The questions had covered Ukraine, North Korea and Sudanese peace talks when one of the White House briefing room’s more robust questioners hijacked proceedings on Wednesday afternoon.
After citing a secret F.B.I. file, an anonymous I.R.S. whistleblower and a Harvard-Harris poll earlier this month that found 53 percent of the public were suspicious of the first family’s ties to foreign powers, The New York Post’s Steven Nelson got to his question.
‘So what do you say to the majority of Americans who believe that the president is himself corrupt?’ he asked.
‘Jesus,’ was White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s response, muttered off camera as she stared at her feet on the briefing room podium.
That was not the official administration response, however.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre muttered ‘Jesus’ and spokesman John Kirby said ‘wow’ after being asked what they would say to Americans who believe Joe Biden is corrupt
The famously unflappable National Security Council spokesman John Kirby had the lectern and the microphone.
‘Wow,’ was his momentarily flustered answer, as he shook his head before regaining his balance.
‘The president has spoken to this … the president has spoken to this.
‘And there’s nothing to these claims.
‘And as for the whistleblower issue that you talked about and the document, I believe the FBI has spoken to that. You’re gonna have to go to them on that.’
Questions about the president’s son, his foreign business dealings, awkward emails from his abandoned laptop, and even a lucrative foray into the art world are frequently met with weary resignation from officials in the White House briefing room.
Those feelings were on full display midway through the briefing when things took an awkward turn after a routine question about artificial intelligence.
Nelson, standing at the back of the room, deployed an old trick to ask a question. When Jean-Pierre pointed to a journalist nearby, he simply started delivering his query as if the press secretary’s finger had been angled at him.
Steven Nelson (standing, back row): ‘So what do you say to the majority of Americans who believe that the president is himself corrupt?’
Republicans have repeatedly tried to tie President Joe Biden to his son Hunter’s (right) business dealings and now allege a bribery scheme when Biden was vice president. The White House has rubbished the claims and Republicans have yet to offer evidence
‘There have been many developments in the House investigations into the first family’s international business dealings recently,’ he said.
There was the House Oversight Committee trying to get its hands on an F.B.I. file that some Republicans insist includes allegations that Biden took millions of dollars in bribes when he was vice president.
And an I.R.S. whistleblower has gone public with allegations of mishandling and political interference in an ongoing criminal probe into the president’s son.
‘In the middle of this there was a Harvard Harris poll this month that found that 53 percent of the public including a fourth of Democrats believe, “Joe Biden was involved with his son in an illegal influence peddling scheme,”‘ he continued, before dropping his explosive question.
The latest claims have excited hardline Republicans, but are shrugged off by Democrats as partisan smears bereft of evidence.
Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, is demanding the F.B.I. turn over its file of evidence on ‘Biden corruption’
After the turmoil of the Donald Trump years, and his norm-busting decision not to put his assets in a blind trust or release his tax returns, the Biden administration has taken pains to paint itself as a return to business as usual.
And after being sworn in, Biden drew a line under some of the complicated family links in the previous administration
‘No one in our family and extended family is going to be involved in any government undertaking or foreign policy,’ Biden told People magazine in January 2021.
It came after Biden faced intense questioning about his son’s business dealings and his position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Hunter told ABC News in 2019 that holding that position while his father was vice president showed ‘poor judgment.’
Those questions have only multiplied since his son’s laptop, filled with messages to and from associates, was abandoned in a Delaware repair shop.
A long-running federal investigation in the state is thought to be at a late stage, but no charges have yet been brought. Federal agents reportedly believe they have enough evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase.
Biden has said he has never spoken to his son about foreign business and there is no evidence that the probe involves the president.