A watchdog group is demanding the White House, Department of Justice, and Office of Government Ethics probe whether Jen Psaki violated ethical obligations upon being courted to work for MSNBC after her current stint as White House press secretary.
It was reported in April that Psaki plans to leave her role this May for a network television job at MSNBC. The report cited two sources familiar with the matter who are aware of the press secretary telling this to senior White House officials. Psaki also reportedly was in talks with other outlets, such as CNN.
“Concerns about conflicts of interest when seeking new employment are not new, and the federal government has strict laws and regulations governing how employees conduct themselves,” Protect the Public’s Trust, a watchdog organization run by retired and former public servants, wrote in a letter sent Monday to the government. “Under federal law, it is a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison to willfully participate in any ‘particular matter’ in which an organization an employee is negotiating or has an arrangement regarding future employment has a financial interest.”
In their letter, the group references a podcast appearance Psaki made on April 14. The press secretary was asked about Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocy, and responded, “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****.”
The letter was first reported by the Washington Examiner Tuesday morning.
The status of Fox News as a competitor to MSNBC and CNN complicates matters, according to the group, since Psaki has sought “non-federal employment” at both of the left-leaning networks. “Accordingly, Ms. Psaki’s statements regarding Fox News may be regarded as the use of her official positions for the private gain of Fox News’ competitors, such as MSNBC, with whom she is affiliated in her nongovernmental capacity,” the letter states.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, told The Daily Wire that high-ranking senior officials promise to uphold ethics and transparency and then consistently turn around and “act in a manner that undermines confidence in government integrity.” He seeks the government to investigate Psaki so Americans can be assured there are no clear ethics problems.
“All we can hope is that as we shine a light on this behavior that is destructive to the already-low trust in government, federal investigators take it seriously and assure the public that no one is above the law,” Chamberlain said.
The letter sent by Chamberlain’s group further says that Psaki and other senior officials have an “affirmative duty” to tell their supervising ethics official once they start negotiations for a future job. Negotiating and non-federal employment seeking are subject to recusal requirements, the letter says, and there “have been no obvious steps to implement any recusals or mitigate any conflicts of interest.”