White House press secretary Jen Psaki seemed to crack under the pressure of holding up the Biden White House’s spin on flip-flopping immigration policies when pressed on whether an apparent change of heart from the administration had anything to do with the radicals on Capitol Hill.
When confronted by a Fox News reporter about supposed changes to the cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country in the coming months, Psaki grew impatient when her canned responses failed to thwart scrutiny over what seemed to be the administration caving to the demands of the progressive “squad.”
On Monday, Fox News Channel White House correspondent Kristin Fisher pinpointed the confusion shared by many Americans after the Biden White House seemed to change the cap on refugees following the criticism.
On Friday, ABC News reported the Biden administration would be keeping in place a Trump-era cap of 15,000 refugees admitted into the country for the current fiscal year, despite previously vowing to increase the number to 62,500.
This earned President Joe Biden a sharp rebuke from some of the de facto ideological leaders of the new far-left Democratic Party, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
“Completely and utterly unacceptable,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday. “Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise. Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong.
“Keep your promise.”
Completely and utterly unacceptable. Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise.
Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong.
Keep your promise. https://t.co/A82xYf1XpR
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 16, 2021
“As a refugee, I know finding a home is a matter of life or death for children around the world,” Omar tweeted. “It is shameful that @POTUS is reneging on a key promise to welcome refugees, moments after @RepSchakowsky @RepJayapal, myself and others called on him to increase the refugee cap.”
In a letter Friday, Omar also led a group of House Democrats in blasting the Biden administration’s decision, and called the Trump-era policy “unacceptably draconian and discriminatory.”
As a refugee, I know finding a home is a matter of life or death for children around the world.
It is shameful that @POTUS is reneging on a key promise to welcome refugees, moments after @RepSchakowsky @RepJayapal, myself and others called on him to increase the refugee cap. pic.twitter.com/eaxjHCUhrI
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) April 16, 2021
And so, later that day, Psaki released a statement clearing up “confusion” regarding the cap and said Biden really meant he’d be increasing the total number after May 15.
Confusion there certainly was, which is precisely what Fisher was trying to point out in her questions to Psaki, and she was far from the first reporter that day to pose such questions.
“I’m still just a little bit confused about what changed between 1:00 p.m. on Friday and around 4:30 p.m. on Friday to go from, ‘We’re not raising the refugee cap to, we are raising it by May 15th.’ What – what changed in those three and a half hours?” Fisher asked.
Psaki fell back on the stance she’d crafted Friday afternoon, which was that the Biden administration hadn’t actually flip-flopped and never had any plans to actually keep the cap at 15,000 (despite the original directive to keep the cap at 15,000 for the 2021 fiscal year.)
She went in circles, hammering hard with what seemed a memorized and recited line that the administration had always planned to “change the policies of the past administration” — which means something, absolutely, but in no way provides clarity on the White House’s apparent changing stance once they became the target of the “squad’s” ire.
And so it was when Fisher pressed Psaki on the blowback from Capitol Hill that the press secretary seemed to lose it.
The reporter clarified she was asking if the adjustment “had nothing to do with the pushback from some Democrats on Capitol Hill,” but Psaki’s hot refusal to comment on the inter-party criticism indicated far more discomfort than she likely would have preferred to convey.
“I don’t think you’ve articulated to me what our change in policy was? What was our change in policy from the morning to the afternoon?” Psaki snapped.
Fisher bit, noting “the Executive Order from Friday morning said that the admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified. Period.” Fisher also acknowledged there had been a vague “caveat” that the administration “could raise that cap later,” and was quickly interrupted by an irate Psaki insisting “that’s a pretty important caveat, that if we — when we reach 15,000, a subsequent presidential determination could be made.”
Fisher replied by asking “why did you need to make that clarification?” to which Psaki only doubled down on the insistence that “people weren’t understanding” their altruistic commitment to throwing the doors of America wide open to any and all refugees because of Biden’s exceedingly “moral” style of governance.
“The line said, ‘The admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified,’” Fisher repeated.
As Psaki began to reply, Fisher asked, “Can you understand how some people would interpret that?”
The question of how the White House felt about Democrats’ sharp criticism of the initial cap remained unanswered, however, beyond what can only be described as plain evidence Fisher had struck a nerve.
Poor Jen Psaki, to her credit, is in a rather tough position. The fact she often appears flustered, unable to directly answer questions, and only able to repeat vague, carefully-worded talking points speaks more to the ineptitude of the administration than it does her own job performance (although I think it’s safe to say she might do better in a lower-stress job — homegirl looks like she needs some serious self-care after three months of crafting spin for this feckless administration).
It’s easy enough to criticize someone when they’re lying so shamelessly to cover their own rear; the misery it is to try to pass this administration off as moral and consistent seems to almost seep from Psaki’s pores (and I really do hope she’s got an aggressive skincare regime, it looks like it’s taking years off her just to contort her face into a calm expression when confronted with questions like Fisher’s).
Psaki knows as well as you and I how much clout Capitol Hill radicals have in the Democratic Party today. Even if everything she is saying is true and we simply misunderstood the initial directive from the president, the fact that she fell all over herself to make sure everyone “understood” the administration is going to let in nearly four times as many refugees after pressure from the “squad” looks bad enough.
Her angry and defensive response to Fisher, however, makes it look even worse.