Previewing President Biden’s State of the Union address, White House press secretary Jen Psaki joined FNC’s America’s Newsroom on Tuesday and squared off against co-hosts Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino over President Biden’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and specifically the administration’s refusal to budge on domestic oil and gas production and the timing of the CDC dropping its mask recommendations.
After opening with questions about whether the U.S. believes the violence from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s military constitutes war crimes, Hemmer noted “[w]e buy Russia's oil and we don't need to” before asking whether Biden “will...make an appeal...based on some sort of shared sacrifice” that Americans “will consume less in order to help Ukrainian people and hurt Putin more.”
Psaki refused to budge from her talking points, insisting Biden wants to “maximize the impact on President Putin, on the cronies and the oligarchs who have been benefiting from so much corruption in Russia” and “squeeze the financial system there,” while also “minimizing the impact on the global markets and the American people.”
Hemmer tried again, but Psaki stood pat despite conceding that “standing up for democracy versus autocracy is not without cost” and “any instability in the global oil marketplace is the result of the actions of President Putin.”
A former White House press secretary herself, Perino alluded to the scores of bad polling when it comes to Biden’s energy policies and whether there would be any attempt to reverse them.
In response, Psaki ducked by only stating new projections would take time to be constructed and come online, so it wouldn’t be all that worthwhile when the future should consist of ditching fossil fuels (click “expand”):
PERINO: On energy, you know, we've seen an up close and personal view of what happens when nations get too dependent on someone like Russia for their energy and state of the union addresses are usually about the accomplishments, so you can get some applause and then you figure out where you want to go in the future, but some of the accomplishments President Biden might point to are seen by a majority of people in the country to be vulnerabilities. One on the energy front in particular. Is — will there be anything in the speech to talk about reversing some of those policies, for example, either, Keystone pipeline or allowing our oil and gas companies to pursue federal oil and gas leases even while we try to transition in the future with a smart path to greener energy?
PSAKI: Well, I would say the President shares the concern about any impact on gas prices, on energy prices for the American people and that's why a range of options remain on the table. He already recently tapped into the strategic petroleum reserve just last fall, which had an impact. But I would say the Keystone —
PERINO: But it had a very —
PSAKI: — pipeline —
PERINO: — but the impact, Jen, that was pretty — that was —
HEMMER: A blip.
PSAKI: — but the —
PERINO: — a blip. You know, it was a ten cents thing, but it doesn't last.
PSAKI: — but, Dana, the policies you mentioned I know Senator Cotton and others have mentioned are not policies that would address the issue at all. This Keystone pipeline? It would take years for that to have an impact on prices. Obviously, there are a range of reasons why the President opposes it but it wasn't functioning, isn't functioning. It would take years. There are also 9,000 approved oil leases that oil companies are not tapping into. So yes, we all want to take steps to address any raise in gas prices that impacts the American people but we should be very clear about what policies will help and what policies will not help. And over time, we absolutely need to reduce our dependence and that’s something you’re seeing European countries take steps to do as well.
PERINO: I was just — the point on that is it took Europe years to get to the point where they were completely dependent or 60 percent dependent on Russia.
Before a final question about Biden’s unpopularity, Hemmer pivoted to masking and inquiring about “what changed in the science yesterday, Monday” that’s led to a sudden end to mask mandates.
Psaki boasted that “it wasn’t actually yesterday,” but rather a change in CDC guidance “last Friday that identified recommendations depending on what the hospitalization rates are in your part of the country.”
Rewinding to Monday afternoon’s Psaki Show, reporters also came loaded for bear, which included questions about Russian energy exports from Fox’s Jacqui Heinrich and Bloomberg’s Jenny Leonard plus CNN’s Phil Mattingly on banning Russian flights (click “expand”):
MATTINGLY: Is the Biden administration considering following what the E.U. and Canada did in barring Russian flights from the U.S. at any point?
PSAKI: I don’t have anything to update you on, on that front at this point in time. There are obviously a range of — of options that remain on the table. So, it’s not off the table, but I don’t have anything to announce and no decision made.
HEINRICH: Does this administration trust Russia to be an honest broker in the talks with Iran right now?
PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not about trust in any of these negotiations or discussions; it’s about verifying and then trusting later, including with the Iranians. But the Russians have been, in the past, a part of the P5+1 negotiations. They’re a part of it now. I would — I would — I would just convey that, you know, it is in everyone’s interest to have an understanding and visibility into Iran’s capacity to acquire a nuclear weapon. There’s no question about that. So, at this point, we’re just — we’re just continuing to work — hope to make progress on that agreement.
HEINRICH: And then after all of this, what is the stance of the U.S. and buying Russian gas at this point? At this point, are we ready to pledge not to buy any more Russian gas?
PSAKI: Well, as you know, it’s really — let me give you actually kind of an update on this because it’s a — it’s — I think there’s been a little confusion. One moment. So, as it relates to Russian gas, the U.S. government doesn’t dictate where the U.S. market sells our own oil and gas products nor where it acquires crude or refined products from for domestic consumption. This is all up to the private sector, other than exceptions like countries under sanctions. So, the U.S. refiners currently importing Russian products are largely legacy refinery operations tooled in Hawaii and Alaska for certain supplies because of geography; and imports to the Gulf, both of certain refined products and of crude, as refiners in the Gulf mix crude supplies to meet the needs of their particular refinery designs. There have been companies — obviously, private sector companies — who have made decisions and announcements, and we certainly applaud that.
HEINRICH: So, can you just explain, though, what you laid out at the beginning because I’m a little bit unclear. You just — just in layman’s terms: We are not going to be making any policy from the U.S. government that would prohibit the sale or the purchase of Russian gas then because it’s not something that we already do?
PSAKI: We haven’t ruled out that, but I think what I wanted to convey is what is accurate about what happens now and how it currently works.
LEONARD: The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, just announced that he — the Canadians would unilaterally ban Russian crude oil imports. I know you’ve just talked a lot about how you’re taking into account how this will impact the Europeans. But is there something you had — is this something you would just do unilaterally, not as a coordinated effort?
PSAKI: From the beginning — again, all options remain on the table — you have seen us take a number of actions over the last several days that play that out, but I don’t have anything to predict at this point, other than to reiterate that we have really worked to take steps in lockstep with the Europeans and a number of our NATO partners.
To see the relevant FNC transcript from March 1, click here.