A watchdog group has declared that White House press secretary Jen Psaki should be investigated by the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Justice. They say that Psaki used her official position to disparage the news competitor of the agency that will be her future place of employment.
Earlier this month, there were reports that Psaki is going to leave her position in the Biden administration to join MSNBC as a news pundit. That network offered more in a bidding war with CNN. According to federal law, federal officials are supposed to recuse themselves from any matters that would involve a prospective future employer. But Psaki has continued to interact over and over again with MSNBC and CNN reporters during her televised press briefing.
What makes matters even worse is that Psaki used her soapbox to publicly disparage a competitor of MSNBC, Fox News. She did this a few days ago during an appearance on the left-wing podcast Pod Save America.
The White House press secretary said, “He works for a network that provides people with questions that, nothing personal to any individual including Peter Doocy, but might make anyone sound like a stupid son of a b****.”
She was speaking regarding White House reporter Peter Doocy. To “clear” things up, Psaki wrote on Twitter that she was not being critical of Doocy or any reporter at Fox News.
Protect the Public’s Trust, the watchdog group that is calling for an investigation, said that the damage was already done.
“Jen Psaki’s reported efforts to secure a job with a major news organization while she serves as White House press secretary created a gauntlet of ethical obstacles. Despite her statements to the contrary, she appears to be willing to simply plow through without any regard to these additional obligations,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain told the press.
Chamberlain went on to explain that the most recent demeaning of Fox News while acting in her official capacity seems to be a misuse of her position as press secretary. He declared that it would be hard for the American public not to see these actions as a conflict of interest.
Chamberlain’s watchdog group wrote in a letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Emery Rounds and Department of Justice Public Integrity Section Chief Corey Amundson that a probe into the potential conflict of interest by Psaki was warranted. She has kept interacting while having negotiations with both MSNBC and CNN.
The group wrote that an investigation must be done to live up to Psaki’s own stated commitment to transparency as well as to restore the public trust. They were both these federal agencies to look into whether the press secretary violated her ethical duties through her remarks about Fox News or in the way she has conducted herself while negotiating a job outside of the federal government.
Protect the Public Trust is also asking that the White House release all records in connection with Psaki’s job negotiations. They wrote that this was “including, but not limited to, records of any formal recusals, Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) notifications, and records of advice the White House Counsel’s Office has provided to Ms. Psaki to aide compliance during her job search.”
During a White House press briefing on April 1, Psaki said that she has received “rigorous ethics counseling” and she has made recusals because of her future employment negotiations. But she has not given any specifics about those recusals.
According to several ethics experts, Psaki’s move to MSNBC raises serious ethical concerns. Walter Shaub was former President Barack Obama’s ethics chief. He said that it bothered him when this same thing happened in the previous administration, and it bothers him still in the Biden administration. Now Shaub is the senior ethics fellow with the Project on Government Oversight. He is also calling on the White House to release information regarding Psaki’s recusals.
Let’s see if Psaki is really committed to transparency.