At a press briefing on Wednesday, it became clear that Karine Jean-Pierre cannot provide any answers about classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center and the President’s Delaware residences. Last week on Wednesday, the President’s personal attorneys discovered a one-page document with a classified marking in Biden’s garage, where he keeps his 1967 Corvette. Since the President’s personal attorneys do not hold a security clearance, the DOJ was called in to take possession of the classified document. Five additional pages of classified documents were then found with it.

In the meantime, the media firestorm erupted in search of answers.

Several versions of the question on classified documents found in Biden’s possession made rounds at the press briefing with Karine Jean-Pierre but were all met with either referral to the DOJ or the White House Counsel. While the Press Secretary has the “ready-made” response for the cameras, what happens when reporters approach the DOJ is that they then are referred to the Special Counsel. Then, the White House Counsel refers reporters to the DOJ. As a result, the press and the American public are kept in the dark.

Jonathan Decker was the first one to confront Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday on the lack of answers in the briefing room. He spoke about Biden’s appearance on “60 Minutes” in which the President criticized Trump as “irresponsible” for having in his possession classified documents.

“Do you think it was proper for President Biden to comment on an ongoing DOJ investigation?” the question was put in front of Jean-Pierre. A referral to the Department of Justice and again to the White House Counsel Office ensued.

“I’m going to leave it there. Not going to go into it further,” said the Press Secretary. Decker then called her out for giving him a “non-answer” response.

“That is your opinion,” Jean Pierre snapped back.

“It’s a fact,” Decker pushed back, wanting to ask more, but the Press Secretary was already moving on to the next reporter. That, however, did not switch the topic from the classified documents in the briefing room.

Information blackout

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a press briefing. [Photo: The Pavlovic Today]

Karine Jean-Pierre is in uncharted territory, faced with interrogations from the media on all sides of the political spectrum. “The President takes classified information seriously,” she kept repeating on Biden’s behalf to keep the press at bay. For the first time since the Trump administration, Biden’s Press Secretary is faced with the same question dominating the whole press briefing. The White House Correspondents Association formally requested that Richard Sauber, who represents the President, come to the briefing and take questions. However, Karine Jean-Pierre could not answer if she would commit to making it happen, insisting that they held a 45-minute call with the White House press on Tuesday.

Ian Sams, who speaks on behalf of the Special Counsel at the White House, said in the press call that one of the reasons why they can’t reveal details right now was that “regular ongoing public disclosures also pose the risk that, as further information develops, answers provided on this periodic basis may be incomplete.”

What’s known so far is that the first discovery of classified documents was made on November 2, 2022. The second discovery was made on December 20, 2022. CBS News was the first to learn about the discovery of classified documents in Biden’s possession. On January 6, the White House received a question from them about the classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center. The White House confirmed the first discovery but omitted to say anything about the second one of December 20, 2022. From the very beginning, the President kept the matter quiet and did not speak about it publicly before January 9, 2023, when CBS News broke the story on-air.

Commenting on the discovery, Biden said he was “surprised” that any classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center but also omitted to mention anything about the Wilmington garage discovery. Once the news of the second discovery broke, Biden made a smug comment. “By the way, my Corvette is in a locked garage. Okay? So it’s not like they’re sitting out in the street.”

After that, the President stopped talking.

The consensus among White House Correspondents is clear. “We are facing information blackout.”

The argument NBC’s Peter Alexander offered to Jean-Pierre at the briefing was that the 45-minute off-camera call with the White House Special Counsel is unsatisfactory as the American people can’t see it in public, happening live. Americans “don’t get the same transparency,” maintained Alexander. Jean-Pierre disagreed.

Impasse.

The White House is “going to keep saying the same thing.” The press will keep asking the same thing.

Faced with the potential mishandling of classified documents, Karine Jean-Pierre knows that Biden’s extended honeymoon with the press is over. Does Biden know it too?

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Ksenija Pavlovic McAteer

Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent. Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department...

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