Oversight Agency Says White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Another Top Official Violated Federal Law By Using ‘MAGA’ References

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A government watchdog group publicly claimed that White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and another top official violated the Hatch Act by using a popular phrase known to be affiliated with ex-president Donald Trump and the GOP.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency, said Jean-Pierre and Andrew Bates, deputy press secretary, used the word “MAGA “in official communications” on June 2023, which is considered off-limits. The document, dated Oct. 19, was initially reported by NBC News.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 14: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on June 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre held a daily news briefing to answer questions from members of the press. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

MAGA, or “Make America Great Again,” became mainstream during Trump’s bid for office in 2016. The Republican nomination frontrunner continues to amplify this phrase using his current presidential campaign. The Hatch Act bars federal employees from using “their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” the letter says.

The report notes that the agency sent out an advisory warning to Jean-Pierre about using the term during news conferences before the 2022 midterm election. However, she used it again, and reportedly, so did Bates when he wrote “MAGA tax welfare” in a memo this past June.

The OSC said it will continue to keep an eye on the situation, but the two officials will not face any consequences.

“We have no evidence that either Ms. Jean‐Pierre or Mr. Bates has used MAGA in an official capacity since June 14,” the letter stated. “Therefore, because we have reason to believe that White House officials are abiding by OSC’s warnings and advisory opinion, we are not pursuing disciplinary action at this time and are closing these matters.”

Axios reported that a former Trump aide, Michael Chamberlain, was behind the Hatch Act complaint against Jean-Pierre and Bates. In a statement on Friday, Chamberlain, who also is the director of another watchdog group, Protect the Public Trust, slammed the OSC’s decision.

“Specifically, the cowed response to the blatant defiance of the White House’s most public-facing personnel indicates that the OSC may believe certain officials are above the law,” Chamberlain said.

As Politico previously reported in 2021, over a dozen officials from Trump’s administration were found to have violated the Hatch Act, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and ex-counselor Kellyanne Conway, who spoke about now-Vice President Kamala Harris in Fox News interviews.