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Inside the failed White House coup to oust Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  s  •  4 weeks ago  •  5 comments

Inside the failed White House coup to oust Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


WASHINGTON — Top aides to President Biden secretly hatched a plan this past fall to replace   White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre   by recruiting outside allies to nudge her out the door, The Post has learned.

Jean-Pierre, who made history in May 2022 by becoming the first black and first openly gay person to hold the position, had developed the   exasperating habit of reading canned answers directly from a binder to reporters   at her regular briefings — offering what her superiors viewed as a less-than-compelling pitch for the 81-year-old Biden as he readied his re-election campaign.

De facto White House communications chief Anita Dunn, 66, the wife of Biden personal attorney Bob Bauer, told colleagues she had decided to call in prominent Democrats to explain to Jean-Pierre, 49, that the time was ripe to move on, sources told The Post.

“There were a number of people she asked to engage Karine,” said one source who heard of the strategy directly from Dunn, whose role as senior adviser has been filled during the past three presidencies by Jared Kushner (Donald Trump), Valerie Jarrett (Barack Obama) and Karl Rove (George W. Bush).


The source also told The Post that Dunn had claimed White House chief of staff Jeff Zients knew about and supported the cloak-and-dagger scheme to push Jean-Pierre out of the West Wing.

“There was an effort to have some outside folks who Karine knows and trusts talk to her about why leaving last fall would have made a lot of sense for her and her career,” the source said, calling it an “effort to encourage her to move along.”

Jean-Pierre, the person added, “had been in the job for a year and a half at that point, which is a pretty standard tenure for a press secretary in what is admittedly a very demanding job [and] Jeff and Anita [tried] to have folks that she would listen to and trust talk to her about why it might be wise to do that.”

Jean-Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki, was press secretary for one week shy of 16 months before leaving to take a job as a host and analyst at MSNBC.

A second source told The Post that “Jeff and Anita were trying to find Karine a graceful exit” because of the ugly optics of removing her against her will.

“There’s a huge diversity issue and they’re afraid of what folks are going to say,” added this source, who said they learned of the effort from multiple people briefed by Dunn and confirmed at least one person from outside the administration did speak with Jean-Pierre.

The revelation of Dunn’s plan is likely to make for awkward workplace dynamics, the first source said, but is unlikely to result in Jean-Pierre’s departure.

“She has been pretty consistent in telling people from the minute she got the job that she was going to stay through the election,” they said. 




“I think Karine has decided to stay come hell or high water and that’s that.”

While Jean-Pierre isn’t going anywhere, the issues that brought about Dunn’s failed machinations remain — with both sources saying the press secretary is too reliant on notes to provide the pushback and quick-thinking repartee needed to effectively champion Biden’s cause.

“Karine doesn’t have an understanding of the issues and she reads the book [binder] word-for-word,” said the second source, adding that the situation is made worse by the fact that “she thinks she’s doing an amazing job.”

“She doesn’t have a grasp of the issues and doesn’t spend the time to learn,” this person said.

“These issues are not second nature to people. Israel and Gaza is a perfect example. It’s very nuanced. Jen would have calls with people to feel well-versed enough to go to the briefing.”

“There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into getting ready,” the first source said, “and consistently she does not put in that level of work.”

In response, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told The Post: “Not only are these claims wildly false, but the reality is the polar opposite. Karine was never approached by anyone with such a message. She spends four hours preparing every day. And neither Jeff nor Anita did any such thing; both have been unflinchingly supportive of her.”

Bates added Friday morning: “Every press secretary uses the binder. Why is she being singled out?”

In December, not long after word of Dunn’s plan circulated in the White House, Jean-Pierre received and rejected an unsolicited offer to become president of EMILYs List, a major Democratic group that raises money for female candidates who support expanded abortion rights.

When   NBC News   reported on the offer in February, the outlet said Jean-Pierre had emphatically told the group that she was “committed to the president” and “I’m not going anywhere.”

Both the initial offer to Jean-Pierre from EMILYs List and its disclosure to NBC are topics of intrigue within the White House — with unsubstantiated theories suggesting the hand of Dunn behind the approach and Jean-Pierre behind its leak.

EMILYs List did not respond to a request for comment.

By December, Dunn appeared to have accepted that Jean-Pierre was secure in her post.

A West Wing official supportive of the press secretary provided The Post with text from an email written by Dunn ahead of Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi’s   Dec. 11 article   that noted National Security Council spokesman John Kirby’s increased profile as co-briefer alongside Jean-Pierre.

“I am happy to talk to [Farhi]. And tell him KJP isn’t going anywhere so this is a ridiculous piece,” Dunn wrote in the message.

The pro-Jean-Pierre official also told The Post that Dunn was among those who had backed the press secretary’s promotion from being Psaki’s deputy — with the comms chief even calling in a former White House official to request their help communicating to reporters that “Karine is very strong and doing a very good job in the briefing room.”

“She is an incredibly quick study on a variety of policy issues that she has to be appraised of every single day,” that ex-official said.

Those with less glowing reviews acknowledge Jean-Pierre is not short of confidence.

“I think everyone’s resigned to the fact that she’s not going anywhere on her own,” said the second source who described Dunn’s autumn conservations.

”She thinks she’s doing a really good job and thinks the president wants her to stay.”

What Biden really wants was unclear to The Post’s sources, with a third source familiar with administration dynamics and skeptical of Jean-Pierre’s performance saying the president “trusts his senior advisers to manage the team as needed.”

Kirby, who has two stints as Pentagon press secretary under his belt and also fronted State Department briefings in the final 20 months of the Obama administration, has shared the stage with Jean-Pierre at most White House briefings since Hamas terrorists massacred about 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7 — contributing to what one source called “serious tension” within the West Wing.

“Sometimes he talks to her and she acts as if he is not talking,” said a fourth source familiar with the situation and critical of Jean-Pierre.

“She has been pretty aggressive about marking her territory,” agreed the first source.

Kirby, who is widely respected by journalists as a valuable source of both information and soundbites, has requested to pick out who asks him questions at briefings, but Jean-Pierre has not agreed to allow him to do so.

Dunn has supported Kirby’s ask, said the fourth source, but still Jean-Pierre has not relented, even after Kirby’s desire was   publicly reported in January by Axios .

Kirby, 60, and Jean-Pierre have sought to tamp down the perception of a power struggle.

In February, they “issued a statement praising the other,” the   New York Times wrote   in an article focused on the relationship.

Kirby told the Times, “It’s a privilege to be in her company, to watch her work and to learn from her.”

The Gray Lady did not publish Jean-Pierre’s statement on Kirby, but it was provided to The Post and read: “Admiral Kirby is an excellent colleague and I’m proud to work with him. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him and have great respect for his service to our country. His military experience and the work he has done as part of the national security team have been immensely helpful to the White House, particularly with two ongoing conflicts around the world.”

While Kirby is the odds-on favorite to replace Jean-Pierre as press secretary should she depart the position, there are other contenders for the opening — including Brian Fallon, formerly Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign press secretary and currently Vice President Kamala Harris’ re-election campaign communications director, who one source said has undergone an “ego detoxing” in his current post.

A number of Democrats both inside and close to the White House said they were unaware of Dunn’s plot to replace Jean-Pierre, or claimed to only know about it through the rumor mill, but several said that the accounts by The Post’s sources   rang true. 

One source close to Dunn and Zients insisted, to the contrary, that “my experience over the last year is Dunn and Zients being supportive of Karine” and added that “I’ve never heard of any such plan.”




The Post spoke with almost a dozen prominent Democratic staffers for this article, including current and former White House officials, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss internal personnel matters. 

The sources agreed that Dunn does not appear to harbor any ill will toward Jean-Pierre, with many suggesting that the encouragement that the press secretary shift to an outside role was meant to be a long-term boost to Jean-Pierre that plays more to her strengths.

“I witnessed Jeff and Anita coming pretty hard to Karine’s defense after [the January Axios report on Kirby wanting to call on reporters himself] and asking others to do the same,” said one Democrat who supports the press secretary.

“They were like, ‘This is palace intrigue bulls— that was dramatically sensationalized,’” that source said.

Thursday evening, Zients told The Post in a statement: “The President and everyone in the White House deeply values Karine — she is an incredibly talented communicator and trusted advisor who keeps a cool head in any crisis and always has your back. We are lucky to have her on the core team advancing the President’s historic agenda every day.”






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Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Sean Treacy    4 weeks ago

She "had developed the  exasperating habit of reading canned answers directly from a binder to reporters  at her regular briefings — offering what her superiors viewed as a less-than-compelling pitch for the 81-year-old Biden as he readied his re-election campaign.

Karine doesn’t have an understanding of the issues and she reads the book [binder] word-for-word,” said the second source, adding that the situation is made worse by the fact that “she thinks she’s doing an amazing job.”

“She doesn’t have a grasp of the issues and doesn’t spend the time to learn,” this person said.

“There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into getting ready,” the first source said, “and consistently she does not put in that level of work.”

followed by

”She thinks she’s doing a really good job"

A perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
2  seeder  Sean Treacy    4 weeks ago
There’s a huge diversity issue and they’re afraid of what folks are going to say,” added this source, who said they learned of the effort from multiple people briefed by Dunn and confirmed at least one person from outside the administration did speak with Jean-Pierre.

The Admin is so paralysed by their race/identity obsessions that they can't just fire her...

 
 
 
MonsterMash
Sophomore Quiet
3  MonsterMash    4 weeks ago

Can't fire her, that would cause cries of racism, homophobia and misogynist.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
5  Greg Jones    3 weeks ago

Absolutely the best (or worst) example of a diversity hire in human history.

 
 

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