Does the White House regret how the administration handled President Joe Biden's improper handling of classified documents? That is the question CBS News reporter Steven Portnoy asked on Tuesday.
What is the background?
Last week, a lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen classified documents at his private residence in Indiana. Pence initiated a search out of an abundance of caution, CNN reported.
Upon the discovery, the lawyer immediately notified the National Archives, which then notified the Justice Department. Pence's team then notified Congress and then the public.
The classified documents were stored in boxes that contained documents from Pence's days as vice president. Importantly, the boxes were taped when Pence's lawyer conducted the search, and thus it is believed that the boxes had not been opened since they were packed and initially sealed.
What did Portnoy ask?
The White House has repeatedly claimed it did "the right thing" regarding the disclosure of classified documents in Biden's possession. If that is true, Portnoy asked whether it is also true of Pence — especially given that Pence was even more forthcoming.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, however, refused to answer the question. Then Portnoy followed up with a certain jab at Biden, asking Jean-Pierre for "any reflection" on the White House's opaque disclosure process.
"One of the things that Pence team seems to have done in the last week is make public disclosure of the circumstance. They advised NARA but also advised Congress and now the public," Portnoy noted.
"Any reflections among the communications and press staff here as to how the Pence team handled it versus how you guys handled it?" he asked.
Portnoy's question targeted a top concern about the Biden administration's disclosure process. It took more than two months after the first discovery of classified documents for the White House to say anything about it. Meanwhile, the second batch, which had already been discovered when the administration admitted to the first, was not disclosed until NBC News first reported on its existence.
But the press secretary was in no mood to offer penance. Instead, she referred Portnoy's question to the Justice Department and White House counsel's office.
When she finished responding, another reporter shouted out, "Why did you not talk about it for two months?" It's not clear who shouted the question. Jean-Pierre did not answer it.
01/24/23: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierreyoutu.be
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