There is a flood of stories on the Biden classified documents matter in the media today. Before we turn to them, let us note the clarity White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shed on her state of knowledge when she briefed the press this past Friday (transcript here). We subsequently learned that her account was “inoperative,” to borrow a resonant Watergate term, at the time she gave it. It had already been superseded by the discovery of another tranche of classified documents that she had left unmentioned.
Was KJP lying or clueless? I take it that it was ABC News White House reporter Cecilia Vega who posed the question to KJP at yesterday’s briefing (transcript here, video here):
On Friday, you stood here, though, and were asked about this documents issue, by our count, some 18 times. At that point, the President’s lawyers had found these five additional pages of classified documents. So, did you not know on Friday that those documents had been found when you were at the podium? Or are you being directed by someone to not be forthcoming on this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have been forthcoming from this podium. What I said yes to was what the statement at the time that we all had. Right? You all had the statement. And I was repeating what the — what the Counsel was sharing at that time. And so —
Q Right. And we had that statement, so we knew what was in it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly.
Q But you also knew — did you not know that the other documents had been found?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m telling you — I just answered the question. I just said that I was repeating what the information that we had at that time — right? — that you all had — I was confirming from what the Special Counsel had provided to all of you and that we knew as well from here. So just to be very, very clear.
And, look, I’ve also been very clear about being prudent from here. I was also being very clear about being consistent from here and not going beyond what is currently happening. Right?
And again, this is an ongoing — I also said this was an ongoing review that was happening with the Department of Justice and, as we know, with the Special Counsel. I’ve been very consistent about that as well.
And that’s one of the reason — your question to me is one of the reasons why I’m — I — we are being very, very careful and very mindful and — to not interfere here and to make sure — to make sure the Department of Justice has their independence.
Your question actually proves that, and that’s why we’re going to continue to refer you to Department of Justice and refer you to the Special Counsel or my colleagues —
So what was her answer? CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang wasn’t sure. She stated that she “want[ed] to follow up on Cecilia’s question, and sorry if I missed it.” I don’t think she missed it. “But on Friday, did you or did you not know about the additional five pages?” KJP responded:
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I already an- — I literally just answered that question. I just —
Q Was — but I — I missed it. So, was it yes or no?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I — I mean, you’re — you’re not too far sitting next to her. So, I was very clear. I provided — I provided the information that you all had at the time. And I confirm —
Q But I’m asking, “Did you know?”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I did not know. I’m saying I had the information — I actually said this to Cecilia — I had the information that you all had at the time, right?
And so, this is why — I also said to Cecilia — this is why we are trying to be very prudent here and we are trying to be very consistent and say this is an on-going legal process. And this is why I say we’re just not going to comment from here. That is a perfect example in Cecilia’s question, and I was very clear about that.
Well, that was painful. Prudence and consistency never had it so bad. We may infer that KJP is out of it in more ways than one. It was painful, but we have achieved clarity on that point.
NPR White House correspondent Tamara Dawnell Keith pursued the point: She asked whether KJP was “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?” Good question!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I’m — what I’m concerned about is making sure that we do not politically interfere in the Department of Justice, that we continue to be consistent over the last two years, and — and that is — continue to refer you all, when it comes to an ongoing process. And — and I’ll just leave it there. And let’s not forget — there was actually a statement from the Counsel’s Office that you all had at the same time as well.
I’m — I’m just not going to go down any rabbit hole here. I’m going to be very consistent. I’m going to be very prudent.
And, again, I’ve been asked — just asked that question. I’ve answered it. It’s been noted, the question. And we’re just going to move on.
Via Tim Haims/RealClearPolitics (who also highlights another exchange of KJP with Jiang).
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