Reporters Grill Josh Earnest Over CIA Interrogation In White House Briefing

By Randy Foreman, White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON – (Newsblaze) Hands from reporters were flying into the air with greater intensity during Wednesday’s Daily White House Press Briefing after the release of the Democratic Senate Intelligence panel’s release on enhanced interrogation techniques, than on Monday’s briefing. Josh Earnest, the White House Spokesman faced a front bench in the Brady Press Briefing room on fire with skepticism about the release of the report with no judicial accountability.

The administration, in Earnest’s explanation, strongly supported the release of this report “It’s important for people to understand that the United States is willing to face up to its shortcomings, and is willing to be honest about those shortcomings, and is willing to be as candid as possible about our commitment to ensuring that those shortcomings don’t occur again.” said Earnest.

Thirty-three times in exchanges during Wednesday’s briefing the words “Moral Authority” were used. This was a typical argument that Earnest went to on moral authority: “And again, regardless of which side you are on this, and regardless of which party you represent, and regardless of which administration you served in, the strengthening of that moral authority is, without argument, a very substantial way that we can contribute to America’s national security.”

Earnest noted about five times in the briefing that providing transparency about interrogation techniques was a priority of the President’s during his second day in office “And yet that’s exactly what the President sought to institute on his second day in office. And I think it demonstrates the President’s commitment to taking seriously, very seriously, the need to show some leadership and to reform some of the shortcomings of these programs.”

Another point that the administration attempted to make about career federal prosecutors were the deciding factor in the administration’s decision not to prosecute but that didn’t sit too well with ABC’s Johnathan Karl who for the second day tried to put the administration in to a box by asking for a “yes or no.”

“It’s not a decision for career federal prosecutors, because if the President were to exercise the pardon power, he would have to make the determination in his own mind. The Justice Department can make recommendations, but they can’t decide whether or not to pardon anybody, right? And so he’d have to come to a conclusion, yes or no, in his own mind. And I’m just asking – maybe the answer is he doesn’t know.”

Ed Henry of Fox News challenged the leadership on the detainee policy noting that John Bennan and Mr. Comey had served in the Bush Adminstration “But you don’t see any contradiction that you’ve attacked Bush administration policies but you have two of the architects of those policies serving?” Earnest answered by saying “That’s right. But I don’t think it is fair at all to describe him as an architect of those policies.”

josh earnest briefing
Josh Earnest enters the White House briefing room.

Then Ernest was asked whether the techniques saved lives. He disagreed by saying “No, the most important question is, should we have done it? And the answer to that question is, no. The President does not believe that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was good for our national security. He does not believe that it was good for our moral authority. In fact, he believes that it undermined our moral authority and that is why he banned them.”

In other news, reporters also pressed the administration for answers on the omnibus spending bill for funding the government until the end of the year that has come to be nicknamed the “cromibus.” When Earnest was asked whether the President had read the 1600 page bill, he said, “He has not. Neither has everybody in the administration, so it’s still something that the administration is reviewing. There are a couple of things I can say about it, though, that we know generally.”

As to whether the President would veto the bill given there are provisions that Justin Sink of The Hill laid out the potential pitfalls in the bill “There’s a provision that kind of rolls back the First Lady’s school lunch program, cutting out requirements on sodium and whole grains. There is a provision on D.C. home rule, abortion and marijuana legalization, and cuts to the EPA. And all of these seem like policies that the President or the White House has kind of discussed in the past and so I’m wondering if any of them are deal-breakers for you guys.”

“I’m confident there are going to be things we’re going to find that we’re not going to like in there, but that’s the nature of a bipartisan compromise. So we’ll have to review it, and as soon as we have a specific position to articulate we’ll let you know.”

Humorous exchange of the briefing: Several instances came up where reporters were telling Earnest “while you are on the podium” – which lead one reporter to say “You should take the Internet away from us.” One other reporter chimed in “Don’t give him any ideas.”

Josh Earnest will address reporters on Thursday in the West Wing.

Randy Foreman is the NewsBlaze White House Correspondent, reporting from inside and outside The White House and around the beltway in Washington, D.C.