For the second day in a row on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre struggled to offer even cogent spin for the Biden administration on gun control and their months-long delay in responding to the baby formula crisis. Once again, it was Fox’s Peter Doocy and CBS’s Ed O’Keefe that most agitated Jean-Pierre.
Doocy took on the gun issue and pointed out an inconvenient truth about Biden’s schedule: “If the President thinks that Congress must act immediately to end this epidemic of gun violence, is he going to bring the key players from Capitol Hill to the beach with him tonight?”
Jean-Pierre stumbled for an answer, so Doocy kept up the heat: “Isn't that a big part of candidate Biden’s whole thing that he knows how to get things done in Congress?”
When she replied that it is still part of Biden’s shtick as “he’s beaten the gun lobby before,” Doocy countered: “Then why not invite these lawmakers who haven't beaten the gun lobby and say this is how it's done?”
She ignored that, so Doocy tried to slow things down for her by saying he was granting her the premise that Biden “has a lot of legislative experience.”
Despite that, Jean-Pierre responded by trying to throw Doocy off with a quip: “Do you want to go to the beach with the President tonight? Is that what you're trying to tell me?”
Doocy kept after it: “[I]f people are dying every day, then why is the President saying that he wants to give it some space[?]”
He later invoked Chicago’s gun laws:
They already have plenty of very strict gun laws, some of the strictest in the country. 47 people shot there over the Memorial Day weekend, nine of them died, so which law would have prevented any of that? Do we think that all these people in Chicago who are shooting each other are legally buying their guns?
Of course, Jean-Pierre had no answer for them as she resorted to the results of red flag laws in California, Connecticut, Florida, and Indiana.
Doocy wrapped with another stinging question, which was whether this last-minute gun speech was scheduled “to get people talking about something” besides baby formula and inflation.
Jean-Pierre scoffed, arguing it’s because “people have died in the last couple weeks.”
O’Keefe directly followed and inquired whether Jean-Pierre did what she said she would do on Wednesday in ask the President when specifically in April was he told of the baby formula shortage.
When she said Biden speaks for himself, O’Keefe showed agitation on display from Wednesday and explained why the timeline mattered (click “expand”):
O’KEEFE: Well, part of the reason we — I asked it, at least is you talked yesterday about February 17th, and February 18th, and what we are trying to figure out is when exactly in April was he told? Was it April 1? Was it April 30? Was it April 15? Somewhere else?
JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a date to share with you. What I can tell you is he spoke to this yesterday, and he said that it was in April. So, that — that matters.
O’KEEFE: Take it down — take it down a level from him —
JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, yeah, yeah.
O’KEEFE: — into the staff of the White House because part of the reason that there is so much curiosity about this across town is because, as you know, there have been stories written over the last several days and weeks about how things are going here in the West Wing, how things are operating. And so, when we ask who was told, either by the FDA, or the Department of Health and human services, or the USADA, here in the West Wing, who was told first? How did that get from that person eventually to the President? It is completely understandable. There are thousands of things going on across the federal government today.
O’KEEFE: Something else could crop up suddenly as an unforeseen crisis, like this one. And so, we're trying to get a sense of how things operate here inside the West Wing and how they eventually rise to the level of presidential involvement that then lead to things like evoking the Defense Protection Act five — four, five months after the initial flags were raised.
JEAN-PIERRE: So, Ed, the President briefs through his regular channels As he is briefed on countless priorities that the President of the United States has to deal with. There are countless issues, countless priorities that I talk about here all the time, every day, about different priorities that we have to deal with, whether it's the economy, whether it's COVID, whether it's climate change, whether it's foreign policy issues that we have to deal with and assess, that is how we run the White House. That’s how any White House is run, so there are regular channels of — of White House senior staff and that's how it gets elevated. You're asking me for a specific name, I am telling you how the process works and I’m telling you how it goes from White House staff to regular channels to the President.
O’Keefe tried once more, arguing that this failed response didn’t make sense since Biden has reported “ask[ed] a lot of questions” at briefings and “puts it to the staff to comes back to him with solutions or some answers[.]”
“That's part of why it's so intriguing and curious...and why we're so desperate for information because normally...we're told, ‘oh, well, here's what he wanted to know and here’s who he tasked with doing it.’ And we're not getting it this time,” he added.
The Washington Post’s Tyler Pager pressed earlier on, asking whether Biden’s “expressed concern” that it took months to respond to a crisis and how that delay “square[d] with [a] whole of government approach.”
When Jean-Pierre offered a word salad, Pager called her out: “[T]hat doesn’t answer the question about when the President was informed and whether or not he is satisfied with his staff not telling him about what has become a major problem?”
After trying to help Jean-Pierre clean up her mess on Wednesday, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell was less charitable this time (click “expand”):
Can we ask you to go back on the issue of who briefed the President on baby formula. To say that there is no specific person is not a satisfactory answer when you have senior assistants to the president. There is a paper trail, I’m sure, about briefings to the president. There’s Domestic Policy Council. There’s a chief of staff. At some point, we need to know who would be the most likely person he talked to about that.
But it looks like it’s evasive to not have the most senior people in the White House willing to say, I had a conversation with the President about it, or I had — or we talked about it in this context, or that context. And we’re also all reporting on the consumer side of it of what you’re doing, putting out and trying to get information. But we’re also trying to understand the information flow of this White House and it’s important for us to get that answer, which is why we’re keep asking it until we get that answer.
To see the relevant transcript from June 2's briefing (including more baby formula questions from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins), click here.