White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday ensured the Biden administration plans to engage more with state and local officials on matters like reopening schools and businesses and distribution of vaccines, however, she was unable to chalk out the specific details. 

Before going on to criticise the gap in communication between Trump administration and the state, local officials, Psaki suggested there will be “more engagement with states,” including “more clear guidance from the federal level.”

“Our objective is to ensure that health and medical experts are leading the effort in delivering guidance, determining guidance, and also communicating with the public whenever possible,” she said.  

Psaki continued: “But part of our priority and our focus here is on providing more engagement with states, more clear guidance from the federal level in terms of how we’re planning to operate, what data we’re seeing, how vaccines are being distributed, what we see as the challenges, and that communication has been lacking as we understand it from our conversations in the past few months so that is what we will focus on improving in the months ahead.”

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Although she was unable to provide any specifics on how communication would be improved. 

Part of the COVID team’s role, she briefed, “will be engaging with governors, Democrats and Republicans, mayors local elected officials to gain a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground.”

Psaki said President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will “also do engagement because they also want to have that conversation with states and local officials on what they’re experiencing, what they see the challenges as, and how they can be addressed.”

However, she declined to say whether there would be any sort of official weekly call or report for states, as the Trump coronavirus task force previously did.

Questioned about the note former president Trump left Biden, Psaki clarified that the President telling reporters yesterday he wouldn’t reveal the contents of the “generous” letter until he spoke with him was not Biden seeking a call with his predecessor. 

“There’s no call planned. What he was conveying is that he didn’t want to release a private note without having agreement from the former President. But I wouldn’t say he’s seeking it through a phone call, he just was even trying to be respectful in that moment of a private letter that was sent,” she said.

In another landmark announcement, Psaki informed President Biden has proposed for a five-year extension of New START treaty with Russia.

“The United States intends to seek a five-year extension of New START, as the treaty permits,” she told reporters with days remaining for the expiration of the last nuclear reduction treaty between the two powers.

“This extension makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial as it is at this time,” she added.

However, Psaki said Avril Haines, the new intelligence chief, would start an investigation into Russia’s suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was arrested Sunday on his return to Moscow, as well as on Russia’s alleged interference in the US elections and on whether it was behind the massive SolarWinds hack that shook the American government and corporations.

Psaki said the United States would also investigate bounties reportedly paid by Russian intelligence to extremists in Afghanistan as rewards for killing US troops.

“Even as we work with Russia to advance US interests, so, too, we work to hold Russia to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” Psaki said.