Jun 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Government watchdog: Jean-Pierre violated Hatch Act with "MAGA" remarks

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a press briefing at the White House on June 6. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre violated the Hatch Act when she referred to "mega MAGA Republican officials who don't believe in the rule of law" ahead of November's midterm elections, a government watchdog agency found.

Of note: The Office of Special Counsel issued a warning letter against Jean‐Pierre, but did not pursue any disciplinary action against her for the violation of the Hatch Act — which restricts government employees from engaging in partisan political activities, per a letter first obtained by NBC News on Monday.

Details: "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,” said Ana Galindo‐Marrone, who leads the OSC's Hatch Act Unit, in the letter, dated June 7.

  • "The White House Counsel’s Office did not at the time believe that Ms. Jean‐Pierre’s remarks were prohibited by the Hatch Act, and it is unclear whether OSC’s contrary analysis regarding the use of ‘MAGA Republicans’ was ever conveyed to Ms. Jean‐Pierre."

What they're saying: White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement to news outlets that Biden administration officials were reviewing the OSC's opinion.

  • "As has been made clear throughout the administration, we take the law seriously and uphold the Hatch Act," Bates added.

The big picture: Jean-Pierre has referred to the Hatch Act on multiple occasions during press briefings as a reason why she can't answer reporters' questions on certain subjects.

  • President Biden had in the leadup to the 2022 midterms publicly criticized "MAGA Republican" supporters of former President Trump, along with Trump and his "Make America Great Again" movement, but the Hatch Act doesn't apply to presidents.
  • Last year, after then-White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was found to have violated the Hatch Act by retweeting a political message on his government Twitter account, Jean-Pierre said "we are not perfect, but our violations have been few."

Zoom out: More than a dozen former Trump administration officials were found to have violated the Hatch Act, including trade adviser Peter Navarro.

Read the Office of Special Counsel's letter, obtained by the Washington Post, via DocumentCloud:

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