Tuesday's episode of The Psaki Show featured Fox News's Peter Doocy hammering Press Secretary Jen Psaki over the Biden administration's claim that the biggest threat America is facing is climate change, as well as a pointed question by Doocy over an old Biden tweet.
Once called on, Doocy wasted no time getting to the point, asking Psaki about a hyperbolic claim by the Biden Pentagon that the "greatest threat facing America is global warming." He asked Psaki if that was still the administration's assessment despite the fact that we are "facing down a potential cyberwar with Russia."
Of course, Psaki tried running out the clock by telling Doocy that the U.S. "is always prepared for any threat any outside entity or country poses." Psaki then claimed that since the global warming threat comments were from the Pentagon, he would have to ask them.
Not happy with that answer, Doocy continued drilling down:
So as far as anybody watching who’s seen the coverage, it's very–at times distressing images of Russian military movements. The number one threat facing the country right now remains global warming?
There was still no answer from Psaki on whether the Biden administration thinks global warming is the biggest threat facing America. Yet moments later, Doocy brought up an old tweet from Biden in which he wrote that Vladimir Putin doesn't want him to be President:
Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be President. He doesn’t want me to be our nominee. If you’re wondering why — it’s because I’m the only person in this field who’s ever gone toe-to-toe with him.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 21, 2020
On that front, Doocy asked Psaki about the tough-talking tweets from then-candidate Biden:
But so I guess to follow up on that the President said before he got here that Putin knows if I am President of the United States, his days of tyranny and trying to intimidate the United States and those in eastern Europe are over. It's two and a half years later. He is intimidating the United States and those in Eastern Europe.
Psaki clearly took offense and claimed that she "would hardly put it that way" and bragged that "Biden has rallied the world, rallied Europe to stand up against the efforts and the actions of President Putin."
Later on in the briefing, Doocy's wife and Fox Business Network correspondent Hillary Vaughn had two questions for Psaki. The first was "if Nord Stream 2 going online was such a threat, why in May did the President waive sanctions on the company and the chief executive behind it?"
Before letting Psaki answer both, Vaughn laid down the marker with her other question: "Is there a concern that Nord Stream 2 if Russia were to make concessions or retreat in some way that that might open up the door to Nord Stream 2 going back online, or is it your understanding that it is dead no matter what Russia does?"
In response, Psaki said that Biden "has never been a supporter of Nord Stream 2" and that "Nord Stream 2 is not moving forward" nor has it "been operational anyway."
Towards the end of the briefing, Real Clear Politics' Phillip Wegmann asked a good question about sanctions that clearly caught Psaki off guard. Wegmann asked if any of the Russian oligarchs and elites being sanctioned were "being sanctioned for the first time" or were they simply repeat offenders. Psaki had no answer and told Wegmann that she would get back to him with a "more specific breakdown."
Wegmann's second question was equally intriguing when recalled that White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned that the "Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to U.S. Sanctions warning that would necessarily make Moscow more beholden to Beijing," and that if the Biden administration is "taking any steps or issuing any warnings to keep those geopolitical foes from aligning together and marching in lockstep?"
Psaki said that China and Russia were already "moving closer together in some capacity" long before the current Russia/Ukraine conflict.
To see the relevant briefing transcript from February 22, click “expand.”
White House press briefing (via CBSN)
5:43 p.m. Eastern
JEN PSAKI: Go ahead, Peter.
PETER DOOCY: Thank you, Jen. The President said in the spring that Pentagon generals had briefed him that the greatest threat facing America is global warming. Is that still the assessment now that we are facing down a potential cyberwar with Russia?
PSAKI: Well let me first say that there's no– while we are always prepared for any threat any outside entity or country poses to the United States as it relates to cyber or anything else. There is no current pending threat as it relates to cyber. In terms of the threats you're touching on, that was a briefing from the military. So I would point you to them.
DOOCY: And so as far as anybody watching who’s seen the coverage, it's very–at times distressing images of Russian military movements. The number one threat facing the country right now remains global warming?
PSAKI: Well, Peter, I think it's important as we're all educating the public here to convey and reiterate the President has no intention of sending U.S. Troops into Ukraine to fight in Ukraine. What we are doing is we are abiding by our obligations to our NATO allies and partners to ensure that they have the support and the resources that they need. And that is our right and our obligation as the United States.
DOOCY: Okay. And why do you guys think that sanctions are going to stop Putin if his goal ultimately is to redraw the map so it looks like it did 70 or 80 years ago? What sanction is going to stop him from doing that?
PSAKI: Well, I think just to kind of reiterate maybe something you touched on there. For anyone who watched his speech last night, what he made clear in that speech is that he doesn't even necessarily doesn't recognize the Independence of Ukraine as a country. And that certainly gives us an indication of where his intentions are at this point in time. Sanctions can be a powerful tool. They have been in a lot of moments throughout history. And what we view them as or how we're viewing them as we're starting high, as Daleep just conveyed here in terms of the significance and the severity of the sanctions that were announced today. Yes, our intention is to have a deterrent effect. And there are, well what they have done to date is completely unacceptable. There certainly are far worse that can happen. What we want to do is prevent a large-scale invasion, death, and destruction across Ukraine, devastation to the Ukrainian people. And what happens with sanctions is they work overtime. They're not an end. They're not intended to max out the beginning. They're long-lasting and sustainable and they’re intended to squeeze. But if you look at what is happening now what President Putin has stated as his intention is he wants to divide NATO. The opposite of that has happened, Peter. He also wanted to geopolitical project Nord Stream 2 to go forward. That has not happened. He wants to make sure there is a vibrant economy for the Russian people. They're not on that track. So his intentions and his objectives are not playing out.
DOOCY: But so I guess to follow up on that the President said before he got here that Putin knows if I am President of the United States, his days of tyranny and trying to intimidate the United States and those in eastern Europe are over. It's two and a half years later. He is intimidating the United States and those in Eastern Europe.
PSAKI: I would hardly put it that way. I would look at it actually from the prism of the United States and President Biden has rallied the world, rallied Europe to stand up against the efforts and the actions of President Putin.
PSAKI: We have laid out very clearly
DOOCY: $4 gas, $5 gas however high you guys think it's going to go something like that is not intimidating?
PSAKI: You asked me if we were intimidated by President Putin. And I think the evidence of that doesn't exist.
6:08 p.m. Eastern
HILLARY VAUGHN: Thanks, Jen, two quick questions on Nord Stream 2. The first is the deputy director just said that stopping Norton Stream 2 relieved Europe of the geostrategic chokehold that Russia would have had on them. So if Nord Stream 2 going online was such a threat, why in May did the President waive sanctions on the company and the chief executive behind it? And my second question is, is there a concern that Nord Stream 2 if Russia were to make concessions or retreat in some way that that might open up the door to Norton stream 2 going back online, or is it your understanding that it is dead no matter what Russia does?
PSAKI: Well, I would first that the President has never been a supporter of Nord Stream 2. We’ve always criticized it as a project that we didn’t support. We took a range of steps in sanctions, including sanctions to make that very clear, with the announcement made by the German Chancellor today was not by accident. It was at the conclusion of a range of diplomatic engagements and efforts by the President and members of our national security team in unity from the Europeans about the fact that this could not move forward. We’ve never felt, the President didn’t feel that issuing preemptive sanctions on that was the right step to take, but look where we are. Nord Stream 2 is not moving forward and by the way it hasn’t been operational anyway. So you know, that’s the fact. It’s not moving forward at this point in time. In terms of the future, we’ve never felt that it was a good project, we've been clear about that. And that assessment, I don’t expect would change in the future.
6:11 p.m. Eastern
PHILIP WEGMANN: Thank you, Jen. I’ve got two questions, quickly. The administration rolled out a list of sanctions, against oligarchs and elites. My question is, are any of them being sanctioned for the first time, or are these sort of repeat bad offenders?
PSAKI: That’s a good question. I’m sure we can get you a breakdown of that. I believe some of them are new, and certainly, the banks are new. But let us get you a more specific breakdown of that.
WEGMANN: My second question is the last time Jake Sullivan was here he said that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to U.S. Sanctions warning that would necessarily make Moscow more beholden to Beijing. Obviously, both of those foreign powers are not exactly the most friendly to us so is the administration taking any steps or issuing any warnings to keep those geopolitical foes from aligning together and marching in lockstep?
PSAKI: Well long before the events of the last few months we saw China and Russia moving closer together in some capacity. But right now as we are looking at the actions of President Putin and as we’re preparing for him to further invade Ukraine to, unfortunately, put forward death and destruction on the country and the people of Ukraine, it's really a question for China on whether they look at that and think that’s acceptable behavior. I think you saw that our Secretary of State had a conversation with his counterpart in the last 24 to 48 hours. And we will certainly remain and continue to engage, but I think it’s about looking at where the global community is in this moment and determining where you want to stand.