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President Biden failed to take questions from reporters at the top of a trilateral summit meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada Thursday — shortly after White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed Biden regularly answered press queries.
It was not clear if Biden knew that his staff had cancelled the traditional press conference with visiting world leaders earlier Thursday. At a morning bill-signing event, Biden declined to answer a shouted question, assuring reporters, “I’ll be happy to answer your questions after I meet with all of the leaders.”
Reporters were stunned when Biden did not honor his pledge just before 6 pm.
The session with Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the White House East Room was closed to the press without the American president responding to a single question.
Instead, they gave opening remarks in turn before Biden asked Jake Sullivan, US national security advisor, to speak.
“Thanks,” Sullivan responded. “We’ll just give the press a couple of minutes to leave the room before we get the meeting underway.”
As reporters bellowed questions, a junior White House press officer shouted at them to leave: “Let’s go! Thank you, thank-you!
Biden did ask questions before his meeting with Trudeau, which was the first event of the summit. However, he declined to answer them prior to his one-on-1 with Obrador later in that day.
Psaki was quizzed by Psaki after the Biden/Trudeau meeting to find out why the White House decided not to hold a postsummit press conference.
“I would say, first, I don’t think it’s as scandalous as that in terms of the backstory,” the press secretary responded.
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“I would note that in the last three weeks, the president has hosted two press conferences — three, if you count the one after he announced the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, where he took a number of questions,” Psaki added. “He’s also, including today, he’s taken questions from reporters a total of at least 10 times this month.”
She continued, “There was a change of schedule as things moved around as they sometimes do.” “As you all know, he [Biden] signed three important pieces of legislation today — important for law enforcement — that had broad bipartisan support. This moved everything later in today and schedules change and adjust. But you saw him answer questions just a few moments ago. [with Trudeau].”
CBS News Radio reporter Steven Portnoy, the head of the White House Correspondents’ Association pressed Psaki later in the briefing about Biden’s remark, saying “I think I heard him say that he’d take questions after he meets with the leaders today” and asking “Should we expect a press conference tonight or tomorrow?”
“You can ask questions in any format,” Psaki said. Psaki sniped. “I don’t think you need a formal embroidered chair for it.”
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Moments later, Biden sat beside Obrador and refused to answer shouted questions regarding immigration.
Although Biden is open to answering questions from reporters, he tends to only answer one or two questions at a time. He has also given far fewer interviews than his predecessors.
His staff also had to correct some of his mistakes when he went off-script. Biden was questioned Tuesday about reports that the US may not send any diplomatic delegation to the Winter Olympics 2022.
Biden declared, “I am part of the delegation.”
Chris Meagher, White House spokesperson clarified Wednesday to reporters that the president had not provided an update in his response last night.
Reporters have repeatedly complained about the lack of access to the president while reporting from the White House and abroad. Psaki maintained Wednesday that criticisms of Biden’s decision not to hold formal press conferences were “misunderstood.”
“I think I have to say I think that’s more an issue related to the White House press corps, as it’s their job to be … than it is a concern to the American public,” the press secretary told Politico’s Anita Kumar during an event hosted by the outlet’s Women Rule Exchange. “They see the president answer questions multiple times a week, they see him speaking and providing updates.”
Source: Fox News