Psaki tries to explain why Biden cast doubt on midterm election legitimacy

Psaki tries to explain why Biden cast doubt on midterm election legitimacy

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that President Biden expressed doubt about the legitimacy of this year’s midterm elections because “voters should be eyes-wide-open” about Republican efforts to rob Democrats of victory.

The surprising remark comes as Democrats and Republicans struggle over election policy, with Democrats alleging that former President Donald Trump’s allies have made it harder to vote in some states in response to his claims of fraud in 2020.

During Wednesday’s White House news conference, Biden stunned viewers by saying the results this November “easily could be illegitimate” and adding “I’m not going to say it’s going to be legit” — seeming to parrot Trump’s claims that Democrats said irresponsibly undermined faith in US democracy.

“Without [federal] reforms, why should voters have faith in the legitimacy of the next election?” political pundit Ana Navarro asked Psaki on ABC’s “The View.”

“Well, voters should be eyes-wide-open and clear-eyed and this is what the president was getting at the other night, that people are trying to make it harder for them to vote,” Psaki said.

The press secretary went on to say there are “nefarious things” that Republican-led states are doing, “but also there are things like, you know, if you’re a mom and you have three kids, and you’re driving and you’re trying to vote and participate in the election, why not have more places where you can drop off your ballot? Why not have more days where you can go exercise your right to vote?”

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden claimed Republicans could make the 2022 midterm election results “illegitimate.”
Getty Images

“You know, there are things like that a lot of states are making it more difficult,” Psaki added before reiterating that “what the president was trying to convey is we need to be clear-eyed, open-eyed, educated about what our rights are.”

“We have doubled — the Department of Justice has doubled — our funding and support for voter protections across the country. The Democratic National Committee will be doing a lot of work out there,” she continued.

“But he wasn’t trying to predict that the elections will be illegitimate. But he was trying to make clear to people that 2020 and what President — former President Trump tried to do after that election is not 60 years ago, you know? That was less than two years ago. And we need to keep talking about it and make sure people understand what is going to be attempted out there.”

A voter submits a ballot in an official drop box during early voting on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Athens, Georgia.
Democrats have previously slammed Georgia for voting restriction laws following the 2020 presidential election.
AP Photo/John Bazemore, File

The muddled attempt to mop up Biden’s remarks comes as the White House also tries to calm outrage over his suggestion that a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine would prompt less severe economic sanctions. It also appeared to contradict Psaki’s affirmative answer to a question on the matter during her regular briefing Thursday.

“If there are no changes in terms of voting rights legislation going forward, the President does still feel confident that the elections this fall will be legitimate?” asked NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander.

“Yes,” Psaki responded.

Biden’s strong words Wednesday about the 2022 election came hours before centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) broke with fellow Democrats who wanted to change Senate rules to allow sweeping federal election reform to pass the evenly divided chamber with a simple majority rather than 60 votes.

Former President Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump previously demanded ballot recounts in several states following the 2020 presidential election.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Psaki acknowledged that defeat on “The View” and said, “my advice to everyone out there who’s frustrated, sad, angry, pissed off: feel those emotions, go to a kickboxing class, have a margarita, do whatever you need to do this weekend and then wake up on Monday morning, we’ve got to keep fighting.”

Biden claimed in a controversial speech in Atlanta last week that “forces that attempted a coup” were behind recent laws in GOP-led states, referring to last year’s Capitol riot, which disrupted certification of his victory in the Electoral College.

Critics also say Biden has misrepresented the state laws. The Washington Post gave Biden “Four Pinocchios” in April for falsely describing the Georgia law’s impact on voting hours.

The Georgia law doesn’t alter Election Day hours but expands early voting by adding a second mandatory Saturday. It also affirms that counties can open for early voting on two Sundays and allows counties to extend early voting hours beyond normal business hours. Democrats oppose provisions that require a photo ID to get an absentee ballot, shorten the window of time to vote absentee and allow state officials to take over local election offices in response to alleged misconduct.

Federal reforms pushed by Democrats were bundled into the House-passed Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which failed to reach the 60 votes needed to proceed in the Senate this week. The package would force certain states to gain federal approval for changes to election laws, make Election Day a holiday, require states to allow same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail-in voting, and mandate two weeks of in-person early voting before an election. It would also bar states from requiring people to show ID to get a mail-in ballot.

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