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White House’s Psaki deflects ethical concerns about possible move to MSNBC

Press Secretary Jen Psaki is preparing to leave the White House in coming weeks, but the Biden administration has yet to pick her replacement, two sources briefed on the situation said.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s deputy press secretary, and John Kirby, the Department of Defense spokesman, who is well-respected in Washington but does not have a long history with Biden, have long been considered top candidates to succeed Psaki, multiple sources inside and outside the White House told Reuters. The sources declined to be named ahead of the official announcement.

Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, who recently made her debut in the briefing room, and has quickly impressed many in Washington with her confidence answering questions, is also under consideration, the two sources said.

Bedingfield, who was President Joe Biden’s spokesperson when he was vice president and an early presidential campaign hire, has not expressed interest in the job during this administration, though she has talked about the press secretary role in the past, one of the sources said.

Psaki is expected to stay in the job through the White House Correspondents’ dinner at the end of this month, one source told Reuters. She plans to join television network MSNBC, Axios reported on Friday, citing an unnamed source close to the matter.

Asked about the reports at the White House Friday, Psaki said “Well you can’t get rid of me yet.” She added she had nothing to confirm about future plans and was happy to be back in the press room after quarantining following a positive COVID-19 test.

Quizzed whether she could brief reporters fairly if she was having conversations with a media outlet, Psaki said “There are a range of stringent ethical and legal requirements that are imposed on everybody in this administration and many administrations past about any conversations you’re having with future employers. That is true of any industry you’re working in and I have abided by those and tried to take steps to go beyond that as well.”

Psaki said in January of 2021 she planned to remain in the job for just a year. In June, she said during a conference that she had the flexibility to stay on longer if needed.

Psaki’s brisk, detail-dense press briefings, occasionally marked by warm regards or withering exchanges with reporters, helped define the early Biden presidency. They served a sharp contrast to the president’s less precise elocution, and to the previous Trump administration’s combative approach to the press.

The decision to replace Psaki is likely to be made by Biden personally, in consultation with his chief of staff Ron Klain and other top advisers.

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

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