Jen Psaki declines to comment on exit rumors, says she followed all ethics rules

Following reports that she will soon be leaving the White House for a career in cable news, Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday afternoon and said she had nothing to confirm about her future public service or plans.

Ms Psaki has just returned from home isolation with Covid-19.

When asked by CBS News’ Ed O’Keeffe if she should report that she’s due to land a role on MSNBC as soon as next month, Ms Psaki joked, “Well, you can’t get rid of me just yet, Ed.”

She then continued, “I don’t have to confirm anything about my length of public service or planned service or anything about the consideration of next plans.”

Reaffirming her commitment to focus on her role and answering questions for President Joe Biden, she added, “I hope to meet my own bar of treating everyone fairly and fairly.”

Ms Psaki was further challenged on whether it is ethical for her to hold her current job while negotiating with a media outlet, saying: “Well, I’ve always gone above and beyond the strict ethical and legal requirements.”

She added that she takes this very seriously and has received strict ethics advice under White House rules.

Commenting further on her tenure as press secretary, she said she hoped the entire press corps would judge her for my records and how she treats them in the briefing room and otherwise.

“I’m doing my best and will continue to do so,” added Ms. Psaki.

The press corps wasn’t ready to let go of the issue just yet, and NBC News’ Kristen Welker — possibly a future colleague of Ms Psaki’s if the coverage is accurate — asked how she could be an effective briefer when dealing with the media.

She responded that she had nothing to announce and that when she leaves the White House there will be a time to sleep and spend time with her children, but reiterated her adherence to ethics standards to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

“I understand what you’re saying,” said Ms. Welker. “But … how is it ethical to have these conversations with the media while you continue to have a job behind this podium?”

Ms Psaki said: “There are a strict set of ethical and legal requirements that are imposed on everyone in this administration and in previous administrations about conversations you have with prospective employers… I have complied with these and have tried to take steps to going beyond that too.”

Ms. Welker added, “Broadly speaking, is it the policy of this White House for staff members to have discussions, even if indirectly, with institutions that affect and influence their work and your work here?”

“It is the policy of this White House to ensure that anyone holding discussions about future employment does so in consultation with the White House Office to ensure they are complying with all ethical and legal requirements,” Ms. Psaki said. “These are conversations that I took very seriously and held fast to every component.”

Axios reported Friday morning that Ms Psaki is in talks to join MSNBC and appear on a slew of shows, while also launching her own on the Peacock streaming platform.

She won’t replace Rachel Maddow at 9 p.m. on MSNBC, as has been speculated.

According to Axios’ report, Ms. Psaki was in close consultation with the Office of the White House Counsel about her departure due to ethical and legal regulations on how public servants may seek private sector employment during their tenure.

Ms Psaki is reportedly due to leave in May but the contracts have yet to be signed.

Citing two sources, the report said some senior White House officials are aware of her departure and plans with MSNBC, although no formal announcement has been made internally.

For its part, MSNBC has similarly worked with its compliance attorneys to ensure their conversations did not violate federal regulations.

The Independent contacted MSNBC for comment.

Ms Psaki said in the early months of the Biden administration that “a year from now, it will be about time someone else took that job.” She has now been in the role for almost 15 months.

Speaking with former Obama administration colleague David Axelrod in an interview on his podcast in May 2021, she said it’s a great job and it’s hard to leave, but she wants time with her kids spend.

Ms Psaki may be following a well-worn path of White House officials, including Mr Axelrod, by going to cable news. He moved to CNN, Trump spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany to Fox News, and Bush official Nicole Wallace hosts a two-hour daily show on MSNBC.

Most recently, Symone Sanders, a former advisor and senior spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris, joined MSNBC in January.

Ms Sanders will be hosting a show on Peacock called Symone at 4:00 p.m. on weekends and catch live programs on MSNBC.

As for who might replace Ms Psaki on the White House press room’s famous podium, Deputy Chief Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made the first appearance in her absence due to testing positive for Covid-19, before also testing positive.

Ms. Jean-Pierre would be the first black woman to serve as White House chief press secretary and was already making history as the first black woman to deliver a briefing in decades when she did so last year.

In her absence, three of this week’s briefings were handled by communications director Kate Bedingfield, a veteran of the Biden world. Her briefings act, albeit unintentionally, as her audition for the role.

Following Ms Sanders’ departure last year, there are a handful of others who could possibly serve as plausible successors to Ms Psaki, including the State Department’s Ned Price or even Loud Political Playbooka journalist, or the communications director of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Elizabeth Alexander.

For now, Ms Jean-Pierre and Ms Bedingfield appear to be the top contenders should the position become vacant.

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