Psaki spooked by Hatch Act, will no longer comment on Virginia governor's race
White House press secretary Jen Psaki will no longer comment on the tightening Virginia governor's race after a bipartisan watchdog group filed an ethics complaint accusing her of violating the Hatch Act.
"I've learned my lesson. I'm not going to do any politics from here or political analysis," she told reporters at Tuesday's White House press briefing when asked if President Joe Biden is "surprised" by how close the race is. "I can confirm that the president is going to Arlington later this evening and that that is my hometown as well, and, of course, the vice president as well. But beyond the scheduling details, I will leave political analysis to my friends over at the DNC."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint against Psaki on Oct. 15 after she said in a press briefing that the White House is "going to do everything we can to help former Gov. McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing."
"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," CREW President Noah Bookbinder said of the Hatch Act violation. "The Biden administration should not follow the Trump administration down that path."
He added that "after the ethics disaster of the Trump administration, there is extra pressure on the Biden administration to be above board."
"It is important to have a concerted effort to comply with important laws, rather than to give repeated passes, in order to restore the American people’s faith in government," Bookbinder said. "We hope the Biden administration will give renewed attention to staying on the right side of this law."
"Trump press officials showed a disdain for the Hatch Act, making a mockery of it while they were in office. CREW filed Hatch Act complaints against many of them, including press secretaries Kayleigh McEnany and Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputies Raj Shah and Hogan Gidley," CREW added in a statement. "Psaki’s apparent violation is nowhere near as extreme as those of her predecessors. In her Oct. 14 press conference, she first tried to frame her answer on the right side of the line before eventually crossing it. While it is unquestionably a good thing that she was aware of the law, and not completely disregarding it like the Trump administration often did, she still took a step too far."
Biden will campaign for McAuliffe in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday evening, and Vice President Kamala Harris will join the former governor at another campaign stop on Friday. McCauliffe and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin are effectively tied heading into the final week of the campaign.
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