Press Briefings

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young

Sat, 09/30/2023 - 14:16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

(September 29, 2023)

12:41 P.M. EDT

(Ms. Jean-Pierre steps over a cable on the press dais.)

Q    That was — that was risky.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Very risky.

Q    You are feisty today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am feisty.  It’s Friday, folks.  It’s Friday.  Happy Friday.  Good afternoon.  We have the amazing Shalanda Young in the house, so this is great.

But before I turn it over to the OMB Director — and I’ll do that in a second — I want to recognize a terrible milestone that I know many of you are — are very aware of, which is it has now been about six months since American journalist Evan Gershkovich was wrongfully detained in Russia for doing his job, for reporting the news.

As the world knows, Russia’s claims are baseless.  It is clear that Evan is being held for lev- — for leverage because he is an American.  That should bother every single one of us — every single one of us.

The President has been clear that we have no higher priority than securing the release of Evan, Paul Whelan, and all Americans wrongfully detained abroad.

Once again, we call for Russia to immediately release Evan and also to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan.  Our efforts to secure their release are ongoing, and we will not stop until they are home.

I also want to take a minute to echo the President’s sentiments on the legacy of Senator Dianne Feinstein.  She was a history maker — a history-making trailblazer who dedicated her life to the people of California for over half a century.  From the city of San Francisco to the halls of Congress, Senator Feinstein turned her passion into purpose to benefit the lives of all Americans.

As the President said, he had his own close relationship with the Senator, forged over 15 years together in the Senate, and she was a cherished friend.

And finally, before I do turn it over to our guest, I wanted to make one more thing very clear, which we have been doing as an administration from here for the past couple of days.

Now, as you all know, extreme House Republicans are so- — are solely — solely to blame for marching us toward a shutdown. That is what we’re seeing right now.  It is a basic fact and one that many of you have already reported.

I know how much you will love when I quote, folks, so here we go.

Politico wrote, and I quote, “Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s choice to go back on the deal he made with [the] President is about a plunge — is about to plunge the federal government into chaos,” end quote.

Punchbowl says, and I quote, “McCarthy is the only congressional principal no longer abiding by the agreement,” end quote.

Washington Post writes, quote, “Of course, Biden has played no role in bringing Congress to the brink of a shutdown,” end quote.

And it’s not just what you all are reporting.  It’s also what Republicans are saying themselves.

Leader McConnell said, and I quote, “Shutting down the government is a choice.  And it’s a choice that would make the crisis at our Southern border even worse,” end quote.

Speaker McCarthy said, some individuals, quote, “just want to burn the whole place down,” end quote.

Represen- — Representative Garret Graves said, “The arsonists have li- — have lit their house on fire.”

Representative Matt — Matt Gaetz said, “We will have a government shutdown, and… We cannot blame Joe Biden… We cannot blame House Democrats.”

Representatives George Santos and Ralph Norman admitted in saying — by saying, “Shut it down.”  Those are their words.

But no one can explain what House Republicans are shutting down the government over.  It’s a serious question, and they don’t have a good answer for it.

As Nich — Newt Gingrich said, and I quote, “I frankly don’t understand it — I think it’s sort of nuts.  There are times people vote yes one day, and then they come back and vote no the next day and can’t explain why they switched,” end quote.

So, we are here today facing a possible shutdown.  Because even after Speaker McCarthy said that the bipartisan budget agreement would help “Congress work again to do their jobs, the appropriation bills,” he chose a different path — an extreme partisan path toward a shutdown — a Republican — extreme Republican shutdown.

So, for more on this, our speaker has — has brok- — has — has broken for —

So, let me step back for now.  For more on how the Speaker has broken his word and the impacts of the devastating cuts he is proposing, we have our OMB Director Shalanda Young to talk through those — those impacts.

All right.  There you go.


Q    Hello.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Who all thought I’d be back here so soon?  (Laughter.)  Maybe you all did.  I certainly hoped I would not. 

It’s been just four months since President Biden, House Republicans, House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and Senate Democrats all made a bipartisan budget deal.  You all were there.  I was there.  You remember what it took to get to that deal. 

We shook hands, two thirds of Congress voted for it, and the President signed it into law — a commitment to the American people that reduced the deficit, protected critical programs, and ensured their government remained open. 

Today, four of those five sides I just listed are sticking by that deal.  The one side, House Republicans, are refusing to live up to their end of the bargain.  They have turned their back on the deal.  They are on an island entirely by themselves and entirely of their own making.  Their chaos — and their chaos alone — is now threatening to push us into a shutdown. 

This is not only a violation of the deal; the President signed this deal into law.  And let’s be very clear about what they are demanding as a condition of keeping the government open.  It’s all right there in the CR they’re considering right now — plain black and white.

Instead of working in a bipartisan fashion to keep the government open, they’re now tripling down on their demands to eviscerate programs that the American people rely on — the exact same ransom they sought for honoring the full faith and credit of the United States. 

Their bill includes devastating 30 percent cuts.  You heard me: 30 percent cuts.

And listen to what that means.  It would eliminate 12,000 FBI agents, almost 1,000 ATF agents, and more than 500 local law enforcement; kick almost 300,000 children out of Head Start; rob more than a million seniors of nutrition services, like Meals on Wheels. 

And guess what?  If they don’t get their way, if we don’t go along with the devastating cuts I just listed here, they want to force a shutdown that will hurt our economy and national security. 

What would a shutdown mean?  More than 2 million service members wouldn’t get their paycheck.  Long-term disaster recovery would be further delayed.  Nutrition assistance for nearly 7 million women and children who rely on WIC would be jeopardized.  Small businesses would lose out on more than $100 million a day in loans.  What kind of choice is that?

In addition to the more than 2 million service members who won’t get their paychecks, we’re talking about more than 1.5 million federal civilian employees, by current estimate — roughly a quarter of whom are veterans — missing paychecks.  Meat and food inspectors, Border Patrol agents, air traffic controllers, TSA agents — just a small example. 

On top of that, federal contractors have no guarantee of back pay.  None.  The thousands of federal contractors who serve the mission of this country to serve the American people, no guarantee that they’re made whole. 

Folks who I see around my office every day, people you see around here cleaning, who can least afford to miss a paycheck, no guarantee they will be made whole. 

Our message is simple.  House Republicans need to stick to the agreement we already reached and they already voted for, do the job they were elected to do. 

And we know it’s not a lot to ask for because just yesterday an overwhelming 76 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted to move forward on a bipartisan bill to keep the government open. 

Enough is enough.  A deal is a deal.  Extreme House Republicans need to stop playing political games with people’s lives, keep their promise, and keep the government open. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  First question.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, Director.


Q    Hi, how are you?


Q    I know you mentioned a couple workers — cleaning staff, people in your office.  Can you give us a bigger picture of who at the White House will be affected?  Who will be deemed essential and — and who will be furloughed, including the press team for —

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Yeah, I think —

Q    — our purposes?  (Laughter.)

DIRECTOR YOUNG:   Yeah, no.  (Cross-talk.)

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I’ll let them read out the specifics of who will be here.  But just like every federal agency, there are legal definitions about who can work during a time of shutdown.  No one, clearly, gets paid, but there are people who will be furloughed, and there are people who will be excepted, who —

And just at a macro level, about 800,000 people would be excepted across the government out of the one and a half million civilians I talked about, and about 700,000 [820,000] would be furloughed. 

I don’t want to get into specifics of different agencies and the White House.  We can read out — I’m sure you talk to the various offices later.  But that is a large amount of people who will be furloughed across the government.

The White House and OMB will feel the same as the rest of agencies.  We will do the best we can to continue to service the American people.  Clearly, our men and women in uniform will be at their duty stations — without pay, unfortunately.  So, we will keep vital national security things going — life and safety. 

But it will be hard to do everything government should do for the American people in a shutdown. 

Q    And then, quickly, do you and President Biden regret trusting McCarthy?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Look, I won’t go there.  (Laughter.)  And it’s not a trust exercise, right?  We passed a law. 

Q    Well — well, but you had —

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  It’s not a trust — I didn’t fall backwards in the woods.  (Laughter.)  It’s not a trust exercise. 

Q    But when you cut —

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Yeah, we’re not — we’re not — it —

Sev- — seventy percent of House Republicans voted for a bill.  So it’s beyond trust; we have a law.  What else are we supposed to do?

This President is committed to governing, committed to doing the right thing.  This is who the Republican Conference elected to be their Speaker.  He asked to work with us on the budget deal.  We did that.  We find ourselves here. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Colleen.

Q    I wondered if you could talk about the U.S. assistance to Ukraine in the face of a shutdown?  What happens to it?  How does it work?  Do you know?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Well, just like the rest of defense and our diplomacy efforts, we do as much as we can.  Clearly, there is carryover money to keep some things going.  But it’s impacted — just like if we don’t get further assistance, that is impacted. 

You cannot do more with less when you talk about a wartime effort.  It just doesn’t exist.  And there are rules for a reason.  You must have money to buy things. 

So, we also worry about our own stockpiles.  So, even if we could continue to deliver, what can we do to ensure American readiness does not suffer? 

So, I worry about that in a shutdown.  And I worry about that if we don’t keep the — the critical aid going to Ukraine, which is why you saw, on a bipartisan basis, the Senate move forward to keep that going. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Hi, Director. 


Q    What do you see as the end game here?  Are you willing to make any concessions to the hardline Republicans?  And for how long are you expecting this shutdown to last?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  So, one, I think you get into real trouble in this town trying to play crystal-ball maker.  I will tell you what the fastest path is to make sure this does not happen.  You saw it in the Senate, with bipartisan vote to keep the government running. 

I think we have to remember what we’re talking about: 47 days.  Not a year, not two — 47 days.  The point of a CR — we call them “stopgaps” — you keep stuff going.  What did you do on September 30th as a government?  You should keep doing that on October 1. 

This is not hard.  It is not meant to come back and negotiate and — and redo things we just agreed to do three months ago.  It is to keep the government open to give congressional negotiators more time on long-term bills.  This is not an exercise in reopening negotiations.  We negotiated, at the Speaker’s request, three months ago. 

My life is still recovering from it.  I remember it very vividly.  There are no negotiations left to have on a 47-day bill. 

The conversation that needs to happen is with the Speaker and the Republican conference, period. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, MJ.

Q    Thank you, Director Young.  Given that FEMA is already only prioritizing urgent and life-and-death operations, in the event of a shutdown, how long can even just those operations be sustained?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Look, it depends on — we’re still in hurricane season.  People think that it ends in August, September.  So, my answers will be assuming no more major disasters happen.  Everything is on the — off the table if something really truly catastrophic happens.  But on due course, we think we can continue to do life and safety from FEMA. 

But you’re right, FEMA is holding over 2,000 projects in abeyance because of their current fiscal situation.  When did we tell Congress about this?  In mid-August.  It’s now late September.  We told them we cannot pay our disaster relief bills in mid-August.  It’s now late September, and they are now marching us towards a shutdown where those 2,000 projects just get longer and longer and longer. 

So, if you are my home state of Louisiana, if you are Puerto Rico, if you are Texas, anyone who has had a major de- — declaration in the past who are doing long-term recovery, we have to continue to hold to pay for those — those projects that are needed to continue to rebuild.

Q    But the life-and-death operations, though, they can continue indefinitely?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  They can continue.  But I want you to know, that statement applies if there are no more large, large events.  You know, I — we will have a different answer if there is a catastrophic event that pushes FEMA past the point of being — having enough money to do life and safety. 

Right now, if there are no catastrophic events, we can continue to do life and safety.

Q    But if there are, then that may not be possible?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I mean, that is always the answer.  I’ve done FEMA budgets since I was a baby staffer on Appropriations.  All rules, all statements are out the windows when you have large, large events.  They just skew the numbers needed so greatly.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Patsy.

Q    Thanks, Karine. (Inaudible.)  Do you have a — and I’m sorry if you mentioned this at the topper.  Do you have an estimate of how much does it cost when we have a shutdown and then we reopen the government again — an estimate of, you know, per day or per week or however long it goes?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Yeah, we’ll say — look, our analysis on a shutdown really is tied to how long it happens.  But one can expect, like, a 0.1 to 0.2 percent — I think most economists agree — hit to GDP. 

The hope is, though, during a shutdown, if that happened, the economy would be able to pick that GDP loss up in the next quarter.  So, it may not be a permanent loss. 

But why risk our economy for a manufactured shutdown, all a problem within one conference in Congress?

I say 0.1 and 0.2, and that doesn’t sound big — 0.1 percent of our economy is $26 billion.

Q    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear.  That’s a hit to the economy.  But is there an actual cost to, you know, shutting down the government and then reopening again, like any kind of logistical admin costs?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  So, it will not cost anything that would be outside of our normal — our normal spin rate, like the people in the office on — not the 30th, because the 30th is a Saturday — on the 29th will do the work they need to do today.  They will pr- — be provided, like, four hours on their devices to — to send people —  and have out of office, send people last messages. 

But there tends not to be — we don’t have to go close major infrastructure.  There’s not a large spike in spending in order to close down. 

What is really expensive is the hit to — to GDP, the inability of people to access services like WIC.  And it’s not just new people signing up for things like WIC; it is people who are on WIC currently.  They cannot get access to the meals they would normally get.  That is the real impact to the American people. 

Q    Fundamentally, we’ve been here —


Q    Oh, I’m sorry — (inaudible), so I got excited.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, no —


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll come back.  I’ve just got to go back a little bit.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Don’t let me get you in trouble. 

Q    No, no —


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And I promise I’ll come down.  But go ahead, Ed.

Q    Great to be here.  Thank you, Shalanda.  So, the Treasury Department now says the federal deficit is at $1.5 trillion.  You know, that’s more than the CBO projected.  The President has pushed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he’s pushed the Inflation Reduction Act, the American Rescue Plan.  He signed into spending $5.8 trillion over the past two years. 

Spending is at the heart of this impasse.  So, does the President bear any responsibility for a shutdown?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Absolutely not.  And by the way, the deal was to ensure that we had a fiscally responsible plan — I think the name of the bill was the Fiscal Responsibility Act — that saved a trillion dollars over a decade. 

And, look, if House Republicans want to join us in the Fiscal Reduction Act, I’m happy to talk to them about the tax cuts they have pending in Ways and Means that add to the deficit.  I’m also happy to talk to any Republican who voted for two and a half trillion dollars of tax cuts, unpaid. 

So, the problem I have is when people vote for that, bust the deficit on tax cuts for the wealthy, and then come and say we’re doing too much for Head Start and childcare and cancer research.  Because that’s what we’re talking about. 

They’ve taken the smallest amount of spending, do nothing about taxes for the rich, and they want to cut the smallest amount of spending.  That’s not serious fiscal conversation.  Anybody in D.C. will tell you, you cannot get on a better fiscal path by going after these domestic programs.  They’re the smallest portion of our budget.  It ain’t going to happen.  It’s not serious.  Even cutting it 30 percent doesn’t put you on a better fiscal path. 

So, let’s just get real.  It’s not about that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.

Q    (Inaudible)_– has one more.  So the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that he’s not going to take a salary during the shutdown.  Does the President plan to pause his salary also?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Look, I’m glad that the Speaker has made that statement.  By the way, members of Congress have to get paid, constitutionally, so maybe he’ll put it in a sock drawer.  I don’t know.  (Laughter.)  But they have to get paid during a shutdown.  That’s theater.  That is theater. 

I will tell you, the guy who picks up the trash in my office won’t get a paycheck.  That’s real.  And that’s what makes me angry. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Peter.  Thanks for your patience. 

Q    If I can ask you very briefly about — we’ve been — we’ve seen this show before where it goes down to the wire and then, at the last minute, something happens or several days pass before anything happens.  Can you just talk about, fundamentally, the impact — even if this were to be resolved — of playing this game where it goes to the last minute before there’s a short-term spending bill, how that sort of impacts the way our country runs?  Because a lot of Americans see that, and they know that that’s not the way it can work in their own homes. 

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  You’re right, and you’re right.  I mean, we have time — what’d the President say?  There’s nothing inevitable in politics.  We don’t have to go down this road; House Republicans don’t have to take us down this road. 

So, you’re right.  There — there is always a chance that people can do the right thing and the government remain open or have a quick reopening. 

Q    But even getting to this place, there’s already —


Q    — been a ton of money lost, right?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Not a ton of money lost.  The confidence in government is what I worry about.  People watching this — the dysfunction sowed.  And I think there are a small amount — small amount of people who know that.  You know, it’s the — it’s the carelessness by which people is like, “Oh, this shutdown is not much of government.”  Well, you tell people who live paycheck to paycheck that.

I know it’s not popular to defend federal workers.  I know it’s not.  But a lot of them live paycheck to paycheck.  “They get repaid.”  What are they supposed to do in the meantime?  What are they supposed to do?

And then people can’t get government services.  You go sign up for WIC.  You finally convinced this mother it’s the right thing to do, because a lot of families are embarrassed about taking aid from the government.  You finally convince this young mother to go do that.  Not available.  Confidence lost in government. 

It’s one more knock on democratic institutions.  And that worries me. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Joey.

Q    Yeah, as we get closer to a shutdown at the end of the week, does it remain the case that President Biden is unwilling to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as he’s suggested he would like to do?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  It’s not an unwillingness.  We’ve talked.  We talked a lot.  The President talked a lot to Speaker McCarthy.  We got a deal.  This is the easy part. 

Pe- — the debt deal was two and a half years.  Now we’re talking about 47 days to keep the government running, to give Congress time to work on full-year spending bills.  This is not hard.  This is just not hard. 

And, by the way, every day I read some other reason why they can’t vote on the Senate bill — the Senate bipartisan bill.  It changes every day. 

So, there’s not — not an unwillingness.  We’ve had this conversation.  The Speaker wanted to set toplines.  We set them.  Now he needs to talk to whomever he needs to talk to in the Republican conference and live up to that deal. 

Q    What will be the engagement from President Biden to lawmakers, particularly as we get, you know, closer, Saturday — tomorrow?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  You’re talking about a president who was a former senator for 36 years.  He has close relationships on the Hill.  He stays in dialogue with Congress.

Clearly, there’s going to be an uptick in that as we are led down this path by House Republicans.  And that’ll continue.  The President is constantly updated on what is happening. 

But I’ll tell you, we’re at the 29th.  We have until midnight tomorrow.  What needs to happen is the one corner out of five who is having problems with their votes and their strategies need to find a path to meet the other four — four corners at the deal we all signed up for in early summer. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  A couple more.  Go ahead, Michael.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Director Young, can you talk a bit more about the impact a shutdown will have on the crisis at the Southern border?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  We asked for $4 billion to help deal with migration challenges at the border.  You wouldn’t know that to hear what Republicans talk about.  If border is an issue for House Republicans, where’s the dialogue on what the President asked for to help with enforcement, to help with transportation costs, to help with detention capacity?

You know, I’ve done this a long time.  This is just a new — a new, interesting time in our political atmosphere where we can’t get Republicans to really engage us on more money to help control migration issues at the border.  Almost no dialogue.  No interest in taking on the President’s requests.  No interest in dealing with the fentanyl issues that we asked for more money to deal with to put more equipment to find fentanyl coming through. 

So, there is serious, and there is not serious.  This president asked for money to help deal with the issues that hurt people: disaster, Ukraine, and border.  We appreciate the Senate meeting us to make sure Ukraine aid continues, disaster aid continues. 

But let’s not forget: This president asked for money to deal with the situation at the border.  And you’re absolutely right.  During a shutdown, not only do we not get the $4 billion we asked for to help, we’re asking CBP agents, ICE agents to go without pay.  How is that helping?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Director.  I’ve been speaking to many mothers who rely on WIC for food for their babies, and they don’t follow the ins and outs of politics and whether a shutdown would be the fault of Congress, the White House, the President.  They just can’t believe that this country’s leaders would allow babies to go hungry.  So, what would you say to them?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I’d go back to my answer earlier.  You know, I worry about people’s engagement and thought about their government.  It worries me tremendously that people will show up on Wednesday or Thursday, trying to decide whether they were going to even apply for this aid, because a lot of people don’t trust — like, their friends tell them to go get this, and they’re like, “Ah, it’s going to be difficult — a lot of paperwork.”  So, it takes convincing for people to go seek this aid.  And then to be told, “Never mind.  Never mind, the government is closed, shut down.” 

They don’t follow the ins and outs.  It’s a pox on all of our houses.  That’s why four out of the five corners are trying not to go there.  We’re doing everything we can to plead, beg, shame.  “House Republicans, do the right thing.  Don’t have this happen.” 

The cavalier-ness is what gets me.  I’ve heard people say in the Republican — in House Conference, “Oh, a shutdown is not that bad.  It’s not like the debt ceiling.”  Well, you go tell people who cannot pay their daycare bill.  You go tell people that.  You go tell men and women in uniform that they don’t get a paycheck when they show up to work every day.  You go tell that mother that she cannot get formula after having had to be convinced to even give government a try.  It’s the cavalier-ness that really gets me. 

And you’re right.  It’s — it sets an expectation for how people deal with their government throughout their lives.  And it’s something we should work really hard to avoid. 

Q    And to follow on that, could you clarify the total number of workers that would go without paying next week, and how many of them would still be required to show up to work?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  So, in civilians, 1.5 million — about 800,000 of them would be excepted and have to show up to the office.

As you know, depending on how long shutdowns go, people can be called back into work if their job and their duties, you know, start to fall into one of the categories that’s excepted.  So, there could be — there will be — would be changes in those numbers if a shutdown would continue. 

Q    And what about the breakdown for the military’s 1.3 million active-duty troops and the reservists plus DOD personnel?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Right.  It’s a little over $2 million — 2 million people who serve who are all expected to show up to their duty stations. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Just the last two.  Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q    Thank you so much.  Thank you, Director.  You said this shutdown could be a knock on democratic institutions.  What about the international reputation of this country when it seems like the United States is going from one major fiscal crisis into another?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I think you just answered it.  You know, this country, we owe services to the American people.  We talked a lot about one of those in WIC, we talked cancer research.  But our diplomatic efforts — this President has worked harder than most to hold alliances together that represent democratic institutions, the Western alliance, and ensure that the world knew America was back. 

I do believe we will continue to do most of our missions as best as possible.  We will show up where needed.  But it certainly makes that more difficult the longer and longer this goes on.  But in a very short-term situation, I think we will remain in the same — with the same posture across the world. 

Now the question is how we’re viewed.  You know, it — it is not the shining example we want to portray that we continue to have fiscal crises because other world leaders look at that. 

But I’m still hoping — I’m still remaining an optimist that we have a day and a half to work out in one corner what is needed to take the deal that is laid before them by the United States Senate.  So, there’s still a chance. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Last question.

Q    Thank you, Director.  Given that we’ve seen in prior shutdowns that some of these workers have to go to work without pay, including in the travel industry, FAA and others, that they might report — call in sick in greater numbers.  Do you have any guidance around that or any estimates as to how that might affect the shutdown period?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Look, we don’t shut down often. 

(A reporter sneezes.)

I know it may feel like it, because we talk about it even if it doesn’t happen. 

Q    (Referring to his sneeze.)  Negative.  Sorry, I’m negative.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  You sure?  (Laughter.)

So, it doesn’t happen often, so there aren’t numbers.  We certainly have anecdotal evidence that that happens on occasion.  And it goes back to what I talked about earlier: People make decisions that are best for their families. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thank you so much, Director.  We appreciate it.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

Q    Thank you. 

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Have fun.  I hope not to see you all for a little bit.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much, Director Young. 

I do want to add to something that the Director said, which I think was really important, about how this affects families.  I think I’ve seen on some of the cable news networks this morning — if it was this morning — that you’ve seen, like, federal workers being interviewed and members of the military.  And you see people — I think one interview, someone was crying about how this is going to affect this — this shutdown that we’re — that Republicans in the House are barreling — barreling us to is going to affect them.

And we’re — this is real.  This is real-life — real-life changes and real-life impact on people across the country. 

And there was one military personnel who was interviewed who said that one of the reasons that they went into the military is to have that stability — right? — is to make sure that they have a stability in their life. 

And when you have one of the five groups who are taking away that stability because of a political stunt, because of their chaos within their own — within their own caucus, and they do that to a military member — personnel who is really, truly putting their lives on the line for this country and making a commitment to this country, and they’re saying that they no longer have the stability that they thought the military would bring them, I think that’s devastating. 

And that’s, you know — this should not be partisan.  This should be bipartisan.  This is supposed to be the basic, basic duty of Congress to do this — to do their jobs.  And it is going to have — if we do indeed have a shutdown, it is going to truly, truly hurt some of the people that we rely on every day, as well as cutting some key programs that families — that families need. 

With that, Colleen, you want to kick us off?

Q    Sure.  Can you say anything more about what the President’s plans are going to be this weekend in the face of the shutdown?  What’s he going to be up to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can say that the President is going to be in Washington, D.C.  And he’s going to continue to remain in touch with congressional — well, our team here is going to continue to remain in touch with congre- — congressional leaders and the members of both parties. 

Certainly, he’s going to get updates on what’s — what’s happening — what’s happening on — on the Hill.  But again, if — this is an — this is going to be the extreme part of the House Republican — this is going to be their shutdown.  So, we do not — I don’t expect any travel outside of D.C. from this president.  But of course, if that changes, we certainly would communicate that.  But the President will be here.

He’ll be getting updates from his team and the team more broadly.  As you saw, the — the Director was here. 

And — and also our Office of Leg Affairs is going to stay in close touch with members — with leaders — congressional leaders on the Hill.

Q    Would he be meeting with anybody in person this weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — no, I don’t have any — I don’t have any meetings or — to read out as it relates to — to Congress.  But what I can say: This is something — and we’ve said it over and over again, and it needs to be repeated — this is something that Congress can fix.  This is something that extreme — those extreme Republicans in the House can fix.  They know how to fix this. 

We just heard the process that the OMB Director went through — right? — earlier — earlier this summer, late spring on making that — helping to make that bipartisan deal become a law. 

And so, this — we should not be here.  We should — she shouldn’t have been here at this podium talking about a potential shutdown.  It should not have been this way.  And they can fix it.

Q    On the auto workers strike — so, it’s expanded now.  And I just wondered if the White House is concerned about broader economic impact of a strike as it, sort of, wears on — I think it’s two weeks in?  Two weeks in?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things — and I’ve been asked this question about the potential impacts.  Look, we always — we always take a look at what a major economic situation — the potential impacts could have, certainly, in our economic — in our economy more broadly. 

But I will just go back to what I’ve said.  This does — as it relates to the shutdown, the shutdown doesn’t need — does not need to happen.  These programs that families need should be continuing.  This — we should not be in this position that we’re in. 

This is something that Republicans in Congress — in the House, more specifically — are heading — heading us towards.  And you — you saw there was a — there was a chart that was up when we were speaking.  And, you know, Senate — Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Democrats, the President, we’re all on the same page.  We’re all on the same page here.  And for some reason, extreme House Republicans refused.  They refused to get on — to get on board here. 

And as it relates to the shutdown: should not be happening.  This can be avoided.  They can fix this if they choose — if they choose.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I hear what you’re saying, and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  About what? 

Q    About Republicans —


Q    — and that they have to fix this.  “It’s their problem.  It’s not ours.”  And that’s exactly what the White House said before the deal was struck about raising the debt ceiling.  Initially, you guys weren’t going to touch any kind of negotiation because you said it was solely up to House Republicans, up to Congress to raise the debt ceiling. 

But then, the President did intervene to avoid the U.S. defaulting.  So, I’m just trying to understand at what point would the President intervene to avoid a shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I understand your question as well.  Here’s the thing.  And — and I think Director Young did a really good job laying this out.  What we are talking about is a bill — a bipartisan bill that became law.  That’s what we’re talking about.  Something that became law that was agreed by the five sides, right?  The House Republicans even themselves, two thirds of them voted for this. 

This is law.  This is an agreement that was already made, that multiple conversations were had about this.  This should be simple.  This should be easy. 

And that’s what we’re talking about.  We’re talking about something that already existed not that long ago that they all literally voted for in the House and in the Senate, in a bipartisan way — something that I’ve said before — that’s what Americans want us to do here in — in Congress and in the Whi- — in the White House — right? — in the federal government: to get things done in a bipartisan way so that it helps American families.

And what they’re doing — they can fix it.  There’s no conversation that needs to be had because they literally can fix this.  It is their chaos.  They can fix this.  And what they’re putting at risk is our economy; our national security, as we just talked about the military personnel.  It’s a — you know, and —

You know, we have been able — the President in the last two years have been able to get our economy back on track, right?  We’ve talked about the 13.5 million jobs.  We’ve talked about unemployment being under 4 percent.  And what they’re doing is incredibly irresponsible, and it is reckless. 

So that’s the difference.  When you’re asking me — you know, you don’t quite understand and are trying to figure out what we’re talking about.  We already made the deal.  That’s why we keep saying “a deal is a deal.”

And it’s not just — it’s majority of Congress that agrees with us, right?  When you think about what the Senate — the Senate actually moved forward and kept their deal.  When you think about 77 senators who are moving forward — who voted to move forward with their CR.  They are keeping the deal. 

We’re talking about a small fraction of Congress.  And that’s — and that’s reckless.  That’s irresponsible.  And that’s why we’re saying it is not us — for us to — it’s not on us to fix.  It’s not on this president to fix it.  It is on Congress to fix.

And it’s not just us.  You — I started the briefing listing out — listing out quotes from — from Republicans in Congress themselves. 

All right.  I’m going to —

Q    All right.  Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going keep on.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Thanks, Karine.  On China, can you clarify if the administration is stepping up engagement with the goal towards a Biden-Xi meeting on the sidelines of APEC in November, including whether there are any plans for Vice Premier He Lifeng or Prime Minister Wang Yi to come visit in Washington or meet U.S. officials?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to — to lay out for you on any meetings or any potential meetings as it relates to the President and — our President and President Xi.  The President spoke about this very recently and his expectations to have a meeting.

Don’t have a location for you.  Don’t have a timeline for you at this time.  We’re expecting — the President, as he said, is expected to do so.  Just don’t have anything to share. 

And once we do, we certainly will share that with you.

Q    And can I just follow up on that?  Just a few days ago, Wang Yi seems to suggest that the onus of creating the right environment for a Biden-Xi meeting lies in Washington, you know, to promote cooperation — a summit that promotes cooperation rather than provoke confrontation.  How would you respond to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, we’re — I mean, we’ve been very clear.  We’re not ha- — we’re not looking to have confrontation with China.  We’re looking to have competition, and that’s what the President has shown these last two years. 

The President spoke about this.  He’s — he’s looking forward to having that conversation with President Xi.  I don’t have anything to share with you at this time.  And I’m just going to leave it there. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Does the President plan to take up McCarthy’s offer to meet, and does the White House see any value in that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m going to be very clear.  The per- — the person that McCarthy — or the people that McCarthy needs to talk to is his own caucus.  That’s who he needs to have a conversation with, not the President. 

The President had multiple conversations with Speaker McCarthy very early on to get this bipartisan deal.  That two thirds of the House — Republican House — Republicans House voted on.  The conversation is not between the President and McCarthy.  He needs to — he needs to —

Q    So, he’s turning it down?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He needs — what I’m saying very clearly is the conversation needs to happen between Speaker McCarthy and his — and his caucus.  That’s where — that’s the fix.  That’s the chaos that we’re seeing.  And that’s where he needs to focus on. 

Q    And how would you describe the President’s relationship with Senator Feinstein in recent years?  When was the last time they spoke to one another?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I believe the President reached out back in August.  They missed each other, and so the President had a conversation with her chief of staff.  That is the last time that they were — that the President had reached out. 

I mean, the President spoke to this, you know, very — I think very deeply.  Right?  And — just moments ago, when you all watched his remarks.

And — and they were very close friends.  They served together for over a decade.  It’d be 15 years in the Senate together.  And — and he saw her as a close friend.

They — you know, one of the things that they worked on that is an issue right now across the country was assault ban weapons [assault weapons ban], right?  That is something that they worked together on in 1994 and actually saved lives for those 10 years before its sunset in 2004.  Right?

So, there’s been many things that they’ve been able to work on together.  And so, they find — and even as president as well.

And so, they were — he sees her as a dear friend.  It is a sad day for — certainly for — for us here and also for her family and, clearly, for the state of California.  And — and I’ll just — I’ll just leave it there. 

Go ahead, MJ.

Q    We just heard Director Young saying, “This is not hard.”  But Speaker McCarthy clearly is finding this difficult.  Can you give us any sense of how President Biden sees the situation that Speaker McCarthy is in?  Does he think that the Speaker is in a tough spot?  Have you gotten the sense that, you know, there’s any sense of sort of sympathy towards Speaker McCarthy?  Or is it all pure exasperation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m — I’m not going to go into just the President’s feeling about the Speaker or — or his situation currently as Speaker of the House. 

What I can speak to is what we’ve been saying all along, which is: A deal was made.  The President has — as you all know and saw this happening when — when these conversations were going on in person and trying to get that bipartisan deal very early on in the summer. 

And what the President believes is that many Americans are going to be hurt by this.  Many families are going to be hurt by this, by something that extreme House Republicans are barreling us down through.  Right?  They’re heading us down a road that is unfortunate, that is reckless. 

And that’s what the President is concerned about.  He’s concerned about the American people.  And this is something — again, they can fix this.  They can. 

Q    Can you confirm when the two men last spoke?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a date or time — a timeline of when they last spoke.  What I can say is that, clearly, the OMB Director, congressional — our Office of Leg Affairs has been in regular touch with congressional leaders on this for the past several weeks, several months.  And I just don’t have a — I don’t have a conversation to confirm with the Speaker. 

Q    And just in the coming days, in the event of a government shutdown, does the White House believe that the President has a responsibility to offer any words of reassurance to people in the country who will be affected, will be worried about situation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I don’t have any previews of any remarks that the President is going to make.  But you can we- — either tomorrow or any upcoming days.  But, of course, the American — the President is always — when it comes to situations like this, you can expect to hear from him directly in the days ahead.  I just don’t have a date to speak to at this time. 

And the President — here’s the thing: The President is not going to stop working.  He’s going to continue to work, and he’s not going to stop delivering for the American people in the event of an extreme Republican shutdown. 

You’re going to hear from the President.  I just don’t have anything to lay out on a specific date or time.  But, of course, the American people are going to hear from him. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Just on the auto workers strike, has the President spoken to automakers after he said he supports a 40 percent pay raise for UAW workers or just even broadly after his visit to Michigan?  We understand from sources that the chances of a deal in the near term have been complicated by the President’s remarks about him supporting a 40 percent pay raise. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just want to — just give some clarity.  So, first, the President’s senior advisors, they’ve been in touch with all parties.  If — I’ll let you know if there’s any conversations that the President has or — to read out with the — with the — the automakers, more specifically.

As it relates to the 40 percent, look, he believes they should get a significant raise.  That’s why the President can keep saying, like, a record profit should lead to record contract, right?  This is — he believes that the UAW workers should get a fair share for — for profits they helped create.  And so, the President has been really, really clear about that. 

But as it relates to any negotiations and what they are asking for, he wants to make sure that he leaves that up to the UAW leadership.  And ultimately, again, members should be able to receive a fair and just deal. 

And the President is going to be consistent about that.  He has said that recently when he was in Michigan, when you saw him on an active picket line, who was — he was very proud to be there in solidarity of the union workers. 

And so, that is something that he has said throughout his career, and he’ll continue to be very clear about that. 

Q    And so — so, just on the automakers part —


Q    You said his team is constantly in touch.  We’ve known that.  Are there any specific, sort of, conversations after his visit, specifically after those comments that he made?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, they’ve been in regular touch.  I don’t have, like, if they talked today or — or on Tuesday or on Wednesday.  But they have been — the senior — senior advisors have — certainly have been in touch with all parties.

They are not — I want to be clear — they’re not part of the negotiations.  They’re not convening all sides.  They are just there to offer any assistance that the parties might need. 

We are very — we’ve been always very clear.  It’s — it’s up to the UAW leadership, it’s up to the union to have these — and all parties involved — to have these negotiation conversations.  But, again, we’ve just offered any helpful assistance that they might need. 

Go ahead.

Q    Can I circle back — thank you — to a question that was asked, I think, of the OMB Director, which is, essentially, if we could get a sense of what the White House will look like during the shutdown and who all folks can anticipate will be here specifically from the press side, but broadly what the White House will look like.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, look, you know — and — and not going to have much more to share than what the OMB Director said.  You know, many people are going to be furloughed.  That’s kind of, unfortunately, how this all works. 

The process that we are, kind of, dealt with here, as we’re dealing with this potential — potential shutdown.  But we will do our best, certainly, to communi- — to continue communicating with all of you.  We will have a press — a press briefing during — during, you know, next week.

And, look, you know, again, they’re going to be furloughed, and some will be expected and continuing to work, as the — as the Director said, and — and that’s going to be across the government.  That’s going to be the same case here at the White House. 

And, you know, that’s just kind of the way it is.  And we will — we’re going to continue to deliver for the American people, but it’s not going to be as — business as usual when you have the majority of folks furloughed.  And — and that’s kind of where we are, sadly, unfortunately, in this — in this time.

But as it relates to the press team, certainly, we’ll be holding press briefings, and we’ll certainly have more to share if this is where we head down to, which is a shutdown. 

AIDE:  Karine, you can take a couple more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Just a follow-up to Aurelia’s earlier question.  We know that you say it’s their problems, not ours.  From the outside — outside of the U.S., we see the government as more of a “one thing.”  With, you know, the tension with China towards Allied — in the war in Ukrai- — in Ukraine, what can the President say to reassure leaders who are worried at this — at this moment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, I think Jake Sullivan got this question a little bit when he was here last week.  And I think the question came to him as has he heard any concerns from any leadership.  And he had said he wasn’t aware of any conversations to — to that effect. 

What I can say is, you know, when you have this type of — this potential chaos and unpre- — unpredictability, you know, countries around the world are seeing from this — this Republican House, it’s not something to be proud of.  It’s not. 

But what the President and our team have done for the past two years is rebuild those relationships with our partners and allies.  And — and so, at the same time, trying to carry out the work of the American people. 

And that’s something that you’ve seen the President do over the past two years, whether it’s here at the White House or whether it’s at a summit that he’s attended.  And you’ve seen the President build that confidence back into the United — back into the world — right? — the confidence that allies and partners had of the United States. 

And so, that’s important.  We have rebuilt those relationships.  We’ll continue to do so.  But obviously, when you see this type of chaos — you know, chaos and potential recklessness — right? — from House Republicans, it doesn’t — it’s nothing to be proud of. 

But we’re going to continue to have those — it doesn’t stop us to have — continue to those — those diplomatic conversations and continue to build those — those relationships. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  This time of week, we’re usually talking about the week ahead.  (Laughter.)  And I wonder how that’s impacted by the government shutdown, if the President has any plans for next week.  And I’m assuming that people who would facilitate his travel would be essential —


Q    — but is that impacted at all by the shutdown talks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, it’s a really good question, Matt.  This is something that we have been internally trying to figure that out — what it’s going to look like if we have a — a extreme House Republican shutdown.  That is something certainly we’ve been very focused on. 

Look, as I said, the President is going to be staying in D.C.  You could — you could be assured that the American people and you all are going to hear from him on a regular basis in the next upcoming days, because he’s going to continue to work for the American people. 

I can’t speak to travel right now.  Right now, we’re going to focus on — focus on just the next couple of days and what that’s going to look like.  Again, he’s not — he’s going to stay here in D.C., and we’re going to continue to work for the American people. 

Yes, people are going to be furloughed.  It’s not going to be business as usual.  But we’re going to continue to do our best to work on behalf of the American people. 

Q    And then, it’s — it also sounds like you guys don’t view there being any need for a negotiation from the White House perspective.  So, in thinking about, like, what is he — what is the work that he needs to do, in your eyes?  Is the work communicating to the American people about this?  Or is there any — I mean, is he going to be in touch with anybody on the Hill? 


Q    Like, I’m trying to think through the weekend and what he’s going to be doing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s a good — it’s all good questions.  Look, the President is going to say what — privately what he’s been saying publicly, right?  And he has spoken to this almost every day this week, about the shutdown, about what Republicans in the House are doing.  He’s been very clear about this, right? 

He’s talked about the economic impact.  When he — when he was doing the meeting with HBC- — HBCU board of advisors — his board of advisors, he talked about the impact on — on the Black community specifically.

He’s talked about impacts just broadly with — with American families and Americans.  So, he has been very clear about this, and we are going to continue to be clear about this.  And the reason why — just to go back to what I stated earlier to — to Weijia — the reason why we’re not negotiating is because we already did that.  We did negotiate. 

The President spoke multiple times with congressional leadership on this.  And there was a bipartisan piece of legislation that was agreed upon, that was passed, that was made into law. 

And so, this is something that Congress and this is — this sits with — really, when we say House Republicans, it really sits with them, because we saw what the Senate was able to do in a bipartisan way, which is keep — keep their promise, move forward with the deal that we’ve made.  And we know House Democrats are on board to keep the government open and keeping with the deal that was made. 

It’s just this really small, extreme fraction in — in the Congress — these extreme House Republicans that continue to hold this — to hold this back because they want to push extreme policies.  That’s going to hurt Americans. 

And so, that’s why we say that, because that is the fact.  That is what’s happening and being played out on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. 

And so, look, the President is going to continue doing the job.  American people are going to hear from him over the next couple of days.  And yes, he’ll be in D.C. 

Go ahead.

Q    Anticipating if there is a shutdown, the President has never come to the briefing room.  And if it would facilitate and make it easier with staff furloughs for him to speak to us from here, we always invite the President to come to the briefing room.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We appreciate the invite.

Q    The — the issue of debt ceiling played out in a similar way where the position was: It’s their job to do it.  And then, when a critical hour came, the President engaged. 


Q    If it goes to a shutdown, would he then view it as, “Okay, there’s a new chapter to this in terms of resolving it, getting out of it”?  And would he feel like he needs to engage more at that point?  Would that be a different mindset?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Weijia asked me a similar question as you did, and we’re going to be very clear about this.  And, you know, want — don’t want to get into hypotheticals from here because we believe that this can be fixed.  We believe that House Republicans can fix this.  It is their job to fix this.

So, I’m not going to get into too far down the road —

Q    I guess I’m asking: Would he see it as a different set of circumstances?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I — I just want to be careful, right?

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because, again, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals.  We see this as a — as a situation that could be fixed because we already made a deal.  A deal is a deal.  When we say that, it is true: A deal is a deal.  That’s what they are disputing here — something that two thirds of House Republicans voted on. 

So, they can fix this.  This is something that they can get — they can get on board with because it’s something that they voted on.  It is something that they voted on. 

And so, what I’m going say is — continue what we’ve been saying is that the conversation is not — it’s not with this president.  The conversation is with Speaker McCar- — McCarthy and his caucus.  They need to have that conversation and get this done on behalf of the American people. 

Millions of Americans are going to be hurt by this, by their action.  And it is reckless, and it is irresponsible. 

I have to go.  Thanks, everybody.  We’ll see you on Monday.

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

Q    Thank you.

1:40 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call by Senior Administration and Military Officials on the Return of Private King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Wed, 09/27/2023 - 16:47

9:30 A.M. EDT
MODERATOR:  All right, we’re going to go ahead and get started here.  Thank you so much for your patience.  This is [moderator].  So, good morning. 
I’ve got good news to share this morning, attributable to a “U.S. official.”  I can immediately confirm that Private Travis King is in U.S. custody. 
We are still going to proceed with this call as planned.  So, from this point out, the remainder of the call will be held under strict embargo until we’re able to offer confirmation that the subject of the call has arrived at a military installation. 
Just again, off the record: This is ongoing, so, we’re going to give you all a little bit more insight into some of the operational details, but those need to be held under a strict embargo for operational security reasons.
For planning purposes only, we believe that confirmation could come as soon as 10:30 a.m. ET today. 
This call is attributable to “senior administration officials.”  For awareness but not for reporting, joining us on the call today is [senior administration official], [senior military official], and [senior administration official]. 
And with that, I’m going to hand it over to my colleague, [senior administration official], to share a few more details about what’s taking place this morning.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Moderator], thank you so much.  And thanks to you all for joining this morning.  This is [senior administration official].
We are very pleased to announce this morning, although events are still ongoing, that the U.S. government has successfully facilitated Private Travis King’s departure from the DPRK.  His transfer culminates a months-long effort involving multiple U.S. government agencies, undertaken out of concern for Private King’s well-being and a desire to reunite him with his family. 
For the last many weeks, the U.S. government has been reaching out to the DPRK through multiple channels to ascertain his welfare and to try to secure his safe return home.  That includes outreach at the United Nations and through our United Nations Command.  It also includes ongoing work with the government of Sweden in its status as the protecting power of the United States and other countries who have diplomatic relations with the DPRK. 
We have been in communication with Private King’s family throughout this process. 
I’m pleased to share this morning that Private King appears to be in good health and good spirits as he makes his way home.
We are grateful to the Swedish government for its diplomatic role in serving as the protecting power for the United States in the DPRK and to the government of the People’s Republic of China for its assistance in facilitating the safe transit of Private King. 
I’ll stop there for the moment, and I’ll hand over to my colleague, [senior administration official], for some additional details on the diplomacy we conducted in the lead-up to today’s events.
I think we’re having trouble hearing you.  Could you unmute yourself?
MODERATOR:  Loud and clear.  Loud and clear. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thank you.  This is [senior administration official].  And thanks to, [senior administration official], and thanks to all of you for joining. 
We have been engaged in intense diplomacy since Private King entered the DPRK.  And we have — we, in the State Department, have made every effort and used every available diplomatic channel to urge the DPRK to release Private King and allow him to return home.
We have been in close touch with Sweden, in its status as the protecting power, engaging very much on a near-daily basis to make sure that — that everything went smoothly.  And we’ve also been working with other countries with diplomatic relations with the DPRK. 
And we’re really grateful for the partnership that we’ve had with our DOD and NSC counterparts. 
And so, we have been — we’re looking forward to getting Travis King home.  And we’ve been working — State Department has also been working with Army and [senior military official’s] team to make sure the family has been aware of what has been going on. 

So, let me stop there and turn it over to [senior military official].
SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Good morning.  Can you hear me?
SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. 
I would really like to just highlight that this was truly an extraordinary interagency effort and really an incredible example of teamwork, detailed planning and rehearsals, and flawless conduct of what I would say is a truly complex operation.  And we are just incredibly happy to have Private King on his way home. 
And I’m standing by to answer any of your questions.
Q    Sorry about that — unmuting issue.  You mentioned that China was helpful in assisting and facilitating the safe transit.  Did China have any other role in mediating?  And can you speak to what other countries with diplomatic relations with the DPRK that were involved? 
And finally, can you offer any insight on to why Private King decided to enter North Korea?  Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll take that.  You know, we — we’ve been — working primarily with Sweden in its role as the protecting power for the United States.  And the PRC played a very constructive role in facilitating his transfer out of — of the PRC — of China. 
And on — and so, just — I’ll leave it at that.  And — and we’re, as [senior military official] said — that we’re very happy to have him home. 

Q    Thank you.  Thanks for taking my question.  [Senior administration official], I wonder if you can give some clarity in terms of the kinds of concessions.  Were there any kinds of concessions that were given to DPRK?  And if you know anything about what will happen next to Private Travis, in terms of, you know, his status with the military, if he’s still being declared AWOL, and what happens next with him?  Thank you. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks very much.  In terms of the question on any concessions that may have been given, the answer is simple: There were none.  Full stop. 
On the question of next steps, our focus right now is on Private King’s health and ensuring that he receives all appropriate support before reuniting with his family. 
I’ll pass to the [senior administration official] in just a moment for anything that he might like to add to that. 
But before I do, I just want to add some additional detail to Aamer’s previous question on the role of the PRC.  I do want to acknowledge — we want to acknowledge and be clear that Private King was transferred out of the DPRK across the DPRK’s border with the PRC.  The PRC played a role in facilitating that transfer but did not play another mediating role in these events. 
I’ll stop there and pass it to [senior military official]. 
SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Yeah, our focus within the military at this point is really caring for Private King and his family.  And when he arrives on U.S. soil, he will be evaluated by some very talented, experienced — an experienced team that are going to guide him through a reintegration process.  They’ll address any medical and emotional concerns and ensure we get him in a good place to reunite with his family. 
As far as anything after that, again, our focus right now is caring for him and his family.  And we’ll work through all those administrative-status questions following the completion of his reintegration. 
Q    Hey.  Thanks for taking the question.  So, wanted to see if you all got any additional insight into North Korea and their willingness to do business, in a sense, with the United States as a result of this, and if there is a prospect for any further talks with — with them specifically? 
And then if you could just confirm if there is the possibility of a court martial at the end of this for Private King.  Thanks. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi, Trevor.  This is [senior administration official].  I’m happy to take the first part of your question.  The United States government remains very open to the possibility of diplomacy with the DPRK.  And, again, very much appreciate the fact that we have this good news to share today.  
This incident, to our minds, demonstrate that keeping lines of communication open even when ties are strained is a really important thing to do and can deliver results. 
We, again, stand by, ready for any further diplomacy that might be possible.  But for today, we are just focused on Private King’s safe return to the United States. 
I’ll pass back to [senior military official] once more to see if there’s anything he wants to add to this question. 
SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIAL:  Just to reinforce my previous comment: Again, we’re going to focus, for the next several weeks or as long as it takes, to get Private King on good — on solid footing.  And then we’ll address any administrative actions that may follow after the reintegration process.  Thank you. 
MODERATOR:  Great.  Our next question will go to Jeremy with CNN.
Q    Hey, guys, thanks so much for doing this — 
MODERATOR:  Let me try that again and see if we can get Jeremy back.  Just one moment. 
Q    Hey, do you have me now?
MODERATOR:  We’ve got you. 
Q    Okay, great.  So, first of all, in terms of North Korea and their decision-making here: Do you have any sense of why they chose to release Private King, you know, within just a couple of months and not choose to use him as a bargaining chip?  Do you have a sense of whether Travis King wanted to return to the U.S. or whether he sought to remain in North Korea at any point? 
And then, lastly, if you could just kind of take us through a tick-tock of, you know, when it became clear that Private King would be released, when the President was notified, et cetera.  Thank you. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can — hey, thanks for that.  This is [senior administration official].  As I said, we — you know, we’ve been very much engaged in intense diplomacy and in working with our colleagues across the globe, especially in — at Embassy Beijing. 
And so, we wanted to — you know, on the — you know, I’ll let the DPRK speak to — speak for themselves.  But we did learn via Sweden that the DPRK wanted to release Travis King earlier this month, and so we’ve been working very intensely since then. 
And they — and Sweden has played a real — really vital role.  I won’t go into the tick-tock or any details of the way we were working this.  But as you can imagine, in the — (inaudible) in the depth of the interagency cooperation that needed to be happening and across the — and across the globe or with the region to make sure that all of this went smoothly. 
And, you know, we’re absolutely grateful that — for the PRC for facilitating his release and for the DPRK for releasing him and — and absolutely to Sweden for their efforts to help us in this effort. 
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Jeremy, this is [senior administration official].  I’ll just add to that that we can confirm that Private King was very happy to be on his way home.  You know, that has been quite clear as we have resumed our contact with him.  And he is very much looking forward to being reunited with his family.  That is the sentiment that is pervading all else right now and is being, you know, reported by all of our diplomats. 
You know, again, as [senior administration official] said, not going to get into the specific tick-tock.  But I can confirm that as it became clear that our diplomacy was being reciprocated and that we might have an opportunity to return Travis King, all of our leadership across departments and agencies have been closely briefed and following events as they unfold.  And, of course, that includes the President of the United States, who has been following this issue closely.
Q    And has the President spoken with Private King or his family?  Or does he intend to?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The — we were able to connect with the family.  And — you know, and the family was able to speak with Travis King.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And, Jeremy, I don’t have anything for you on the President’s plans at this time.  Thanks.
Q    Thank you.
Q    Hey there.  Can you hear me?
MODERATOR:  Loud and clear.
Q    Okay.  So, two things.  One, [moderator], if you could — I’m a little confused about the embargo situation and what is on the — what is on the record, so —
MODERATOR:  Yep.  Can immediately confirm, attributable to a “U.S. official,” that he’s in U.S. custody.  The rest of this is on background, attributable to “senior administration officials” and needs to be held for oper- — operational security reasons under an embargo until he’s, you know, essentially wheels down at a military installation.  So —
Q    And at — and you will let us know when that is, or —
MODERATOR:  And I think it will be, you know, as this — as this call ticks on, I think it will be sooner rather than later that you’ll be hearing from me again.
Q    Okay.  And then my — my question is: Several of the speakers today have talked about a “super complex operation,” and that — and I think somebody said, “You could imagine how complicated this all was.”  I’m bad at imagining things, and I don’t think we can ask our readers to imagine things.  Is there any detail that you guys can provide about — about, sort of, how he was transferred, where he — I mean, since — since this is not going to be released until he’s on — at a U.S. military base, I don’t — I don’t understand why we can’t get a little bit more detail about, kind of, how this all went down.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Michael, this is [senior administration official].  I’m happy to put sort of a finer point on some of the detail that I have already shared.  But, again, we are still in the process of making diplomatic contacts with other parties, as well as ensuring the operational security of Private King and the folks who are undertaking this operation. 
So, you know, we are going to go about as far as we can, under — under those constraints.  As I have already mentioned, the private was tran- — was transferred out of the DPRK, across the border to China with the help of the government of Sweden. 
The United States has been able to receive him in China and is now in the process of transferring him home. 
The operational complexity that we’re pointing to here, obviously, includes a few factors.  It includes the fact that the Swedish government transited into the DPRK.  It includes the fact that we had to, you know, be ready to receive him in the PRC.  And it includes the fact that all of these pieces had to come together quickly and with the greatest concern for Private King’s care and ensuring his safe and healthy transit home. 
So, again, that’s about all we can offer in terms of detail today, but I think everyone on the call appreciates that this is an unusual set of circumstances and, again, that the operational coordination that was required from our diplomats, from the members of our military, and from the partners with whom we worked on this operation was significant and extraordinary.
Q    (Referring to the audio connection.)  Sorry, problems there. 
You spoke to the issue a little bit, but I was just going to kind of expand a little bit on — my question is like — so, the role of the Chinese and the role of the Swedish here.  Swedes went into DPRK to help facilitate and then transmit this guy into China and then — where you guys are now receiving him.
Is there anything else you can expand upon, like what the role of the Swedes versus the Chinese were in, like, making this all happen?  The Swedes, I assume, were the chief interlocutor here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  The Swedish were — the Swedish play an important role.  They’re our protecting power, and they have been our primary interlocutor and are — in — in helping us get Private King out. 
The PRC helped to facilitate the transfer but, as [senior administration official] noted, did not mediate by any means.  And we are extremely grateful for the government — to the government of Sweden for facilitating that.
As I mentioned, we learned about the DPRK wanting to expel Travis — Private King through Sweden.  And since then, State Department has been connecting with Sweden on a very regular basis, working out all of these details, and working with — across the interagency, across multiple departments and agencies to make sure that all of the small pieces and the large pieces came together. 
And, of course, we’re very grateful for our colleagues at Embassy Beijing who helped to facilitate this as well and liaising with the Chinese government to make sure that everyone was squared away and we were all aligned on the outcomes that we wanted.
MODERATOR:  All right.  And with that, we’ll conclude the call.  We will provide notification when the operation is successfully completed and the embargo is lifted. 
Thank you all for your time.
9:51 A.M. EDT

The post Background Press Call by Senior Administration and Military Officials on the Return of Private King from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre en Route Wayne County, Michigan

Tue, 09/26/2023 - 16:09

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Wayne County, Michigan

11:42 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hello.  Hi, hi, hi, hi.  Sorry for the delay.  Okay, I got one thing at the top, and then we can get going. 

So, today, President Biden will — will punctuate his vocal support for autoworkers by joining UAW members on the picket line in Wayne County, Michigan.

President Biden is fighting to ensure that the cars of the future will be built in America by unionized American workers in good-paying jobs instead of being built in China.

And he is succeeding: Car companies are making record profits, and since President Biden took office, the U.S. economy has added 235,000 auto jobs.  That’s over four times as many auto jobs per month and over five times as many auto manufacturing jobs per month as under the previous presi- — administration.  

So, as American auto- — automakers have earned record corporate profits, the President believes the American autoworkers responsible for creating the value should get a record contract.  That’s why we’re headed to Michigan today.

And while President Biden is no stranger to a picket line — in fact, he joined a UAW picket in Kansas City back in 2019 — today will mark the first time as a sitting president has visited a picket line in modern times.

This is an important message to America’s autoworkers and to every hardworking American across — across the country.

And with that, go ahead, Seung Min.

Q    Can you tell us where specifically in Wayne County he will be — which plant?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any specific details to share with you for secur- —

Q    Why not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to answer. 

Q    Oh, sorry. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  For security reasons and given the unprecedented nature of this visit.  As I just mentioned, it is an historic visit.  And this is an active picket line.  And so, we’re not able to provide the exact location in advance, again, as I mentioned, for security purposes.  And so, as you know, when the President makes public stops, we don’t advertise exact street — right? — and corner.

He’s visiting this one — again, an active picket line — so we want to be incredibly mindful.  But because of those precau- — precautions, we have expanded both the print and the local press pool to give additional media the opportunity to cover the President on the ground. 

But, again, because this is an active — an active picket line, we — we just have to be incredibly careful.  And so, there are security concerns.

Q    And on another topic.  As far as the U.S. is aware, is the Russian Black Sea — Sea Fleet Commander, Viktor Sokolov, dead or alive?  Has the U.S. made a determination?  Ukraine claimed that he was killed yesterday. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve seen the reports, and certainly we are — we are aware of the video.  I just don’t have anything to confirm at this time.  But obviously, we’re aware of the reports.

Q    You said, just now, he’s the first president in modern U.S. history.  Are you aware of any other president who has —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am not.

Q    — ever been on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re just — we’re just being careful here.  (Laughter.) 

Q    You’re being careful? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, as we like to do when we use the modern history.

But no, I’m not aware of any — I mean, you guys — I think I’ve seen reporting that some of you have tried to figure out if there has been another sitting pres- — president that has done this.  And so, I don’t think anybody has a — have been able to find that. 

So, this is — I mean, guys, this is really a historic — a historic event, a historic day — what the President is going to be doing. 

And, look, I’ve said this many times, you know, over and over again: This is the most pro-union president in modern times. 

And — and so, you know, he is continuing to show his — his support.  This president — President Joe Biden — he has continued to so — show his support for union workers — in this case, autoworkers.  This is something that he believes.

And you see that in his economic policy and his — in the big pieces of legislation that he’s gotten to — to pass and also sign — that he puts workers at the center of it, right? 

When he talks about the middle class, he says the — the middle — the unions built the middle class.  That is something that he has said for years.  So, what you’re going to see is this president continuing to — to stay in — in line or in — in the same vein as what he’s been saying for — for some time now. 

And so, again, a historic trip — he’s looking forward to it.  And you all will be able to experience that history.

Q    Does this undermine his ability, potentially, and the administration’s ability, potentially, to be a deal breaker — or not a deal breaker — a deal broker, I should say, between the two sides?  I mean, he’s also had lots of meetings with car company CEOs —


Q    — over the last couple of years, and he’s pushing the agenda for EVs.  Does it undermine that at all, do you think?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I don’t think so.  Look, he also has spoken to all the parties, as you all know.  He spoke to the — the automakers, certainly, before he left for India, as we have stated before.

Look, you know, and I said this at the top: He believes that the — the women — the women and the men of UAW deserve a fair share of what the — of the value that they’ve been able to help create, right?  And it is — record profits should lead to a UAW record contract.  That’s what he believes. 

And, look, you know, you hear the President talk a lot about dignity — right? — and making sure that American families, American households have the dignity.  And this is part of it: being able to sit at — around the kitchen table and be able to — be able to deliver for your family, be able to pay your bills, and do it in a way that’s — you know, that has that dignity that — that should — that should be — you know, that should be presented to you.

So, look, this is an opportunity that he took.  As you know, Shawn Fain invited him today.  He had — he — he gladly accepted.  This — today is about the autoworkers.  That is what today is about.  It’s about standing in solidarity with the union — union members.

Q    On Senator Menendez.  Does the President think that Senator Menendez should resign?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I was asked this question yesterday.  Look, this is a — a serious matter.  We take this very seriously, as I said yesterday.  We — we think the senator did the right thing by stepping down from his chairmanship.

As it relates to — as it relates to resigning, that is something that — that’s up to him and the leadership in the Senate.

But look, we take this very seriously.

Q    It’s just that there’s a — there’s more than a — you know, there’s a handful of senators who are now calling for him to resign.  So did — does the President think that he can still be a good public servant in the face of these allegations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is up to the Senate body, that is up to the Senate leadership, and that is up to Senator Menendez.

But, again, we see this, indeed, as a serious matter.

Q    Does the President have any concerns that public trust in the Senate as a body would be impacted if someone like Senator Menendez stayed in office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t speak to — I can’t speak to the public trust.

What I can speak to is this president — at least as it relates to the Senate, you know, that — again, that’s for Senate leadership to speak to.  That’s for the Senator — Senator Menendez to speak to about, you know, how — how the public views the work that they’re doing and — and how they’re moving forward. 

What I can say is that we have been able to secure some incredibly recor- — important record — you know, record pieces of legislation that is going to change the lives of Americans, when you think about the Bipartisan Infrastructure — Infrastructure Law, which was a joke in the last administration. 

By — you know, as you know, Infrastructure Week — now it’s Infrastructure Decade, as the President said.  That’s going to change Americans’ lives and their livelihood and creating good-paying job — good-paying union jobs.  That matters.  When you think about the CHIPS and Science Act, when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act. 

So, we have worked with this — with senators and House members to get this done, to get really important legislation through.  And so, that’s what’s going to be our focus.  And so, that’s what we’re going to be zeroed in on. 

Q    And on the decision to come to the strike — I mean, this is really historic.  It is unprecedented.  Could you give us any more detail on how the President came to this decision?  I know he got an invitation and he accepted the invitation.  But did he have any other conversations?  How did he get to this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I mean, I’m not going to go to –blow by blow to the President’s decision.  As you know, as I mentioned — and you all know and reported on it — Shawn Fain sent an invite, the — the president of UAW — and he gladly accepted.

But from the beginning of this — right? — the President has always said for — for — for almost his entire career — right? — that he stands by the side of union workers. 

And so, he sees this as an important moment.  It’s not the first time that he’s done and — been at an active picket line, especially for UAW.  I just mentioned how he did that in 2019, so it’s not uncommon for him. 

And he thinks and he believes, as someone who is seen by labor, by union — and he believes this — as the most pro-union president that — and — and he shows it with his policies that he wanted to stand in solidarity of the workers. 

Today is about the workers.  That is what today is about.

Go ahead. 

Q    So, just to clarify: Today is about the workers.  But will he be meeting with the auto executives while he’s in town?  And why not? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any other — besides going to see a — going to be part of an active picket line, I don’t have any other meetings to read out at this time. 

Q    When was the last time —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This is really about autoworkers.


Q    When was the last time the President spoke to Speaker McCarthy about the shutdown or — or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, go ahead.  I’m sorry.  Sorry.  

Q    And is he willing to let the Speaker kind of twist in the wind and let the government shut down for — until something was — something is resolved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, to be very clear: It’s up to the Speaker to twist in the wind. 

I mean, seriously, this is — a deal is a deal.  The President made a deal with the Speaker and — a bipartisan deal that was voted by two thirds of House — House Republicans back in — back in June — May/June.  And this is something that they — they know how to fix.  The House Republicans — the extreme House Republicans know how to fix this — right? — which is doing their job — their basic job, which is getting this done. 

And so, I think the President was asked this question, if he’s spoken to Speaker McCarthy recently, and he answered that question.  It is — he — I believe he said, “No.”

Q    Is it still “no”? 

Q    Still “no,” yeah?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have anything to read out.  It’s — you know, what the Pres- — I mean, that was less than 24 hours ago.  But as you — as you know, a lot of things happen in — in 24 hours.  I just don’t have any — any readouts to share with you at this time. 

Look, I mean, when it comes to a potential shutdown, which does not have to happen, it would be a Republican shutdown.  This is something that they can avoid.  We made a deal very early on in the summer. 

And, you know, it was, again, a bipartisan deal.  This is something that — that Americans want us to do — right? — to work in a bipartisan deal.  The President was able to deliver on that. 

They have to fix it.  It is up to them to fix whatever chaos is going on right now with these extreme Republicans in the House.  It is up for them to fix.

Q    Does the President think he can do anything to help avert a shutdown? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It is up to Republicans to avert this shutdown.  It really is. 

I just want to — I really want to just lay out a couple of — a couple of quotes, right? 

Speaker McCarthy: Some individuals “just want to burn the whole place down.” 

Representative Frank Lucas: There are “folks who want to use this — this as an opportunity to blow up the place.”

Representative Garret Graves: “The arsonists [here] lit their house on fire.” 

Representative Matt Gaetz.  And I actually said this quote on Friday, and I’ll say it again.  “We will have a government shutdown, and… we cannot blame Joe Biden.”  “We cannot blame House Republicans [Democrats].”  End quote. 

Representative Jerry Carl: “I truly think that they want it shut to — they want it shut down.” 

And then the last two are actually Republicans — extreme Republicans in the House who have said — this is Representative George — Representative George San- — Santos and Anna Paulina Luna who have tweeted, “Shut it down.”  Another representative, Ralph Norman, said, “Let’s shut it down.” 

So, it is — you know, it is — it is these extreme House Republicans and some other Republicans who are calling out these extreme House Republicans who are saying that they want to shut it down. 

And they’re doing this — let’s not forget — because there is a — they are providing a long laundry list of extreme provisions or extreme — extreme asks that’s actually going to hurt the American people. 

That’s what they are saying.  This is what they’re holding, saying that this has to be rammed through in order to — in order to keep the government open. 

We have a deal.  We have a deal. 

Q    Karine —

Q    Today is all about solidarity with workers.  Would the President support a renewed push to get the PRO Act passed?  And has he communicated that at all with Senate leadership?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything — I don’t have any policy pieces or anything like that to announce.  What the President is going to do is stand in solidarity with — with UAW — clearly, autoworkers today, as they are going through their process — it is their process — as they’re going through this negotiation. 

The President believes record profits should lead to a record contract.  He’s been very clear about that. 

And he believes that, you know, this is — when it comes to automakers, when it comes to the UAW, they are — you know, this is the future.  Right?  This is the future of cars.  Cars need to be made in America.  This is what — something that the President has been working on with his policies the last two years. 

And so, I just don’t have any policy announcement or agreement that the President is going to make today.  He’s going to stand in solidarity with the workers.

Q    Has the White House made a determination as to which of its staff are essential versus nonessential?  I know the OMB had conversations with Cabinet agencies, but I’m wondering if the White House has had those internal discussions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  We’re moving through — we’re having those internal discussions.  I don’t have anything to — you know, to lay out as to what that’s going to look like. 

As I mentioned on Friday, OMB was starting to have those conversations with agencies.  Certainly, we’re having these internal conversations as well.  So, those are happening. 

Don’t have anything to share at this time. 

But, look, this doesn’t have to happen.  The shutdown does not have to happen.  This Republican shutdown can be avoided if extreme House Republicans would just do their job and do the work that Americans expect them to do, which is keep the government open, which would fund — right? — really important, critical programs that the American people need. 

You heard directly from Secretary Vilsack yesterday when he laid out, for example, the WIC program, which would hurt 7 million Americans across the country.  Right?  We’re talking about women and children.  We’re talking about nutrition. 

And so, it is — it is unfortunate if this happens.  But this is the chaos — this is the chaos that we’re seeing from House Republicans.

Q    Does the President support the UAW using this visit as a — as a way to encourage others who are not necessarily UAW members to also stop working?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I can’t — I really can’t speak to — to the actions of what UAW is going to do. 

All I can say is, this is why the President is coming: to stand in solidarity with workers.  This is what this visit is about. 

I don’t know any — anything really specific about the question that you’re asking.  I get — I get the question that you’re asking.

Q    They’re encouraging others to join in solidarity, and they’re citing the President’s visit.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the President is joining the workers in solidarity, right?  That’s what he’s doing. 

He’s — he is, you know, clearly doing this and showing example — what it looks like to stand with women — the women and the men of UA- — of UAW who are asking for what he believes is a fair share —

Q    And look —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — a fair share of —

Q    Which politicians —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — of a profit.

Q    — will join him on the picket line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, there will be — when he lands, there will be some politicians from Michigan that will certainly be greeting him.  And so, we’ll have a list —

Q    The lieutenant governor?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I believe so, but we’ll have a list to share with you as we do — as we do every time we — we land in a — in a state.  I just don’t have — I just don’t have the names in front of me right now. 

But, again, this is not about anybody else but the union workers, the autoworkers today.  That is what it’s about.

Q    Michigan is an important political swing state.  If this strike goes on for a while, it could hurt the economy in Michigan, and that could come back and hurt the President’s chances of reelection.  Does the White House have any plans for how to bolster the economy if this strike goes on for a long time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know, I’m going to be really careful — 2024 Hatch Act.  So, I’m not going to speak to any political outcomes or how this plays into next year’s election. 

What I can say is the — is this: You know, obviously, we always look at any potential impacts — right? — these types of situations may lead to, especially this — this particular strike.  Don’t have anything specific to share at this time. 

But look, you know, the negotiations are happening.  They are talking, which is really important. 

And we’re going to leave it to the — we leave it to the UAW and the Big Three to continue to have that conversation.  We are — certainly, we’re not part of that.  We’re not part of the negotiations. 

But certainly, we are here to help in any way.  I just don’t have anything else to share beyond that.

Q    One more on government funding, if I may.  If — if the — is the White House preparing for the possibility that in the Senate fallback CR that the administration is talking to Senate leadership about — is the administration prepared for the possibility that there will be no or very little Ukraine supplemental money in that CR?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re very — and we’ve said this many times: We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to get in a bipartisan way as it relates to the funding for Ukraine.  It is important that continues.

And so, you know, we believe a bipartisan majority in Congress is — are committed to supporting Ukraine. 

And as you mentioned, the Senate — you’ve heard that from Leader Schumer, you’ve heard that from McConnell multiple times in just the past couple of weeks — how they are both — they are both supporting making sure that we continue that funding. 

So, we’re going to continue to work with members of both parties in the Senate.  You heard from Jake — say that.  He was at — Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, was in the — was at — was at the podium recently saying how he’s had conversation with both — both sides, talking about the importance of securing that supplemental funding as part of the continuing resolution. 

And so, you know, that — that — that funding, let’s not forget, will — will ensure the support for the Ukrainian people as they are bravely fighting for — for their freedom, fighting for democracy, which is important. 

That’s why the President has shown this leadership for almost — you know, almo- — clearly more than a year, a year and a half with — with our allies and parters — partners, with NATO so that we can shore up that support. 

So, that support is not just from us.  It’s from our allies and our partners as well. 

Look, we’re — we’re committed to continuing these conversations.  We are grateful for the bipartisan support that we’ve seen. 

And so, those conversations are going to continue.

Q    Karine, if the government shuts down, will the President remain in town until it’s resolved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can say — look, the President could be a president anywhere — right? — anywhere he is.

I can say that the President is going to be here this weekend in Washington, D.C. — yeah, “here,” meaning — we’re on a plane.  Be in —

Q    He will be in the air?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — Washington — he’ll be in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

Look, again, the shutdown — this Republican shutdown does not have to happen.  It does not have to happen, and it’s going to hurt the American people.

I just don’t have anything else on his travel, but I can say that he’ll be here this weekend.

Q    Will anybody else be joining — any — anybody else from the administration be joining the picket line?  The Labor Secretary —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, yeah —

Q    — anyone else?  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, there is a — the President, you know, normally travels with a — you know, with the senior staff.  There is senior staff here on the plane. 

You know, this is something — this is historic, because this is a sitting president who’s going to be joining an active picket line.  And he — it’s going to be about his support for the auto — autoworkers, for the — for the union members.

I don’t have anything else beside that.

Q    Any estimates on when the President’s executive order on artificial intelligence will be coming out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything new to share on that.  As you know, that’s something that the President certainly is committed to.  I just don’t have anything to share on that.

Q    Would you invite him to come back and chat with us on the way back on — or on the way to California?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I will — I will — I will do my best. 

Q    He’s welcome anytime.  (Laughter.)  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.  I know.

Okay, guys, thank you so much. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Enjoy this historic stop.

12:01 P.M. EDT

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre en Route Wayne County, Michigan appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Mon, 09/25/2023 - 18:29

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:31 P.M. EDT
Q    Hey, hey.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, hey. 
Q    Hi.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi, everybody.  Look at all the cameras.  Oh, my goodness.  I’m camera shy. 
Okay.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Happy Monday. 
This week, as House Republicans’ chaos continues to march us toward an extreme Republican shutdown, we are calling out how a shutdown would damage our communities, economy, and national security. 
And we’re going to hold extreme House Republicans accountable.  We’re going to hold them accountable for the reckless cuts they are demanding as a condition — as a condition for keeping the government open. 
With that, I’m looking forward to having the Secretary back here again to give you a laydown of the impacts and to talk about what the extreme Republicans — what — what they’re about to do is going to really impact families and Americans across the country. 
If you think about it, the risk of vital nutrition assistance for nearly 7 million mothers and young children who count on WIC, prevent farmers from being able to access new loans, and delay housing loans for rural families.  And that is what they’re — we’re looking at if this shutdown — this Republican shutdown occurs. 
With that, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY VILSACK:  Great.  Thank you. 
Well, good afternoon, everybody.  It’s certainly a pleasure to be here today.  I think most of you probably understand and appreciate that the work of the Department of Agriculture (inaudible) a number of mission areas.  We are not only responsible for supporting farmers, we also ensure a stable food supply, and we also provide nutrition assistance — vital nutrition assistance to millions of Americans. 
That’s why it’s so difficult to face where we are today with an extreme House Republican effort to recklessly steer our government towards a preventable shutdown that would put many of the critical services that we care about deeply at USDA at risk. 
I know about this firsthand because I was Secretary of Agriculture during 2013 when we had a shutdown, and I remember then the needless challenges and disruption that it caused. 
So, today, I thought it would be important to highlight some of the impacts of this extreme Republican shutdown, what impact it would have on rural Americans, farmers, families in need. 
Let me start with WIC.  WIC is a program that impacts and affects over 50 percent of all the newborns in this country.  Nearly 7 million pregnant moms, new mothers, and young children count on WIC every single day to receive support — nutrition assistance support. 
With a shutdown, what we would see across the United States is a denial of those benefits and opportunities.  In some cases, it would be literally within a matter of days after the shutdown.  In some cases, it may be — in some states, it may be literally in a matter of weeks.  
But clearly, during the course of a shutdown, millions of those moms, babes, and young children would see a lack of nutrition assistance. 
And it’s not just the WIC program, as important and significant as that is.  It’s also about our farm economy. 
Now is the time when farmers are harvesting their crops and they’re seeking marketing loans, which allow them and assist them in ensuring that they get a decent price for their crop.  When we have a shutdown, farm service agency offices in virtually every county of this country shut down and those loans are not available. 
It’s not just about farm loans.  It’s about newlyweds who have decided to purchase their first home in a rural small town.  Perhaps they’re getting a loan guarantee from a bank that is guaranteed by USDA or perhaps they’re getting a direct loan from USDA to be able to purchase that home.  With a shutdown, those loans don’t take place.  And it’s conceivable in those circumstances not only do they not — are they not able to close the loan, it’s also conceivable that they may lose the deal. 
So, this is a matter of real consequences when we are faced with a shutdown. 
It’s not just about rural America.  It’s also about our natural resources. 
As you probably know, the USDA is responsible for maintaining 195 million acres of national forests and grasslands.  These are often places where people go to recreate.  And when they do, they provide tourism dollars to communities in which they are going and spending time. 
When we have a shutdown, those national forests shut down, and they are closed.  And so, those family trips don’t take place, and those tourism dollars are not spent, and the jobs they support are at risk. 
It’s not just the services that go to the American public.  It’s also those who work for USDA.
We anticipate and expect that more than 50,000 of those who work for USDA will be furloughed.  And when they’re furloughed, it means that they don’t receive a paycheck.  Because they don’t receive that paycheck, their local economies get impacted and affected. 
And I could go on for some time.  But the reality is that when there is a shutdown, we’re looking at a significant disruption of the lives of millions of Americans. 
Republicans have called for a CR.  And I’ll just say two things about that.  It just is basically carrying forward the extreme cuts that we’ve seen and saw in the budget that was proposed in the House Ag appropriations committee. 
At the time, I said the budget was pathetic, it was punitive, and it was petty.  And I would say that that also continues to be the case. 
Not only do we have the WIC initiative that wouldn’t be funded, but we’re also looking at the failure to fund the firefighter fix, which puts at risk the firefighting staff necessary to combat the nearly 44,000 fires that we’ve already experienced in the Western U.S. today. 
So, I’m here today to suggest that there are real consequences to real people in a real way when there is a shutdown, especially one that ought not to happen.  And — and I’m hopeful that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t happen. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Secretary. 
Go ahead.
Q    Once there is a shutdown, how long can you keep nutrition assistance going?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  To make sure I answer your question, the SNAP program — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — will continue —
Q    Okay.
SECRETARY VILSACK:  — at least for the month of October.  Now, if the shutdown were to extend longer than that, there would be some serious consequences to SNAP.
The WIC program that I talked about today, which is for nearly 7 million moms and children — that program expires, if you will, or it stops immediately when the shutdown occurs. 
We have a contingency fund at USDA that might continue it for a day or two.  Some states may have leftover WIC benefits that have not been spent, which could extend it for a week or so in that state.  But the vast majority of WIC participants would see an immediate reduction and elimination of those benefits, which means the nutrition assistance that’s provided would not be available. 
Q    Thank you, sir.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, MJ.
Q    Is there any scenario where if there is no deal and there is a government shutdown that the administration could explore the possibility of exercising any authority to extend the funding of the WIC program past the one or two days that you just mentioned?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  There is no authority.  It’s — it is — unlike the SNAP program, it doesn’t — we don’t have that capability, at least for a period of time, with SNAP for — for a month or so. 
So, if we have a shutdown, WIC shuts down.  And that means the nutrition assistance to those moms and young children shuts down. 
Q    Thank you.  You mentioned a government shutdown could harm farmers and prevent them from accessing new loans.  Help us put this into perspective for Americans.  At the end of the day, what should Americans expect?  Could this even lead to higher food prices, for instance?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  What it leads to is a tremendous amount of stress for those farm families.  Just to give you a sense of this, many farm families require off-farm income to be able to keep the farm.  And oftentimes, they need that loan — that marketing assistance loan — to be able to make sure that they maintain the farm. 
So, it puts at risk the small- and mid-sized farming operation in terms of their ability to get credit when they need credit, their ability to pay their bills when they need to pay their bills, the ability to make sure that they can harvest their crop. 
If they can’t harvest the crop or they don’t get the marketing assistance loan, then it’s — they’re in a situation where they — they don’t profit.  And if they don’t profit, they risk losing the farm. 
So, it creates a tremendous amount of stress.  For what reason?  There’s no reason for this shutdown.  At the end of the day, we had a deal — a deal that the Senate passed with a majority of senators, a deal that passed the House with a majority of not just Democrats but also Republicans voting for it.  A deal is a deal. 
And, you know, to me, there’s no reason for us to be even having this conversation. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Weijia.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Over the weekend, the President mentioned that food safety was also at stake.  So, can you give us some examples of how, during previous shutdowns, the absence of food and environmental inspections impacted public health?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  Well, I think you would want to visit with the folks at FDA.  You need to understand that our food safety responsibilities are divided.  The USDA has responsibility for meat, poultry, and processed eggs.  FDA has responsibility for everything else. 
I can tell you that in terms of meat, poultry, and processed eggs, we will continue to have food inspection.  But that may not necessarily be the case with the FDA.  So, I think you want to talk — talk to the FDA.
To show you how silly this is: If you order a pepperoni pizza, we’re guaranteeing the safety of it because there’s meat on that pizza.  If you order a cheese pizza, you’re looking at FDA.  (Laughter.)
Q    So, are not all food inspectors considered essential workers?  Just ones affiliated with meat and —
SECRETARY VILSACK:  Well, I can’t speak — I can’t speak to what HHS does or what FDA does.  That’s why I think you should visit with them.  But our inspectors will be on- — onsite. 
But here’s — here’s where there is a potential problem.  And that is if there is a situation and circumstance that requires lab analysis — well, now, that’s a different story. 
So, you know, that may impact and affect our ability to detect animal diseases as quickly as we need to, which, in turn, could affect the supply of food. 
So, it’s complicated, but our food inspectors will be on the job. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.)
Q    On the potential 50,000 furloughed workers, do you know where those workers — what programs those would be impacted on?  Do you know who we’re looking at right now?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  It’s across the board.  It’s every county in the country.  We have a presence in every county in the country.  So, it’s going to impact and affect literally every county in the country. 
It’s FSA offices.  It’s rural development offices.  It’s NRCS conservation employees.  It’s some of the Forest Service employees.  It’s a lot of the researchers and people who work for the Agricultural Research Service — ARS. 
It’s — its administrative staff.  You can have people working on the job, but if you don’t have the administrative people behind it, the job doesn’t get done. 
It’s incredibly disruptive.  Incredibly disruptive.
Q    And then, on another deadline in Washington, how confident are you that a new farm bill will be passed by the end of the year?  Or is an extension more likely?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  Well, I know that — I think that the chair and ranking members of both committees are working hard to get this done. 
I would say this: In order for it to get done, it’s important for them to understand the importance of using all the tools that would be available for all of the challenges that they face — not just the farm bill, but the budget.  When you undercut and underfund the budget as some are proposing, cutting it by as much as, in some cases, 20, 30 percent, you under- — undermine the ability of any farm bill, regardless of whether it’s passed or not, to be implemented. 
And so, our — our challenge at USDA is to provide technical assistance and help to get them to — to “yes.”  And that’s what we’re doing.  We’ll continue to work. 
And our hope and belief is that the farm community in rural areas need certainty and — and consistency.  And we’ll do everything we can to make sure that this thing gets passed as quickly as it can.  But it’s pretty tough to do if there is a shutdown. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Niels.
SECRETARY VILSACK:  You can’t do it. 
Q    Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  A follow-up on that is: To what extent would a shutdown affect the ability of your leg affairs folks and — and maybe negotiations with the Hill on the farm bill?  Could the farm bill reauthorization be delayed because everyone is — is dealing with the consequences of a shutdown?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  So, here is how it works.  Some senator or representative has a great idea about how they might be able to solve one of the problems they’re trying to solve with farm bir- — bill.  They call our office for technical assistance.  The phone is not going to get answered because no one is there.  Why aren’t they there?  Because we’re in a shutdown. 
That’s why it’s so ridiculous for us to even talk about this.  We — we need to get — the Speaker needs to do his job.  He fought for it.  He — you know, he — he negotiated for it.  He needs to do the job and get the job done. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Go ahead, Phil.
Q    Thank you.  Switching gears to a slightly different topic.  Has the Department of Agriculture seen anything in the purchase of farmland by Chinese corporations or Chinese nationals that would suggest a threat to national security or food security?  Or are those concerns that we’ve increasingly been hearing about — are those overblown?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  Well, I think there is concern, as there was in the North Dakota circumstance, where the Chinese interest was purchasing a land near a military installation.  I think there is legitimate concerns in that space.  And I think that’s one of the reasons why, you know, we’ve articulated the need, as a department, to be more engaged in the CFIUS process. 
I would also say that I think there is work to be done to give us the tools to be able to do an even better job of ensuring that we know when these transactions take place. 
It’s complicated.  But every county has their county recorder.  And on any given day, somebody may walk into that recorder’s office and file a deed, and there is no way of knowing precisely whether or not that is a Chinese purchaser. 
So, we would — you know, we need to work on how we might be able to collect the information and be able to analyze that information in a timely way so that we would determine whether or not a threat exists or not. 
Q    So, it sounds like you’re not confident in the current system as it’s set up to necessarily monitor?
SECRETARY VILSACK:  Well, it’s not that I’m not confident.  It’s that I think — I think we could be — we could do- — I think we’re confident in the job we’re doing today, because we are ba- — able to identify circumstances, as was the case in North Dakota. 
I think that — if any — of pe- — if folks are looking for a foolproof system so that nothing gets through the cracks, then I think there are ways in which we can be helpful, and — and we can improve that process.  Being part of CFIUS, I think, is part of it.  Being — being able to collect information in a way that allows us to go a little bit deeper and a little quicker would be helpful as well. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to wr- — we’re going to wrap it up.  Go ahead.
Q    Yeah.  How — so how would the shutdown affect programs that are used by farmers like crop insurance?  And, you know, as part of the country is under really extreme drought — drought conditions, do you see a need for kind of supplemental funding to come in and help folks, you know, plant their crops?
SECRETARY VILSACK: Well, I think there are certain circumstances where, notwithstanding the fact that we have a pretty good safety net, that there are some types of crops that would need a little bit of additional help.  Florida and Georgia, in particular, I think of two states that — where there are significant needs and challenges. 
Fortunately, the — the shutdown does not impact and affect crop insurance.  But a failure to — to extend the farm bill or get a farm bill done could, which is why we don’t want to shut down so they can work on the farm bill to get it done and we don’t have the disruption to the WIC program. 
The for — firefighters, the for — the farm loans, the home loans — I could go on.  I could spend all of — and she would probably want me to do this — (laughter) — to spend all of your time talking about it. 
But the point of this is — it’s very simple — there are real impacts.  There are real impacts to real people on a daily basis when — when Congress and the House and House Republicans don’t do their job. 
And Americans expect — and this is what drives people crazy outside of Washington: when a deal is not a deal and when the work that you’re supposed to do doesn’t get done and doesn’t get done on time. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, sir. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Appreciate it.  Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary. 
Okay.  Just two quick things.  I also wanted to say a note of welcome to our new employees starting at the White House today: our new deputy directors of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.  This is all on the heels, as you all know, of this historic announcement that the President and the Vice President made just on Friday.  So, we could not be more thrilled to have them on board here and — and look forward to introducing them to you all very soon as the Office of Gun Violence Prevention gets up and running. 
And one last thing before we opening — open it back up for questions.  As you all know, today as Jewish communities — Jewish communities in the United States, Israel, and around the world are observing a sacred holiday.  So, let me say that the President, the First Lady, and all of us at the White House are extending our best wishes for an easy fast and a meaning- — meaningful Yom Kippur. 
And with that, Will, you want to kick us off?
Q    Sure.  Thank you.  I have two things.  Why did the White House choose to have the President take his — his latest COVID booster out of public view?  Isn’t this a time when, you know, given the promotion of boosters and how important they are that the public might want to see the President have one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, I think you all saw the pr- — the physician’s memo — his report on Saturday.  So, certainly, if you haven’t, you should take a look at it. 
So, the President got his vaccination.  As you know, he has an incredibly busy schedule.  He’s got — he got his vaccination as — the earliest moment that he could.  And that’s what we were able to do — work — that would work in his schedule.  So that’s what happened last week. 
And certainly, we are — as you just laid out in your question, we are certainly engaged in a robust campaign.  And it is incredibly important to us that we encourage the public to get vaccinated.  That has been the way that we have moved forward when we have moved forward with the — you know, this comprehensive kind of vaccination program that the President put forward from the beginning. 
And so, you know, we — it doesn’t require a photo op of the President to — to be — to be doing that — with a presidential photo op, to be more clear.  So we thought that we needed to get that done, get that on his schedule.  We did.  And we’re going to — doesn’t stop us for having a robust engagement with the public to make sure that we get it across — the importance of folks getting their vaccines — not just the updated COVID vaccine, but also RSV, and — and also the flu shot. 
Q    And the second — second one. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’m sorry. 
Q    Changing topics.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Go ahead.
Q    Is the White House working on — with the Senate on — on a clean CR?  And is there any reason for optimism on that front?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — look, I’m going to be very clear, as I was on Friday.  As Se- — Secretary Vilsack was very clear just — even before he walked out of the briefing room, which is: Look, this is something for House Republic- — House Republicans to get done.  This is a deal that the President made with — with Republicans back in May.  And a deal is a deal, as we’ve been saying.  This is something for them to fix. 
And so, they have to — they have to get this done — not because of us, not because — even because of the deal with the President, but because of the American people.  We just heard the Secretary of — Secretary of Agriculture lay out what will happen to women and children — 7 million women and children who are part of the WIC program across the country — 7 million — if this shutdown happens.
And this is indeed a Republican shutdown.  So, they got to get to it.  They got to fix it.  And they got to stick to the deal that the President made with them early — earlier in the — in the summer. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  MJ, welcome — welcome back. 
Q    Thank you.  It’s good to be back.  I know that you got a number of questions about Senator Menendez on Friday.  But now that the senator himself has said that he is not going anywhere and given that President Biden is the leader of the Democratic Party, does the President believe that a person who is facing allegations that are as serious as the allegations confronting the senator that there is any place for somebody like Senator Menendez in the Democratic Party?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be very clear: This is a serious matter.  We see this as a serious matter.  I think — and we believe the senator stepping down from his chairmanship was the right thing to do — obviously, the right thing to do.
As it relates to anything else, any decision that he has to make, that’s certainly going to be up to him and the Senate leadership to decide. 
But, of course, we see this as a serious matter.  And I’m just going to leave it there for now. 
Q    And just — just quickly on the trip to Detroit tomorrow, what changed?  Can you give us a sense of what went into the decision for the President to go stand on the picket line and show that kind of solidarity with the workers there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you just laid out, you know, this is something — well, the President is a union guy.  Right?  You heard him say that many times.  He is — he is the most pro-union president in modern times.  That is not something that he’s given him that — himself that title.  That is something that labor unions have given to him, and he wears that very proudly. 
And, as you all know, the president of the U- — UAW invited him to — to attend, and he — he accepted. 
But, look, this is a president that’s made very, very clear that he believes that corporate profits should lead to record UAW — a record UAW contract. 
And, you know, before the strike even occurred, he — he made public announcements about this.  He spoke to the parties on both sides of this.  He has made it very, very clear that he supports union workers; he supports the UAW workers.  And tomorrow, what you’re going to see is — is historic.  Right?  This is going to be a historic visit. 
And the President is going to continue to show his support, not just from the last couple of years, but as he has been in the public eye — as a senator, as a vice president — his support for — for unions.  And — and you’ve seen this in the last two years, with his pro-union policies — making sure that his pro-union policies are indeed pro-workers. 
Q    So, should we take from the visit that the President is explicitly taking the side of the union workers as opposed to the companies?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, he has been very clear.  Right?  He is pro- — pro-UAW; he is pro-workers.  You know, that is — that is the — that is the — this president.  Right?  He has said the middle class was built — the unions built the middle class.  This is something that he said over and over again. 
He’s always been on the side of workers.  He believes that there is an opportunity here, and he is encouraged and he is pleased by seeing both sides continue to have that conversation.  It is their negotiation to make.  Right?  This is why he says he believes in collective bargaining.  And he believes that this –there could be a win-win agreement here.
But he’s always going to stand on the side of workers.  Always.
All right, go —
Q    So, just to follow up —
Q    Oh —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  I’ll come to you after, Joey.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q    Oh, all right. 
Q    Did Trump’s decision to visit the UAW workers play into your decision to go?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely not.  This is a decision — to visit the picket line was based off his own desire.  This is what the President wanted to do to stand — to stand with autoworkers.  That’s what you’re going to see the President do tomorrow. 
And — and he — as you — as you all know, Shawn Fain’s invitation from last week, he accepted that invitation and was proud — is proud to do so. 
Q    And secondly, does the President endorse the pecif- — specific terms of the latest proposal by UAW leadership?  Or is there room for further compromise?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to get into negotiations from here.  This is for the parties to negotiate.  We’re not going to go — we’re not going to speak to what’s being put at the table.
What we have said over and over again is that we believe there’s an opportunity here for a win-win agreement.  We believe with corporate record — corporations having record — you know, making record, you know, deals, there should be a — UAW should have a record contract.  And that’s what the autoworkers deserve.  That’s what workers deserve more broadly.
Go ahead, Joey.
Q    Yeah, did President Biden reach out to the auto companies bef- — to notify them that he would be going to join the picket line with UAW?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any readouts of any calls to — that was been made regarded to this as it’s related to the companies.
As you know, we have made — we have said many times before the he has — he has spoken to the companies.  He’s spoken to all parties. 
As you know, you have — we have — we have two — two members of — Gene Sperling, a member here of the White House — a White House senior advisor and also, as you know, the Acting Secretary, Julie Su, have been in touch — in regular touch with all parties as they are negotiating this process. 
But we are — you know, I don’t have anything to read out, except that the President was — was pleased to accept the invite that was given to him, that was provided to him by — by the president of UAW and he is always going to stand by the side of workers.
Q    And can you provide some more information on the details of the format of the event?  Is he going to be speaking? Is he going to be — what exactly will he be doing?  And where in Wayne County, Michigan, is he going to actually be going?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we don’t have any details — specific details at this time.  Look, this is going to be a historic — a historic trip that’s going to underscore the President is the most — indeed — most pro-union president in history.  And so, that’s what you’re going to see.  He’s going to be standing — going to join the picket line, standing in solidarity with the men and women of UAW.  That is important for the President, he believes, to do. 
And as they continue to fight for a fair — a fair share of the value of — value of — they helped create, if you think about what the — what the record — record — these corporations, kind of, the — the record profits that they’ve been able to make, you know, they believe and we believe that they are owed a fair share of that. 
Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just to clarify: Since President Biden will be making this trip, does this mean he supports the 40 percent pay increase, the 32-hour work week that workers are asking for?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into the details of what’s being negotiated right now — that on the table with — with — certainly, with the parties.
What we’re saying is that we support the autoworkers.  That’s what you’re going to see with the President tomor- — tomorrow.  This is a — a historic event, a historic trip.  And this continues — continues to show how, indeed, this President is the most pro-union president in history and he stands by the side of workers.  This is what you’re going to see tomorrow. 
Q    And, separately, the White House has made it very clear that it’s on Republicans to avoid the government shutdown, not on the White House.  But our latest polling shows that a higher percentage of Americans would actually blame the shutdown on the President and the Democrats, not on Republicans.  Why do you think that is?  And should the President be out there speaking more on this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to be very clear.  This is — this is — this will be a Republican shutdown.  Right?  This is extreme House Republicans who have made it very clear that the chaos that we’re seeing in the — in the House, they are marching us towards a government shutdown that shouldn’t be happening.  This shouldn’t be happening. 
This is the job of Congress.  One of the basic jobs of Congress is to keep the government open. 
A deal was made.  I mean, I can’t speak to your polling, but what I can speak is to the facts.  The facts is: A deal is a deal.  It is up to them to keep the government open.  This is something they can do.  They know how to fix this.  And it is an extreme — extreme part of the Republican Party that is holding this — holding this because they want to ram through extreme policies.  That’s going to hurt the American people. 
So, we’re going to continue to be very clear about this.  We’ve talked today about the food safety.  You’ve heard me talk about education, housing, law enforcement, Meals on Wheels, Head Start.  So much more will be affected by — by — will be affected by this if the shutdown — this this Republican shutdown happens. 
So, we’re going to continue to be very clear about it.  And it is — you know, it is something that they can fix, they can fix this. 
Q    But does it show that the President needs to be messaging more to the public about this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the President was very clear early this summer when he put this deal together — a bipartisan deal — that two thirds of Republicans voted on.  And that’s what the American people want to see.  We saw that in the midterms.  Right?  That’s what they want.  They want to see us continue to work in a bipartisan way.  That’s what the President did. 
Now, we’re going to continue to be very clear: This is a deal that they all agreed upon not too long ago — just a couple of months ago — and now they can’t stick to the deal. 
So, you know, if we’re going to be asked the question, we’re going to answer it straightforward.  We’re going to lay out the facts.  But this is for something for Congress to fix. 
Go ahead.
Q    Hi, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re up front today.
Q    Yeah, I am.
Q    First time in the first seat. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  (Laughs.)
Q    Good to see you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good to see you.
Q    I want to press you a little bit on what you just said.  You said that the President supports the autoworkers.  Does that mean that the President is siding with the autoworkers over the auto companies?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we’re saying is we’re not going to get into negotiation, right?  This is — when it comes to the negotiation, that is something for the parties to decide on.  That is something for them to discuss. 
But me saying that the President supports the autoworkers — that’s not anything new.  When we’re talking about a president who is pro- — the most pro-union president in history, it is nothing new for the President to stand by the workers.  That is nothing new for the President to say, “I’m going to stand by the men and women of UAW, make sure that they get their fair share, make sure that they get a win-win agreement here.”
We believe this agreement can be a win-win agreement for all.  So — but we’re not going to get into the — we’re not going to litigate the specifics of the negotiations. 
Q    Following up on that, though, a strike could have potentially huge impacts for the economy.  According to NBC News polling, 37 percent of registered voters — just 37 percent approve of the President’s handling of the economy.  He’s ata 56 percent disapproval — the highest of his presidency. 
And 74 percent of registered voters say they have major or moderate concerns about the President’s age and mental fitness.  How troubling is that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s what we’re going to focus on: We’re going to focus on exactly what you just asked me — right? — with the first question, which is: How do we — how do we continue to support the workers?  Right?  We’re not going to get into the litigation of — of the negotiations here.  But what we’re going to do is continue to show how much this President is working for American families. 
You just heard from Secretary here, who laid out what it means if there’s a shutdown and why it is so important for Republicans to keep to their deal.  That’s what we’re going to focus on. 
You see the Bidenomics.  I get it.  I get that Americans right now — they’ve been through a lot, right?  They’ve been through the pandemic — this global pandemic that we’re coming out of.  They have been through what we’ve seen because of Rus- — Russia’s war in Ukraine.  And we saw inflation spike.  We saw — we saw what’s going on with what Americans are feeling every day. 
This is why — this is why this President has been so zeroed in, so laser-focused on lowering costs for Americans.  And we’ve done that.
And a lot of the — a lot of the policies that the President has put forward are indeed popular.  I mean, Bidenomics is — has worked so well that you have Republicans in their own districts, in their own states taking credit for things that the President pushed forward, policies that the President has pushed forward, legislation that they didn’t even vote for, if you think about the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act.
So, I get — I get the — I get the polling that you’re laying out.  I get that.  But we — we can’t — we can’t be focused on that.  We also have to be focused on really speaking directly to the American people. 
The next three days, you’re going to see the President go to three states to do just that. 
Q    But 37 percent approve?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear you.  I hear you.  But it is — look, our focus is going to be on — on what we can do to continue to deliver for the American people. 
Polls are polls — right? — they are going to be all over the place.  They are going to — they’re going to — you know, they don’t tell the whole story, actually.  And that is just the way a poll is.
What we’re going to focus on is how we can continue to do the job that the President promised that he would do — is make Americans’ lives a little bit better, give them that breathing room. 
I’m going to go around.  I — I know I always forget to call on this side, so I’m going to call on you.  Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  You just said the President doesn’t want to get into the specifics of the negotiations.  But is he perhaps interfering in these negotiations by, you know, visiting the picket line tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re not going to get into — we never get into — you know, into the specifics of negotiations — not in public.  We’re not going to do that.  That is something — and that is something for the parties to decide on.  When it comes to negotiations, we’ve always been very clear about that. 
They are meeting.  They are negotiating.  And we — we are pleased to see that.
When it comes to the President going to the picket line, he’s doing it because he wants to stand in sol- — in solidarity with the workers, which is something that this President continues to do and has done for the past several years is stay — stay on the side of workers. 
And you see that.  You see that with his policies, and you’ll see that tomorrow.
Q    And one quick one on COVID.  There are a lot of people who are struggling to get appointments.  There is confusion about — with insurance companies.  Is there some sort of concern at the White House right now that this shift in responsibility to the commercial market from the federal government has not gone as — as smoothly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we — so we’re certainly aware of consumers having experienced unexpected — at least with insurance — coverage, denials at the point of service.  We’re aware of that.
HHS, as you know, is working with insurance plans and pharmacies to resolve this quickly. 
Look, it’s a top priority for this administration to ensure that everyone can access this updated vaccine.  And so, HHS is working through that.  And so, any k- — any specific additional questions about that, certainly, I would per- — I would refer you to HHS. 
But we’re taking this very seriously.  And HHS is working through that — through that. 
Okay, Akayla.
Q    In the back, Karine.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Moody’s warned today that a government shutdown could have a negative impact on the country’s credit rating.  It’s the last major credit grader to assign the U.S. a top rating.  Is the President concerned that the political brinksmanship that we’ve seen this year is hurting the country’s reputation, specifically on the economy, on the world stage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m going to leave all of the economic analysis to others.  Right?  I’m not going to get into it from here. 
But we know that — and I’ve said this already a couple of times — that what we’re seeing from Republicans in the House, the — especially the extreme Republicans in the House, what they’re going to do, proten- — potentially leading us to a shutdown is going to hurt American people. 
And, you know, if you think about it, the 3.5 million jobs that have been created under this president, the under-4 percent unemployment rate, I would not understand — we do not understand why they would put our economy at risk.  That’s what you’re just laying out.  Why would Republicans in the House put our economy at risk when we have seen the improvements over the last two years?
So, I’m going to leave the — the ex- — leave it to the experts to speak about the economy and what that looks like. 
But, you know, this is a question for them.  This is something that does not have to happen.  It does not have to happen. 
Q    And a question on student loans.  I know that they’re restarting on October 1st, potentially the same day that a government shutdown could start.  Is there any consideration of pushing that date back, or is there any guidance that you have for borrowers about what they should expect if workers at the Department of Education won’t be available to assist them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  I do want to lay this out. 
So, look, when it comes to student loans, it’s obviously a top priority, especially as we talk about the President’s economic plan and giving people a little breathing room, especially on their monthly payments. 
So, you know, that’s why the President also launched, as you all know, the most affordable repayment plan ever, which is the SAVE Plan. 
So, you know, if — if this happens, if Republicans in — in Congress, you know, go down this road of shutting down the government, we anticipate that key activities at Federal Student Aid will continue for a couple of weeks.  But, however, if it is a prolonged shutdown lasting more than a few weeks, could substantially disrupt the return to repayment effort and long-term serving — servicing support for borrowers. 
So, the Department of Education will do its best to support borrowers as they co- — as they return to repayment, as we have been saying for the past several months.  But an extreme Republican shutdown, if this occurs, could be disruptive. 
And just to — maybe more — I think about more than 28 million federal — federal student loan borrowers restate [sic] payments.  That is what — restart payments. 
So, this is something that does not have to happen.  These are political games that we see from the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, and it does not have to happen.  It does not have to happen. 
And so, that’s how we foresee this — this moving forward. 
Go ahead.
Q    Thanks.  I — I wanted to further understand a little bit the President’s trip tomorrow. 
Q    It seems like by going to stand with workers at a picket line, the President is literally standing with them and the terms that they’re seeking in the contract dispute.  But when you’re asked about some of the specifics of that, you seem to be saying you guys don’t want to get into the specifics of the dispute. 
So, is he not standing with them on the terms with which they’re trying to negotiate with the — 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, to be very clear: He is standing with them to make sure that they get a fair share.  That is what he’s standing with them on.  He is standing with them — and we’ve said this — that — that they — that we — that they get the record — the record profits mean a record contract for UAW.  That is why he’s going.  That is what he’s standing for. 
Now, they’re going to negotiate what that looks like for them.  Right?  That’s what they’re doing right now.  That’s what collective bargaining is all about.  Right?  They’re going to talk it through what a win-win agreement looks like. 
But what we definitely agree on is that they deserve a fair share.  Right?  They deserve a fair share of — of the value that they helped create.  That’s what the President is saying. 
But the details — the specifics of what that looks like, what makes both sides happy or anything in those nego- — at the negotiation table, that is for them to decide.  That is for them to decide. 
Q    But it seems like he’s taking away the past — some past presidents have been an arbiter between two sides that are in conflict.  It seems like by going to the picket line, he — he’s not an arbiter between the two sides.  He’s choosing a side by standing —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But we have said —
Q    — with the union workers.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — we have said over and over again that this is a president that stands with union workers.  This is —
Q    Right.  That’s why it’s confusing where you’re saying —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  How — there is no —
Q    — like I — we’re not going to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s not — no, no, no.
Q    — talk about the terms of the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I disagree.  It is not confusing.  What he is saying — and we’ve been very clear — he stands with union workers.  He stands with the workers.  He has said and they have said he is the pro- — the most pro-union president in history.  And that is what he’s doing.  He is going to stand in solidarity at the picket line with the workers. 
Now, they are — they are at the table.  They are at the table trying to figure out what this agreement is going to look like.  Right?  They are going to decide the specifics of that agreement. 
What the President is saying is — and he always says this.  This is nothing new.  He always says he stands by union workers, and he is going to stand with the men and the women of UAW.  That continues to be the case. 
Go ahead, Katie,
Q    So — I’m sor- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my goodness.  You’re going to ask the same question?
Q    But I — I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to change my answer. 
Q    — too am seeking clar- — it’s fine.  I’m going to ask again. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, feel free. 
Q    Is he picketing or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And I’m going to give you the same answer.
Q    — is he visiting the picket line?  Is he standing with them?  Is he walking in the picket line?  What —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s going to join — he’s going to join the picket line.
Q    So, does the White House see any political risk in — in —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What the President —
Q    — doing this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What the President understands is that he is — wants to be on the side and is and has been on the side of workers.  That is something that he has said over and over and over again.
Q    So, when he asked earlier that — if he’s siding with the workers over the companies, he is indeed siding —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He is — he is —
Q    — with the workers?  Yes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — standing with the auto workers.  He is standing with the workers. 
Q    Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   We are not involved in negotiations.  That is something for them to decide: what is going to work for the parties that are involved.
Q    Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But he is standing with the auto workers.  That’s what the President is doing.  He got the invite from the UAW president.  He accepted.  And he’s going to go and do — and do what he has said that he does all the time — right? — which is stand with union — stand with union workers.  And what you’re going to see is going to be standing with UAW — men and women of the UAW.  And that is important to the President. 
MS. DALTON:  Fifteen minutes.
Q    Karine.
Q    Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, I just got to go around, guys.  I got to go around. 
Q    Karine, can I follow on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, go ahead. 
Q    You had said —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m trying to call on people I haven’t called on yet.
Q    You had said earlier that the President had spoken to the companies.  Presumably, you meant the automakers.  We know he had spoken to them before his trip to India earlier this month.  Has he had any more recent —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any —
Q    — conversations with them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any calls to read out. 
Q    Okay.  And — 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any calls to read out. 
Q    And have any of the auto companies asked to meet with him tomorrow when he’s in Michigan?  Would he consider that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have any — any more details on what the trip is going to look like tomorrow.
Go ahead, Danny.
Q    Yeah.  On the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, you see thousands of refugees are leaving the territory at the moment.  How concerned is — is the President about this?  And Armenia has said that this amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”  Is that a term that the President would agree with? 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we certainly are — are watching closely the reports.  This is something that I would have to refer you to my NSC colleagues to give you any update on. 
Certainly, it is concerning.  But this is something that they’re keeping an eye on closer — closer than we are here.  And so, they’ll — they’ll give you an update specifically. 
Go ahead.
Q    Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead. 
Q    (Inaudible.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, go ahead.
Q    My turn?
Q    Thank you, Karine.  I just wanted to ask you about the situation of the Southwest border.  As we know, some cities are claiming that they are at breaking point with regards to the humanitarian crisis that is ongoing down there.  I know that there was an agreement signed with Mexico over the weekend.  I wonder if the administration is in touch with the cities down on the border and if there’s any other actions that the White House is considering to address the issue that is taking place down at the border.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to have to point — point you to the readout from CBP.  As you just mentioned, they — they issued a readout of their conversation with the Mexican government over the weekend, so — so — regarding their engagement.  So, certainly would have you reach out to them, and they could lay out specifically how that — that engagement went.  And also refer you to the readouts more specifically as well.
Q    Karine.
Q    Can I have a follow-up on that, Karine?
MS. DALTON:  We’ve got to pre-set for —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.
Q    Thank you.  So, in a recent meeting with the prime minister of South Korea, Xi Jinping expressed his support for resuming annual trilateral summits with China, Japan, and South Korea.  I was just wondering if the administration has any comment on that development. 
And then, additionally, recently, the Japanese prime minister replaced both foreign and defense ministers.  Is there any concern that this could impact the U.S.-ROK-Japan partnership, especially given that it’s happening so soon after the trilateral summit —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I would —
Q    — at Camp David?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, to your first — to your first question, I certainly would refer you to Japan and ROK for specifics of their plan for the trilateral cooperation with the PRC, so that is something that I would refer you to. 
But we here — certainly, the United States respects the ability of nations to make sovereign decisions in the best interest of their people, just as the United States takes steps to responsibly manage our relationship with the PRC and with our — and also with our other partners and allies. 
What was your second question?  This is about the — Japan?
Q    Yes, recently, the Japanese prime minister replaced both his foreign defense ministers.  I was wondering if there was any concern about the — how that could impact the U.S.-ROK-Japan partnership.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first, I would refer you to the government of Japan on any personnel decisions that they’ve made. 
Look, you saw the relationship continue to deepen and grow just a couple of weeks ago now at Camp David, when there was a trilateral summit, which was historic and truly important.  And so, we’re going to continue to work closely with our Japanese counterparts to han- — enhance that relationship.  So, that certainly has not changed. 
MS. DALTON:  We have to go. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sorry, we have to go, guys. 
MS. DALTON:  Got to pre-set. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, I’ll take — go ahead.
Q    Thank you, Karine. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead. 
Q    Thanks. 
Has President Biden had any engagement with House Republicans about the shutdown?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any engagements to read out to you.  As I said last week, we have OMB Director Shalanda Young, who has been in regular touch with members in Congress.  We have had our Legislative Affairs Office, who has been in regular touch.  I don’t have anything to read out on any — any conversation that the President has had specifically on this. 
But as you know, and we say this often, is the President is in regular contact with congressional members on a — on an array of issues. 
But, again, when it comes to this — when it comes to this, this is something that they can fix.  I mean, when we talk about a Republican shutdown risking the vital nutrition assistance for nearly 7 million mothers and young children who count on WIC, prevent farmers from being able to access new loans, and delay housing loans for rural families.  I mean, that is something that the Secretary laid out very well and in detail.  And he’s been there bef- — been at — been in this place before back in 2013, where he had the same — the same role in the O- — Obama-Biden administration. 
This would be devastating for American families.  This does not have to happen.  A deal is a deal.  This is a deal that two thirds of Republicans voted on, and they should move forward.  They can fix this. 
Q    But as you mentioned, the President helped broker this deal, so why doesn’t he do something to help —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because he already brokered the deal.
Q    — put it into place? 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But he already brokered the deal.  He already brokered the deal. 
They voted on it.  He brokered the deal.  They took it back — McCarthy took it back to the House; they voted on it.  It went to the Senate; they voted on it.  Two thirds of Republicans voted on it.  It’s on — it’s — this is for them.  This is for them to fix.  It was already voted on. 
So, a deal is a deal.  They have to stick to it. 
And also, it is one of their number one jobs.  Number one jobs.  One of their top jobs — right? — is to keep the government open so that American families don’t have to suffer. 
All right, guys.  Thank you.
2:18 P.M. EDT

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Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview the U.S.-Pacific Islands Forum Summit

Mon, 09/25/2023 - 11:13

Via Teleconference

(September 22, 2023)

3:35 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Thank you. And thanks everyone for joining the call to preview the U.S.-Pacific Islands Forum Summit.

As a reminder, this call is on background, attributable to “senior administration officials.” It is embargoed until Sunday, September 24th, at 5:00 a.m. Eastern.

For your awareness, not for your reporting: On the call today, we have [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].

With that, I’ll turn it over to you, [senior administration official], to kick us off, and then we’ll take some questions at the end.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Thank you very much, [senior administration official]. And thank you all for joining us here on a busy week as we return from the U.N. General Assembly and also with Ukrainian friends in town.

So, on — over the weekend and on Monday and Tuesday, the President is hosting a return visit of the Pacific Island leaders to Washington, D.C.

It’s our second summit in a year, in which he is following up on his pledge to take our commitment and our engagement in the Pacific region to the next level. And as we’ve stated all along: We’ve tried to design a program of active- — activities and engagement that are intended to meet the needs of the Pacific Islands people.

So, over the course of a couple of days here in Washington, there will be efforts to underscore our commitments to a variety of things in technology, in — in matters associated with fishing, in education, in infrastructure. [Senior administration official] will go through all the specifics that we’re rolling out over the course of two days there.

I do want to just say that we — we have a day in advance of — of the formal meetings in Washington, D.C. The leaders will be riding on a special train — Amtrak — from New York to Baltimore. They will be the guests of the Ravens at the stadium for the football game. They will be there on the field, in which they will be recognized for their roles as American friends in the Indo-Pacific. We will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the — some of the most difficult fighting in the Pacific.

After the game, they will then go to a Coast Guard cutter ship in the Baltimore Harbor. They will be briefed by the Commandant of the Coast Guard on all the many issues that we’re doing with the Pacific Island leaders to combat illegal fishing and to manage maritime domains effectively.

And then, they’ll come to Washington and there will be a series of engagements on Monday and Tuesday, beginning with an official set of meetings with the President — a lunch, a number of engagements with senior members of the administration, and basically engagements around town. I’m going to ask [senior administration official] to go through some of the specifics of both the schedule and also the deliverables.

But I would say that I think what the Biden administration has been able to do is to step up our game considerably in a short period of time in the Indo-Pacific.

We have deep moral, strategic, and historic interests here. And I think we’re reaffirming that promise.

And so, you will see, over the course of a few days, our commitment to reopen embassies. USAID is back in force in the Pacific. The Peace Corps has — has arrived in many of the islands that they’d served with in previous periods. We have the engagement of a number of philanthropies and business groups who also are interested in engaging more deeply in the Pacific.

And we’re thrilled to have them back here in Washington. And I think this will be a important and engaging three-day set of events.

[Senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks so much, [senior administration official]. And thanks to you all for joining us today.

I’ll just add some brief embroidery to [senior administration official’s] remarks. I’ll start with a few more details on the official summit program and then give you some highlights of the rather meaty deliverables list that we’ll be releasing on Monday.

The official program, as [senior administration official] indicated, starts on Monday morning when the President will welcome all of the Pacific Island Forum leaders to the White House. Monday morning will be taken outside their summit meeting, followed by a set of family photos to be taken by all the leaders together.

The President will host all the leaders for lunch at the White House. And they’ll continue their conversation over that working lunch before the leaders depart the White House for their afternoon programs.

That afternoon program will include a roundtable with Special Envoy for Climate, Secretary John Kerry, focused on combating climate change and building resilience — which, of course, is one of the top concerns and existential concerns for many of our Pacific Island friends.

And that evening, Secretary Blinken will host a dinner at the State Department along with ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, in which he will celebrate all the leaders of the Pacific Islands and, in particular, recognize two new Pacific Islands diplomatically with whom the United States has not previously had diplomatic relations: the Cook Islands and Niue.

The second day of the program will kick off with a breakfast that Secretary Kerry will host alongside USAID Administrator Samantha Power focused on climate and oceans. That will bring the Pacific Island leaders into conversation with the philanthropic community.

Later that day, members of Congress will host the Pacific Island leaders on Capitol Hill to talk about lots of business that we all do together. Our relationship with the Pacific Islands really does involve a very deep partnership with Congress. So, we’re thrilled that that is coming together.

Later that afternoon, we’ll hold a business roundtable that will feature Secretary Janet Yellen, as well as some of our other economic leaders from the administration, with a focus on how the economies of the Pacific can promote trade and investment.

Finally, that evening, we’ll conclude with a barbecue hosted by the Australian ambassador and the government of Australia, in which we’ll celebrate people-to-people ties between the United States and Pacific Island nations as to include our strengthening ties with the Peace Corps. And that piece of the program will feature the Second Gentleman.

Before turning the floor over to your questions, I’ll also just note a few of the top deliverables that you can expect to see roll out on Monday. There are far too many to count, so I’m just (inaudible) here, but look forward to digging in more in the discussion.

First, as we’ve already noted, we’re going to be taking an important step to recognize two new Pacific Island nations with whom the United States has not previously had diplomatic relations: the Cook Islands and Niue.

The Cook Islands is currently playing an important leadership role inside of the Pacific Islands forum. So, we think this is an important step not just for these two islands, but for our relationship with the whole Pacific.

Second, we’re going to be marking the remarkable progress that we have made towards revitalizing our diplomatic presence in the Pacific Islands. You’ll recall that it was not very long ago that the United States announced that we would be opening new embassies. And since that announcement, we have done so already in the Solomon Islands and Tonga.

We’ll also be in a position to note quick progress towards opening an embassy in Vanuatu early next year, and the opening of a new USAID regional Pacific mission in Fiji — all of these efforts to rebuild our diplomatic presence and our ability to deliver for Pacific Island nations.

We’ll be unveiling a deliverable that has U.S. government dollars behind it to provide secure, undersea cable connectivity for Pacific Island nations, something that many of these nations need where Internet speed and connectivity is not as reliable as it should be, and where we all benefit if our Pacific Island friends can be in closer conversation. And so, we’re very excited to be able to provide for this important form of infrastructure.

We’ll also be announcing many million dollars more in other infrastructure projects that are high on our list of Pacific Island projects that our Pacific Island friends have drawn our attention to.

Further, the Quad will be bringing its Maritime Domain Awareness initiative to the Pacific Islands with a program worth more than $10 million that will help to improve Maritime Domain Awareness throughout the Pacific Islands, working closely with Pacific Islands institutions. This is a program that the Quad announced in May of 2022 in Tokyo and has done quick work to stand up now in Southeast Asia, in South Asia, and in the Pacific Islands.

It’s also the first official partnership between the Quad and a Pacific Island institution. So we’re really excited to be able to roll that out.

We’ll also have a number of substantial programs in the category of people-to-people ties. That includes a young leaders training and education program that is set to roll out at Johns Hopkins SAIS in just a few weeks’ time. It includes an initiative called Sister Cities, for which we’ll be pairing American cities with Pacific Island cities to bring our people together across the Pacific Ocean.

And of course, it includes a raft of new programming coming out of the Peace Corps now that the Peace Corps has been able to return to a number of Pacific islands and reinvigorate its historic role there, particularly in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, where, once again, Peace Corps is working side by side with local counterparts on education, development, and climate initiatives.

All in all, the message that we’re seeking to send with this program and with these deliverables is that the United States and this administration are following up on our Pacific promises and making them real.

We put a stake in the ground about two years ago saying that we would significantly revamp our presence and renovate our ties in this part of the region. And this summit, building upon the one before it, is showing that the President is making good on his commitment and showing up in ways that benefit our friends in the Pacific and advance all of our interests together.

So, I’ll stop there and look forward to your questions.

Q Thanks very much. I need to change my last name, I think.


Q I know. I know. Two questions. So, one on the summit. Can you talk a little bit about what the U.S. Coast Guard has done since the first summit? Is there any way you can kind of give us the metrics of the types of things it’s done? And how do you measure the success of those efforts?

And then secondly, I just want to ask quickly about India. If the Canadian investigation shows that the Indian government was somehow involved in the murder of a Sikh activist, how is that going to impact your efforts to move ahead with India in all the areas that you’re trying to do so?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Demetri, I’m just not going to have anything for you on the second question, and we’ll look for a venue for an appropriate engagement on that.

On the first question, I’ll at least start you out and say that I think it would be fair to say that the institution — the institutions, probably the Peace Corps and the Coast Guard, are those that are most respected, almost beloved, in the Pacific. The role that they play in terms of supporting territorial integrity and issues associated with fishing rights is one of the most important innovations in — in monitoring these vast oceanic spaces.

And so, the so-called shiprider agreements, which allows the U.S. Coast Guard cutter to take on the character of the national units, with the participation of a crew member from another country, allows the Coast Guard to assist in patrolling for issues associated with illegal fishing. And those missions are deeply effective at assisting with what can only be described as rampant illegal fishing in the Pacific.

I’ll let [senior administration official] give you a sense of the — you know, what the uptick of engagement has been like.

I will say the Coast Guard has been a consistent player. Even when other elements of the American engagement lapse, the Peace Corps — excuse me, the Coast Guard remained deeply engaged all along in the Pacific.

[Senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official]. Demetri, I’ll offer to to put fine point on it by pointing to a program that [senior administration official] was alluding to. Not this year’s presidential budget, but the one prior to that would be FY23. We worked with Coast Guard to help them to move an additional training platform out into the Indo-Pacific.

That is a multinational training platform that is going to be internationally crewed, has been being refurbished since that budget, and is ready to depart the United States in just a few short weeks to make its way to the Indo-Pacific, where it will be rotating through the Pacific Islands.

That vessel, which is known as the Harriet Lane, will allow for different Pacific Island nations to train on the vessel, to place crew members on the vessel so that we and the Pacific Islanders can all be working together on missions — whether that’s responding to illegal fishing or responding to climate events, natural disasters, or enforcing the law at sea.

So, this type of platform, I think, is a great example of what Coast Guard does in the region. As [senior administration official] said, the demand for our Coast Guard presence from the Pacific Islands really can’t be stated. But this particular platform and the budget bump we were able to get to provide it is a great example of where we’re trying to continue to head in our work with Coast Guard in the Indo-Pacific, because Pacific Island friends continue to make clear that there are few programs that they value more.

Q Hi, it’s Trevor here. So, thanks for taking the question. One, I was just curious if there was any comment from you all around Vanuatu, I understand, skipping this event because of some domestic concerns about them drawing closer to the United States and its allies.

And then I was also curious if you could talk a little bit about the Marshall Islands and the Compact of Free Association with them. I know, that’s been underway for some time. You know, what’s the — what’s the holdup there? And are — do expect that that will address the U.S. nuclear legacy there? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Look, I’ll just start with some general comments and let [senior administration official] continue, if I can.

So, we have been deeply, intensively engaged in negotiations on the COFA negotiations between the three North Pacific Island countries. And I think we will be able to indicate on Monday, both at the White House and the State Department, that very substantial progress has been made. And we are prepared to take forward these critical compacts with strong partners in the Northern Pacific. And we’re confident that we’re going to be able to get this done.

And it — the agreements will deal with a very broad range of both the current and legacy issues that are present in the Northern Pacific Island nations — each different, but each important.

I think my understanding of why the prime minister of Vanuatu is not coming is that there is a vote of no confidence that is scheduled for next week, exactly when he would be in the United States. And I think, in the past, those actions have often led to the government falling. And so, I think, you know, there are probably very good reasons why they were determined to — the PM was determined to remain.

It is also the case that other members of their delegation will be with us in Baltimore and Washington next week.

[Senior administration official.]

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official]. Not a whole lot to add your answer. My understanding of the Vanuatu schedule is very much the same.

Thanks, Trevor.

Q Hey, thanks so much for taking my question. [Senior administration official] or [senior administration official], can you — just to follow up on Trevor’s question, are you confident that the COFA deal with Marshall Islands will be met before the September 30th deadline?

And also, just on logistics: Aside from Vanuatu, how many leaders have confirmed attendance? Can you confirm whether Kiribati and Marshall Island will attend?

And also, Solomon Islands. As we recall last year, he refused to sign the U.S. Pacific Partnership Strategy. If you can update us on that and whether he will attend.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. So, look, let me just start off by saying, we’re working around the clock on these negotiations, and we are working intensively and in good faith. And our intention will be to close these negotiations in a way that meet the interests of the United States and our island partners just as soon as possible. And we’ll have more to say about that next week.

I’ll let [senior administration official] tell you — we have very, very good attendance, and we’re quite pleased. And where prime ministers have not been able to attend, they’ve, in almost every case, sent a foreign minister.

I think it’d be fair to say that the United States is disappointed that Prime Minister Sogavare has — he has been in New York this week but is returning to the Solomons over the weekend. And I think we’re disappointed that he has chosen not to come to this very special PIF Summit between the United States and the Pacific Island nations.

[Senior administration official], do you want to go through any other specifics just to get a sense? I — we’ll also say that we have very senior participation from both Australia and New Zealand, obviously given their key role as members of the PIF as well. [Senior administration official]?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official]. I’ll just say that we are expecting great participation at the highest levels from at Kiribati and RMI.

Q Thanks for doing this. Another follow-up on the compacts, actually. I mean, you need Congress — right? — both in the case of Marshall Islands and in FSM with their deadlines, you know, just a few days after this summit.

I mean, you said you’re confident, [senior administration official], that you can get this negotiated, but are you actually confident that there will be no lapse in the compacts (inaudible)?

I don’t know if you’re seeing the same things in Congress right now that I am, but it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of progress happening at the moment. I mean, are you worried about the consequences of that — of those lapsing before they can get through Congress, on the first one?

And second, just big-picture question, can you talk about the degree to which, you know, this is not all to do with China, but that, you know, competition with China has motivated this renewed engagement with the region. I mean, has it been a positive consequence of U.S.-China competition in the Indo-Pacific?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, I’m going to let [senior administration official] — [senior administration official] has got a very good answer on that second question, and I often use it. Better for her to kind of give you the larger sense about what animates our purpose and our engagement.

So, all I would say about the COFA negotiations: We are deeply aware of the stakes and the challenges. And we’re doing everything possible in our negotiations with Island nations to conclude a strong deal as quickly as possible. We are also in close consultation with the relevant committees on Capitol Hill about the challenges that October 1 potentially poses. And we’re working closely inside the U.S. government on potential contingency planning.

I don’t think I have, really, anything more to tell you about this. We are seized with its importance, and we know how important it is for our continuing partnership with each of these countries.

[Senior administration official]?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [senior administration official]. On the China question and the Pacific Islands, you know, I think the way that we like to think about it is that our engagement with the Pacific Islands is really not about who we are against but what we are for. And what we are for is kind of what’s on display throughout this summit on Monday, Tuesday, in all the deliverables you’ll see, in our direct statement, and so forth.

I think we genuinely believe and feel that our national interests are tied to a free, open, vibrant, and dynamic Pacific region and that the United States is a Pacific power that is here to stay. All the investments we are making, all of the policy we are undertaking are consistent with those goals.

But there’s also no question that there is some role that the PRC has played in all this. No question that it’s assertiveness and influence, including in this region, has been a factor that requires us to sustain our strategic focus. But what we’re really focused on doing is showing our Pacific Island friends that the United States, working with likeminded partners, can provide viable alternatives that will work for Pacific Island nations.

So, we keep ourselves focused on the affirmative, not only because we believe that’s what our Pacific Island friends want. We believe that’s genuinely what underpins these relationships.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And I would also just point out, just to build on [senior administration official’s] very good answer, guys, is that I think another element of our approach has been to work much, much more closely with allies and partners.

And I would just turn your attention to what’s occurring in New York as we speak. The partners of the Blue Pacific engagement, hosted by Secretary Blinken — we are working much more closely with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, now South Korea, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, and others on efforts to coordinate and step up our engagement across the region.

And so, our efforts are to support specific initiatives laid out in key documents of the Pacific Island Forum that are designed to address needs of the Pacific in climate change, in training, in infrastructure.

And so, our efforts have been to work with likemindeds to support these initiatives. And we believe that, you know, frankly, it’s possible to do good and compete at the same time. And that’s what we’re seeking to do.

MODERATOR: Thank you both. That’s all the time we have left for this. Thank you, [senior administration official] and [senior administration official], for taking the time. And thanks, everyone else, for hopping on as well.

As a reminder, this call was on background, attributable to “senior administration officials,” and it’s embargoed until Sunday, September 24th, at 5:00 a.m. Eastern.

Thanks, everyone.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We really appreciate it. Thank you.


4:02 P.M. EDT

The post Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview the U.S.-Pacific Islands Forum Summit appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Representative Lucy McBath

Fri, 09/22/2023 - 18:34

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:43 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone.

Q Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, President Biden, as you all know, has met with countless survivors of gun violence and families mourning loved ones. And the message he hears most often is: Do something.

Today, President Biden will build upon the historic actions he’s taken through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the two dozen executive actions he’s taken to date, and announce the establishment of the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

This new office will be overseen by Vice President Harris, who has been a — who has been a key leader in the Biden-Harris administration’s effort to end our nation’s gun violence epidemic.

The office will be held by Stefanie Feldman, a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention, and two leading gun violence prevention advocates, Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox. They will join the administration as deputy directors of the office.

Ahead of this afternoon’s event in the Rose Garden, I am pleased to welcome to the podium someone who has more authority to speak on this issue than nearly anyone else in this town — and I say that sadly: Congresswoman Lucy McBath.

Through her grief and because of her perseverance, she has become a tireless advocate for gun safety reform. For some, this is an abstract debate, but not for Congresswoman McBath. She has lived within — with the awful and tragic reality of the gun violence epidemic in this country. I can think of no better person to share what today’s news means to so many families across the country.

On a personal note, she’s a hero of mine. In 2018, as a — as I was at a previous job I held, we were sitting around deciding who was going to go to the district — districts — different districts across the country, obviously, to organize and knock on doors. I stood up and asked to go to Lucy McBath’s district because she has so inspired me and, I know, so many others out there with her strength, with her smarts, and her vision for this country.

So, I literally went door to door, knocking in what is now your district for your first election.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And it is a — really, truly an honor to have you here today on this important, important historic moment here at the White House.

The podium is yours, Congresswoman.

REPRESENTATIVE MCBATH: Thank you. Thank you. Well, thank you so much, Karine.

And while I serve as a member of Congress today, I am speaking to you first and foremost as a mother. Just over a decade ago, I was living like any other mom in Georgia — in the Georgia suburbs, and I dedicated my entire life to raising my son, Jordan.

Then on November 23rd, 2012, within the course of three and a half minutes, a man drove up next to my son and his friends as they were parked in their car at a convenience store gas station, firing 10 rounds into the car and killing my only son.

In an instant, I was robbed of every dream that a mother holds for her child. I would never send Jordan off to college. I would never see him attend his high school events. He would never graduate from high school. I would never see him get married.

Nobody wants to experience what I have, but my story is becoming far too common in the United States of America. Every single day, over 100 people are shot and killed in the United States.

Gun violence has no boundaries. From the suburbs, to the cities, to rural America, over 100 families a day are living their worst nightmare.

Our kids are continually trauma- — traumatized by lockdown drills, while their schools teach them how to hide behind their desks and corner themselves to shield themselves from gunfire.

President Biden knows the deep pain of losing a loved one. And today, he is taking decisive action by declaring loudly and clearly: We do not have to live this way.

The historic creation of the gun — of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention marks a new era in the fight to keep us all safe. The office will increase coordination between states and ensure proper implementation of the gun safety legislation that we have already passed in Congress.

President Biden’s actions today truly, truly will save lives.

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Congresswoman.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things before we go into questions. Today, extreme Republicans are voting in a House committee on four destructive appropriation bills as they continue to march toward a shutdown that would hurt our economy and threaten our safety.

House Republicans failed multiple times this week to do their basic duty: keep the government running. Instead, they were pushed to the extremes with increasingly severe cuts to programs Americans rely on, which have no hope of passing the Senate. And having accomplished nothing — having accomplished nothing this week, they have all decided to go home.

That’s not delivering for the American people. It’s chaos. It’s failing. It’s actually failing the American people.

Now, you don’t have to take my words for it. As you know, we like to take it straight from the horse’s mouth, if you will, and do quotes here. So, House Republicans have said — they said it themselves.

Representative Frank Lucas said there are, quote, “Folks who want to use this as an opportunity to blow the place up.”

Representative Jerry Carl said, quote, “I truly think that they want it shut down.” End quote.

Representative Matt Gaetz said, “We will have a government shutdown.” “We cannot blame Joe Biden…” “We cannot blame House d- — House Democrats.” End quote.

That’s because House Republicans are to blame. And we’ve seen that week after week after week.

So, now the question for House Republicans is very simple: Do they continue to pursue increasingly extreme bills that would hurt their constituents by slashing education, slashing healthcare, Meals on Wheels, and much more, all while barreling toward a needless shutdown that would threaten nutrition assistance for nearly 7 million mothers and children? Is that what they want? That’s a question for them. They have to answer this.

Or do they keep their promise and abide by the bipartisan agreement two thirds — two thirds of House Republicans voted for — for this bipartisan agreement just four months ago, back in May? It’s not complicated here. It’s truly not complicated, because a deal is a deal.

So, another thing before we — we continue. Here at the White House, this afternoon, the President is taking another action to save lives: signing a bipartisan law that will make the ar- — the organ transplant system work better for more than 100,000 people on the waiting list for organs.

Everybody knows the system has been broken for years, with heartbreaking consequences. Now, with the President’s signature, we are taking significant steps to improve it.

The law will break up the current monopoly system, harnessing competition to allow HHS to contract with the best entities to provide a more efficient system for the people it serves. The law will also eliminate the funding cap to allow additional resources to modernize the system, which is a critical lifeline for thousands of Americans. And this will save lives by creating a more transparent and accountable system that allows more Americans to access the organ transplants that many so desperately need.

And finally, finally, finally — on Monday, the President will host Pacific Islands Forum leaders at the White House during the U.S.-Pacific Island Forum Summit taking place here in Washington, D.C.

This is the second summit with Pacific leaders that the President will be doing here. It will reaffirm his support for strengthening ties with the Pacific Islands and discuss how we address complex global challenges, like tackling the existential threat of climate change, advancing economic growth, and promoting sustainable development.

Over the past year, we’ve taken our engagement with PIF countries to new heights. And we’re looking toward — to continue to deepen our partnerships.

And we’ll have more for all of you later this afternoon. There will be a call that all of you can jump on. I believe it’s at 3:30. And so, stay — stay tuned.

And with that, Will.

Q Thanks. I have two topics. First, on Senator Menendez, did the White House know that an indictment was coming today? And does the President believe the senator should resign?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. I’m going to be really careful here — this is a — and not comment, because this is an active matter.

We learned about this just like all of you. But again, this is active matter, so I’m not going to comment.

Q Should he resign?

Q No comment on a resignation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I’m just — active matter. I’m not going to comment.

Q Okay. On the — on the UAW strike. The UAW has invited President Biden to the picket line. I’m wondering if he’s going to — he has any plans to go.

And also, they — the strike is expanding to 20 states. Is the President going to feel more pressure to move both parties towards a resigna- — a resolution —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a cou- —

Q — resolution?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep. On your first question, I don’t have any updates to the President’s schedule at — at this time. Just don’t have anything to share.

But certainly, the President appreciates the — Shawn Fain’s inviting him, including him, certainly, with the — with all the family and friends of the UAW.

And so, the President has been really clear about this. He believes the un- — the union built the middle class. That’s something that he has said for years now. And, of course, he is a union guy who will continue to fight for UAW and also union workers. So, that will not end. That is something that he has certainly been steadfast about for the past several years.

So, we are, of course, in touch with the parties. As you know, Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su and also Gene Sperling have been in regular touch for the past several weeks with all parties.

Certainly, the parties continue to remain at the negotiation table, which is incredibly important. And so, we’ve communicated to each of them the importance of continuing to work 24/7 to get to a win-win agreement, as you’ve heard us say many times.

And look, the auto industry will remain here in America. That’s what the President has been working towards, investing in that in the last two years. And, you know, UAW workers remain at the heart — the heart of a growing industry.

And so, we will do anything — everything that we possibly can to help in any way that the parties would like us to. But again, they are at the negotiation table, and they — we believe that’s incredibly important.

I know — I know your — your dad had some thoughts about our back-and-forth yesterday, so maybe we sh- — we should try this again.

Q I — same question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)

Q Same question as yesterday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you repeat the question?

Q What do you call it when 10,000 people illegally cross the border in a single day?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s what I will say. And you’ve heard us say — you heard me say this a couple of times — and I’ll say it again because it is the facts: On day one, the first day of this President’s administration, he put forth a comprehensive immigration reform that we believe — we believe that was desperately needed for this country. Right?

As we know, and you’ve heard us say this many times before, we are dealing with a broken system. And no action was taken from Congress.

And so, what the President was able to do: He imposed consequences for those who do not have the legal basis to remain. And he has removed more than 250,000 individuals — this administration has done so — since May 12th. And so, we’ve taken action.

The President has secured — he also secured record funding. And — and let’s not forget: This record funding that the President fought for over the last year or so was — was opposed by the House Republicans. This is something that they opposed and didn’t want to see.

And so, what it allowed us to do is actually hire about 25,000 more — bring on CBP agents and really do something that was historic, that we hadn’t seen.

And so, a broken system. It’s been broken for the past couple of decades. The last administration certainly gutted the immigration system for four years. That’s what they did.

And you had Speaker McCarthy and the Republicans in Congress who continuously — continuously take step to undermine what is currently happening, trying to undermine getting border security.

We saw that — we saw that this week with the — with the CR, where they put forth another — another piece of legislation to cut — to cut — to propose continuing to cut — cut some important resources that’s needed, whether it’s CBP — 800 fewer CBP is what they wanted to do. Fifty thousand pounds of cocaine, that’s what it would — that’s what it would hurt — right? — in — in trying to prevent that from coming in. Right?

When you think about more than 300 pounds of fentanyl, when you think about more than 700 pounds of heroin, more than 6,000 pounds of methamphetamine to enter the country — that’s what they were trying to prevent from the work that we’re trying to do — prevent from coming into the country.

So, we would love to do this in a bipartisan way, but we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing — what we’re seeing from House Republicans is wanting to defend — defu- — defund, pardon me, DHS.

Q But when you spoke last month —


Q — and you said, “We are stopping the flow at the border,” is 10,000 migrants in a single day stopping the flow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I will say is — I just mentioned 250 [thousand] individuals have been — have been stopped who do not have the legal pathway from coming in. That has been since May 12th.

And — and as we are, you know, looking at Eagle Pass — and I know this is a — this is a — where — where kind of the — the issue is at the ti- — at the moment. You know, CBP quickly surged resources and personnel to the area. And thanks to their great work — their great work, we’re able to swiftly vet — vetted and processed into custody more than two hun- — 2,500 individuals and cleared the area where migrants had congregated.

And that’s the work of our law enforcement. That’s the work of our law enforcement at the border.

Remember, House Republicans are trying to cut that. They’re trying to cut that.

Q Totally different subject.


Q There are some new relaxed standards in town. Would President Biden ever show up to an official meeting wearing shorts and a hoodie?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’ve — you’ve — I’m assuming you’re talking about the Senate when you say “relaxed standards.”

Q He was in the Senate for a long time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know, but I’m just —

Q He used to be the president of the Senate.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just want to make sure we’re clear what you’re talking about here.

Q Does he think these are appropriate changes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You — you know the President. You’ve seen him. You’ve seen him for the past — as vice president, as senator. He — he dresses better than — than most of us here. (Laughs.) And so, I’ll just leave it at that.

I’m not going to comment on how Senate is running their business and the decision that they’re — made. That is — that is up to them.

Q And then —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is not for us to decide or speak to.

Q — last one. At a fundrai- — at a fundraiser this week, President Biden told donors about how Charlottesville inspired his campaign. And then, according to the pool, a few minutes later, he told the story again, nearly word for word. What’s up with that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can tell you is — and I’m going to be careful not to talk about — because this was a campaign event for this upcoming campaign, obviously, in 2024. So, I’m not going to speak to that, put that out there for the Hatch Act.

What I can speak to is — look, the President was making very clear why he decided to run in 2020 and 2019. He made it very clear as to what he saw in this country and what was going on. And he got 81 million votes — a historic amount of votes — from Americans across the country who believed that this was a president who can help get our — protect our democracy, get our economy back on track. And — and could be a leader and the adult in the room. And so, that’s what you saw.

I’m not going to speak to comments that were made and — during a campaign — campaign event, but I can certainly speak to why the President is president today and why he decided to take on this job.

And it is important for him to continue to deliver for the American people, and that’s what he’s going to do.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q (Inaudible.)

Q Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.

Q I know you don’t want to interfere with an ongoing investigation. But given the unique nature of the charges against Senator Menendez, taking bribes from a foreign country — he’s the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee — what message does it send to other countries if he’s allowed to stay in that role?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I believe, from some of your reporting, I think there’s discussions happening about his next steps — the senator’s next steps. So, I leave it to the leadership of the Senate and certainly lead it — leave that to the senator’s office.

I have to be really careful because it is, indeed, an ongoing matter. And so, I cannot comment on this.

But as far as his leadership role in the Senate, that is something for Senate leadership to speak to.

Q Given that this is now the second time that he’s faced really serious federal charges, would the President advise him to step down? Does he want to see him continue in the Senate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to be very, very clear about this: We’re not going to get involved. It is a ongoing matter. And so, we’re going to leave it to — to the prosecutors to move forward with however they see fit, but we’re not going to comment.

Q On the UAW, the initial plan was the President was going to send Julie Su and Gene Sperling to Detroit. They stayed here. Why was that decision made for them to stay here? And now, given that the strike is expanding, are there plans to now go ahead and send them to Detroit? Or are they going to continue to — to make those conversations from here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, there was a mutually agreed decision that was made this week that we — that was believed to be the most productive way to move forward — was for — for Gene and Julie to stay back and to help from Washington in the best way possible. That was a mutually agreed agreement.

And look, we are in constant — those two are in constant conversation with all parties. They actually spoke to the parties today. And so, that certainly is going to continue. We are going to help and assist in any way that they feel necessary.

But look, I think the most important thing is that they are still at the negotiation table. That is incredibly important. They have done — they have been really focused on this the last — the last 24/7. And so, I think that’s important.

The President has always said he’s a union guy. He — he appreciates being called that by unions and labor leaders out there.

And so, we’re going to do everything that we can to be helpful. But we are encouraged that they are continuing to have that conversation.

Q Thanks, Karine. Beyond placing the blame on Congress, what’s your message to federal employees at risk of going unpaid?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, our — our message is: This doesn’t have to happen. The shutdown does not have to happen. The Republican shutdown does not have to happen. They can do their — they can do their job and keep these vital programs continuing, keeping the government open. And that’s our message.

Our message is: This should not be happening. We should not be putting American families’ lives in turmoil. We should not be putting their — even their lives at risk, potentially, because of what this could mean for the different programs that these families and Americans need.

And so, all they have to do is do their job. And what they’re doing is putting forth incredibly extreme, partisan — partisan policies forward and — you know, and saying, “Hey, we have to get this done,” in order to keep a deal that they made back in May.

And so, this should not be happening. It should not be happening. And so, look, we’re going to continue to be very clear what we’re — what we’re saying to them privately is what we’re saying to all of you publicly — is that they need to do their job.

Q Do you know when federal workers would miss their first paycheck?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have the specifics on any of that. The OMB director and the OMB more broadly, certainly, is working — is working on what — on plans of what this could potentially look like if there is a shutdown, talking to the different agencies.

So, that is — that is certainly in progress right now. Just don’t have any specifics on payments or what that would — what that would look like.

Q And the new announcement today on the gun violence — Office of Prevention of Gun Violence. That has been something advocates have been pushing for for years. Why do you think it took so long?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here’s the thing. As you know, there was the bipartisan piece of legislation that the President was — signed, and it was the first major piece of legislation on gun violence that was able to be — to move forward in 30 years.

The President did two dozen executive actions, because he took this seriously. He called the gun violence in this country an “epidemic.”

And so, I said this yesterday and I’ve said this many times — you’ve heard this from the President: There are people who are sitting at their kitchen table every night who is missing a loved one because of this violence. Because you can’t go — you can’t go to your congregation, you can’t go to your grocery store and not worry about potentially getting shot down.

You have kids who are going to school who are — you heard directly from the congresswoman — what they have to go through now because of this gun violence epidemic.

So, right now is the right moment to establish this office. We want to accelerate — accelerate what the President is — put forward in his two dozen — two dozen executive actions. We want to accelerate the law that he was able to sign — sign into — sign into law — legislation he was able to sign into law — to get — to continue to get the work done.

And so, this was the right time to do that. But let’s not forget the work that the President has done the last two years to get us to where we are. But more work needs to be done. He’s not going to stop calling on Congress to continue to do the work that they need to do to protect our families from gun violence.

But this is an opportunity to accelerate what the President has been able to do to — to protect communities, to really deal with gun violence. And that’s what the importance of this office is.

Go ahead.

Q Thanks, Karine. Did President Biden and other Five Eyes leaders raise their concerns about Canada’s allegations of Indian involvement in the murder of a Canadian citizen at the recent G20 meeting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I know that the National Security Advisor spoke to this yesterday, and I know there’s been some new reporting. I don’t have anything to — certainly — and this is something that Jake said himself — you know, I’m not — he was not going to comment about private diplomatic conversations. I’m not going to do that either. You know, if the — just — just following what the National Security Advisor said.

And so, I’m just not going to comment on that. Obviously, you know, we are deeply concerned, as he said as well. And — and so, what — what the Prime Minister has referenced here — the Prime Minister of Canada. And so, we remain in regular contact with the — with the Canadian governor — government and the Canadian partners. But, of course, I’m just not going to comment on diplomatic conversations from here.

Q Jake did also say that the — that the issue was being raised at the highest levels with the Indian government. Can you tell us if that’s — if you’re staying in regular contact with them about this as well?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we have engaged, as — as — as Jake said — our National Security Advisor — with — with the Indian government. But, certainly, we’re not going to get into our private diplomatic conversations, as he said as well. But, yes, there has been conversations with our partners in the Indian government, as Jake — Jake stated yesterday.

Q Karine, a follow-up?

Q In another realm of diplomatic conversations, can you say whether or not President Biden promised President Zelenskyy yesterday that the U.S. would provide the weapons known as ATACMS?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, with this, I’m just not going to confirm the reportings that are out there. Look — and Jake said this as well when he was here — the President has long said, in the past, that ATACMS are not — are not off the table. And — but I just don’t have anything new to announce.

But, look, I will say this, more broadly — is that what we saw yesterday, this bilat between the two leaders — between President Zelenskyy and President Biden — was really important.

It sent a strong signal to the world that — that we will continue to support Ukraine. And let’s not forget, we also announced a significant weapons package yesterday to continue to show that support that we have to Ukraine — their counter- — to support their counteroffensive and strengthen their air defenses against Russian attacks, which is our fourth package, as you know.

So, we’ll — going to continue to show our support for Ukraine with these security assistance. And so, that is our commitment. We will be there as long as they — as long as it takes. I just cannot confirm those reports.

Q Follow-up on Canada?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q Back on the auto workers strike. There’s been some behind-the-scenes talk about a loan or grant program to help the auto suppliers. Is there any movement on that? And if a program would happen, could that be potentially affected by a government shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, there’s negotiations happening right now. I’m not going to get into the — into the details of the negotiations at this time. I’m going to let them have their — we’re going to give them the space and let them have the conversations. We are encouraged that they are — continue to be at the table. I’m just not going to go — I’m just not going to go point to point on what’s being discussed or what’s being put forward.

Q Is there — is there any discussions in the administration about helping the suppliers as this strike continues?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything to share at this time from — from how we’re going to potentially move forward.

What we are encouraged of is that they are continuing to stay at the table, and that’s what we want to see. And so, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals at this point.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q Thanks, Karine. A possible government shutdown would coincide with the restart date for federal student loan payments. That starts on October 1st. Is there any consideration right now to pushing that date back if there were a shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a really good question. We are — right now, OMB is having those discussions with agencies at the moment to see how to move forward if there is a potential shutdown. Don’t have the pa- — specifics of what the different programs like the student loan program that we’ve — the different parts of it that we’ve announced is going to look like because those conversations are just now happening.

Q Can you say, from the White House, how worried you would be if there were Education Department employees furloughed — who would obviously be a part of this — but if there was a shutdown and those employees weren’t there, how concerned would you be that this would not go smoothly then, starting on October 1st?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, the student — student debt relief program the port- — the President put forth is incredibly important to him, right? It is something that he believed — the reason he put it out there was to make sure that we give Americans a little bit breathing room, especially coming out of the pandemic. And so, it was a — clearly, part of his economic policy to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind, especially, again, as we’re coming out of this pandemic.

Don’t have — I don’t want to get too far into the weeds into this, because, again, these conversations are just now starting — that OMB is having — so I don’t want to get ahead of that. But certainly, we’re looking into it, and we’re planning accordingly.

Go ahead.

Q Yes, Karine. Also on the shutdown. You mentioned yesterday that, potentially, food safety would be under threat —


Q — in a shutdown. I understand that in previous years, USDA has considered those sorts of inspections as essential. Is there something else that you think will change that would make it non-essential?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, those conversations are happening, as to what the effects might be — right? — to those certain programs and how these agencies are going to move forward. Don’t have anything more to share.

Certainly, I laid — I laid out what the impacts would be for a shutdown, because it’s important for the American people to know what this means, with this Republican shutdown that they’re certainly seeming to barrel forward with. But just don’t have any specifics on that.

Again, OMB is having these conversations with agencies. And so — to — to look to see — to try and figure out how this is going to affect Americans across the country.

Go ahead.

Q Karine, thanks. Can you expound on what the President is doing and what he will be doing to avoid a government shutdown? I understand you all have been saying that Congress needs to do its job. But surely the President must want to do something to avert this.

And is there a possibility that he would at all alter his travel schedule next week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — look, I don’t have anything to speak to on the President’s travel schedule. But this is — the President did his job. He did. He helped broker a bipartisan agreement back in May to move forward with a budget that, as I mentioned, two thirds of Republicans voted on. He did his part. So, a deal is a deal.

This is not something we can fix. The best plan is to not — is to not have a shutdown. The best plan is for House Republicans to stop their partisan political play and not do this to hurt Americans across the country. That’s the plan. The plan is to — for them to actually do their job.

The President found it so important — right? — to make sure that there was a bipartisan budget agreement that he did — he — he ma- — he helped brokered that.

And, again, a deal is a deal. And so, there should not be a shutdown. There should not be a shutdown. They should keep their promise not just to the President but to the American people.

And so, you know, this is for them to fix. This is something that House Republicans have to fix.

Go ahead. And then I’ll go to back. Go ahead.

Q A couple of things I’d like to follow up on. First of all, when you referenced the signing of the organ donation, if we had coverage of the signing of the organ donation, that would certainly expand attention to that important issue. So, just as an ongoing request that coverage of bill signings —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I appreciate that.

Q — would be — would be appreciated.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I appreciate that. Yep.

Q Following up on the UAW and — and so forth. Isn’t it an acknowledgment that the offer to send Julie Su and Gene Sperling was a misstep because they have not gone and you want to give this space?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, ab- — I don’t think it — I wouldn’t call it a “misstep,” because I said it was mutually agreed upon that they would stay back as they continue to have their conversation. And when I mean “they” — meaning the parties that are — who are a part of this negotiation process: obviously, the Big 3 and UAW.

And so, wouldn’t call it a misstep at all. I mean, again, it was a mutual — mutually agreed that it would be — it would be more — most productive for Gene and Julie to stay back and do the meetings and — from Washington, D.C.

Now, let’s not forget, this is something that they’ve been doing for the past several weeks; it’s nothing new. And so, we are — you know, we appreciated that — again, mutually agreed.

And so, if there’s travel that needs to happen, we’ll certainly assess that when the time — when the time comes.

But what is the most important thing here — what is the most important thing is that all parties continue to have these — this conversation and to continue to negotiate. And that’s, I think, what is the most important part of this.

Q And following up on Peter’s comment about the fundraiser. For — you know, we all understand these are off camera. We were not witnesses to that, except for our pool that was present. But for the President to retell a story we’ve all heard him tell many times —


Q — in full — and stipulating that we often — as human beings, you know, we misspeak. We do things. I’ve done it myself. So, stipulating all of that —


Q — is it any concern that he would fully retell a story in the same space in the same event?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sometimes I re- — re-speak as well from here and retell a story.

But, look, you know, I think it’s important to note that the President was speaking, as you said, at a fundraiser, and he was speaking from his heart. He was speaking about why he decided to do this. And you hear the President talk about this. It’s always incredibly emotional for him, because he didn’t have to. He went through a incredibly difficult time when he was deciding to jump into the race.

And so — but he saw — you know, as somebody who served as senator, as somebody who served as vice president — what was going on in this — in this — in this country under the last president.

Charlottesville —

Q So, you think knowingly and mindfully that he wanted to retell it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I have not spoken to the President about it, certainly.

But what I can’t say is: The passion that he has when he tells that story and how important it is for him to have done something because he believed, you know, our democracy was at stake. You know, and that’s — and — and what he saw.

I mean, you all saw what we saw in Charlottesville. It was devastating. It was a part of our country that was devastating to see.

And so, you know, he spoke to that passionately. And, you know, that’s why he’s in this. He’s in this because he believes that he can — he can help move this country forward in a way that brings it to — to its best — right? — when he talks about possibilities. And that’s why he was speaking to — in an incredibly passionate way.

Okay. Go ahead, Gerren.

Q Thanks, Karine. While gun violence impacts communities all across the country, Black, Jewish, and marginalized communities often fall at the intersection of gun violence and hate-fueled violence. In many parts of the country, those who commit hate crimes can still have legal access to a gun. How important is it for this office — this new office to address gun violence intersectionally?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, it’s — I mean, it is incredibly important. When we talk about gun violence, it’s not one community that’s affecting, as you just laid out; it’s multiple communities. So, this is something that is at their intersection. It is so important that we do not forget a community here.

As you know, this is going to be overseen by VP Harris — the Vice President, Harris — which is going to be incredibly important. We have Stef Feldman, who’s going to be the director, and she’ll have two deputies.

We’re taking this very seriously, and this is about all communities — all communities. As we hear the horrible stories — right? — we hear story — stories of different brown and Black communities, rural communities, urban communities being affected by gun violence. And enough is enough.

Remember what I said at the top of this — at the top of the briefing: The President hears from multiple — multiple victims, and the thing that they say to him is, “Do something.” And it doesn’t matter where he is around the country, who he’s comforting during these awful attacks, that’s what he hears, because all of these communities are feeling the same thing. They’re losing loved ones.

And so, it’s going to be incredibly important to make sure that we don’t leave any community behind. This is not a president that does that. This is the president that talks about inclus- — being inclusive. And — and so, that’s what you’re going to see from this office.

What this office is going to do — as I said moments ago, it’s going to accelerate the work that the President has already put forth: the bipartisan — the bipartisan law on gun — for gun violence, when you think about the two dozen executive actions that he’s taken. It’s going to help accelerate all of those really critical pieces, so that we can get to a place where we’re in — — where we’re not sending our kids — being frightened — to school because there might be — there might be gun violence at their school or going to — or going to a grocery store. Right?

And so, that’s the importance of this office — is to really get to work and accelerate the work that we’ve already been doing.
Go ahead.

Q Thanks. On Ukraine. After Zelenskyy’s visit yesterday, Biden — Biden said that he was counting on a good judgment of Congress to keep approving aid for Ukraine. How confident is he that Republicans are going to keep approving additional funding in an election year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is something that Jake — Jake Sullivan spoke to — our National Security Advisor spoke to yesterday. As you know, he’s been very much involved and having conversations on — on the Hill with congressional members — both Democrat and Republican — sitting down, talking through the importance of continuing the funding.

We have said over and over again how much we appreciate the strong bipartisan support that we have seen for Ukraine in helping them fight — fight in this war, as they’re fighting for their democracy.

So, we’re — we’re going to continue to be confident. We’re going to continue to have those conversations. And — and we believe — and that’s what I — you know, what I said earlier about how important it was for the two leaders to have this bilateral engagement yesterday, the message that it sends is that we should — that — that we are going to continue to support Ukraine.

So, we’re confident in that support, that bi- — that bipartisan support for Ukraine. And so, we’re just going to continue to have those conversations.

Q Also, on Israel. Netanyahu said today that he believes Israel and Saudi Arabia can achieve a historic peace deal, and that President Biden can clinch the deal. But he also said that we should not give the Palestinians a veto.

How confident is the White House that Israel and Saudi Arabia will normalize relations? Is it possible — a deal without the Palestinians? Would Biden still like it — I mean, if it doesn’t include the Palestinians?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. And this is something that Jake Sullivan spoke to when we — when he spoke to normalization.

So, many of the key elements of a pathway towards normalizations are now on the table, as you just stated, and there is a broad understanding of these elements, which will not — which we’re, of course, not going to discuss publicly.

So, the specifics require an incredible amount of legwork, discipline, rigor, and all of the stakeholders in this are applying — applying that as we speak. This is coming from Jake yesterday.

And that said, we don’t have a formal framework here. We don’t have the — the terms ready to be signed.

There’s certainly a lot of work to do, and we’re going to work through it.

Look, a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia will include a serious component dealing with the fundamental issue between Israeli and Palestinian. This is to your question.

But I — I certainly don’t want to get ahead of a process. There’s a lot of legwork to be done. And don’t have a formal framework. And so, we’re going to work through it.

And certainly, I’m not going to get into the specifics from here.

Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Karine. Just to follow up on the new office on preventing gun violence. I was wondering if there’s an international component to the scope of this new office. For example, will it be able to help curb the trafficking of illegal guns to Mexico from bordering U.S. states?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, our — our gun policy has always been comprehensive. And — and, of course, this is — this office is going to continue to talk to in regu- — be in regular contact with NSC and Homeland Security team.

And, so we’re going to do everything that we can to combat international trafficking and smuggling, as well.

And so, this is a — a comprehensive approach and — that we’re going to certainly move forward with.

Q Okay, and just really quickly, a quick confirmation, if I may. Our sources say that U.S. and Chinese officials are still working towards a Biden-Xi meeting in San Francisco on the sidelines of APEC in November. Can you confirm that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything more to what the President has shared on this. I think most recently may have been Camp David when he was asked this question. I don’t have anything to share on a potential meeting or details on that.

Surely, if that were to happen, we would share — we would certainly share that with all of you.

Go ahead, Jon.

Q Thanks a lot, Karine. A follow-up in regards to the gun violence prevention office that the President will announce in a few moments. Why can’t the Domestic Policy Council do the same work that this new office is setting up? Can you explain what the Domestic Policy Council does versus what this new office will do and if there is any overlap between those two offices?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this office is going to implement and expand upon the key — key executive actions. Right? It’s going to zero in and focus on those key executive actions, get that moving, accelerate that, and — and also the legislative action. That is what it’s going to do.

And, look, I said it, the President has said it — you’re going to hear from him moment- — in a few moments — and the Vice President: This is an epidemic. Gun violence is an epidemic in our country. And so, we need to do everything that we can.

And we believe having this office is going to be — is showing — is sh- — continuing to show the President’s commitment. But it’s going to be incredibly important, pushing what the President has put forward. And that’s what you’re going to see.

And I think having it separate and apart from D- — DPC shows our commitment, yes, but also shows that we are taking this an extra step — right? — an extra step on how seriously we’re taking it and how important it’s going to be.

So, this is the President saying he’s wants to — he wants to save more lives. This is what — this is what we’re going to try and do. We’re going to continue to see what we can do to save more lives.

Q And then a separate question in regards to President Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington yesterday. He was up on Capitol Hill; he met with members of both parties. From what you’ve heard, was he able to change any minds, particularly those House Republicans that are opposed to providing any additional aid to Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll leave that to the House Republicans to speak to their meetings with — with the Pres- — President Zelenskyy.

As you know, he met with them and shared — shared, you know, certainly, his — when he speaks about this, as he’s dealing with this, he speaks about it in such a passionate way. And when he — when President Zelenskyy speaks, people listen, because he knows what he’s going through every day with his — what his country is going through, the people in his country is going through. And we have said how bravely they are fighting for their democracy and for their freedom.

So, that’s up to House Republicans to speak to, or House — House — House congressional members to speak to.

What we can do is continue to do what we showed yesterday, right? We announced another security assistance. Again, we — you saw the bilateral — the bilateral engagement between the two leaders, which we believe showed our commitment to Ukraine. You heard from the President at UNGA — speak to this in a very forceful way, what this means if — if we were not to continue to support Ukraine.

And so, we’re going to — the President is going to continue to do — to speak very forcefully, to show how much he supports Ukraine. But that is up to Congress.

But, with all of that said, we appreciate the bipartisan support that we have seen for the funding for Ukraine. And we are going — we are optimistic that that’s going to continue.

AIDE: We can take one more, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: One more? Okay.

Q Karine?

Q Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good to see you, Cristina.

Q So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s been a while.

Q Yes, it has been. Thank you for taking my question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.

Q If there is so much at stake in case of a government shutdown, is the President willing to support or even broker negotiations between more moderate Republicans and Democrats to help Leader McCarthy avoid the shutdown? Is there any chance for bipartisanship here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — Cristina, look, I appreciate the question — really do. And I’m just going to reiterate what I said moments ago: This is something for House Republicans to deal with. It is their job. It is one of their basic duties to keep the government open. It truly is.

And instead, they’re going in a very bipartisan way — in extreme ways in putting forth policies and, you know, CRs that’s going to hurt American families.

We — the President did his job, right? He helped broker a bipartisan legislation that two thirds of that legislation was voted by Republicans.

And so, a deal is a deal. They need to stick to what they agreed upon — what they, themselves, voted on.

And so, that is for Speaker McCarthy to — to figure out — to figure out how he’s going to move forward here. But this is for them to fix. This is for them to fix.

So, I’ll leave it there.

Have a great weekend, y’all. I’ll see you on Monday.

Q Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.

2:29 P.M. EDT

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 20:48

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:19 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you can see, we have the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan joining us today to talk about — give a little bit of a preview and talk about the President’s visit with President Zelenskyy today.  As you know, he’s all in tow- — he’s in town, and he’ll take some of your foreign policy questions as well.

With that, Jake, the podium is yours. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Thanks, Karine.  And thanks for letting me come back here just a few days after I was last before you at this podium.

President Biden returned from New York last night, where he held a series of engagements and meetings at the U.N. General Assembly.  He launched important initiatives, he engaged with heads of state from around the world, and he laid out a substantive agenda for effective American leadership at a pivotal moment in the world. 

In his remarks to the General Assembly, President Biden highlighted all that is at stake as we continue to rally the world to support Ukraine, including the fate of core principles of the United Nations Charter: sovereignty, territorial integrity, and human rights, which are the pillars of peaceful relations among nations. 

As you all know, President Biden underscored that it’s not just the future of the people of Ukraine that hangs in the balance as they bravely fight every day to defend their rights and their sovereign territory from a brutal Russian invasion.  The President spoke about how critical it is that the U.S. and the world send the unmistakable message that in the 21st century, a dictator cannot be allowed to conquer or carve up his neighbor’s territory by force and threaten the fundamental values of freedom and independence that matter to every American. 

If we allow that here, it will happen elsewhere in ways that will undermine the fundamental security, not to mention the values that the American people hold so dear. 

Following up on that speech at the U.N. earlier this week, today President Biden is hosting President Zelenskyy of Ukraine here at the White House, where he will emphasize the continued need for the American people to step up and support Ukraine as they battle on the frontlines of the free world. 

Today’s meeting will be the sixth in-person meeting between President Biden and President Zelenskyy.  And it’s President Zelenskyy’s third visit to the White House during the Biden administration. 

Of course, they have talked many times over the course of the past year and a half by phone, on video, and our teams are in constant, daily communication. 

This meeting comes at a significant moment, as Ukrainian forces continue to make progress in their counteroffensive, and just after Russia launched yet another brutal wave of airstrikes against five cities — five cities in Ukraine that hit critical civilian infrastructure and knocked out power for many people in many different parts of the country. 

To help defend against assaults like this one — assaults from the air — President Biden will announce a new package of military assistance today that includes significant air defense capabilities to help Ukraine protect its people.  These capabilities will help Ukraine harden its defenses ahead of what is likely to be a tough winter filled with renewed Russian attacks on Ukrainian critical infrastructure to try to deprive innocent people of necessities like heat and electricity. 

Because President Putin cannot achieve his objectives on the battlefield, he has re- — reduced to and is resorting to attacks that are intended to plunge ordinary people’s lives into cold and darkness.  And we are going to do everything wor- –working with Ukrainians to make that task more and more difficult for Russia to be able to pull off. 

The package the President will announce today will also include weapons and equipment to help Ukraine maintain its momentum in the counteroffensive.  That includes additional ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS systems, anti-armor capabilities, artillery, ammunition, and more DPICMs, which have helped Ukraine make gains and crucially also helped Ukraine defend against counterattacks. 

President Biden and President Zelenskyy will also discuss our joint efforts to support Ukraine’s economic recovery.  And he will introduce a special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery, Penny Pritzker, who will focus on engaging the private sector, partner countries, and Ukrainian counterparts to generate international investment in Ukraine and work with Ukraine to make the reforms necessary to improve Ukraine’s business climate. 

President Biden, of course, is also looking forward to hear directly from President Zelenskyy in person — his perspective on the war and the road ahead and all of the more specific operational issues that have been a feature of all of their conversations over the course of the past year and a half. 

Above all, though, President Biden wants to use today to reaffirm his commitment, this administration’s commitment, this country’s commitment to continuing to lead the world in support of Ukraine for as long as it takes, and that’s what he intends to do today. 

And with that, I look forward to taking your questions. 


Q    Thank you.  (Inaudible) Canada and India’s relationship?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Actually, I was calling on her.  But go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much.

MR. SULLIVAN:  You can go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Can you give us a sense — your sense of what’s happening between Canada and India?  India is fuming at a Canadian allegation that India was involved in the death of a Canadian citizen (inaudible) in India.  Canada is saying that they have informed you about the proof they have about those allegations.  What’s your sense of it?

MR. SULLIVAN:  As soon as we heard from the Canadian Prime Minister publicly about the allegations, we went out publicly ourselves and expressed our deep concern about them, our support for a law enforcement process to get to the bottom of exactly what happened and to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable. 

I’m not going to get into the substance of private diplomatic conversations, but we are in constant contact with our Canadian counterparts.  We are consulting with them closely, we support the efforts that they are undertaking in this investigation, and we have also been in touch with the Indian government as well. 

And I will leave it at that for today, only to say that I have seen in the press some efforts to try to drive a wedge between the United States and Canada on this issue.  And I firmly reject the idea that there is a wedge between the U.S. and Canada.  We have deep concerns about the allegations, and we would like to see this investigation carried forward and the perpetrators held to account. 

That is what the United States has stood for from the moment this emerged in public, and we will continue to stand for that until this fully plays its way out. 

So, you can go ahead, sorry. 

Q    Hi.  So, I know that ATACMS have been on the table, been in consideration by President Biden.  I’m wondering if you can talk about what those consideration factors are.  Is it a stocks/money issue?  Is it a — we’re not ready — they’re not ready at this point in the war to start longer-range fires?  Can you tell us about that? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I can only tell you so much from this podium, because operational considerations about any given weapons system — some of that is quite sensitive. 

What I would say is that the President is constantly speaking both to his own military and to his counterparts in Europe and to the Ukrainians themselves about what is needed on the battlefield at any given phase of the war and then what the United States can provide while also ensuring that we are able to provide for our own defer- — deterrence and defense needs. 

As he’s weighed all that up, to date, he has determined that he would not provide ATACMS, but he has also not taken it off the table in the future.  I don’t have anything to announce about that today. 


Q    Thanks, Jake.  House Republican leaders are heavily laying the blame at President Biden’s feet today for the fact that the House has not passed that additional package of Ukraine aid.  House Speaker McCarthy saying today that President Biden hasn’t made the case to the American public — what is victory, what does it take to be able to win. 

You met with Speaker McCarthy and other Republicans recently.  What was your message to them?  And then, what is your response to Speaker McCarthy today?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not going to get into a debate with Speaker McCarthy from the podium.  I would say that Speaker McCarthy has himself been an advocate for the supply of military assistance to Ukraine, has voted for previous packages, and that Republicans in both the House and Senate in very large numbers have been strong advocates and supporters for this.  Haven’t just wanted to hear the case from us — they’ve been going out and themselves making the case to their constituents and to the world for why this is so important. 

And it is that level of bipartisan support that we’ve seen to date that has sustained the immense and impressive levels of assistance that we’ve been able to provide to Ukraine. 

We believe that that will continue because we believe that there is strong majorities on a bipartisan basis in both the House and Senate to provide this aid.  That’s what we look forward to seeing.

Now, I did have the opportunity to see the — the Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate and the House and the chairs and ranking members of the key national security committees in two separate sessions. 

I thought they were incredibly constructive sessions.  They were deeply substantive.  The members had excellent questions.  They also had a lot of constructive suggestions for how we most effectively pursue continued assistance to Ukraine and rally the world to help Ukraine defend its territory. 

So, on the basis of those conversations and further consultation we’ve had since then, I continue to remain of the view that when all is said and done — after all the back-and-forth, and the to-ing and fro-ing, and all the other elements going into these negotiations that have nothing to do with Ukraine — that there will be strong bipartisan support to continue funding Ukraine to the extent that we believe is necessary to get Ukraine what it needs. 


Q    Thanks, Jake.  Go back to India for a minute.  Does the U.S. have any intelligence or investigative evidence to support Canada’s claims?

And then secondly, Ambassador Garcetti had suggested that President Biden was going to return to India in January to celebrate Republic Day.  And I’m wondering if that trip is now in question, given this diplomatic row between two U.S. partners.

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not going to speak to either intelligence or law enforcement matters from this podium.  I will let that process play out.

We are in, as I said before, continuous communication and consultation with the Canadian government.  And we will remain so as we go forward. 

And I do not have anything to announce about travel by the President to India in January or at any other time today. 


Q    Jake, you’ve expressed your confidence that Congress will, in the not-too-distant future, pass the necessary $24 billion in funds that you say is — are necessary going forward in Ukraine.  By what date does that need to occur to not have any impact?  What is the urgency?  And how soon does that need to happen to make sure that there is no let-up in the effort to help support the Ukrainians? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, just to be clear, the supplemental funding package that we put forward to the Hill was for the period from the end of the fiscal year to the end of the calendar year — basically, September 30th to the end of the year. 

So, there’s not a single dar- — dollar amount that is necessary for all time.  We need funding to keep going, meaning that if, for example, the Congress passed a shorter package, you could have a proportional amount or a longer package, et cetera.

Q    But at what point does that package — new package need to be passed?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We will want to see additional funding for Ukraine after the end of the fiscal year — so, after September 30th — meaning that we would like additional resources from the Congress on October 1st to be able to ensure that there’s no disruption in the supply of funding to Ukraine.

Q    And at what point would there be a disruption if we passed — what date would there be a disruption, given the fears about this not passing?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, I mean, there’s a sliding scale of disruption.  But the day after the funds lapse or run out at the end of the fiscal year, there would be a break if we do not get the funding starting October 1st.

That’s why we are making the case to the Congress that we should see additional funding at that time.

Q    Quick follow-up on the Congress.  Speaker McCarthy, as has now been reported, turned down President Zelenskyy’s desire to speak for a joint session of Congress.  Obviously, they control Congress; you don’t.  But what do you think that says to the American people if Zelenskyy was not given that opportunity, given the stakes that you say exist right now?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ve read the reports of that.  I haven’t heard it directly.  So, it’s hard for me to comment or speculate on it. 

What I will say is that President Zelenskyy just spent hours up on the Hill with Democrats and Republicans — and not just behind closed doors, but out in public — to be able to explain his case and to stand, frankly, with members who want to also make the case that this should continue. 

So, I keep saying basically the same thing, standing up here, that I genuinely believe, which is: There is a vocal, quite small minority of members who are raising questions.  There is a very strong, overwhelming majority of members, both Democrats and Republicans, who want to see aid continue.  And I believe that’s where the American people are as well.  So, I believe that will shine through in the end. 


Q    Is the U.S. concerned about Poland’s decision to stop sending arms to Ukraine and whether that signals any sort of broad waning of Western support for Ukraine?

MR. SULLIVAN:  When I read the headlines this morning, I was, of course, concerned and had questions.  But I’ve subsequently seen the Polish government spokesman come out to clarify that, in fact, Poland’s provision of equipment, including things like Polish manufactured howitzers, is continuing and that Poland continues to stand behind Ukraine. 

So, we will stay in consultation with them to ensure that we understand fully what the nature of Poland’s stance is on these issues, but I believe that Poland will continue to be a supporter of Ukraine. 


Q    Thank you, Jake.  What are you telling congressional leaders about how much more aid is needed to ensure Ukraine can win the war, not just sustain the war?  And what timeline are you sharing with them?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, we’ve put forward a proposal.  We’ve actually laid out in some detail every element of assistance that we believe is necessary to get us to the end of this year, and then we have begun talking to them about what next year looks like as well.  But that’s in military support, economic support, humanitarian, energy assistance, and so forth. 

War is inherently unpredictable, of course.  So, I can’t look you in the eye and I certainly can’t look them in the eye and predict exactly what’s going to happen on exactly what timetable.  And therefore, we need to have a degree of flexibility and adaptability in our approach, as we have since the beginning of this conflict.  That will continue. 

But what we know is that there is core capabilities — in ammunition, in air defense systems, and in other critical military elements — that Ukraine will continue to need from its partners in NATO and other countries around the world.  And we, the United States, are committed to making sure they get those. 

In fact, Secretary Austin had the opportunity to host another round of the Ramstein Group, the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group, this week in Germany.  And we continue to see a level of urgency and intensity in the support to — for this kind of assistance to go to Ukraine from dozens of countries around the world.  The United States has got to step up and do its part.

Q    And you talk about the bipartisan support, but the issue here is just how does this even get to the floor for a vote.  So, what is the path forward here?

MR. SULLIVAN:  In a way, that’s above my paygrade because that involves questions related to the entire budget, much of which goes well beyond the national security remit. 

So, I will not handicap, kind of, overall budget negotiations.  What I’m laser-focused on is: When all is said and done, will there be the support and the resources necessary for Ukraine?

I believe, based on my consultations on the Hill with both Republicans and Democrats, that there will be.


Q    Thank you, again, for being here.  You are — you expressed confidence that ultimately there will be money provided as requested, if not more or whatever.  And that’s the understanding here at the White House. 

How do you explain, then, all of this to Zelenskyy or to other world leaders who might be watching this domestic fight and thinking, “Should we really believe that the United States is on board with Ukraine and with this effort?”  I mean, how do you explain congressional dysfunction, I guess, to your counterparts? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I mean, one thing you definitely do not need to explain to democratically elected leaders in Europe — frankly, even to autocrats — is politics.  Okay?  Leaders know politics.  And President Biden’s counterparts understand that budget negotiations take place and there’s difficult give-and-take in them.  And that’s in the nature of a democratic system. 

So, President Zelenskyy is not coming here like a babe in the woods not having any understanding that, you know, we have to work through, as we approach the end of the fiscal year, funding for the government going forward.  He recognizes that that’s going to be contested, that there are different perspectives. 

What he wants to hear from the President is kind of similar to what you are trying to elicit from me, which is what is the degree of confidence we have that we can deliver in the end.  And we believe that we can, which doesn’t mean that the road ahead is entirely straight or I can predict to you exactly how this is all going to play out.  What I believe is that when all is said and done, the support will be there. 

Q    One — one real quick on — when we talk about Canada, there’s an issue with Mexico today because AMLO suggested he’s not coming to APEC in November amid concerns with its relationship with Peru.  Have they given formal notice they’re not coming?  And what do you make of this dispute between the two?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I actually had not seen him go out publicly and say that.  But without going deep into our diplomatic conversations with them, they had raised the possibility that that might happen.  We’ll have to talk to them.  And I don’t want to comment on it at the podium before I’ve had the chance to talk to them directly. 


Q    Thank you so much.  I would like to ask you a question about Saudi Arabia.  Yesterday, the Crown Prince said that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, then Saudi Arabia would get them too.  How do you react to that?  And is it a way to put pressure on the administration at a time when the President is trying to broker a deal with Israel?

MR. SULLIVAN:  No, I don’t think so.  This has been a longstanding position of Saudi Arabia.  And, frankly, one of the major reasons that we are working overtime with partners and allies to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon is that if they did, not only would they be a direct threat to the region and beyond, but it likely would trigger a regional arms race. 

So, it has been core to the American principle and policy with respect to ensuring Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, this risk that potentially other countries in the region would seek nuclear weapons.  That’s not something that emerged yesterday in an interview.  That has been a feature of the landscape going back many years.

Now, from our perspective, we will do all that is necessary — and we have said this repeatedly; the President himself has said it — to ensure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon so this hypothetical never comes to pass.  And that’s the stance that we take, and nothing about the comments made yesterday change or alter that. 


Q    Thank you so much, Jake.  Is it me here or Steve?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Yeah, go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Just first of all, does the administration support every part of the 10-part peace formulation that President Zelenskyy is promoting?  And if the answer to that is no, which parts might you edit? 

And then, secondly, when President Xi hosts President Putin in Beijing next month, what does the White House hope he will communicate to President Putin about the need for peace in Ukraine?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Each of the individual elements of the peace plan, if you sat one of them down — sovereignty and territorial integrity, food security, ecological security, nuclear safety — to us, it’s not even a question of whether we agree.  Of course, we do.  These are just basic principles of the international system.  They’re consistent with the U.N. Charter. 

And we have said that President Zelenskyy’s vision for a just peace is fully consistent with the United Nations Charter and with, kind of, decency and common humanity.  So, we have no concerns about any of that. 

What President Biden has said is that at the end of the day, the baseline for peace are the core principles of the U.N. Charter, particularly sovereignty and territorial integrity and human rights.  That’s what we’re going to continue to drive at.  That’s what President Biden and President Zelenskyy will speak about today. 


Q    And on Xi — sorry. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Oh, sorry.  What was your question?

Q    What do you hope that President Xi will communicate to Putin when they meet in Beijing about the need for peace in Ukraine?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The number-one point in — I can’t remember if it’s 10 or 12 points in the principles that the PRC has laid out with respect to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is respect for sovereignty, respect for every nation’s sovereignty. 

So, I would like to see every leader who goes and speaks to President Putin reinforce that that basic proposition is inviolable and that every country, including countries that have better relationships than [with] Russia than we do, are going to stand by that principle as we go forward.  That’s fundamentally their responsibility. 


Q    I had two quick follow-ups.  First, with regards to the United States’ commitment to Ukraine, there are 26 Republican lawmakers, including 6 senators — a small minority, as you mentioned before — who sent a letter to the OMB director saying that they were unaware of just how much the administration has spent thus far in support of Ukraine.  They know how much was appropriated, obviously; they don’t know how much has been spent thus far.  Do you have a general figure you can give us?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not going to stand here and give a precise figure.  What I will tell you is that we have supplied to the Congress every dollar that has been obligated.  So, if they are unaware, it’s because they are not looking at the reports that we are submitting to the Hill. 

In fact, when I was up on the Hill just a few days ago, I walked through in some detail — and I don’t have the notes in front of me — exactly what we had spent in the military space. 

We’ve done 47 presidential drawdown packages.  We give the dollar figure for every one of them. 

We’ve done USAI packages.  We give the dollar figure for every one of them. 

We obligate money under economic support funds.  That money is notified to the Hill in a public way. 

So, you all have access to exactly how much we’ve spent.  The Congress has access to exactly how much we’ve spent.  We have not hidden a single thing on this, and I find the claim in that letter somewhat bizarre.

Q    And then, you reiterated the importance of territorial sovereignty and you noted that in the 21st century, one neighbor cannot be allowed to conquer another.  And I think that you — you got to — the point you seemed to say that if we were to allow this to happen in Ukraine, it could happen elsewhere.  Were you referring, by chance, to any other particular threat in any other theater towards one of our allies?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not referring to a particular threat.  I’m referring to the fact that history has taught us this lesson painfully many times that aggression unchecked can be aggression unleashed.  That could mean further aggression by Russia or it could be aggression by another autocratic power against its neighbor somewhere else in the world, not specifically zeroing in on a particular threat or conflict. 

But we have to be prepared for that if we do not stand up and help defend this — the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. 

Q    Thanks, Jake.


Q    Yeah, thanks, Jake.  I appreciate you doing this.  So, you’ve laid out how the President is standing up to Russia through action, but largely giving China and India a pass on their aggressions, as well as economic support for Russia.  Why is that?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Can — can you repeat the question?

Q    Yeah, sure.  You’ve laid out how — how the President has been standing for Russia through action.  But when it comes to India and China, the President has largely given them a pass for their aggressions as well as the economic support they’re giving to Russia.  Why is that?

MR. SULLIVAN:  What — what do you mean by “aggression”?

Q    Well, so, for instance, India — they’ve made a deal with — well, economic aggression, I guess — eight- — they made a deal with 18 countries to not use dollars to trade in.  India has — is on a U.S. watchlist for intellectual property theft of U.S. companies.  India has been — is part of BRICS.  And so, that’s what I’m talking about with India.

With China, the aggressions — the hacking that they’ve done, the spy balloons, as well as their intellectual property issues. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I mean, first of all, we’ve stood up over — I — I’m not sure if your question is about Ukraine or just about other things generically —

Q    It’s about China and India.

MR. SULLIVAN:  — and so forth. 

Q    I mean, why — why aren’t we seeing the same kind of actions standing up against China and India?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I mean, we’ve taken a variety of actions to protect America’s national security vis-à-vis threats from the PRC.  You know, we have an entire strategy with respect to our technology export controls to make sure that American technology cannot be used against us. 

President Biden, in fact, is the first person to take some of those steps.  No previous administration has done so. 

And where we have concerns with India, whether it comes to issues related to the very watchlist that you’re describing or otherwise, we make those concerns clear.  And we defend U.S. interests, as we do with every country in the world. 

Now, India is not Russia, and China has its own set of challenges that we deal with in its own context.  So, of course, there is going to be differences in how we deal with countries one by one. 

But the idea — the North Star of this administration is: If you represent a threat to the American people’s security, prosperity, or basic sense of fairness, we will take action to defend that.  I think our record on that — across multiple countries, including the ones you’ve mentioned — is quite clear over the last two and a half years. 


Q    Thank you.  You — you’re talking about the $24 billion being through the end of this calendar year.  You mentioned that you are looking ahead to what comes next.  Do you have any projections for how much more will be needed?  And is there — yeah — do you have projections and can you share them?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I will tell you, standing here right now, I’d let the OMB director lay out our budget request to the Congress — our supplemental request to Congress.  I do not do that. 

We are working through that and, in fact, trying to have an open and transparent conversation with the Congress on it as well.  But I’m going to leave it to the people whose remit it is to — to lay out our resource requests to Congress to do that.  I won’t do that for them. 


Q    Just back on India quickly.  Do you — do you know whether President Biden intends to speak to Modi about this — these allegations from the Canadians?  And do you see that this incident and — and that this concern could drive a wedge between the United States and India at this very moment when you’re trying to sort of rebuild that relationship?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m — I’m not going to get into private diplomatic conversations that have either already happened or are going to happen on this topic, only to say that we have been and will be in contact with the Indians at high levels on this issue. 

It — it is a matter of concern for us.  It is something we take seriously.  It’s something we will keep working on, and we will do that regardless of the country.  There is not some special exemption you get for actions like this.  Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles.  And we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process. 


Q    On — on Ukraine — I’m sorry, just on Ukraine.  You — you’ve talked about the, sort of, need for, you know, kind of, discussions about what weapons will go and what — when they will go.  There are some members of — of Congress, some senators who say that there is some sort of equivalency, like, you know, you’re not sending ATAC- — you shouldn’t send ATACMS, for instance, or weapons to Ukraine because you should preserve them to send them to Taiwan. 

Can you unpack that for us in terms of what the store of weapons that are available, the weapons that can be produced, and whether there are sufficient weapons to respond to eventual needs in other places besides Ukraine? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, when we think about our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to continue to provide defensive articles to Taiwan, we take a look at our — what we have in our inventory and what they put on contract to purchase.  Most of what they acquire, of course, is through foreign military sales, which they put on contract to purchase and don’t take out of our stocks.  So, we look at that.

We obviously look at both what we provide through drawdown to Ukraine and also what we put on contract for purchase to Ukraine through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. 

And then we look at what we need — what we need for any contingency anywhere in the world.  And not just in the Indo-Pacific, but in Europe and the Middle East, elsewhere. 

And we lay those three considerations out on the table, and we make a determination about whether there are, in fact, trade-offs that — that would make our life difficult in some way or whether we feel we can manage and balance everything while doing the needful for all of the major contingencies we might face. 

We do not think right now that the notion of one-for-one trade-offs in any context is really a rate limiter on us being able to provide support for Ukraine.  We think we can provide support for Ukraine and also be in a position to deter aggression elsewhere or respond to it if it takes place. 

Q    Does the U.S. —

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, we have confidence in that.

Q    Does the U.S. industry need to increase production?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Yes.  Our view — just for example, I’ve stood at this podium before and talked about artillery ammunition.  We want to see a dramatic increase in artillery ammunition production.  That is underway.  It will take some time.  We think there are other munitions where additional production, additional capability, and — and not just for munitions, but critical platforms as well. 

We inherited a defense industrial base that — from a supply chain and workforce and overall capacity perspective — was not operating at the level we believe it should be operating at.  President Biden has given direction, Secretary Austin has given direction to remedy that, and we are actively doing so. 


Q    Thank you, Jake.  CNN asked Zelenskyy earlier this week if a military breakthrough is possible this year, and his answer was, “I think nobody knows, really.”  What is the U.S.’s assessment of whether the provision of all of this aid can actually ensure success on the battlefield?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, let’s define “success,” kind of stepping back for a moment.  Number one: Kyiv stands, Kharkiv stands, Kherson stands.  Major cities of Ukraine are not under Russian dom- — domination and occupation today because, first and foremost, of the bravery of the Ukrainian soldiers on the frontlines and the people — the Ukrainian people who are supporting them but also, in no small part, because of the material assistance we have provided.  And that is a significant fact. 

Second, Ukraine is, in fact, taking back territory.  It is doing so methodically, step by step.  And the weapons that we have provided have allowed them to de-occupy more territory in the last three months than the Russians were able to take in eight months over the course of its fall and winter offensive last year. 

So, we will keep at this.  And we believe that the weapons we are providing are helping Ukraine not only make forward progress, but also critically defend the territory that they continue to hold against Russian efforts to overrun it and occupy it, because Putin has not given up on his fundamental goal, which is to subjugate the country of Ukraine. 

And we will not permit that to happen, and the Ukrainian people will not permit that to happen. 

I’ll do one more.  Yeah.

Q    Thanks, Jake.  When President Zelenskyy was here last December, he and President Biden had a joint press conference after their meetings.  That’s not on the agenda for today.  Why was that not scheduled for this visit? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, President Zelenskyy came in from New York.  He’s going off to other destinations tonight.  He has a limited number of hours here.  We wanted to make sure that he spent plenty of time on the Hill engaging with Democratic and Republican members, answering their questions, making his case. 

And then, President Biden wants plenty of time to sit with him one-on-one in a small group and then with his Cabinet to be able to work through everything.  They will have the opportunity to make, I think, two statements to the press during that time. 

But we chose how to allocate the time based on what we think is going to generate the best possible results for Ukraine.  And — and President Biden is looking forward to the set of engagements this afternoon. 

I’ll just say one more thing back to the — the question of how much assistance that we’ve provided lest anyone say, “Oh, Jake doesn’t know how much assistance we’ve provided.” 

This is just off the top of my head, so you can confirm these numbers, but roughly $47 billion in military assistance between PDA and USAI; roughly $1- to $1.5 billion per month in direct budget support that is sent not directly to Ukraine, but to the World Bank so that the World Bank can ensure every amount — all of the amounts of that aid, those dollars are being appropriately spent; and then in the range of 10-or-so billion dollars being spent for a range of humanitarian, energy, and other purposes to ensure that the basic livelihoods of Ukrainians, their humanitarian needs, basic food security needs, and otherwise are being taken care of. 

That’s not a precise estimate, because I didn’t come bringing this.  But I spend my days making sure that we know that every dollar that we’re spending is being accounted for effectively and is being shared very much with the Hill and is bearing — being shared with you all. 

And, of course, we will make sure that the members that you’ve referred to who don’t seem to know what we’re doing with the aid to Ukraine get the same information that has long been available to everybody else. 

And, with that, I’ll let you guys have a good day. 

Q    Jake, one on the (inaudible) —

Q    Thank you, sir.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Jake. 

Q    Thank you, Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much, Jake.  Okay. 

Just one thing at the top, and then we’ll continue.

Today, extreme House Republicans showed yet again that their chaos is marching us toward a reckless and damaging government shutdown.  Extreme House Republicans can’t even get an agreement among themselves to keep the government running or to fund the military.  They keep demanding more extreme policies as a condition to do their job and keep the government open — from a fact-free impeachment that their own members — their own members say isn’t supported by the evidence, to severe cuts to food safety, Meals on Wheels, Head Start, education, law enforcement, and much more.

And they’re failing to deliver needed funding for communities recovering from disasters, to countering fentanyl trafficking, for food assistance for pregnant mothers and babies, and to support Ukraine. 

All this while pushing for more trickle-down tax cuts for billionaires and big corporations, which they did again yesterday in their budget markup. 

The solution is very, very simple.  Extreme House Republicans need to stop playing political games with people’s lives.  There’s so much at stake here.  They should abide by the par- — bipartisan deal we made in May, which two thirds — two thirds of House Republicans voted for.

A deal is a deal.  House Republicans need to do their job, keep the government open, and work with us to deliver — to deliver for the American people.

With that, Seung Min.

Q    Thanks.  Two quick topics.  Has OMB given guidance yet to federal agencies on what they can and can’t do in case of a government shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have any specific — what that — what that would look like.  But certainly, agencies are looking at how to move forward in case there is a shutdown. 

But I will say this, I mean, very plainly: The best plan — the best plan right now is to not have one — is to not have a shutdown.  House Republicans know exactly what they need to do, which is do their jobs. 

Q    Will OMB be sending like guidance this week?  I think typically it’s sent seven or so days before a shutdown. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, again, I told you that, as I mentioned, agencies are looking at how to move forward in case there is one, but we want to be very clear — we want to be very clear here — the ble- — the best plan is for there to not be a shutdown.  This is something that can be avoided here.  This is something that House Republicans know very well — that they have to do their jobs.  They’re the ones — they’re the ones to fix this problem. 

Q    And will the White House send an administration official to the picket lines with those striking UAW workers or would President Biden himself go?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have anything to — to lay out on — on any — as regards to the President’s schedule.  What I can say is the President is — is very, I guess — seeing — seeing them continue to be at the negotiating table.  All parties continuing to be at the negotiating table is a positive.  That is important.  They’ve been certainly doing that for the past 24/7.

It is important to have that collective bargaining.  The President has been very clear about that.  And — and so, we are going to assist — the White House, along with the Department of Labor with the — with the leadership of Acting Secretary Su — to make sure that they — we provide assistance or any guidance as it is requested to all parties. 

But certainly, we appreciate the fact that they are still at the negotiating table having this this conversation.  It is important that we result in a win-win agreement.  It is important that UAW workers are certainly being able to have a deal where they could take care of their family, raise their family.

The President is, as you know, pro-union.  The President is pro-workers, pro-UAW workers, and that’s what we’re going to continue to make clear. 

Go ahead.

Q    Let me just ask you: On the UAW strike, what — to what extent do you have any kind of leverage to, sort of, lean in with companies?  Is the President picking up the phone and speaking with the company executives?  And, you know, is there a limit to how much he can — he can do on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you heard from the President — Andrea, you heard from the President last Friday, where he said — he said that record corporate profits should lead to record UAW contracts.  He was very clear about that.  You’ve heard that from me and you’ve heard that from others here in the administration.  And he’s going to obviously continue to get daily briefings from his — from his team on what is going — where — what’s going on or where the negotiations are. 

And the President has spoken to all parties in the past couple of weeks.  And so, he has stayed in touch.  He’s had those conversation. 

But again, the parties are negotiating at the table.  That is a positive thing.  That is important.  They are working 24/7 to get a win-win agreement. 

And so, look, I’ll just add this.  The President fought and won the type of major investment needed — really, truly needed to ensure that we have a EV future with — with EVs that are made in America.  That is something that the President was able to do. 

And let’s not forget: The folks who want to repeal this or what we saw in the last administration was certainly not about investments.  They — if anything, they tried to — to push sending American jobs to China.  That’s what we’ve seen them do. 

The President is a pro-union president.  That’s what labor — labor and — labor and union have called him and called — called him as a — the most pro-union president in this — ever in this — in any administration. 

And so, we’re going to continue to — continue to be helpful in any way possible as these negotiations continue. 

Q    And could you just say a word about the, kind of, negotiations on that to stop the shutdown or, you know, prevent a shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about the government shutdown?

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look —

Q    Yeah, I was going to ask you — I know you’ve got people working on this, but, you know, how severe, how significant do you think the impact would be if there is a shutdown?  You know, in the past, these things have been resolved in a few days.  So, you know, do you expect that it would have a significant impact or do you think it would be something that could be rolled over?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I appreciate this question.  Because what House Republicans are doing is — would hurt Americans, American families.  And we’ve been very clear: Here are a couple of things that we think that might hurt American families and hurt military families:

Force active-duty military personnel, law enforcement officers to work without pay.

Endanger disaster response, as I said at the top, which will risk FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and complicate new emergency responses.  As we know, FEMA has been very busy these past couple of months dealing with extreme weather, dealing with responses.

Undermine cancer and Alzheimer’s research that will delay new clinical trials.  That’s what we’ll see. 

If you think about eliminated Head Start slots for 10,000 kids.

Risk significant delays for travelers that we — that we’ll see across the country with air traffic controllers and TSA officers, who would have to work without pay.

Undermine public health.  Most EPA hazardous waste and drinking water inspections would stop.

Hurt small businesses.  We’re talking about SBA would not be able to approve new loans.

And undermine food safety. 

So, this is what we think the impacts of the shutdown might be.  And look, again, this is something that they can fix.  This is something that House Republicans — these extreme House Republicans, they can fix this.  All they have to do is do their jobs. 

And let’s not forget, we had a deal.  We had a bipartisan deal the President led on back in May.  A deal is a deal. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Speaker McCarthy said today he would be, quote, “more than willing” to look at the $24 billion request for Ukraine aid if the President first looks at their Republican border bill that they put forward.  What’s your response to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, there is no conversation to be had because the deal was made already back in May, as I just stated to Andrea.  There was a deal that the — that the Speaker and the President came together on to move forward on behalf of the American people, that Republicans voted on, that Democrats voted on. 

You know, a deal is a deal.  There is no discussion to be had.  There’s no discussion to be had.  And I just am not going to negotiate from here, obviously.  But we made a deal in May.  We did.  Something that American people want to see — they want to see both sides coming together, actually — actually delivering on matters that — that are important to them.  So, this could be fixed by them — by them, not by us.  We made a deal already, and that was back in May.

Go ahead. 

Q    Maybe you can tell us about tomorrow’s schedule? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have — I don’t have anything to share at this moment on tomorrow’s schedule.  Certainly, we’ll have that out for all of you later today. 

Go ahead, Peter.

Q    Karine, the —

Q    Thank —

Q    — the administration said yesterday it was granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans.  At the same time, the city of Eagle Pass in the Rio Grande has announced a state of emergency because of immigrants surge.  Is there any concern that the timing of this Venezuelan TPS announcement might exacerbate what’s happening in Eagle Pass right now?  And — and, you know, essentially, is this going to make the situation in Eagle Pass worse?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we have worked very hard — the President have worked very — very hard to pleme- — implement a strategy, when it comes to the border, that is humane, safe, and has orderly enforcement.  That is something that we have tried to do and worked really hard to do these last two years. 

I do want to add a couple of things that we also announced yesterday, as you — just to note — I’m sure you know — which is escalating the fight against smuggling and trafficking by prosecuting an increasing number of smugglers as well as non-citizens who are violating our laws.  Right?  This is an announcement we made yesterday. 

Also, in deploying 800 new active-duty military personnel to support border efforts and get CBP agents and officer out in the field.  This is up to — up to — this on top of the 2,500 National Guard personnel also deployed. 

And expanding the Fentanyl [Family] Expedited Removal Management. 

So, those are three other pieces that we announced, as well as the Venezuela TPS yesterday. 

Let’s not forget the 24,000 CBP agents and officers along the southwest border.

So, we have taken steps without the help of — of Republicans in Congress to do everything that we can to deal with this issue. 

And let’s not forget what the Republicans proposed.  Their continuing resolution would lead 800 CBP agents and officers being fired and (inaudible) 50,000 pounds of cocaine, more than 300 pounds of fentanyl, more than 700 pounds of heroin, and more than 6,000 pounds of — of other drugs to — to enter the country. 

That is what they proposed just a day — a day ago.  And that’s what that would do to the — to the border; it would hurt and harm and not deal with the issue. 

So, they are doing the opposite of what the President is trying to do — is actually move forward in a way that is humane, safe, and has an orderly enforcement pathway process here.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, what do you call it here at the White House when 10,000 people illegally cross the border in a single day? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what do you call it, Peter, when GOP puts forth a — wait, no —

Q    Asking are you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no, no, no, no, you can’t —

Q    Karine —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m answering. 

Okay, we’re going to move on. 

Q    You’re answering a question —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no, no —

Q    — with a question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no —

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no — no, no, no.  We’re moving on.  

Q    Karine, please — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re moving.  In the back.  Go ahead.

Q    You said he was stopping the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, in the back. 

Q    — flow at the border. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no —

Q    Ten thousand migrants —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I tried to answer.  Peter —

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I tried to answer the question, and you stopped me.

Let’s go.  Go ahead, (inaudible).

Q    So, there was footage yesterday of Border Patrol cutting some of the razor wire that Texas had installed.  Governor Abbott has vowed to reinstall it.  They have pic- — his border czar has pictures of people taking fresh razor wire out to the border to reinstall it. 

Is there now a federal policy of removing the barriers that Texas is installing? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, here’s — here’s —

Q    And why?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s what I — I’ll say: I would have to look into that.  I did so — see those reports yesterday. 

But as it relates to Governor Abbott, we know what he has done this past — these past couple of years while this President has been in office.  He’s — he’s turned this — when it comes to the border, he’s turned this into a political stunt.  And that’s what he’s done over and over again.  That’s what I can speak to. 

I did see those reports.  I would have to go back and get a sense from the team and give you a bett- — an answer on that.

Q    And there’s an enormous amount of concern.  The mayor of Eagle Pass tells us at least 5,000 people crossed probably yesterday or in the last two days — maybe a lot more. 

What — I mean, you’ve already talked a little bit, but what —


Q    — resources, specific to this surge, are being —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I just laid out —

Q    — kind of, (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just laid out three additional announcement that we did to deal with — to deal with the border that we announced yesterday.  We announced the TPS Venezuela announcement as well, yesterday. 

And so, this is a president, again, that has taken — that has taken action without the help of — of Republicans in Congress.  He has taken action over and over again to deal with this issue. 

But let’s not forget — and you know this very well, having — having — as you’re covering that region — that this is an issue that’s been around for decades.  This is a broken immigration system.  This is why the President, on his first day, put forth a comprehensive piece of legislation to try to deal with this immigration system. 

We’ve put more — we’ve put CBP 25- — 24-, 25,000 CBP agents out there.  We try to make sure that we deal with the smuggling that’s happening.  We’ve tried to make sure that we continue to deal with this in a humane, orderly way, and that’s what we’re going to continue to promise to do. 

Again, we just announced three more additional enforcement pathways or ways to move forward on this. 

And so, the President is going to continue to do what he can from — from the — from — from this administration.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I’m going to stay, actually, with the border.  How many people coming into this country illegally is enough for President Biden?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that last part.

Q    How many people come — how many people illegally coming into the United States is enough for President Biden’s administra- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t what that — what do you —

Q    Well, five point —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Enough for what?

Q    Five point nine million people have — have been encountered —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know —

Q    — illegally at —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know the numbers, but enough for what?

Q    Enough — just to stop the flood. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As I mentioned, this is a problem that’s been around for some time now — for decades — a broken system.  The President has done everything and is going to continue what — to do what he can, without the help of some Republicans on — in — in Congress to deal with this issue. 

And I just laid out what he has done over the past two years — right? — 24,000 CBP agents and officers along the southwest border.  This is more — a historic number — more than any other — any other president has been able to do.  We’re — and that’s 26- — 2,600 additional civilian personnel, those are going to be helpful in dealing with the issue — increase border-holding capacity by 3,750 to 22,700. 

And so, we’re going to deal — we’re trying to deal with the smuggling issues that we’re seeing as well at — on the border.  So, the President is going to continue to do the work.  He made some announcement on — as well yesterday, as I just mentioned.

And so, look, we’re going to continue to implement a strategy that is humane, that is safe, and that is orderly as it relates to enforcement.  And so, that is a promise that you can see from this president.

Again, GOP — the Republicans put up a continuing resolution that actually reverses the work that the President is trying to do — makes it — the situation worse.  That’s what they were trying to push. 

And so, look, we would love to do it in a bipartisan way and really fix this issue that’s been around for some time now.  But right now, the President is doing it on his own.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Will we see the President try and get directly involved in trying to avert this possible government shutdown?  And will he be speaking with Speaker McCarthy?  And if so, what’s his message?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President talks often to members of Congress.  That is something that he does pretty regularly — that is — and something that he will continue to do.  I don’t have any conversations to lay out. 

But I said this moments ago — right? — which is the President and the Speaker came to a deal in May.  This is not for us to fix.  This is for House Republicans to fix — the extreme House Republicans.  This is on them. 

There is a deal — a deal is a deal — that they voted on in a bipartisan way.  It is up to them to fix this. 

The message is very clear.  What he says in private is certainly what — what he says in private is the same as what he says publicly, which is there is no reason for Republicans to shut down the government.  House Republicans should stop their partisan games and keep their promises and also do their jobs.  That’s the message that the President is sending. 

Q    Given everything you’ve laid out, why is there so much confidence from Jake Sullivan and other members of the Biden administration that this additional funding to Ukraine will get approved?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, I mean, you’ve heard us say this before: We truly appreciate the — the strong bipartisan support that we have seen over the — over the past several months for — for Ukraine. 

And it’s not just us.  It’s coming — it came from our allies and our partners — right? — which has been able to give Ukrainian — the Ukrainian people the — the opportunity to fight and — and be successful in the battlefield. 

And so, it is important — we think it’s incredibly important that we continue to give them the support that they need.  You heard from the President in the halls of the U.N., at UNGA, just a day or two ago, speaking about the stakes, the importance of making sure that we continue to help the Ukrainians as they fight for their democracy. 

That hasn’t changed; the stakes are still very high.  It’s important to continue that support.  We’ve made that very clear.  Again, you heard directly from the President on — just a day or so ago.  And so, we’re going to continue to make that very clear.

  And so, look, there was strong bipartisan support.  Jake actually laid out some of his conversation and what he — the feedback that he was getting when he was on the Hill. 

And so, we’re going to continue to be optimistic about this, because it is incredibly important.  We’re talking about democracy here. 

I’ll call on — go ahead, Gabe.  Welcome to the briefing room.

Q    Good to be here, Karine.  Thanks so much.  I want to go back to immigration.  In addition to Eagle Pass, El Paso is also seeing a new influx as well.  I understand your comments about being a broken immigration system, but the administration also took credit following the end of Title 42 for the drop in border crossing numbers.  Is it now taking responsibility for the rise in numbers?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   So, here —

Q    And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’m sorry. 

Q    Go —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Gabe.  I’m so sorry.  Finish — finish your — finish your —

Q    Yeah, and then, secondly, you mentioned those 800 new troops that are going down to the border.  Do you think that’ll be enough?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, it’s on top of what we have done already in the past two years under this administration.

Look, every year, as you know, Gabe — I know you follow this very closely — U.S. sees ebbs and flows of migrants arriving, fueled by seasonal trends, as you know, and efforts of smugglers to encourage — encourage migration.  That is something that we see over and over again.  And — and so, certainly that plays into this. 

And so — and I — and I understand your question, but here’s the thing: As you know, the President has taken action upon action to try and deal with what is happening at the border — historic action, without the help of Congress. 

And so, we have asked over and over again to do this in a bipartisan way, which is why the President — his first piece of legislation was to deal with the immigration system and he want — and understanding how critical that is — it was to do that. 

And so, we have taken actions.  We have taken multiple actions. 

But again, this happens.  It ebbs and flows.  That’s what we see at the border, for different trends, for different reasons. 

And so, we made — I think — we think, three important enforcement — enforcement announcement yesterday.  It’s on top of what we’ve been able to do. 

And, you know — you know, and then you see — and you see it for yourself what Congress has tried to do: put forth a piece of legislation — a CR, a resolution — that does the opposite of what we’re trying to do when we’re trying to fight fentanyl — right? — when we’re trying to deal with smugglers, when we’re trying to put more — more legal — legal enforcement at the border.  They’re trying to reverse that.  And so, that is the reality that we’re dealing with. 

And so, the President is going to continue to be committed, make sure we do this in a humane way, make sure that we do this in a safe and orderly fashion.  And that’s the commitment that the President has to the American people.

Go ahead.

Q    You — there’s a lot of focus in here about what’s happening at the border and what the White House can do with Congress to solve that problem.  The one thing the White House can do on its own is foreign policy. 

Who’s talking to Venezuela about why these people are still coming?  Who’s talking to Panama about the Darién Gap and who’s allowing them to come in? 

And whatever happened to those State Department and Spain and Canada centers that were going to be set up along the route — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So on the last —

Q    — to make sure that people would have options?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All very good questions.  Clearly, the centers, I would — we would get more information for you on that. 

But, look, these diplomatic conversations are incredibly important.  You heard from the National Security Advisor.  These are conversation that Blinken is having — the Secretary of State is having. 

The President, let’s not forget, just last fall, brought — brought 20, 21 — 22 countries together to talk about what’s — how migration is affecting the region.  And remember, they signed a declaration. 

Look, these diplomatic conversations will continue.  It is not an easy — easy issue to deal with.  Right?  But they’re going to continue what — the point that I’m making and the point that I think you all have — some of you have reported on: This is a president that has taken historic action on an issue, on a system that has been broken for some time. 

And we have been very clear: We would like to do this in a bipartisan way.  We’d like to do it with the help of Republicans.  But right now we are doing it in the best way that we can: diplomatic — taking diplomatic actions, as you just laid out, right?; having those conversations; seeing how we can work with this issue.  Because it’s a regional issue.  This is a West Hemisphere issue, right? 

And so, we’re going to continue to do tho- — to do that, and also make announcements like we did yesterday to deal with what’s going on at the border. 

All right.  I’ll get —

AIDE:  (Inaudible.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  I’ll take one more question for some — go ahead. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The President is expected to announce a new Office for Gun Violence Prevention to coordinate the administration’s efforts.  This obviously has been a proposal that’s been on the table for years from advocates.  And this White House has always maintained that this falls under the Domestic Policy Council. 

I’m wondering if you could just tell us why the White House has agreed to accept this proposal now since advocates have been pushing for it since the transition. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m going to be very careful here.  And certainly, as you know, we are going to give — the President and the Vice President are going to give remarks on gun safety tomorrow.  So I’m going to let them speak to this.  So, don’t have anything to share on this at this time.  So, I would tell you to stay tuned. 

But, you know, look, in a much broader sense here, the President has said, “Gun violence is an epidemic.”  There are many people who are sitting around their kitchen table every night who are missing their loved ones because of gun violence, because of what it’s doing to their community. 

It is — you know, when you hear stats of guns being the number-one killer of kids, that is something that we should really be mindful to and do something about that.  That’s why the President has taken the actions that he has — historical executive actions — to deal with this issue.  That’s why it was important that we saw bipartisan support to deal with gun violence. 

But that’s the reality.  That’s the reality that communities are dealing with.  And the President is going to try to do everything that he can to deal with this epidemic. 

I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the President.  You all will hear from the President and the Vice President tomorrow on their gun — on their gun safety announcement, and we’ll see you all tomorrow. 

Thanks, everybody. 

2:17 P.M. EDT

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Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview the U.S.-Brazil Partnership for Workers’ Rights

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 11:43

Via Teleconference
(September 19, 2023)

3:18 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much, [operator].  And thank you to everyone for joining us today.  This is a background call previewing President Biden’s meeting with President Lula and the announcement of the U.S.-Brazil Partnership for Workers’ Rights

On the call today we have [senior administration official] and [senior administration official]. 

As a reminder of the ground rules, today’s call will be on background with the contents attributable to “senior administration officials.”  And the call is being held under embargo until 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday.  By joining today’s call, you are agreeing to these ground rules. 

I will now turn it over to speaker one, senior administration official one, to kick us off.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Thanks, everybody.  And thank you for joining.  I know it’s a busy week. 

So, as — as was mentioned, the President and President Lula are going to be meeting tomorrow.  And they’re — they’re going to be doing the announcement of — of the Partnership for Workers’ Rights immediately thereafter.  So, this will be the second time the two presidents have met, the third time they’ve had a conversation.  They had a call in between the two meetings. 

But that does not cover what has been a fairly active pace of engagement across the administration, to include the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s direct engagement with his counterpart, Ambassador Celso Amorim — who he coincidentally will be meeting this afternoon — but also, I would say, active engagement from the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and across the government on a whole host of issues. 

What I want to — you know, try to get to the point where my colleague is going to talk about the initiative. 

I also want to note that, you know, the President’s UNGA speech, there was a part of it where he really applauds organizations like the United Nations really having more leaders step up and more voices being heard and being engaged on issues that impact countries like the United States, but the rest of the global community. 

And on that, Brazil has been an important leader on climate and the — President Biden and President Lula really made that a signature of their conversation when they met for the first time in Washington. 

And now, this Partnership for Workers’ Rights is another area where there’s a clear — clear affinity and complement between the United States and Brazil, but also between our two presidents as really this being one of the top priorities, making sure that working families have their rights protected. 

So, this, I think, just highlights the fact that the U.S.-Brazil relationship is not just bilateral, it’s global in nature — the two largest exporters of food in the world, important leaders on climate, and on issues from food security to nonproliferation.  The conversations that we had with Brazil are bilateral, regional, and global in nature. 

And I think there’s probably no better initiative for the two of them to launch — global initiative for them to be launching tomorrow when they meet.  I think it represents that they hold, really, a common vision for equitable, inclusive economic growth.  And, obviously, their deep commitment to workers’ rights. 

And I think it also is something that builds on the years of successful collaboration between the United States and Brazil on these and other issues. 

So, I thought I’d pause there, let my colleague really dive into the details, and then we look forward to taking any questions you might have. 

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Great.  Well, so, thanks so much.  Just picking up where we left off, we are excited to preview that President Biden is joining with President Lula to launch the Partnership for Workers’ Rights that’s been mentioned.  This will be the first initiative of its kind, a U.S.-Brazil global initiative to advance the rights of working people around the world. 

We’re taking advantage of this opportunity where we have two presidents that are uniquely aligned in their common vision for how the economy should work for workers.  Both leaders have elevated the role of workers in our economic policymaking, and both share that commitment to workers’ rights as a key way of elevating the role of workers. 

In this new initiative, the United States intends to strengthen and expand our bilateral partnership to promote workers’ rights and, in doing so, address some of the most salient challenges facing working people around the world. 

The upcoming U.N. General Assembly high-level week provides an opportune time for these leaders to raise this awareness, to emphasize labor rights, and to inspire other partners to action. 

A few — just a few key points on why we chose Brazil as a partner and how we will kick this initiative into gear.  As has been mentioned, this initiative builds on many years of successful collaboration on a whole host of issues that have already been raised.  It also takes advantage of this historic moment and alignment between the two leaders and their commitment for workers’ rights. 

It will build off of all of this and take advantage of this unique partnership, and that’s really why we’re starting this off with Brazil as our co-lead. 

The Partnership for Workers’ Rights will aim to expand this bilateral cooperation with additional partners.  And we think that, by highlighting this at UNGA, we will be more successful in doing so.

We will use the vehicle of advancing workers’ rights to address some of those key challenges that I mentioned.  Those are: ending worker exploitation, including forced labor and child labor; increasing accountability in public and private investments; the clean energy transition; technology and digital transitions, including the gig economy; tackling workplace discrimination, particularly for women, LGBTQI+, and marginalized racial and ethnic groups. 

We are looking to take this partnership — to extend this partnership to other governments and stakeholders, and we are looking to elevate this forward-looking agenda in multilateral forums, including at the G20, COP 28, and COP 30.  We want to elevate the importance of workers’ rights in forums where they have not necessarily taken first-order priority.  And we really want to make sure that this initiative delivers concrete results for workers. 

So, over the coming months, our teams are committed to working on a plan to implement these ideas, and we’ll be sharing more on those conver- — those discussions as they develop.  We’ll be working closely with our Department of Labor and other agencies, and we’ll be working with U.S. and Brazil labor stakeholders and the International Labor Organization as partners to help us with that implementation. 

Although, as I mentioned, the United States and Brazil are going to formally launch this together, we do hope to expand it to include additional stakeholders.  We do want to include other partners.  We hope that by, kind of, aligning with U.S. and Brazil in the near term, in the medium term and the long term, we’re able to broaden that out to a much more expansive initiative that’s able to accomplish even more than we set out to do at the outset. 

And with that, I’ll turn it back to you, [moderator].

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you very much, senior administration official two. 

With that, we’ll open it up to Q&A.  I know both of our officials are under a time crunch.  So, [operator], if you could repeat the instructions on how to ask a question.

Q    Thank you very much, guys, for this call.  So, my first question would be about the global labor initiative.  You said that your mission is to bring other partners to these initiatives.  So, I wonder, if there are other countries already showing interest in joining this, if you are already expanding this conversation to other countries and if you expect in the future any kind of summits, like the Summit for Democracy, for example. 

And another question for one about — today, President Lula sent a message to the U.S. during his speech.  He defended Julian Assange, (inaudible) sanctions, the U.S. embargo to Cuba.  So, I want to hear your reaction to it.  And on the embargo, tomorrow, President Lula is expected to raise the issue with President Biden on the embargo.  So, how would that conversation (inaudible)?  Would you — this administration consider any change?  Thank you very much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   I can take the first question.  The answer is we do hope to expand to other partners, but we want to make sure that we have a good sense of the lines of effort that we hope the initiative will include and how we want to implement those efforts — those lines of effort before we expand to other partners.  So, we have not yet begun that outreach but think that this initiative — the launching of this initiative at UNGA will certainly drive a lot of the interest that you inquired about and make it easier for us to find those partners when the time is right in the very near term.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Great.  On the other — Raquel, thank you for the question. 

Look, as I had mentioned, you know, Brazil is an important voice in — global voice.  It is, I think, also an important bridge between, I would say, G7 and G77 economies.  And it has a long history of, you know, working around the world on a number of issues, including climate change; has a longstanding relationship with Africa, where it’s really built its own architecture in the South Atlantic; and certainly is a powerful voice in its own right. 

Look, on the issue of Cuba, what I would mention is, on the embargo, of course, that is something that is up to the U.S. Congress. 

But the second point I would make is that the Biden administration has made some significant changes to Cuba policy, most importantly by undoing some of the travel restrictions that were imposed by the Trump administration; also restarting — enabling the restarting of remittances; and obviously, working toward the full operation of consular services in Cuba to ensure that we are fully in line with our migration accords.

We remain seriously concerned.  And I think it is a — I think we welcome a debate about the situation in Cuba because what hasn’t happened and needs to happen in Cuba is I think a dialogue between the Cuban people about their future.  And what we saw on July 11th, 2021, and I think — and subsequently has been what has been a crackdown to actually stifle that conversation and maintain, you know, control — for apparent control. 

So, I think we welcome that conversation, not just in terms of U.S. policy, but really with the rights — the human rights of the Cuban people and, really, what it is that we stand for. 

And it’s important for the United States, I think, and Brazil to have that conversation as two robust democracies that I think have been challenged and really value the importance of having institutions of governance that ensure and protect our democratic system. 

I think we — I think the people of Cuba, I think we have a responsibility to advocate for their rights as well.  So, I think the two presidents will discuss this and a number of other issues, as they have in the past, and I think it’ll be a productive conversation.

Q    Thanks so much for doing the call.  As a matter of housekeeping, President Biden is also supposed to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister tomorrow.  I was wondering if the NSC also plans to do a call previewing that meeting. 

MODERATOR:   We’ll get back to you on that one, Josh.


MODERATOR:  Yeah, we’ll get back to you on that one, Josh, and we’re more than happy to try to help with any — any background previewing events however we can. 

Did you have another — another question for our speakers here?

Q    I guess, kind of, the big question is you’re rolling this labor initiative out at the same time as we see a major UAW as well as a screenwriters strike in the U.S.  Does President Biden believe that, in a sense, these strikes will be helpful and productive?  Or is the belief that a labor initiative like this will limit the need for strikes going forward in order for workers to get wage increases?

MODERATOR:  Senior administration two, do you want to take that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  Nothing about this initiative should be interpreted as discouraging or limiting the right to strike, which is a key part of freedom of association, collective bargaining, and workers’ rights, generally speaking.  So, I just want to be really clear about that. 

The President has already issued statements about the UAW strike and his position supporting workers’ efforts to, you know, advocate for themselves in the collective bargaining process.  I really won’t speak to that here. 

But I think it’s clear that you can draw a straight line between all of the above, right?  The President, you know, voicing support for workers who are exercising their collective bargaining rights, exercising support for workers trying to form a union for the first time in a private-sector facility, exercising — expressing support for labor rights around the world to make the global economy more fair, which helps American workers, which helps workers abroad. 

So, it’s all part of the same commitment to workers’ rights, whether it’s a worker on strike, whether it’s a worker at the collective bargaining table, whether it’s a worker trying to form a union, whether it’s a worker just trying to get through the day safely, without discrimination, and with dignity.  This is all part of President Biden’s commitment to workers’ rights. 

And we view this initiative as an important opportunity to share that commitment and advance an agenda with an important partner like President Lula, who has that same commitment and prioritization of workers’ rights.

Q    Hey.  Thanks so much for doing this.  I want to talk — ask you about China.  So, Brazil has continued to maintain very strong relationships with China and has been strengthening those relationships.  But at the same time, it’s caused a little bit of consternation with this new agreement to conduct bilateral commerce in their respective currencies, rather than the U.S. dollar.  Can you just contextualize for me how you see this, you know, partnership working in the context of Brazil’s, you know, desire to strengthen its relationship with China? 

And then, separately, I just wanted to ask about this partnership.  You know, what can be done to ensure that this initiative continues even past the upcoming election in the U.S., but also elections that might happen in Brazil?  Is there any — you know, is there anything that you can do to ensure that it continues if there is a change in government on either side?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   Thank you.  So, I mean, the Biden administration, we’re planning on a five-year timeline, and I think this initiative fits perfectly in that. 

On the question of China, I’ll just say that, fundamentally, we do not put noncompete clauses in our bilateral relationships and are confident in our ability to, I think, compete economically. 

And if you look at some of the companies that are in Brazil, they’ve been there so long — companies like Pilgrim’s Pride and General Motors — I think a lot of Brazilians think that they are — they are Brazilian.  I think regionally, maybe on the trade side, China has — is doing more.  On the investment side, the United States eclipses Chinese investment.

And we’ve been very clear about our concerns on human rights violations in China.  Also, their just, I think, designs of military expansion are areas of concern. 

And we are having those conversations with countries like Brazil and others.  It is their — obviously their right to engage in any relationships that they want.  It’s a sovereign right.  And, you know, we don’t feel like there’s a competition. 

What’s key here, I think, and an important distinction here is that, whereas China does not recognize non-state actors as really legitimate in global politics, for the United States, they are central.  And that applies to stakeholders in the labor sector.

And our ability to really advance workers’ rights through this initiative is a way for — really, for us to — not just our governments to connect, but also to work with stakeholders that are already having these conversations and, in some cases, are way out ahead of our respective governments in building relationships, collaborating on these issues.  And I think it’s — the timing is perfect for us to take this to a global level.

Q    Can you just say which stakeholders you’re referring to as the non-state actors?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   I mean, you know, civil society.  I mean, in this case, labor.  I think there are also climate, you know, activists.  There are different stakeholders outside of governments that are playing an increasingly important role in global politics.  And we see them as legitimate, as a democracy, and I think take the views and priorities of those stakeholders as incredibly important. 

But [senior administration official], I mean, anything you want to say on how this ties to the initiative?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   I’m not sure I have too much more to add.  I mean, I’m happy to answer a specific question, but I think you’ve mostly covered that one.

Q    Hi, guys.  Thank you so much for doing this.  So, my question is, in terms of the work initiative, is it a more of compound of principles or has it (inaudible) steps to be implemented by both countries?  And which steps would those be? 

And the second question more for — about the bilateral relationship.  Is Haiti going to be a topic in this conversation?  We know that the U.S. is probably finalizing a — kind of a plan for — to present to the Security Council and that Brazil has committed to train Haitian police force.  So, I want to know if this is in any kind of agreement between Brazil and the U.S. to look forward on that conversation on Haiti. 

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, just answering your first question, if I understood it appropriately, this is about kind of the principle of advocating for workers’ rights.  But we also want this initiative to advance key lines of effort that help workers to address those five challenges that I outlined. 

And that means, you know, really trying to think through how we can deliver concrete results at each of those lines of effort, what is the right approach to implementation that will make sure we’re being inclusive with our stakeholders; that we’re collaborating to the maximum extent possible; that we’re building off the expertise of the ILO.

And so, it isn’t just about principles; it is also about an actual agenda that we want to deliver real benefits to workers.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And what I would add is, you know, the two leaders are going to have a wide-ranging conversation, but Haiti is definitely a central topic. 

Right now, in terms of finalizing plans, I would note that Kenya has expressed an interest in potentially leading a multinational presence to support Haiti’s efforts to improve the security situation. 

You know, and I think the sequence that we’re very much focused on is, number one, you know, trying to make sure that we’re supporting Kenya’s efforts to correctly assess the situation on the ground and the potential need; trying to be supportive of Kenya’s role in this; obviously, talking to the international community to secure the commitments to provide either funding, you know, training, or actually contribute, you know, forces, whether they be police or military. 

And on that, you know, Brazil has a long — has a lot of experience on Haiti, recognizes very well, I think, the unique challenges.  And so, this is a conversation that we are having actively with Brazil.

What I would note is key here is going to be a resolution coming out of the U.N. Security Council.  We have a lot of countries, for a number of reasons, are going to, I think, require a Chapter VII authorization. 

Now, the question is, is this something that is going to be ultimately a peacekeeping operation.  And I think, from the perspective of the United States, the challenges in Haiti are ones that the multilateral system and the U.N. specifically have a key role to play.  The President made very specific mention of that in his speech at the United Nations. 

And the challenge there has been, frankly, opposition from China to actually having a potential peacekeeping mandate going down there.  So, we are engaging with China directly to kind of better understand their concerns and try to navigate those. 

But as it relates to Brazil, they are an important voice, not just in understanding the situation in Haiti, playing a — you know, being a potential contributor, but also, I think, being a voice in engaging other members of the U.N. Security Council, including China, to really move — really advance our efforts to address the situation

As the President said, really, Haiti cannot wait for us to respond.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, both.  And that is all the time we have.  I know both of our speakers have to get to their next events at UNGA.  So I just want to say thank you to both of them, and thank you to all of you for joining us today. 

Just as a reminder of the ground rules of this call, it’s being held on background, attributable to “senior administration officials,” under embargo until 5:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow morning. 

Thank you and hope everyone has a good day, and feel free to follow up with the NSC press team directly with any outstanding questions.

3:41 P.M. EDT

The post Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview the U.S.-Brazil Partnership for Workers’ Rights appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview the President’s Engagements at UNGA

Tue, 09/19/2023 - 05:00

4:06 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you all for joining today’s call to preview the President’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow. 

As a reminder today, today’s call is on background.  It is attributable to “senior administration officials.”  The call is embargoed until Tuesday, September 19th, at 5:00 a.m. Eastern.  By participating in today’s call, you are also agreeing to these ground rules.

On the call today, we have [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].

I will now turn the call over to [senior administration official] to kick things off.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  Well, as you all know, this week world leaders are convening in New York for the opening of the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly.  President Biden is in New York and will be here through Wednesday. 

I’m here to give an overview of the President’s message he is bringing to the General Assembly.  I can also mention some of the other meetings, including the bilateral meetings he’ll be having on the sidelines, but for this conversation, we hope to focus mostly on his overall approach to the General Assembly.

Now, the annual U.N. General Assembly is one of the world’s preeminent venues for diplomacy.  You — you have leaders and senior officials from all over the world convening in just a few square blocks in Manhattan.  The President sees this as an outstanding opportunity for him and his leadership to advance U.S. interests and values on a range of issues.  This includes mobilizing resources for sustainable development and infrastructure, galvanizing cooperation on the climate crisis, and strengthening global support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Now, being here, the headquarters of the U.N., is an ideal location for the President to reaffirm our country’s commitment to the foundational principles of the United Nations, particularly those laid out in the documents such as the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is an essential forum to demonstrate the President’s commitment to inclusive and effective international cooperation to solve big problems.

So please let me go through the schedule.  Tomorrow, President Biden will deliver his annual address to the General Assembly.  In that speech, he will lay out for the world the steps that he and his administration have taken to work with others to solve the world’s most serious challenges.  He will outline his vision for how countries, working within reformed and modernized international institutions, can harness their efforts to end conflict, defend human rights and the rule of law, and help countries develop their economies.

As you may have heard Jake Sullivan say at our press briefing on Friday, we really have achieved some significant foreign policy successes.  Our engagements here at the U.N. will build on these successes and find new ways we can work with countries to solve problems.

In addition to speaking before the General Assembly, the President will also meet with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.  They will discuss how they can strengthen their partnership to tackle global issues, including mobilizing resources for development, combating climate change, ending conflicts, and working together to uphold the U.N.’s foundational principles.

The President will also meet with the presidents of five Central Asian nations: Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  This will be the first-ever so-called C5+1 presidential summit where our leaders will discuss a range of issues related to regional security, trade and connectivity, climate, and reforms to improve governance and the rule of law.

On Tuesday evening, the President will host the traditional reception with world leaders where he’ll have the chance to engage with dozens of heads of state and government who are here from around the world.

On Wednesday, the President will have an opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting with Brazilian President Lula as well as join in an event with labor leaders from Brazil and the United States to highlight the role that workers play in building a sustainable, democratic, equitable, and peaceful world.

Also on Wednesday, President Biden will sit down with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues focused on the shared democratic values between our two countries and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran.

We’ll have more information to follow on the President’s engagements on Wednesday on the sidelines of these meetings.

But please let me close with this.  You know, in the coming days, there will be much discussion here at the U.N. about the formidable challenges facing our world.  This is a time of geopolitical tension.  Russia’s brutal and illegal war has gravely violated the U.N. Charter, and we have indisputable disagreements with China.  You’ll also hear about the great challenges facing poor countries with developing nations demanding more action to solve the problems affecting them, such as debt, health, development, the climate crisis.

But President Biden is going is going into this year’s General Assembly with the United States confident we have strong allies and new partners; we have a vision for institutional reform at the U.N., at the World Bank, and elsewhere; and we have initiatives to deliver on infrastructure, on health, on climate, and other global public goods.

The President recognizes the world faces enormous challenges that no one country can solve alone, but he has a vision of how American leadership, based on principles, working in partnership with others, can help tackle these challenges.

So, here at the U.N., the one place where the whole world comes together, the President will lift up that vision and rally countries to do more to make our world safer, more just, and more prosperous. 

With that, I’d like to turn it over to my colleague, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, thanks so much.  And appreciate everybody hopping on the call.  And thank you all for being here for a high-level week.  We at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. are excited for another successful visit by the President to New York and an intense few days of activity at the United Nations and on the margins of the meetings at the U.N. General Assembly. 

Throughout the week and in the months ahead, we’re going to continue to strengthen multilateral diplomacy to make the — work to make the international system more inclusive, accessible, and representative; to defend and advance human rights, fundamental freedoms; and uphold the principles behind the U.N. Charter. 

You heard from Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield last week, when she previewed U.S. priorities for UNGA 78.  And you’ll hear directly from the President tomorrow morning, as my colleague indicated, when he delivers his third speech to the U.N. General Assembly of his presidency. 

But I’d like to take this opportunity to just highlight a couple of points about the broader context of our participation this year.  Since day one, the Biden-Harris administration has committed to strengthening partnerships globally.  You’ve seen this in the NATO Summit and the U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea Trilateral Leader Summit at Camp David, the President’s recent visit to India for the G20, a historic trip to Vietnam just concluded.

The United States is dedicated to working with our partners and with countries — even countries we don’t always see eye to eye with to tackle global challenges and advance our collective security and prosperity.  And that means investing in the institutions and global — the institutions around the world that brings the world together.  And that’s why we’re investing in our relationships here at the United Nations. 

We’ll continue to lead with confidence, but as Secretary Blinken noted during his speech at Johns Hopkins last week at SAIS, we remain clear-eyed and humble about the scale and scope of the global challenges we face.  Much of the developing world is experiencing food and energy insecurity.  Many need digital and hard infrastructure investments or struggle to recover economically from the global pandemic.  These challenges have been exacerbated by climate change, Russia’s war in Ukraine, unsustainable debt.

As we address these crises, we need to ensure our multilateral system is fit for purpose — that we’re solving and addressing the challenges that people are facing every day.  And we need to remain focused on ensuring that international institutions, which were established decades ago, can meet today’s challenges. 

That’s why Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and our team, at the President’s direction, have been engaged in intense diplomacy, consulting with countries all over the world on a way forward for meaningful reform of the U.N. Security Council.  The United States making a major push to revitalize and reform multilateral development banks so they can meet the needs of low- and middle-income countries.  You heard a lot about that at the G20, and I think the President will have an opportunity to speak to that tomorrow as well. 

And the President is working with Congress to unlock new lending capacity for the World Bank and the IMF to provide financing for investments in climate mitigation, public health, and a range of other issues. 

There’s a keen recognition that development issues are intricately linked with international peace and security.  That’s why this high-level week in New York, the U.S. will engage on issues that matter most are people and people everywhere in an effort to ensure that no one is left behind. 

And in that vein, during the Sustainable Development Goals Summit this year, we will reaffirm our commitment to addressing sustainable development all over the world. 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield outlined this commitment in the speech at the Council on Foreign Relations last Friday, part of our curtain-raiser here for high-level week.  I encourage you all to look at those remarks which detail our longstanding commitment to sustainable development.  We call on the world to do more and give more.

I’d also note that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  You’ll likely hear us talk more about that declaration — that Universal Declaration — in the coming days, both this week and well beyond, because it’s part of our commitment to the U.N. Charter, the fundamental principles behind the U.N. system, and our own value as a democracy. 

Just last month, during the U.S. presidency of the Security Council meeting, we made human rights and defending the Universal Declaration a centerpiece of our month of activity in the U.N. Security Council, including the first meeting on North Korean human rights the Security Council had had since 2017.

During this year’s high-level week, we’ll work to uphold the principles enshrined in the U.N. Charter, including respect for sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all member states.

As we know, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it struck at the heart of the U.N. Charter.  We’ll continue to pursue a just and durable peace, in line with the U.N. Charter’s core principles, and will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.  And I think we’ll have an opportunity to hear more about that during the course of the week. 

As the President has outlined, the world is at an inflection point.  This year’s U.N. General Assembly is a chance for us to make progress on a host of issues.  And that’s why leaders from across the U.S. government will be in New York with the President to advance that work. 

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you so much, [senior administration official].  I think we’ll now turn it to the moderator to open up Q&A.

Q    Hi.  (Inaudible), but I hope you can hear me.

OPERATOR:  Please go ahead.

Q    So, my question is more on the President’s speech tomorrow, in terms of rallying support for Ukraine.  How would it be different than last year?  For example, will he still use the phrase “as long as it takes,” or will he be more mindful of that kind of language considering the increasing costs (inaudible) among Global South countries?

And also on the (inaudible), will he return to the (inaudible)?  (Inaudible) want to get your take on what the tone and the substance of the speech will be like tomorrow. 


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  I won’t comment on the actual wording of the speech, which — quite frankly, you know, some of it is still being refined. 

But what I can say is the President — you know, here we are at the United Nations.  And so, the President will absolutely reaffirm our commitment to the values of the Charter.  And that includes sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, including Ukraine.  And so, that will feature in the speech. 

At the same time, there’s a lot of other global challenges out there in the world that are existential to other countries.  And so, (inaudible) sustainable development, like climate, and like the need to mobilize more resources for — for infrastructure. 

So, I think our position on — our principal position on Ukraine has been very clear.  It will be reiterated tomorrow in an exceptionally appropriate venue for us — for us to do so.  And again, I won’t comment on the actual wording, but it will definitely feature prominently tomorrow.

footnote to what my colleague just said.  And that is, you know, that one of the messages that we have consistently delivered about Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is the way that it strikes at the heart of the fundamental principle behind the U.N. Charter, which is the basic proposition that countries cannot attack their neighbors, cannot take territory by force, and that every country in the world has a stake in maintaining that principle and defending that principle and responding to it when it’s been violated. 

That’s why we’ve been able to rally huge votes in the U.N. General Assembly to reject what Russia has done.  We’ve been able to do that consistently since the invasion, and we’ve
seen countries all over the world speak out. 

And we’ve also seen the way in which this conflict has had an impact on countries all over the world when it comes to food security.  That’s one of the areas we’ve seen most prominently. 

So, that’s really fundamental to the international system, and every country has a stake in it.  And that’s why, as my colleague indicated, it’s an exceptionally appropriate venue for the President to speak to this conflict, but also speak to a lot of other things that are on our agenda and a lot of other issues that we’re making progress in.

And you’ll see that reflected in the events and activities on issues across the board that U.S. officials will be taking part in during the course of this week.

Moderator, having a little bit of connectivity issues here, so you can just go down the list of questioners.  Thank you.

Q    Thanks very much.  To follow up on Patsy’s question, if you could just give a broader sense of what main topics we should expect to hear from the President in his speech, understanding that it’s still being worked on.

And if you could also give us a sense of the what you anticipate being the main points of conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu when they meet.  And could you explain why they’re meeting in New York as opposed to the White House? 

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On the — on the speech, I think that, you know, in my opening presentation, I — that those were the core themes.  So, it’s going to include our commitment to the charter.  It’s going to include our commitment to reforming — making fit for purpose international organizations so that we have organizations that are effective and are inclusive. 

It will include global challenges, such as the climate crisis; mobilizing resources for development, which is a big theme this year at the U.N. General Assembly; talk about the work that we’ve done, including some of the announcements that we made at the G- — that the President made at the G20 recently. 

And we’ll talk to our commitment to the principles that are at play in some of the world’s most serious conflicts right now, preeminently with Ukraine, and what we’re going to do to make sure that the U.N. Charter is upheld and to strengthen coalition in favor of Russia’s independence in light of a brutal conflict and also reiterate our commitment to human rights worldwide and keeping human rights at the core of the U.N. system.

I can’t speak to the bilateral meeting with — that the President is having on Wednesday with the Israeli Prime Minister.  As I said, we’ll be sharing more information about that later.

Q    Hi.  Thank you so very much for doing this.  I have two questions, if I may.  The fact that the absence of four leaders of the so-called P5 causes some debate — you know, there are discussions that this could fuel a sense of — among many that the U.N. is less action-oriented and thus less consequential, if you want, than other venues, such as, you know, G20 or even BRICS that, you know, Chinese president decided to attend, which doesn’t (inaudible).  So, let me get your reaction to that.  How does the President digest the fact that he will be the only P5 leader being present there?

And second question was C5 — C5+1, if I may.  Can you speak to the importance of the timing and the venue?  By now, there are questions about how Washington, you know, after leaving Afghanistan, you know, did not prioritize Central Asia for a while.  Can you speak to the (inaudible) and if there’s any deliverable we should expect tomorrow?  Thanks so much.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you — oh, go ahead.

SENIOR ADMINISTRIVE OFFICIAL:  Why don’t I start with the first one, if that’s all right, and then I can turn to my colleague for the second one if that — if that makes sense. 

I would just say that I won’t speak for other leaders and — and their decisions about coming to New York for high-level week.  What I would say is that the United States has long seen the U.N. General Assembly as a — as an incredibly rich and important venue to work with leaders from all over the world to tackle problems that we have in common. 
And the President understands the importance of showing up to talk to his counterparts about these issues.  And that’s why you see such a full agenda for this trip, but not just for the President, for his Cabinet as well.

And one of the distinctive features about this set of meetings this week is every country has an opportunity to come here and work on issues and try to make common cause to solve problems that we’re dealing with. 

And so, when you look at some of the events that we’re having, some of the areas where we’re trying to make progress, we have artificial intelligence on the agenda.  The Secretary had an event today looking at that with a number of other leaders. 

We’ve got synthetic drugs and the Fentanyl crisis.  And — and an issue that — that we share in common with a number of countries, we’re rallying countries to try to address that together. 

We’ve got the whole range of issues around the sustainable development goals, including on public health, on the climate crisis, on addressing pandemic preparedness.  And we’re — we’re working with countries all over the world to try to make progress on these issues and many more. 

So, we see it as a really good opportunity to get some serious diplomacy done and make progress on some issues.  And we’ll have more to say about those accomplishments during the course of the week.  But for us, it’s a really good opportunity to speak to the rest of the world, to meet with the rest of the world, and try to make progress together. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  I think that’s actually a fantastic segue to the question on the C5+1 summit, because I think that’s an excellent example of the kind of opportunity that we have here to do some really important business. 

We are meeting in this unique format with these countries to really iron out a positive agenda on the ways that we’re going to collab- — on the issues where we’re going to collaborate, again, on issues ranging from climate to regional issues, reforms to improve governance and the rule of law. 

And as my colleague said, you know, we see opportunities here to just get a lot of business done for the United States and the world.  And this is a great example of how we’re building partnerships and taking advantage of this preeminent global forum to have meetings that might be more difficult to convene in other locales in other times.

Q    Can you hear me all right? 

Okay, great.  Thank you both for making yourselves available to us.  There’s been concern here at home, in the political context, that President Biden is simply no longer an effective advocate on his own behalf, even in cases where he might be seen as having the facts on his side, such as is the case with various aspects of the economy.  What gives you confidence that President Biden, at this stage of his career, can actually move this room of leaders and the global audience?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I — this president is focused on advancing his positive agenda.  I laid out some very thoughtful themes that we’re going to have tomorrow, and I think I would encourage you to watch the speech.  You’re going to have a lot of leaders who are going to hear a vision that we think is pretty compelling and the vision that not many other countries can offer. 

We — again, as I said, I think we’re very proud of our record and some of the accomplishments that we’ve made, some of the new partnerships that we forged, the new initiatives that we’ve announced in recent weeks and months.  And so, we are full of confidence that he will be able to deliver that message and present a vision that other countries will want to rally to our side. 

Thank you.

Q    Hi, thanks for holding this call.  It’s Seung Min with the AP.  You both talked about climate as being one of the big themes of this year.  So, can you talk about why the President is not attending the big climate meeting on Wednesday, who the White House will send in his place, and what it says to the world about the U.S. commitment to climate that he won’t be there and whether the U.S. will be able to offer the sort of proposal that the Secretary-General was calling on countries to bring to the meeting?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  You know, thank you for the question.  As you heard from my opening presentation, climate is such an important theme woven into pretty much every engagement and including the speech.  But the reality is there is a huge number of events, summits, high-level meetings.  I — but this one is important, which is why President Biden has asked his Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, to attend. 

John Kerry is here.  He has a robust schedule.  He’ll be meeting with a number of counterparts to talk about how we galvanize action on climate. 

As I said, the President will address climate action in his speech.  It will feature in virtually every meeting that we have here.  And here at UNGA — at the U.N. General Assembly — we’ll be talking about what we’re doing to ourselves here at home — things like investing in green jobs, advancing decarbonization.  These were major goals of the Inflation Reduction Act. 

We’re proud of this record, but everybody needs to do more.  And, again, this theme will be woven in all of our engagements here. 

Thank you.

Q    Hi, thanks for doing this.  I just a follow-up to the question about President Biden being the only head of state to attend from the five permanent members of the Security Council.  Were you suggesting in your answer that that fact will give the U.S. some advantage in making its case to the other members of the General Assembly?  Or, you know, what’s the possibility that they might start, you know, considering doubts whether this is as big and important a get-together as it has been in the past?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I’ll start, and my colleague may want to add a couple of words.

I would just say that for the leaders that are coming to New York to the U.N. General Assembly, this is an extremely important set of days for diplomacy on a whole range of issues, and that’s why we’re going to be engaging in this diplomacy so intensively.  It’s why the President is bringing so many key members of his national security and foreign policy team with him.  And it’s why U.S. officials are fanning out across these high-level events and engagements and summits to roll up their sleeves and make real progress on issues that the American people are dealing with day in and day out and that we’re trying to work in common cause with our partners around the globe.

You know, just to take one example, we are going to be working on new partnerships across the government to help tackle the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Sustainable Development Goals Summit will take place over the next couple of days.  Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, Secretary Blinken, a number of senior U.S. officials will be announcing ways in which we’re both working at home and around the world to build on our strong track — record of leadership and investment across those objectives. 

And these are — you know, these development objectives that are of great interest to Global South countries, countries that are developing countries all over the world.

We have been a leader in mobilizing investments.  You heard the President talk about that at the G20.  I think you’ll hear the President talk more about the vision that we have and the programs that we have to make progress on these issues in the speech tomorrow. 

And the only way to really make progress on these issues is to get together with other countries and work in common cause, and this is the premier venue for doing so because we have a huge number of leaders from around the globe that are coming together to work on these issues together. 

So, that’s the goal, and that’s what we’re going to be focused on over the next few days.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you, everyone, for joining today’s call.  That is all we have time for today. 

Just a reminder to everyone: This call is on background, attributed to “senior administration officials” and under embargo until 5:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, September 19th. 

Thank you again, and feel free to reach out to our team if you have any questions.  Thank you.

4:35 P.M. EDT

The post Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials to Preview the President’s Engagements at UNGA appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on the Return of American Detainees from Iran

Sun, 09/17/2023 - 22:00

8:08 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Good evening, everybody.  This is [moderator].  Thank you all for joining us on this call on a Sunday evening to talk about Iran. 

Before we get started, I just want to put a couple of quick ground rules.  This call is going to be held under an embargo until the President’s statement goes out tomorrow morning.  For planning purposes, I anticipate that that will happen around 7:30 a.m.  But also for awareness, should anything change, I will be available starting around 5:00 a.m. to provide any sort of support or notice that is needed.  But as I said, for your all’s planning purposes, we anticipate that the statement will go around 7:30 tomorrow morning.

For awareness but not for reporting, joining us on today’s call is [senior administration official] and [senior administration official]. 

It seems like somebody might have their line unmuted.  If you don’t mind muting your line. 

But with that, I will hand it over to [senior administration official] first just to say a few words.  He will hand it over to [senior administration official], and then we’ll open it up for a few questions.  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, [moderator].  And thanks, everybody, for joining.  This call is to give you a heads up that we anticipate, as of this moment, that the consular deal with Iran will be fully implemented tomorrow morning. 

But I want to caution, as [moderator] just did, that, as with really anything we do with a country like Iran, this process remains extremely complex, fragile, and could still hit unanticipated hurdles. 

But, as of right now, and right now is before daybreak in Iran, we do believe we’re on track.  And we just wanted to provide this opportunity to offer some background information and answer any questions as you prepare your stories on this — on this deal.  So, thanks for joining at such a late hour on Sunday night. 

What I’ll do is I’ll walk through what we expect to unfold and some of the broader context behind this deal and also just our larger policy with Iran, and then I’ll turn it over to senior official number two. 

So, here’s what we anticipate the events to unfold over the next 24 hours: As early as 5:00 a.m. Eastern time — so, it’s about nine hours or so from now — seven Americans will board a Qatari plane and leave Iran for Doha, Qatar.  The Americans on the plane will be Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, Morad Tahbaz, and two Americans who wish to remain private.  Also on the plane will be Effie Namazi, the mother of Siamak, and Vida Tahbaz, the wife of Morad.  And both have been previously unable to leave Iran. 

So, we are bringing home five American citizens who have been imprisoned — wrongfully imprisoned and two family members of those imprisoned who were banned from traveling. 

The current plan is for these seven individuals and our Americans — our American citizens to deport Doha as quickly as possible, and they will then come — everybody will come directly to the Washington, D.C., area, where they will be reunited with their families.  And the Department of Defense will be offering optional services for families that might request help for their recovery and integration into normal life, as we routinely do in these very difficult endeavors. 

In return for the safe return of our fellow American citizens, five Iranians will receive clemency.  These five individuals — their names has — have been reported.  I can give them to you if you like, but let me just kind of keep going. 

These individuals have been charged or convicted with nonviolent crimes: Two of the five have been in prison and their sentences were about to expire — in one case, in less than 100 days from now; three are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted.  We anticipate that two of the Iranians who do not have legal status in the U.S. will return to Iran again through Doha, Qatar. 

In connection with the exchange, we are also moving $6 billion in Iranian funds previously held in South Korea — in a restricted account in South Korea to a restricted account in Qatar, where they will be available for a limited — a very limited category of humanitarian transactions.  That is food, medicine, medical devices, and agricultural products only. 

And I wanted to dispel a few myths about what this entails — this transfer entails that has just continued to linger out there. 

First, these are not taxpayer dollars.  This is not a payment of any kind.  No funds enter Iran ever, nor do any funds get paid to Iranian companies or entities. 

The account in Korea is not a legally frozen account under our laws.  The funds there have been legally available for non-sanctionable trade, including under the last administration.  This goes on for some years. 

At bottom, these are Iranian funds — payments made by South Korea to Iran for purchases of oil years ago, including during the last administration — moving from one restricted account in Korea to another restricted account in Qatar.  These funds will be available only for transactions for humanitarian goods with vetted third-party, non-Iranian vendors. 

I just want to, kind of, just focus on this a little bit because the facts are important.  The key facts: These are funds that were legally available for non-sanctionable trade in South Korea and will be available for a similarly restricted category of humanitarian-only trade in Qatar.  And the funds will likely to be spent on individual humanitarian transactions probably over a period of years. 

We are implementing this arrangement through the establishment of what we are calling “the humanitarian channel in Qatar.”  And the Treasury Department will have more information — a great deal of additional information on this tomorrow, including a description of its stringent due diligence and monitoring standards. 

This channel is designed explicitly, again, to guard against money laundering, misuse of Asian and U.S. sanctions, and, as I stated, no money ever goes to Iran.  If Iran tries to divert the funds or use them for anything other than a limited humanitarian purpose as authorized, we’ll take action to lock up the funds.  And that is very clear from what Treasury will put out tomorrow. 

So this humanitarian channel is consistent with U.S. government’s longstanding law and policy across administrations that U.S. sanctions do not preclude limited humanitarian transactions for food, agricultural products, medicine, and medical devices.  And that’s all that is at issue here. 

A couple of other issues: As part of our action tomorrow, we are also issuing new sanctions under the Levinson Act, both against the Ministry of Intelligence and against Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for their actions.  These are the second set of act sanctions, I believe, to be issued under the Levinson Act; they will not be the last.

The United States will never give up on Bob Levinson’s case.  We call on the Iranian regime to give a full account of what happened to Bob Levinson.  The Levinson family deserves answers, and we will continue to take action under the Levinson Act to impose costs on Iran. 

This also applies to the Biden’s administration’s policy on travel to Iran.  To be blunt, no American should travel to Iran for any reason.  No American citizen or dual citizen — it doesn’t matter: Do not travel to Iran.  For dual citizens, Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.  As many of you know, they’re treated as a subject of Iranian law.  So, we are very clear, there’s just no basis for any American passport holder to travel to Iran.  And senior official number two will have more to say about that. 

So, that is the background, and that is the whole arrangement here. 

We are returning five American citizens to their families after years of torment.  We’re moving a restricted Irani account from one jurisdiction to another.  We are providing clemency to five Iranians convicted or charged with nonviolent offenses. 

Importantly, this deal does not change our relationship with Iran in any way.  Iran is an adversary and a state sponsor of terrorism.  We will hold them accountable wherever possible. 

On Friday, just 48 hours ago, the President spoke on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death, and we rolled out nearly 30 new sanctions designations, including Press TV and the individuals and entities that contribute to the oppression of Iran’s people. 

We have sanctioned more than 400 individuals and entities in more than 40 tranches of sanctions since the beginning of our administration.  We’re increasing our military posture in the region.  We have responded decisively to Iran’s attacks against our forces by Iran’s backed militia groups, including by conducting targeted responsive strikes in March of this year.  There have been no attacks in Syria in 6 months since that response, 13 months in Iraq. 

Just by contrast, in early 2021, when our administration entered office, our personnel were under regular and ongoing attack by these Iranian-backed groups, and we have taken action to counter that and deter that.  And we’ll continue to do so.  

Separately, we’ve increased our interdiction posture to deter weapons shipments into Yemen.  And with the diplomacy — U.S.-led diplomacy have secured what is now an 18-month period of calm in Yemen — the quietest period since the war began nearly a decade ago. 

We’re also importantly united with our allies on Iran policy.  We’ll have a lot more to say tomorrow about the many partners who helped contribute to this deal. 

But we lead the charge — just for some examples — to have Iran removed from the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.  Last week, 62 other nations joined us in calling out Iran’s lack of cooperation of the IAEA in Vienna.  And there’s more examples coming. 

Needless to say, the United States will never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapon, a policy we deliver on through diplomacy or other means, if necessary. 

So, today and what we expect to transpire tomorrow, does not change our approach on any of this.  We are focused daily on a policy for the Middle East that combines deterrence with diplomacy to reduce risk of Iran’s aggression while deescala- — deescalating conflicts through diplomacy wherever possible, and contributing and building a more stable, integrated, prosperous Middle East region. 

But it goes without saying that when we have an opportunity to bring American citizens home, we do seek to seize it, and that’s what we’re doing here. 

So, finally, let me just put the focus back on where it belongs.  Tomorrow, the President is making five families whole again.  That’s ultimately what this is about.  And we look forward — we tremendously look forward, especially all of us working on these issues for so many years and have gotten to know the families, to welcoming our fellow citizens back, once again, on their home soil — with the caveat I put up on top that until our Americans are out of Iran, this is not over, but we are hopeful at this moment that this will be over by this time tomorrow. 

So, with that, I want to turn it over to senior official number two for some more background.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you so much.  And I am in wholehearted agreement with the first senior administration official.  We are very optimistic that we are on the brink of a historic moment.

I just want to offer a little more context for it.  From truly the first day of the Biden-Harris administration, we have prioritized the safe return of Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained overseas.  And as you heard from the first senior administration official, a skilled group of dedicated interagency experts have spent over a year negotiating what we hope and anticipate being the culmination of this release tomorrow.  We could not have done this without partners at home and abroad, and you’ll hear more about that in some statements tomorrow. 

Assuming all goes as — as we anticipate and hope tomorrow, we — we can proudly add five more names to a long list of Americans whose release we have secured, truly from around the world: from Russia, from Venezuela, West Africa, from Rwanda, from Burma, from Afghanistan, from Haiti, from Iran previously, and from other countries we have deliberately not named out of sensitivities. 

Even as we have placed such an emphasis and done so much work to bring home Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained — many of whom were already in those awful circumstances as we took office — as an administration, we have placed unprecedented emphasis on preventing future such cases from arising.  And I want to spend a minute on that too. 

You’ll hear more about that work even this week, as we anticipate high-level U.S. government participation in an event on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly openings in New York, focused on the Canadian-led initiative to strengthen global norms against arbitrary detention.  And Secretary Blinken has been a powerful champion of that initiative since his first weeks in office. 

What’s more, President Biden has augmented the U.S. government’s toolkit with new and expanded tools to help bring our citizens home and impose costs on the culprits.  In particular, he did so when he signed Executive Order 14078, which is entitled “Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained U.S. Nationals Home.” 

Now, that executive order itself draws on the 2020 Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, which, as the name of that law itself suggests, is a credit, a testament to the perseverance of the Levinson family and of others who have turned just unbelievable family hardship and tragedy into constructive and meaningful action to prevent other families, other Americans from enduring what they’ve endured.

And so, as you heard from the first administration official: Tomorrow, we will announce a second set of sanctions under that very executive order against an entity and an individual in Iran previously or currently holding hostage or wrongfully detaining Americans.

Those actors in Iran, like others against whom we have used this sanctions authority and against whom we will use it going forward, have tried to use Americans for political leverage or to seek concessions from the United States, fundamentally treating human beings as — as pawns, as bargaining chips.  Those sorts of actions threaten the stability and integrity of the international political system and the safety of U.S. nationals and other persons abroad. 

Specifically, we’ll be announcing sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security — MOIS.  The MOIS frequently holds and interrogates detainees in Evin Prison, in particular, which has a long history of human rights abuses, including extensive reports of torture.  So, MI — MOIS is the entity. 

The U.S. government will also be sanctioning an individual — former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — for constant promotion of lies about Bob Levinson’s whereabouts that still persist to this day. 

And as you heard from the first senior administration official, we can’t emphasize strongly enough that the Iranian regime must finally come clean, allow for Bob Levinson to be at peace and for the Levinson family to have answers.  But we will continue to call on Iran to give a full accounting of what happened to Bob Levinson, from his initial captivity to his ultimate murder. 

So, these sanctions are one of a series of actions — some public, some private — that do two things at the same time: to secure the release of U.S. nationals wrongfully held overseas and to promote accountability for the culprits so that, by punishing these sorts of actions, we are deterring them from occurring again in the future. 

Now, even if we are absolutely and steadfastly committed to reuniting Americans with their families after being held hostage or wrongfully detained, we are also working to warn fellow Americans in a way that can prevent the next generation of cases. 

Again, as you have heard, we cannot say it more clearly: Americans should not travel to Iran.  That is why this administration, for example, has introduced a “D” — for wrongful detention — indicator and applied it to the travel advisories for six countries, including Iran. 

More broadly, we have made this issue set a national priority.  That includes the first-ever mention in the U.S. National Security Strategy focused on the importance of addressing wrongful detainees and hostages. 

So, fundamentally, what we anticipate, what we hope very much will culminate tomorrow is what we do: We bring home Americans in these awful, unacceptable circumstances and we work to prevent fellow Americans from being taken hostage or wrongfully detained going forward by punishing the wrongdoers and by warning our fellow Americans.

Let me stop there, other than to say thank you for joining us to hear about how we are working to bring our people home and reunite them with their families, while also using our tools and authorities — indeed, increasing the tools available to us — to hold accountable those engaged in this sort of appalling activity. 

And with that, [senior administration official], let me kick it back to you for questions.

MODERATOR:  Yep.  Thank you, [senior administration official].

With that, we’ll open it up to questions.  Got time for a few here.

Q    Hi.  Thank you so much for doing the call, both of you.  A couple of questions.  When did the President receive this deal to make a decision on?  When did it reach his desk?  Will he call the families or — or the freed detainees tomorrow?  And, you know, given that we’ve seen iterations of this deal in the past, why do you think it was this time that it stuck?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, I’m not — I’m not going to get ahead of any — any phone calls that might or might not be happening.  I’m also not going to discuss the internal deliberations.  This has been a — a process that has been going on for — a very difficult negotiation, really, over a period of years. 

When the opportunity came together after pretty principled, persistent diplomacy, a number of things, obviously, we completely flat-out rejected.  When the opportunity arose that we thought a deal that was very much in our interests, that’s when we chose to move forward.  But in terms of the timeline, everything else, I’m just not going to get into that here.

Q    Hello.  Can you hear me?


Q    Okay.  Thank you.  Thanks very much for doing this.  Can you give a few details about the sequencing: how the release on the U.S. side will happen, when exactly will the Iranians be released, to who and where. 

And if this all goes well — and it looks like it is — is there any thinking within the Biden administration to use this moment to explore resuming the indirect talks with Iran to see if a deal can be struck in the future, may that be JCPOA or in any other way?  So, in that sense, do you expect to hold any indirect talks with them this week, in the coming months about Tehran restricting its nuclear program?

And very lastly, what is your response to Iran’s decision to bar key IAEA inspectors from Iran?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me — this is senior official one — and then let me answer some of those and turn it to senior official two, particularly on the — some of the sequencing.

I’ll just say there, we — we maintain custody until the deal is through.  So, we’re not doing anything until we’re very confident that our — our Americans are — are out and safe.

I will say, we — look, diplomacy is one of our tools that we use in dealing with a very complex challenge like Iran.  It’s only one of them, including, as I said, sanctions, coordination with allies, deterrence. 

And you asked if there’s any talks planned this week.  Absolutely not.  The indirect talks we have from time to time through the Omanis — I have to say, we are very grateful for the role that Oman has played in this role — particularly, the Sultan of Oman — and, as well, Qatar, which you’ll be hearing more about tomorrow. 

So, we do not close the door entirely to diplomacy.  But we approach diplomacy with principled standards.  And if we see an opportunity, we will explore it.  But right now, I have really nothing to talk about.

[Senior administration official]?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll just chime in on — on the first question a little bit.  Probably less than — than you’d like, but — Humeyra, but I’ll give it a shot. 

You know, in terms of — of those — think of them as “outbound,” I am going to stay a bit vague, because you have individuals who are currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service until this is all culminated.  And for operational reasons, we tend not to go into details about that — even as we try to do what we’re doing here, which is offer a bit of a preview and some context.

I will focus more on things in the other direction, which is really where — where our focus is and ought to be, in which we anticipate, as — as you heard earlier, we’ve — our seven, really — five detained plus two who’ve been prevented from leaving — so that’s seven Americans total making their way to Doha, spending relatively limited — a quite limited period of time on the ground there, and then continuing back to the United States. 

All of them will be offered what we call PISA — post-integration support activity — PISA support.  It’s a terrific program offered by the Department of Defense that many who have returned from hostage experiences or wrongful detention experiences take advantage of.  And, indeed, I have heard from them personally.  Not only does it offer them a lot in the moment, it offers them some skills and coping abilities that they continue to draw on for many, many months to come.  It also helps their family members understand challenges they might not anticipate even weeks or months down the road. 

So, we will be offering all of that care.  It’s — of course, these — these are — these are free Americans at this point.  It is their choice what they — what they take advantage of.  But we’ll certainly be encouraging them to utilize those services being offered to them, and then, of course, work with them to — to give them the support as they reintegrate where they should be, which is into their American family and friend communities.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I have one question I didn’t answer on the — on the — the IAEA inspectors announced over the weekend. 

So, we’re in a- — very active coordination with our partners.  I’ve mentioned there are no meetings envisioned over the coming week with Iran.  We will be meeting at multiple levels with our E3 counterparts and partners to fully coordinate on this.  And I think we’ll have much more to say on this over the coming days. 

Of course, that was a response to, really, organizing much of the world — 62 countries — together in Vienna late last week.  So, we’ll be talking to our partners — UK, France, Germany, and others — over the course of the coming week in New York.  And we’ll have more to say on that over the coming days.

Q    Hello.  Thank you so much for doing this.  You’ve answered some of my — part of my question already.  But can you tell us what their health condition is like for the five Americans who are returning, along with two — you said the mother of Mr. Siamak Namazi and the wife of Mr. Morad Tahbaz.  How are all of them doing? 

And secondly, can you elaborate a bit on the monitoring systems that are going to be put in place to ensure that these funds that are being unfrozen — Iranian funds that are being unfrozen will be used strictly for humanitarian purposes?  Thank you. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, I would say a couple of things — senior official number one — on the Americans in terms of how they’re doing.  So, obviously, I can’t speak for them.  The emotional torment is something I think neither of us — anyone — nobody on this call can even imagine. 

Since the Americans have — our American citizens have been on house arrest, the Swiss and our Swiss Ambassador, our protecting power in Iran has had access to them, including today.  And so, we remain in very close touch through the Swiss to ensure that the house arrest conditions, as had been agreed, are — Iran is living up to them. 

And we, again, thank the Swiss for playing that very important role. 

Treasury will have much more to say on this tomorrow.  I would just say this is about — and one reason this deal took a very long time to put together — this is an extraordinarily stringent monitoring and due diligence arrangement with banks that are trusted and with the full cooperation of the governor of Qatar. 

And we will have ways to know if there is any diversion.  As I said, we will lock it up again.  And the category of humanitarian trade is limited to food, medicine, medical devices, and agricultural products.  Anything that has been said otherwise is simply false. 

And we have set this up in a way that we are very confident of that the risks of diversion are very low.  If there is diversion, we will know about it.  And if there is diversion of the funds, we will lock up the accounts. 

Q    Thanks very much.  [Senior administration official], in the past cases, (inaudible) exchanges usually been as a confidence-building measure in addition to a humanitarian measure.  I’m struck by the fact that —

MODERATOR:  Hey, David, it’s [moderator].  It’s a little hard to hear you. 

Q    Okay. 


MODERATOR:  There we go.  That’s much better.


Q    Okay.  I’m sorry, I’m on a — I’m on a plane. 

I was saying that these past cases have recently been confidence-building measures in addition to humanitarian relief.  It sounds like both sides are going out of their way to say, “There’s nothing that we’re building toward here.”  And I’m wondering if you can tell us whether at any point in negotiations it looked like you may have been using it to try to to build on something.

And second, since you referred to the IAEA (inaudible) and on the withdrawal of the inspectors or the inspectors who wouldn’t receive permission to enter Iran, can you give us an assessment of how that impedes your ability to understand what they’re producing?  (Inaudible.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, David, a couple of things.  I would — on the background diplomatic effort, look, Iran’s economy is in deep trouble.  They have come to us repeatedly through other countries, including Oman, with a sense of urgency to try to return to where we were last August. 

We made very clear the world has changed significantly since last August and the chances for diplomacy in the current context of working are extremely slim.  We do never — we never close the door to it. 

We’ve also made clear that so long as Iran is holding American citizens wrongfully detained in Evin Prison, that does not create a construct for diplomacy at all. 

So, while I would not — I would not call this a confidence-building measure, I will say it does remove an obstacle that was certainly — certainly there. 

But this — this deal was negotiated through Qatar.  It — it is, as these things always are, a fairly separate, independent process.  And when we saw an opportunity in which the — the arrangements that we had always said would be what we would need to move forward, when Iran agreed to that, we — we did decide to move forward. 

So, we’ll see where things go from here.  But I think you’re — you’re right, in terms of the overall backdrop.  It is what it is. 

I — I’m not on this call, David — it’s just a different topic — going to get into the intricacies of the nuclear program — what we’re seeing and what we’re not seeing.  But we’re happy to do a follow-up call on that. 

Q    I appreciate this, you guys.  [Senior administration official], you mentioned that two of the Iranian prisoners are returning to Iran.  But do you expect the other three to stay in the United States?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, it’s a complicated endeavor with — with DOJ and everything.  And so, I’m going to be careful what I say. 

[Senior administration official], anything we can say about that? 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I — I would just say their status may still need some time to play out.  This was also true, in case it’s helpful, in previous arrangements to secure the release of Americans from Iran — that those in the other direction, so to speak, had differing statuses here. 

But I think [senior administration official] is right that we may just need to leave it there for now. 

Q    Thank you very much.  Given Iran’s history over the past 44 years of taking Americans, do you have any confidence, any faith that this practice will end?  Or do you believe that this is a tactic that Iran will continue?

Secondly, are all Americans and permanent residents now out of Iran or will be out of Iran in the next 24 hours? 

Third, do you think that the timing of this has anything to do with Raisi coming to the United Nations?

And finally, what is next on your list of what you’d like to talk to about Iran specifically, whether it’s within the nuclear program or other regional issues of what its proxies are doing?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], do you want me to take a stab at the first two and maybe leave to you the last two? 


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, look, we obviously are not at all confident with the practice.  That is why we continue to warn Americans as starkly as you’ve heard the two of us do on this call, as starkly as the travel advisory on the State Department website, as starkly as the D for wrongful detention indicator does that travel to Iran is an extremely high-risk endeavor, for a number of reasons.  But one of those — the ones made salient in the — in the opening sentences about travel advisory is its risk of arbitrary or wrongful detention. 

Now, that — the fact that bad behavior might continue can’t and shouldn’t stop us from ending just torment for these five — really, seven Americans.  And we are very pleased to believe at least we’re on the brink of doing so. 

But is the — the concern that the states will continue to use Americans and others as bargaining chips, as political pawns is precisely why this administration is investing so much in trying to roll back this practice globally through our leadership in that Canadian-led initiative I mentioned earlier to strengthen global norms; through our use of sanctions, including the types of sanctions we’ll be announcing tomorrow; and through the sort of warnings that we give Americans. 

And I will say that — that with this, all those designated under the statutory process as wrongfully detained in Iran will be coming out. 

Now, of course, there are Americans detained around the world in various countries whose cases are considered by the U.S. Department of State under the 11-factor test set out in the Levinson Act and, based on the information available, don’t receive that designation. 

But we will be very pleased to say that all those currently designated as wrongfully detained — all those Americans designated as wrongfully detained under the Levinson Act in Iran will be out, as — again, with the caveat you’ve heard from us both: assuming this all goes forward. 

And then, [senior administration official], why don’t I kick it to you for the last two?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, just — I mean, the decisions in these very difficult cases, I think when you look at the arrangement, as we’ve described it in detail — we’ll have more to say over the coming days — the decision is to move ahead or to accept that these five American citizens will be in Evin Prison for an additional period of years and may never come home. 

I mean, that is how difficult these cases are.  That’s something we need to weigh.  They are excruciating. 

I think, in this case, the arrangement that we finally worked out is very much in our interest.  And we’re going to make these families whole. 

In terms of Raisi being in New York, I — you’d have to ask the Iranians, Robin.  I highly doubt that has anything to do with it because we finalized this arrangement some time ago and have been working to implement it ever since. 

In terms of what we discuss with Iran, obviously, as I said, we are open to diplomacy on the nuclear side.  But we have many other tools at our disposal on that issue.  But we kind of have — kind of a, I think, a fairly broad array of options. 

But we do remain open to diplomacy.  And we are grateful for our regional partners in that regard.  And we also are focused, as I mentioned — I think we have a strong policy of deterrence in the region, but we’ve also been focused on using diplomacy to de-escalate conflicts wherever — wherever we can. 

I think Jake had a statement late last week noting that the Houthis have an official delegation in Saudi Arabia, as we speak right now, for the first time since that war began.  That is significant.  And we have made ending the war in Yemen a priority of our policy in the region from the first days of our administration. 

So, we have a lot of diplomacy going on in the region of multiple factors.  With the Iranians, it is primarily focused on the nuclear program.  I would just say that that’s a crisis we shouldn’t have.  The decision to get out of a deal that, whatever you might say about it, was at least keeping the program constrained — the last administration did — chose to get out of it without a plan for what came next. 

So, that’s something that we grapple with every day, and we’ll continue to do so.  I’m sure you and I and others on the call will be talking about that over the coming weeks and months. 

Q    Thanks, guys.  A couple questions.  Did Shahab Dalili come up in these deliberations? 

Second, what message does this send to Iran or others, including Russia that — although, you know, returning American hostages who are wrongfully detained is top priority for any administration, what message does this send to those countries that, you know, regardless of the case, that in some way, shape, or form, the U.S. could — whether this time around the money is not Iranian previously, it might have been — sorry — it was not U.S. money — previously, it might have been.  So, what message does this sent to them or, you know, Russia for now where there is Evan, there is Paul Whelan, if they could expect something similar to get these Americans out? 

And then, just second, senior administration official one, you mentioned that there’s an increased military posture in the region and that — I wanted to ask: Does this, like, deter  Iranian aggression on commercial tankers?  And can you mention anything about the U.S. stance on the upcoming expiration of the U.N. arms embargo next month?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], you want me to take a stab at the first two, leave the third to you?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, I’ll take the last two.  Go ahead, [senior administration official].  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  So, look, I’m not going to get into particular other cases.  But I will just say, you know, there are, regrettably, many, many Americans detained around the world, and all of them are entitled to certain things that the U.S. Department of State works very hard to provide to them: consular access, representation in the relevant legal system, a chance at whatever passes for due process in those legal systems.  And our embassies, consulates, or, in some cases, through protecting powers, we work very hard to provide that.

Then there is a subset of cases that — under the Levinson Act’s statutory test that designate it as wrongful detention cases.  And that — that goes above and beyond.  They’re entitled to all of what I said before plus the relentless efforts, hard as it may be, to bring them home. 

And we are very pleased that all those Americans in Iran fall into that latter category — which is a subset and will always be a subset of global cases of Americans held — will be home, assuming this all goes forward. 

And then — and I know [senior administration official] will have more to say on this.  But, you know, I do think we start with the question of what message would it send to Americans if they were wrongfully detained in a place like Evin Prison for years with no hope of coming home.  And that’s not something the President wants from us.  That’s not something the country, in our view, wants from us.  And so, we believe that the message to them is: We will find a way to bring you home.

Wrongful detentions didn’t begin under the last administration, but many of the people we’re proud to be bringing home tomorrow were detained — or when Paul Whelan, for example, as you mentioned, were detained — they certainly didn’t begin under this administration.  Indeed, they’ve been going on for decades and, in a sense, centuries. 

We do believe it’s an awful practice, an inhumane practice, a barbaric practice, and one that we can begin to stamp out through some of the measures you’ve heard me talk about on this call — by building global norms, by punishing and thus deterring this behavior, by warning those who might be the most vulnerable to it. 

But fundamentally, even as we do that work to extinguish this practice, we need to bring home Americans. 

And, [senior administration official], let me turn it over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  You asked about deterrence in the Gulf, in the waterways.  It’s hard to — it’s hard to answer.  I can’t say definitively.  I will say, since we did increase our posture, we have not had any interdictions.  I know the Iranians announced last week they did; we, I think, clarified on Friday, we’ve seen none of that, that that has not happened. 

NAVCENT is doing a really great job, together with the coalition, as part of our role to ensure international commerce and — in those — in those vital waterways of the Middle East.  But it’s a difficult job.  The territory is pretty vast. 

But we had Bahrain — the Bahrainis in town last week.  We signed a comprehensive — we call a “comprehensive security integration prosperity agreement.”  I think it’s worth reading. 

Obviously, that is where our 5th Fleet is based.  And we’re doing an awful lot to ensure that we deter this activity. 

Of course, what’s happening is that Iran sought to interdict tankers as we enforce our own sanctions and DOJ does what it does to enforce U.S. laws and seize illicit oil on tankers overseas. 

So, that is something we’re dealing with every day as we speak and will continue. 

I will just say, on the October — the expiration of some of the sanctions, which you mentioned, we — the U.S. government is not lifting any sanctions. 

I would just say, even as part of this deal, I know there was some reporting earlier in the week about a sanctions waiver.  I want to clarify: We’re not lifting any sanctions as part of this deal whatsoever. 

We did waive sanctions for the limited purpose of allowing the funds to transfer outside the U.S. financial system very carefully through European jurisdictions to Qatar. 

We did this very carefully with the Treasury Department.  And to allow that transfer to happen, we had to issue some waiver letters.  But that was for that limited purpose to allow the funds to transfer through some European banks ultimately on their way to Doha.

We are not lifting any sanctions here.  And when it comes to October, we are not lifting any sanctions, and we are in active discussions with our European partners to ensure that sanctions remain in force, particularly when it comes to Iran’s missile and UAV program.

Q    Yes.  Hi, thank you for doing this.  I just want to know who initiated this deal this time.  I know you mentioned that you’ve been working on this for months and years.  But this opportunity, as you call — you called it, who initiated it this time?

And also, what made you unveil the $6 billion this time in relation to the exchange of prisoners?  I mean, usually, in the past, there have been concessions that involved money or other things from the administration.  But this time, what made you announce the money alongside with this deal?

And also, how would you respond to critics — maybe especially from the Republican side — who have already been — started criticizing the deal and saying that this might encourage further hostage taking?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  In terms of who initiated, it’s kind of hard to answer.  This has been an ongoing process.  We’ve had very clear standards of what we would agree to and not agree to.  And when the negotiation — when the Iranians basically agreed to what we would agree to, we made the decision to move forward.  I think we kept a very firm position. 

As we said to some of the families — it was excruciating conversations — there is never good news, ever, until there’s finally good news. 

So, it’s hard to say in terms of initiation.  We’ve had a very firm position.  There are things we absolutely will not do.  We are open to humanitarian trade, which does not violate U.S. sanctions, with no money going to Iran, et cetera — everything I just laid out.  And that’s the arrangement that we worked out. 

In terms of announcing what we announced, we just were putting out everything that is — that is a part of this and describing in some detail, particularly the humanitarian channel.  And again, Treasury tomorrow — again, assuming everything remains on track — Treasury, tomorrow, will release a Frequently Asked Questions, everything else that they normally do, including with a statement that describes some of this in more detail. 

Again, to critics, I think that the question is, if you really look at the arrangements of this deal, the funds are available for humanitarian — very limited category of humanitarian transactions.  That is no different than they were in the last administration. 

So, I think the question is, when you look at this arrangement: Would it have been better to say, “No, we’re going to keep these Americans in Evin Prison for a period of years on end.”  And in the case of Siamak Namazi, he’s been there since 2015. 

So, I think we have a very good response to critics.  Understand there are critics, too, with an arrangement like this. 

These are some of the most difficult decisions a president makes.  But I think this deal stands up. 

Again, we kept firm to very firm principles.  It’s one reason this took so long.  And I think when you look at the full contours of the deal, compared with the alternative, and the alternative is: These Americans never come home.  So, I think it very much holds up.

Q    Thank you very much, [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].  We really appreciate it.  And I can’t even imagine what this has been like. 

I had a detail, if you could give it to me before Treasury’s briefing — and I apologize if this has been asked.  I got knocked off the call for a while.  I’m still in transit. 

But (inaudible) any money that was in South Korea and restricted account in Qatar.  So, could you explain why it was important for Iran to get the money moved to Qatar?  Did they use it and draw on it when it was in South Korea for non-sanctioned items?

And if you could explain how it’s going to be monitored — monitored by Qatar, given all of the Republican criticism that (inaudible) that money will now be available to Iran, that they — freeing up other money that they could use for weapons or any other nefarious purposes. 

And I don’t know if you’ve responded to this, but the IAEA announced just this weekend that Iran has (inaudible) been certified for reentry (inaudible) the key inspectors who are most familiar with the nuclear program (inaudible).

Thank you both so much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Andrea.  I did answer the second question in the course of the briefing. 

I’ll just say a couple things about the funds and Korea.

I just think, if you really, you know, understand this stuff, I mean, a good chunk of these funds — this is for South Korea purchasing Iranian oil in periods during which that trade was not sanctioned, including a period in 2018-2019 when the last administration issued what are called “significant reduction exceptions” to South Korea, Japan, Turkey, China, a number of other countries.  And in most cases, those funds were spent — billions of dollars — so — for, at the time, bilateral trade and non-sanctioned trade. 

The Korea — the situation in Korea was unique because of difficulties to convert the Korean currency.  I just mentioned how difficult it was just to transfer these funds to Doha.  And frankly, we’ve worked very closely with the South Koreans over the course of — from the beginning of this administration about trying to hold on to this so that it is used in a — the only way that it can be used for: humanitarian — humanitarian trade. 

But there were situations unique to Korea that made it difficult to actually do humanitarian transactions.  What we’ve worked out in Qatar is, again, severely restricted — and Treasury will describe this tomorrow — medicine, medical devices, food, and agriculture — that’s it — but with the conversion done in a way that you can actually do humanitarian transactions.  No money going to Iran, no money going to Iranian entities, et cetera — everything I just said in the beginning.

But that is one of the reasons why this account in South Korea had not been spent.  It is not a frozen account.  It is not legally unavailable to Iran.  It is legally available to Iran for humanitarian transactions in South Korea before we did this deal.  But we are moving it from one restricted account to another restricted account in Qatar under the terms I described. 

And we’ll have more to say about that tomorrow, particularly with the Treasury release.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you all.  That concludes our call this evening.  And we will be in touch in the morning.  Thank you.

8:56 P.M. EDT

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

Fri, 09/15/2023 - 18:54

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:34 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon.  Happy Friday.  Going to be really quick here at the top.  As you can see, we have our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, here.  He’s going to preview the President’s trip next week to the U.N. General Assembly and also take any foreign policy questions you all may have. 


MR. SULLIVAN:  Thanks, Karine, and good to see you all of you guys again, including those of you who made the around-the-world trip just a few days ago. 

As you all know, next week world leaders will convene in New York for the opening of the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly.  President Biden will be in New York through Wednesday.  And he’s eager to use this trip to advance U.S. interests and values on a range of issues from mobilizing financial resources for the Global South for development and infrastructure needs, to galvanizing cooperation to tackle the climate crisis, to strengthening global support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal invasion. 

At the G20, President Biden announced initiatives that will mobilize significant additional financing for international development from multiple sources, public and private, domestic and international. 

And he also reafformed U.S. — reaffirmed U.S. support for reform and evolution of the multilateral development banks, especially the World Bank, to better serve the needs of poor and middle-income countries. 

At this year’s General Assembly, the President will build on this theme.  He will also reaffirm and advocate for the principles at the core of our international order, including the U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  And he will underscore the need for the U.N. and all multilateral institutions to be more representative, democratic, and effective. 

So, on Tuesday, President Biden will deliver his annual address to the General Assembly.  And in that speech, he will lay out for the world the steps that he and his administration have taken to advance a vision of American leadership that is built on the premise of working with others to solve the world’s most pressing problems. 

We put a lot of points on the board and the President will talk about how those steps — how all of those steps he’s taken so far ladder up to a larger vision. 

In addition to speaking before the General Assembly, the President will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, and they will cover both immediate hotspots and the longer-term trends. 

The President will also meet with the presidents of five Central Asian nations: Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  This will be the first-ever C5+1 presidential summit. 

The C5+1 actually began in 2015.  It has been strengthened in the years since.  And now we will see it come together at the leaders level for the first time.

And this inaugural presidential summit will allow for the leaders to discuss a range of issues, from regional security, to trade and connectivity, to climate change, and ongoing reforms to improve governance and the rule of law.

The President will also host the traditional reception with world leaders, where he’ll have the chance to engage with dozens of heads of state in government from around the world.

On Wednesday, the President will have the opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting with President Lula, as well as join him in an event with labor leaders from Brazil and the United States to highlight the central and critical role that workers play in building a sustainable, democratic, equitable, and peaceful world.

Also on Wednesday, President Biden will sit down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues focused on the shared democratic values between the United States and Israel and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as to compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran.

President Biden will then return to Washington to host President Zelenskyy of Ukraine here at the White House on Thursday.  And this will be their third meeting here at the White House, and it certainly comes at a critical time, as Russia desperately seeks help from countries like North Korea for its brutal way in Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces continue to make progress in their counteroffensive, and just after the next Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting that Secretary Austin is organizing with dozens of our allies and partners in Europe earlier next week as we continue to coordinate the provision of arms and equipment to help Ukrainian forces.

President Biden looks forward to hearing President Zelenskyy’s perspective on all of this and to reaffirm for the world and for the United States, for the American people his commitment to continuing to lead the world in supporting Ukraine as it defends its independence, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity.

Let me close with this.  President Biden is going to head to New York, head into next week with the United States in a position of strength of confidence; with strong allies, with new partners; with a vision for institutional reform at the U.N., at the World Bank, and elsewhere; with initiatives to deliver on infrastructure, on health, on climate, and other global public goods.

And we see, at this point, more — a strong demand signal for more American engagement, for more American investment, for more American presence in — across all continents and all quarters of the world.

So, he is very much looking forward to the opportunity that next week provides. 

And, with that, I’d be happy to take your questions. 


Q    What will President Biden’s message on Ukraine be at his U.N. speech?  And are you preparing a new military package for Ukraine?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We are always preparing a new military package for Ukraine.  As you know, we do these presidential drawdown packages essentially every couple of weeks.  And I think you can anticipate that there will be a further announcement of additional resources and capabilities, additional weapons to go to Ukraine — as they continue this counteroffensive and to defend against Russian attacks — at some point next week. 

With respect to his speech, the President will have a substantial section of the speech devoted to the war in Ukraine.  He will talk about the fundamental fact that the United Nations Charter — the charter that founded the organization that everybody is gathering next week in New York to engage with — speaks to the basic proposition that countries cannot attack their neighbors and steal their territory by force. 

That was also a proposition that was at the core of the G20 statement last weekend.  It will be a set of principles that he lays out in the speech as he continues to advocate for the very large number of nations that have stood with Ukraine in the U.N. General Assembly to continue to stand with Ukraine. 

And he will connect the kind of cooperation we’ve seen across both the developed and developing world to support Ukraine at the General Assembly — that we need to take that same kind of cooperation and apply it in other contexts as well where we can deliver for people on the hard global challenges that will be at the center of the agenda for next week. 


Q    Jake, what is the message that the White House believes that President Zelenskyy needs to deliver to Congress, particularly Republicans in the House, while he’s in town to convince them to continue supporting U.S. military assistance to Ukraine?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Frankly, I don’t believe President Zelenskyy needs our advice to be an advocate for what Ukraine needs.  He has proven over the course of the past 18, 19 months that there is no better advocate for his country, for his people, and for the urgent and continuing need for countries like the United States and our allies and partners to step up to provide the necessary tools and resources that Ukraine needs to be able to effectively defend itself.  He will come do that this time, as he has done before. 

He’s had the opportunity in Kyiv over the course of the past several months to host both Democrats and Republicans from both the House and the Senate.  So, he is very much abreast of the perspective and the discussions that are taking place up on Capitol Hill. 

And I think he’s looking forward to the opportunity not just to see President Biden here at the White House, but also to see congressional leaders from both parties to make the case that the United States has been a great friend and partner to Ukraine throughout this entire brutal war and that United States should continue to do that.

We have confidence that there will be bipartisan support for this.  I think President Zelenskyy does as well.  And he wants to build momentum towards that as we head to the end of the month. 


Q    To that point, how do you have that confidence given the showdown on Capitol Hill?  How can the President give assurances to President Zelenskyy that there will be additional funding?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, President Biden doesn’t build his Ukraine policy on assurances or promises; he builds it on delivering.  And we have delivered multiple rounds of supplemental funding that passed with large bipartisan majorities. 

We believe, based on our consultations on the Hill, that there continues to be strong bipartisan support in both houses for continued funding because, frankly, Republicans and Democrats both recognize that the United States cannot — in its own naked self-interest, let alone the moral obligations we have — walk away from Ukraine at this critical moment. 

So, we believe that whatever other to-ing and fro-ing there is in the legislative context — that at the end of the day, the United States will be able to continue to deliver for Ukraine and continue to be able to lead a diverse coalition of countries that are also stepping up to deliver. 

I — I mentioned in my opening that Lloyd Austin is hosting another contact group meeting next week.  And we expect to see other countries stepping up on air defense, on ammunition, on other capabilities increasingly — that they are sharing the burden, our European partners and others, alongside the United States. 

And we’re showing that to the Congress to say, “This isn’t just about the United States alone.  This is about the United States with the free world and friends of the free world stepping up together to continue to deliver for Ukraine.”


Q    Thanks, Jake.  So, just to clarify: So, you’re n- — are you not concerned at all about Ukraine funding and extra aid getting kind of wrapped up or kind of mixed into the shutdown situation?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I spend my life concerned about everything under the sun.  As those of you who know me know, I never sleep easily at night about anything. 

The point I’m making is not about what’s going to happen on a particular day, a particular vote, or, as I said before, the to-ing and fro-ing of the legislation.  The point I’m making is to look at the bigger picture.

In the bigger picture, I do believe that the United States will be there on a bipartisan basis to continue supporting the fight.

Q    And I don’t know if you can say this, but can you talk — do you anticipate that Zelenskyy will be meeting with McCarthy and Republican leaders as well on this trip, on this visit?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I — it’s not for me to announce his meetings up on the Hill.  I will say that we have every expectation that he will meet with both Democrats and Republicans from both branches of government on the Hill. 

What the nature of those meetings will be, who exactly will be in them, I will leave it to the leaders in the House and the Senate to — to make their announcements. 


Q    Thank you, Jake.  I know you said the President is going to be meeting with Netanyahu next week when he’s at UNGA.  Is there a possibility that he’ll meet with the Saudi Crown Prince as well to discuss the potential peace deal?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not aware that the Saudi Crown Prince is coming to the U.N. General Assembly, but we do not have a meeting scheduled with him for next week.


MR. SULLIVAN:  Thanks, Jake.  A little change of topic.  In the UK, there was a staffer in the British Parliament who was arrested and charged on the suspicion of being a Chinese spy.  Are you guys worried there might be such an infiltration here on Capitol Hill or in one of the U.S. agencies?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have any specific information with respect to that.  But, of course, the United States takes very seriously the possibility of espionage by a wide range of countries, whether that’s cyber-enabled, human, signals intelligence, you name it. 

And, you know, we have a counterintelligence enterprise across the U.S. government precisely to deal with that. 

But nothing specific to speak to at this time. 


Q    Thanks, Jake.  A couple of questions.  First, on the Houthi visit.  You issued a statement welcoming that.  How significant is this?  And do you see the Saudis’ role now moving from being a party to the war to more of a moderating — or medi- — mediating, rather, in the conflict in Yemen?

And I have a question on Iran.

MR. SULLIVAN:  We believe that the Houthi visit is a significant step.  It is the first time we have seen this happen in a very long time.  It comes in a moment when we are 18 months in now to a truce that has abated the violence in what had been the most violent and catastrophic conflict going, you know, a couple of years ago. 

And it has been a paramount priority of the Biden administration to deescalate and ultimately end that war. 

And we commend the government of Oman for what they have done to help facilitate this. 

We are working closely with the Yemeni and — the Yemeni parties and the United Nations. 

And as far as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is concerned, we commend their leadership as well, because this is a big step forward for them.  And we believe that they are trying to work to help bring about an end to this conflict. 

That would be good for everyone.  It’d be good for Saudi.  It’d be good for the rest of the countries in the region.  It would certainly be good for the Yemeni people.  And it would be good for the cause of peace and stability across the Middle East.

Q    And on the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death, you also issued a statement reiterating everything that you have done in the last year — whether it’s keeping Iran out of the U.N. Human — Human Rights Council in New York or putting 70 other officials on the sanction list.  But we haven’t seen anything to coincide with this one-year anniversary. 

Do you think that anything that the administration might have announced would complicate the prisoners deal?  Or do you see it separately?  And why didn’t you issue anything new?

MR. SULLIVAN:  In fact, we are issuing today additional sanctions: more than two dozen additional entities and individuals involved in repression in Iran.  And we’ll continue to do that.  We’ll continue to sanction Iranian behavior, whether it is flouting basic norms of human rights contained in the Universal Declaration or it’s relative to the work that Iran is doing to provide weapons to Russia to kill Ukrainian civilians.  And — and we’ll have more designations on that in the coming days. 

So, we believe that we are capable, on the one hand, of taking the necessary steps to bring American citizens home — who belong here at home, who have been wrongfully detained — and also to hold Iran accountable for actions that they take that are contrary to international law and to the basic norms and principles that even Iran has signed up to at the United Nations.

Q    Follow on Iran.  Follow on Iran.


Q    On Ukraine, Ukrainians had hoped to come to New York after severing the land bridge in Crimea.  What message does President Biden hope to send about calls in the developing world to negotiate settlement — a sense of openness or no interest in that?  And then on the Security Council, will President Biden and President Zelenskyy attend?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, with respect to calls for peace or negotiations, President Biden has been clear and will continue to be clear: The United States supports peace in Ukraine.  But we support a just peace in Ukraine, and a just peace has to be based on the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty.

And incidentally, many of those countries that you’re referring to in Africa and Southeast Asia and Latin America have actually reinforced the idea that they’re not just generically calling for peace, they are calling for peace based on the very same principles that the United States supports: sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the proposition that you cannot simply rip off another country’s territory by force and you can’t attack civilian infrastructure and try to destroy grain or energy capabilities that are — are sustaining human life and — and the economy of Ukraine.

So, we actually believe that we have, over the course of the past several months, built a strong engagement and dialogue with the Global South on what ultimately a just peace looks like.  It does not seem that Russia is particularly serious about that at the moment. 

And so, our job, from our perspective, is to provide Ukraine with the tools it needs to be in the best possible position on the battlefield so that it can be in the best possible position at the negotiating table.

And the last thing that I would say, and we say this not just at podiums, but to our partners in the Global South: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.  Nobody is going to negotiate Ukraine’s future without Ukraine being the ones being the judge of their own decisions.  Not us or anyone else imposing outcomes upon them.


Q    On the Security Council —

Q    So, just to follow up —

MR. SULLIVAN:  Oh, I’m sorry.  What was the Security Council question?

Q    On the Security Council, will President Biden and President Zelenskyy attend?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We don’t currently have plans for the — the President to be there, but I can’t rule it out.  But at the moment, I don’t have anything to announce on that.

Q    And to just follow on those two questions —

Q    Thank you, Jake. 

Q    — Jake.  You mentioned the Global South, and I think there’s a lot of concern from the Global South that Ukraine is taking up a lot of oxygen at this and previous UNGA. 

And so, wh- — how would the President balance the needs of the Global South countries — particularly, you know, on debt reduction and climate change, and so on — and rally support for Ukraine at the same time? 

And also, just to follow up on your point about making the General Assembly a more — making the U.N. a more representative and demo- — democra- — democratic and effective body, where are we in terms of the President’s support to reform the Security Council?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The President, in his U.N. General Assembly speech last year, actually laid out his view that we need to add additional both permanent and non-permanent members to the U.N. Security Council and that we need a wider geographic represent- — representation on the Security Council.  He will reinforce and reiterate that commitment this year as well. 

And then, with respect to the question of how, on the one hand, we continue to support Ukraine full-throatedly and, on the other hand, we also make sure we’re addressing the needs of the Global South developing countries, I’d say two things. 

First, these are connected.  Because of the war, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has caused ripple effects that impact food security, energy security, and other forms of harm to countries around the world.  And so, ending this war on just terms, on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity would serve the benefit not just of the Ukrainian people, but people everywhere. 

Secondly, we have shown we can walk and chew gum at the same time.  We have strongly supported the Ukraine at the same moment that we’ve put forward ambitious proposals on World Bank reform, that we have led at the table on debt relief, that we have mobilized tens of billions of dollars for infrastructure needs in developing countries, that we’ve announced new significant projects in every significant corner of the world that is meant to deliver for the needs of people in those countries. 

And we’re going to continue to do that.  And the President’s speech will reflect that as well.


Q    Thank you, Jake.  Yeah.  Moscow said there was no agreement reached after the meetings in — with North Korea and Eastern Russia.  What’s your evaluation of what we’ve seen during the last days?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, we’re not going to take their word for that or basically anything they say.  We’ll see what ex- — actually ends up happening. 

Our view has been before the visit and after the visit that talks about the provision of weapons by North Korea to Russia to kill Ukrainians have been advancing and continue to advance.  We don’t — I can’t name a specific agreement for you today.  But we take a look at that with a heavy dose — heavy grain of salt.

Q    And as for the meeting with Lula next week, will we — will there be a moment to talk about the situation in Venezuela?  What’s your evaluation of how much progress has been made on the Venezuelan side for a change in the sanctions and the — concerning progress in the elec- — electoral — on the electoral side in Venezuela? 

My question — I rephrase it: Have you heard anything from Venezuela that brings you closer to reconsider sanctions?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not going to handicap the progress or characterize the progress.  I’m just going to say what our position is and what we’ve communicated to the Venezuelans and have said publicly — which is we are prepared, on a step-by-step basis, to provide sanctions relief to Venezuela as long as they are meeting milestones towards credible elections.  And this has to be on the basis of reciprocity. 

They understand where we are on this.  And time will tell whether, in fact, there is the possibility of moving forward along a roadmap that involves this kind of step-by-step set of actions on both sides.  Time will tell. 


Q    Thank you — thank you, Jake.  I have a question on Russia, China, and North Korea.  First question is Russia and China will work together to neutralize all sanctions against North Korea currently being posited by the U.N. Security Council.  Are you satisfied with the current (inaudible) of the U.N. Security Council?

And second question is: At the meeting between the President Putin and the Belarusian President Lukashenko yesterday, President Putin announced that cooperation between Russia and North Korea and Belarus.  What signal do you think this sends?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, it’s hard for me to characterize this trilateral cooperation.  We’ll — we’ll see what comes of that.  That, at the moment, feels like words, but we’ll see what it translates into in terms of actions. 

With respect to the U.N. Security Council, there are a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions that, as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, both Russia and China have legal obligations to enforce and uphold.  And it is the case that we have very real concerns based on what Russia has just done that they are going to live up to their basic responsibility as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council on the basis of those resolutions. 

So, we will continue in New York and here in Washington and working with both Tokyo and Seoul to continue to raise the fact that these resolutions are on the books and that they need to be enforced. 

I would not put Russia and China in precisely the same box on the question of North Korea.  Obviously, Russia has taken this step forward.  We are continuing to communicate to Beijing that we expect that they will uphold their responsibility with respect to the enforcement of these resolutions.  And we will continue to press for further action in New York in response to provocations and — and other steps that North Korea takes that are in violation of international law. 

Final point I would make: Yesterday, we held the first of our commitment to consult mechanism engagements at the National Security Advisor level in response to this meeting between Kim Jong Un and Putin.  So, I spoke with my counterparts from Japan and South Korea.  The three of us had the opportunity to compare notes on this and to coordinate what steps we will take in the coming days and weeks. 

So, we are very closely aligned on a trilateral basis to respond to anything that Russia chooses to do with North Korea on a going forward basis. 

Q    Thanks, Jake.


Q    Thanks a lot, Jake.  I want to ask you about the communiqué concerning Ukraine that came out at the conclusion of the G20.  The communiqué reads a lot differently than the communiqué that came out the prior year at the G20 in Bali, Indonesia.  It is more neutral; it’s tepid versus the prior communiqué that was released. 

What is the reaction that you’ve received from your Ukrainian counterpart to that statement that came out at the G20? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I — I have not received any kind of formal or, really, informal reaction from Ukraine with respect to the G20 communiqué.  What they’re focused on — what Ukraine is focused on is the process that began in Copenhagen, continued in Jeddah, which is an opportunity for Ukraine itself to be able to engage with the countries of the Global South and find a way forward towards a common understanding of the principles upon which the just peace should be based. 

And actually, the conversations in both Copenhagen and Jeddah bear a strong resemblance to the propositions that are laid down in that communiqué.  First, the paramount centrality of territorial integrity and sovereignty.  Second, the statement that it is totally unacceptable for any country to use force to violate the territorial integrity of another country.  Third, that attacking grain infrastructure or civilian infrastructure should be totally off-limits.  And fourth, the threat or use of nuclear weapons in a conflict like this should be inadmissible. 

Those four things, which all showed up in the G20 communiqué, all are powerful and, I would argue, in a way, not neutral statements in this context because those are all four things that really say to Russia, “What you are doing is not acceptable” — are the — are the same kind of four principles or premises that have been core to the conversation that Ukraine is having with its partners.

So mainly, what they wanted to talk to me about in the aftermath of the G20 was: What was the nature of the conversation in the room?  What is the attitude of key Global South countries about a just peace?  And then, how do we take and build upon the engagements that Ukraine has had in that process and move forward from there consistent also with the principles that are laid out in Ukraine’s own peace formula?

So, that’s how we’ve had the conversation so far.  I think we’re very much aligned on how we think about a constructive, effective engagement with Global South countries.  And when I say “we,” I mean Kyiv and Washington. 

And so, we’ll continue to work down that line accordingly.

Q    And then just one other one here at home.  With this push to get additional Ukraine funding, you acknowledged this year heading into the U.N. General Assembly, the dynamic is different.  Last year, Democrats controlled both the House and Senate at this time.  Now Republicans control the House. 

The dynamic being different — does that make your job, the administration’s job that much more difficult to move forward with trying to get the aid that you think is necessary for Ukraine?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Last week, I had the chance to sit with the leadership — Democratic and Republican — in the Senate, the leadership and the chairs and rankings of the major national security committee — committees. 

Yesterday, I had the chance to sit with the Democratic and Republican leadership in the House and the chairs and ranking members of the — of the key committees. 

And I’ve got to say, in those conversations, I felt the basic vibe, so to speak — the idea that the United States needs to come together on a bipartisan basis to support Ukraine — felt as strong as it did a year ago on both sides of the aisle. 

But, of course, I acknowledge that there’s a difference between this Congress and the last Congress.  And we’ll have to contend with that as we go through the discussions that will continue in the days ahead on how to get Ukraine the resources it needs. 

Q    Thanks, Jake.

Q    On the C5+1 summit at the U.N., are there specific asks or deliverables that the administration is seeking from this bloc?  And secondly, should that be viewed as a signal to China that this — this summit is happening?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, this summit is not against any country.  It is for a positive agenda that we want to work through with these countries.  And so, on your question of deliverables, we do expect to have a joint statement at the end of it that will lay out, in key areas, concrete things that we intend to work on and do together, and the United States will bring to the table some resources to be able to do that effectively. 


Q    Jake, I — apologies if I missed it.  But is the President not participating in Wednesday’s Climate Summit?  And if not, who will be dispatched from the U.S.? 

And then, more largely, I know the Secretary-General said he wants folks to come with something ambitious and new.  Will the U.S. have something ambitious and new to offer at that summit?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, currently, the President is not scheduled to participate in the — in the U.N. Climate Summit on Wednesday.  I will have to come back to you on who the U.S. representative is going to end up being, and I’ll let that person speak to what the United States brings to that summit.


Q    Thanks, Jake.  Yesterday, we saw a report on China that the defense minister has been the subject to an investigation.  We also saw the U.S. Ambassador to Japan quoting Shakespeare about something being “rotten in the state of Denmark” and saying that this minister hasn’t been seen for three weeks.  Do you have any information on that?  Anything you can tell us?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have anything for you today on that.


Q    Given the complex issues you’ve been talking about that the President is dealing with and given your role being such a close advisor, I want to ask you about how you would describe to us the impact on a personal level that the President is going through with the indictment of his son?  And does it have anything that you can see that affects his ability to prepare or his focus on these issues as he’s going into a consequential week?

MR. SULLIVAN:  You don’t have to take it from me; you heard directly from the President that he’s focused on delivering for the American people.  That’s true in terms of what he’s trying to get done here at home, and it’s definitely true in terms of what he’s trying to deliver in the way of security at the U.N. General Assembly in supporting Ukraine and moving forward. 

So, that’s what he’s focused on.  That’s where his mindset is.

I had the opportunity to participate in the President’s Daily Briefing today.  And he was dialed in on the key issues that we’re confronting and will continue to be as we head into the New York week next week. 

Last question.  Yeah.

Q    Thank you, Jake.  Back on MBS.  Did the President have an opportunity to speak to the Saudi Crown Prince in New Delhi, specifically about oil production over the next year?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The President had a brief exchange with the Crown Prince.  He didn’t have a formal meeting, and I did not get into details on that topic or other topics.  What he was really focused on at that meeting was the announcement of this economic corridor. 

But, of course, we are in regular contact at senior levels with Saudi Arabia about ensuring a stable and affordable supply of energy to global markets.  And we’ll continue that conversation in the days ahead. 

So —

Q    The Chinese Vice President is going to be there.  Are any U.S. officials going to meet with him?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have an announcement for you today.  But stay tuned in case, you know, there is a — a U.S. official who ends up seeing the Chinese Vice President.

Q    Thank you, Jake.

Q    One more?


Q    On food security, just finally, the U.N. leadership is expecting to have talks on reviving the Black Sea grain deal.  Does the White House have any optimism on the likelihood of that happening?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think I said earlier I’m never optimistic about anything, which remains true in this context, as well. 

But, no — look —

Q    We’re worried about you, Jake.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yeah.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Thank you.

Q    Are you getting enough sleep?  I mean —

MR. SULLIVAN:  It — (laughter) — thank you.  Although —

Q    He needs a vacation.

MR. SULLIVAN:  It’s — you know, it’s what Joyce said about Irish people, that they have an abiding sense of tragedy that sustains them through temporary periods of joy.  (Laughter.)  It’s — that’s my existence.

Look, we don’t see an immediate pathway back to this because, you know, Russia’s excuses, answers on this just keep shifting.  And what they all sort of betray is a base of — a basic lack of willingness on their part to allow grain to free flowly — flow freely to the world. 

We are going to continue to press on them.  We are going to call on the rest of the world to do the same.  We know the Turks are working hard at this; Guterres is working hard at this.  So, we hope that they can generate an outcome. 

But the Russians are not giving us a huge amount of cause for optimism at this moment. 

Thanks, everybody.

Q    Thank you for coming.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Jake.  Okay, a couple of things before we take additional questions.

The President, his senior staff, and officials across the federal government are monitoring the path of Hurricane Lee. 

Late last night, the President immediately approved Maine’s emergency declaration to help the state prepare for the impacts of Hurricane Lee. 

Additionally, FEMA Administrator Criswell has been in contact with governors from New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  And FEMA has staged resources across New England to provide rapid federal assistance if needed. 

Now, we encourage all of those in the path of this large and dangerous storm to remain alert, listen to local officials, and prepare for the impact.  Visit for tips on how to prepare.

The President and his entire administration stand ready to support communities which may be impacted. 

As you all know, today is the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.  It is a time to honor the history and contributions of the Hispanic community to our nation. 

Next Thursday, September 21st, President Biden will attend the 46th Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala, and Vice President Harris will participate in a moderated conversation with young Latinos during the CHCI Leadership Conference. 

The First Lady will celebrate the start of Hispanic Heritage Month in Atlanta, Georgia, today at an event honoring trailblazing Latino leaders hosted by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

And later today, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Small Business Administrator Isabel — Isabella Casillas Guzman will also be visiting Latino small owned businesses [Latino-owned small businesses] in Washington, D.C., to highlight how Bidenomics is delivering for Latinos. 

Stay tuned, as we will have more to come through — throughout the month about how the President’s agenda is delivering for the Latino community. 

And finally, as Jewish communities in the United States and around the world prepare together at sundown for Rosh Hashanah, the President and the First Lady are extending their warmest wishes for a happy and healthy New Year. 

Last night, the President spoke to over 2,000 rabbis across the country, wishing them a happy New Year.  To every Jewish — Jewish family across America, Israel, and the world celebrating this evening and observing the High Holidays ahead, shana tovah. 

With that — that’s it.  Go ahead, Aamer.

Q    Thanks.  Why did the President think it was important to dispatch Acting Labor Secretary Su and Gene Sperling now?  The targeted strike is about a half — half-day old now.  Does this early action suggest that the President is worried about this situation quickly spiraling —


Q    — and impacting the broader economy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  Let me just lay out a couple of things that the President said, and let me just start by saying, like, no one wants a strike, right?  No one wants a strike. 

But the President respects workers, as you heard from him.  He respects workers’ rights to use op- — to use their options under the collective bargaining system and understands their frustration. 

The President believes the UAW, the Big 3 contract must lead to a vibrant auto — auto future made in America that promotes good, strong middle-class jobs that a worker can raise a family on and where the UA- — the UAW remains at the heart of our economy. 

So, the President appreciates that the parties have been coming together and working 24/7 and that companies have made their significant offers, but he believes that they must go further to ensure that record corporate profits mean a record contract for the UAW. 

And so, the negotiating parties are continuing their work.  That’s what we’ve heard from them. 

The UAW has made clear their desire to continue negotiations with the company on Saturday morning.  That is tomorrow, as you all know.

And as the President mentioned, to your question about Julie Su and — the Acting Secretary and Gene Sperling, as you know, they have been active in this from very early on — very early — early days of — of the negotiating process.  They’ve been — made themselves available for — for conversations.  And so, we have mentioned that multiple times.  Gene Sperling has certainly played as a coordinator — coordinator role from the White House. 

So, look, they are not — I want to say one last thing is that negotiations are up to the parties to work out.  That’s why there’s co- — collective bar- — bargaining system.  They’re not going to intervene or mediate — or mediate.  They’re here to help in any way that is needed. 

Again, we have engaged with these parties from almost the beginning.  It is — want to make sure that we continue to be clear that we’re — we’re here.  The team stands — the President’s team stands to assist. 

But certainly, we are — we are glad to hear that tomorrow — that they’re going to continue to have the conversation.

Q    So, it shouldn’t be seen as a reflection of the President being overly concerned about the situation?  This is just: They’ve been involved — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They’ve been involved.

Q    — and this is just a further —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And we have said this before.  We have — we have — we have talked about the President’s engagement, how he has talked to the Big 3, how he’s reached out to UAW.  We have been — we have — we have been engaging with them for some time now. 

And so, look, this is — this is something that we are going to leave to the parties, to continue to have these negotiations, to continue to have these — these conversations.  And I think it’s important to do that.

This is part of the collective bargaining system.  This is what we believe has worked, right?  We have seen it worked in the past.  And we’re going to encourage all the parties to continue to have this conversation.

Q    And just a brief second one.  Would the President pardon or commute his son if he’s convicted?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ve answered this question before.  It was asked of me not too long ago, a couple of weeks ago.  And I was very clear, and I said no.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    Thanks.  The President said today record profits for the automakers should mean record contracts for the UAW.  Does that mean that he supports a 40 percent raise in these new contracts?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into the specifics. 

I mean, the President has always said that there should be — that he believes in fair wages and fair benefits for workers.  That is nothing new, right?  He believes in making sure that workers are able to raise their family — right? — to be able to — to have what they need to do that in a way that is very fair. 

And so, that’s nothing new.  The President has said that. 

Look, what we’re going to continue to say is the President is going to urge the parties back to the table to hammer out a win-win agreement.  That’s what the President wants to see. 

We appreciate the parties continuing to do that on a 24/7 basis.  And the President believes that the companies must go further, as — as you just mentioned, to ensure that record profits mean a record contract.  And it’s simple as that. 

He wants —

Q    Further than what they’ve already proposed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into the specifics. 

What — the President made himself very clear.  We have always been really clear.  He respects workers’ rights to use their options for — for collective bargaining.  That’s what we’re — we’re seeing. 

The collective bargaining system works.  We’ve seen that happen multiple times in the last two years under this president. 

And — and certainly he understands their frustration, but he’s going to encourage — continue to encourage to have that conversation and continuing to negotiate.

Q    And can you tell us if the President has talked to his son since these charges came down yesterday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  There’s nothing new here.  As I’ve — as I’ve been asked that question many times.  I’m not going to get into private conversations that the President has with his family.  I’m just not going to speak to it.

Q    Will those conversations, though, have to change given the heightened scrutiny —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just —

Q    — over these charges?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just — I’m just not going to get into private conversations that the President has with his family.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q    How damaging do you expect the strike to be to the U.S. economy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to — certainly not get into hypotheticals from here.

Look, we are going to continue to monitor — that is something that we do here — to see what — what is going to be happening here.  And we’re closely monitoring the situation.

But no decision have been — has been made on any path forward. 

And so, again, we’re going to monitor.  We’re going to encourage.  And we’re actually — we’re happy to see that the negotiation is continuing to happen, to continue to occur.  We’re going to see them — as the UAW stated: They’re going to get back together tomorrow, Saturday morning. 

And so, that’s what the President wants to see: collective bargaining happening at this level, at this time. 

Q    And are you hoping for a quick agreement?  Is that what Gene and Julie are going to try and get?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, Gene and Julie, as I mentioned, the — the Acting Secretary of Labor and also Gene Sperling, who has played coordinator throughout this process, is — is going to do what they’ve been doing: engaging, offering assistance if they — if — if they need it. 

And — and so, we’re going to continue to stay engaged.  We’re going to continue to monitor. 

This is nothing new.  They’ve been engaging for some time now.  But, of course, this is up to the parties to come up with a win-win, we believe, agreement so that — so that we can move forward. 

Go ahead, Kayla.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  The President’s remarks today were seen as a pretty firm endorsement of the workers’ position.  Previously, the White House had avoided taking sides, encouraging both parties to stay at the table.  What changed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t think anything has changed.  I mean, the President has always been a pro-union president.  I mean, you have heard to say that he is seen as the most pro-union president that we’ve had thus far. 

And so, you know, the President respects workers’ rights.  He does.  He respects their rights to collective bargaining.  We believe it is something that is important that they have the right to — to choose to use.  And he understands their frustration.  He believes that workers should have — should be able to ask and to get fair pay and fair benefits.  And that’s nothing new.  That is nothing new. 

So, again, you heard directly from — from this President: the negotiation — negotiating parties are continuing to work.  That’s what is really important here.  And — and they’ve made clear — UAW has made clear that they’re going to continue these conversations on Saturday morning, and that’s what we’re — we’re going to see.

We — we are offering, you know, Senior Advisor Gene Sperling and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, they’re going to go to Detroit.  But ultimately, these negotiations are up to the parties to work out.  And we understand that, but we are offering any assistance that we can provide. 

Q    But to say that the negotiations are up to the parties to work out and also have the President say that the companies have not gone far enough, it appears that the President is — is —


Q    — taking the side of the workers here. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I don’t think so.  I mean, look, the President respects workers’ rights.  There — there is a collective bargaining system happening, and he understands their frustrations.  He understands the frustrations of the workers.  Absolutely. 

Again, this is nothing new.  We have said they should — they should be able to ask and receive fair pay and fair wages — I’m sorry — fair benefits.  And so, that’s what we want to see. 

Those conversations, those negotiations are continuing to move forward.  We appreciate fo- — what they’ve been doing for the past 24/7 — you know, the past — the past, you know, 27 — period of time, right? 

And, you know, we want to see them continuing to work this out.  And that’s what they’re doing. 

Go ahead.

Q    Can you speak to some of the difficult intersections here for the President.  He obviously supports electric vehicles and development of that.  He clearly supports labor, as you’ve discussed.  Michigan is important.  And that, of course, is a big part of where the Big Three resides. 

So, these sort of different points of pressure on the President when he is trying to send a message that really has different audiences here.  And they’re at odds in some ways when you’re talking about management and labor. 

Could you just speak to the sort of unique set of circumstances here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, there are always unique sets of circumstances when we are talking about collective bargaining with unions.  Right?  We saw that with UPS and Teamsters.  We saw that with other — with the West Coast ports.  I mean, there are always interesting circumstances that are — that lie in front of — lie in front of us that needs to be worked out. 

But, again, the President has been very clear: This is why collective bargaining, we believe, is important here.  This is why we appreciate all the sides staying at the table and continuing to have this conversation.  Because what the President — and what I have just said: We believe that they can hammer out a win-win agreement.  We think that could happen. 

And so, this is — I don’t think there is anything unique about this.  We have seen this before.  But we encourage –continuing to encourage them to — to — you know, to move forward in a way where they are at the table; they’re hammering this out, with — doing it in good faith; and they come — come — come forward or end — end in a place where it’s a win-win agreement for — for everyone. 

And so, that’s what the President is going to continue to do.  Again, we’ve seen it with the West Coast ports.  We’ve seen it with the Teamsters and — and UPS.  We’ve seen it with the railroads — right? — we’ve seen it with rails.  So, we’ve seen this before. 

And so, again, all of them are interesting circumstances.  The President is going to continue to — to speak for workers’ rights and also continue to say, “Let’s continue to have those conversations.  Collective bargaining is really important.”

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  You’ve spoken about past outreach that the President had done to President Fain and to the Big Three leaders, and Gene Sperling and Acting Secretary Su’s involvement.  But now that the strike is underway, can you just clarify: Do you anticipate the President reaching out personally, again, to the UAW and to the Big Three leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I don’t have anything to read out at this time.  You heard directly from the President and how he wants to see a win-win agreement for folks to continue to stay at the table. 

Just don’t have anything to read out, as far as a call, a conversation that the President is going to have.

Q    And can you confirm the report that the Biden administration is considering options to provide aid to auto suppliers who are impacted by the strike, including potentially Labor Department grants and small-business loans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re monitoring this situation.  I just don’t have any — any announcements or decisions to make or anything to confirm at this time.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Is the White House planning to have a news conference next Thursday when President Zelenskyy visits the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you just heard from the National Security Advisor.  He just announced the visit — the zi- — the visit from pel- — President Zelenskyy.  We’re going to hammer out what that day looks like, what the logistics are going to be.  I just don’t have anything at this time. 

Q    And second question for you: The President is reportedly going to be having a democracy speech in the next couple of weeks.  What can you tell us about that?  What’s the message he hopes to deliver?  And why now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement of a president- — of a presidential speech.  Once we have something to announce, certainly we will share that, just not going to get ahead of it at this time. 

Go ahead.

Q    On Su and Sperling’s deployment to Detroit, can you clarify the timing of that?  What — did the President ask them after the deadline?  Are they there yet? 

And when you say they’ve been “active in the conversations,” what has the help that they’ve provided look like?


Q    And then I have a COVID question after that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, totally.  So, look, we’ve been engaged with the parties on a regular basis.  We have.  And I’ve mentioned this multiple times over the past several weeks, certainly.  So — probably even more, a couple of months. 

And so, we are making it clear that, if it’s helpful — right? — the President’s steams [sic] — team continues to stand ready to assist.  And that is what the President was laying out in — in having — in having the Acting Secretary, Julie Su, and his Senior Advisor, Gene Sperling, go out to Detroit.

But they have been regularly engaging for some time now.  This is just a continuing — a continuing engagement that we’ve seen.  And I’m not going to get into point to point — point by point on what’s been discussed, what’s been — what’s been put forth in front of anybody.  This is a conversation that is happening amongst the folks who are, certainly, at the table negotiating.  But I’m not going to get into specifics from here.

Q    The President asked them to go to Detroit after the deadline —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I don’t have — I don’t have any timeline.  But what I can say is, they have been engaged for some time now — both Gene Sperling, both Julie Su — at the direction of the President for some time.  And so, this is a continuation of that engagement. 

Again, the President wants to — is urging parties to continue to have those conversations, to stay at the table.  And he appreciates what they have been doing for 24/7. 

We’re going to see, as the UA- — A- — UAW has made clear, their desire to — to continue those negotiations and — with the companies.  And we’re going to see that tomorrow morning.

That’s all I have.

Q    And then, on COVID, what is the White House’s reaction to Governor DeSantis’s announcement advising against COVID boosters for people younger than 65?  Is the White House concerned about this, especially considering snowbirds are going to be heading down to Florida —


Q    — soon?  And also, will the President get boosted?  Will he do that (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I’ve answered the second question already, which is the President is going to get the updated booster.  That is something that he is planning to do.  So — so, answered that question a couple of days ago.

Look, the fact that — the fact is that we know that these vaccinations against COVID-19 remain effective.  They do.  And they protect — they protect people from — from avoi- — from going to the hospital, avoiding the hospital, long-term health challenges, and death. 

And — and as we head to the fall and winter season, these — this is the best way to protect yourself from COVID.  And so, this has been — and let me add, this has been thoroughly reviewed — right? — by scientists, by the experts, leading public health agencies.  And they are safe, and they are effective. 

And this is a — you know, this is a message that we’ll continue to push.  And we know, since this administration’s launch of the largest — the largest vaccination program in our nation’s history, for COVID-19 vaccines, it has saved — those vaccines have saved millions of lives.  That is something that we know. 

So, this is a — when you when you look at the vaccines, that — that — these new boosters, this is something that public experts have approved.  And that’s what’s important.  It’s important that, as we go into the fall and winter months, that the American public is safe, that they get updated on their vaccines. 

And let’s not forget, there’s the flu — the flu vaccine, as well.  There’s RSV. 

All of these things are going to protect the American people.  And so, we’re going to continue to encourage Americans to — to make sure they do everything that they can as we’re providing — or as we’ve seen these vaccines being provided now to protect themselves as we get into the winter.

Go ahead, Ed.

AIDE:  We have time for one or two more.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I’m going ask you about the strike, if I could.


Q    So, is the automakers’ strike and the contract impasse partly a result of the President’s forced transition to electric vehicles?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  We don’t believe that to be — look — and we’ve — you’ve heard us say this.  Jared was here just the other day.  He talked about the President’s policies as it relates to the future of auto industry and how it’s going to build — how it’s going to rebuild America — right? — making sure that we’re making things in America — right? — by — by American workers.  That has always been the President’s focus. 

EV — EV sales, if you look at it, hit a record high last quarter, increased by nearly 50 percent from the same time last year.  And EV prices are down 20 percent year over year, being driven in part by Inflation Reduction Act credits. 

So, again, thanks to the President, thanks to congressional Democrats, sales are going up and costs are coming down.  And that’s what we’re seeing.

Q    But Ford says it’s going to lose four and a half billion dollars this year on its EV division. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But, look, I just laid out how important this part — this provision is, as it — as it was part of the Inflation Reduction Act, how important it is, how sales are indeed going up.  Right?  That’s Ford.  Right?  Sales are going up while costs are going down.  Really important — important to bringing — bringing manufacturing jobs here, making sure we’re building in America, also making sure that we’re dealing with the climate crisis. 

This is what the President’s focus is on — right? — making sure that we rebuilt an industry back in America, as well as bringing jobs back here, too. 

And so, that’s what we’re seeing.  Again, sales are going up and costs are going down.

Q    One more quick thing.  I wanted to get your reaction.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce president released a statement saying — and I’m going to read this, the quote — “The UAW strike and indeed the ‘summer of strikes’ is the natural result of the Biden administration’s ‘whole-of-government’ approach to promoting unionization at all costs… For the 94 percent of American private sector workers not in a union, the costs are stacking up.”  I want to get your reaction.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  My reaction is this: The President believes that collective bargaining works.  That’s what he believes.  And we’ve seen that work.  And it is important that workers are able to have benefits and wages so that they can raise their family.  That’s what the President has always talked about, whether it’s his economic plan or in this — in this instance, as we’re talking about unions and making sure that workers — right? — come together with — with the companies and have these real — these businesses — and have these win-win, hopefully, agreements. 

And so, it’s important that workers’ rights — right? — they have their rights, are able to ask for fair pay, fair wages.  And that’s what we’re going to continue to say.  That’s why col- — we believe the collective bargaining system works.  And we have seen that happen.  And it’s important that we move forward in that direction.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just a couple on COVID.  Will the President get that shot on camera like we’ve seen him do with his previous vaccination rounds?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share about — about how that’s going to look, if it’s going to be in front of camera or not.  What I can say for sure is the President is going to get the updated booster.  I just don’t have anything to announce at this time.

Q    Okay.  And the administration has said that there will be free vaccines this round for uninsured Americans and through the Bridge Program.  But there are certainly concerns among experts about the rollout over the next couple of weeks being — having disparities for people that have insurance getting out to pharmacies or to the sites where people without insurance would go.  And already we’re seeing that there isn’t availability at the Bridge sites just yet — through 

What is the administration doing to make sure that there isn’t a difference for people who don’t have insurance — where they can get it, how quickly they can get it — versus those that do have insurance?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, this is something that, as you know, from the beginning of our comprehensive vaccination program, we’ve always made sure that we do the microtargeting, making sure that we don’t leave communities behind.  That has been incredibly important.  In order to fight the pandemic, to fight this — to fight COVID, you have to make sure that all communities are getting — are certainly getting this vaccine.  So, that is not going to change in this regard. 

And so, look, HHS has a number of initiatives underway, including community stakeholders and digital outreach.  That’s going to continue. 

Let’s not forget the physicians and the — and the healthcare providers; they’re going to play a critical role here, as they have in other kinds of campaigns that we’ve had around these COVID vaccines as they’ve been announced. 

And so, look, we’re — HHS is going to make sure that we are continuing to be public facing here, having events with administrators.  We’re going to do that.  We’ll have more to announce on that.  And so, this is a priority for this administration.  We want to make sure that people are aware on how to get these vaccines and that, again, communities — that all communities are able to have access to this. 

This is something that we have done throughout the past two years of this administration as we’ve tried to move forward with our vaccination program.

Q    And it will get to the places at the same timeline?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re — we’re going to do everything that we can.  As I mentioned, HHS has a — a few initiatives underway.  We’re going to use not just — we’re going to make sure we do — continue to do what we’ve done before — right? –the experts on the ground, the physicians on the ground to get the information out there. 

But, again, we’re going to do everything that we can, as we’ve done with every other campaign around the vaccination program, to make sure that communities — all communities have access to this.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  You’ve seen all the public polling, people concerned about age.  How does the President plan to convince the American people over the next year that 80 is not too old for someone who’s running for re-election?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Eighty is the new forty.  Didn’t you hear?  (Laughter.)

But look, it is — let’s — let’s — you know, I get asked this question about once a week, maybe twice a week.  I don’t know.  I’ve lost track. 

This is a president, if you think about it — in 2019, he got the same criticism; in 2020, he got the same criticism; in 2022, he got the same criticism.  And every time, he beats the naysayers.  Every time, he does above and beyond and makes history in doing that — that others are not able to — others are not able to do, right?  And I think that’s really important, too. 

When you look at his record, you look at how he’s been able to bring both sides together to get some really important things done — that matters. 

You know, if you think about what the President and the Vice President was able to do in 2020, 80 million votes — 80 million votes; more than any other — any other ticket in history.  In history.  And they did that in 2020. 

And so, you know, I get the — I get the question on age.  Certainly, we all do.  But what we’re going to continue to talk about is the record that this President has had.  It’s been a historic record. 

It is — it is something that’s going to change the lives of Americans.  You think about his economic policy.  You think about the infrastructure plan.  You think about — I was just talking about the Inflation Reduction Act — whether it’s EV, you know, fighting climate crisis; whether it’s lowering drug costs, because now Medicare is able to fight Big Pharma. 

All of these things are things that the presidents before this president had been trying to do for years and years and years and have not been able to do that.  And so, that’s what we’re going to focus on.  We’re going to focus on how can we continue to do big things and how we’re going to build on the successes that this President has had in the last two years.

Q    And so, given all that — everything you just listed — why do you think so many Americans still say they have concerns about someone in their 80s being President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, I can’t speak to every American out there and their concerns.  What I can speak to is what this President has done, right?  I can speak to his experience.  I could speak to the wisdom that he has.  I can speak to his record.

When it comes to — when it comes to how Americans — what they’re saying about your particular question to me, that’s for them to speak to.  I can just stay on — on our message — the platform that we’re trying to push forward, and that is delivering for the American people.  We believe that we’re doing that. 

You just heard the President talk about Bidenomics and how it’s building a middle class — right? — from the bottom up, middle out, and how — because of the economic policies that we have seen, we’ve seen some historic growth, right?  The 3.5 [13.5] million jobs.  Unemployment under 4 percent.  All of these things matter.  And making sure that inflation is being — is being, you know, moderated, and that’s what we’ve seen.  So, all of these things are important. 

I get — I get the question, but what we’re going to focus on is how we’re going to continue to build on this President’s record, and that’s what I can speak to. 

All right.  Thanks, everybody.  Have a great weekend.  See some of you in New York.

2:33 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official to Preview the Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s Visit to the White House

Wed, 09/13/2023 - 20:14

2:43 P.M.  EDT

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Apologies for the slight delay here.  Thanks for joining the call.  This call will be on background attributable, to a “senior administration official.” 

For your awareness, not for reporting purposes, on the line is [senior administration official]. 

As a reminder, the contents of this call are embargoed until tomorrow, September 13th, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.  Therefore, no content may be published or made public until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. 

With that, [senior administration official], I’ll hand it over to you get — to get us started.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, thanks, everybody for joining us today, including those in the Middle East.  I know it’s very late.  I apologize to be 10 minutes late.

I want to provide some details on an important initiative that the administration is launching tomorrow with the Kingdom of Bahrain and describe how we view the significance of His Royal Highness of Bahrain Crown Prince Prime Minister Salman’s visit to Washington this week.

Tomorrow, Secretary of State Blinken and the Crown Prince will be signing the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement, which we’re calling C-SIPA.  And this will be a really significant upgrade in what has been a long-term strategic relationship with Bahrain, one of our longest and closest partners in the — in the broader Middle East region. 

During his visit to Washington this week, the Crown Prince will meet with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, with Secretary Blinken, with Secretary Austin, and others.  And the focus of their discussions will be on, obviously, C-SIPA and our bilateral relationship, but also broader cooperation in the region and beyond. 

They’ll discuss a range of regional and global issues.  And of course, you’ll see readouts from those specific meetings after they conclude. 

On this call, I’ll focus a bit on C-SIPA and putting the agreement in the context of President Biden’s broader vision for a more integrated, secure, prosperous Middle East region, which he first detailed during the Jeddah Summit in July of 2022. 

I think if you go back to that — to that address that he made last summer, it kind of lays out a lot of what I think we’ve been doing since and also what’s incorporated into our national security strategy, which came out a couple of months after that visit, and, of course, also summarized in — if you look at Jake Sullivan’s keynote address to — to WINEP, a think tank here in town a couple of months ago. 

President Biden also reaffirmed — I think you saw the implementation of part of this vision just at the G20 just a few days ago with — with the announcement of what is really a truly transformative project — the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, which connects India to Europe through the Gulf region through Jordan and Israel — and I think emphasizes the role, particularly, of the Gulf region as an economic engine and gateway between continents, enabling goods and services to transit to, from, between India, the Gulf, Jordan, Israel, and Europe and Bahrain. 

The focus of this call, of course, stands to benefit significantly from this new economic corridor just given its geography and its existing economic integration with Europe and Middle Eastern economies, including Israel.

So, on C-SIPA specifically, before I take a few questions about it — and we’ll — we’ll get you a factsheet with details after this call, which I think will be embargoed, unfortunately — but embargoed until after these meetings that take place tomorrow around 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

But I’ll just describe the main elements of what is a — this binding international agreement.  The text of the agreement will also be posted online once the agreement comes into a force, which will be probably a couple of days after the formal signing. 

So, we’ve been working on this agreement with Bahrain for about a year or so.  And it flowed from discussions that began when the Crown Prince last visited Washington last year, including his bilateral meeting, a fairly lengthy and very substantive meeting last year with Vice President Harris. 

Since then, multiple senior U.S. officials have traveled to Manama for talks and vice versa.  And we’ve hosted senior Bahraini officials here in Washington over the past year to discuss and to eventually finalize this initiative. 

This is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Bahrain.  But as you’ll see when you see it, it also can serve as — as kind of a cornerstone for broader grouping of countries over time that share our common vision on deterrence, diplomacy, economic and security integration, and de-escalation of conflicts in the Middle East region — a vision for a more prosperous, more integrated, more peaceful, more stable Middle East region.

Some of the key themes I think you’ll see are deterrence.  The agreement expands (inaudible) security cooperation, mutual intelligence capacity-building, interoperability.  DOD had a big role in forging this arrangement.  And it kind of formalizes, I think, some of what CENTCOM has been doing in the — in the region for some con- — some time regarding integration of the region’s air missile defense systems and so on, which we’ve talked about before in some detail.

In the economic sphere in trade and investment, we have a free trade agreement with Bahrain.  We’ve had that agreement since 2006.  And this agreement will further promote cooperation on trade and investment.

Just last year, for example, Bahrain created a U.S. trade zone where U.S. companies can develop new products, reach untapped markets, adding to supply chain resiliency.  And this is the kind of cooperation that we can expect to see more of and we’ve been working a great deal on throughout the Middle East region.

Some — an area of trusted technology — and I think you’ll see this in the agreement and its significance, just given the evolving nature of threats, but also opportunities in the international security environment. 

This agreement includes a section on promoting the development and deployment of trusted technologies.  That refers to things such as emerging tech, infrastructure, the AI revolution, looking ahead to quantum computing — everything from 5G, telecom, chip exports, et cetera.  And this is the first binding international agreement of its kind to promote such cooperation on trusted technologies.  So, I think that’s a very significant plank of this arrangement.

So, again, I think the visit — we’re very pleased to have the Crown Prince in town once again.  And I think signing this agreement is really a milestone in the strategic partnership.  And when, I think, you see the agreement, it incorporates a lot of what we’ve been working on here throughout the region in a number of — a number of areas.

And, with that, I’m sure there are a lot of questions, so I’m happy to open it up to questions on this.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, [senior administration official].  We’re ready to take some questions now.

Q    Hi.  Thanks, [senior administration official], for doing this.  I will start — if you can elaborate a little bit about the defense portion in this agreement — if, for example, Bahrain was attacked by a third country, how the U.S. would assist. 

And my second question would be on the initiative you announced in India.  Erdoğan obviously opposed this economic corridor.  And he said that “there is no corridor without Turkey.”  How do you comment on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, on the first, on the defense and security plank of the agreement — again, when it comes out, I think — I think you’ll see it.  But it’s a — it’s a very strong — it’s a very strong arrangement in which it’s the policy of both of us to work together to help deter and confront any external aggression against the territorial integrity of — of any of the parties.

It has some specifics in terms of consultation and what would happen in that event.  But it’s really designed to further enable what has been a policy of deterrence against threats but also a policy of proactive diplomacy to deescalate conflicts in the region.

And again, I think you’ve heard us talk about Yemen before.  [Redacted.]  And Yemen is now in the — (inaudible) the 17th month of, effectively, a truce.  And we still have a lot of work to do. 

But that has been an awful lot of U.S. diplomacy, and also working in the deterrence space to help stop increasing interdictions and other things, in terms of support to the Houthis, and also encouraging our partners to pursue a very proactive diplomatic campaign to deescalate that conflict.

So, deterrence and de-escalation go hand in hand.  I think you’ll see that in the agreement.

On the India-Middle East Corridor, I think it speaks for itself.  And I would just say it’s not exclusive to any other possible ways that goods get back and forth.  But I think the leaders of these countries came together to endorse this project.

We’ve looked at the economics of it.  It works.  And I think, if anything, it increases trade and opportunities across the Middle East region, including, I think, other routes that have been discussed.  So, I’ll just — I think I’ll leave it there, because I have not seen those comments, so I can’t comment on that specifically.

But I think on the India-Middle East Corridor, it is unprecedented.  And the route going from India to Europe through the Gulf, through Jordan, Israel, and vice versa, carries an awful lot of potential.  And I think it can really promote economic integration, prosperity, really, across the sphere of this important part of the world.

Q    Hi, thanks for the time.  I wondered if you could elaborate a little bit on the comment you made in your earlier remarks about this being a potential template that could be replicated elsewhere in the region.  Is there — where are you in terms of trying to do that?  And would that be something similar to all the parts of this — the security and the economic aspects — or just focused on specific parts of that?

And then, I was wondering if you could also sort of talk a bit about how this fits into wider strategy on Iran and trying to keep Iranian threats at bay.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can answer the question in two ways.  First, on, kind of, security cooperation, security integration, this has been a driving focus of our effort and then led by — led by CENTCOM, which is doing some truly extraordinary and very creative things, particularly in the Gulf region, and often led out of Bahrain and NAVCENT. 

We talked about Task Force 59, which incorporates artificial intelligence and drones in a very new way to significantly enhance maritime awareness.

This is really the wave of the future.  We think the Middle East region and CENTCOM is at the cutting edge of it.  And a lot of that cooperation is at the (inaudible) sphere. 

And what this agreement does is it kind of raises it up into a — into an internationally — a binding legal agreement and incorporates some of that cooperation in a more formal way.  And there’s a provision of the agreement that does — by mutual agreement, we can invite other countries to join. 

So, I won’t get ahead of that process.  These things take time.  But I think there’s some — there’s some real potential.

And the provisions on trusted technology as we move rapidly — and we very much believe the United States of America is at the forefront of the AI revolution, and Bahrain has been a very close partner in that regard.  And that’s important.  So, I think I’d — I think I’d leave it there. 

But it is really reinforcing to a lot of those broader initiatives that are going — going on in the region, often from the bottom up, led by CENTCOM.

On Iran, I think we have — our policy in Iran is focused on deterrence and deterring Iranian aggression, but also diplomacy and, as I mentioned, deterring or de-escalating conflicts where we can. 

We have welcomed the restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  That’s something that, you know, we had full visibility on, when the talks are going on in Baghdad and Oman over the course of — beginning in 2021 and 20- — into 2022 and 2023.  And restoring diplomatic ties — it’s better to have diplomatic ties than not to have diplomatic ties. 

But at the same time, our eyes are wide open.  In terms of Iran, President Biden has not shied away from ordering military strikes to protect our people.  And we’ll continue — we remain poised to do that. 

We’ve increased our naval presence in the Gulf region recently in response to threats and interdictions as part of our role in ensuring that international commerce is safe.  And we do a lot of that out of Bahrain, and we’re grateful for Bahrain for hosting the Fifth Fleet.

So, the more security integration and cooperation the better, but this is not something that is directed at Iran.  Again, we are focused on deterring threats from Iran or just deterring threats from terrorist groups, deterring threats from Iranian-backed militia groups, while also using diplomacy and de-escalation to try to encourage a more peaceful, stable, prosperous region over time.

Q    Hi, thanks for taking my question.  I just wanted to ask about this new agreement in the context of human rights in Bahrain.  And will the U.S. be using this week’s meetings with the Crown Prince to press for improved prison conditions and the release of political detainees?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, I would say: pressing basically all of our friends, partners, allies.  But to protect and advance human rights is a key focus of the President’s National Security Strategy, and it’s one of the five pillars of the President’s vision for the broader Middle East that he laid out when he was in the Middle East last year.  And quite frankly, we don’t shy away from raising these issues, even with our closest partners around the world, and we’d say say Bahrain is no exception.

We have seen the Bahrainis make some important strides and some important reforms.  I don’t want to get ahead of things, but we’ve been discussing, for example, the situation and what is going on with hunger strikes in some of the prisons in Bahrain.  We understand that some arrangements have been made.  I don’t want to — again, I don’t want to get ahead of this process.

But we’re hopeful that that situation is now being resolved.  And I think that’s because we have had very candid conversations with our Bahraini partners.  We work at these issues very diligently.  And I think we are one of the few countries around the world where human rights is at the table when we are having a very broader geostrategic conversations.  And that’s what makes us unique.  We don’t shy away from that.

Sometimes we might not be as public and vocal publicly as I know some might like, but I think we are — we’re focused on being effective.  And I think Bahrain is an example of that.  I think we’ll hear more about that over the course of the Crown Prince’s visit this week.

Q    Thank you so much.  My main question was around, sort of, human rights as well, so I’m glad that you were able to address that. 

But my second question is a little bit more specific around the corridor again.  Part of it seems to involve some sort of connection between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.  Can you elaborate the nature of that connection?  And do you think that they’re actually going to go through with building a rail or another connection given the political tensions and economic competition between their two countries and the long history of failed rail projects between their two countries?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We do.  We feel — we feel confident about it.  We have — in fact, these discussions began in a trilateral basis with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and UAE.  And then ultimately, Jake’s visit last summer, where he met with his counterparts from UAE and India, together with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, to discuss this in some depth.  And so, I do think the foundation has been set to move forward on this.

The Saudis announced at the G20 $20 billion in supporting the Partnership for Global Infrastructure writ large.  That’s one of the President’s signature initiatives.  And I think that’s quite important.

So, we think the economics of this work.  It benefits everybody involved.  And some of the tracks, as you know, are already built, so some of them just need some connections, which are not — which are not that hard to envision.

So, look, there’s work to do.  I think the agreement — the MOU that was signed in G20 — we will get together within 60 days on working groups to begin laying some of the groundwork and laying some of the tracks.  No pun intended.

But there’s — you know, I think the foundation has been set, and we have a good commitment from the leaders even despite disagreements between all of these countries on many different things.  That’s something where — that we work on every day. 

I will say: I think it’s important that, you know, this is U.S. leadership and U.S. facilitation that brought this about.  Without that, this would be impossible.  And I think you heard that reflected in the comments of all the leaders who were in the room at the G20 at that event on Saturday, from the President of the EU, to the President of France, the Prime Minister of India, and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, et cetera. 

So, this was something that President Biden set — he kind of set this vision.  When we — when they — when we had the idea, sat down with the leaders, and I think it’s in — it’s in good shape. 

But we’ll have more to talk about over the coming couple of weeks about that initiative. 

Q    Thank you.  Hi, [moderator].  Hi, [senior administration official].  Thank you for doing this. 

Would this upgrade involve a new weapons sale and will any element of this new agreement require congressional approval? 

And second, on the economic corridor, is it open for other countries — like, for example, Iraq or Egypt — to join as you go along or even in the initial stage? 

Thank you. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, there — on this agreement — this agreement does not require congressional approval.  It is an internationally binding agreement, so we will notify it to Congress under the CASE Act but it does not require congressional ratification.  But it is an internationally binding agreement.

It also does not entail any specific weapons sales.  I would note Bahrain was the first Gulf country to receive F-16s in the 1990s.  And I think just this past spring, in March, (inaudible) delivered the first F-16 Block 70 fighters and, in doing so, became the first customer to receive that latest generation Block 70 aircraft — a purchase that nearly doubled the size of its fleet. 

So, we have a very close military relationship with Bahrain.  That’s going to continue.  And I think this agreement kind of formalizes that.

In terms of the corridor, it’s a — it’s an economic corridor that will really benefit the whole region.  So, it’s not exclusionary.  But when you look at the economics of it, it really — it really has potential to benefit everybody. 

You mentioned Egypt.  The Suez Canal, of course, is the main chokepoint.  And it is a chokepoint.  It can only — only so many ships can go through the Suez Canal a day.  So, when this corridor is actually moving, up and running, a ship-to-rail corridor, that does not take away from the importance of the Suez Canal in any way.  It just increases the overall volume possibilities and opportunities not only of just trade and goods, but also clean energy products and everything that is addressed in that MOU. 

So, we think there’s potential here for everybody, including the Bahrainis, who will be in town this week.

Q    Hi, [senior administration official].  Thanks for this.  I was wondering if you could go a little bit beyond — into a little more detail about specific ways in which this will increase military and security cooperation with Bahrain, and if you see any likely candidates for, sort of, joining in, whether, you know, that would be like Saudi or the UAE afterwards. 

And in terms of the trusted technology element of this, is this — I mean, how is that going to work?  And is it aimed mainly at containing China’s expansion in this role?  We’ve seen them, you know, become quite present in the Gulf, especially in 5G, 6G, and — or, at least 5G and some other of these expanding technologies and AI.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  Thanks, Stephen.  I think — we’re going release a pretty detailed factsheet after this call that I think addresses a lot of this, including on the defense and security cooperation side with — encompassed in this agreement and also on the technology side. 

So, you know, I just don’t want to get too ahead of it.  But I think it does recognize the impor- — we see tremendous opportunity, and we worked on this very hard here — from the NSC, but throughout the interagency — on the opportunities that are emerging within the AI revolution.  And we think America is very — is very well positioned to lead that revolution.  And, frankly, Bahrain has been a very close partner in this area. 

And so, this is an active, ongoing discussion with countries around the world, including the Middle East region.  And — but this agreement kind of incorporates some of those principles.  It’s the first binding legal agreement of its kind that does that. 

And so, I’ll let it — I’ll let it speak for itself.

MODERATOR:  We have time for maybe one more question.

Q    Thank you.  Can you hear me?


Q    Hello?  Oh, okay.  Hi.  I wanted to go back to the very first question and the security aspects that you mentioned. 

You said that it’s a binding agreement for both to work together to help to deter and confront any external aggression.  You — and then you talked about deterrence and diplomacy, but you didn’t say anything about confrontation against external aggression.  And I wonder what the extent of the U.S. commitment is to physically confront aggression. 

And secondly, Saudi Arabia has said it wants a defense commitment from the United States.  And I wonder, to the extent you see this agreement as a possible template for other countries in the region, is this something that the U.S. could live with for Saudi Arabia and other countries?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, we are in discussions throughout the region about our security relationships, about looking towards the future.  And — but I just — I wanted to emphasize: It’s not about confrontation at all; this is about — this is defensive in nature.  It’s about deterrence, and it’s about setting conditions for a more stable region going forward, which I think we have a fairly good record here — over the last few years, despite some significant difficulties and challenges which you all cover and know very well. 

I think our record demonstrates that while we’re very committed to the deterring element of policy, we’re also very committed to the de-escalation and diplomacy elements and forging broader integration in the region, which is ultimately the recipe for a more stable region going forward. 

The Gulf has a — Israel has important role in that — North Africa [redacted]. 

And trying to do all we can to deter some of the more aggressive nature and tendencies from the Iranians.  And so, I think all of that is incorporated here. 

I have it in front of me.  I just can’t read from it because until it’s actually signed and in force, I don’t want to get ahead of it. 

But it is a — it is a commitment in the — in the event of a worst-case scenario of an attack to immediately — to immediately consult and ensure that we can do all we possibly can to deter further threats. 

So, I think I’ll leave it at that. 

It is not a — it does not cross the threshold of a treaty.  But it is a very strong security assurance, which I think, when you see it, you know, I think you’ll find —

Q    Yeah, I just ask because you used the word “confront.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I used the word “confront”?

Q    Yeah.  You said “work together to help to deter and confront any external aggression.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, that’s right — “in the event of an attack.”  I think the — the standard security assurance is that we would immediately consult with our partner and ally, and determine the best way to confront would be an ongoing external aggression in that worst-case scenario. 

But the ultimate objective of agreements like this are to ensure that you never get to that worst-case scenario.  So, it is focused on strengthening a partnership, strengthening the deterrent element of policy to enable diplomacy and de-escalation to ultimately succeed. 

Q    Thanks.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Thanks, everyone for joining the call today and, again, apologies for the delay. 

As a reminder, the contents of this call will be attributable to a “senior administration official,” but no contents may be published or made public until the embargo is lifted tomorrow, September 13th, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. 

Thanks, everyone.

3:11 P.M. EDT

The post Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official to Preview the Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s Visit to the White House appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Jared Bernstein, and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby

Wed, 09/13/2023 - 18:48

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:10 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And happy Wednesday, especially to all those who traveled more than 18,000 miles around the world with us over four days.  The President met with more than 20 le- — 20 world leaders, visited two countries.  And in the words of my friend, Mr. Peter Doocy, who’s not here, some of us even pulled some “all-nighters.” 

I hope everyone has gotten some rest.  To all those who stayed back here at home, I hope you had a quieter few days, and it’s good to see all of you again. 

As you’ve seen, the trip was highly successful, and the President was pleased to once again show America’s leadership on the world stage. 

The President is looking forward to a major economic speech tomorrow and continuing to deliver results for the American people here at home.  But before I turn it over to Jared Bernstein, our CEA chair, who’s going to say more about the President’s event tomorrow, I have a couple of things I want to say at the top.

Earlier this year, President Biden and congressional leaders reached a bipartisan budget agreement that set a framework to keep the government open and protect critical priorities for the American people. 

A deal is a deal.  The President, House Democrats, Senate Democrats, and Senate Republicans have stood by that agreement, with bipartisan movement in the Senate today.  But Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans have taken a different approach, ignoring the agreement that a majority of them voted for and advancing extreme partisan bills that break their promise and gut investments in America. 

Now, these bills would be devastating, in- — devastating, increasing costs for families; hurting students, seniors, and rural communities; slashing law enforcement; undermining manufacturing; and so, so much more.  And they are distracting from top priorities that we have, like fighting the fentanyl crisis, delivering disaster relief, and helping Ukraine fight Russia’s illegal war. 

House Republicans should keep their word and do their job: fund the government, especially these important — we’re talking about important, key, vital programs to the American people. 

Next up, as I mentioned at the top, we have Jared Bernstein, who has joined us several times before, but — at the podium, but this is the first time that he will be doing it in his new role as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Jared is going to talk about the latest economic data that all of you have reported on this morning and preview the President’s major economic speech. 

And with that, Jared, over to you.


After a brief comment about this morning’s CPI report, I’m going to say a few words about how Bidenomics is working but also why it’s working and why, as President Biden will highlight in his speech tomorrow and as the record shows, trickle-down economics doesn’t work. 

Headline CPI rose 0.6 percent last month, driven by a spike in the price of gas.  Headline inflation has also fallen substantially, down by about 60 percent over the last year, but we know that last month’s increase in gas prices puts a strain on family budgets. 

Core CPI inflation, which omits gas and food prices, was up 0.3 percent in August.  Over the past three months, core CPI is up at an annualized rate of 2.4 percent — the lowest rates since March of 2021 and close to its pre-pandemic level. 

This is important progress. 

Economists track the core because by omitting highly volatile gas and food prices, it provides a cleaner signal as to where inflation is likely headed. 

This figure — if you have Figure One here — yeah.  This figure — this compares the contribution of gas and apparel to monthly inflation.  And it paints a clearer picture of the relative volatility of the gas prices — that’s those, I think, yellow bars going up and down; I’m not great with colors — and then the apparel is — contribution is the red line.  So, you — you get the — the point about the volatility of gas prices. 

Turning to Bidenomics, we start from a position of strength.  The U.S. economy is in solid shape, with real GDP growth supported by strong consumer spending that is itself supported by a strong labor market delivering wage gains accounting for inflation. 

And I have a next figure showing that — the extent to which you see inflation coming down and price- — and wages actually beating prices there, both for all workers and for middle-wage workers.

This figure includes today’s inflation report.  Not only has inflation come down, it’s now growing more slowly than the pay of low- and middle-wage workers, meaning their buying power is increased. 

Now, our work isn’t done, for sure.  But wages outpacing inflation is some of the breathing room that the President talks about. 

Now, what does that got to do with Bidenomics?  Well, rising real wages for middle- and low-wage workers is at the heart of our middle-out, bottom-up growth agenda. 

Our GDP is almost 70 percent consumer spending.  So, when the middle class is doing well, the overall economy prospers.  That’s also a good reason why trickle-down doesn’t work.  It disproportionately helps those who don’t need the help and, thereby, are less likely to spend the marginal dollar.  Or, as the President says, Bidenomics works because when the middle class does well, the poor have a ladder up and the wealthy still do well. 

Another sign that Bidenomics is working — you see here in the figure — both for today and for tomorrow is this — is this other figure showing investment in building manufacturing facilities.

The incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are reversing decades of disinvestment in America through the powerful one-two punch of policy incentives crowding in private investment.  That creates jobs today in constructing these facilities and good jobs tomorrow staffing these factories to manufacture semiconductors, solar panels, and wind turbines on our soil. 

Going forward, we must build on the progress we’ve made.  And that means maintaining the tight labor market while continuing to ease price pressures. 

As you know, many economists argued that couldn’t be done, that it would require much higher unemployment to achieve this much disinflation.  President Biden never accepted the inevitability of that tradeoff, and he’s been right. 

Let me close with a quick word about what you can expect to hear in the President’s speech tomorrow. 

As you’ll remember, the President traveled to Chicago back in June to outline the core principles of Bidenomics: empowering workers, investing in America, and boosting competition.

Tomorrow, he’ll travel to Maryland to lay out the very clean contrast between Bidenomics and the congressional Republicans’ trickle-down economic plan — a plan that has failed working families every time it’s been tried.

Instead of investing in the middle class, trickle-down shipped jobs overseas, hollowed out communities, and produced soaring deficits. 

He’ll contrast his agenda with specific policies cong- — congressional Republicans have proposed and lay out what those policies would mean in concrete terms for the American people, whether it’s unfair taxes, Medicare and Social Security, or increased costs for families.  And he’ll highlight what’s at stake for families as fiscal and budget debates take center stage in the weeks and months ahead. 

Thank you.  And I’ll take questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thanks, Jared.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jared.  You mentioned gasoline prices pushing inflation up last month.  But there are no good signs when it comes to gasoline prices in the near term.  Crude oil prices are going up.  Saudi Arabia has signaled it’s going to continue to throttle oil production.  Are you worried that inflation is going to go back up over 4 percent?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Well, let’s talk about gas prices.  As the President said in his statement this morning, he’s well aware that they put a strain on family budgets.  And that’s why he’s working with congressional Democrats to take action to cut energy costs. 

It is correct, as you pointed out, that gas price — the spike in August — caused nearly all of the increase in inflation last month.  But gas prices are down from last summer’s high by about $1.20 per gallon.  Their peak — they peaked at north of $5 in June of ‘22.  And that saves a family with two drivers about $120 per month. 

Getting more directly to your question, the Energy Department is in touch with producers and refiners to resolve any issues and to try to ensure stable supply.  There is some pressure relief coming in September in — in the switchover from the summer blend to the winter blend.  The winter blend is a — is a — is a somewhat cheaper blend.  And also, we’re moving out of peak driving season, so that lower demand also takes some pressure off. 

But I think the key point to leave you with on that question is that, again, the President and congressional Democrats are cutting energy costs by investing in clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign countries that often don’t share our values. 

And so, I view the investment agenda that I talked about in my comments as very closely connected to the — this idea of a transition to clean energy and more energy independence.

Q    But how closely are you tracking the possibility of a spike in gas prices?  And are you worried that that could erase some of the gains that have been made in lowering inflation?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Well, to answer your first question: One of the first things I do every morning is click on the AAA gas price.  So, we track it very closely.

The — I think from a policy — from a policy perspective, again, the actions that we’re taking working with congressional Democrats to cut energy costs are at the core of our agenda. 

Now, I think the important point here — and you mentioned gas prices, you know, climbing and their impact on consumers — the President has been straight up about that, including in his statement this morning.  But I also don’t think you can divorce that from all the other efforts that were taking to reduce prices in other areas that matters so much to consumers — some of which, by the way, you could see in today’s CPI report: the price of eggs, the price of dairy, the price of meat.  All those prices actually came down.  So, not just disinflation but deflation in those cases. 

And I think the key thing — if you’ll go to that wage graph — I think probably one of the key points there is that even accounting for — this was the second graph in my presentation, if you can put that back up, or we can get it to you if you don’t have it — the key point there is that when wages are beating prices — there you go — so you have wages beating prices, wages growing more quickly than inflation — and, by the way, most quickly for middle- and lower-wage workers.  That’s a direct result of the persistently tight labor market.

And it also links up closely to one of the first tenets of Bidenomics, which is empowering workers.  So, a persistently tight labor market has delivered wage gains that, at this point, are beating prices.  That means that the buying power of your paycheck is going up, and that’s the kind of breathing room we’re looking for here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jared.  One potential risk to the economy is a UAW strike.  Last week, President said he’s not worried about a strike.  Is that still the case?  And is the White House ready to support those workers if a deal is not reached and they go on strike?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  So, the President believes that auto workers deserve a contract that sustains middle-class jobs.  I’ve worked for President Biden for a long time.  He’s clearly one of the most pro-union presidents we’ve had.  He’s encouraged the parties to stay at the table and to work 24 and 7 to get a win-win agreement that keeps UAW workers at the heart of our auto future and ensures UAW jobs are good middle-class jobs.

Let me just say a bit about our work over the years on — on unions.  I think the President understands that one of the purposes — one of the things that unions do is they help more fairly distribute the benefits of growth.  His view is that if you’re helping to bake the pie, if you’re contributing to American productivity — and manufacturing workers and union workers and auto workers certainly contribute to that productivity — then you want to get a fair shake.  And that’s one of the reasons why he’s always supported unions.

There is a long economic literature showing that unions and these dynamics that I’m explaining to you are closely associated with a more equitable distribution of earnings, and I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s — he’s a pro-union president and why that’s — he’s always talked about that in the context of Bidenomics. 

Again, pillar one of Bidenomics: empowering workers.  So, I think there’s a clear —

Q    So, the President would support those —

MR. BERNSTEIN:  — a clear — a clear connection.

Q    — workers?  He would support the workers if they go on strike?  

MR. BERNSTEIN:  I’m going to leave it at: He believes the auto workers deserve a contract that sustains middle-class jobs, and he wants the parties to stay at the table to work around the clock to get a win-win agreement.  And he’s encouraged the parties to do that.  He’s explicitly encouraged them to do so.  An agreement that keeps the workers at the heart of our auto future and ensures that those are good middle-class jobs.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Thank you.  Jared, there were some alarming child poverty figures that came out very recently.  Given the constraints with Congress and spending, what can the administration do or what is the administration planning to do to alleviate those?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  Well, the explicit plan that we have talked about ever since the President got here and implemented it in the rescue plan is, of course, to extend the enhanced benefits of the Child Tax Credit.  I mean, one of the things I took from that report yesterday and I think everyone should take from that report is that your child poverty rate is a policy decision. 

This President decides to have the lowest child poverty rate in history — that was his decision.  And others, including, you know, 250 or something like that, members of the House and 50 — Republicans — and 50 Republicans in the Senate have made a very different decision to facilitate a more than doubling of child poverty by allowing the Child Tax Credit — that was doing so much of the lifting to — to achieve that historically low poverty rate — to allow that to expire.

The President has consistently argued for reinstatement, and he won’t stop fighting for that until we get it back.

Q    I guess, though, my question is: With those constraints that you’ve mentioned, in terms of lack of support, is there anything else you can do or intend to do to address that issue?

MR. BERNSTEIN:  We intend to continue to not only fight for the enhanced Child Tax Credit but to do so in a fiscally responsible way that is in our budget.  We have ample resources to offset that cost, and that’s part of the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction that’s raised in the budget that can be devoted to — to that — to that policy.

So, not only are we talking about re-achieving historically low levels of child poverty, but we’re doing — we’re talking about doing so in the context of injecting much more fairness into the very top end of the tax code. 

So, really, two very important values to this President: a much more fair, progressive tax code hitting only those above $400,000.  And if we’re talking about some of these measures well above that — millionaires and billionaires who he often talks about paying an 8 percent tax — effective tax rate.  That’s not okay in a context — in a — in an economic context where congressional Republicans have allowed child poverty to double by — by refusing to extend this Child Tax Credit. 

And Republicans go further.  They more than double down on that deeply unjust relationship by continuing to — to fight the extension of the Child Tax Credit while calling for trillions more in high-end tax cuts. 

So, yes, he’s going to continue to fight for the — for those issues.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Franco.

Q    Thanks, Jared.  Can you just talk a little bit more about — on the UAW strikes or a potential — can you talk about — a little more about what the economic impacts would be to a strike? 

And considering how significant they are, what plans does the President have or what recommendations are you giving the President to step in more to help prevent this, whether bringing them in to ha- — to help with negotiations, for example?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  You know, I don’t have a readout on this.  We’re closely monitoring the situation.  You know, the Council of Economic Advisers — CEA — I sometimes think of us as “Constantly Evaluating Alternatives.”  So, every day we’re waking up trying to figure out which way things are going.  So, of course, we’re going to monitor this on a daily basis; it would be irresponsible not to. 

But I don’t have a readout on — on the situation.  We’re monitoring it as it develops.

Q    I mean, do you feel, though, that the President should step in more?  Or does the President have plans to step in more, perhaps bringing in the negotiators to help prevent this from happening?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  The President has been very much engaged.  Not only has he always fought for policies to ensure that workers get a fair deal but that the — he’s explicitly talked about the electric-vehicle future being made in America by American workers, promoting strong and good-paying union jobs.  He’s met with President Fain one on one in the Oval before the UAW briefed senior staff on their negotiating position.  He called President Fain on Labor Day and called all Big Three executives before he left for Asia to encourage them to provide more forward-leaning offers and stay at the table. 

So, that’s what the President has done.  And he will continue to press on that, as will the team that’s monitoring that closely.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Jared.  I want to ask you about PCE and CPI.  So, we now have two inflation reports in a row where year-over-year, the headline inflation number has gone up.  You couple that with real average hourly wages are actually down since the day President Biden took office about 3 percent.  So, is that Bidenomics?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  Yeah, no, I think we have a disagreement on a fact there.  So — and we can certainly show you CEA’s data on this. 

Real wages are up relative to before the pandemic.  They’re up for all private-sector workers, but they’re up even more for production non-supervisory workers.  That’s a term from the establishment survey that comes out every month.  It’s 80 percent of the workforce that’s either blue collar and manufacturing or non-supervis- — non-managers in — in services.  And, you know, those wages are actually above the pre-pandemic level in real terms.  So, we just have a factual disagreement there. 

In terms of the trend in inflation, I think we probably have a disagreement there is well.  The trend in the PCE, the trend in the CPI, whether you look at headline or core — and, in fact — well, it’s not here anymore — but that graph that was just there showed a very clear trend in the year-over-year CPI. 

If you take the more timely, say, three-month annualized average, then you see an even clearer result. 

Inflation is easing.  It continues to ease.  There was a gas spike last month.  No question.  Gas went up almost 11 percent in August in the CPI.  That’s a little more than it went up in — in the real world because they seasonally adjust.  It was more like 6 percent. 

But in — in the report, it was up.  And, you know, we obviously take that very seriously.

Q    Right, I think — I think it’s a timeframe issue.  I’m looking at the day he came into office. 

But I want to ask you about those gas prices.  So, if gas prices are a large part of the increase we saw in the CPI, then why is the President then restricting future growth of the oil industry?  He made the decision in — or the Interior Department made the decision in Alaska just last week. 

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  Well, there are American — American oil production now is at an all-time high; it’s just below 13 million barrels a day.  There are thousands of available permits — places where oil companies could drill.  They’ve been highly profitable.  They’ve been highly productive.  So, I don’t think that’s the problem. 

The — as you said, the gas price added 34 basis points to the — you know, more than half of the inflation increase was the gas price in August. 

I’m not going to predict gas prices for September because that is folly.  But I will tell you there are various sources, which I mentioned a minute ago, putting downward pressure on gas prices this September, including the shift to a less expensive blend and the end of peak driving season. 

And, at the same time, look, along with the fact that American producers are more productive than they’ve ever been, producing almost 13 million barrels a year, we’re going to continue to work — largely with anyone who will work with us, but certainly with the congressional Democrats — in cutting energy costs by investing in clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign countries that don’t share our values. 

I mean, I think that is the right agenda.  And that’s the one that we’re aggressively pursuing.

Q    To the back, please?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Jared, a follow-up on the potential auto workers stri- —

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  I’m sorry, could you speak up?

Q    Yeah, sure thing.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  She probably hears better than I do.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  On auto workers. 

Q    No worries.  I’ll speak up.  On the potential auto workers strike, I do have a follow-up to what some of my colleagues were saying. 

A group that I spoke with — an economic group says that there could be a $5 billion cost to the economy if there is a 10-day strike.  So, is the White House preparing for that?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  We’re certainly tracking all of those outside analysts.  I don’t think there’s one report on this that we haven’t seen and haven’t read.  And, you know, our job is to be ready for any contingency that comes our way. 

I’m not going to give any readout on our own analysis at this point.  We’re monitoring the situation.  We’ll continue to do so.  And we’ll bring — we’ll certainly bring up-to-date information as — as these things develop.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, last question. 

Q    Two quick follow-ups from my colleagues’ questions.  You talked about how you’re following it closely, you’re looking at contingency plans.  But can you confirm whether you’ve been asked by the UAW to get involved more?  Or have you been asked specifically to stay out?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  I can’t confirm any of that.  I mean, at CEA, what — what we do is what I’ve said we do.  We — we are asked by the President to track any development in the domestic and global economy that’s going to have an impact or that might have an impact.  And, you know, there’s a long list of things that fit that description.  So, we’re — we’re tracking this carefully.

Q    And just a follow-up on the child poverty part, too.


Q    You talked about prioritizing a push, again, around the Child Tax Credit and pushing around taxes.  But what about the fact that funds are going to expire for childcare centers and how that might relate to child poverty or at least the experience of working mothers?  Is that going to be a priority and a push from this White House?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  You know, I’m glad you asked that.  It’s something that we at CEA have written a lot about.  And I encourage you to look at that.  We have a blog on that. 

Just a show of hands, how many people look at the CEA blog?  (Laughter.)

Oh —

Q    Some honesty there.  (Laughter.)

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  Okay.  We have work to do, and you have work to do.

Q    But I’m asking about White House priorities.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  Yeah, so this is a — this is —

Q    (Inaudible.)  (Laughter.)

CHAIR BERNSTEIN:  This is a longtime priority of this White House.  We have ambitious plans in our budget.  The President recognizes the linkage between labor force participation for caretakers, most often women, and — and affordable, accessible childcare.  And that’s why not only have we, as I said, proposed ambitious plans that are fully paid for, fully offset in our budget, but we’ve also talked about — used language in our supplemental to talk about the importance of childcare in our supplemental request. 

So, this is something that we will continue to work towards because we recognize its importance as a working-family issue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thanks, Jared.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good to have you.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Jared. 

I just wanted to add to the UAW, and just sort of — and I know you all have been tracking this — right? — which is that one of the President’s senior advisors, Gene Sperling, has been involved — right? — and also Acting Secretary Julie Su has been also, clearly, monitoring and having those conversations. 

And I’ll just add what we’ve said many times before, right?  The President believes in collective bargaining, has encouraged sides to continue to have that conversation, to continue to be at the table.  And that’s what the President is going to continue to do. 

So, I just wanted to add a little bit of that before I turn it over to the Admiral. 

And so, as you know, John Kirby is here with us today.  And he’s going to take a few questions on foreign policy and any news of the day, clearly, on foreign por- — foreign policy. 

And with that, John — Admiral.

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, Karine. 

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  So, I just want to take a moment or so to clear up some of the conflicting accounts and information that’s been out there regarding actions that were taken to secure the release of five Americans who have been wrongfully detained in Iran. 

These Americans have been suffering a terrible ordeal.  I think you all know that.  They — many of them were held in the Evin Prison under ghastly conditions.  And that we have been working very, very hard to bring them home to their families just as soon as possible.

Now, to secure their freedom, the United States is pursuing an arrangement in which Iranian funds held in South Korea are moved to restricted accounts in Qatar, where they would be available for humanitarian trac- — transactions only — things like food, medicine, medical supplies, medical equipment, agricultural products.

These funds will now be subject to more legal restrictions than they were when they were in Korea.  They will be monitored by rigorous due diligence standards required by the U.S. Treasury Department.  The U.S. will have visibility and will be able engage in oversight about where the money was going and for what purpose.

If Iran tries to divert the funds, we’ll take action and we’ll lock them up again.

I also want to be clear: This is not a payment of any kind.  It’s not a ransom.  These aren’t U.S.-taxpayer dollars.  And we haven’t lifted a single one of our sanctions on Iran.  Iran will be getting no sanctions relief.

We will continue to counter Ira- — the Iran regime’s human rights abuses.  We’ll continue to counter their destabilizing actions abroad, its support for terrorism, its attack on maritime shipping in the Gulf, and its continued support for Russia’s war against Ukraine.  

As you have heard us say before, when we’re trying to bring Americans home, we often aren’t dealing on a level playing field.  We have to use the leverage we have to bring them home.  They aren’t going to be released for nothing in exchange. 

But we — I don’t think we should lose sight of the bottom line here, and that’s that we’re working to free these innocent Americans who did nothing wrong, had no reason to be detained — bring them home to their families, bring them home whole and safe again.  That’s the goal.

With that, I’ll take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Peter.

Q    Admiral Kirby, thank you for being here.  I know that you dispute that this is a ransom payment.  Obviously, many critics of this agreement say that it is just that.  So, in effect, they suggest it’s $1 billion por Ameri- — per American individual being released.  So, how is this not incentivizing bad actors and rogue regime- — regimes like Iran in the future to detain more Americans?

MR. KIRBY:  Bad actors like Iran and like Mr. Putin in Russia don’t need any incentive to continue to look for ways to wrongfully detain Americans.  It’s — it’s been happening a long, long time.  And we have to accept the reality that it could happen again in the future. 

It’s one of the reasons why the State Department has a new designation for countries — a D designation — so that before you travel or you do business in a foreign country, you ought to look and see is the risk of detention — wrongful detention high in that country before you go.  We continue to advise Americans not to travel to — to Iran and to Russia and other places like that. 

But these — these bad actors don’t need incentives.  And this isn’t going to — this isn’t going to change the calculus, necessarily, of what they’re — what they’ve been doing. 

What it is going to do is get our Americans home.  And — and that’s what we’re focused on.

Q    But for clarity, isn’t — why isn’t it a ransom payment?  I get that it’s not American taxpayer dollars, but it’s still $5 billion that had been frozen that was not available for use in any form by the Iranians.  That $5 billion may be for humanitarian aid, but then it frees up $5 billion elsewhere to spend.  So, how is that —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah —

Q    — not ransom payment? 

MR. KIRBY:  So, a couple of points here.  First of all, you’re right, it’s not U.S. money.  It’s Iranian money.  It’s Iranian money that had been established in these accounts to allow some trade from foreign countries on things like Iranian oil, to allow the Iranian oil to stay on market and for countries who wanted to buy that Iranian oil.  This — these transactions, largely a- — were conducted in the previous administration.  All legal.  All fine.  But to allow that — some of our allies and partners to be able to continue to purchase Iranian oil without being sanctioned for doing so. 

Several accounts were set up in several countries, South Korea being one of them.  For many reasons — lots of different reasons, this particular account was not accessible to the Iranians as others were.  So, it is Iranian money.  That’s point number one.

Point number two: It’s not a blank check.  They don’t get to spend it any way they want.  It’s not $6 billion all at once.  They will have to make a request for withdrawals for humanitarian purposes only.  And there will be sufficient oversight to make sure that the request is valid and that it’s going through vendors who we — who we and the Qataris can trust will actually contract for the goods — the medical equipment, the food, whatever it is — in an appropriate way and get it directly to the Iranian people. 

The Iranian people will be the beneficiaries of the — of these funds, not the regime.  The regime doesn’t get to touch the money, Peter.  It doesn’t go to them.  They don’t get to — they don’t get to decide the ultimate destination, and — and they have no direct access to it. 

Now, your second part of your question: “Well, won’t this just free up funds for them to continue to do bad behavior?”  (Laughs.)  They’ve been — they’ve been participating in bad behavior for a long, long time.  And we continue to put pressure on them in ways, I would add, that the previous administration did not do, particularly in terms of their nuclear and ballistic missile programs. 

They’re still supporting terrorists, they’re still attacking shipping, and they’re still supplying drones and drone manufacturing capability to the Russians.  And for all of those things, we have and we will continue to hold them accountable. 

We’ve not only added sanctions to them for the way they’ve treated protesters, for the — for the arms sales that they’ve provided to Russia, but we have increased our military presence in the Gulf region, specifically to address the attacks on maritime shipping. 

So, Iran has choices to make.  They’ve — they’ve had choices to make in the past.  They’ve got choices to make in the future.  And if they continue to choose to conduct these kinds of destabilizing activities, we will continue to use all the levers in our power — economic and military — to counter that and to thwart their efforts. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, you just said that Iran was not going to do this for nothing.  But didn’t they also get five Iranians? 

MR. KIRBY:  They will get five Iranians as well.  Yeah, Jacqui.

Q    Then why did we need to add $6 billion on top of that to —

MR. KIRBY:  This is the deal that we were able to strike to secure the release of five Americans.  It would be great, wonderful if we could just pick up the phone and call the mullahs and say, “Hey, we want our Americans back.  Send them back on the next plane.”  But you and I both know that’s not going to happen, particularly with Iran. 

And getting Americans home requires decisions, sometimes really tough decisions.  It requires compromise.  It requires negotiations.  It requires negotiations with people you really would rather not be sitting across the table from, but you got to do it because Americans overseas in trouble wrongfully detained need to know and their families need to know that this President and this administration will do what it takes to bring them home.

We’re comfortable in the parameters of this deal.  I get it.  I’ve heard the critics that they’re — somehow, they’re getting the better end of it.  Ask the families of those five Americans who’s getting the better end of it, and I think you’d get a different answer. 

We’re comfortable with the parameters of this deal.  We’re comfortable that there’ll be enough restrictions — quite frankly, very rigid restrictions — on the Iranians ability to use this money.  And we make no apologies for the fact that we’re going to get these — these five Americans home just as soon as possible. 

Q    President Raisi says it’s up to them how they use the money. 

MR. KIRBY:  He’s wrong.

Q    How are you going to guarantee that?  Because once the money is — money is fungible.  So, once —

MR. KIRBY:  No, ma’am.

Q    — it’s released —

MR. KIRBY:  No, ma’am.  No, ma’am.  It’s not fungible.  He’s just wrong.  He’s just flat-out wrong.  The way this — the way this deal is arranged is that these — these — the $6 billion, which is Iranian money, will go to a Qatari bank — Qatari National Bank. 

The Iranians can request withdrawals for it for humanitarian purposes, and the Qataris — and it will be — and us — we will have oversight — sufficient oversight into the request itself to validate the request and then to deliver funds appropriate to that request. 

The money will be then — will then go to qualified vendors to purchase and deliver the food, the medical supplies into Iran.  So, it will go directly to aid organizations or appropriate relevant organizations inside Iran so that the Iranian people can benefit from it.  And that’s an important point, too. 

While we certainly have issues with the regime, we don’t have issues with the Iranian people.  And this funding will be a — will be important to helping them get over some tough times.

Q    What do you say to the criticism that this is only going to go against all these efforts to deter Iran from getting a nuclear weapon? 

I mean, this came right after the IAEA director said that the international community is losing interest in holding Iran accountable, that these violations are routine.  And now we’re making this deal where they’re going to have money to use for humanitarian purposes but, to Peter’s point, freeing up $6 billion that they can pull from other places to use for proxy attacks or building a nuclear weapon.  How do you argue against that?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I — I think I answered that question before, but I’ll try it another way: We’ll continue to hold them accountable for destabilizing activities.  This arrangement to get these Americans home is separate and distinct from the way we are holding Iran accountable for all their destabilizing activities, to include their continued nuclear ambitions and their burgeoning and improving ballistic missile program, which we have sanctioned and will continue to keep those sanctions in place.  As I said, no sanctions relief involved in this at all.  We will continue to hold them and put them under that pressure. 

And now, look, the President has said many, many times, we’re not going to allow Iran to ever achieve a nuclear weapons capability.  We would have preferred to deal with that through diplomacy.  Unfortunately, the previous administration decided to tear up a deal that had actually set their ambitions back by many, many months.  And now they’ve been allowed to continue to re-enrich; nothing we could do about that. 

We wanted to solve it through diplomacy.  We’re not able to —

Q    Nothing —

MR. KIRBY:  We’re not able to — we are not able and we’re not focused on returning to the JCPOA at this time.  That said, we make — we will make sure we have the appropriate capabilities in the region to defend ourselves and our national security interests if it comes to that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, we got to keep going. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  Is there a reaction so far on the Putin-Kim Jong Un meeting today?  And does the U.S. have a better sense of what the DPRK can give to the Russians in terms of deliverables out of this meeting today? 

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we’re watching this very, very closely.  We’ll see what the two sides say as a result of this. 

As I’ve said before, we continue to urge North Korea to meet its public commitments not to support Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

No nation on the planet, nobody, should be helping Mr.  Putin kill innocent Ukrainians.  And if they decide to move forward with some sort of arms deal, we’ll obviously — we’ll take — we’ll take the measure of that and we’ll — and we’ll — and we’ll deal with it appropriately.  As Jake Sullivan said last week, there will certainly be repercussions for North Korea, both from the United States and from the international community. 

As for what either side will get out of this, again, I think we have to watch and see what actually comes out of this discussion.  What we have said publicly when we had information to share with you about this budding arms deal was that it was entirely likely that Mr. Putin was going — at the very least going to seek artillery.

What’s going on in the Donbas and down in the south is — it’s a gunfight, as you’ve heard me to say before, heavily dependent on artillery.  So, it’s entirely likely that that’s at least one type of ammunition that Mr. Putin is seeking. 

I’ve said on the record a week or so ago that we expect it could be other types of munitions, but we just don’t have perfect visibility on that.  And so we’re have to see how — how it shakes out. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thank you.  I’m going to go back to Iran.  So, with $6 billion and five Iranians are going to be released, Hostage Aid, which is an organization that advocates on behalf of hostages, is saying that there are more American Iranians held in Iran — at least there are two.  So, why you couldn’t negotiate at least for this amount of money and the five Iranians who are going to be released in return for every American citizen, whether it’s a green card holder or American citizen — citizens who held in (inaudible) —

MR. KIRBY:  I can only speak to the parameters of this arrangement, which is these five wrongfully detained Americans in an exchange for five Iranians and, of course, the transfer of these funds.  That’s the parameters of this deal.  That’s all I can talk about. 

I can just assure you that, as I said at the top, we’re always going to take seriously the case of wrongfully detained Americans anywhere they are in the world and do everything we can to get them home.

Q    Can you confirm that the administration policy is never to pay ransom to any terrorist organization, i.e. non-state actors, whether it’s al Qaeda or Daesh or whatever.  In the past, Americans were killed as a result because the U.S. did not pay money, while Europeans did, to release their citizens.

MR. KIRBY:  No change to our policy. 

Q    Why — I’m sorry, so, how is this different considering that you describe Iran as — as the state that sponsored terrorism in the world?  So, in — in other words, that you differentiate between a state and non-state actors and, therefore, you deal with them differently?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ve answered that question.  This is not a ransom payment. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Danny, go ahead.  Welcome to the briefing room.

Q    Thank you very much.  Thanks for taking the question.  I wanted to ask about the U.N. General Assembly next week.  Firstly, is the President going to be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel there?  And —

MR. KIRBY:  No meetings to speak to at this point. 

Q    And also, I just wondered if you know — if you know if he’s going to be — that the President will be attending the Security Council meeting on Ukraine. 

MR. KIRBY:  Again, we’ll have more towards the end of the week in terms of laying out the — the calendar or the President’s agenda at the U.N. General Assembly next week.  I think on Friday we’ll have a lot more detail for you. 

The President is looking forward to it.  This is a terrific opportunity to start to reinforce some of the things that you saw him reinforce on this trip in terms of improved infrastructure and investment in the Global South and developing nations, looking towards human rights, solving climate change. 

There is an awful lot on the President’s agenda up there in New York, and he’s very much looking forward to it.  We’ll have more detail at the end of the week. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  We got to wrap it up.  Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks.  Just to follow up on Tarini’s question on Russia and North Korea.  I’m wondering if you could speak to what the administration’s concerns on what North Korea could get out of this.  Putin seemed to suggest that Russia would help North Korea build spy satellites.  I’m wondering if there is concern around that or missile technology. 

MR. KIRBY:  Look, again, we got to see what actually shakes out of this meeting and the degree to which any kind of an arms deal is consummated and what that looks like.  It’s just — I don’t want to speculate. 

But in a similar fashion to the concern we already expressed about the burgeoning defense relationship between Iran and Russia, we obviously have concerns about any burgeoning defense relationship between North Korea and Russia.  Again, it remains to be seen what either side, A, wants out of this and, B, will get out of it. 

These are not two countries that work well with others.  And they don’t really have all that much trust and confidence in each other.  So we’ll have to see. 

But certainly, any arrangement that would improve North Korea’s military capabilities would be of — certainly would be of significant concern to us. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Hi.  So do you have a timeframe for when Americans are coming back?  And what is your — the administration’s message to the people, because this is happening on their first anniversary of Mahsa’s killing, when the administration said that they are going to be standing by the side of the Iranian people? 

And they are very critical of this money being transferred to Iran.  They’re actually calling it “appeasement.”  So, what is the message of administration to those people who lost their lives in the aftermath of Mahsa’s killing?  And also, do you have a timeframe for it?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we continue to mourn with the Iranian people for her loss.  We held the morality police accountable for it, and others in — in Iran.  We continue to stand with the Iranian people and — and for their human and civil rights.  That’s not going to change. 

The timing here is the timing.  And it — it wasn’t tied to any anniversary or any date.  It was tied to an arrangement that we made with Iran to try to get these Americans home.  And this — the notification of the movement of these funds was the next critical step in this process — a process, I would remind you, is not over. 

They are still in Tehran — our Americans.  They are not home.  And so, we’re going to be a little bit careful about how much detail we’re going to provide here publicly. 

And your first question about timeline, I — I don’t have a timeframe that I’m at liberty to speak to right now.  But we hope to get them home as soon as possible. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  In front of you.  Go.

Q    Yeah, thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — go ahead.

Q    Me?


Q    Okay.  I — I hear you really emphasizing and belaboring the point that getting American’s home is the priority of the administration.  I wondered if there was any movement on the Pennsylvania-native teacher, Marc Fogel, who’s been held in Russia, imprisoned for, I believe, going on two years now.  Has there been any movement on getting that American home?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have anything with respect to his case to speak to today. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Thanks.  What can you tell us about the five Iranian prisoners who are being traded?  What were they convicted for here in the U.S.?  And how were they chosen?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have — I’m not at liberty right now, again, because this is an ongoing process and we don’t have our Americans home yet.  So, I will be careful about how much detail I put out there.  I don’t have a lot that I can say about these five individuals at this time.  We will certainly have more information to share when it’s appropriate to share it.

In general, without getting into each specific case, just generally speaking, you’re looking at offenses such as sanctions evasion, that kind of level.  But I think that’s as far as I can go today.

Q    So, not serious, hardened criminals?

MR. KIRBY:  Largely in the realm of sanctions evasions.  And I — I think I’m just going to have to leave it at that right now. 

Q    The Iranians have shared the names with us.  Are you prepared to release the names?

MR. KIRBY:  We will at the appropriate time, and this is not the appropriate time. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jenny.

Q    Hey, John.  I’ve got two for you on China.  We reported last week about China trying to ban iPhones for certain government agencies.  Now they’re saying they are seeing security threats with these phones.  They’re stopping short of issuing laws.  But we have reported on the internal guidance, and the President even mentioned it in Hanoi, saying, you know, they’re changing the rules of the game. 

Should we expect the administration to respond and there to be repercussions for China if they do go through with that?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t want to get ahead of where we are right now.  We’re watching this with concern.  Clearly, it seems to be of a piece of the kinds of aggressive and inappropriate retaliation to U.S. companies that we’ve seen from the PRC in the past.  That’s what this appears to be. 

The truth is, we don’t have perfect visibility on exactly what they’re doing and why.  And we certainly would call on them to be more transparent about what they’re seeing and what they’re doing. 

Q    So, you are — it’s — it’s accurate to say that you are trying to seek that information from the Chinese —

MR. KIRBY:  We are — we’re watching this as closely as we can.  I’m not going to — I’m not going to get into diplomatic conversations, but it’s concerning.

Q    Okay.  And separately but related, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, has been pretty candid on Twitter talking about China and Xi Jinping’s policy of disappearing officials in his Cabinet.  Is this something that you guys are aware of or, you know, endorsing his message to be as forthright?  I mean, the White House has been pretty careful in how you do diplomacy with China, which is not really poking Xi Jinping the way the ambassador is.

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll let the ambassador speak to his social media account. 

We’ve long been clear about our concerns about a full range of worrisome PRC activities in — in the region there.  And I think I’d leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re just going to talk a couple more.  Go ahead.

Q    John, in the past couple of weeks, the President has lied about being at Ground Zero the day after the September 11th attacks, falsely claimed he saw the Pittsburgh bridge collapse, claimed his grandfather died in the hospital days before his birth.  What is going on with the President?  Is he just believing things that didn’t happen did happen, or is he just randomly making stuff up?

MR. KIRBY:  The President was deeply touched and honored to be able to spend 9/11 with the military members there in Alaska and some families.  And was — was — was honored by their presence and the chance to make an important set of remarks about why we need to continue to remember that day.  And he did that. 

And he spoke about a visit to Ground Zero, which he did participate in about a week or so after the — the event, and what that looked and what that smelled and what like — that felt like.  And it had a visceral impact on him, as it did so many other Americans on that terrible day. 

And he’s focused on making sure that an attack like that never happens again, which is why we’ve improved our over-the-horizon counterterrorism capability and why we continue to hold terrorist networks accountable.  And it’s why he spent so much time last week shoring up our national security interests in a vital part of the world on issues that aren’t necessarily tied to terrorism, but very much tied to our ability to secure peace and prosperity there and around the world.

Q    But he’s had a string of saying things that happened — didn’t happen — things that are easily debunked.  Why does he keep doing that?

MR. KIRBY:  The President was grateful to spend that time with those family members and those troops.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead. 

Q    Has the Moroccan government accepted any earthquake assistance yet from the United States?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I — I can tell you that we have been in constant touch with Moroccan officials and that USAID has — has allocated a million dollars to assist in response relief.  I’ll let USAID and the Moroccan government speak to how they intend to — to use that.

I would — I’ll also just, as the President did, reiterate that we stand ready to — to provide even more assistance should it be required and needed.  But we are in direct contact with them about their needs, and, obviously, you want to do the best you can to meet those needs as they see them.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  I’m just going to do two more. 

Way in the back, go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Admiral, what — why wouldn’t the administration reengage, if it would be possible, with the JCPOA?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we wanted it to be possible.  I mean, my goodness, the first couple of years of this administration, we worked hard to try to get us back into the JCPOA.  And Iran kept larding up the negotiations with — with things that had nothing to do with their nuclear program.  And we realized the futility of the effort, so we stopped putting energy and effort into it, all around the time that they were whipping and beaten female protesters.  So we held them accountable for that.  That was — that was a significant moment as well. 

Look, the President has been very consistent that we want to make sure they never achieve a nuclear weapons capability.  He would prefer — vastly prefer to do that through diplomacy, but that’s just not a viable option right now. 

Q    On Ukraine, what — what is the administration’s goal?  Is it to defeat Russia?  Or is it ultimately to seek some sort of negotiated settlement?

MR. KIRBY:  Man, I don’t know how many times I’ve answered this question in the last year and a half.  And we have been, again, very, very consistent.  We want to see Ukraine succeed on the battlefield.  We want to see them get all their territory back.  We want to see their sovereignty respected.  We want to see no Russian troops inside Ukraine.  We want to see the war end. 

And it could end today, obviously, if Mr. Putin would do the right thing and just get the hell out.  That’s clearly not going to happen right now. 

So, we’re going to continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities that they need to be successful.

Q    And on the holdup of military appointments from Tommy Tuberville, what is the tangible damage being done to the military by a holdup on appointments of military officers?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t say any better than the — than the leaders of the DOD have been able to say.  You’ve got more than 300, now, generals and admirals who are frozen, can’t move, which means that in many cases — literally, hundreds of cases — you’ve got officers that are doing two jobs — two big jobs — while they’re — while they’re still trying to maintain readiness.  And readiness is starting to get affected by this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, Kayla.  You have the last question.

Q    Thank you.  CNN is reporting that Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia in 2018, is in Washington for meetings this week and she’s been seeking a meeting with the President.  Does the President plan to meet with her?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any meetings with the President to speak to, but she is in town and she is going to be meeting with the — with White House officials.  It’ll be a good opportunity for us to — to update her on our efforts to get Paul back.  And those efforts are very active and they’re very ongoing. 


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks.  Thanks, Admiral.  Appreciate it. 

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Karine.  Thanks, everybody.

Q    Thank you. 

Q    Thank you, John.


Darlene, it’s good to see you. 

Q    It’s good to see you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I feel like it’s been a while.  Maybe?

Q    Maybe. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  All right, go for it.

Q    Will the President cooperate fully now that Speaker McCarthy has pulled the trigger on an impeachment inquiry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to refer you to — to my colleagues over at the Counsel’s Office on any specifics to — to the inquiry.  I’m certainly not going to — going to speculate on — on what has been a baseless inquiry that the House Republicans can’t even really defend themselves and that many House Republicans have said — they have said they couldn’t support their own votes.  So, again — again, I’m going to refer you to my White House Counsel on any specifics.

Q    On — sorry —


Q    And on his speech tomorrow, he’s going to Maryland.  Why is he going to Maryland, a blue state, instead of maybe a red state to talk about his economic policies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to get — you heard — you heard Jared, the chair of CEA, talk — talk specifically about the economy, speak — speak specifically about a major speech — a major speech that the President is going to do tomorrow on Bidenomics. 

You’ve heard us talk about Bidenomics and how we believe has turned the economy around and just — not from us, but from the data that we certainly have seen. 

And this is a President who has been very clear: He wants to see an economy that come — that build — that’s built from the bottom up, middle out and not the trickle-down economy that we see that — that congressional Republicans want to continue to do. 

What I’m not going to get into — well, I’ll say this: The President bel- — it doesn’t matter where the President decides to give a speech, right?  For him, it is an opportunity to speak directly to the American people, and that’s what you’re going to see him do. 

And, you know, whether it’s in Maryland, whether it’s in a red state, the President always takes those opportunities — incredibly important not just to speak in front of all of you who report on what he’s going to say and how he’s engaging with the American people, but directly to them as well. 

And so, you know, in this case, location is not — doesn’t matter.  He wants to give a — a really important speech, a “major speech,” as you heard us coin it, on Bidenomics.  And I think it’s important — what’s important is that the American people are going to hear from the President about an issue that matters to them, which is the economy and how he continues to make sure he’s doing everything he can to lower costs for the American people and to continue to build an economy that leaves no one behind.  And I think that’s what matters for tomorrow.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On impeachment, you just mentioned House Republicans’ “baseless claims.”  How confident are you that there will be no evidence that incriminates President Biden in Hunter’s business dealings as this goes forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just give a little bit of a — a laydown here, because I think it’s important: Any specifics to — to the inquiry — certainly, I — I want to say this at the top, as I said to Darlene — I’m going to refer you to my colleagues at the Counsel’s Office. 

But I want to — also want to be clear about a couple of things.  You know, I just talked about Bidenomics.  I just talked about what the President’s going to do tomorrow: really deliver a major speech — something that the American people want to hear about: what are we doing to improve their lives, work on the economy.  And these are real — real issues, real priorities for Americans — and like I said, like lowering costs.

But what you see Republicans in Congress — right? — they have spent all year investigating the President.  That’s what they’ve spent all year doing, and have turned up with no evidence — none — he — that he did anything wrong. 

I mean, that is what we’ve heard over and over again from their almost lear — year-long investigation.  And — and that’s because the President didn’t do anything wrong.  Even — even —

Q    Is lying to the public wrong?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — even House — even House Republicans have said — have said the evidence does not exist.  House Republicans have said that, to my friend in the back who just yelled out, which is incredibly inappropriate.  But House Republicans have said that there doesn’t —

Q    Do you dispute that he lied?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — there doesn’t — it doesn’t exist.

Their own investigation have actually debunked their ridiculous attacks.  And the only reason Speaker McCarthy is doing this — is doing this political stunt — and we have seen it; you all have reported — is because Majorie — Majorie [Marjorie] Taylor Greene has said she threatened to shut down the government.  Can you imagine shutting down the government over a political stunt?  And we’re talking about vital programs that American families need.  And — and she said that because she wanted him to — to actually do this.  And if he didn’t, she would shut down the government. 

And you have — Matt Gaetz as well threatened to oust him as Speaker if he didn’t do it. 

So, he didn’t even put up for a vote, as you all know, because he knows that even his own members weren’t going to support this. 

So, you know, that’s why we call it baseless.  That’s why I just called it baseless, because they have said themselves that there is no evidence.  There does not — the evidence does not exist, and this is a political stunt

But here’s the thing, and I say this all the time: We look forward to working with Republicans in a bipartisan way to actually deal with issues that matter to — to Americans — real issues that meri- — matter to Americans, not this baseless effort that they have continuing to do that shows no evidence.

Q    What — given that, will the President still be able to work with House Republicans, including Speaker McCarthy —


Q    — to avert a shutdown in a couple of weeks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the shutdown should not happen.  That is Congress’s job: to avoid a shutdown.  I’ve said over and over again here at this podium just — for the past couple of minutes that these are vital programs that American families need. 

So, that’s their basic duty.  Their basic duty is to keep the government open. 

We’ve already agreed — we’ve agreed.  There was a bipartisan agreement on how to move forward with the budget that they voted on. 

And so, look, they should — a deal is a deal.  They should keep their word, and they should keep the government open. 

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    You just brought up the lack of a vote.  Does the White House view this impeachment inquiry as legitimate, given that there has not been a vote to open it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Nancy, I appreciate the question, but I actually — from what I just laid out, Republicans have been — made it pretty clear just how illegitimate this is.  They’ve made that very clear.  This is a — this is an entire exercise of how to do this in an illegitimate way. 

And, again, it’s a politi- — political stunt.  And it is going after the President politically — not about the truth.  There is no truth here.  And so, we think they should — they should work with us on legitimate issues — things that actually matter to the American people.  And that’s what they want to see.  That’s what the American people want to see. 

We’re going to talk about Bidenomics.  You’re going to hear from the President — speak to that directly. 

In a few minutes, the President is convening his Cabinet — his Cancer Cabinet to talk about an issue that matters to the American people, about saving lives, what else we can do to deal with cancer across the country. 

And, you know, that’s what we believe.

Q    So, if you don’t view it as legitimate, does that mean that the White House doesn’t believe it needs to comply with requests that come as — as a result of this inquiry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m going to let the Counsel’s Office — my colleagues there speak to this directly as to what — when it comes to cooperating.  I’m going to let them speak to that. 

But I’ve been very clear: We believe this is — this — we’re certainly not going to speculate on any bas- — you know, on baseless accusations — right? — as we have seen from — from the Republicans in the House. 

And so, you know, again, they could not even support their own votes.  They couldn’t.  Speaker McCarthy could not even get support for this vote.  And so, I’m going to just leave it there.

Q    Has the President had an opportunity to speak with Speaker McCarthy about the looming shutdown and potential ways out of this mess?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any conversations the President has had with the Speaker.  I can say, definitely, that our — our OMB director here, Shalanda Young, and also — also the Leg Affairs Office has been in direct communications for the past several weeks, even months, with — with members in Congress.  That’s going to continue.  I just don’t have anything to read out. 

As you know, the President is — you know, continues to have conversations with members in the House and the Sen- — and Senate regularly.  I just don’t have a specific conversation to read out.

Q    Would the White House consider renegotiating

the agreement it struck with Speaker McCarthy earlier this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But here’s the thing: A deal is a deal.  Like, they voted on this.  They voted on this.  It was a bipartisan deal.  And, you know, they should move o- — move forward with what they agreed on. 

It was voted in the House, in the Senate.  And Republicans voted for this.  Dem- — Democrats voted for this. 

So, I don’t see the issue here.  They should move forward with this.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Karine, can you describe how President Biden reacted to the impeachment decision by the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything —

Q    — Speaker?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share about the President’s reaction to this. 

All I can tell you is the President is focused on the American people — hardworking American people.  You’ll see him in a few minutes when he talks about — when he speaks to his Cancer Cabinet.  And then you’ll certainly hear from him tomorrow with the Bidenomics.

Q    You listed a couple of things — the — the deal that the Republicans are now not supporting, the — obviously, the impeachment.  You say you look forward — or the White House looks forward to working with the Republicans.  How do you see that happening?  How does President Biden plan to work with Speaker McCarthy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, for the past two years, we’ve gotten — this President has gotten a lot of criticism in not being able to work in a bipartisan way with — with Republicans on the other side of Pennsylvania.  I mean, we’ve heard that over and over and over again.  And he has been able to do that.  And as you know, this — the political climate is tough.  We’re in a different political climate — probably one that we haven’t seen in this — in this fashion for some time.  And the President has been able to do that. 

He’s been able to push incredibly key, historic pieces of legislation that’s going to change the lives of Americans: when you think about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, you think about the CHIPS and Science Act, when you think about the PACT Act — all important pieces of legislation.  And that’s just a few.  There’s been hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pieces of legislation that has been done in a bipartisan way that the President has signed these past two years. 

So, it can still be done.  It really, truly can. 

We’re talking about this moment in time — right? — that we’re seeing from — from Congress.  Of course, we’re going to call it out.  Of course, we’re going to as- — as it relates to, certainly, the budget, of course we’re going to say to them that they need to do their jobs. 

And so, we’ve seen it over and over again — what this President has been able to do things in a bipartisan way.  And let’s not forget, one of the things that we saw from the midterm results in 2022 is that Americans want to see us do this: working in a bipartisan way so that we deal with their — with their key issues that they’re having. 

Bidenomics is going to be so important tomorrow.  The President is going to speak, certainly, fully about that and lay out what his administration has done and going to continue to do.  And that’s what we’re going to focus on.

Q    Just really briefly, on another topic, I saw the President’s statement about Libya, expressing condolences.  Does the United States have plans to send more money, more help to the people there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  I do want to share our — you know, as you mentioned, there was a — I think, a tweet that went out. 

So, our deepest condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones in the devastating floods in Libya and, certainly, the earthquake in Morocco.  These are difficult times, and the United States sent emergency funds to relief organizations in Libya, and we will also send disaster assistance response to the region and an initial $1 million to support Libyan efforts. 

In the hours following the earthquake, we deployed a small as- — assessment team to Morocco.  And we are making available up to $1 million in initial humanitarian assistance to support people in the areas most affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. 

Obviously and certainly, the United States stands by the Libyan and Moroccan people.  And we are wishing them a speedy recovery to those injured and, certainly, sending our hope to all those who are missing loved ones.  It is certainly a difficult time in that region, and we are here to help.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  On impeachment.  Does the President or the White House more broadly plan to comply with requests for

information from House Republicans as part of the impeachment inquiry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — I’ve stated a couple of times, just in the past few minutes, that any — any specifics, inquiries or anything like that, that is something that my Cou- — the Counsel — my — the — my colleagues at the White House Counsel certainly will — will deal with.  And they’ll — any specifics, I would refer you to them.

Q    But you suggested that there’s no evidence to back up the Republicans’ effort —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Which is true.

Q    — here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not suggesting it.  That’s actually a fact.

Q    If they are seeking information —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, that is —

Q    — would you provide the information?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — something that the White House Counsel is going to deal with.  And it’s not a suggestion.  It’s actually an actual fact.

When you have Republicans saying that there is no — no evidence, it doesn’t exist.  They have said that. 

I mean, again, they couldn’t even put it up for a vote because they didn’t have the vote. 

So, it’s not a suggestion; it’s actually the fact.  That’s their own words that I’m repeating back. 

I’m just going to try and go to — go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The L.A. Times reported that the Biden administration is considering forcing some migrant families who enter the country without authorization to remain near the border in Texas while awaiting asylum screa- — screening.  Governor Abbott has threatened to sue if the administration goes through with this.  Can you confirm whether this is under active consideration?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me — I have to go back to the team.  I want to get the right information to you.  So, let me talk to the team about that specific — that specific reporting.  And then we’re, certainly — will have that information for you.

Q    Can you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you know, the President has done everything that he can to work on the issue at — at the border that has existed for decades, worked to improve the immigration system.  He’s done that alone, without the help of Republicans.  And, certainly, you see the governor constantly doing political stunts.  And the President is going to do everything that he can.

Go ahead.

MS. SIMONS:  Time for one more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, one more time.  I’ll try and call — I haven’t called on you.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On the memo that was sent out to news organizations about covering this impeachment inquiry, can you give us some background into the decision-making of why you thought sending that was necessary?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to leave that to the White House Counsel — from my colleagues who sent that — that memo.  It just laid out, really, kind of specifically as to how we see this process has moved forward, how there is no evidence.  It’s not even coming from us.  It’s coming from Republicans in — in Congress.  We’ve been very clear about that.

I actually think that memo lays out pretty — pretty — in pretty good detail of why we felt it was important to put that out.  I’m just not going to get beyond what my colleague has shared with all of you. 

And with that, folks —

Q    Can you explain why the President interacted with so many of his son’s foreign business associates?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Have a great day, guys.  Thank you so much.

2:17 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Jared Bernstein, and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer

Sun, 09/10/2023 - 12:15

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Hanoi, Vietnam

11:15 A.M. IST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  (Inaudible.)  We wanted to make sure that we, kind of, gave a little bit of a preview of our next leg.  As you all know, we’re heading to Viet- — Vietnamese, and so — or Vietnam, I should say.  (Laughs.)

And so, we have, as you can see, Jon Finer, the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor, here to — to level-set with us and lay out what’s going to happen on this next leg with the President.

Go ahead, Jon.

MR. FINER:  Great.  Thanks, Karine.  So, first, I want to say a couple words about the G20.  At the G20, President Biden continued to deliver on the commitments we’ve made to champion an economic agenda at home and abroad, to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth for American families and families everywhere. 

Leading by example and working with partners around the world, the U.S. and the G20 delivered for developing countries and for our shared planet.  At a moment when the global economy is suffering from the shocks caused by climate crisis, fragility, and conflict, including the immense suffering unleased by Russia’s war in Ukraine, this year’s summit at the G20 can still drive solutions to our most pressing issues.

President Biden championed an ambitious agenda to mobilize significant additional financing for development from all sources — public and private, domestic, and international.  He rallied G20 partners to agree to collectively mobilize more concessional finance to boost the World Bank’s capacity to support low- and middle-income countries. 

And alongside India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union, we announced a landmark commitment to work together to develop a new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.  The transformative partnership has the potential to usher in a new era of connectivity from Europe to Asia with a railway linked through ports connected to the Middle East.

This will create novel interconnections to facilitate global trade, expand reliable access to electricity, facilitate clean energy distribution, and strengthen telecommunications links.

Now, I’ve seen some reporting that seems to imply what we think is actually not the message that the G20 sent on Ukraine.  First of all, the countries of the G20 signed up to the Bali language last year, and the vast majority of G20 countries have supported multiple U.N. resolutions that call our Russia’s illegal aggression.

The joint statement issued yesterday builds on that, to send an unpreceded, unified statement on the imperative that Russia refrain from using force for territorial acquisition, abide by its obligations in the U.N. Charter, and cease attacks on civilians and infrastructure.  This is fundamentally consistent with the strategy that we have been adopting for some time now to focus countries in the world that are seeking an end of the conflict, to make sure that they are pushing for a just peace on the basis of the key — core principles of the U.N. Charter, including sovereignty and territorial integrity.

President Biden is engaging with countries around the world to press for just that.  And the statement is a major step forward in this effort, highlighting the major economies from around — around the world — including, by the way, Brazil, India, South Africa — are united on the need to uphold international law and for Russia to respect international law.

Now, on to Vietnam.  The reason we’re headed to Vietnam today is because we believe the U.S. and Vietnam are critical partners at (inaudible) time. 

When we arrive, President Biden will participate in a bilateral meeting with General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.  Together, they will announce a new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the United States and Vietnam.  This is Vietnam’s highest tier of international partnership.

It’s important to make clear that this is more than words. In a system like Vietnam’s, it’s a signal to their entire government, to their entire bureaucracy, about the depth of cooperation and alignment with another country that is possible.

As a top 10 trading partner and a key stakeholder in the security of the South China Sea, Vietnam is a critical relationship of the United States, and we will be deepening that relationship through this visit. 

A through line you will see during our time there is this five-decade arc in the U.S.-Vietnam relationship that shows how far we’ve come — from conflict, to normalization, to the establishment of a comprehensive partnership in 2013, and now to this elevated status of partnership — again, the highest level in the Vietnamese system.

On Monday, the President will meet with Prime Minister Chinh and Vietnamese and American industry leaders to discuss continued opportunities to enhance our business and technological cooperation.  Together, they will announce a new memorandum of cooperation to help strengthen our semiconductor industries.  

President Biden will also meet with National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue and President Vo Van Thuong to discuss economic issues and — of importance to our people and our people-to-people ties. 

Before the President departs on Monday, he will also pay his respects at a memorial for the late Senator John McCain — obviously, a close friend of the President’s who played a critical role in the progress that we have been able to make with Vietnam. 

So, with that, happy to take questions

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Aamer, go ahead.

Q    Going back to yesterday, did the President have a chance to have any more pull-asides than what you guys have read out?  And particularly with the Crown Prince, was there anything more substantive beyond what we saw when they were on stage?

MR. FINER:  So, on the Crown Prince, the President was very pleased, obviously, with the event that took place where they were both present.  Saudi Arabia obviously contributed substantially to that, and we believe it is a very important opportunity for all the countries in the room and for interconnection among the three regions involved.

The President exchanged brief greetings with the Crown Prince, but there was not time in that setting for a more substantive conversation. 

We can get you a more complete list of some of the pull-asides that the President had.  I mean, I think you’re aware.  I won’t — what I’m going to give you is not comprehensive.  He spoke with President Jokowi of Indonesia.  He spoke actually today with — with President Tinubu of Nigeria. 

We believe he had an interaction with just about every other leader within the G20, so I don’t want to go through all of them and risk leaving somebody out.  But he has had a number of substantive conversations along the margins. 

As I said when I talked to you all yesterday, it’s not the kind of event that lends itself to long, formal bilateral meetings, so you do this kind of catch-as-catch-can, and he was able to do a number of them.

Q    Did he talk with Sergey Lavrov or the Chinese Premier?

MR. FINER:  I’m not aware of him speaking to Foreign Minister Lavrov or the Chinese Premier.

Q    What role does Sergey Lavrov play in the resolution that you just talked about or the declaration that they made?

MR. FINER:  I mean, as you’d expect, Foreign Minister Lavrov represented Russia’s view of the conflict, which, by the way, is not a widely held view in that room.  But I think, honestly, the most important role that Sergey Lavrov played is by simply representing the fact that his own boss, President Putin, could not be present in this conversation. 

And so, that, plus the tone and tenor of the remarks made by a number of countries in the room, shows the degree of discomfort that Russia continues to have on the international stage, including in a venue where, you know, I think, historically they have had countries that have been somewhat sympathetic to their worldview.  There is not a lot of that in the G20 right now.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, (inaudible).

Q    Thank you.  Can you comment a little bit on new reporting from the New York Times and several other outlets that Vietnam is in talks with Russia over a new arms deal, one that could potentially trigger sanctions from the U.S.?

MR. FINER:  So, look, this requires, I think, a bit of context.  So, one, the United States has been clear.  We discourage countries from having these security partnerships, these military relationships with Russia for a whole range of obvious reasons.  It should not be appealing to have a security relationship with a country that is committing war crimes, that is committing violations of — of international law.  And we stand against that, and we work with a number of countries around the world to limit those interactions.

Second, you know, it is important to acknowledge Vietnam has had a decades-long relationship with Russia and a decades-long military relationship with Russia.  But our strong sense is that there is an increasing discomfort on the part of the Vietnamese with that relationship. 

We are working — not just with Vietnam, but with a number of countries that historically have had these close security and military partnerships with Russia — to point out something that they realized very clearly for themselves: that the value proposition of that relationship is not what it once was and that there are opportunities to diversify away from those partnerships. 

We are going to work on that with Vietnam.  We are working on that with a number of historical partners of Russia.  And we are finding not just that they are receptive to our ideas on this subject, but that many of them are seeking out these opportunities to diversify, again, away from Russia themselves.

So, this is going to be a work in progress.  It is something that will be on the agenda of this visit.  And, you know, beyond that, don’t have much more to say about it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Anita, go ahead.


Hold on, guys.  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Everyone is going to get a question.  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    On the grain deal, the G20 leaders renewed their commitment for a return to the grain deal.  Can you just update us on any progress on that either from the U.S. side, from intermediaries like Turkey, or anybody else?

MR. FINER:  Yeah.  So, look, we believe that the grain deal was a fundamentally positive thing: positive for the wider world because it brought more grain to market; certainly positive for Ukraine because it enabled them to conduct commerce that is core to their economic — economy and prosperity.

There is no reason that Russia had to pull out of that deal.  They made that decision on their own.  We totally disagreed with it.  We support efforts by the Secretary General and by the Turks, principally, to try to restore the grain deal because we think it is in the interest of the wider world at a time when food insecurity continues to be a challenge.

But we don’t have any more to say about this.

Q    Are we any closer to —

MR. FINER:  The ball really is — the ball really is in Russia’s court to decide whether it is willing to go back into a deal from which it derived maybe some benefit, but that broadly probably benefited the rest of the world.


Q    Just to follow on the potential arms deal between Vietnam and Russia, is the U- — is there a security component to this new elevated relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam?  And is the U.S. willing to sell weapons to Vietnam in order to discourage them from buying more from Russia?

MR. FINER:  So, let me point you to two words: comprehensive and strategic.  It’s hard to imagine a relationship that is both comprehensive and strategic that doesn’t have a security dimension. 

So, yes, there will be a dimension that is security-related to this partnership.  I don’t have anything to announce to you in terms of — of some sort of arms sale or something like that.

But, again, we believe that we and other countries that are aligned with us and that are likeminded have the ability to offer an alternative — an alternative security cooperation to what Vietnam and other countries that have worked for a long time with the Russian military and can make an offer to help them diversify away from a relationship that we think they’re increasingly uncomfortable with.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Geoff- — go ahead, Geoffrey.

Q    Jon, there’s a new book out on Elon Musk, and it says that he basically denied extending Starlink protection to Ukraine that — because he thought it was a risk that it would bring a wider war if they attacked Crimea. 

My question is: What’s the risk to the U.S. and to Ukraine to have so much reliance on one person and commercial space and in stuff like that?

MR. FINER:  So, I don’t have a lot to say on this beyond the fact that we think access to Starlink has played an important role for the Ukrainians in the course of this conflict.  We think they should continue to have that access. 

And, you know, beyond that, I’ve read the reports about the book.  I — you know, I don’t have any more knowledge of — of his role.

Q    And on Lavrov also, do you know if any senior U.S. officials had a chance to talk to him about detained Americans or anything else?

MR. FINER:  Not that I’m aware of.

Q    Jon, several other leaders scheduled multiple bilateral meetings for the G20.  Why didn’t we see that with President Biden?  And we only received one readout from a formal engagement.  Was that a decision by the President?  Was there a lack of interest?  Can you speak to that?

MR. FINER:  I think you may well see more during the course of today — more information that we put out.  But I guess what I would say about that is it is not exactly the same for the United States and for other countries to step out of the room while leaders are speaking and then conduct side business in a formal way that pulls you away from the sessions of — of the G20.

People take note when the U.S. president is present for their remarks.  We think that’s a sign of respect to other leaders to listen to them the way we expect them to listen to President Biden. 

And so, the way we decided to handle this was, you know, we had bits of business that we wanted to get done with different leaders, but we did not want to distract from the overall proceedings.  We just handled it differently.

Q    And back in July, the President said at a fundraiser that he got a call from the head of Vietnam.  Was that the General Secretary?  And he said that they wanted to upgrade their partnership to the same status of China and Russia.  Is that what we’re going to see today?

MR. FINER:  That is what you’re going to see today.  The President spoke over the summer with the General Secretary, who he will be meeting later on today. 

That was then followed up in a series of meetings: Jake Sullivan with the chairman of their external relations operation in — in Washington and then a phone call between Jake and that same person to talk about advancing, again, the prospect of a deeper cooperation between our two countries and elevating the level in a formal way.

We also engaged with the Vietnamese ambassador in the United States to get to the point where we are now ready to announce what will be the highest-level relationship that Vietnam has with any countries in the world after the meeting that takes place later today.

Q    Can I ask (inaudible)?

Q    Jon, a quick question on — sorry — semiconductors and rare earth minerals.  We understand that is a huge part of what is going to be discussed.  Would you talk about any agreements, especially around rare earths, that the U.S. plans to strike with Vietnam?

MR. FINER:  So, what I will say is I don’t want to scoop either the President or the rest of — of the work that is still ongoing, by the way, to land what I think will be a very detailed joint statement that will lay out deliverables for this visit. 

They will have those elements that you just described.  I don’t want to get into the details before all the work is done because this stuff is still being negotiated.

Q    Jon, can you talk about the package for Ukraine —

Q    Did North Korea come up during the G20 talks, particularly as it relates to Russia’s war on Ukraine?  And can you provide any update on what we know about the North Korea- Russia talks and if the U.S. still anticipates that Kim could go to visit Putin potentially while the President is in Vietnam?

MR. FINER:  So, what I’ll say about North Korea is what we have said a number of times: We have serious concerns about the prospect of North Korea potentially selling weapons — additional weapons to the Russian military. 

But taking a step back, it is interesting to reflect for a minute on what it says that when Russia goes around the world looking for partners that can help it, it lands on North Korea as maybe the best and maybe the only option that it’s got, with maybe one or two exceptions.

We have, over a period of months now, made public when we had these concerns.  And when we think these talks that are ongoing between the two countries might actually lead to a significant arms sale, we have not only highly discouraged that, we have sanctioned that activity; we have worked with our partners and allies to raise these concerns directly with — with the North Koreans, including countries that maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea, which obviously the United States doesn’t.  And we’ll see what happens.

Q    Did this come up during the G20?

Q    On ATACMS for Ukraine, there is a report that the President sup- — approved that.  Is that right?

MR. FINER:  So, what I guess I’d say on that at this point is I’m not taking anything off the table.  We don’t have a decision to announce on new capabilities, but our position all along has been we will get Ukraine the capabilities that will enable it to succeed on the battlefield.  We think that approach has worked at every phase of this conflict, including the current phase, where I think, you know, you are seeing slowly but inexorably — inexorably, the Ukrainians start to make progress in their counteroffensive.

And we will continue to assess the situation on the ground and make decisions based on that.  But no new capabilities to announce today.

Q    To announce today.  Should we just be one in the near future, though?

MR. FINER:  I mean, again, that — I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t anticipate.  I hear the anticipation in your voice, but I’ll leave it at that.  (Laughter.)

Q    The President went to dinner last night.  Was it worth his while?  Did he get something out of that diplomatically?  He hasn’t gone to those in the past a couple times.

MR. FINER:  So, look, these things are often of value in terms of building relationships with key people.  I don’t have any specific substance to read out from the dinner, but I think he did find it of value.

Q    Can we get —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, we’re going to wrap this up soon.

Q    Yeah, can we get a quick update on U.S. assistance to Morocco after the quake?  And then, also, Iran has arrested six people and accused them of organizing riots on the — on the anniversary most of Mahsa Amini’s death, so I want a reaction to that.

MR. FINER:  So, on Morocco, look, we have made very clear to the Moroccan government that we are ready to provide significant assistance.  We’ve got search and rescue teams ready to deploy that can help not just with — with that activity, but with medical and other forms of assistance. 

We are also ready to release funds at the right time that can help the Moroccans recover and deal with this horrific tragedy that has befallen them.

You saw the statement that the President has put out.  Secretary Blinken has reached out to his counterparts to offer help.  And, you know, right now the — the Moroccans are obviously preoccupied focusing internally on this recovery, and the United States will be with them at every step of the way when they are ready to avail themselves of what we have to offer.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.

Q    Iran?

MR. FINER:  Oh, on — look, on Iran, the arrest of dissidents in Iran is both appalling and, unfortunately, not new.  I’ve seen the reports.  We obviously are against, you know, politically motivated arrests along these lines.  And beyond that, don’t have much more to say.

Q    Any consequences?

MR. FINER:  I mean, we have imposed a number of consequences, as you well know, on Iran for a full range of activities.  I will look at these most recent reports, but I don’t have any new consequences to announce at this time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay.  Thanks, everybody.   

11:33 A.M. IST

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer Ahead of the G20 Summit

Sat, 09/09/2023 - 12:13

Via Teleconference
International Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre
New Delhi, India

8:09 A.M. IST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi, everybody.  Good morning.  And this is Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary. 

And I have with me today Jon Finer, our Principal Deputy — Principal Deputy National Security Advisor —

MR. FINER:  That’s a lot of words.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  A lot of words, but we love it.  Thank you so much for joining us, Jon. 

I’m just going to really kick it off to you.  I know you’re going to lay out what the President’s going to do in his first full day here India, New Delhi, at the G20 Summit. 

So, over to you. 

MR. FINER:  Thanks, Karine.  And thanks, everybody.  I’ll go through a few things and then, obviously, happy to take questions.

So, a bit later this morning, President Biden will head to the first session of this year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit.  I’ll, of course, go through the highlights of the schedule.  But before that, I do want to take a brief step back and draw your attention to some of the themes that we see running through the day.

President Biden has been clear from the moment he took office that it is profoundly in the interests of the United States to work with our partners and allies to tackle the hardest problems the world faces.  We think we’ve walked the walk in doing just that, and this G20 is no exception. 

What you will see again and again, over the next couple of days, is the United States working alongside and investing in a truly wide range of the world’s major economies and emerging economies to advance our shared interests in improving our infrastructure and connectivity, our health outcomes, our climate and clean energy transition. 

And while we have all read — and maybe you all have written — a lot of analysis about who is or isn’t in Delhi for this summit and why or why not that may be, the United States is focused on the fact that President Biden is here and rolling up his sleeves with the other G20 countries and partners to produce real results.

So, I think you will see a demonstration of why we continue to believe in the G20 format, because we believe that it can deliver real concrete outcomes that benefit the people in each of our nations and beyond.

Now, what will that look like?  During the first session today, titled “One Earth,” President Biden will highlight how the United States is leading the global energy transition through historic job-creating investments at home, while pressing for higher levels of climate action and ambition from other major economies. 

President Biden will use this session to highlight how Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine is harming many of the countries in that room and their neighbors; that Russia continues to commit unconscionable crimes that all nations abhor, like forcibly deporting Ukrainian children to Russia; as well as the fact that the war is having devastating social and economic consequences far beyond the region, including exacerbating global food insecurity. 

The President will also reiterate his call for a just and durable peace grounded in the fundamental precepts of the U.N. Charter, such as sovereignty and territorial integrity — a call, by the way, that many other G20 members with varying views about the war have reiterated in recent weeks and months.

In the day’s second session, titled “One Family,” President Biden will reaffirm the United States’ leadership and commitment to global development.  He will call on G20 members to redouble their efforts to accelerate progress toward the sustainable development goals.  And he will urge them to mobilize significantly more financing for development from all sources to get us back on track to meet these goals by 2030.

To that end, President Biden will highlight his commitments to fundamentally reshape and scale up the World Bank to more effectively tackle poverty and deliver inclusive economic growth so it can better address global challenges like climate change and pandemics.

The President will point to his request to Congress for funding that would unlock over $25 billion in new concessional World Bank lending from the United States and urge other countries to join us in this ambitious commitment.

Now, some have speculated that China’s absence indicates that it is giving up on the G20, that it is building an alternative world order, that it will privilege groupings like the BRICS. 

I would just point out that the three democratic members of the BRICS — India, Brazil, and South Africa — also happen to be the current and next two chairs of the G20.  They are committed to the G20’s success, so is the United States.  We will host after those three.  And if China is not, that’s unfortunate for everyone, but much more unfortunate, we believe, for China.

President Biden will also be calling on G20 members to step up efforts to provide meaningful debt relief so that low- and middle-income countries can regain their footing after years of extreme stress — from climate change, from the pandemic, and from other factors — and invest in their future.

And later that afternoon — this afternoon, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi will bring together a number of leaders for an event centering on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment — or PGI. 

We’re looking forward to making a number of groundbreaking announcements focused on high-quality investments in building sustainable infrastructure around the world. 

This will include a memorandum of understanding among the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the EU, and other G20 partners to explore a shipping and rail transportation corridor that will enable the flow of commerce, energy, and data from here in India, across the Middle East, to Europe.

Like the Lobito Corridor project we are launching in Southern and Central Africa, it will be a clear demonstration of a new model that President Biden has pioneered for more transparent and sustainably — and sustainable develop — sustainable high-standard infrastructure that fills a damaging global gap and enables greater prosperity and better connectivity for key regions around the world.

So, as you can see, this is a — really a big, rich agenda with the United States leading different groupings of our G20 partners to take on the biggest challenges we face. 

And I’m now happy to take your questions about it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, guys.  So what we’re going to do is we’ll take questions from folks here.  We’ll try to alternate with the folks here and the folks who are online as well — on the Zoom.  So we’ll start here first.

Go ahead, Aamer. 

Q    Thanks, Jon.  On the memorandum of understanding and this project, can you put a little bit more meat on the bones on the ambition of it — maybe a ballpark dollar amount, how long this will take?

And then, secondly, just a broad question about the meeting last night.  There’s been some sense of — with Modi appreciating the turn and the attention that the administration has given to the Indo-Pacific, but would like to see a little bit more “Indo” to that part of it.  Did that come up in the conversation?

MR. FINER:  Thanks.  So, a couple of things.  First, on the corridor project: I’m not going to get into the details and, sort of, scoop our own announcement in that way.  I did want to preview it a bit for you all to give you some context.

Taking a step back though from the details, I can give you a bit more of the strategic theory of the case for why we think this is important.  First and foremost is the value proposition we see in a corridor linking these three key regions of the world — enabling the flow of commerce, of energy, of digital communications — that we think is going to help increase prosperity at a time in which that is in high demand. 

Second, we have talked at great length about the broader global infrastructure gap, which is particularly acute in low- and middle-income countries, and much of the theory of the case of PGI is about doing what the United States can with our partners in filling that gap. 

Third, for the Middle East in particular — which, you know, historically, has, you know, obviously, often been a net exporter of turbulence and insecurity — to have the opportunity to play this key role in the, kind of, global connective tissue — of commerce, of inf- — of digital communications, of energy — linking these key regions, we think, is a huge opportunity, building on our broader efforts over the last couple of years, to turn the temperature down across the region, increase connectivity within the region, and address a conflict where we see it. 

But to — just taking one — one more step back on the theory of the case: We see this as having a high appeal to the countries involved and also globally because it is transparent, because it is a high standard, because it is not coercive.  We feel demand that we are being responsive to in these regions of the world.  We are not going out and trying to impose anything on anyone.  And so, we feel good about what we have on offer.

On your question about the prime minister and — and our Indo-Pacific strategy and implementation, I would be, frankly, surprised to hear the charge that you laid out, in part because of how intensive our focus has been on the bilateral relationship between the United States and India, but also on the broader Indian Ocean region, you know, given, obviously, the enormous steps forward that were made around Prime Minister Modi’s state visit to Washington, if you go back and read the documents that emerged from that visit — the deep commitments that were made on both sides to enhance our cooperation. 

And then, just to follow up only a few months later with — with this bilateral meeting last night that was important in its own right, but that also helped drive further implementation and outcomes, building on the high ambition of the state visit. 

And I think you all saw an extremely detailed joint statement that was released last night.  That is not just rhetoric; it is actual things that are happening in the world that the United States and India are — are driving together. 

And so, I think we feel good about our investments here — here in India; here in this region, more broadly, in the Indo-Pacific — and are going to continue implementing that strategy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, we’re going to start with somebody on — on the Zoom here.  We got — give people a chance. 

MR. ZISKEND:  Alex Ward, let’s kick it over to you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, Alex. 

Q    Thanks.  First, in the Modi meeting, I just wanted to know if anything about the — the bulldozing of the slums came up at all.  Did the President mention that as a way of just saying, “Hey, you know, we — this is not how democratic nations behave”?

MR. FINER:  So, Alex, first, thanks for the question.  What I will say is that the sort of state of democratic governance, both in the world and in each of our countries, is a core facet of the U.S.-Indian bilateral relationship — and both Prime Minister Modi and President Biden have said that — which means that those issues are very much on the agenda in every one of their conversations. 

What I’m not going to do — given the fact that we did a pretty extensive on-the-record readout of this meeting last night and — and also submitted, which I just referenced, quite an extensive and detailed joint statement — is go through sort of issue by issue and say what was covered and what wasn’t. 

I mean, what I will say is: We have got an enormously broad and consequential relationship with India.  And all of these meetings are — take place in the context of limited time.  So, it would be, I worry, misleading to say what was above the line and below the line in terms of what they were able to cover. 

What I will say is: The broad category of issue that that falls into — democratic governance and its state in the United States and in India — was very much on the agenda. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Justin.

Q    Thank- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Justin is going to take it.  Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Jon.  One sort of thing that we’ve heard from the meeting so far is, I think, familiar complaints and frustration from Europeans and some in Asia over the President’s economic agenda: the subsidies for climate and CHIPS. 

I’m wondering how you’re — if there’s any new explanation that you’re offering for that.  And, assuming not, to kind of spin it forward, are you confident that the steel deal with the Europeans is going to come together by the von der Leyen summit next month?  Has there been progress on the critical minerals deal for the EU?  And are you engaging with any new countries on those types of deals here at the summit going forward to, sort of, address some of their concerns over, you know, subsidies? 

MR. FINER:  So, first, thanks for the question.  Justin, as you know, you know, we have a deeply integrated economic relationship with countries across Europe, with the Eur- — European Union as an entity.  And when it comes to the historic investments that the United States and that President Biden is making, you know, in our own country — you know, on infrastructure, on chips, on driving the climate and clean energy transition through the IRA — we believe that that is not just a set of initiatives and major pieces of legislation that are good for the United States, we believe they’re fundamentally good for the world.  And we believe that our partners are increasingly seeing the value proposition — again, not just for us, but for them — in what we’re doing. 

We work extremely closely with those partners on ways in which they can be integrated and incorporated into what we are doing domestically, the ways in which it benefits them, their citizens, their companies.  And we think that we are on a very constructive and positive track in making that case with our core partners. 

So, I — you know, beyond that, I’m not going to get into the specifics of steel or other, kind of, ongoing conversations, other than to say: We consider these conversations extremely important.  We’re working very hard to — to make progress.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, who do we have online? 

We’ll — we’ll come back.

On Zoom? 

MR. ZISKEND:  Let’s go to Barak Ravid.  Barak.   

Q    Hi.  Thank you you for doing this.  Hi, Jon.  I missed the beginning of the briefing, so maybe you covered it, and if so — so, let me know, and I’ll look afterwards what you said. 

But how does the railway project fits into the wider strategy in the Middle East with the mega-deal you’re trying to get with Saudi Arabia, the normalization processes?  Is Israel going to be a part of it? 

MR. FINER:  So — I’m sorry, Barak, were you finished? 

I think so.  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.) 

MR. FINER:  I won’t repeat everything I — I said in the — in the, sort of, prepared remarks at the beginning.

What I will say is: First, it’s not just a railway project; it’s a ship and railway project.  And that’s, I think, important for people to understand because it speaks to both the breadth and the scope of how expansive and ambitious and, frankly, groundbreaking this will be. 

Second, in terms of how the Middle East fits into it, we have an approach to the Middle East that we have been implementing since the very first day of this administration that is focused on turning the temperature down; on de-escalating the conflicts that have been underway, in some cases, for many years in the region — and I would point to the 18-month, now, relative truce that has been in place in Yemen as just one kind of core example of that; and, frankly, on incentivizing bos- — both stability in the region and connectivity among the countries of the region.

And this railway project and the opportunities that it presents and will provide to the countries of the Middle East and beyond, we think, is wholly in line with and will further exactly that strategy that we have been implementing across the Middle East. 

And so, we think this is a very consistent and, in many ways, a big potential step forward once these conversations can now get underway more formally with — with the launch of the MOU. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nandita.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Jon, you just spoke a little bit about China’s absence from the summit.  And you said if China is not committed to the success of the G20 then that is “unfortunate.”  Could you expound on that a little bit?  And if — is that your takeaway from their absence at the G20?

And then there is an event at 5:00 p.m. to talk infrastructure today on the President’s schedule.  Is that where we should hope you’re announcing the rail deal?

MR. FINER:  So, on your second question, yeah, that is likely to be the slot in which you’ll learn more about what I’ve laid out. 

But, look, on China, I feel like one interesting dynamic of — of China’s, kind of, role in these institutions and some of the steps it takes in the world is that the United States is often called upo- — called upon to explain actions that are taken by the Chinese government.  And to be honest, I don’t think we really see that as our role. 

We are focused on — on, kind of, our agenda here at the G20, on the leadership role that we see President Biden playing. 

And when you go through, kind of, the highlights of what is likely to be accomplished here, it is very much in line with and consistent with our global priorities and those of our partners and, we believe, of the rest of the G20, including countries that China considers to be its core partners, like some of the BRICS countries that I mentioned earlier. 

As for why China isn’t here, you know, I don’t see that as something for the U.S. to — to expound on or speculate about.  One, you know, I’m not sure we have a clear answer to that question.  But, two, really, it’s incumbent upon the Chinese government to explain why a leader would or would not participate.

What I was responding to, in many ways, was analysis that we see, which I think is also speculative, about trying to explain, you know, China’s participation or lack thereof.  They will be represented here.  They will be represented at the premier level. 

And, you know, beyond that, I think I’d leave it to them to explain the decision-making on their side. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, who do we have on the Zoom?

MR. ZISKEND:  Let’s go to Ed O’Keefe next.  Ed. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ed, are you there? 

Okay, go ahead, A- — go ahead, Asma. 

Q    I wanted to ask you —

Q    Can you hear me now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, sorry. 

Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Ed.  And then we’ll go to Asma — Asma after that.

Go ahead, Ed.  We can hear you. 

Q    Sorry about that.  Thank you, guys, for doing this. 


Real quick.  Can you give us, Jon, a sense of who else he might be meeting with, either formally or informally, today? 

I realize this is fluid and it’s kind of like going to a high school reunion where you never know who you’re going into, but is there any better sense of who he might meet with formally or informally?  Which helps us fill out what we’re telling folks back home, especially this morning on broadcasts.

And then, we know we’re in another country that has different press rules and restrictions.  Can we walk everyone through sort of why it is we may not be able to see certain things today and what we are now hopefully going to be able to have access to?  I know there’s been a lot of work on that by the White House with the Indian government, despite the fact that, for example, last night, we were kept off the grounds during that meeting.  Thank you.

MR. FINER:  Thanks, Ed.  So, this may not be a satisfying answer to your first question, but I promise you, it’s an honest answer.  These events tend to be extremely highly regimented and scheduled, with, kind of, every minute or even, you know, five-minute block, kind of, accounted for during the course of the day. 

And so, the reason we have not read out what bilateral interactions that the President may have during the course of the G20 is that those interactions will often happen in a very ad hoc way, kind of done on the fly, kind of catch-as-catch-can.  And we do expect that he will have substantive interactions with some of his fellow world leaders.

If and as those occur, you know, we will read them out to you all, so you both know what happened and a bit about what was discussed.  But because I can’t actually be sure which interactions we will be able to produce during the course of a very scheduled day, I don’t want to preview any of that for you at this point.  We will — we will be as transparent as possible about who he sees and — and what they talk about. 

On access, I think we’ve spoken to this quite a lot.  I know Karine has.  I know Jake and others have.  We have all been in touch directly with our Indian counterparts conveying not just, by the way, the requests that you all have for greater access to these proceedings but our own view that that would be a better way to proceed. 

You know, at the end of the day, the Indians are — are the host of this event.  They have a set of — of protocols that they are adhering to.  We are going to continue to advocate for access as we do in — in all visits and all interactions that the President has when overseas. 

But I don’t think I can, you know, explain the — the exact details of — of where you all will be allowed to be present and — and why other than to say this has been on our agenda in — in every one of our recent conversations. 

Karine may have more to add.  But — but for now, you know, we’ll continue to raise these things.  We know they’re important to you.  They’re also important to us.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and like Jon said — and you guys have heard from me, heard from Jake, most recently in the gaggle on our way here — we have made some improvements for — for today in particular.  And so — which is good.  It’s not what we want 100 percent. 

As you all know, as Jon just said, we work with every summit anytime we travel to do these travels to make sure that we give y- — get you all access.  And — and we will always continue to do that. 

And so, again, we’ve made some — some improvements today, and we’ll just continue to hammer that home.  But obviously, free press is the pillar of our democracy, as you’ve heard me say many times before — and the President say.  And so, we will do everything that we can to make sure that you all are cov- — are able to cover as much as — as much as possible, especially as it relates to the President of the United States.

Go ahead, Asma.

Q    And I had two, just, brief questions.  One is on the joint communiqué.  I know there has been historically — recently, I should say, difficulty — right? — in issuing one given the conflict in Ukraine.  I’m curious with these — China’s top leadership not being here, Xi Jinping, if you can give us an assessment of if, specifically on the Ukraine matter, there is more consensus in your optimism on that front.

The second is on this memo of understanding.  Can you give us a timeline — a horizon of — how far off is this from becoming a reality?  I realize there is a memo of understanding being issued.  But then, when does it become real?

MR. FINER:  So, look, on — on the potential for a joint communiqué, I don’t want to get ahead of conversations that are genuinely ongoing about the — the substance of all that. 

What I will say is that this is always more challenging in this format than it is, for example, in the G7.  You know, the — the G7 tends to be an extremely likeminded grouping of countries, and the G20 is just a more diverse body with a wider range of views on, particularly, some of the global issues, with Russia and Ukraine, you know, being high on — on that list. 

What I will say is that that is part of what makes the G20 an appealing format for the United States.  It gives us a chance to interact with and — and work with and — and take constructive steps with a wider range of countries, including some, you know, frankly, that we don’t see eye to eye with on — on every issue. 

But, you know, it’s not lost on us and I’m sure it’s not lost on you that getting agreement on specific language related to, for example, the Russia-Ukraine conflict in a body that includes Russia, which is the perpetrator of, you know, what is a war of aggression, is going to be more challenging.  So, we’re working through those challenges.

We think we have made a very compelling case for how we see that conflict to the other countries of the G20.  We see, outside of the context of this format, I think, you know, increasingly constructive comments and approaches to the Russia-Ukraine conflict among some of the G20 members and other countries in the regions that they represent. 

Where exactly we land on a joint communiqué, we’ll learn more about in — in the coming hours.  But this is always a harder proposition here than it is in bilateral meetings, than it is in some other multilateral settings where countries are much more purely likeminded.  And that’s just the way it is. 

Q    And then, on the shipping corridor. 

MR. FINER:  Yeah, on the MOU.  So — so, look, all of that is going to be subject to the actual detailed conversations that — that the MOU will launch.  And so, you know, the exact timeline of, kind of, how long it will take to play that out, I don’t even want to speculate about at this point. 

What I will say is this is a long time coming.  This has been the result of — of months of — of careful diplomacy — quiet, careful diplomacy, you know, bilaterally and in — in multilateral settings that has kind of led to this moment where we’re ready to now unveil what will be a process going forward that we think has enormous potential.  But exactly how long it takes, I — I don’t know. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, so we’re going to wrap this up.  I know, Aurelia, you have a quick question.  Do that —

Q    Yeah, a quick one —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — and then we’ll take one last one from Zoom. 

Q    — on climate.  Can you maybe update us where are we, too, on the negotiating phrasing, for example, on “phasing out” or “phasing down” fossil fuels?  And do you see this G20 summit as setting expectations for the — for the COP?

MR. FINER:  So, on — on climate, again, I don’t want to get ahead of the exact, you know, details and negotiation that will take place in the joint communiqué.  What I — what I will say is there will be a lot of discussion in the sessions that I described earlier on. 

For example, the clean energy transition on — when it comes to infrastructure, the United States’ view — which we think we’re finding increasing traction for — that infrastructure project should be done in a way that is sustainable.  It should be in furtherance of sustainability goals and not at odds with them. 

And so, I think you’ll hear us speak to that as well during the course of — of today.  You know, we’ve got, now, several months to go — or — or at least a couple of months to go before the COP.  There is a lot of intensive negotiation going on about that as well. 

This is obviously a milestone on the path to the UAE for that event.  And — and, you know, beyond that, I think you will see some language in — in the communiqué when it’s — when the negotiations are completed.  But I don’t want to prejudge where that’s going to land.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  We’re going to take one last question for someone on Zoom.  Who we got?

MR. ZISKEND:  Nadia — Nadia Bilbassy, let’s go to you, please.

Q    Hi, can you hear me?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We can hear you.  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Hello.  Okay, great.  Thank you, Karine.  Thank you, Jon.

On the infrastructure deal.  By involving India, some say that, actually, the deal aims to counter increasing Chinese influence in the Middle East.  Do you agree with this analysis? 

And at later stage — I know you don’t want to go into the details of implementation, et cetera — but do you see Israel being involved at one stage since you’re talking about a greater (inaudible)? 

Thank you.

MR. FINER:  Thank you.  So, what I will say is I — I realize the appeal of — of, kind of, the — the narrative that you just laid out.  And — and — but what I — the way we see the infrastructure project — and, frankly, the way we see all of PGI — is that it is an affirmative, positive agenda and, kind of, vision for a global infrastructure that the United States and our partners are laying out that we think has real appeal for countries and regions that are underserved by — by infrastructure that — that have these enormous gaps that — that need to be filled. 

We do not see it as zero-sum with other approaches to — to infrastructure.  We are not asking countries to — you know, to — to make, you know, this zero-sum choice, but we do think the value proposition that we have to offer is — is high. 

And — and, frankly, you know, we have seen other efforts that are not as ambitious when it comes to high standards, when it comes to transparency, when it comes to sustainability and that are fundamentally more coercive in nature.  We feel good about the contrast that what we have — that we are — that what we are offering provides.

In terms of other countries beyond those that I’ve mentioned that are participating in the announcement today, I will let those countries speak for themselves about what role they may be playing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Then, Jon — sorry — one last question from Sara.

Go ahead, Sara.

Q    Thank you — thank you so much, Karine.  Thank you, Jon. 

You said the President plans to raise the — Russia’s war in Ukraine in the first session.  Zelenskyy was not invited to attend the G20 in person.  Did the President make an appeal to Modi to have him participate virtually or in some other way, as he has in the past with international summits?

I know Jake said yesterday it would be a good thing for Zelenskyy to have a role in the G20.  And is the President disappointed that he doesn’t in this one?

MR. FINER:  So, our view is that it is fundamentally a good thing when President Zelenskyy is able to make his case and Ukraine’s case for, you know, how — how damaging this conflict has been to his people and — and to his country — that he is the most effective messenger for that.  And that certainly in a — in a format in which, you know, Russian representatives will be able to give their views about the conflict, it is appropriate for Ukraine to be able to offer its perspective. 

Ultimately, that was not and is not our decision.  We did express our support for — for his inclusion.  He will have no shortage of other opportunities to do that.  He is a very credible and effective messenger for it. 

But you will — you can expect that the United States and that our other partners who are working with Ukraine so closely and who have committed to doing so for as long as it takes will make that case quite forcefully in the context of these conversations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  Thanks, everybody.
Okay, have a great day. 

8:40 A.M. IST

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Press Gaggle by Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen Ahead of the G20 Summit in India | New Delhi, India

Fri, 09/08/2023 - 13:48

The Park Hotel
New Delhi, India

SECRETARY YELLEN: Good morning, everyone, and thank you for being here.

I’d like to share a few introductory thoughts about the priorities we’ll be focused on throughout this week.

First, we’re committed to supporting emerging markets in developing countries and to addressing global challenges. This includes our ongoing work on evolving the multilateral development banks.

One year since my call to action to the multilateral development banks, we’ve worked with a growing coalition of partners to make significant progress on reforms related to the World Bank’s mission and vision, incentives, operational model, and financing capacity. We’re glad to have Ajay Banga as our partner in this work.

And we look forward to more work with the regional development banks and on how to achieve greater collaboration across the MDB system, including to increase access to climate finance.

We’ve already made significant progress in expanding the MDBs’ financial capacity. The recommendations that are currently being implemented or under consideration across the MDBs could unlock an additional $200 billion over the next decade. Those are crucial additional resources for reducing poverty, advancing global health security, and combating climate change.

I saw firsthand the impact this funding can have during my last trip to India just over a month ago, when Ajay Banga and I visited an education data hub supported by the World Bank and met the students whose lives were being improved.

There’s scope to do even more on financial capacity, including through some of the more medium-term recommendations of the G20 Capital Adequacy Framework review, particularly with respect to callable capital.

We’re also asking Congress for two and a quarter billion dollars to boost the World Bank’s concessional finance for global challenges and for crisis response. And we’ve requested authorization for a loan of up to $21 billion for the IMF, including for the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, which desperately needs more resources.

We also hope to build support for an equi-proportional increase in quotas during meetings this week.

This week also provides an opportunity to discuss debt relief. We continue to support efforts to provide predictable, orderly, and timely debt relief to countries, including under the Common Framework for Debt Treatment where progress has been too slow.

As a second priority area, we remain committed to extensive and strategic multilateral action in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The price cap and sanctions, both the result of unprecedented global collaboration, are having powerful impacts on Russia’s ability to wage its brutal and unjust war.

We also remain committed to support for Ukraine and recently put forward a supplemental funding request. There has been bipartisan support for this funding to date, and it’s critical that we continue to provide timely economic assistance.

During my visit to Kyiv earlier this year, I saw firsthand the importance of this assistance in enabling Ukraine’s resistance on the frontlines.

We’re also grateful for the involvement of our partners, including the €50 billion package proposed by the European Union and the $15 billion International Monetary Fund program, which has been essential to Ukraine’s efforts to implement reforms and stabilize the economy.

And we need to remain focused on addressing the devastating consequences of the war, including its impact on food security. Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative is deeply concerning and is particularly being felt by low- and middle-income countries.

In response, we hope to move forward on efforts such as supporting the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program and working toward a successful replenishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Last but not least, continuing to advance the U.S.-India relationship will be a priority this week. We highly value our bilateral relationship with India.

In fact, this is my fourth time in India over the last year, making it the country I visited most frequently as Treasury Secretary. We also welcomed Prime Minister Modi to the U.S. in June.

The U.S. is home to the largest Indian diaspora outside of Asia and is India’s largest export market. Expanding our bilateral economic ties and our cooperation on global challenges is crucially important to us.

And let me stop there. And with that, I’m happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: We’ll start with Josh, with the AP.

Q Secretary Yellen, thank you so much for doing this. The World Bank, among others, has also expressed concern about a period of higher interest rates and slower grobal — global growth. I’m curious for what you’re hearing from other countries about the risks to global growth and how that’s shaping all the priorities that you just outlined.

SECRETARY YELLEN: So, certainly, we’re aware of the risks to global growth. I would say the most important negative influence is Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has escalated energy and food prices. And as — as many at G20 meetings have stated repeated- — repeatedly: The most important thing we could do for global growth is for Russia to end its brutal war on Ukraine.

That said, I think I’ve personally been surprised by the strength of global growth and how resilient the global economy has proven to be. And recently, the IMF has somewhat improved its economic projections.

But many countries have built important buffers, which have enabled them to weather very significant shocks to the global economy. And while there are risks in some countries that have been — certainly have been affected, overall, the global economy has been resilient. And, as you know, the United States has done particularly well.

MODERATOR: Viktoria, Bloomberg.

Q Thank you. As — just a follow-up. How concerned are you about the Chinese slowdown? Or how does it affect your outlook for the global — how does it affect your global growth outlook?

And also, just on Ukraine, you talked about U.S. support. I was just wondering, especially on the supplemental funding request, if you’re at all concerned about having difficulty getting this through Congress, given negotiations over government funding and — yeah. Thank you.

SECRETARY YELLEN: So, with respect to China, China faces a variety of both short- and longer-term global challenges — economic challenges that we’ve been monitoring carefully, including less of a pickup in consumer spending than had been anticipated in the aftermath of the COVID restrictions, as well as longstanding issues with respect to the property sector and debt — debt related to that.

And longer term, of course, population growth has now turned negative and the labor force is beginning to shrink, so see China’s growth as slowing over time.

That said, China has quite a bit of policy space to address these challenges.

So, we’re monitoring the situation. I don’t see it as having very significant, direct impact on the United States. Some countries in East Asia are more likely to be aff- — affected by the slowdown. But it’s something that we are keeping an eye on.

With respect to the supplemental, I’m pleased that there has been bipartisan support in both houses of Congress for Ukraine, and I feel confident that we’ll be able to make sure that we have funding.

We continue to stand behind Ukraine for as long as is necessary.


Q Thank you. Madam Secretary, I’m curious about
two things. First, the absence of President Xi and Putin this weekend and how that might reshape the meetings or potentially
affect the utility of the G20 going forward if these two leaders in their — at the highest levels aren’t here.

Also, curious if you have any comment on the apparent reports out of China that they’re banning the use of iPhones by government workers or further restricting them for whatever reason, similar to how we’ve banned TikTok and Huawei. Would that have any effects more broadly on this sort of ongoing back-and-forth over U.S. and Chinese technology? And how could that affect the global economy?

SECRETARY YELLEN: Well, let me start with your first question pertaining to the absence of Xi and Putin. I think it’s important to emphasize that the G20 is a prime contributor to the solution of global challenges. We see it as the premier organization that on a global basis is taking on critical challenges facing the global economy and, particularly, the Global South.

And I believe the G20 — in spite of obvious problems due to the — due to Russia’s war against Ukraine and Russia’s,
you know, general absence from G20 initiatives, I believe the G20 has been extremely effective. And especially under India’s leadership, our goals for the G20 have coincided closely with those of India. We’ve tackled very important challenges.

As I mentioned, I think we’ve had considerable success in changing the way the entire multilateral development system is operating — increasing its mission to take on a variety of global challenges, ranging from better preparedness for future pandemics, where we have established a new finance and health ministers task force; a fund — a pandemic fund at the World Bank; as well as climate change, taking on global challenges along with poverty reduction.

We’ve made, over the last year, very substantial progress in changing not only the mission but also improving the financial resources of the multilateral development banks to perform their critical missions in changing the incentives and structures under which they operate. And I — I think that’s been an extremely effective initiative.

Under India’s leadership, debt has been — in- –international debt and providing relief to countries that are overindebted — partly because of the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine, but also the high-interest-rate environment — and begin — believe we’re beginning to make significant progress there.

So, I do see the G20 as a very effective forum. We appreciate India’s leadership. We look forward, ourselves, to hosting the G20 in 2026. And even without Russia’s active participation and the tensions the war has created, I still see the G20 as highly effective.

Q And China potentially, you know, withholding access to iPhones?

SECRETARY YELLEN: Oh, on iPhone — I’m sorry. I — I’m not aware of what’s involved in that. I’m not — I’m not really prepared to give you an answer on that.

MODERATOR: James (inaudible).

Q Thank you, Secretary Yellen. How soon are you expecting other U.S. allies and partners to join your plan for the World Bank with specific pledges? And will the scale of this be sufficient to really reduce the dependence of emerging economies on lending from China, which your administration has described as coercive?

SECRETARY YELLEN: Well, we certainly seek with our G20 partners to enhance the financial capacity of the World Bank and the MDB system more generally.

And the reforms that are underway, as I indicated, could lead — over the next decade — to an additional $200 billion.

In addition, we’re looking forward to discussing the possibility of other Capi- — putting in place other Capital Adequacy Framework rec- — recommendations, like adding callable capital that could further increase the resources.

But President Biden has asked Congress to provide an additional two and a quarter billion dollars to the World Bank — an initiative that is designed to show our commitment to relieving global problems of the South; taking on global issues, like climate change and pandemic preparedness.

And those resources can lead to around an additional $25 billion — just the U.S. contribution — to lending ability of the World Bank. They would go toward additional funds for IDA to make very low-cost subsidized loans to the most challenged low-income countries, as well as conce- — as concessional finance to attack global problems.

And we have asked other countries to join with us to the extent that they’re able to in this initiative. We’re hopeful that other countries, depending on their financial capacity, will join us and we can scale that up.

In addition, with respect to the IMF, the supplemental calls for an additional $25 billion loan from the U.S. to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust at the IMF that would be further concessional finance for low-income countries.

So, these are important initiatives doing what we can. And it’s not just a question of responding to China; it’s a question of addressing to longstanding global challenges, reducing poverty, addressing global — global public goods issues that this is — this is a critically important mission.

MODERATOR: Catherine Lucey, the Journal.

Q Thank you, Secretary. Do you think that the G20 will be able to reach agreement on a communiqué and, specifically, on the war in Ukraine as part of that?

SECRETARY YELLEN: So, I understand that this is challenging to craft such language, but I know the negotiators are discussing it and working hard to do so. And we stand ready, certainly, to work with India to try to craft a communiqué that successfully addresses this concern.

MODERATOR: We have time for one final question. (Inaudible.)

Q Thank you, Madam Secretary. There are indications that Russia has found some ways around your price cap by using fewer Western insurance services and ships. And, in fact, the price of Russian oil has — has climbed, in some cases, above the price cap. Are you worried that your Russia policy is becoming more difficult to effectively implement?

SECRETARY YELLEN: So, my perception is that the price cap continues to work.

It had two goals. One was to cut Russia’s revenues. And our estimate is that Russia’s revenue from oil has declined by around 44 percent over the last year. The second goal was to keep the global market well-supplied, and Russia’s exports and sales into the global market have continued and have not significantly contracted.

Now, the ban repl- — applies to services. The — so, the $60 price cap applies to any oil sold using services from members of the coalition. And although there is — there are sales that are permitted under the price cap, as you mentioned, that do not use Western services — and many of those are occurring at prices above $60 — they’re not a violation of the price cap. And it is very expensive for Russia and other countries to provide services where Western providers have clear price advantages.

And so, while such things are occurring, it erodes the revenue that Russia is able to receive on net from those sales.

And certainly, there are substantial sales that are occurring as well using Western services. And as far as we can tell — and we’re certainly monitoring for evasion of the sanctions — these sales are occurring below the $60 price cap. So, I do believe it continues to work.

MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.

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Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Fri, 09/08/2023 - 01:50

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Ramstein Air Base, Germany

(September 7, 2023)

7:06 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody.

Q Hi.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Well, thank you for joining us on our trip to New Delhi, India, where we’re going to be headed to the G20, as you all know.

As you see to my right, we have our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who is happy to take your questions.

MR. SULLIVAN: Hi, everyone. Before I take your questions, I’m going to repeat everything I said in the press briefing room — (laughter) — three days ago.

All right, I will give you the mercy of not doing that. I’ll just say: As we head into the G20, we’re looking forward to an opportunity to engage on a range of what we think are really significant issues facing all of the major economies of the world. And that goes from climate, to energy security, to food security, to global macroeconomic stability, to being able to deliver public goods to people everywhere through ambitious initiatives like the World Bank reform initiative that President Biden has been working on. And so, we think this will be a — an important milestone moment for global cooperation at a critical time.

One thing I would note, because I got the question a couple of times in the press briefing room about China and, you know, the fact that Xi Jinping is not coming — whether they would play spoiler and so forth. I’m not going to handicap what will happen at this summit in that regard.

But I would point out that if you look at the hosts of the G20 over the next few years: We have India this year, Brazil next year, South Africa the following year, and then the United States. And I think, along with those three country — countries — India, Brazil, and South Africa — the U.S. has a deep stake in stewarding the G20 and making sure that it remains a central mechanism for global coordination on all the major challenges we face.

And I think, over the course of the weekend, you’ll see opportunities for us to reflect that.

The other thing I would say is that, tomorrow, the President will be meeting with Prime Minister Modi, and it will be an opportunity to follow up on Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the United States. And we will see meaningful progress on a number of issues, including the GE jet engine issue, the MQ-9 Reapers, on 5G/6G, on collaboration on critical and emerging technologies, and progress also in the civil nuclear area as well.

So, we will mark all of that progress when the two of them meet tomorrow, which shows the breadth of the relationship between our countries.

Of course, President Biden will also speak on critical, fundamental values that the United States stands for, as he does in all of his engagements. And then, he’ll look forward to seeing a number of other leaders on the margins of the G20 over the weekend before we head off to Vietnam.

So, let me leave it at that, and I’d be happy to take your questions.

Q Jake, on the fundamental values question with Modi, there was a moment at the State visit when they were standing next to each other, and the President, you know, made very clear that press, religious, and other fundamental freedoms had to be a core part of both of these democracies.

They’ve had, I think, roughly at least a dozen engagements — virtual, in-person, and otherwise — now. Can you offer an assessment of how much is that message resonating? I know you say he brings it up every time with every one of these leaders. But in the case of Modi, how much is that message resonating?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I can’t characterize another leader’s perspective, and I’m not here to issue scorecards. What President Biden said when he was standing at the State visit earlier this year and what he will say in every significant leader engagement is what he believes and what the United States believes and what an American president stands for.

That’s our responsibility. That’s what we do on behalf of our national values, who we are as a people, who we are as Americans. That’s what we’ll keep doing, and I’ll leave the scorekeeping to others.

Q Can I ask you a —

Q Oh, go ahead.

Q Can I ask you about some of the bilats? Can you confirm that the President will be, indeed, meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman?

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I can’t confirm any bilats. And, to be honest with you, I think you will not see, because of the way the schedule is structured, a significant number of formal engagements with other leaders. I think most of the work that he’s going to do with a number of significant heads of state and government over the course of the 48 hours he’s in Delhi will be more informal, on the margins, not formal sit-down bilats.

So, I don’t — I don’t have any bilats to announce today.

Q Jake, quick question: We understand that the — the U.S. is planning to announce a major rail deal with India and the Arab world — UAE, Saudi — to connect both the Gulf countries and Arab countries with this major railway network. And we were wondering if you can confirm that for us and speak to its significance. We understand it’s one of the biggest deliverables out of the summit.

MR. SULLIVAN: I can’t confirm anything for you tonight. I’ve seen those reports as well.

What I can tell you is this is an initiative that we have invested effort into with our partners. We believe that connectivity from India, across the Middle East, to Europe is incredibly important and will bring a significant number of economic benefits, as well as strategic benefits, to all of the countries involved.

But where things land with respect to any potential announcements this weekend, as opposed to down the line, I can’t say tonight.

Q Jake, going back to Modi and American values, our understanding is that press access to the bilat will be pretty limited, if not nonexistent. Can you detail what, from the U.S. side, you guys are doing to press for press access and why Biden would meet with Modi if there are no reporters allowed to participate in a pool spray or something like that?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, I mean, the President has private meetings with other heads of state where in the room are the teams and not the press. Secondly, we will of course provide a readout of the meetings so that you have the opportunity to understand what was discussed.

And, third, we have a significant number of issues that we need to deal with with India, both issues that present opportunities for substantial cooperation and our mutual interest and issues where we need to work through differences in perspective. So, the President will take the opportunity to do that.

This meeting will be taking place at the Prime Minister’s residence. So, it is unusual in that respect. This is not your typical bilateral visit to India with meetings taking place in the Prime Minister’s office and an entire program. This is the host of the G20 hosting a significant number of leaders, doing so in his home, and he has set out the protocols he’s set out.

Now, obviously, we in the U.S. government work hard to ensure and obtain access for U.S. journalists to everything the President does. I’ll let Karine detail all the steps we’re taking. But many of us at very senior levels have been significantly involved in this, but that doesn’t always yield a particular journalist standing in a particular pool spray.

What we can pledge to you is what’s in our control, which is ensuring that we are transparent and comprehensive in our readout of what the two leaders discussed, which we will.

Q Has there been an instance where President Biden, as president, has had a bilateral meeting without a pool spray that — that you can think of?

MR. SULLIVAN: You know, I think at multilateral meetings, there have been times he’s gone and sat down with foreign leaders. In fact, I can think of instances where I’ve snapped photos because it’s just been me in the room with the foreign leader and President Biden.

Because of the dynamic nature of these multilateral summits, press — press access issues tend to be different than they are in typical bilateral fashion. And so, that’s why I think you find this circumstance different from previous instances where the President and Prime Minister Modi have stood before the press.

And I would also point out — I think it was Aamer who said they’ve met a dozen times. I didn’t even realize that. But, I mean, to me, this is not really a reflection of either the U.S.-India relationship or some larger question of press access.

This particular — this is a — a circumstance-based issue, not some larger issue. Because, obviously, you’ve had access to bilaterals between the two. They’ve had press conferences, including the unusual circumstance of a press conference in which Prime Minister Modi took questions. So, that’s how we see it.

We consider this a serious issue. You guys have raised it with us. We take that extremely seriously. I personally take it extremely seriously. We are doing what we can, but at the end of the day, we will have to kind of work through the parameters and protocols of these meetings in coordination and consultation with the host and, in particular, with the host at his personal residence.

Q Did you say the request was made, though? Did you guys ask for a pool spray at this particular event, and you were told no?

MR. SULLIVAN: Of course. We ask for pool sprays — we spend our lives asking —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Seriously.

MR. SULLIVAN: — for pool sprays and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All the time guys. All the time.

MR. SULLIVAN: — other things, of course. Of course.

Q Can I ask you about China? You mentioned a few times that you’ve been asked about President Xi not being there. Can you describe, though, by his absence, how that changes at all the dynamic or the tenor? Does it make the idea of a joint communiqué — specifically some language on Ukraine — easier, stronger for you all? I mean, it must change something.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, our coordinators have been working all day and all night the last few days on the joint statement. We come into this, the United States, with immense goodwill towards producing consensus. And in that, we bring a spirit of compromise to a lot of the different issues that are contentious so that we can find a text that everybody can live with.

I’m not going to personally characterize the Chinese position in the room or the Russian position in the room. I think I’d ask you to go ask around about that.

What I will say is that, even though the leader is not going to be there, their premier will, the entire Chinese team is engaged, their Sherpa or their coordinator is engaged. So, I can’t say that I have personally seen or heard about a fundamental shift in their posture because President Xi isn’t there.

But there’s still some distance to travel before there is a final communiqué re- — released to the public or agreed among the leaders, and we’ll have to see what happens.

Q Can I ask one quick follow? On President Xi, is it correct — I just want to confirm there were no meetings or calls that we are unaware of — that Biden and Xi have not spoken over the phone in any way since last year’s G20? Is that correct?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we’ve had a number of meetings without pool sprays between President Xi and President — no, I’m — I’m joking.

Q Just checking. For a second, I was like, “Wah!” (Laughter.)

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I can confirm they have not —

Q Zero communication?

MR. SULLIVAN: — spoken since — since Bali.

Q And that means zero communication between the two since last year’s G20 at that level?

MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah, I mean, I hesitate to say “zero communication” only in the following sense: Obviously, we’ve seen Secretary Blinken, Secretary Yellen, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Raimondo all travel. I’ve met with my counterpart. In those meetings, we are speaking on behalf of our leaders, frequently, to one another.

So, the idea that there’s been no communication, I think, is — is kind of an — could be a misnomer.

But the two of them have not had a telephone call or a meeting since then.

Q Jake, on — you mentioned second — Secretary Raimondo’s trip to China. The Chinese are reportedly considering blocking the sale of iPhones not only to government agencies, but also state-owned and -operated corporations in China. The whole point of that trip was to kind of open up commerce between the countries.

Is this a concerning development for you guys? Is it something that you’re going to raise? Is it something that you’d like the Chinese to reconsider?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, without accepting the premise that that was the whole point of the trip, because I think Secretary Raimondo did a remarkable job of laying out what she was trying to accomplish — which is about deepening the economic relationship, but also about explaining what de-risking means and why it is a relevant element of our policy and why national security is a feature of the relationship between the U.S. and China, including the economic relationship.

But on the particular question of Apple phones, I’ve seen the reports. I think this is more of a question for the PRC — what’s motivating them, what the scope of this will be, and what they think the net effect of that will be — than it is a question for the U.S. government.

Q Are you going to raise it in your talks with the Chinese at all?

MR. SULLIVAN: I mean, I don’t have plans to have a near-term conversation with the PRC on this. And we’ve only seen the reports, so we’ll see how things play out.

Q Can I —

Q A quick follow-up on China.

Sorry. Go ahead.

Q Well, I was just going to follow up on Huawei. I know you were asked about it on Tuesday. You said you needed more time to evaluate the situation. Is there any update? Or if there’s not, can you walk us through what the timeline is for you guys to investigate this, what method you’ll be using to investigate it, and how we can kind of see that proceeding?

MR. SULLIVAN: First, this is largely an issue within the competence of the regulatory authorities and the agencies, like the Commerce Department, for example.

Second, there’s a number of different methods to try to, sort of, come to an understanding of what exactly it is that we’re dealing with here. All I will say is — and I said a version of this when I was at the podium on Tuesday: We’re committed to the small-yard, high-fence proposition. We are committed to ensuring that the fence — where it exists — is patrolled effectively, and we will continue to do that.

And then, the question of timeline on this — that was Tuesday; today is Thursday — I can’t give you an exact number of days, but this is not going to be months down the road. We’re going to want to look at this carefully, consult with our partners, get a clearer sense of what we’re looking at, and then we’ll make decisions accordingly. And we’ll do so in the context of the totality of our approach, not any one particular smartphone or chip.

Q Are you confident, though, that there hasn’t been too much leeway given already at this point, considering the breakthrough that — that we think we’ve seen?

MR. SULLIVAN: I’m confident in our approach. I’m confident that that approach is built on a set of principles, and then we need to make updates to the parameters of our rules as we go forward. And I mean that as a generic statement, not with respect to this particular — this particular news report or this particular account.

I’m confident of our approach, and I think it is built to be able to inquire as to what the state of play is with respect to technology and to make adjustments as necessary.

Q A quick follow-up on China, Jake. We understand the U.S. is planning to send a very strong message on the issue of debt distress, and, you know, we’ve heard you talk about the World Bank. But in terms of, sort of, concrete proposals of foreign relief for these countries, what are you planning to offer at this summit? And if you can talk a little bit about that.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, this is not a summit to negotiate with particular distressed countries, and each country requires its own workout according to its own terms.

But what we are going to underscore at the summit is that there is a fairly broad-base consensus about the shape of the solution for many countries. And we just ma- — need to make sure that all countries, including the PRC, get on board with that.

Q You had mentioned a joint — sorry.

Q Jake, can you give us a read- — a bit of readout about your meeting with the Senate leadership today on the Ukraine supplemental? Was there any kind of openness from McConnell and the GOP to, you know, keeping that in there?

MR. SULLIVAN: It was a very substantive meeting. The senators have a lot of specific questions about the policy, the state of play in Ukraine. They had constructive suggestions for how we should proceed on multiple dimensions of the policy.

And the most striking feature was the strong bipartisan support for standing with Ukraine, for resourcing Ukraine, and for ensuring that America’s commitment to Ukraine does not flag.

I felt that coming from Republicans as well as Democrats, from multiple different elements of leadership and committee chairs on both sides of the aisle.

And I’m not going to characterize any individual senator’s perspective because that’d be, you know, violating the trust of the private meeting, but I think I’m on solid ground saying that there was strong bipartisan commitment on the Senate side to support Ukraine.

And with respect to the House, I’ll have a chance to go see both Republicans and Democrats in the House next week.

Q Are you —

Q Can I follow — just on that real — I’m sorry.

Q Oh, no, I was just — are you — after that meeting, are you confident that it would still be part of the supplemental, or does it seem like maybe it would be pulled out? How are those conversations?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I think I said at the podium on Tuesday that I’m confident that we will continue to get the resources we need for Ukraine. I continue to believe that, in the end, that will be the case. And nothing about today made me change that view.

Q Does that noise, though, from the House GOP — is that unhelpful going into a major summit like this when you’re trying to build consensus?

MR. SULLIVAN: I think — and I’ve said this before in other contexts, where our democracy has displayed different points of view on different issues we’re dealing with — the leaders who are at this G20 are sophisticated actors. They’re pols — whether they’re Democrats or autocrats, they know that there is sausage-making and there’s debate and there’s back-and-forth and toing-and-froing on issues. So, no, I don’t think it — it puts us in a problematic position heading into this.

Q You mentioned a joint statement a bit ago. Given just how difficult it was to come to consensus a year ago in Bali, is the view of the United States still that you’re going to have some joint statement out of this G20?

MR. SULLIVAN: I will not make a prediction on that.

I will say that the United States is ready to do our part to deliver a joint statement, and we think there is a joint statement to be had. And the question is: Will every country step up, be responsible, be constructive? If the answer to that is yes, then we will get a joint statement. But it’s too soon to tell.

Q I have a quick question on Saudi, Jake. We understand the White House has now had several meetings with Israeli and Saudi leaders. And wondering to what extent is a framework — a normalization deal shaping up?

MR. SULLIVAN: Many of the elements of a pathway towards normalization are now on the table. We don’t have a formal framework. We don’t have the terms, you know, ready to be signed. There’s still work to do. And we’re working through it.

But I think there’s a broad understanding of many of the key elements, and the specifics require an incredible amount of legwork, discipline, rigor. And all of the stakeholders in this are applying that as we speak.

Q So, was there — I mean, would you characterize the recent meetings as progress?

MR. SULLIVAN: I would characterize them as constructive.

Q Jake, on the —

Q Do you think —

Q — on the communiqué, obviously, one stumbling block is Ukraine. But putting that one aside, the other seems to be climate — where oil-producing countries want a certain language, while others are being more ambitious. And there also seems to be an effort by China to tie access to technology to climate change language.

Can you kind of talk through it — where you feel like those talks are, from the U.S. perspective, right now and what you think of the Chinese idea?

MR. SULLIVAN: I think the idea of holding climate hostage to a particular country’s priority on some totally separate issue is not the height of responsibility.

We have a climate crisis. We should deal with climate on its own terms. It should not be a source of leverage. It should be a source of urgency for countries to actually come to the table and try and solve it.

And I’ve said many times that the PRC’s effort to link climate to America’s actions on other issues is not a game we are going to play, and that’s true in the G20 context as well. And I believe that that is true of other countries’ view, too; they do not want climate held hostage.

Q Jake, another on China. What is your reaction to this Wall Street Journal report that said Chinese nationals posing and [as] tourists are trying to get access to military installations?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, one of the things about that report is it indicated this has been a longstanding issue that very much pre- — pre-dates our administration. Look, we take the security of our installations extremely seriously against any form of threat, and we will continue to do that.

And I work with DOJ and the DOD — and “I” meaning in my capacity on the National Security Council — with DOJ and DOD to ensure that we have the proper safeguards in place, and we will continue to do that as we go forward.

Q Will this be brought up at the — at the meeting this weekend?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we don’t have a plan for the President to engage with the Chinese premier this weekend at this time.

Q You think —

Q Is there any disappointment —

MR. SULLIVAN: This will be the last one.

Q Is there any disappointment that Zelenskyy wasn’t invited to address this summit?

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, from our perspective, anytime President Zelenskyy gets the opportunity to address a body, a group is a good thing. We believe that about the G20. He addressed it last year.

But President Zelenskyy has been relentless in his capacity to engage all of the leaders who are seated at the table. And we also saw in Jeddah, not long ago, many of the key countries of the G20, including from the Global South, sit with Ukrainians in the same room to talk through the principles of a just and durable peace, including sovereignty and territorial integrity.

So, I feel good about where we are, although the U.S. view is very much that having Zelenskyy have a role in this G20 would be a good thing.

Q Jake, can I ask you one quick thing on Vietnam? I know that there are expectations that Vietnam will upgrade its formal relationship status with the U.S. Can you confirm that or offer us any clarity on the record here?

MR. SULLIVAN: I will be happy to talk to you on the record about Vietnam in, like, 36 hours. (Laughter.)

Thank you, guys.

Q Thanks, Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jake. I appreciate it.

All right. Do you guys want to still hear from me?

Q Yes.

Q I got one for you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right, I do have a couple of things at the top. Here we go.

So, today, the President nominated Michael Whitaker to serve as the next FAA Administrator. I know not such big news, but it happened today. Whitaker has over 30 years of aviation experience and broad support from labor unions and industry stakeholders.

Since day one, the administration has taken action to increase air travel safety, including hiring 1,500 new air traffic controllers and — in 2023 — and — well, in 2023 and leading 90 runway safety action team meetings at airports across the country to improve safety.

We urge Congress to swiftly confirm Mike Whitaker to lead the FAA.

On a similar note, the Senate has confirmed all three of the President’s Federal Reserve nominees on a bipartisan basis.

In the past year, inflation come — came down by around two thirds, while the job market has — has remained historically strong, and we are confident that Dr. Jefferson, Dr. Cook, and Dr. Kugler will help continue this progress.

One last thing here on — on the tropical storm that all of us are — are keeping an eye on. As we shared a little bit earlier today — as you know, we put out a pool note on this — as part of the President’s regular briefing today — briefings today, he was also provided with the latest trajectory of Hurricane Lee. And the preparations are underway by FEMA, which has pre-deployed assets to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and is coordinating with local officials.

I do want to address one thing before I open up for questions, and this is what Jake was allud- — was asked from all of you — by all — by — by some of you — about the access for — press access for G20.

Look, as you know — and you hear us say this all the time — when it comes to — comes to free press, it is the pillar of — of our democracy, so we are doing everything that we can to make sure that you guys can cover — cover this important summit.

And so, a couple of things I do want to lay out, as — as I think Jake was alluding to — a couple of things that — key points and key actions that we have — we have done in the past several days — which is Ben LaBolt, the White House Communications Director, reached out to his counterpart. Jake Sullivan, who is — as you know, you just heard from him — our National Security Advisor, reached out to his counterpart as well.

John Finer and Kurt Campbell from the National Security — National Sec- — the National Security Advisor [National Security Council] also reached out to their counterparts. The G7 [G20] Sherpa team pressed their counterparts. State mobilized our ambassador and our embassy. This was a days-long process that we have engaged in, and we will continue to engage, you know, while we are there.

So, this is, as you know, incredibly important to us. We know how important it is for all of you to cover what the President is doing, especially abroad, and so we are — we are doing our darndest, doing our best to do everything that we can to get you access.

As you heard from — from Jake, it — you know, it’s sometimes at these summits — and I know — Justin, you’ve been around for some time now — I’m not — not aging you at — at all. But you have been around for some time now. (Laughter.) And you’ve seen this. You see how other presidents have had to — have to deal with these types of summits. So, this is not new. This is something that any and every administration has to deal with.

And I just wanted to lay out very clearly as to all of the different senior leadership who have been out there talking to their counterpart — -parts and making — making it very clear that we want our press to make sure to be able to — to be there and to be — to — to see the interaction that our President has.

With that, Aamer.

Q That was a rough analysis of Justin’s aging there, I’d say. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sure he’s thrilled. I’m sure he’s thrilled. I’m sure I’ll hear about it.

Q After you just itemized all these very senior people, explaining how important this is to this administration, what does it say, like, that, you know, there isn’t a ton of access? Is the President concerned that after all his most senior people are raising concerns about this, the Indians just don’t seem to care?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to be really fair. We have seen this before in these summits. Let’s be very clear here. This is not an unusual thing. This happens. We kind of have these conversations with many other — with many — at many other summits. I think you guys know this very well. So this is not unusual.

I’m just going to, like, kind of refer to what Jake laid out and let —

Q Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — let the national security speak to — speak to those pieces.

But, look, what I — my job is and what I’m trying to do is to share with you and all of you that we have been very much all hands on deck in trying to make this happen. And I know — and I know some of you know that personally, how much we have worked to make sure that people — that the press gets access to what the President is doing.

And we think he believes — obviously, we work on behalf of the President — he believes it’s incredibly important.

As I just stated at the top, you know, free — the free press is the — is the pillar of our democracy. We believe that wholeheartedly. And you’ve heard that from the President. You’ve heard —

Q I could — and I’m just getting at we’re obviously frustrated.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.

Q Does this — does this — does it frustrate the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President believes the free press is the pillar of our democracy. Obviously, yes. If we are — I just listed one, two, three, four, five, six, seven — right? — seven senior people that you all know — you know the names — who have been out there the past couple of days dealing with their counterparts.

And not — not even — I think not even including the folks on the ground as part of the G20 Sherpa. So, yes, of course, we are all trying to do our best at — at the behest of the President — right? — to get this done. And so, we’re going to keep working on it.

Q Karine, what explanation —

Q This issue specifically about the — the access issue sort of speaks broadly to issues around press freedom, even in India, and humanitarian issues, you know, rights for minorities. I know some of that was raised when the Prime Minister visited the United States. But how much emphasis is the President going to place on some of these things again during this specific bilateral?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you just stated, the President raised it in the last — in the last meeting that they had, which was the State dinner, as you just referenced to. I mean, look, I don’t think there’s a better way to show how committed we — we were or we are than the press conference that the President held with the Prime Minister in the United States when the Prime Minister was visiting.

That is something that we were — we wanted to make sure that happened and that you hear directly from both leaders. And so, you know, that was an important, critical moment.

Look, I’m not going to get into what’s going to come up in the conversation in this bilat. Certainly, we will have a readout and have more to share. But the President never, never fails to raise the importance of human rights, and you’ve heard us say this over and over again, and it has come up with multiple leaders, including the Prime Minister, as you just stated, in the last — in the last conversation or the last bilat — important bilat that they’ve had.

Look, guys, we are doing everything that we can to — to make sure that there is access. And — and I think we’ve proven that over — over multiple summits and over even the last couple of days with this upcoming trip as we’re headed to G20.

Q Was the decision to move the press conference from India to Hanoi a result of issues around press freedom and press access in India?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I wouldn’t go that far. I think it’s just that it was easier — it was a logistical piece. It’s easier to do — it was just easier to do it in Vietnam. As you know, when the G- — these types of summits happen, the G20 summits happen, it is all-consuming, all hands on deck. And it was just logistically easier to do it there.

And it wouldn’t — it wouldn’t have changed anything because it would have just been the President doing a solo press conference. So, instead of doing it in — in India, he’s going to be doing it in — in Hanoi.

There’s really — it wouldn’t — that doesn’t change anything at all. It wasn’t like he was going to do a mul- — multilateral or bilateral press conference.

Q Karine, you outlined the number of officials who have been in touch and reached out on this issue of press access. What is the explanation or the justification that the Indians are giving?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that’s a good question. I am not — I am not — I have not — I haven’t part of those conversations. I can’t tell you what they’re saying on the other side. What I can share — and, honestly, to be quite honest, it’s for them to speak to.

What we — what I can say is we have reached out, we have made the request multiple times at different pressure points, if you will — at an NSC level, comms level. The folks on the ground who are doing, you know — you know, a lot of hard work on the ground to get — to make sure that this trip — not just for the President, but for all of you; all of us — is smooth. And as I mentioned, the G20 Sherpa team.

And so, it’s been happening. We’ve been doing the work. I mean, I would leave it to — I would leave it to the Indian government to speak for themselves on — on the specific question you just asked.

Q Jumping forward in time a little bit, can you flesh out a little more about how the President plans to spend 9/11 in Alaska?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a couple of just high-level stuff here. First, on 9/11, look, the President is going to mark the anniversary of the September 11th attacks this year in Alaska, as you just mentioned, with — with service members and their families.

And, as he does every year, as he’s done the — every year, he plans to honor the lives lost and the families and loved ones who still feel the pain of the terrible day. This is something he feels is very important to do. We can only imagine the heartbreak and the pain that the 9/11 families have felt every day for the past 22 years.

So, I know the families have — have certain- — certainly been on this — on his mind recent- — in recent days, and they will continue be on — to be on his mind as we approach. The anniversary, as you know, is coming up on Monday.

Certainly, if we have more to share, we will do that.

Q Do you know, will he meet with anyone who has been–


Q — personally impacted by 9/11 in Alaska?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sorry?

Q Will he be meeting with anyone who was personally impacted —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I see your question. We’ll have more to share, but we’ll definitely be meeting with the service members and their families, which he believes is incredibly important. We’ll certainly have more to share as we get closer to Monday.

Q On the issue of press access, obviously the most ambitious step that would be taken would be for the President not to meet if there is not press access. Is that something that’s being considered at all? It sounds like no, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, Jake just was essentially asked this question, so I certainly don’t have more to share beyond what Jake just shared.

Look, here’s the thing. We will continue to do everything that we can for all of you to have press access. I think we have proven that in — in multiple — in multiple instances, in multiple summits.

As I mentioned, the last State dinner with India, we made that happen, made a press conference happen. And — and so, that will continue.

And, look, these meetings are incredibly important. I think the first question — one of the first questions Jake got was on this, and he talked about the importance of deepening this relationship and what it means and having these types of multilateral conversations, especially at these big summits.

And so, that’s going to — that’s going to continue. What we have — we’ll continue to ask for press access, yes, absolutely. Doesn’t shy — it doesn’t stop us from making sure that we’re asking for what we believe is important, not just for you, but for the American people to — for you all to — to report on what you’re seeing and what this President is doing.

And so, I’m just not going to go beyond — I mean, Jake just kind — addressed this moments ago.

Q Karine, I also wanted to ask real quick about your favorite topic, which is the President’s testing cadence. He obviously tested negative for multiple days here. Do you have a sense at all on whether he’ll cont- — is there a need to have him continue testing as he arrives at the G20? And I assume they’ll still mask, as you indicated the other day.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have any update to the protocols to share with you at this time. As you know, the President tested — I think just to put it in — all into context — right? — he tested negative on Monday; negative on Tuesday; negative on Wednesday; negative today, which is actually very, very good, and has no symptoms.

All of these decisions — and as I’ve said multiple times — is going to be in close consultation with his physician. I don’t have anything else to share, but we’ve been — you know, we’ve shared when he’s tested. He’s been — he’s tested four times, been negative, and has no symptoms.

I think that’s — that’s a good thing.

Q Karine, just to clarify. So, at this time, there are — there’s no anticipation of the possibility of bilats with other world leaders during the G20? And if — and if there are, would — you know, would we be able to pool that since it would be not with an Indian (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — so, Jake just answered that question. He said that it will be — basically, he said it will be very difficult to do these types of bilateral, formal meetings at the G20 the way that — he said the way it’s structured, the way it’s scheduled at this G20. So, he’s not anticipating that to happen.

And so, that’s what, you know, Jake Sullivan said, and so I’m just repeating what he said. And if that were to change, of course we will do everything that we can to let you all know and certainly to try and provide access. But he just stated that he didn’t think that was going to — to be happening because of the structure of this particular summit.

Q A couple quick eco ones. So, first, you know, we might not all be Vogue stars, but I don’t know if I’m AARP Magazine yet. (Laughter.) You know, it’s —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What did I tell you? I told you he would come back. I told you I would get it back. I told you.

Q Two on the economy, though. One is retail — retail sales for the last month have been kind of sharply down. There are obviously strong economic indicators, but I’m wondering if this at all changes your guys’ economic forecast. Thoughts about a possible recession? Any — any signs of worry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean, look — and I know this question comes up often. You know, we’ve seen those — that data point on retails before.

Look, you know, we feel that the economy is — is heading to a slow, stable growth, which is what we’ve been saying for some time. And the data points of, like, seeing the GDP; the data points of jobs created, of wages going up, unemployment being under 4 percent, and that continuing to happen and also inflation moderating — I think that shows — all the indicators.

And also, you know, economics experts have said this — that, you know, recession is very much unlikely. So, we don’t see ourselves headed to a recession. We see that the work that this President is doing, the economic policies that he’s put forward is actually helping here and leading us into, again, a slow, steady growth into that transition.

And so, I think that’s what’s really important.

Q Former President Trump issued a statement on the UAW and the negotiations, and encouraged them to basically oppose the President’s plan. I wanted to give you a chance to respond to his comments on electric cars, but also just ask if you have any update on how the administration in the last day or so has been engaged on this issue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. When it comes to the former President, want to be very careful because he’s also a candidate. So, I want to be careful how to respond here and not speak to anything that’s related to G20 — I mean — G20; I just said G20 — 2024.

But, you know, as it relates to IRA (inaudible), just a couple of things that I want to say. Look, the administration is always committed to taking every legal and appropriate step to ensure federal investments and leading to good-paying union jobs. Right?

And I think that is something that the President has led with in almost all of his pieces of legislation, including, in particular, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

And so, a couple of things. It’s providing $12 billion through Inflation Reduction Act to convert existing auto plants into EV plants while retaining existing workers and collect- — collective bargaining agreements. Very important.

And this is something that — this is something that Shawn Fain has actually lifted up and praised. This particular piece is implementing tax incentives and the Inflation Reduction Act for clean energy companies to pay their workers the prevailing wage and hire registered apprentices, including Buy America requirements in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

So, there are things in this — these — there are these provisions in both of these bills that are so (inaudible) — so important and that is actually going to make a difference for unions — right?; going to make a difference for workers; going to make a difference for Americans. And so, things that have historically never been done before.

And so, the Pre- — the President is proud of these two pieces of legislation. He has done more as — you know, as the President that is passing these historic legislation than any — any his- — any — (inaudible) — any past — any modern-day presidents.

And look, I’ll say this last thing. You know, in the last administration, we kept on hearing about “Infrastructure Week,” “Infrastructure Week,” with nothing to show for it. And here, this President has made Infrastructure Decade; you’ve heard him say that. And he actually has something to show for it.

And so, just look at that. And I think that’s what matters. And that is my response.

Q Quick — quick follow-up on the UAW, Karine.


Q Obviously, the President made those remarks over Labor Day, saying he doesn’t think the union is going to strike. Shawn Fain said, “He knows something that we don’t.” You said the President said that because he’s being an optimist.

Has the President spoken to the UAW president since? Have they had any communication? And is he just currently being updated on this by Gene and Julie? Does he have any direct lines of communications open with other labor leaders who are — I mean, I would imagine Liz Shuler is involved.

You know, I mean, there are other labor leaders who have to be involved in this. Can you give us some sense of what that is?

And what is Gene — what are the updates, you know, that Gene is offering the President look like? Because we really haven’t heard anything other than he’s — he’s there to monitor and make sure people are at the table.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I will remind you that the President — the President sat down, spoke, met with the union and folks from — who put together — who got done the West Coast port, right?

And one of the reasons that was so important to highlight that — what we saw the President do — is because it showed that collective bargaining worked. It shows that when two sides come together and have that conversation, it works.

And so, I just want to reiterate the importance of that happening. We saw that with UPS and the Teamsters, and we saw that many other times as well under this President during — well, during this President’s tenure.

And so, again, this is a President that believes in collective bargaining. We’ve seen it work in some of the most contentious situations. We’ve seen it work.

Look, the President is an optimist. He is going to con- — encourage both sides to continue to talk.

As you mentioned, Gene Sperling has been kind of our coordinator, our point person. The President is getting briefed by his senior advisors, by Gene Sperling, by Julie Su. And Julie Su did amazing work with the West cort- — with the West Coast — pardon me, West Coast por- — port.

And so, we have an excellent team that is — that is doing — that is monitoring this, having these conversations, or staying close — basically staying in close touch. And I think that’s important.

Again, collective bargaining works. We’ve seen it work a few times in the past two years.

I’m losing my voice, guys. Anything else before I head out?

Q About — about Eric Adams’s comments on the migrant crisis destroying New York City. Implication being there that President Biden and Washington writ large and his governor are not doing enough. Any response?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. I do want to lay this down because I think it’s important.

So, we’ve been taking action to support communities across the country who are managing the arrival of migrants. And in New York — specifically to your question, Aamer — we have worked closely with officials at the state and city level to coordinate efforts and provide recommendations and identify possible efficiencies in their operations.

We have — we have provided the state and city more than $140 million dollars in federal funding through DHS just this fiscal year.

Following conversations with leaders in New York, across the country, the administration launched a first-of-its-kind national campaign for individuals who are — who were — who are work-eligible but have not yet applied to work authorization with information on how to apply to employment authorization. Hundreds of thousands of MS- — MSMs — sorry, SMN — SMSs and emails have been sent in — in English, in Spanish, in Haitian Creole, and many other languages to make that happen.

Only Congress can really reform. You hear us say that all the time: this broken system that has broke — been broken for the past couple of decades, this immigration system — and so, we — that — that could provide additional assistance. The President has done all that he can from his perch, but we need more, and we need Congress to act.

And just to add to one more piece of this. Today, senior — senior White House officials had another constructive conversation with Governor Hochul about the many lines of efforts that the federal government is pursuing to support New York.

So, we have had extensive conversation with — with the leaders in New York. We have been fully engaged from the White House and also DHS and other — certainly, that agency — to see how else we can help and have offered — have offered, you know, ideas on how to move forward to that. And that’s my response.

Q Is he being hyperbolic?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You would — you would have to figure — look at that for yourselves.

What I can speak to is the engagement that we have made — we have had with — with New York, whether state or local.

And I just mentioned Governor Hochul; you know that Governor Hochul was just at the White House last week. And — and we put out — we put out a statement after that; she put out a statement after that. We put out a joint statement if I — if I — if I’m remembering correctly.

And so, we’ve been in — we’ve been in touch and engaging with them on a regular basis, if not — definitely weekly if not daily.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I’ll the last one here. Go ahead.

Q On extreme heat. So, yesterday, ERCOT — the Texas power grid — entered into emergency operations as they — the demand for power nearly surpassed the state supply because of the extreme heat. ERCOT has had to ask Texans to conserve power 10 times this summer alone. What is the federal government doing to alleviate strains on power grids as we increasingly see extreme heat over longer stretches of time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the — this is one of the reasons why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation was so important.

I know when Liz Sherwood-Randolph [Randall] came to the briefing room she talked about making sure that the grids are resilient and, kind of, talked through that a little bit.

What I can say is the Department — when it comes to extreme heat, in July, the President announced that NOAA will partner with universities and other institutions to improve our nation’s weather forecasts. So, that’s actually really important. And the Department of Interior is investing $150 million to support communities significantly impacted by drought in the West.

But look, again, this is why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is so important — grids — making sure that these grids are resilient, not just in Texas. We talked about Puerto Rico, the work that we’ve done there, especially after — certainly after the last hurricane.

So, this is certainly a — an important — an important part of the provision for us in the Bipartisan Law. And we’re going to continue to work to make sure that grids are resilient, because it is important as we see extreme weather continue — continue to be an issue, especially as we see in the last couple of months.

All right, guys.

Q Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. All right. Enjoy your ride or your sleep or your rest — whichever.

7:54 P.M. EDT

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Ramstein Air Base, Germany appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

Wed, 09/06/2023 - 19:04

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon.  Hey, hey.

All right.  A couple things for — for you all at the top, and then we’ll get going.

So, in an hour, President Biden will meet with leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 22,000 workers of — at — at West Coast ports, and the Pacific Maritime Association, whi- — which represents shipping companies.

The President will congratulate them on finalizing a new contract, which was ratified with overwhelming support from union members.

He will also recognize the work of Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, who helped reach an agreement.

The contract covers 29 ports, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handles 40 percent of our nation’s cargo containers.  It guarantees a 32 percent pay increase over six years.

The President will also discuss his administration’s pro- — progress strengthening America’s ports and supply chains.

Thanks in part to the work of the President’s Supply Chain Distribution [Disruptions] Task Force, we’ve suppli- — we — we’ve seen supply chains unsnarl.

Our ports moved record cargo levels over the last two years.  We have overcome the massive supply chain problems that increased prices around the world, and East-West ocean shipping prices have plunged nearly 90 percent.  That’s all helped lower inflation.

And thanks to Bidenomics, we are working our infrastructure and supply chains even stronger.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation Law — or, I should say, Law — is making significant investments to modernize our ports.  The Ocean Shipping Reform Act is cracking down on foreign shipping companies to lower prices for goods.  And the CHIPS Act and Inflation Reduction Act are strengthening our supply chains for things Americans use every day.

Today, Russia launched a new wave of air strikes against the people of Ukraine, killing at least 16 people and wounding dozens more.

These brutal Russian attacks underscore the importance of continuing to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their territory against unprovoked, unjustified Russian aggression.

That’s the message that the Secretary sent.  Secretary Blinken, as you all know, is carrying that message with him on his trip to Ukraine today.  And it’s esp- — and it’s a message the United States is sending today by announcing a new security assistance pa- — package, which includes more ammunition for artillery and HIMARS systems, Javelin, and anti-armor systems as well; tank ammunitions for our Abram tanks, which will be arriving in Ukraine soon; and air defense system to help Ukraine protect its people from air strikes like those they faced today.

The Kremlin could end this war at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine and stopping its brutal attacks.  Until it does, the United States and our allies and our partners will stand united with Ukraine as long as it takes.

Earlier this year, when we made our bipartisan budget agreement, we made promises to the American people, along with congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats.  Unfortunately, House Republicans, unlike Senate Republicans, are considering breaking that explicit promise due to demands from extreme members of their party.

Breaking this promise would inflict painful costs on the country, making troops and Border Patrol agents work without paychecks, hurting our economy, and undermining our ability to fight high-stakes, real-life crisis like fentanyl and natural disasters.

As part of this Unity Agenda, the President — President Biden is urging Congress to provide $800 million in emergency funding to fight fentanyl trafficking and counter the deadly substance being illegally imported from China.

Congressional Republicans are — are on a — on record taking — talking about the urgency of fighting fentanyl.  Now is not the time to set us back; it is time to fight that and to keep their promises.

We should all work together to give the DEA, the Border Patrol, and Department of Homeland Security the anti-fentanyl funding President Biden is seeking so that we can save lives.  Remember, real lives are at stake here.

And, finally, too — I know folks are having — have this question, so I’m going to preempt the questions, hopefully — your first question on this.  The President tested negative for COVID-19 this morning, following negative tests on Monday night and also yesterday.  He is not experiencing any symptoms, which, of course, is a good thing.

The First Lady is doing well, as well.  And she remains in Delaware, which is also a good thing.

The CDC guidelines recommend, as I said before, as you all know, a combination of masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms.  The President is doing all that he can, of course, in consultation with the — with his physician.  And so, he’s keeping — keeping with the CDC guide- — guidelines, as you all know.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  You did preempt my first question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, good.  That’s good.

Q    But, on that, will he be testing again tomorrow before he boards the flight?  And will he be testing in India and Vietnam?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any timeline on his test — on his testing cadence.  I can tell you that he’ll be doing that in — regularly, as — in consultation, as I’ve said before, with his physician, as you — as — and we’ve been, you know, pretty — pretty — pretty transparent on letting you all know when he’s tested.  We shared that on Monday.  We shared on Tuesday.  And, certainly, we shared that today. 

And so, we will, certainly, let you know what that will — what that will be. 

But we’ve been very clear: All travelers who are going to India will be tested, including the President.  As I mentioned, the President was tested today and tested negative, which is a good thing.  We’re happy to hear that.

Q    Secondly, the Vice President gave an interview to my AP colleague, Chris Megerian, today.  And she told Chris that all those responsible for the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and ensuing violence must be held accountable, even if that means former President Trump.

In short, does the President agree with those sentiments?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just step back for a second — just try to go beyond or past the — the headlines for a moment, because I think it’s really important.  You’ll see that the President — the — that the — that the Vice President — Vice President Harris spoke very clearly about how everyone is entitled — everyone is entitled to their rights but that everyone has to follow the rules as well.

So, as you know, she is a former prosecutor.  She knows that very well and understands that.  She was affirming — certainly, affirming her belief in our systems of laws, which is of — something that, of course, the President shares and believes in.

I’m not going to go beyond that.  I think her remarks were very clear, if you go beyond — certainly, beyond the headlines.  And so, again, she was re- — reaffirming — or affirming her belief in our system.

Again, this is something that, of course, the President believes in.  And we’re going to be — continue to be very mindful — I’m going to continue to be very mindful here, and I’m going to let the Department of Justice do — do their job independently.  And so, I’m just going to leave it there.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  CDC guidelines for people who are exposed to COVID say that you should wear a high-quality mask anytime you are around others inside your home or indoors in public.

The President, of course, did wear that mask in the Medal of Honor ceremony, but then took it off and didn’t ta- — put it back on.  Was that a mistake?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m going to be — I’m going to share a couple of things with all of you here and just start with what the ceremony was all about, because it’s incredibly important. 

The President took off his mask, as I said he would, to deliver incredibly powerful remarks about this captain — Captain Taylor — and what he did in service to our — our nation.  And he wanted to honor the captain. 

And for a brief time afterwards, he also didn’t have his mask on, as you just laid out.  And he left, as planned — as it was planned, he left when there was a pause in the program in order to minimize — to minimize his close contact with attendees who were — who were about to participate in a reception. 

And I — you all reported that, noticed that he left when there was a pause in the program, because, again, he wanted to minimize, certainly, his impact on folks who were there.

And so, look, you know, we have to take this all into context.  I think it’s important that we do this.  We are in a different phase — right? — as we have said many times, with COVID.  This is kind of going on the third year of — coming out of this pandemic.  We believe we’re in a very strong position to fight — to continue to fight COVID.  And this is not new.  People — you know, people know what it’s like to have COVID, know what it’s like during this time.

I think what’s the most important is: The President tested negative a couple of hours before this event.  He tested negative yesterday.  As I just mentioned, he tested negative on Monday.  He tested negative today.  He has no symptoms. 

And I think it’s important to also look at the context as well.  And for a brief moment afterwards, yes, he did have — his mask was not on, and then when the brief- — when the program paused for a moment, he stepped out.

Q    But he didn’t put it back on.  Is he out of practice?  Is he, like so many Americans, in a different phase?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — what I can say is: We got to put this all in context.  Afterwards, we — we planned for the President to leave when there was pause in the program so that it would minimize — it would minimize him being in the room.  He did just that. 

And I also would — would want to add is: Before the — the event started, the President spent a good amount of time with the captain — Captain Taylor — and his family.  And everybody was masked because he wanted to spend that quality, important time hearing from this hero, hearing his stories, and really thanking him one on one — also with his family around him. 

And so, the President, in every way that we could, yesterday, followed the CDC guidelines.  And, again, he had — yes, he had his — his mask off briefly.  And then when — when there was a pause, he walked out.

Q    Just very quickly, should those guidelines still be the same?  They’re a year old now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is —

Q    Do you stand by those recommendations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is not for me to speak to.  It truly isn’t.  This is something that CDC decides on.  They are the experts.  They — they are the ones who — who, certainly, provide the guidelines.  It is not for me to speak to.

Go ahead.

Q    So, the trip tomorrow is a go?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There is no change.  There is no change.  I mean, remember, Steve: tested negative on Monday, tested negative Tuesday, tested negative today.  Has no symptoms — the President doesn’t have any symptoms.  Nothing has changed with his travel.

Q    And do you have a dollar figure on the new Ukraine package?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a dollar figure.  I would — I would refer you to the State Department and the Department of Defense.  I know that the State Department talked about this a little bit, so I would refer you to them.

Q    And the Saudi decision to extend their oil production cuts — what’s your reaction to that?  How does that complicate your effort to lower gas prices? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, it — it doesn’t complicate our efforts.  We’ve been very clear.  The President has said at the — at the — at the top, or the center, of his economic policy is lowering costs for Americans, right?  And — and so, our focus is going to be abou- — about American consumers, how we can continue to do that. 

If you look at what we’ve been able to do th- — from last summer to this summer — lowering gas prices by a — by a dollar twenty cents — that is — that is because of the work that this administration has done.  And so, we’re always going to be focused on how — what — you know, what — what steps we can take to continue to lower prices for Americans. 

That’s why last week was so important, when we talked about the first 10 drugs — that first tranche of — of drugs — pharmaceutical drugs that Medicare is going to be able now to negotiate, right?  Another way, coming out of the Inflation Reduction Act — one of those key provisions to make sure that we continue to lower — lower costs for Americans.  That’s going to be our focus.

Q    And is Brett McGurk going to bring this up while he’s meeting with Saudis this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not — I don’t have anything to share about — about the agenda.  I know that Jake Sullivan — clearly, our National Security Advisor — laid out that it was an array of — of items that was going — was going to — was being brought up on his trip.  So, I just don’t have anything beyond what Jake shared on that particular piece.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Given the President’s departure is now 24 hours away, have you formulated any sort of contingency plan if he can’t attend?  Would the Vice President go in his place?  Would he participate virtually?  Can you elaborate on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any contingency plans to read out to you.

What I can say: There’s no changes to his travel.  I think — again, he tested negative on Monday, tested negative Tuesday — Tues- — on Tuesday, tested negative today, which is very good, right?  And he is — he is certainly — doesn’t have any symptoms, as I mentioned at the top.  And so, I think that’s a good thing, right?  And so, the President is going to continue to do his — his job.

We — we are expecting to — to travel tomorrow.

Q    Then on oil.  I know the administration is currently trying to refill the Strategic Pe- — Petroleum Reserve, but if prices continue to spiral out of control, would you consider tapping it and selling more on the market to lower prices?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t want to get too much into hypotheticals of what may or may not happen.  Just want to be very careful.  Clearly, that’s something that the Energy Department focuses on, as it relates to that piece of refilling — refilling. 

So, I’m just not going to get ahead of what the Energy Department might do.  And so, I’m just going to leave it — kind of leave it there.

Q    And then, lastly, on the auto workers strike — or a potential strike.  The President is going to talk today; he’s talked many times about being the pro-un- — the most pro-union president in U.S. history.  So, would he rule out invoking the Taft-Hartley Act to stop a strike or if the auto workers do decide to invoke a strike on September 14th?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, not going to get ahead of hypotheticals. 

Look, the President truly believes in collective bargaining, right?  And one of the things that we — I think, if anything, what this event that we’re about to see the President speak at should show is that it works, right? 

You have the West — the West Coast ports — they came together, and they were able to come to an agreement in a good-faith — good-faith way.  They came to the table.  And that’s what the President wants to see.  And so, he’s optimistic that that’s going to be the way forward — that they’re going to come to an agreement. 

But, again, you know, he believes in collective bargaining. 

Not going to get ahead.  Not going to get into hypotheticals from here.  But doesn’t — doesn’t take away the support that this President has for the u- — for the — for the union, as he’s had not just as president, but as the vice president and as senator.

Go ahead, Gerren.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Today is the funeral service for Angela Carr, one of the three victims of the Jacksonville murders.  I know the President said that he did not reach out to the family because one of the family — the family did not want to be contacted.  Has that changed?  Has there been any additional communication with the family or with the community in Jacksonville?  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have calls to read out to you at this time.  I would refer you to the powerful words that the President said when he was in Florida on Saturday.  He ended his remarks — while he was there on the ground, of course, dealing with another tragedy — right? — of folks who lost so much in a rural area after — after the — after Hurricane Idalia hit — and he — but he wanted to make sure, while he was in Florida, that he spoke to the people of Jacksonville. 

And he talked about where we are as a country and how everybody needs to step up to fight back and speak out against — against what we’re seeing — right? — against — against these hateful attacks.  And so, that’s — the President is going to continue to do that.  He’s going to continue to be incredibly forceful and speak — speak against this type of hate. 

And when you’re silent, you’re complicit.  You heard that directly from this President.

I don’t have any calls to read out at this time, but if we have — if we make — if those calls do happen, certainly we would share that with all of you.

Q    And just a follow-up?


Q    During the President and Vice President’s meeting with civil rights leaders on the anniversary of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, there — there were — there were requests for the United We Stand Summit to be brought back, to be brought to Jacksonville, in particular.  Have there been any prelim- — preliminary conversations about that? 

And, more broadly, does the White House believe that there should be legislation, perhaps an anti-Black hate crime similar to the anti-Asian one that was signed in 2021?  Or does the White House believe that the laws on the book, including the Antilynching Act, is sufficient to address the — the rise of anti-Black hate crimes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, there’s a couple of things that you just asked me there.  The first thing is there has been preliminary discussions, conversations with the organizers of the summit and us, clearly — or — or the civil rights leaders, I should say — on the summit.  Don’t have anything that — to share at this time on — but we’re looking at when we could have this, a date.

I can’t speak to Jacksonville.  Don’t have a location about Jacksonville.  But certainly, there’s — are initial conversations happening.

As it relates to the antilynching bill or any other piece of legislation, don’t have — don’t have anything to announce.  But, look, let’s not forget — and I know you’ve reported this — the antilynching bill took decades upon decades to get to where it was, where it got passed and the President was able to move — was able to sign it.  It took a long time to get that piece of legislation.  A lot of hard work was put into getting that done.

And so, you know, it’s an important piece of legislation.  As it relates to — as it relates to anything additional, I just don’t have anything to share at this time.

Go ahead.

Q    If the President continues to test negative, will he wear a mask in India?  For how many days?  And will he do anything else to change his behavior as he’s around so many world leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, it’s a good question.  Look, as you know, there’s about, I believe, a 10-day window — right? — once the person who was in close contact.  The President is going to follow CDC guidance.  And, as I mentioned at the top, that includes masking; that includes testing — testing is not recommended to — to be every day for a person who was close contact; and socially distancing.

And so, we’re going to continue to — certainly to monitor for any symptoms.  He has not had any symptoms for the past three — three — three tests — three days, if you will.  And so, we’re going to continue to — the President is going to continue to move forward in close consultation with his physician.  I just don’t have anything else to add.

Q    Sure.  So, he would continue to mask up then for 10 days past the exposure point?  Is that the plan at this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can say is that the CDC — when it comes to the 10 days, the CDC guidelines recommends a combination of masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms.  And the President is going to do all of that in close consultation with his physician, as he has been doing the last three days.  As I mentioned, tested negative on Monday, tested negative on Tuesday, tested negative today, and doesn’t have any symptoms.

Q    And then, just really briefly, the White House has obviously been pushing Congress to pass a CR.  We are coming closer to that end-of-September deadline.  What is the President doing specifically to make sure that that happens?  Is he speaking with Democratic leaders?  Is he speaking with Republican leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can say this — and I’ve mentioned many times our Hill engagement from here with OMB Director and also our Legis- — Legislative Affairs Office and — and others — senior-level officials here from the White House.  And so, those folks, as you can imagine, meet — they meet regularly with the President, and they give — they give him updates on budget negotiation.  So, he is constantly being updated by — by those staffers.

And while I don’t have any specific calls to read out, he’s in regular touch with members of Congress, as he has, about a numerous amount of issues, and — and — you know — and also in order to keep up on — on the government-funded — government-funded process that’s going on on the other side of Pennsylvania.

So, I’ll say this: His message in private is the same as it is in public — as it has been, as we have been saying as well — which is there’s no reason to — for a government shutdown.  It is important for Congress to keep their promise that they made to the American people and do their job.  That is it.  We’ve been very clear about that.

And, you know, I’ve said this, and he’ll continue to say this as well: When it comes to the government supplemental funding, lives are at stake.  These key, important government programs need to continue to be funded.

And so, we’re going to continue to say that.  Congress has a job to do.  They need to keep the government open.

I’m going to go around.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  I wanted to ask you about G20.  What is the President’s view about the achievement the G20 has done so far under India’s presidency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we commend the Prime Minister — Prime Minister Modi and his leadership of the G20 this year.  And we are committed to helping ensure that India has a successful G20 host — as — as they host it this year.  And so, that’s going to be — continue to be our commitment.

During — during Prime Minister Modi’s visit here in June, as you covered very closely, the President and Prime Minister shared their determination to deliver on shared priorities at the summit.  And so, the President is very much looking forward to continuing that work with the Prime Minister and other leaders later this week as we head out tomorrow.

Q    And when they meet on a bilateral meeting, I think on Friday, what will the main issues to be discussed during that time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m going to — we’re going to have more to share as we get closer.  Tomorrow, we’re going to do a gaggle on the plane on our way out — out to — on our way — headed to the G20.  And I’ll have someone from NSC join as well and — who will be able to lay out specifically some more — some more meat on the bones, if you will, on what the G- — G20 is going to look like, especially the first day.

And so, I’ll — I’ll let that — let that happen.  And you’ll hear directly from NSC on that piece.

But look, you know, we are — we’re — again, we’re committed for this to be a successful — a successful summit.  We’ll have more to share, certainly, on — on the bilateral with the Prime Minister.

Go ahead.

Q    Hi, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I haven’t seen you in a while.

Q    Good to see you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good to see you.

Q    House Republicans have just sent a letter to National Archives requesting unredacted records from the office of then-Vice President Biden.  Does the Whi- — does the White House support the transparency on these records?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m just going to let — I know the White House — my — my team at the White House Counsel’s Office has responded to this.  I’m just going to let them deal with that — that information.  I just don’t have more — more to share —

Q    Okay.  The — the letter —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — on that question.

Q    The letter sites email traffic between Kate Bedingfield and Eric Schwerin — who’s a longtime Hunter Biden business associate — in which Bedingfield signed off on quotes that should be used to respond to media inquiries about Hunter’s involvement in Burisma.  How do you respond to criticism that that shows there was no wall between then-Vice President Biden’s work and his family’s business dealings?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I understand the question.  I appreciate the question.  I get the question.  I’m just going to let the White House Counsel team answer that question.

Q    I have another question about fact-checking here at the White House.  The initial statement from the President about the passing of Governor Bill Richardson included condolences for his wife of 50 years, Barbara, and their daughter, Heather.  That line about Heather, the daughter, has been removed because they didn’t have a daughter named Heather — or a daughter.  So can you walk us through how these press releases are factchecked; who signs off on them in the end; and then, in this case, how this error was made?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we apologize for the error.  Certainly, that is not something that, you know, we want to do, right?  We want to make sure that we get this information out clearly and in a straightforward way to the American people.  So, that was not done intentionally. 

And certainly, when we realized that error, it was removed from the website.

We do have fact checkers here.  We do have multiple people who take a look at — at the press releases, especially from the President.  This was just a miss, unfortunately.  And we apologize for that miss.

And so, again, as soon as we realized it, we removed it from the website. 

It is — you know, we do — I just want to reiterate our condolences to the family.  And I think the President actually spoke — he was shouted a question over the weekend about — I believe on Saturday — about Bill Richardson.  And he spoke to — he — he responded to that.  And I know Bill Richardson was a friend to the President.

And so, again, our — we apologize for — for that error.  And certainly, that is not something that we want to see happen.  And it is not — it is not a common occurrence — right? — that happens from this White House.

Q    Has the source of the error been identified and dealt with to prevent it from happening again?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, we will do our best.  What I can say from here — and committed to saying from here is that we will do our best to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.

Again, it was an error.  We apologized.  I apologized just now.  And we certainly removed that, as you just stated, the moment that we realized that that error was made.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, thanks, Karine.  You mentioned the President’s supplemental request earlier and lives being at stake.  Senator Rubi- — Rubio, whose state is recovering from Hurricane Idalia, says the $16 billion in dis- — in additional disaster relief should be decoupled from the additional funding sought for Ukraine.  Of course, that’s the part of the request that seems to be opposed by many Republicans.

Is it the administrati- — is the administration willing to separate these requests and seek the FEMA disaster aid independently to ensure it gets to the hurricane victims and Hawaii wildfire victims as quickly as possible?  Or do you see that these things have to be grouped together for the request?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’ve been asked this question multiple times over the last — I don’t know — 10 days about — your specific question about this — about the supplemental funding for Ukraine and also what has been requested by FEMA, which is the $16 billion.

Look, we see them both as incredibly important.  I just laid out at the top what we saw happen in Ukraine: 16 civilians died. 

We — we are going to see the President go to the G20, talking about our commitment for Ukraine and making sure that the people of Ukraine — who are bravely fighting for their sovereignty, for their democracy — has what they need to fight against Russia’s aggression.

We have been very clear about that.  We believe that has been done in a bipartisan way, and we have said we appreciate the bipartisanship that has come out — out of — out of Congress in getting this done.

It is important.  It is important to help a country continue to fight for their democracy. 

And so, we believe, as the United States — this President believes, as a — as a leader, that this is part of our — part of our job — right? — part of our duty to make sure that Ukraine continues to fight, again, for their sovereignty, for their democracy.

And look, $16 billion to make sure — we’ve seen, you all have covered what’s been happening the last two years under this administration, specifically, on what we’ve seen with extreme weather, extreme temperatures, and what that’s doing to communities.

We were in a rural community on Saturday.  The President was there.  You all saw what — what — what happened to these communities.  There should — it should be done.  It should be — that $16 billion should be moved forward for communities across the country.

We’re not going to get into hypotheticals from here about decoupling anything at this time. 

What we believe are these are vital, important government programs that need to be funded, that Congress should act on, that has been done in a bipartisan way.  And so, that’s what we’re going to continue to stick to.

Q    But if it could more quickly get that FEMA funding to them —


Q    — why not do that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear — I hear your question.  I just laid out why each are incredibly important to move forward with.  And so, our goal here is to get that done.  We’re having those conversations here at the White House with folks on the other side of Pennsylvania, as I just mentioned, to get this done.

These are vital programs.  These are vital, important government programs that need to be done.  And so, that is the message that we are going to be very clear about.  As I said, the President says that privately and also publicly.

Go ahead.

Q    On the UAW, as the deadline gets closer, does the stance or the position of the administration change?  I know in previous labor disputes, for instance, you know, you’ve invited the negotiators here and tried to hammer out a deal as that deadline approached.  Is that something that rises to this level with — with the UAW and the automakers?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, we’ve — have had conversations — I had mentioned Gene Sperling being the lead on having and — being part of conversations for us at the White House, which is, I think, incredibly important.

We’ve seen what Julie Su has been able to do — the West port — the West Coast ports, as you’ll see in less than an hour, from — hearing from the President.

Look, we believe in collective bargaining.  I don’t have anything else to sha- — to share.  Don’t want to get into hypotheticals from here. 

We believe that, you know, if both sides come in good faith, that, you know, we’re going to continue to be optimistic here.  We’re going to continue to be optimistic on moving forward.

So, just going to leave it there.  I’m going to let the unions and, certainly, folks who are at the table continue to have the conversations.  But I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals from here.

Q    I guess what I’m trying to ask — and apologies for not doing it better the first time — (laughs) — is that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.)

Q    — you know, with the ports and with the freight rail — those were seen as very important to keep the economy moving forward — the supply chain.  Is that how this is viewed with the automakers?  Is this — if there were a strike, does the administration view it in the same kind of harm that they saw the other two situations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’re going to — I want to be careful.  Don’t want to get into hypotheticals about what could or could not happen. 

What we are saying is that we know collective bargaining works.

I mentioned the West Coast ports, the Teamsters and the UPS, which we just saw a month or two ago.  And that’s important.

The President is going to continue to encourage parties to negotiate in good faith towards an agreement that prevents any kind of shutdown, and that’s what we have done — that’s what we’ll continue to do — many times before this. 

And so, we’re going to continue to monitor the negotiations.  I just don’t have anything beyond that, besides being very clear in how — and what the President believes and wanting to make — make sure that folks negotiate in good faith.

Go ahead, Karen. 

Q    Thanks.  Is the First Lady the only member of the Biden family that’s tested positive for COVID since this weekend? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would — I would refer you to the First Lady’s office.  I don’t have anything further besides, like — you know, if there were close contacts on that side, I just don’t have anything else to share besides the First Lady. 

Q    And to go back to the medal ceremony from yesterday.  You said, today, to my colleague, that “the President, in every way that we could, followed the CDC guidelines.”  And you made a point to say that beforehand, when he was meeting with Captain Taylor, he was masked so he could have that time with him.  Then why not wear a mask when he was putting the medal around his neck and he was so close to him like that?  Was that an oversight by the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can —

Q    Was he supposed to there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can tell you is that the President took off his mask to deliver incredibly powerful remarks about the captain. 

That was done, certainly, on — I think, on purpose — right? — wanting to give him that Medal of Honor.  And it’s important.  He — it was important to him to speak to — to speak to the heroics of — of the captain, and that’s what you saw. 

And afterwards, obviously, he still — he didn’t have his mask on.  But afterwards, as we planned — as it was planned, we made sure that when the program was paused, that he was able to leave right after.  We wanted to make sure there was a short amount of time that the President was there.  And so, that’s what you saw. 

And, look, their — the CDC guidelines, as you know, is — is masking; is testing; and is, certainly, having close con- — monitoring — monitoring any symptoms.  The President doesn’t have any symptoms.  He tested negative a couple hours before the event.  He tested negative today.

I think what’s really important is that the President — to put this all into context — that the President doesn’t have any symptoms, and he’s been testing negative.

Q    And you’ve emphas- — emphasized the pause and that he got out of the room to minimize that.  But yesterday, you had said that he would remove his mask when “sufficiently distanced from others indoors.”  That was not very sufficiently distanced when he was next to Taylor yesterday. 

So, going forward, if he is that close to people, over the next couple of days — as he goes to these meetings at the G20 — should we expect to see him masked if he is engaging with world leaders like that?  

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the President is going to masking in the next — in this 10-day period.  He is going to be masking.  He’s going to be making sure that he is getting tested regularly, in consultation with — certainly, in consultation with his physician.  And — and so, we will keep those CDC guidelines.

Again, he wanted to make sure he had those really important remarks to share about the heroics and what the captain — Captain Taylor did on behalf of his country.  So, yes, he took off his mask. 

And then — but what we made sure to happen is that there was a brief pause — when there was a pause in the program, the President left, so to minimize his — his impact or his — in his impact towards the attendees who were there.  And so, that was done on purpose.  That was done very purposefully so that, again, he wasn’t — he wasn’t there for too long.

Again, before — and the reason why I mentioned the before piece: Because the President saw this to be so important that he did take some time with the captain and his family — and everyone was masked — and wanted to make sure that he did his part as well and was protecting — being protective of — of — of the family and the captain.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  We’ve asked a lot about the President’s use of a mask and CDC guidance.  But I want to ask about CDC guidance specifically, because there is — you know, going into the fall, kids going back to school, CDC still recommends universal indoor masking for kids in school, students, staff.  And that seems out of step with some of the studies around the usefulness of masks for kids. 

There was a piece in the Atlantic, and I’ll just read you a quote from it.  It says, “We reviewed a variety of studies — some conducted by the CDC itself, some cited by the CDC as evidence of masking effectiveness in a school setting — to try to find evidence that would justify the CDC’s no-end-in-sight mask guidance for the very-low-risk pediatric population, particularly post-vaccination.  We came up empty-handed.”

So, especially with the President going to Congress to ask for more money for a new vaccine and more money for the CDC, should we keep funding these studies if the CDC is not making guidance that follows the results of those studies? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s what I’ll say: We did something that the last administration was incapable of doing, which is putting forth a strategy to really, truly deal with COVID-19 and this pandemic.  They were incapable of doing that. 

We put forth a comprehensive plan, and we are now in a different place than we were two years ago, a year ago.  We are in a much better place to fight COVID-19.  And we have the tools, and that includes masking, that includes vaccinations. 

And as you know, CDC and FDA said they’re going to have vaccine by mid-September.  And we’re going to make sure and con- — continue to do what we have done the past couple of years — is inform folks — let them know that these new vaccines are here, that they have to make sure to take the — and their flu vaccine and also the RSV. 

All of these things are incredibly important because we know what works.  We do.  I mean, we know what works.  We are in a different place than we were two, three years ago.

Q    Do — do we know what works though? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But let me —

Q    I mean, the CDC does not —


Q    — seem to be responding to the data.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll say this — and you’re talking about schools?

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  CDC — they’re the experts.  They’re — they use science to come to — to come forward with their guidelines.  And it is important that we allow them to do their work. 

And we believe that we are in a different place.  And all you got to do is look around.  Look around to where we are today and where we were when we first started in this administration.  And that’s because we put forward an — an — a comprehensive plan with tools to make sure that we dealt with the pandemic, that we dealt with COVID in a real way. 

Let’s not forget where we were when the President started off: Thousands of people were dying a day.  A day.  A day.

And so, that is — that is, like, the reality.  So, clearly, something that we have done, from the moment that we stepped into this administration to now, has worked.  And that’s because we followed the guidance of the CDC.  We let FDA do their work.  That’s the scientists.  That’s the experts.  And that’s why we are in a much better place than we are today. 

I know you’re asking me about data, but all you got to do is look at where we are as a country.

Q    I — I know, and I — I am looking around.  And, you know, 16 states don’t have any mask mandates — or, sorry, 16 states follow CDC guidance closely for schools.  Nine states have banned school mask mandates.  There’s a patchwork, basically, of — of —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, but here’s the thing —

Q    — protocols.  And — and so, when the CDC is saying one thing and people are obviously —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  These are —

Q    — in a better place —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s the thing, these are guidelines by CDC.  These are not mandates —

Q    Should they be revised?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hold on.  These are not mandates.  These are guidelines by CDC — what they recommend, what they believe would work.

Is it up — is it up to the schools.  It is the decisions of the districts at — level — right? — to decide what they want to do with the guidelines that they’ve been provided by CDC.  That’s why we always say: Go to, where you’ll get information on how that works.

But I do want to say: CDC advice for individual and community actions — you know, they’re — they’re tied to hospital admissions level.  And want to be really clear: When you look at that, they are about 93 percent of the country.  And so, they — they have the best information for us. 

These are guidelines.  To be very, very clear: These are guidelines.  And it is up to local officials and local — local leaders to decide how they want to move forward.  That’s why what you just laid out — it’s different.  There’s a reason why it’s different: because they make the decision.

I’m going to keep going.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, we — oh, okay.  All right.  We’ve got to go.  We’ve got to go.  Sorry, guys.

Q    Catch you next time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Next time, my friend.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

1:59 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

Tue, 09/05/2023 - 19:28

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:21 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Tuesday. Good afternoon, everyone.

Q Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, before I turn things over to Jake, I have a couple of updates at the top, and then we’ll get this going.

So, this afternoon, President Biden will award the Medal of Honor, America’s oldest and highest recognition for valor, to Captain Larry L. Taylor, United States Army.

On June 18, 1968, then First Lieutenant Taylor led a helicopter team in Vietnam that rescued a four-man Army patrol unit which had been surrounded by nearly 100 enemy forces.

First Lieutenant Taylor and his wingmen braved intense groundfire for more than 30 minutes to provide aeri- — aerial fire support until they were nearly out of ammunition.

With the enemy still closing in on the patrol, First Lieutenant Taylor courageously decided to extract the team of American soldiers on the ground using his two-man Cobra helicopter, a feat that had never been accomplished or even attempted.

First Lieutenant Taylor landed his helicopter under heavy enemy fire and with complete disregard for his personal sta- — safety. He successfully rescued the patrol team and carried them to a safe location.

First Lieutenant Taylor’s conspicuous gallantry, his found — his profound concern for his fellow soldiers, and his actions, which went above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest tradition of military service.

In recognition of his service, he will be awarded the Medal of Honor here today at the White House this afternoon.

Now, as you all know, the President believes that education beyond high school should unlock doors to opportunity, not leave borrowers stranded with debt they cannot afford.

That’s why from day one, the Biden-Harris administration has been working to fix the broken student loan system, make college more affordable, and cancel loan debt for millions of borrowers.

In fact, to date, the Biden-Harris administration has canceled more than $117 billion in loan debt for 3.4 million borrowers.

And earlier today, the Biden-Harris administration announced that more than 4 million student loan borrowers are enrolled in the administration’s new income-driven repayment plan: the Saving on a Valuable Education — or SAVE — Plan. This includes those who were transitioned from the previous Revised Pay As You Earn — or REPAYE — Plan.

SAVE is the most affordable repayment plan ever and will save millions of borrowers money on their monthly payments.

Student borrowers can visit to sign up today. The application takes less than 10 minutes to fill out for most.

And finally, an update on the President and the First Lady since she tested positive for COVID-19 last night. I can tell you that the First Lady is experiencing mild symptoms and will remain in Delaware for the week.

President Biden tested negative last night for COVID-19 and tested negative again today. He’s not experiencing any symptoms.

As far as the steps that he is taking: Since the President was with the First Lady yesterday, he will be masking while indoors and around people in alignment with CDC guidance. And as — as has been the practice in the past, the President will remove his mask when sufficiently distanced from others indoors and while outside as well.

The CDC guidelines recommend a combination of masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms. The President is doing all of that in con- — in close consultation with his physician.

There are currently no updates to the White House COVID-19 protocols. We continue to work closely with public health and medical professionals to monitor the virus. We’re in our strongest position yet to fight COVID-19 and the viruses responsible for majority of fall and winter hospitalizations.

As we head into the fall, we have more tools and systems available today to help communities this fall and winter season, including safe, updated vaccines that will be available mid-September; widely available at-home COVID tests; widely available effective treatments, which can reduce the risk of severe illness hospitalizations and death.

We will be encouraging, as I have said before, Americans to get their updated COVID-19 vaccine in addition to their annual flu shot and also RSV vaccines, as you all know.

With that — thank you, Jake, for your patience — Jake is going to talk about the President’s travel to India and any other foreign policy questions that you may have.

The podium is yours.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Karine. And thanks to all of you for giving me the opportunity to be here today.

And Karine mentioned my patience. I’m going to test your patience for a moment because I’d like to take a few minutes at the top just to set the scene for the President’s upcoming trip to Delhi for the G20 and to Vietnam to elevate our partnership with Vietnam.

On Thursday, the President will travel to New Delhi, India, to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

On Friday, President Biden will participate in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi of the Republic of India.

And on Saturday and Sunday, the President will participate in the official sessions of the G20 Summit.

As the President heads to the G20, he is committed to working with emerging market partners to deliver big things together. That’s what we believe the world will see in New Delhi this weekend.

The United States’ commitment to the G20 hasn’t wavered, and we hope this G20 Summit will show that the world’s major economies can work together even in challenging times.

So, as we head into New Delhi, our focus is going to be on delivering for developing countries; making progress on key priorities for the American people, from climate to technology; and showing our commitment to the G20 as a forum that can actually, as I said before, deliver.

And thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and India’s presidency, we hope we’ll be able to do all of those things.

We’re also looking forward to warmly welcoming the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 — the newest permanent member. We believe that the African Union’s voice will make the G20 stronger.

Let me say a few more words, stepping back, about what the United States is bringing to the table as we head into this summit.

Here at home, President Biden has worked to rebuild the American economy, as you’ve all heard him say, from the bottom up and the middle out by making smart investments in the industries of the future while tackling climate change and empowering workers. And we believe that those investments are paying off.

We think countries around the world, too, can benefit from a similar type of approach and that we can help them as well by mobilizing investment to support them in tackling the challenges that they face.

And that’s one of our main focuses heading into the G20: delivering on an agenda of fundamentally reshaping and scaling up the multilateral development banks, especially the World Bank and the IMF.

We know that these institutions are some of the most effective tools that we have for mobilizing transparent, high-quality investment into developing countries. And that’s why the United States has championed the major effort that is currently underway to evolve these institutions so that they are up to the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Just last month, President Biden asked Congress for additional funds that would have the impact of increasing World Bank financing by more than $25 billion. And we’re working to make sure other partners follow our lead.

And at the G20, we have been leading an effort that we hope will see the G20 endorse this level of ambition and deliver a broader vision of multilateral development banks that are better, bigger, and more effective.

President Biden will also be calling on G20 members as leaders in the global economy to provide meaningful debt relief so that low- and middle-income countries can regain their footing after years of extreme stress.

He’ll be clear that the United States expects real progress on ongoing cases by the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Marrakech next month. And he will be clear that we need all G20 members to be constructive and at the table with no exceptions.

We’ll also be making progress on other key priorities from climate, to health, to digital technology, including commitments with respect to a more inclusive digital transformation and a responsible path and approach to AI development.

In addition, we’ll spotlight the progress that we’ve been making on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment — or what we call “PGI.” We’ll have some announcements that we’re excited about.

Now, we know that there will be continued focus on how the G20 deals with Russia’s illegal and ongoing war in Ukraine. The reality is that Russia’s illegal war has had devastating social and economic consequences, and the poorest countries on the planet are bearing the brunt of that.

As he has done before, President Biden will call for a just and durable peace, one founded in respect for international law, principles of the U.N. Charter, the precepts of territorial integrity and sovereignty. And he will continue to emphasize that the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes to redeem these principles.

Last but not least — and this is important — you’ll see the United States will make it clear that we remain committed to the G20 as a critical forum for all of the major economies of the world to come together for global problem-solving.

At a moment when the international economy is suffering from historic and overlapping shocks, it’s more important than ever that we have a workin- — working forum with the world’s largest economies to deliver meaningful outcomes.

So, in a sign of that commitment, the United States is looking forward to hosting the G20 in 2026.

Now, turning briefly to Vietnam. On September 10th, the President will travel to Vietnam to meet with the General Secretary and Vietnam’s top leadership.

Building on President Biden’s string of diplomatic successes in the Indo-Pacific just this year, this visit is a remarkable step in the strengthening of our diplomatic ties, and it reflects the leading role that Vietnam will play in our growing network of partnerships in the Indo-Pacific as we look to the future.

For decades, the U.S. and Vietnam have worked to overcome a painful shared legacy of the Vietnam War, working hand in hand to promote reconciliation, with our service members and veterans lighting the way — work that is dear to the President’s heart, particularly in light of his close friendship with Senator John McCain.

As we survey common challenges on everything from the South China Sea to critical and emerging technologies, the United States and Vietnam will chart out a vision for facing the 21st century together with an elevated and energized partnership.

And finally, Vice President Harris will be traveling — is traveling, literally, as we speak — to Jakarta, Indonesia, to attend the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit and to engage with leaders from across the Indo-Pacific from September 5th to September 7th.

Her upcoming visit will be her fourth visit to the Indo-Pacific in two years and her third visit to Southeast Asia. Vice President Harris has met with more than three dozen presidents and prime ministers from the Indo-Pacific.

And throughout her work, she has focused on strengthening alliances and partnerships, driving economic growth in the United States, and upholding international rules and norms.

At both summits, the Vice President will underscore the United States’ enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific generally and to ASEAN centrality specifically. And we look forward to having her be able to report back to the President on those trips as the President embarks on his own trip to India and Vietnam.

I told you that I was going to test your patience a bit. I think I made good on my promise. So, with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.


Q Given what we know about how COVID works — I understand the President is negative now, but are you planning for any contingencies in case he does test positive in the coming days or during the trip? Could he attend any of these meetings virtually? Are you thinking ahead to that?

MR. SULLIVAN: I’ll let Karine speak to COVID planning here at the White House. It’s beyond my ken.

But, of course, we have long experience now, from the early days of the administration, in managing for situations in which COVID plays a role in summits. And, you know, we’ve seen various leaders at various times participate virtually in events.

But in terms of specific contingency planning here from the White House, Karine can speak to that.

Q And just one more. On Sunday, the President said he was disappointed that President Xi was not going to be attending the G20. But then he said, “I’m going to get to see him.” What did he mean by that? Has something been scheduled here?

MR. SULLIVAN: Nothing has been scheduled. But the President has said before that he’s looking forward to picking up the conversation that he had with President Xi in Bali last year, and he fully intends to do that in the months ahead.


Q Jake, thanks so much. Can you — just following up on that point — give us a sense of the timing? Do you think that that conversation might take place in the coming weeks, in the coming months?

MR. SULLIVAN: I can’t give you a sense of timing today.

Q Okay. On North Korea, very quickly. There are obviously reports that Kim Jong Un could be poised to visit Russia. This comes as the White House has recently said arms negotiations between North Korea and Russia were, quote, “actively advancing.” What is the latest assessment of the state of play between those two countries?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, “actively advancing” captures it well. Our current analysis is that discussions between North Korea and Russia, with respect to North Korea providing military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine — that those discussions are actively advancing.

Most recently, we saw the defense minister of Rus- — Russia, Sergei Shoigu, make a trip to Pyongyang, in essence to ask for weapons.

And we also have information, as we have indicated publicly, that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has some expectation that those discussions will continue as we go forward — including leader-level discussions, perhaps even in-person leader-level discussions.

Now, I can’t get into all the details of what we know. But at the broad parameters, that is what we are seeing: ongoing discussions and discussions where we have information that the leadership of North Korea sees this as potentially leading to leader-level engagement.

And I would just add that we have been discussing publicly the possibility of North Korea supplying weapons to Russia for quite some time. And the reason why that there — there is such an intense effort on the part of Moscow to generate this kind of support from North Korea is that we have continued to squeeze North K- — Russia’s defense industrial base, and they are now going about looking to whatever source they can find for things like artillery ammunition.

That’s what we see going on now. And we will continue to call it out.

And we will continue to call on North Korea to abide by its public commitments not to supply weapons to Russia that will end up killing Ukrainians.

Q And any indication they’re listening to those very public warnings that you’ve been issuing?

MR. SULLIVAN: Over time, we have not seen them actively supply large amounts of munitions or other military capacity to Russia for the war in Ukraine. I cannot predict to you what will happen at the end of this.

I can only say that the discussions have been actively advancing and the Russians have imbued them with an increased intensity, as reflected in the fact that their defense minister — their number-one guy in their defense establishment — actually got on a plane and flew to Pyongyang to try to push this forward.


Q Jake, just — I wanted to talk to you about G20 for a second. But — but just to follow up on North Korea, could we get a little bit more analysis of how you think this is benefiting the North Koreans or what they want out of this?

Do you think that part of this has to do with them getting less than they — they want from their traditional patron in Beijing? Do you think that the U.S. has any leverage, in terms of what it can do here — in terms of either providing food aid to the North Koreans or ratcheting up sanctions?

Where’s the — the room for movement there?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I can’t speculate on North Korea’s motives.

What I can say is this: Providing weapons to Russia for use on the battlefield to attack grain silos and the heating infrastructure of major cities as we head into winter to try to conquer territory that belongs to another sovereign nation — this is not going to reflect well on North Korea, and they will pay a price for this in the international community.

We have also imposed sanctions — specific, targeted sanctions to try to disrupt any effort to use North Korea as a conduit or as a source for weapons going to Russia. We did so as recently as mid-August. And we have continued to convey privately as well as publicly to the North Koreans — and asked allies and partners to do the same — our view that they should abide by their publicly stated commitments that they’re not going to provide these weapons.

What has changed in their calculus is not something that I can speak to. That’s in the mind of Kim Jong Un. And he obviously will be the ultimate decisionmaker.

But we will continue to look for opportunities to dissuade the North Koreans from taking this step, to get others to do the same, and to report to the world what we are seeing in terms of the actively advancing discussions that are taking place between these two countries.

Q And then, on G20, just cognizant of the fact that the State Department has blistering human rights reports out on both of the countries that Biden is going to — India and Vietnam — including passages about their restrictions on freedom of expression for the media, threats of violence, arrests, this sort of thing — is that something that the U.S. journalists who are traveling with Biden should expect? And are you taking any actions to ensure their safety ahead of that trip?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, the ability of the American press traveling with President Biden to be able to go to the G20 and cover the G20 in an unencumbered way is something that has been a serious priority for this White House, for me personally, as recently as just this morning. And we are putting our money where our mouth is in terms of making sure that American press will have all of the access that they need and are entitled to as members of the international press, as members of the White House press.

Secondly, President Biden himself has spoken to questions related to democracy and human rights as recently as the state visit earlier this year. The United States, our position on these issues is clear. It is reflected in the statements of our president. It is, of course, reflected in the reports that you’re referring to.

And when it comes to the trip to Vietnam, we believe that we have a powerful opportunity to advance our partnership in a way that will deliver for the American people and will deliver broader security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. But we also always raise issues related to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and other basic human rights that are at the core of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This trip will be no exception to that.


Q Thanks, Jake. What does it say about the state of Russian supply lines that they’re asking, of all people, the North Koreans for help? And is North Korea able to provide artillery and things you were talking about at a volume that can have any kind of meaningful impact on the conflict?

MR. SULLIVAN: We have asked our intelligence community that second question. It is a good question. Our visibility into both the question of quantity of stocks and then, of course, quality of stocks is somewhat constrained. But it’s something that we will continue to look at carefully.

I think there is an open question about how much materiel and what the quality of the materiel is that could be provided if it were to be provided.

And then I think it says a lot that Russia is having to turn to a country like North Korea to seek to bolster its defense capacity in a war that had expended — expected would be over in a week; that in September of 2023, it is going to North Korea to get munitions to try to continue to grind out on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Q And if I could —


Q — real quick, on the G20. My colleague asked the China question. But is the President scheduled to meet with Mohammed bin Salman or Erdoğan or any of these other leaders that we might be interested in while he’s there?

MR. SULLIVAN: (Laughs.) I don’t know who — I laugh because I don’t know who fits on the list of who you might be interested in.

Q We’re interested in everyone, but those are the two. (Laughter.)

MR. SULLIVAN: It’s like there are two categories: the ones you’re not interested in and the ones you are interested in.

Q We’re interested in all of them. I’m the State Department nerd. I’m interested in all of them.


Q However, those two specifically.

MR. SULLIVAN: All right. We don’t have bilaterals scheduled with either of those two leaders at this time. I’m not going to speak to how the schedule will shape up over the course of the coming days.

And as you know, there is a certain dynamic element to this, which is all of these leaders in a very confined space with time on the margins. So, some of the bilateral engagements, as you saw last year in Indonesia, will likely be announced at the last minute. And we will do our darndest to make sure that they are done in a way where the U.S. press has the ability to participate in them.


Q Thank you. The Bali Communiqué said that most members of the G20 condemned the war in Ukraine. What progress has been made in the last 10 months to get India and China on board with that position?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, India signed on to the statement — most members. It was, as I recall, Russia who was the main objector to the proposition that so many of the other members of the G20 signed on to.

I don’t expect that Russia is going to flip its position on the Ukraine war this year.

So, to get absolute consensus on a statement on Ukraine is challenging because you’ve got Russia seated at the table, albeit not at the leader level because Putin isn’t going to be there.

But the fact that most members of the G20 — as most members of the U.N. General Assembly — continue to hold the position that Russia’s war was illegal, in violation of the U.N. Charter, and that this war must end on terms consistent with the U.N. Charter — that is the result of months of hard diplomacy by the United States and our partners, and it continues to reflect where international sentiment is on this issue.

Q And what assurances has the administration received from Congress that the U.S. will be able to continue funding Ukraine’s defenses going forward?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we are working closely with the Congress, as you know, right now, on a supplemental funding package that the President has submitted seeking funding through the end of the year.

We’ve been working with both the Senate and the House. We’ve had constructive conversations on a bipartisan basis in both chambers. We believe we will be able to secure the necessary funding as we go forward.

I’m not going to speak to assurances per se, but the conversations have been constructive, they’ve been positive, they’ve been substantive. And — and we anticipate being able to work our way through to a sound package so that Ukraine can get what it needs.


Q Thanks, Jake. On World Bank reforms. On the one hand, you’ve talked about it not being about a specific country, that it’s not about China. On another hand, though, you have said that you need an alternative to the, quote, “coercive and unsustainable lending through the Belt and Road Initiative.”

So, I — I mean, how can it be about China and not be about China at the same time?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we believe that there should be high-standard, noncoercive lending options available to low- and middle-income countries. That’s a fact.

It’s also a fact that World Bank reform is not about China, in no small part because China is a shareholder in the World Bank. So, growing the size, relevance, capacity of the World Bank to deliver for low- and middle-income countries is not against China. It’s for the entire international community, all of the shareholders of the World Bank — China being one of them.

And we believe that just as the United States would benefit from a more stable, more capable set of low- and middle-income countries being able to deal with their own problems with help from the World Bank and the IMF, China would benefit from that too.

Q But there is — there is at least a part of it that is focused on China — on those coercive practices, on those reforms?

MR. SULLIVAN: This is an affirmative agenda. It is an agenda about providing high standards — transparent, sustainable, resilient funding streams to countries that cut through the red tape and give not just the poorest countries in the world, but middle-income countries who are dealing with the stresses of climate and COVID and migration and — and the war in Ukraine access to capital that they can actually take advantage of and put to work.

That’s not against anybody. That is not a negative agenda. That is an affirmative agenda, a positive agenda, and one that’s been embraced not just by the United States, not just by our closest allies, but by a very wide range and diverse set of countries. And we believe it will be embraced by the G20 as a whole when we go to New Delhi.

Q And if I may, just finally, you mentioned China being the third-largest shareholder. How does it impact that Xi Jinping won’t be at the table when you’re asking for various reforms? Does it — does it change the pitch at all or how does — how does that — how does that change with them not being there?

MR. SULLIVAN: It won’t change our pitch. And — and, you know, our pitch has been consistent working into the summit. President Biden will reinforce it. China will have representatives at the table, al- — albeit not represented at the leader level. But the United States is going to put forward the same straightforward, in our view, clear-cut case for why this is so important.

And more importantly, we’ll also put on the table the fact that we are asking the Congress for financing to be able to make sure that the United States is not just talking the talk, but we’re actually walking the walk.


Q Thank you, Jake. Two on the Saudi announcement today, and then one on China. On the Saudi announcement to extend the supply of oil curbs, can you talk to us about what that means to you geopolitically, how serious it is for the global oil market? We saw crude go above $90 a barrel today.

And then separately, does that up the ante for meeting with the Saudis at fora like the G20 where you want to do big things with (inaudible) as you mentioned?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the first question, I’ll leave it to others to speak to the specific oil market impacts. I would point out that what was announced today was a continuation of an existing policy, not a new set of cuts — just a continuation of those cuts for three months as opposed to for one month.

So, as far as I’m concerned, the most important thing that the President is focused on is just trying to do everything within his toolkit to be able to get lower prices for consumers at the gas pump in the United States. It’s really the price of a gallon of gas for the American consumer, not the — the question of which country is doing what, here or there, that is going to be his ultimate metric for whether we’re succeeding or not.

Secondly, as I said before, we don’t currently have bilateral meetings scheduled at the G20 to announce with any leaders. I don’t think that the announcement today is going to move us one way or another in terms of engaging with leaders at the G20.

So, you know, we’ll make our decisions on that — on the basis of a far broader set of considerations than — than any one policy.

Q Does that change the calculation at all though for communications in the future with the Saudis? I mean, does it make it more pressing to engage with them on this issue?

MR. SULLIVAN: We have, obviously, regular engagement with the Saudis at multiple levels — with their energy minister, with their leadership — and that will continue. And we will make sure that they understand where we stand, and we will come to understand where they stand as well.

And the thing that we ultimately stand for is a stable, effective supply of energy to the global markets so that we can in fact deliver relief to consumers at the pump and also that we do this in a way that is consistent with the energy transition over time.

Q Just one quick one on China —

Q In the back, Jake?

Q — as my Bloomberg colleagues reported that Huawei has reached a breakthrough with its new smartphone and shows it’s using the most advanced chips produced by Chinese chipmaker SMIC. I’m wondering how concerned you are about this development. And does it prove that the U.S. export controls are failing or that they’re violating those export controls?

MR. SULLIVAN: I’m going to withhold comment on the particular chip in question until we get more information about precisely its character and composition.

And for my — from my perspective though, what it tells us, regardless, is that the United States should continue on its course of a “small yard, high fence” set of technology restrictions focused narrowly on national security concerns, not on the broader question of commercial decoupling. That is where our emphasis has been. That’s where it’s going to continue, sort of, regardless of the outcome.

But in terms of characterizing the chip in question, that’s something that we need to gain more information from before we make any definitive comments on it.


Q Jake, thank you. Do you see division between India and China affecting cooperation, especially with the climate issue in the summit, and ultimately affecting the — perhaps the results that could be achieved from the summit?

And second, if you allow me: Today, Secretary Blinken spoke to both the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President. Should we read into this as more than just a routine call and maybe a series of steps towards normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia? And will the President meet with the Crown Prince at this summit? Thank you.

MR. SULLIVAN: I think I’ve answered your last question.

With respect to Secretary Blinken’s calls, I wouldn’t describe them as “run of the mill” or “routine.” He speaks with these leaders occasionally, but not every month. But it also does not portend any imminent breakthrough or action with respect to the question of normalization.

It’s an important moment for a check-in at a high level, and Secretary Blinken is well poised to do that, given his relationships with both men and the central role that he is playing in efforts to explore whether in fact a broader normalization is possible.

But beyond that, I won’t characterize the call.

As far as the question of tensions between India and China affecting the summit: Really, that’s up to China. If China wants to come in and play the role of spoiler, of course, that option is available to them.

What I think that the chair, India, will encourage them to do, what we — the United States — and every other member — virtually every other member in the G20 will do is encourage them to come in in a constructive way on climate, on multilateral development bank reform, on debt relief, on technology, and set aside the geopolitical questions and really focus on problem-solving and delivering for the developing countries.


Q Thank you. Thank you, Jake. I have two questions. Recently, North Korea and Kim Jong Un said that it had tested tactical nuclear weapons by launching missiles. How is the U.S. analyzing this?

Second question is: Defense Minister — I mean Russia Defense Minister Shoigu said that the North Korea-Russia maritime joint military exercises are possible. How are you concerned about this?

MR. SULLIVAN: We’re staying in close consultation with both South Korea and Japan on the question of North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile capabilities. I don’t have a specific comment on their most recent characterization. They’re prone to making a lot of statements of a lot of different flavors.

We’re just studying each of their individual tests and making determinations about their capabilities accordingly. And then we’re responding to that through increasingly tight and interconnected trilateral cooperation, as most recently evidenced in the President’s summit with President Yoon and Prime Minister Kishida at Camp David.

And then, with respect to the comments by — by Shoigu on the — the military exercises: As far as I’m concerned, Russia looking to do more military exercises with North Korea, that’s their business if they should choose to do so.

I think if you look at the broader pattern of activity across the Indo-Pacific — the security cooperation; the exercises; the work together on trying to ensure a secure, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific — what the United States has done with a broad network of allies and partners, I believe, has enhanced the stability and security of that region.

And the year 2023 has been a year of substantial progress in that regard, delivered by President Biden — from our relationship with India to Southeast Asia, to Australia, to the Pacific Islands, and then, of course, to Korea and Japan.

So we’re quite hopeful about the progress we have made in enhancing our own deterrent capability, our own security and prosperity. And we’ll let other countries and the relationships they’re developing speak for themselves.


Q Thanks. Brett McGurk is in Riyadh, and so are Palestinian negotiators. Can you update us at all on Saudi-Israel-U.S. diplomacy talks? And then I have a quick follow-up.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, Brett’s trip this time is focused on a set of broader regional issues. One of the main things that has brought him there, along with Barbara Leif, the Assistant Secretary of State of Near East Affairs, and Tim Lenderking, our Special Envoy for Yemen, is to talk about the war in Yemen.

We are entering either our 17th or 18 month — 18th month of a truce — the longest period of peace in Yemen in years — which has been delivered in part through painstaking U.S. diplomacy. We not only want to keep that going, we want to deepen it and get to a permanent peace in Yemen. And that’s one of the main reasons that Brett is there.

He’ll also be meeting with the Crown Prince of Bahrain in advance of his trip here next week.

And then, of course, he will speak to the Palestinians about the whole range of issues relative to the Israeli-Palestinian file.

Normalization will be one of the topics on the agenda, but it’s not the main thrust of this trip. And like I said before, with respect to the phone call Secretary Blinken made today, we don’t expect any imminent announcements or breakthroughs in the period ahead.

Q Does the admin- — just want to follow up — does the administration support Palestinians’ public demand, though, that they’ll accept nothing less than statehood?

MR. SULLIVAN: I’m not going to negotiate from the podium on the question of normalization, how the various pieces fit together.


Q Jake, it seems like every administration, when it gets into office, complains about the problems it inherits from the previous administration. But how do you defend this administration’s role with issues like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran? It seems like, in all of those cases, our relationship is worse than it was before?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, Russia decided to launch a massive land war in Ukraine. The United States has mobilized not just the West but a coalition of dozens of countries. And more than 140 countries have voted for a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning what Russia did.

If you look at the U.S. leadership in that regard, we have stopped Russia from being able to take over a sovereign state. We have ensured that Ukraine will continue as a viable, free, sovereign democracy out into the future, you know, in the support we have given to the brave and courageous Ukrainians out there on the frontlines.

I think the story of how the U.S. has stood up to Russia and galvanized the world to do so is a significant achievement of President Biden and one that we expect to continue.

With respect to China, I’m not sure I’d agree with your characterization of the previous administration. But I’m not interested in comparisons. We’re taking our own approach on this, which is to ensure that we compete intensively to put the United States in the strongest position possible while, at the same time, managing that competition so that it doesn’t tip over into conflict. We believe we are managing the competition effectively.

And from the question of what we inherited to where we are today, if you look at the U.S. economy and you look at China’s economy, if you look at the U.S.’s alliances and the strength that we have built up in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, we feel very good about the strategic position of the United States, in terms of the — the unfolding competition.

With respect to Iran, I would just point out that, under the administration before the previous guy, Iran’s nuclear program was in a box. The last guy let it out of the box. We are now trying to manage the results of that decision. And we are doing so while deterring Iran from going for a nuclear weapon. And we have thus far been able to do that. It’s something we remain vigilant about every day.

And finally, with respect to North Korea, the previous administration believed that if it simply engaged in summit-level diplomacy, it could end North Korea’s missile and nuclear program.

By the time we took office, North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs had accelerated dramatically. The most important breakthrough we had seen from them — the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile — that didn’t happen on Joe Biden’s watch; that happened before he came to office.

So, we are dealing with the inheritance not just of the last administration but multiple administrations on North Korea. And we are doing so in a way where we have drawn more closely together the U.S., Japan, and Korea in a historic summit that has strengthened our capacity to deter and defend the interests of the United States and our allies and partners going forward.

So, if you look at the overall position of the United States as it relates to those four countries, as it relates to our broader alliances and partnerships, and as it relates to the underlying sources of national strength — our manufacturing, our infrastructure, our technology — all of this, we believe, we will leave better than we found it by the time President Biden exits this office.


Q Thanks, Jake. I wanted to return to the Ukraine supplemental. And you said that you believe that you’ll be able to secure the necessary funding.

I was hoping you could talk a little bit about why you believe that and whether it’s getting harder to — to get those supplementals through Congress, and also why the administration doesn’t do more to sell the American public on the need for those requests.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, you know, on the first question, our view is that the strong bipartisan support for Ukraine in the Congress — in both the House and the Senate — has been on evidence, has been on display, not just in the past votes for Ukraine funding but in the current public statements of critical members of both parties in really important positions in the Senate, as well as key chairs of committees in the House.

And so, we believe that there is still — while there are some dissonant voices — a strong core, on a bipartisan basis, of support for ensuring that we continue to provide Ukraine with the support that it needs because it’s fundamentally in America’s national interest to do so.

And with the question of — quote, unquote — “selling it,” the President has made clear repeatedly since this conflict began what the stakes are for the American people: that letting Russia run roughshod over Ukraine would put Europe at risk.

And we know what happens when a marauding, aggressive, hostile power places the continent of Europe at military risk. It comes at much greater cost, not just in American treasure but in American lives later. And so, let’s make the investments now to ensure we uphold the fundamental rules of the international order.

The President has made that case repeatedly. We believe, if you actually look at where public attitudes are, that they have been surprisingly resilient, despite the constant assertion that they’re — the bottom is going to fall out from underneath them.

And similarly, we believe support will hold up in the Congress for us to be able to continue to provide Ukraine with the support that it needs.

But we don’t take that for granted. That’s something we need to go work at every day — consult with members, ensure we’re answering their questions, ensure accountability for every dollar that’s spent, ensure that our allies and partners are stepping up and doing the burden-sharing so that they’re carrying their fair share of the load. We’re doing all of those things, too.

And I think in a dynamic discussion with the Congress, we believe that we can secure a good funding package when all is said and done.

Q And you feel like support is still steady, rather than eroding, in terms of monetary support for Ukraine?

MR SULLIVAN: What I will say is: We believe that there is still a strong base of bipartisan support in the Congress to pass a material package that Ukraine needs to be able to not just sustain its gains on the battlefield but also to ensure that those gains can be consolidated and not rolled back as we go forward.


Q Thanks, Jake. A member of your team said in recent days that the administration is actively negotiating with the Maduro regime in Venezuela about exchanging sanctions relief for concrete steps toward democratic elections. Do you believe that Maduro has any actual interest in democratic elections?

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I’m not going to speak to promises, pledges, hopes for the future. The administration’s position has been clear and consistent for a long time: We’re prepared to engage in discussions about specific sanctions relief in return for concrete steps that lead us towards a free and fair election.

So, our measurement is not about promises. It’s not about what we get on the come; it is about getting clear, concrete benchmarks and steps along the way.

And I’m not going to characterize any current diplomatic discussions in that regard, just to state that that is our North Star. We’re going to judge by actions, not by words. And that’s how we approach our sanctions relief policy — not just with respect to Venezuela, but other countries as well.


Q And just on Haiti, quickly. With the — with the General Assembly coming up at the U.N., what kind of priori- — priority of it — is it — pardon me — for the administration to pass a resolution through the Security Council that would operationalize a multilateral force in Haiti?

And what kind of force do you want to see? Do you want it to have the ability to actually go out front, into the streets of Haiti and actually secure, you know, key — key ports and bridges, et cetera?

MR. SULLIVAN: What we’re looking to do is to support a multinational force that is fundamentally a policing support mission, not a military mission, and one that is in support of the Haitian National Police, not taking over the sovereign policing capacities from the Haitian National Police.

In terms of the precise operational elements of that — how they will operate physically in Port-au-Prince and other parts of Haiti — I’m going to defer that question, because the experts are engaging to work out what an operational plan would look like.

In terms of New York, it is certainly our priority to get the necessary backing that we feel we need to build for a multinational force and to get the resources necessary. And we’ve said that we’re willing to put forward a substantial investment to do that, and we’re asking other countries to do the same.

Last question. Yeah.

Q Given that you said bolstering the World Bank is not about countering China — in this country, credit card delinquencies have spiked, mortgage rates are through the roof, inflation remains a problem. Meanwhile, the federal deficit this year has almost tripled, and the President wants to increase funding to foreign nations through the World Bank. How is that fair to a citizen in, say, Scranton?

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I think citizens in Scranton recognize that problems that happen overseas don’t stay overseas. They come here, too, at great cost to working people.

COVID came here from overseas. When there’s massive debt or instability or conflict elsewhere, it has a drag on the global economy, and America is part of the global economy.

So, our perspective is that for a modest investment, from the point of view of the overall size of the U.S. budget, to put into ensuring greater stability, greater prosperity, greater capacity in the rest of the world, that is going to end up reducing the costs and burdens on working people in Scranton or Minneapolis or any of all — your all’s hometowns.

And, frankly, that’s not some novel idea. That has been a bipartisan commitment of the United States for decades. And even the last administration — the biggest skeptic of all of this — made investments in foreign aid because those investments are in the naked self-interest of the United States, as well as being the right thing to do.

Thank you, guys.

Q Thanks, Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Jake.

Q Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Jake.

I just have two things, and then we’ll — we have a few minutes to take a couple more questions.

The first one — I actually don’t see her in here. It’s April Ryan’s birthday. I thought she was going to be here. She’s not here. Happy 21st birthday, April. (Laughter.)

And then the second thing is: I want to say — I want to say congratulations here to Kristen Welker on her last day. We were talking earlier, and you said you have covered the White House for about a decade. So, which makes you — what? — I don’t know — 30 years old?

Q Thirty.


Q Just 30. (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s great.

So, with — in all seriousness, we will miss you. And — and we are incredibly thrilled and excited for you and your new adventure in a — in a — in a different Washington institution, if you will. And so, we will be watching. Please keep in touch. And, of course — of course, book our people —

Q I will.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — as you know.

But seriously, in all — seriously, per- — this is a — just for me, personally, it is a — it is — it has been a joy working with you. And I am so thrilled to have you — to see you in this new rol- — in this new role that is going to, I think — you know, little girls and boys are going to watch you and hopefully be inspired by everything that you do every — every Sunday — so — as they have been these past 10 years.

Q Thank you, Karine. Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, thank you.

Q It’s been an incredible honor to cover this administration, the White House for the past decade. So, thank you for that. I really appreciate it. And thank you to all my incredible colleagues.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, Kristen. Go forward.

Q Can we ask a question now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead, Colleen.

Q Okay —

Q It’s my birthday, too. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. Janne, happy birthday.

Q It’s my birthday, too.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, all right. All right, Mr. Shear. (Laughter.)

Happy birthday.

Q Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful day.

Q All right. Thank you.

Q Yeah, I know (inaudible) same birthday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Go ahead, Colleen.

Q Not to talk about news, everybody, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) It is news!

Q Okay. The — the COVID protocols —


Q — for the President. Is he going to test every day before he gets on the plane? Does he have to mask when he’s in India? I think there are not — I think the protocols for the G20 are that there really aren’t any. So, I wondered, sort of, what’s going to happen going forward with the President while we’re watching.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what I can tell you is that the President certainly is going to test on a regular cadence determined by his physician. Of course, all travelers — all travelers, including the President — will test before traveling to India. So, that is certainly something that the President will do.

As I mentioned, the CDC — he is following CDC guidelines. The CDC does not recommend testing every day after close contact. That is their recommendation. Again, we are going to follow the CDC guidelines.

They recommend a combination of things, as I mentioned at the top, which is masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms. He has no symptoms. So — and so, we’re going to continue to follow those guidelines, have those — he’s going to have those clo- — close consultation with his suv- — his physician. And that’s all I can share at this time.

Q Can you be more specific on what a regular cadence means?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Regular cadence is up to — really, in consultation with his physician.

I can tell you right now, as I said, all travelers are certainly going to test — right? — before they head out to India, and that’s including the President. So, that is something that’s happening in — what? — I don’t know. We’re leaving on Thursday. So, there you go.

Q Just a couple more logistical —


Q — COVID questions. Are these PCR tests that the President is getting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is something that the — the physician decides on. I just don’t have that information.

Q And just reiterate again to us: What is the current COVID protocol for anyone meeting with the President?


Q Like senior staff, those who meet with him every day, brief him, are you all still tested?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, anytime we’re around any of the principles, we do test. That has been — that has been the way we have moved forward for the past almost two years here. So, that has not changed.

No other — no White House protocol is going to be changing, as I said at the top. But when we do have a close engagement with the President — the senior staff — and, as you all know — or anyone — we do have — we do test.

Q And just a broader COVID question. We recently did an interview with Dr. Deborah Birx, and she said that American leaders are living in a fantasy world amid this latest COVID surge. She said that next month’s vaccine booster is coming way too late.

What’s your response to that assessment, which she shares with — with some other experts as well? I mean, are you confident that you are as prepared as you can be and that this booster is going to — to work?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, we know that we have made historic progress in this nation in this ability to manage COVID — right? — in a way that’s no longer meaningful in disrupting our daily lives. Right? And that is because of the work that this President has done, of the work that this admin- — administration has done.

And we actually believe we are in a better place than we have ever been to deal with COVID. And that’s because we have tools in our toolbelt. Right? We have safe — we’re going to have those midterm — midterm, sorry — mid-September vaccines, which is going to be incredibly important.

We’re going to — we have these home at tests — home — at-home tests, which is absolutely important. We have these treatments that we know are effective so that we can reduce severe illness, we can reduce hospitalization, and we can reduce death.

So, look, we — we listen to the experts, the scientists. That’s what we do here. And — and we’re going to be continuously working with them, certainly in coordination.

CDC and FDA announced these midterm — “midterm” — why do I keep saying that? — (laughter) — these mid-September — yowzer — these mid-September —

Q Hatch Act. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) It passed. It passed. So, I’m safe.

Anyway — so, these mid-September vaccines, which are going to be incredibly, we believe, important. If it’s also d- — let’s not forget — the flu vaccine and also the RSV vaccine, all of those things are important. And this is something that the President had made sure that we are — that is available.

We feel, again, we are in a very good position to deal with COVID-19 in the fall. And — and we’re tak- — and we’re going to continue to listen to the experts as we move forward.

Q And just one more. Jake noted, you know, obviously, you have some experience on attending summits virtually if need be. But when you look ahead to what the next week looks like and could look like, are you actually thinking logistically through this should the President — you know, were he to test positive halfway there —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m —

Q — or, you know, halfway through the summit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m certainly — I’m just not going to get ahead of that. What I can say right now is that we do not have any changes to — any updates or changes to his travel. The President tested negative yesterday. He tested negative this morning. And he has no symptoms. He’s feeling good.

You’re all — you all are going to see him in about an hour and see for yourselves. Of course, he’s going to be very cautious. And we’re — he’s going to wear a mask, as — as the CDC guidelines suggest — or request.

And so, you know, that — that’s — that’s how we’re going to move forward. We just don’t have any updates and changes. I’m just going to just repeat what my colleague Jake said, is that, of course, we know how to move forward in these situations.

But, again, you know, we feel — we don’t have any updates in — in any schedule. And the President is feeling fine, and we’re going to move forward.

Q Just — on COVID, just a follow on that. Is there — (laughs) — is there — the President did have a bit of a cough yesterday during his speech, and I’m just wondering if he had any other symptoms or if there is any concern about — around that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no other — no symptoms at all that I can — that’s related — that would be related to — to this — to this current — current conversation that we’re having.

Q Okay. And then you — you mentioned the mid-September vaccines, and I’m just wondering, because there is this spike of — of, kind of, incidents that are happening: Is there any concern that that is coming just a little bit too late in terms of the immunization that is —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look —

Q — in the population now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, totally understand the question. That is — you know, the experts feel that — and, again, we listen to the experts — CDC, FDA. They got to go through their process in getting these vaccines done and ready to go. That’s going to be mid-September. We’re — what? — September — I don’t know — 5th? What is it?

Q It’s 5th, yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? Right? So, we’re not far from that — from mid-September. And we’re going to do our job, as we do every time, when it comes to new vaccine or anything — any of the tools that are out there. We’re going to make sure that we encourage — we encourage Americans to get those vaccines.

We know — we know that these vaccines work. Right? We know when people stay up to date with their vaccine, that works. And so, that’s where I’ll certainly leave that.

But look, we have seen — we’ve experienced increases in COVID-19 during the last three summers, so it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an uptick in this long period, right? It’s been a long period of decline — declining rates. So, this is not surprising.

But again, we’re going to make sure that when these mid- — mid-September vaccines are available, that we’re certainly going to let folks know and give them the information that they need and also remind them to take your flu — flu vaccine and also RSV shots. All three are going to be key and critical as we get into the — and get into the fall.

Go ahead, Joey.

Q Yeah, if President Biden does test positive for COVID in the coming days, we can assume he’s not going to travel to India, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals. I’m really not. There’s no updates to his — to his schedule. That’s where we are right now. He tested negative last night. He tested negative today. That’s what matters. He’s not having any symptoms.

I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals.

Q All right. Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Karen.

Q Just a quick follow, and then I want to do another topic, if I can.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, for sure.

Q So, when should we expect the next test update from you? You said the CDC is saying not every day, but he’s doing it based on doctor’s recommendations. Would he get tested tomorrow and then again on Thursday before leaving?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is something — this regular cadence is going to be up to his physician — a close consultation with his physician.

As I just mentioned, all travelers, including the President, is going to get tested before we go to India. We leave — leave for India on Thursday. Today is Tuesday.

I don’t have anything else further to share. We just shared with you that he tested yes- — tested, clearly, last night and today. That is — that is up to the physician.

We are going to continue to follow — the Pr- — as — as well as the President — CDC guidance.

Q On the UAW possible strike. The President said yesterday — when he was asked if he was worried about it, he said, “No, I’m not worried about a strike until it happens. I don’t think it’s going to happen.” The head of the UAW said, “He must know something we don’t know.”

Why is the President confident a strike will not happen?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, as you know, Karen, as someone who’s followed this president very closely for some time now, he — he’s optimistic. He’s an optimistic person. And he’s going to continue to remain opsimis- — optimistic as these negotiations continue, and that it will result in a win-win.

And mem- — remember, this is a president that believes in collective bargaining. He believes on both sides coming to the table. And that with the — you know, with the UAW being at the heart of an electric vehicle future made in America with good-paying union jobs, we believe this is a win-win, right? We believe this is incredibly important.

And so, we believe, as well, auto workers should get the wages and benefits they deserve. This is a president that has been very consistent and — and has been — has said that over — over the last two years.

So, he’s optimistic that both sides are going to come to the table and come to an agreement, as we’ve seen with other — other situations where there was collective bargaining, where both sides came in good faith, and — and resulted in a good outcome.

And so, he’s going to remain optimistic. He believes, again, in collective bargaining. And that’s what we hope to see — that both sides continue to have that conversation.

Q And how is he being updated on the latest on the negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as I mentioned — I think I mentioned this, and you all know this; I think you’ve reported on this — Gene S- — Gene Sperling has played the lead on — on having those discussions, as well as Julie Su.

So, we’ve been having conversations. And so, he’s updated by his — by Julie Su and al- — also, White House senior staffers here, including Gene. And so, that’s how he’s staying up to date.

Go ahead. Oh, of course I should —

Q Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. (Laughs.)

Q Appreciate it.


Q One quick one on COVID. When the boosters are available, can we expect that the President and First Lady will get them? Will they do that publicly, as they have in the past?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can’t speak to a schedule. But, yes, you can expect that both of them will get up- — their updated vaccines, like all Americans who are eligible should do so.

Q Okay. And then, on the potential government shutdown, I understand that the action is largely on the Hill right now. But how does the President see his role in trying to avert a government shutdown at this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and I’ve said this over and over again, and I’ll continue to say this: There is no reason — there is no reason for Congress to shut down the government. Absolutely none.

They should keep their word, and they should do their job, which is keeping the government open. And we have to. It is — it is critical. It is important.

We just heard from the National Security Advisor, right? It is important to — to fund these incredibly vital programs that American people need, and also our troops’ needs and emergency needs that — that we have.

And so, there should not be a reason to shut down the government. We believe Congress should do their job. It is their job. It is their job to get this done.

Q And has the President had any conversations about this in recent days? Can we expect him to? And will you read some of those out if he does?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — I can’t speak to any conversations that he’s had. You know, many of these conversations that the President has, we try to keep them private.

I can say, and you heard from — you’ve heard from Jake, he said that there’s been extensive conversation on the supplemental, specifically, to — to Ukraine on both the House and the Senate side and how we truly want to see this continue to be a bipartisan effort moving forward.

And just more broadly, as you’re asking me about the budget — look, you’ve heard me say that OMB Director Shalanda Young has been very much involved in these conversation, our Legisla- — Legislative Aff- — Affairs Office has been very much engaged in those conversation. And that’s going to — and that’s, certainly, going to continue because it is crucial and it is important that we fund — continue to fund these vital programs.

Q And just very quickly and finally, Karine, there’s been public reporting that he would support a short-term CR. But is that, in fact, the case — that he would sign a short-term CR if that came to his desk?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we believe that it is going to be up to them — right? — up to Congress what they decide to do, so I’ll certainly defer to them.

But look, again, the government should not shu- — be shut down. It should be funded — these vital and critical programs that American people need.

I’m not going to, you know — look, I’ll say this: It’s clear, because the fiscal year is coming to an end, that Congress will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government running. That is clear. That is where we are right now.

And — and I think I’ve said this before: OMB has provided technical assistance — I talked about this last week — to ensure there are no disruptions to impact programs the American people rely on.

As far as how long this should go or — I would have to refer to Congress on that specific thing.

Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Karine. President Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history. Why does White House staff treat him like a baby?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No one treats the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief, like a baby.

Q So, there’s this book that says —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s ridiculous.

Q — when staff walked back —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a ridiculous claim.

Q — what sounded like a call for regime change in Russia, the President, quote, “Rather than owning his failure, he fumed to friends about how he was treated like a toddler. Was John Kennedy ever babied like that?”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’ll say this: There’s going to be a range — always — a range of books that are — about every administration, as you know — that’s going to have a variety of claims. That is not unusual. That happens all the time. And we’re not going to litigate those here. That’s something that we’re not going to speak to.

There is one thing that I do want to — because I think I was asked this question last week by one of your colleagues, about this particular excerpt that they were referring to — and so, I’ll say this: You know, we did see the excer- — excerpt — the context of the excerpt, and it seemed to be making the opposite overall point about how the value of his experience and wisdom resulted in rallying the free world against authoritarianism, which is important — we have seen this; you all have seen this — and passage of the most historic agenda in recent history in his handling of foreign policy, like rallying the world around Ukraine, as you just heard from our Nationally Security — National Security Advisor, who laid out, in really good questions that your colleagues asked, about how the President is moving forward, about Ukraine, about kind of leading into these conversations that he’s going to be having at the G20.

Q Why do you think it is that, in a Wall Street Journal poll, two thirds of Democrats think President Biden is too old to run again?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here’s what I know. Here’s what I can speak to. I can speak to that — a president who has wisdom. I can speak to a president who has experience. I can speak to a president who has done historic — has taken historic action and has delivered in historic pieces of legislation. And that’s important.

When the last guy who was in this — in the Oval Office talked about Infrastructure Week, it was a joke. And the President passed a pretty important piece of legislation, in a bipartisan way, because of his wisdom, because of his experience. And now we have a Infrastructure Decade.

And it doesn’t stop there. It’s — that’s — last week, we talked about how the President beat Big Pharma — something that elected officials and politicians have been trying to do for 33 years, and he’s been able to do that. And we introduced 10 — the first tranche — the first 10 drugs that Medicare can now negotiate on, right? And it’s going to save money for our seniors, for Americans across the country.

The — the gentleman that introduced the President, Steven, who is 71 years old, paying $16,000 a month — $16,000 a month just to stay alive because he had cancer and diabetes, and he cannot retire because he’s — because he has to pay $16,000 a month.

And because of the work that this President has done, he doesn’t have to do that anymore.

And I’ll say one last thing. I know you have a follow-up — probably about five more. But let me just say this one last thing — is that the interesting thing about this is that the President has done these historic pieces of legislation, whether it’s the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, whether it’s the American Rescue Plan, whether it’s CHIPS and Science Act, whether it’s the Infl- — Inflation Reduction Act.

There are some Republicans — right? — in the House, in the Senate that did not vote for any of these legislations that I just laid out, who go back to their state, go back to their district and take credit for something that the President did.

So, this is not unusual. They did this in 2019. They did this in 2020. And the Pres- — they did this in 2022. And the President continues to prevail.

Q Okay. Just one more.


Q The President said over the long weekend that he hasn’t had the occasion to go to East Palestine. “I just haven’t been able to break.” The derailment was on February 3rd. President Biden has not had a break since February 3rd?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President will go to East Palestine. He promised that he would, and he will. You saw him —

Q But was he on — so, he was not on a break when he was in Lake Tahoe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will say this again: The President is going to go to East Palestine, as he has said that he is committed to do.

You saw him just this Saturday visit a rural area — right? — that was devastated — some parts were devastated by Hurricane Idalia. And he was there with the First Lady. They were able to hear directly from the American people. And he was able to talk about what is it that they need, what is it — what else do they need from the federal government.

So, the President is going to go to East Palestine. I don’t have a time or a — or a date to announce at this time, but he will go.

Go ahead.

Q Thanks, Karine. Given recent events, is there any plans to alter the Vice President’s schedule and pivot her, since she’s already in Asia, to have her in place in case the President is not able to go?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just — I just don’t have any details or updates to share on travel.

Q And to follow up on my colleague’s question, my colleague’s question, and my colleague’s question —


Q — can you explain why you can’t share or won’t share the cadence of the President’s testing with us? It seems like a pretty —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, yeah, I —

Q — basic question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It has — it has nothing to not share the cadence. We — I just shared with you: Yesterday, he took — he took a test, and it was negative. Today, he took a test, and it was negative. The CDC does not recommend testing every day after close contact. That is not my — I —

Q Right, but since you’re —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m —

Q — telling us he tested — you — I’m just saying you’re — I’m just trying to apply logic here. You told us the times he tested previously, so it would be helpful if we know going forward.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because it already happened, my friend. It already happened.

Q I —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It already happened, right?

Q I understand. I understand.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? Right?

Q But —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, therefore, I can tell you that he took the test because it already happened, right?

Q Would it be safe to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I’m telling you right now —

Q — assume he’s going to test in the mornings and the evenings going forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — it is up to the physician and in close consultation with the physician. CDC — the guidon- — the guidance from CDC recommends that the — or says it does not have to test — someone with a close contact does not have to test ev- — every — regularly or every day.

So that is the c- —

Q No, I get that, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Well, then there should be —

Q — not everybody is the President.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There should be — there should be no confusion. We just explained that he tested — I just explained he tested yesterday. He tested —

Q No, there’s no confusion. I was just wondering if we could have an explanation as to why you don’t want to share — I’m —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just explained it. I literally just explained it. CDC does not —

Q Obviously, I didn’t understand because I’m asking.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, CDC recommends — CDC recommends that testing — does not recommend testing every day. That’s something that CDC — we’re following CDC guidance.

Q Just answer her question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just did. In close consultation —

Q You —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — with the physician. That’s what’s going to happen. The physician is going to decide when the testing is going to happen. That’s it. That’s the answer.

I don’t have anything else for you. That is the answer that I’m giving you: in close consultation with his physician. The CDC does not recommend testing every day. That’s it.

Go ahead. I’m going to call Sabrina. Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Karine. I know Jake wouldn’t speak to the components of a possible normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that the issue of Palestine is more of a checkbox in the negotiations. Does the White House agree with that assessment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to go beyond — Jake laid out pretty well about our position there — the — the meeting that Brett is doing in the region, especially as it relates to Palestine as well. I don’t have anything — I’m not going to go be- — beyond or further to what the national advisor shared —

Q Can you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — he shared.

I’m going to go around. I’m going to take one —

Q Some of us haven’t been called on in months.


Q Back here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian. Go ahead, Brian.

Q (Inaudible) entire season (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian.

Q Thanks, Karine. I was going to ask about deficit.


Q The federal deficit is projected to increase this year over last year. During Biden’s term, it decreased in the first two years. It’s going to increase this year. What’s President Biden’s response to that? And what are his — what’s his assessment of the reasons that the federal deficit is increasing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. And I know one of my colleagues have spoken to this before. Deficits from year to year can be volatile, and so that’s kind of how we’ve tracked that.

But the reality is: The President has a real plan — as we’ve laid out multiple times — to reduce the deficit, and we don’t see Republicans having a real plan. And so, the deficit has fallen by more than $1 trillion under the President — President — this President, and he has signed legislation to cut the deficit by another $1 trillion.

So, the President’s budget would reduce the deficit by a — by a further $2.5 trillion by cutting wasteful spending on special interests and making big corporations and the rich pay their fair share. So, that’s what we’re trying to do.

And by contrast, what you’re seeing from our Republicans cou- — colleagues on the other side is that, you know — especially when President Trump and congressional Republicans — what they did during his administration is that they added $2 trillion to the deficit with a tax cut that skewed, obviously, to the wealthy and large corporations.

So, what we are going to do is we’re going to continue to fight for Social Security. We’re going to continue to fight for Medicare, healthcare. We’re going to — continue to make sure we do what we can to — the President believes in moving forward with his economic plan in a fiscally responsible way. And so, that we’re — that’s what we’re going to continue to do here.

Q What’s the reason it’s going up, though? Why is the deficit increasing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just said: It can be — year to year, it can be very volatile.

Q I mean, he said in March, in Baltimore, in a speech —


Q — “our plan is working” to — it’s decreasing the deficit.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right. And I —

Q — and now the projections are showing that it’s not the case.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — and — and we have seen the deficit falling by more than a trillion dollars under this President, right? But as I stated at the top, it could be volatile. And that’s why the President has taken action — right? — more than $2 trillion — to lower the deficit. And that’s what he’s going to continue to do.

But we know — what we know for sure is that trickle — trickle-down economy does not work. You hear us talk about all the time when we talk about Bidenomics is building an economy from the bottom up, middle out. That’s the President’s plan. That’s what he’s going to continue to do, and he’s going to do it in a fiscally responsible way.

And, again, that’s — all you have to do is watch what the President has done the last two years. And he has done a —

Q (Inaudible) identify the reasons that it’s —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I just laid out, it can be —

Q — (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — very volatile. I just talked about how the President —

Q How do you explain the volatility?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President deficit — it can be — but that’s the way it is. From year to year, it can be volatile. That is something the economy — economies —

Q Why?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — the economy — well, talk to an economist and they’ll tell you specifically.

What I can speak to is — what the President has done over the last two years is — we’ve seen the deficit go down by a trillion dollars. He spent — he signed another piece of legislation where the deficit is going to go down another trillion.

That is the President’s focus. That’s why we believe Bidenomics is so important.

Guys, I will see you tomorrow. Thank you very much.

2:32 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell En Route Gainesville, Florida

Sat, 09/02/2023 - 14:06

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Gainesville, Florida

11:59 A.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, guys.  Hi, hi, hi.  We’re going to do a gaggle with the FEMA Administrator De- — Deanne Criswell.  And I’m just going to give it right over to her to take — she’s going to have a couple of things to say at the top and then take your questions, and then we’ll be done.  Thanks, guys.
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  All right, I’ll get close.  It is hard to hear back here.  First, I just wanted to say when we arrive today, what the President is going to see is what I saw earlier this week.  He’s going to see some damaged and destroyed homes.  He’s going to see downed trees and powerlines.  But he’s also going to see communities that are working together to help and begin their recovery efforts. 
While there was one tragic loss of life as a result of this storm, this storm could have been very — so much worse.  And so, before I get into your questions, I’m just going to give a little bit of an operational update on what’s going on on the ground. 
In total, we still have over sixteen hundred — one thousand six hundred — federal responders on the ground.  They’re supporting things like feeding and sheltering operations; power, communications restoration — power and communications restoration; as well as public health and safety. 
The search and rescue mission itself has come to an end, and I’m proud to share that our federal responders have helped save several lives in those early hours after the events.
There’s approximately less than 1 percent of the state that is without power currently.  But in the county that we’re going to go to today where Live Oak is, 53 percent of that county is currently without power.  But this is down significantly from the peak of power outages immediately following the storm. 
This is largely due to the pre-positioned linemen that the state already had in place to jump into action.  And we also had the Army Corps of Engineers; they are still on standby to support with generators or any other power restoration needs that may arise. 
Almost all the cell towers in the area are operational, but we do have temporary cell towers that are deployed to communities where necessary to help augment.  All of the interstates and bridges and the airports are currently open.
And while these response efforts continue, our recovery efforts are already going underway.  We have already registered thousands of families for federal assistance to help jumpstart their recovery, and we have over 130 members from our Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams that are in the area helping communities register. 
We also quickly approved Critical Needs Assistance, which is going to provide an advanced payment for many survivors for their immediate or urgent needs, as well as Clean and Sanitize Assistance, which provides funding to help them to clean their homes and prevent mold caused by the storm. 
So, with that, I’ll take any questions. 
Q    Administrator, it seemed like from your conversations and working with Governor DeSantis’s team that you had agreed on the location for the President’s visit today as one that was doable with the security apparatus.  Now we know the governor says otherwise.  What happened?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  Yeah, I was with the governor on Wednesday — on Thursday — on Thursday, surveying the damage, and we were down in the more rural areas.  I know that the governor and the President spoke on Thursday, and our teams began to work immediately to determine an area for the President to go visit.  And the area that we’re going — Live Oak — was mutually agreed on by both the governor’s team and my team on the ground. 
What we look at is operational impact.  In this area, the power is being restored, the roads are all open, and the access has not been hindered.  And so, that’s why this was a mutually agreed upon area for the President. 
The President and the First Lady are really looking forward to talking to this community because this is a community — and while this — this incident was not widespread like Ian, this community is impacted, right?  And those individuals that have damages to their homes are — are hurting right now. 
And so, the President is going to be able to come in and let them know that the federal government is continuing to provide the resources and support to help them on their road to recovery. 
Q    And the governor not showing up today, is that politics at play?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  Yeah, I would defer you to the governor on his scheduling and why he made that decision. 
Q    When did the governor tell you he was not going to come?  Did you find out when he announced it?  Did he call you beforehand?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  I did not hear from the governor.  Again, we’ve been planning this visit with his team.  We’ve been in close coordination with his team, as well as the state and local officials, as to the details of the event today.
Q    Were there any —
Q    In terms of the meeting not happening, does that affect the recovery effort in any way?  Is there anything lost other than a photo op? 
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  The recovery efforts are ongoing, right?  And we have got a team that’s been embedded with the staff at the state EOC since before the storm made landfall.  They are currently there, and we’re still supporting the recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole from last year.  And so, those efforts are not hindered, and they’re continuing to work very well together. 
Q    Were there any Florida emergency officials that expressed concern to you about a visit today and the operational footprint that it entails?

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  I have teams that have been on the ground since I left, and we have heard no concerns over any impact to the communities that we’re going to visit today.

Q    Are there any other either members of Congress or state officials planning to meet with the President —


Q    — despite the —

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  It’s my understanding that Senator Scott and Representative Cammack are both going to be there today at the first briefing.

Q    And they have no security concerns or operational issues with meeting him?

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  None that I have heard about.

Q    How confident are you in the FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to withstand another disaster that might be coming?

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  As I — as I have said before, we have been watching the health of the Disaster Relief Fund very closely.  And we anticipated, at the current spending prior to this storm, that we would run into a deficit in September sometime.  That’s why I directed Immediate Needs Funding on Monday.  We’re already seeing the benefit of that, as the draw on the Disaster Relief Fund has slowed significantly.

Our focus is on making sure that we can continue to provide those lifesaving efforts.  And right now, the state of the Disaster Relief Fund, we have plenty of funding in this state under Immediate Needs Funding to continue to support the lifesaving efforts going on in Florida, as well as Maui. 

You know, as we see other storms develop — the Atlantic is very busy right now — we’re going to watch this very closely each and every day. 

Q    What’s the biggest priority right now in Florida?

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  The biggest priority is restoring the power, right?  There’s a lot of businesses that are without power.  There’s a lot of people in their homes that are without power.  And so, now that the life safety mission and search and rescue has been completed, power restoration was starting from day one, but it continues, and that’s the number-one priority.

Q    Administrator, just to go back to the issue of the governor.  The President said in the Rose Garden yesterday that he would be seeing Governor DeSantis.  So, was that just a misunderstanding?  Or was it initially thought — or your understanding and the White House’s understanding — that a meeting would take place?

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  What I can say is that I know that the governor and the President spoke while I was on the ground with the governor on Thursday, and the governor gave no indication at that time that he would not be meeting with the President.

Q    Is there any- —

Q    Karine, do you want to add anything to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I would just reiterate what — what Deanne said, which is that there was just no indication that he was not going to be there. 

Look, this was a mutually agreed upon trip —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — location from the governor’s side, from our side. 
And look, I’m just going to, again, reiterate what — what the Administrator just said, which is: The First Lady and the President is looking forward to being on the ground to hear directly from the — from folks in the affected communities and continue to say to them that we will be here — the federal government will be here — will be there.  And you hear us say this all the — all the time: today, tomorrow, and as long as it takes. 

Look, and I — we’ve been very clear about that.  We’re going to let the governor speak for himself.  Of course, he is welcomed, right?  Of course, he is welcome to be with the President today.  It is up — that — that is something for — for him to answer.  We can’t speak to that.

Q    Is there any way —

Q    But — hold on, let me just finish mine.  It is —

Q    Yeah.

Q    It was — is it fair to say it was your understanding that he would be there and then he declined?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All I can say, and as — as the Administrator said, is that there was a conversation; the President spoke with the governor.  It was an understanding that the President said to him he was coming to Florida.  We never heard any — any disagreement with it.  All we understood is both sides worked together for this trip, for this location to happen today. 

That’s all I can say.  I — there’s nothing else that I can add to that.

Again, the governor would have to speak to — for himself.

Q    Is there any plan for the two maybe to talk now while the President is on the plane or after he concludes his visit to Florida today?

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  I’m — I’m not certain.  I’d be — turn to Karine on this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have any calls or anything to — to — planned calls or anything to — to lay out that may be happening on this — on this — on this trip for them to converse while we’re in Florida. 

If that happens, obviously, as we always do, we will share that with all of you.

Q    So, they’ve publicly collaborated.  They met in 2021 with a disaster, in 2022 with a disaster.  What is different this time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is a question for the governor.  Honestly, we are — our focus — and we have said this — you heard the President say this — this is not about politics.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a red state or a blue state, the President is going to show up and be there for the community.  And that’s what you’re seeing. 

He’s done this many times before, sadly, when devastation hits a community the way that it — it has.  And you all — some of you have traveled with us.  I — I just can’t — we cannot speak for that.  That is something for the governor to speak to.  We just can’t.

Q    Is there any worry that with this, clearly, disagreement that we’re seeing now, that it does impact any work on this going forward?

ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  Absolutely not.  The — the teams on the ground, our staff from Region 4 — our teams are integrated in with the state emergency managers.  And they have a very strong relationship. 
As I said, we’re still supporting the ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian, which is going to be one year in just a few weeks.  And so, they have a great working relationship.  They’re working side by side every day.  We’re supporting their needs and moving the resources in.  There is absolutely no impact to the ongoing response and recovery.
Q    Just logistically, you said the roads are open, there is really no- — nothing that will be taxed.  I mean, is there anything else that would potentially — you know, the governor keeps saying that it was a logistics thing, he’s really worried about resources going elsewhere.  Is there any other area where they — we might be not seeing resources going where they would otherwise go?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  No, like I — like I said, the areas that I visited with the Governor on Thursday were very coastal and rural areas.  And I can understand, you know, concerns in those areas, because access was limited.  And that’s why our teams worked collectively to find this area.  This was a mutually agreed upon area because of the limited impact.  They’re well on their way to the road to recovery. 
And the President and the First Lady are looking forward to talking to the — the first responders, who — many of them have damage to their own homes, and to the community members, businesses that have been impacted.  The agricultural industry, which has had a hard hit in this community, in this county, right?
The President and the First Lady look forward to talking to them and again reassuring them that the resources from the federal government are going to continue to flow into these communities to help them on their road to recovery. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, guys.  We’re going to wrap it up.
Q    Do you have any — do you have any early sense of how Florida’s insurance market is responding to this disaster?  I know it’s been very volatile, very expensive.  Any sense of how that’s going?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  Yeah, I don’t have any information on that.  The part that I would look at and the part that my teams look at is the amount of flood insurance in the area, which is the program that FEMA runs.  But outside of that, I wouldn’t have any details, and I’d have to get you specifics on that. 
Q    Yeah, on the supplemental, you’ve requested $16 billion, which is four more than it was, like, three weeks ago.  Do you have any confidence that $16 billion is going to be enough?  Or is this number going to change?
ADMINISTRATOR CRISWELL:  Right, and so, this gets us through to the end of this fiscal year, right?  And one of the reasons we put in the Immediate Needs Funding direction is to ensure that we can prioritize our life safety efforts. 
The $12 billion that we had put in originally was based on the amount of recoveries that are ongoing.  But I think, as you can see, we are experiencing more severe weather events than we have ever experienced before. 
And so, I am comfortable right now with $16 billion getting us through this initial — the rest of this fiscal year to support not only the lifesaving, but to not delay any of the reimbursements for the ongoing recovery actions that right now, through Immediate Needs Funding, will be delayed until the next fiscal year. 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, everybody.  Thank you.
12:12 P.M. EDT

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell En Route Gainesville, Florida appeared first on The White House.

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