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WASHINGTON — In the first press briefing of President Biden’s administration, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that her goal was to “bring transparency and truth back to the American government.”
That remark was a not-so-subtle jab at the predecessors in the Trump administration, who were known to provide reporters with false and misleading claims from the briefing room podium.
“I have deep respect for a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role that all of you play,” Psaki said. “As I noted earlier, there will be moments when we disagree and there will certainly be days we disagree for extensive parts of the briefing even perhaps. But we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”
Psaki noted that the administration planned to restore daily weekday briefings, another notable shift. Toward the end of the Trump administration, daily briefings were often canceled or called without warning. Weeks would pass without them, rendering the Brady Briefing Room into little more than a dust-filled (and at times, rat-infested) storage space. The administration went an unprecedented 100 days without briefing the media on camera while boasting that Trump was the most accessible president of all time.
Trump first press secretary Sean Spicer got off on the wrong foot with reporters by falsely claiming that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest in U.S. history. Spicer’s replacements didn’t fare much better, and the briefings given by the likes of Sarah Sanders, Stephanie Grisham and Kayleigh McEnany often made news simply for the arguments they sparked with an increasingly impatient press corps.
In her debut at the podium, Psaki, a State Department spokesperson during the Obama administration, maintained her composure as she recounted the new president’s busy first day.
Following his inauguration, Biden signed a series of executive orders that sought to roll back policies put in place by Trump, including rejoining the Paris accord and the World Health Organization, reversing a travel ban for some Muslim-majority countries and mandating masks be worn on all federal property.
Psaki was asked about whether Biden worried that Trump’s looming second impeachment trial in the Senate might forestall his ambitious agenda.
“The Senate can also multitask and they can do their constitutional duty while continuing to address the needs of the American people,” she responded.
But Psaki didn’t always offer direct answers during her first briefing.
When a reporter from EWTN on the Global Catholic Network asked Psaki whether Biden would seek to do away with the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits U.S. federal programs from paying for abortions and a Trump administration Mexico City policy to keep tax dollars from going to fund abortions abroad,she demurred.
“Well, I think we’ll have more to say on the Mexico City policy in the coming days. But I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that [Biden] is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly,” Psaki said.
While Psaki didn’t offer much detail when asked about how the U.S. might respond to recent Russian hacking of government computers or what steps would be taken to deal with the nuclear threat posed by Iran, she was amused by some of the questions asked during the briefing. When asked whether Biden planned to keep Trump’s color scheme on Air Force One, Psaki responded, “This is such a good question. I have not had the opportunity to dig into that today given the number of executive actions, orders, the inauguration, a few things happening,” Psaki said sarcastically. “I will venture to get you an answer on that and maybe we can talk about it here tomorrow.”
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