Karine Jean-Pierre, who took over as White House press secretary last month, was granted an ethics authorization in order to work with CNN in the briefing room because her partner works for the news network, it can be revealed.
Jean-Pierre, 44, who replaced Jen Psaki after serving as her deputy, is the partner of CNN’s national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, 55, and the pair have a seven-year-old daughter, Soleil.
That relationship raised questions about whether she could be impartial in a role that includes calling on journalists during the daily briefing and appearing on television.
The Code of Federal Regulations requires employees to seek authorization in cases where their work might impact on the finances of a member of their household and where a reasonable person might ‘question [their] impartiality in the matter.’
As a result, Jean-Pierre asked for authorization which was granted in a May 16 memo.
White House counsel Dana Remus wrote that CNN had already stated that Malveaux would not be covering Capitol Hill or the White House.
‘Additionally, while Ms. Malveaux receives a salary from CNN, she has no equity or ownership interests,’ she wrote in the document which was published almost unnoticed by the White House.
‘As such, the performance of your duties will have no direct or predictable effect on the value of her financial interests.
‘In light of these circumstances, the government’s interest in allowing you to communicate with CNN about matters of public interest outweighs any concerns about the integrity of the White House’s programs and operations being called into question.
‘Moreover, without this authorization, your ability to perform your duties for the government on matters of public concern might be hampered.’
Jean-Pierre is the first black woman and first openly gay person to be appointed press secretary.
Her appointment was hailed as trailblazing but it also sparked warnings of a possible conflict of interest.
CNN has already had to weather the firing of Chris Cuomo in December over his role in brother Andrew Cuomo’s sex harassment scandal and then two months later dumped network president Jeff Zucker over his secret romance with CNN co-worker Allison Gollust.
But Jean-Pierre is not alone in her close relationship with a journalist.
Jay Carney, Barack Obama’s press secretary, was married to ABC News journalist Claire Shipman, for example.
Michael Chamberlain, director of ethics watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust, and who warned of a potential conflict, said the White House only acted after the issue was raised publicly.
‘It appears that, as a result of outside pressure, the White House recognized that Karine Jean-Pierre engaging with her partner’s employer created a situation in which the American public could question her impartiality,’ he said.
‘This situation is emblematic of the administration once again falling far short of its promises to be the most ethical and most transparent in history.
‘It seems that only from the weight of negative publicity did they respond in the first place and, even then, they were far from transparent about the existence of the waiver.’
A White House official told DailyMail.com that the memo was posted on the White House website on May 16, the same day that Jean-Pierre started her new role.
Malveaux has worked for CNN since 2002 as a correspondent and as a host, including spells covering the White House and anchoring The Situation Room.
After Jean-Pierre was promoted, a CNN spokesman said Malveaux would no longer be covering politics.
‘Suzanne Malveaux will continue in her role as CNN national correspondent covering national/international news and cultural events but will not cover politics, Capitol Hill, or the White House while Karine Jean-Pierre is serving as White House press secretary,’ Matt Dornic told the Washington Examiner.