President Biden failed to take questions from reporters at the top of a trilateral summit meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada Thursday — shortly after White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed Biden regularly answered press queries.
Earlier Thursday, it was unclear if Biden was aware that his staff had axed the traditional press conference with visiting world leaders. At a morning bill-signing event, Biden declined to answer a shouted question, assuring reporters, “I’ll be happy to answer your questions after I meet with all of the leaders.”
But reporters were stunned just before 6 p.m. when Biden failed to honor his pledge.
The session with Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the White House East Room was closed to the press without the American president responding to a single question.
Instead, the three leaders took turns giving opening remarks before Biden asked US national security adviser Jake Sullivan to speak.
“Thanks,” Sullivan responded. “We’ll just give the press a couple of minutes to leave the room before we get the meeting underway.”
As reporters bellowed questions, a junior White House press officer shouted at them to leave: “Let’s go! Thank you, thank you!”
Biden did take questions prior to his meeting with Trudeau, the first scheduled event of the summit, but declined to do so prior to his one-on-one with Obrador later in the day.
Following the Biden-Trudeau meeting, Psaki was asked why the White House had decided to “break with tradition” by not holding a post-summit press conference.
“I would say, first, I don’t think it’s as scandalous as that in terms of the backstory,” the press secretary responded.
“I would note that in the last three weeks, the president has hosted two press conferences — three, if you count the one after he announced the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, where he took a number of questions,” Psaki added. “He’s also, including today, he’s taken questions from reporters a total of at least 10 times this month.”
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