Left-leaning watchdog files complaint alleging Jen Psaki violated federal law — but she seemingly dismisses it

A left-leaning government watchdog has filed an ethics complaint against White House press secretary Jen Psaki alleging she violated federal law when she seemingly endorsed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.

What did Psaki say?

During Thursday’s White House press briefing, Psaki appeared to say the White House was actively working to help McAuliffe’s campaign, and said Biden wants McAuliffe to win the Virginia gubernatorial election.

“[W]e’re going to do everything we can to help former Gov. McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing,” Psaki said.

Earlier in the briefing, Psaki admitted, “Look, I think the president, of course, wants former Gov. McAuliffe to be the future governor of Virginia.”

What did the ethics complaint say?

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning government watchdog, filed an ethics complaint with the Office of Special Counsel alleging that Psaki violated the Hatch Act.

“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,” the ethics complaint reads.

The Hatch Act is a federal law that, according to the OSC, prohibits, in part, federal executive branch employees from “using their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity” and engaging in political activities, such as “activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”

CREW president Noah Bookbinder commented Psaki’s apparent violation of the Hatch Act by slamming former President Donald Trump.

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. The Biden administration should not follow the Trump administration down that path.

How did Psaki respond?

Speaking with CNN host Jake Tapper, Psaki dismissed her apparent violation of federal law, only saying she would strive to do better “next time.”

“I take ethics seriously. So does this president, of course,” Psaki said. “And I’ll be more careful with my words next time. Words certainly matter.”