When the name of former President Donald Trump was mentioned during a White House press briefing, pandemonium ensued.
Reporters wanted to know if President Biden was following the words and actions of Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, whom he described as a risk.
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, was in a difficult position because it is illegal under the Hatch Act to discuss future elections.
The press secretary did her best to evade the questions, but the reporters insisted on a direct response.
Q And other quick one, if I can. It’s not a 2024 — not a Hatch Act-type question, let’s put it that way.
JEAN-PIERRE: That’s what you think. (Laughter.)
Q I’m tel- — telling you it’s (inaudible).
JEAN-PIERRE: I know, I love how you’re setting it up. (Laughter.)
Q I’m getting that out of the way first. (Laughter.)
But, you know — but Donald Trump is the frontrunner at the moment — clear frontrunner of the Republican Party. He is — he is — he wants to be President, and he’s the frontrunner of his party (inaudible).
This is somebody that President Biden has described as, you know, a danger — literally a danger to the country, and his movement, an existential threat to democracy, et cetera.
So, candidate or not, is President — current President Biden — is — is he following the words and actions of Donald Trump on a fairly regular basis, considering he’s a danger, in his view?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I appreciate the question, Sebastian. As you just laid out yourself, he is a candidate for 2024. And you’re specifically talking about a result or — or what could potentially happening in that — happen in that race. And I’m just not going to speak to it.
What I can’t speak to is how the President is focusing on the American people and delivering for the American people.
Here’s what we know to be a threat: What we know to be a threat is the MAGA wing of the Republican Party and Speaker McCarthy who are — put forward a — you know, a plan, a blueprint, that’s holding the American economy hostage. That’s a threat. That’s a threat to the — our economy. That’s a threat to Americans across the country. When we think about the 22 percent spending cut that they put forward, that’s a threat to veterans, that’s a threat to our education, and that’s a threat to the American people who need these different programs to make ends meet.
And so that’s what we’re going to focus on right now. That’s what — feel free to ask me a million questions about that, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
And so, the President, when he makes his decision, he’ll make his decision. It will not come from here. I will not be talking about 2024. I made that very clear: As a government official, it’s not something that I can do from here.
But I’m happy to talk about how we’re delivering here at the White House for the American people.
Oh, boy. Okay. All right, Michael.
Q Why have you been willing to talk about President Trump before? And have you — were you in violation of the Hatch Act —
JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely not.
Q — when you did so?
JEAN-PIERRE: Because we were talking about what the President has done in — in the —
Q No, no, no —
JEAN-PIERRE: — the administration.
Q — not your President.
JEAN-PIERRE: No, I know. I’m just —
JEAN-PIERRE: I’m answering your question —
Q Oh, okay. I’m sorry.
JEAN-PIERRE: — because I’m saying President Trump —
JEAN-PIERRE: — we were talking about what he did in the last administration. We were talking about policies that were harmful in the —
Q That’s what he just —
JEAN-PIERRE: — past administration.
Q That’s what he just asked about.
JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no. He asked me does the President still believe that — that Donald Trump is a threat if he wins. Right? Because he’s going to be — he’s a candidate.
Q No. He didn’t ask that.
Q No, I (inaudible).
JEAN-PIERRE: That’s something different.
Q No, no, no, he didn’t ask that.
Q Can I — can I just say what I said? (Laughter.) I — I — was asking: Is the President — is President Biden — does he follow the words and actions of this person —
Q — Donald Trump —
JEAN-PIERRE: As a candidate. Right? As a candidate.
Q Today — he follows it?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, yes, I’m not — I’m not —
Q He switches on the TV and says, “There’s Trump”?
JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m saying I’m not talking about 2024.
Q But —
JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not talking about 20-
Q But that’s not 2024.
JEAN-PIERRE: What I have talked about — what I have talked about —
Q Donald Trump has been a candidate for re-election or for election — or however you want to call it —
JEAN-PIERRE: I — I understand that.
Q — for, like, a year. And you’ve talked — but — I mean, you’ve talked about him a lot —
JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, about —
Q — and what he’s done a lot. And he — and so you didn’t —
JEAN-PIERRE: As — as I have talked about his policies when he was President. That’s what I have talked about. That’s what I’ve talked about. We’ve talked about immigration, his immigration policies, right? We’ve talked about how he separated babies from their parents. We’ve talked about that and how — how those policies were incredibly dangerous when he was President. That’s what I have talked about.
I’ve not talked about him as a candidate, and I’m not going to do that from here. I’m just not. I’m not going to talk about the polling. I’m not going to talk about what 2024 is going to look like. I’m not going to talk about that from here.