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‘I’d love to take your questions’: Jen Psaki delivers first news briefing

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki has delivered the first news briefing of Joe Biden’s presidency, a once standard part of past administrations that was largely sidelined during the Trump era.

Psaki said Wednesday that she will bring truth and transparency to the White House briefing room, a clear reference to her predecessors under President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration took an openly combative tone with the news media.

Sean Spicer, who was Trump’s first press secretary, set the tenor four years ago by claiming that the audience at Trump’s inauguration was the largest in history, despite photographic evidence to the contrary.

In her inaugural briefing as White House press secretary, Jen Psaki said she has a “deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy,” and pledged to hold daily briefings.

Why it matters: Conferences with the press secretary in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room became almost non-existent under the Trump administration. By sending Psaki to the podium hours after President Biden took the oath of office, the White House signaled a return to pre-Trump norms.

The big picture: After establishing her commitment to daily appearances, the briefing reestablished a familiar pattern of questions, answers and some dodges, with reporters looking for information — as well as color — about Biden’s first hours in the Oval Office. 

  • Psaki took her first question from Zeke Miller of the Associated Press, giving deference to the storied wire service, before turning to NBC’s Peter Alexander.
  • Reporters asked a mix of routine questions about the president’s calls with foreign leaders and upcoming travel, while also pressing her on Biden’s immediate agenda and legislative strategy. Other reporters wanted details on the contents of the note outgoing President Trump left for Biden.
  • Psaki called Trump’s letter to Biden “both generous and gracious.”
  • Biden’s first foreign leader phone call will be on Friday with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The bottom line: Psaki answered some questions and parried others, while trying to establish a rapport with the room and reconnect with some reporters she has long known.

  • “Let’s do this again tomorrow,” she said.

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