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Tipsheet

‘It Depends on What You Ask’: Psaki Suggests Biden May Not Answer Questions After Tuesday Speech on COVID

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

After a reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki Monday if President Joe Biden would answer questions following his Tuesday speech addressing the administration's response to the coronavirus, she said that it "depends on what you ask."

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Biden will address the nation Tuesday about the new highly infectious omicron variant of COVID-19 and what the administration plans to do to mitigate its spread. The White House has already warned unvaccinated Americans that they face a winter of "severe illness and death."

At the conclusion of Monday's press briefing, a reporter shouted a question at Psaki as she was leaving the room, asking, "Might we hear directly from the president about what happened yesterday?" The reporter appeared to be asking whether Biden will address Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.V.) Sunday announcement that he will not vote for the Build Back Better Act.

"I think you will hear from him on how we’re going to get the agenda done," Psaki answered, to which a reporter responded, "Will he take questions?"

Psaki said that the president "takes questions multiple times a week, so it depends on what you ask" and then turned her back to leave the briefing room. As she was walking away, she repeated, "Depends on what you ask."

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This comes after Manchin said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" that he "cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation," prompting the White House to release a statement claiming that Manchin’s remarks are "at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances."

And less than 30 minutes before his Fox News interview, Manchin had an aide give the White House and congressional leadership a heads up on what he was about to do. White House staff then tried to call him to "head him off" but the senator refused to answer their call, Politico Playbook reported

During Monday's briefing, Psaki noted that, while 99 percent of Biden's staff is vaccinated, breakthrough cases are still to be expected.

She was asked if there was a currently a COVID outbreak at the White House, the National Security Council, the State Department or the Treasury, and whether Biden had recently been in close contact with anyone infected with the virus. The press secretary only elected to answer the latter question.

"The president has a full schedule today and is not in need of quarantine," Psaki responded. "We will provide information to all of you as outlined with our commitment from just a few months ago about being transparent about close contacts. I don't have any updates for you at this point in time, but again, we expect there to be breakthrough cases across the country, right? And certainly in the federal government."

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The reporter then pressed Psaki, asking if she would answer their question about whether there were outbreaks in the different departments of the administration.

Psaki replied by saying, "Again, I point you to different agencies to give any additional information, but I would just note that we do expect there to be breakthrough cases, as there will be across government."

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