White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday claimed President Biden’s administration is the most ethical “in history” — despite jobs flowing to relatives of senior aides and potential conflicts of interest involving first son Hunter Biden’s shady new art career.
Obama administration ethics chief Walter Shaub last week tore into Biden for distributing official jobs to the wives, children and siblings of his senior aides. Shaub on Monday also slammed a high-dollar art auction from Hunter Biden — who hopes to fetch up to $500,000 for his paintings from buyers who will be kept confidential — as “shameful and grifty.” The first son also co-owns an investment fund with Chinese state-owned entities that he “intends to resign from.”
“Let me say first that we have the highest ethical standards of any administration in history, a number of ethics officials have conveyed that and we’re proud of that,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.
“We have also staffed up at an unprecedented pace, and that — and this is the most diverse administration in American history,” she added. “So we certainly expect that everyone will abide by those high ethics standards. That applies and how we operate. It also applies and how hiring is done.”
Shaub, director of the US Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017, unloaded on what he called “illegal” nepotism in a Friday Twitter thread. He said that it “royally sucks” and is “a real ‘f— you’” to ethical governance.
He said the “White House’s defense that they had the minimum qualifications is total BS.”
Shaub, a frequent critic of former President Donald Trump, on Monday told Fox News that he’s also outraged at the pending Hunter Biden art show.
“Just as hotel charges and real estate purchases created a risk of unknown parties funneling money to the Trump family for potentially unsavory purposes, Hunter Biden’s grotesquely inflated art prices create a similar risk of influence-seekers funneling money to the Biden family,” Shaub said.
“The notion of a president’s son capitalizing on that relationship by selling art at obviously inflated prices and keeping the public in the dark about who’s funneling money to him has a shameful and grifty feel to it,” Shaub told the outlet.
Many of Biden’s closest aides, who followed him into the White House after working for him when he was a senator and vice president, have had family members score government gigs.
JJ Ricchetti, son of White House counselor Steve Ricchetti and a 2020 college grad, recently got a job at the Treasury Department. Ricchetti’s daughter, Shannon Ricchetti, also in her 20s, works for the White House social secretary. The elder Ricchetti’s brother runs a DC consulting firm, also drawing ethics concerns.
White House deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed, another longtime Biden aide, has a daughter, Julia Reed, who works in the West Wing as Biden’s scheduler.
Most executive branch appointments are reviewed by the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, which is led by Cathy Russell, whose daughter Sarah Donilon, a 2019 college grad, works at the White House National Security Council. A White House official anonymously told the Washington Post that Russell does not influence NSC hiring. Russell’s brother-in-law Mike Donilon is a senior adviser to Biden and is widely regarded as a powerful influence on the president.
Psaki’s sister, Stephanie Psaki, works at the Department of Health and Human Services as a senior adviser.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain’s wife, Monica Medina, is nominated to be assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and science, which requires Senate confirmation.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s wife, Meggie Goodlander, is a counsel to Attorney General Merrick Garland. His brother, Tom Sullivan, works at the State Department. Sullivan’s sister-in-law, Rose Sullivan, works at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s wife, Evan Ryan, is Biden’s White House cabinet secretary, the chief liaison with executive branch departments and agencies.
Democrats routinely criticized Trump for appointing his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be unpaid White House advisers.