White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed Tuesday she has been ‘forthcoming’ as she was grilled about the classified documents found in Joe Biden‘s possession – but she repeatedly referred questions to other federal entities.
She argued the president has been answering questions on the matter – on the same day he sat, smiling in silence, as he ignored inquiries being asked by the press. In an Oval Office meeting with Netherlands‘ Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Biden smirked as shouting reporters were led from the room.
Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre argued that ‘we have addressed multiple questions from here. Multiple questions have been answered by the President.’
The press secretary has been in defensive mode – with her answers getting snappier and snappier – as the White House has struggled to explain how the various tranches of classified material were discovered in Biden’s now shuttered D.C. think tank and in his Wilmington, Delaware, home.
Additionally, officials have struggled to explain why the discoveries weren’t promptly disclosed publicly, saying they followed a ‘process’ and immediately notified the National Archives, a private federal agency.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been under fire as she deflects questions on the classified material found in President Joe Biden’s personal possession
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 his classic car was kept locked up.
Mainly it is Jean-Pierre facing the fire in her daily press briefings, which have been consumed with questions about the classified documents and the circumstances surrounding their discovery and disclosure.
Even as she brings in other speakers – such as Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and Head Coach Steve Kerr on Tuesday – the administration hasn’t been able to change the topic from the classified documents.
As the president lets aides speak for him, the White House has faced repeated questions over its lack of transparency about when the documents were discovered.
‘I think I’ve been very clear about this. We have answered questions on this at this podium,’ Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre – under repeated questioning – finally admitted her press office didn’t know about the existence of the classified files until CBS News contacted the White House for comment on its story that sparked the administration’s public admission they had found the documents.
In total, there have been four discoveries of classified materials: at the Penn-Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; in Biden’s garage at his Wilmington, Del., home; one document discovered in his ‘personal library’ in the same home and then four more documents found in his home.
All date back to Biden’s time as vice president under Barack Obama but the White House won’t answer as to what topics the materials cover.
The administration waited until January – until well past the November midterm election – to announce documents found at Biden’s DC think tank on November 4th, which was well before voters went to the polls.
Some of the documents were found in Biden’s garage in his Wilmington home – where he also keeps his classic Corvette
Karine Jean-Pierre brought Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and Head Coach Steve Kerr to the press briefing but still faced multiple questions about the classified documents in Biden’s possession
Timeline of Biden document discovery and initial investigation
Nov. 2: 10 classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., by President Joe Biden’s lawyers.
Nov. 3: The National Archives was notified of the discovery
Nov. 4: The National Archives’ Office of Inspector General contacted a prosecutor at the Department of Justice and told them that classified material had been discovered at the Penn Biden Center. The documents were secured at an Archives facility
Nov. 8: 2022 midterm election
Nov. 9: The FBI commenced an assessment to determine whether classified material had been mishandled
Nov. 14: Attorney General Merrick Garland assigned the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch, to determine if a special counsel was needed
Dec. 20: The president’s personal attorney informed Lausch that additional documents with classification markings were found in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware. The FBI secured those documents
Jan 5: Lausch advised Garland that a special counsel should be appointed
Jan. 9: White House publicly announces classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president found at the office of his D.C. think tank
Jan 12: The president’s personal attorney informed Lausch that an additional document was discovered at Biden’s Wilmington home
Jan. 12: White House publicly announces additional classified documents were found in Biden’s Wilmington home
Jan. 12: White House counsel Richard Richard Sauber travels to Biden’s Wilmington home – finds five more classified documents
Jan. 14: White House publicly discloses the documents Sauber found
The counsel’s office then made two more announcements in the following days – regarding documents found at Biden’s garage in his Wilmington home and then a third document found in a room at that house.
On Saturday, the administration announced five more pages containing classified information were found at Biden’s Wilmington home.
Jean-Pierre did not disclose the five pages found on Thursday when she held her press briefing on Friday of last week.
She was asked if she knew about the documents during that Friday briefing.
‘I have been forthcoming from this podium,’ she responded on Tuesday. ‘I was repeating what the [White House] counsel was sharing at that time.’
She was pressed again 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 responded.
When Weijia said she didn’t hear the answer, Jean-Pierre told that ‘you’re not too far’ from the reporter who asked it.
When pressed on when the press office originally found out Biden had classified documents in his personal possession, Jean-Pierre told Weijia that it was ‘when your team was was doing a story.’
The CBS story was published on January 9th. The documents in question – the first tranche which were found at Biden’s think tank – had been discovered on November 4th.
Jean-Pierre also got snappy with a reporter who asked if Biden, while he spent the past weekend in Wilmington, had searched his home to see if he had more classified documents.
‘Are you listening to the question that you’re asking me?,’ she asked in response.
The White House tried to go on the offensive Tuesday and demanded Kevin McCarthy disclose the ‘secret deals’ he made with House conservatives as part of the deal to election him speaker.
As House Republicans demanded Biden release more information about the classified documents found in his Wilmington home – including visitor logs to his private Delaware resident – the administration is returning fire.
‘Will House Republicans come clean and transparently disclose the secret deals Kevin McCarthy made with the extreme MAGA members of his caucus to get their support for Speaker?’ asked Ian Sams, spokesman for Biden’s White House counsel office.
Sams held a briefing call with reporters to slam Republicans’ probes.
‘Their outrage is all pure theater,’ he said of the GOP.
But Jean-Pierre was asked about the accusation Republicans were faking their outrage.
‘Why shouldn’t Americans be outraged?’ NBC’s Peter Alexander asked her.
‘I think I’ve been very clear about this. We have answered questions on this at this podium,’ she responded.
‘We’re just not going to talk about there’s an investigation going on. There’s a legal process here as we’ve been very, very clear about,’ she added. ‘We’re going to be prudent here and make sure that we are not interfering in this process.’
President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware
Jean-Pierre said multiple times during her briefing on Tuesday that questions should either be referred to the Department of Justice or the White House Counsel’s office.
‘I know there’s going to continue to be dozens more questions probably today and I will say reach out to the White House Counsel’s Office,’ she said.
‘It’s specific to the DOJ or special counsel,’ she said in response to another query. ‘You need to reach out to them.’
She even acknowledged that she was repeating herself – but added she would be consistently refer reporters to Justice or the White House Counsel’s office with their questions.
‘Look, guys, you guys can ask me this 100 times 200 times if you wish. I’m going to keep saying the same thing,’ she said.
‘I hear your question it’s going to ask. It’s been noted and we’re just going to try to move on here. And we’re going to move on.’