Jen Psaki compares Trump White House drama to ‘Game of Thrones’

There are fewer leaks — and less access for journalists overall — in the Biden administration

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Friday 11 June 2021 02:35
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Perhaps it’s not too surprising that there’s less drama in the Biden administration, given that its predecessor was a literal reality TV star before becoming the political equivalent of one.

Still, it is notable just how much less gossip is flying out of the West Wing these days, according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

“There’s not a lot of Game of Thrones drama here, which feels like it may be a bit of ... a shift from the last four years,” Ms Psaki said a recent media conference hosted by the Financial Times. “The culture of this White House is very much a put your head down, get to work, do your thing, be a part of the team,” she added.

The Trump administration was comprised of the former president’s children, business associates, and former TV anchors and right-wing pundits rather than the more buttoned-up and careerist DC types, and together this bunch took leaking to new heights.

There were books like Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, based on extensive insider leaking from former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

There were near constant updates on White House dramas, as warring camps chose sides between aides like Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller, all the way up to the final days of the administration.

There was a full, op-ed length leak of sorts, when in 2018, an anonymous senior official wrote in the New York Times about how they were “part of the Resistance” inside the Trump administration, working to thwart the president’s “worst inclinations.”

There were even, according to White House correspondents, leaks from Donald Trump himself, a habit he began during his days as a tabloid-loving New York real estate developer, calling reporters under the pseudonym John Barron.

Though there’s less of a circus surrounding White House staffers, the Biden administration is not without its own strains with the press.

Mr Biden waited longer than any president in a century to give his first news conference, and has only held one since taking office, just as Mr Trump largely avoided direct question-and-answer sessions and stuck to quick exchanges going to and from his daily itinerary.

After the Trump administration caused a controversy when it secretly sought records from CNN and Washington Post reporters, the Biden administration swore off seizing journalists’ phone records as part of leaking investigations — the president called it “simply wrong” — even though the practice was used during the Obama administration. A working group, where journalists meet with Justice Department officials to discuss policy, hasn’t met since 2018.

And during his previous time in the White House, Mr Biden urged countries to deny asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, while the Obama administration used the Espionage Act against whistleblowers more than all of their predecessors combined.

The real test of the Biden administration, it seems, will not be containing White House leaks, but how it responds to the next round of national security leaks to the public. If recent history is any guide, it’s only a matter of time.

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