Kayleigh McEnany accused of hypocrisy for complaining about Psaki backing candidates: ‘Sit this one out’

The dispute concerns the Hatch Act, a New Deal-era law which bars federal workers from engaging in political activity

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Friday 15 October 2021 23:32
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Kayleigh McEnany takes swipe at successor Jen Psaki

Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House Press Secretary whose boss’s tenure was marked by frequent violations of laws banning government employees from engaging in political campaigning, drew scorn from ethics experts, journalists, and even her former boss’s relatives on Thursday for a dig at a supposed ethics violation by her successor.

Ms McEnany poked the proverbial bear late on Thursday when she took to Twitter to ask why current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was not under scrutiny for what she claimed was a violation of the Hatch Act committed during her daily press briefing.

Sharing a video of Ms Psaki telling reporters that President Biden and his administration would “do everything we can” to help Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, Ms McEnany asked: “Why does the media not hold [Psaki] accountable for potential Hatch Act violations?”

The Hatch Act is a New Deal-era law which prohibits federal workers from engaging in political activity on behalf of a candidate in the course of their employment.

Once an obscure piece of legislation of interest only to ethics lawyers and the federal employees who undergo mandatory training on its tenets, the Hatch Act gained unheard of attention during the Trump administration for the sheer number of times senior officials flouted it.

One such official, former Counsellor to the President Kellyanne Conway, racked up over 50 violations in less than one year, according to a report from the Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency tasked with enforcing the law.

In June 2019, OSC took the unprecedented step of recommending that Ms Conway be fired for repeated violations, calling her disregard for the law “egregious, notorious, and ongoing”.

According to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, at least 13 Trump administration officials were found by OSC to have violated the Hatch Act. Crew also found that 16 Trump officials racked up more than 60 violations, calling the Trump administration’s October 2020 record “an unprecedented and escalating assault on the rule of law and the democratic process”.

Crew noted that one of those 16 officials was Ms McEnany, who was filmed promoting Mr Trump’s reelection campaign and attacking Mr Biden while on White House grounds in her official capacity.

One ethics expert, former White House Office of Government Ethics boss Walter Shaub, did not mince words in his response to Ms McEnany.

“Your hypocrisy is breathtaking,” he tweeted.

Mr Trump’s niece Mary Trump, who is currently suing her uncle for allegedly defrauding her out of millions of dollars, was even less polite.

“Seriously? F*** off,” she wrote in reply.

Yet another commentator, Bleacher Report columnist Kelly Scarletta, noted that the Trump administration’s Hatch Act violations were so widespread that they included Mr Trump’s decision to hold part of the 2020 Republican National Convention on the White House grounds.

“Remember when you defended Republicans having their convention broadcasted from the White House?” she wrote. “Sit down, hypocrite”.

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