White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed Tuesday she was “accommodating” when grilled over the classified documents found in Joe Biden’s possession — but she repeatedly referred questions to other federal agencies.
She argued the president answered questions on the matter — the same day he sat and silently smiled as he ignored press inquiries. At a meeting in the Oval Office with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Biden grinned as screaming reporters were ushered out of the room.
Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre argued that “from here we’ve addressed several issues. Several questions were answered by the President.’
The press secretary was in defensive mode – her answers getting quicker and quicker – as the White House struggled to explain how the various tranches of classified material were discovered at Biden’s now-closed DC think tank and at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
In addition, officials have struggled to explain why the discoveries were not promptly publicly announced, saying they followed a “process” and immediately notified the National Archives, a private federal agency.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has come under fire as she fended off questions about classified material found in President Joe Biden’s personal possessions
Biden last spoke about the documents on Thursday when he read a prepared statement on the matter. He also defended having the documents in the same garage as his Corvette, noting that his classic car was locked up.
It is primarily Jean-Pierre who faces the fire in her daily press briefings, consumed with questions about the classified documents and the circumstances of their discovery and disclosure.
Even when it brought in other speakers Tuesday — like the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Head Coach’s Steve Kerr — the administration couldn’t change the subject of the classified documents.
As the President lets aides speak for himself, the White House has repeatedly faced questions about a lack of transparency about when the documents were discovered.
“I think I made that very clear. We answered questions about this on this panel,” said Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre finally admitted – under repeated questioning – that her press office was unaware of the existence of the classified files until CBS News reached out to the White House for comment on his story, which sparked the government’s public admission that it had found the documents had found.
In all, four classified materials were discovered: at the Penn-Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, DC; in Biden’s garage at his home in Wilmington, Delaware; a document discovered in his “personal library” in the same house, and then four other documents found in his home.
All date from Biden’s time as Vice President under Barack Obama, but the White House will not answer which topics the materials cover.
The government waited until January — well after November’s midterm elections — to announce documents found at Biden’s DC think tank on Nov. 4, well before voters went to the polls.
Some of the documents were found in Biden’s garage at his home in Wilmington – where he also keeps his classic Corvette
Karine Jean-Pierre brought Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and head coach Steve Kerr to the press conference but still faced several questions about the classified documents in Biden’s possession
Timeline of discovery of Biden documents and initial investigation
November 2: 10 classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, DC, by President Joe Biden’s attorneys.
Nov 3: The National Archives were notified of the discovery
November 4: The Office of the Inspector General of the National Archives contacted a Justice Department prosecutor and informed him that classified material had been discovered at the Penn Biden Center. The documents were secured in an archive facility
November 8: 2022 midterm elections
Nov 9: The FBI began an evaluation to determine if classified material had been mishandled
November 14: Attorney General Merrick Garland hired US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch to determine whether a special counsel was needed
12/20: The President’s personal attorney tells Lausch that more classified documents were found in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware. The FBI secured these documents
January 5: Lausch advised Garland to appoint a special counsel
Jan. 9: The White House announces publicly classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president found in the office of his DC think tank
January 12: The President’s personal attorney informed Lausch that another document had been discovered at Biden’s Wilmington home
Jan. 12: The White House publicly announces that more classified documents have been found at Biden’s Wilmington home
Jan. 12: White House Attorney Richard Richard Sauber travels to Biden’s home in Wilmington – finds five other classified documents
January 14: The White House releases the documents found by Sauber
The attorney’s office then made two more announcements in the days that followed — regarding documents found in Biden’s garage at his Wilmington home, and then a third document found in a room in that home.
On Saturday, the administration announced that five more pages of classified information were found in Biden’s Wilmington home.
Jean-Pierre did not disclose the five pages found on Thursday when she held her press conference last Friday.
She was asked if she knew about the documents during Friday’s briefing.
“I stepped out from that podium,” she replied Tuesday. ‘I repeated what the hell [White House] Council shared at that time.’
She was again harassed by CBS White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang, who asked her if she knew about the additional five documents when she spoke to the press on Friday afternoon.
“I literally just answered that question,” Jean-Pierre replied.
When Weijia said she didn’t hear the answer, Jean-Pierre said that “you’re not too far away” from the reporter who asked about it.
When the press office originally found out that Biden had classified documents in his personal possessions, Jean-Pierre told Weijia it was “when your team made a story.”
The CBS story was released on January 9th. The documents in question – the first tranche found in Biden’s think tank – were discovered on November 4.
Jean-Pierre also got scathing with a reporter who asked if while he was in Wilmington last weekend, Biden searched his home to see if he had any more classified documents.
“Are you listening to the question you’re asking me?” she asked in response.
The White House tried to go on the offensive on Tuesday, urging Kevin McCarthy to disclose the “secret deals” he made with House Conservatives to elect him speaker.
When House Republicans demanded that Biden release more information about classified documents found at his Wilmington home — including visitation logs of his private Delaware resident — the administration returned fire.
“Will House Republicans come clean and transparently disclose the secret deals Kevin McCarthy made with his faction’s extreme MAGA members to gain their support for Speaker?” asked Ian Sams, spokesman for Biden’s White House legal office.
Sams conducted a briefing with reporters to condemn the Republican investigation.
“Your outrage is sheer theatre,” he said of the GOP.
But Jean-Pierre was asked about the accusation that Republicans were faking their outrage.
“Why shouldn’t Americans be outraged?” NBC’s Peter Alexander asked her.
“I think I made that very clear. We answered questions about that on this panel,” she replied.
“We’re just not going to talk about the fact that an investigation is ongoing. There is a legal process here that we have been very, very clear about,” she added. “We will proceed cautiously here and make sure that we do not interfere in this process.”
President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware
Jean-Pierre said several times during her Tuesday briefing that questions should be escalated to either the Justice Department or the White House office.
“I know there’s probably going to be dozens more questions today, and I’m going to say contact the White House office,” she said.
“It’s specific to the Justice Department or the Special Counsel,” she replied to another question. “You must contact her.”
She even acknowledged that she was repeating herself – but added that she would consistently refer reporters to the judiciary or the White House Office with their questions.
“Listen guys, you can ask me that 100 times 200 times if you want. I’ll keep saying the same thing,’ she said.
‘I hear the question she’s about to ask. It’s been noted and we’ll just try to move on from here. And we will continue.’