Karine Jean-Pierre on DOJ's Trump probe: 'We do not interfere, we do not get briefed'

"This is a law enforcement matter," the Biden press secretary said.

August 14, 2022, 11:27 AM

The White House continues to stress they had no private knowledge of last week's FBI raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate or the status of the ongoing Department of Justice investigation, citing the "complete independence" of the DOJ from politicization.

"We do not interfere. We do not get briefed. We do not get involved," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

Pressed repeatedly by Karl, Jean-Pierre repeatedly declined to comment on any aspect of the federal investigation into Trump, including whether President Joe Biden is concerned about national security implications of the highly classified materials that federal agents said they found in Trump's possession. (Through a spokesperson, Trump claimed the files were declassified.)

"I hear your question, but it would be inappropriate for me as the press secretary to comment on this. It would be inappropriate for any of us, including the president or anyone in the administration, to comment on this," Jean-Pierre said. "This is a law enforcement matter. And the Department of Justice is going to move forward as they see fit."

Responding to Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik's contention that "the FBI raid of President Trump is a complete abuse and overreach of its authority," Jean-Pierre said that is "not true."

"This is not about politicizing anything. ... I would remind our folks on the other side that the FBI director [Christopher Wray] was appointed by the president's predecessor. I would remind the folks on the other side that when Merrick Garland was indeed confirmed, it was a bipartisan fashion," she said.

She told Karl that Biden had not even "discussed" the raid with law enforcement and that the White House had been learning of updates in the investigation through media reports.

The search of Trump's home has partially overshadowed Biden's latest legislative victory, as the House on Friday passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a major health care, climate and tax package. Jean-Pierre hailed it and other recent laws -- including medical support for veterans and funding for domestic manufacturing -- as "historic."

PHOTO: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre answers questions during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 9, 2022.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre answers questions during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 9, 2022.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

But Karl pressed her: "How can you call it 'Inflation Reduction Act'"? He cited the nonpartisan experts from the Congressional Budget Office who estimated the bill would have a "negligible impact on inflation this year, and barely impact inflation at all next year."

Defending the IRA, Jean-Pierre said when you "put it in its totality," the legislation will help "lower the deficit, which will help fight inflation." The IRA aims to make prescription drugs through Medicare and insurance through the Affordable Care Act cheaper while raising taxes on large corporations and investing in clean energy.

The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll shows that 37% of Americans approve of President Biden's handling of the economy, while 69% say they think the economy is getting worse.

Asked how the White House squares that unhappiness with improving signs of the economy, such as a robust jobs market, lower gas prices and the slowing of historically high inflation, Jean-Pierre said, "We understand what the American people are feeling at this time."

"Inflation has been the No. 1 priority for this president," she said. "Lowering costs has been the No. 1 priority for this president."

Karl also asked about the argument in some Democratic and pundit circles that Biden should not seek reelection, despite his repeated assurances otherwise. Jean-Pierre said, again, that he plans to seek a second term but "we're not even focused on 2024."

"We're focusing on the moment right now," she said.