“Jen has chosen to stand up and question my qualifications and service to this country. Once she did that, the gloves were removed, ”Mr. Spicer said. (In 2017, when Mr. Spicer came under heavy criticism for calling the Nazi death camps “Holocaust centers,” Ms. Psaki was more magnanimous. “It’s a really hard job, everyone shit.” she told CNN at the time.)
Mr Biden urged Ms Psaki to avoid acronyms and other government jargon, once berating her for using the corporate term “R&D” – research and development – in a response. Unlike Mr Trump, Mr Biden does not generally watch briefings in real time, but he is known to pick up snippets of cable news during the day when he has gaps in his schedule.
She also conceded a few missteps, such as a first outing in which she seemed to mock the Space Force, the new military wing created by President Trump. She now keeps a Space Force pin on her desk to remember the impact of her words. (Absent from her desk, the traditional bulletproof jacket passed off with insolence among White House press secretaries; it apparently disappeared in January.)
Mr. Biden is nobody’s idea of a careful speaker. (As Mr. Axelrod once said, “It’s not a precision instrument.”) Ms. Psaki’s main job is to interpret and in some cases clean up her comments for the record, a responsibility that has been even more difficult in recent weeks.
Rahm Emanuel, who has worked with Ms Psaki on Democratic campaigns and recommended her to the Obama team, said he texted Ronald Klain, Mr Biden’s chief of staff, on the day of the announcement of his appointment. “I said that you were going to count your blessings, in the days to come, that you made this decision,” he said. “You won’t have to worry about what’s going on in this room.”
Mr Emanuel said he also played a role in Ms Psaki’s personal life. He likes to take credit for pushing his future husband, Gregory Mecher, another Democratic aide, to invite him to take part in the election campaign. (He later called himself “the winged man” by Mr. Mecher.) The couple married in 2010 under a mulberry tree in an estate in Maryland; guests included Mr. Gibbs and correspondent Jake Tapper.