POLITICS

Secretary Castro violated federal law by praising Clinton during interview, report finds

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13:  U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julian Castro testifies during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee July 13, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on "HUD Accountability."  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julian Castro testifies during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee July 13, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on "HUD Accountability." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  (2016 Getty Images)

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party and a potential running mate for the 2016 ticket, may have had his luster dimmed over the findings by a federal investigation that he violated a law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official capacity.

‎The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, announced on Monday that Castro violated the Hatch Act during an interview with Yahoo News' Katie Couric in which he spoke favorably of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

"Secretary Castro's statements during the interview impermissibly mixed ‎his personal political views with official agency business,” the OSC report stated, “despite his efforts to clarify that some answers were being given in his personal capacity."

"Secretary Castro violated the Hatch's prohibition," it concluded.

The comments at issue were Castro's laudatory remarks about Clinton during an interview for the news website earlier this year.

"Now, taking off my HUD hat for a second and speaking individually," Castro told Couric, "it is very clear that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced, thoughtful and prepared candidate for president that we have this year."

The interview took place in a HUD studio, with an emblem of the agency behind him.

The OSC report also cited emails between Yahoo's producers and HUD's public affairs officers that showed the government press agreeing to the producers' request that Castro talk about "the upcoming 2016 election."

In a reply to the agency, Secretary Castro admitted he made a mistake.

"Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. When an‎ error is made - even an inadvertent one - the error should be acknowledged. Although it was not my intent, I made one here," he wrote.

The six-page report also referenced Castro's comments that he believed that presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump was not prepared to be president because he did not understand what leadership, or being president is about, or the basic functions of government.

Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, is on Clinton’s vice presidential short list and even met with her at her Washington, D.C. home last week.

Republican National Committee spokesperson Michael Short told Fox News Latino that the incident is serious enough to have Castro removed from the VP short list.

“With Secretary Castro admitting he broke the law by endorsing Crooked Hillary Clinton, it begs the question: Is she still considering him for VP?” Short said in a statement to FNL.

The punitive action to Castro's violation of the Hatch Act will likely be minor. Typically, the OSC sends its report to the president and he decides whether disciplinary action is appropriate.

Hatch Act cases are rare among cabinet members, according to a former federal judge consulted by Fox News Latino.

In 2012, then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also faced a Hatch Violation.

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Serafin Gomez is a White House Producer for FOX News Channel, who also covered the 2016 election as a Special Events & Politics producer and former special campaign correspondent for Fox News Latino. Fin formerly worked as the Miami Bureau Producer for Fox News Channel where he covered Florida Politics & Latin America. Follow him on Twitter: @Finnygo