Wednesday afternoon marked the week’s first White House press briefing and, for the ever-inept Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, she must have been ever-thankful for the lighter load as, hours earlier, White House Counsel spokesman Ian Sams offered globs of nothingness on the White House driveway.
In light of another CBS News scoop that the FBI had conducted a search of the Penn Biden Center in November and the FBI spent Wednesday searching President Biden’s Rehoboth Beach, Delaware beach house, the questions came aplenty from even the liberal media.
Even ABC’s Mary Bruce was tough. She led off the questioning by noting that while they’re copping to the Wednesday search, they “did not disclose that the FBI also searched the President’s former private office here in Washington. Do the American people have a right to know about that?”
Sams had a hilarious response, stating in part: “I think we’ve been pretty transparent from the very beginning with providing information as it occurs throughout this process. You know, we have released probably thousands of words of statements…about the process that has been undertaken here — that process that has been fully coordinated with the Justice Department”.
CBS’s Ed O’Keefe had a simple a fair number of Americans were probably asking: “Ian, why did it take so long for a search of the Rehoboth Beach residence to occur?”
As he’d do a few times to other reporters, Sams commended him for the question before offering a word salad that boiled down to him punting to the Justice Department since they’ve been fully cooperative.
NBC’s Peter Alexander had perhaps the question of the day: “Has the FBI conducted any searches of any other locations associated with the President that you or the White House is aware of?”
In turn, Sams gave another comical response, emphasizing that “we’re providing information as this goes on and answering questions about the — the search activities as they’ve been happening” without “speak[ing] too much” about “the DOJ’s practices.”
Alexander’s second question concerned the disturbing prospect of political interference (click “expand”):
ALEXANDER: Did anyone at the White House at any point tell the National Archives in any form that they could not release a press release about the discovery of classified documents?
SAMS: What do you — what’s that in reference to?
ALEXANDER: There’s reporting that came from the House Oversight Committee Chairman, James Comer, who says that, in his conversations with the National Archives, they communicated that they were told — the Archives was told it could not release a press release, at whatever point it was, about the discovery of classified documents. Did anyone at the White House tell them not to do that?
SAMS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know anything about that. If that’s actually what he said, it’s probably better to ask the Archives if that’s actually what was said and try to understand a little bit more what he meant.
Alexander reupped this question during Jean-Pierre’s briefing because he sees this as a “wider White House” issue. Not surprisingly, Jean-Pierre kept to her standard answer of referring him back to Sams.
Wingrove’s question wasn’t a softball and perhaps the second of three questions of the day: “Can you say confidently whether you believe there are any more classified documents? Like, there were none found today. Do you think this closes the door on classified documents that will be discovered at residences or in the possession of the President?”
Sams wouldn’t commit to it because “the Justice Department is engaged in an ongoing investigation.”
CNBC’s Emma Kinery followed up on the searches angle and whether there’s any discussion of “searching…other areas.” Sams deflected by claiming Biden’s “personal lawyers have addressed, sort of, the process of identifying, you know, locations”.
Another reporter noted the White House conceded Wednesday’s Rehoboth Beach search as “planned,” so they wanted to know “how long was it planned” and if there “were…any parameters.” Of course, Sams ducked.
Reuters’s Trevor Hunnicutt had the other pertinent question that could come back to bite Team Biden: “[W]hat is the total number of documents bearing classified markings that have been turned up as part of this investigation?”
Sams made this the last question and, after complimenting him, called it “a more appropriate question for the Justice Department.”
Hunnicutt also presented this to Jean-Pierre. For her, she told him to speak with Sams even though, as Hunnicutt noted, Sams “declined to comment”.
Moving to Jean-Pierre’s briefing, the AP’s Seung Min Kim asked why how the American people should feel having been repeatedly misled by the White House (click “expand”):
KIM: And, on documents, Ian addressed the version of this at the sticks a little bit ago, but I’m wondering how the White House can claim that they are being transparent when the FBI search of the Pence Center — Penn Biden Center that happened months ago was not proactively disclosed to the public? And what should the public take away from the fact that you are keeping information like this from the public.
JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m going to be very prudent from here, I’m going to be very consistent from here, I’m just not going to comment on anything that is related to what is currently happening. This is a legal process. As you just mentioned, my colleague was outside these doors answering many of your questions, he has done that the past couple weeks, I believe four weeks now, and he’ll continue to do that. Anything that is specific to this — to this particular process I would refer you to the Department of Justice and also my colleagues at the White House counsel’s office.
O’Keefe had a short but biting question about Wednesday’s search:
O’KEEFE: Would the White House have revealed today’s search if pool cameras hadn’t caught the investigators arriving on scene?
JEAN-PIERRE: Again, this is a question for the White House counsel’s office. I would refer you to them.
And at the back-end of the briefing, Fox’s Jacqui Heinrich invited Jean-Pierre to state before cameras “that the White House has been and continues to be as transparent as possible, meaning that where there haven’t been disclosures, something has prevented that.”
In another bookmark moment, Jean-Pierre said the administration has been “cooperating fully and we will continue to do that”.
To see the relevant transcripts from February 1, click here and here.