On Tuesday, it was a spicy day inside the White House Briefing Room as Fox’s Peter Doocy brought the heat against Press Secretary Jen Psaki on coronavirus vaccine mandates, flights for illegal immigrants, and the Treasury Department monitoring our bank accounts. And as we’ve seen plenty of times, Doocy received help as other reporters tackling Biden’s influence on the Justice Department, his Build Back Better plan, and the supply chain crisis.
Doocy started with new reporting from the New York Post that government flights of illegal immigrants were landing in places like Westchester County, New York in the dead of night: “Why is the administration flying thousands of migrants from the border to Florida and New York in the middle of the night?”
Psaki went the condescending route, quipping that she’s “not sure that it’s in the middle of the night, but let me tell you what’s happening here.”
Doocy pointed out that two such flights landed at 2:13 a.m. and 4:29 a.m. Eastern, so we’re talking “very early in the morning.”
Psaki informed Doocy that those flights must then be “earlier than you might like to take a flight,” but ignored his question about why they’re happening at that time as she explained that the Biden administration has a “moral…obligation” and “legal responsibility to safely care for unaccompanied children.”
The back-and-forth then shifted to a proposal to have the Treasury monitor bank accounts for people who have as little as “$10,000 cash flow per year,” but Psaki insisted Doocy was misleading (click “expand”):
DOOCY: There’s this new proposal by Democrats in Congress and the Treasury secretary to start monitoring every bank account that has $10,000 of cash flow per year. So, is the plan to catch billionaire tax cheats by snooping on accounts that just have $10,000 in ‘em?
PSAKI: Well, that’s not exactly an accurate description, so let me help you with an accurate description of what is actually happening here and there was a statement by the secretary of Treasury on exactly this where she said, in this statement, so it’s to reiterate — she deeply appreciates the work of Chairman Wyden and Chairman Neal leadership on reconciliation and, in particular, the need to close the tax cap. At the core of the discrepancy in the ways types of income are reported to the IRS are opaque income sources frequently of which avoid — frequently avoid scrutiny, while wages in federal benefits are typically subject to full compliance, so people who get W-2s whether they are teachers, firefighters, employees at Fox News, anywhere where they may be getting a double — W-2, that’s not what we’re talking about here. They’re already reporting their income. We’re talking about high net worth individuals who are not paying the taxes they owe, and that’s what this policy would propose to address.
DOOCY: But in the statement that you just cited, it says many top earners avoid paying billions in the taxes that they owned by exploiting the system. So what — why is it that you need to start looking at accounts that just have $10,000 in it? Maybe somebody doesn’t get a W-2.
PSAKI: That is — that is not exactly what it does. The $10,000 is the anything under that would not be applicable nor would people who receive W-2’s, Peter. What we’re talking about here are people who are high net worth individuals who are not paying the taxes they owe. Something we think everybody believes should happen and can help pay for — and a range of important investments to make us more competitive.
Doocy then moved to the unintended consequences of vaccine mandates: “If the whole point of a vaccine mandate is to make people safer, but a vaccine mandate also means tons of police and military may walk off the job, then, at the end of the day, does vaccine mandate make people safer?”
After Psaki played stupid and wondered where it was that “tons of police and military” personnel were “walking off the job,” Doocy cited a Washington Post item that said hundreds of thousands of soldiers weren’t vaccinated and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s claim “that five to ten percent of their workforce could walk off the job.”
Psaki not only denounced these fears, but defended the mandates (regardless of the consequences) because over 700,000 Americans have died of Covid (click “expand”):
DOOCY: But there are other problems in the world than Covid-19: international terror, gang violence, murder, arson, drug dealers —
PSAKI: What — what was —
DOOCY: — is there any concern —
PSAKI: — what was the —
DOOCY: — about being able to —
PSAKI: — highest —
DOOCY: — beat things —
PSAKI: — what was the highest — what was the number one cause of death among police officers last year? Do you know? Covid-19. So, that’s something that we’re working to address and police departments are working to address. If you look at Seattle as an example, which I know has been in the some of the reporting, 92 percent of the police force is vaccinated, as are 93 percent of firefighters. 99 percent of Seattle’s 11,000 employees have submitted vaccine verification or an exemption —
DOOCY: My question is about —
PSAKI: — requests [sic].
DOOCY: — public safety, though. All these other problems — terror, murder, robberies, kidnappings — is there any concern that if police forces shrink or if the size of the ready military force shrinks that the United States or localities may not be equipped properly to deal with that and to respond.
PSAKI: Peter, more than 700,000 people have died of Covid. Again, it was the number one cause of death among police departments and police officers. It’s something that we should take seriously. Departments are trying to save people in their departments, people who work for them. We support that effort, and there’s been success across the country in that regard.
A few minutes before Doocy, The New York Times’s Michael Shear called out the administration’s failure on the supply chain crisis, pointing out the fact that “[i]t was clear in March of 2020 when Covid hit — that supply chains across the world [had] been disrupted” and people were unable to “get dishwashers and — and furniture and treadmills delivered on time, not to mention all sorts of other things.”
Shear tried to keep going, but was interrupted by this tone-deaf joke from Psaki: “The tragedy of the short — treadmill that’s delayed.”
Shear plowed ahead, wanting to know why Biden “didn’t…act sooner in a more aggressive way” and was this crisis a sign that the White House has become more of a “reactive” administration instead of an anticipatory one.
Also on the economy, EWTN’s Owen Jensen went after the claim that the actual cost of Biden’s infrastructure plans was “zero.”
Pressed on “why should Americans believe that,” Psaki said it’s “because it won’t.”
CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy also came ready to be constructive as he followed up on questions asked by Doocy and CBS’s Weijia Jiang on Monday about Biden’s role in the Justice Department (click “expand”):
PORTNOY: I want to follow up on a question that both Peter and Weijia asked you yesterday —
PORTNOY: — about how this President views the Justice Department —
PORTNOY: — as independent. There have been a number of instances where the President has said publicly that he’s either instructed or asked or directed the Justice Department to do different things. Is it — where do you draw the line when you say the Justice Department is making independent decisions?
PSAKI: Investigations. That’s where they make independent decisions. There is policy making where there can be discussion, but investigations, which historically, prior to the last administration, the Department of Justice has always had independent purview of, that is what the President expects, what the attorney general expects, and what we will continue to deliver on.
PORTNOY: The President said on October 7, he instructed the Justice Department to make sure that we deal with the violence on aircraft. He issued an executive order on July 9 having to do with antitrust, encouraging, although not directing, the attorney general to vigorously enforce it. He said on July 13 the Justice Department would double its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Are you describing these things as policy determinations?
PSAKI: Uh, I — well, look, Steve I think the important thing also to convey accurately to people who listen to you is when announcements were made by the Department of Justice and sometimes the President comments on them after those announcements were made, which I think was a case in at least one of those examples you gave and, yes, there are criminal investigations or investigations that are the — under the independent purview of the Justice Department, something that will continue to be under the independent purview of the Justice Department under this administration, and that is different from what was done over the last four years.
At the back end of the briefing, the penultimate exchange featured Newsmax’s Emerald Robinson talking about Buttigieg’s unannounced paternity leave, but instead of engaging, Psaki made clear that she, at best, loathes her.
To see the relevant briefing transcript from October 19, click here.