White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is continuing to defend President Joe Biden’s handling of classified material with answers that yield little new information, even as the president says he has “no regrets” about his handling of the matter.
Jean-Pierre’s responses have frustrated reporters seeking details about the timing of the discovery ahead of the midterm elections, of files uncovered in later searches, and Biden’s willingness to comply with a federal investigation into the matter.
While Biden has vowed to cooperate fully with the Justice Department investigation, Jean-Pierre and other aides have declined to say whether he would agree to sit for an interview with the special counsel overseeing the case.
After announcing an end to the search of Biden’s properties last week, Jean-Pierre faced questions about her credibility at the briefing room podium after the White House revealed that new files were uncovered.
Jean-Pierre did not disclose that attorneys searching Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, residence had recovered a third batch of documents, a discovery that occurred hours before she took to the podium to bat back more than a dozen questions on the matter.
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Biden’s press secretary told reporters that she had been “forthcoming on the issue” and said she first learned of the classified documents discovered at the Penn Biden Center when CBS News began asking about them last week.
She reiterated that Biden “was surprised” to learn that any secret materials were in his possession.
Asked whether she was “upset” that she took to the briefing “with incomplete and inaccurate information” and “concerned that it affects [her] credibility,” Jean-Pierre demurred.
“What I’m concerned about is making sure that we do not politically interfere with the Department of Justice,” she said.
Daily press briefings have become a battlefield as reporters press for information that White House aides are unwilling to give. And it’s not only Jean-Pierre declining to answer questions.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby referred to federal investigators questions about the national security risk of leaving secret files unattended and unprotected or whether the intelligence community or White House plans to conduct a damage assessment of the potential spillage.
“We are talking about an open investigation, and I simply must refer you to the Justice Department,” Kirby said.
While Biden assured the public he had no regrets about his handling of the documents case, his comments threaten to undermine claims he takes classification statutes seriously.
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Biden made a similar point as a senator in 1977 when he helped block the nomination of Ted Sorensen, former President Jimmy Carter’s pick to lead the CIA, over his alleged mishandling of classified files.
The White House struck a newly combative tone this week as it accused House Republicans of waging “political stunts” in response to the Justice Department investigation.