White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has violated a federal law meant to prevent government employees from misusing their office.
As reported by NBC News, she “violated a law intended to prevent federal employees from using their offices to influence elections when she repeatedly referred to ‘mega MAGA Republicans’ in the run-up to the 2022 midterms, a government watchdog agency said.”
The Office of Special Counsel has determined, as revealed in a letter initially disclosed to NBC News, that Jean-Pierre’s use of language when referring to Republican candidates constituted a violation of the Hatch Act.
Because Ms. Jean‐Pierre made the statements while acting in her official capacity, she violated the Hatch Act prohibition against using her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” Ana Galindo‐Marrone, who heads up the agency’s Hatch Act Unit, noted in a letter.
During a White House briefing on November 2, Jean-Pierre reportedly made remarks referring to “mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law” and expressed other disparaging comments about Republican candidates. The allegations were outlined in a Hatch Act complaint lodged against Jean-Pierre by the conservative watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust in November.
The organization described Jean-Pierre’s remarks as “an inappropriate attempt to influence the vote.”
That said, nothing will happen to the press secretary, per NBC News:
Despite having found Jean-Pierre in violation of the law, the Office of Special Counsel “decided to close this matter without further action,” Galindo‐Marrone wrote in last week’s letter to Protect the Public’s Trust, noting that the White House counsel’s office “did not at the time believe that Ms. Jean‐Pierre’s remarks were prohibited.”
“We have decided not to pursue disciplinary action and have instead issued Ms. Jean‐Pierre a warning letter,” Galindo‐Marrone noted.
“[I]t is unclear whether OSC’s contrary analysis regarding the use of ‘MAGA Republicans’ was ever conveyed to Ms. Jean‐Pierre,” she noted further.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a follow-up statement: “As has been made clear throughout the administration, we take the law seriously and uphold the Hatch Act. We are reviewing this opinion.”
In the weeks preceding the 2022 midterm elections, Jean-Pierre frequently invoked the Hatch Act as a reason for declining to answer specific questions from reporters or for providing only limited responses.
Michael Chamberlain, the head of Protect the Public’s Trust and a former Trump administration official, remarked that Jean-Pierre’s violation of the law without facing any consequences highlights why Americans “increasingly distrust” the Biden administration’s ethical assertions, especially after its commitment to maintaining the highest standards.
“This episode illustrates exactly what people hate about Washington, DC and why they increasingly distrust the Biden Administration’s promises to be the most ethical in history,” Chamberlain told NBC News in a statement. “The Hatch Act was a law used to pillory previous administrations, but officials now appear content to sweep it under the rug.”
The Trump administration officials faced criticism for repeatedly violating the law, as highlighted in a November 2021 report from the Office of Special Counsel. The report described their conduct as “especially pernicious” due to remarks made leading up to the 2020 election.
“This failure to impose discipline created the conditions for what appeared to be a taxpayer-funded campaign apparatus within the upper echelons of the executive branch,” the 2021 report said.
On Monday, a Biden administration official contended that Republicans have frequently utilized the acronym “MAGA” for official government purposes that are distinct from campaigning.
The official pointed out that the Trump White House employed the term “Make America Great Again” for official purposes nearly 2,000 times and that congressional Republicans have also incorporated the term “MAGA” into official purposes such as legislation and policy proposals, NBC News added.