“He takes questions nearly every day he’s out [with] the press,” Psaki told former Obama campaign guru and CNN commentator David Axelrod on the latest episode of his “The Axe Files” podcast.
“A lot of times, we say, ‘Don’t take questions,’” Psaki disclosed. “But he’s going to what he wants to do because he’s the president of the United States.”
“The first time I traveled with him, he took questions from the pool three times that day, and I thought, ‘Am I going to be fired when I get back?’” Psaki recalled later in the program. “So he does do that, and he likes doing that. I mean, the thing is, he likes the press corps and likes that back-and-forth and that engagement.”
Axelrod had praised Psaki and her White House team for what he described as “a good job of managing” the 46th president.
“His strength is that he says what’s on his mind, and his weakness is he says what’s on his mind, and sometimes that’s not helpful,” said Axelrod, who recalled reading a report about Biden bumping into CNN reporter Kaitlin Collins and disclosing to her that a $15 minimum wage was unlikely to make it into the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year.
“He was right, but it must have given you a lot of heartburn and [made you] ask yourself, ‘Why are we allowing him to roll around in the hallways doing impromptu interviews?’” Axelrod told Psaki.
During her response, Psaki said she and her staff had recognized “we’re never going to satisfy the White House Press Corps and their desires for access, and I think there have been mistakes made in the past of trying to do that.”
“What we’ve tried to do in general … is really think about what the public cares about,” she added. “The public cares about the pandemic, the economy — you know, we’re often asked, ‘Why doesn’t he go to the border?’ Important issue, we’re focused on it. What percentage of the public is focused on the border? A much smaller percentage than is focused on the pandemic and the economy. So, that may be maddening, but that’s what we try to do.”
While Biden has had numerous informal encounters with the media, he has only held one formal press conference, which took place on March 25
Psaki, who has two children with husband Greg Mecher, also told Axelrod that she expects to leave her current role sometime in 2022.
“I think it’s going to be time for somebody else to have this job in a year from now, or about a year from now,” she said. “I have little kids and I don’t want to miss time with them.”