Wednesday afternoon on The Psaki Show, Fox’s Peter Doocy held the White House press secretary under duress with questions on the Biden administration’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court opinion on abortion, including the President’s claim that Republicans could ban gay students from being in the same classroom as straight students and his phrasing of abortion involving “a child.”
The briefing also featured a softball from a Wall Street Journal reporter demanding Biden speak out more forcefully for abortion, a Washington Post reporter pressing Psaki about the ongoing question of how the U.S. defines victory in Ukraine, and an Agence France-Presse scribe calling out Biden’s rhetoric about “the MAGA crowd.”
As for Doocy Time, he began with the notion that the administration chose to weigh in on the draft by breaking its pattern of not commenting on leaked materials.
Psaki insisted they weren’t because “the Supreme Court confirmed” it and, after Doocy noted it came out before the Court statement, Biden “made clear we don’t know if this is accurate.” In other words, they did stray from past procedure.
Doocy also asked whether the President believes “the leaker should be punished,” but Psaki reiterated an earlier answer to ABC’s Cecilia Vega that it’s “up for the Department of Justice and others to determine.” Psaki added what matters most “is the fact that women’s healthcare is at risk for millions of people across this country.”
The Fox reporter pivoted to one of Biden’s more incendiary comments from Wednesday morning in predicting Republicans could segregate classrooms based on a student’s sexuality. Asking “what is he talking about,” Psaki doubled down by claiming “we don’t know what” Republicans “are capable of” (click “expand”):
DOOCY: The President said today: “What happens if you have states change the law saying that children who are LGBTQ can’t be in classrooms with other children?” What is he talking about?
PSAKI: Well, I think, Peter, we’ve seen extreme laws that target LGBTQ families, their kids across the country and I think what he’s saying is: We don’t know what they’re capable of, given what they’ve already done to date.
DOOCY: Which state is trying to segregate LGBTQ children in the classroom?
PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen laws that are incredibly discriminatory. That’s what the President is referring to and the fact that he doesn’t know what additional steps could be taken by extreme wings of the party that would rather divide rather than work on issues that the American people actually are focused on and actually are impacting them.
Moving to his final line of questioning, Doocy asked: “Why is the President talking about the judgment to choose to abort a child?”
Psaki emphasized it wasn’t a big deal since Biden’s “view on a woman’s right...is well known, well documented, well stated,” which left Doocy to press on the real issue in that “he said ‘abort a child.’”
Doocy closed by calling out the administration’s claims that abortion isn’t political: “[H]ow can you guys say this is not a political issue when the President’s statement about this talked about getting pro-choice officials elected?”
Psaki insisted it’s because “the vast majority of the public believes that this should not...be overturned, meaning I meant to say it’s not a partisan issue, and I don’t think it is.”
A few minutes later, The Wall Street Journal’s Catherine Lucey wanted to know “why isn’t he speaking more directly about how this impacts women, poor women, women of color” and “[h]ow comfortable is he talking about this?”
Cue the eye-roll emojis.
And on Ukraine, The Post’s Cleve Wootson made his own try at a question reporters such as Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann and NBC’s Kristen Welker have tried (and failed) to have Psaki answer (click “expand”):
WOOTSON: Secretary Austin recently said — and I want to get the quote right — “We believe that we can win, they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support.” How does the administration actually define “winning” in Ukraine? And does it mean that every last Russian troop is out?
PSAKI: Well, first, I would say the way that President Putin defined — defined “winning” a war that he started from the beginning was taking over Ukraine, enveloping Ukraine into Russia, taking away their territorial integrity and their sovereignty. Clearly, that has not been successful. You know, he expected and was planning to be marching through the streets of Kyiv, victorious, next Monday. Clearly, that is not what is going to happen. He wanted this to be a moment to divide NATO, to divide the West. Clearly, that is not what is happening. We’ve said we want Ukraine to win. We’re going to do everything we can to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to strengthen the Ukrainians’ hands on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. That’s our role. And they are defending their homeland courageously and bravely from the continued attacks from the Russians. But they’re going to define at the negotiating table, as we’re strengthening their hand, what they consider success on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. And we’re here to support their efforts.
WOOTSON: I just want to follow up to make sure I’m clear. So, if Ukraine is fine with Russia taking over the eastern part of the country, for example, is that what the U.S. would consider a “win”? Is that what —
PSAKI: The Ukrainians are going to define what a successful outcome looks like for them. But what I think is important to note and not lose sight of is how the Russians have defined this. And they have already lost their — by their definition. They have not taken over Ukraine. President Putin is not going to be marching through — down the streets of Kyiv. They will not own the territorial integrity and sovereignty of this country. They have not divided NATO. So now, at this point: Yes, what we’re trying to do is to — is strengthen their hand at the negotiating table, both by supplying weapons on the battlefield, both — and supporting them with whatever needs they have. But it is for them to define through those negotiations.
Towards the back end of the briefing, the AFP’s Sebastian Smith noted that, in attacking “the MAGA crowd,” Biden was smearing “almost half the people who voted in 2020” and therefore could be admitting “there’s no going back now and they’re sort of out of, you know, beyond the pale for him.”
Psaki refused to condemn the smear, saying “far too many of these Republicans” are refusing to “make the lives better of many, many Americans,” though they would continue to find “opportunit[ies]” to work with “Republicans in good faith.”
To see the relevant briefing transcript from May 4, click here.