hill in 2016.
Prior to his appointment by Trump, Kerner served as the Vice President of Cause of Action.
The White House described the group as a “nonpartisan oversight group committed to exposing waste, fraud and abuse in the Federal Government and which has worked with whistleblower and good government groups throughout the country.”
He left the group when he was appointed by Trump.
5. Kerner Spent Two Decades as a California Prosecutor
Kerner received his law degree at Harvard Law School and spent 18 years as a career prosecutor in California.
According to his resume, he also studied history at UCLA.
He served in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office from 1993 to 2011.
Kerner began his career on the Hardcore Gang Division before moving to the Compton branch office and later heading the department’s Juvenile Justice office.