Psaki sits at a semicircular desk, wearing a teal dress and beige patent leather open heels, with a leather briefing binder spread out in front of her, her sections labeled COVID, DOJ, DRUGS, ECONOMY. She has an Apple Watch on one wrist and a neon green water bottle on her desk that flashes every now and then, reminding her to hydrate. Some press officers have asked not to be made aware of sensitive government information, so as not to risk saying something they shouldn’t. But Psaki is a completist. When gathering information, “I always want to know the whole story,” she says. “And then I can ask, ‘Okay. Can i say that? Can I say that? ‘ “Biden is the same way. Some staff are annoyed by his endless requests for data and details, but Psaki says, “I understand. He wants to know everything to know what his position is.
Underlings come in and out, delivering “toppers” or updates on various Biden projects. Psaki takes notes in colorful Sharpie, sprinkling them with queries and little interjections. First of all, immigration. Psaki asks a young staff member about Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Guatemala and Mexico. “Have we decided we’re going to do a topper on the VP trip?” Do we know if she has big deliverables of that? “
“There will be tangible things at the border,” the staff member said. “But I think she’s doing a great interview sitting over there.”
“Oh, okay with Lester Holt! Psaki said.
Another staff member concludes an economic briefing by saying, “Your water bottle reminds you to drink.”
Psaki takes the flashing bottle and bursts out laughing. ” Do you want one ! She teases and asks another staff member, “When is her birthday?” “
Psaki grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, but not exactly this Greenwich. “There is a lot of hippie vibe in my family,” she tells me. She is the oldest of three daughters: her younger sister, a Unitarian Universalist minister, indeed sends out hippie vibes, as does her mother, a therapist who grew up in blue-collar Queens. Psaki’s father, a retired real estate developer, declared bankruptcy when she was in seventh grade. “We were in this beautiful neighborhood, and I was the kid who had a scholarship in college,” she recalls. “Was it traumatic? Not really, but everyone has a story. For the most part, Psaki focused on her high school swim team – she had a strong back – and, later, her sorority, Chi Omega at the College of William & Mary. She was president, but then, like now, she didn’t seem to want to be the center of attention. “She’s an under-the-radar leader,” her college roommate, Ally Wagner, tells me. Psaki left the varsity swim team after two years, but remained “a mad athlete,” Wagner says. Katie McCormick Lelyveld, who got to know Psaki early in her career, describes her as “a deeply devoted friend” and despite her work ethic, “she can relax and laugh, and she loves dancing.” As for the music, “she’s a Top 40 girl,” says McCormick Lelyveld. But not current stuff. “Music that was popular in his 20s and 30s.” She mentions CD compilations This is what I call music.