Psaki Dances Around Questions On Left-Wing Riots, China Issue. Reporters Don’t Ask About Top Story.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki participates in a White House press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Psaki discussed various topics including the economic crisis that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki danced around questions at Friday’s press conference about recent left-wing riots on the West Coast and on China’s human rights abuses.

Psaki also did not appear to have to answer any questions about a story that blew up late last night regarding National Guardsmen who were having to rest in parking garages — a story that sparked backlash from top lawmakers after photos of the National Guardsmen went viral online. However, Psaki did address the story without delving into details or calling too much attention to it. The troops were later reportedly let back inside the Capitol following backlash over the story.

“Earlier this morning — or late this morning, I should say — the president called General Daniel Hokanson, who is head of the National Guard, to thank him for not just his work of the last few weeks, but the work of the National Guard over the last several years,” she said. “He talked about his own personal commitment and connection to the National Guard, given his son had served previously. And he offered assistance — any assistance needed of both the government, but also on a personal level, and asked him to reach out if there was anything that he ever needed.”

A brief review of the transcript provided by the White House did not appear to show any questions being asked about the story. Numerous political analysts noted the apparent lack of questions on the matter in tweets.

Psaki also danced around a question about the left-wing riots on the West Coast where Antifa extremists “vandalized a Democratic Party office and other buildings and scuffled with police,” Reuters reported.

Here is the exchange where Psaki made the remarks:

REPORTER: On domestic unrest: First of all, does the President have any comment on the ongoing violence in Oregon and Washington State that we’ve seen in recent days?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we had our team on the ground — our national security team — even before 12:01, early in the morning, on Inauguration Day because we wanted to be able to monitor events happening across the country and any unrest that was resulting from the last couple of weeks.

I haven’t spoken with him specifically about those events, but it is something our national security team — Liz Sherwood-Randall, our Homeland Security Advisor — is closely monitoring, of course. And — but, if we have an additional update, I’m happy to provide it to you.

The question came after Psaki gave lengthy details about the Biden administration’s plans to counter “domestic violent extremism”:

PSAKI: I also have some news to share on the president’s response to domestic violent extremism. The January 6th assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat.

The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve. We are committed to developing policies and strategies based on facts, on objective and rigorous analysis, and on a respect for constitutionally protected free speech and political activities.

Our initial work on DVE will broadly fall into three areas. The first is a tasking from President Biden sent to the ODNI today requesting a comprehensive threat assessment, coordinated with the FBI and DHS, on domestic violent extremism. This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations.

The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis upon which we can shape policy. So this is really the first step in the process, and we’ll rely on our appropriate law enforcement and intelligence officials to provide that analysis.

The second will be the building of an NSC capability to focus on countering domestic violent extremism. As a part of this, the NSC will undertake a policy review effort to determine how the government can share information better about this threat, support efforts to prevent radicalization, disrupt violent extremist networks, and more.

There’s important work already underway across the interagency in countering DVE, and we need to understand better its current extent and where there may be gaps to address, so we can determine the best path forward.

The third will be coordinating relevant parts of the federal government to enhance and accelerate efforts to address DVE. This considered, NSC-convened process will focus on addressing evolving threats, radicalization, the role of social media, opportunities to improve information sharing, operational responses, and more.

Psaki also danced around a question from a reporter about the decision from the Trump administration to call China’s human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims “crimes against humanity” and “a genocide.”

“Does the President agree with that determination, and will he keep it?” the reporter asked.

“Well, I know that our Secretary of State is just about to get confirmed, or so Senator McConnell tells us,” she responded. “And I’m sure he will be reviewing — I know he will be reviewing a number of the decisions and assessments that have made. Obviously, the President has spoken before to the horrific treatment of Uyghurs, but I don’t have anything more for you on it. I can check with our national security team and see if we have a more up-to-date statement.”

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