White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is in a bit of a bind. After communicating that there was no legal justification for extending the evictions moratorium through the CDC, President Biden violated his oath of office and did so anyway. So in today’s press briefing Psaki has been tasked with explaining the rapid reversal. It has not gone well.
Psaki claimed that the decision was signed off on by the CDC’s lawyers as well as the White House Counsel’s office. She said that Biden was “old school,” and that “the president would not have supported moving forward with any action where he didn’t feel there was legal standing and legal support.”
The way she tried to square the circle was to argue that the new order is different from the one the Supreme Court declared illegal in June. “What was announced was not an extension of the existing moratorium, which was of course national. It was a more limited moratorium that was going to be impacting and helping areas that were hardest hit by COVID,” she said.
The problem is, Gene Sperling, Biden’s senior adviser, said at the press briefing just Monday, with Psaki at his side, that the CDC had determined that even a more limited moratorium could not be accomplished legally.
“The President has not only kicked the tires; he has double, triple, quadruple checked,” Sperling said. “He has asked the CDC to look at whether you could even do targeted eviction moratorium — that just went to the counties that have higher rates — and they, as well, have been unable to find the legal authority for even new, targeted eviction moratoriums.” [Emphasis mine.]
For Psaki’s story to hold, during the quintuple check, CDC lawyers would have had to unearth a magic legal authority that escaped them during the single, double, triple, and quadruple check. But the legal justification that the CDC used — essentially, taking action in the midst of a pandemic to slow the spread — was the same one that had been used previously, and that had been rejected by the Supreme Court.
Psaki’s dishonesty is breathtaking.