Stalling Psaki: WH Press Secretary Dodges Hardballs on Cuomo, Dr. Seuss, Immigration

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Tuesday’s White House press briefing was more of the same with Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s continued refusal to offer substance on the cancelling of Dr. Seuss, immigration, and scandal-ridden Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY).

Fox News’s Kristin Fisher played a leading role, battling Psaki on Cuomo on the astute observation that, in addition to the fact that President Biden and Vice President Harris haven’t commented publicly on the sexual harassment claims, “Harris was one of the most vocal critics of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, of Senator Al Franken when they faced similar allegations.”

Fisher noted that, in both cases, Harris emphatically stated that she believed accusers of both men, but hasn’t done so with those speaking out about a key administration ally.

“So at what point is the first female vice president going to say something about this,” she added.

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Psaki offered nothing new from days past, defending their silence because Psaki does so for them with her emphasis that “every women coming forward should be heard, should be treated with dignity, and treated with respect.”

Fisher said that “it’s appreciated” Psaki briefs reporters everyday, “but it’s another thing to hear it from the Vice President or the President himself. Can we expect to hear from either of them on this topic anytime soon?”

Spoiler alert: Psaki didn’t budge.

In a surprising development, the usually-annoying Yahoo! News correspondent Hunter Walker gave it a go when it was his turn. Along with seeking comment on the calls for Cuomo to resign, he reasked one that AP’s Zeke Miller tried on Monday, which was whether Biden has spoken to the governor.

Once again, Psaki demurred, adding that, in terms of the third accuser being a former campaign worker, “I did not work on the campaign, as you know” and “I’m not aware of a personal relationship that they had or that he knew her personally.”

To Walker’s credit, he inquired about the other (and much larger) Cuomo scandal with nursing homes (click “expand”):

WALKER: As you know, Governor Cuomo is also taking questions over the nursing home situation on COVID. Currently, he’s chair of the NGA. He came up to the white house to discuss COVID with the president. His top aide Melissa DeRosa, who’s been pretty embroiled in this nursing home situation, was also advising the administration on COVID response during the transition. Does the president believe he should step aside from the NGA or is he still seeking advice from his administration on COVID?

PSAKI: Well, that’s a decision for the NGA not a decision for the President or the White House. But I would say that New York, as you know, continues to be one of the hardest hit states by the COVID pandemic. It is one of the hardest hit states by the resulting economic downturn and, of course, we’re going to continue to work with officials in that state to help the people of New York, help get the pandemic under control, and help get people back to work.

Fisher came back later in the briefing, but this time she brought up the woke mob’s canceling of Dr. Seuss on Read Across America Day (and, of all days, Seuss’s birthday) and wondered why the Biden administration didn’t issue a presidential proclamation that mentioned the legendary children’s author.

Initially, Psaki followed her usual script of not answering the question by punting to the Department of Education, but then all but admitted that they agreed with the premise that Dr. Seuss’s books were racist because “the day is also a chance to celebrate diverse authors whose work and lived experience reflect the diversity of our country and….it’s especially important that we ensure all children can see themselves represented and celebrated.”

Fisher tried again on the specific omission, but Psaki reiterated the answer that implicitly sided with the mob, stating in part that “it’s important that children of — of all backgrounds see themselves in the children’s books that they read.”

On the heels of the administration refusing to state the influx of illegal immigrants was a crisis, numerous reporters returned to that subject on Tuesday’s episode.

Along with Fisher, NBC’s Peter Alexander and Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann offered important questions (click “expand”):

ALEXANDER: Yesterday, you brought into the briefing room the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorakas who said the following, he said: “We are not saying don’t come” to those migrants. He said, “we are saying don’t come now because we’ll be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible. So, the message was don’t come now. It sounds like the message is come later. So, when should these migrants come? 

(….)
    
ALEXANDER: So, for clarity, it sounds like, even if unintentionally, you’re sending the message that these migrants can come, they just got to wait a little bit longer. Is that the message you’re sending? 

(….)

ALEXANDER: Is the President going to be briefed on this from the domestic policy council today? DHS assessing 117,000 or so unaccompanied children — 117,000 unaccompanied children will arrive in the U.S. by their projection this year. Will he learn about it today? And that number seems like a crisis. The secretary said it isn’t. How would we define a crisis? 

PSAKI: Well, I’ll leave that to the secretary of homeland security to define. He said it was a challenge. It is a challenge. We have more than 7000 unaccompanied kids who have come into the United States and that is certainly a lot of children that we’re trying to treat humanely and safely and process through the system as quickly as we can. That’s — that’s not easy. That is a challenge. Certainly the President receives briefings and regular updates from his team and, you know, we typically don’t confirm those publicly but he is — he is briefed regularly by his team, the Domestic Policy Council and other members of his policy team.

(….)

FISHER: And one question on immigration just to pick up from where Peter left off. I know you said you don’t want to label this a crisis. Secretary Mayorkas was in here yesterday saying it’s not a crisis. But now you have Axios reporting the administration needs 20,000 beds to shelter these children. Based on our own reporting, 97 percent of the beds through the Office of Refugee Resettlement are full, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record but at what point does it become a crisis? 

PSAKI: Well, I would say I don’t think we need to meet your bar of what we need to call it. We had the secretary of homeland security yesterday conveying it’s a challenge. We have provided numbers publicly about how serious that challenge is. We, of course, because we are approaching this, this humanely and we are approaching this in a way where we will the children safe in a great break from the past administration and because we’re doing this at a time of COVID, that is even more challenging because most of these facilities are at 40 percent capacity, hence the number of beds that are being — being utilized. But again, we’re going to approach this without labeling. We will approach this with policy, with humanity and with a focus on what we can do to keep these kids safe and keep them — and get them in homes as quickly as possible.

(….)

WEGMANN: First off, something that sorta touches, I guess, on immigration and also on vaccines. We’re five weeks into the new administration and the president hasn’t named a permanent FDA commissioner and then yesterday we heard that from the DHS secretary, who said he’s trying to rebuild an agency dismantled by the previous administration but so far, the president hasn’t named a nominee for director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, a Commissioner of Border Protection, a director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. What’s taking so long? 

To see the full transcript of the above exchanges as well as excellent questions from Wegmann about green jobs and EWTN’s Owen Jensen on school reopenings and doctors being forced to violate their religious conscience, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
March 2, 2021
12:52 p.m. Eastern

PETER ALEXANDER: Let me ask you about immigration, if I can. Yesterday, you brought into the briefing room the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorakas who said the following, he said: “We are not saying don’t come” to those migrants. He said, “we are saying don’t come now because we’ll be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible. So, the message was don’t come now. It sounds like the message is come later. So, when should these migrants come? 

JEN PSAKI: The president has put forward an immigration reform package that will not only provide a pathway to citizenship but help put in place smart security measures at the border, will also address root causes in the region. There also is time and he talked but this quite a bit yesterday, as you know, that we need to dig out from the immoral and ineffective approach to immigration of the last administration. That’s going to take time, probably months for us to be able to process people at the border, to get people on the right path for consideration of — for asylum seekers and others. Now is not the moment for that. 

ALEXANDER: So, for clarity, it sounds like, even if unintentionally, you’re sending the message that these migrants can come, they just got to wait a little bit longer. Is that the message you’re sending? 

PSAKI: Well, we’ve been also clear as he was yesterday, the majority who come to the border are turned away. Even undocumented — even kids who come in at the border — un — unaccompanied minors who come in and we have emphasized time and time again, we want to keep them safe. We want to treat them with humanity. They are not guaranteed to stay in the United States. They still go through the processing. We just don’t want to send them back and consideration of whether they can stay here through what is — a — possible through our laws. It’s a difficult time. It’s a difficult journey. We are not encouraging people to come but we also believe different from the past administration would not going to turn away kids who were under 18. 

ALEXANDER: Is the President going to be briefed on this from the domestic policy council today? DHS assessing 117,000 or so unaccompanied children — 117,000 unaccompanied children will arrive in the U.S. by their projection this year. Will he learn about it today? And that number seems like a crisis. The secretary said it isn’t. How would we define a crisis? 

PSAKI: Well, I’ll leave that to the secretary of homeland security to define. He said it was a challenge. It is a challenge. We have more than 7000 unaccompanied kids who have come into the United States and that is certainly a lot of children that we’re trying to treat humanely and safely and process through the system as quickly as we can. That’s — that’s not easy. That is a challenge. Certainly the President receives briefings and regular updates from his team and, you know, we typically don’t confirm those publicly but he is — he is briefed regularly by his team, the Domestic Policy Council and other members of his policy team.

(….)

12:57 p.m. Eastern

KRISTIN FISHER: A question about Governor Andrew Cuomo. Vice President Kamala Harris was one of the most vocal critics of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, of Senator Al Franken when they faced similar allegations. She said repeatedly I believe them, the women. But she hasn’t said anything about the three women who are accusing Governor Andrew Cuomo and now this third accuser, Anna Ruch — she actually worked for the Biden-Harris campaign. So at what point is the first female vice president going to say something about this? 

PSAKI: Well, I know that’s how the Vice President continues to feel, and the benefit of doing a briefing every is that I can certainly speak on behalf of the president and the vice president and so let me reiterate they both believe every women coming forward should be heard, should be treated with dignity, and treated with respect. As you all know, the New York attorney general will oversee an independent investigation with subpoena power and the governor’s office said he will fully cooperate. And we certainly support that moving forward.

FISHER: But as you know, it’s one thing to hear it from you and it’s appreciated, but it’s another thing to hear it from the vice president or the President himself. Can we expect to hear from either of them on this topic anytime soon? 

PSAKI: Well, again, I’m speaking on their behalf. That’s how they feel. They’re personally both know this [sic] as the situation where both — all of the women coming for it should be treated with dignity and respect and should have their voices heard and that’s the representation of their points of view. 

FISHER: And one question on immigration just to pick up from where Peter left off. I know you said you don’t want to label this a crisis. Secretary Mayorkas was in here yesterday saying it’s not a crisis. But now you have Axios reporting the administration needs 20,000 beds to shelter these children. Based on our own reporting, 97 percent of the beds through the Office of Refugee Resettlement are full, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record but at what point does it become a crisis? 

PSAKI: Well, I would say I don’t think we need to meet your bar of what we need to call it. We had the secretary of homeland security yesterday conveying it’s a challenge. We have provided numbers publicly about how serious that challenge is. We, of course, because we are approaching this, this humanely and we are approaching this in a way where we will the children safe in a great break from the past administration and because we’re doing this at a time of COVID, that is even more challenging because most of these facilities are at 40 percent capacity, hence the number of beds that are being — being utilized. But again, we’re going to approach this without labeling. We will approach this with policy, with humanity and with a focus on what we can do to keep these kids safe and keep them — and get them in homes as quickly as possible.

(….)

1:14 p.m. Eastern

HUNTER WALKER: You know, obviously, this third allegation against Governor Cuomo has come out. This woman did work for President Biden during the campaign. I’m wondering what the President thinks about the calls for Governor Cuomo to resign and whether he’s spoken directly either to his former staffer or the governor about this situation?

PSAKI: The President believes, as I’ve noted, that every woman who comes forward should — deserves to be heard and treated with respect. There is an investigation, an independent investigation overseen by the attorney general, which has subpoena power and we certainly support that moving forward. In terms of any other conversations, I did not work on the campaign, as you know. I know that she did work on the campaign. I believe she was an organizer in Southwest Florida. I don’t know if they had — I’m not aware of a personal relationship that they had or that he knew her personally. But I don’t have any other engagements. I’m sure she has a number of people she still remains in touch with from the campaign but I don’t have any calls or engagements to read out. 

WALKER: As you know, Governor Cuomo is also taking questions over the nursing home situation on COVID. Currently, he’s chair of the NGA. He came up to the white house to discuss COVID with the president. His top aide Melissa DeRosa, who’s been pretty embroiled in this nursing home situation, was also advising the administration on COVID response during the transition. Does the president believe he should step aside from the NGA or is he still seeking advice from his administration on COVID?

PSAKI: Well, that’s a decision for the NGA not a decision for the President or the White House. But I would say that New York, as you know, continues to be one of the hardest hit states by the COVID pandemic. It is one of the hardest hit states by the resulting economic downturn and, of course, we’re going to continue to work with officials in that state to help the people of New York, help get the pandemic under control, and help get people back to work.

(….)

1:17 p.m. Eastern

PHILIP WEGMANN: First off, something that sorta touches, I guess, on immigration and also on vaccines. We’re five weeks into the new administration and the president hasn’t named a permanent FDA commissioner and then yesterday we heard that from the DHS secretary, who said he’s trying to rebuild an agency dismantled by the previous administration but so far, the president hasn’t named a nominee for director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, a Commissioner of Border Protection, a director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. What’s taking so long? 

PSAKI: You’re right and he is eager to nominate individuals to fill all of these spots. We need to find the right people and the right nominees and I hope we will have news on that in the coming weeks, but I don’t have anything to review for you, unfortunately, on personnel . 

WEGMANN: Alright, very good. And then from Christian Tatoc of the Daily Caller, Interior announced yesterday it’s giving out more than $260 million in grants to help coal-production states create clean energy jobs. Is the white house launching any program to help fossil fuel workers into green tech or are they leaving that up to the governors? 

PSAKI: I’m not familiar with the interior program and I’m happy to certainly check on that. As I’ve noted here before the president is committed to moving forward on the rest of his Build Back Better agenda. WE’re going to wait and work with the American rescue plan and that is signed into law, direct checks are going out to the American people, more money to get vaccines into arms, schools are starting to reopen with money. So, that’s our focus now but he believes that we can invest in areas like infrastructure and do that in a way that creates good paying, green jobs that are good-paying union jobs and so, I have nothing more to preview other than that remains his commitment.

(….)

1:21 p.m. Eastern

OWEN JENSEN: First, pro-life groups right now very concerned about the phrase pregnancy discrimination in the Equality Act. You’re familiar with that, I’m sure. That would force doctors to perform abortions even if it violates their conscience. They’re also concerns with the bill that would for doctors to perform gender transition surgeries and sterilizations again even if it violates their conscience. What does the President — President Biden say about those concerns ?

PSAKI: The President’s been a long supporter of Roe v. Wade. It’s been his consistent belief that it should be law and he will fight to continue to protect that as being law . 

JENSEN: So is conscience concerns not a concern of his? 

PSAKI: I’m going to state what the President’s policies are. Did you have another question? 

JENSEN: Two. Will the president keep the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at HHS — the office that was put in place under President Trump, keep it in place to receive conscience complaints from those doctors ? 

PSAKI: You’ll have to talk to a future Secretary Becerra once he is confirmed. 

JENSEN: And then, quickly, another subject. On education, everyday that goes by, some kids are in school year round. They have been, for example, in Nebraska, kids have been in school since day one back in August. In other states, strictly virtually. The education gap is widening. No doubt about that. When fall rolls around, if some schools are still not in person full-time, will the President accept or will he have a firm deadline to get kids back in the classroom?

PSAKI: Well, the President wants school back in the classrooms. His wife is a teacher. He believes not only do students want to be in school, but teachers want to be in school and he wants them open five days a week. He put — there were CDC guidelines put out and we now have a secretary of education as of yesterday. This will be his number one priority and certainly the President looks forward to having schools open across the country . 

JENSEN: But he doesn’t have a firm deadline in mind for when kids should be back? I know he can’t demand it. He can’t do that. I realize it’s up to the school districts but certainly he can create a sense of urgency, right? 

PSAKI: Well, one of the steps you can advocate for his how any of these folks can advocate for is the signing of the American Rescue Plan which has $160 billion to ensure schools and make the changes to their facilities, can hire enough teachers so that they can have socially distant kids in classrooms, so that they can have enough bus drivers and that’s an important component of getting this done as well.

(….)

1:29 p.m. Eastern

FISHER: A question about Dr. Seuss since this is the only day you can bring up Dr. Seuss in the briefing. It is National Read Across America day. It’s also Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Both former presidents Obama and Trump mentioned Dr. Seuss in their read across America day proclamations but president Biden did not. Why not? 

PSAKI: Well, first, the proclamation was written by the Department of Education and you could certainly them about more specifics about the drafting of it, but Read across America day which, as you’re right, has not existed forever, as only been around for a short training of time to celebrates a love of reading among our nation’s youngest readers and the day is also a chance to celebrate diverse authors whose work and lived experience reflect the diversity of our country and that’s certainly what they attempted to do or hope to do this year. And as we celebrate the love of reading and uplift diverse and representative authors, it’s especially important that we ensure all children can see themselves represented and celebrated in books that they read. 

FISHER: So, does the omission have anything to do with the controversy about the lack of diverse characters in the author’s books? 

PSAKI: Well, again, I think it’s important that children of — of all backgrounds see themselves in the children’s books that they read, but I would point you to the Department of Education for any more details on the writing of the proclamation.

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