White house press secretary won’t commit to pushing Congress on impeachment

In her first briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Wednesday would not say whether President Joe Biden would press Congress to set aside its push to impeach predecessor Donald Trump, despite a call for unity in his inaugural address.

“He is going to leave it to members of Congress to carry out their constitutional duty and determine what the path forward is and what the mechanisms are going to be what the process will be and what the timeline will be,” Psaki said in a bob-and-weave answer in the White House briefing room.

Psaki, a veteran of the Obama White House and a former CNN contributor, dodged the question of timing twice at the briefing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not transmitted a single article of impeachment to the Senate, as is required to trigger the Senate trial. Some Democrats argue that there should be a delay in sending the article to avoid distracting from President Biden’s early legislative agenda.

Ten Republicans joined all House Democrats to impeach Trump last week for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 mob that disrupted certification of Biden’s victory.

Psaki was pressed by a reporter about how Biden could make good on his message of unity when a divisive Trump impeachment trial looms in the Senate despite his having left office. If convicted — requiring all Democrats and 17 Republicans to side with impeachment — Trump could be barred from holding office again.

The press secretary insisted Biden, a former senator and vice president, had a long history of bipartisanship.

“He is somebody who always sees the optimistic side of working with people who may disagree with him — people across the aisle — and that has long been his commitment and desire through his many decades in public service,” she said.

“He has reached out to not just Democratic members of Congress, but also Republicans, not just Democratic governors, but also Republicans, not just Democratic mayors, but also Republicans. And he said today in his speech, the biggest platform most presidents have through the course of their presidency, that he will govern for all Americans.”

Psaki’s briefing was a 180 from the sparring sessions between reporters and spokespeople that defined the Trump era. 

She began the briefing describing 15 executive orders, some of which were signed by Biden on his first day, including a repeal of Trump’s 2017 ban on a group of predominately Muslim countries including Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

She called that policy a “Muslim ban,” a term that Trump allies deny, saying it was a restriction largely on war zones where unvetted residents could threaten the US. 

Biden “put an end to the Muslim ban, a policy rooted in religious animus and xenophobia,” Psaki said.

And she confirmed Biden signed an order halting construction of Trump’s signature Mexico border wall. 

Biden “signed a proclamation effective immediately halting further funding or construction of the previous administration’s border wall and terminating the so-called national emergency used to wastefully divert billions for wall construction,” she said.

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