The Office of Special Counsel found Karine Jean-Pierre in violation of the Hatch Act
US President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, violated a law prohibiting government employees from engaging in partisan politics and has received a warning letter from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), a nonprofit that filed a complaint against her revealed on Tuesday.
Protect the Public’s Trust, run by former Trump administration official Michael Chamberlain, had objected to Jean-Pierre’s use of the phrase “mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law,” ahead of the 2022 midterms. In doing so, they claimed she violated the Hatch Act by using her official authority “for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”
While the OSC investigation found that Jean-Pierre’s use of “mega MAGA” had indeed violated the Hatch Act, “we have decided not to pursue disciplinary action and have instead issued Ms. Jean‐Pierre a warning letter,” the agency’s Hatch Act chief Ana Galindo-Marrone said in a letter to Chamberlain, dated June 7.
“OSC concluded that the timing, frequency, and content of Ms. Jean‐Pierre’s references to ‘MAGA Republicans’ established that she made those references to generate opposition to Republican candidates,” Galindo-Marrone wrote. “Accordingly, making the references constituted political activity.”
Jean-Pierre defended herself at the White House press briefing on Tuesday by saying the letter was “retroactive” and applied to “something that I said months ago.”
“So, what I can say is at the time, I was given the sign off – right – to use the terminology,” she told reporters. Biden’s adviser Anita Dunn confirmed to CNN that the White House came up with “mega MAGA” as a political attack on Republicans. MAGA stands for “Make America Great Again,” the slogan of president Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits federal employees from engaging in certain partisan activities, to ensure that the US government operates in nonpartisan fashion. In theory, officials found in violation could face a fine, reprimand, suspension, or even be fired and barred from government employment for a period of no more than five years. In practice, most officials found to be in violation are issued warning letters.
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