Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken about who in the White House has the authority to “press the button” to silence President Joe Biden in a strange exchange during a Senate hearing that was supposed to be about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“Somebody in the White House has authority to press the button and stop the president — cut off the president’s speaking ability and sound,” said Risch, ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Who is that person?”
“I think anyone who knows the president, including members of this committee, knows that he speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself,” Blinken responded.
“Well, are you saying that there is no one in the White House that can cut him off? Because yesterday, that happened, and it’s happened a number of times before that. It’s been widely reported,” Risch said. “Somebody has the ability to push the button and cut off his sound and stop him from speaking. Who is that person?”
For more than 2 minutes at the beginning of a hearing on Afghanistan, Sen. James Risch (R-ID) presses Secretary of State Antony Blinken about “somebody in the White House” who “pushes the button” to cut off Biden mid-sentence.
Blinken repeatedly refutes this. pic.twitter.com/jC4nshUKQp
— The Recount (@therecount) September 14, 2021
Blinken responded that there is no such person.
"Senator Risch is cheapening this hearing by peddling baseless and bizarre conspiracy theories," White House Rapid Response Director Mike Gwin told Bloomberg in response to the exchange. "Sec. Blinken and the administration will continue to engage in good faith with Congress in hopes of having a serious conversation."
Risch appeared to be referring to several instances in which livestream feeds for Biden’s events have been cut off or run into technical mishaps.
On Monday, a White House livestream of Biden receiving a briefing from fire safety officials was abruptly cut off while Biden was mid-sentence, transitioning to a screen that said: “Thank you for joining.”
The Republican National Committee and conservative commentators in March also dinged Biden when a White House livestream cut out following Biden’s remarks after he said he would take questions.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 4, 2021
That cutoff, however, did not prevent Biden from talking to the press.
“The remarks were the only part of the meeting that were planned as open press,” a White House official told the Washington Post about the March incident. “The president takes questions almost every day from the press pool.”
The White House has also been criticized for cutting off audio at other points.
During a press spray last month, Biden's audio was cut off as a reporter asked him about what he would do if Americans were still in Afghanistan after his Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
Those in the room, though, reported that Biden responded: "You’ll be the first person I call.”
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Original Author: Emily Brooks