Psaki: Biden’s challenge is Trump court cases ‘block out the sun’

Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki says one of the biggest obstacles President Biden’s campaign faces is how to navigate former President Trump’s legal troubles.

“The unique challenge the Biden campaign has right now is that their opponent is in a courtroom under criminal indictment,” Psaki said when asked Tuesday if the Biden camp should change its communications strategy.

Trump faces 88 criminal charges across four indictments and is currently on trial in New York over alleged hush money payments.

While the New York case against Trump is unprecedented and “an important story to cover,” Psaki said the problem for Biden is it “blocks out the sun.”

“It doesn’t leave a lot of space for other coverage of other issues. It’s not a normal time where they’re debating Social Security proposals, where every outlet is covering what each candidate is saying,” the MSNBC host said.

Earlier this year, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he was concerned that Biden’s campaign wasn’t breaking through the “MAGA wall” in order to communicate to voters what the president has been able to achieve.

Psaki, who served as White House press secretary from Biden’s first day in office in 2021 to 2022, said, “It’s less about a checklist of accomplishments” or “understanding every accomplishment from the infrastructure bill at this point.”

“It’s more about why I’m a better choice than the other guy,” she said.

“It’s about convincing the public they should give [Biden] more time – because the other guy is about themselves, is dangerous, doesn’t care about them, whatever it may be. So it’s asserting that choice. I think that’s most important,” said Psaki.

“I think continuing to sharpen that choice is what they should do, and I think what they will do.”

What Psaki is doing this week is marking the release of her first book, “Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House and the World.” In it, Psaki, who also served as former President Obama’s communications director, opens up about her years working in politics and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and offers advice on how “everyone can be a better communicator.”

“Everyone is capable. It’s not just about communicating from the podium, it’s about every aspect of your life,” she told ITK.

The MSNBC personality – who launched her show, “Inside with Jen Psaki,” in 2023 after serving as a contributor for the network following her White House exit – also dishes on some mildly mortifying situations she faced over the years, such as the time she accidentally spilled her purse’s contents out on Obama when she first met him.

Working for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2007, Psaki recalls being both “inspired and intimidated” by Obama. While greeting the then-senator in a car to accompany him from a Cincinnati fundraiser, Psaki wrote, “Somehow in my slightly nervous delivery, I caught the arm of my purse on the door handle and half the contents flew across the backseat and into Obama’s lap. Pens, lipstick, and possibly a tampon.”

“He may have jumped, slightly, before giving me a subtly ironic look as he helped pick up my belongings now strewn across the floor of the car,” wrote Psaki.

There was also the time, with a toddler at home, she didn’t have an opportunity to look up anything about her tablemates at a White House state dinner.

“I sat down and I started talking to this very nice man” who said he spends “a lot of time in the studio,” Psaki, 45, remembered with a laugh.

“Is he a painter? Is he a sculptor? I don’t know,” said Psaki. It turned out that the guest was Chance the Rapper, a “very famous artist and one of President Obama’s favorites.”

“That was part of my lesson of spending a little time doing research, even 10 to 15 minutes, will help you out.”

Some other communication advice she offered was stressing the importance of connecting with people who disagree with you, not feeling the need to be the loudest in the room and being an active listener – all tips which seem to be completely at odds with Trump’s way of getting out his message.

Psaki said what’s effective about Trump’s communications approach is that “it’s simple and it’s consistent.”

“It’s dark and negative, and I think it’s dangerous because it taps into how he presents himself as the aggrieved and everybody else is aggrieved, too. And it’s prompted violence, and threats and things along those lines. But it’s effective because it’s tapping into a feeling people have.”

If Trump wins the election in November, what advice would Psaki give his future White House press secretary?

“Oh God, why would anyone want that job?” she exclaimed.

“I would say remember that when you leave the White House, you’re the one responsible for your own reputation, so don’t say anything you don’t think is true,” Psaki said.

“Don’t lie on behalf of your boss, even if they ask you to. And if you disagree and feel outraged by what they’re saying, you can leave the White House. So empower yourself.”

Even though Psaki said she loved her job at the White House, she relishes her MSNBC role, and wouldn’t make a return to her old stomping grounds if her ex-boss wins a second term.

While noting that most people find it “weird” for her to say, she thoroughly enjoyed her time behind the podium in the press briefing room.

“I loved doing the briefing – even days where it was tough, where people were tough on me or it was combative – in part because it’s a pretty cool thing doesn’t happen in most countries. But also because it forces you to be as knowledgeable as you can and be able to talk about things to the best degree you can in English, in digestible language,” Psaki said.

“And sometimes you don’t meet that bar,” she said, “but it’s a pretty good daily test.”

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