With rail strike looming, Biden says he ‘hasn’t engaged directly,’ White House press secretary contradicts

President Biden on Thursday contradicted White House officials and claimed not to have been in direct contact with either side of the looming national railroad strike.

Biden told reporters in Nantucket, Mass., that negotiations between unions representing railroad workers and their employers were underway. The president added that when negotiations were underway, he himself had engaged directly with either party.

“My team has been in contact with all parties, in rooms with the parties,” Biden said. “I haven’t engaged directly yet because they’re still talking.”

Biden’s remarks contradict White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who said earlier this week that Biden was “directly involved” in the negotiations.

ANOTHER RAIL UNION REJECTS DEAL, ESCALATING STRIKE THREAT AHEAD OF HOLIDAYS

President Biden speaks as he meets with firefighters in Nantucket, Massachusetts

President Biden, standing next to Nantucket Fire Chief Michael Cranson, left, speaks during a Thanksgiving Day visit with firefighters at the Nantucket Fire Department in Nantucket, Mass., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh/AP Newsroom)

President Biden

“I haven’t engaged directly yet because they’re still talking,” Biden said. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, Pool / AP Newsroom)

“The president is actually directly involved,” Jean-Pierre said. “I don’t want to get into the details at this time, but he has been involved. He remains focused on protecting America’s families.”

AS RAILWAY STRIKE GOES ON, WHITE HOUSE WON’T SAY HOW BITE IS “DIRECTLY INCLUDED” IN NEGOTIATIONS

Earlier this week, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) rejected a preliminary agreement with the country’s major freight railways. The union’s decision has raised the prospect of a nationwide rail strike that could severely affect the economy ahead of the holiday season.

Karine Jean-Pierre on the podium in the White House

“The president is actually directly involved,” Jean-Pierre said earlier this week. (Oliver Contreras/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Administration officials have struggled to find a compromise to avert the strike. At least one union official involved in the negotiations has suggested that Biden largely has been absent from the negotiations.

However, Jean-Pierre rejected such talk during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday.

There are high prospects for a nationwide rail strike that could severely affect the economy ahead of the holiday season. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images/Getty Images)

“This is the third time I’ve said he’s been directly involved,” Jean-Pierre said. “You’re talking about one union president. There are 12. You’re talking about one.”

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“He has been directly involved,” she said when pressed by reporters. “I won’t get into it, but you’re talking about one president out of 12.”

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