- Jen Psaki on Thursday sought to clarify President Joe Biden’s remarks on the 2022 midterms.
- “He absolutely is not predicting that the 2022 elections will be illegitimate,” Psaki told Fox News.
- Biden said the midterms could become illegitimate if there are efforts to overturn the results.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki in an interview with Fox News sought to clarify President Joe Biden’s remarks about the legitimacy of the 2022 midterm elections at a press conference on Wednesday.
Psaki said on Thursday that Biden was not casting doubt on the upcoming elections, but was stressing the importance of fighting to protect voting rights against former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rigged.
“I’ve talked to the president a lot about this. He absolutely is not predicting that the 2022 elections will be illegitimate,” Psaki said.
“The point he was making is that the former president asked a number of states … to overturn the outcome of the election. Now obviously, if there’s an effort to do that, we’ve got to fight against that. That’s what our commitment is to doing,” she continued. “But he was not making a prediction. He has confidence in the American people. And we’re going to do everything we can to protect people’s rights.”
Psaki’s comments come after Biden was asked during his first solo press conference of the year whether he will trust the 2022 election results if Congress does not pass voting rights legislation. Biden and Democrats have tried to pass a voting rights package to counter new laws in several Republican-led states that tighten voting access and politicize the election administration process.
“Well it all depends on whether or not we’re able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday.
Prior to her Fox News interview, Psaki also took to Twitter to expand on Biden’s comments.
“Lets be clear: @potus was not casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2022 election. He was making the opposite point: In 2020, a record number of voters turned out in the face of a pandemic, and election officials made sure they could vote and have those votes counted,” she said. “He was explaining that the results would be illegitimate if states do what the former president asked them to do after the 2020 election: toss out ballots and overturn results after the fact. The Big Lie is putting our democracy at risk. We’re fighting to protect it.”
The wave of new voting laws came after 2020 saw record voter turnout levels despite the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of voters cast their ballots by mail or through early voting — methods that some states have since imposed restrictions on.
“Maybe I’m just being too much of an optimist. Remember how we thought not that many people were going to show up to vote in the middle of the pandemic? We had the highest voter turnout in the history of the United States of America,” Biden said.
“I think if, in fact, no matter how hard they make it for minorities to vote, I think you’re going to see them willing to stand in line, and defy that attempt to keep them from being able to vote,” he continued.
“Imagine if those attempts to say that the count was not legit, you have to recount it, we’re going to discard the following votes. I’m not saying it’s going to be legit. The increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these reforms passed,” Biden later added, referring to Democrats’ voting rights legislation.
Hours later on Wednesday evening, Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights package, known as the “Freedom To Vote: John R. Lewis Act.” Democrats afterward proposed a one-time change to the 60-vote filibuster requirement to pass the bill on a simple 51-majority vote, but all Republicans, along with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema, sank the effort.
In his press conference, Biden emphasized that if the legislation failed, his party would not “give up.”
“We’ve not run out of options yet,” he said.
Vice President Kamala Harris said on Thursday that the White House is considering executive orders on voting rights after the legislation was blocked on Wednesday evening.