Briefing in brief: Biden leaving consequences of Jan. 6 to DOJ

Julia Nikhinson

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday spent roughly 40 minutes briefing reporters following President Biden’s speech to mark the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Psaki told a press corps reduced due to the surging COVID-19 pandemic that Biden will allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to handle consequences of the riots and that she did not discuss Republican reactions to the speech with the president. 

Here’s the White House briefing — in brief.

White House leaving consequences of Jan. 6 to DOJ 

Psaki said that Biden will leave any consequences of the Jan. 6 riots to the DOJ, when questioned about Biden blaming former President Trump in his address on Thursday.

“He’s going to leave that to the Justice Department, which is independent,” she said when asked what consequences Biden thinks Trump should face.

She added that the White House will continue to support the Jan. 6 committee’s work “but he’s not going to prejudge the outcome of that committee either.”

Biden, in his remarks, accused Trump, without ever mentioning his name directly, of spreading a “web of lies” that laid the groundwork for the attack by a mob of Trump supporters.

She was later questioned if Biden wants the DOJ to press charges against Trump for the insurrection.

“The president wants the Justice Department and the attorney general to act independently as the attorney general demanded when he accepted the job and as the president expected and demanded from any attorney general he was going to select,” she said. 

Psaki said that Biden’s speech was not a directive about what the DOJ should do.

“He’s not making a judgement about or direction of what the Justice Department should do or how they should behave or act. And I don’t think that the Justice Department or the attorney general sees that he did either,” she said.

Biden and Psaki didn’t discuss Republican reaction

Psaki said that she and the president did not talk about Republicans’ reactions to his address at the Capitol on Thursday, characterizing them as “desperate comments.” 

“I would first say, we didn’t talk about the desperate comments of many Republicans suggesting that commemorating a dark day in our democracy and calling for all of us to protect people’s fundamental rights, including the peaceful transfer of power, people’s right to vote across the country,” Psaki said when asked for Biden’s response to Republicans.

“We didn’t talk much about attempts to distract by some Republicans in Congress,” she added.

Psaki said that she and Biden did discuss, after his address, how the president was impacted by the “sheer emotion” of the day.

In a statement shortly after the address, Trump accused Biden of trying to “deflect the incompetent job he is doing” as president.

Meanwhile, Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), during an appearance on former Trump aide Stephen Bannon’s podcast on Thursday, said “we’re ashamed of nothing” about Jan. 6.

Biden still wants to ‘defeat’ the virus 

Psaki said that the president’s goal is to “defeat the virus” as opposed to accepting it as a part of life.

“The president’s ultimate goal continues to be to defeat the virus,” she said when asked if he accepts the virus will become endemic and the public may have to adjust to living with it indefinitely. 

“But what you have seen the president do and the administration do in recent weeks and months is really expand the tools we have to fight the virus and to reduce hospitalization, to reduce the chance of death, to purchase large quantities of treatment options in order to help people who do get the virus, who do get seriously ill,” she said. 

She was questioned about an article from former advisory board members for Biden’s health transition team that called for a new pandemic strategy to embrace living with a new normal. Psaki said that she has not been able to read the report.

“The president’s goal is to defeat the virus,” she added, when asked again if the president believes COVID-19 is here to stay.

Tags Donald Trump Jen Psaki Joe Biden Matt Gaetz

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