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Jennings: Political Briefings Just to "Thank" Agency Employees

The talking points, it is painfully apparent from both Jennings' and Taylor's testimony, involve heavy recycling of "thank employees," "informational," and "political landscape." As in Jennings from today when Kennedy asked if he thought his briefings would help Republican candidates:

"I felt that my briefings would help boost the morale of appointees and serve to thank them for their service to the president and give them information about the political landscape for which they were trying to enact the president’s agenda."

And here's Taylor from last month:

"These briefings were informative. They were meant to thank employees. They were meant to share with them what the president was doing and their role. And given my unique role within the White House and given the fact that many of these people had worked in politics in one way, shape or form and had an interest, I would oftentimes share my knowledge and my viewpoint about the political landscape of the country."

It's also apparent from Jennings' and Taylor's testimony that they want to avoid admitting that individual candidates were discussed at these briefings. It took Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) four persistent minutes of questioning to get Taylor to admit that. And even then she didn't abandon her precious lexicon: "it's very hard to talk about the landscape if you don't talk about the people who are the stars in the show." Today, Jennings allowed that individual candidates "may have been discussed." Well, I guess it's good, then, that he had several briefing slides that listed the candidates he "may have" discussed.

But the briefings didn't cross the line of the Hatch Act, he said. He also said he can't remember Doan asking about helping "our candidates."