After a slanted softball from NBC’s Kristen Welker during Wednesday’s White House Press Briefing, Thursday’s briefing featured substantive questions about Hunter Biden’s life of corruption to White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield via Welker and CBS’s Ed O’Keefe and Steven Portnoy.
This time, the trio pressed on whether they stand by President Biden’s claims that Hunter did nothing wrong, whether he’d pardon and commute any possible sentencing for his son and brother Jim, and what Biden makes of the new revelations.
Welker broke the ice after a litany of questions focusing on the Biden administration’s massive release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Referencing the final 2020 presidential debate (which she moderated), Welker brought up the then-candidate’s response:
[T]hen-Vice President Biden was asked if there was anything inappropriate or unethical about his son's relationships, business dealings in China and/or Ukraine. The President said nothing was unethical. He went on to say, “my son has not made money in terms of this thing about what you’re talking about — China. Does the White House stand by that comment that the then-Vice President made?
Bedingfield said they “absolutely stand by the President's comment” and insisted “there’s not more that I can say” as she’s not his spokesperson besides “statements that we made at the time that we gave to The Washington Post who worked on this story.”
Two reporters later, Portnoy — who’s also the White House Correspondents Association president — followed up with two crucial questions that yet had to be asked and answered.
In his first question, Portnoy wanted to know whether the President believes that “neither Hunter Biden nor James Biden committed any crimes or did anything that was unlawful” despite the federal investigation of Hunter.
Bedingfield reiterated she had nothing “further to add from this podium” since “[w]e addressed this with The Washington Post” by “point[ing] to the statements that were made in the fall of 2020.”
For those paying attention, those are irrelevant since, at that time, the Biden campaign-led narrative was that questions about Hunter were Russian disinformation.
Portnoy’s follow-up was even more potent: “Can I ask you if there have been — if you're aware if there have been any discussions here inside this White House about whether the President might use his pardon or computation power with respect to either his son or his brother?”
Bedingfield wasn’t interested, saying she wouldn’t be “entertain[ing]” this “hypothetical” and thus “[didn’t] have anything to add.”
The same answer came down when O’Keefe had an intriguing query about what’s been the President’s reaction to the recent slew of media reports:
O’KEEFE: I know Hunter Biden is not a government employee. You don’t speak for him, but has the President read these reports? Do you guys take them to him when the inquiries come in and what has been his reaction to them?
BEDINGFIELD: I don't have anything additional to add on this from the podium, but thank you.
O’Keefe also asked about the impending end to Title 42 and what will be a massive surge of people at the U.S./Mexico border, triggering a lengthy and clownish answer that deserved an inside-the-room fact-check. If only independent journalist Ali Bradley, Fox’s Bill Melugin, or Townhall’s Julio Rosas were there (click “expand”):
O’KEEFE: And on Title 42 ,you're preparing to end this policy at some point soon here. There has been some concern expressed by Democrats as well as Republicans, but Democrats notably about how the administration’s preparing to wind that down and prepare for a surge. I believe some administration officials say that they're anticipating a record surge. What is the administration doing to not only alleviate those concerns from moderate Democrats, some of whom may face voter ire for that, but then more broadly, how is the, you know, administration preparing for that surge if you could sort of generally summarize?
BEDINGFIELD: Well, so, thank you for the question. First, I would note as I have said yesterday and we have said many, many times, obviously, this is a decision that the CDC will make. That said, of course, we're preparing for contingencies. And so, what I would say is that, you know, our goal is going to be to process migrants in a safe and orderly manner. But also, to be clear, most individuals who cross the border without legal authorization will promptly be placed in to the removal proceedings. And if they are unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States, they will expeditiously removed and returned to their country of origin. As a reminder, economic need and flight from generalized violence is not a basis for asylum, but rather asylum is for those with a well-founded fear or persecution on a protected ground. And so, asylum and other legal migration pathways should remain available to those seeking protection. And we're working to expand legal pathways in the region, so that people don’t make this treacherous journey. Obviously, trying to enter the United States illegally carries consequences, and no one should try to make this dangerous journey or try to unlawfully enter the United States. The department of homeland security, as I noted yesterday, has put together a preparedness plan to address the number of people coming to our border and work with our partners in the region to provide safe options for people outside of the United States. We are obviously working to deliver a more efficient and fair processing system through, for example, a dedicated docket to conduct speedier and fairer immigration proceedings for families who arrive between ports of entry. So, there is a significant amount of work that we obviously inherited when we came into this administration. We inherited a immigration system that had been systematically dismantled by the previous administration. There's been a tremendous amount of work from day one to rebuild that from day one and we are certainly focused on continuing to assert order at the border.
And in between the Hunter Biden questions from Welker and Portnoy, Fox’s Jacqui Heinrich brought the heat on the reality that recent SPR releases have done little to curb gas prices well as the reality that “the Russian ruble has almost returned to its prewar levels.”
To see the relevant transcript from March 31’s briefing (including more oil questions), click here.