CBS News White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe unflinchingly asked National Security Council spokesperson Amanda Sloat at a press briefing in Belfast whether President Biden’s trip to Ireland amounted to “a taxpayer-funded family reunion” for him.
(Video Credit: The White House)
Sloat took exception to the allegation on Wednesday morning during the briefing that took place just before Biden was set to give a speech at Ulster University in Belfast, Northern Ireland marking the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The stop was the first leg of the president’s trip to Ireland where he will travel to the home of his ancestors.
O’Keefe kicked off his questions with a statement that rankled Sloat.
“Thank you, again, for doing this. After today’s pretty meaty and sensitive interactions with political leaders here, I think there’s a perception that the rest of this week is essentially, you know, tree planting, bell ringing, and a taxpayer-funded family reunion. What would the White House say to that charge, that this is essentially the president coming to rediscover his roots and that there may not be much substance beyond that?” he asked.
“I would, not surprisingly, dispute that characterization. Like I said, the president today is going to have the opportunity to meet with the prime minister of the UK,” she shot back, condescendingly responding to O’Keefe’s statement.
Then Sloat launched into a full-throated defense of Biden’s trip to the Emerald Isle.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland — @POTUS Biden speaks at @UlsterUni to mark the 25th anniversary of the #GoodFridayAgreement. pic.twitter.com/QQNveBxW5m
— Ed O'Keefe (@edokeefe) April 12, 2023
“I think the president feels very strongly that there is benefit, both here as well as in the United States, to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. He is here two days after the 25th anniversary of that and, I think, feels it’s important to send a powerful signal of support by the United States for the progress that’s been made, the sustained support going ahead,” she asserted.
“And then, on Thursday, the president will spend the day doing very active diplomacy with the leaders of Ireland. He’ll be meeting the president. He’ll be meeting the Taoiseach,” Sloat continued.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of conversations in both of those about Ukraine, in particular — which, as I said, has been a strong and effective partner with the European Union in the efforts in Ukraine, as well as the large number of other areas we’re working together around the world; peacekeeping; USAID and Irish Aid are working very tog… closely together on food security, which is particularly relevant in the context of Ukraine. And I think the issue of immigration, not only is a personal one for the president but, I think, is also one that speaks much more broadly to the shared experience of a large number of Americans,” she added.
“And I think the president also finds it a useful opportunity to engage more broadly on these questions of immigration, to engage on the close economic ties between our two countries, as well as to have the opportunity to talk again in person with these Irish leaders about the shared foreign policy goals that we’re working on, including Ukraine, as well as to Ireland, which, of course, is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and clearly has a vested interest in political developments here in Northern Ireland as well,” she concluded.
Biden did indeed meet with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak but the optics were embarrassing as the president departed the plane upon landing and basically brushed the prime minister aside while saluting someone in military garb.
Even worse than that, a police document detailing Biden’s security information was found lying on a Belfast street Wednesday.
A man identified only as “Bill” discovered the document, according to USA Today.
The document, discovered near the hotel where Biden was staying, included the names and phone numbers of police officers involved in his security detail, as well as the streets where they were deployed and other information such as street closures and security measures to detect hostile vehicles. The incident happened as the terrorism threat in Northern Ireland was raised to “severe” ahead of the president’s visit.
Pres. Biden is traveling to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of a landmark peace deal — amid new tensions in the region.
The terrorism threat level had been raised from “substantial” to “severe” — meaning an attack is now highly likely from IRA-affiliated groups. pic.twitter.com/fVAIpYTYr8
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) April 11, 2023
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