by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says the administration’s lawyers are “reviewing” a special counsel finding that she violated federal ethics laws by using the political term “MAGA Republicans” during official press briefings, but argued that she did not engage in prohibited political activity.
Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing on Tuesday she was “given the sign-off to use that terminology” by other White House officials last year—and she didn’t rule out using it again in the future. She added that the White House counsel’s office is “reviewing the opinion” from the watchdog agency, the Office of Special Counsel.
Her defense comes days after the Office of Special Counsel announced that Jean-Pierre violated the Hatch Act by using the White House podium to denounce “mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law” during the midterm elections last year.
The office said Jean-Pierre “made the statements while acting in her official capacity” and “violated the Hatch Act prohibition against using her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” The agency said it would not take action against Jean-Pierre for the violation.
“We did not know their opinion when we were given the green light to actually say the comments that I made,” said Jean-Pierre. “The White House counsel certainly is reviewing the opinion and they will have routine conversation with the OSC as they should.”
Jean-Pierre said White House officials have “used this term many times before, there’s nothing new, the way we use it is in the context of talking about [Republican] policies and talking about their values.” She argued that Republican legislators often use the term “MAGA” to refer to their policies, as opposed to a partisan political context.