Sen. James Risch grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken about who at the White House cuts off President Biden when he is speaking — as most recently occurred in Idaho on Monday — during a Senate hearing on Tuesday to determine responsibility for the botched US military withdrawal in Afghanistan.
“We’ve all seen this. We saw it as recently as yesterday. Somebody in the White House has authority to press the button and stop the president, cut off the president’s speaking ability. So who is that person?” Risch (R-Idaho) pressed Blinken at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
“I think anyone who knows the president, including members of this committee, knows that he speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself,” said Blinken, who was appearing in person on Tuesday after testifying virtually before a House panel on Monday.
But Risch, the top Republican on the Senate panel, continued to drill down.
“What are you saying? That there is no one in the White House that can cut him off, because yesterday that happened and it’s happened a number of times before and it’s been widely reported that somebody has the ability to push the button and cut off his sound and stop him from speaking. Who is that person?” he said.
“There’s no such person, again,” Blinken responded. “The president speaks for himself, makes all of his strategic decisions, informed by the best advice that he can get from the people around him.”
“So are you aware that this is actually happening, because it happened yesterday at the Interagency Fire Center, widely reported, the media has reported on it, and it’s not the first time it’s happened. It’s happened several times,” Risch said.
“Are you telling this committee that this does not happen, that there’s no one in the White House who pushes the button and cuts him off in mid sentence,” Risch insisted.
“So this didn’t happen yesterday nor on the other occasions where the media showed the American people that his sentence was cut off in mid-sentence. Are you saying that didn’t happen?” he asked.
“I really don’t know what you’re referring to,” Blinken said.
Besides the livestream comments of the president being abruptly cut off on Monday during his meeting with officials in Idaho to discuss the wildfires, similar interruptions occurred last month when he was about to answer a reporter’s question on his decision to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan, and in March, when he said he’d be “happy to take questions” during a virtual meeting with Democratic lawmakers, according to Fox News.