White House press secretary violated ethics law by promoting former governor Virginia McAuliffe

Through Aamer Madhani, Associated Press

Updated: 5 hours ago Posted: 5 hours ago

WASHINGTON – A government watchdog said on Friday it had filed an ethics complaint against White House press secretary Jen Psaki for a comment she made about former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat running for office in his old post.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Psaki violated the Hatch Act when she appeared to endorse McAuliffe during a White House press briefing Thursday. The Hatch Act prevents federal employees from engaging in political work while performing their official duties.

In response to a question from a reporter about the November 2 election in Virginia, Psaki said, “We will do all we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the program he represents.”

Immediately before making the comment in favor of McAuliffe, Psaki said she had to “be careful about the amount of political analysis” she offered in her official capacity.

After CREW filed its complaint, Psaki said in an interview with CNN on Friday that she should have used the word “he” instead of “we” in response to the question.

“Although the president has publicly expressed his support for McAuliffe, we will leave it to the press and the campaign to comment on the race,” Psaki said in a statement. “I take ethics very seriously and will choose my words more carefully in the future. “

Early voting is underway in Virginia, where McAuliffe takes on Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former senior executive at private equity firm Carlyle Group. First Lady Jill Biden is campaigning with McAuliffe on Friday, and McAuliffe has said President Joe Biden is due to surrender in the coming days.

During Donald Trump’s presidency, the Office of Special Counsel, which is responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act, formally flagged several Trump aides for ethics violations and called on the president to fire his senior adviser Kellyanne Conway for having repeatedly ignored the rules. It is up to the president to determine any appropriate disciplinary action for workers who break the law, and Trump has refused to take action against Conway or others.

In a statement regarding Psaki’s complaint, CREW Chairman Noah Bookbinder noted the flagrant and repeated violations of the Hatch Act by the Trump White House.

“While (Psaki’s) conduct is nowhere near the level of the Trump administration’s outrageous breaches, that does not mean that we should be negligent in complying with an important ethics law,” said Bookbinder. “The Biden administration should not follow the Trump administration down this path.”

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Robert Valdivia

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