Reporters press Jean-Pierre on ‘information blackout’ about Biden’s handling of classified docs

0
21
Reporters press Jean-Pierre on 'information blackout' about Biden's handling of classified docs

WASHINGTON — Journalists grilled White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Wednesday over her evasions about President Biden’s handling of classified documents — with one reporter accusing the administration of an unnecessary “information blackout.”

Jean-Pierre largely referred questions to the Justice Department or White House counsel’s office as the press corps demanded details about caches of documents dating to Biden’s vice presidency that were found at his former Washington office and his Wilmington, Del., home.

White House Correspondents’ Association board member Karen Travers of ABC News told Jean-Pierre at her regular briefing, “There was a formal request from the WHCA to have [White House special counsel] Richard Sauber come to the briefing and take questions … Would you commit to having the White House counsel come here and take questions?”

“That is something that I would refer you to the White House counsel’s office,” Jean-Pierre responded. “They have been engaged with all of you.”

The press secretary noted that there was a “45-minute” Zoom call by counsel’s office spokesman Ian Sams on Tuesday, though The Post’s recording showed the call actually lasted 35 minutes.

“Can you pass along the request?” Newsmax reporter James Rosen shouted at Jean-Pierre.

Classified documents were found at President Biden's Delaware home where he stores his vintage Corvette.
Classified documents were found Dec. 20 inside President Biden’s Delaware home where he stores his vintage Corvette. Other records were later found inside the home.
Joe Biden/YouTube
The Biden Center is a think tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania located fewer than two miles from the White House.
Classified records from Biden’s vice presidency initially were discovered on Nov. 2 at the Penn Biden Center in DC.
AFP via Getty Images

“I’m happy to pass it along,” the White House spokeswoman replied.

Jacqui Heinrich of Fox News, who also serves on the WHCA board, pressed the point by noting the merry-go-round of silence among the administration.

“Since so many of our questions have been referred to the DOJ and to the White House counsel’s office, I’m sure you can understand that we’re in sort of an information blackout,” Heinrich told Jean-Pierre.

“DOJ refers us to the special counsel. They’re not holding any briefings. The White House counsel refers us to DOJ. So if you are not able to talk about this from the podium, would you invite a DOJ official to take our questions here?”

“No,” Jean-Pierre replied bluntly.

Federal agents outside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort as the FBI conducted a search of the property for classified documents on Aug. 8.
FBI agents raided former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence on Aug. 8 to recover classified documents. The FBI reportedly allowed Biden to search his own residence.
AP
An aerial view of President Biden's home in Wilmington, Del.
Unlike Mar-a-Lago, Biden’s home lacked Secret Service protection in the years following his vice presidency.
Google Earth

“You would have to go to the Department of Justice. This is a legal matter that is currently happening at the Department of Justice. And the president has been very, very clear when it comes to these types of legal matters, when it comes to investigations, he is not going to interfere,” Jean-Pierre went on.

“He wants to make sure that we give back the independence that the Department of Justice should have when it comes to these types of investigations. So certainly we would not be bringing them here.”

“We’ve all reached out to the Department of Justice,” piped up Peter Alexander of NBC News. “A law enforcement official tells NBC News the Justice Department has not told the White House it cannot talk about the facts underlying the special counsel investigation.”

“We’ve been very clear when it comes to even underlying facts, when it comes to specifics, when it comes to something that is under the purview, that the Justice Department is looking at, especially legal matters, investigations, we do not comment from here,” Jean-Pierre replied.

In one of the most contentious moments of the briefing, Gray Television’s Jon Decker noted that Biden eagerly weighed in on a similar Justice Department investigation involving the possible mishandling of records by his predecessor Donald Trump, whose Florida residence was raided by the FBI Aug. 8.

In a Sept. 18 interview with “60 Minutes,” Decker noted, “Biden chided former President Trump for having in his possession classified documents. He called it ‘irresponsible.’”

Joe Biden
Biden slammed Trump as “irresponsible” in his handling of classified documents during a September “60 Minutes” interview.
Youtube/CBS

“Do you think it was proper for President Biden to comment on an ongoing DOJ investigation?” Decker asked.

“I’m going to keep it really short today as it relates to this particular issue, as it relates to an ongoing legal matter: I’m going to refer you to the Department of Justice,” the press secretary added.

“I’m simply asking you to comment on the person that you work for —,” Decker attempted to follow up.

“I just commented. I just commented,” Jean-Pierre insisted before calling on another reporter. “We’re moving on…. I already answered your question.”

“You really didn’t,” Decker said.

“Well, I — I did,” Jean-Pierre insisted.

“You didn’t,” Decker said as Jean-Pierre encouraged another reporter to ask a question.

“It’s your opinion. It’s your opinion. It’s your opinion. That is your opinion,” Jean-Pierre said, shutting down Decker’s line of questioning.

An image of Hunter Biden found on his laptop.
First son Hunter Biden listed the Wilmington home as his address on a 2018 form.
Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, flanked by Hunter's Kazakhstani associates
Hunter Biden regularly introduced his father to international business partners during his vice presidency and the years that followed. The Bidens are pictured at a 2015 DC dinner with Kazakhstani associates.
KIAR

Jean-Pierre has been peppered with questions since the classified documents scandal erupted Jan. 9, leading to the appointment of special counsel Robert Hur to determine if Biden or anyone in his orbit criminally mishandled records — and she has repeatedly turned to talking points about how the White House is trying to be “transparent” while respecting the “independence” of the probe.

The White House press secretary has declined to divulge basic information about the location of rooms at Biden’s Wilmington house where records were found following the discovery of records Dec. 20 near his Corvette in the garage,

On Tuesday, she wouldn’t commit to Biden speaking with investigators and sidestepped a question about whether Biden was personally assisting with the search for documents at his home — as the FBI reportedly has deferred to Biden’s team rather than search on its own.

CBS reporter Weijia Jiang pressed Jean-Pierre Tuesday on how the investigation could possibly be independent when Biden and his aides are acting as the investigators searching out records.

“You’ve repeatedly emphasized the need, just as you did today, for independence, for integrity of the Department of Justice investigation,” Jiang said. “One reason why you continue to point us to the DOJ.  So I wonder why, then, did the White House counsel go to Wilmington to facilitate the handing over of documents to the DOJ? How is that separating the White House from the DOJ?”

“I know there’s going to continue to be dozens of more questions, probably, today,” Jean-Pierre replied. “And I will say: Reach out to the White House Counsel’s Office. That’s one of the reasons my colleague was on the phone with many of you, taking questions today. And I’m just going to leave it there.  That is something for them to answer.”

Source link