James Rosen is a veteran journalist who made his White House briefing debut Thursday as White House correspondent at Newsmax. He was the White House’s longtime reporter. So it wasn’t surprising that he began to grill Jake Sullivan (National Security Adviser) on foreign policy, and Jen Psaki (Press Secretary) on Biden being responsible f om inflation and vaccines.
Even better, he received plenty of hardball assistance from the Associated Press and Bloomberg magazines. Not to be left out, Fox’s Peter Doocy appeared on Friday’s Psaki Show episode and pressured Psaki on what many see as incendiary rhetoric from Biden.
Sullivan was Thursday’s special guest, so Rosen had solid questions if they found “any evidence of any impropriety” from a Team Biden review of Donald Trump’s interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin and then whether the world view the White House’s threat of Russian sanctions if they invade Ukraine as “a position of…weakness” (click “expand”):
I assume — you’ll correct me if I’m wrong — that in preparation for President Biden’s first summit with President Putin, held in Geneva last June, the national security team undertook a comprehensive review of the official documentary record of all the interactions that President Trump had with President Putin. You may recall — during the Trump presidency, we saw reporting to the effect that Mr. Trump and/or his aides took some steps to prevent the maintenance of a full record of those interactions. Can you please assure us that your review did not uncover evidence of any attempt to alter the process at any stage of the storage and creation of these records. Your review also revealed evidence that President Trump was acting improperly or with extreme severity in relation to President Putin’s interactions.
This administration has tried without success to use sanctions to compel the military in Myanmar to abandon its coup d’état. To force China to release prisoners in Xinjiang’s concentration camps, the Obama administration used sanctions but without success. In an attempt to stop Russia’s annexation and occupation of Crimea, the Obama administration tried to use sanctions but without success. You are again threatening sanctions in an attempt to stop a Russian invasion. Why shouldn’t this be perceived as clinging to a failed tactic? And why shouldn’t President Putin assess, on that basis, that his adversary is operating from a position of relative weakness?
Psaki wanted to go to Psaki to find out where he was. “the buck stop[s] with the President”Seeing as the White House took credit “economic metrics that showed great progress across 2021”He attributed problems like inflation to his faulty judgments “external factors.”
Psaki largely ducked it, so Rosen tried again before wrapping with two questions on whether Biden has “any evidence” for “having success” in convincing Americans to get vaccinated:
ROSEN: Your answer to that question is yes, he has the job creation and low unemployment rates, as well as inflation. Correct?
PSAKI – I believe any president should have complete control over everything in the country. And the President sure does.
Before Rosen, the AP’s Zeke Miller wanted to know “why is the President taking these steps now” to set up a government testing website and hand out free masks when he could have “three months” ahead of the holiday testing and omicron surges.
Miller followed up by pointing out the obvious truth that “he could have done the exact same thing three months ago when, you know, maybe it would be in effect now when the need is obviously greater than — than is — than the system has capacity to deliver right now.”
But perhaps the question of the day came from Bloomberg’s Justin Sink (click “expand”):
SINK: I mean, frankly, things just seem like they’re going pretty poorly right now for the White House. Build Back Better is currently being blocked. The blocking of voting rights has been a problem. Diplomatic talks with Russia doesn’t seem to have brought us back from the brink of war. The inflation rate is at its highest level in 40 years. This virus has set new records in terms of infection. So, as we kind of hit this one-year period, and a period where everything seems like it’s in pretty rough shape, or nearly everything — which is not an invitation, I guess, to list off — [LAUGHS] — some other things — I’m wondering, at what point do you take stock and say that things need to change internally, whether it’s your outreach with the Hill, whether it’s the leadership within the White House. Your efforts seem blocked on an astonishing number of fronts.
PSAKI : I’ll give you a slightly different perspective. More than 200 millions people have had their vaccines. We’ve had record job growth, record low unemployment rates — historically, in this country, over the last year. We’ve rebuilt our alliances and our relationships around the world and right now, as it relates to Russia, as you heard our National Security Advisor convey, we’re working with partners around the world to convey very clearly: It’s up to them to make a choice about what’s next. We’re not going to make that on their behalf. It’s up to them to determine if there are going to be crippling economic sanctions or not, or — if they decide to move forward, but we also recognize when you have a small margin and threshold in the Senate, it’s very difficult to get things done and to get legislation passed and the fact that the President, under his leadership, got the American Rescue Plan passed, a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill with 19 [Republican]About 6 votes are cast in the Senate [Republican]Votes in the House It is important to note that while we continue to work with the members in order to decide the best path forward for Build Back Better, the Senate still has the overwhelming majority of Democrats who support voting rights. That’s a path forward and our effort is to do hard things, try hard things, and keep at it, so we just don’t see it through the same prism.
SINK: So, the sense is things are going well; there’s no need for change right now?
PSAKI – I feel that you are able to do tough things in White Houses because of your previous experience. You have every challenge at your — at your feet — laid at your feet, whether it’s global or domestically and we could certainly propose legislation to see if people support bunny rabbits and ice cream, but that wouldn’t be very rewarding to the American people, so the President’s view is we’re going to keep pushing for hard things, and we’re going to keep pushing the boulders up the hill to get it done.
To close out the briefing, Bennett twice tried to have Psaki explain what Biden’s “planning to do differently…in the second year that shows that he’s listening to”The American people see as “he’s ending his first year underwater”With more people disapproving than applauding him.
Friday wasn’t any better for Psaki (although it was shorter).
FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell was Psaki’s opening act and Doocy inquired about “what’s the point of now sending” If many masks are worn down, they can be given to the people. Criswell insists on this, pushing back against it “[m]asks save lives, I think, is the important thing here.”
When he was finally able to confront Psaki, Psaki fired this scorcher. “President Biden promised to bring decades of D.C. experience to the office, but Build Back Better has not passed, voting rights apparently not gonna pass, and vaccine requirements that he likes are, apparently, illegal. What happened?”
Psaki mentioned the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan infrastructure package, as evidence of a successful, though that clearly left out Doocy’s failures (as also, for instance, Afghanistan or inflation).
Doocy upped the ante, calling out what’s seen as Biden’s incredibly divisive rhetoric placing anyone who disagrees with him in the same breath as those guilty of treason and segregationists (click “expand”):
DOOCY: But, as about a year ago and working with Republicans, now he is talking about Republicans that don’t agree with voting rights — he’s describing them as George Wallace, Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis. Did you hear that the man who said, “We must make progress” when elected, was now saying, “We have to stop treating our adversaries as our enemy.”
PSAKI – I’m sure that everybody who has listened to that speech, and is speaking on that level as my mother would, will notice that he didn’t compare them as people. He was comparing the choice to those figures in history and where they’re going to position themselves if they — as they — as they determine whether they’re going to support the fundamental right to vote or not.
Click here and here to view the briefing transcripts for January 13-14 (adding more difficult questions and Psaki’s comments about her relationship in journalits).