White House defends Biden visiting Ukraine before Ohio train disaster site, mayor says ‘slap in the face’

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday appeared to defend President Biden for having yet to visit East Palestine, Ohio, to assess the damage from a fiery train derailment that caused a chemical spill and massive fire. 

A reporter asked Jean-Pierre if Biden had any comment for East Palestine Mayor Trent Conway, who said it was a ‘slap in the face’ that the president visited Ukraine before visiting his city. 

Jean-Pierre pointed to the Biden administration’s efforts since the Feb. 3 derailment, saying agencies were ‘on the ground very early on’ with an ‘all-hands approach.’ 

‘That is because of this president’s leadership, and that is because of what he has asked his team to do and what he’s asked the agencies to do,’ Jean-Pierre said before reiterating that the administration would hold the rail company Norfolk Southern accountable. 

She noted that the president, who visited Poland and Ukraine this week to shore up partnerships with NATO allies against Russia, remained in contact with leadership in East Palestine to get updates. 

Jean-Pierre said Biden has had ‘regular contact’ with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro. Still, it was not clear whether the president had spoken with the mayor of East Palestine.

Conway tore into Biden earlier this week, accusing him of neglecting domestic responsibilities ‘while giving away millions of dollars’ during his surprise visit to Ukraine. 

When asked about the federal handling of the toxic spill as news of the president’s surprise visit to Kyiv circulated, Conway said on ‘Jesse Watters Primetime’: ‘That was the biggest slap in the face. That tells you right now he doesn’t care about us. He can send every agency he wants to, but I found out this morning that he was in Ukraine giving millions of dollars away to people over there and not to us… on Presidents’ Day in our country, so I’m furious.’ 

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