« Rather evasive »: Karine Jean-Pierre accused of hiding behind an obscure law to avoid difficult questions
« As you know, I’m covered by the Hatch Act » is a phrase many in the White House briefing room are used to hearing from White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre. Indeed, Jean-Pierre has invoked the Hatch Act 33 times at the podium since September.
The Hatch Act, a New Deal-era federal law, prohibits government employees from engaging in political activity or promoting a political campaign — the president and vice president are notably exempt.
Some White House reporters expressed frustration with the press secretary’s frequent use of the Hatch Act, accusing Jean-Pierre of abusing the law to evade tough questions, according to a recent report by Politico. .
Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics counsel in the George W. Bush administration, says questions about the president’s medical records as he faces a re-election decision are legitimate and unrelated with the Hatch Act.
« It sounds like she’s being too broad in her application of Hatch Law. She just doesn’t want to answer a question about the president’s medical records, » Painter said.
In December, Jean-Pierre notably declined to answer questions citing the Hatch Act when asked if President Joe Biden would travel to Georgia during the Senate runoff, if Biden would release the results of his physical exam and whether he or other politicians planned to return to politics. donations from disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
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Ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff in December, Jean-Pierre repeatedly declined to answer questions about whether Biden would travel to the Peach State before Election Day, citing the Hatch Act. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., notably declined to say whether he would campaign with Biden before the second round.
Questions related to the president’s schedule, though related to a political campaign, can also be answered without breaking the law, according to Painter, who called that line of response « somewhat evasive. »
« When you watch the Hatch Act, she can’t use her official position to promote her campaign or to attack an opponent, » Painter said.
Jean-Pierre can certainly provide information on the whereabouts of the president and the general nature of his activities, whether political or not, according to Painter.
A former Trump White House official told Fox News Digital that Jean-Pierre seems to want it both ways, using the Hatch Act to dodge campaign-related questions while making blatant political statements about individuals. » ultra-MAGA » and « extreme MAGA » – terms Biden has started using in the run-up to the 2022 midterms to describe some Republican candidates.
Jean-Pierre’s caution may be based on legitimate concern within the Biden White House. The Office of Special Counsel – which investigates potential Hatch Act violations – charged Jean-Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki, with a Hatch Act violation during an October 2021 press briefing where she appeared to endorse former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in his run for governor.
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« Questions related to campaign issues are not necessarily ‘irrelevant,’ but an employee should consider all of the circumstances of the situation at hand in determining whether answering a question would constitute political activity, » Delaney said. Marsco, senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog group.
« To me, it makes sense that Karine Jean-Pierre would be careful when looking at things that could be construed as political activity, » Marsco told Fox.
As Biden mulls a possible re-election bid, telling reporters he will announce his decision « early next year, » White House reporters will likely learn more about the Hatch Act in the future.
« This White House believes in the rule of law, and we will continue to provide information to members of the media while working within the boundaries of federal law, » White House deputy press secretary Robyn told Fox. Patterson.
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« More generally, in relation to political campaigning and other political activities, we will generally continue to refer you to the DNC and relevant campaigns. If journalists have a problem with the Hatch Act, they have every right to ask their members of Congress to push for the law to change, » Patterson added.