WASHINGTON -- Friday's announcement by a government watchdog group that it had filed an ethics lawsuit against Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, for comments she made about former Virginia Governor. Terry McAuliffe is a Democrat running to fill his former post.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claimed that Psaki broke the Hatch Act by appearing to endorse McAuliffe at a White House press conference on Thursday. Federal employees are prohibited from participating in politics while they perform their official duties under the Hatch Act.
Psaki responded to a reporter's query about Virginia's Nov. 2-election. He said that "We're going do everything we can help former Gov. McAuliffe and we support the agenda he represents."
Psaki stated immediately that she was going to support McAuliffe's comment. She also said she had to be careful about the amount of political analysis she offers in her official capacity.
Psaki released a statement saying that McAuliffe has been publicly supported by the president. However, the campaign and press will provide commentary. "I take ethics seriously and will be more careful in choosing my words moving forward."
Early voting has begun in Virginia. McAuliffe is facing Republican Glenn Youngkin. Youngkin was a former executive at the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. McAuliffe announced that Jill Biden, the first lady, will be campaigning alongside McAuliffe Friday. McAuliffe also stated that President Joe Biden would be visiting Virginia in the coming days.
The Hatch Act was enforced by the Office of Special Counsel. During Donald Trump's presidency, it was reported that several Trump aides had committed ethics violations. Kellyanne Conway, his senior counselor, was also called upon to fire Conway. Trump refused to take any disciplinary action against Conway and the other workers who have violated the law.
CREW President Noah Bookbinder made a statement regarding the Psaki complaint and noted that the Trump White House had repeatedly violated the Hatch Act.
Bookbinder stated that while (Psaki’s) conduct is not at the Trump administration's level of outrageous offenses, it does not mean that we should ignore the importance of the ethics law. "The Biden administration shouldn't follow the Trump administration on that path."