White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki attempted to walk back a statement by presidential climate envoy John Kerry which claimed President Joe Biden “had not been aware of what had transpired” following a submarine deal with Australia that upset the French.
“Of course he was aware of the French being upset,” Psaki said in response to a question on the matter from Fox News’ Peter Doocy. “He of course was aware, the president, of the French being displeased about the deal with the Australians. John Kerry also speaks regularly to the French as part of his role as the climate envoy. He’s someone who also served as Secretary of State.”
When pressed further on the matter and asked why the president “doesn’t know about these things in real-time,” Psaki, once again, insisted that Biden “of course knew about the French being displeased” and suggested he “ask John Kerry specifically about the context of his comments,” saying Biden and Kerry “are good friends.”
Earlier this week, in an interview with French broadcaster BFMTV that aired Monday, Kerry said that Biden had “literally not been aware of what had transpired” in response to the French’s reaction to a deal between the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia to give Australia nuclear-powered submarines. The deal supplanted one Australia had with the French.
“I don’t want to go into the details of it, but suffice to say…the president is very committed to strengthening the relationship and making sure that this is a small event of the past and moving on to the much more important future,” Kerry said. “We have a relationship with France that is so much bigger than this moment.”
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Following the deal, the French released a statement and reacted with anger, insisting the decision was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust as well as on the development of a very high-level defense industrial and technological base in Australia.”