In a letter to the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Justice on Tuesday, a watchdog group demanded a probe into White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s apparent conflict of interest.
Early in April, reports surfaced that the press secretary planned to leave her present role and host a show on MSNBC’s Peacock streaming platform in the coming weeks. Protect the Public’s Trust, a group of retired and former government employees, said her discussions with MSNBC from the podium raise major conflict of interest concerns.
Conflicts of interest are not new concerns when looking for new work, and the federal government has rigorous laws and regulations limiting how employees behave themselves. Willfully participating in any matter in which a company in which an employee is negotiating or has an arrangement for future employment has a financial interest is a criminal violation punishable by five years in jail, according to the letter.
NEW: Jen Psaki's use of her official position to disparage Fox News, the competitor of her prospective future employer MSNBC, warrants an investigation by the Office of Government Ethics and the Department of Justice, a watchdog group said Tuesday.https://t.co/JXKT25JEy1— Andrew Kerr (@AndrewKerrNC) April 19, 2022
“Ms. Psaki’s statements regarding Fox News appear to be a misuse of her official position that calls for further investigation,” the letter continued. “Fox News is a direct competitor of MSNBC and CNN, two companies with whom Ms. Psaki is or has been reportedly negotiating for future employment. 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.”
According to sources who spoke to Puck News in March, the press secretary and her agent, Jay Sures, had private meals with CNN and MSNBC executives, who, along with NBC and CBS News, had expressed interest in potentially hiring her.
According to the letter, once a government official, such as Psaki, begins negotiating future employment with a non-government organization, she must tell a supervising ethics authority. They are also barred from using their existing government position for personal advantage, according to the legislation.
During an April 1 press briefing, CBS News White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe and Weekend Today co-chief White House correspondent Kristen Welker both grilled Psaki on the ethical requirements of negotiating with a news network from the podium. She stated that she takes ethics very seriously and that she had spoken with White House lawyers about it.