Watchdog group files ethics complaint against Jen Psaki

The Democrat-allied media was quick to highlight alleged ethics violations by members of former President Donald Trump’s team at the White House, but when it comes to his successor, they’ve been suspiciously quiet.

Even CNN was forced to break their silence on the topic on Friday, however, as a government watchdog group filed a formal ethics complaint against White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki accusing her of violating the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act specifically prohibits federal employees from engaging in most partisan political activities. According to the New York Post, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW) said Psaki did just that by stumping for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) during a Thursday press briefing.

“Everything we can”

According to a White House transcript, Psaki was asked Thursday if the race for governor in Virginia was viewed by the White House as a “bellwether” ahead of the next election cycle and what the outcome would signify, given that McAuliffe is running on an agenda remarkably similar to President Biden’s.

“Well, I have to be a little careful about how much political analysis I do from here and not [inaudible] into that too much,” Psaki replied, most likely in reference to the Hatch Act’s prohibitions on partisan politicking from federal employees like the press secretary.

She then suggested that Biden supported McAuliffe due to the “alignment” of their agendas, but downplayed the “off-year” election as any sort of indicator of what 2022 might look like.

That’s when she seemed to go a little too far. “But, again, we’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing,” Psaki said, according to the transcript.

Complaint filed

It was Psaki’s use of the word “we” in promotion of McAuliffe’s candidacy that piqued the interest of CREW, a supposedly non-partisan but undeniably left-leaning group that routinely filed complaints against members of the Trump administration. Still, it filed a formal complaint alleging that Psaki had crossed the line.

“The last administration systematically co-opted the government for the president’s reelection. While this conduct does not come close to rising to the level of the outrageous offenses of the Trump administration, that does not mean we should be casual about compliance with an important ethics law,” Noah Bookbinder, president of CREW, said in a statement. “The Biden administration should not follow the Trump administration down that path.”

In response to the complaint filed against her, Psaki CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday that she takes ethics seriously. “So does this president, of course,” she added, according to the Post. “As I understand it, if I had said ‘he’ instead of ‘we,’ that would not have been an issue at all, and I’ll be more careful with my words next time. Words certainly matter.”

That seemed to be enough to appease CREW, which published a tweet late Friday saying they appreciated “Psaki and the Biden administration reaffirming their commitment to ethics.”

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