White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre conducted the press conference in the absence of the psychedelic Jen Psaki yesterday. In the Psaki pspirit, Peter Doocy “circled back” to the question he raised with Biden about settlement negotiations between the Biden Department of Justice and the ACLU. According to the Wall Street Journal, the negotiations were “circling in” on payments of $450,000 to illegal aliens allegedly traumatized by the unfriendly welcome they received during the Trump administration.
On Wednesday Biden told Doocy that the Wall Street Journal story was “garbage” and that the settlement “[wasn’t] going to happen.” The ACLU responded: “President Biden may not have been fully briefed about the actions of his very own Justice Department as it carefully deliberated and considered the crimes committed against thousands of families separated from their children as an intentional governmental policy.”
The White House transcript of yesterday’s press conference is posted here. This is yesterday’s exchange on the ACLU lawsuit:
[Peter Doocy]: President Biden is calling these reports about the administration paying up to $450,000 to illegal immigrants who are separated from family members “garbage.” He says it’s not going to happen. But the ACLU says that it is. So, who is right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you talking about the question you asked him yesterday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, if it saves taxpayer dollars and puts the disastrous history of the previous administration’s use of zero tolerance and family separation behind us, the President is perfectly comfortable with the Department of Justice settling with the individuals and families who are currently in litigation with the U.S. government.
You know, DOJ can obviously speak more to that process. The President was — what he was reacting to was the dollar figure that was mentioned — that you mentioned to him yesterday.
As press accounts today indicate — there’s been press accounts on this — DOJ made clear to the plaintiffs that the reported figures are higher than anywhere that a settlement can land.
Again, this is a — this is something that the Department of Justice can speak to. I do not have anything more to add to this.
Q But if it’s not — if he’s not okay with $450,000, how much money is he okay giving these illegal immigrants?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This is some- — again, Peter, this is something that the Department of Justice is going to handle. I just laid out what he was thinking and how this is — the process was moving forward. The DOJ will talk to the specifics of this.
Q And so what changed, then, from yesterday? You’re saying that he would be “perfectly comfortable” settling with these families who broke the law to come here, but, yesterday, he said, “That’s not going to happen.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: First of all, let’s remember how we got here, how we got to a place where we’re dealing with families being separated. This is coming from the last administration’s cruel, inhuman, immoral — immoral policies against — against just people. It’s separating children from their families — 18-month-olds, 2-year-olds, 5-year-olds from their families.
That’s how we got here is because of the last administration. This is what we’re trying to deal with here in this administration. So, let’s be very clear of how we got here and what’s happening.
Anything else that you would like to know about this, again, I’ll — I’ll send you to the Department of Justice. I can’t speak to specifics — any more specifics on this.
Was the Journal story “garbage”? The White House is apparently in accord with the ACLU on the merits of the lawsuit and quibbling about what the final number might be. In short, it depends on the meaning of “garbage.”