- White House
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was repeatedly grilled Thursday over a meeting Attorney General Loretta Lynch had with former President Bill Clinton earlier this week.
Earnest faced multiple questions from members of the media who asked about the meeting between Clinton and Lynch aboard an airplane parked on an Arizona tarmac.
“Does the White House have a reaction to the attorney general meeting with Bill Clinton at a time when the DOJ is overseeing the probe into Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s email usage?” a reporter asked at the daily press briefing.
“Well, I have obviously seen the reports of this, and the reports are driven by the answer that the attorney general herself gave to this question,” Earnest said.
Lynch insisted after the meeting that she chiefly discussed grandchildren and golf with the former president – not the ongoing investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
“I think the bottom line is simply that both the president and the attorney general understand how important it is for the Department of Justice to conduct investigations that are free of political pressure,” Earnest said.
“Is the White House concerned about even the appearance of political influence because of that meeting?” the reporter pressed.
“I’m not going to second-guess the way this investigation should move forward or should be handled,” Earnest said, adding that he “wasn’t there for the meeting.”
The press secretary’s answers did not quell the press.
“Are you saying that the White House feels it’s fine that she had this meeting?” another reporter asked.
“I think what I’m saying is that the president believes this principle of protecting an investigation from any sort of voter interference is critically important,” Earnest said. “The rule of law is paramount. And people should be judged by the rule of law without regard to their partisan affiliation or their political standing.”
The reporter pressed back.
“You say that she answered questions about it. But, I don’t know – if there is any question of impropriety, I mean, who would stop just asking the person involved in that? So does the president have a question for her about this meeting?” the reporter said.
“I haven’t spoken to the president about this particular matter, but again, the president’s expectation is that this will be an investigation guided by facts, not by politics,” Earnest said.
The reporter continued to question Earnest.
“You talked about how important it is for people to see things being handled property so there is no erosion in the public confidence. But Democrats today, some are saying just the optics of this – that they should have known better. You’re talking about that potential erosion of confidence. Doesn’t this have the potential to do that as well?” the journalist asked.
“I think what should give people confidence is the 30-year career that Attorney General Lynch has in keeping the public trust and making sure that she continues to be an effective advocate for the rule of law and fair administration of justice,” Earnest quipped.
The press secretary added: “So what impact that may have on the investigation? I’m not going to comment on that because I don’t want to be in the position of second-guessing an investigation that quite frankly I haven’t been briefed on.”
“Just to be clear, you’re not saying then the president and the White House is fine with this meeting having happened the way it did,” the reporter asked.
“Again, I did not attend the meeting,” Earnest said.