White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is under fire as a liberal watchdog group claims that the president’s public voice may have broken the law.
The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics (CREW), is demanding an investigation into Psaki for allegedly violating the Hatch Act during a press briefing.
Psaki was asked on Thursday about the gubernatorial race in Virginia between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.
“Well, I have to be a little careful about how much political analysis I do from here,” Psaki began before saying that President Biden “of course wants former Gov. McAuliffe to be the future governor of Virginia. There is alignment on a lot of their agenda, whether it is the need to invest in rebuilding our roads, rails, and bridges, or making it easier for women to rejoin the workforce.”
Psaki later added, “But, again, we’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing.”
USA Today reported:
“CREW addressed a letter to the White House Office of Special Counsel requesting an investigation into whether Psaki violated the Hatch Act — a federal law prohibiting executive branch employees from “activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, partisan political candidate, or partisan political group.” …
CREW sent a similar letter to the White House Counsel earlier this year after Psaki tweeted Biden “clearly opposes any effort to recall Gavin Newsom.””
Psaki attempted to answer for breaking the law, claiming during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that she, “take[s] ethics seriously.”
“So does this president, of course,” Psaki claimed. “As I understand it, if I had said he, instead of we, that would not have been an issue at all. And I will be more careful with my words next time. Words certainly matter.”
CREW’s complaint accuses her of “impermissibly mixing official government business with advocacy for former Governor McAuliffe’s election.”
“[W]hile Ms. Psaki did not explicitly urge voting for Governor McAuliffe, her statements appear to have been aimed at his success in a partisan political election,” the document said.
It also encouraged the Office of Special Counsel to “commence an immediate investigation into the conduct described in this letter and take any appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Psaki.”
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel says the following about the Hatch Act:
“The Hatch Act states that employees “should be encouraged to exercise fully, freely, and without fear of penalty or reprisal . . . their right to participate or to refrain from participating in the political process of the nation.” However, to protect the integrity of the civil service system, the Hatch Act imposes limitations on “political activity” by federal executive branch employees.
“Political activity” is defined as “an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, partisan political candidate, or partisan political group.” 5 C.F.R. § 734.101. With the exception of the President, the Vice President, and members of the uniformed services, federal executive branch employees are subject to the Hatch Act’s terms. 5 U.S.C. § 7322(1). Generally, covered employees may not engage in political activity while on duty. They also may not engage in political activity in a room or building where a federal employee carries out official duties. 5 U.S.C. § 7324(a).
A briefing constitutes “political activity” for Hatch Act purposes if it is intended to convey ways for attendees to participate in or assist a partisan campaign. This type of briefing must take place outside of normal duty hours and away from the federal workplace. This rule applies regardless of whether a party official or federal employee conducts the meeting.”
Author: Thomas Jackson