Daily Doocy: Reporter Questions WH on FEMA, Lefty Violence, Trial as Others Lob Softballs

With former National Security Adviser-turned-Domestic Policy Council head Susan Rice appearing at Tuesday’s White House press briefing, the mood was one of ebullience as the liberal press corps felt at home with key allies, as Rice and Press Secretary Jen Psaki talked about creating an America based on “equity” to atone for its life of sin. 

But amidst all the softballs, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy came with actual questions, ranging from FEMA funding to the impeachment trial to left-wing violence (and then later question about the Olympics).

Doocy wasn’t granted a question for Rice, but he got the third spot in Psaki’s pecking order.

For his lead-off, Doocy wondered about “reports that FEMA is planning to reroute up to $10 billion in money that could be used to combat COVID-19 right now, to preemptively combat climate change by building sea walls and elevating flood-prone homes.”

“[A]nd I’m curious if there has been any thought given to waiting until COVID is behind us to do that,” he added.

Psaki replied with what’s become a pattern for her (and was roundly mocked whenever a Trump press secretary would do so), which was she hadn’t heard of that and would “circle back” afterward with him.

Doocy then turned to impeachment (click “expand”):

DOOCY: And another question. The President says that he hopes that the Senate leadership can continue to do an impeachment trial while working on the people’s business. What if they can’t? 

PSAKI: Well, as President, you always have to be hopeful, of course, that’s your role as a leader, to push and push leaders, push Democrats and Republicans to make more progress. But, you know, I think what the President will continue to do privately in his conversations with members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, and publicly, is make the case for the cost of inaction and I think he doesn’t feel that there — the Democrats and Republicans in Congress have the — the space and the time to wait, that there’s an urgency that the American people are going to continue to push members who are representing them on, and so I don’t think he feels there’s an alternative other than to move forward with urgency. 

And for the last question (with the Olympics one coming later), Doocy asked whether left-wing rioters in cities like Portland will be “reviewed by the DNI as domestic, violent extremists” like those that participated in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Psaki said she didn’t “have anything to preview on it” other than that government intelligence reviews “all violence,” but lamented that “you and I talked about this yesterday.”

In other words, the Biden White House doesn’t want reporters to continue asking about left-wing violence. But right-wing extremists? Ask away!

Elsewhere, it was mostly another trip down easy street with the exception of questions from the left. In Rice’s portion, NBC’s Peter Alexander griped about how there weren’t any gun control proposals put forth on January 20.

ABC chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega was also granted questions to Rice and fretted about how the country was facing such an “issue” with “white nationalism” and inquired about “how concerned are you about the threat of — from some of these groups leading into this impeachment trial, in two weeks?”

Bloomberg’s Mario Parker came to Rice with concerns about supposed voter suppression due to “Republican legislatures have signaled that they’re going to look to roll back some of the voting procedures from the last election” that will “largely” harm “black and brown communities.”

That ignored the fact that many of the changes were done in the name of the coronavirus pandemic, so unless we’re still in the throes of a COVID war in November 2022, one could argue such changes are no longer necessary. But go ahead and play the race card, people! 

With both Psaki and Rice, reporters were more than happy to engage in questions of “equity.” Here were some highlights (click “expand”):

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Following up on that in terms of data collection, it’s my understanding that something like 50 percent of the vaccinations are coming in without racial data. Is that accurate, or is there something else there? I’m wondering how you’ll measure success in vaccinating people of color and vulnerable communities if you don’t have the data on who’s getting vaccinated and will we be seeing mobile outlooks, mobile — mobile kind of — just mobile outreach to those communities in terms of vaccines? When will we see that? 

(….)

ALCINDOR: Another part of that question, is it accurate that there’s very little racial data or less than 50 percent of racial data coming in on vaccinations? 

(….)

ALCINDOR: And I wanted to ask Ambassador Rice this. She didn’t take all the questions, so I’ll — maybe you the question I was going to ask her, which is we’ve seen after January 6th there is obviously this issue of white supremacy and racism coursing through our country. What’s the biggest challenge when you think of equity in this country and how you measure success for something like that, especially when we think of all of the different ways that our country is dealing with it. I know these EOs are about housing and about criminal justice. But can you talk a little bit how you’re going to measure success, and what the federal government’s role is on something so big as inequality and racism.

(….)

ANNIE KARNI: One more question. Ambassador Rice outlined all of the disparities when it comes to Americans of color being affected and dying from COVID at higher rates. Do you — does the White House fault the previous administration for creating those disparities that we’re seeing? 

As far as others that brought constructive questions to boot, Vega argued that, even though the administration has been in office six days, their excuse has worn thin of not having a handle on the national stockpile left behind by Operation Warp Speed.

On behalf of a colleague not in the room, AMI Magazine’s Jake Turx asked: “Does the President believe he can attain unity with the 74 million Trump voters while urging his allies in the Senate to hold an impeachment trial after his predecessor has already left office?”

And the New York Post’s Ebony Bowden inquired about discrepancies between officials on when both the stockpile and when America will reach herd immunity: 

[W]e heard the President say yesterday that anyone who wanted to get a shot would be able to get one by spring and we would be well on our way to herd — herd immunity by summer. I’m wondering how we can make those projections when we don’t know what the national stockpile is, when the CDC director says that supply won’t increase until March, and when we’re having enormous distribution problems in the different states?

To see the relevant transcript from January 26’s briefing, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
January 26, 2021
12:51 p.m. Eastern

PETER ALEXANDER: On February 20th of last year, President Biden said “my first day of office, I’m going to send a bill to the Congress repealing the liability protection for gun manufacturers, closing the background loopholes, and waiting period.” So, what happened to that day one promise? 

(….)

12:54 p.m. Eastern

CECILIA VEGA: And then — and then going back to January 6th and what we saw just a few weeks ago at the capitol when we saw people roaming that building, carrying confederate flags, wearing anti-Semitic shirts, we saw lawmakers in that group, we saw firefighters in that group, we saw military veterans in that group. What are you doing to address this issue of white nationalism and how concerned are you about the threat of — from some of these groups leading into this impeachment trial, in two weeks?

(….)

12:55 p.m. Eastern

MARIO PARKER: Two questions. The first, what will the administration do to address the relationship between communities of color and police, particularly as part of the mass incarceration component? And then second question, Republican legislatures have signaled that they’re going to look to roll back some of the voting procedures from the last election. We know that that’s centered in some of those swing states and largely black and brown communities, what’s the administration going to do about that as well?

(….)

1:01 p.m. Eastern

JONATHAN LEMIRE: And on another matter, on impeachment, the President yesterday in an interview said he did not believe that former President Trump would be convicted and therefore removed from office. But said he felt like it had to go to a trial — the trial had to go on anyway. Could you please explain what he meant by that?

(….)

1:02 p.m. Eastern

LEMIRE: Last follow-up and then I’ll hand it off – on this, why is the President reluctant to express his personal opinion as to what happens here? We understand he’s not in the Senate anymore but he is the leader of the Democratic Party.

(….)

1:06 p.m. Eastern

PETER DOOCY: So, there’s some reports that FEMA is planning to reroute up to $10 billion in money that could be used to combat COVID-19 right now, to preemptively combat climate change by building sea walls and elevating flood-prone homes and I’m curious if there has been any thought given to waiting until COVID is behind us to do that. 

JEN PSAKI: Peter, I had not actually seen that report before we came out here. As you know, and I’ll just repeat, the President’s first priority is getting the pandemic under control and doing everything needed, putting all of the necessary resources behind that, but I’m happy to circle back with our team on that specific report. 

DOOCY: And another question. The President says that he hopes that the Senate leadership can continue to do an impeachment trial while working on the people’s business. What if they can’t? 

PSAKI: Well, as President, you always have to be hopeful, of course, that’s your role as a leader, to push and push leaders, push Democrats and Republicans to make more progress. But, you know, I think what the President will continue to do privately in his conversations with members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, and publicly, is make the case for the cost of inaction and I think he doesn’t feel that there — the Democrats and Republicans in Congress have the — the space and the time to wait, that there’s an urgency that the American people are going to continue to push members who are representing them on, and so I don’t think he feels there’s an alternative other than to move forward with urgency. 

DOOCY: And just one more, the riots in Portland and the violence in Portland recently, there was discussion earlier with the January 6th rioters being reviewed by the DNI as domestic, violent extremists, are the rioters in Portland also being viewed through the same lens or is that something different, as the White House sees it? 

PSAKI: I think that you and I talked about this yesterday and conveyed that all violence happening around the country will be reviewed as a part of the — the tasking that was done by that national security team. But I don’t have anything to preview on it. Cecilia. 

CECILIA VEGA: Thanks, Jen. On COVID relief, we’ve heard Republicans come out in opposition in broad brush strokes at this point but in terms of the conversations that Brian Reese is having or the President, for that matter, or anyone on your team is having, has any Republican come forward to give you an alternative? What is happening with these negotiations, what are they telling you that they want, to go, to stay? What’s the non — without you negotiating from here, but what alternatives are they giving you?

(….)

1:10 p.m. Eastern

VEGA: And on the stockpile assessment, I want to flip the answer that you’ve been giving saying it’s five days or six days, give us some time to catch up with this, but I understand that. On the inverse, it’s been six days. Why don’t we know exactly what is in this stockpile? How — what have been the hurdles, the biggest hurdles in getting that answer? Slaoui — you’ve probably heard this yesterday, defended the program Operation Warp Speed, saying the results were exceptional, so why is it taking so long — six days in?

(….)

1:22 p.m. Eastern

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Following up on that in terms of data collection, it’s my understanding that something like 50 percent of the vaccinations are coming in without racial data. Is that accurate, or is there something else there? I’m wondering how you’ll measure success in vaccinating people of color and vulnerable communities if you don’t have the data on who’s getting vaccinated and will we be seeing mobile outlooks, mobile — mobile kind of — just mobile outreach to those communities in terms of vaccines? When will we see that? 

(….)

1:24 p.m. Eastern

ALCINDOR: Another part of that question, is it accurate that there’s very little racial data or less than 50 percent of racial data coming in on vaccinations? 

PSAKI: I would — I would defer — I would refer you to the CDC and I know they’ll have their first briefing tomorrow and that sounds like a great question to ask them. 

ALCINDOR: And I wanted to ask Ambassador Rice this. She didn’t take all the questions, so I’ll — maybe you the question I was going to ask her, which is we’ve seen after January 6th there is obviously this issue of white supremacy and racism coursing through our country. What’s the biggest challenge when you think of equity in this country and how you measure success for something like that, especially when we think of all of the different ways that our country is dealing with it. I know these EOs are about housing and about criminal justice. But can you talk a little bit how you’re going to measure success, and what the federal government’s role is on something so big as inequality and racism.

(….)

1:28 p.m. Eastern

JAKE TURX: Finally, this on behalf of a colleague not able to be here today due to social distancing. Does the President believe he can attain unity with the 74 million Trump voters while urging his allies in the Senate to hold an impeachment trial after his predecessor has already left office? 

(….)

1:30 p.m. Eastern

EBONY BOWDEN: [F]ollowing on from Yamiche’s question earlier, we heard the President say yesterday that anyone who wanted to get a shot would be able to get one by spring and we would be well on our way to herd — herd immunity by summer. I’m wondering how we can make those projections when we don’t know what the national stockpile is, when the CDC director says that supply won’t increase until March, and when we’re having enormous distribution problems in the different states?

(….)

1:34 p.m. Eastern

KARNI: One more question. Ambassador Rice outlined all of the disparities when it comes to Americans of color being affected and dying from COVID at higher rates. Do you — does the White House fault the previous administration for creating those disparities that we’re seeing? 

PSAKI: Well, health disparities in communities of color existed long before the Trump administration took office. And I think that’s a statement of fact, but what did not happen was actions put in place to ensure greater accessibility to communities of color for health care, greater — a greater communications and public campaign how communities of color could gain access to health care and treatments. And certainly, the actions taken by the prior administration to — for all intents and purposes destroy the Affordable Care Act didn’t help any American and certainly didn’t help communities of color. So the vaccine, as you all know, has only — we did not have the scientific and medical breakthrough, until late last year and now it’s incumbent upon this administration, the Biden — Biden-Harris administration to ensure that we are steps to increase access and also to communicate more effectively with communities of color about the vaccine and the efficacy of it and that certainly is a primary focus. That’s one of the reasons why Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is leading a COVID task force and is a pivotal part of the team. And I will say from being on the transition she wasn’t known by President — then-President-Elect Biden previously but he was so impressed with her as a member of the COVID advisory task force that he felt personally it was important to have her as a pivotal member of the team to address exactly this issue.

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