Karine Jean-Pierre’s attempts to dodge questions about former President Donald Trump failed as two reporters joined forces to get her to answer them.
Jean-Pierre had bypassed questions from AFP reporter Sebastian Smith when Michael Shear from the New York Times intervened and asked why she would not address his colleague’s questions.
Smith asked the Press Secretary about Trump’s current polling numbers showing him as the clear frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.
He asked Jean-Pierre for Joe Biden’s views on potentially facing off once more with his predecessor but she dismissed his query.
Smith said: “But Donald Trump is the front-runner at the moment – clear front-runner of the Republican Party.
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“He wants to be president and he’s the front-runner of his party… This is somebody that President Biden has described as literally a danger to the country, and his movement an existential threat to democracy, etc.
“So candidate or not, is current President Biden, is he following the words and actions of Donald Trump on a fairly regularly basis, considering he’s a danger in his view?”
Jean-Pierre declined to answer saying that as his question partained to a “candidate in 2024” she is “just not going to speak on it.”
She simply added: “What I can speak to is how the president is focusing on the American people and how he is delivering for the American people.”
But her response failed to satisfy Smith and his colleagues, with Shear immediately picking up on her evasive response and asking for a clearer answer on Biden and Trump.
He said: “Why have you been willing to talk about President Trump before? And were you in violation of the Hatch Act when you did so?”
The Hatch Act forbids federal employees from engaging in certain political activities, including discussing electoral candidates to avoid potentially swaying results. Jean-Pierre has been known to cite the Act on several occasions since taking over from Jan Psaki.
The Press Secretary dismissed Shear’s question instisting her previous mentions of Trump related to his conduct whilst in office rather than as a candidate.
She said: “Absolutely not. President Trump, we were talking about what he did in the last administration. We were talking about policies that were harmful in the past administration.
“He asked me, does the president believe that Donald Trump is a threat if he wins, right? Because he’s a candidate?”
But once again her answer didn’t satisfy Shear, who noted Jean-Pierre had miscontrued Smith’s original question.
“No, no, no, he didn’t ask that,” he said, with a chuckling Smith adding: “Can I just say what I said?”
The exchange had other members of the press corps in stitches, with the reporter clarifying: “I was asking, is President Biden, does he follow the words and actions of this person, Donald Trump….”
But Jean-Pierre cut him off: “Yes! As a candidate! Right? As a candidate. I’m not talking about 2024.”
An evidently frustrated Shear pointed out: “2024? Donald Trump has been a candidate for re-election for like a year and you’ve talked about him a lot and what he’s done, a lot.”
But the Press Secretary proceeded to simply move on the daily briefing, adding: “I’ve not talked about him as a candidate and I’m not going to do that from here. I’m just not.”
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