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Embattled president smirks as reporters ask questions about classified files

By Sarah May on
 January 18, 2023

As the classified documents mishandling scandal plaguing the White House continues to gain steam even among Democrats, President Joe Biden on Tuesday was seen on camera smirking while simultaneously ignoring questions from reporters about materials found at his Delaware home and at the office of his University of Pennsylvania-affiliated think tank, as the Daily Mail reports.

The scene unfolded in the Oval Office at the conclusion of a meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, and it underscores the stonewalling and obfuscation that critics argue have increasingly characterized the administration's response as new developments emerge almost daily.

Unmonitored search

Biden's dismissive display came on the same day that a report in the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Department of Justice pondered sending FBI agents to supervise searches of Biden's Delaware homes for additional documents after the initial discovery of classified material was made, but ultimately decided not to.

According to the report, FBI involvement was nixed because the DOJ determined that Biden's attorneys were being cooperative in the process, and therefore no further participation from agents was warranted.

As a result of the DOJ's hands-off approach, an agreement was made whereby Biden's lawyers would scour the Delaware properties for more potentially mishandled documents and report back if any were found.

Indeed, additional documents were found in the Wilmington house, both in Biden's garage as well as in what was referred to as his “personal library,” as the Mail noted.

Not surprisingly, critics have pointed to the vast difference between the arrangement Biden was afforded and the FBI raid carried out at former President Donald Trump's Florida estate last summer in an attempt to recover allegedly mishandled classified documents.

Jean-Pierre grilled

Joining the president in declining to provide much insight, even in light of the questionable revelations from the WSJ, was White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, whose vague, conflicting, and often non-responsive answers to reporters' questions have arguably complicated things considerably for the administration.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Jean-Pierre was asked to explain prior inconsistencies in the statements she has issued from the podium about whether all searches for documents had been completed.

As Fox News noted, one reporter asked Jean-Pierre, “Is it safe to assume now that all documents that had been recovered, all the official records, all the classified documents are back in the custody of the National Archives, or are more searches underway to find out if there's anything else there?”

Providing nothing in the way of a direct answer, the press secretary said merely, “I'm just going to continue to be prudent here. I'm going to let this ongoing review that is happening, this legal process that is happening and let that process continue under the special counsel. I'm not going to comment from here.”

Confronted about the inconsistency between last week's statement that document searches were complete and the subsequent discovery of more materials and asked if she was “being directed by someone to not be forthcoming on this,” Jean-Pierre said, “I have been forthcoming from this podium. What I said yesterday was what the statement at the time was – what we all had. You all had the statement, and I was repeating what the counsel was sharing at that time.”

Jean-Pierre was then asked, “Are you upset that you came out to this podium on Friday with incomplete and inaccurate information, and are you concerned that it affects your credibility up here?” echoing a growing chorus of critics on both sides of the political spectrum.

“Not qualified”

The lack of transparency from the administration – as exemplified by Jean-Pierre – has caused pundits and reporters to call into question not just the press secretary's fitness for the position she holds, but also the broader crisis management strategy being employed by the White House.

As Fox News reported separately, network contributor and media critic Joe Concha took direct aim at the press secretary, saying, “Karine Jean-Pierre has shown that she is not qualified for this job at this level.”

“We've seen that now over the last couple of months, because she keeps saying over and over again – as if she's almost programmed, like she has no ability to think extemporaneously – that the president 'takes these documents very seriously,'” Concha opined, adding, “[i]n one press conference, she's literally said that line 17 times. And at the same time, she talks about how transparent the administration has been with the public – while not answering questions.”

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy also weighed in, saying that with every subsequent press briefing she holds, Jean-Pierre is “actually making [the situation] worse” and added, “Biden's first thing was, I don't know how they got there. Right. Well, he knows they're there now. And what is their arrangement? They're having people who don't have security clearances do the search,”

Even administration-friendly MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was aghast at the administration's handling of the rapidly escalating controversy, saying Monday that the White House has been “stumbling and bumbling” in the wake of each new revelation and that its “amateur hour” approach must stop.