Jen Psaki is grilled on Biden’s Putin summit and Joe Manchin by room of maskless reporters


Jen Psaki was grilled by a room full of maskless reporters on Monday about President Joe Biden’s upcoming Europe trip and his relationship with Joe Manchin as the White House press briefing room returned to its full capacity in more than a year.

All 49 seats in the room were filled and reporters stood in the aisle, despite a request from the White House for them not to.

‘Please make sure you are not standing in the aisles before the briefing begins,’ was the overhead announcement from the press office ahead of the briefing.

But about two dozen journalists stood around the room to ask questions of Psaki and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who was discussing the president’s nine-day foreign trip. 

It was the first time of Biden’s presidency the room was at capacity. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the White House Correspondents’ Association cut back on the number of journalists at the briefing to observe social distancing guidelines. 

The White House press briefing room returned to full capacity on Monday for the first time in over a year with all 49 seats filled

The White House press briefing room returned to full capacity on Monday for the first time in over a year with all 49 seats filled

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki briefed reporters about foreign and domestic matters

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki briefed reporters about foreign and domestic matters

White House press secretary Jen Psaki fields questions at Monday's briefing

White House press secretary Jen Psaki fields questions at Monday’s briefing

Schedule for President Biden’s Europe Trip

President Joe Biden makes a seven-day trip to Europe next week. Here’s the itinerary thus far: 

June 9:  Visit US Air Force personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall

June 10: Meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

June 11-13: Attending G7 Summit in Cornwall

June 13: He and Dr. Jill Biden meet with The Queen at Windsor Castle 

June 14: NATO Summit in Brussels

June 15: U.S.–EU Summit in Brussels 

June 16: Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva 

The association announced Sunday that the room was returning to its pre-pandemic levels. That followed a previous announcement that fully vaccinated reporters did not have to wear face masks, in accordance with CDC guidelines. 

Psaki noted the occasion, greeting the journalists by noting it’s ‘our first full briefing room day since the president took office.’

Sullivan started things off with talk of Biden’s Europe trip this week. 

‘We believe the President Biden goes on this trip from a position of strength and dramatic progress against the pandemic in home, strong projected growth that will help power the global economic recovery as well,’ he said.

Biden leaves Wednesday for his first international trip as president. It includes a stop in the UK for a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the G7 summit and a meeting at Windsor with The Queen. Then the president heads to Brussels for a NATO meeting and the EU Summit. He’ll cap off the journey with a sit down in Geneva with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On the president’s agenda will be the coronavirus pandemic, the global economy, the threat from cyber hackers, the climate, and relations with Russia and China.

‘When President Biden returns to Washington next week we believe that we will be in a material stronger position to manage the major threats and challenges this COVID climate, China, cyber, Russia,’ Sullivan said.

Biden’s sit down with Putin comes amid growing tensions between the two nations. He has taken Russia to task for its interference in US elections; Moscow’s aggressive posture toward the Ukraine and the government’s treatment of dissent Alexei Navalny. 

The United States is ‘clarifying what our expectations are and laying out that if certain kinds of harmful activities continue to occur, there will be responses from the United States,’ Sullivan said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki briefs a full room of reporters

White House press secretary Jen Psaki briefs a full room of reporters 

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said in an op/ed Sunday that he will vote against President Joe Biden's For the People voting rights act because it includes ending the filibuster

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said in an op/ed Sunday that he will vote against President Joe Biden’s For the People voting rights act because it includes ending the filibuster

Psaki, meanwhile, fielded many questions about Senator Joe Machin, a Democrat from West Virginia who announced this weekend he will vote against voting rights legislation, effectively killing it. 

With a 50-50 Senate, Biden needs every Democratic vote. Last week he called on Machin and fellow moderate Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema to support the Democrats’ bill.

The White House press secretary rebuffed any questions on what the administration was doing to handle the matter.

‘I’m just not going to get into any channels of private conversation with Senator Manchin or any other senator,’ she said. 

She declined to answer when asked if the White House hoped Manchin would have a change of heart.

‘I’m not going to make a prediction about Senator Manchin’s position,’ she said. 

Machin wrote in of his opposition in his home town paper on Sunday.

‘Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized,’ Manchin wrote in the op/ed published Sunday morning in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. ‘Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage.’

‘I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,’ he added.



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