Senator demands to know 'who is in charge' at White House after Biden cut off mid-sentence

Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Afghanistan withdrawal before Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, claimed Tuesday that someone in the White House other than President Biden is “calling the shots.”

Risch made the comments during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which the senator called a “dismal failure.”

“One of the things we need to get to the bottom to is who is responsible for this? Who made the decisions?” Risch said. “[Biden] can’t even speak without someone in the White House censoring it or signing off on it.”

The senator cited an instance Monday in which the White House abruptly ended the feed of Biden’s briefing on wildfires with federal and state officials, cutting him off mid-sentence during a question to George Geissler of the National Association of State Foresters.

Risch said at Tuesday’s hearing, “This is a puppeteer act, if you would, and we need to know who’s in charge and who is making the decisions.” 

“There is not enough lipstick in the world to put on this pig to make it look any differently than what it actually is,” he said later in the hearing, referring to the Afghanistan withdrawal. “The American people want to know who is responsible for this?”

“Ultimately, the president makes the decisions,” Blinken responded. “As in every case, ultimately decisions that can only be decided by the president are decided by the president.”

Risch again cited Monday’s incident in which Biden was cut off mid-sentence.

“Somebody in the White House has authority to press the button and stop the president, cut off the president’s speaking ability and sound. Who is that person?” the senator asked.

“There is no such person,” Blinken answered, adding that Biden “speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself. No one else does.”

Questions have abounded over who Biden’s handlers are after multiple instances in which he implied he doesn’t set the rules for when and where he’s allowed to take questions from the press. 

On Wednesday, he concluded remarks in honor of labor unions by saying he was “supposed to stop and walk out of the room” but decided to stick around anyway.

Biden has also said, “I’m not supposed to take any questions,” admitted he was “instructed” to call on specific reporters, declared “they gave me a list of people I’m going to call on,” told reporters he would “get in trouble” if he didn’t follow orders and even said, “I’d be happy to take questions if that’s what I’m supposed to do.” 

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