White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki bristled at a reporter on Thursday for suggesting that President Joe Biden has behaved like his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, with regard to his policy at the southern border.
Psaki did not appear to appreciate the implication, which came from New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear.
“There’ve been a number of issues in the last, say, several weeks in which advocates, allies of the president, are describing him as Trump-like, less in terms of his personality in sort of tone and tenor, obviously, but in terms of policy,” Shear said during Monday’s regular press briefing.
“Even today, a representative of the Cuban government describing the frustration with the president continuing to maintain Trump-era policies vis-à-vis Cuba,” he continued.
“What’s the president’s reaction, and does he accept that in some areas of policy he is in agreement with the former president?” Shear asked, adding “Afghanistan, immigration,” as areas where Biden has been compared to Trump.
“So just for the sake of argument here, not argument, but discussion, beyond the representative of the Cuban government … who are we talking about here? Who is saying that the president is like Trump?” Psaki responded.
In an NBC interview that aired Thursday, Cuba’s foreign minister criticized Biden for keeping some of Trump’s sanctions on the country. Trump had slapped several U.S. sanctions back on Cuba after former President Barack Obama loosened U.S. policy toward the communist country.
“Maybe there is an inertia effect. It’s a pity that President Biden couldn’t implement his own policy toward Cuba,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla. “It’s a terrible mistake to continue implementing this kind of cruel sanctions, even sanctions during a pandemic.”
Shear said he could find Psaki “quotes” from “lots of folks,” including immigration advocates.
“There have been numerous on-the-record descriptions of the president embracing, and it’s actually in some ways just a factual thing—”
“But like on what policy?” Psaki interrupted. “On what policy, sir? You can name people or what specific policies?”
Shear referenced the withdrawal from Afghanistan, something Trump had also intended to complete, and Title 42, a health law that allows immigration authorities to expel migrants during health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Trump administration cited Title 42 last year in order to deport migrants quickly before allowing them to apply for asylum, arguing that detaining them in the U.S. posed the danger of spreading the virus.
In the last several weeks, the Biden administration defended its decision to continue using Title 42 to expel thousands of migrants, most of them from Haiti, amid criticism from Democrats and immigration advocates.
Psaki responded that Title 42 is a “public health requirement because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, which, by the way, we would have made progress on had the former president actually addressed the pandemic and not suggested people inject bleach.”
“So I think we’re in a bit of a different place. I’m happy to discuss more examples. I think people would be pretty hard-pressed to argue that the president has taken any aspect of the former president’s playbook and used it as a model of his own,” she added.