Back to Business: Doocy Duels Psaki Over Illegal Immigration, Ukraine Crisis

Aside from a question by the White House Correspondents Association president, it was back to business Tuesday in the White House Briefing Room a day after President Biden called Fox’s Peter Doocy “a stupid son of a bitch” and then called him to hash it out. Doocy led the way in shifting focus back to the news, battling Press Secretary Jen Psaki over illegal immigration and the crisis at the Russia-Ukraine border.

Unlike, say, CNN’s Jim Acosta or any other liberal journalist, Doocy didn’t dwell on what Biden said and went straight to Psaki with the news of exclusive video from his colleague Bill Melugin at the U.S.-Mexico border: “Why is it that large numbers of single adult men are being released into the United States just hours after being apprehended at the southern border?”

Psaki played dumb, insisting she wasn’t “sure the specifics of what you’re referring to” before going to the boilerplate answer that the administration has adhered to Title 42 due to the pandemic and, for those “who cannot be expelled…are placed into immigration proceedings, and one of those avenues could be placement in an alternative to detention program in the interior of the United States.”

After she added that said illegal immigrants are given “a court hearing and are required to check in with the local ICE office,” Doocy called out Psaki’s gaslighting:

[Y]ou mentioned that they’re supposed to check in at a local ICE office, but we know that just between March and August, which is a very small sample size, DHS says than 47,000 of these migrants that were given notices to report did not show up, so why let them into the U.S. unsupervised in the first place? 

Of course, Psaki stuck to her talking points.

With things going nowhere, Doocy moved onto Ukraine and quoted Biden’s own words from a June 2021 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin (click “expand”):

DOOCY: Okay on Ukraine. President Biden met with Putin in person in June in Geneva, and afterwards he came out. He said that the two of them arrived at a conclusion, he said: “It’s clearly not in anybody’s interest — your countries or mine — for us to be in a situation where we’re in a new Cold War, and I truly believe he thinks that he understands that.” Has the president changed his opinion about what Putin thinks? 

PSAKI: How — are you suggesting we’re in a new Cold War? 

DOOCY: I’m just asking. It seems like President thought in June that things were going to be good and right now, things are not looking. 

PSAKI: I don’t actually think that’s at all with the President said. He gave an extensive press conference where he conveyed it wouldn’t happen overnight and that there was work that we could do together and that is something that — that’s how you approach a diplomatic relationship. You are vocal. There are consequences when you disagree, and when you have strong concerns, and you’ve seen us implement those. You still look for places and areas where you can work together. That remains how we’re working with Russia. 

Staying on Ukraine, Doocy wanted to know what the White House made of a BuzzFeed report that, in his words, cited “a source close to the Ukrainian president” who “think[s]” Americans who’ve evacuated Ukraine “are safer” back there “than in Los Angeles.”

Psaki ignored the comparison, instead saying the evacuations are part of “always…mak[ing] decisions that are in the security interests of people who are serving as diplomats around the world” and, based on the number of Russian soldiers near the Ukrainian border, it “sounds pretty dangerous to me.”

Doocy wrapped with a question he could have pinned on Psaki personally as she participated in the last failed hashtag campaign for Ukraine, but he curtailed it to Secretary of State Tony Blinken: “[T]he secretary of state a few days ago tweeted, I #StandWithUkraine.” Has that ever worked at stopping an authoritarian regime from doing anything, a hashtag?”

Of course, Psaki made it about Trump: “[U]nlike the last administration, we don’t think Twitter is the only means of engaging or negotiating or discussing important topics, but it is important for us to convey…that we stand with them.”

Later, one reporter lobbed a softball about whether the administration had “words of support for the students” who continue to believe that going to school is in of itself deeply unsafe due to COVID-19.

Psaki — who’s already talked about her kindergartner’s affinity for masks and lamented how children in the same state as hers aren’t required to wear them any longer — voiced vehement support as though the virus is still an existential threat to whether students live or die (click “expand”)

REPORTER: Does the White House have words of support for the students in D.C. who are currently walking out to protest lax COVID standards in their schools?

PSAKI: Oh, in D.C. and Arlington?

REPORTER: Right now, yeah.

PSAKI: Well look, I think that we — we understand — as a parent myself, but I know these students are — are dealing with fears that they have themselves about the fear of going to a school, a classroom, a workplace where you don’t feel safe. That is one of the reasons that we have been so supportive and advocated for — for — for leaders and school leaders to follow public health guidelines, so, you know, that is the way to keep people safe to ensure people can feel safe in their school or their workplace and certainly, we — we support that.

To see the relevant transcript from January 25 briefing (including a question about January 6 and the FBI and then Portnoy’s quesiton about Doocy), click here.

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