As her husband faces turmoil, Jill Biden is a protective force

The special counsel’s report on President Biden’s handling of classified information has raised questions about the president’s ability to run for re-election.

Within Mr. Biden’s inner circle, no one knows how much higher taxes can be than Jill Biden, the first lady. Sometimes she worked to shield him from the kind of interactions with reporters that happened Thursday night, when Mr. Biden went off script and started answering questions.

In January 2022, after Mr. Biden held a two-hour press conference, the first lady stopped by to meet with the president and his aides. She asked the group, which included the president, why no one stepped in to stop it, according to a person in the room. Where is the person, she asked, who was supposed to finish the press conference?

Officials later apologized to her, according to an account of the episode shared by a person in the room.

“I saw Joe as vice president and how difficult it is,” said Dr. Biden in an interview at his beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., in the fall of 2022, referring to Mr. Biden’s eight years as vice president. “But when I see what he’s doing, when I see the table when you get out of that elevator and I see a bunch of these every night with briefing books,” she said, spreading her hands for emphasis, “and I see him reading and writing, that’s a lot.”

But she said it was worth the effort to prevent former President Donald J. Trump from returning to office.

Dr. Biden’s influence is felt both in the White House and in the Biden campaign, and there is no doubt among those who know her that one of the first lady’s highest priorities is the protection of her husband and family.

She was directly involved in the hiring of members of his press staff and other senior aides, and attends most of his political meetings. When she doesn’t like something, she points it out. Campaign associates and White House officials privately joke that if Dr. Biden with him at some event, it will surely end in time. (Mr. Biden is often late by the way.)

Some of the people hired by Dr. Biden believes that her east wing can be a safe haven from an intense workplace, because, as one person close to her said, no one would dare to fire one of her employees.

At least once, she reprimanded aides who write speeches for Mr. Biden that she finds too lengthy: “See these boots?” she told one former speechwriter, Jeff Nussbaum, gesturing toward her heels. “Speak shorter!”

She was being playful when she said it, Mr. Nussbaum recalled in an interview, but he said he knew better than to dismiss her criticism as a joke.

When asked about her reputation for speaking out when she feels a counselor has made a mistake when it comes to her husband, she answered a question with a question.

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” she asked. “Do you?”

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