White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dedicated the first few minutes of Thursday’s briefing to say a farewell to two reporters and one staffer during Hunter Biden’s legal battles.
Jean-Pierre announced the departure of assistant press secretary Abdullah Hasan, and French White House correspondent Sebastian Smith of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Kethevane Gorjestani of France 24.
“Thank you both for your time here with us at the White House briefing room and we are very sad to see you all go and we’ll miss you both,” Jean-Pierre said. “Additionally, I wanted to congratulate Ket on your service as the president of the foreign press group and we’re looking forward to working with Richard who is going to be taking on the responsibilities in the new role.”
She then said what she called a “devastating” goodbye to Hasan, who is departing the White House to attend law school. The press secretary said he deferred his law school career to work in the White House for an extra year. (RELATED: Longtime Biden Staffer Intends To Depart In Coming Weeks, White House Staff Say)
“Abdullah has had an extraordinarily important portfolio here as our spokesperson,” the press secretary said. “As you all know, an immigration, student debt, climate and more. Abdullah, we know you’re gonna do great things and amazing things, I think you are going to be a fantastic lawyer because you are a good human and you care about people so I can’t wait to see what you do after law school.”
Hasan is leaving the White House one day after Hunter’s plea deal fell apart during his court appearance in Delaware. The first son initially pleaded guilty to an illegal gun purchase and misdemeanor tax violations in 2017 and 2018 to avoid jail time. Judge Maryellen Noreika refused to agree to the plea deal over the prosecution and defense’s lack of clarity on whether Hunter can be charged by the Department of Justice for additional crimes in the future.
Hunter changed his plea to not guilty after the legal teams revised the plea deal to allow him to be charged in the future, particularly on charges relating to Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The first son is embroiled in other alleged crimes after whistleblowers with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) alleged the DOJ lied on his behalf to protect him from facing prosecution.
The press secretary announced the departure of two other staffers in February, just a few months back. Press assistant Megha Bhattacharya and her assistant and Chief of Staff Robbie Dornbush left during a series of White House staff departures.
The press team witnessed a major staff shakeup in early June as three of the press office’s top staffers — Vedant Patel, Mike Gwin and Amanda Finney — departed the White House within a single week. The White House announced that assistant press secretary Patel was slated to serve as the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, and the press office’s former chief of staff, Finney, left to become a senior communications director at the Energy Department.
Vice President Kamala Harris witnessed a high level of departures in the first half of the administration. Her chief of staff notably left in April 2022 after a long list of other staffers left their positions.