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Report: Biden staff asking reporters to share questions ahead of briefings

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President Joe Biden’s communications staff have probed White House reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during briefings, The Daily Beast reports.

During a White House Correspondents Association video call last week, WHCA leaders advised reporters to not respond to the Biden team’s inquiries.

“While it’s a relief to see briefings return, particularly with a commitment to factual information, the press can’t really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want,” one White House correspondent said, according to The Daily Beast. “That’s not really a free press at all.”

“It pissed off enough reporters for people to flag it for the [WHCA] for them to deal with it,” another source said.

At Psaki’s debut briefing on Inauguration Day, she promised to restore regular briefings, saying she had a “deep respect for the role of a free and independent press,” and that they shared “a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”

So far, at each early press conference, Psaki has fielded questions from every reporter in the room.

Biden’s press team did not deny that they have been probing reporters but explained that talking to reporters is part of an effort to foster a better relationship with the press than the previous administration. The press team reportedly reaches out to reporters directly in order to avoid appearing to dodge questions during briefings.

“Our goal is to make the daily briefing as useful and informative as possible for both reporters and the public,” a White House spokesperson reportedly said. “Part of meeting that objective means regularly engaging with the reporters who will be in the briefing room to understand how the White House can be most helpful in getting them the information they need. That two-way conversation is an important part of keeping the American people updated about how government is serving them.”

Under previous administrations, many White House reporters would gather informally in the morning to talk with the press secretaries. During these gatherings, White House communications staff could get a sense of the topics reporters were interested in that day, and would come prepared for questions during televised briefings later in the afternoon.

Eric Schultz, a former deputy press secretary in the Obama administration, told The Daily Beast that finding out what reporters are focusing on was standard procedure in most pre-Trump White Houses in order to reduce the number of questions that go unanswered during televised briefings.

The Biden administration is taking a different approach in order to restore normalcy to the briefing process, Schultz said.

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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Kamala Harris Loses Two More Staffers

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Two more staffers are reportedly leaving their jobs in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office, according to the Washington Post. The news comes just after Harris’ chief spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, announced her departure.

“Symone Sanders, the senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris, is expected to leave the White House at the end of the year, according to five administration officials familiar with the matter,” Politico reported.

In addition to Sanders, “Peter Velz, director of press operations, and Vince Evans, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in the vice president’s office, have also told others in the vice president’s office that they are leaving, according to two administration officials,” the Washington Post reported.

Earlier this week, Sanders officially announced her departure in a note to the Vice President’s team.

“I’m so grateful to the VP for her vote of confidence from the very beginning and the opportunity to see what can be unburdened by what has been. I’m grateful for [Harris chief of staff] Tina [Flournoy] and her leadership and her confidence as well,” Sanders wrote. “Every day, I arrived to the White House complex knowing our work made a tangible difference for Americans. I am immensely grateful and will miss working for her and with all of you.”

The news comes just weeks after Harris’ communications director Ashley Etienne filed her resignation.

“Ashley is a valued member of the vice president’s team, who has worked tirelessly to advance the goals of this administration,” a White House official stated. “She is leaving the office in December to pursue other opportunities.”

“Harris’ office has been beset by disorder, bad press, and, at times, internal frictions,” Politico reported, adding, “ … in recent weeks, chatter has grown increasingly loud that Harris wasn’t positioned well to be Biden’s heir apparent in 2028 or, if he opts not to run again, in 2024.”

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