The White House and Democrats have denounced former President Donald Trump and others who've raised questions about the results of the 2020 presidential election.
But after President Joe Biden appeared to do something similar Wednesday afternoon during his first press conference of the year, the White House had to do some walking back of his remarks Thursday morning.
"Let's be clear: @potus was not casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2022 election," White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Thursday morning. "He was making the opposite point: In 2020, a record number of voters turned out in the face of a pandemic, and election officials made sure they could vote and have those votes counted."
Attempts to overturn a past election would make the election illegitimate, Biden meant, Psaki added.
"He was explaining that the results would be illegitimate if states do what the former president asked them to do after the 2020 election: toss out ballots and overturn results after the fact," Psaki also tweeted. "The Big Lie is putting our democracy at risk. We're fighting to protect it."
Democrats have called Trump's questioning of mass mail-in ballots without state legislature approval in key battleground states under the guise of COVID-19 "the big lie." Republicans have taken a different tack, hitting Dems for suggesting that the requirement of more stringent voter ID checks is racist and election integrity measures are suppressing the right to vote.
The confusion began when Biden was asked if, in light of Democrats' unsuccessful push for election reform measures on Wednesday night, he'd question the legitimacy of the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans are optimistic that they'll be able to recapture House and perhaps even Senate control in November amid public disenchantment with Biden and fellow Democrats. (It is common for opposing parties to gain control of the chambers in midterm votes.)
"Oh, yeah, I think it easily could be — be illegitimate," Biden told reporters.
"I'm not going to say it's going to be legit," Biden also said. "It's — the increase and the prospect of being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these — these reforms passed."
Democrats failed to pass their two primary election reform bills Wednesday night in the Senate; Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., voted with all 50 Republicans in declining to circumvent the Senate's 60-vote filibuster rule that has kept a simple majority from passing the voter legislation.
With Trump suggesting that the last presidential election was marred by widespread fraud, lawmakers in many red states have passed legislation they say is aimed at making votes more secure and less subject to questioning in the future. Democrat critics have slammed those measures, alleging they discourage participation, particularly among minority and poor voters considered key to their party's success.
"President Biden admitted yesterday, in his own very different way, that the 2020 election may very well have been a fraud, which I know it was," Trump wrote in a statement from his Save America PAC on Thursday morning.
"I'm sure his representatives, who work so hard to make it look legit, are not happy."
It was not the only remarks White House press secretary Jen Psaki found herself having to clarify from the Biden news conference. For instance, she sent out a White House statement shortly after Wednesday night's press conference saying Biden meant to be unequivocal in vowing consequences if Russia were to invade Ukraine.
Biden seemed to suggest in his remarks that there could be a lower cost for a ''minor incursion'' by Russia in Ukraine — as opposed to a full-scale invasion.
"President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that's a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our allies," the statement read.
"President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response."
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