Tapper GRILLS Biden Official on Baby Formula Crisis, CNN Camera Falls to The Ground

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In a rare act of journalism on CNN, anchor Jake Tapper on Wednesday afternoon grilled Biden’s Director of National Economic Council Brian Deese on the administration’s stunning incompetence in dealing with the ongoing baby formula shortage. 

After the revelation that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was made aware of unsanitary conditions at Abbott baby formula plant last fall, and didn’t take action to shut the plant down until February, Tapper wanted to know why President Joe Biden wasn’t told of the worsening situation until April. 

Tapper asked Deese since “The White House has said the administration has been working on the issue since February. So how come President Biden didn’t know it was going to be bad until April?”

Deese had no real answer other than to explain that “the FDA and the staff across the administration in all of the relevant agencies in the White House was working to try to address the issue.” He also blamed the Abbott baby formula company for taking too long to “agree to a consent decree.”

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This answer didn’t fly with Tapper who asked again: “Why didn’t anyone tell the President until April?” After another non-answer from Deese,  a frustrated Tapper responded: 

I guess I still just don’t fully understand why you didn’t tell the President until April if the problem was reported to the FDA last fall, the FDA didn’t check it out until I think December, and then they shut down the factory in February. The President, the only one who can invoke the defense production act to force companies to produce this incredibly direly needed infant formula, he’s not told until April. Karine Jean Pierre, your press secretary, just said this has been a whole of government approach. That doesn’t include the President?

But Deese once again avoided directly answering the question and instead told Tapper “the President’s role in this has been at the right and appropriate moments when we needed to do things like the Defense Production Act when we needed to take extraordinary measures like Operation Fly Formula” adding that Biden “has been informed” and “has directed the action that we have taken.” 

Just to be clear, Tapper briefly went over the timeline: “the whistleblower complaint in the fall, the FDA waited until December to act, waited until February to shut the plant down. President Biden wasn’t told about it until April.” He then asked “You don’t think any of that should have been done more quickly or sooner? You think everything just went exactly how it’s supposed to?” 

Deese promised that the FDA commissioner would conduct a “thorough investigation” into what went wrong. To which Tapper shot back “I don’t need the FDA to investigate itself to come to the judgment that they did not act quickly enough.”  

While Deese was responding to Tapper’s comment, the camera that Deese was looking into during the interview fell over and subsequently ended the interview. One can’t help but think that Deese knocked it over to get out of the well-deserved grilling that Tapper was giving him. 

To read the relevant transcript click “expand”: 

CNN’s The Lead
6/1/2022
5:20:22 p.m. Eastern

JAKE TAPPER: The White House has said the administration has been working on the issue since February. So how come President Biden didn’t know it was going to be bad until April? 

BRIAN DEESE: Well, let me just clarify what’s going on here. We were informed by the FDA of the closure in February. And from that point, the FDA and the staff across the administration in all of the relevant agencies in the White House was working to try to address the issue. Part of the reason why production has increased and the companies that were here today have been able to increase production by as much as they have is they have been working on this issue now for months. But it took too long for Abbott to agree to a consent decree, and once it was clear that that facility was not going to be able to come back online sooner, then it was clear we were going to have a more significant challenge. 

TAPPER: Brian, why didn’t anyone tell the President? 

DEESE: At that point, the President was informed…

[crosstalk]

TAPPER: Why didn’t anyone tell the President until April? 

DEESE: At that point, the President was informed and the President directed us to use all the available tools that we had available to address them. And that’s why, for example, we issued the DPA, and as you and I have discussed, the opportunity to use the DPA comes in when production facilities are at full production. To make sure that supplies are uninterrupted. The reason why the producers were in that position to do that was because of the work that had been taken to date, and we are now moving out, not only with the DPA, but also Operation Fly Formula and other measures as well to approve more importers as well. 

TAPPER: I guess I still just don’t fully understand why you didn’t tell the President until April if the problem was reported to the FDA last fall, the FDA didn’t check it out until I think December, and then they shut down the factory in February. The President, the only one who can invoke the defense production act to force companies to produce this incredibly direly needed infant formula, he’s not told until April. Karine Jean Pierre, your press secretary, just said this has been a whole of government approach. That doesn’t include the President? 

DEESE: The FDA took the appropriate measures to shut down the facility in February. And when that happened, the FDA and the relevant officials from across the government were focused on the effort to try to increase production from other producers and also figure out how quickly they could get that facility back online. It took too long to get that facility back online, it took too long to get Abbott to agree to a consent decree. Once it was clear that that facility was not going to be able to come back online, it was clear we were going to need to even more greatly increase production, particularly of those specialty formulas. But I want to be very clear that the President’s role in this has been at the right and appropriate moments when we needed to do things like the Defense Production Act when we needed to take extraordinary measures like Operation Fly Formula. He has been informed. He has directed the action that we have taken.  

TAPPER: Okay so the whistleblower complaint in the fall, the FDA waited until December to act, waited until February to shut the plant down. President Biden wasn’t told about it until April. You don’t think any of that should have been done more quickly or sooner? You think everything just went exactly how it’s supposed to? 

DEESE: Look, the FDA commissioner has already said that he will conduct a thorough investigation to make sure that we understand fully the timeline and I will leave that — those evaluations with respect to the facility and making safety judgments, I will leave to the FDA. Once the facility was shut down, what was clear was that we were going to need to do two things. One, the FDA was going to have to work to reach a consent decree with Abbott to get the facility back going, and other producers were going to need to ramp up production. It did not happen fast enough, the consent decree with Abbott was reached and as a result, we were in a position where we had to take extraordinary measures to rely on production from other facilities. Those extraordinary measures required the President’s direct intervention and that’s what the president has directed and what the President has done. 

TAPPER: I don’t need the FDA to investigate itself to come to the judgment that they did not act quickly enough, and on behalf of all of the frustrated moms and dads and guardians out there, I hope you don’t either. 

DEESE: Well, look, these are really serious safety judgments. And you’re absolutely right that people are right to be frustrated and concerned. But when FDA goes to a facility and conducts an investigation, that has to be done thoroughly and in their best scientific judgment. And so I think it is appropriate that they look at that timeline and understand what happened in that context, but I also think that we need to take very seriously that – 

Whoa, whoa. Guys!  

TAPPER: Our camera fell down. Okay. Brian Deese, thank you so much.

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