First lady Jill Biden tore into White House staffers after they failed to cut off President Biden’s second solo press conference in January — when her husband kept taking questions even as then-press secretary Jen Psaki signaled to the president to wrap it up, according to a report. 

President Biden was grilled at the Jan. 19 news conference about his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, tensions between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine and the supply chain crisis that was causing a shortage of goods across the country. 

Following the presser, which went on for about two hours, Jill Biden popped into a meeting of top White House officials who were rehashing the president’s performance, the New York Times reported.​

First lady Jill Biden
First lady Jill Biden tore into White House staffers after they failed to cut off President Biden’s second solo press conference in January.
AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool

“She pointedly asked the group, which included the president, why nobody stepped in to stop it, according to a person who was in the room,” the outlet said. “Where was the person, she demanded, who was supposed to end the news conference?”

The Times report, describing how the first lady has become a favored surrogate for the president ahead of the midterm elections, noted that she has been protective of her husband and even took part in hiring White House staffers and press aides, including vetting Psaki alongside the president. 

At the January presser, the president had been answering questions from a pre-arranged list of reporters for roughly an hour when Psaki — clad in an eye-catching pink blazer — stood up in an apparent attempt to bring the proceedings to a close. 

Joe Biden
According to the first lady, the staffers should have stopped Biden when the time for the presser was up.
EPA/Oliver Contreras / POOL

But the president kept going, prompting Psaki to stand up again about 20 minutes later and walk to a door about 50 feet away from the seating area in another apparent attempt to end the questioning. 

A short time later, the president asked his audience — which was limited to 30 reporters due to the pandemic, but was not asked to observe social distancing guidelines — how long they wanted him to continue. After looking at his watch, Biden said he’d go another 20 minutes — though he actually went on for approximately another half-hour.

The news conference became notorious for Biden suggesting that Russia would only face a muted US response for a “minor incursion” into Ukraine and predicting that Vladimir Putin would “be able to prevail over time” over Kyiv.

Additional reporting by Steven Nelson



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