Andrew Kerr, DCNF
A prominent liberal watchdog group filed a Hatch Act complaint against White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday, saying her apparent endorsement of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe during a White House press briefing may have violated federal law.
“By mixing official government business with support of a candidate for partisan political office in the weeks before the election and engaging in political activity while on duty, Ms. Psaki appears to have used her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election, political activity that is prohibited by law,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said in its complaint filed with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
Psaki said during her daily press briefing Thursday that “we’re going to do everything we can to help former governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing.”
The upcoming Virginia gubernatorial election on Nov. 2 is being described as a national bellwether by forecasters. McAuliffe, a Democrat and former governor of the state, is neck and neck with his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, according to recent polls.
The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employees from engaging in political activity in their official capacity, CREW said in a statement Friday.
“By using her official position, authority, and title to advocate for the success of a candidates [sic] in a partisan election, Ms. Psaki appears to have run afoul of the statute,” CREW wrote in its complaint. “OSC should commence an immediate investigation into the conduct described in this letter and take any appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Psaki.”
CREW added that Psaki’s apparent Hatch Act violation is “nowhere near as extreme” as the violations committed by members of the Trump administration. The group said it filed numerous Hatch Act complaints against “an unprecedented number” of Trump administration officials.
Notably, OSC recommended that Kellyanne Conway, a former senior counselor to former President Donald Trump, be fired in May 2019 for violating the Hatch Act.
Psaki’s comments Thursday also drew the ire of former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who questioned on Twitter why the media had no interest in holding Psaki accountable for her potential Hatch Act violations.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
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