FNC’s Doocy Strays From WH Press Corps, Grills Psaki on Amazon, Masks Hypocrisy

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki returned for a second briefing late Thursday afternoon and, after Dr. Tony Fauci and the press corps had a friendly, laugh-filled chat about the evils of the Trump administration, she took her turn for yet another relatively pressure-free briefing. 

However, Psaki faced a few exceptions, led by the Fox Business Network’s Blake Burman on the Keystone XL pipeline, the Fox News Channel’s Peter Doocy on Amazon and President Biden not wearing a mask at the Lincoln Memorial, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Debra Saunders on religious liberty. 

And with the others so pedestrian, we found it worth highlighting those that were actually doing their jobs.

 

 

Doocy had two back-and-forths and the first pertained to Biden’s blatant disregard Wednesday night for an executive order he had signed hours earlier mandating mask use on federal land (which would include National Parks).

“Why weren’t President Biden and all members of the Biden family masked at all times on federal lands last night if he signed an executive order that mandates masks on federal lands at all times,” he asked.

A peeved Psaki inadvertently called him by his father’s name (Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy) and dismissed the hypocrisy because the administration already “take[s] a number of COVID precautions” and he was busy “celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country.”

Knowing Psaki’s answer was anything but, Doocy pressed: “But as Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the example of power but the power of our example. Was that a good example for people who were watching who might not pay attention normally?”

Psaki demurred, saying Biden had been setting an “example…by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID” (even though he himself ignored one of them).

She went onto further dismiss it because he was “surrounded by his family” and America has “bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.”

Towards the back end of the briefing, Doocy was granted a second go around and questioned Psaki on when the administration knew about Amazon volunteering to assist in vaccine distribution. For Psaki’s part, she turned to a trademark page of the Obama playbook on when officials learn about something (click “expand”):

DOOCY: On COVID, a question. Did the transition officials know before yesterday that Amazon wanted to get involved in such a meaningful way?

PSAKI: We — not that I’m aware of. I’m — I’m happy to check. I mean, when the reporting came out, I asked the question and I think — internally — and, you know, what was conveyed to me, and I don’t think we discussed this yesterday, was that we had a lot of outreach, some privately, some publicly from a range of businesses and private sector entities. And we certainly welcome that and we’ll be considering those offers and what makes the most sense in our plans and proposals

DOOCY: So — because there are some Trump officials saying they were never offered help from Amazon and so they’re essentially saying that they think this was a political call for Amazon to wait while lives were hanging in the balance, but you’re saying that is not the case. 

PSAKI: I’m not aware of the timeline of when Amazon reached out. That sounds like a question for Amazon to me.

Burman asked three questions with the first wanting to know how the administration will pass bills on infrastructure, stimulus, and tax reform in the first year and, after the second about a tax reform timeline, he fired off this pertinent question about the oil pipeline. 

Unfortunately, Psaki didn’t have a single ounce of sympathy for those who were losing their jobs (click “expand”):

BURMAN: And on Keystone XL, the decision yesterday from the President, what do you say to those who have lost their job or will loss [sic] their job as a result of the decision? What will the message from the President and the White House be? 

PSAKI: The message from the President and the white house wold be that he is committed, his record shows the American people that he’s committed to clean energy jobs, to jobs that are not only good, high-paying jobs, union jobs, but ones that are also good for our environment. He thinks it’s possible to do both. He led an effort when he was the Vice President to put millions of people to work with those — both of those priorities in mind. And he will continue to do that as President. But he had opposed the Keystone Pipeline back in 2013 when it was — when there was a consideration of the permit or — sorry, I don’t think it was 2013, I think it was a little bit after that, and he’s been consistent in his view and he was delivering on a promise he made to the American public during the campaign.

Prior to Burman and Doocy, Saunders said she had “heard from conservatives that said that the President will try to pull back religious conscious exemptions for groups like Little Sisters of the Poor.”

She added they had reason to since Biden “pledged to do that in July when Little Sisters won a case in the Supreme Court” and HHS Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra has also “pursued that lines of going after the exemptions as attorney general of California.”

Sauders wondered what Biden would “do on that,” and Psaki provided yet another dodge: “I haven’t discussed that particular issue with him. I’m happy to circle back with you, but I don’t — there’s not a change in his position from what he said earlier this summer.”

There were plenty of softballs (including one about whether Biden was “wistful about sort of missing the fun parts of being a candidate and the inauguration”), so please check out the relevant transcript of the January 21 briefing. 

To see that (as well as the full exchanges Psaki had with Burman, Doocy, and Saunders), click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
January 21, 2021
4:31 p.m. Eastern

WELKER: More broadly speaking, Jen, President Biden has proposed this $1.9 trillion package. You already have some Republicans who say, we just passed a stimulus plan. They’re not going to get on board with this. Mitt Romney among them who says you just passed a program with over $900 billion. And some people say the price tag is just way too big. So how does President Biden expect to get this passed with bipartisan support and how does that fit into his broader message of bipartisanship, proposing something? 

(….)

4:32 p.m. Eastern

WELKER: One quick follow up on that, the work of the Senate is being held up by this dispute over the filibuster. Where does President Biden come down on that? Does he think that there should not be a filibuster so that the Senate could move forward with his work? 

PSAKI: Well, the President-Elect spoke just yesterday, as you all saw, about the spirit of working together and bipartisanship to confront the four crises facing us. You’ve already seen him work with Republicans and Democrats and work toward a bipartisan approach to passing packages that will address the crises we’re facing and that’s certainly his priority and his preference. So that’s what he’ll continue to work on  — on day two of the administration. Go ahead, Mike Shear. 

SHEAR: Okay, see, you can call me. 

PSAKI: I just give you a hard time. 

SHEAR: That’s fine. So I want to push you a little bit more on that question. If — if there’s this call for unity that the President made in his speech yesterday, but there has so far been almost no fig leaf even to the Republican Party. You don’t have a Republican Cabinet member like President Obama and I think President Clinton had. You — you know, the executive orders that he’s come out the gate have been largely designed at erasing as much of the Trump legacy as — as you can with executive orders. Much of which the Republican Party likes and agrees with. You’ve put forth an immigration bill that has a path to citizenship. It doesn’t do much of a nod toward the border security and you’ve got a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that has, as folks have said, already drawn all sorts of criticism. Where is the — where is the actual action behind this idea of bipartisanship and when are we going to see one of those, you know, sort of substantial outreaches that says, this is something that, you know, the Republicans want to do, too?

(….)

4:38 p.m. Eastern

ANITA KUMAR: Just following up on what Kristin asked. I don’t think I heard an answer about whether the President supports keeping the filibuster, where he sits on that. Has — has he talked to Senator Schumer about that? I mean, he’s served there a long time. What are his thoughts on that?

PSAKI: I think what I was conveying to Kristin is that the President has been clear he wants to work WITH members of both parties and find bipartisan paths forward. And I don’t have more conversations to read out for you at this point in time.

KUMAR: [INAUDIBLE] I don’t think you specifically answered that unless I’m not understanding your answer. 

PSAKI: I don’t have more to add to — to my answer. 

(….)

4:40 p.m. Eastern

DEBRA SAUNDERS: My question is this and it’s about unity again. I heard from conservatives that said that the President will try to pull back religious conscious exemptions for groups like Little Sisters of the Poor. The President pledged to do that in July when Little Sisters won a case in the Supreme court. The Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra pursued that lines of going after the exemptions as attorney general of California. What’s the President going to do on that? 

PSAKI:  I haven’t discussed that particular issue with him. I’m happy to circle back with you, but I don’t — there’s not a change in his position from what he said earlier this summer. Did you have another question? 

SAUNDERS: I have a question from Adam Longa of WUSA-9. He says: We saw the president warmly greet Mayor Bowser during the parade yesterday. She’s pushing for the D.C. Statehood measure to be on the President’s desk within 100 days. Will the administration get behind this bill, and does the President support it? 

PSAKI: I hate to disappoint you, but I will have to circle back with you on that as well. There’s quite a bit going on. I have not discussed D.C. Statehood with him in the last 36 hours. 

SAUNDERS: I look forward to hearing from you.

(….)

4:43 p.m. Eastern

BLAKE BURMAN: There’s a lot of really big things that the administration wants to do. Infrastructure, the stimulus, tax reform. Can you sort of lay out the cadence for us over the upcoming year? How do you envision those three major things playing out? What’s the order? When do you think those will be taken up? When will they happen?

PSAKI: Well, what I can lay out for you on our first full day here is what our initial priorities are, and they revolve around addressing the four crises that the President has stated that the country is facing, including getting the pandemic under control, getting people back to work, addressing our climate crisis, and addressing racial equity and so — go ahead. No. 

BURMAN: I was going to ask you do you think tax reform happens in 2021? 

PSAKI: I don’t really have any predictions for you on that. I think at this point in time, and for the foreseeable future, addressing the pandemic, getting the pandemic under control, and that linkage to getting people back to work will be his top priority. 

BURMAN: And on Keystone XL, the decision yesterday from the President, what do you say to those who have lost their job or will loss [sic] their job as a result of the decision? What will the message from the President and the White House be? 

PSAKI: The message from the President and the white house wold be that he is committed, his record shows the American people that he’s committed to clean energy jobs, to jobs that are not only good, high-paying jobs, union jobs, but ones that are also good for our environment. He thinks it’s possible to do both. He led an effort when he was the Vice President to put millions of people to work with those — both of those priorities in mind. And he will continue to do that as President. But he had opposed the Keystone Pipeline back in 2013 when it was — when there was a consideration of the permit or — sorry, I don’t think it was 2013, I think it was a little bit after that, and he’s been consistent in his view and he was delivering on a promise he made to the American public during the campaign.

(….)

4:46 p.m. Eastern

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: One, on the Hatch Act, will this administration take that seriously and do you think it’s ever appropriate for this White House to have a political event or political meeting? 

PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are some political events that are acceptable, but we certainly take the Hatch Act seriously and will abide by that and you will not see a political rally on the South Lawn of the White House with President — under President Biden. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The second one and this may sound trivial, but Presidents and candidates have some events where they’re fun for the candidate. The big crowd and the acceptance speech at the convention. The big crowd at the inauguration. Big rallies. Because of COVID, this President has been denied all those. Has he ever been at all wistful about sort of missing the fun parts of being a candidate and the inauguration? 

PSAKI: Not — not in front of me, George. I will say that even yesterday or over the last couple of days, you know, he tried to find a moment of joy with his family and with his grandchildren who bring him a great deal of joy. And a recognition of, of course, the great responsibility he has on his shoulders but a moment in history that he was playing a very important part of. So I would say he’s been in public office, as you all know, for decades, and he’s had many joyful moments, but this moment serving as President, coming in at a crisis where thousands of people are dying from a pandemic every day, millions of people are out of work, is not really a time for daily joy as the leader of the free world and he’s focused on doing his job to get the work done for the American people. Go ahead. 

DOOCY: Why weren’t President Biden and all members of the Biden family masked at all times on federal lands last night if he signed an executive order that mandates masks on federal lands at all times? 

PSAKI: At the inaugural?

DOOCY: At the Lincoln Memorial. Yes. 

PSAKI: I think, Steve, he was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country and certainly he signed the mask mandate because it’s a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks. How it can save tens of thousands of lives. We take a number of COVID precautions as you know here in terms of testing, social distancing, mask wearing, ourselves, as we do every single day. But I don’t know that I have more for you on it than that.

DOOCY: But as Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the example of power but the power of our example. Was that a good example for people who were watching who might not pay attention normally? 

PSAKI: Well, Steve, I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID. The requirements that we’re all under every single day here to ensure we’re sending that message to the public. Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as President of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I don’t think — I think we have big — bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.

(….)

4:57 p.m. Eastern

PSAKI: But right now, our focus is on what many health and medical experts are consistently called a bold goal. I will note also that some of the reporting this morning as Kristen asked about earlier was that the Trump administration left us with no plan. It’s hard for them to both be exactly true at the same time and our team has been putting together a plan as Dr. Fauci talked about for some time to achieve this goal. He also mentioned that there are a number of challenges. It’s not just about lining people up as you know, but for people watching in a football stadium and giving them shots. We have to overcome vaccine hesitancy. We have to get to health communities where they don’t have access to health centers. That was outlined. A number of steps to address that were outlined in the President’s plan today, but you know, this is a bold goal. We’re going to work every day to achieve it and we’ll build from there. There’s a lot more of the administration to go from there, more work on covid to be done. Go ahead, Kristen.

WELKER: Jen, President Biden is reversing a number of former President Trump’s policies and we’re seeing some of former President Trump’s staffers being placed on leave or be reassigned. Is there an attempt to purge Trump officials? 

PSAKI: Well, there’s a new administration so, obviously, there are a number of new officials in place. There was reporting, for example — and I don’t know if you’re referencing this, so you tell me if not — the head of the NLRB, that’s an individual that was not carrying out the — you know, anyone would tell you, not just from our administration the objectives of the NLRB and so they were — they’re no longer in their position and we’ll take — make decisions as needed.

WELKER: There’s not an effort writ large that you’re assessing, reassessing individuals —

PSAKI: As you know when a new administration comes in there’s a massive changeover in political appointees and nominees and people who will serve in a variety of roles. There are some people, Christopher Wray as an example, I’ll just bring him back up, who will continue to serve in his role but we have great value for career officials, for the officials who have been the heart and soul of agencies across government since long before the Trump administration, but who have served through the Trump administration as well. 

DOOCY: On COVID, a question. Did the transition officials know before yesterday that Amazon wanted to get involved in such a meaningful way?

PSAKI: We — not that I’m aware of. I’m — I’m happy to check. I mean, when the reporting came out, I asked the question and I think — internally — and, you know, what was conveyed to me, and I don’t think we discussed this yesterday, was that we had a lot of outreach, some privately, some publicly from a range of businesses and private sector entities. And we certainly welcome that and we’ll be considering those offers and what makes the most sense in our plans and proposals
    
DOOCY: So — because there are some Trump officials saying they were never offered help from Amazon and so they’re essentially saying that they think this was a political call for Amazon to wait while lives were hanging in the balance, but you’re saying that is not the case. 

PSAKI: I’m not aware of the timeline of when Amazon reached out. That sounds like a question for Amazon to me.

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