Ethics watchdog group: Is Psaki misusing her position to benefit her future employer?

Ethics watchdog group: Is Psaki misusing her position to benefit her future employer?
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Today Protect the Public’s Trust sent a letter to Dana A. Remus, Counsel to the President; Emery A. Rounds, III, Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics; and Corey Amundson, Chief, Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. The watchdog group is requesting an investigation and transparency around the ethics of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s employment negotiations. Is she misusing her position to help her future employer, MSNBC?

It’s a legitimate question, given that Psaki remains on her job as the spokesperson for the president while pursuing her next job, which happens to be in the media. She has either already signed a contract with MSNBC or is about to sign on the dotted line according to recent reports, yet she continues to interact with reporters from NBC and MSNBC in her current position. Is this ethical? It may be but it sure looks wrong.

I say it may be ethical, technically speaking, because Psaki claims she has not formally signed a contract with MSNBC. Apparently the story is that she has a verbal agreement with the network for the time being. Yet, I wrote about Jens’s next move a couple of times recently because there are conflicts that have arisen and she is doing little to show why she should still be employed by this White House. NBC journalists aren’t happy with the network’s decision to bring her on and give her a show to be streamed on Peacock. Such an easy revolving door will tarnish the network’s brand, they say. I know. Self-awareness isn’t a thing with D.C. reporters. And she recently was interviewed for a podcast conducted by four Obama bros who encouraged her to slam Fox News Channel’s White House correspondent, Peter Doocy. Classless.

Enter Protect the Public’s Trust. They are doing what the press corps should be doing – asking for some transparency from Psaki. After all, it is this administration, from Biden to Psaki, who have pledged to conduct the most ethical and transparent administration ever. That should have been a red flag to anyone reporting on this White House. Between the reputation of Biden, Inc. and the level of arrogance and snark coming from Psaki on the daily to the press corps, at least to the likes of Doocy, it should be obvious that this White House has contempt for the press and reporters in general. Biden rarely is “allowed” by his handlers to hold press conferences with the White House press corps and when he does he is prone to chuckle at what he perceives as stupid questions and scold reporters.

Jen justifies her continued employment at the White House by saying she upholds the strictest of ethical requirements in her pursuit of future employment. Where’s the evidence of that statement? Her new employer will pay her millions of dollars as she cashes in on her political connections and access to those in the highest positions in the government. She will be the first White House press secretary to make a direct leap from the White House to network news. Sure, others have done it, most obviously George Stephanopoulos, but most wait a bit before doing so. There is at least the appearance of a waiting period before going for the opportunities of personal enrichment. Jen’s eliminating that step and crassly going for it.

Protect the Public’s Trust released a press release today and a copy of the letter sent to the appropriate officials.

Despite the reporting and recusal requirements federal employees must comply with while in negotiations for outside employment as well as her own statements regarding those obligations, Ms. Psaki does not appear to have altered her behavior with respect to either her prospective employer or its competitors. She has continued to brief reporters from the White House podium, including fielding inquiries from the organizations reportedly in a bidding war for her services.

In addition, her comments on an April 14, 2022, recording of Pod Save America disparaging Fox News, a competitor of her reported prospective employer, could constitute a misuse of her official position. During the podcast, Ms. Psaki was introduced by her title of White House Press Secretary and answered questions relating to President Biden and other aspects of her official duties. When asked about Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy, she declared, “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***h.”

These actions could create a potential conflict of interest or the perception of a possible conflict of interest in the eyes of the American public. In keeping with the administration’s promises, expressed by Ms. Psaki in her role as White House Press Secretary, to be both the most ethical and most transparent in history, PPT requests an investigation into whether Ms. Psaki misused her position and created the appearance of an impermissible conflict of interest as well as for the release of records relating to Ms. Psaki’s recusals and negotiations for future non-federal employment.

As Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, points out, this is a prime opportunity for Psaki to begin to restore some of the public’s trust in government.

“Jen Psaki on multiple occasions has touted the Biden Administration’s commitment to not just meet the minimum requirements with respect to ethics and transparency but to exceed the achievements of every one of its predecessors,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, stated. “Her pursuit of outside employment presents the perfect opportunity for her and the administration to demonstrate that commitment and take a step toward restoring the American public’s trust in its government. They don’t appear to be off to a great start in that regard but complying with our requests would represent a move in the right direction.”

Jen Psaki should resign, effective immediately. It sets a lousy precedent to make such a money grab while still employed at the White House. She was introduced using her official title on the Pod Save America podcast and then proceeded to call Peter Doocy a “stupid son of a bitch” and accuse FNC of feeding questions to their reporters. The liberal outlets have not been attacked by Psaki on such a personal level. Clearly, she didn’t want to offend any of them and limit what she could be offered for her next move. She wants to remain in the club.

She should go. Let’s see how far this request for some transparency and an investigation goes.

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