White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave a condescending reply to NBC Correspondent Kristen Welker when the latter — who had just questioned President Joe Biden about his administration’s refusal to send military planes to Ukraine — pressed her on the same subject.
Welker attended Biden’s Wednesday speech, during which he announced some $800 million more in aid to Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion — and she asked why, despite pressure from both sides of the political aisle, he was not ready to supply MiGs to Ukraine to assist with air defense.
Biden refused to address the question outright. “I’m not going to comment on that right now. I’m not going to comment on anything other than what I have told you today. Thank you,” he said.
Biden leaves after his latest remarks on Ukraine without taking questions from reporters, with NBC's Kristen Welker interjecting w/a MiGs question: "I'm not going to comment on that right now. I'm not going to comment on anything other than what I have told you today. Thank you." pic.twitter.com/KJ1nBQohtr
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Hours later, Welker joined the rest of the press corps for a briefing from Psaki — where she again attempted to get the White House’s reasoning for not sending planes or facilitating the transfer of MiGs that had already been offered by Poland.
“And I want to go back to the MiGs quickly and just be crystal clear about what you’re saying. Because when I asked the president about this earlier, he said he’s not going to comment. He didn’t say that it’s not an option. So —” Welker began.
“Well, we’ve spoken to it approximately 167 times. So, maybe he —” Psaki replied.
“Well, here’s 168,” Welker shot back.
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“Go ahead. Go ahead,” Psaki conceded, prompting laughs from the press corps.
“There’s a growing — there’s a growing number of Republicans and Democrats who are supporting the U.S. striking a deal with Poland to send the MiGs. You have Elise Stefanik earlier today saying Ukraine ‘needs those MiGs.’ You have Scalise saying, ‘Getting [those] MiGs in immediately is…critical.’ There’s a growing chorus of voices saying that now is the time,” Welker explained, asking, “Has the president reconsidered his stance at all at this point?”
Psaki pushed back, saying that the military made the assessments with regard to what would be the best and most effective aid to send to Ukraine. She also noted that Ukraine already had a number of “mission-capable aircraft that are not being utilized,” and that the United States did not view sending more to be the highest priority.
“But they don’t think that’s enough, Jen. You heard President Zelensky,” Welker continued.
“This is the assessment by our Defense Department,” Psaki repeated, adding, “They’re also assessing that the transfer to Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory.”
Psaki concluded by repeating that the Defense Department had come to the conclusion that sending MiGs would not change the overall effectiveness of Ukraine’s air defense, making the risk of escalation not worth taking.
“We certainly understand. We share the passion, the anger, the horror at what we’re seeing. And that is why we are — we significantly increased the types of military assistance, the types of equipment that we know is effective and our Defense Department has determined is effective in fighting this war,” Psaki said.