Continuing to show their undying fealty to the altar of Dr. Tony Fauci, the White House press corps refused to ask Press Secretary Jen Psaki a single question during Wednesday’s briefing about the bombshell trove of emails from the NIH official from the early moments of the pandemic.
It was on the mind of at least one reporter in the room as our friend Amber Athey of The Spectator had planned to ask about them, but she wasn’t granted a question during 42-minute briefing.
Instead, we saw plenty of far-left cheerleading, but also got important exchanges on Biden’s Tuesday attack against Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and the alleged Russian hack of the meatpacking company JBS.
The AP’s Alexandra Jaffe led off the Q&A portion and worked in a Manchin/Sinema question that gently informed Psaki that President Biden’s claim about their voting records was false. If this were something President Trump said, it’s doubtful the Press Secretary would be treated with kid gloves and allowed to wiggle out by offering up a complete dodge (click “expand”):
JAFFE: And on the President's comments yesterday, he seemed to call out Manchin and Sinema for, he said, voting more from with Republicans and Democrats, but, ProPublica actually found that they’ve so far but voted with Biden 100 percent of the time on major votes. And so can you explain where those comments came from, and why he felt the need to call out members of his own party?
PSAKI: Well, I would say first that if Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema were standing with me here today, they're always welcome. They would call out their own independent streaks and that's something that I think they're both proud of. They both vote for and represent the people in the states that — and all the people who elected them to represent them in the Senate. If you look at what the Senate — what the President said, the big tell here is, “I hear all the folks on TV saying.” Now, as a former TV pundit myself, I can tell you that sometimes these conversations can be oversimplified. TV isn't always made for complex conversations about policy making. We all know that, right?
JAFFE: Well, he did seem to suggest that he is in favor of filibuster reform and wants to see that move, so why hasn't he didn't more prominent in calling for that? And is he pressuring Manchin and Sinema to move on that issue privately?
PSAKI: I wouldn't say that — that his comments yesterday were conveying a new position on his view on the filibuster. His full comment was —
JAFFE: Well, what did he mean by saying that Manchin and Sinema are standing in the way of his agenda, essentially? What was he referencing?
PSAKI: That’s not exactly what he said. I think it's important to quote him directly.
To her credit, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins would later follow up and ask if his claim about Manchin and Sinema voting like Republicans was meant to be a “criticism.” Unfortunately, Psaki evaded that as well and insisted Biden wasn’t criticizing them at all and “considers them both friends.”
Speaking of softballs, there plenty of them on the coronavirus, the filibuster, immigration, and student loans.
Univision’s Janet Rodriguez closed the briefing and used one of her questions to inquire about White House plans to ensure illegal immigrants detained at the southern border are vaccinated.
So, yes, there was a question about vaccinating non-citizens who’ve broken our laws and nothing about e-mails showing the nation’s most well-known public health official didn’t exactly know what he was doing.
Along with questions from the left about student loans from CBS’s Nancy Cordes and The Washington Post’s Tyler Pager, the Los Angeles Times’s Eli Stokols lobbied Psaki to have Biden kill the Senate filibuster since there weren’t 60 votes for a January 6 commission and likely won’t on the For the People Act (click “expand”):
I wanted to just — given what you said that his position hasn't changed on the filibuster.I just want to go back to the vote last week in the Senate on the January 6 commission, the fact that there were 54 yes votes. 35 no votes. The bill failed. This is an insurrection that the President's called an unprecedented assault. I’m just curious if that math makes sense to this president and — and if that outcome would be acceptable, should it repeat later this month when the Senate takes up voting rights?
But it seems like it requires only one more Democratic vote than currently exists for that and that vote happens to be a person who the president did seem to single out yesterday, so you're saying that he didn't change his position on the filibuster? And yet, you know, he's saying things you mean his passion for voting rights was evident yesterday when he spoke saying, “we must find the courage” — and I’m quoting him — “to change the things we know we can change.” So. I just want to be very sure that you're saying that should that outcome repeat itself later this month, if the Senate takes up voting rights more than 50 lawmakers vote for a bill, but if the bill does not advance to his desk, is that's something he's going to be okay — okay living with?
To be fair, others brought their game on the issue of Russian cyber attacks against key pieces of our infrastructure with the meat supply taking the latest hit following one against a major gasoline pipeline.
NBC’s Peter Alexander pressed Psaki on what Biden will do to ensure that the Vladimir Putin-led country stops these attacks, but all Psaki would do is reiterate that Biden will voice his displeasure with the Russian leader when they meet later this month.
Similarly, Reuter’s Nandita Bose tried to ask about whether Russian groups or individuals will face punishment (e.g. sanctions), but Psaki reemphasized this supposed tough rhetoric that sure worked in 2014 during the Obama administration. (It didn’t.)
Fox News’s Peter Doocy took up Alexander’s line of question: “Why do you think that these ransomware attacks have been rising since President Biden took office?”
Psaki refused to answer and instead blamed the companies themselves for coincidentally getting hacked within a short time period and not listening to federal guidelines.
Doocy also brought up concerns about “a shortage of workers” in numerous sectors of the economy and the role that increased unemployment benefits could play in discouraging work, but Psaki chose to blame a continued need for workers to feel safe and increase child care facilities.
To see the relevant transcript from June 2’s briefing, click here.