Reports last week that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki plans to leave her post in May to take an on-air job with MSNBC have set off swirling speculation in DC about who will replace her.
The potential stable of successors was already getting a look after Psaki’s colleague Kate Bedingfield, who hold the communications director role, briefed reporters due to a staff covid outbreak.
Psaki has become one of the most visible members of the administration through her televised clashes with Fox News reporters, having served in the high-profile post for 15 months.
She was not a member of Biden’s campaign or former government staff – with a handful of Biden loyalists and Obama-Biden alums considered to be in the running to take her place as the White House contends with a bloody war in Ukraine, rising inflation, and November elections that could give Republicans new powers to probe the administration.
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield has worked for Biden for years, and helped forge the administration’s overall communications strategy.
She briefed reporters throughout the week after Psaki stayed away after testing positive for COVID-19, her second time.
Bedingfield held her ground against reporters’ questions, even firing off a joke when a reporter habitually called her ‘Jen’ by mistake.
‘High praise,’ she quipped.
‘I know I am not the redhead you’re accustomed to seeing at this podium, but I hope you will hang with me nonetheless,’ she said as she started her turn at the podium.
She has been with Biden during triumphs and struggles, having served as his deputy campaign manager and his communications director when he was vice president under Barack Obama.
A new book by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, This Will Not Pass, casts Bedinfield, 40, as pointing to failures by Vice President Kamala Harris.
‘Bedingfield had taken to noting that the vice presidency was not the first time in Harris’s political career that she had fallen short of sky-high expectations,’ they write.
Bedingfield vouched for her respect for Harris and snarked in response: ‘The fact that no one working on this book bothered to call to fact check this unattributed claim tells you what you need to know.’
In a 2020 tweet after she was offered her current post, Bedingfield noted that she and Psaki ‘go back to our days fighting for a Dem House in 2006 (and we were in each other’s weddings, to boot!).’ She tweeted that the ‘fantastic k_jeanpierre and I are vets of multiple campaigns together,’ while also heaping praise on former Vice President Kamala Harris aide Symone Sanders.
Jean-Pierre, 44, who serves as Psaki’s deputy, has stepped in to fill the press secretary’s shoes on multiple occasions, including during both of Psaki’s covid situations.
She is well-accustomed to the press, having briefed repeatedly on presidential trips and having taken turns at the podium herself without incident or veering off script.
She is known for keeping a close grip on the binder of information compiled for briefers, and takes pains not to get far from its contents. That is what she did when she jumped on President Biden’s trip to Europe last month on short notice following Psaki’s positive covid test. She briefed reporters aboard Air Force One en route, but kept a low profile on the trip during Biden’s rounds of diplomacy.
She held posts in the Obama administration and Obama’s 2012 campaign, and has done stints at liberal MoveOn and the ACLU.
The Columbia University grad was born in Martinique, and served as chief of staff to Harris on the Biden campaign.
Jean-Pierre announced she tested positive for covid after the trip, which prompted Bedingfield’s sudden debut at the podium.
John Kirby, a retired Navy Admiral, has been in the spotlight as Pentagon spokesman during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has fielded questions with delicate political implications over what weapons systems the U.S. is and is not providing to Ukraine.
Kirby has diplomatic experience as well, having served as State Department spokesman during the Obama administration.
He’s also served on an aircraft carrier and provided commentary on CNN.
He served as a commentator at the cable network from 2017-2021, before trading in his TV role to get back behind a podium and suddenly fielding questions from some of his former colleagues.
His daily briefings were broadcast live on cable amid the tense and chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan.
State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a post that both Psaki and Kirby previously held.
He serves as spokesman for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and has faced questions about efforts to try to deter Russia’s invasion and the sanctions regimen put in place seeking to punish Russia.
His most high-profile briefings have featured tense clashes with the longtime State Department reporter for the Associated Press, Matt Lee. ‘Matt, you don’t need to raise your voice,’ he told his questioner during a clash over Iran sanctions. He got in another tense exchange in February when pressed to back up the government’s assertion that Russia was planning a false flag operation to justify an invasion of Ukraine.
‘Really, this is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into,’ Lee told him.
‘This is derived from information known to the US government intelligence information that we have declassified,’ Price told him.
Price served as spokesman for the CIA and published an op-ed announcing why he was leaving in protest. He also served as a White House National Security Council spokesman during the Obama administration, where he worked out of the same warren of offices as other members of the White House press staff.
Elizabeth Alexander, who has a long history with the Bidens and who serves as first lady Jill Biden’s communications director, could also be up for the role, the Washington Examiner reported.
She served as Biden’s press secretary when he was vice president, put in time at the Democratic National Committee, and served on Capitol Hill for now Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who has groomed a series of top communicators. She also worked for House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff.
She is a lawyer and a former federal prosecutor – giving her a foundation to handle questions about a federal investigation of Hunter Biden or developments in the January 6th probe. Psaki is known for punting questions on those topics to the Justice Department.
Sanders was the first high-profile member of Harris’ communications team to bolt, and had once been mentioned as a possible White House press secretary.
She vouched for Biden in repeated TV interviews as a senior advisor to his campaign, having served as press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016. But she didn’t end up getting selected as Biden’s representative at the White House podium, and had to watch the job go to Psaki, who wasn’t a member of the team, but who had been considered for the job back in the Obama administration.
Sanders left for her own gig at MSNBC, the same network that Psaki has been in talks to join – although the White House has insisted nothing is final and that Psaki is following protocols.
This is an excerpt from Daily Mail.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.