A Hatch Act complaint has been filed against White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Protect the Public’s Trust filed the complaint Thursday. In question are some comments KJP made as she presided over the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday.
Protect the Public’s Trust requests an investigation of the Hatch Act violation. A letter was written to Henry J. Kerner, U.S. Office of Special Counsel Hatch Act Unit and Stuart F. Delery, Counsel to the President.
Yesterday, November 2, 2022, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (Ms. Jean-Pierre) made comments disparaging President Biden’s political opponents as “mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law,” among other derogatory statements. Ms. Jean-Pierre made these statements during an official press briefing, in her role as Press Secretary, from her podium in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room bearing the White House’s name, standing in front of the White House’s insignia. Her statements were clearly made in her role as an employee of the White House and appear to be political in nature, seeking the defeat of her political opponents in the Republican party in the upcoming general election less than a week away on November 8.
As if to ensure Americans connected the dots, just hours later Ms. Jean-Pierre’s boss issued a prime-time address warning the nation that “democracy is under attack” and “on the ballot,” while attacking “MAGA Republicans.” While the President is not subject to the Hatch Act, Karine Jean-Pierre is and must be held accountable.
Pursuant to your authority under 5 U.S.C. § 1216(a)(1), we request that the Office of Special Counsel promptly investigate Ms. Jean-Pierre’s conduct as a potential Hatch Act violation based on her use of her official position to advocate for the defeat of a political party. We request that you promptly investigate these potential violations and immediately intervene to ensure that the government officials do not abuse their official authority in an attempt to influence the results of the impending 2022 general election.
The request for an investigation includes KJP’s specific comments that are called into question.
[A]s you all know, the President has long talked about our nation being at an inflection point. He has been clear: Democracy is under assault, and we cannot pretend otherwise. The President will continue to call attention to the threat to democratic integrity and to public safety posed by those who deny the documented truth about election results and those who seek to undermine public faith in our system of government. Unfortunately, we have seen mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law. They refuse to accept the results of free and fair elections, and they fan the flames of political violence through what they praise and what they refuse to condemn. It remains important for the President to state strongly and unequivocally that violence has no place in our democracy. He believes other leaders of both parties on both sides have a responsibility to communicate this very clearly as well. [emphasis added]
The president and the vice-president are exempt from the restrictions of the Hatch Act but KJP is definitely not. Federal executive branch employees are prohibited from using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election. KJP was specifically speaking about the upcoming midterm elections and pointing her finger at only one party in reference to political violence. She did so while standing behind the podium in the briefing room. In other words, she knew what she was doing.
Ms. Jean-Pierre indisputably falls under the restrictions of the Hatch Act as an employee of an executive agency other than the President and Vice President. And Ms. Jean-Pierre’s conduct undertaken in her official capacity as the White House Press Secretary is indisputably regulated by the Hatch Act’s prohibitions engaging in political activity while on duty or in a room or building occupied in the discharge of official government duties. Ms. Jean-Pierre has acknowledged as much herself on repeated occasions when informing the media that she is incapable of answering certain questions or is limited in her responses under the Hatch Act. During Ms. Jean-Pierre’s press briefing from October 17, 2022 alone she mentioned the restrictions imposed on her by the Hatch Act seven separate times:7
“So, I have to be careful because I can’t – we do – we do respect the Hatch Act and – our strict limits from here. So, I want to be very, very  careful.”
“So, again, because it’s connected to the – to his election, I want to be really careful of the Hatch Act. It’s something that we do respect and adhere to here.”
“Again, I want to be very careful. There is the Hatch Act. I am restricted on what I can say from the podium and from here.”
“I know. I’m just being very careful. Hatch Act. We respect that here.”
“Again, I’m trying to be very careful here on what I can say. I am restricted at the podium because of the Hatch Act.”
“So, again, just to be very mindful of the Hatch Act, I don’t [interrupted by an interjection from the media].”
Is it just a coincidence that KJP made a mistake in her comments just six days out from the midterm elections? Generally speaking, there are no coincidences in politics. She may pay lip service to respecting the Hatch Act but she said what she said. During the Biden administration, Jen Psaki, and the White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, have been found in violation of the Hatch Act.
Protect the Public’s Trust Director Michael Chamberlain released a statement in a press release.
“In the wake of multiple successful Hatch Act complaints against her colleagues, Karine Jean-Pierre nevertheless took the occasion of a daily briefing to vilify officials of the opposing political party,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “The comments appear to be clearly designed to influence voters in next week’s election. A quick and complete investigation into these statements would be a good first step in helping to restore the American public’s trust in its government.”
Protect the Public’s Trust is a nonpartisan organization that educates the public about potential misconduct to ensure the integrity of public office and that all public servants observe established rules, regulations, and ethical guidelines.