It’s been almost twenty-four hours since President Joe Biden trotted out to the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room to deliver remarks about Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report on the president’s retention of classified documents. If you’d like a recap of how that went, you can read my piece here. It’s safe to say that, with the exception of a few shameless administration apologists, DC collectively saw the press conference as an absolute trainwreck. Now, journalists are trying to get to the bottom of who planned the ill-fated public appearance for the president. Was it the president himself, furious at Hur’s report, who demanded he appear in a previously unscheduled event that was announced fifteen minutes prior to its start time? Or did members of his staff assemble the presser — and if so, did they deliberately set their boss up for failure?
According to Paul Sperry, a senior reporter at RealClearInvestigations, the White House has had a copy of Hur’s report since last Saturday, which means they had just as long to prepare a response to its contents. In fact, on February 5, the White House submitted a response to Hur complaining that he had raised questions about Biden’s memory. They declared such language neither “accurate or appropriate.” They argued that it was normal for Biden to have recall issues given he sat for the interview just days after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. Interesting to make the case that the president can’t keep his wits about him during an international crisis, but I digress. All of this makes it especially odd that Thursday night’s presser appeared hastily thrown together — and the president as angry as if he had just read the report for the first time.
Veteran political communicators have guessed that it was Biden who went against the wishes of his staff and appeared for the press conference. But don’t expect that to mean his staff is off the hook. He already threw them under the bus in his defense of his mishandling of classified material, claiming that they were the ones who carelessly dropped boxes of the stuff in his garage. And this wouldn’t be the first time White House staff were chided for not protecting the president from himself. New York Times White House reporter Katie Rogers, who has a book coming out about the history of modern first ladies, reported that Dr. Biden dropped into a meeting to register her complaint that no staff had stopped a meandering two-hour press conference in January 2022.
“Where was the person, she demanded, who was supposed to end the news conference?” Rogers reported. “Officials later apologized to her.”
Aides, though, had indeed slipped the president a card suggesting he end the press conference. No one, not even Biden, defended his staff from Dr. Biden’s fury. It’d be quite surprising to learn that they aren’t receiving a similar dressing down from the first lady after last night’s debacle.
On our radar
GORSUCH UNLEASHED The Supreme Court seems prepared to uphold Trump’s ability to appear on voting ballots, despite Colorado’s higher court declaring the former president an insurrectionist and, thus, ineligible. Justice Neil Gorsuch went especially hard on Colorado’s attorney, creating several viral moments.
COLIN CARD Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost will host this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, continuing the trend of the White House press corps picking late-night TV regulars to emcee the event since comedian Michelle Wolf’s 2018 set was widely panned.
OUT OF ENERGY Republican congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, currently the chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, announced she will retire at the end of her term, setting off a battle for who will takeover her leadership position on the powerful committee.
Tuck and cover
Tucker Carlson’s two-hour-long interview with Vladimir Putin, which was released this Thursday, angered many folks in the media, many of whom accused Carlson of being a propagandist, a tool of the Kremlin or just plain anti-American.
Leading the charge was former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, now of the Atlantic, who said that “Carlson deserves a special display all his own in the Museum of Dictator Stooges.”
Others like Anne Applebaum, also of the Atlantic, claimed that the interview’s point “was to show disdain for the visiting American and to tell, again, a false version of Ukrainian history, starting in the ninth century.”
Carlson asked Putin about potentially releasing the Wall Street Jounal’s Evan Gershkovich, saying “He’s a kid, and maybe he was breaking your law in some way, but he’s not a super spy.” Many of Carlson’s preemptive critics guessed he wouldn’t ask about the jailed reporter, and when he did, some still weren’t satisfied.
Annie Karni, the congressional correspondent for the New York Times, disapproved of Carlson’s handling of the subject, saying that it was “Worse than not asking the question at all.”
Bloomberg’s Lisa Fleisher wasn’t happy about it either: “How dare he suggest Evan was breaking the law.”
The Journal’s Ted Mann joined the chorus of complaints, saying that it was “disgraceful of Carlson to suggest Evan was ‘breaking [their] law.’ He wasn’t. Carlson knows that. Evan is a law-abiding, decent reporter being held hostage for geopolitical leverage.”
Gorka on ice
It looks like Sebastian Gorka has been booted from the MAGA movement. The self-proclaimed “dragon of Budapest” first raised eyebrows a few weeks ago when he needled Human Events editor Jack Posobiec for suggesting the FBI had planted pipe bombs at the RNC and DNC on January 6. Posobiec had pointed out that the recovered bombs looked awfully similar to those used in FBI training.
“Right Jack. Because are soooooo many different types of plumber’s end caps out there,” Gorka snarked. On his show he then made a point of rehashing Posobiec’s absurd Pizzagate allegations.
Now, Gorka has really kicked the hornet’s nest by not-so-subtly accusing journalist Tucker Carlson of being an “agent of the Kremlin” for choosing to interview Russian president Vladimir Putin. As Tucker and Trump fans flooded his mentions, Gorka doubled down on his criticism and, as Posobiec put it, went into “full meltdown mode.”
“No wonder Trump kicked Gorka out of the White House,” Posobiec said.
Things only got worse for the host of America First when Trump surrogates started pointing out that Gorka had recently claimed to know who Trump’s VP pick was going to be. To them, it was one of many examples of Gorka pretending to be closer to the former president than reality.
The good news is that Cockburn is pretty sure Gorka still has his ostentatious Mustang — that is, if the “ART WAR” car hasn’t been impounded yet for his poor parking skills. Perhaps it’s time to put the top down and jet across the border before Gorka gets run over by the Trump Train. Then maybe he can work remotely for the Bulwark?