Press Briefings

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

Mon, 06/17/2024 - 15:00

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:10 P.M. EDT


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi, everybody.  Good afternoon. 

Also, happy belated Father’s Day to all the dads in here.  Hopefully, you were well taken care of yesterday. 

So, a couple of things at the top, and then we’ll get going. 

So, I want to say a few words in recognition of Pride Month.  The Biden-Harris administration joins Americans across the country to celebrate the extraordinary courage and contributions of the LGBTQI+ community.

This month is a time to reflect on the progress we have made in pursuit of equality, justice, and inclusion.  And it’s time to recommit ourselves to do more to support LGBTQI+ rights at home and around the world.

Since day one, the Biden-Harris administration has taken historic action to advance equality for the community.  But last year, more than 600 anti-LGBTQI+ bills were filed in statehouses across the country and a significant portion of them target transgender youth.

As President Biden says, these young people are some of the bravest people he knows, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves.

The Biden-Harris administration is going to continue to speak out and stand up against these attacks and will — and will remain focused on realizing the promise of America for all Americans.

I want to close by saying to the LGBTQI+ community that there is always someone you can talk to if you’re going through a hard time and need support.

The Biden-Harris administration launched the 988 line to help, and we have a line dedicated to serving LGBTQI+ young people that can be reached by dialing 988 and pressing 3.  Again, dialing 988 and pressing 3. 

This month, we will continue to celebrate courageous LGBTQI- — -QI+ people and take pride in the example they set for our nation and around the world.

Second, as many of you know, there were a tragic series of shootings over the weekend.  This included a shooting in Michigan that injured multiple children and a shooting at a Juneteenth festival in Texas that left two people dead and over a dozen injured.

The President has been tracking these tragedies.  We are praying for the families who lost loved ones to the senseless violence and wishing all those who were injured a speedy recovery.  Our team is in contact with state and local officials.

As the President has said, this is not normal, and Congress must act.

At the same time, he will continue to use every tool at his disposal to end the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our communities apart.  And let’s not forget, gun violence is the number-one killer of young people across the country.

And now, I’m going to turn it over to the Admiral, who is going to speak to developing matters in the Middle East.  And also, I know there’s some NSC traveling — travel happening as well abroad. 

Go ahead, Admiral.  

MR. KIRBY:  I want to thank Karine in advance for her indulgence and all of yours.  I do have quite a few things to get through, so if you just bear with me, I’d appreciate it.

I want to start off here at the top by providing an update on maritime attacks conducted by Iranian-backed Houthis and to preview some sanctions that will be rolled out later today by the Treasury Department.

Now, a few days ago, the Houthis attacked the Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned-and-operated bulk cargo carrier, merchant vessel Tutor, killing a crew member who hailed from the Philippines. 

The Tutor had just completed a port call in Russia and was bound for Egypt.  She had nothing whatsoever — nothing — to do with the conflict in Gaza. 

They also attacked the Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated motor vessel Verbena, critically wounding a crew member from Sri Lanka. 

The Verbena had previously stopped in China, then Thailand, and was on her way to Italy.  She, too, had nothing whatsoever to do with the conflict in Gaza. 

So, just think about that for a hot minute or two.

The Houthis killed an innocent crew member from the Philippines and critically wounded a Sri Lankan sailor who were guilty of no crimes, who were simply doing their jobs as professional mariners.

They weren’t delivering arms to Israel.  They weren’t taking sides in the Middle East.  They were just manning their posts aboard ship, trying to earn a paycheck and keep global commerce moving.

Like the ships that they sailed in, these two blokes had nothing whatsoever to do with the conflict in Gaza.

Now, these most recent attacks, of course, come on top of numerous others in recent months — attacks which can and only rightly be labelled acts of terrorism against nations from around the world.

Even the Yemeni people have fallen victim, as the Houthis have on one occasion struck a ship that was bringing grain to their own ports.

These attacks also obstruct humanitarian aid to Sudan, where the needs are tremendous and the conditions desperate, and they impact commerce for every neighboring country in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East from the E- — from Egypt to Ethiopia to Jordan and Djibouti. 

The Houthis are causing needless suffering across the entire region for Gazans, for the Sudanese, for the Yemenis themselves. 

And as I said, this is pure terrorism.  There is simply no other word for it.

The Houthi claim of supporting Gazans is meritless in any case.  The Israeli ports are now open for moving of goods directly into Gaza, and we are in the process of moving thousands of pallets from Ashdod into Gaza as we speak.

The United States has provided thousands of metric tons of assistance to Gazans and will continue to do so.  We are the largest contributor by far to date. 

The Houthis by contrast have not provided so much as a slice of bread to the Palestinians in Gaza. 

For our part, the United States will continue to ensure assistance is reaching Gaza in large quantities, and we will continue to act with partners around the world to hold the Houthi terrorists accountable for their actions.

Today, as I mentioned at the top, Treasury will announce new sanction designations against individuals and entities that are involved in the Houthi weapons procurement network. 

We’re going to continue to target this network to degrade Houthi — the Houthis’ ability to replenish its munitions.  And we’ll continue to target threats to international commerce when necessary, including taking another strike, as we did just last night, against a unmanned aerial ve- — vehicle that posed a direct threat to ships in the area.

But I thought it was important to just provide a little context here.  This Houth- — these Houthi attacks, they don’t grab the headlines that they used to — to grab, but they’re having an impact.  And we are trying to have an impact on their ability. 

So, their — their actions are truly reckless, beyond the pale.  They talk a mighty good game, but their actions speak a hell of a lot louder.  They don’t care a whit about Palestinians in Gaza.  And this isn’t some principled stand they’re taking.  It’s terrorism, as I said, pure and simple.  And it has to stop.

Now, as you know, the President will meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House later this afternoon to talk about planning for NATO’s 75th annual summit next month in Washington.  The President will reaffirm the ironclad U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty and he’ll welcome steps that Allies are taking to support Ukraine.

I expect the two leaders will also talk about the progress that NATO Allies are all making on increasing their defense spending, which has more than doubled since President Biden took office. 

Quickly turning, if I could, to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s trip to India, where he met with senior members of the Indian government and U.S. and Indian industry leaders to expand key oper- — key areas of cooperation between our countries today. 

In New Delhi, Mr. Sullivan will co-chair the U.S.-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology, also known as iCET, a landmark partnership to expand strategic cooperation across key technology sectors, including space, semiconductors, advanced telecommunications, artif- — artificial intelligence, quantum technology, biotechnology, and clean energy.

As the world’s two oldest and largest democracies, the United States and India share a unique bond of friendship.  And Mr. Sullivan’s trip will further deepen the already strong U.S.-India partnership to create a safer, more prosperous Indo-Pacific.

And, finally, I want to just briefly highlight the successful Summit on Peace in Ukraine over the past weekend, which Vice President Harris and National Security Advisor Sullivan both attended. 

More than 100 countries and organizations came together to discuss the importance of reaching a just and lasting peace in Ukraine, based on the core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the foundation of the U.N. Charter.

As President Biden said on Thursday when he signed our historic bilateral security agreement with Ukraine, a lasting peace for Ukraine must be underwritten by Ukraine’s own ability to defend itself now and to deter future aggression. 

So, we’re going to continue to provide military aid to help Ukraine defend itself on the battlefield, and we’re going to continue to support the Ukrainian people, including through the new funding that Vice President Harris announced to repair Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and through new funding for humanitarian aid and assistance to support Ukrainians who have been displaced from their homes and from their lives.

With that, thank you for your patience.  I’ll take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Mary.

Q    Thanks.  Can you give us your response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s move to disband his War Cabinet?  You know, he seems to — to think that — that there’s no need for an extra branch of government, as it was described to us.  Do you agree that — that a War Cabinet isn’t necessary right now?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, that’s really up to the Prime Minister to decide, Mary.  This is — the — the War Cabinet is an internal — was an internal domestic measure taken by the Prime Minister to better advise and provide him counsel on the war.  We said at the time that we believed it was a worthwhile step, and — and we still hold by that.

But with Mr. Gantz’s decision to leave, I’m not sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu was w- — left with a whole lot of other choices.

Q    And more broadly speaking, how concerned is the President right now that the far-right voices in the Israeli government may yield more power?

MR. KIRBY:  That — again, that’s going to be up to Israeli leaders, and that’s going to be up to the Prime Minister.  We deal with the Prime Minister.  The Prime Minister is the elected head of the Israeli government.  That’s who the President deals with.  He will continue to do so.

They don’t agree on everything.  They’re not going to agree on everything going forward.  But they have a long relationship with one another, and — and they know that they’ll both have an open line to one another.  So, we’re going to leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Trevor.

Q    Thanks.  Could — could you comment at all on Putin’s trip to North Korea and the possibility that there’s going to be an agreement — a partnership agreement signed?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, look, no surprise that he went to North Korea after his so-called election — the real nail-biter that that was.  He was going to go on a little bit of a charm offensive here, and that’s what he appears to be doing.

We’re not concerned about the trip.  What we are concerned about, Trevor, is the deepening relationship between these two countries, not just because of the impact it’s going to have on the Ukrainian people — because we know North Korean ballistic missiles are still being used to hit Ukrainian targets — but because there could be some reciprocity here that could affect security on the Korean Peninsula.

Now, we haven’t seen the parameters of all of that right now.  Certainly haven’t seen it come to fruition.  But we’re certainly going to be watching that very, very closely.

Q    And do you have any comments on this apparent collision between the Chinese and the Philippines?

MR. KIRBY:  And the Philippines.  Yeah, this is a — you’re talking about the Second Thomas Shoal. 

Yeah, these are troubling reports, because it appears as if — and just from initial operational reports that we’ve gotten — that at least one Philippine sailor was wounded.  I mean, you talk about collisions and water cannons, and — and you don’t think about the — the damage that can do to the human body.  But let me tell you something: It can.

And so, we’re deeply concerned about the — the injury suffered by this Philippine sailor.  Obviously, wishing him the best in terms of his recovery.

But more critically, to your question, this kind of behavior is provocative, it’s reckless, it’s unnecessary, and it could lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to something much bigger and much more violent. 

It’s imperative that — that the rightful legal maritime claims by the Philippines are respected by the PRC and by everybody else, for that matter.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Admiral, has the President taken part in consultations about deployment of more nuclear weapons as Secretary General Stoltenberg referred to in an interview with the Telegraph?

MR. KIRBY:  Look, we’re a NATO Ally, and we talk to our NATO Allies all the time about what readiness looks like, what posture needs to look like, and how we can all be better postured to meet our Article 5 commitments — the same commitments that the President is going to reiterate when he meets with Jens Stoltenberg later this afternoon. 

We don’t talk about nuclear posture with any specificity, and I’m certainly not going to start doing that here from the podium. 

I’ll just tell you that we’re comfortable, as we have been comfortable, with our strategic deterrent posture not only on the European continent but around the world.

Q    If you allow me, how can this not be perceived as provocation or an escalation in — of tension in Europe by re- —

MR. KIRBY:  Who would perceive it as a pro- — provocation or an escalation?

Q    Russia.

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, Russia.  Russia, the same country that invaded Ukraine, which posed absolutely no threat to them. 

Look, NATO is a defensive alliance, and NATO countries are some of the most sophisticated in the world when it comes to military capabilities.  And it would be irresponsible and imprudent if we weren’t constantly talking to our NATO Allies about how to make sure we can meet our commitments to one another across a range of military capabilities.  And that’s as far as I’ll go.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    John, the former CI- — Acting CIA Director Michael Morell wrote in Foreign Affairs today that “the terrorism warning lights are blinking red again.”  Do you agree with that assessment?

MR. KIRBY:  Certainly, we would absolutely say unequivocally that we’ve got to keep our eye on the terrorist threat. 

Just in the recent week or so, AFRICOM took a strike on — on some ISIS leaders in Somalia.  Now, we’re still waiting for the actual battle damage assessment of that strike, but — but it’s clear that the — that the threat is still real, and we have to still go after it. 

Q    One of the vulnerabilities he cites is that thousands of people are crossing the border unknown each week and that he says that the United States should consider using national emergency authorities.  Is that something the administration is considering?  Is he wrong there?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I don’t have anything in terms of decision-making on what those — I don’t — I’m not even sure I’d completely understand what he means by all those authorities.  I would tell you that, as Karine has said in just recent days, the President has taken executive action that he believes is — is warranted. 

But what’s really needed at the border — I mean, we can — we — everybody can talk a good game, but you can’t really change what’s happening at the border unless you have legislation, unless you have real resources and funding and support that is sustainable over time to make a big difference down at the border.  So, there’s no magic wand that can be waved here to make it all go away. 

Q    So, is there anything more the administration can do without Congress?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, the President already, as you just saw last week, announced some executive action, particularly when it comes to asylum.  But what we really need is for Congress to act. 

Th- — there was a deal on the table, a bipartisan deal in the Senate, that would have been the most sweeping change — it would have caused the most sweeping changes not just to border enforcement and security but to immigration policy itself in many, many years.  And it didn’t go anywhere because a certain ex-official decided he didn’t like it, that he thought it was better for there to be a problem rather than a solution.  So, the President took some executive action. 

I’m not going to foreclose what he would do in the future, but what we really need is comprehensive legislation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    John, following up on that.  Given the fact that there are these concerns about the rising threat of terrorism, is the President considering raising the terror alert level?  And if not, why wouldn’t he consider that?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not aware of any decision to change that.  We’re watching this like a hawk every single day.  As I said, AFRICOM just, in recent days, took a — took a strike — an air strike against some ISIS leaders in Somalia. 

It’s not something that we have ever stopped focusing on.  I mean, as you remember when we — when we conducted the withdrawal from Afghanistan, we talked about sharpening over-the-horizon targeting capability, and you’ve seen that bear out now — places like Iraq and in Syria, now in Somalia and other places.  It’s not something that we’re — that we take lightly.  It’s not something that — that we aren’t constantly trying to improve and sharpen.  And we have not lost one bit — have not lost one bit of focus on the — on the terrorism threat either here in the United States or around the world.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  In Jake’s meetings in India, has the — the plot to kill an American Sikh activist come up at all?  And do you expect that to be part of the discussions (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I don’t have more to add on the conversations that — that Jake is having that — he’s still over there having these conversations.  But the main focus of his visit, as I said, was to look for ways to deepen the U.S.-India bilateral relationship, particularly when it comes to emerging technology. 

Q    Would he bring this up?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have anything more to add on the conversations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you so much.  I have a question about China and then another on the cricket.  Starting with the —

MR. KIRBY:  On the cricket?

Q    On the cricket.

MR. KIRBY:  As in the game?

Q    Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  Okay. 

Q    Starting with President Xi —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, see, I just wanted to make clear it wasn’t a bug —

Q    Or the singing insect, perhaps.  (Laughter.) 

MR. KIRBY:  Go ahead. 

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

Q    Let me know.  Okay. 

MR. KIRBY:  Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry.

Q    President Xi, last year, told the head of the European Commission — or the European Commission president that the U.S. is trying to, quote, “trick” China into attacking Taiwan.  This sounds awfully similar to some language that President Putin was using to justify his invasion of Ukraine.  Do you think that Xi is taking a line from Putin’s playbook?  How concerned are you about it?  Is this something that the two leaders have talked about?

MR. KIRBY:  It’s bogus, for one.  There’s absolutely no truth to it. 

I can’t get into Mr. Xi’s head and figure out where — who’s giving him his talking points or where it’s coming from.  It’s just not true.

What’s your next question?

Q    All right.  On cricket.  What’s the difference between a spin bowl and a (inaudible) — no, I’m joking.  I’m joking.  (Laughter.)

The U.S. team has spin-bowled their way into glory.  They’re — they’re in the —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, congratulations to them. 

Q    — the Super Eight.

MR. KIRBY:  I saw that.

Q    Yeah.  So, I just wanted to know what your message was —

MR. KIRBY:  They’re in the Super Eight now.

Q    The Super Eight.  And they’re facing —

MR. KIRBY:  It’s amazing.

Q    — the Proteas and then the Windies in the coming days.  Does the President have a message for this unexpected success in a sport that is wildly popular —

MR. KIRBY:  We all —

Q    — everywhere else in the world?

MR. KIRBY:  We all congratulate them on this success.  It’s tremendous.  And we’re cheering them on.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Let’s keep going.  Go ahead, Phil.

Q    Thank you.  At the G7, President Biden greenlit the limited use of U.S. arms by Ukraine to strike targets across the border into Russia, but he clarified that nothing had changed in terms of long-range strikes inside Russia. 

So, my first question is: Can you say definitively that the President’s stance on long-range strikes inside Russia by Ukraine won’t change? 

And then, second, when the United Kingdom gave Ukraine permission to use British weapons to strike targets inside Russia, Moscow responded by saying that they could hit British targets, quote, “on Ukraine’s territory and beyond its borders” in retaliation.  What would the President’s response be if Moscow was to take that action against Britain?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, th- — that’s a hypothetical I don’t need to worry about because the President’s policy hasn’t changed when it comes to long-range strike — long- — the use of long-range U.S. strike weapons into Russia proper. 

I also just want to correct something you said.  You said he “greenlit” at the G7 this idea of cross-border — the use of U.S. weapons for cross-border imminent threats.  That’s actually a decision he made well before the G7.

Q    So — but in terms of this Russian threat to potentially strike British targets on Ukrainian territory and beyond, what is the White House response to that type of rhetoric coming from Moscow?

MR. KIRBY:  I would — my — look, my response to Mr. Putin is this.  If you’re so worried about becoming the victim of attacks and you’re worried about your troops’ livelihoods and your military units, then get the hell out of Ukraine.  You don’t have any business being there in the first place.  That’s my best advice to Mr. Putin.

Q    Thank you, sir.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Raquel. 

Q    Thank you very much, Karine.  Hi, John.  So, President Biden has sent a envoy today to Israel and Lebanon.  How real, John, is the possibility that this war will expand to Lebanon?  Do you believe — do you think it’s — do you — do you think that this — the full war there is more real today, the possibility, than it was few weeks ago? 

MR. KIRBY:  I —

Q    And do you believe that it’s possible to deescalate the situation there — the growing escalation, the tension — without a ceasefire? 

MR. KIRBY:  Look, I don’t want to sound blasé about th- — we — if we weren’t concerned about the possibility of escalation and a full-blown second front there to the north, we wouldn’t still be involved in such intense diplomacy.  And Mr. Hochstein is over there right now — as matter of fact, he’s in Israel as we speak — to have these conversations.  And he’ll follow that up with conversations in Beirut.

So, obviously, we’re concerned about this.  We haven’t seen Hezbollah jump in with two full feet here.  They have been, of course, conducting strikes across that border.  The Israelis have been defending themselves against that. 

We don’t want to see escalation.  We don’t want to see a second front.  And we are — we are concerned about it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Weijia.

Q    Is the possibility more real today than two weeks ago?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, that’s a sliding scale kind of question that I don’t think I’m really educated enough to answer.  I mean, it’s obviously still of concern.  There continues to be exchange of fire across that border.  And if we weren’t concerned about it, we certainly wouldn’t have sent Amos over there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Weijia.

Q    Thank you.  First — thanks, John — to follow up on Mary, you said that the U.S. did think it was worthwhile to have the War Cabinet in place.  Now that it is no longer, does the U.S. believe it will be a detriment as Netanyahu makes decisions moving forward?

MR. KIRBY:  I think that remains to be seen. 

Q    And then, secondly, do you have an update on the U.S. -built pier, the humanitarian aid pier that has been removed —

MR. KIRBY:  Removed?

Q    That is undergoing repairs —

MR. KIRBY:  Because of severe weather that we talked about being a problem in the — in the summertime here in the Eastern Med.  I don’t.  You’d have to go to the Pentagon for a real — more — a tactical update. 

As I understand it, they did have weather-related issues.  They had to dismantle it for the safety of everybody involved.  But I honestly don’t know what the new status is.

Q    Okay.  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Got to wrap it up.  Go ahead, Franco. 

Q    Thanks, John.  Thanks, Karine.  Secretary General Stoltenberg was talking about once the current fighting in Ukraine ends, that the ultimate security guarantee to prevent it from happening again — that Russia invades again — is Article 5 from NATO.  He seemed to be very clear that Ukraine should be admitted into NATO after the current fighting ends. 

Is that a — is — can you speak to that?  Is that a commitment that the U.S. shares, feels — that once this cur- — once this current fighting ends, that — feels strongly that Ukraine can get into NATO?

MR. KIRBY:  The President has said that he believes that NATO is in Ukraine’s future.  And there’s — there’s a lot of things that have to be done before they can join the Alliance, like any member has to do before they can join the Alliance.  But the President believes firmly that NATO is in Ukraine’s future at some point.

Q    But those — those conditions that have been — have been, you know, ki- — it’s somewhat a little bit vague.  It’s been a very di- — it has not been a very clear pathway when would they be able to do the actio- —

MR. KIRBY:  I disagree.

Q    — the action plan —

MR. KIRBY:  No — 

Q    — that they can get on?

MR. KIRBY:  No, I’m sorry, I got to disagree with you there. 

Q    What’s —

MR. KIRBY:  It’s not — it’s absolutely clear.  And they — and — and the Alliance —

Q    What are the specific conditions that Ukraine needs to meet?

MR. KIRBY:  The Alliance has talked about and the United States has certainly talked about, first, they got to win this war.  All right?  They got to win the war first.  And so, number one, we’re doing everything we can to make sure they can do that. 

Then when the war is over, no matter what it looks like, they’re still going to have a long border with Russia and a legitimate security threat to the Ukrainian people.  That’s why the President at the — at the G7 signed our bilateral security agreement joining — what? — some other — 14, 15 other countries that have done the same thing to make sure that, for the long haul, Ukraine’s defense industrial base can continue to make sure that they have what they need to defend themselves, and that includes assistance from the United States.  That’s the long haul. 

That will help — that will help them defend themselves while they work on the necessary things they have to do, like any member of the Alliance has to work on — for instance, on corruption — before they can apply for NATO membership. 

But we do believe that NATO is in Ukraine’s future, and we’re going to work with them every step of the way to

get them there.

Q    Is corruption still a major concern for —

MR. KIRBY:  The —

Q    — NATO Alliance (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  Corruption is a concern.  But there’s — there’s certainly o- — other things that need to be done for any — any nation that wants to join the Alliance. 

And I want to reiterate that joining the Alliance is an Alliance decision; it’s not something the United States can just make happen magically.  It has to be done through the existing Allies as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Akayla.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  National Secur- —

Q    Yes.  In an interview —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — sorry. 

Q    — an interview with BBC —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, go ahead.  Thank you.

Q    National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said over the weekend that he had plans to meet with officials from Qatar and Israel while he was in Switzerland.  Did he actually have those meetings?  And is there any update you can provide on the ceasefire hostage deal negotiations?

MR. KIRBY:  I would just tell you that we have maintained communication with both Qatar and Egypt.  And while I don’t have any progress to report today in terms of where things are, we’re still — we don’t — we still believe this is a very live process.  And these conversations are, in fact, being — they’re constructive, and — and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to get there.  So, yes, those conversations are happening.

Q    And the President met with the Pope, obviously, last week.  Did he raise his reported use of homophobic slurs when he met with him privately?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have anything more specific to speak to in terms of the meeting with the Pope.  That’s out — out of my swim lane at the NSC.

Q    But any response to his reported use of those words — of those terms?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I just don’t have anything for you on that.  I’m sorry.

Q    Thank you.  This morning, Secretary General Stoltenberg said in public comments that, publicly, President Xi has tried to create the impression that he’s taking a backseat in the conflict in Ukraine, but the reality is that China is fueling the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War Two.  What is the U.S.’s view on that position?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re already said almost the same thing.  I mean, they are continuing to provide components for military equipment and weapons systems, microelectronics that have helped shore up what without that support would have been a truly crumbling Russian defense industrial base.  We’ve made those concerns directly clear to — to the Chinese as well.

Q    But he says that there are not enough costs being imposed on Beijing for that.  D- — is that something that the President and the Secretary General are going to be discussing, how the Alliance can impose more costs on China?

MR. KIRBY:  I have no doubt that they’ll discuss a range of issues important to the NATO Alliance, and clearly that means supporting Ukraine, and clearly that means trying to make it harder for Russia to be able to murder and slaughter innocent Ukrainians and destroy Ukrainian infrastructure.  And the Chinese, because of the support that they are providing to the Russian defense industrial base, certainly bear a hand in helping Mr. Putin do that. 

I — I didn’t see those particular comments by the NATO Secretary General, so I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth on that.  But I would just tell you — you know, I’d encourage anybody: Just look at the range of actions that we have taken to try to hold Russia accountable not just from a perspective of supplying Ukraine but in terms of going after their own economic ability, and look at how he’s basically running on a war economy and nothing else. 

Here he is in Pyongyang trying to get more stuff from the North Koreans. 

We have done a lot to hold Mr. Putin accountable.  And that means and — and has included holding some of these Chinese companies accountable as well for the support that they’re giving to the Russian defense industrial base.

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

Q    A Russian fleet has reportedly left Havana.  Do you know where it’s going and what your level of concern is about it?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I can’t speak for the Russian Navy.  No, I have — I — I don’t have insight as to, you know, what their — what their course and speed is and where they’re going. 

And we’ve already talked about this.  It’s important to keep it in perspective.  The Russians do this every few years.  They make an excursion to the Caribbean, into Latin American waters.  It’s not new.  Did it under Trump.  Did it under Obama.  Did it under President Bush.  We watch it closely and monitor it, as we prob- — as we should.  No question about that. 

But as I’ve said earlier, this — this excursion of theirs doesn’t pose a national security threat to the American people or to the homeland.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Aurelia. 

Q    Thank you.  Hi, John.  Can you update us on the talks being held in Jerusalem to prevent an escalation on the Lebanese border?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m sorry, can I —

Q    There are talks, like the U.S. —

MR. KIRBY:  I already talked about that a little bit ago.

Q    — Special Envoy Hochstein is in Jerusalem.

MR. KIRBY:  I kind of — I kind of answered that question before when I talked about Amos and his trip.

Q    Yeah, but is it still your assessment that there will — there won’t be an escalation and that Hezbollah won’t go (inaudible) into this conflict?

MR. KIRBY:  If we — if we were so sure of that, we probably wouldn’t have Amos traveling over there.  We’re concerned about it, obviously.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Jon, last question. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, John.  One of the successes that President Biden touted at the G7 summit was this agreement by G7 leaders to provide $50 billion in loans to Ukraine.  Can you walk through the process of how that money actually gets to Ukraine, when it is provided to Ukraine, what that money is used for specifically?

MR. KIRBY:  I think the modalities of all that are still being worked out, Jon.  I couldn’t detail it for you here today.  But it is ba- — it’s basically about taking the windfall profits off these frozen assets, turning them around, and doing something good with them.  And so, they’re provided as a, quote, unquote, “loan” to Ukraine — for Ukraine specifically. 

I mean, it will be up to President Zelenskyy to decide, but the idea is to help him repair his infrastructure — the infrastructure that’s been damaged by Russia’s aggression inside the country — and to help them with reconstruction. 

And you don’t have to wait until the war’s over to do that.  In fact, that would — that would be a terrible thing to do to the Ukrainian people.  So, it’s a — it’s a way to get that reconstruction started right now and have Russia literally and figuratively be the one footing the bill.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right. 

Q    Can you explain why you just called it a, quote, unquote, “loan”?

MR. KIRBY:  Because it’s not as if — because if you’re using the windfall profits, it’s not as if Ukraine is going to have to pay those back.  It’s going to — you’re going to continue to be able to source that through — through the frozen assets and the — the windfall profits from those assets.

Okay?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thanks, Admiral.

Q    So, why use “loan” at all?

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Admiral. 

I do want to say something really quickly here.  When we were talk — going back and forth about the President — what else is the President going to do, yes, the President has been very clear in making sure that — and saying that we need a legislative solution.  But he also said, when he’s talked about the executive action that he recently took, that, in weeks ahead, he’s going to speak on how we can make our immigration system more fairer and more just.  So, he will have more to say on that.

I — obviously, we don’t have any policy announcement — announcement to make at this time.  But the President is certainly going to continue to address what we’re seeing at the border, the challenges at the border. 

The President has taken this very seriously.  He wants to see action.  He wants to see a bipartisan legislation move towards that.  But we haven’t — we haven’t seen that.

And so, it is — it is really important that we are with the majority of the American people when it comes to trying to make sure things are — are done.

On the question of — on the Pope.  And as the Admiral said, we’re not — we’re not going to go beyond what was read out and the issues that were discussed.  And it was a range of issues, obviously, whether it’s humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Ukraine, as well, and what’s happening with Russia aggression. 

But as it relates to LGBTQ — and, obviously, that is something that the Pope — Pope can speak to.  But the President has been very clear — you heard me at the top — when it comes to LGBTQI+ people, in that he believes that everyone, including that community, should live in — in dignity, should live in dignity, and he thinks that LGBTQ- — -QI+ people — young people are the bravest young people that he’s ever met.  And so — and they should not be facing discrimination.  

And I just wanted to be very clear about that as well.

Will.

Q    Okay.  I got two questions.  Just one real quick off — off the top.  Does President Biden plan to meet with Netanyahu when he comes for his joint —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything —

Q    — session of Congress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — to share on the President’s schedule.  As it relates to the Prime Minister visit, obviously, that’s something — since Congress invited — invited the Prime Minister, that’s something that they can speak to.  Don’t have anything to say at this time.  It’s more than a month away.  I just don’t have anything to share on the President’s schedule.

Q    Secondly, there — there seems to be a sort of rash of videos that have been edited to make the President appear especially frail or mentally confused.  I’m wondering if the — the White House is especially worried about the fact that this appears to be a pattern that we’re seeing more — more often? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, we — and I think you all have called this the “cheap fakes” video.  And that’s exactly what they are.  They are cheap fakes video.  They are done in bad faith.  And — and some of your news organization have — have been very clear, have stressed that these right-wing — the right-wing critics of the President have a credibility problem because of — the fact checkers have repeatedly caught them pushing misinformation, disinformation.

And so, we see this, and this is something coming from — from your — your part of the world, calling them cheap fakes and misinformation. 

And I’ll quote the Washington Post, where they wrote — they wrote about this, and they said, “How Republicans used misleading videos to attack Biden in a 24-hour period.”  And to their credit, we have a conservative — Washington Examiner did call them out as well, calling out the New York Post. 

Ironically, several — several recent cheap fakes actually attack the President for thanking troops — for thanking troops.  That is what they’re attacking the President for.  Both in Normandy this happened and again in Italy.

And I think that it tells you everything that we need to know about how — how desperate — how desperate Republicans are here. 

And instead of talking about the President’s performance in office — and what I mean by that is his legislative wins, what he’s been able to do for the American people across the country — we’re seeing these deep fakes, these manipulated videos.  And it is, again, done in bad faith.

Go ahead.

Q    The Surgeon General is calling for this warning label on social media platforms.  The President and the administration have been clear, you support addressing mental health tied to social media, especially among young people.  But does the President support this action?  Does he support a warning label like this as a means to addressing this crisis?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And to your — to your question, Mary Bruce, you’re absolutely right.  It is — there’s a mental health issue.  Our young people are experiencing an unprecedented — unprecedented menthal health — mental health crisis.  That’s what we’re seeing. 

And it is — there is undeniable evidence of this, that social media and other — other online platforms are contributing to this.  It is exactly why the President and the First Lady, this administration has done everything that they can to really tackle the mental health crisis as part of — let’s not forget, it’s part of their key agenda, as we talk about the Unity Agenda, because we believe that is something that could bring both sides together, because we’re seeing this in red states and in blue states. 

And so, we have invested resources to deal with this issue: establishing the new Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Well- — Wellness; launching the 988 suicide and crisis life- — lifeline — I just talked about that as it relates to LGBTQ+ youth; and launching a new interagency task force on Kids Online Health and Safety. 

So, there is a mental health crisis.  The Surgeon General’s announcement is about reminding parents and also about reminding kids the risk of using — of using social media.  So, we will — going to continue to focus on that.  Obviously, the Surgeon General is going to continue focus on that as the country’s doctor, physician.  So, I think that’s important that he’ll continue to do that work.  And we’re going to continue to look at a range of actions, as — as the Surgeon General is trying to do as well.

Q    But does the President support a warning label like this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, what I will say is that we want to — as I stated, in the Unity Agenda, we want to see a bipartisan approach in dealing with — dealing with this issue — right? — on how to hold social media companies accountable. 

The Surgeon General made this announcement reminding parents, reminding kids what’s at stake here, reminding — understanding that mental health is a — is a crisis — there is a crisis here in America.  But we believe that the way to move forward, to con- — the best way to move forward — as we say, you know, there’s always going to be policies that we’re going to introduce from here, but the best way to move forward is to deal with this in a bipartisan way. 

We believe that this — this is why we included it in the Unity Agenda.  This is going to be a continuation of what this President does in his — in his term here is: Let’s deal with this in a bipartisan way because it matters.  It’s not about red states or blue states.

Q    And just a scheduling question. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    The White House schedule has the President departing for Rehoboth tomorrow and then flying to Camp David on Thursday evening.  Is that it for the next week?  I mean, should we expect the President to hold any kind of public events before the debate next week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I will say stay tuned.  The President is — it’s in — you know, we’re still always working through the President’s schedule.  As you know, sitting in these seats, you know how — and covering the President, you know how that is.  We — sometimes things pop up on the schedule very, very quickly.  And so, we always share that with you all. 

I don’t have anything to preview or to announce at this time, but certainly stay tuned.  And when we have something to share, we certainly will.

Go ahead, Trevor.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Do — do you have any reaction to the federal judge blocking the protections for LGBT students under Title Nine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, that happened last week?

Q    No, this was a — that happened last — last week and on — today as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s right.  That’s right.  So, obviously, when it comes to these types of ruling, I would refer you to the Department of Justice, as — as this decision is being reviewed by them.  So, I want to be really careful. 

And we’ve always said: Every student ha- — has the right to be treated equally and to feel safe — to face — to feel safe at school.  It is important.  That is something that the President certainly is committed to.  And that — that is why these protections are — are all about making sure students have equal rights restored.  And also, it is — i- — makes sure that is vital that they are protected from hara- — harassment and also assault.

And so, as it relates to this particular ruling and what it says, obviously, I answered this in a more broad stroke, but as it relates to the ruling and reviewing, that — that’s something that Department of Justice is doing.

Go ahead, Weijia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I heard what you said about bipartisan efforts —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — to deal with social media.  But the Surgeon General was also calling on lawmakers specifically to pass legislation for this warning label.  So, does the President join in that call to pass legislation to put a warning label —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, here’s what — when —

Q    — on social media?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s what we’ve been very clear about:  Social media companies need to be held accountable.  They ju- — they have to be done — that has to be done, and we need to see that in a legislative way.  We believe it could happen in a bipartisan way.  And that’s what the President is going to continue to call on.  Let’s figure out a way to hold social media companies accountable for what is currently happening.

And we know the — we see that in the — in — in the data that this is an issue that — there’s undeniable evidence that social media is causing harms and other platforms are contributing to this mental health issue that we’re seeing. 

Congress is going to decide what that looks like.  Right? They can do this in a bipartisan way.  They’re going to decide, if they wish to move forward with it, what that bipartisan look li- — bi- — bipartisanship looks like in moving on — moving forward with dealing with social media.

Q    So, I’m not hearing a yes or no on the label.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — what I’m saying is that there is — there is a need, and it needs to happen, to hold to social media companies accountable. 

The Surgeon General gave an incred- — a very powerful — made a very powerful statement in that op-ed stating that — that — you know, that there are risks — making sure that parents are aware, making sure that kids are aware that there is a real risk.  And certainly, that is something that the Surgeon General should be able to do.  And he’s talked about this multiple times.  Not the first time that he has talked about social media and the risks that — that the platform and the evidence shows that leads to, certainly, mental health — a mental health crisis. 

So, there’s legislation that needs to be done.  It needs to be done in a bipartisan way.  The Surgeon General is also asking legislation to be done.  And so, we need to work on that.  And we’ll see what that ultimately looks like.

Q    And then, 10 days out from the debate, can —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — you share anything about how President Biden is preparing, including who is sitting in for Trump?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, that is something that the campaign would — would be gladly — would gladly answer that question for all of you, as to what that’s going to — to look like.  That is something that lives with them. 

The President, as you — as you just mentioned, is going to be headed to Reho- — Rehoboth, as Mary was asking me, and then he’s going to go to Camp David.  And certainly, we will share, as we do all the time, who’s traveling with the President.

Q    Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  That’s the way I can answer that question.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Given the Supreme Court ruling last week, would the President encourage Congress to pass a law banning bump stocks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, do want to say a couple of things about that.  Weapons of war have no place on — in — in our streets, especially of a civil society — no place. 

Unfortunately, the Court’s ruling strikes down an important commonsense regulation on devices that convert semi-automatic rifles into weapons that can fire hundreds of bullets per minute, also known as bump stocks. 

So, in — in Las Vegas, as many of you covered, bump stocks were used to carry out one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history — 60 — killing 60 people, who were simply trying to enjoy a concert — a music concert.  We continue to pray for them and their families as they — as they deal — continue to deal with the horrific — of that horrific event and the people of Las Vegas and beyond who are tragically affected by the epidemic of gun violence. 

You heard me talk about that at the top of this briefing and talk about even what we’re — what we saw over the weekend.  We continue to call on Congress to immediately ban bump stocks and assault weapons and take further action to implement common safety measures. 

And so, the President has taken action.  He’s done more than two dozen executive actions.  We have a historic office that deals with gun violence, and, certainly, that’s led by the — the Vice President. 

The President continues to talk about this issue.  And he wants to see — again, another place where he’s done the work from this side of — from this side of Pennsylvania.  He wants to see Congress also move forward because this — the way to actually deal with gun violence is through legislation.

Q    Has he talked to the Majority Leader specifically about putting a bill on the floor as soon as possible?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve — are con- — in constant communication with the Office of — through — from the Office of Leg Affairs, through Congress, both on the House and the Senate, about an array of issues that matter — legislative issues that — that matter to the President, including this, include this gun violence and finding ways to prevent this epidemic. 

And so, look, you heard me just call out what it is that we want Congress to do: banning assault weapons; obviously, banning bump — bump stocks immediately.  We want to see that happen.  And so, this is — this is a legislative priority for this President. 

Go ahead, Franco.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The President said this weekend that the next president is likely to have two new Supreme Court nominees.  Can you talk to the thinking behind that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I got to be mindful here.  It was — it was said in a campaign — a campaign event.  And he certainly was answering that in — in — you know, as it relates to the 2024 election, so going to be super mindful.  I’m going to allow you all to do — you know, to do the — the work on this and to kind of figure out who he was talking about, what he meant. 

But, look, I’ll say this.  Next Monday, a week from today, we are going to be, sadly, commemorating the Dobbs decision.  Two years ago, from — a week from today, we saw what the Supreme Court was able to do.  They were able to overturn Roe v. Wade, which was the law of the land for almost 50 years, which gave women the ability to make a decision on their own body, gave women the oppor- — the ability to make important, critical, difficult decisions on their healthcare.  That was taken away. 

And when that was taken away, we saw contraception was poten- — is — is now under attack.  We see now IVF is now und- — under attack.  We saw what Republicans did just last week. 

And there are freedoms that are now under attack because of what the — the Supreme Court was able to do by just overturning something that was the law of the land for almost 50 years.  And we know that happened because of what the former President did, which was appoint — appoint justices who — who he believed would be part of overturning Roe v. Wade.  And they did just that.

Q    But disliking — disliking what the current justices do —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — is different than —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No —

Q    — getting the opportunity to nominate two new justices.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But — but I think you’re just — hopefully, you’re — you’re seeing what I — how I’m trying to connect the two.  Right?  We — it was said back in 2016 — right? — that we got to be really mindful on how we move forward here. 

And what happened in the last administration is that — that the former President was able to appoint three justices.  And look what happened: The Dobbs decision happened.  Right?  So, there is — there is history here. 

Because I can’t speak to 2024, I’m speaking to the past and what occurred.  And next Monday, we are going to be commemorating a day where the Supreme Court justice overturned a constitutional right that was around for almost 50 years that has created 21 states now that have banned abortion. 

We’re talking about 27 million women who are of — of reproductive rights — you know, reproductive health, who now can’t make that decision for themselves.  You have doctors — if they performs healthcare for — for women that relates to reproductive healthcare, they could get arrested.  I mean, that is where we are right now. 

That’s why I’m using the past to try and — to try and help answer the question that you’re asking of me.  But I — I’m not going to dive into who the President was speaking of. 

But you see a pattern here, is what I’m trying to — to speak to.

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, thanks, Karine.  I want to ask you about the American Dream.  So, overall, the average sale price of a home is up 29 percent under President Biden.  We have record-low inventory, according to the National Association of Realtors.  And the cost of a mortgage is up because interest rates are up to fight inflation.  So, is the American Dream out of reach for a lot of Americans now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, Ed, I appreciate the question, and I — I hear what you’re saying.  And, look, the President understands that Americans are struggling right now to pay for their rent, to — to buy a home, and we get that.  That’s why the President took action some time ago in hi- — early in his administration.  And the things that it did was reduce mortgage insurance premiums by 900 bucks per year for hundreds of thousands of first-time home- — home- — homebuyers, expand rental assistance to 100,000 additional household, cut the red tape and expand financial — financing to build tens of thousands of affordable housing. 

And because of that, we see a record 1.7 million housing units are being built nationwide, and that is the most ever.  And more apartments are being built each year under — under this president since — since — than any oth- — other administration since 1980s.  And so, that matters. 

But the President also understands that there’s more work to be done, but he has taken action.  He’s created a task force to deal with this issue, because he understands how much — how much Americans are struggling just to buy a home, just to pay rent. 

Q    So — so you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And so, he’s going to continue to do that.

Q    So, you’re sort of saying eventually prices will come down.  And — and what’s the timeframe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, what I’m saying is the President has taken action, and we have seen 1.7 million housing units are being built — affordable housing mu- — units are being built.  There’s more work to do. 

The President also is calling on Congress to pass his housing plan, which was called by experts “the most consequential housing plan in more than 50 years.”  So, he’s taking more action. 

We’ve seen how the three things that I laid out in answering your question has actually helped: taking away red tape, continuing to expand rental assistance, making sure that thousands of Americans are able to have these insurance premiums and 900 bucks per year — these mortgage insurance premiums — which is all important in how they’re trying to — you’re right, trying to get that American Dream.  Buying a home is indeed very much part of that American Dream.  And the par- — the President understands that. 

Q    One more if I could on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    — on thr- — talk about — the President talks about threats to democracy.  And this is the first time I’ve had a chance to ask you questions since former President Trump was convicted.  How is — how is it not a threat to democracy when you have a prosecutor from the same party as the President waiting seven years to prosecute a political opponent in an election year? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m sorry, I don’t — the —

Q    A threat — how is it not a threat to democracy when you have a prosecutor of the same political party as the President waiting seven years — the crime happened in 2017 — to prosecute in an election year —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — a former President who’s now an opponent?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That — that’s a question for the Department of Justice on their timeline and how this moves.  I can’t answer that for you here. 

Go ahead, Phil.

Q    Thank you.  There was some confusion on this previously, and the President seemed to address this in passing as he was walking away from that joint press conference —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, yes.

Q    — with Zelenskyy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I know the question.  Yeah.

Q    So, I just wanted to clarify.  President Biden has ruled out any type of commutation or reduced sentence for his son, Hunter Biden, correct?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, he has.

Q    Thank you, ma’am. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, Karine, is there anything inappropriate when a reporter — a reporter asked a question about Gaza at an event where the President wants to focus on Ukraine or another subject?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’ll say this: I think — and — and you kind of s- — are stating it in your question.  The President — if you think about what happened when he walked — right before he walked to the podium and what was done in front of all — all of your colleagues, all of you, the world was that they signed a security agreement and — which was incredibly important. 

And so, for the President, as he’s standing to his — to his right, the President Z- — President Zelenskyy is standing to his right, they’re talking about, obviously, a war that’s been going on, Russia’s agress- — aggression into Ukraine that’s been going on for more than two years.  He, in his mind — right? — it’s like, okay, there’s — there is a — an important bilateral press conference, if you will, currently happening with a president that is fighting for their freedoms, fighting for their democracy.  So, in his mind, it is — the focus should be on that. 

But we’ve seen many press conferences where other questions are asked, and he answers them.  And even in saying that and what he said, he still took the answer.  He still, obviously, took the question and answered it. 

But that is how he’s thinking it: President Zelenskyy standing to the right — his right; they just signed an important security — security agreement that is going to be critical to the people of Ukraine as they have been fighting this aggression by Russia. 

And so, that — that’s it.  I wouldn’t — you know, he respects the freedom of the press.  He does.  I wouldn’t read too much into it.  But that is —

Q    There’s no rule or anything like that that was violated?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — I just — no, there isn’t.  That is what he was thinking at — in that moment, in that time.  You know, there is a — a — an important moment that was developing in front of everyone.  And that’s kind of what he was hoping the focus would be on. 

Q    And just a quick follow on the video —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.

Q    — you were talking about. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    There were two instances in recent days where leaders — former President Obama and Giorgia Meloni of Italy — they physically put hands on the President to guide him and to show him — give stage — stage directions.  Are they doing that on their own?  Or has anybody asked them to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — look —

Q    — run the show like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  First of all, let me spoke to the most recent, right?  As we saw on Saturday, the — President Obama put — President Obama’s office put out a statement, so I would refer you to that statement, about what was being accused in those — by others.  And he said this did not happen in the sense of what people were saying — saying they were seeing — right? — or what was being falsely reported that they were seeing. 

Let’s not forget, President Obama, President Biden have a relationship.  They are friends.  They’re like family to each other, and I think that’s what you saw.  You saw the President put his hand behind the — on the back of — of President Biden, and — and they walked off the stage after — after taking questions or in a — at an event taking questions from Jimmy Kimmel.  That is — that is what you saw.  But I would refer you to President Obama’s off- — office statement.  They talked about this.  They discussed this, and they came out with it pretty — pretty quickly. 

All right. 

Q    And Meloni?  You wanted to say something about Meloni?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Meloni, I — I don’t have anything.  I don’t know specifically what happened with Meloni.

Q    The wandering.  The parachutist. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, that was — as I said, it was a cheap — you know, a cheap fake.  That was definitely a cheap fake.  It was.  This was widely fact-checked.  That video was widely fact-checked, including by conservative media, on — on what had — what happened that — what occurred. 

The President walked over to give a thumbs up to divers who had just landed right in front of him.  And if you run that tape a little bit longer, you would see — you would see what was happening, what the President was actually doing, and it is a cheap fake.

Q    So, this is much ado —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is what —

Q    — about nothing, and he is totally normal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I am saying is, this is a president — right? — and ste- — let’s step back for a second. 

Instead of — and I said this moments ago — instead of Republicans, you know, focusing on the President’s performance in office and what he’s been able to accomplish, his actual record, they do these cheap fakes.  They are cheap fakes.  And you’re asking me about the Meloni.  You’re asking me what happened.  That video —

Q    I can ask you about Juneteenth as well. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That video — that video was — okay, let’s talk about Juneteenth. 

Q    Let’s.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President stood there listening to the music, and he didn’t dance.  Excuse me.  I did not know not dancing was a mental — was a — it was a health issue.  That is a weird thing to actually flag when, if you — if you look at the people who were around him, if th- — you look at the expanded video of the people who were around him, they were not — they were — there were some folks who were not dancing either.  And that has been fact-checked.

I mean, just because you’re standing up, listening to music, and not dancing, that is not a health issue. 

Q    So, the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is just not a health issue. 

Q    The majorities of American voters who are telling pollsters repeatedly for years now that they have serious concerns about this President’s cognitive fitness are being misled by cheap fake videos?  Is that what you’re telling us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m saying that there have been — in recent weeks, there have been cheap fake videos that have been fact-check.  They’ve been fact-check — by conservative media as well — to say that these videos are false.  They’re purp- — purposefully being altered. 

Q    So, he’s fine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is —

Q    So, he’s fine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is — look —

Q    He’s fine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — the President has done more in his three years — three and a half years as president than most modern-day president in what he’s been able to deliver.  He’s able to do that because he knows what he’s doing.  He knows how to deliver for the American people. 

He’s able to make sure that we attack climate — the climate crisis with the Inflation Reduction Act.  He’s made sure that we were able to create 15 million jobs, 800,000 manufacturing jobs.  He was able to make sure that unemployment went down.  He was able to make sure that we are able to have Medicaid actually able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.  Something that no other — no other president has been able to do, this president has been able to do.

I think that tells you everything that you need to do by looking at his record.  And what you’re seeing right now is Republicans — instead of talking what I just listed about — what I just talked about, they’re really diving into these cheap fake videos.  And it’s in bad faith.  That’s what I’m saying.  What they’re doing is pure bad faith.  And it’s been fact-checked by many, including conservative fact-checkers.

I got to — go ahead.  Go ahead, Naomi.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just on another topic.  Does the White House have a comment on Press Secretary — or former Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s testimony that’s upcoming about — in front of the Foreign Affairs Committee about Afghanistan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any comment at this time.

Q    And then, sorry, you sort of said last that next week you are going to commemorate the anniversary of Dobbs.  Are there any measures that we should expect or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have anything to — to read out at this — at this current moment.  But obviously, the President and the Vice President are going to continue to talk — to talk about the Dobbs decision and how that’s affected millions — tens of — tens of millions of women across — across the country and the devastating impact — the devastating impact that we see.  Once we have more to share, certainly, we will.  I just don’t have anything at this time.

All right.  Thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

Q    Thanks.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Bye, guys.

3:09 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call on an Update on the President’s Second Day at the G7

Sat, 06/15/2024 - 08:27

Via Teleconference

7:46 P.M. CEST

MODERATOR:  Hey, everyone.  We’ll get started.  As a reminder, this is a call on background, attributable to a senior administration official, to sort of give a run-through of today’s day and any updates that might have happened since we all talked earlier today.

For your awareness, not for your reporting, today’s senior administration official is [senior administration official].  He has a few words here at the top, and then we’ll try to get as many questions in as we can before he has to pop off.

So, over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Sam.  Hi, everybody.  Thanks for jumping on.  Sorry it took so long to connect.  Our final session just wrapped, and then, as you know, we had the family photo.  So we’re finally free. 

Let me do two — let me do three things.  One, I’ll give you a few updates on the Russian sovereign asset deal.  I’ll then try to give you a sense of what was discussed today.  And then I’ll summarize key deliverables from the communiqué, which just got approved 15 minutes ago, and it should be released imminently if it hasn’t been already. 

So, first on Russian sovereign assets.  Look, I know there are a lot of questions about the technical details of the agreement, which are being worked out as we speak, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s already happened this week, which I truly believe was historic: The G7 found a way and agreed to make Russia pay.  And just put that into context.  Never before in history has a multilateral coalition immobilized the sovereign assets of an aggressor country and then found a way to unlock the value of those assets for the benefit of the aggrieved party as it fights for its freedom.  That’s what happened at this G7. 

And it’s a testament to President Biden’s belief that multilateralism is a force multiplier for American interests.  And I want to underscore the G7 took this step while respecting the rule of law in every G7 jurisdiction, while maintaining our solidarity. 

So let me give you some technical — some updates on technical details that I think are incremental to what I told you yesterday.

First, we spoke yesterday about which countries will participate in the deal.  And the answer really is that every G7 country is going to do its part.  Some countries are going to contribute to the loan; others will contribute to the repayment.  Others still will provide guarantees of repayment if the income flow isn’t sufficient to service and repay the loan in full. 

But the basic contours are what you know: Fifty billion U.S. dollars’ worth will be provided to Ukraine starting this year.  And the loans will be repaid by the income on the immobilized assets. 

As for the U.S., we’ve already shared that we’re prepared and willing to make a loan of up to $50 billion.  But I can now confirm the U.S. won’t be the only lender.  Canada went public — I believe all of you probably know — yesterday with their intention to contribute $5 billion.  Europe has suggested it might wish to make at least half of the total loan.  Japan is finalizing its plans.  And we also already know the repayment will be made with income from the immobilized assets, most of which are held in the EU but not exclusively.  And there’s at least one jurisdiction that’s exploring, as I mentioned, how it can provide a sovereign guarantee for the full repayment of the loan. 

Second, on how the proceeds will get distributed to Ukraine, the answer is: The money will flow to Ukraine through multiple channels.  Europe has a preference to flow its loan contribution to the Ukrainian military through an existing European facility, namely the European Peace Facility.  Other G7 members — Japan, for example — Japan has a legal requirement to make its potential contribution to Ukraine’s budget and not for military purposes. 

But as I mentioned yesterday, regardless of the destination, all of these contributions are reinforcing.  Think of it this way: The more budget relief provided to Ukraine, the better it can sustain its defense.  And the more successful Ukraine can be on the battlefield, the more sustainable its finances will become. 

Third update on the implication for Ukraine’s finances.  I know there are questions about this.  So, again, the loan will be repaid with proceeds from the immobilized assets, and that means Ukraine can treat these funds as a grant.  That’s important because if it’s not expected to repay any portion of the loan from its own budget, it doesn’t change Ukraine’s debt to GDP ratio. 

Fourth, on governance.  Now, for the money that’s going to be directed to reconstruction, what you’ll see in the communiqué is a nod to an existing facility to which all G7 members belong, and is co-chaired by the U.S. and the EU, and that’s called the Ukraine Multi-Donor Coordination Platform.  I know it’s a mouthful.  But its purpose is to do just what it sounds like: It coordinates the flow of money coming into Ukraine, and it directs it to Ukraine’s highest priorities at a pace that it can effectively absorb.  That platform already exists, and we intend to strengthen it. 

The fifth detail is on Belgium’s role.  There have been many questions about Belgium.  And as I said yesterday, we fully expect that the EU-27 will meet this moment and, with the G7’s direction, authorize the continued immobilization of Russia’s sovereign assets.  The reason I say that is that European G7 countries have now committed at the highest political levels to seek that approval from Brussels.  But it’s not the only option for the assets to remain immobilized.  We are also closely engaged with Belgium.  As you know, one of Belgium’s companies has a large share of the total immobilized assets.  And I’ll just say they have played and will continue to play a very constructive role as partners in this effort. 

Sixth, last incremental update on Russian sovereign assets:  Ukraine’s reaction.  You all know — most of you were there, if not all of you — we had the bilateral security agreement signing last night with Ukraine.  And during those discussions, Ukraine welcomed the $50 billion commitment, both because of the direct impact it will have in funding Ukraine’s fight for freedom but also the psychological signal it sends. 

Just step back and consider what’s been announced this week: an historic agreement to mobilize Russia’s sovereign assets to fund Ukraine’s fight; a string of bilateral security agreements with Ukraine, none more important than ours last night; and arguably the most significant tightening of our sanctions regime to disarm the Russian war machine in years.

So it has the potential to create a psychological inflection point now going into the NATO Summit in July. 

All right, so I’m happy to take questions on the Russian sovereign assets deal, but let me go through what happened today and just give you a quick wrap of the summit overall. 

So, today there were three sessions.  First, the President participated in a session on migration.  I would say he used that session and he drove the conversation around his framework for managing migration, which is really based on the Los Angeles Declaration he launched in May of 2022.  It has three elements.  One, to promote humane and coordinated enforcement of the border.  Two, to strengthen pathways for legal migration and to integrate migrants into host communities.  And three, to support efforts to address the root causes of migration. 

He also remarked, as he has before, that, you know, more people are on the move today than at any time in history and that the risks are two-sided.  Migrants bring immense talent into our country but also challenges that require cooperation.  And I would say the conversation among leaders was largely centered around how to turn migration into an asset rather than a liability. 

He then participated in a session on the Indo-Pacific region.  And I would say most of that discussion focused on a diagnosis of the economic and national security threats from China’s efforts to dominate strategic sectors.  You’ll see in the communiqué a shared diagnosis of the problem we and, I would say, most of the world shares, which is we have unrivaled policy distortions coming out of China.  That’s giving rise to an unfair competitive advantage that’s manifest in the overcapacity that China is producing in strategic sectors.  And that’s a problem for three reasons.  It’s undercutting our own investments in our productive capacity.  It’s reducing our supply chain resilience.  And it’s threatening our national security interests, particularly when it undercuts our ability to remain preeminent in foundational technology. 

So, on that — against that backdrop, what you’ll see in the communiqué is the G7 is collectively calling out those risks and then collectively pledging to take action, again, in a way that’s shared.  You’ll see references throughout the communiqué to investing in our own industrial capacities.  You’ll see references as well on giving each other, and countries that play by the same rules, fair access to our markets and to our production.  And then also our shared willingness to take restrictive measures, where it’s necessary, to protect our workers and industries from practices that are causing harm. 

The last session today was when President Biden and His Holiness Pope Francis and the G7 leaders and the outreach countries discussed AI.  And here, the context was — the way President Biden talked about it was: We’re going to see more technological change in the next five years than we saw in the last 50 years.  And so we have to deepen our cooperation to harness the promise of artificial intelligence and also manage the potential perils.

Specifically in terms of harnessing the promise, most of the focus was on addressing the potential effects of AI on our labor markets and the efforts we can take to bridge skills gaps with the private sector.  So you’ll see in the communiqué a new consortium that’s designed to identify job roles that are most likely to get impacted by AI and to identify the skills and the competencies that will be needed to avoid displacement effects and try to create more potential for augmenting productivity and developing training programs around it. 

And then the other part of the conversation was around how to make artificial intelligence safe and secure and how we can use policy to do so.  And that includes testing AI systems before they get released.  There was quite a bit of mention of watermarking content that’s generated by AI, flagging AI algorithms that can reinforce bias, requiring developers of the most powerful systems to share results of safety tests with the government. 

I would say these are all aspects of what’s included in the President’s executive order for AI.  So, that — it actually — the AI executive order was echoed in much of the conversation that took place today. 

I would just say lastly, stepping back and thinking about the deliverables, the key takeaways from the communiqué as you read through it, to me there are five or six that stand out.  One is what we talked about at the top: the shared effort to fund Ukraine’s fight for freedom.  And that really has been accomplished by mobilizing Russian sovereign assets.  The leaders took a very important first step, but it was a necessary and crucial step, and it can be continued in the weeks and months ahead.  But this step had to be taken so that political leaders could give direction to technocrats to do what they do, which is now finalize the technical details. 

The second real deliverable is to agree on defunding and disarming the Russian war machine.  There was unanimous agreement that the Russian military has been sustained by transforming its entire economy into a war machine and because China and other countries have been willing to serve as the (inaudible) war machine. 

And so, you saw the United States announce an aggressive expansion of our sanctions that now allows us to sanction any foreign bank that deals with sanctioned Russian banks or companies or individuals.  And that’s going to meaningfully disrupt Russia’s ability to export — import dual-use items that are being used on the battlefield. 

It’s a really simple message: If Russia’s entire economy is now a cog in its war machine, then no banks outside of Russia should have any dealings with sanctioned Russian banks or companies that are funding and fueling the war machine.  If they do, they’ll lose access to our financial system. 

You also saw this week our announcement of the expansion of our export controls.  It used to be just U.S. origin products.  Now it’s going to be U.S.-branded products.  That’s going to cover a much broader range of battlefield components that are made with U.S. tools or technology that are either being produced abroad or that transit through third countries abroad. 

And then we also backed up our words with actions.  That’s why we sanctioned over 300 firms, many of which were outside of Russia.  So that’s a key shift in our sanctions strategy. 

The third deliverable was what I mentioned about the China conversation.  There was a collective diagnosis and a collective agreement to confront the economic and national security threats from China.  And you saw — you’ve seen our actions in terms of tariffs in strategic sectors.  You heard this week about the EU’s actions.  And other countries that have yet to act made commitments to follow suit. 

The fourth deliverable, which we didn’t talk about on this call yet, is delivering a better value proposition to developing countries.  And that was the whole purpose of the outreach to 12 countries outside of the G7.  They want a genuine partnership.  They want transparent alternatives to coercive forms of lending.  They want the ability to make investments they need to combat climate change and to invest in their own healthcare and education.  And the G7 agreed to do everything it can to meet that demand, because our own security, our own prosperity depends on it. 

So three items you’ll see in the communiqué: One is — and this is consistent with the Nairobi-Washington Vision you heard President Biden announce with President Ruto — scale up sustainable and transparent financing and debt relief for developing countries that have ambition to make investments to address climate change and to address other global challenges.  And PGI is a big part of it, but you’ll see references to debt relief measures as well. 

Two is: We have to keep boosting the financial firepower of the World Bank and other MDBs, and you’ll see specific references to how we do so. 

And then third: Ending the freeriding of China, because since 2019, China has been net-taking money out of low- and middle-income countries due to it being — paying back 100 cents on the dollar for the debt that it’s provided to these developing countries.  Meanwhile, we and the MDBs, the multilateral development banks, have been collectively putting money in.  So there’s a collective agreement to stop that form of freeriding.

And then, AI and migration were the other two main (inaudible), but we already spoke about that. 

So let me pause here and take your questions.  Thanks.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our first question will go to JJ with Bloomberg.

Q    Hey, can you hear me?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can hear you, Jennifer.

Q    Hey.  I’m just wondering if there was any conversation amongst the leaders about the cost of the war in Ukraine and how much rebuilding will cost.  And if there was (inaudible), can you share some numbers please?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, there was a discussion about that, Jennifer, in two ways.  One is, you know, the costs of reconstruction are continuing to grow.  The last estimate from the World Bank was $486 billion.  It’s undoubtedly larger, especially given all the damage to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks. 

But the conversation then focused on who should pay, and that’s where the Russian sovereign asset approach — sorry, proposal, came in.  And there was, of course, unanimous agreement that when it comes to financing the eventual reconstruction of Ukraine, it’s only fair that Russia, not our taxpayers, foot the bill. 

The second part of your question was really — sorry, Jennifer, say again?

Q    Oh, just two things.  I just wanted to know the cost of the war and then the cost of reconstruction. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so beyond — I mean, beyond the World Bank estimate, there wasn’t a numerical estimate that was updated in the discussions.  But there was an agreement, there was an understanding that the costs are mounting.  And the conversation really focused on the fairness of forcing Russia to pay rather than taking on more of the burden among G7 countries.

MODERATOR:  Awesome, thank you.  Our next question will go to David Sanger with the New York Times.

David, you should be able to unmute yourself.  Are you able to hear me?

Q    Are you able to hear me now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can hear you, David.

Q    Great.  Thanks very much for doing this.  I wanted to go back to the discussion about China, because it sounds different to me than the way the G7 has usually talked about China.  Usually, there’s been sections of the communiqué that referred to China as a partner or whether it was counterterrorism, nonproliferation in dealing with Iran, and so forth. 

As I look at the communiqué here, it’s almost all pretty critical.  There’s a section on, obviously, supplying the Russian war machine that you referred to.  There’s sections on oversupply.  There are sections on your concerns about their cutting off critical minerals.  Was this notable in the discussion?  Can you give us a little bit of a sense of what the China discussion looked like?  Did it strike you as taking a pretty universally negative tone?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think it was just — it was a realistic conversation, David, that, as time goes on, it’s more clear that President Xi’s ambition is to restore China’s dominance, at least in the Indo-Pacific, possibly beyond.  And that effort is mostly taking place through an effort to establish economic and technological primacy.  And that’s the explicit objective of Made in China 2025 that was referenced several times this week.  It’s somewhat more subtle with the Belt and Road Initiative.  And there was also an observation that China appears to believe that democracies are in structural decline.  So he now appears to be taking tactical risks to realize his strategic ambitions. 

And as it relates to economics, I mean, there’s a corollary, which is the observation that China’s economic model, it’s increasingly state-led and centralized.  And it’s unlikely — none of the leaders felt as though the trend line was likely to change, because market-oriented reforms require a loss of control that the leadership appears unwilling or unable to accept.  So if that’s the case, then China’s growth strategy is going to remain underpinned by national champions and state-owned enterprises that rely on unrivaled levels of government subsidies and non-tariff barriers and currency distortions and weak energy standards, weak labor standards, sometimes outright theft. 

And the implication is that G7 businesses are in an unfair competition against the Chinese government.  And that has very serious costs to our economies, especially in trade-affected communities, but then even more profound damage to our supply chain resilience and our national security, even our political economy.  That was the nature of the conversation. 

So, you know, I think it’s just an acceptance of the competition that we’re in.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Danny with AFP.

Q    Hey, how you doing?  I just wanted to ask: Vladimir Putin said today that Ukraine must withdraw troops to start peace talks, which is obviously completely unrealistic.  Do you think that this kind of uncompromising position is partly a way of hitting back at all the steps that the G7 has taken and also at the 10-year security deal?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  You know, as usual, I can’t really give you any confident interpretation of what’s going on inside President Putin’s mind.  But most of these proposals that he’s floated, they have not made their way directly to Ukraine.  So that’s what stands out, is they’re being made in public rather than where they ought to be directed, which is to Kyiv.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Tyler Pager with the Washington Post. 

Q    Thanks so much.  I’m wondering if you can give us any more context or color about what the President and Pope Francis talked about in their private meeting.  Was there any specific discussion on certain topics?  Any color or more detail on that meeting would be great.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, sorry, Tyler — I left the President to come and talk to all of you, so I missed the meeting.  But it had a very — I can tell you they had a very warm embrace when the Pope arrived to the AI session, although I can’t speak to what was said in private just now.  I think we’ll have something for you in the aftermath if I’m not mistaken.  Sam, you can correct me.

MODERATOR:  I think we should.  Eduardo should actually be the one who confirms that. 

MR. MAIA SILVA:  That’s right, we’ll have a readout. 

MODERATOR:  Perfect.  Our next question will go to Andrea Shalal with Reuters.

Q    (Inaudible.)  (Poor audio connection.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Andrea, I’m sorry, it cut out.

Q    (Inaudible) China?  Can you hear me?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I didn’t hear your question.  I’m sorry.

Q    Sorry.  So, this question has been on my mind for the last few days.  With all the measures that you’ve taken regarding China, spanning from debt to the overcapacity issue to the aiding of the Russian war effort, but also to the frustration on the debt front, I’m wondering if this is a pivot point or shift in terms of the relationship; if you see this as like a major inflection point in the way that the West is going to interact with China.  And whether — and what are the implications of that for the efforts that President Biden and the administration have taken over the past year or so to mend — you know, ease tensions with China get back to a more balanced relationship where there can be communication and coordination?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Andrea, I think it’s a continuation of what you’ve seen during this administration.

Q    And then separately, if you could just say whether the President had any sort of sideline pull-asides with the Indian Prime Minister and others.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thanks, Andrea.  I was — I would characterize this as a continuation of the policy that we’ve had in place over the course of this administration.  And it’s still centered on investing in ourselves.  And there was quite a bit of discussion about the IRA and the CHIPS Act, the infrastructure bill, all of the supply-side investments that the President has managed to legislate during his term. 

It’s also very much still about creating partnerships and establishing and updating rules that we all play by so we can give each other access to the results of the investments we’re making. 

But, you know, where we have to confront China, we’re doing so, and it’s a continuation of that effort.  I would say what’s different, perhaps, about the most recent actions is that some of China’s actions to support the Russian war machine are now not just threatening Ukraine’s existence, but European security and transatlantic security.  And so, it’s taken on a new form, and that’s why the sanctions measures that were announced this week are so serious.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to James from the Financial Times.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, sorry, I didn’t answer Andrea’s second question.

There were brief exchanges during the — just before and just after the outreach session today, Andrea, but I wouldn’t characterize those as bilats.  These were 60- to 90-second exchanges at most.

Q    Hi there.  Thanks for doing this.  I was wondering if there were any discussions about some of the market turmoil here in Europe, especially in France, in the wake of the elections — the EU elections on Sunday and Macron’s call for new parliamentary elections.  Is that a concern for the U.S. in terms of market stability?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I mean, we’ve been in meetings all day, so I don’t know what happened.  I’ve heard that French bond yields have started to widen relative to German bond yields. 

But I think, on the whole, what you see from the election results — there’s clearly been some pickup in the votes earned by right-leaning parties, but by and large, the center has held.  And that was largely on display here in Puglia as well.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Patsy with VOA.

Q    Hey, thank you.  On the Russian frozen assets — so these countries that have come out with pledges of their own portions of the loan, are they — just to make sure, are they basically guaranteeing the loan and also eating the loss if rates fall and they won’t get the estimated whatever interest rate it was as promised or as predicted?

And if you can comment on the fact that the statement came out — the communiqué came out with leaders reiterating commitments in Hiroshima, but we see a removal of the phrase “access to safe and legal abortion” that we saw in last year’s summit.  If you can comment about, kind of, the dynamics behind that and what was the U.S. position.  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, on the first question — sorry, you were asking about how different countries are going to participate in the loan?  I’m sorry, it cut out.  My signal is not the best.

Q    Oh, yeah.  Yeah, so essentially, yeah, how each country will participate in the loan.  You mentioned some pledges already.  How firm are those pledges?  And are they basically saying that they are going to guarantee the loan and eat the losses if the rates fall?  Because that was one of the concerns as I understand it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, understood.  So, yeah, I think there are three forms of participation: making a loan to Ukraine through an intermediary; contributing income to repay the loan; or offering a guarantee of repayment to the lenders or some portion of the loan that’s made. 

And we, the U.S., have committed to make up to $50 billion of lending available to Ukraine.  Canada, I believe, went public yesterday with a $5 billion commitment.  And the European Union and Japan are actively considering whether to join in the loan syndicate.  So they have to speak to whether their plans have become final.  The UK is considering a way to guarantee the repayment of loans that are made.  And then the European Union is also going to play a very large role, of course, in providing the income from the immobilized assets that’s used to repay the loans. 

So it can come in multiple forms.  The commitments have already been made public by the U.S. and Canada.  It may be that others have done so over the course of the last few hours.  I have not seen that yet.  But I would expect you’ll hear more from them in the coming days. 

Your second question on the language in the communiqué — I mean, I’ll just read to you.  You may have it in front of you, but the language related to abortion says, “We reiterated our commitments from the Hiroshima communiqué, specifically the commitment to universal access as it relates to adequate, affordable, and quality health services for women, including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.”

So some of the words may not be identical, but the commitments are the same.  And that’s very much the intent of what was put in the communiqué.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to MJ Lee with CNN.

Q    Hey, can you hear me okay?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi, MJ.  Yes, I can.

Q    Great.  Just on the last answer that you gave about the language on reproductive rights, was the President fully satisfied with the final language that ended up being included in the communiqué?  And I wondered also whether there were any specific discussions about potentially including a specific reference to LGBTQ rights in the final version.

And then, separately, there was another official talking to reporters earlier today who said that the topic of Trump — the possibility of a second Trump term hadn’t come up, at least as far as they were aware, amongst the leaders so far.  And I just wondered whether that had been your experience as well so far, or if you have been privy to any discussions about the U.S. presidential election and the possibility of Trump’s return, this week.  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  So, first, MJ, on your question about the President’s stance on the language in the communiqué on abortion — I mean, he stands fully behind the language that made its way into the final communiqué.  He felt strongly about the language that made it through.

On LGBTQIA+, there is a reference.  It’s in the gender equality section.  I wouldn’t read too much into where the language is placed.  It says, “We express our strong concern about the rollback of the rights of women and girls and LGBTQIA people around the world, in particular in time of crisis.  And we strongly condemn all violations and abuses of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  And this is largely what we had in place last year.  Again, the words are different; the commitments are the same.

On your question around whether our election came up explicitly, I think the answer to that, honestly, is no.  The conversation was mostly around the fact that this is the year of the election, and many remarked that more than 60 countries are going to the ballot box, more people are voting this year than in human history.  And it’s a moment for leaders to demonstrate that multilateralism is still a force multiplier. 

And there was also an observation made by almost all of the leaders — I believe all of them actually — that the G7 is now more unified and purposeful than it’s ever been in its 50-year history.  And that unity has been built with trust — trust earned through difficult decisions and hard moments.  That’s been the track record of the G7 for the past three years.  I think it’s the track record President Biden established early on in Cornwall, and it was — I think it was cemented this week.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our final question will go to Beatriz with EFE.

Q    Hi.  Thank you for taking my question.  In your opening remarks, you mentioned — my question is about the frozen assets.  In your opening remarks, you mentioned that the European Union suggested that they might cover (inaudible) —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m sorry, you’re cutting out, Beatriz.

Q    Sorry.  Can you hear me now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Could you try that again? Yeah, I heard half of your question but not the second half.

Q    It’s about the frozen assets and the European contribution to the loan.  I want to know if there is a specified — like a precise amount that they have committed to.  What is exactly the role?  If you can provide a little bit more detail.  And also, if this commitment came from the European union representatives or from countries like France and Germany that are part of Europe.  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  So the first step — this is something we discussed briefly yesterday.  The first step Europe has to take now is to go to the EU-27 and get the entire membership to commit to the continued immobilization of the Russian reserves.  We feel encouraged by this week because the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, and the European Commission and the European Council has committed that they are going to keep the assets immobilized in their countries and they’re going to seek approval — you see in the communiqué — seek approval to do so in the required intergovernmental organizations.  I think that’s the term of art that’s used.

And once that step has been taken, Europe will be in a — the EU will be in a position to decide what portion of the $50 billion loan they wish to take on.  The suggestions that were made this week were that could be as much as half of the entire loan.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  And thank you, everyone, again for joining us and bearing with us today.  We really appreciate your patience and flexibility.

As a reminder, today’s call was held on background, attributable to a senior administration official.  For those traveling, hope you get back safe.  And enjoy your weekend. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, everybody. Safe travels.

    8:22 P.M. CEST 

###

The post Background Press Call on an Update on the President’s Second Day at the G7 appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call Previewing the President’s Second Day at the G7

Fri, 06/14/2024 - 08:11

Via Teleconference

10:02 A.M. CEST

MODERATOR:  Good morning, and thanks for joining us on today’s background call to preview the second day of the G7.

Our senior administration official on today’s call is [senior administration official] here at the NSC.  He has a few words here at the top, and then we’ll get through some of your questions.

So, over to you, [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thanks so much.  So I’ll start off by noting the announcement President Biden made yesterday.  As you all know, President Biden and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy signed a historic U.S.-Ukraine bilateral security agreement reflecting the close partnership between our two democracies.  The United States sent a powerful signal of our strong support for Ukraine, now and into the future.

Now, turning to today, President Biden this morning will participate in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Meloni.  They’ll have an opportunity to discuss a range of topics, including of course Ukraine, where Prime Minister Meloni has been very strong and supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

And of course with Italy’s leadership of the G7, there was also an important announcement yesterday on unlocking the value of the proceeds from Russian sovereign assets for the benefit of Ukraine.  And I am sure they will discuss developments in Ukraine as well. 

There will be an opportunity to discuss the PRC, as well, and the troubling support that the PRC has provided in terms of dual-use equipment and goods to Russia to advance Russia’s defense industrial base — things like optics, nitrocellulose, microelectronics, the sorts of items that go directly to the production of armaments that are used not just in Ukraine but that pose a long-term threat to the security of Europe. 

That is something that is of concern to all of the G7 countries, and so I think we’ll have an opportunity to discuss this as well, as well as the transatlantic relationship, as we are now just about a month out — a little less than a month out from the Washington summit, the NATO Summit.  Of course, Italy is a strong partner in NATO, and they’ll have an opportunity to discuss some of the outcomes of that summit. 

I would expect that there’ll be an opportunity as well to discuss the Middle East and specifically Israel-Gaza, where, again, Prime Minister Meloni has been a strong partner.  She has endorsed the President’s plan for ending the war.  And so, there’ll be an opportunity to get into that as well. 

And then finally, I think the other topic that possibly could come up or that may come up are the recent European elections.  I’m sure you all are tracking the elections from the 6th to the 9th of June across Europe.  Prime Minister Meloni’s party did rather well, coming in first in Italy.  And so now there will be a reset of the top European institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council.  All of that will get underway in the coming days and weeks.  And so I think the leaders will have an opportunity to get into some of that.

Following that, the President will have an opportunity to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis later this afternoon, or early evening.  And there, I expect that some of the topics that they’ll have an opportunity to discuss will be largely similar.  I would expect there will be a discussion of Ukraine where the Holy See has been actively engaged.  Cardinal Zuppi, in particular, has been an envoy working to return Ukrainian children who have been forcibly deported across the border, separated from their families.  Of course, it’s one of the huge tragedies of this war. 

And the Holy See has also been engaged in trying to promote a peace agreement.  And Cardinal Parolin, if I understand correctly, will be the Vatican’s representative to the Switzerland peace conference that will kick off this Saturday, where Vice President Harris will represent the United States.

I would expect with Pope Francis that the President will also have an opportunity to discuss the Middle East and then also the issues of artificial intelligence and climate change, which are issues that are of great concern and interest to Pope Francis but also to the United States. 

And I’ll just say on AI, I think we are both interested in responsible use of artificial intelligence, preserving human dignity and human rights.  And so they’ll have a chance to get into that.  That’s also going to be one of the topics at today’s G7 plenary session, with the participation of Pope Francis, and then also climate change, which is an issue that is near and dear to both leaders. 

Of course, the President’s plan for adaptation and resilience, which was launched in November of 2021, is an important effort to deal with climate change, as is the multilateral Loss and Damage Fund to which the United States has contributed $17.5 million, an important effort to mitigate some of the effects of climate change. 

That’s largely where I see those two conversations going.  Of course, I can’t tell you for sure what they’ll discuss.  Those are the likely topics. 

But I think I’ll pause now and take any questions that you all might have.

MODERATOR:  Awesome.  Thank you.  Our first question will go to Tyler Pager with the Washington Post.

Q    Thanks.  I wanted to ask you about abortion and whether the President plans to bring it up with Prime Minister Meloni.  You know, there’s some reporting that there’s been disagreements over how that will manifest in the communiqué.  And curious if you can just tell us what the latest update there is and whether the President plans to raise the issue today in his bilateral meeting.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, I’m not aware of an intention to discuss that topic.  I can tell you that the G7 communiqué is going to be agreed by consensus by all G7 countries.  And I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyone else?

MODERATOR:  James with the Financial Times.

Q    Hey there.  Good morning.  I was wondering if you could talk about the Indo-Pacific session and to what extent is there going to be much stronger language on, you know, calling out China for enabling Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

And also, if there’s going to be anything more concrete in terms of economic coercion by China and overcapacity, and if the G7 is going to take more concrete steps against China on the economic front as well as the national security front.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So this is, as you know, an important topic for all of the G7 countries and leaders.  And indeed, there will be an opportunity to discuss the issue of the PRC’s support for the Russian defense industrial base, which, as I said earlier, is a critical issue not just in terms of the support and how it translates into Russia’s offensive war machine against Ukraine, but also in terms of some of these systems that it helps to develop the capabilities, missiles, artillery, and whatnot that will pose a long-term threat to Europe’s security and is of concern to all members of the G7. 

And then also, as you mentioned, the issue of overcapacity is also an issue of concern to all of the G7 leaders, including subsidies that China provides, as well as unfair market practices that impact trade with all of the G7 partners. 

So this will certainly be an issue that is raised in the communiqué and that has been discussed and will be discussed among the G7.

MODERATOR:  AJ with Bloomberg.

Q    Good morning.  Can you say if there will be any bilat with Modi of India?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I am not aware.  No.

Q    Is there a particular reason why some of those bilats were chosen and other leaders are not getting meetings?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Look, these trips, there’s always a lot of leaders and very little time.  Most of the day is spent up with participation in the G7 sessions, the plenary sessions, where obviously all of the G7 leaders are present and they have a robust discussion there. 

At this particular G7, Prime Minister Meloni has invited a range of other leaders, as you know, including the Turkish president, the Kenyan president, and a number of others.  And so, there are opportunities for some bilats on the margins.  Pope Francis is obviously one of the guests as well.  But there’s very little time, and so we have prioritized just a few bilateral meetings. 

And, of course, yesterday’s historic bilateral security agreement signing with President Zelenskyy, which really capped off an intense day of meetings here at the G7.

Q    Sam, we’re sharing a cell phone, so I’m going to hand my phone over to Andrea from Reuters.  And she might pass it to someone else.  Hang on.

Q    Hey.  Hello.  Hey, thanks for doing this.  So I wanted to follow up on the previous question from James about what the G7 — so in addition to discussing China, are there specific measures that you can share or maybe language from the communiqué about what — you know, the response both on the industrial overcapacity and also on the sanctions front?

And then, I wanted to ask on the debt component.  This is an issue that’s often been raised by the Pope.  I wonder if that’s going to come up in the bilat with the Pope.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, on the latter question, you know, I don’t know.  It may.  Obviously, debt overhang is an important issue for a lot of the developing world.  It may or may not come up; I just can’t tell you. 

But in terms of the language in the communiqué, which I don’t have in front of me, but certainly the issue of overcapacity.  China’s support for subsidies, I should say, for electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, solar panels, and other items have contributed to overcapacity in just about every Western market, and it’s of concern to all of the G7 countries.  So that will be reflected in the communiqué.  And then actions that will follow from that will be taken individually by G7 countries. 

You’ve seen what — some of the actions that the United States has taken.  You’ve seen the European Union also take action.  So there is a common concern.

Q    Great.  Somebody else want a question?  Okay.

MODERATOR:  We’re good?

Q    Yeah, we’re good.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you both.  Our next question will go to Colleen with AP. 

Q    Hi there.  Good morning.  So, I wanted to ask two questions.  One is: There’s apparently some criticism that Biden didn’t attend the main dinner last night with the other leaders.  I just — you know, can you just speak generally about how the President chooses to attend events? 

And then, my second question is related to Tyler’s question.  I just wondered if you can talk a little bit about the discussion over how to word the communiqué, whether there was concern on the U.S. side, in particular given, you know, the battle over abortion rights in the U.S.  I know you were saying that you feel comfortable with the communiqué, how the communiqué will come out, but I just wondered if you could talk a little bit more about, you know, from the U.S. side, the level of importance on the language surrounding it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, again, on the communiqué, this is language that is going to be agreed consensually, which is how these communiqués get done, by all of the G7.  As I recall, the language in this year’s communiqué will endorse the language that appeared in the last G7 Summit in Hiroshima, which had some extensive language on sexual and reproductive health rights.  So you can look at that language, and that’ll give you a preview of what is going to appear in this year’s communiqué as well.  Again, that’s consensual language among all the G7. 

As for the schedule, you know, look, I don’t have any sort of magic formula to share with you.  As I said earlier, these are very intense days filled with lots of meetings.  And we try to see as many leaders as possible.  It’s obviously impossible to see everybody who’s here, so we prioritize the best we can.

As for last night, as you know, we capped off the day rather late at night with a historic bilateral security agreement that was preceded by a bilateral between President Biden and President Zelenskyy that was of — you know, I don’t think this is hyperbole to say — of historic significance.  It’s a 10-year agreement that sets out our cooperation on security and defense, on supporting Ukraine’s economic and governance reforms, on building a just and lasting peace, and on ensuring that there’s accountability in this war for Russia’s actions and aggression.  That was a big deal.  And that’s what capped off our day yesterday evening. 

AIDE:  And, Sam, I think we have time for one more before he has to go to the bilat.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Our last question will go to Paolo with La Repubblica.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi, Paolo.  Go ahead.

MODERATOR:  Paolo, we can’t seem to hear you.  So we will go on to Peter Nicholas with NBC.

Q    Hi.  Thank you very much for doing this.  With respect to the 10-year security agreement, if there’s a different president in place in January 2025, is that president bound by this 10-year agreement, or can he cast that aside if he chooses?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, this is an executive agreement.  It is intended to show the United States’ steadfast support for Ukraine over the 10-year period.  So it is structured in a way that it has both near-term goals in terms of training and equipping, but then also in terms of support for institutional reform. 

We certainly intend to make good on what is included in this agreement because it is in the interest of the United States to support Ukraine’s democratic trajectory, to support its economic reforms and reconstruction, but also to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  That’s the aim of the agreement. 

But to your point, it is an executive agreement between the United States and Ukraine. 

Q    And I have a quick follow-up question.  President Biden told Time Magazine that when he travels abroad, he often hears from his counterparts consternation about possibility of former President Trump returning to power.  Has he gotten those questions or inquiries at this G7, or has any member of — have members of the American delegation gotten those sorts of questions and inquiries about the election and about the possibility of Trump’s return?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can just speak for myself in the meetings that I’ve been in, and I have not heard this topic come up in my time here.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone, again for joining us.  As a reminder, this call was held on background, attributable to a senior administration official.  If we weren’t able to get to you, as always reach out, and we’ll try to have more folks for you to hear from later today.  Thanks, everyone.

10:21 A.M. CEST 

The post Background Press Call Previewing the President’s Second Day at the G7 appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call on the G7

Thu, 06/13/2024 - 18:10

Via Teleconference

MODERATOR:  Okay, thanks everyone.  I think we’re all set.  I’ll turn it over to our senior administration official in a second, but just sharing that we will now have an embargo on this call to about 3:30 p.m. Central.  We’ll send another note letting everyone know whenever it lifts.

But for your awareness, not for your reporting, the senior administration official on today’s background call is [senior administration official].  He’ll give a few words here at the top about the Russian sovereign assets, and then we’ll have time to take one or two questions. 

Thanks, everyone.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thanks, everybody, for joining.  I’ll say a few words at the top on the sovereign assets, the (inaudible) deal, and then happy to take any questions that you have.

(Inaudible) — (in progress) — every G7 member that the situation on the battlefield remains difficult and that if the war continues, Ukraine is still going to have a large financial need next year and beyond, and that this summit is our best chance to act collectively to close the gap.  And it’s only fair that we close the gap by making Russia pay, not our taxpayers.  And we found a way to do so that respects the rule of law in every jurisdiction; it raises money at scale — $50 billion, to be precise, this year.  We’re going to move with urgency.  And we’re going to maintain solidarity, which has been our greatest strength.

But I would say, more fundamentally — and President Zelenskyy will probably speak to this in a couple of minutes here — this agreement is a signal from the leading democracies of the world that we’re not going to fatigue in defending Ukraine’s freedom and that Putin is not going to outlast us.

Let me just stop there.  I know you have questions, so please jump in.

Q    Hey, it’s Andrea here from Reuters.  Can you tell us what — you said two things.  You said, “We have a deal” and “We’re on the cusp of a deal.”  So is it decided?  And also, can you say what the amount will be?  Was there agreement on the $50 billion?  And will you — you know, or is that still something that needs to be worked out?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  Fair enough, Andrea.  I think the leaders’ communiqué has not yet been released.  That’s why I hedge my words very slightly.  We have political agreement at the highest levels for this deal to happen.  And it is $50 billion this year that will be committed to Ukraine.

Q    Great.  Can I ask a follow-up question?  So can you walk us through some of the mechanics as they exist now?  Who will loan the money and how will it be backed up?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me try to hit — I mean, I think I probably can guess some of your questions.  And they’re totally — they’re the right questions.

Okay, like, how did this get done?  I mean, honestly, the hard part is not so much the idea.  There are infinite ways to extract the present value of future cash flows.  That’s finance 101.  (Inaudible) diplomacy — the sausage making of diplomacy is hard enough domestically.  It’s an order of magnitude more difficult multilaterally.  But the President and Jake Sullivan really had leadership, and we executed across borders.

In terms of who makes the loan, we’ve said the U.S. is willing to make a loan of up to $50 billion.  We will not be the only lenders.  This will be a loan syndicate.  We’re going to share the risk because we have a shared commitment to get this done.

How will — I’ll just ask myself some questions.  Are we going to get repaid?  Russia pays.  So the interest — the income comes from the interest stream on the immobilized assets.  And that’s the only fair way to be repaid.  The principal is untouched for now, but we have full optionality to seize the principal later if the political will is there.  You’ll see a line in the communiqué that makes it clear that option is still on the table.

How will we know the assets are going to remain immobilized?  I mean, my answer to that is: Because leaders have committed to do so.  And they’ve also committed to seek approval from the full membership of the EU to get another blessing.  And I would say when you have a commitment at the highest political levels, technocrats act and technical details get worked out.

Let’s see.  What if there’s a peace settlement and the assets are no longer immobilized?  Well, look, a just and sustained peace is, of course, what we all want.  And G7 leaders have committed that the assets will remain immobilized until Russia pays for the damages it’s caused.  So if there is a peace settlement, either the assets stay immobilized and keep generating interest to repay the loans, or Russia pays for the damage it’s caused.  Either way, there’s a source of repayment.

And let me stop talking to myself and listen to you, if you have more questions.

Q    I do.  Can you explain, you know, how did you move past the resistance that was reported there from France, Germany, and some of the others?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Leadership and stamina.  You know, we had backing at the very top of our political system.  President Biden and Jake Sullivan in particular deserve credit.  And we just worked this for years.  I mean, if you go — if you want to go through the tick-tock of this, it goes back pretty close to the beginning of when we immobilized these assets in the first place, two years ago.

And, I mean, I would say — what I said at the top is what was clear to every leader — what is clear to every leader in the room that signed up to this communiqué, which is: The situation on the battlefield is still very difficult.  That means there’s going to be a large financial need, even after our supplemental and even after the EU 50-billion-euro facility.  And that, you know, it’s very simple: Russia should pay the loan.  And this is our — this is our best chance as a G7 to act together. 

And we found a way.  I mean, we did have to be creative.  We floated I don’t know how many ideas.  But ultimately, we found an idea that respected every jurisdiction’s red line; it respected every jurisdiction’s rule of law.  And it still raised money at scale, at speed, and with solidarity.  And that’s what we have announced today.

AIDE:  Andrea, I think we’ve got a lot more people with questions, so we’re going to pass it back.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Our next question will go to Josh from Bloomberg. 

Q    Hey there.  Thanks for doing this.  Can you just zero in on the question of the mechanics?  How many individual loans are we talking about?  And is it accurate that it’s not clear how much the U.S. contribution will be and that the U.S. (inaudible) bring about $50 billion, or whatever the sum of the other contributions is?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, hi, Josh.  I’m not going to speak for other delegations.  I mean, they really — it’s for them to say if they’re going to contribute to the loan.  But what you’ll see in the communiqué, just to give you a preview, is that there will be loans, plural.  So I can assure you the United States will not be the only lender in this syndicate. 

As I mentioned at the top, we, the U.S., are willing to provide up to $50 billion of the loan.  And that’s why we know the number will be at least — will be $50 billion.  Whether other delegations make commitments in public today, I’m not sure.  But as they do so, you’ll see that our number is probably — is certainly going to be somewhat less than 50 and maybe significantly less, because the idea here is to share risk.  And I think getting the $50 billion is really important, but equally important is having a shared commitment.  And the loan syndicate is kind of a technocratic expression of that commitment that’s being shared.

Q    Any thought that (inaudible) more on this will allow you to do it through (inaudible) congressional approval?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m sorry, Josh, that cut out a bit.  I think you’re asking about, like, can we have — what kind of scoring situation will this —

Q    Yeah.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  You can think of this as a secured loan.  It’s secured with the interest that’s generated from the immobilization of the assets.  And so, because there’s now a commitment to keep the assets immobilized, that means there’s a commitment to keep the income stream flowing.  There are scenarios in which that income stream may not flow.  But even in those circumstances, there would be a reparation payment, and that can also be a source of repayment. 

So we’re covered.  We feel like this is a very prudent structure that allows us to manage risk with other partners in a way that’s going to be, I think, successful for Ukraine and gives the signal that we’re all — you know, we’re all giving Ukraine a psychological boost.  We’re giving it an inflection point in this conflict by demonstrating that we’re not going to fatigue no matter what happens in elections anywhere across the world.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Selina with ABC.

Q    Hi.  Thanks so much for doing this.  I just have a couple of questions.  Just number one, could you just kind of do a little bit more detail about concerns that some of the European countries had and just how you convinced them to sign on to this? 

And secondly, is the primary purpose of these funds to be used for rebuilding the economy?  For defense?  All the above?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, I mean, I think the most convincing argument to every other delegation is: While there may be costs and risks to providing this loan, all policy decisions need to be weighed against the counterfactual.  What’s the alternative?  And if Ukraine was insufficiently financed to win this war, what would be the chilling effect it would cause across Europe and the rest of the world?  What would be the signal to autocrats that they can redraw borders by force?  Those are the costs I think we all agree were unacceptable.  And that’s why we acted.

Q    Sorry, what about the second question in terms of the primary use of the funds for rebuilding the economy?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.  Sure.

So that’s kind of a — I don’t mean to be glib.  There’ll be multiple distribution channels for the money with multiple destinations, by which I mean military support, budget support, humanitarian support, reconstruction support.  These will all be destinations for the funds that we generate.

And, you know, here we’ve created flexibility in this structure.  There are certain jurisdictions that prefer to send their money to budget support and to reconstruction.  There are others that prefer to have their money earmarked, especially now, to military support.  And both — all of those distribution channels are reinforcing money is fungible.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to David Sanger with the New York Times.

AIDE:  David, are you on?  Okay, seems like we should move on.

Q    Hi, it’s Colleen from the AP.  I’m wondering if we could talk a little bit about when Ukraine can expect to start seeing the funds.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  So you’ll see in the communiqué that the disbursals will begin this year.  I can’t give you a specific date because there are some next steps that need to be taken.  For example, the EU-27 needs to enshrine this action.  We need to write contracts between the lender; the recipient, of course Ukraine; and intermediaries.  So I mentioned distribution channels; those are the intermediaries, and there will be multiple intermediaries.

And then we have to work out the disbursal schedule.  And the disbursal schedule needs to be at a pace that Ukraine can effectively absorb and direct to its highest priorities.  So that’s going to take some time.

But as I mentioned, this is not an initiative that is indefinitely (inaudible) —

Q    Can you repeat that last thing?

Q    Sorry.  We’re having a hard time hearing you.  Sorry.

AIDE:  Is the Internet cutting out? 

Q    We hear you now.  The Internet was cutting out.

AIDE:  Okay, I’m going to pass the phone back, and we’ll try this again.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Should I repeat the answer to the last question?

Q    Yeah.  So I heard you up until you said there’s a disbursal schedule and that’s going to take some time.  And then we started to lose you after that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, I see.  Okay.

So I was describing the next steps.  The next steps are to enshrine the communiqué commitments with the EU-27, the full membership.  Then we need to write contracts between the lenders — and I emphasize plural; the recipient, which is Ukraine; and the intermediaries, and there’ll be multiple intermediaries.  And then we have to agree on a disbursal schedule because we need to ensure that the disbursals can be effectively absorbed by Ukraine and that they can be directed to their highest priority uses.

But again, I don’t mean to make it sound as though this is going to take years.  The commitment is to be ready to disburse $50 billion this calendar year.

Q    Can you just clarify that please?  Is it all 50 this calendar year, or is it just the portion that the U.S. is able to disburse?  Because I understand that we have legal authority to disburse some of the money but not all.  Can you also explain in terms of, you know, what is that authority?  Where does that come from?  Is it related to the REPO Act?  I guess I still am not clear in terms of the disbursement and the legal requirements around it, and the guarantee.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so — sure.  Sure.

So we have we have loan authority already.  USAID has loan authority already established from Congress.  There’s not a set schedule that is required or a capped amount.  But we have decided that we can provide up to $50 billion. 

I didn’t answer your question precisely on when the last payment will be made because it depends — it does depend on how — the pace at which Ukraine can absorb the money effectively. 

So while we’re availa- — while we have $50 billion that we could make available this year, that depends on our judgment as to how effectively Ukraine can absorb it.  And every jurisdiction that’s making a loan has to go through the same process. 

So the money will be available.  There’s no constraint on that basis.  We will begin disbursing this year, but I can’t say that the endpoint of the disbursals will be in 2024.  Is that clear?

Q    Yes.  And can you address just in terms of guaranteeing that these loans will be immobilized?  Because as I understand, the EU needs to renew sanctions regime every six months to keep these assets immobilized.  So how have leaders agreed on that issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, you’re right about the mechanics.  But we have confidence because European leaders — Germany, France, Italy, the European Commission, President of the European Council — they’ve committed to do so and to seek approval from the full membership of the EU to get that blessing.  And when you have commitment at the highest political levels, you know, that is what gives us confidence that these assets are going to remain immobilized, the income will continue to flow, and we will be repaid either from the income itself or through reparations with Russia.

MODERATOR:  That’s all the time we have.  Thanks, everyone. And again, this is embargoed until 3:30 p.m.  This was on background to a senior administration official.  Thanks again.

END   

The post Background Press Call on the G7 appeared first on The White House.

On-the-Record Roundtable by APNSA Jake Sullivan Previewing the President’s First Day at the G7

Thu, 06/13/2024 - 11:53

9:13 A.M. CEST

MR. SULLIVAN:  We’ve got a busy day ahead of us here at the first day of the G7.  I’ll just highlight a few items for you.

The first session will be on Africa, climate change, and development.  And the President will have his chance, coming out of the Kenya state visit in particular, to talk about the full range of investments and approaches the U.S. has taken with respect to Africa to spur social and economic development, security, and in particular, investment.  And I’ll come on to that in a minute.

We believe the G7 will — the statement will reflect the Nairobi-Washington Vision that President Biden signed with President Ruto on debt relief for low- and middle-income countries.  And that’s going to be an important outcome today.

Second, we’ll have a session on the Middle East.  This will be an opportunity for the leaders to get an update from President Biden on the negotiations with respect to the ceasefire and hostage deal, to talk about G7 support for bringing that deal to closure so that we can get a ceasefire in place and the hostages home. 

They’ll also talk about Lebanon and the increasing tension along that border, including the increasing intensity, scope — intensity and scope of the strikes by Hezbollah deeper into Israel and including into civilian areas.  President Biden will talk about the links between getting a ceasefire in Gaza and getting calm on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

And of course, they’ll compare notes on the continuing threat posed by Iran, both with respect to its support for proxy forces and with respect to the Iranian nuclear program, where we continue to have grave concerns and where the IAEA spoke last week.

Next, the President will participate in a session with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine and the G7 leaders on G7 support for Ukraine across the board.  And that will be an opportunity to talk about coordination on sanctions, which the United States announced yesterday and other G7 partners will be announcing over the coming days.  Of course, to talk about many of your favorite subject and mine: the mobilization of the proceeds from Russian sovereign assets to help Ukraine with respect to its resilience and economic needs. 

As I told some of you guys on the plane yesterday, there’s been very good progress in the discussions among the G7 delegations here to reach an agreement for how to make that happen.  And hopefully by the time the leaders meet today, we will have a common vision for the way forward, and the Italian presidency will be able to announce that there is a path forward.  But we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens here in a few hours’ time.

This has been something that the United States has put a lot of energy and effort into because we see the proceeds from these assets as being a valuable source of resources for Ukraine at a moment when Russia continues to brutalize the country, not just through military action on the front, but through the attempted destruction of its energy grid and its economic vitality.

One more thing I’ll just note today coming in is we believe that, entering our fourth G7 — President Biden’s fourth G7, G7 leaders are more unified, really, than they’ve ever been, at least in modern memory, on the major issues across the board, whether that’s geopolitical crises or its challenges related to the global economy, including issues like Chinese overcapacity.

And as we’ve come into this G7, the European Union has taken what we believe is an important step with respect to the imposition of tariffs on electric vehicles from China.  We welcome that action, which they implemented after a thorough investigation, to address China’s unfair trade practices and the electric vehicle sector.  And as we head into our first sessions here in Italy, we think this kind of alignment is what we’re looking to build upon to create a level playing field for our workers and our firms.

And then, the last thing I wanted to talk about is: Later today, the President will participate in and help lead a side event on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, PGI.  He’ll co-host it with the Prime Minister of Italy.  It will bring together leaders of the G7 and private sector executives, including the CEO and chairman of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, and the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, to identify incentives and methods to mobilize infrastructure investment with a particular focus on leveraging private capital.

And so, the President will showcase how we’re scaling the G7’s flagship infrastructure initiative to attract major investors so that we can not just generate — because the demand is there — but channel the demand for high-quality infrastructure financing and make a connection between sources of private capital and the needs across the developing world.

So at this event, the President is going to announce that since the launch of PGI in 2022, we’ve initiated investments that will mobilize over $60 billion in support of PGI.  And we’re going to, in the next few months and years, accelerate investments so that we will hit the President’s $200 billion mobilization goal by 2027.

And he’ll also highlight game-changing investments that we’ve unlocked in partnership with multilateral institutions in the private sector over the past year that advance our own supply chains and national security and our work to outcompete China.  There’ll be some more specific announcements that come out of that session later today.

And then, just to close out the day, of course, as I mentioned yesterday, the President will be signing a bilateral security agreement with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine.  We think this is a big deal, a milestone moment in the partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine and a real marker of our commitment not just for this month and this year, but for the many years ahead, as we will continue to support Ukraine both in defending against Russian aggression and in deterring future aggression so that Ukraine can be a sovereign, viable, thriving democracy rooted and anchored in its partnership with the West and in the Euro-Atlantic community.

So, sorry to go on for so long, but that’s where we are this morning, and I look forward to taking your questions.

Q    Jake, according to European Union sources, every reference to abortion and reproductive rights have been cancelled from the final declaration at the request of the Italian presidency.  This is, of course, also a matter of international rights.  Does the President know?  Does he agree with that?  Is he going to raise the issue of reproductive rights and general rights, LGBTQ rights, during the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Meloni?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The President always talks about human rights in all of his interactions, both with friends and with competitors and adversaries.  And I don’t expect the next two days will be any different.

I can’t speak to the specific assertion.  I have not heard that with respect to discussions over the communiqué itself.

But from the President’s point of view, he doesn’t change up his message based on who he’s talking to, and nothing about that will change today.

Q    On a ceasefire, Jake, can you update us based on what’s the latest?  I understand you spoke yesterday and there’s really not much that you can say.  But for people who are confused about the state of play at this point, would it be fair to characterize that Hamas has not agreed in private but say publicly that they have agreed, and Israel is the opposite of that in private, agreeing, but in public not agreeing?

And then, if you could, just update my question yesterday, which was the U.N. inquiry that has called out both Hamas and Israel for violating international law and committing war crimes.  If you’ve had a chance to look at that.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, we’ve made our position clear on the second issue in the report that emerged from National Security Memorandum 20.  That’s the U.S. position with respect to these questions of international humanitarian law.  And I’ll let that speak for itself.  The U.N. is going to speak for itself through multiple voices and multiple channels.  And I’m not going to give it further comment today. 

I don’t entirely agree with your characterization.  Israel has supplied this proposal.  It has been sitting on the table for some time.  Israel has not contradicted or walked that back.  To this day, they stand behind the proposal that was put on the table in late May that President Biden described in his May 31st speech.  So I don’t think that there is a contradiction in the Israeli position.

I do think Hamas’s assertion that they’ve accepted that proposal, to the extent that they are saying that publicly, is not correct.  What they have done is responded to that proposal with an amended proposal.  And as I said yesterday, some of those amendments are modest or minor.  They’re not unanticipated.  We can work through them.  Others are not consistent with what President Biden laid out or what the U.N. Security Council embraced.

But our goal is to figure out how we work to bridge the remaining gaps and get to a deal.  So we’re going to work with Qatar and Egypt.  Qatar and Egypt will work with Hamas.  Qatar, Egypt, and the United States will work with Israel.  And the goal is to try to bring this to a conclusion as rapidly as possible.

Now, I can’t give you a timetable for that.  I would have to say that in complex negotiations like this, especially indirect negotiations, things don’t happen necessarily instantly.  And so, I may not have an update for you 12 hours from now any more than I do from 12 hours ago, but I can tell you that we are working actively to generate a path forward based on what Hamas has come in with that gets us to a result that’s consistent with what the U.N. Security Council laid out and consistent with what President Biden laid out.  We believe that is possible.

We still believe that it is important for the world to continue to train the focus on Hamas, who has said on behalf of the Palestinian — on behalf of, you know, its leadership and, you know, its view of what is happening in Gaza, that it wants to get to a ceasefire.  If, in fact, it does, there’s a ceasefire on the table.  They should take it and not try to push this thing in a direction where we just get to stalemate.

And so, I think continuing to encourage Hamas to step up and do its part will be an important thing for the rest of the world.

Q    Just to put a finer point on that, Jake.  So the Israelis have not agreed, at least publicly, to commit to a permanent peace path, the first phase, because that’s essentially, you know, what Hamas is saying that they need in writing, or at least that’s what we’re hearing.  Has the Israeli — I mean, can you confirm that Israel will commit to a permanent ceasefire, despite the fact that we haven’t heard it from them publicly?

MR. SULLIVAN:  What I can confirm is that the Israelis have agreed to the proposal that the President laid out in detail, step by step.  If you go back and read his May 31st text, everything in that is completely faithful to a document that Israel itself put forward and has not walked away from.

Q    Despite everything that they say publicly?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t think it’s despite everything they say publicly.  I think if you look at the document as laid out — or, excuse me, the President’s speech as laid out, that is something the Israelis have committed to, remain committed to.  And I haven’t heard any Israeli leader right now contradict that they stand behind the proposal put forward in late May.

Q    Jake, can you say a little bit more about the Washington-Nairobi Vision and what that means specifically?  As I understand it, there’s a lot of concern about China’s slow progress in agreeing to debt restructuring.  So will there be language that specifically calls out China, or will it be more broad?  And, you know, what changes as a result of what you’re expecting to happen?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, first, there are elements of the Nairobi-Washington declaration, or Washington-Nairobi declaration, that are really about increasing the capacity of countries bearing significant debt burdens to be able to pay those off, getting them access to lower-cost financing so that they’re not just stuck with the high-cost financing that is like an albatross around their neck.  And we’ve taken a number of steps through the multilateral development banks, the international financial institutions to make that available.

Second, it’s about coordination and effectively getting the major private and public creditors together around a common vision. 

And that leads to this third point that you’re raising, which is China is a significant creditor to a lot of countries who are saddled by debt burdens.

The G7 communiqué is not singling out or focusing on a single country.  It’s talking about a common approach every country, including China, should sign up to.  But in the discussion the leaders have, they will all very much squarely face the reality that so much of the crushing debt burden facing countries around the world comes from China, and China needs to be a constructive actor in that. 

And I think you’ll hear a common voice from the G7 about what the right path forward is.  We’ll be aligned on that.  And that, I think, will set these developing countries up to have a more constructive conversation with China than they’ve been able to have to date.

Q    Can you talk a little bit about the migration aspect of the G7?  I wondered — a lot of the nations who are here are grappling with migration challenges, in particular the U.S.  And I wonder what is — you guys hope to glean from those discussions.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, as you know — it’s kind of amazing to say this — but two years ago, more than two years ago, the President hosted the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.  And as part of that, he pulled more than 20 countries together around the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection. And that basic vision for how to do effective, humane, and orderly migration management has remained at the core of his approach.  And it has three elements to it.

The first is humane and effective enforcement.  The second is investing in root causes so that people do not feel compelled to leave in the first place.  And the third is expanding legal pathways so that we can have regular migration that can replenish the vitality of our nation and other nations across the hemisphere.

So to put a fine point on it, the goal of the President here at the G7 on migration is to take the Los Angeles Declaration and make it more than a regional compact but something that becomes a global vision.  And we believe that the outcome of the G7 will reflect those core pillars of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.  And it will build upon the actions that the President has taken, including the recent actions on border enforcement, as well as the steps he’s taken to open up more legal pathways and to invest in root causes, not just in the Americas but in other parts of the world. 

And other G7 members are particularly focused on root cause investments in Africa and what I’ve just laid out with respect to PGI and the first session that will unfold today on Africa, climate, and development.  That’s all consistent with that pillar of the LA Declaration and that element of what the G7 approach will be when it’s adopted today.

Q    As part of the discussion the President had over migration, he talked with, I think it’s Spain and Canada — right? — to discuss, like, moving migrants over in Europe?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Yeah, as part of lawful pathways.

Q    Yeah.  Is there any discussion to broaden that to other G7 nations?

MR. SULLIVAN:  It’s not going to be a formal agenda item today, but it is a subject of some discussion with other countries as well, who are looking for regular, lawful migration for their economies, for their economic growth.

And so, the President has always made clear that if other countries want to be partners with us in that regard, as Spain and Canada, then he would welcome that.  And those discussions are ongoing.

Q    Hey, Jake.  The President has often talked about, coming out of the first G7 in England, the conversations he had with Scholz and other then-world leaders about America being back, America’s commitment to the world stage.  Obviously, this could be his last G7. 

And I’m wondering if you can read us into how he’s thinking about having some of those conversations, how your counterparts have talked with you about the possibility that there’s a different American president next year (inaudible), and how you may put in place things to try to bridge any gaps between American administrations.  I mean, just sort of how that might be hanging over some of the conversations, especially on the heels of the European elections, where a number of — Macron, Scholz, their parties suffered some serious defeats.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, one of the great things about the G7 is we’re all democracies, so the leaders here don’t get to pick and choose how things go in their countries politically day in, day out.  They leave that to the people of their countries.

But at the same time, I think the President, like the other G7 leaders who have just come off elections, they’re going to be focused on the task at hand.  And from his perspective, the real work to be done here is work that is going to put the United States in the best possible position to protect our interests and reflect our values. 

So whether it’s Russian sovereign assets or it’s alignment about Chinese overcapacity, support for Ukraine, coordination on the ongoing crisis in Gaza, he’s going to set kind of the broader election context aside and really focus in on the work that needs to get done here.  And he’s going to measure a successful G7 by whether or not we’ve made tangible progress on those issues.  I think we’re teed up for success in that regard, but we’ll have to see how the next two days unfold.

And then, you know, he’s in — every day subsequent to this summit, his goal is going to be to do as much as possible to reinforce the idea that the United States is best served if we are closely aligned with our democratic allies and partners; that we are more likely to accomplish our objectives, more likely to protect the interests of our workers and businesses, more likely to produce security and stability when we are aligned, as opposed to in conflict, with the leading democracies of the world.  That’s going to be on display today.

And the difference between past times when the U.S. has not been aligned and what you’re going to see here in Puglia is something that can actually be measured, from my perspective, in an improved American standing in the world and the improved capacity of the United States to deliver for its people.

Q    Very quickly, on the state of the talks for unlocking the assets, (inaudible) to get this done or individual countries getting loans?  Is the U.S. giving more loans?  How does that stand?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, as a fellow member of the Air Force One plane team flying over here — (laughter) — I must have repeated like six time —

Q    Are you (inaudible) again?

MR. SULLIVAN:  — that I wouldn’t get ahead of — look, the Italian presidency, I think, has done a really good job of bringing everyone together around the table to try to deal with what’s, you know, both a simple and a complex proposition.  The simple proposition is we got to put these assets to work.  The complex proposition is how you do that specifically. 

And so, I think we are on the verge of a good outcome here.  I will wait until we have the session on Ukraine and let the Italians describe where we are.

As I said on the plane yesterday, I think we will have the major tentpoles of this decided but some of the specifics left to be worked through by experts on a defined timetable.  That’s how I anticipate this will all play out, to include how things will unfold on the vehicle and the range of countries that may step up on issues related to the loan.

Q    Fifty billion sound right?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ve read that.  (Laughter.)

AIDE:  All right, we need to go.

Q    Thanks, Jake.

    9:35 A.M. CEST

###

The post On-the-Record Roundtable by APNSA Jake Sullivan Previewing the President’s First Day at the G7 appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Brindisi, Italy

Wed, 06/12/2024 - 14:52

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Brindisi, Italy

11:02 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  I have two things at the top, and then I’ll hand it over to Jake Sullivan. 

So, tomorrow, Senate Democrats will introduce a bill that would safeguard access to IVF for families across the country. 

The Biden-Harris administration strongly supports protecting access to IVF.  Americans should have the right to make deeply personal decisions about their health, lives, and families, but that fundamental right is under re- — relentless attack. 

It has been nearly two years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.  What followed has been nothing short of devastating.

Since Roe was overturned, Republican elected officials have implemented 21 extreme state abortion bans.  One out of three women of reproductive age now live in a state with an abortion ban.  In nearly all these states, doctors could be charged with a felony for simply doing their jobs.  Contraception is under attack.  Just last week, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would guarantee the right for women to access contraception.  And IVF is under attack.

About one in five American women struggle with infertility, and many rely on IVF.  This is a basic issue of reproductive freedom. 

President Biden believes that women must have the freedom to make deeply personal healthcare decisions, including the right to decide if and when to start or grow their family.

We are committed to protecting access to reproductive care and will continue to urge Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law.

And finally, in anticipation of your questions, I just want to read the President’s statement from yesterday.  And it reads:

“As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a dad.  Jill an- — Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today.  So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.  As I also said last week, I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that.”

End quote.  And from that, I don’t have anything beyond the statement that the President put out yesterday, as I just read through.

But right now, I do have Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor.  He’s going to — he’s going to discuss our strong support for Ukraine and — for Ukraine now and in the — into the future as we head into the G7 in the upcoming hours.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Thank you.

Q    Hey, Jake.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Hey, guys.  How are you?

So, the President is looking forward to seeing his fellow G7 leaders as well as the leaders of a number of guest countries over the course of the next couple of days. 

As you guys have all seen, it’s going to be an action-packed schedule.  And we did a background briefing on this yesterday, so you got a good laydown of what the agenda looks like and the main issues. 

Before I talk about a couple of specific issues relevant to the G7, I just wanted to make a couple of comments about the ongoing effort to secure a ceasefire and hostage deal. 

So, we’re continuing to work for a ceasefire along the lines of the May 27th Israeli proposal, as outlined in President Biden’s speech on May 31st.  The proposal has been endorsed by the G7, by countries around the world.  It was then supported this week by a U.N. Security Council resolution. 

Hamas has now submitted a response to that proposal, and we have now reviewed its contents.  Many of the proposed changes are minor and not unanticipated.  Others differ more substantively from what was outlined in the U.N. Security Council resolution. 

The United States will now work with the mediators, specifically Egypt and Qatar, to bridge final gaps consistent with the President’s May 31st speech and with the contents of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Our aim is to bring this process to a conclusion.  Our view is that the time for haggling is over.  It’s time for a ceasefire to begin and for the hostages to come home. 

And I know, as I said before, that you’ve already gotten a preview, so I’m not going to go into details on individual sessions. 

I did want to take some time before turning to your questions to discuss what will be a big focus for us on the first day on the ground. 

Tomorrow, President Biden and President Zelenskyy will sit down to discuss our strong support for Ukraine now and into the future. 

Following that meeting, the leaders will sign a bilateral security agreement making clear our support will last long into the future and pledging continued cooperation, particularly in the defense and security space. 

You all will recall that in July of ‘23, just under a year ago, at the Vilnius Summit, President Biden organized the G7 around a joint declaration of support for Ukraine that highlighted our commitment to pursue these security agreements.

Our G7 partners have done so.  Another 25 countries have actually signed on to that joint declaration.  Many of them have also done these security agreements. 

So, we announced last year that each country would essentially commit to negotiate a long-term bilateral security arrangement with Ukraine.  At this point, 15 countries have signed their agreements, and I’m pleased to share that our negotiations with Ukraine have concluded and we’ll sign this agreement tomorrow. 

Our goal here is straightforward.  We want to demonstrate that the U.S. supports the people of Ukraine, that we stand with them, and that we’ll continue to help address their security needs not just tomorrow but out into the future. 

In the agreement, which we will share with all of you later this week, we outline a clear vision of work with our allies and partners, with Ukraine in order to continue to strengthen Ukraine’s credible defense and deterrence capability.  Any lasting peace in Ukraine has to be underwritten by Ukraine’s own ability to defend itself and deter future aggression. 

And by signing this, we’ll also be sending Russia a signal of our resolve.  If Vladimir Putin thinks that he can outlast the coalition supporting Ukraine, he’s wrong.  He just cannot wait us out, and this agreement will show our resolve and continued commitment. 

Through this commitment, we’re also securing commit- — through this agreement, we’re also securing commitments from Ukraine on reforms and on end-use monitoring for weapons we provide. 

And in deepening cooperation with Ukraine, our government will benefit from Ukraine’s insights and experience, its battlefield innovations, and its lessons learned from the front.

Our view is that Ukraine’s security is central to Europe’s security and therefore central to America’s security.

So, this agreement, together with the mutually reinforcing security agreements from a broad and powerful network of countries, provides a pathway to a stable, independent, democratic, and secure Ukraine.

You’ll hear more about this tomorrow, but I want to share two final notes.

First, we’re explicit in the agreement that we intend to work with Congress over the coming months to find a path to sustainable resources for Ukraine.  And finally, this agreement covers the kind of support that Ukraine has sought as it bravely defends its freedom.

They have asked for our weapons and assistance as they fight to defend their territory.  They have not asked our forces to join the fight.  So, this agreement does not include any commitment to using our own forces to defend Ukraine.  It is a pledge that we will ensure Ukraine can defend itself today and deter future aggression as well, as the President said last year.

Finally — and thank you for bearing with me — today, we’ve announced sweeping new measures to intensify the pressure on Russia.  These actions will ratchet up the risk that foreign financial institutions take by dealing with Russia’s war economy.

The Department of Treasury is making clear that foreign banks risk being sanctioned for dealing with any entity or individual blocked under our Russia sanctions, including designated Russian banks.

Treasury and Commerce are also issuing complimentary prohibitions to restrict the ability of Russia’s defense industrial base to take advantage of access to certain U.S. software or IT services.  And Commerce is announcing steps to more aggressively target transhipment to Russia of U.S.-branded items, regardless of where those items are produced, and a new measure to crackdown on diversion through shell companies.

We’re imposing around 300 new sanctions and Entity List additions of specific companies or individuals.  And the targets for those include Russian financial infrastructure, including major non-bank entities that help Russia finance its war effort and evade sanctions; entities and individuals across multiple evasion and foreign procurement networks, like networks that support Russia’s UAV production, gold laundering, and procurement of sensitive items like anti-UAV equipment, machine tools, industrial materials, and micro- — microelectronics.

The foreign targets include more than two dozen PRC entities and individuals and additional targets across multiple other third countries in multiple regions — in East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caribbean.


They include Russia domestic war economy targets, including entities across the defense and related materiel transportation and technology sectors.  They include future energy, metals, and mining revenue generation targets and areas such as future LNG projects, future coal and oil projects, and gold smuggling. 

And we’re also targeting additional Russian elites, including those involved in the deportation and so-called reeducation of Ukrainian children.

Altogether, these actions heighten the risk for financial institutions dealing with Russia’s war economy, close down avenues for evasion while diminishing Russia’s ability to benefit from access to foreign technology, equipment, software, and I- — IT services.

And you’ll see from the President tomorrow that our commitment to Ukraine will continue and we will show our resolve through the specific actions we are taking and through close coordination with all of our partners.

The final thing I will just note is that discussions continue on the ground in Puglia on unlocking the proceeds of the Russian sovereign assets.  We consider those discussions constructive, productive, driving forward.

I don’t have anything to announce to you today, but I believe that we are making good progress in generating an outcome in which those proceeds from those frozen assets can be put to good use.

And with that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Colleen.

MR. SULLIVAN:  — thank you for your patience.

Q    Can you confirm the U.S. has sent another Patriot missile system to Ukraine?  And will — can we expect additional weapons, then, to be part of the security agreement going forward?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The security agreement doesn’t announce the delivery of particular weapon systems.  It sets a frame for the kind of ongoing cooperation that we’ve had with Ukraine over the past two years, including in identified areas like air defense.

I can’t confirm because I’m not here to make any announcements on particular air defense capabilities today.  I will tell you that it has been a top priority of President Biden to get more air defense systems to Ukraine.  And if and when we have announcements on that, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Q    Jake —


Q    Jake, on the — on the ceasefire discussions.  There are reports — we have — we have reports that Hamas is asking for written assurances from the United States of a permanent ceasefire.  Can you say what the U.S. position is on that and whether you think that is possible to — to move this process forward and — and —

MR. SULLIVAN:  I have not heard that specific Hamas request today.  Obviously, this is a fast-moving situation.  And also, there’s a lot of different Hamas voices.  So, we’ll await consultation with Egypt and Qatar, who speak through an authoritative channel with Hamas.  And then we’ll make our determinations about the best way to deliver this ceasefire and hostage deal consistent with what the President laid out and what the Security Council resolution laid out.

Q    And, Jake, on the Russian frozen asset.  Can you — I know you said you don’t want to talk anymore.  But is the expectation for a clear, detailed plan of the terms or a framework for further discussion?  And is the amount still $50 billion?  And will it be signed by G7 or just some members?

MR. SULLIVAN:  This is a leaders’ declaration.  Anything that we do with respect to Russian sovereign assets is not going to lay out every detail because we need our technical experts to work through it.  What we are working towards is a framework that is not generic, that is quite specific in terms of — of what it would entail.

But, of course, the core operational details of anything that is agreed in Italy will then have to be worked through, and the leaders would give direction to the experts to work that through on a defined timeframe, again, if and when we’re prepared to announce something on this.

Q    Jake, two questions.  First on the agreement that you’re planning to do with the Ukrainians.  So, last — at the NATO summit in Vilnius, there was a lot of early discussion about this, mostly as a substitute for rapid entry into — into NATO.  And there was discussion of using the — the Israel model here, which, of course, with Congress is a 10-year-long commitment for a certain amount of funding and then — and then security commitments.

Can you compare what you’re about to go announce here to what we do with Israel?  And would you compare it, as well, to the agreement that President Bush reached that announced secur- — security arrangements for Ukraine with Britain, with Russia, in fact, you know, 20 years ago when —

MR. SULLIVAN:  Are you talking about the Budapest Memorandum?

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. SULLIVAN:  I believe that was in the 1990s —

Q    It was (inaudible) —

MR. SULLIVAN:  — following —

Q    That’s right.

MR. SULLIVAN:  — the — the breakup of the Soviet (inaudible) —

Q    It was very vague and, of course, has left the Ukrainians with a bit of a bitter feeling in their mouths for — understandably.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Obviously, that document came in a totally different context at a totally different time.  This document comes on the foundation of two years of the U.S. supplying substantial resources, military assistance, intelligence, economic support.  And it essentially projects continued backing of Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself and deter future aggression.

With respect to comparing it to other models, I would call this the Ukraine model.  It does not include specific dollar figures.  It includes a commitment to work with Congress on sustainable funding going forward, which we will do.  And it lays out a framework for how we work with Ukraine and with other allies and partners to ensure Ukraine has what it needs in terms of the physical capacity as well as the intelligence and other capacities to be able to defend itself effectively and to deter Russia.

The other thing that I would say about the document that’s very important is that it is part of a latticework of other agreements, where the whole will end up being greater than the sum of its parts because it will be a broad range of nations all working together to reinforce the same types of support for the same purposes.

Finally, with respect to the question of how it relates to NATO, at Vilnius last year, the NATO Joint Statement signed on to by all Allies, including the United States, said that Ukraine’s future is in NATO, and it said that Allies would be in a position to give an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO when conditions are met and all Allies agree.

When the President went out and described the process leading to this bilateral security agreement, he said this would be a bridge from now to Ukraine’s ultimate membership in NATO when conditions are met and all Allies agree.

That bridge involves us helping Ukraine have the capacity that it needs for its own security and for sustaining — sustaining its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.  So, that’s how they link together. 

You’ll see that in the text of the document, as you’ve seen it in the text of other bilateral security agreements that have been signed by other countries. 

Q    And on the sanctions that you mentioned.  As you noted, a good number of them are — are noted — are directed at the PRC.  Some of your colleagues have made the point that support with dual-use technology for the PRC has really surged in the past six or eight months. 

What do you see as the Chinese strategy here?  Are they viewing this differently than they did a year ago?  Are they holding to the kind of warnings that you gave them at Riverside when the President discussed support for Russia with Xi Jinping and urged him not to provide weapons or technology?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, we have made clear our concerns to the PRC about the supply of certain dual-use capabilities to Russia that are being used in the Russian war machine to slaughter Ukrainians and to back an illegal war of aggression. 

And we have also worked closely with our European partners to speak in a common way about how this undermines peace and security in Europe writ large. 

And we have also been clear with the PRC that we reserve the right to take action against particular companies and entities that we are — believe are engaged in supporting Russia’s war machine through the provision of inputs, whether it’s industrial materials or microelectronics or UAV parts or whatever it may be. 

And we have put our money where our mouth is.  We have already imposed sanctions on PRC entities.  Today, we are doing more. 

But, of course, we’re not only focused on China.  We’re focused on the broad network of entities and individuals working to try to circumvent sanctions and get these inputs to Russia.

And so, today’s action is quite comprehensive in going after entities and individuals across multiple regions of the world. 

But going forward, what the Treasury Department has shown today is that financial institutions from any country, including the PRC, that continue to fil- — facilitate transactions with sanctioned Russian entities connected to the Russian defense industrial base, to the Russian war machine, they are now at risk — at serious risk of running afoul of the Treasury Department and of falling under a sanctions regime. 

So, we’ll continue to consult with the PRC.  We’ll continue to make our views known.

In terms of their motivations or their perspective, I’ll let them speak for themselves.  It is difficult for me to speculate.  What I can speak to is our clear position that we are going to take action to reduce the flow of material going to Russia, including from China.  And today’s action is a step in that direction.

Q    Jake, on — on Gaza.  In — did you see anything in Hamas’s response that you would consider to be a significant hurdle to an agreement?  And in terms of a timetable, what are you looking at?  Are — you know, you obviously don’t want a lot of haggling here, but what’s a realistic timetable for a deal to be reached?  Are we looking at a week?  Two weeks?  Three weeks?

MR. SULLIVAN:  It’s very difficult to ever predict the

tempo or timing of a negotiation, especially a complex negotiation like this one — especially a negotiation that has an indirect dimension to it.  So, I will not be making any wagers on how long this will take.

I’m also not going to characterize particular changes that Hamas has suggested.  I think I want to let the mediators work together to try to figure out what is a way to bridge remaining gaps.

I would point out that, in his remarks on May 31st, the President anticipated that Hamas would come back, they would suggest some changes, and that the important thing was that all parties sit at the table until — the proverbial table here — until we get to an agreement.  That’s what we’re reinforcing today. 

We believe that the time has come to get this done.  We believe it can get done.  But there are elements of what Hamas put forward that we don’t think are consistent with what was laid out in the Security Council resolution.  So, we’ll have to work through that. 

And I think, for today, I’m — I’m best leaving it at that.

Q    Can you —

Q    Can — can I just follow-up on the ceasefire, Jake?  Has — Benny Gantz was a key figure in the ceasefire negotiations.  Has his exit complicated in any way the President’s push for peace?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Israel stood behind the proposal that was provided in late May, through the mediators to Hamas, before Minister Gantz left the government.  And Israel continues to stand behind it. 

And so, from our perspective, the key thing is the position of the Israeli government today, and the Israeli government has continued to stand behind the proposal. 

Q    Could you clarify on the seized assets?  I’m not sure if you can.  But are they intended to be used for the war effort or for post-war in — in sort of the rehabilitation of the country?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, first, the concept here is to pull forward the windfall profits from the seized assets so that you can have a substantial source of funding backed by the immobilized assets. 

Second, the goal is not to wait until some indefinite point in the future.  It’s to provide the necessary resources to Ukraine now for its economic energy and other needs so that it’s capable of having the resilience necessary to withstand Russia’s continuing aggression. 

Q    Jake, on —

Q    (Inaudible) numbers thrown around, including $50 billion.  Some U.S. officials have said it could be more than that or less than that.  Do you have a number in mind — a target number in mind?  Or is it up to the leader discussions? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I do have a number in mind.  I think the negotiations have a number in mind, but that’s one I’ll leave for further announcements if and when —

Q    Should we not be using “50” in our stories right now?

MR. SULLIVAN:  (Inaudible) announcements to come.

Q    Can you —

Q    Can you talk about the vehicle?  I mean, there’s been a couple of models proposed — proposed here.  One, this would be a loan to an entity that would then provide a grant to Ukraine.  Is that the system that we’re kind of narrowing in on? 

And, if so, are those loans individual from the contributor states?  Or would a single G7 nation make that loan to the middle entity?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Again, I want to be careful not to get ahead of the negotiations.  I think we are moving towards a common understanding of the mechanism.  I’m not going to characterize it further now.  But what I will say is that we expect the participation of multiple countries in this, not just one country.

(Cross-talk.)

Q    Jake, on the — on the Russian Assets —

(Cross-talk.)

Q    On the Russian assests —

Q    Sorry.  Sorry, could I just finish?

Q    Sorry.

Q    Do — do you think you can get around Congress with a — that the CBO score will be low enough?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We definitely are not going to, quote, “get around Congress.”  We have no intention of doing that.  Whatever we do will be consistent with the authorities Congress has given us.

Q    Do you think the executive authorities will be sufficient for whatever the CBO score is here?

MR. SULLIVAN:  All I will say is we’re not going to do anything that’s inconsistent with — with our authorities.  And we will, of course, work hand in hand in consultation with Congress to ensure that everybody is on the same page on this.

Q    On the — on the Russian asset, the vehicle — like, the mechanism of dispersing the money to — to Ukraine.  Have you settled on a — on any kind of a — an administrator?  Will it be the World Bank?  Will it be some other organization that basically oversees the — the disbursement of those funds?  Because you wouldn’t give larger — like, the full amount wouldn’t go to Ukraine at once, right? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I guess my multiple efforts to — (laughter) — avoid frontrunning any agreements that may emerge over the course of the next couple of days are — are going for naught right now. 

All I — (laughter) — I’m going to try to row back into my zone of comfort.

All I will say is that we now have good experience using

external mechanisms for the disbursement of funds.  We have done it bilaterally.  Other countries have done it.  Those lessons will be relevant to how this plays out.  And I will leave it at that.

Q    Is Prime Minister Modi is still expected to attend?  And if so, can you walk us through the President’s plans and whether the allegations with respect to the attempted killing on U.S. soil is sort of hanging over that?  Is the President avoiding Prime Minister Modi or not?  Are you satisfied with Indian cooperation so far?


MR. SULLIVAN:  So, you know, we’ve made our views known on this issue, and it will be a continuing topic of dialogue between the U.S. and India, including at very senior levels. 

President Biden actually spoke with President Modi by phone while we were in Paris to congratulate him on the election outcome and on being named Prime Minister for a third term. 

He expects to see Prime Minister Modi here.  It’s up to the Indians to formally confirm his attendance, but our — our expectation is that the two of them will have the opportunity to encounter one another.  What the nature of that encounter is is still fluid because so much of the schedule is fluid. 

Q    Jake, on China. 

Q    Does the President —

Q    Just to follow- — sorry —

Q    Does the President expect tough conversations on Gaza from other leaders?  I know there’s unity behind — G7 unity behind the ceasefire proposal.  But there’s split opinions about the ICC warrant on Netanyahu, for example. 

And on that note, today, the U.N. inquir- — a U.N. inquiry found that both Hamas and Israel are guilty of war crimes and violating international law.  If you can comment on that, please.

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I haven’t had a chance to read that report.  I’ve just seen the headline.  So, I’ll refrain from comment until I can understand better what the substance of it is.

In terms of the question of what he expects the conversation to be like around Gaza, all of the G7 leaders that we have been consulting with in the run-up to Italy are focused on one thing overall: getting a ceasefire in place and getting the hostages home as part of that. 

That is what is going to end the suffering.  That is what is going to bring long-term security for Israel.  That is what is going to get us to a day after so that both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace, security, and dignity. 

So, the President will be consulting with G7 leaders about the intensive efforts underway to make that happen.  He has their full backing for what he is doing.  He will have their encouragement, I believe, over the course of this time. 

And it’s not just the G7 leaders now; it’s countries across the world all speaking with one voice and saying, “Let’s get this deal done.” 

President Biden is determined to use every ounce of effort to do that.

Q    Jake —

Q    On China.  Just to follow up —

Q    Since you —

Q    So, you — you’re taking, you know, new steps to sort of express your frustration with China over the supplying of dual-use items and other continued things.  There’s also going to be some language, we understand, in terms of overcapacity, excess industrial capacity, and there’s also some work to be done on — on debt and the slow process of settling debt.  China is, of course, the largest creditor to — to many developing countries. 

Is this a moment where the G7 is — is sort of squaring up and — and taking stock of China’s behavior?  And, you know, what — do you expect, sort of, a unified front despite the, you know, differences that might exist?


MR. SULLIVAN:  You know, the communiqué in Hiroshima last year put it well when it said each country has its own distinctive approach to China, but we’re united around a set of common principles, and we’re also united around the proposition that we need to align and coordinate in dealing with some of the challenges that China’s policies and practices pose to our economies and to our security.

Overcapacity is one of those issues.  The President has been vocal about that.  Frankly, European countries have been vocal about that. 

The President has taken action with respect to Chinese overcapacity, including the — the 301 review announcements from a few weeks ago.  Now Europe has taken action. 

So, I do think you can expect to see a common framework around some of these issues emerging as part of the final text of the communiqué.  But I will leave that communiqué to speak for itself so that I’m not announcing every outcome here on the plane on the way over.

Q    Jake, it’s two weeks since the President’s decision to allow limited strikes into Russian territory around Kharkiv by the Ukrainians. 

We’ve seen President Putin respond by saying he may place weapons that could hold some Western or NATO countries at risk.  He didn’t say where.  He didn’t say what kind.  Have you seen any action in — in response, other than what Putin and some of his aides have said?

And can you explain what, if anything, they’re doing around Cuba with this set of exercises?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, first, we’ve seen what President Putin and other Russian officials have said, and we’ll continue to watch what they actually do as we go forward. 

Second, our position here, we believe, is straightforward and commonsensical.  Russians are launching attacks from one side of the border directly onto the other side of the border, and Ukraine ought to be able to fire back across that border so that Russia cannot just use the border as a way of gaining an advantage that allows them to take more Ukrainian territory. That, to us, is just pretty straightforward and common sense.  And the change in policy came with it on the basis of a change in circumstance, which was this new front opened opposite the border in — in Kharkiv Oblast.

Your other question was about — oh, Cuba.  So, just to take a step back, we have seen these Russian naval deployments sailing into Cuba in the Bush administration, the Obama administration, the Trump administration, and now the Biden administration. 

It’s something we watch closely, carefully.  It’s something that we went out publicly on several days before it happened so the world would understand the context and the world would also know that we are watching.  And so, we will see how this unfolds in the coming days. 

But we have seen this kind of thing before, and we expect to see this kind of thing again.  And I’m not going to read into any particular motives —

Q    But it looks the same —

MR. SULLIVAN:  — by Russia.

Q    But it looks a lot like those previous exercises.

MR. SULLIVAN:  There are elements in this one that are different, that are distinct.  But fundamentally, the notion that Russia takes a — some of its Russian naval assets and does a port visit to Havana is something we have seen before.

Q    What is distinct here?

MR. SULLIVAN:  One of the distinct things is — I think we have gone out and explained is they have a submarine associated with this port visit that they have not had before.  They also have similar capabilities on a surface ship that they have had before.  So, for us —

Q    But they’re transferring or emplacing any — any missiles, anything like that?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We have not seen anything like that, and the Cubans have gone out with their own statements reinforcing that that is not happening.  Of course, we don’t necessarily literally take the Cubans’ word for it, but we, through our own means, have not seen anything to that extent and do not expect anything like that to occur. 

Q    Jake —

Q    Can you say how —

Q    — after the G7 wraps up, you’re going to be going to Switzerland with the Vice President.  What — what’s the level of optimism that that conference can — can move the ball forward on Ukraine?  And, like, you know, what — what are you looking for at the end of that?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We’re looking for two things.  One is for the maximum number of nations to sign up to what should be an indisputable proposition that any just peace has to be based on the U.N. Charter and the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of orders that taking — that taking territory by force is completely unacceptable.  So, that would be a powerful outcome if we can achieve it. 

And then the other thing is practical support for Ukraine’s efforts on issues like energy security, the return of abducted children, the security of nuclear plants in Ukraine.  We’ll work through some of those issues as well and hope to get some momentum from them. 

Q    Do you have any —

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think we’ll do one — one more.

Q    Can you just comment quickly on this —

Q    Do you know why the Saudi’s aren’t coming?

Q    — this —

Q    I’m sorry.

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m sorry?

Q    Do you know why the Saudis aren’t coming?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Pardon?

Q    MBS — MBS isn’t coming? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I do not know why.  No, I haven’t had the chance to speak with them to understand that.  So —

Q    Is that a disappointment in terms of maybe moving — moving forward on —

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well —

Q    — the Middle East?

MR. SULLIVAN:  — we always welcome more countries, in- — including influential countries like Saudi Arabia.  But they haven’t been to previous G7 summits, so this isn’t unusual that they’re not at this one.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Got to wrap it up.

Q    Can you comment really quickly between this on/off again deal between Iran and Russia — this comprehensive security agreement?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I — I don’t have any comment on it today.  If I gain any greater insight or wisdom for you, I’ll share it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thanks.  Thanks.  Thanks —

Q    (Inaudible) strikes in northern Israel?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We continue to be concerned about the exchange of fire across the border.  And we’re particularly concerned about Hezbollah strikes that are aimed at civilian areas in Israel.  It’s something we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on.

Look, fundamentally, as the President said in his speech on May 31st, generating a ceasefire and hostage deal in Gaza can put us on a path to get calm on the border between Israel and Lebanon and ultimately an agreement that provides sufficient security assurances that people can return to their home safely.  That’s what we’re driving for, and that’s what we hope to achieve.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Thanks, Jake.

Q    Thanks, Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  (Laughs.)

Q    Hi.

Q    Hi.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, Colleen.  What you got?

Q    A couple questions.  First of all, can you tell us who from the President’s family is with him on the trip?  I think it’s a couple of grandchildren, but I (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I can say: There are a number of family members traveling on this — on this trip with the President.  I don’t have any names to share.  But I can confirm — and I think you’ve all seen it for yourselves — there are family members traveling with him. 

Q    And then, I know you read the statement at the beginning, but I wondered if you could say anything about how the President absorbed the news of his son’s conviction. 

And then, also, he has said that he was — he has ruled out pardoning his son, but I wondered about a commutation — whether that would be something that would be on the table — a commutation. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so, look, as I stated at the top, I don’t have anything to say beyond — to your first question — beyond what the President’s statement was yesterday.  He has been very clear.  We’ve been very clear.  You know, he — he loves his son.  And he and the First Lady love their son, and they support their son. 

I just don’t have anything — certainly anything beyond that. 

What I will say is — look, I — I haven’t spoken to the President about this since the verdict came out.  And as we all know, the sentencing hasn’t even been scheduled yet.  But you saw the President do an interview just last week when he was in Normandy.  And he was asked, you know, a question — several questions — a couple of questions about this.  And he was very clear, very upfront, very — obviously very definitive.  And I just don’t have anything — he — you have his w- — own words.  I just don’t have anything beyond that.

Q    Can you explain (inaudible) —

Q    So, you’re not ruling out that he would commute the sentence?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what I’m saying is that the President — the Pre- — I have not spoken to the President about this.  And what I’m saying is he was asked about a pardon.  He was asked about — he was asked about the trial specifically.  And he answered it very clearly, very forthright. 

As we know, the sentencing hasn’t even been scheduled yet.  I don’t have anything beyond what the President said.  He’s been very clear about this. 

Q    Can you just speak about the logistics of how much time he spent with Hunter, Karine?  Because as I understand, when he went to Wilmington yesterday, Hunter went back to LA.  And as far as we can figure out, the only time that they spent was on the tarmac.  Is that accurate?  I just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I’m just not going to speak to the President’s private time with the family.  And I just don’t have anything beyond the statement.  The President and the First Lady support their son.  They love their son.  I’m not going to get into — into time that he spent with his family.  That’s something that we never do, and I’m not going to do that today.

Q    And then — and then on the — if no one el- — just on the — on the summit side of it, Karine.  If we can — if you can talk a little bit about the — the President’s plans to meet the Pope and also any kind of —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Plan to what?

Q    To meet the Pope. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, to meet the Pope.

Q    And if there’s any bilats other than Meloni?  And also any pull asides, maybe with her Erdoğan or Modi?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you know, these things — and I think Jake kind of said it — they’re kind of — they’re very dynamic.  They’re very in the moment.  There’s a lot that goes on at these summits.  And so, if there is a — a pull aside, if there’s anything beyond what we’ve shared with you up to — up to now, we certainly will share that. 

These engagements, as you know, tend — they come and go.  And they — and when they do, they happen very quickly.  And obviously, they happen, you know, sometimes unexpectedly.  So, if we have anything like that to share, we certainly will have a readout.  We will let all of you know. 

As the — far as the Pope, don’t have anything specific here to share at this moment.  But, again, we will — we have, you know, next 48 hours or so.  I’m sure we’ll have a lot of readouts and a lot of things to share with all of you —

Q    Karine —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — as this is a very critically important summit. 

Q    Is this — are you thinking about this as being the President’s — potentially the President’s last overseas trip in this term?  Or is there still any discussion about Africa? 

One of the core areas that the leaders will be talking about will be sustainability and development, and especially —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — with an eye to Africa.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  I think the President spoke to Africa, specifically, when he was asked.  He said that he would love to do it, you know, in Febru- — I think he may have even said in — in February — as early of next year.  So, he’s determined and wants to keep that commitment. 

As you know, we had the Kenyan state visit.  That went very well.  And — and there was a two-plus-two there. 

I just don’t have anything beyond his schedule on — on that particular question about going to Africa. 

Any additional scheduling, overseas OCONUS trips, obviously, we will let you know.  I just don’t have anything in the future to lay out for you at this time.

Q    Karine, does the White House have any reaction to the CPI report that just came out this morning?  And — and what does the President make of, you know, the expectation that the Fed may only do two rate cuts instead of three?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about the Fed?

Q    Rate cuts, yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look — and we’ve always been really clear about the Fed.  They’re independent.  We do not comment on — on the Fed.  And we — in this administration, we are very — we are very committed to making sure that the Fed has the — the space and the inte- — independence to make those in- — those monetary policy decisions.  So, I don’t have a comment on that. 

What I will say more broadly: We — the President did put out — we put out a statement from the President on the S- — CPI.  He understands and we always want to acknowledge where the American people are.  We understand that they’re struggling.  We understand that there’s more progress to be made. 

Obviously, we welcome the news coming out of the CPI data.  Inflation is down more than two thirds with the lowest core inflation since April 2021.  Wages are rising faster than prices over the last year.  And since the pandemic, 15.6 million jobs created.  And unemployment at or below 4 poi- — 4 poi- — 4 percent for the longest stretch in 50 years. 

Look, the President has been really clear.  He’s from Scranton.  He knows what it’s like for families to sit around the kitchen table and make difficult decisions.  That’s why he’s continuing to do everything that he can to lower costs. 

And there’s a contrast.  Republicans in Congress, they want to give a tax break to billionaires and — and corporations.  That’s not where we are. 

We want to continue to make sure that we give folks some health — hel- — some ease on healthcare, right?  That’s why we did the insulin ca- — tapping — capping insulin at 30 — 35 bucks a month for our seniors who are paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month; making sure that Medicare is able to negotiate, which is something that the last administrations, many other administrations have tried to do and they couldn’t and this administration has been able to do.

So, look, we know that there’s more work to be done.  We’re going to continue to do that work to lower costs.  But we obviously welcome the CPI data and the progress that we’re making. 

Q    Do you have any update on FDIC chair, the search for a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No update on FDIC chair.  Obviously, the President is going to nominate someone who he — who — as he does with every nominee, who has the experience and the respect in their field.  And once we do that, we’ll certainly share — share that information.  And we understand how important it is to have an FDIC chair in place.  So, we’re going to certainly stay very laser focused on getting that done.

Q    The President today got the endorsement of three major seniors groups.  And I realize you can’t talk about the campaign — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — (laughs) — I can’t talk about the —

Q    I understand that, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you for saying that in your question.

Q    (Laughs.)  But — but can you say anything about the President’s agenda for a second term in terms of deepening the work to aid seniors?  You mentioned —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — you know, a few things.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Insulin.  Yeah, the thirty- — 

Q    Is it — is it a top priority for him —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — going forward as part of the fight against inflation but also for seniors?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  No — no, I appreciate the question.  And I think that’s really important.  I’ve got to be really mindful not to speak about the 2024 election. 

But to answer — to — to lean into your — your question about the — the second term, look, the President is going to continue to work on — on behalf of the American people.  That is what he’s going to do. 

Lowering costs — obviously, as we talk about our — his economic policy is at the center of that and continuing to do that.  That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act was so important, because it allows us to, yes, fight climate change by lowering costs on energy prices.  Also, healthcare — by lowering costs for 15 million Americans across the country that are going to see a lower cost — 800 bucks lower a year.  That’s because of what this President has — was able to do with only Democrats in Congress.  Insulin — I already talked about that — for seniors capped at 35 bucks. 

I mean, there’s — there’s a lot more work to be done.

And — and we see that — we understand that — that Americans are still struggling. 

But we have seen some progress.  And we want to continue that progress, whether it is creating more jobs, making sure that unemployment continues to be low — it’s a 50 — a 50-year low, as we — as we know.  And so, we’re going to be pretty consistent on doing that. 

Healthcare, climate change, lowering costs across the board — that is going to be pretty consistent with what we do.

Q    Karine, can I ask —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — about just another summit session tomorrow, which is the Partnership for Ini- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    You know what I mean.  The PGI.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, the P- —

Q    Partnership for Global Initiative Investment —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Yeah.

Q    — Investment Initiative. 

Anyway, this is something that’s very important for the President.  He launched it as “Build Back Better World” in G7 Cornwall.  How close is the G7 to reaching the goal of $600 billion by 2027?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    I mean, as I understand, this is also the President’s second-term goal —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — that Jake mentioned to provide more resources to developing countries. 

And then, just on a logistics note, we don’t see the President attending the dinner for tomorrow, the G7 dinner, if you can explain why. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, it’s going to be a jam-packed two days.  Just starting with your last question first.  There’s going to be a lot of meetings happening, a lot of

sessions, as you know. 

And so, the President is certainly going to be engaged for the — the two days — or two — two — two and a half days that he is in Italy at the G7.  So, I wouldn’t read too much into him not going to one dinner. 

The President is going to be engaged with the leaders of the G7.  And you all will see that and hear from us on that. 

As it relates to initiative — yes, this is an initiative that the President started himself.  It is — it is something that he’s proud of.  We will have more to share.  I know Jake talked about that in — a little bit at the top.  I don’t have anything more as to the second — second stage of this.  But we will have more to share, so stay tuned.

But — but, yeah, this is a President that’s come — when he comes to these things, you see his leadership o- — on the world stage.  These are incredibly important engagement with these world leaders.  And — and so — and he — it — there will be no lack of engagement.  There will be full engagement with this President, as he continues to do so in — in all of these OCONUSs trip, as you guys have covered.

I think you — do you have something?

Q    Thank you.  I have two quick questions.  Sorry, the first one is on Hunter.  Where was the President yesterday when the verdict came down?  Can you just give us a little bit of color about where he was or if someone from the White House notified him?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What’s your second question as well?

Q    If just — if they — if someone had to notify him or he was watching coverage.  Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I’m just not going to go dive into any specifics here.  I’m just not going to do that from here.  You know, this is — this is about his — his family.  This is about his son, who he loves and obviously supports. 

I — I know these questions are going to come a million different ways.  As I’ve said before when I’ve been asked about this, we’re just going to be very consistent, stick to the statement that he put out.  And I’m just going to leave it there.

Q    I think you know — another one on the —

(Cross-talk.)

Sorry.  I have another one on the border, the executive actions last week.  Over — like, over the last 24 hours, there have been a number of reports about suspected terrorists at ports of entry and then also a sting operation where suspected ISIS terrorists were collected throughout the United States.  Do you guys believe so far that the executive actions are working, or is there going to be another announcement down the line with more to do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  DOJ, H- — DOJ, DHS put out a joint statement.  So, I would refer you to that statement on that particular question that you just asked me about those eight in- — I believe there were eight individuals. 

So — and we are also grateful for the law enforcement for their quick — quick work on this to make sure that we keep Americans safe.

This is another example of why we think some calls from Republicans to defund the FBI is — is a bad idea, is troublesome.  And so, we’ll continue to call that out as well.

But, again, DHS and DOJ put out a statement, so I — a joint statement, so I would refer you to that.

As it relates to the executive — the executive action the President did last week, look, just to take a step back just for a second — like, this is a president that has taken the issue of what we’re seeing at the border, the immigration

system being broken very seriously — I mean, very, very seriously. 

That’s why he put out a comprehensive legislation on day one.  That’s why he worked with senators — both Republicans and Democrats — for a couple of months to bring forth a — a plan, a policy that he wants to sign.  He wanted them to move forward with it, and Republicans rejected their own plan.

And so, he wants to see a bipartisan solution here, but that didn’t happen.  As you noted, he took an executive action.

As it relates to any impact of those actions, we’re still early in the implementation phase.  But we — we look at this in its totality, when it comes to actions — just the actions that we took this year as well.  And so, it’s including our work with international partners like Mexico.

En- — encounters are down more than 50 percent from December.  So, however, we understand that migration flows are dynamic, and we’ll continue to — to surge resources and personnel to the areas that need them.

But the President, again, wants to do this in a bipartisan way.  He believes this the best way to deal with this broken system — a system that’s been broken for decades — is to have both sides come together and have a legislative answer to this.

Q    Can you share any outreach from the White House to progressives that were frustrated by the actions announced last week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I can say to you is that our office, the — our Office of Leg Affairs is — is consistently and constantly engaging with legislators, both on the House and the Senate, in both chambers, on — on an array of issues, including immigration.

And you saw us — I mean, you saw us for months — you saw our team — for months, the President directed his team to reach out to senators, both De- — Democrats and Republicans.

And so, we have be- — we’ve been in the — in the process as well.  Right?  We’ve gotten our hands dirty in this in a sense of getting to work and trying to find a solution.  And there is one.  There is one.  Republicans rejected because of the former President saying that it would hurt him and help Joe Biden.

And those are — tho- — and that’s what you all have reported, is what I’m repeating here.

Q    Can you say a word or two about what the President will be doing in L.A.?  Is it just solely a campaign event or is there any official business?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would — it’s campaign.  And so, I would refer you to the campaign.  It’s go- — he’ll only be doing campaign events.  But that’s for the campaign to speak to.

Q    And he’ll —

Q    (Inaudible) any consideration to having the President just stay in Europe after the D-Day and France state visit?  You — he’s gone across the Atlantic — he will have done, basically, four crossings in 10 days, which is tough, even if you’re not 81.  So — (laughs) —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the President — and most presidents — have a jam-packed schedule.  He came back for two really important events.  One is Juneteenth, a holiday that he helped create it, signed into law, which — which, you know, is a — we believe is important holiday to — to honor and to commem- — commemorate.  You all saw the President attend that event.

He also spoke about an issue that really truly matters —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — guns.  Look, gun violence — guns is — is an epidemic in our country, the number one killer of our children.  And so, for him to come out — come back and talk about these two incredibly domestic issues — right? — I think is important.

The President’s schedule is jam-packed.  It is.  There is a lot to be done on behalf of the American people.

But the President is — is looking forward to the G7.  Important — it’s going to be an important summit to talk an a- — about an array of issues — that you heard Jake talk through — that’s going out currently right now.

And so, look, you know, again, the President has — this is a president that is able to do foreign policy matters, dealing with that, and also domestic issues as well that matter to the American people. 

We know that the gun issue, for example, is one of the important, top issues that Americans really care about.  It affects many communities across the country.

Q    Karine, what do you think the President is going to say — a lot of, you know, other foreign leaders have expressed — you know, are anticipating or — or have expressed concern that potentially President — former President Trump could be reelected and what the implications would be.  What is the President’s message going to be to other leaders? 

He often talks about, you know, going to that first G7 meeting and saying, “America is back.”  As the election nears, the polls are not clear.  It’s very much neck and neck.  Is he going with any kind of a message —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — to the leaders about the o- — you know, about — I realize you can’t say —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I — I — 

Q    — you know —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I appreciate the question, and I get the question, especially in the year that we’re in.  I have to be super mindful and not — and not speak to any question that alludes to, obviously, an election that’s coming up in a couple of months.  So, going to be super, super mindful.

What I will say more broadly — and I know you all — some of you traveled with us when he — he went to Normandy and visited the beaches of Normandy, an 80 a- — 80-year anniversary of D-Day.  And you heard the — the President talk about the importance of our alliances and our (inaudible) partnership and how, you know, it is important that we fight for democracy and our freedom, because it matters for all of us.

And so, you saw the President.  It was incredibly powerful what he said on that Thursday speech and also the Friday remarks.  And I think that is a show of what this President believes in.  And so, I’m going to leave that there.

And then, you’ll see the President goes to the G7, another important opportunity to engage with our allies and partners on what’s going on globally in the world.  Right?

Q    Can I just jump on (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure, sure.

Q    I mean, this is a topic that has taken more urgency, particularly after the European Parliament elections, where we see a surge of support for far-right parties.  So, we assume that this will be a topic of discussion among leaders, especially with France holding snap elections; Germany, Olaf Scholz also weakened.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    And I think yesterday John Kirby told me that the President is confident that Ursula von der Leyen will be selected again for another term.  But I just wanted to get an understanding of the President’s head when he’s speaking with leaders about the potential rise of far — potential rise of far-right parties on both sides of the Atlantic.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, a couple of things.  I do want to speak to the EU election results.  I’m not sure if my NSC colleagues were able to talk about it in detail, but I’ll say here on the record.

So, we congratulate the millions of citizens across the European Union’s 27 member states who cast ballots in European Parliament elections.  The successful administration and conclusion of these elections is a good example of democracy and democratic institutions for the world to see.

So, I’m not going to comment on election results themselves since we do not involve ourselves in the domestic politics of our allies and partners.

I will say that we have worked closely together with the EU to address global challenges and advance our national security interests, such as supporting Ukraine and holding Russia accountable for its actions on trade and other many issues.  We certainly expect all of that, as we talked about the EU and our relationship and how we move forward, to continue.

And so, look, I — you know, I’m not going to get into every specific state and their elections.  But we believe that our relationship — that relationship we — that we have with the EU is going to continue. 

I’m going to be, again, very mindful on coming into any speculation or hypotheticals here, especially as it relates to elections coming up this year.

All right.

Q    Do you have any names of CEOs that he’s meeting with?  We reported that there’s, like, a CEO session with him and Meloni.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll probably have more to share with you later.  I don’t have anything right now.

All right.  Thanks, everybody.  Enjoy the ride.

11:58 A.M. EDT

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Brindisi, Italy appeared first on The White House.

On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Previewing the G7 Summit

Tue, 06/11/2024 - 21:37

Via Teleconference

3:16 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks so much for joining this on-the-record gaggle to preview the G7 and go through the news of day with White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby.

Kirby will have a few words at the top, and then we’ll take your questions.

Kirby, I’ll turn it over to you.

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Eduardo. Hey. Good afternoon, everybody.

I think as you all know, tomorrow President Biden will be heading to Puglia, Italy, for the G7 Leaders’ Summit.

I want to start by just taking a quick step back to the President’s very first G7 in Cornwall. The leaders hadn’t been in person for years at that point because of the pandemic, and there was a real sense of relief in the room that America was back and actually leading at the table. And that’s still more true now than ever. The President’s message on that G7 in Cornwall was that we need to step up in solidarity and demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people and for people all over the world.

And for the past few years, we’ve done that in a number of areas. That includes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which not only threatens democracy in Ukraine but actually affects security across the European continent as well, and also affects the post-World War Two international order that the President talked about very eloquently in Normandy last week.

At the G7 meeting later this week, our commitment to Ukraine will continue to be right up front and clear. We will take bold steps to show Mr. Putin that time is not on his side and that he cannot outlast us, as we support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.

First, we will announce new steps to unlock the value of the immobilized Russian sovereign assets to benefit Ukraine and to help them recover from the destruction that Mr. Putin’s army has caused.

On Thursday, President Biden and President Zelenskyy will sit down to discuss our strong support for Ukraine now and into the future. And following that meeting, both leaders, President Biden and President Zelenskyy, will participate in a news conference.

Throughout the last two and a half years, we’ve also stood up to Putin in other ways: imposing the strongest set of sanctions and export controls ever placed on a major economy; moving in lockstep to immobilize Russia’s sovereign assets to deprive Putin’s war machine of critical funding; and to enforce a price cap on Russian oil.

We’re going to continue to drive up costs for the Russian war machine. And this week, we will announce an impactful set of new sanctions and export control actions.

These actions will follow through on several of the commitments that G7 leaders have made to date. The actions will target the entities and networks that are helping Russia procure what it needs for its war. They will make it harder for financial facilitators, for instance, to support Russia’s defense industrial base. And they will further restrict Russia’s future revenues in key sectors.

Now, you’ll also see in Italy that the G7 is more unified than ever as we stand up for shared values, to tackle global challenges, and to renew our commitment to partners around the world that we will help them invest in bright futures for their people.

We will build on the progress we made last year on our shared approach to the Indo-Pacific as well, including by advancing an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, secure, prosperous, resilient, and connected.

We will address the PRC’s support for the Russian defense industrial base. And we will confront China’s non-market policies that are leading to harmful global spillovers, working with partners in and beyond the G7 to promote economic resilience and security.

This year, President Biden will again host a side event that will highlight our positive value proposition to countries around the world via the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, or PGI.

We will continue to offer a path to help countries overcome unsustainable debt burdens, to boost the World Bank’s lending firepower, to mobilize additional capital for high-standard infrastructure investments, and to make new commitments on food and health security.

And as many of you saw, leaders will be joined by His Holiness, Pope Francis, for a session on artificial intelligence, among other topics. This will be an important moment for our countries to come together and develop our shared approach to harnessing the benefits of AI while at the same time managing the risks to our national security and impacts that it may have to our workforces and inequality.

The bottom line here is that President Biden believes we must continue to imagine, to event — invent, I’m sorry, and to inspire. And we are committed to investing in that vision with our closest allies. We are very confident that if we do, the United States will continue to lead on the world stage for generations to come.

So the President is very excited about getting over to Italy and having these important discussions at the G7. And I said — as I said earlier, you’ll all be able to hear directly from him and President Zelenskyy as well.

One last point before I turn it over to questions.

On behalf of the entire press team at the NSC, I want to congratulate Michael Feldman and his new bride, Wendy, who got married over the weekend in Virginia. Exciting time for them as they start a whole new chapter in their lives. And we wish them all the best and all the happiness.

As I’ve long noted and known myself, marriage is the only ocean for which no compass has yet been invented. And I think that’s one of the most special things about it. You start on a journey together; you don’t really know how long it’s going go and how far and how — and where you’re going to go. And I think that’s the exciting thing about it. And we’re all excited for Michael and Wendy.

And with that, we can take some questions.

MODERATOR: Thanks. Our first question will go to the line of Colleen Long. You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thank you. Hey, Kirby. Two things. On the G7, I wondered what the likelihood is that the G7 nations are going to agree to the $50 billion loan to Ukraine using frozen assets.

And then on Hamas, the ceasefire deal, it looks like they’ve given mediators back a reply on the proposed deal with some remarks. I wondered if this is, you know, good enough progress, if the U.S. is still sort of believing that the ceasefire deal is imminent. If you could update us on that.

MR. KIRBY: Hey, Colleen. I won’t get ahead of the discussions on the frozen assets. As I said, that will be a topic of discussion. The President will continue to reiterate our desire to move in lockstep with our allies and partners on using those frozen assets appropriately to help with reconstruction in Ukraine.

As I said in my opening statement, there’ll be some announcements on that. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of all that. And I certainly won’t speak for other of our G7 partners.

But I just want to circle back and just — as I said before, the only way this works is if we do have participation and support from other nations. But as I said, there’ll be some announcements on that. And I think I best leave it at that for right now.

On your second question, we’re in receipt of this reply that Hamas delivered to Qatar and to Egypt. And we are evaluating it right now. And I think that’s really as far as I’m going to go today — just that we have this response, and we’re working our way through it and looking at it. And I think, really, that’s where I’m going to have to leave it.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Andrea Mitchell. You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thank you very much. I understand that, but there’s some language in it that indicates that they might still be wanting to continue the hostilities. Do you think it’s at least helpful that they have responded?

And what is your assessment of the Wall Street Journal’s report with communications from Sinwar that seem to be — that are taking, you know, pleasure in the death of civilians and thinking that it is to the advantage of Hamas to have so many people being killed?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, on your first question, it’s certainly helpful that we have a response, Andrea. No question about that. I mean, we’ve been eagerly awaiting a response.

But as for the reported details that may be out there, I think I’m just going to demur right now. We’ve only just gotten it. Our team is going through it. As I understand, the Qataris and the Egyptians are as well. And I think we just need to reserve comment until we’ve had a chance to fully examine it. And I hope people can understand that.

I know it’s not a super satisfying answer for you all this afternoon, but it’s really the most responsible thing that we can do right now, is to really kind of take the thing in full and take our time to go through it to make sure we fully understand it.

I’m not in a position to confirm the specific reporting in the Wall Street Journal about Sinwar, but I will say this: It should come as a shock to no one that Mr. Sinwar cares nothing at all about the lives of innocent Palestinians that have been caught up in this war, a war he started. And it should surprise and shock no one that a beast like Mr. Sinwar would actually take glee in it and see advantage to it.

Again, without confirming the specifics of the reporting, it is — in general, it’s certainly not uncharacteristic of the brutality that this man is capable of and the willingness that he has shown himself able or capable of, since the beginning, of trying to advance his own agenda on the backs of and in the lives of innocent Palestinians living in Gaza.

And it should underscore and be a reminder to everybody how this war started, how quickly it could end if Mr. Sinwar didn’t have these predilections and would do the right thing, and exactly what Hamas as an organization is still capable of. I think I’ll leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Josh Wingrove.

Josh, if you’re speaking, we can’t hear you.

Q Hey, thanks so much. Sorry about that. John, are you able to talk a little bit more about the sanctions that you mentioned at the top of the call?

MR. KIRBY: No, Josh. I’m really going to leave it to the opening statement. There’ll be some announcements on that, ways in which we’re going to increase pressure — economic pressure on Russia, as I said, specifically around its defense industrial base. But I do hope you can understand that I’m not prepared to use today’s gaggle to actually make those announcements.

Q And can you give us any indication as to whether the President plans to speak with Prime Minister Modi, assuming he’s still planning on attending, and whether they will discuss the allegations with respect to the alleged plot targeting a national on U.S. soil? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: The President — he’s looking forward to speaking to all the leaders of the G7, and he’ll take advantage of every opportunity he’s got to do that. I don’t have something on the — I don’t have anything on the calendar that I can point to right now at this point. I know on the flight over you all will be hearing from Jake a little bit more. I think Jake will be able to provide a little bit more flesh on the bone for what the schedule is going to look like. I don’t have anything more right now.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to the line of Nadia Charters.

Q Thank you, Eduardo. Hi, John. Hello from Italy. Hope to see you soon. I have two questions. Number one is: How does this recent European election and the rise of the right will affect a long-term cooperation between the U.S. and your allies, especially with regarding Ukraine?

And second about the Gaza proposal. There’s some kind of, like, understanding with either from the Israelis or Hamas that they can still fight whether it is they agree to the term or not? Is the proposal unambiguous enough for the two sides to accept it but to lead them to believe that actually they can continue the way they believe that they can score victory?

MR. KIRBY: Look, on your first question, the results were
mixed inside various countries and they were mixed across Europe. And, look, you know, that’s democracy. And democracy, as the President said in Normandy, is an incredibly powerful force for humanity around the world, and we respect it. And more critically, we respect our allies and partners across the continent of Europe.

And we have every bit — every confidence that regardless of who gets what seat in the EU parliament, that we’re going to be able to continue to work with all our allies and partners, and we’re going to continue to work with the EU. And we look forward to continuing our great relationship with President von der Leyen. And we’re not at all concerned that we’re not still going to be able to advance shared interests and values across the European continent and continue to support, as we have supported with our EU partners, Ukraine’s fight for its freedom and its territorial integrity.

On your second question: Again, I’m not going to provide any context or details about this response, which just came in and which our team is evaluating and our friends in Qatar and Egypt are as well.

I would just say — I would just point you back to the way the President characterized this: that if we can get this deal in place, in phase one the fighting stops; the fighting stops all across Gaza. That’s what phase one is all about. That’s how you get the hostages out safely, and that’s how you get, hopefully, up to 600 trucks a day going into Gaza, is with a calm — a sustainable calm that can potentially lead to phase two, which could lead to a cessation of hostilities altogether.

So if the deal is entered into by both sides, then you get a ceasefire, at least for six weeks, which means no fighting anywhere in Gaza.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to MJ Lee.

Q Thank you. Just back to the Hamas response to the ceasefire proposal. Can you give us even a general sense of whether the changes that they say they are demanding are significant or not? And is it also your understanding that the response came from Sinwar and had his blessing?

And then just secondly — obviously understand the primary focus of this briefing, but given the significant news today, just as the President’s advisor and a spokesperson for this White House, can you give us a sense of how the President has been processing the news of his son’s conviction and just where his head is right now?

MR. KIRBY: MJ, two very fair questions, and I’m afraid I’m just not going to be able to be helpful on either of them. I really don’t want to prejudice or get ahead of our review of the text here. So I’m not going to get into content one way or the other at this point.

It has in the past, and so it is today, our assumption that if Hamas has delivered a response to Qatar, which they have, that it comes with Mr. Sinwar’s approbation. That’s the way Hamas has operated in the past — that Sinwar has to sign off on it. That’s certainly our assumption going into this text here.

But I need to reserve any comment until the experts have had a chance to go through it and make their own assessments.

Again, this just happened within the last couple of hours, guys, so just — I understand that — I do really understand the interest in it, but we’re just going to need to take the time to work through that text in the right way. And again, I hope you all can understand it.

There’s a whole heck of a lot riding here, a whole lot at stake, and not the least of which — in fact, the most important of which is the lives of these hostages and their families. And we just — we need to be very, very careful about what we say and how we say it. And this just came across the desk, and so we’re going to take the time to evaluate it the right way and figure out what the next step is going to be.

And on your second question, that’s well beyond the scope of my duties at the National Security Council, and I’m simply not able to speak to that one way or the other.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to the line of Aurelia End. You should be able to —

Q Hi. Thanks so much for taking my question. The first question is just to clarify: These announcements on the frozen assets and on sanctions, will those G7 announcements or will those be announcement from this administration?

And second question: The President goes to Europe just after elections that have shown a rise in — you know, from populist parties and parties that for some of them have clear pro-Russia positions. So how concerned is he about that?

And also, more precisely, is he ready to maybe in a few weeks work with a far-right-led government in France?

MR. KIRBY: The President will work with the democratically elected leaders of France no matter who they are. As he said when we were in Normandy and in Paris, France is our oldest ally, and we will always work with whoever the French people decide to elect as their representatives. Full stop right there.

On your second question: As I said, we have every confidence that regardless of who fills what seats in the EU parliament, we’re going to continue to work closely with President von der Leyen and our EU partners on all the issues relative to our shared interest across the European continent, and that includes supporting Ukraine. And I’ll leave it at that. We’re confident in that.

And, dang it, I didn’t write down your first question. What the heck was it again?

Q I was asking: These announcements this week on frozen assets and on sanctions, are those going to be common G7 announcements or only U.S. announcements?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I think, again, you’re going to — the issue of the frozen assets will actually be on the agenda. You’ll see those leaders talk about the need to move in lockstep, as we have in the past, to immobilize these Russian sovereign assets.

And I think you’re going to see — what I can say is: You’ll see — I think you’re going to see unanimity here at the G7 when it comes to working towards using these frozen assets to help Ukraine with their reconstruction. I’ll leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Marek. You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thank you, Eduardo. Hi, John. The NATO Summit is just a month away from now, here in Washington. How far is NATO from a consensus on the next Secretary General?

MR. KIRBY: Marek, I wouldn’t be able to answer that one. That’s really for the Alliance to speak to, and I’m not going to get ahead of the Alliance on that and who the next Secretary General is. That’s beyond the scope of my ability today.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Patsy.

Q Thank you, Eduardo. Hi, John. First question: How confident is the President that there will be a G7 agreement on a concrete plan to deal with Chinese overcapacity?

And to follow up on the questions on the surge of far-right parties, I thought I heard you say that the President is looking forward to a great relationship with President von der Leyen. So are you saying that he is confident that Ursula von der Leyen will secure a second term?

And just last on logistics, if I may: Will the President have a bilat with Giorgia Meloni and also an audience with the Pope, and when? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, again, on the specific meetings with specific leaders, you’ll hear more from Jake tomorrow and more details about the agenda. I’ll defer to Jake on that.

And my comments about President von der Leyen were certainly representative of what we generally believe to be the likely outcome here.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Karen DeYoung.

Q Thanks, John. In their response to the U.N. resolution yesterday and in their response today, Hamas said that what they’re seeking is a commitment to a permanent ceasefire and full Israeli withdrawal. As I understand the plan, as the President explains it, negotiations in phase one are open-ended until — assuming that both sides act in good faith — until there’s an agreement to a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal. So, in other words, in phase one, a ceasefire would continue. Israel has never committed to that and, in fact, has said it’s not finished with its operations in Gaza.

Based on the administration’s conversations with the Israelis, do you believe that Israel has committed to that and is prepared to say so publicly or (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: This is an Israeli proposal, Karen, and they’ve acknowledged that themselves. This is an Israeli proposal. The President accurately and meticulously identified the details of it to include, as you rightly point out, what would happen in phase two.

Now, the phase two negotiations obviously haven’t begun because we’re not even in phase one. But the idea of getting to phase one is you use that six weeks to start negotiating phase two. But you accurately depicted what would happen in phase two, and the Israelis have said that that is their proposal.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Molly Nagle.

Q Hi. Thanks so much for doing this. I wanted to see if you could confirm — there are reports that President Biden has approved the deployment of another Patriot missile system to Ukraine and that it could be deployed to the frontlines in the next several days. Can you confirm this report?

MR. KIRBY: No, I cannot.

MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Jake Epstein.

Q Hey, can you guys hear me?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I got you.

Q Hey, thanks for having this. I have a quick question on the Houthis. The U.S. Navy continues to expend lots of resources fighting the Houthis. For instance, they’ve fired off more than 500 munitions costing some $1 billion, and yet the Houthis have continued to attack ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. I’m wondering how sustainable is the U.S. naval presence in the region and how long does the administration expect that this can go on for.

MR. KIRBY: Without getting into, you know, inventory levels and resupply — you know, that gets you into an operational security environment pretty dang quick in talking about making sure ships are armed and ready.

I can tell you that President Biden and the entire national security team is committed to making sure this coalition of more than 20 nations that are operating in and around the Red Sea to defend and to defeat Houthi attacks on commercial shipping remains high. And we will continue to do everything that we can to knock that steel out of the sky and make sure that our Navy is fully prepared to do so.

It is still — you know, you’re asking me — if you’re asking me — and I’m not suggesting you are; but if you are, like, you know, what date on the calendar does this operation end, I would tell you we don’t have a date on the calendar right now because it’s still a very viable threat. And shipping companies are still making pretty dang tough decisions about what route they’re going to take to get goods to market. And we want to make sure that they have a measure of confidence that they can still travel through the Red Sea.

So the mission is still alive. It’s still viable. And, quite frankly, we believe it’s still vital. And we’re going to treat it that way when it comes to resourcing it.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more question. We’ll go to the line of Laura Kelly.

Q Hi. Thank you so much for taking my question. Looking ahead at the G7 and the NATO Summit in Washington, how concerned is the U.S. about increasing Russian hybrid attacks
on NATO member states in Europe? We saw those that are attributed to Russia and those that are suspected of being attributed to Russia. And do we see that the U.S. and allies are going to make any statements addressing this or have any work done about taking some sort of action? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: I don’t have anything with respect to statements about these hybrid attacks at the G7. But make no mistake, as I mentioned in my opening statement: What Russia has done in Ukraine and what they continue to do or try to do across the landscape of the European continent remains a significant concern for President Biden, certainly for our entire national security team and those of our G7 partners. And I have little doubt that the full scope of Russia’s malign activities will be discussed at the G7.

But as to what individual leaders plan to say about all that, you know, I certainly can’t predict. We are watching these, quote, unquote, “hybrid attacks,” to use your phrase,
closely. We are certainly mindful that these are the kinds of things that Russia has done in the past and has certainly continued to prove their capability of doing now. It is of a page from their playbook.

And as I said in my opening statement, we will continue to examine, pursue, and announce measures to hold Russia accountable, certainly for what they’re doing in Ukraine, and to make it harder for their defense industrial base to continue to
threaten the security of not only the Ukrainian people but the European continent. I’ll leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Kirby. And thanks, everyone, for joining. That’s all the time we have for today. If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to email our distro, and we’ll get back to you. Thanks again.

END 3:48 P.M. EDT

The post On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Previewing the G7 Summit appeared first on The White House.

On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby on President Biden’s Travel to France

Fri, 06/07/2024 - 16:44

2:12 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Hey, everyone.  Thanks for bearing with us as we moved it up and then running a little late.  Kirby has a few words here at the top, and then we’ll try to get through a few questions.  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  Hey, everybody.  Thanks again for your flexibility at the end of another long day here in France. 

I won’t rehash everything today.  I’m sure you all saw the President’s speech at Pointe du Hoc, really making clear how much we all should appreciate the sacrifices of the Rangers who scaled those cliffs and took and held Pointe du Hoc for several days, because it made a huge difference in our ability to push in from the beach. 

And of course, he also linked that gift that they gave us — all the vets of World War Two, and D-Day in particular — this gift of the strength of our democracy and why it’s important to be worthy of that sacrifice.  But again, I’m sure you all saw the speech. 

You also know that he met today with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine.  You saw the comments they both made at the top of the meeting and the readout.  I won’t rehash all that. 

I do just want to talk a little bit about tomorrow.  The President and the First Lady will participate in a welcome ceremony with President and Mrs. Macron at the Arc de Triomphe.  This is a particular honor, reflecting our close and very long relationship.  I’m sure I need not remind anybody that France is our oldest ally.  And when we’re talking about the importance of democracy here, in Paris and at Normandy, it’s probably a good thing for us to remember that we didn’t win our independence either without some foreign help and foreign assistance, specifically from France. 

But as they have this honor ceremony at the Arc, they will then proceed in a parade down the Champs-Élysées, which is already decked out, if you haven’t seen it already, with flags from the United States and from France.  The presidents will then hold a bilateral meeting in which they will discuss a range of pressing issues and topics of strategic importance. 

Now, obviously, earlier this week, we said that we’re going to underscore the value of the Transatlantic Alliance throughout this trip.  And we’ve done that, and we will do it tomorrow.  I expect that both President Biden and President Macron will discuss ways that we can continue to strengthen the NATO Alliance as we approach the 75th anniversary and the NATO Summit later this summer.  And we’re also going to talk about broader NATO-EU cooperation and how the transatlantic defense capabilities contribute to, quite honestly, a shared and global security apparatus. 

On the Indo-Pacific, the two presidents plan to talk about how we can deepen our maritime cooperation.  Specifically, we expect an announcement that we will work together to build law enforcement capacity — maritime law enforcement capacity particularly — and to increase U.S.-France technical cooperation on port security in the Indo-Pacific. 

Our respective development agencies will also work to expand humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and we plan to share best practices and work to improve coordination on development priorities in the Indo-Pacific. 

Finally, the U.S. Coast Guard and French Navy intend to participate in active discussions about increasing their cooperation and defining the full scope of what this could actually look like.  So, a lot more work to be done in that regard in terms of getting the French Navy and the Coast Guard together.  They’re already having these discussions, but they’ll engage in more intense and active discussions going forward to put some meat on that bone. 

As you know, both the President and President Macron have placed a high priority and an emphasis on addressing the urgent climate crisis, and both have been major proponents of clean energy solutions.  So, together, we’ve been exploring new areas of partnership, and we’ll continue to explore those in the discussions tomorrow — for example, through the U.S.-France Bilateral Clean Energy Partnership, which was established back in 2021, via our efforts to mobilize funding streams to also support nuclear energy solutions and to do our parts individually and collectively to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals. 

We’ll also plan on collaborating on ways to protect our oceans ahead of the U.N. Ocean Conference in Nice, which will occur next year. 

So that’s just to lay down a little bit of what tomorrow is going to look like.  Again, lots on the agenda.  And certainly, first and foremost among that will be, again, the issues right in front of the Transatlantic Alliance to include the war in Ukraine and how we can continue to support Ukraine. 

And with that, let me take some questions. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our first question will go to Jeff Mason with Reuters.

Q    Hi.  Thanks very much.  John, to what extent will Israel be on the agenda tomorrow?  And will both leaders express concern over the peace plan perhaps not getting to the point where you wanted it?

And just one follow-up on what you were just talking about, in terms of maritime cooperation.  Is that a signal that the U.S. plans to help more with migrant issues off the coast of France?

MR. KIRBY:  I lost you on the — you were breaking up.  Off the coast of Japan?  Is that what you said?

Q    Coast of France.  Migrant issues on the coast of France.

MR. KIRBY:  So the maritime cooperation was really more focused on the Indo-Pacific, Jeff. 

And as for your first question, I fully expect that both presidents will have an opportunity to talk about what’s going on in the Middle East.  Obviously, the conflict in Gaza.  And the President looks forward, as he always does, to hearing President Macron’s perspectives and his views on how things are going.  And I absolutely expect that the President will spend some time with President Macron talking about the way we have been pushing hard for this new proposal to get the hostages out and to get a ceasefire started. 

I will just answer the question now in advance of what I’m sure I’m going to get, which is that we are still waiting for an official response from Hamas.  We’ve seen some public comments, but we don’t take those as official or in any way confirmatory one way or the other.  We still have not received an official response from them. 

But the President will update President Macron on all that and, again, eagerly await his perspectives and his views, as well, on what’s going on in Gaza.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Seung Min with AP. 

Q    Hey, guys.  Thanks for holding the call.  I just wanted to follow up on comments that President Zelenskyy made this morning during the bilat.  He told the President that “There are details on the battlefield…you need to hear from us.”  Can you elaborate on what — to the extent that you can — what President Zelenskyy told President Biden and particularly about progress or changes on the battlefield, especially since the additional U.S. aid started arriving in recent weeks?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I won’t go into too much detail here.  I hope you can understand that, because I don’t want to talk about things that might make it harder for Ukraine to defend itself on the battlefield. 

I mean, he shared a very frank assessment with President Biden about what’s going on and the pressure that they remain under, particularly in the east, in the Donbas.  But I think it’s safe to say that while they are still under pressure from the Russians, particularly in the east, that because they have now been able to receive the benefits of five security packages and now a sixth coming, as the President announced today, that they have been able to thwart Russian advances, particularly around Kharkiv.  The Russians really have kind of stalled out up there; it’s basically — their advance on Kharkiv is all but over because they ran into the first line of defenses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and basically stopped, if not pulled back, some units. 

Now, I say that with a dose of humility, because, you know, the enemy gets a vote.  And right now, it certainly appears that they’ve stalled out.  But we can’t, nor will the Ukrainians, you know, take anything for granted.  They want to be able to not just stop the Russians but push the Russians back. 

And so, he did share with the President, again, his frank assessment, as he has always shared his frank assessment, of how things are going on the battlefield and what they need.  And the President, as you heard publicly, and he certainly did this privately, assured President Zelenskyy that they’ll continue to have our support.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Michelle with Bloomberg.

Michelle, if you’re talking, we are unable to hear you.

Okay, we’re going to go on to our next question, and we’ll try to get back to you, Michelle.  We’ll go to Aurelia with AFP.

Q    Yeah, hi.  Bonsoir.  I would like to go back to the Biden-Macron relationship.  And I was wondering whether you could talk to this, like, relationship on a personal level.  There have been some bumps, like the submarines, and they don’t always, you know, see eye to eye on all issues.  And of course, there is an age gap here.  So, yeah, can you describe what’s going on there, the level of trust, et cetera, et cetera?

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, with all due respect, they have a warm and close relationship.  And it seems like people — and I’m not suggesting you are, Aurelia; that’s not what I’m trying to do — but it seems like some people are more focused on areas where they may not agree on everything rather than focusing on the strength of this relationship.  We are NATO Allies.  And the fundamental agreement between our two nations on all the major issues — you talked about the age difference; that’s never been an issue between these two leaders. 

And one of the things the President respects and admires so much about President Macron is that he’s as honest and as forthright as Joe Biden is.  That’s what he wants to see in a friend and an ally — you know, an ability to shoot straight, say what’s on your mind.  That’s exactly the way he likes to lead and he likes to conduct his foreign policy. 

So these are not two men that are strangers to one another.  And they’re not two men that are afraid to speak their minds.  But that they may not see every issue perfectly the same way doesn’t mean that the relationship is weaker or hindered or in any way set back. 

I think you’ll see tomorrow, from the walk down the Champs-Élysées all the way through, when they have a chance to come on out after the meeting and talk to one another, I think you’ll see that we are as close as we have ever been with our French allies.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Ket with France 24.

Q    Hey, guys.  I hope you can hear me okay.  Some of us are still on the bus back from Normandy. 

Just wanted to follow up on Aurelia’s question about one of the things that they don’t really see eye to eye — for example, the idea by Emmanuel Macron of possibly sending troops or possibly sending instructors.  I know President Biden has many times in the past said no boots on the ground, all of that. 

I just want to know what the President thinks about Macron’s broader strategy, which is: Let’s not tell Vladimir Putin where our limits are, what we’re willing to do, what we’re not willing to do — the sort of strategic ambiguity that he says should be put against Vladimir Putin.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, first of all, God love you for making that drive.  I know that’s a long bus ride. 

But, look, to your question, he certainly, as I said in my earlier answer, fully respects President Macron’s prerogatives and his ability to express his views about what’s going on in Ukraine and how and why and to what degree the French people are going to respond to support Ukraine.  And they have responded to support Ukraine with both lethal and non-lethal capabilities, and we’re grateful for that.  They are a key member of the 50-nation coalition that is supporting Ukraine. 

At the same time, as President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief, he’s made his own view well known: that there’s not going to be U.S. boots on the ground in combat in Ukraine.  That has been the case, and that will remain the case going forward.  And he believes that that’s an important distinction to make. 

As for what is or is not transmitted publicly: Again, the President will leave it to President Macron to decide for himself how much information he’s willing to provide or how much clarity he’s willing to abide by. 

For our sake, President Biden has been very clear about a couple of things, and I’m happy to rehash them right now. 

Number one, we’re going to do what we have to do to make sure NATO is bolstered and strengthened to defend itself.  That’s why he added 20,000 troops to the European continent and made arrangements for them to stay there so that NATO’s eastern flank was well defended.  And he’s made that clear not only to our Allies, but certainly it’s been made clear by deed to the Russians. 

Number two, that we’re going to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself.  And we’re going to do that transparently.  I mean, just today he announced another $225 million in a drawdown package, taking stuff off our own shelves to give to Ukraine.  And we laid out for you all publicly what’s in that package.  So that’s number two. 

And number three, the President has from the beginning made it clear that we aren’t looking for World War Three here, and we’re not looking for a war with Russia.  And he knows and he has said, again, time and time again, that an escalation of this conflict to that degree is not only going to be horrible for the Ukrainian people; it’s going to have disastrous consequences, potentially, across the European continent.  Not good for our interests in the United States either.  The President, he’s made no bones about that, and he’ll continue to make no bones about that.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Tamara Keith with NPR.

Tam, we can’t hear you.

Q    Here I am.  I’m here.  Thank you.  My question is that the schedule indicates that the leaders are — the presidents are going to deliver statements tomorrow to the press.  When President Macron visited the United States for a state dinner, there was a two-plus-two press conference, which is pretty standard.  Why is that not happening in this case with, you know, two democracies?

MR. KIRBY:  This was the arrangement that was made, that they would come out after their meetings and issue statements to you all.  And as you know, with any bilateral meeting or, in this case, a state visit, all of that is hashed out between the two sides.  And it was decided in our discussions and our planning for this visit that that’s what they would do — that they would come out and make statements to the press.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question, we’ll try to go back to you, Michelle, with Bloomberg, if you want to try again.

Michelle, we still can’t hear you. 

And, unfortunately, we don’t have much more time.  So as always, if you have any questions that we weren’t able to get to, please reach out to the NSC distro, and we’ll try to get back to you as soon as we can. 

Oh, Kirby just stopped me.  I think he has one more.

MR. KIRBY:  No, nothing newsy.  I just wanted to thank you all for your flexibility tonight.  I know we advertised this for 30 minutes later, and we started a little bit early.  But I do appreciate your flexibility. 

And as Sam said, if we didn’t get to somebody or you got something hot and burning that you need to ask, you just go ahead and send that question along, and we’ll do our best to answer it.  Thanks again.

    2:30 P.M. EDT

The post On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby on President Biden’s Travel to France appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Paris, France

Tue, 06/04/2024 - 23:04

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Paris, France

8:31 P.M. EDT
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, everybody.
 
Q    Hi there.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hello, hello.
 
I just have a couple of things at the top, and I’ll — and I’ll hand it over to Jake Sullivan. 
 
Earlier today, you all heard the President announce new executive actions to secure our Southern border.  These executive actions would — would bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum and would be an eff- — in effect when there are high levels of encounters at the Southern border, as is the case today. 
 
This will make it easier for immigration officers to remove those who do not have legal basis to remain in the United States and reduce the burden on our Border Patrol agents. 
 
As the President said, he would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation, but the obstruction of congressional Republicans left him no choice. 
 
And lastly, we are on our way, as you all know, to France, where the President and the First Lady will honor U.S. service members, their families, and their sacrifices to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day operation. 
 
And with that, I will turn it over to our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to take it.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Thanks, guys. 
 
Just to set the stage for the next few days.  As Karine just said, the President is on his way to help commemorate and celebrate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day — of D-Day, the landing at Normandy by the Allies, which paved the way to victory in World War Two. 
 
He’ll have the opportunity on Thursday to meet with veterans who participated in the D-Day landing and also to join fellow leaders in celebrating that anniversary and giving a speech that will talk about, against the backdrop of war in Europe today, the sacrifices that those heroes and those veterans made 80 years ago and how it’s our obligation to continue their mission to fight for freedom. 
 
Then, on Friday, he will return to Normandy to speak at Pointe du Hoc, which is a hundred-foot-tall cliff that Army Rangers scaled under gunfire to take fortified German positions.  And he’ll talk about the stakes of that moment, an existential fight between a dictatorship and freedom.  He’ll talk about the men who scaled those cliffs and how they put themselves behind — they put the country ahead of themselves.  And he’ll talk about the dangers of isolationism and how if we bow to dictators and fail to stand up to them, they keep going and ultimately America and the world pays a greater price. 
 
And over the course of the two days, he’ll really be drawing a through line from World War Two through the Cold War and the stand-up of the greatest military alliance the world has ever known — the NATO Alliance — to today: where we face, once again, war in Europe; where NATO has rallied to defend freedom and sovereignty in Europe; where NATO has, in fact, expanded under President Biden’s leadership; and we’re all working together with a coalition of 50 nations to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s brutal aggression; where today, in 2024, 80 years later, we see dictators once again attempting to challenge the order, attempting to march in Europe, and that freedom-loving nations need to rally to stand against that as we have. 
 
While he’s in Normandy, he’ll have the opportunity to sit down with President Zelenskyy and have an engagement with him to talk about the state of play in Ukraine and how we can continue and deepen our support for Ukraine. 
 
He will also have an opportunity several days later to see President Zelenskyy again at the G7 in Italy. 
 
And then, as you saw, he has asked Vice President Harris to represent the United States at the peace summit in Switzerland, and I will accompany the Vice President on that trip. 
 
So, in the course of a little more than a week, the President will have two substantive engagements with President Zelenskyy.  And the Vice President will be there to stand behind Ukraine’s vision of peace, which is rooted in the U.N. Charter and in the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.  And it’s a signal of the depth of our commitment to Ukraine at this vital moment.  And this opportunity for the President and Zelenskyy to sit down twice will really allow them to go deep on every aspect and every issue in the war. 
 
He will also have the chance to see and engage with a number of other of our Allied leaders who will be there. 
 
And then, of course, the trip will culminate with a state visit to France.  Of course, we’ll be in France all these days, but then it converts — it elevates into a state visit in Paris, where he’ll have the opportunity for an extended discussion with President Macron on the entire breadth of our relationship; on the war in Ukraine; on the situation in the Middle East; on our expanding cooperation in the Indo-Pacific; and on everything from the climate crisis to artificial intelligence to emerging technology to investments in resilient, secure supply chains and the clean energy transition — just across the board. 
 
France is one of our oldest — is our oldest and one of our deepest allies.  And this will be an important moment to affirm that alliance and also look to the future and what we have to accomplish together, both in the immediate term and in the longer term. 
 
So, it’s going to be action-packed, I think, extremely moving, and extremely important three days in France with business, with speeches, and with an opportunity for him to say thank you directly to the veterans who saved democracy, saved the free world, and set the stage for the decades of peace and prosperity that followed. 
 
And, with that, I’ll take your questions.
 
Q    Thanks, Jake.  Can you confirm that Ukraine has used American-supplied weapons to attack Russian territory for the first time in past — in recent days?  And does this signal — you know, have you seen any impact of the President’s sort of loosening the rules of engagement for the Ukrainians for the use of that — that armaments?  Does that change your assessment of what can happen around Kharkiv?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  So, we’ve been pretty consistent in letting the Ukrainians speak to their military operations, and I will not deviate from that tradition here.  I’ll let them speak to their use of American munitions. 
 
As you know, what the President authorized was common sense.  Russian forces are firing at Ukraine from just across the border — north of Kharkiv.  And the President thought it was right that if Russian forces are hitting Ukraine from Russia into Ukraine that Ukraine should have the right to hit back, including with American-made weapons. 
 
And so, he authorized the use of weapons for that specific purpose.  And I will leave it at that for now.
 
Q    Jake, President Macron is apparently considering sending French military trainers into Ukraine.  Is that something that President Biden would consider as well, sending U.S. trainers into Ukraine?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  As we’ve said several times on the record, we’re not planning to send U.S. military advisors or troops, trainers to train Ukraine — train Ukrainians in Ukraine. 
 
I will point out that the United States has stood up a substantial training infrastructure in Germany.  It has trained thousands of Ukrainian soldiers on Western-made equipment. 
 
We stand ready to continue and, in fact, expand that training.  We have communicated that directly to the Ukrainians.  And all of the training that we do is very closely coordinated with our allies and partners, many of whom have also conducted extensive training of Ukrainians outside of Ukraine and will continue to do so. 
 
We’ll have the opportunity to speak with the — the French President and the French team on the ground about what they are thinking.  And, obviously, I’m not going to get ahead of any announcements they make.  I’ll just say that, for our part, we’re not planning for a training mission in Ukraine.
 
Q    Jake, a Hamas spokesperson, this afternoon, essentially rejected the ceasefire plan that President Biden laid out.  He said they wouldn’t agree to a plan until Israel laid out its terms for a permanent end to the war.  I mean, how disappointing is that for you? 
 
And I wonder if we can cir- — like, circle back to last Friday and — you know, the President seemed like — you know, there were some statements afterwards.  It seemed like there was sort of an opening here for a deal, which was quickly closed.  So, were you all surprised with the quick rejection both from Israel and Hamas to this latest proposal?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  First of all, I take issue with the end of your question where you said Israel rejected the proposal.  The Prime Minister’s own advisor went out publicly and said they accepted the proposal.  They have reaffirmed that they have accepted the proposal.  The proposal, as described by President Biden, is a proposal that Israel accepted before and continues to accept today.  And the ball is in Hamas’s court as to whether they’re going to accept it or not. 
 
Now, we are waiting for a response from Hamas.  You’re going to hear a lot of things in the — in the media — a lot of statements from a lot of different voices and a lot of different people.  We will regard a formal response as one that gets conveyed to the Qataris, who were the ones who transmitted the proposal from the Israeli negotiators to Hamas.  We have not gotten that yet.  We’re in not just daily but hourly contact with the Qataris.  If we hear anything, we’ll let you know. 
 
But I will point this out.  The President said in his speech not that Hamas had accepted the proposal but that they should.  So, he acknowledged on Friday: Hamas may choose that they think it’s just better to let the war and the suffering and the violence continue.  That wouldn’t be terribly out of character for a vicious and brutal terrorist group. 
 
But what we hope they will do in the end is see that the best pathway to an end to this war, the return of all the hostages, a surge of humanitarian assistance is to accept this proposal — which is a good proposal that the United States stands behind, that Israel has accepted, that the G7 has endorsed, that the Egyptians and Qataris have endorsed, and that much of the rest of the world has rallied to support. 
 
The onus is on Hamas, and it will remain on Hamas until we get a formal response from them.
 
Q    On Israel, Jake, and also this week’s theme of lessons learned from the past.  How does the U.S.’s own experience in trying to root out Iraq’s Ba’athist party — how does that inform your view of Israel’s desire to politically and militarily destroy Hamas?  Is there any daylight between Israel and Washington on this issue?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, I’ve stood at the podium and said that our view is that the comprehensive defeat of terror in Gaza, including Hamas and other terrorist groups, requires military action.  And we’ve seen military action.  But it requires that military operation to be connected to a broader strategy. 
 
And what we would continue to encourage Israel to do is to have a comprehensive, holistic strategy, including for a day after in Gaza that builds an alternative vision for the future of a stable Gaza that is not a platform for terror — where people are protected; where there is the capacity for the civilian population of Gaza to get the assistance and rebuilding that they so badly deserve and that the United States is prepared to participate in, as well as the Arab world and the rest of the world as well. 
 
So, what we would like to see ultimately is a comprehensive, coherent strategy that connects military operations to a strategic endgame.  And we will keep pressing and encouraging the Israelis to follow that course as we continue.
 
Q    Jake, on Ukraine, if I may.  A few weeks ago, this administration gave a pretty dire assessment of, you know, Russia making gains, et cetera.  Now that American weapons are coming again, now that Ukraine is able to strike on Russian soil, are you seeing the first impact?  Is the dynamic changing on the battlefield?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m very careful about making assessments like that, because it’s a dynamic situation and because, as I’ve said, Ukraine was in a deep hole due to the delay of the passage of the national security supplemental and the sending of substantial flows of weapons to them, and they’ve been digging out of that hole. 
 
We have seen them firm up the lines in key places.  We have seen them withstand the Russian assault. 
 
So, for example, north of Kharkiv, the Russians came hard across the line, advanced a few kilometers, and the Ukrainians are standing their ground.  They’re standing their ground in critical parts of Donetsk as well.  And they do have now the ammunition and other supplies that are necessary.  But they need more, too, as the President has said — President Zelenskyy — they need more air defense, and we are working on that.  And they need a continued flow of weaponry, which we are going to supply to them. 
 
So, we will watch in the coming days.  But we certainly have seen the fact that weapons arriving on the battlefield at scale and quantity in the last few days and weeks have made a difference, have made an impact.  And we hope they will continue to do so and that, ultimately, it will allow Ukraine not just to hold the line but to push back against the Russian forces that are currently menacing them.
 
Q    Jake, can you talk at all about what Bill Burns is doing in Doha?  Is he there to figure out the Israeli position?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  No, he is not in Doha to figure out the Israeli position.  If he wanted to do that, he would go to Israel. 
 
But we know the Israeli position.  You’ll hear a lot of speeches, a lot of statements from a lot of different people.  It’s a raucous democracy.  A lot of politicians in America make a lot of statements.  At the end of the day, the Israeli position is quite simple.  They have put it down on paper.  It is written in words.  Those words have been transmitted on paper to Hamas via Qatar, and now we are ra- — awaiting a Hamas response.  So, we have no doubt as to the Israeli position.
 
The issue now is: What will Hamas do?  And the Pres- — Bill Burns is going to be in Doha consulting with the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed, because Sheikh Mohammed, as well as the Amir of Qatar, who President Biden spoke with yesterday, have had extensive discussions with Hamas.  Bill Burns will be quite interested in hearing firsthand, in person, what the nature of those discussions was and where things go from here. 
 
Q    Jake, Secretary Yellen has laid out a way to leverage some of the seized Russian assets to potentially help Ukraine.  I would imagine that as the President is talking to President Macron on Saturday and with allies at the G7 a few days later that finding some kind of additional security guarantees, additional assistance for Ukraine, it’s going to be a big focus.  Can you talk about where that discussion stands and where you expect it to go, whether there may be something — a deliverable by the end of the G7?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  This will be a substantial agenda item in the President’s meeting with President Macron.  It will be a topic of discussion on the margins of the celebrations at Normandy because, obviously, the clock is ticking down to the G7, and we’re going to make a big push to see if we can get clarity on a path forward over the course of the next several days. 
 
This is a priority for the United States.  We believe it’s a priority for the entire G7.  We want to see every country come on board with a method by which we can mobilize resources for Ukraine at scale so that they are able to have what they need to be able to succeed in this war. 
 
We believe there is a path forward.  President Biden has given clear direction to the team, including myself, Secretary Yellen, our G7 Sherpa team.  And we’re hard at work on this issue. 
 
And we may have more to tell you after the President and President Macron are able to speak, because these intensive discussions are ongoing now and it’s something the two leaders will be able to discuss.  I don’t want to get into the details right now because these are sensitive diplomatic discussions, but they are intense, ongoing.  And this is at the top of our priority list.
 
Q    Jake, on the Pointe du Hoc speech.  The isolationist — isolationism component you laid out seems at least in part squarely aimed at the President’s general election opponent.  So, I’m wondering if you can describe how much of that speech is going to be focused toward an international audience versus a domestic audience.  And is he going to be calling out any isolationists by name? 
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  The Pointe du Hoc speech is a speech about, in his view, timeless principles — principles that have served as the foundation of American security and American democracy for generations — including the generation that scaled those cliffs, including today’s generation, including the next generation. 
 
So, he’s going to be speaking in — in terms of principles and values and lessons from history that are applicable today.  And I will leave it at that and leave anything to the kind of nature of your — other nature of your question to others who are better able to speak to it than I am. 
 
I can tell you that, as the National Security Advisor, I’m very proud of the message the President is going to carry both in his Normandy remarks and at Pointe du Hoc.
 
Q    Also on that speech.  There’s some critics who feel that President Biden’s ability to be a messenger on this is undermined by his support for what some people believe is an autocratic government in Israel.  Do you feel that that will undermine his remarks at all?  Or what would your response be to that?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, Israel is a raucous democracy.  I think I used that phrase once before in this gaggle.  I didn’t know I was going to get to use it twice.  But it’s absolutely a raucous democracy, with democratic debate playing out as we speak.  A hundred and twenty thousand people were in the street rallying for the release of hostages.  Members of the sitting government are out debating one another in public, going back and forth. 
 
So, I think the characterization at the heart of your question doesn’t reflect how Israel’s government or society works or, in our view, will work going forward. 
 
I think the President has shown in the way that he has cultivated, nurtured, and elevated democratic, values-based alliances in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific just how central a priority he places on rallying our democratic partners to stand up for the cause of freedom.  And that’s fundamentally what’s at stake in Ukraine.  But it’s also at stake on the larger global stage as well.
 
Q    Jake, staying on Israel.  There’s some escalating rhetoric from the Israelis about its northern border potentially opening up a new — escalating tensions al- — along the border with Hezbollah.  What is the U.S. message to the Israeli government right now?  Is it still trying to cool tensions down, restraint?  Or do you believe that the Israelis are ready to launch some sort of a larger-scale operation against Hezbollah now?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  President Biden touched on this in his speech on Friday.  And what he said was straightforward. 
 
A ceasefire in Gaza can lead to a calm on the border between Israel and Lebanon — an end to the exchanges of fire that have destabilized but, beyond that, have cause death and destruction on both sides of the border. 
 
That calm, then, we believe, can be converted into an enduring platform of security where people can return safely to their homes and stay in their homes.  And we have been engaging in robust diplomacy on that front.  We’ll continue to.  But we believe that that path is available and it is the bes- — best path forward. 
 
I’ve seen some comments in the press in the last hours — the last couple of days.  I haven’t had an opportunity yet to dig into this deeply with my Israeli counterparts.  So, I won’t speak more to that until I can talk to them directly about what their latest thinking is.
 
Q    On Taiwan, Jake, if I may.  In his interview with TIME, the President said, not for the first time, that he’s not ruling out using U.S. military force in case China invades Taiwan.  Is this a change of policy?  And can you maybe explain what exactly he means by “U.S. military force”?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, the President said in that very same interview, maybe even in the very same paragraph, that there’s been no change in policy.  The United States stands behind the One China policy, the Taiwan Communications Act, the three –Taiwan Communications Act, the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiqués, the Six Assurances, and we will continue to do that. 
 
The President also is a straightforward person.  He’s been asked this hypothetical question.  He’s given a response.  But he has been consistent and emphatic that our policy has not changed.
 
Q    Sticking with China.  President Xi is calling for a Gaza peace summit.  Do you think that’s a good role for China to play?  What would you like to see them do?
 
And also, it’s the 35th anniversary of the events in Tiananmen Square.  What is the White House’s message to freedom seekers in China and elsewhere?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  The Secretary of State will be — or probably already has put out in a statement that lays out, I think, quite clearly where the Biden administration, the President, the United States stands on this important anniversary.  I will let that statement speak for itself and for us.
 
On the issue of President Xi’s discussion of a — of a Gaza peace summit, I don’t know what he has in mind.  I haven’t heard any details or seen anything further from them.  I would just say if the PRC is interested in bringing an end to the war in Gaza, they should sign up to the proposal sitting on the table, support it, endorse it, and call on Hamas to accept it.  That would be probably the best way to get an end to the war in Gaza. 
 
It’s there.  It’s available.  It should be taken.  And that’s where every responsible country should be putting its attention and energy in this vital moment.
 
Q    Jake, on migration.  The President’s order today obviously depends on Mexico to take back those migrants who’ve been returned.  Is the U.S. satisfied with Mexico’s current commitment to do that?  And wondering, coming away from the discussion yesterday with the President-elect, if the President is confident that she will continue the policies that AMLO’s government has with regard to migration.
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ll leave it to the Mexican government to speak to what they are going to do on their policies.  What I will say is the President had a very constructive conversation with the President-elect.  He believes that they see eye to eye on the issue and that we can continue our good, close cooperation on it. 
 
And he also had the opportunity today to speak with President López Obrador, who, of course, is in office for another few months.  They had a good, constructive conversation, and the President believes they see eye to eye as well. 
 
And he’s, frankly, grateful for the support and partnership we’ve had from the Mexican government, and he expects that it will continue.
 
Q    Jake, just — just a question.  The meeting with Zelenskyy, is that going to be Thursday or — or Friday?  And then — and any other —
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ve exceeded my mandate for supplying you with highly sensitive information like scheduling information.  (Laughter.)  So, I will — I will leave that to the powers that be.
 
Q    And any other pull-a- — pull-asides that we should be expecting?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Not that I have to announce today.  But as you all know, this is going to be an — an event attended by critical allies and partners, people with whom the President has close relationships.  And he will have the opportunity to engage them a number of issues.  And if anything comes out of that, your faithful servant, your obedient servant will report it to you posthaste.  (Laughter.) 
 
Q    Can I ask one last one with regard to the speech.  Is — is the President worried about the — the rise of right-wing parties in Europe?  And particularly, with the history that we’re commemorating with regard to D-Day, their elections this week probably will hurt Macron.  Is that something that weighs on him?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, the President obviously doesn’t wade into or speak to ongoing elections in Europe, including the upcoming European elections, which are set, in fact, for this Sunday.  But he’s made no bones about the fact that he believes that anti-democratic forces — forces that are retrograde, forces that want to take us back, strip away rights — have a darker vision for democracy than he has, you know, that that’s — that’s not his view.  That’s not what he sees as the right path forward for the United States or for the Transatlantic Alliance.
 
But he’s not going to comment on the election or on a specific party or on a specific candidate because European voters will have to make those decisions for themselves. 
 
Q    Jake, just on the moment that we’re in now, though, with this trip to France, then the Ukraine peace summit, the G7, and then later, the NATO Summit, it feels like we’re in a critical stretch for world peace.  What do you think needs to happen?
 
MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, I think, first and foremost, Hamas needs to accept the proposal.  That would help a great deal.  That would help us end the war in Gaza. 
 
Second, I think that the free world, the nations that have rallied to support Ukraine need to not just reaffirm but double down on that support.  And that part of that involves us making sure that we’re delivering the actual material, tangible capabilities Ukraine needs.  And I think over the coming weeks, you can expect announcements of further deli- — deliveries of substantial capability to Ukraine. 
 
Third, I think we need to send a clear message to Putin that he cannot outlast us and that he cannot divide us.  And we have been very good at holding the line on those two messages.  And this is going to be a great opportunity over the coming weeks to put a — not just a period at the end of that sentence but an expla- — exclamation point. 
 
And then, finally, we have to look at the larger set of trends and currents in the world — from artificial intelligence to the climate crisis — and see that these geopolitical challenges are vital, and we need to get them right.  But we also have to make sure that technology is working for us and not against us; that we are mobilizing common action to solve the great challenges of our time, like the climate crisis; and that democracy can deliver. 
 
And in these next six weeks, the President will try to put all that on display.  And he’ll draw from history to do it, as you’ll see in these next two days.  He’ll draw from the present.  And he’ll also speak about the future.
 
And in between all of your guys’ fun and frivolity of Paris, you’ll — you’ll get some good, good moments — good moments on this trip.  So, I’ll leave it at that. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Jake.
 
Q    Thank you, Jake. 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Jake.
 
Hi.  All right.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.
 
Q    Can you talk a little bit about how the President has been following his son’s criminal trial?  Is he getting briefed by White House staff?  Is he just consuming the news?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as you saw — and I — I spoke to this yesterday as well.  You heard directly from the President talk about how much he and the First Lady love his son and support their son.  And that continues, obviously, to be the case. 
 
I — I don’t have anything beyond the statement that he shared with all of you.  And it’s all just — I’ll just leave it there. 
 
Q    On — go ahead, Zeke.
 
Q    Do you know what — the President dropped the First Lady off at her own plane on the way to Air Force One.  Is she — she going back to Wilmington to attend the trial for day three?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would have to refer to the First Lady’s Office on her — on her travel.  I just don’t — or — or her — yeah, her travel.  I just don’t have anything for you at this time.  So —
 
Q    On the executive order today, how concerned is the White House that it may face legal challenges?  And how confident are you that it will withstand those challenges?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’re confident that it will withstand legal challenges.  Look, I think we have to take a step back here.  This is a situation — when you think about the immigration system, you think about the challenges at the border that has been on- — ongoing for decades now. 
 
And the President has been very clear since day one of his administration that he wants to deal with this in a comprehensive way.  He wanted to deal with it in a bipartisan way.  That’s why we’re able to get that proposal coming out of the Senate. 
 
We saw what Republicans in the Senate did.  They voted against their own interest, their own proposal that they put forward, their own legislation.  And it’s unfortunate that they chose — they’re choosing political partisan. 
 
And the President has always said — I even said this in the gaggle yesterday, I’ve said this many times — that he was going to look at every option, evaluate every option to deal with a serious issue that we’re seeing with a broken system.  And so, he took that on. 
 
We feel confident in the leg- — in the legal component of this, but the President is never going to stop to take action.  Of course, he’s going to continue to say that in order to actually deal with this immigration system, we have to have legislation, we have to have a bipartisan option here, we have to make sure that Congress does its job and pushes forward and deals with the challenges at the bor- — border with a legislation that he can sign. 
 
A — and the one that they’ve rejected — the Senate Republicans rejected would have been tougher, would have been fairer.  And, you know, we are in a situation where the President said he’s going to take action, and he did.
 
Q    Karine, on the border.  Border numbers have been trending low this month compared to previous months.  So, why the proclama- — why do the proclamation now?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s still unacceptable.  The border — what we’re seeing is still unacceptable.  And so, the President decided to take action. 
 
And — and so, look, we understand and we — and you all have reported, majority of Americans care about this issue.  They care about the challenges at the border. 
 
And the President has always said he’s going to take action, and he has.  And the e- — and you’re right.  The numbers have been trend- — trending down.  But it’s still — it’s still not where it should be.  It’s still not — doesn’t mean that we still shouldn’t take action.  And that’s what you heard from the President today.
 
Q    Can I ask about the South African election and just how the White House sees its future with Pretoria now that the ANC, which was such a bulwark, has — has lost so much ground? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, so, we — obviously, we’re going to wish all South Africans a peaceful and democratic — well, they had — electoral process, which they had.
 
And, look, we have a strong relationship with South Africa.  And that leader — that relationship is going to continue based on the priorities our two governments and people share.  For example, together, we are addressing the impacts of climate change. 
 
You just heard Jake give a pretty eloquent response to your question and talked about the importance of that diplomacy around climate change, just as we think about the world globally, obviously, and — and collaborating on renewable energy, strengthening health security through a robust health agenda, and advancing regional peace and security and growing our bilateral trade and building inclusive economic growth for all of our people. 
 
And South Africa stands as a vibrant democracy.  And we look forward to continuing and strengthening our work together in the years ahead.  And as two constitutional democracies, the partnership between South Africa and the United States remains an anchor for peace and prosperity in the world. 
 
And so, look, that’s what we’re going to continue to do — continue that diplomacy, continue that partnership.  And I’ll leave it to — to them to speak about their — their party and their — obviously, their elections.
 
Q    Just sticking on the Mother Continent.  Do we have any updates on Kenya’s Haiti mission, any efforts that the U.S. is putting in to —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any updates.  I think, you know, when the Kenyans were here, obviously, for the state visit, they continued to reiterate their commitment to their mission in Haiti, and we’ve seen some progress.  You’ve heard Canada make some announcement as well.  And you — as you saw, there is an interim prime minister. 
 
So, obviously, there is movement happening that we — we support here from the United States.  And, you know, we — we want to make sure that the Haitian people have, obviously, security and they have the ability to, you know, elect their — elect their government.  And that’s where we want to get to a place to.  And so, we’re going to continue to support that effort.
 
Q    Karine, at the end of the President’s speech today, he said he would be talking in the coming weeks about efforts to make a more just and fair immigration system.  Can you give us more details on that?  Is that, like, speeches about stuff he’s already done or, like, more executive action? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —
 
Q    Yeah.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I’m going to be mindful not to get ahead of the President on an- — making any announcement about what could be next.  Look, I think today was an incredibly important action.  We have always said — as I said it — stated earlier in one of my answers — that we are going to do everything that we can to deal with this immigration system that has been broken for decades.  And that’s what you saw the President do.
 
We, of course, want to see Congress come — move forward with a bipartisan legislation — pass that out of the Senate, out of the House to get that legislation to his desk so he can sign it. 
 
But the President is always going to look at every option on the table to make sure that we’re dealing with this broken system.  I — I’m not going to get ahead of the POTUS at this time. 
 
All right.
 
Q    Karine, one last one for you.  When the President is writing his speeches for Thursday and Friday, is he thinking at all about the service of his uncles in World War Two and his personal connection?  Should we expect any reference to — to his familial connection to the conflict?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I think Jake did a really great job in laying out kind of the President’s thinking on this speech on Thursday.  And so, I don’t really have much more to add to that.  I’m going to let the President give that speech. 
It’s going to be an important moment.  Right?  This is a commemorative moment.  This is going to be an incredibly important trip with our allies and lifting up the veterans and — and what we were able to accomplish so many decades ago. 
 
But I’m — don’t have anything more to share on what Jake eloquently — also eloquently shared on how the President is thinking about the principles, about democracy, and how to move forward looking at history, but also how to move forward.  And I think that’s what you can expect from the speech on Thursday.
 
Q    Karine, on the President’s decision on Sunday to go visit another cemetery in France, a cemetery that famously his predecessor didn’t visit, what’s the message behind that?  And, you know, what does he want to tell the American people?  Why is it important to go to that place specifically?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I would say stay tuned.  You’ll hear directly from the President. 
 
But, look, this is a — he’s not just the President.  Right?  He’s the Commander-in-Chief.  He is someone who is very — very well situated in the history of this country — right? — understands the importance of our allies and our partners. 
 
And I think that’s what you see from this President day in and day out — and respecting that history, respecting that partnership that we have. 
 
And so, look, I think the President is going to speak — he is — he’s going to speak more to this.  And so, I’m just going to let him have the last word on this. 
 
All right.  Thanks, everybody. 
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Enjoy.
 
Q    You too.
 
 9:07 P.M. EDT 

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Paris, France appeared first on The White House.

On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Previewing President Biden’s Travel to France

Tue, 06/04/2024 - 18:01

Via Teleconference

11:35 A.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Hi, everyone.  Thanks for joining our on-the-record gaggle with John Kirby, who’s our White House National Security Communications Advisor. 

As promised, Sean is never allowed to moderate one of these gaggles ever again. 

And with that, we’re going to turn it over to Kirby, who will start with a topper.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  Sean Savett.  May he rest in peace.  He had his moment and he blew it. 

Good morning, everybody.  Great to be with you again.  As you all know, later today President Biden is going to travel to France to commemorate, alongside our allies and partners, the 80th anniversary of the historic D-Day operation. 

As you all know, Operation Overlord not only freed France’s western region during the Second World War, but set the course for the liberation of the rest of Europe.  It was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany.  And it absolutely helped lead to our current rules-based world order that has continued to make us all safer and more secure. 

While in Normandy, the President will speak with our nation’s veterans and veterans from Allied powers.  And they’ll deliver remarks about the continued impact of their contributions.  American and Allied forces exhibited remarkable bravery, skill, and intrepidity — intrepid bravery on D-Day, excuse me, and throughout the war.  Their bold defense upheld freedom and democracy everywhere. 

Now, that war showed the world the value of strong alliances and partnerships, which is the lesson that continues to resonate today in Europe and well beyond.  This visit will come at an important moment, as Ukraine continues to face down Russian threats in its east and north and as we are working to address the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

President Biden has made revitalizing our relationships a key priority, recognizing, of course, that we are stronger when we act together and that today’s challenges require global solutions and global responses. 

Now, to that end, while he’s in France, President Biden will also participate in an official state visit with President Macron.  France is, of course, an important U.S. ally — in fact, our nation’s oldest ally.  And this visit will underscore continued U.S.-French leadership on a range of consequential issues. 

During their bilateral meeting, the presidents will discuss priorities like supporting Ukraine, of course; the need for a free and open Indo-Pacific region; addressing the crisis in the Middle East; and efforts to combat climate change. 

As you all know, there will be a series of deliverables coming out of this state visit.  I will not be able to get into the details of that today.  We will have more to say on that a little bit later and a little bit closer to the state visit. 

But I think in broad terms, what you can expect from the deliverables out of the state visit are a few things.  You can expect that they will underscore the power and the importance of the transatlantic relationship.  You can expect that they will help deepen our Indo-Pacific cooperation, not just from a security perspective, but also from an economic and diplomatic one.

You can expect that the deliverables will help us increase clean energy investments and opportunities, as well as to improve and increase nuclear energy capacity.  And I think you can expect the deliverables to highlight U.S.-French cooperation with respect to the Olympics to help make sure that the Games are safe, secure, and sustainable, and that they can truly demonstrate the very best in athletic achievement. 

The President looks forward to these engagements this week and to advancing our cooperation on these and so many other pressing topics. 

And with that, we can start taking some questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, sir.  And I should clarify the reason why Sean is not allowed to moderate anymore is because he wished John Kirby a very happy birthday yesterday.

So, first up we’ll go —

MR. KIRBY:  Sean had a good life.  He had a good run at it.  And now it’s over.  Yeah. 

MODERATOR:  Yeah.  With that, we’ll go to Aamer.  Aamer, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hi, John.  And I’m sorry I missed the call yesterday to wish you a happy birthday.

Any reaction to the elections in India?  And I was also curious: What does the administration make of it?  Looking like it might be less of a lopsided victory for Modi and the BJP than had been anticipated. 

And then, just on France: Do you anticipate the President will meet with President Zelenskyy while there?  Zelenskyy is expected to be in Normandy.  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Hey, Aamer.  On the India elections, we certainly (inaudible) how the vote of the Indian people are to voicing them — voicing their desires and participating in a very vibrant democratic process.  So we celebrate that with them.  And we applaud the government writ large for successfully completing a truly massively sized electoral undertaking.  And we look forward to seeing the final results.

To your second question: Not all the votes have been tallied and counted, and we’re going to withhold judgment or comment until such is the case. 

On your second question: I don’t have anything on the — anything additional in the President’s schedule to speak to, Aamer.  I think you’ll hear more specifics on the President’s schedule as we get a little closer.  I know Mr. Sullivan might have some things to say later this evening on the flight over.

But look, I would just, you know, note: In the past, certainly it’s not uncommon when President Zelenskyy and President Biden are in the same city or town for whatever the purpose is, that it’s not uncommon for them to find time to meet and to discuss issues in Ukraine with one another. 

But again, I just don’t have anything formal to announce or speak to right now.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Next up we’ll go to Andrea with Reuters.  Andrea, you should be able to unmute yourself. 

Q    Hey, thanks so much.  And Happy Birthday, John. 

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, thank you.

Q    Or belatedly. 

On Ukraine, I just want to ask: You know, there’s obviously a lot of work going into preparing the leaders’ summit for next week.  Do you have anything to read out for us now in terms of progress on the Russian assets?  And, you know, do expect that that will feature into the discussion with Macron? 

And we were asking Karine yesterday about the peace conference that’s taking place in Switzerland.  But it’s still not clear to me, you know, why President Biden decided not to attend that.  And I wonder if you can say what you expect to come out of that.  You know, the Vice President will be there, and obviously Jake will be there too.  So I just wanted to get a little elaboration on that.  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.  On your first question, again, without getting ahead of the discussions that haven’t happened, as you well know, we have — our position is that we do believe that it is a worthwhile endeavor to look at the potential use of (inaudible), Russian frozen assets, to assist Ukraine, particularly in reconstruction.  Now, we’ve also said we can’t do that unilaterally because the assets are held all over the world.  And so we got to have participation and assistance with our allies and partners, or it won’t work.  You’re not going to be able to get the full weight of those assets applied to reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. 

This is something that Secretary Yellen has discussed in the run-up to the G7 with other finance ministers.  It’s certainly something Secretary Blinken has discussed.  And I have no doubt that it will come up in discussions when President Biden certainly has an opportunity to speak to leaders in France but also later at the G7. 

But, you know, where that’s going to go and whether we’re going to have some sort of decision soon, I can’t speak to that.  But it is an idea that we believe has merit and should be explored.  But in order for it to happen and to be effective, we got to have the participation of friends and partners on that. 

On the peace summit, I talked about this a little bit yesterday.  Ukraine has no stronger friend and supporter than Joe Biden, and that’s from the very beginning of this war till today.  We’re going to continue to make sure Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself.  That support evolves as the battlefield evolves, as it has since February of 2022.  And that won’t change. 

And I would note that sending the Vice President of the United States and the National Security Advisor is senior-level, sober, serious representation.  And we’re grateful that the Vice President and Mr. Sullivan are going to make that trip and be there at that summit. 

We have participated in every peace summit that Ukraine has sponsored to date, at various levels of course, because of the levels (inaudible) summit. 

And I would also add — this kind of gets at your last question: Ever since Mr. Zelenskyy came up with this peace formula of his, this 10-point formula, no other nation has more strongly tried to see it operationalized and pushed forward than the United States.  We have been behind him every single step of the way on this peace formula, really trying to make sure it’s well understood around the world and that we’re looking for ways to get it operationalized.  Obviously, it’s his peace formula, and we respect that, but we are right there side by side with him on that.  And we’ll certainly see what happens here in Switzerland. 

In terms of outcomes, I can’t get ahead of that.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you.  Next up, we’ll go to Michael Shear with the New York Times.  Michael, you should be able to unmute yourself. 

Q    Hey, guys.  So, John, you may make news on a couple of answers here.

One, do you have anything about what Biden is going to be doing tomorrow?  It looks like an entirely down day.  Will he just be doing touristy stuff, or is there some reason why he’s down the entire day?

Second, could you talk a little bit about the sort of odd position that the President will be in over the next couple of weeks where, on the one hand, he’s really rallying the Allies behind Ukraine but, at the same time, in a very different position than most of those same leaders when it comes to Israel and Gaza, and so the tension about that?

And then finally, how old are you, John?

MR. KIRBY:  (Laughs.)  Damn you. 

Q    You have to tell the truth.  You’re still under oath as a spokesman for the White House.

MR. KIRBY:  That is correct.  I am 61.  Thank you. 

What was you second question about Israel, Gaza?  I’m sorry, Michael, I didn’t hear it.

Q    Just the fact that he’s in a very different place on the two issues.  He’s in unison with the Allies and the leaders that he’s going to be talking to — Macron but also the others at the G7 — on Ukraine.  But when it comes to Israel, he is in — you know, in some ways, very isolated and in a different place than France and Britain and a lot of the other European and G7 countries are when it comes to, you know, Israel and Gaza and the war. 

MR. KIRBY:  Okay, I got you. 

Q    There’s a tension there.  And how does he reconcile that?

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  There’s a lot there.  I’ll try to do this quickly.

So, look, on the schedule, I’d refer you to the White House team on the President’s schedule.  As you know, we’re taking off tonight.  We’ll be flying all night long and then getting into Paris, I believe, you know, midday or so.  And I know the President has some internal staff meetings on his schedule shortly after we arrive — you know, preparatory, the kinds of things that you would do in advance of the weighty engagements that he has over the following three days: speaking at Normandy, at the cemetery; speaking the next day at Pointe du Hoc; and then a state visit. 

I mean, there’s a lot on the calendar, and I believe they’re going to take advantage of the afternoon tomorrow to make sure that we’re working through all the internal mechanisms and do that right. 

So I think there’s preparatory meetings on his schedule, which is why it’s probably not showing up publicly just because they’re internal staff preps, which we do, you know, every time.  What makes this one different, of course, is we’re flying all night.  And then with the time zone difference, you get in and it’s already — half the day is gone in Paris, just because (inaudible).  So I think that’s what’s driving all that. 

But again, feel free to go to the White House folks for more detail if you’d like.

On your second question, I’d say a couple of things.  And I don’t want to get too far ahead of the G7 here since, you know, we haven’t really talked much about that in any great detail. 

But number one, the President respects that every one of our allies and partners have had their own views.  You know, we’ve seen some nations in the past, you know, come out recently and call for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.  Allies — NATO Allies have said that.  We just don’t agree.  We don’t agree that’s the way forward.  And many nations have different views, of course, about what’s going on in Gaza.  The President respects that.  He appreciates that.  It’s the very idea of sovereignty and territorial integrity and the precepts of the U.N. Charter that apply.  And he respects all that.  It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.

The President looks forward, when he goes to France here this week, and then eventually in his conversation with G7 counterparts, to talk about our position and the objectives we’re trying to achieve for peace and security in the Middle East. 

And we believe a couple of things: that this deal, what’s on the table right now, is the best chance — he called it “a decisive moment” — the best chance to get the all the hostages out and to get a path to a permanent cessation of hostilities coming out of phase two, if Hamas will accept the deal. 

And if you get that, then you can talk about really advancing a vision for post-conflict Gaza and what that needs to look like (inaudible).  And if you can get that, then you can really start to get some momentum towards other goals we have in the region, like normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.  And of course, all of that can help build to an eventual two-state solution, which the President believes, unlike some people — he believes that it still is best achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. 

So, look, he recognizes that not every nation agrees with his policies.  He knows that not every American agrees with everything he’s doing in Gaza.  But he doesn’t govern.  He doesn’t make national security decisions based on popularity, and he doesn’t do it based on contrary opinions outside the United States.  He does it based on what he believes is in our best national security interest. 

And he believes the approach that he’s taken, this team has been taking, is the best path forward for Israel’s security being guaranteed, so they don’t have to live next to Hamas, and for an eventual state for the Palestinian people. 

So I think I’d leave it at that. 

The last thing I’d say — because you talked about tension: Disagreements with allies and partners is not something new to President Biden any more than unity and cooperation and collaboration, which he also fosters across a range of issues.  And so I have every expectation that Ukraine in that regard will also be a prominent topic to be discussed. 

And then, I answered your third question about my age.  I would also note that Sean Savett was 34.  There will be not a 35.  I just wanted to add that.  (Laughter.)

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Next up we’re going to go to Sara with CBS.  Sara, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Thank you all.  Can you hear me?

MODERATOR:  Mm-hmm.

Q    Great.  And Happy Birthday, Kirby.  Sorry, Sean.  (Laughs.)

Can you confirm the reports that Ukraine has, for the first time, used U.S. weapons across the border in Russia?  And does the partial lifting of the restrictions against using U.S. weapons in Russian territory give Ukraine the freedom to shoot down Russian aircraft that are launching glide bombs from the sanctuary of Russian territory?

MR. KIRBY:  So I can’t confirm your first question.  As I said, we’re just not in a position on a day-to-day basis of knowing exactly what the Ukrainians are firing at what.  It’s certainly at a tactical level.  So, I can’t confirm that.  I can tell you that they understand the guidance that they’ve been given. 

And on your second question, I just want to note — there has been some confusion on this: There’s never been a restriction on the Ukrainians shooting down hostile aircraft, even if those aircraft are not necessarily in Ukrainian airspace.  I mean, they can shoot down Russian airplanes that pose an impending threat.  And they have.  They have since the beginning of the war.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you.  Next up we’ll go to Danny Kemp.  Danny, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Thank you very much.  And I just want to say: Save Sean.  He’s a (inaudible) nice guy.  (Laughter.) 

MR. KIRBY:  I can see it now: #Savett.

Q    I’m starting it right after this.  (Laughter.)

I just wanted to ask a kind of broader-picture question.  And we’ve had three pretty massive announcements in the last — basically, in the space of last week on the Gaza peace deal, on

Ukraine weapons, and now on migration.  I just want wondered, what’s the sort of thinking behind that?  What’s the hurry?  Is there a kind of a sense that the President wants to get everything sort of sorted right now, at the moment, for some reason?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I can’t speak to the immigration issue that you’re talking about. 

But just to, I think, to the larger, broader theme of your question, what you’re seeing is the President moving out with an appropriate sense of urgency on some of the key foreign policy issues of the day, in both trying to get ahead of events, but also, quite frankly, trying to respond to events as they occur, events that have prompted him to reevaluate our policy and reevaluate our approach and reevaluate what we’re doing to support allies and friends. 

I mean, had it not been for the six-month gap, who knows whether Russia would have tried to press the advantages that they tried to press in the Donbas and then towards Kharkiv.  But what you’re seeing now, in the last month — you know, five security assistance packages being rushed to Ukraine now that we finally have the funding — is in response to the fact that we didn’t have any funding for six months and the Russians were pressing their — trying to press their advantages in the east.

What you’re seeing in terms of his remarks on Friday with respect to Gaza and what we’re trying to do to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself also is a reflection somewhat of the fact that we didn’t have supplemental funding.  As you know, there was quite a bit of supplemental funding applied there to helping our ally, Israel. 

But it’s also a reflection of what we’re seeing on the ground and the fact that Hamas still is operating in Rafah, and the Israelis felt strongly that they needed to deal with that threat, as well as watching closely and trying to respond as fervently as we can to a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, which is why we, you know, have put the pier off the coast, which is why we continue to conduct airdrops, which is why we continue to try to press the Israelis to open up and sustain more crossings into Gaza. 

So it’s a combination of trying to get ahead of issues as best we see them developing, but also responding in real time to what’s going on. 

And that’s — again, that’s — I think that explains quite well the President’s sense of energy here. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Next up we’ll go with Nick Schifrin.  Nick, you should be able to unmute yourself. 

Q    I feel like we need alliteration.  #SaveSean.  (Laughter.)

John, number one, the Qatari spokesman just came out and said something interesting — so I wonder if you could just elucidate a little bit — that Qatar has received a formal Israeli proposal for the hostage deal as outlined by the President on Friday.  We talked yesterday about how Hamas received this proposal in writing on Thursday night.  So can you just kind of square that circle?  What is the status of whatever it is in writing?  Who’s approved it and who sent it to whom?

And then, just an elucidation on one of the President’s quotations in his Time piece.  Time asked the President this question: “Some in Israel have suggested Netanyahu is prolonging the war for his own political self-preservation.  Do you believe that?”  The President’s answer was: “I’m not going to comment on that.  There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion.”  And then he goes on to talk about the domestic unrest over the judicial changes.  So can you just try and translate for us what the President was trying to say?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  On your first question, Nick, I have not seen those comments by a Qatari spokesman.  All I can do is go back (inaudible) before, that that proposal had been transmitted to Hamas on Thursday night. 

So we’ll go back and take a look at what the spokesman said.  And if there’s some additional context that needs to be provided, I’ll have the team do that.  But we stand by our comments before, that the proposal was transmitted to Hamas on Thursday evening, before the President’s speech. 

On your second question —

Q    And sorry, John, just to — and Hamas has not provided a formal response yet.  Is that right? 

MR. KIRBY:  That is correct.

On your second question, I think the President was very clear in his answer on that, and we’ll let the Prime Minister speak to his own politics and to what his critics are saying.  And the President was referencing what many critics have said. 

For our part, though he and Prime Minister Netanyahu do not agree on everything — and he talked in that interview about some of the things they don’t agree on, such as on a two-state solution — but for our part, we’re going to make sure that Israel has what it needs to continue to eliminate the threat by Hamas and that we’re going to continue to work with the Prime Minister and the war cabinet to try to get this proposal over the finish line — a proposal, I would add, that was an Israeli proposal that they crafted after some diplomatic conversations with us, in which they’ve acknowledged is their proposal.  So that’s what our focus is going to be on.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you.  Next up we’ll go with Emily Goodin with Daily Mail.  Emily, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hi.  Thanks, guys.  I have two questions.  My first question is about: What message is the President sending with his decision to visit the American cemetery that his predecessor did not visit?

And then secondly, do you have any details on what Dr.  Biden and Mrs. Macron are going to be doing?  I thought you guys might be better friends now, John, since you share the same birthday with the First Lady.

MR. KIRBY:  (Laughs.)  The First Lady and I have not talked about our shared birthday.

I don’t have anything on her schedule to speak to.  I believe you would have to go to the First Lady’s office on that.  That wouldn’t be something that I’d be able to speak to. 

But on your first question, the message is simple: that the service and the sacrifice of American troops in wars overseas — World War One, I think in the case that you’re referring to, and of course, World War Two, with his visit to Normandy — should never be forgotten.  And our commitment to honor that sacrifice should never waver.  And our obligations to those they leave behind, even though it may be generations ago, can never be lessened. 

And that’s the — those are the messages that the President is trying to send with these visits, that these — in these two wars, of course, these brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, they didn’t sacrifice their futures for nothing.  And we need to take every opportunity that we can to acknowledge that.  It’s somber.  It’s sober.  But it’s a very serious obligation for all Americans everywhere.  And he looks forward to paying respects to all of them.  And I think I’d leave it there.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  I think we have time for maybe one or two more.

MR. KIRBY:  I can squeeze in, yeah, one or two more.

MODERATOR:  All right.  We’ll go with Kayla from CNN.  Kayla, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Thank you so much, guys, for doing this.  And I’m marking my Outlook calendar for all future June (inaudible) so that we won’t (inaudible) in the future. 

I wanted to zoom out a little bit, John.  I’m just wondering if you could talk about the stakes for this particular visit and the upcoming series of engagements with transatlantic allies, given Russia’s latest aggression, deteriorating political goodwill in the U.S. and Europe, and the forthcoming elections in the UK and the U.S.  Like, describe this moment for the transatlantic and how important the moment is for the President. 

And then, as a follow-up to that: When the President gives his speech on democracy from Pointe du Hoc, how do you expect that message to be different from his prior addresses on that topic?

MR. KIRBY:  Okay, on your first question, I mean, I can’t really describe it any better than the President has.  He really believes we’re at an inflection point in history.  And it’s not tied to elections, whether they’re here or in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter.  He believes it’s tied to the way geopolitics are changing, the way challenges are being presented to us all around the world in different ways, whether they be security challenges, economic challenges, social and cultural challenges; that, across the world, we’re at an inflection point and that, in his view — and this kind of gets to your second question — in his view, there’s a power in democracy, there’s a power in observing the voice of the people and in trying to reach and achieve the aspirations of the populace that

can’t be underestimated.  And that the idea of standing up to aggressors, whether they actually be in the act of aggression or

anticipated to be in the act of aggression, standing up to that and making it clear what you stand for, as well as what you stand against, matters today. 

And so, I think if you look at the next couple of weeks, it will be a busy couple of weeks for the President, certainly on the world stage.  And he will take full advantage of the opportunity to talk about the moment we’re living in, the importance of democracies working together on behalf of their peoples, but also the importance of American leadership, as he has described in that Time Magazine interview, as the world power, and the obligations and the responsibilities that come with that. 

And when he talks about American leadership, it’s not an arrogant leadership.  It’s a humble leadership.  He recognizes that for as powerful as we are and as much good as we can do, we need help.  Our allies and partners bring things to the endeavor that we can’t always bring, and that we are much more — we send a much stronger signal about lofty words like “peace” and “freedom” and “stability” and “security” when we’re working in concert with one another. 

And so I think he’s going to, again, use the opportunity to send that broader message to the world.

And then, on the Pointe du Hoc speech — again, I want to be careful that I don’t get ahead of him and preview the speech too much.  But what makes that opportunity, in terms of speaking about the power of democracy and standing up to aggression, is that you can point to real lives that were impacted at Pointe du Hoc.  You can point to real blood that was spilt in pursuit of that loftier goal.  And you can tell stories about real men who climbed real cliffs and faced real bullets and real danger in the pursuit of something a whole hell of a lot bigger than themselves.  That’s what makes being able to talk about democracy at Pointe du Hoc differently. 

If you’ve never been, any of you, I can’t recommend it enough, going to Normandy, walking the beach, seeing the cemetery.  But going to Pointe du Hoc, you can still see the craters from the battleships that were firing preparatory fires onto the ground to try to neutralize the Nazi gun pits there.  You can still walk in those craters.  You can still look at those cliffs, and they are shear.  I mean, you’re looking straight down at a very tiny strip of beach.  And you think about these guys climbing those cliffs, hand over hand, foot over foot, being killed all the way up, and then crossing over that cliff and doing what they did.  It’s eye watering. 

That’s what makes Pointe du Hoc special and different.  And it’s a way of telling the story, not only of camaraderie on the battlefield, but of camaraderie between democracies that the President really believes is appropriate for this particular moment that we’re living in, this inflection point.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  And for our last question, we’ll go with Justin Sink from Bloomberg.  Justin, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hey, Kirby.  Thanks for doing this.  Happy belated. 

I just wanted to look back on the question Nick asked, about the Time Magazine interview.  Israel’s government has come out and condemned the President’s remarks pretty strongly, saying that it was outside the diplomatic norms of every right-thinking country.  I’m wondering if there’s a sense among you guys that there needs to be a conversation at this point between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden, and if you anticipate this having any impact on the negotiations over the peace deal proposal that are going on right now.

MR. KIRBY:  I’m sure that the two leaders will talk again as appropriate.  They’ve stayed in touch since the beginning of the conflict in Gaza, and they will continue to stay in touch.  I have nothing on the schedule to speak to. 

And there should be no impact at all on this proposal to get the hostages out and to get some sort of temporary ceasefire in place during phase one.  It was a good-faith effort by Israel to put this proposal on the table.  We’re grateful for that good-faith effort.  Now Hamas needs to accept it.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you.  That’s all the time we have for today.  If you have any questions, feel free to email our distro.  And I hope you guys all have great Tuesdays.  Thanks.

12:10 P.M. EDT

The post On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Previewing President Biden’s Travel to France appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on Additional Actions to Secure the Border Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials

Tue, 06/04/2024 - 16:36

Via Teleconference

9:03 A.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining our embargoed background press call regarding additional actions the President is announcing today to secure our border.  As a reminder, the call will begin with remarks that will be attributable to “senior administration officials” and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The contents of the call and the related materials you all should have received over email are embargoed until 12:00 p.m. noon today. 

With that, we will go ahead and get started.  And I will turn it over to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good morning, everyone.

Since his first day in office, President Biden has called on Congress to secure our border and address our broken immigration system.  And over the past three years, Congress has failed to act.

Just last month, congressional Republicans again put partisan politics ahead of our national security and voted against a historic bipartisan border security agreement that would deliver key policy changes and critical resources to our border.

With Congress failing to act, illegal crossings at our border remain too high for our system to effectively manage.

In the face of this, President Biden will announce executive actions to bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum.

These actions will be in effect when high levels of encounters at the Southern border exceed our ability to deliver timely consequences, as is the case today.  They will make it easier for immigration officials to remove those who are here unlawfully and reduce the burden on our Border Patrol agents.

These actions build on weeks and months of actions the Biden-Harris administration has taken to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system.

Over the past months we have expanded efforts to dismantle human smuggling operations that bring migrants through Central America and across our Southern border, including by deploying additional prosecutors and support staff to increase immigration-related prosecutions in crucial border U.S. attorney’s offices.

We’ve published a proposed rule to ensure that migrants who pose a public safety or national security risk are removed as quickly in the process as possible rather than remaining in prolonged detention prior to removal.

We announced the launch of a Recent Arrivals Docket to more quickly resolve a portion of immigration cases for migrants who attempt to cross between ports of entry, allowing us to more quickly remove individuals who do not have a legal basis to be in the United States and grant protection to those with a valid claim.

We have revoked visas for CEOs and government officials throughout the region who profit from migrants trying to come to the United States unlawfully.

We have surged agents to the Southern border and are referring a record number people into expedited removal.  Since May 2023, we have removed or returned more people than every fiscal year since 2010.

I will turn it over to [senior administration official] in a minute to further explain today’s actions, but let me finish with this: Everyone should be clear that all of the actions that I’ve just described cannot achieve the same result as the bipartisan security agreement that congressional Republicans rejected.  These actions do not provide the additional critical personnel and funding or reforms needed to further secure our border.  Congress still must act.

With that, I’ll turn it over to [senior administration official]. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you, [senior administration official]. 

Today, the administration is taking decisive action designed to strengthen the security of our Southern border and reduce unlawful migration by suspending the entry of individuals across the Southern border.

The measures we’re announcing today build on the steps we’ve taken over the last three years designed to reduce irregular migration and bolster the security of our border, including record deployments of personnel, infrastructure, and technology; strengthened consequences through the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways Rule; and, of course, the historic expansion of lawful pathways for migrants who are willing to wait and use them.

Today’s announcement includes a series of measures that will significantly increase consequences for those who cross the Southern border unlawfully or without authorization.  And I’m going to go through those consequences right now.

As everybody knows, this — President Biden is issuing a presidential proclamation that will temporarily suspend the entry of non-citizens across the Southern border.  The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General are jointly issuing an interim final rule that, consistent with the proclamation, will generally restrict asylum eligibility during periods of elevated order encounters.  For those who cross the Southern border unlawfully or without authorization, and that includes both our Southwest land border as well as our Southern coastal borders.

The rule makes three key changes to current processing under Title 8 immigration authorities during these periods of high order encounters.  First, individuals who cross the Southern border unlawfully or without authorization will generally be ineligible for asylum, absent exceptionally compelling circumstances, unless they are excepted by the proclamation.  

Second, noncitizens who cross the Southern border and are processed for expedited removal while the proclamation is in effect will only be referred for a credible fear screening with an asylum officer if they manifest or express a fear of return to their country or country of removal, a fear of persecution or torture, or an intention to apply for asylum. 

Third, the United States will continue to adhere to its international obligations and commitments by screening individuals who are found to be ineligible for asylum for withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture protections at a reasonable probability of persecution or torture standard — a new, substantially higher standard than is currently being applied at the border. 

Like the proclamation, the rule provides for an end to these enhanced measures following a sustained reduction in encounters along our Southern border.  Specifically, these measures will be in effect until 14 calendar days after the Secretary determines that there has been a seven-consecutive-calendar-day average of less than 1,500 encounters in between ports of entry along our Southern border.  These measures would once again go into effect or continue when there has been a determination that the seven-consecutive-calendar-day average has exceeded 2,500 encounters or more.

While active, the proclamation and the rule will apply, again, across the Southern border, which, as I mentioned earlier, includes both the Southwest land border and our Southern coastal borders.

Taken together, these measures will significantly increase the speed and the scope of consequences for those who cross unlawfully or without authorization and allow the departments to more quickly remove individuals who do not establish a legal basis to remain in the United States.

As I mentioned, there are some exceptions to the proclamation, and that includes lawful permanent residents, unaccompanied children, victims of a severe form of trafficking, those who face an acute medical emergency or an imminent and extreme threat to life and safety, and other noncitizens who have a valid visa or some other lawful permission to enter the United States.

And importantly, the suspension and limitation on entry and rule will not apply to individuals who use a safe and orderly process, such as the CBP One mobile application, to enter the United States at a port of entry in an orderly manner or who pursue another lawful pathway to come to the United States.

Individuals who are subject to the limit on asylum eligibility promulgated by today’s rule and who do not establish a reasonable probability of persecution or torture in their country of removal will be promptly removed and they will be subject to at least a five-year bar to reentry and potential criminal prosecution.

These steps will strengthen the asylum system, preventing it from being overwhelmed and backed up by those who do not have legitimate claims. 

I’d like to conclude by reiterating what [senior administration official] said.  The presidential proclamation together with the interim final rule present another important step in our more than three years of ongoing efforts to strengthen our ability to impose consequences on those who cross our Southern border. 

But we are clear-eyed that today’s executive actions are no substitute for Congress taking up and passing the tough but fair bipartisan Senate bill, which would have significantly strengthened the consequences in place at the border and, equally important, have provided billions of dollars to support the men and women who are working on the frontlines to secure our border.

Thank you.  And with that, I’ll pass the microphone to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you so much, [senior administration official], and good morning, everyone.

It’s been 27 years since Congress last passed comprehensive immigration reform.  The 1996 immigration reform law and, for that matter, the 1986 immigration reform law were overwhelmingly bipartisan. 

Indeed, the party of Lincoln, Reagan, and the Bushes has a proud history of supporting a balanced approach to immigration. 

President Reagan proudly noted that, quote, “We ne- — we lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our strength from every country and corner of the world.”  

We are witnessing the largest wave of global migration since World War Two.  It is affecting nations around the globe.  Unfortunately, at a moment when we desperately need to summon the bipartisanship in Congress that was there in ‘86 and ‘96, the party of Lincoln, Reagan, and Bush has been replaced by all too many Republicans who would rather weaponize problems than fix them. 

Fortunately, across the country, there are elected officials — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — who share President Biden’s strongly held belief that we must have smart, balanced approaches to immigration that recognize that we are indeed a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

As Pres- — as the President announces his executive actions, he will, in fact, be accompanied by a number of these elected officials who share his desire to fix our broken system.

Most of the people joining us today are from the border.  They’re working on these issues day in and day out.  And like the President, they want balanced solutions.

Let’s take a step back.  As [senior administration official] and [senior administration official] have outlined, the President worked with a bipartisan group of senators to reach a historic border security agreement — an agreement that would have delivered significant policy changes, resources, and personnel necessary to secure our border and make our country safer.  And that would have made the asylum process fairer and more efficient while ensuring protection for the most vulnerable.

Congressional Republicans had an opportunity to support the fairest and toughest set of reforms in decades, and they chose to put partisan political interests ahead of fixing our immigration system and securing our borders.

Twice they voted against additional border and immigration personnel.  Twice they voted against additional technology to catch illicit fentanyl at ports of entry.  Twice they voted against more asylum officers and immigration judges so cases can be resolved in months and not years.

Congressional Republicans have proven that they do not care about securing our border because, frankly, if they did, they would have supported the bipartisan agreement.

As [senior administration official] and [senior administration official] have outlined, today’s actions are designed to bar individuals who cross the Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum.  It is important to note that unlike the previous administration, the Biden-Harris administration has led the largest expansion of lawful immigration pathways in decades.

This includes innovative programs, such as the parole processes for Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan nationals; the use of CBP One for noncitizens seeking to present at a port of entry; the establishment of Safe Mobility Offices across the hemisphere where people seeking assistance can be placed into a lawful immigration pathway without having to make the perilous journey, without having to pay smugglers.  These programs remain in place.

We have also rebuilt our Refugee Admissions Program and are on track to resettle the most people in 30 years.

The President also spearheaded an effort to bring together 22 countries from across the Western Hemisphere to join the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection.  This is an effort to foster regional cooperation around migration and a way for countries to work together to manage this challenge.

We will continue, for instance, to work together with the Mexican authorities during the presidential transition.  We have worked very closely on this bilateral relationship.

All of these policies are in stark contrast to how the previous administration managed immigration.  They demonized immigrants, instituted mass raids, separated families at the border, and put kids in cages.  Their violation — their policies went against our values as a nation.

The American people have told what they want.  They want a secure border and lawful immigration opportunities for those to come to America who will indeed enrich our country, as President Reagan so eloquently noted.

President Biden remains committed to working to fix our broken immigration system and ensuring that America can continue to be the beacon of hope and opportunity that it is and will always be.

With that, I’ll turn it back over to [moderator] for Q&A.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, [senior administration official] and [senior administration official] and [senior administration official].

With that, we will begin Q&A.  As a reminder, this will also be on background and attributable to “senior administration officials.” 

As you, I think, all can see, there is lots of interest.  So, if you could please, please keep your questions to one per outlet, we will try to go through as many questions as we can. 

With that, we will start with Sara.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hey, it’s actually Camilo.  I’m using Sara — my colleague’s account.  But my question is: Can you explain whether you will plan to process extra-continental migrants, like Chinese migrants, under the new measures and, if so, whether Mexico has agreed to take back additional nationalities, like migrants who are deemed to be ineligible for asylum under these new measures?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi, Camilo.  The rules measures will apply to any individual who is encountered crossing unlawfully along the southern border or without authorization.  And so, that will apply both to individuals from our hemisphere as well as extra-hemispheric migrants. 

In terms of returns to Mexico, we will continue to return nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela per our previous arrangement.  Thank you.


MODERATOR:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  We will go to Luke next.  You should be unmuted now.


Q    Hey, guys.  Thanks for doing this.  What do you say to the advocacy community that has said they will sue if this EO, as we had reported in the past couple of days, is implemented, which it obviously is now?  What do you say to them?  And how would you defend this EO in court, given some of the past EOs in prior administrations still being held up in court?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks for your question, Luke.  We have made some important humanitarian and legal changes to the implementation of this authority in the past.  And we fully expect that we will be able to implement these actions.  This is — the humanitarian exceptions were outlined in [senior administration official’s] remarks.  And we have important exceptions for individuals entering through lawful pathways, important humanitarian exceptions for individuals that are facing — I’m sorry, that are entering through lawful pathways and under other humanitarian exceptions in the implementation of the rule in the proclamation. 

And I will also invite my colleague from DOJ to say a few remarks if she would like to.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  I’ll just add that DOJ defends lawsuits, rules, and actions on a regular basis, and we are prepared for any litigation on this rule as well.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And if I may add one thing.  I think we are accustomed to being litigated, frankly, from both sides of the political spectrum for just about any measure we take in this space, and that is just yet another sign that there is no lasting solution to the challenges we are facing without Congress doing its job.


MODERATOR:  Thank you, [senior administration official].  We will go to Gabe next.  You should be unmuted now.


Q    Hey there, Angelo.  Thank you.  Thank you all for doing this. 

With regards to the humanitarian exceptions that you — that you outline, what do you say to critics who say that that will lead to child trafficking, specifically the exception for minors?

And then one other — one other question, if I may.  Can you confirm just how you arrived at that 2,500 number?  And would this go into effect immediately since we’re now over 2,500 encounters?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi.  In terms of the exception for unaccompanied children, I would just note that under our laws, we have been treating unaccompanied children differently now for many years.  And, you know, that will not change as a result of these measures.  And obviously, we are always vigilant when it comes to any exploitation of children, who are — obviously represent a very vulnerable demographic. 

[Senior administration official], I don’t know if you want to take the second part of that question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We do expect that the authority would be in effect immediately.  And I will also add to [senior administration official’s] response that this administration, President Biden has led an historic opening of lawful pathways for individuals to — and including families — to enter the United States through a lawful process, including the CBP One mobile application to request an appointment to present at a port of entry, as well as family reunification programs in countries throughout the region and a historic parole process for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans. 

And so, this measure is — the authorities that are — that are being implemented that we’re announcing today come alongside those lawful pathways.


MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will go to Seung Min next.  You should be unmuted now.


Q    All right.  Thank you so much for holding this call.  I just wanted to — since you guys are talking about using Title 8 authority, can you just outline just how fast the deportations would happen, how long these people would be detained before they’re removed?  If they would be detained, do you have the money to even do the detentions?  And also, how you deal with the legal constraints of detaining families?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure, I can start us off.

I will say that, obviously, the measures we are announcing today fall squarely within our Title 8 authorities.  Individuals who do not manifest a fear will be immediately removable.  And so, we anticipate that will significantly speed the current process for individuals who do not manifest a fear.

Individuals who do manifest a fear will be processed as we always do under our Title 8 authorities through the expedited removal process.  And we have made significant process improvements over the last year that have, you know, allowed us to move people through the expedited removal process faster than we’ve ever been able to before. 

However, as [senior administration official] and I both noted in our opening remarks, we are constrained by the resources that have been provided to the departments by Congress, resources that have been inadequate to face the challenges we have been facing the last few years.

We have repeatedly asked Congress for emergency supplemental funding to allow us to enhance and increase our ability to deliver consequences at the border.  And, unfortunately, Congress has failed to act on those requests.


MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will go to Josh next.  You should be unmuted now.


Q    Hey, there.  Thank you so much for doing this.  Just to follow up on Seung Min’s question, are these removals — are we talking days or weeks?  Can you just help us get a sense of how quickly that would kick in?

And you mentioned the changes to the credible fear threshold.  I’m wondering if you can just dive into that a little bit more, how you’re going to assess these cases and who goes through a screening and who doesn’t.  Thank you.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  Again, individuals who do not manifest a fear will be immediately removable, and we anticipate that we will be removing those individuals in a matter of days, if not hours.

I think individuals who do manifest a fear and are ineligible for asylum as a result of the rules measures will be screened for our international obligations under withholding of removal and the Convention Against Torture at a “reasonable probability” standard, which will be a substantially higher standard than the “significant possibility” standard that is being used today, while still somewhat below the ultimate merits standard of “more likely than not.” 

But I think the bottom line is that the standard will be significantly higher.  And so, we do anticipate that fewer individuals will be screened in as a result.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will go to Michelle next.  You should be unmuted now.


Michelle?

All right.  We will move to Ted.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hi, all.  I’d like to ask you again about the extra-continental migrants.  It wasn’t clear to me: Is Mexico planning to accept them back?  Or are you planning to deport them to their home countries?  And if so, you know, how do you plan to do that?

I mean, as you describe it, it sounds like — almost like a two-track system where Mexicans and Central Americans could be quickly removed but where others potentially could just be released into the U.S.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  Thanks for that question.  Extra-hemispheric migrants have always been a challenge.  They will be subject to this rules provisions.  We have been working tirelessly both in the region and throughout the world to enhance — to both restrict the routes into the hemisphere for extra-hemispheric migrants — and [senior administration official] mentioned some of those steps in her remarks — and we’ve also been working with governments all over the world to enhance our ability to repatriate individuals to countries that have historically been challenging. 

We have, for example, operated repatriation flights to India, to China, to Uzbekistan, to Mauritania, to Senegal over the last few months.  And those are all countries that historically would have been much more challenging for us to return individuals to.  And we anticipate we will continue to enhance our ability to return migrants to the eastern hemisphere. 

And so, we do think that the rules measures will allow us to impose an immediate and fast consequence to migrants no matter what country they’re coming from.


MODERATOR:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  We will go to Beatrice next.  You should be unmuted now.

Bea?

Okay.  We will go to Priscilla next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Hi, all.  Thanks for doing the call.  Just to delve a little deeper into how you will operationalize this, how — how do you foresee the situation changing along the border now versus a few days ago when this goes into effect?

In other words, if we are seeing extra-continental migrants, how will it ease the — the system the way that you all have described?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Priscilla.  I can start, and, [senior administration official], please feel free to jump in. 

We have seen consistently over the last few years that when we have the ability to remove individuals quickly, it can significantly impact migratory flows by changing the calculus for intending migrants.  Especially if they know that they are going to be removed quickly and not be able to remain in the United States for many years through their immigration court process, they’re going to be much less likely to pay the thousands of dollars that it’s required to the smuggling networks that more or less control access to the routes leading up to our border. 

And so, we do anticipate and intend that the measures we’re announcing today will impact on lawful migration to our border. 

As I noted, there are countries that are more challenging in terms of removals.  We are working with those countries in order to facilitate our ability to increase removals.  And as I also noted, we will continue to return nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela to Mexico per — as we have been doing now for quite a while.  Thank you.


MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will go to Pedro next.  You should be unmuted now.


Q    Thanks for doing this.  I wanted to find out if the rule is going to be taking effect today or tomorrow, and if there is any public hearing that might hold the application of the rule.  Thank you so much, again.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  The rule will go into effect later today.  And so, that — you know, we anticipate, again, those measures will be implemented forthwith.

Defer to my colleague from the Department of Justice in terms of any potential litigation.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  While the rule may be challenged, as was the case with the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways regulation, we look forward to defending the IFR as the — as any litigation that might be filed progresses in the next few days. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will go to Alexandra next.  You should be unmuted now.


Q    Hello.  Thank you so much for doing this.  So, the first question I have is, I want to know if — and you said that you are going to continue collaborating with Mexico.  I wanted to know if Mexico has agreed to take in more migrants daily and then what that number is they — people who have — they have agreed to take in.

And then, the second question I have is: What do you have to say about criticism of this type of measures from organizations that claim that this puts migrants in danger and then also could lead to people who have legitimate claim of asylums being deported back to their countries but they might face danger?  Thank you so much.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi, Alexandra.  Mexico has been a really strong partner in our efforts to control migratory flows throughout the hemisphere and also in our efforts to expand access to lawful pathways and to address the root causes of migration throughout the hemisphere. 

At this point, you know, we will continue, as I have noted a couple times, to return nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to Mexico as we have been doing for quite a long time.  And obviously, we will continue to repatriate Mexican nationals to Mexico as well. 

In terms of the second part of your question, welcome others to weigh in as well.  But I will just say that we are confident that the steps we are taking today are consistent with our obligations under international law, and we will take all the appropriate measures in order to guard against the potential (inaudible).  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  We will go to Stef next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Thanks for holding this.  We’ve spoken to officials and obviously see that the border numbers have actually been declining, have remained relatively stable over the past few months.  Curious if you would be able to provide any insight into why this is being rolled out now.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m happy to take that.  Thank you for the question.  So, as you’re tracking, two weeks ago, Republicans in Congress once again voted against the toughest enforcement reforms in history.  Time and again, they’ve stood against securing our border and put politics over providing our border personnel the resources they need.

With Congress failing to act and in the face of the summer months, when we typically see encounters increase, we — the — and at a time when unlawful crossings at our border are still too high for immigration officials to manage, President Biden is announcing these measures today to secure our border. 

And if Congress refuses to act or congressional Republicans refuse to act, the President is prepared to do so.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  We will go to Zolan next.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Thanks so much for the question.  Just one clarification.  Maybe I missed this.  I — someone asked this earlier, but I don’t think it was answered directly.  Just can you explain the reasoning behind the trigger of 2,500 daily average encounters?  I think there was conversation that might have been 4,000 before.  I guess, how would you respond to the criticism that that number is — was essentially found so that you can just shut it down now, you know, with the level of crossings where they are now? 

And then, secondly, can you just comment on the criticism that this echoes a Trump administration effort in 2018 to use 212(f) to shut down the border.  The President obviously criticized Trump during the campaign and said that he was one of the first presidents to force migrants to apply for asylum in other countries.  It seems like this is similar.  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  The triggers are similar to what was negotiated by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate bipartisan bill.  The goal here is to secure our border while preserving legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation.  And even if the numbers dip below 1,500, we will still be enforcing our immigration laws and removing those that don’t have a lawful basis to be here.

And to your second question — and I’ll invite [senior administration official] here to jump in as well — there are several differences between the actions that we are taking today and Trump-era policies.  The Trump administration attacked almost every facet of the immigration system and did so in a shameful and inhumane way, in ways that [senior administration official] outlined in his opening remarks.

The actions that we are taking today will only apply during times of high encounters.  The proclamation would only apply to individuals entering the U.S. unlawfully at ports of entry and between ports of entry while exempting lawful entries through appointments — through appointments at ports of entry.  And other exceptions include unaccompanied children, victims of trafficking. 

The action will not ban people based on their religion.  It will not separate kids from their mothers.  There are also narrow humanitarian exceptions to the bar on asylum, including for those facing an acute medical emergency or an imminent and extreme threat to life or safety.  And the Trump administration’s actions did not include these exceptions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, let me follow up on [senior administration official’s] accurate statement.  I mean, the Biden administration has now reunited roughly 800 families who were separated under the Trump administration.  We will not separate children from their families.  It is not only inhumane, it’s grossly ineffective.  It didn’t stop the flows at all.  So, it was illegal, unconscionable, and ineffective.

Again, the humanitarian exceptions that [senior administration official] referenced for unaccompanied minors and victims of trafficking are very real.  And, again, it’s important for folks to understand that this President has done more to create lawful pathways for people entering this country than any president in decades. 

Thirty thousand people a month are coming in through the CHNV program.  The — 1,400 people a day are coming in through the CBP One app.  No previous administration has applied technology in this manner to facilitate such a predictable and orderly process. 

The President has used diplomacy in ways that have been remarkable.  You know, the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection was a declaration with 22 governments.  We understand that we have to work in concert with our allies in the region and around the globe who share our values.

And so, there are a lot of differences between where we are today and — and Donald Trump. 

And what is as frustrating as anything for President Biden is it doesn’t have to be this way.  I mentioned in my remarks about the fact that it’s been 27 years since we had immigration reform.  I’ll point out for folks that the 1996 bill was passed in the middle of a presidential election in a divided Congress.  At that point in time, people understood that immigration shouldn’t become a political football, that we should put country over party. 

The reason we don’t have the bipartisan bill today is very simple: Because the other administration — the prior administration’s person said, “Don’t do it.  Don’t give Joe Biden a victory.”  That’s not how we should run a country.

And so, that is unfortunate.  And an election year should not prohibit us from getting the people’s work done.

MODERATOR:  Thanks, [senior administration official].  We’ll have time for about two more questions. 

With that, Nick, you should be unmuted now.  Nick?  (Inaudible.)

Q    Can you hear me?  I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.

MODERATOR:  Yep.  There you go.

Q    Sorry about that.  You guys have said many times that families aren’t exempt from consequences, but this administration doesn’t obviously refer families to ERO detention.  So, how do you plan to remove the families who are going to be ineligible under this rule?  Are you going to — are you going to hold them in CBP custody?  And what is the appropriate amount of time that a family unit should remain in CBP custody, given your obligations under the Flores settlement?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, I can take that.  Hi, Nick.  We have been removing families consistently now for many years, and that will not change as a result of these measures.  If anything, I think this will enhance, as I noted, our ability to remove individuals who we encounter quickly, and that includes families.

We have, as I think you know, been removing families directly from CBP custody.  And we have also been removing record numbers of family from the interior who are referred to our Family Expedited Removal Management process as well.

And so, you know, we anticipate that this rule, as we have discussed, will enhance our ability to impose consequences both for single adults and for families.  And we will do this in a way that is fully compliant with our obligations under the Flores settlement.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  And our last question will go to Cristina.  You should be unmuted now.

Q    Yeah, hi.  Thank you for taking my question.  I just want to see if you can walk me through what the process would be if somebody from Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador gets to the border, says that they’re fearing for their lives.  Who interviews them?  How long would it take to determine if they’re legitimate or not?  And how long would it take before they get either deported or allowed to continue with the process?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  I think, under your scenario, when we encounter an individual at the border under the rule’s implementation, you know, they will be processed as we typically process individuals.  And we will fingerprint them.  We will make sure that there are no national security or public safety threats that we are aware of about that individual.

If the individual does not manifest a fear, they will be very quickly removable.   If they do manifest a fear, they will be referred to a credible fear interview by an asylum officer.  Those interviews could happen both in CBP custody or in an ICE detention facility. 

During those interviews, if the individual, again, is subject to the proclamation, the rule, which means they are ineligible for asylum — they have not been excepted from the rule — they will be screened for our international obligations under withholding of removal and the Convention Against Torture at the reasonable probability standard, which is higher than the reasonable possibility standard that is currently being applied at the border.

Individuals who are found not to have a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country or their country of removal as a result of that screening will be removed as quickly as we can effectuate that removal.

As I noted earlier, we have undertaken a series of process enhancements over the last two years that have significantly reduced the amount of time it takes us to get someone through that expedited removal, credible fear process.

Historically, from 2014 to 2019, it took about nine weeks to get someone through that process.  And we are currently doing it in less than half that time and continue — and we’ll continue to try to streamline the process.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  And that is all the time we have today.  Thank you so much for co- — thank you so much for calling and for joining the call.

As a reminder, the embargo on the call and the materials that you will receive will be 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  Thank you so much.

   9:46 A.M. EDT

The post Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on Additional Actions to Secure the Border Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route White Plains, NY

Tue, 06/04/2024 - 11:28

Aboard Air Force One
En Route White Plains, New York

5:54 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi, everybody. 

All right.  I don’t have a topper, so who is —

Q    (Inaudible.)

Q    Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  (Inaudible.)  I’m so sorry.  Go ahead.

Q    Hi.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  How are you?

Q    So — I’m good.  How are you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m good.

Q    The President spent most of his day in Wilmington, and he left after the jury had been impaneled in his son’s case.  Will this case affect his ability to do his day job?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely not.  Obviously, the President is the President of the United States, and he always puts the American people first and is capable of doing his job. 

I will point you to the President’s statement.  I know many of you have seen the statement.  But I will just reiterate what the President put out — what we put out on behalf of the President today, which is: “I am the President, but I am also a dad.  Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today.  Hunter’s resilience in the face of adversity and the strength of — the strength he has brought to his recovery are inspiring to us.  A lot of families have loved ones who have overcome addiction and know — and know what we mean. 

As the President, I don’t and won’t comment on pending federal cases, but as a dad, I have boundless love for my son, confidence in him, and respect for his strength.  Our family has been through a lot together, and Jill and I are going to continue to be there for Hunter and our family with our love and support.”

Outside of the President’s statement, I don’t have anything else to share.

Q    And then on — on —

Q    Karine, just following up on that.  Did he watch the tr- — you know, you can’t watch the trial.  Did he get updates on it?  Did he speak with his son after the court proceedings ended?  How did he follow along?  Obviously, the First Lady was there today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And, Tyler, I appreciate the question, and I know it’s going to be asked a million different ways.  I just don’t have anything to share.  I — all I have to share with all of you is what we shared this morning — is the President’s statement.

Q    Can you share what he did today?  We didn’t see him all day.  There was no schedule of what he did.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have to share with you on — on — what I can say is the President — as you know, he made some calls.  He called — he called the newly elected Mexico president.  We put out a statement there.  And so — and so, what I can say that he certainly continues to work on behalf of the American people.  That’s something that he does day in, day out.  I just don’t have anything to say at th- — as it’s related to the event today. 

Q    Did President Biden — during his call with the new Mexican president today, did — did he, you know, brief her at all on his new border executive order?  And did she provide any reaction, if this came up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I don’t have anything to announce on all — all the reporting that’s out there about — about what you just asked me about an EO on immigration.  What I can say is we are constantly and will continuously look at all options to try and — and to try and really deal with the immi- — immigration system, a system that’s been broken for decades.

You’ve heard the President say this.  You heard the President take action.  You saw the President take action on the first day of his — of his tenure here as president when he put forward a comprehensive piece of legislation.  I do not have anything to announce.  And you saw this is a president who wants to fix this, who wants to deal with the — a broken immigration system. 

And last year, you s- — last year, pardon me — last week, you saw Republicans in the Senate vote against — against an opportunity to have the toughest, fairest piece of legislation that he wanted to sign into law to deal with a broken system.  So, they don’t want to fix the problem.  The President does. 

I just don’t have anything to share on any — any of the reporting that’s out there today.

Q    Earlier —

(Cross-talk.)

Q    He also spoke with the —

Q    Earlier this year —

Q    — Qatari Amir today.  Can you tell us — can you give us an update on the discussions about the ceasefire?  The President was pretty upbeat about getting this done, but we haven’t yet seen that from the region. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what I can say is obviously you heard from the President on — on Friday speak to this.  I can say that Qatar transmitted the proposal to Hamas on Thursday night, hence the President speaking to this on Friday. 

The — the ball is in Hamas’s court.  And if it wants to — if it wants a ceasefire and relief for the Ga- — the people of Gaza, this is now in Hamas’s hand to — to make a decision on.  And so — and so, as you just stated, the President spoke to — spoke to the Qat- — the Qatari government today.  I just don’t have anything else to say outside of the readout that we’ll share — or if they — if it hasn’t been shared, will share.

Q    Has he spoken to Benjamin Netanyahu again since his —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t —

Q    — most recent call?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to read out at this time.

Q    And does he have any comment or do you have any comment on — on the invitation and the now scheduled trip?  Netanyahu will be here in D.C. — or in D.C. while the President is in Italy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to confirm, any dates to speak to.  I would have to refer you to the Hill.

Q    Has the White House been told anything about what happened with the New York Stock Exchange today?  There seemed to be some technical issues this morning. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share from here.  That’s something for the Stock Exchange to speak to.

Q    Could you — could you explain at all or describe the President’s emotional state today?  A lot was going on.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You heard from the President directly in his statement.  Outside of that, don’t have anything else.  The President and the First Lady love their son.  They support their son.  You’ve — you’ve heard them say that.  You’ve seen that many times in statements and certainly in the statement today.  I don’t have anything else beyond that.

Q    Karine, do you have any updates in terms of the discussions on the proposals that President Biden made in the State of the Union Address?  One of those measures is to provide credits — tax credits for people — first-time house — homebuyers.  You know, do — are you optimistic that that will find any kind of, you know, support in this very bifurcated Congress? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, as you know, from very early on in his administration, the President wanted to deal and has found ways to deal with home- — homeownership and rent –people renting homes as well.  That’s why the American Rescue Plan is so important.  He put together a task force to deal with this.  You — as you stated, from his State of the Union Address, he made an announcement on how to move forward to give Americans a little bit more relief.

Look, we’re just going to continue to talk to Congress, continue to encourage Congress to do more, to join the Pra- — President in a bipartisan way.  These are issues — when you think about housing, these are issues that is — one of the most important issues for the American people, is housing, is the — is costs and lowering costs. 

And that’s why the President — when it comes to the economy, that is at the center of his economic policy, is to deal with continuing to find ways to lower costs for the American people.

I don’t have any news to share on that.  But certainly, that is a priority for the President.

Q    Do you have any comment — do —

Q    Do you intend to nominate someone to replace Marcia Fudge?  Sorry.  Just on the housing, do — do you intend to nominate somebody before the end of the year, or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — no new annou- — new announcement on that personnel announcement.  As you know, the Deputy of — of HUD is now Acting Secretary.  The President has full confidence in the leadership of — the senior leadership at HUD.  Want to continue to do the great job that we have been doing over the past three years.  I don’t have any personnel announcement.

Go ahead, Eugene. 

Q    Do you have any comment on the criticisms that President Biden isn’t going to this peace summit on Ukraine in Switzerland and instead is — you know, I know the Vice President and — and Jake Sullivan are going, but a lot of other nations are sending their heads of state.  And he’ll be in California at the fundraiser.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look — I mean, look, I know my colleagues at NSC has talked about this.  And I’ll just say, like, no one has been a stronger — obviously a stronger champion for Ukraine than President Biden.  We have actively participated in each of the previous Ukraine peace summits and strongly support President Zelenskyy’s proposal to reach a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

As you just stated, Eugene, the Vice President is going to go.  The National Security Advisor is going.  They are both going to (inaudible).  And that shows how serious we take this and continue to take this.  It’s a high level of pre- — representation, obviously, from the Biden-Harris administration.

Ukraine will continue to have no stronger friend and support than the United States under this president — under President Biden.  And you see that.  You see that through making sure we got this national security supplemental and getting that through, continuing to get that support.

And so, the President is — is that — that — that support for Ukraine is — is unwavering and continues to stand.

Q    One more question on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — on immigration. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    The White House has made clear that there’s going to be some sort of executive action, and earlier this year, President Biden said he had exhausted all of his presidential powers.  What has changed now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ve always said — look, I don’t have anything to announce at this time on any action that — that this administration has taken.  So, no announcement at this time.  But what I will say — and we have said this many times — we continue to look at all options on the table and continue to find ways to deal with an immigration that has been broken — a system that has been broken for decades to deal with the challenges at the border, which is something that majority of Americans care about.

And we have said that we are going to continue to find all ways to do just that.  And we’re on board.  We want to make sure that we get to a place where we deal with the broken immigration system.  Senate Republicans decided something else.  They decided to — to vote — to pick, you know, partisan politics instead of picking the majority of American people and where they stand.  This is not this president. 

As far as anything to announce on immigration, I don’t have anything at this time.

(Cross-talk.) 

Q    I might have missed it, but why isn’t the President going to the Ukraine peace conference?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, as you know, and I just stated in my answer to — to Eugene, is that we have always had representation at these summit — these peace summits in the past.  It continues.  And I have said as — as — in answering the question, this President has shown his strong support for the people of Ukraine as they’re fighting against Russia’s aggression. 

We have shown that for more than two years, making sure we get that support, making sure that they get the security assistance that they need.  The President went to Kyiv, as you all know, a warzone, to show how much he supports Ukraine and what they’re trying to do in fighting for their freedom. 

He got NATO together.  He got more than 50 countries to stand behind Ukraine.  I don’t think there is any other leader that has shown their support for Ukraine and the people of Ukraine and what they’re fighting for, which is their freedom and democracy. 

You have the Vice President going.  You have the National Security Advisor going.  That shows a high level of engagement for a peace summit, again, that we have — consistently have been a part of.  And that — that’s not going to change.

Q    Did the President engage in any debate prep over the weekend?  How has he been —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share on that.  I would refer you to the campaign on anything that’s related to the debate.

All right, guys.  Thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you on the ground. 

6:04 P.M. EDT

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route White Plains, NY appeared first on The White House.

Background Press Call on President Biden’s Remarks on the Middle East

Fri, 05/31/2024 - 23:39

Via Teleconference

2:35 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  And thanks so much for joining today’s call.  Apologies we’re a few minutes late.  As you saw from the invite, this call is on background, attributable to a senior administration official.  And it is embargoed until the conclusion of the call.

For your awareness, not for your reporting, on the call today we have [senior administration official].  [Senior administration official] will have a few words at the top, and then we’ll take your questions. 

With that, I’ll turn it over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  So I’ll just — a little bit at the top and then we’ll do Q&A.  So, thanks for joining. 

So today, as you know, President Biden delivered an update on his efforts to secure a deal that would lead to the release of all the hostages, an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, a further surge of humanitarian assistance into and distributed throughout Gaza, and ultimately — ultimately, and potentially, the end of the crisis. 

The President’s message was clear.  There is now a roadmap in place to do all of this after months of diplomacy that he has led together with his negotiators and Israel, Qatar, and Egypt. 

He made clear that Israel’s security is paramount and that this deal is the best path to both end the crisis in Gaza and to ensure Israel’s security today and over the long term, with the hostages coming home. 

The President described the comprehensive proposal now on the table in some detail.  This proposal has been accepted by Israel and was transmitted to Hamas yesterday.  And as he said, “This is…a decisive moment.  Israel has made their [offer].  Hamas says it wants a ceasefire.  [And] this deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it.” 

Israel can make this offer without further risk to their own security because Israel has so degraded Hamas’s forces over the last eight months, as the President explained.  At this point, of course, Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another October 7.  Its military capacity has been significantly eroded.  And its leaders are dead or in deep hiding. 

For the Palestinian people and the people of Gaza, this is an opportunity to end the suffering of the past eight months.  Again, as the President said, too many innocent people have been killed in this war.  And the deal now on the table offers a roadmap to end the suffering for the hostage families waiting for their loved ones to return and for the people of Gaza caught in this terrible war that Hamas started. 

The President also called on Israeli leaders to stand behind this deal no matter what pressure comes.  And we know there are debates about these issues in Israel, of course.  He made clear that this is a far better path than alternatives, and it’s the only path that is available to both bring the hostages home and to ensure Israel’s lasting and long-term security. 

The President reemphasized that Israel will always have what it needs to defend itself and always retains the right to defend itself from threats, and, of course, to bring justice to those responsible for October 7th, which we have talked about in the past.

With this deal in place, what can follow would include agreements on the northern border to allow people to return to their homes in safety; beginning to rebuild Gaza together with the international community and the Arab partners, Palestinians, and Israelis in a manner that does not allow Hamas to rearm or threaten Israel; pursue an Israel more integrated regionally, including through a deal with Saudi Arabia, and the security integration the President discussed — the successful defense of Israel against an attack from Iran just last month through regional integration and coordination; and create the conditions for a future of freedom and self-determination for the Palestinian people. 

The President ended with a clear call to action.  “For months,” he said, “people all over the world have called for a ceasefire.  It’s time to raise your voices and to demand that Hamas come to the table, agree to this deal, and end this war that they began.” 

He concluded, “Everyone who wants peace now must raise their voices and let the leaders know they should take this deal, work to make it real, [work to] make it lasting, forge a better future out of this tragic terror attack” of October 7th and the subsequent conflict.

So I think the President laid it out today very clearly.  And you — obviously you’ve seen or you have his remarks, and I’m happy to address any questions.

MODERATOR:  Thanks.  Our first question will go to the line of Steve Holland.  You should be able to unmute yourself

Steve, I think you might be muted. 

Q    Is that better?

MODERATOR:  Steve, I think we just hear static.

Steve, we’ll come back to you.  We’ll go to Alex Ward.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hi.  Thanks so much for doing this.  Two questions.  One is: By saying that, you know, Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another October 7, is the President saying that, effectively, Israel has won this war and there’s really no need for a continued military campaign against Hamas?

And then, sort of two related: Of course, the administration’s stance has been to not see a major military ground operation in Rafah similar to others seen in Gaza City and Khan Younis, but we do have, as of right now, six Israeli brigades in Rafah, the same that the Israelis have had in Khan Younis.  So is part of the reason — one, is this — it feels like this fits the definition of a major ground operation.  But two, is part of this messaging to say to the Israelis, hey, it’s — you know, it’s time to not go forward with the way you’re conducting in Rafah?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  First, there are not six Israeli brigades in Rafah, so I’m not sure where that information is from.  We have a very good picture of exactly what’s happening in Rafah.  I think one reason that we’ve spoken so clearly about is because we actually know exactly where Israeli forces are, what they’re doing, what the objectives are.  And so far, I think we have a pretty clear understanding and sight picture of precisely what they’re doing and what they aim to do. 

We’ve also been watching this closely.  And if that changes, and if some of the plans go back to where they were a couple months ago, that might be a different story.  But right now, I think we have a very clear understanding of what they’re doing.  And sometimes there might be, you know, a story of an Israeli unit in central Gaza.  We kind of know what the unit is doing.  We have a good understanding of that communication with the Israelis. 

But again, this is something that’s an ongoing process.  It’s been an ongoing process for the last 10 weeks or so and, I think, ultimately, a fairly productive one.  But it’s an ongoing issue. 

And on your second question: No, I think the President was actually laying out that there is a new proposal on the table. It is a very forward-leaning offer.  And I think the reason the Israelis are able to make this offer is because of some of the success they’ve had in degrading Hamas’s military capacity.  I don’t think this offer would have been possible three months ago.

This has been a difficult, painstaking negotiation.  And at the heart of it, of course, is the core demand to see hostages coming home.  And with hostages coming home, there is now really a roadmap to the end of the crisis.  It is a detailed four-and-a-half-page agreement.  It has been negotiated, again, in painstaking detail.  And what’s on the table now is, really, kind of an end game to the process. 

And so we thought it is important, I think, to come out and lay this out because often these deals get characterized by those who might not want to see the deal. 

So I think the President laid out particularly what is in the first phase of the deal, what would unfold, and what is on offer.  And, again, I think we give credit to the Israelis for putting this offer down.  And the President made very clear that the onus here is on Hamas.  I would say that this — what is on the table now is extremely close, in almost every respect, to the deal that Hamas has said they would take not too long ago.  

So, this is going to continue.  The President made clear there are details to work out.  This is not going to be done tomorrow.  But, kind of, the roadmap is very much now on the table, in place.  And I think with some coordinated efforts in the region, we’re going to do everything we possibly can to get this done.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to the line of Aamer Madhani.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hey, thank you.  The President alluded to hurdles to get from phase one to phase two in this plan.  I was just hoping you could draw a little bit of a picture of concerns, biggest hurdles that you see between phase one and phase two.  And then secondly, there wasn’t mention, I don’t think, of a two-state solution.  Where does that come in, if at all, in this process?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, from phase one to phase two — and the elements of phase one, again, were laid out — it is comprehensive.  It is the release of a category of hostages — I think many on this call are familiar with; we’ve talked about this before — but also with not only the further surge of humanitarian assistance and distribution across the strip, but also the beginning of rehabilitation of essential services, clearing of rubble, and relief to the people of Gaza, including temporary shelters, temporary housing, everything else.  It was all mapped out in the deal.  And that all happens immediately in the first six weeks. 

The second phase of the deal is for the release of all remaining — remaining hostages.  And some of those hostages are Israeli soldiers, male Israeli soldiers.  The women come out in the first phase.  And that will require a subsequent negotiation during the first six weeks for the ratio of a potential prisoner exchange and some other things. 

So everybody agrees that has to be worked out.  We’re not going to work that out now, but it’ll be worked out over the first six weeks.  And so long as those talks are ongoing, the benefits to the deal for everybody in the first phase would continue and the mediators would try to make sure that that, in fact, happens. 

So it would be our hope and expectation that the deal would move into phase two and everything that comes from phase two and then into phase three.  But we’re also realistic, and the President said, “I’m going to level with you” — there’s still pieces here to work out.  But that’s basically what still has to be discussed once you’re in a ceasefire and in the first phase.  And I think we’re quite confident that we could get that work done. 

I think the President spoke quite depth — in some depth about the importance of this deal and the ensuing calm for the aspirations of the Palestinian people and where that can lead.  And so, again, we’re realistic about that process as well.  We have to have a Gaza that — with Hamas no longer in power, with Hamas no longer able to threaten Israel.  We have to work to reform the PA and the West Bank, which is ongoing, and ultimately having an interim administration in Gaza that can help with stabilization and a pathway forward there.  So that is all kind of in train. 

And when the President talks about the importance of the day after in his speech, that kind of — all the elements of that are part of the day after.  But this speech was focused on this deal that is now very much before us, not with every single detail of the day-after planning.  But the day-after planning, I think we’ve been making some progress on that. 

Obviously, we have done extensive work within the United States and all of our experts in the interagency and with our partners around the world and in the region.  And that process is now very much joined with the Israeli side.  And I think over the last few weeks, it’s fair to say there’s been more progress than there has been to date. 

And it remains a concern of ours, as you’ve heard expressed from Jake and others, that without a military strategy that’s connected to a political and diplomatic strategy, the military gains often can be fleeting, as we’ve seen in the past.  So that day-after process is critically important.

MODERATOR:  Next up we’ll go to the line of Karen DeYoung.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Hi, thank you.  I just wanted to ask for a clarification of two things.  What the President described as Israeli withdrawal from populated areas, that would also include, in phase one, withdrawal from Rafah, yes? 

And secondly, the President talked about phase two, assuming Hamas lived up to its commitments, there would be a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.  Israel has said in the past, and certainly Prime Minister Netanyahu has said very recently, that Israel would maintain security responsibility for Gaza.  And they’ve already put in place a buffer zone around it.  Both of those things would disappear, assuming Hamas lived up to its commitments.  Is that correct?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, Karen, we’re describing what’s in the deal.  So the first phase of the deal is a withdrawal from densely populated areas, from wherever Israeli forces might be — in densely populated areas in Gaza, in the first phase.  And the second phase is a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza subject to conditions being met for the second phase, which, again, would have to be worked out. 

And the President also, of course, emphasized that Israel always retains the right, as does any sovereign country, to act against threats against its security.  And obviously, that would continue. 

But the deal that has been negotiated I think is very clear in its terms, again, subject to — and I think the President was very clear in that passage of the speech — subject to Hamas living up to its terms of the deal and some of the conditions being met.  But that is what’s laid out in phase two, and that’s why this is really such a, I think, a far-reaching and important proposal. 

I think it’s fair to say that if you’re into phase two and phase three, Israel will have some guarantees about its own security in that Gaza can no longer be a platform for terrorism against and threats against Israel, which is very much a focus of ours.

MODERATOR:  Next up we’ll go to the line of Barak Ravid.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Yes.  Thank you.  There is something that was sort of — not in the President’s speech, and you are not referring to it either: Hamas said yesterday publicly, in an official statement, that it will not even enter negotiations on this new proposal until Israel stops its war in Gaza, which is like a whole new hurdle, in addition to what we had until now.  And the President didn’t talk about it; you’re not talking about it.  How are you going to know that they’re willing to even go back to the table?

And second question: You spoke yesterday, I think twice or three times, with the Prime Minister of Qatar, who is the leading negotiator right now.  What did you hear from him about how much pressure Qatar is willing to put on Hamas to accept this deal?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think, first, I’m not going to — you know, Hamas — their public statements versus what they say privately.  I would just say a few things. 

This deal does stop the war, and it’s nearly identical to Hamas’s own proposals of only a few weeks ago.  So if that’s what Hamas wants, they can take the deal.  Alternatively, if its leaders choose to live deep underground, holding innocent hostages, including women, as the war goes on and the people of Gaza suffer, that would be their choice.  And I think the onus very much is on those leaders. 

And all countries with an interest in seeing the war come to a conclusion and seeing the ceasefire begin — that’s why the President was very clear — should call on Hamas here to basically live up to its own words, release the hostages and stop the war.  That’s what the deal does. 

And so, conversations with the Qatari Prime Minister and others, I think it’s fair to say there’s a recognition from everybody that’s been working on this that what is now in front of everybody is basically the terms by which Hamas was prepared to move forward. 

So, you know, there are some small gaps.  But again, this is a detailed four-and-a-half-page arrangement.  This is not something like Hamas said something and then Israel presents something completely different.  This is now at the stage where Hamas has said they’d be prepared to do deal X, and what is now on the table is basically that with some very minor adjustments. 

So they just got this last night.  Obviously, they’ll look at it.  And this whole — as the President was very clear, this is not going to be concluded tomorrow.  But he felt very strongly, and also in consultation with other leaders in the region, that it was time to kind of lay out very clearly what is offered in this proposal, and particularly in those first six weeks, kind of laying out in detail the relief that comes to the people of Gaza, the relief that comes to suffering hostage families, and what is available. 

So I’m not going to respond to public statements made by some Hamas officials here and there.  They know what’s in the deal.  They know it’s nearly identical to what they put on the table.  And we’re obviously in deep consultations with the Qataris, Egyptians, and others to try to move this forward.

MODERATOR:  Next up we’ll go to Patsy.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Thank you.  A couple of questions.  What are Israelis agreeing to in terms of this deal, in the context of the survival of Hamas leadership?  Are they willing to accept a deal where Sinwar and others remain alive?  Is there an agreement between the idea of what dismantling Hamas — what it means to Israelis versus what it means to Hamas?

And then also, separately, if you would indulge me, when do you expect to receive Israel’s review of the IDF strike on Rafah that killed 45 civilians over the weekend?  Do you expect them to reveal their collateral effects radius assessment of the strike?  And more broadly, has the U.S. ever been provided with IDF procedures for collateral damage analysis?  Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, on the leaders and Israel’s inherent right to defend itself and also pursue justice for October 7th, I think the President spoke to that, and we’ve spoken to that in the past. 

On the strike and the horrific aftermath of this weekend, you’ve seen what the Israelis have put out.  The Israelis have presented to us in even more detail exactly what happened and the steps they took before that strike, including the selection of a very small munition and with precision and with a lot of intelligence work that went into it to ensure a very low risk of civilian casualties.  And unfortunately, something happened after the first strike against two Hamas terrorists, and Hamas even put out statements about the loss of its two leaders responsible for West Bank operations. 

There was a secondary explosion, and I think the Israelis are looking into what exactly that was.  They do not believe it was from their munition.  And they’re looking into this in some detail.  They have shared with us everything that they know so far.  And I think we have said we want that work to continue through an independent investigation and see the results.  So that’s where that all stands.

MODERATOR:  We’ve got time for about two more questions.  Next up we’ll go to Michael Gordon.  You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q    Thank you.  Much of what you say about phase one — although there’s some additional detail that’s familiar to us, the six-week duration — phase two and phase three are still a little (inaudible).  Is Israel agreeing to discuss phase two, or did they have concrete proposals to what phase two would be?  And can you explain in a little fuller detail what phase two is supposed to be and what Israel has agreed to do then, and what phase three is?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so phase two is the final exchange of all remaining live hostages, and that includes the male soldiers.  So there has to be another negotiation about that.  It includes a cessation of hostilities, permanently, and a withdrawal of Israeli forces.  So those are kind of the basic elements with, again, conditions that will be discussed during the first six weeks. 

And then phase three — and each phase is about 42 days to get the — for the exchange of hostages, for example, in phase two.  And then phase three is an exchange of remaining remains and also outlines a pretty extensive three- to five-year reconstruction program for Gaza that’s fully backed by us, by the international community, and others.  So by the time you get to phase three, I think you’re very much in the rehabilitation of Gaza and stabilization. 

And there are other, kind of, elements that go into this, but those are the basic — you know, the basic contours, all of which are laid out in the proposal.

MODERATOR:  Next up we’ll go to David Sanger.

Q    Thanks.  And thank you, [senior administration official], for doing this.  The Israeli — the Prime Minister’s office turned out a statement tonight, I think after the President spoke, saying that they were united in the desire to bring home the hostages and so forth, but then said the exact outline that Israel has offered, including the conditional progression from stage to stage, enables Israel to maintain the principle that Hamas’s military is destroyed and its governing capacities in Gaza end.  Is that an accurate understanding?  Because I didn’t hear that in the President’s speech.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think the President said Israel’s interests can be protected throughout this negotiation, but it’s also an agreement that clearly lays out the terms and expectations of all sides.  And the U.S. as a guarantor, together with Egypt and Qatar, we would do our best to ensure that the Israelis live up to their commitments as they’ve agreed to do, and, of course, Qatar and Egypt making sure Hamas lives up to their commitments. 

I have no doubt that the deal will be characterized by Israel and be characterized by Hamas.  But we know what’s in the deal.  We know what the expectations are.  We’re also very confident, again, as I think the President laid out very forcefully: This deal, at this stage in the conflict, is the path for long-term security for Israel and the path to bring the hostages home. 

And I think the arrangements and some of the day-after planning, you know, helps ensure that — that Hamas’s military capacity to regenerate in a way that can threaten Israel would be very much foreclosed under this arrangement and, I think the President said in his speech, ensuring that Hamas cannot rearm. 

So this is all part of what has been discussed.  This will require an awful lot of work over the coming months, years, should we be fortunate enough to close this deal.  But that very much is our commitment.  And I have to say the Egyptians and Qataris are very much on the same page with the paramount, immediate interest to get into a ceasefire and to begin this important rehabilitation work and to bring the hostages home.

MODERATOR:  Thanks, everyone.  Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have left.  I know there are lots of questions remaining.  Please send them over to the NSC press team.  We’re happy to follow up with you. 

Thanks, everyone, for joining.  Again, this call was on background, attributable to a senior administration official.  The embargo is now lifted.  Thanks so much.

3:00 P.M. EDT

The post Background Press Call on President Biden’s Remarks on the Middle East appeared first on The White House.

On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

Wed, 05/29/2024 - 20:34

Via Teleconference

1:19 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us today for our on-the-record gaggle with Mr. John Kirby, who’s our NSC — I always mess up your title, sir, sorry — (laughs) — communications advisor.

He’s going to start with a brief topper, and then we’ll go ahead and get to your questions.

MR. KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. I do want to bring your attention to some good news today on how we’re modernizing our military, supporting Ukraine, and creating new American jobs.

Today, the Secretary of the Army is in Mesquite, Texas, for the opening of a new factory that will significantly increase our country’s ability to manufacture parts that are used to produce artillery ammunition.

Using funding that the Biden administration has requested and that Congress has approved, including in our supplemental, the Department of Defense has contracted with General Dynamics to stand up new production lines as part of a national effort to significantly increase the number of artillery shells that we produce every month.

Now, as many of you all know, artillery shells have been an absolutely critical munition for the war in Ukraine and for our ability to provide artillery to Ukraine alongside our allies and partners. And these 155-millimeter shells, and, of course, the guns that go with them, have absolutely made a significant impact on Ukraine’s ability to repel Russian attacks. They have been particularly important in the eastern part of the country, the Donbas, open farmland, where what you want is try to arrange behind the enemy lines. And in many cases around that part of the country, over the last year or more, it’s literally been a gunfight. And these 155 [mm] shells and those in the tubes that go with them, they are the guns, and they matter.

When Russia invaded Ukraine back in ‘22, the United States was producing about 14,000 155-millimeter artillery shells every month. Thanks to investments that the President has made to increase our production in Mesquite and at plants across the country, we’re already now more than — have already more than doubled that number, and we expect to double it again. We’re on track to manufacture 100,000 155-millimeter artillery shells per month by the end of next year.

Increasing our production capability and building these new production lines improves our own military readiness as well. And it’s critical, of course, to support Ukraine.

Revitalizing our defense industrial base and increasing production has been a top priority here at the White House, for the President, for National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. And as a matter of fact, Jake has regularly convened meetings with the Defense Department and with industry leaders to discuss how to increase production. And at his direction, the NSC worked with the Department of Commerce to organize the Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Summit back in December to explore opportunities for co-production between the United States and Ukrainian defense industrial bases and to significantly increase weapon production.

And of course, Jake has spent a significant amount of time over the last two years calling on foreign counterparts, as have Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin and many others, to obtain commitments from our allies and partners to send 155-millimeter artillery shells to Ukraine as we wrap up our own production and support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.

During that six months we didn’t have a supplemental, had limited to no ability to support Ukraine, many of our allies and partners did just that. And 155-millimeter shells was one of the things that they kept flowing to the Ukrainians.

So this is very good news today and indicative of the sincerity with which we want to support Ukraine but also to support our own defense industrial base here at home. And of course, it also helps support jobs in places like Mesquite, Texas.

With that, we can take some questions.

MODERATOR: Awesome. First up, we will go to Zeke Miller. Zeke, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thanks, John. I was hoping you’d be able to address (inaudible) today out of the east. First, word that Israel’s military is saying it seized control of that Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt. Is that consistent with what the Israelis have briefed you on about their planning? And does that — is that consistent with the limited ground operation that you’ve been talking about?

Separately, the Israeli national security advisor said the war will at least last through the end of the year. Is that acceptable to the United States?

And then lastly, do you have any updates or any additional briefings from the Israelis to the U.S. government about the specific ammunition used or the potential cause of that — potential secondary explosion from that strike on Sunday that killed the civilians in Rafah? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: There’s an awful lot there.

I can’t — as you know, I won’t, Zeke — I’m not going to talk about IDF operations in any kind of detail. They should detail what they’re doing on the ground. We’re not there. It’s not our op.

That said, as I said yesterday, when they briefed us on their plans for Rafah, it did include moving along that corridor and out of the city proper to put pressure on Hamas in the city.

So I can’t confirm whether they seized the corridor or not, but I can tell you that their movements along the corridor did not come as a surprise to us and was in keeping with what we understood their plan to be — to go after Hamas in a targeted, limited way, not a concentrated way.

So I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but that’s our understanding.

On the defense minister’s comments about the war lasting until the end of the year: Again, we’ll let Israeli officials speak for themselves and for their assessments. It’s a war they’re fighting. I can tell you that President Biden is committed to seeing that we find a way to end this conflict and to end it as soon as practicable.

We’ve got hostages that are still in the hands of Hamas, and potentially other groups, under horrific circumstances. We got to get them home, and we want to get them home in a deal tied to a ceasefire — a ceasefire that we believe, if put in place, could lead to something more sustainable and a potential end of the conflict. And that’s where President Biden’s head is, trying to get this hostage deal done.

And as you know, or I think you know, another proposal now is on the table, a fresh one, and we are doing everything we can to see if we can’t get that advanced, because it could lead to the ceasefire in a temporary way that could also lead to something more sustained.

So, again, I’ll let the defense minister speak for his own views and opinions. Our view and our opinion is we got to get this hostage deal now. The time is now to do it, to get that temporary ceasefire, and to end this conflict as soon as possible.

On your third question — third set of questions: We do not have any more granularity today than we did yesterday about what caused the explosion and fire that killed those innocent Palestinians in the tent compound. We have been in touch with our Israeli counterparts, again, overnight and today, and we’re trying to get as much information as we can. But I couldn’t tell you honestly that we have clarity on that particular issue. As you know, they’re investigating.

And on the specific weapon: Again, I’m going to be dramatically disappointing to you, Zeke, and to everybody else. We’re not going to speak to individual payload loadouts on individual Israeli aircraft. The IDF should speak to their conduct of this particular operation, and that would include — we would expect in their investigation include the discussion of what was used.

Now, they’ve already said publicly that they used precision-guided munitions. They said that those precision-guided munitions had a payload of about 37 pounds, 17 kilos, which is a pretty small payload to be using. And if it is true that that’s what they used, as I said yesterday, that would certainly indicate a desire to be more deliberate and more precise in their targeting. But again, we need to let their investigation conclude.

MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Next up we’ll take Missy Ryan from the Washington Post. Missy, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Yep. Thank you very much. Hi, John. Just wanted to ask again about the pier operation, which I think you addressed a little bit yesterday at the podium. Could you just sort of give your assessment of the expectations for what this operation can add to the situation? I know it’s not meant to replace the ground entries that everybody wants to see. But given the problems and then the pause that we’re seeing after only a week of operations, can you just sort of provide some context on how you guys are looking at what this can add to the need in Gaza? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. I mean, as we’ve always said, this is an additive element; it’s not meant to replace the ground routes. Can’t do it. It’s not meant to be a one-size-fits-all kind of operation. But it does have the potential to (inaudible) the capacity of humanitarian assistance that gets into Gaza.

And, you know, one of the goals that I know that we were trying to see come out of the pier was — you know, a thousand pallets or so per day was sort of an initial goal. And we believe that that’s still possible.

The important thing to remember about this temporary pier
is that — is the word “temporary.” It’s not rooted into the seabed with pilings, concrete. You know, it’s held in place by anchoring and by vessels that are adjacent to it, moored to it, keeping it in place. And it’s literally on the water, and it’s in a maritime environment. And weather and maritime conditions absolutely play a role in the stability of the pier and the ability of workers on that pier and truck drivers on that pier to use it.

And in the last week or so, the weather conditions in the eastern Med have not been conducive to safe operation of that pier. We said, even before that pier got on site, that there were going to be challenges, environmental challenges, dealing with it. We also said, once it got operational, on day one, where they got 300 pallets in, that that was just day one and that the initial operating capacity of trying to get three times that much — you know, a thousand or so pallets a day — was going to take some time. And you know what? It’s taken a little bit of time. It’s hard.

This is difficult, complicated work, particularly in a maritime environment that you can’t control. It’s not like on the ground, where you can parcel off a piece of dirt and put a bunch of security around it and kind of claim it and own it. This is water, and it can be an unforgiving environment. And that’s what these guys are facing right now. And I think we all need to keep that in mind.

Nobody said at the outset that this was going to be easy. Nobody said at the outset that it was going to be quick. And nobody at the outset said that it was going to be a panacea for all the humanitarian assistance problems that still exist in Gaza. That said, it is additive. It can be supportive. It can be operational, as we’ve seen it. And as soon as weather conditions permit, you know, resumption of safe operations, and I have no doubt that the Defense Department and our USAID partners will go right at that work. It’s still work worth doing even if it’s difficult.

Q John, can I just follow up on that?

MR. KIRBY: Sure.

Q I mean, do you feel frustrated that, you know, the administration is kind of getting all the scrutiny over the functionality of the pier and you guys are having to put it on ice, sort of, shortly after (inaudible) operating capacity? Given the effort and money that was involved in setting this thing up; given that, as you all describe it, that it’s Israel, your ally, that is failing to properly enable the effective entry and distribution of aid within the corridor, which is the chief problem, do you feel frustrated by that situation?

MR. KIRBY: I think what’s a little frustrating with the pier itself, Missy, is the expectation that there wasn’t — that it was going to be — that it was just going to be easy. I think sometimes there’s an expectation of the U.S. military, because they’re so good, that everything that they touch is just going to turn to gold in an instant. And we knew going in that this was going to be tough stuff, and it has proven to be tough stuff. But it’s not that it can’t be overcome.

So I think if there’s any frustration it’s that people had expectations that — the critics had expectations, not people inside the administration, but external critics had expectations for this that we knew at the outset were not an appropriate set of expectations. But we’re going to keep at it. It still matters.

And as for the ground routes, look, we continue to work diligently with our Israeli counterparts to keep crossings open and to get more aid in through the ground routes. That’s the only way to do this in an effective way by volume and by scale and scope, is on the ground. And we’re going to continue to work with the Israelis to do exactly that.

We’ve had some days of good success getting hundreds of trucks in. We’ve had other days where it is up and is successful again. This is tough stuff. And the President is committed to doing everything we can to increase and sustain humanitarian assistance into some people that are hungry and thirsty and in need of medical care and attention. And that’s what we’re going to do.

It appears — again, why wouldn’t we try this — if we had this capability and it was available to us, we had the know-how and the expertise to do it, why would we leave that on the sidelines? Even if it can’t replace everything, even if we are still struggling with the Israelis from time to time on some of these crossings, why you would leave that on the sidelines makes no sense. It’s the same with the airdrops. We know the airdrops are not going to be substantial enough in quantity to match what you can do on ground routes, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do them. You do the best you can, and you add as much capability as you can.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next up, we’ll go to Andrea Mitchell with NBC. Andrea, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Hi there. Thank you very much, John. I hope you can hear me. We’re reporting — we and maybe others are reporting that Israel says that they made a new ceasefire offer for a
long pause or a calming, not a permanent ceasefire. Do you have anything on that and what the status of a possible resumption of talks might be?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I mentioned this a little bit ago, Andrea. There is a fresh proposal that’s being worked. And I can tell you that the Israelis are fully supportive of this fresh proposal and, as before, have been willing to deal in good faith on this.

I won’t go into the details of it. I think you can understand why. But we’re hard at work at seeing if we can’t make this other run at it work.

Q Do you know — can you give us any help on when this might get elevated or when there might be a resumption, at a more senior level, of talks?

MR. KIRBY: No, I can’t, not because I have it and I don’t want to give it to you. I can’t because we just don’t — we just don’t know right now. We’re — this is, again, a pretty fresh proposal here. And again, the Israelis have been very supportive. But there’s a lot of work now that has to get done to see if we can’t get another round of talks going and see where we can get this — see where we can land it.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next up we have Trevor with Reuters. Trevor, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Hey, John. Thanks for taking the question. Two for you on Gaza. You said yesterday that Israel is not engaged in a major ground operation because IDF has not sent a large number of troops, but we do see that Israel sent six combat brigades, with more on the way. Potentially, we’re talking about tens of thousands of troops. You know, by comparison, they seized all of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt in the ‘50s with 10 brigades. (Inaudible) not a major operation.

And then, on the incident over the weekend, there was a report that there was a GBU-39 that was found, (inaudible) bomb that’s made (inaudible) United States. Is that in line with what you know? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Can you repeat the second half of your second question? You said somebody with a GBU-39, and then I missed the rest.

Q Yeah, that’s a bomb that’s made in the U.S.

MR. KIRBY: No, I know what it is. No, no, I know what a GBU-39 is, but I didn’t get the second half of your question.

Q Oh. Is that in line — are you aware that that bomb was used by Israel in the attack on Sunday?

MR. KIRBY: Okay. All right. I’ll do these in reverse order just because I want to.

Yeah, I mean, I know what a GBU-39 is, and I know what it can do. I know that the Israelis have said publicly that they used precision-guided munitions with a 37-pound, or 17-kilo, payload.

As I said yesterday, Trevor, I can’t confirm any of those details; I can only point you to what the IDF has said. Therefore, I cannot confirm whether or not it was a GBU-39 that delivered the payload on that bomb. You’d have to really talk to the IDF about that.

On your first question, again, you guys are — I understand where the questions are coming from, but you got to understand I’m not going to confirm IDF operations or what they’re doing, so I can’t speak to combat brigades they have in Rafah or not, or what makes up a brigade for them and how many soldiers that is. They should speak to all that.

All I can tell you is that, as you and I are sitting here talking today, we still have not seen a major ground operation in Rafah in the manner I described it as yesterday, which — large amounts; you know, thousands and thousands of troops moving in a coordinated fashion against — you know, maneuvering against a variety of targets on the ground in a very aggressive way. The way I described it yesterday, as you and I sit here today, we have not seen that.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. Next up we’ll go to Alex Ward with Politico. Alex, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Yeah. Thanks so much, John. Secretary Blinken was asked today about Ukraine lifting — the U.S. lifting restrictions on Ukraine’s ability to strike inside Russia. And he suggested the administration has always adjusted as necessary, seeming to open the door to the possibility of a policy change. I know you spoke a bit to this yesterday, but is the administration reviewing this, you know, decision? Obviously, you know, some — Emmanuel Macron came out in saying Ukraine should be able to hit. That’s one.

And two, USAID Administrator Power today said that “Despite…” — and I’m reading this quote — “Despite currently more limited military operations around Rafah and the Egypt-Gaza border, the catastrophic consequences that we have long warned about are becoming a reality.” So just checking if the White House agrees that Israel’s campaign so far, while limited, has led to catastrophic consequences in Rafah. Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: So, on your first question, as I said yesterday — I believe I said yesterday — there’s no change in our policy. We do not encourage nor do we enable attacks using U.S. weapons on Russian soil. And as the Secretary said and as, frankly, I’ve said it too: From almost the first week of this war, we’ve been in touch with our Ukrainian counterparts every day about what their needs are. Some of those needs are material; some of those needs are training; some of those needs are advice and counsel. Whatever the needs are, we’re in touch with them, and we’re talking to them. And those conversations continue right now.

I don’t have any changes to speak to. But as you know, Alex, our support to Ukraine has evolved appropriately as the battlefield conditions have evolved. And that’s not going to change. But right now, there’s also no change to our policy.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Next up, we’ll go to Nadia Bilbassy.

MR. KIRBY: Well, wait a minute. I blew off your second question, didn’t I? Sorry.

Q Yeah, on Administrator Power, yeah.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. No, that’s all right. It wasn’t a Freudian slip. I wasn’t trying to be, you know — I wasn’t trying to ignore it.

Look, I — we all share the concerns that Administrator Power shares and has conveyed about the suffering inside Gaza. I just talked quite a little bit about all the things that we’re doing on the humanitarian assistance front to try to alleviate that.

We know there are people in desperate, desperate straits. And that is why we’re working so hard to get this fresh proposal
through, to get a hostage deal so we can get a ceasefire so that we can increase the humanitarian assistance and there’s a period of calm where there’s no fighting across all of Gaza. That’s the goal here.

So I think we’re all pulling the oars in the same direction. And we all share the concerns, again, about the people that are in such desperate need. And, again, that’s why we’re pursuing this path.

Q So, sorry, since you said you share those concerns, you’re in agreement with Administrator Power that there have been catastrophic consequences in Rafah?

MR. KIRBY: We certainly agree that there have been — I mean, yes, of course. I don’t even — there’s no way you should even take any note that we — of cou- — what happened over on Sunday, with the death of innocent people in the tent, that was a catastrophe. Having, you know, more than 2 million people being displaced by conflict, a war that Sinwar started, certainly has had catastrophic consequences on their lives, their livelihoods, their infrastructure. I mean, my goodness, of course there’s been catastrophe in Gaza. But that’s why we’re working so hard to find a way through here and to eventually try to find a way to end this conflict.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Now we’ll go to Nadia Bilbassy. Nadia, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thank you, Jessica. John, you said yesterday that the President did not see the videos from Rafah of the charred bodies and headless babies. Why is that? Who is responsible to show him these videos, considering that he talked very much about the Israeli side and the videos that he saw, and he used them on even campaign trips?

And second, if you allow me, you stated that you support Israel to destroy Hamas, you want to release the hostages, you said you want more aid to Gaza, and you want more protection for civilians. I mean, isn’t just trying to square the circle? I mean, do you see these targets achievable without a permanent ceasefire, which Hamas (inaudible) insist that nothing can move forward without a ceasefire?

MR. KIRBY: So what I said yesterday, Nadia, when I was asked was: Has the President seen the images? And I said I did not know. And I do not know today, but I can ask the question. That is what I said. I did not say that he didn’t.

Q Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. And on the second question, squaring the circle — man, I’ll tell you, that’s what this whole thing is about. It’s about trying to square all these circles. Are you kidding me? We want to see the — we want to see the hostages out. The only way to do that is to tie it to a ceasefire. You get a ceasefire in place for six weeks, and maybe that can lead to something more sustainable. And with nobody shooting at anybody, then you can get more aid in because drivers of trucks and people that deliver aid won’t be as fearful about making those crossings and making those routes.

So I’ll tell you, President Biden has been working hard every day to square all these circles. And that’s absolutely what we’re going to keep doing.

Q I mean, I don’t disagree with you. It’s the opposite, actually. But my point here is: Without a permanent ceasefire, Hamas (inaudible) saying nothing can go forward unless Israel stops all the operations. And the Israelis said, we’re not going to stop the operations. So this is my point to you: How can you achieve all of this without a permanent ceasefire?

MR. KIRBY: We believe that if we can get the hostage deal tied to a temporary ceasefire, that that can lead to something more enduring, something more sustainable — a calm of greater duration — and that that can lead to an end of the conflict. And that’s what we’re focused on.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Next up we’ll go to Kayla with CNN. Kayla, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thank you so much, Admiral. Analysis by CNN and others show debris of a Small Diameter Bomb in the wreckage, the bomb that is made by Boeing and would likely have been made in the United States. I know the administration has previously halted the provision of heavy bombs. I’m wondering whether the administration is discussing changes to the provision of these Small Diameter Bombs.

MR. KIRBY: So, first of all, I’ve seen your reporting, and as I said earlier, I’m in no position to confirm the weapons loadout on Israeli aircraft. I’ll leave it to the Israelis to describe, as they shou- — as only they can, the manner in which they conducted these strikes. So I’m not going to confirm the reporting. You got to talk to the IDF about that.

And as for your — the thrust of the question, which is, you know, other policy changes with respect to weapons shipments, the only shipment that has been paused and it remains paused is that shipment of 2,000-pound bombs that we have talked about now for several weeks. There is no other pause to speak to. And as the President has said, we will keep doing what we have to do to help Israel defend itself against a still-viable threat by Hamas.

Q And if I may, some of the munitions experts who were quoted in some of our reporting say, “Using any munition, even of this size, will always incur risks in a densely populated area.” Does the administration agree with that assessment?

MR. KIRBY: I said yesterday — and please quote me from yesterday — in my opening statement that what happened on Sunday, the tragic outcome, underscores exactly that notion: the danger, the challenges of conducting a military operation in a densely populated area such as Rafah. So, yes, I agree with that, and I said so yesterday in the briefing.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Next up we’ll go with Anita Powell, VOA. Anita, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thank you so much, John. First of all, Secretary Austin is going to the Shangri-La Dialogue. I just want to know what message he’s taking to the Asian partners in the region and also to China.

MR. KIRBY: Well, with the caveat that I’m no longer the Pentagon press secretary, I would refer you to my colleagues over there to speak to his agenda and his meetings and discussions that he’s having. It wouldn’t be appropriate for that to come from me.

Q I’m asking on behalf of the administration. I mean, he’s the Defense Secretary. So what message is he taking on behalf of —

MR. KIRBY: Again, I appreciate the question, but I don’t speak for the Defense Secretary, and I really don’t want to get into the details of his schedule. I will just tell you, and I was going to do this just a second ago, that this is an important dialogue, Shangri-La, certainly in an important region of the world. And it is an annual gathering that secretaries of defense for many, many years have attended, with good reason, because it’s an opportunity to present our case, to talk about our national security interests and how we’re going about securing those interests in the Indo-Pacific region, and an opportunity for leaders there to have many individual bilateral discussions with their counterparts to advance some of these goals.

And I know that Secretary Austin is embarking on this trip with all of that firmly in his mind and that he’s looking forward to having those discussions and, again, to laying out, as he has in the past, very clearly, not only the Defense Department’s approach to the Indo-Pacific but the entire national security establishment.

Q John, can I ask a follow-up on Ukraine please, on the peace summit? Is President Biden concerned that if he doesn’t attend the Ukraine peace summit, it will send the wrong message to the global community about the importance of supporting peace in Ukraine?

And then, if he’s not going, who from the administration is? And does the administration still feel confident in President Zelenskyy’s peace formulation?

MR. KIRBY: Okay, those are seven questions, I think. So let me try the first one.

I mean, I got — I have no delegation plans to speak to you today for this peace summit. That’s point one.

Point two: No matter who represents the United States at the peace summit, it cannot be said that the United States has not been there for Ukraine, and that it cannot be said, number three, that President Biden has not been there for Ukraine. I mean, from the very beginning of this conflict, no other leader has done as much and continues to do as much as President Biden does to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself against Russian aggression.

And no other leader has done as much to work with the Ukrainians, not only for their defense needs now, but for what their defense needs are going to be when this war is over. Whatever that border — whatever that end of the war looks like, they’re still going to have a long border with Russia, and it’s a border that they’re going to need to defend. And the President has made commitments to Ukraine to be there for them long term.

So being there means being there. And in all the ways that that matters, the United States and President Biden has been there for President Zelenskyy and for the people of Ukraine, and that will continue regardless of who sits in what chair at the peace summit. And I think that’s an important thing to remember.

I know you had another question that I think I missed. President Zelenskyy.

Q Yeah, does the White House have confidence in President Zelenskyy’s peace formulation? Do you support it — all 10 of its points, I believe?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, of course we do. And we’ve been supportive of that 10-point formulation since he drafted it.

And as a matter of fact, we have been actively involved — Secretary Blinken and Jake Sullivan, in particular — actively involved in advancing that formula and working with other countries around the world to see what we can do to operationalize it.

And, you know, I want to go back to what I was talking about before. I also want to remind you that in just the last month we’ve issued five security packages to Ukraine, three of them presidential drawdown authority, two of them under USAI, but in the past month. Again, so regardless of who’s in what seat at the peace summit, it can’t be said that the United States isn’t doing everything and anything to do what we can to support Ukraine.

I think I’m going to —

Q So just to clarify, John, does the White House have input into Ukraine’s peace formula? Is this a dialogue between Washington and Kyiv then?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, of course.

MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, Anita. Next up we’ll have Zolan from the New York Times. Zolan, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Hey there. Thanks so much for the question. I’m assuming you can hear me, right?

MODERATOR: Yep. Loud and clear.

Q Thanks very much. John, I just wanted to follow up on an inquiry I had yesterday in terms of — I realize that the U.S. isn’t sort of the primary source for this, but I would assume just since the administration for a while was calling for Israel to hold back on going into Rafah before it had developed plans for evacuating displaced Palestinians there, if there were any sort of now updated numbers on the number of Palestinians who — displaced Palestinians who have fled Rafah, where they are, and the number of Palestinians that are still in Rafah. Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: I’m afraid I don’t have those updated for you. And I apologize, because I did say yesterday I would try to get that for you. So let me take that question. And that comes with my apologies. You’re right, I did get asked, and I didn’t have the answer yesterday.

Q Appreciate that. I’ll follow up. Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. I just don’t want to — I don’t want to be guessing on something like that.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. And last question we’ll go to Nick Schifrin with PBS. Nick, you should be able to unmute yourself.

Q Thanks, guys. John, at the United Nations, Algeria is pushing a resolution that would call for the end of the Rafah operations. Does the U.S. have a position on that?

And then, a question that is perhaps more tactical than you want to answer, but regardless of which munition the Israelis dropped, the IDF has been specific and said that their target was 180 meters away from the tent encampment that caught fire. Again, I know it’s a tactical question, but is that a sufficient enough distance in your mind? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, you’re right, that’s more tactical than I’m going to get into, Nick. I mean, we weren’t part of this operation. We didn’t help plan it. We didn’t help execute it. We didn’t do the targeting. And I would refer you to what the IDF have been saying about that investiga- — that operation. And, of course, they’re investigating it. So let’s see what they come up with in terms of their conclusions about what could have caused this explosion and fire. So, again, I just want to be careful on this.

And on the resolution by Algeria, we certainly are aware of it. As a matter of fact, we’re reviewing it. I think you can understand that I’m not going to negotiate this thing here in public, in a gaggle. But I would take the opportunity to note that we believe it is imbalanced and it fails to note a very simple fact — and this is the same thing we have objected to with previous resolutions: It does not note that Hamas is to blame for this conflict and that the fighting in Rafah could end tomorrow if Mr. Sinwar did the right thing and agreed to this deal and get a ceasefire and to get the release of the hostages. And I will leave it at that.

I do have one correction. My team is telling me that when I answered the question about the five security packages, three were PDA, one was USAI, one was foreign military financing. That was the source for that package. So I apologize for the error, but I’m glad I was able to fix it before we wrapped up the gaggle.

And then, we do have a taken question on the number of
evacuees. We’ll do the best we can to get you an answer on that. And again, my apologies — I should have been ready for that, given that I took it yesterday. So, my bad. We’ll get back to you all. Have a great day.

The post On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby appeared first on The White House.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Philadelphia, PA

Wed, 05/29/2024 - 19:56

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1:00 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody. Going back to Philly. So exciting. Good afternoon.

So, we’re going to go to Philly, obviously, where the President and the Vice President will participate in campaign events. And so, the campaign is going to have more information for all of you on today’s events. And so, I — I’m going to have to refer you to them on what the day’s events — what’s going to unfold today.

But with that, I’m just going to go ahead and start taking questions.

Go ahead, Aamer.

Q Okay, so, on — on the pier.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q Does the President — is he rethinking if this is still a good idea? It’s become, it seems like, a bit of a boondoggle. Why spend — continue to spend good money after bad when it’s — it seems to have very little impact on actually getting aid into Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple things. I know NSC spoke to this yesterday. I know DOD also spoke to this yesterday. And so, as you know, it’s going to be temporarily moved to the Port of Ash- — Ashdod.

Let me just give you a couple of things to show why it — what it’s done while it was running.

So, to date, over 1,000 metric tons have been delivered from the pier to the marshalling area for onward delivery by humanitarian organizations into the hands of Gazans — 1,000 metric tons. That matters.

We remain committed to working with international community to get aid into Gaza as quickly as possible. That includes via land crossing. As you know, we’ve been working on that, and that has had some eff- — some good effects in the sense of the President’s diplomacy and having those conversations and — including Kerem Shalom, where aid continues to flow into Ga- — Gaza. And so, we’ll provide, obviously, additional updates on this.

But, look, this is part of the President’s commitment to make sure we’re getting that important humanitarian aid into Gaza. We know how dire the situation there is for the — the — is for Palestinian people. And so, we’re going to do everything by air, by land, by sea, obviously. And so, that is our focus.

And while the pier has been — while it was functioning, obviously, it did get some humanitarian aid. I don’t have any more on the pier beyond that. I would refer you to Department of Defense, obviously.

Q Karine — Karine, how — how does the White House respond to Pope Francis’s alleged use of a homophobic slur in a private meeting? And how does that affect his relationship with President Biden?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean — I’ll say — I’ll say this, which is, you know, I can speak — I can speak for the President. I can’t speak, obviously, directly for the Pope. I know the Vatican, in a statement, said that the Pope apologized and said it was [wasn’t] his intention. So, he is — it is for him to speak.

What I can say about the POTUS is that he’s been — he’s been very clear that everyone, including LGBTQ+ persons, deserves dignity and should not be discriminated because of who they are, who they love.

And that is something that you have heard from this President for some time now, and, certainly, he stands by that. And you see that in his policies. And so, that’s what — I’ll — I’ll leave it there.

Q How much — how much attention is the President paying to the Trump trial as they begin deliberations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have to be pretty honest with you, I have not talked to the President about that.

This is going to be an important day. Obviously, the campaign is going to have more to share.

The President — and I said this yesterday a couple times when I was asked this question in various ways — that the President is focused on the American people, delivering for the American people. You’ll hear him talk about — talk about, you know, some of that today. Again, the campaign will — will speak to that, since it’s a campaign event. That’s his focus.

I just have not — that is — I’ve not focused —

Q Do you think —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — asked him that question.

Q Thank you. Do you think he’ll make reference to it in his remarks today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think the President is going to be focused on the American people today.

Q Was the President aware in advance that his campaign was going to give a press conference at the courthouse yesterday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can’t speak to that. That’s for the campaign to speak to.

Q But it was about the President’s awareness.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I can’t — I — this is not a conversation — I don’t talk about the campaign with the President, so I would refer you to the campaign.

Q Well, but you have spoken about how the jus- — justice system is — is functioning on its own, and the President doesn’t get involved. And yet, when his campaign comes out in front of the courthouse and speaks, it cuts against that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, yesterday, when I was asked about the question, I said, “Hey, I’m not going to talk about a — a political candidate. It’s 2024.” But I did talk about the importance of having a justice system that works for all and just really talked about it more broadly and what this president has been able to do. And that’s what I talked about.

We announced our 200th nominee that has been able to get through, how diverse that is, and how it is really, truly important to have — to have a justice system that represents America.

And that’s as far as I can go. You’re asking me specifically the President’s thought about what the campaign did. I just can’t speak to that.

Q Karine, does there — does the White House have any plan to make a statement or do anything once the verdict actually happens?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to be super mindful, not going to speak to it — 2024, this is an election period. I’m just not going to speak to it. I do not speak and will not speak on any ongoing cases. Even — even in — in a hypothetical, speculative way, I’m just not going to speak to it.

Q Two questions, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q Your office is in charge of setting up presidential interviews. President Biden has been president for about three and a half years. And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible) remember that. It’s good to know.

Q — to the best of my knowledge, he has not given a single interview to a print newspaper reporter, and I was wondering how you explain that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That — that is — look, he has given many interviews. I’m happy to share a list with you on folks he’s interviewed. And I would say stay tuned. Stay tuned.

Q (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s been — it’s been — as you just stated and marked on the calendar, it’s been three and a half years. I’m sure you’re not the only one tracking that, but I would say stay tuned.

And the President is always happy to talk to the press. You’ve seen him sit down with many different — different mediums, platforms, because he wants to make sure his message gets directly to the American people. And I would say stay tuned.

Q Why is that EO s- — the — sorry — the border EO that the President is considering. Why is that still plan A? I ask specifically because, yesterday, Kirby mentioned the numbers are trending in the right direction. It seems you have a commitment, even post-election in Mexico, on this issue. Why is this necessary?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President is going to do everything that he can — right? — to — to deal with what we’re — been seeing: a broken immigration system. Right? I can’t speak to the EO. What I can say is we look at all options, as we have done.

We’ve taken auction — actions over the past more than two years now. And, as Steven said, we’ve been in office for three and a half years, and so we’re always going to look at all of our options.

I got to sit down.

But what I will say is this is a system that has been broken for decades — right? — decades. And it’s going to take continuously taking actions. It’s going to take, honestly, legislative action to deal with a system that’s been broken.

I have to sit down.

Q One last thing. How much prep work for the D-Day trip is he going to be doing in Rehoboth this weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, D-Day is going to be an important moment. Obviously, the President is going to — to France to commemorate —

AIR FORCE ONE CREW MEMBER: I’m so sorry. (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I know. But — I got to go.

I don’t have anything to share on his particular schedule of what that’s going to look like, but obviously he’s going to meet with his senior staff.

AIR FORCE ONE CREW MEMBER: Sorry, guys. We’re about to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’s going to meet with NSC —

AIR FORCE ONE CREW MEMBER: — land. We’re going to have to wrap this up. I’m so sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Thanks, guys.

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Philadelphia, PA appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

Tue, 05/28/2024 - 14:17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:19 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ve got a couple things at the top, and then we’ll get going.

So, today, we are grieving the lives lost as the result of deadly tornadoes that ripped through several states across Southern Plains.  Our prayers are with the families that lost loved ones.  We wish those who were injured a speedy recovery.

These tragic storms come as communities across the South and Midwest are still recovering from severe weather that destroyed homes, businesses, and leveled entire communities earlier this month. 

As always, we remain grateful for the first responders.

As the President’s statement indicated, our teams have been directly in touch with state and local officials.

The President also spoke directly with Governors Stitt, Huckabee — Huckabee Sanders, Abbott to offer his condolences for the lives lost and reiterate that the federal government stands ready to support as needed. 

As we speak, FEMA is conducting damage assessments with their state and local counterparts.  And tomorrow, the FEMA Administrator will travel to Arkansas.

As we turn towards recovery, we urge residents in the affected areas to remain vigilant and continue listening to state and local officials.

We also want to encourage everyone nationwide to prepare now for potential severe weather in your area.

Next, just wanted to lay this out for folks and shout this out.  We saw a record number of travelers at airports over Memorial Day weekend.

As you all know, President Biden is taking action to improve their travel experience by taking on hidden junk fees.

The Biden-Harris administration is mandating that airlines show upfront the price of checked bags, seats, and flight changes or cancellations, which will save consumers half a billion dollars a year. 

Two — two airlines, Spirit and Frontier, announced they are ending change and cancellation fees.

Our administration is also requiring airlines to provide automatic refu- — refunds when flights are canceled or significantly changed.

We are proposing that hotels and car rental companies show the full price upfront, banning hidden fees.

And we are al- — also lowering the price of gas, including by selling 1 million barrels of gasoline from the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve.

We know that severe weather yesterday disrupted some flights, which is why the Department of Transportation is keeping pressure on airlines to improve flight operations and help travelers when there are flights delays or cancellations.

With that, we have the Admiral here, from NSC, who is going to speak to the development in the Middle East.

Admiral.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Karine.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  So, I just want to — just right off the top — talk about these — the devastating images and reports coming out of Rafah over the weekend following an IDF strike that killed dozens of innocent Palestinians, including children. 

And we’ve all seen the images.  They’re heartbreaking.  They’re horrific.  There should be no innocent life lost here as a result of this conflict.

Israel, of course, has a right to go after Hamas, and we understand that this strike did kill two senior Hamas terrorists who are directly responsible for attacks against the Israeli people.

But, as we’ve also said many times, Israel must take every precaution possible and do more to protect innocent life.

Now, as soon as we saw these reports over the weekend about the strike, we reached out to the Israeli Defense Forces at various levels to gather more information.  And we’ve been actively engaged with the IDF and with partners on the ground to learn more about what happened.

I’ll note that the Israeli Defense Forces today released initial findings — initial findings — that point to the fire being caused by a secondary explosion, not the initial strike.

I think this speaks very clearly to the challenge of military airstrikes in densely populated areas of Gaza, including Rafah, because of the risk of civilian casualties, which of course happened terribly in this case.

A horrible loss of life.

We’re glad the Israeli Defense Force — Forces are doing a full investigation, which we believe is going to be very important to try to prevent future such mishaps.

With that, I can take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Go ahead, Aamer.

Q    Thanks, Admiral.  Can you explain how the strike in Rafah does not cross the lines that the President has set and many of you have repeated that this — that the operations be targeted and limited?

MR. KIRBY:  We still don’t believe that a major ground operation in Rafah is warranted.  We still don’t want to see the Israelis, as we say, smash into Rafah with large units over — over large pieces of territory.

We still believe that.  And we haven’t seen that at this point.  But we’re going to be watching this, of course, very, very closely.

I want to just end this — this answer by making it very clear that, regardless, every single loss of innocent life is tragic and every single loss of innocent life should be prevented as much as possible.

Q    Has the President seen the images?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know.  I can’t speak to what —

Q    But he’s been briefed on them?

MR. KIRBY:  He has absolutely been — he’s been kept apprised throughout the weekend on this.

Q    So, you’re saying the tent — the tent encampment that was first struck is considered a densely populated area?

MR. KIRBY:  The whole area of Rafah, Ed, is densely populated.

Now, there has been a million or so who have evacuated Rafah proper, but it’s not like they’re going all that far away. The whole area is densely populated.

Q    So, how does this not violate the red line that the President laid out?
MR. KIRBY:  As I said, we don’t want to see a major ground operation.  We haven’t seen that at this point.

Q    How many more charred corpses does he have to see before the President considers a change in policy?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t want to see a single more innocent life taken.  And I kind of take a little offense at the question.

No civilian casualties is the right number of civilian casualties.  And this is not something that we’ve turned a blind eye to nor has it been something we’ve ignored or neglected to raise with our Israeli counterparts — including, Ed, this weekend as a result of this particular strike.

Now, they’re investigating it.  So, let’s let them investigate it and see what they come up with.

Q    But the President doesn’t have, like, a personal limit to this?

MR. KIRBY:  The President has been very clear and very direct about what our expectations are for Israeli operations in Rafah specifically but in Gaza writ large.  We don’t support, we won’t support a major ground operation in Rafah.  And we’ve, again, been very consistent on that.

And the President said that should that occur, then it might make him have to make different decisions in terms of support.  We haven’t seen that happen at this point.

Q    And why not have him come out and say that himself? 

MR. KIRBY:  The President has been speaking to leaders throughout the region on a regular basis.  He has been addressing you guys in various fora.  You’ve got plenty of opportunities to talk to the President, including, I might add, in a press conference last week.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Mary.

Q    You’ve said now that you don’t think a major ground invasion is happening in Rafah right now.  But as you know, this is a densely populated area.  It all is.  I understand, you know, this might be a secondary explosion.  The Israelis are describing it as a “tragic mishap.”  But isn’t this exactly the kind of incident that you have been concerned about this whole time?

MR. KIRBY:  As I said in my opening statement, this exactly does speak to the challenge of military operations in a densely populated area — a challenge, I would add, Mary, that we have been sharing and — our perspectives on with the Israelis from our own lessons learned in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  This incident speaks exactly to that challenge. 

Q    And despite the loss of life here, do you still believe that this strike was precise and proportional?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s an investigation.  I think we’re going to let the Israelis do their work.  I don’t think you can expect me to speak to the details of a — of a specific strike by Israeli military forces when we had nothing to do with that.

Q    And just one more.  You know, you’ve called the strike “devastating,” the images “heartbreaking,” but you’ve stopped short of outright condemning this strike.  Can you explain why?

MR. KIRBY:  We have been, I think, very strident in our condemnations about the deaths of innocent civilians.  These deaths are not excused from that.  But we have to understand what happened here.  There’s going to be an investigation.  They’ve already said it’s been — it was a tragic mistake.  They’re looking into it. 

They have been able to investigate themselves and hold people accountable in the past.  We’ll see what they do here. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Asma, go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  I want to be clear.  After this weekend’s strike, is it our assumption that nothing about U.S. policy has changed or is changing in regards to —

MR. KIRBY:  As a result of this strike on Sunday, I have no policy changes to speak to.  It just happened.  The Israelis are going to investigate it.  We’re going to be taking great interest in what they find in that investigation.  And we’ll see where it goes from there. 

Q    And I also want to ask: We saw a good amount of international condemnation after this strike, whether it was from President Macron of France, others in Europe.  We have not yet heard from the President publicly at all about this strike.  Why is that?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, I think I’ve answered his question.  With that, you’ve heard the — the President on numerous occasions in just the last few days about what’s going on in the Middle East and in other places around the world.  And you’ll hear from him again.  I’m absolutely confident in that.

Q    One last question.  Is there any concern that the United States itself is being isolated internationally as we continue to support the — you know, the operation and you’re seeing European allies —

MR. KIRBY:  One — one of the things — one of the things — and one of the things that we’ve talked about with the — the Israelis are about the manner in which some of these operations are being conducted is that — is the real danger that Israel itself could become further isolated from the international community just by dint of the manner in which they are conducting operations. 

So, this is of concern, clearly, because it’s not in —

Q    (Inaudible.)  

MR. KIRBY:  — it’s not in Israel’s best interests and it’s not in our best interests for Israel to become increasingly isolated on the world stage. 

As a matter of fact, one of the things the President came into office wanting to do — and actually, we had made some progress before the 7th of October — was working towards a more integrated Israel into the region.  So, it’s in our national security interests to make sure that that doesn’t happen. 

The President doesn’t make decisions and he doesn’t execute on policy based on public opinion polling or on popularity contests.  He bases his decisions on our own national security interests — what’s at stake for our safety and security here at home and abroad.  And what’s in the best interests of our — of our allies and partners.

Sometimes what’s in the best interest of your alliance and your partnership is to be candid, forthright, even tough with your friend, which we have been able to do with Israel.

Q    Sorry, I just want to be clear on that.  We spoke about Israel’s isolationism there.  I just want to be clear: Are you concerned at all —

MR. KIRBY:  I — I —

Q    — or is the administration concerned at all about the United States being out of step or isolating?

MR. KIRBY:  I thought I got to that in the — in the last part —

Q    I’m sorry.  I missed —

MR. KIRBY:  — of my soliloquy.

Q    No, I —

MR. KIRBY:  I did.

Q    I’m sorry.  I did not catch that. 

MR. KIRBY:  You didn’t get it.  (Laughter.)  Okay.  So, I’m going to try it again, and we’ll see if maybe — maybe take two will be better. 

The President is not making decisions based on popularity or public opinion polls here or around the world.  He’s making decisions about our national security based on those interests and what meets those interests.  And it certainly doesn’t meet our interests.  And it doesn’t meet our Israeli partners’ interests for them to become further isolated. 

But he’s not making decisions based on that being a worry.  He’s making decisions — he’s making decisions based on what’s in — what’s in the best interests of the American people and our safety and security abroad. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q    Thank you so much.  So, last week, from this podium, Jake Sullivan was asked about the Rafah operation, and he said, and I’m quoting him, “What we’re going to be looking at is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation.” 

So, if what happened this weekend doesn’t qualify as “a lot of death and destruction,” how would you describe it?  And how would you quantify what “a lot of death and destruction” in Rafah is?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t — there’s not a — there’s not like a measuring stick here or a quota.  As we’ve said many times, the — the right number of civilian casualties is zero.  We don’t want to see any. 

Now we’ve seen more than about a dozen or so that we can — that we know of, at least from the strike alone.  That’s horrific.  That’s terrible.  We don’t want to see that.  The answer should be zero. 

The Israelis have said this was a tragic mistake.  They’re going to investigate that.  We’re going to let them do that.  But we’ve also said — and this is the other part of what Jake said is that we don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah.  That would really make it hard for the Israelis to go after Hamas without causing extensive damage and potentially a large number of deaths. 

We have not seen them do that at this point, but we’re watching it very closely. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Gabe.

Q    Admiral, you said — you’ve said repeatedly that the U.S. doesn’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah, but Israeli tanks just moved into Central Rafah.  How is that not a major military operation?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, I don’t want to talk about Israeli Defense Force operations.  But my understanding is — and I believe the Israelis have spoken to this — that they are moving along something called a Philadelphi Corridor, which is on the outskirts of the town, not in the town proper.  That’s what the Israelis have said.

We’re not on the ground.  Gabe, we’re not there.  I mean, you know, I don’t have — we don’t have troops that can look at every single soldier and where they are.  We’re going based on what the Israelis are telling us and what they’re saying publicly and what we’re able to discern as best we can — as best we can.  As you and I speak here today, we have not seen a major ground operation. 

And these tanks are moving along a corridor that they have told us previously that they would use on the outskirts of the town to try to put pressure on Hamas.

Q    NBC’s crew in Gaza has described it as being central Rafah.  If it were to be central Rafah, would that be considered a major military operation? 

MR. KIRBY:  A single tank?  A single tank —

Q    No, not a single tank — tanks.

MR. KIRBY:  — with a dozen or so guys?  I mean, we’re talking about — you know, you’re dragging me into a hypothetical, and I hate that.  But one tank, one armored vehicle does not constitute a major ground operation.

Now, I’m not saying that that’s what’s going on right now.  What I’m telling you is what the Israelis have told us about what they’re doing.  They tell us it’s on the outskirts.  A major ground operation is, you know, thousands and thousands of troops moving in a maneuvered, concentrated, coordinated way against a variety of targets on the ground.  The kinds of things we’ve seen, we — we’ve done ourselves.  That’s what we’re talking about here.

Q    And then one last thing on a strike today.  Twenty-one people — at least twenty-one people were killed in a strike that hit a tent camp in Southern Gaza today.  What’s the U.S. response to that? 

MR. KIRBY:  We can’t verify those reports.  The Israelis are saying publicly that there was no such strike, so I’d point you to them.  I can’t speak to it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Trevor.

Q    Thanks.  And just want to make this very clear between what’s happened on Sunday — what’s happened in terms of the ongoing ground operation since.  There is nothing that you have seen thus far that would prompt a U.S. withdrawal of more military assistance to Israel?

MR. KIRBY:  I believe that’s what I’ve been saying here.

Q    Okay.  Cool.  And just want to get your reaction as well to the House Republicans asking for sanctions against the ICC or some of its officials.  Is that something that the Biden administration is going to support?

MR. KIRBY:  No.  We don’t believe that sanctions against the ICC is the right approach here.  No. 

Q    Why?

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, look, we — we obviously don’t believe the ICC has jurisdiction.  But we certainly don’t support these — these arrest warrants, and we have said that before.  We don’t believe, though, that sanctioning the ICC is the answer.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Admiral, please help me to understand.  You just said that, basically, there is no major operation that you have seen by the Israelis in Rafah.  And you insisted that it has to be a viable plan to evacuate all civilians, and that was considered kind of red line, if you do- — if you don’t want to call it a red line. 

So, explain to me how 1 million people who are forced to leave Rafah to no place that’s considered a safe zone with now only 400,000 left, how could it be that different from what you said, that we oppose the plan unless the Israelis give us, really, a viable way to make sure that these one and a half million civilians are safe? 

So, 1 million, they’re not really safe, because we have seen yesterday, they have been attacked.  They’re burned to death, with kids have no heads — headless kids.  You’ve seen the pictures.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, I have.

Q    And then, now, the Israelis ba- — basically, their plan is to let these people leave but not voluntarily.  These people are forced to leave.  So, how could be this any different from your insisting that it has to be a good plan, a viable plan, a practical plan to make sure that these people are going to a safe place?

MR. KIRBY:  I didn’t say that that — that everything that’s happening in Rafah right now is perfect or good. 

Q    No, no, I’m not saying that.  (Inaudible) —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not saying that at all.

Q    — after what you said before.  You said before that it has to be a viable plan to evacuate one and a half million people.  Now we have 1 million completely in where —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, not — not all the one and a half million are out of Rafah.  Right?  There’s still hundreds of thousands —

Q    Four hundred thousand.  Yes.  

MR. KIRBY:  — that are still in Rafah, that are still in danger.  And we still have not seen a plan to take care of their safety and security, which is why nothing has changed about our view that we don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah that puts those people at greater risk. 

I’m not really sure where you and I are on a different page here.

Q    I don’t know if you answered my question, but it’s okay.

MR. KIRBY:  Well — well, let’s try it again.  Go ahead.

Q    You said that the Israelis have to offer a viable plan to evacuate one and a half million civilians.  Correct?  You said that many times.

MR. KIRBY:  We want to see a viable, credible plan for the safety and security —

Q    But now, we don’t have one and a half million.  One million already forced to leave into places that are not considered safe.  You’re only talking about half a million.

MR. KIRBY:  They’re not —

Q  And this half a million, over the next few weeks, probably will be down to few thousand.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  Well, what happened on Sunday was terrible and tragic.  And you’re right.

Q    (Addressing reporter.)  Can I ask my questions, please?  Do you mind?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  You’re — you’re right.  Not enough has been done for the safety and security of the innocent people trying to seek refuge in and around Rafah.  Not — I’m not pushing back on that at all. 

And I can’t verify where — everyone who left, where they went.  I don’t know if all of them went to a tent compound that was set up by the Israeli Defense Forces, or maybe they went someplace else.  Obviously, it’s still a dangerous place, which is why what happened on Sunday is so tragic. 

And we won’t wa- — we don’t want to see it happen again, which is why we think it’s important for the Israelis to investigate this fully, completely, and be transparent about it and, more importantly, to learn lessons from the investigation so that this can’t happen again.

Q    (Inaudible) question, please.  Please, one quick question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Let’s do our best to respect our colleagues here.

Go ahead. 

Q    Sure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thanks.  So, just to clarify, how could it not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  No, go ahead, Nadia.  You had —

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And then I’ll — and then you can go after that.

Q    Just one quick question, please.

The European Union are considering imposing sanctions on Israel if it does not oblige by the ICJ order to stop the attack on Rafah. 

Is this something that you disagree, agree with?  Do you think there is an isolation now or there’s a rift between you and the Europeans — the whole of EU, because they’re the one who’s want (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll let the Europeans speak to that.  We have no plans for those kinds of sanctions to put in place based on the ICJ ruling, a ruling that we do not — that, obviously, we do not con- — concur with nor do we see that they have jurisdiction. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  So, how can the administration not want to see a major ground operation but not have a measuring stick — you know, your words — to actually measure what is and what isn’t a major (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  No, the question was how many deaths.  It wasn’t a measuring stick about what a major ground operation was.  The specific question was: Well, how many deaths is too many?

As I said, one is too many.  We don’t want to see anymore.  But what Jake was trying to do when he came up here to explain to you what a man- — major ground operation entails: lots of units of tens of thousands of troops or thousands of troops moving in a coordinated set of maneuvers against a wide variety of targets on the ground in a massive way.  That’s a major ground operation.  Pretty simple.

I mean, that — it’s not — it’s not hard to discer- — discern that.  I think it’s very obvious what that is.  And we have not seen them move in that way. 

What — what happened Sunday: tragic.  Very tragic.  It was an airstrike.  It wasn’t the first airstrike that they had conducted in Rafah in recent days or weeks.  Not at all.  But this one had tragic — it had tragic results.  No question about that. 

Nobody was asking me about red lines a week or so ago when there were other airstrikes in Rafah that didn’t cause civilian casualties.  This is — this is an airstrike; it’s not a major ground operation.  It’s different.

Now, again, we’re not taking anything at face value either.  We’re not on the ground.  So, we’re going to watch this really closely.  And we are, as we were since Sunday, staying in touch with our IDF counterparts to make sure we can get the answers to the questions that we have, which are not unlike the ones you have.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Zolan.

Q    I want to circle back to the President’s comments to Erin Burnett earlier this month.  I know you’re saying “major ground operation,” but — but he didn’t say “major ground operation.”  When he was asked to clarify what his red lines were for withholding any sort of — or any U.S. weapons, he said Israel had not yet moved into “population centers” in Rafah.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    Did — does the U.S. currently not consider the strike on Sunday to have hit in a population center?  And how do you define a “population center”?

MR. KIRBY:  The President wasn’t moving the — the stick anywhere.  He was talking about major ground operations in Rafah proper, which is what we’ve been saying all along.  When he was referring to population centers, that’s exactly what he was referring to.

It — as I said in my opening statement, what happened on Sunday shows just how difficult military operations are in a densely populated area.  And, yes, of course, Rafah is a densely populated area. 

Q    It’s like — I guess there is still — I mean, you have the President saying that he doesn’t want, you know, Israel to — to target any population center.  We are seeing — I know you said tanks are moving along the corridor, but we are seeing tanks in Rafah.  We’ve now seen strikes continue to kill civilians, including children.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    Just for, you know, an average American who’s watching their taxpayer dollars go to this, you know, can you explain to them how this isn’t a major opera- — a major military operation?  Or just maybe it would help —

MR. KIRBY:  (Inaudible.)

Q    — to explain what is a “major ground operation” when it —

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, man.  Look — 

Q    — when it comes to the Biden administration?

MR. KIRBY:  I thought I already did that, but I’m happy to do it again. 

First of all, I am not the IDF spokesman, and this is not Tel Aviv.  This is the White House Press Briefing Room.  And I am not, today or any other day, going to take it upon myself to speak to Israeli military operations — the planning, the intent, and the tactics that they’re using.  You should be asking Admiral Hagari that question.  He’s the IDF spokesman, not me. 

What I will tell you is that what we — what we have seen is essentially, so far, what the Israelis said they were going to do.  They were going to close down the crossing to shut off the revenue to Hamas that comes across that crossing, at least for a while, and they were going to go after Hamas terrorists in as precise a way as possible — that they were not going to, quote, unquote, “smash into Rafah” with a lot of ground forces.

As you and I speak here today, that is still the case.  We have not seen them smash into Rafah.  We have not seen them go in with large units, large numbers of troops in columns and formations, in some sort of coordinated maneuver against multiple targets on the ground.  That is a major ground operation.  We have not seen that. 

What we’ve seen is they have targeted tunnels.  They have — they have definitely done airstrikes — this one with tragic results, but not all of them with tragic results. 

And, yes, they are moving some armored vehicles along a corridor on the outskirts of Gaza — along a corridor, by the way, that they told us they were going to use. 

So, everything we’re seeing — and we can’t see everything, but everything that we can see tells us that they are not moving in in a major ground operation in population centers in the center of Rafah. 

But as I also said in my opening statement, we’re going to watch this hour by hour, day by day.  And we will stay in touch with our Israeli defense counterparts about what they’re doing. 

Q    Just walk me — there’s been different numbers out there.  Can you just clarify: Does the U.S. have an accurate number of Palestinians that have fled Rafah and how many displaced Palestinians are still in Rafah?  And for the Palestinians that fled, just where are they?  I mean —

MR. KIRBY:  So, I’ll —

Q    — there’s no safe place to go.  So —

MR. KIRBY:  So, I’ll — let me go back and we’ll get you some better numbers — the best — the best I can.  Most of the numbers that we’re getting though — again, we’re not on the — we’re not on the ground counting noses.  So, we have to rely on other sources, whether it’s international organizations or the IDF. 

Roughly speaking, more than a million of the million and a half people that were seeking refuge — we estimate more than a million — have fled Rafah. 

Now, again, to Nadia’s question, where did they go?  I can’t tell you every — every tent compound they went to and who’s running that.  I just can’t do it.  But there are several hundred thousand that we still believe are in Rafah. 

However, I will take the question and we’ll see if we can get a better sense of the numbers for you.

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

Q    Thank you —

Q    Thanks, John.  You —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — yeah, go ahead.

Q    I just wanted to clarify an earlier answer where you were asked by someone in the front row about a condemnation of what happened in Rafah.  My transcription of what you said is, “We have been, I think, very strident in our condemnation about the deaths of innocent civilians.  These deaths are not excluded from that.”  So, you do condemn what happened in Rafah?

MR. KIRBY:  We certainly condemn the — the loss of life here, but there is an investigation going on.  And we want to make sure that the Israelis have a chance to do that in a fair, transparent, and credible way. 

Look, there —

Q    They’re — they’re —

MR. KIRBY:  Look — I know what you — look, I know what you want me to say, and I get it.  There should be no civilians killed.  I’m not going to stand up here and make an excuse for any single individual civilian being killed.  There’s no excuse for it.  It should not happen. 

Now, it does happen in war.  It happens sometimes deliberately.  It — sometimes it happens by a tragic mistake.  We will find out soon what was the case here on Sunday, and then we’ll go from there. 

But the —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  — but no civilian casualty should be acceptable. 

Q    And what is the administration going to do, whether it was a tragic mistake or deliberate in Rafah?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, let’s see what the investigation says.

Q    So, you’re going to wait for the Israelis to investigate themselves?

MR. KIRBY:  Let’s see what the investigation comes up with.  If we had done this, I think we would want the benefit of having the opportunity to investigate it and to figure out what happened.

Q    But it’s not the same thing.  We’re giving them billions of dollars in weapons. 

MR. KIRBY:  We’re giving them the kinds of capabilities they need to defend themselves. 

Maybe some people have forgotten what happened on the 7th of October, but we haven’t.  Twelve hundred Israelis inn- — innocent Israelis slaughtered, mutilated, raped, tortured.  And they’re living right next to that kind of threat.  Still a viable threat in Rafah, by the way. 

If you think Hamas is just gone, they’re not gone from Rafah or from Gaza.  And if you think they’ve abandoned their genocidal intent towards the nation of Israel, think again.  They haven’t. 

So, Israel has every right to not want to live next to that kind of threat.  And, yes, we’re going to continue to provide them the capabilities to go after it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Admiral, the administration has been leaning heavily in recent months into the IDF’s assessments — investigations into — into these attacks.  But on at least two occasions last fall, the U.S. conducted its own investigations into a strike on a hospital or at least gathered its own intelligence to support the claims that the Israelis were making.  Why isn’t the U.S. conducting its own investigations anymore or gathering its own intel?

MR. KIRBY:  We didn’t conduct our own investigations.  We had some intelligence assessments that we felt comfortable with, like the Al-Shifa Hospital many months ago, that we could — that — that gave us a sense of our own — our own individual assessment of what happened.  Our intelligence community was able to give us that level of knowledge and — and awareness. 

But it’s —

Q    So, is that simply —

MR. KIRBY:  — it’s case by case.

Q    — not possible now?

MR. KIRBY:  Sometimes it is; sometimes it’s not.  I don’t know in the case of this.  This just happened two days ago.  So, I don’t know what we know about this that would give us some sort of independently verifiable context about what happened. 

We aren’t on the ground.  We aren’t flying the aircraft.  We’re not choosing the targets.  We’re not providing the intelligence that leads to every target that the — the Israelis decided to hit. 

It is their operation, their troops involved, their capabilities, their pilots.  They have the obligation to investigate this themselves, and they’ll do that.  And we will take a look at it and then see what it says.

If we have some means independently of being able to verify some — some parts of the information ourselves, then I’m sure our intelligence community will — will do what they can to put that together for us.  But it’s not — you shouldn’t expect that in every operation on any given day in Gaza that we’re going to be able to just independently triangulate every single event and — and determine for ourselves what happened. 

Q    And you’ve described at length what a major ground operation, in the administration’s eyes, would look like.  But for many months, there have been discussions behind the scenes about what the U.S. would like to see in terms of alternatives to that major ground operation.  Were these strikes part of those alternatives? 

MR. KIRBY:  Some of the alternatives — I — I can’t speak, again, to these particular strikes.  What these Israelis have said was that they were going after Hamas operatives, and they have said that they killed Hamas operatives in a Hamas compound. 

Hamas itself put out a statement celebrating the martyrdom of two of their fighters in the strike on Sunday.  So, I don’t know how anybody could dispute that they weren’t trying to go after Hamas in a targeted, precise way in this regard.  As a matter of fact —

Q    But why wasn’t that area —

MR. KIRBY:  Wait, wait, wait.  Just a second.  As a matter of fact, the Israelis have said they used 37-pound bombs, precision-guided munitions.  A 37-pound bomb is not a big bomb, and it is exactly the kind of munition — if, in fact, that’s what they used — I’m not verifying it; just saying that’s what they said — if it is, in fact, what they used, it is certainly indicative of an effort to be discreet and targeted and precise. 

Now, obviously, this had tragic results.  And obviously, that needs to be investigated, and we need to know why.  Even using small mi- — small-diameter precision-guided munitions, this was able to happen.

But we’ll have to let the Israelis get to the bottom of that.

Q    So, why not evacuate the area where the strike took place, if it was — if it was intended to be precise? 

MR. KIRBY:  Again, you’re asking me for information about their targeting and decisions that I can’t answer.  All I can do is point you to what they have said, which was they were going after a Hamas compound and that it’s — as a result of that strike, in some form or fashion, they say there were some secondary explosions that led to this fire, that led to these deaths. 

I — I can’t — I just physically can’t connect those dots for you since we weren’t involved in that operation. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead —

MR. KIRBY:  It’s important to let them investigate it. 

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

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I have questions on different topics.  But one quick follow-up on Rafah.  Is there a feeling here at the White House that Prime Ministers Netanyahu’s policies put President Biden in more and more difficult position?  And you also.

MR. KIRBY:  Me? 

Q    Yeah.  (Laughter.) 

MR. KIRBY:  I’m perfectly comfortable.  I’m fine.  Thank you. 

No, I mean, the President takes the weight of these decisions very seriously.  He takes his obligation to Israel very seriously and the responsibility that the United States has to help Israel defend itself against a truly genocidal threat.  You want to talk about — you want to throw that word “genocide” around, then read the Hamas manifesto.  That’s there. 

He also takes very seriously our obligations to make sure that innocent Palestinians don’t suffer any more from a war they didn’t start, and they’re not responsible for this.  Mr. Sinwar started this war.  And no other nation, no other leader is doing more than President Biden is to get humanitarian assistance in, to try to get a hostage deal in place, to — to try to find a way to end the conflict.  President Biden is leading on all those scores. 

So, this is — these are — these are tough decisions.  It’s a tough issue.  And — and he’s doing the best he can to act and lead according to his principles. 

Q    On a different topic.  A question about suspected Russian sabotage operation — sabotage operations in Europe, including arsons.  Just yesterday, in response to those activities, Poland restricted movements of Russian diplomats in Poland.  So, what’s going on there?  And what’s your reaction?  And the — are you tracking any similar activities — Russian activities here in the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  You talking about, like, election interference, sabotage, that kind of thing?

Q    Yeah, sabo- — yeah, those — those (inaudible).

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, we’re watching this with great concern.  I wish I could say that it wasn’t part of the Russian playbook, but it is.  And you don’t have to look in — too far in the distant past to see that. 

So, we’re working hard with our European counterparts to do everything we can to build resilience not just for ourselves here at home but for them overseas. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Can I ask a question about the talks the President had with the President of Mexico a month ago?  They committed to new actions on the border.  I’m wondering if you’ve seen an impact with that and whether you expect the election and the — you know, trans- — ultimate transition period to have any impact on that.  In other words, a month ago, they pledged immediate action to —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — to — to crack down on the border.  Have you seen anything from that?

MR. KIRBY:  We have.  We have — we have seen —

Q    Can you talk about that?

MR. KIRBY:  We have — I owe you a better answer.  I admittedly don’t have the data in front of me.  But we have seen decreases of the numbers of people at the — arriving at the border.  The Mexicans have stepped up to — to stem the flow along some of those routes, particularly rail and road routes.  And they have also done quite a bit to work with us on cracking down on these — on these criminal gangs that are — that are actually leading these efforts.  

So, I’ll get you a better answer.  But, yes, we have seen a difference.

Q    Do you expect that policy to continue past the election that’s upcoming here on Sunday?

MR. KIRBY:  We have every hope and expectation that it will.  I mean, I’ll let the Mexican people speak to their democracy and — and how and who they want to — to govern them.  But we have — I’ll just put it this way: We certainly have no expectation that Mexic cooperat- — Mexican cooperation and support is going to diminish.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve got to start wrapping up.  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you so much, John.  Russia’s Foreign Minister has said that they’re considering removing the Taliban from the list of banned organizations, which raises the possibility of Moscow recognizing the Taliban as legitimate.  How does the U.S. feel about this move?  And what message could it send to American rivals, such as Iran or China?

MR. KIRBY:  I think it sends a horrible message.  The Taliban have not met any of the commitments they said they were going to meet when they took over.  And that — not just the way they’re treating women and girls — the way they’re managing their own economy, the way they’re taking care of their own people. 

And we are in no position nor will we be to recognize the Taliban as the official governance of Afghanistan.  And for Russia to do so, I — I do believe — we believe that that would send a bad message to others.

Q    Will there be consequences?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I don’t want to get into hypotheticals at this point.  But it’s an ill-advised course of action.

Q    And then China, today, urged Israel to comply with the ICJ ruling.  They’re, of course, a fellow member of the Security Council.  This can be overturned by the Supreme Council.  But how does the U.S. feel about China taking this step of basically —

MR. KIRBY:  Not —

Q    — (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  Not surprised.  Not surprised.  Not going to change our approach.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Toluse, go ahead.

Q    Thank — thank you so much.  One question on Rafah, just sort of following up on some of the previous questions.

MR. KIRBY:  Sure.

Q    You’ve been very consistent today talking about a “major —

MR. KIRBY:  I try to be.

Q    — ground operation.”  In the past, you and other administration officials have used the term “major ground operation,” but you’ve also used the term “major military operation.”  I’m wondering if what is happening in Rafah right now would be considered a major military operation, which the White House said it opposed previously?

MR. KIRBY:  We do not consider this a major military or a major ground operation at this point.  But, again, we’re watching it very closely.

Q    Would additional airstrikes constitute a major military operation (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  It would have — it would have to depend on what the size and scale and scope that we — what we’ve seen so far.  And, again, this one had tragic consequences, but it was in the use of munitions that they said they used and in the targets they were going after, not unlike and not out of character of the other airstrikes they have participated in in Rafah in recent days and — and weeks. 

So, it wasn’t out of that scope.  Obviously, it had different outcome — a different outcome here, which is incredibly tragic.  But it wasn’t of a different sort or a different character than what we’ve seen them do.

Q    And then a separate question.  There was a readout of the call between President Biden and President Sisi on Friday.  The call said that there would be a major delegation going to talk about opening up the Rafah crossing.  Can you give us a sense of who’s in the delegation, when they’re going to be going over to (inaudible) going to be happening this week, and what the agenda might be for that?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll take the question.  We’ll get it back to you.  I don’t have that for you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Jared, go ahead.

Q    Can you say whether or not in the — the setbacks of the temporary pier, are — is the U.S. going to increase airdrops for aid?  Is there a way, a mechanism to kind of make up for — for what’s not getting into Gaza because of the pier being out of service?

MR. KIRBY:  You’d have to ask the Pentagon.  I’m not aware that there’s going to be t- — any increase in airdrops to supplement the problems that we’ve had with weather on the temporary pier.  But the Pentagon would know more than I would.

Q    Just more broadly, does the President still believe that the temporary pier is a viable platform to get aid into Gaza, given —  

MR. KIRBY:  Absolutely.  As a supplement — okay?  It was never intended to supplant what you can do on the ground through trucks and getting those crossings open.  We said that from the get go.  We also said it’s going to be tough.  It’s been tough. 

Weather plays a role.  I mean, Mother Nature has a say here, and the Eastern Med, even in the summertime, can be a pretty rough place.  And that’s what’s happening right now. 

But can it be a force multiplier?  Can it add to?  Absolutely.  And I think they’ve so far gotten more than a thousand metric tons in just off the temporary pier alone, which, you know what, considering the weather, considering the complexity of doing it that way, the multi-node stop you have to do to move from — from ship to pier to truck to ground — I mean, considering all that, that’s still an impress- — an impressive record so far.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  ABC in the back, go ahead.  You, sir.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  John, what would the consequence be if there were an American strike on a legitimate terrorist target that ended resulting with 45 civilian deaths and some 200 others injured?  What would that look like, as an American response?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t answer a hypothetical like that.  But we have — we have taken — we have conducted airstrikes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where tragically we caused civilian casualties.  We did the same thing.  We owned up to it, we investigated it, and we tried to make changes to the way — we tried to learn from it to make changes so that that — those set of mistakes wouldn’t happen again, including as we pulled out of Afghanistan, where we did take a trag- — we conducted an airstrike which tragically killed a father and some of his kids. 

We atone for it, we learn from it, and we put in place procedures to try to prevent that from happening again.  And that’s what our expectations would be in this case.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Karen, you’ve got last —

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, okay.  Sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — question.

Q    Thanks.  Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy had recently said that the ability to use Western-provided weapons to strike military targets inside Russia is essential for their success.  He says he’s appealed to senior U.S. officials to allow Ukraine to do this.  Is the President considering this request?  And, if yes, what is he looking at right now?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re aware of the interest that President Zelenskyy has expressed in this regard.  I would tell you that there’s no change to our policy at this point.  We don’t encourage or enable the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to strike inside Russia.

I would note that the — that the — the Ukrainians have in the past defeated imminent air attacks, such as some of the ones that have occurred in the last few days, on their own since the war began.  And we will continue to talk to them nearly every day about what they need.  And I think I’d leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you.

Q    Could you just — could you take one more, Admiral? 

Q    Just a few more. 

Q    Would you take a few more, please?

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, guys.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Admiral.  Appreciate it. 

Okay.  Go ahead, Aamer.

Q    I just had a couple of scheduling questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    You mentioned the FEMA Administrator is —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — going to Arkansas.  How about the President?  Will he be visiting any of these states that are impacted?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I don’t have anything to preview on the President’s schedule at this time.  Obviously, you heard me lay out what FEMA has been able to do and how we are there for these — the states that have been affect — impacted by this horr- — horrible storm. 

FEMA is on the ground.  They’re assessing what’s needed.  The President called the governors just yesterday; we read that out.  And obviously, we are here to assist on the federal government side and are ready — ready to help.  And I think it’s important that the FEMA Administrator will be on the ground in Arkansas.

I — I don’t have anything on the President’s schedule to share.

Q    And the — the former President’s trial is coming to an end and there should be a verdict maybe in a matter of days.  Will the President be commenting, delivering any sort of remarks on the verdict?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be super mindful here, as I always am when it comes to especially this.  It’s an ongoing case.  And also, as you all know, obviously, the former President is a presidential candidate.  I’m just not going to comment on that.  I’m not going to speak to — to an ongoing case and to someone who is a candidate for 2024.

Q    And then, finally —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — just on the ICC.  You mentioned that — John had said that the — that the President would not support sanctions.  Has there been a change of heart in the administration?  Because Secretary Blinken said last week at a hearing that he was committed to taking action against the profoundly wrongheaded decision.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, yeah, I — look, I was aware of — I watched, obviously the Secretary’s hearing.  I think, look, as it relates to legislation, as it relates to specific sanctioning, that particular question — this is not something that the administration is going to support.  And we’ve been also very clear that we — the President — and I’ll reiterate what the President said. 

He said this just last week right before an event that was happening right in the Rose Garden: that we fundamentally reject the ICC’s prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders and sanctions on the ICC, however we do not believe it is an effective or an appropriate path forward — appropriate tool to address what our concerns — the United States’ concerns are on the ICC. 

So, we’re going to work — work with Congress on other options — we’re talking about specifically, obviously, sanctions — but on other options to address the overreach that we see by the ICC to apply for warrants against Israel — Israel officials.  So, we’re going to have that conversation, continue to have that conversation with Congress. 

But when it comes to sanctioning the ICC, that is something that we do not support. 

Q    What are the other options?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to have those conversations.  I’m not going to — I’m not going to preview those conversations for you.  But Congress — obviously, we’re going to work with Congress on this. 

Q    Do you have any update on the President’s meeting today with Governor Moore and other officials on the rebuilding of the Key Bridge?  Any updates on estimate of cost or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ll have more to share later today.  I don’t have anything for you at this time.

As you just stated, Governor Moore is here and will have a — a moment with the President.  I just don’t have anything specific on — at this time. 

But I would say, more broadly, as you know, when the bridge collapsed, we were — we were certainly engaged with the governor and local offic- — officials within hours trying to assess and be there for the people of Baltimore, for the people of Maryland more broadly, on what we can do to get things moving and get that bridge going. 

As you know, the — Secretary Buttigieg was here.  And right before he came out here that time, he announced tens of millions of dollars that we were providing, you know, in emergency funds to get that going. 

We will have more to share, and we want to do everything that we can to get the bridge up, to get things moving, obviously, in that area.  And it is important that we get that done for the people of Baltimore and for folks in Maryland.  But I just don’t have anything — specifics to share at this time, but we certainly will have more. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The NATO Secretary-General said late last week that he thinks Ukraine’s allies, including the United States, should consider lifting restrictions on using weapons on targets inside of Russia.  I just heard what Kirby said about that general issue, but is there —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — a reason why the President’s view is different from that of the NATO Secretary-General and the President of Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I mean, we’ve been very clear.  You heard from John Kirby.  You’ve heard from our National Security Advisor our — on our position on using that militar- — military assistance inside of — that’s something — not something we want to see or something we would obviously recommend doing. 

But we also believe it is important that Ukraine has everything that it needs to defend itself, which is why the national security supplemental that was passed was incredibly important for the brave people of Ukraine to continue to defend their democracy.  We want to see that continue.  And we are very appreciative of NATO and our NATO Allies and the more than 50 countries that this President has been able to bring together and support Ukraine in — in their — in their fight for their own sovereign territory. 

I just don’t have anything beyond that.  We do not want — obviously, we do not want this — this to escalate in any form.  But we do believe that Ukraine needs to have everything that they need to defend themselves, and that’s been our position.  I don’t have to — anything to share beyond what you’ve heard from this podium.

Q    And one more.  President Zelenskyy said today that if President Biden misses this peace summit that’s being organized in Switzerland, it would be like a “standing ovation” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.  I know you haven’t announced anything there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Is the President going to that?  And does he agree with Zelenskyy’s assessment of what his absence would mean?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a couple of things I would say there.  And as — and you know this.  We have actively participated in each of the — of the previous Ukraine peace summit.  That is something that this U.S. — the U.S. government has been obviously engaged.  And we will continue to be represented on — in the summit, including the upcoming one, although I don’t —

Q    By the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I don’t have anything to share with you today on anything specific, but we’ve had active participation.  That is something that we have been engaged in, as it relates to the summit. 

It’s important we continue to support Ukraine’s effort.  You just heard me lay out why we believe it’s important to continue to — to make sure they have all the capabilities that they need to defend themself but also to secure a just and lasting peace.  But we also must make sure that they have what they need to defend themselves, as I’ve said multiple times already.

And you saw what’s happened in Kharkiv this weekend.  Certainly, that is no- — important to note: Two dozen people were killed.  And — and it was just horrific.  And so, this is why we ne- — continue to offer that assistance. 

We’re surging assistance.  On Friday, we just announced another package to Ukraine.  That’s how quickly we’re trying to get that assistance out there.  And this war — and we all know this, and we heard Jake say this, you heard the Admiral say this: This war could end tomorrow if Putin would just end the war, end his aggression against the people of Ukraine. 

And so, that’s how we see it.  I’m glad that — we are all glad that Congress passed the President’s national security supplemental.  And we’re going to continue to do everything that we can to — to get that assistance out there. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  This is your only scheduled televised briefing this week, right? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, are you disappointed?

Q    Yes.  (Laughter.)  Should we —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m sorry about that. 

Q    When might we get a briefing, then, on the trip next week?  Do you know?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t — I have to take a look at next week.  I do not — off the top of my head, I don’t know what next week looks like.  But —

Q    France.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — obviously — oh, no, I know — (laughter) — France, D-Day — but I’m just talking about the beginning of the week before we head out to France for D-Day anniversary, im- — critical, important anniversary. 

Obviously, we will continue our drumbeat of having someone from NSC here ahead of the trip to — to take some of your questions. 

But you are correct.  This is the only televised briefing of the week. 

Q    Given that, and given something that’s scheduled to begin on Monday, I’m curious, how does the President plan to monitor the federal trial of his son, which is set to begin on Monday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — I don’t have any — obviously, anything specific to share about that.  I’m always very mindful on speaking to that. 

I will say what I have said many times before: The President and the First Lady, they love their son.  They are proud of how their son has been able to get back on his feet and continue his progress, and they will continue to support him.  Outside of that, I don’t have anything to share.

Q    You don’t know if he’s planning to try to attend in person at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any — I don’t have anything to share.  As you just stated, next week is also incredibly important foreign policy travel, where we are going to, obviously, be in France for the anniversary of D-Day.  So, the President looks forward to doing that, to being in France.  Obviously, the First Lady will be going as well as there’s a state dinner component, as you — as you know, in France. 

But I’m just — don’t have anything to share beyond — beyond what I’m just laying out for you right now. 

Go ahead.

Q    As Ed mentioned, there’s quite a bit of travel scheduled for the remainder of the week.  Is there a plan in place for aides to update the President on the outcome of his predecessor’s criminal trial?  Is he going to be watching any of the coverage of it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President is f- — I mean — I mean, this is truly — the President is focused on what’s in front of him right now, which is dealing with — you know, dealing with what’s important for the American people, whether it’s national security efforts or domestic policy.  And that’s the President’s focus. 

I don’t have anything to read out on the President’s plan on watching a trial.  That is just not something that he’s focused on.  He’s focused on the American people.  And that’s what —

Q    Should we expect him to respond?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — he’s been focused on three — look, I’m not going to speak to a presidential candidate.  Obviously, the former President is a candidate for — in 2024.  I do not speak on trials.  It’s not something that I do from here — an ongoing trial, ongoing proceedings, legal proceedings.  I just don’t — I don’t have a comment on that at this time. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Are you guys here at the White House in full-blown freakout mode?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What are you talking about? 

Q    There’s a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What are you talking about —

Q    There’s a Politico story —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — Peter? 

Q    It sounds like Democrats outside — the quote is, “Biden’s stubbornly — stubbornly poor polling and the stakes of the election ‘are creating the freakout.’” 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, I’m going to be mindful.  I’m not going to comment on 2024 election. 

I will say this.  The President has never forgotten where he comes — where he came from, who he is.  He understands what the American people are going through as they’re sitting around the kitchen table.  You ta- — you hear the President talk about his time growing up where he watched his family having to sit around the kitchen table making incredibly difficult decision. 

And the President has always said he’s going to fight for communities that have been forgotten.  And you see that in the policies — economic policies that he’s put forward.  He’s going to continue to fight for the middle class.  He’s going to continue to fight in every way that he can. 

You heard me at the beginning talk about junk fees.  Incredibly import- — and he’s going to continue to fight and to make sure, you know, that corporation greed doesn’t continue to take hold.  He is — that is something that he’s been very clear about, while Republicans are doing the opposite.  They put out a policy where they want to give a big tax break to the wealthiest among us — billionaires and — and corporation.  That’s not what the President wants to do. 

Q    On another topic.  Why did President Biden have a private meeting with a witness who plans to testify in court against his son? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Can you say more?

Q    Hallie Biden is a key government witness who allegedly disposed of a gun that Hunter is accused of buying illegally.  President Biden —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — was at her house this week. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think the American people should also be told the full breadth of this, not just a part of this question here. 

As you all know, the President actually spoke to this yesterday during his Memorial — I think, impactful, powerful Memorial Day address where he talked about — he talked about the passing — the anniversary — the ninth anniversary of the passing of his son.  And he visited her as that anniversary is approaching.  He visited her days before the anniversary of the passing of his son.

And she is family.  She was married, obviously, to his late son.  And I think that is something also to mention, as you’re asking your question to me.

Q    So — so, they did not talk about her testimony? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This was not about that.  This was about, literally, the ninth anniversary of the passing of his son —

Q    One more. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — that is upcoming in days, Peter.

Q    We learned today there’s going to be a book coming out this summer by Lunden Roberts.  According to the press release, the book is about protecting the long-unacknowledged grandchild of the sitting President of the United States.  Do you know if President Biden has met that grandchild yet?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share. 

Go ahead, Marek.

Q    Thank — thank you.  On Georgia.  Today, the ruling party in Georgia overruled President Zourabichvili’s veto to so-called foreign influence act — foreign influence bill.  What’s your reaction to d- — to this?  And what’s —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — what’s the President — what President Biden’s message to Georgians who want to be aligned with the West, not with Russia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we talked about this a little bit last week when we saw the protesters — thousands of Georgians protesting.  And so, I will say this.  We are disappointed to see the Georgian Parliament override the Georgian President’s veto of the antidemocratic foreign agents bill.  Although the — the vote was — was not unexpected, as I just mentioned, we’ve all seen the tens of thousands Georgian protesting this bill just last week, which are some of the largest protests in Georgia’s history.  And we know that many Georgians made their opposition very clear — very clear. 

This legislation will require civil society organizations to register as agents of foreign government simply for accepting 20 percent of their funding from aboard [abroad].  Civil society organizations play a vital role in preserving democracies, and creating this burden undermines their ability to do so. 

Stifling cilver [civil] society is what authoritarian governments do.  And — and it is a tool to quell dissent and silent tactics.  It is not what democracies do. 

So, we are disappointed to see what has occurred. 

Q    Are there any sanctions coming?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything — anything to — to speak to on that at this time.  I would refer you — obviously, the State Department just last week made some announcements, so I would refer you to the State Department. 

Go ahead, sir. 

Q    Two questions.  So, one, do you have any updates on the missionaries who were killed in Haiti?  You know, whether or not their — we’ll be able to get their bodies back to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a great question.  I don’t have any updates for you at this time.  I’m — I’m happy to go back to the team and get some answers. 

Q    And then, obviously, the Chiefs are coming on Friday.  Their last celebration was —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — disrupted by a shooting.  Does the President plan on using this moment to talk about gun violence, particularly since we haven’t seen any kind of legislative movement either at the federal level or even at the state level?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I mean, look, let’s take a full look of what we —

Q    Since the shooting.  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, since the shooting.  Okay, I —

Q    Legislative movement since the shooting. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m glad you made that point, because this President has taken more executive actions than any modern-day president — more than two dozen executive action on gun violence, on trying to prevent this epidemic that we see across our country. 

As you know, there was a bipartisan bill that was passed about two years ago now — or going to be two years ago.  And so, the President has been incredibly active on this. 

And since the shooting, he — he did create an Office of — of Gun Violence Prevention, which is the first his- — historic office to — to happen, and obviously the Vice President is the head of that. 

But it has taken on the different executive actions that we have been able to get through; also, components of the — of the law that was passed in a bipartisan way to move that — to move some of those actions forward a lot quicker and offer, obviously, assistance on the ground. 

And so, look, the President takes every moment that he can, when there’s an opportunity to — to speak on gun violence prevention and to call on Congress to take more action. 

I’m not going to get ahead of — of the event, as you just stated, with the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday.  So, we will certainly have more to share as we get closer to that day. 

Q    And do you know if Taylor Swift might be coming?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ah, that’s a good question.  I think — I think the Swifties behind these double doors are hoping that — (laughter) — that Taylor Swift makes an ex- — appearance.  I don’t have anything for you. 

Q    So, you’re not ruling it out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughter.)  I don’t know.  I can’t speak to her schedule.  But I know there’s a lot of interest in this building, on this campus. 

Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Can you give us the President’s latest thinking on the border EO and what actions he plans to take?  You’ve taken smaller, targeted actions in the past few weeks. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    How’s it looking?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you’re right.  The President has taken some actions not just the past two weeks, but over the last three years to deal with what we’re seeing at the border: a decade — decades-long issue with a broken system at the border. 

As you know, just last week, the — that legislation, that bipartisan legislation that we believed, if the President had an opportunity to sign — sign that legislation, would have been the toughest, the fairest piece of legislation that we have seen to deal with the border in some time.  And so, it failed because Republicans, by their own admission, are putting electoral politics ahead of the American people. 

And there were things in that legislation that would have made a difference.  And so, it is unfortunate that that happened.  And you saw from the President’s statement, “Congressional Republicans do not care about securing the border or fixing America’s broken immigration system.  If they did, they would have voted for the toughest border enforcement in history.”  That comes directly from the President in a statement.

We will continue — to your question, we will continue to evaluate all options at hand and looking at what we can do within our authorities, within the President’s authorities.  Don’t have anything to announce at this time. 

But it is unfortunate that Republicans who came to the table, who wanted to work out and deal with an issue — a challenging issue, the border — they voted against their own policies, their own interests, and put electoral pol- — politics first.  And that is unfortunate. 

Q    Are you of the mind, though, that an EO — like, one sort of big move is the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to look at —

Q    — option, or a more piecemeal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Like — like we continue to do and we have done — and you just mentioned, just recently, we’ve taken some actions.  We are going to look at all of our options and try to figure out what is the right thing to do on behalf of the American people.  That is something that the President has been consistent on and will continue to do. 

Go ahead, Gerren.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A recent Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll found an increased number of Americans in battleground states trust the Vice President to fulfill the duties of the presidency.  I know you can’t comment on election-related topics, but this — this poll does suggest that the VP’s travels to battleground states have been resonating with Americans.  Given that increased trust in her leadership, what is the White House’s view of the Vice President’s travels to battleground states?  Particularly her Economic Opportunity Tour, where she’s been selling the administration’s policies to Black and brown communities, in particular — does the White House believe that they have been effective on the ground?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m just going to be really mindful.   As you just stated in your question to me, you’re talking about battleground states.  Obviously, that’s part of the 2024 election.  I’m not going to speak to that. 

What I will say more broadly — and you hear us say this many times; you’ve heard the President say this many times — he sees the Vice President as a partner, and he feels that she’s been effective in the work that she has done as a team.  This is the Biden-Harris administration, and she is out there speaking directly to the American people. 

And we know when we leave here — leave the bubble of Washington, D.C., it matters.  When we go directly to the American people, it matters.  When we share with them what we have done these last three and a half years, our accomplishments, or listen to them or hear how they’re feeling about the economy, how they’re feeling about their healthcare, it matters.  It resonates.  And that’s why the President himself enjoys being out there and talking directly to the American people. 

She’s a partner.  He believes she’s effective.  She be- — he believes that, you know, he — he — when he — when he talks about policy, when he gets things done on the American people, he’s doing that in partnership with the Vice President.

As it relates to how voters are feeling, battleground states, I just can’t speak to that from here.  And I —

Q    Just one other question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — know you understand that. 

Q    Legal experts say that the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that blocked a second Black-majority district in South Carolina can make it harder for — to prove claims of racial gerrymandering.  It will have long-lasting implications for Black voters.  While the President, in his statement last week reacting to this ruling, called for the passing of the John Lewis Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, given the makeup of this court and other controversial rul- — rulings that this President has condemned, does the President have faith in this Court?  Does he have faith in the Court, and would he consider publicly supporting what some Democrats are calling for, which is reform of the Supreme Court, whether that be expansion of membership or term limits?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I don’t have any announcement to make at this time on your question about reform.  But you — I think I made this announcement last week about what the President has worked very hard to do in partnership with the Senate — is making sure that we nominate extraordinarily qualified men and women and — who are dedicated to the Constitution and who represent — right? — we’re talking about representation of a di- — the diversity of this country, the diversity of America.  And that’s a commitment that he’s made. 

And just last week, we were able to announce the 200th judicial con- — confirmation, and I was able to do that.  And that’s because the President and his work and what he has been able to do, again, with partnership of the Senate.

It is a monu- — it was monumental news, a monumental moment.  And — and that is for the rule of law for the American people.  We’re talking about over 60 percent are women, and over 60 percent are people of color.  And so, we have more work to do.  And we’ll remain, you know, very steadfast on getting that work done.  But as far as court reform, making any announcement, I just don’t have anything for you. 

AIDE:  Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  I know I have to wrap up.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  The New York Times reported over the last few weeks that a fla- — that two different flags associated with the January 6th attacks on the Capitol flew outside Justice Alito’s home — two different homes.  The President — does the President believes that Justice Alito should recuse himself from any cases related to January 6th or otherwise take any ethical actions related to this reporting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as it relates to any ethical actions, that’s for the courts to — they have to deal with that.  And so, any recusals, that’s subject to the Supreme Court.  That is something for them to decide. 

And as it relates to any investigations, that’s something for Congress to decide.  And so, that is something that they need to focus on. 

We have said, and I have said from here, and this is something that the President believes: When it comes to the American flag, it should be held and — and be treated sacred — in a sacred way.  We just honored Mem- — we just honored, you know, veterans who obviously lost their lives.  Memorial Day was just yesterday. 

And so, we need to properly respect and honor those brave men and women and — who defended — who have defended our — our country for generations.  And so, it should be — American flag is — it should be held sacred.  And that is our view.

Anything else, obviously, that is for the court or Congress to decide. 

I have to go, guys. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, everybody. 

4:26 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby appeared first on The White House.

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

Wed, 05/22/2024 - 17:07

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:21 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  Good afternoon, everyone.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay, I have a couple things at the top, and then I’ll hand it over to our guest.

Today, we announced that the Biden-Harris administration canceled student debt for an additional 160,000 people, meaning 4.75 million Americans have now benefitted from our debt relief actions, receiving on average $35,000 in debt relief each.

One of those individuals is Tiffany from Oregon.  She is the youngest of four children and was raised by a single mom.  Tiffany had been repaying her loans since 1994.  But thanks to President Biden’s leadership, her debt was canceled and she is now excited about what her future holds. 

The President will never stop working to provide some more breathing room for Americans like Tiffany, no matter how many times Republican elected officials try to stop him.

As you know, one of the biggest priority of the President is nominating and confirming extraordinarily qualified men and women who are dedicated to our Constitution and who represent the diversity of America.

Thanks to his hard work and our partnership with the Senate, we are at 200 judicial confirmations, which is monumental news for the rule of law and the American people.

These highly qualified individuals have diverse professional backgrounds.  They are labor — labor lawyers, civil rights lawyers, public defenders, served in the U.S. military, and much more.  Over 60 percent of our nominees are women, and over 60 percent are people of color.  They include Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

We’ve confirmed more Hispanic judges to circuits — circuit courts than any previous administration.  We’ve confirmed more Black women to circuit courts than all — than all previous presidents combined.

And let’s remember these judges will rule on issues critical to fundamental freedoms: reproductive healthcare, the freedom to cast ballots, whether workers have the freedom to unionize, whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water. 

And while these milestones is great news, we know there is more work to be done.

Next, we are praying for those who tragically lost their lives as deadly tornadoes that — ripped through Iowa.  We are also wishing a speedy recovery to those who were injured. 

The administration is deeply grateful for first responders who jumped into action to save lives. 

We are in touch with state and local officials and stand ready to offer support. 

Tomorrow, the FEMA Administrator will travel to Iowa to meet with local officials and affected residents and survey the damage.

In the meantime, residents in affected areas should remain vigilant and heed the advice of state and local officials.

And finally, tomorrow, as you all know, Senate Republicans will have another opportunity to decide whether they want to support the toughest, fairest border security agreement in decades or continue putting their partisan political interests ahead of the nation’s security. 

Let’s not forget: After months of negotiations, we reached a bipartisan agreement that would have delivered the — the significant policy changes, resources, and personnel needed to secure our border and make our country safer.

That included thousands of additional Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection personnel; technology to catch fentanyl and personnel — and personnel to go after drug traffickers; asylum officers and immigration judges to improve the processing of asylum cases so they are resolved in a few months and not years; a temporary emergency authority to shut down the border when the system is overwhelmed; and access to lawful immigration pathways while expediting access to work authorization for those who are eligible.

The President is clear about where he stands.  He believes we are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. 

We can expand lawful immigration pathways, and we can ensure our border is secure and that those who do not have a legal basis to remain are removed. 

Time and time again, the American people have shown that they do not want mass raids, family separation, or kids in cages.  They want a secure border and lawful immigration opportunities for those seeking to come to America to enrich our country.  

That is why President Biden is pushing for and that is what this bipartisan agreement would move us towards. 

It’s now up to Republicans in Congress.  Do you actually want to do something to solve the problem or would you rather use it as a political issue? 

With that, I will hand it over to Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, who would give us an update on the visit tomorrow with the Kenyan president (inaudible).

Q    Do you remember what you wanted to say, Jake? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not sure what that was in reference to — (laughter) — but good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you. 

The President and First Lady will welcome President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto to the White House for a state visit and dinner tomorrow.  The official program will actually begin later today with President Biden and President Ruto sharing some informal private time together and then participating together in a technology and investment roundtable with U.S. and Kenyan CEOs and other business leaders in the East Room.

President Biden is really looking forward to celebrating and deepening our 60-year-old friendship with Kenya as it grows from a regional partnership to a global one.

This is the first state visit by an African head of state in nearly 20 years.  It is long overdue.  And it’s emblematic of the priority that President Biden has placed on our commitment to the people of Africa and to elevating their voices in global governance and global problem-solving.

In December of 2022, the President hosted leaders from across the African continent for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., where, in fact, he first met President Ruto.

President Biden called for the African Union to be able join the G20 as a permanent member.  And in September of last year, the G20, in fact, welcomed the African Union as a permanent member.

We’ve also had a historic number of senior U.S. government leaders travel to the continent.  Since 2022, 24 senior officials have travelled to Africa, including the Vice President, the First Lady, and seven members of the President’s Cabinet.

Now, as one of our closest strategic partners in Africa, Kenya has worked side by side with the United States to tackle some of the most significant challenges of our time.  And over the next few days, you’ll see President Biden and President Ruto commit to deepening our partnership on critical and emerging technologies, on improving health, on fighting climate change, on supporting civil society, on enhancing peace and security, and, of course, on enriching the people-to-people ties between the United States and Kenya.

Their statements and their substantive announcements will showcase that our ties — which are founded on shared democratic values, economic aspiration, and global interests — deliver in a tangible way for Americans and Kenyans.

Kenya is an emerging technology hub, and so you can expect announcements about new investments and partnership in digital technologies and emerging technologies.

President Ruto has been a leading voice on the challenges that debt poses to developing countries, so you can expect he and President Biden will announce their shared vision on how the international community can step up to mitigate the mounting burden of debt and unleash inclusive growth.

This visit will also highlight Kenya’s important role in global peace and security.  The U.S.-Kenya partnership, for example, plays a central role in international efforts to defeat al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations.  And you can expect further announcements over the course of the visit that enhance our security partnership.

The United States is also firmly committed to supporting Haiti — excuse me — Kenya in its deployment to lead the Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti, which will provide much-needed security assistance to the Haitian people.  And we appreciate, of course, the strong, principled, consistent stance that Kenya has taken in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Through this visit, which will unfold through a series of events and culminate in the state dinner tomorrow night, we are demonstrating how, as President Biden has said himself, the United States “is all in on Africa and all in with Africa.” 

Most importantly, we are recognizing our rich history of partnership, friendship, and support for Kenya and focusing on our shared future.  This year marks 60 years of partnership with Kenya.  We’re looking forward to the next 60 and the 60 after that.  That’s what will be on display in this important and historic state visit.

And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Yeah.

Q    Thanks, Jake.  Two on your trip over the weekend to Israel and Saudi Arabia.  A senior administration official said yesterday that Israel has addressed many of the U.S. concerns regarding its operation in Rafah.  Nine hundred thousand-plus civilians have fled Rafah in recent weeks.  Has Israel addressed all of the administration’s concerns?  Does the U.S. support what Israel is doing in Rafah right now?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We had detailed discussions on Rafah during my visit to Israel.  These have built on weeks now, as I’ve discussed with you from this podium, of discussions on a professional basis about Rafah and about how Israel can achieve the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah, while minimizing civilian harm.

I explained to the Prime Minister and other senior Israeli officials the President’s clear position.  I reiterated that position.  I was briefed by Israeli officials and by Israeli professionals on refinements that Israel has made to its plans to achieve its military objectives while taking account of civilian harm.

What we have seen so far in terms of Israel’s military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas.  We now have to see what unfolds from here.  We will watch that, we will consider that, and we will see whether what Israel has briefed us and what they have laid out continues or something else happens.

And one of you asked me the last time I was standing at this podium: How are you going to judge this?  And I said that there’s no mathematical formula.  What we’re going to be looking at is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation or if it is more precise and proportional.  And we will see that unfold.

And we will obviously remain closely engaged with the Israeli government as we go.  That’s how we see the situation right now.

Yeah.

Q    Thank you, Jake.  Did the U.S. in — did you, in your meetings, provide any U.S. intelligence about Sinwar’s whereabouts?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I think at the root of this question is a story that is just completely wrong — that somehow we were withholding information from the Israeli government relating to Sinwar or any other Hamas terrorist who was responsible for October 7th.

The fact is that the United States has provided an intense range of assets and capabilities and expertise, which I got briefed on while I was in Israel, to help hunt down and deliver justice to Sinwar and everyone else who brought about October 7th.  We have been doing that day in and day out for as long as this conflict has been going on, and we will do it until the job is done.

It’s not tied or conditioned on anything else.  It is not limited.  We are not holding anything back.  We are providing every asset, every tool, every capability.

And, frankly, we have some of the best there is in the business on this.  And they are hard at work with the Israeli government to help them try to achieve their ultimate objective here.

So, I didn’t have anything myself to come add because we’ve already flowed and supplied everything on a perpetual, ongoing basis through the work that we’re doing on the ground right there in Israel.  And we’ll continue to do that.

Q    Well, I ask because the senior administration official —

Q    Thanks, Jake.

Q    — had suggested — which I believe is the administration’s view — that until Hamas is fully held to account that the peace process and any two-state solution could not go forward.  Do you see Israel being able to deliver on that?  And then do you see Israel accepting a two-state solution?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I — you know, I’d have to refer you to the Israeli government about their position with respect to the future of a Palestinian state or the Palestinian question.  I can just state to you what the U.S. position is.  And it’s been longstanding.  President Biden believes that a two-state solution that guarantees Israel’s security and also a future of dignity and security for the Palestinian people is the best way to bring about long-term security and stability for everyone in the region: Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs.

And he has talked about a regional vision of Israel actually being integrated with all of the moderate Arab states in an architecture that can deliver regional stability.

And I was in Saudi Arabia talking to the Crown Prince about that exact vision this weekend.  And you saw public statements from him about what is possible if Israel moves down that path. 

So, that’s a conversation we’ll continue to have with the Israeli government.  In the meantime, what we will do is work to ensure the enduring defeat of Hamas and a day after in Gaza that involves governance and security not provided by Hamas but by an alternative that ultimately gets us on a credible pathway to that two-state solution that President Biden has talked about.

Q    Thank you, Jake.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Yeah.

Q    About the three nations — European nations recognizing a Palestinian state.  Is the U.S. concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg — that we’re now at a point where other nations, over U.S. objections, will recognize Palestine?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Each country is entitled to make its own

determinations.  But the U.S. position on this is clear. 

President Biden, as I just said, has been on the record supporting a two-state solution.  He has been equally emphatic on the record that that two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not through unilateral recognition.  That’s a principled position that we have held on a consistent basis.  We’ll communicate that to our partners around the world, and we’ll see what unfolds.

Yeah.

Q    Just a sort of quick follow-up on that.  How concerned are you about Israel’s growing, sort of, diplomatic isolation?  And do you view it that way?  And what does this also mean for, you know, any deal — any Saudi deal to recognize Israel going forward?  I mean, does this diminish the chances of that?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think it’s a fair question.  As — as a country that stands strong in defense of Israel in international forums like the United Nations, we certainly have seen a growing chorus of voices, including voices that had previously been in support of Israel, drift in another direction.  That is of concern to us because we do not believe that that contributes to Israel’s long-term security or vitality. 

And so, that’s something that we discussed with the Israeli government and something that we believe that a strategic approach to defeating Hamas, protecting civilians, surging humanitarian assistance, and then pursuing that vision of regional integration I just talked about will put Israel in the best stead to engage countries around the world and revitalize a lot of the partnerships and friendships that have been a source of great strength for Israel over time and can be again.

Yeah.

Q    Thank you, Jake.  You just said that there’s no mathematical formula as you evaluate Israel’s offense of Rafah.  But the administration repeatedly has said that the U.S. will not support a large-scale ground invasion.  So, how do you define “large-scale ground invasion”? 

And then, secondly, has the President’s broken promise to visit Africa created any challenges as you try to deepen relationships with the countries there?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The President would really look forward to visiting Africa.  He intends to do so as President of the United States.  I obviously don’t have anything to announce today.  But if you look at the breadth of his personal engagement on this issue, including being a president — the first in 20 years to actually host an African leader for a state visit here — I think it shows — along with the specific, tangible policy actions that he has taken, including most recently, by the way, an — an overlooked part of the — the national security supplemental was funding, actually, to help emerging economies, including in Africa — you know, his record will stand for himself. 

And — and we believe that what today will showcase is not questions about the U.S. commitment but answers that the U.S. is actually delivering for Africa, for the African people — in this case, for the country of Kenya but also with Kenya for the broader continent. 

In terms of how we look at Rafah, as I’ve said before, the key concern that we have is major maneuvers into — into dense urban areas.  And that continues to be something that we will look at.  What we have seen so far has not been that.  What unfolds in the coming days is something that we will — will review closely day by day.  And we’ll continue to take briefings from Israel about how they re- — are refining their approach, in part based on concerns that we have expressed to them.

So, this is something that will be a continuing source of engagement and conversation bet- — between the two of us.  And I’ll keep you posted as we assess how things are unfolding.

Yeah.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Israel is responding to the move to recognize Palestinian statehood by withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority.  What do you make of this decision and — and the economic impact that it could have?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think it’s wrong.  I think it’s wrong on a strategic basis because withholding funds destabilizes the West Bank.  It undermines the search for security and prosperity for the Palestinian people, which is in Israel’s interests.  And I think it’s wrong to withhold funds that provide basic goods and services to innocent people.

So, from our perspective, those funds should continue to go with all of the — the necessary safeguards, but they should continue to flow. 

Q    And, also, Leader Schumer is in talks with the Speaker to invite Netanyahu to come and address Congress.  Does the President support the Prime Minister delivering an address like this at this time?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, we have not at this point heard from the Prime Minister on a joint address to the Congress.  The President talks to the Prime Minister — in fact, he just talked to him not too long ago.  Senior administration officials engage with him.  I just did so over the weekend.  So, we’ll stay in touch with the Prime Minister, and, obviously, we’ll stay in touch with the Congress and — and see what happens.

Yeah.

Q    Japan hosts the largest number of U.S. forces overseas, and the Pri- — Prime Minister was just here — the previous Prime Minister was just here.  And with all these wars breaking out, there is great concern on what China is doing in the region.  And there’s been reports that there are U.S. military in Taiwan for the first time since 1979.  Can you confirm that at all?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t know what that report is.  I know nothing about it.  So, I can’t speak to it.

Q    Also, I just need to fol- — also, been waiting for an interview with Japanese media, so if that was possible.

MR. SULLIVAN:  An interview with Japanese media?

Q    There hasn’t been an interview with any of the Japanese media yet.  So —

MR. SULLIVAN:  The President has given a press conference in Tokyo and answered questions from the Japanese media. 

Yeah.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Thanks, Jake.  Two questions.  One, does the administration support the Republican push of sanctioning the ICC after the recent arrest warrant applications?  And, if so, what would that mean? 

And then, also, I wanted to ask you: After your trip to Israel this weekend, do you feel — I guess, could you characterize how you feel about the Israeli exit strategy from — for ending the war in totality?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, on the question related to the ICC, we’re in consultations on a bipartisan, bicameral basis with the Hill on all of the options for how to respond to what the ICC has just done.  We haven’t made any determinations.  When we do, we’ll be sure to let you know.

And then your second question was?

Q    Was after the trip to Israel this weekend, do you feel like the Israeli government has a path towards ending the war?  And what do you see as their exit strategy?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, I’m going to let them speak to their exit strategy.  What I will say is what I’ve said from this podium before: We believe the only way to defeat Hamas and lead to Israel’s long-term security is connect the military effort to a holistic, integrated strategy for defeat of Hamas and securing all of the other objectives that we’ve discussed.  That’s something that we think Israel could be clearer about publicly as well as privately, and we’ll continue to work on that.

But the most important thing is not really what I think.  It’s that you’re hearing senior voices inside the Israeli system speak to these issues.  And — and that debate, we think, is a healthy debate, because at the end of the day, we know from our own experience that military force alone is not going to get the job done.  It needs to be a holistic strategy.

Yeah.

Q    Jake, you talked about one of the key objectives, of course, is the provision of humanitarian aid and food to the people of Gaza.  The Pentagon, within the last 24 hours, said that they did not believe that any of the aid from the pier, where the construction was led by the United States military, has been received by the people of Gaza to this point.  Your thoughts on that? 

Given this, has this been a failure?  How do we fix this situation?  And was the U.S. insufficiently prepared to utilize this as a means by which to deliver aid?

MR. SULLIVAN:  First, just to level-set: Since Saturday, the U.N. has in fact distributed humanitarian supplies from the pier to Palestinian civilians in Deir al-Balah, in al-Mawasi, and in Khan Yunis.  So —

Q    So, aid from the pier has now gone specifically to the Palestinians who need it?

MR. SULLIVAN:  That’s correct.  And there’s been about 695 metric tons of food that has come off the pier so far.  About two thirds of that either has gone or is on its way to going to Palestinian civilians.

The issue is not actually getting food to the pier or off the pier; it’s being able to ensure that we have necessary security arrangements in place to deliver it.  We have had modalities to get some of that aid distributed.  We are in the process of building out to get more of it distributed. 

So, the answer to your initial question is, no, it’s not a failure of planning.  Yes, it is an ind- — indication this is a dynamic environment and we need to continue to refine.  But aid is flowing.  It is not flowing at the rate that any of us would be happy with, because we always want more. 

But we are actually seeing good cooperation between the U.S., the IDF, the U.N., and other humanitarian organizations to ensure that aid goes from that pier to innocent people in need.  And we’ll continue to do that as we go forward.

Q    Can I just follow up quickly on this situation in Iran?  Obviously, we’re within the five days of mourning after the loss of two of the key leaders in that country right now — the mourning led by the Ayatollah there.  Obviously, there were initially concerns that the U.S. may somehow be blamed, but the U.S. claims no responsibility, obviously, for the crash of this helicopter. 

Can you give us any better understanding of if there are concerns that the U.S. is facing or you’ve been satisfied with the way Iran has sort of characterized things in the days since then?  Is there a — is there any reason for concern right now?

MR. SULLIVAN:  All I can say is we had nothing to do with it.  And if at any point Iran tries to accuse us of having anything to do with it, we will push back extremely strongly, directly, and vociferously.

Yeah.

Q    Thanks, Jake.  The UK’s Defense Minister said today that the U.S. and the UK has evidence that China could be providing lethal aid to Russia.  Can you speak to that at all (inaudible)?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, going back to 2022, I’ve actually stood at this podium and warned about my concern that China might provide weapons — direct lethal assistance to Russia.  We didn’t see that in 2022.  We didn’t see that in 2023.  We have not seen that to date. 

I look forward to speaking with the UK to make sure that we have a common operating picture.  We have had one; we’ve been on the same page.  So, I just want to understand better what — what exactly that comment was referring to.

What I would point out is that just recently we have been articulating, in quite urgent terms, our concern about what China is doing to fuel Russia’s war machine — not giving weapons directly, but providing inputs to Russia’s defense industrial base.  That is happening.  That is something we’re concerned about. 

We’ve taken action to deal with that in a concerted way with our allies and partners, and you can expect more of that action in the period ahead. 

Q    And will the President go to the peace summit next month in Switzerland?  He would be the only G7 leader who has not accepted that invitation.

MR. SULLIVAN:  I don’t have any announcements on that today. 

What I will say is that I’ve personally engaged in preparations for that summit, as of others in our government, and, you know, we’ve been a key player in helping drive forward a vision of peace that includes Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principles the U.N. Charter.

But I can’t make any announcements today about the President’s travel. 

Yeah. 

Q    Can I go back to Africa for two questions?  On —

MR. SULLIVAN:  Yes, you may.  (Laughter.) 

Q    There you go.

On President Ruto, the — there has been a — he has a kind of checkered past.  If you look back a decade or so, he was a defendant at the International Criminal Court over actions taken after an election there.  And then, more recently, there are folks who — who express concerns about some authoritarian moves in the country.  Is that something that the President will raise with — that President Biden will raise with his counterpart during this visit or something that causes any concern on the part of the administration?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We’ve seen robust and vigorous democracy in Kenya in recent years.  But, of course, we will continue to express our view about the ongoing need to nurture democratic institutions across the board: an independent judiciary; a non-corrupt economy; credible, free, and fair elections. 

And these kinds of principles are things the President will share, but he’s not here to lecture President Ruto.  President Ruto, in fact, is somebody who just was in Atlanta speaking about these issues.  And we will invest in Kenya’s democratic institutions, in its civil society, in all walks of Kenyan life to help make sure that the basic foundations of Kenyan democracy remain strong. 

Q    And then just one follow-up on today.  You mentioned that there might be some announcements on investment and the like during the visit.  Do you anticipate any announcements being made today after the discussion — either before or after or during the discussion with the CEOs?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I would just say “stay tuned.”  If they’re not made later today, they’ll be made tomorrow morning.  So, it will be one of the two, and you’ll — you’ll have them soon enough.

Yeah.

Q    Thank you.  Spain, Ireland, and Norway — they have said that their decision to recognize a Palestinian state is because they want to contribute to the peace process, to a ceasefire.  So, what is your view on that?  Does this contribute to the process?  And if so, will this affect (inaudible) relationship of the United States with these countries?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I have not heard the logic for how it contributes.  What I can tell you is we believe the only way that you are going to achieve a two-state solution that delivers for both Israelis and Palestinians, is through direct negotiations between the parties.  That’s what we’ve been focused on.  That’s what we’ve been driving towards. 

And that’s what a larger regional strategy — engaging Arab states to try to generate momentum in that direction — that’s why it’s been such a focus of President Biden from the beginning, not just post-October 7th.

But you’d have to ask them how they connect the unilateral recognition to actual progress on a peace process or a ceasefire, because I’ve not seen how that logic actually plays out.

Yeah.

Q    Thank you, Jake.  Israel’s National Security Minister went today to the (inaudible) of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is (inaudible)of what Sharon did in 2000.  I’m sure you remember that.

Do you see this as provocation?  Do you condemn this as a way to cause unrest in Israel, Jerusalem, and in the West Bank?

And I have another question.

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I have not seen what he did and therefore do not want to comment on it prematurely.

What I’ll do is go check out what exactly unfolded today, and then we’ll have comment for you as a result of that.

Q    Okay.  And allow me to press you on what you said about the — you refer us to the Israelis on the two-state solution.  With due respect, this sounds like an easy answer, because the President’s vision is dependent on the two-state solution.  The President’s vision is — and the leverage — is all on the Israelis to make them closer to hi- — to what he wants to achieve.  American national security is dependent on that — whether it’s with the Houthis in Yemen, the militias in Iraq, or the Hezbollah in Lebanon.  

So, it is vital for you to use all the leverage to convince the Israelis.  So, how can you tell us, “Well, go and ask the Israelis, because if they said no, then that’s no, but this is our vision”?  How can you see the two sides — their vision and your vision — as not contradictory?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The two sides’ vision —

Q    The Israeli vision of complete denial and rejection of a Palestinian state and your vision — the President’s vision of, like, the only way that you have secure Israel is to have a two-state solution.  And hence, you have all these countries unilaterally recognizing the state of Palestine. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, look, I think I said at this podium not too long ago that diplomacy is a thousand days of failure and one day of success.  Maybe in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s even more than a thousand days, since across multiple administrations, multiple decades. 

And, by the way, this is not just a U.S. issue.  Arab states believe in the two-state solution.  European states believe in a —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. SULLIVAN:  — two-state solution.  The world believes in it.  So, this is not a bilateral issue between the U.S. and Israel. 

And, of course, we make our views known.  And, of course, we press on the diplomatic front on this.  But at the end of the day, what the United States can do through hard gumshoe diplomacy — led by the President, the Secretary of State, myself, others — is try to put the pieces in place for a vision of an integrated region, of a secure Israel, of a two-state solution — put all those pieces in place and show that for the long-term strength and vitality of the Jewish, democratic state of Israel, this is what’s required. 

Israel is a sovereign nation.  It will ultimately have to decide what it does.  What we can do as a friend is try to put the pieces in place to drive down that road.  That’s what the President has done throughout his career.  It’s what he’s done as president.  And it’s what we’ll continue to do. 

Yeah. 

Q    Thanks, Jake.  We reported this morning that the Kenyan government has yet to submit paperwork — necessary documentation to the U.N. Security Council on the MSS with details on the sequencing of deployment, details on the intended end state of the mission, and — and rules of engagement as well.  Are you confident that Kenya is prepared to answer those questions? 

And specifically on rules of engagement: What do you want to see of the mission and specifically of Kenyan leadership?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I am confident that Is- — that Israel — (laughs) — too many countries — that Kenya is prepared to carry out what it has set forth with respect to this multinational security support mission. 

And it’s not just going to be Kenya.  It’s going to be Kenya leading with a range of other countries, with the United States providing a considerable amount of financial and logistical support and a certain backbone to all of it. 

Obviously, i- — this is not something that, you know, is a completely straight line.  It is a dynamic operating environment, to say the least, in Haiti.  And this is going to require an adaptive, flexible approach, but one guided by certain core functions and operations.

Ha- — Kenya has laid that out.  It’s worked that out in close collaboration with the United States.  And it has consulted closely with the U.N. on this along the way. 

So, with respect to whatever particular report or forms are necessary to file, that’s one thing.  In terms of whether the substance of the operation is well understood by Kenya, the partners in the United States, I believe it is.  And we expect the deployments to unfold in the not-too-distant future. 

In terms of rules of engagement, the key thing here is that this multinational security support mission is exactly that: a support mission.  A support mission of the institutions of the Haitian state, not a replacement for it.  That is the core proposition behind it.  And that’s what it’s going to carry out. 

Yeah. 

Q    Thanks.  Do you have a reaction to the British Prime Minister calling a general election for July 4th?  Were you surprised to see that today?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I confess that I was surprised to see it today, because I think it was not an expected announcement.  But I don’t have any real comment on it, because I’ll leave it to the UK to deal with their politics while, of course, the United States deals with its politics. 

We have a very strong — maybe that’s an understatement — partnership and alliance with the UK, regardless of elections, regardless of prime ministers.  So, you know, we wish them luck in the conduct of their election.  And we’ll be here as the United States standing with the UK through it all.

Q    Is the President going to meet with the Prime Minister at the G7?  And — and does this change anything given that the election will be two weeks later?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Honestly, I heard about this two hours ago.  So, I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to mean from the point of view of the UK at the — at the G7 summit. 

What I can tell you is that we didn’t have a specific bilateral plan.  But, of course, he’s going to sit around that roundtable with that small group of G7 leaders.  And, you know, I assume the UK Prime Minister will be there, and they’ll be talking about substance, not politics.  So, that’s not going to change anything in terms of the agenda of the summit. 

I’ll take one more question.

Yeah.

Q    Thanks, Jake.  I have a China-related question.  So, Secretary Yellen is in Europe encouraging European allies to work with the United States to counter China’s overcapacity and the trade practice.  What is the objective and the action plan for that? 

And, also, China just announced a sanction against former Congressman Mike Gallagher, who just resigned last month.  And he had been critic to the Communist Party, also a supporter of Taiwan. 

Also today, China announced another sanction against 12 U.S. defense companies and its employees for selling weapons to Taiwan.  What is the administration’s position on China sanctioning U.S. congress- — congressional members, companies, and citizens?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We oppose all of those sanctions, full stop, four square.  Simple as that.

With respect to the overcapacity issue, we’ve been very clear and the President has been clear, as well as Secretary Yellen, Lael Brainard, and others and — and Daleep Singh have all spoken articulately to this challenge being not a challenge that’s bilateral between the U.S. and China — it is a global challenge. 

China’s distorted practices, nonmarket economic practices, subsidizing at dramatic scale industries where they are going to produce so much quantity of good and then flood the global markets with it threatens to create global imbalances that are not stabilizing. 

That’s why it’s not surprising that you’ve seen countries in Latin America, countries in Europe, countries in Asia, and, of course, the United States step up and say, “We’ve got to look at this and take countermeasures to this.” 

And I think what the Secretary is hoping to do at the G7, building up to the summit in Italy, is to get a common picture of what the nature of the challenge is, get a common understanding of what the tools to deal with it are, and also a common understanding of how we engage with China in a dialogue on these questions to express our concerns and indicate that we need to take steps to defend ourselves. 

That’s what the intent is.  That’s what we hope to do. 

Thank you all very much. 

Q    One in the back, Jake.

MR. SULLIVAN:  And I’ll talk to you soon.

Q    One in the back.

Q    Thank you, Jake. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Jake.

Q    The last three rows send their regards, Jake.

Q    Question from an African journalist (inaudible) about Africa.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Thank you so much, Jake.

So, I know we don’t have too much time because I know the First Lady’s Office is holding a press event, and we promised her that — we promised their office that would be done before then so all of you can have an opportunity to attend that. 

But, Zeke — so, we have a couple minutes.

Q    A couple follow-ups on Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.

Q    He said the President intends to visit Africa while he is president.  There are less than eight months until Inauguration Day.  So, should we expect a visit be- — of the President to the African continent between now and January 20th, 2025?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — and as Jake also said as — in his answers, we don’t have anything to announce at this time.  (Laughter.)  But — but the President’s — he — ob- –obviously, while he’s president, he would like to keep that commitment and indeed make a visit to Africa.  I just don’t have anything to announce at this time.

Q    And then on one of your favorite topics: the Hatch Act.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

Q    The Office of Special Counsel indicated that they would begin working to enforce the Hatch Act on White House employees.  Is that something that this White House is supportive of?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this.  We are reviewing — reviewing the opinion.  Obviously, that — that just occurred.  I do want to note a couple of things — that, as recently as November of 2021, the Office of Special Counsel stated that, and I quote, “significant constitutional concerns would be raised by referring White House commissioned officers to the Merit System Protection Board” — this is the MSPB — “for discipline.” 

And for decades — we have to remember this as well — OSC’s practice with respect to Hatch Act matters involving White House commissioned officers has been to refer those matters to the President for discipline.  That’s what’s been going on for decades now.  So — and that is also what OSC has said was legally required in 2021. 

So, we’re not aware of any changes in the — in the law eliminating that requirement.  But obviously, we’re going to review that opinion.  Just don’t have anything to share at this time.

Q    That sounds like a no.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I’m going to leave it to my White House Counsel’s Office colleagues.

Q    So, does that mean you’re now more free to talk about all sorts of —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I wish.

Q    — political matters?  Because the Hatch Act apparently —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I wish.  (Laughter.)  I think — 

Q    — doesn’t seem to be enforceable on you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I wish.  I just don’t have anything to share at — at this time.  But obviously, we’re going to review the opinion.  I — I wish.  I wish I could.  I wish I could.

Go ahead.

Q    Has the President spoken to any of the governors in the Midwest who are dealing with a lot of this severe weather? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    And can you just discuss a bit any of the coordination that’s going on between the White House and these states in terms of cleanup and recovery?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you heard me at the top mention how — you know, how we are — obviously, folks are in our thoughts and how devastating it’s been with these extreme weather and what it’s led to.  And obviously, people have left — lost their lives.  And so, it’s devastating to hear.

The President continues to be kept updated on what’s happening in different states.  Obviously, we just — I just talked about Iowa at the top.  And he has been — I know he has had conversations with leadership on the ground.  I know that, obviously, the FEMA Administrator has been all hands on deck — Dea- — Deanne Criswell — and talking to folks on the ground as well.

I don’t have anything to — to read out on specific calls.  But we are here to help, as we have — as we have done over the past three years when these types of disasters occur.  And we’ll continue to be — be here to help in any way that is needed.  And so, I just don’t have anything in detail or specifics to share. 

But obviously, our hearts go out to folks who are recovering and folks who have lost loved ones.  It is devastating to see.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q    The RNC headquarters is reporting that it received blood vials today.  Right now, obviously, that’s under investigation, but this White House has been very clear in the past about aggressively condemning political violence, intimidation of any kind.  Will you do the same, given these circumstances?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will do the same as I have done many times before.  As you just stated, the — the Capitol Police is looking into this, so I would le- — leave it to them to investigate what’s going on.  It is concerning.  We have obviously seen the report. 

And we are going to do what we’ve con- — consistently have done from here is condemn any political violence, threats, or intimidation.  That has no place in any community and certainly in our political discourse.  And it is important that we continue to repeat that — that that has no place in our politics, no place anywhere.

And so, we certainly condemn any form of —

Q    You —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — any form of threats.

Q    You opened today’s briefing by talking about the latest student loan cancellations for — I think we said — what did we say in total? — 4.75 million Americans.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, yeah.

Q    Now I think it’s 160,000 in this latest round.  Mike Johnson, the Republican House Speaker, today described this as a massive “wealth transfer” for Americans who did not attend college to those who did, and he described it as a shameful play to buy more votes six months before an election.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I will say to con- — congressional member Mike Johnson — obviously, the Speaker — is that what is shameful is that Republicans continue to get in the way of helping us deliver a little bit of breathing room for Americans who deserve that opportunity, who deserve — you heard me talk about — about Tiffany, the young woman who — who —

One of the things that people should know, and if — if you don’t, is that when folks are — are receiving these — these debt relief announcements from the President, they have an opportunity to tell their story.  They have an opportunity to — to say why this matters to them.  And we’re talking about millions of Americans who now have an opportunity to start a life, have an opportunity to move forward in a way that — where they can reach that American Dream or reach whatever it is that they wanted to do not just for themselves but for their fa- — for their family.

So, we believe — and the President is not going to walk away from doing that.  He believes it’s an important commitment that he made to — to Americans.  It is a broken system.  It is a broken system.

Q    I guess the question, though, is —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — what, then, is the White House’s message to those Americans who did not attend college — for a variety of reasons, perhaps, including perhaps that they didn’t want to take on all the debt that went with it right now — that they feel like, in some form, they are responsible for allowing those who did not to pay their fair share?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, here’s the thing.  This is a president who has been very clear about re- — making sure that he’s building the economy that leaves no one behind — right? — making sure that —

Q    Are those people being left behind —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, no, but — but —

Q    — the ones who didn’t get support —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But —

Q    — because they didn’t go to college?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I hear your question, but this is — if you look at what the President has done mo- — holistically over the past three and a half years, he has tried to build an economy for everyone.  This is one part of his economic policy. 

When you think about creating — creating 15 million jobs, many of those jobs, if you think about the different — different legislation that he’s (inaudible) passed into law — whether it’s the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the CHIPS and Science Act — it’s creating jobs that are good union-paying jobs that — where you don’t need a college education — right? — where you can make six figures and actually have that opportunity to start your family. 

He is creating an economy from the bottom up, middle out — making sure that the millionaires, the billionaires, and corporations are paying their fair sha- — fair share, right?  Not like Republicans in Congress who want to give them a tax giveaway. 

So, he’s trying to make sure — this is one part of his economic policy, but as he’s thinking forward, as he’s looking at all Americans, all communities, he wants to make sure that there is an economy that doesn’t leave — again, doesn’t leave anybody behind, and as — historically that trickle-down economics does not work.  And he does not want to see that. 

So, we have given opportunities, and we want to continue to give opportunities for folks who feel like they need a little bit more help.

Q    Then, I guess, just to put a fine point on it right now —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — for the 4.7 million Americans who have received this debt relief, the average, as you said at the start of this visit was —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, about 35.

Q    — $35,000, their relief has been for.  So, I guess why don’t those individuals who didn’t receive $35,000 in debt cancellation deserve a $35,000 check from other Americans for what other means they would want to use it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about the —

Q    Those people who didn’t go to college so they’re

not getting debt relief — the $35,000 that they don’t get because —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean —

Q    — they didn’t go. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — we’re talking about folks who are in debt who are literally being crushed — literally being crushed because they took an — they took — you know, they took —

Q    They’re not literally being crushed.  Let’s be s- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Financially.  Okay?  Is that okay with you?  Okay.  Bu- —

Q    Literally means “literally.” 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I know.  But crushed financially. 

And — and so, they’re trying to get their lives back on track, right?  They’re trying to get into a place, because they took — they took a bet on themselves in a different way — right? — a bet of sel- — on themselves in going to college. 

And some of them, it is difficult to do that.  Right?  And they did that.  Financially, it’s hurt them, and we want to give them that breathing room. 

But it’s not just folks who have debt because of colleges.  We’re trying to help people in different — in different communities as well.  Folks who don’t have to get that college degree and can get — make six-figure salary.  That is one of the things that the President was very proud of when he passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure legislation, when he signed the CHIPS and Science Act.  Those are really important components of what he’s trying to do as well. 

Let’s — if you think about making sure healthcare — healthcare is more affordable, getting that prescription drugs — many for diabetes, for cancer — making sure that those costs are lower — insulin. 

So, there are many ways that the President has made sure that Americans have what they need to move forward with their lives, create and build a family where they’re — they feel like they’re going after their dreams as well. 

And so, look, I — you know, we want to make sure that — again, the student loan piece is one part — one part of the President’s economic policy.  And the President is not going to step away from it.  He’s not going to back down, because he believes it’s the right thing to do. 

Q    Thank you.

AIDE:  Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know we have to wrap up. 

Go ahead, Michael.

Q    One on the border.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just — I’m not sure — forgive me if you’ve addressed this already, but the five Americans who are being held in Turks and Caicos on charges related to allegedly bringing shell casings in their — in their luggage.  They’re facing 12 years in prison.  Do you have a comment, and do you have a message for the (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I want to be super mindful.  That’s an ongoing — ongoing case here, so I don’t want to comment from here.  So, I don’t have anything to add beyond what’s being reported out there. 

Go ahead, Jared.

Q    On the border vote that’s expected in —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — in the Senate tomorrow.  I guess two questions related to that.  One, can you kind of explain the timing of how this came together?  I mean, are there developments that you are more optimistic this will be more successful than it was last time? 

And if it is not, does the President intend to try and reengage Republicans and Democrats to come up with a new agreement before November’s election? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, it’s up to — it’s up to Republicans in Congress if this is going to be successful or not.  As I stated, it took several months to come to this bipartisan agreement, obviously, coming out of the Senate. 

It is — we have said over and over again: We believe, if the President has an opportunity to sign this into law, it will be the toughest and the fairest legislation to deal with a broken immigration system that has been broken for decades.  And we have not seen a legislation like this in some time.  And so, we believe it’s important to move that forward. 

On day one, the President put forth a comprehensive immigration legislation.  Nothing happened for three and a half years.  And so, we — you know, we got to work.  And at the beginning of this year, we were able to make something happen.  And we want it to see moving.  We want it to see happening. 

The majority of Americans care about this issue.  They care about what’s going on at the border.  They care about fixing immigration. 

And they have to do their jobs.  Right?  This is something — an opportunity for legislators, for Congress to do something that Americans care about.  So, we’re going to let that process play out.  The vote happens tomorrow. 

We’ve been very clear.  We could not be more clearer on how we want this to be moved forward.  We could not be more clearer how important it was to us that the President and his team worked on this for months.

Q    But does the President want to see a new deal — if this doesn’t —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There is a deal right there.  There is a deal —

Q    I mean, if it fails, and it doesn’t move forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I’m not going to get ahead.  I’m not going to speculate on what’s going to happen tomorrow. 

But there is literally a bipartisan deal that was worked on for months that can start dealing with this issue.  There is. 

And why do we need a new deal when there’s one right there that they negotiated on?  With our help, obviously.  We were — we were a part of that.  But there is one.  There is a deal that could deal with the broken immigration system and the challenges at the border.  They should move forward on it.

Q    Is he considering —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Just —

Q    — an executive order on the border?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead. 

Q    Just wanted to follow up on the student loan debt forgiveness.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.

Q    In the announcement, the Under Secretary of Education said, “We congratulate those borrowers on their due forgiveness.”  I’m just wondering why people who take out a loan to go to school, then go to school — why are they due forgiveness?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Everybody has a different story as to why they need student loans.  Everybody has a different reasoning as to why they want to go to college.  I cannot speak for everyone.  What I —

Q    But why is forgiveness due to them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we’re — what we have been very clear about is the system — the student loan system needs to be fixed.  The President is trying to do that and fix it in a way where people are not feeling that crushing financial burden that they have to — they deal with when they leave college. 

Q    And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And that is something that they shouldn’t have to — they should be given a little bit of breathing room.  That is something that —

Q    Does the administration —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  By the way, that’s something that a majority of Americans agree on — to be given a little bit of breathing room so that they can —

Q    Our polls show more than half disagree with using —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, that’s one poll.

Q    — tax dollars to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s one poll.  That’s one poll.

Q    But a follow-up question, if you will.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    Does the administration think that student loan debt cancellation contributes to inflation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we believe is student debt cancellation gives an opportunity for Americans to start a life, to buy a house, to start a family.  That adds to the economy.  That is also important to the economy. 

And it gives, again, a little bit of breathing room so that they can actually take action and do things that — that they’ve wanted to do — whether it’s going after a dream; whether, again, it’s starting a family; whether it’s buying house.  That matters.  That matters to many, many Americans.

Q    Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  On the border bill.  Schumer isn’t even allowing amendments, and this exact text failed before.  So, how can this be seen as anything other than a cynical attempt to try to show Americans that Democrats care about the border?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I don’t know how cynical — I don’t understand how that would be cynical when it sounds like Senator Schumer is trying to do his job and move forward a piece of legislation that had bipartisan support, that was a — that was negotiated in a bipartisan way that majority of Americans care about. 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s trying to move that forward on behalf of not just — obviously, not just of what the negotiators wanted to get done in that bipartisan way but also this is something that the American people want to see.  They want Congress to take action on this particular issue. 

I’m not sure how cynic- — why that would be cynical.

Q    Well, because this exact text failed, and he’s not allowing for any changes. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m going to let Senator Schumer do — do the work and move that forward.  It is his decision to make that decision.  We support it, obviously.  We’ve been very clear about supporting that, about wanting to see that negotiation — that plan move forward.  We want to see that happen.  We want to see that happen. 

Now it’s up to Rebub — Republicans to decide — to decide if they want to deal with this issue that matters, again, to majority of Americans.

Q    You opened the briefing by saying it’s up to Republicans to do something to solve the problem or continue to use it as a political issue. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    The President has the authority to do something about this unilaterally.  Congress is in a divided government right now. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But why —

Q    Why isn’t he doing anything?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But why should he have to do it unilaterally?  Why — why shouldn’t we do it in a legislative way? 

And let’s not forget.  That negotiate- —

Q    He took unilateral action before to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.  But —

Q    — undo some of —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wait.  So, you’re right.  He took many executive actions before.  But in order to deal with what’s happening at the border, in order to deal with a broken immigration system, you need law, you need legislation, you need to ha- — it to happen in a bipartisan way. 

And there was negotia- — it was negotiated.  There was an agreement in the Senate.  Republicans and Democrats came together — you just said it’s a broken — it’s broken — it’s divided, to be more clear — and they came and they did that.  And so, that matters. 

We’ve been able, during this past three and a half years, to move forward in a bipartisan way on many legislation.  So, this one is important.  Why can’t we do that here?

Q    Well, just because of the framework through which it’s coming up again — again, not allowing for any changes; no indication this vote is going to be any different; and it looks like, if anything, bringing up this vote again and setting it up to fail, again, is really just an indication that Democrats know that they’re vulnerable on this issue. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, here’s what I’ll say is that I’m going to leave it to Senator Schumer.  I’m going to lead it — leave it to Senate leadership to speak to the votes, to speak through the process and how they’re going to move forward.  That is literally something for them to talk about. 

What I will say is it is long past time to get this done, to get this moving.  We were able to get a bipartisan negotiation — a plan forward on an issue that many Americans care about, an issue that matters for our immigration system, for what’s happening at the border.  And that’s a good thing. 

And so, Senator Schumer — and we support this — wants to move this forward.  We want to see this move forward as well. 

The senator is — is very good at this.  He’s very good at dealing with big legislation, obviously, as we’ve been able to move important legislation through over the past three and a half years.  So, I’m going to let him speak to that.

Q    One last one on a different topic.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I really have to go.

Q    On the ICC.  You said that the administration is working with Congress in a bipartisan way on this ICC arrest warrant issue.  Is the administration willing to implement any visa bans or place sanctions on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    — ICC officials?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I’ll say this.  National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan literally was just asked a question about this.  I don’t have anything else to add.  We are in conversations on the Hill — he said this — in a bicameral way, in a bipartisan way.  Don’t have anything to announce.  We’ve been very clear on where we stand on ICC. 

Thank you so much, guys. 

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 En Route Merrimack, NH

Tue, 05/21/2024 - 14:35

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Merrimack, New Hampshire

10:35 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, everybody.  All right, I just have one quick thing at the top, and then we’ll — we’ll get at it.   

So, we’re on our way to New Hampshire, where the President will be joined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough and Senators Ha- — oh — Senators Shaheen and Hassan to deliver remarks on a key priority of the — of his Unity Agenda: supporting our nation’s veterans. 

President Biden signed the landmark bipartisan PACT Act into law almost two years ago in August, enacting the most significant expansion of healthcare benefits and services for toxic-exposed veterans in more than 30 years.  Thanks to this law, the President will continue — will announce today that more than 1 million PACT Act-related claims have now been granted.  

More than 888,000 veterans and survivors across all 50 states and U.S. territories are now receiving new service-connected disabilities benefits, and that includes thousands of veterans in New Hampshire.

President Biden believes that our nation has a sacred obligation to properly prepare and equip the troops we send into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.

And soon, you will hear directly from the President, who was — who will obviously share more on this.

Go ahead, Seung Min.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Earlier today, Israeli officials seized equipment from the AP and took down our live shot that had been going into northern Gaza.  How is that acceptable behavior in a democracy?  They’re citing their new media law.  Does the administration have a reaction to that — the Israeli government’s actions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, thanks for the question.  We’ve seen the reporting, and obviously we’re looking into them.  And you hear this from me and obviously the President himself when we talk about jou- — journalism and the importance and how essential it is to the pillars of our democracy.  And we have women and men, certainly, worldwide who — who work very hard 24/7, obviously, to uphold those pillars of democracy. 

And so, it is essential that continues, and that certainly includes journalists at the AP.  And so, we’re looking into it.  We’ve seen the reporting.  But we stand firm in our belief in — in making sure that journalists have the ability and the right to do the job that they’re —

Q    Do you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — that’s incred- — incredibly important for them to do.

Q    Do you condemn that action?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I want to be really, really mindful.  I’m going to — we’re going to — looking into it.  And obviously, this is concerning.  And so, we want to look into it. 

But we’ve always been clear — the importance of the work that you all do and the work that journalists do, and, again, how it is the pillar of our democracy.  It is part — certainly, part of our freedom. 

And you hear us say this all the time.  You guys are the Fourth Estate.  You guys hold us — hold us accountable and make sure that the facts are out there.  And that is essential to the American people, to the world, globally.  And so, we’re going to always continue to be steadfast on that.  And certainly, we’re going to look into this.  And it is concerning to hear.

Q    So, if —

Q    And I wanted to —

Q    Oh, go ahead.

Q    Sorry.  Sorry. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh —

(Cross-talk.) 

Q    The House Republicans are preparing legislation that would impose sanctions on the ICC after that announcement yesterday.  Obviously, the President has condemned the ICC announcement as well.  So, is this effort from Republican lawmakers something — something that he supports —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look —

Q    — or something that he could support?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — I’m just going to reiterate what the President said yesterday.  You heard him di- — you heard from him directly when he delivered remarks yesterday afternoon.  The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israel leaders is outrageous.  We def- — fundamentally reject it.  So, we’re having discussions — to your questions — with — with Hill — with the Hill on the next steps.  So, I’m not going to get ahead of those discussions.

But it doesn’t — obviously, we — you heard the President speak to this pretty forcefully yesterday to all of you.

Q    The former President had up a video — a video that referred to the “unified Reich.”  Does the White House have any reaction to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be really mindful.  Obviously, the former President is a — is a candidate — presidential candidate in 2024.  So, going to be careful about responding to him directly. 

I will say — point you to the — point you to the campaign’s comments or statement yesterday. 

I will also obviously share that the President is clearly tracking this, and you’ll hear from him directly on this later today. 

What I want to say more broadly is it is abhorrent, sickening, and disgraceful for anyone to promote content associated with Germany’s Nazi government under Adof- — Adolf Hitler.  Just as it is disgraceful to dine with Neo-Nazis and say there are “very fine people on both sides” after Charlottesville. 

Any antisemitism dog whistle — whistling is dangerous and offensive and profoundly un-American.  And I am pretty sure, pretty confident you will hear from the President later today.

Q    Was that in reference to Donald Trump — what you just said?

Q    Where — which —

Q    I’m sorry. 

Q    Which — which event will the President get it — at the fundraiser or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wait, wait, say that one more time.

Q    Which event will the President comment on this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I would say during his campaign event, you’ll hear from him. 

Q    Karine, Prime Minister Net- —

Q    On the FDC — FDIC chair — has the White House begun its search for his replacement yet?  I mean, can you describe that search a little bit (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, let me just say, because I know this is the first time we’ll — we’ll actually — you’ll hear from me on this, so a couple things I want to say. 

We want to thank the Chair for his service at the agency and for moving to swiftly implement the recent report’s recommendation. 

The President, of course, expects those serving in his administration to reflect the values of decency and integrity and to protect the rights of all employees. 

The President will soon put forward a new — a new nominee for FDIC Chair who is committed to those values and to protecting consumers and our financial system, and we expect the Senate to confirm that nominee quickly. 

I don’t have — I don’t have any detail on the process.  Obviously, the Pres- — the President is taking this very seriously and is going to do his — obviously, everything that he normally does when he nominates someone — someone who is
qualified and can do the job.

Q    And on Jake Sullivan’s Middle East trip.  Do you have a deeper readout yet on how those meetings went that you can share with us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, a couple of things. 

You know, you guys saw the readout from — from Jake Sullivan yesterday on the different components of the trip, what was discussed.  Obviously, he went to Saudi Ara- — Arabia, where he met with the Crown Pinc- — Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, to discuss a comprehensive vision for an integrated Middle East region.

What I can say about that: We have seen a lot of progress on that front, made a lot of progress.  And we are very close to [an] understanding on the major element between us. So, I think that’s important.

We, of course, will also have — have to — have, then, to work on pieces that relate to the Israelis and the Palestinians, which is a critical component of any potential normalization deal and must be completed at the same time. 

And obviously, he went to Israel — and we had a readout on that piece as well — where he met with a number of Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, to discuss the war in Gaza, including ongoing diplomacy to secure the release of all hostages, increasing flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, and our sacred objective of [an] enduring defeat of Hamas.

And so, it was — it was an important trip and — and constructive meetings were had with Jake Sullivan.

Q    Did you have any frustrations with the Israelis?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve heard those reports coming out, and — and they’re not reflective of the meeting.

Just a couple of things just to — just to double down on.  So, they had a constructive and detailed discussion on Rafah, building on previous consultations.  And we’ll now see whether Israel takes our views and concerns into account in how they proceed. 

He also had a constructive and detailed discussion about the bigger regional picture, which I just mentioned, which I — I just laid out in — on the Saudi Arabia components and those meetings there.  The Israeli government is reflecting on what Jake reported, and we will discuss next steps with them after they — they consult internally. 

And Jake had a series of asks on the humanitarian front.  Israel committed to addressing all of them, and so we are already seeing some progress.  But obviously, we’re going to keep watching.

And it is important.  We have been very clear about this.  We see the dire situation happening in Gaza.  And we — and we want to make sure that all-important humanitarian aid continues to go into Gaza.  And we certainly — this President and the United States has led in that effort.

Q    Following up on Gaza.  The — Prime Minister Netanyahu had an interview with MSNBC.  He was asked about the World Food Programme’s denomination [designation] of it as a “famine” in Gaza.  He said that he has been — Israel has been flooding aid into Gaza.  Does the White House agree with that characterization?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just say — look, I just laid out the conversations that Jake had with the Israeli government on a commitment to continue to increase that humanitarian aid. 

I’ll give you a couple of updates on where we are.

On May 19th, over 400 trucks with aid entered Gaza.  These include trucks that have come in via the temporary pier — that you all know — that went oper- — started its operational process just at the end of last week. 

Since April 5th, more than 8,000 trucks have moved into Gaza.

Between April 5th and Ap- — May 19th, an average of 180 entered into Gaza daily. 

And so, while — and we understand this — while the amount of the aid [that] has entered Gaza has increased in recent days, these level of aids remains insufficient.  And so, we want to continue to press Israel to increase the level of assistance moving into Gaza soonest to reach those in need.

Again, as I just stated — answered in my last question, this is a President and administration that has led on this effort.  You heard Jake Sullivan say this last week when he was at the podium: We’re trying to do this by land, air, and sea. And so, we are committed — committed.

This is also why the hostage deal is so important, because we want to create — make sure we create an environment that — that — with the humanitarian aid that increases humanitarian [aid]; obviously, get hostages home; and, obviously, lead to a ceasefire, which is something that the President has been calling for.

Q    Can I —

Q    Go ahead, Emily.  I’ll come back.

Q    Thanks.  I wanted to ask about New Hampshire.  Where we’re going has a competitive House race in the Democratic primary.  One of the President’s former top aides, Maggie Goodlander, is running.  She’s married to Jake Sullivan, obviously.  Is she going to be there?  Is the President going to endorse her?  Have he and Jake and Maggie talked about the race?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I can’t talk about an upcoming election, and you know this.  Hatch Act, a federal employee.  I have to be — I’m covered by that.  I cannot speak on any — any campaign.  So, I just don’t have anything to share beyond what I just stated. 

You would have to reach out to her campaign directly.

Q    Just to go back to the U.S.-Saudi negotiations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Should we expect an announcement on that agreement relatively soon?  Or where does it stand?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what I’ve said in my answer: We’ve seen significant progress. 

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And I think that’s important.  An un- — an understanding on the major — major elements between us.  And so, I think that’s important.

Obviously, we thought — as I stated, Jake’s trip to both — not just Israel — obviously, Saudi Arabia was — was constructive and we’re making progress.

I don’t have a timeline to — to lay out to you right now or to read out, but conversations continue.  And I think what you can see from this administration is the commitment — that commitment to get there.

Q    Okay.

Q    I wanted to — to ask a question about the upcoming state visit this week. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    It’s the first state visit by a leader of Africa since 2008.  And obviously, the President said he would visit the continent last year, and that never happened.  I’m just wondering, you know, taken together, what does that say about the U.S. and the Biden administration’s commitment to the U.S.-Africa relationship?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I think the U.S. — the commitment to the U.S.-African relationship is critical and important.  And you — you know, you saw that in his — I’m trying to remember — in 2022 — right? — in that — in that — December 2022, where he had African — leaders of African nations, another summit that was historic, and they talked about U.S. — U.S.-Africa relations. 

And the President did that because he wanted to, you know, deepen that relationship, truly work on it in a way that — that is — you know, that has — that has — you know, that has longstanding — longstanding effect.

As it relates to the state visit this week, we believe this is a significant visit.  It marks the 60th anniversary of our official relations with Kenya and the first state visit by an African leader, as you just stated, since 2008. 

Kenya is a key partner on any — on an array of issues, including security, trade, investment, health, and climate.  And we’re looking to forward to — to hosting.  The President and the First Lady certainly are. 

The visit is also emblematic of our broader commitment to deepening, as I just stated, our partnership across — across the continent of Af- — Africa, building on those conversations — that I just also laid out — back — that we had back in December of 2022 with the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. 

And so, we — we sought out a state visit not only to recognize the strategic importance of our partnership with Kenya but also to forge new paths ahead as we tackle common global priorities.  And I think you’ll see that from the President on — on Thursday.  And so, we want to continue those diplomatic relationships.

Q    And what’s the reason why the First Lady is going to Andrews Air Force Base to greet the Kenyan leader and the First Lady?  I — I think that’s an unusual movement that we haven’t seen before.  Is there a particular reason why the White House and the President is sending the First Lady to JBA to greet them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I — certainly, I would refer you to the First Lady’s Office.  I — I wouldn’t look too mu- — I wouldn’t take too much from that. 

I think the — again, the First Lady and the President is very much looking forward to — to hosting — hosting the leader and his wife.  And I think that’s what you can ta- — you can take from that. 

It is — as you know, the First Lady went to Kenya when she went — when she did a trip to — to the African continent.  And I think that that is a relationship that continues, a friendship that continues.  So, I wouldn’t take too much from — from her greeting them.

Q    Can you preview any of the state dinner guests?  Who should we be watching for?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that one more time.

Q    Can you preview any of the state dinner guests? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to let —

Q    Who should we be watching for?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to let the First Lady’s Office — (laughter) — deal with their preview of the state dinner guests.  That — that lives with them.  (Laughter.)  Sorry.

Thanks, everybody. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  See you on the ro- — see you on the ground.

10:50 A.M. EDT

The post Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Merrimack, NH appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

Fri, 05/17/2024 - 16:40

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:40 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s always fun to hang out with a bunch of Gen Zers before coming out to the podium.  I’ll just leave it there.  (Laughs.)

How are you guys doing?

Q    Good. 

Q    Great.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Good afternoon, everybody.

So, I’ll be — going to preview the President’s schedule for next week.  And so, then — I think some of you are following some of this stuff, but just to put it all in one. 

On Monday, the President will host a reception to commemorate Jewish American Heritage Month.  The President, the Vice President, and the Second Gentleman will celebrate the immeasurable impact of Jewish values, contributions, and culture in our country, while also honoring their resilience in the face of a long and painful history of persecution. 

On Tuesday, the President will travel to New Hampshire.  After, he will travel to Boston, Massachusetts.  I don’t have additional details to share of these trips at this time, but please stay tuned.

On Thursday, the President and the First Lady will host President William Ruto and the First Lady, Rachel Ruto, of the Republic of Kenya for a state visit.  The Vice President and Second Gemen- — Second Gentleman will also, obviously, join as well. 

The visit will strengthen our shared commitment to advance peace, security; expand our economic ties; and deepen democratic institutions.  The visit will re- — will affirm our strategic partnership with Kenya and further the vision set forth at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that African leadership is essential to addressing global priorities.  The Vice President will also host a state luncheon on Friday at the State Department.

On Saturday, the President will deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy’s graduation ceremony.  He previously deli- — delivered the commencement address at West Point in 2012 and also 2016 as vice president.

This is a special honor, and the President looks forward to celebrating graduates and their families and thanking them for their selfless service and defense of our nation.

Today, we are also praying for four people who tragically lost their lives in Houston following the deadly storms that ripped through Texas yesterday.  We are also thinking of those who were injured and the communities that were affected by this extreme weather. 

We are grateful for the first responders and rescue teams who have been working around the clock to protect the people — to protect people and save lives.

The White House is in touch with governor’s office and the Houston mayor, and FEMA is in touch with their state and local counterparts. 

As always, we stand ready to provide federal assistance as needed.  We continue to monitor the storm’s path as it moves east, and more severe weather is likely across the Gulf Coast today.  Residents in the affected area as well as those in the path of the storm should heed warnings from state and local officials.

And with that, I have — we have the Admiral here today to talk about a update in the Middle East.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Karine.  Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  So, earlier today, I think you all know, the first shipments of humanitarian assistance arrived on the shores of Gaza through the multinational humanitarian maritime corridor that the President announced during his State of the Union Address. 

As we speak, additional aid from the United States and other countries is arriving in Cyprus, where it will be screened by Israeli authorities and loaded onto ships for delivery via the maritime corridor — the temporary pier that we’ve been talking about.  And here you can see trucks, just today — these inc- — the first truck includes palates from the UAE, as a matter of fact, heading across that causeway — that temporary causeway onto the beach.

And once in Gaza, once on the beach, the aid will be distributed to those in need by the United Nations.

So, in less than two months, the United States was able to assemble a complex, multinational logistical mechanism to facilitate the delivery of lifesaving assistance in Gaza, to galvanize commitments from partners around the world, and to leverage the United Nations’ logistical capabilities to facilitate the distribution of this aid inside the — inside the — Gaza.

So, this is a humanitarian effort.  And contrary to what we’ve been seeing out there in the information space, particularly in the region, it is designed solely — only — for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  There’s no other purpose for this than humanitarian assistance.

And we’re obviously grateful for all the U.S. service members and our teams at USAID and the State Department for their tireless work over the past few weeks to get this going.

Through the humanitarian maritime corridor, USAID plans to provide initial contributions of more than 170 metric tons of nutrient-rich food bars to support 11,000 of the most vulnerable children and adults; ready-to-use therapeutic foods to treat more than 7,200 cases of severe wasting in children; and nearly 90 metric tons of critical supplies, such as plastic sheeting for shelter, jerry cans to hold clean water, and hygiene kits to support more than 33,000 people.  And just today, as you’re seeing here, we were able to get more the 300 pallets of some of that material in there.


Now, today was just a start.  It was the first day.  There’s still work that has to be done to reach what we call “initial operating capability.”  But we hope to be able to increase the number of pallets that get in over the coming days and keep that sustainable.  And we’ll keep you updated, of course.

All of this assi- — assistance is in addition to thousands of tons of food and other non-food items that are being provided by a number of international partners, including, as I said, the UAE, the United Kingdom, EU, to name a few, as well as resources to support the overall mission, including critical equipment to move that assistance.

We anticipate an increase in the flow of assistance from additional countries and organizations utilizing and steadily scaling up, as I said, the humanitarian maritime corridor every single day that goes by. 

In recent days, we’ve seen some progress in the number of trucks entering Gaza via the land crossings as well.  Yesterday, more than 360 trucks moved into Gaza.  Between April 5th and May 16th, an average of 176 trucks entered Gaza every single day.  It’s not enough.  I recognize that.  We all recognize that.  But it’s — but it is — it is ongoing, and we’re hoping to get it increased.  And, obviously, we’re going to continue to work with Israel to that end.

I do want to make one important point on this before I leave this topic.  There is a robust security plan for this effort, and we remain vigilant to potential threats to a- — to the — our service members that are working on the pier and humanitarian aid organizations and workers helping with the distribution and the collection at the marshalling area on the — on the ground. 

It remains a top priority.  We’re going to remain laser-focused on ensuring the safety of everybody involved in this effort.

Now if I could, just quickly, shift to Ukraine.  We’re closely monitoring Russia’s offensive in northeastern Ukraine and are working around the clock to get weapons and equipment into the hands of Ukrainian solders to help them repel these attacks.

Soon after the President signed the national security supplemental last month, he authorized two military aid packages under the presidential drawdown authority.  And late last month, the Department of Defense announced a $6 billion package through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which will be used to procure new equipment to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses over the medium and long term.

And then, of course, you saw Secretary Blinken, in Kyiv this past week, announced that the United States will provide an additional $2 billion aid package for Ukraine’s defense under the Foreign Military Financing program.  All of this will — I’m sorry — that aid for FMF will be used in four ways. 

First, to help Ukraine procure weapons and equipment to repel Russia’s invasion. 

Second, to invest in Ukraine’s defense industrial base.

Third, to help Ukraine purchase military equipment from other countries in addition to the United States. 

And, finally, these funds may help other countries transition off Russian systems and incentivize donations to Ukraine.

Now just one last program announcement, and then I promise I’ll shut up.  I can announce today that our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, will travel to Saudi Arabia starting tomorrow.  He’ll be there to meet with Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss bilateral and regional matters, including the war in Gaza, of course, and ongoing efforts to achieve a lasting peace and security in the region.

On Sunday, the next day, Mr. Sullivan will travel to Israel to meet with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, to discuss, of course, the war in Gaza, including ongoing negotiations to secure the release of all the hostages, address the humanitarian crisis, and our shared objective for the enduring affeat — enduring defeat of Hamas through both military pressure and a political plan.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, M.J.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral.  I wanted to ask you about the three hostages whose bodies were recovered in Gaza.  Was the U.S. given any details, particularly about where they were recovered and how they were recovered?

MR. KIRBY:  It’s just horrible news.  And our hearts go out to the families who — who are having to deal with this terrible news.  I don’t have any information that we knew ahead of time or that we had any more — we have had since the bodies have been recovered — any additional information or context from the Israelis on this.

Q    Okay.  The five American hostages who are still unaccounted for —

MR. KIRBY:  Correct.

Q    — is there any new intelligence about their whereabouts or their potential wellbeing?

MR. KIRBY:  Sadly, no.  We don’t have any information that — that leads us to a conclusion that they’re — that they’re no longer alive.  But we just don’t have any additional context whatsoever.

Q    And just on a separate topic very quickly.  What was your reaction to seeing Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi exchanging hugs?

MR. KIRBY:  Exchanging hugs?

Q    Mm-hmm.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, that’s nice for them. 

Look, you have two countries here — leaders of two countries that — that clearly are acting in various ways around the world inimical to our national security interests, to the interests of many of our allies and partners.  No surprise that these two leaders continue to try to develop this burgeoning relationship. 

But — but they’re also two leaders that don’t have a long history of working together, and officials in both governments that — that aren’t necessarily all that trustful of the other. 

What they have in common is a comm- — is a desire to — to challenge the international rules-based order, challenge the network of alliances and partnerships that United States enjoys and which President Biden has strengthened in his time in office, and — and to try to look for ways to bolster each other’s national security interests as well. 

So, we didn’t see anything coming out of this meeting that we weren’t necessarily surprised by.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say we weren’t concerned about — about this relationship and where it’s going.  Of course we are, and we’re watching it closely.  But I’d leave it at that.

Q    Do you think that was a purposeful show of public display to send any kind of message to the U.S. or otherwise?

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, man, I’m not good at talking about personal human bodily affection one way or the other, so I — I think I’ll leave it to these two gents to talk about why they thought it was good to hug one another.  (Laughter.) 

I’ll just tell you that — that we take seriously th- — the challenges that both countries that represent, and we take seriously this burgeoning relationship between the two of them. 

That said, in Ukraine specifically, we haven’t seen President Xi rush to the effort to assist the Russian Armed Forces and provide lethal capabilities.  We are deeply concerned and have said so.  I think Karine mentioned it yesterday, about some of these Chinese companies that are providing microelectronics and components for Russia’s defensive sy- — or weapons systems.  That’s — that’s a problem, and we’ve — and we’ve raised that with the Ch- — with the Chinese as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Darlene.

Q    Thank you.  So, what is the status of the aid on that first truck that went in?  Is it being distributed, or is it still waiting —

MR. KIRBY:  I was told —

Q    — to be distributed?

MR. KIRBY:  — right before coming out here that the U.N. has now taken possession of these first — these first pallets and are getting them ready for distribution inside Gaza.  So, look, I mean, hopefully, by the time we’re done here, I mean, some of that stuff will actually be in — in the mouths of some hungry people, but we’ll see. 

Q    And then one other question on Russia and Ukraine.  Russia is pounding the Kharkiv region.  Is it time for the U.S. to revisit the prohibition on Ukraine against using American weapons in an offensive manner? 

MR. KIRBY:  We do not encourage nor do we enable attacks using U.S.-supplied weapons systems inside Russian territory.  That’s the policy.  That has not changed.

Q    Thanks.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  And thank you, Admiral.  You just spoke about the importance of protecting humanitarian aid workers.  And it’s been a month and a half since the IDF released a report about the World Central Kitchen.  Has the U.S. finished reviewing that report?  And what did it conclude?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not aware that we have some sort of final conclusion on that.  But I’ll tell you, I’ll take the question, and we’ll go back and I’ll check with my State Department colleagues.  But I’m not aware that we’ve come to some dif- –different or final conclusion about it.

Q    When we asked you several times in the past, you said, “We’re still reviewing the report.  It takes a long time to go through all the facts and figures.”  So —

MR. KIRBY:  I just don’t have an update for you.

Q    Okay.  Last night, Israel’s Defense Minister said that the IDF would send more troops into Rafah.  Do you have a response to that?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I think we’ve addressed this one already.  As always, I’ll let the Israelis talk about their military operations and where they put their troops.  Point one.

Point two, they have a right and a responsibility to go after Hamas, including in Rafah.  And as I just mentioned, Jake’s going to raise this issue when he goes to — to Israel on Sunday.  They have a right and responsibility to do that. 

How they do that matters, and that’s part of the conversations that we also want to have and Jake will have about going after that terrorist capability in Rafah in a way that’s targeted, precise, and, quite frankly, effective. 

We don’t believe — still don’t believe that the way to do it is to smash into Rafah with a large body of armed forces on the ground in an — in an indiscriminate and reckless manner. 

So, I can’t — I don’t — I’m not dodging the question.  I don’t know the context with which Minister Gallant said that. 

I can just tell you that nothing has changed about our view, that we don’t support a major ground operation or a large operation in Rafah that would put — now it’s about a million people — at — at greater risk. 

Q    Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  As you know, President has focused a lot on democracy — promoting democracy globally in his three and a half years.  What is the President’s thoughts on the election that are happening in India right now?  Around 900 million voters going out to 1 million polling booths to elect 545 member of parliament from thousands of candidates (inaudible) registered political parties.

MR. KIRBY:  There’s not too many more vibrant democracies in the world than India.  And we applaud the Indian people for — for exercising, you know, their ability to vote and to have a voice in their — in their future government.  And we wish them well throughout the process, of course. 

Q    And, secondly, Prime Minister Modi is going for his third term — seeking his third term from the people of India.  How do you see India-U.S. relations in the 10 years of his government?

MR. KIRBY:  How do I see — I’m sorry.

Q    How do you see India-U.S. relationship in the 10 years of his administration?

MR. KIRBY:  How do I see it over the last 10 years?

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah. 

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, I — I’ll speak to the last three, if that’s okay, because that’s kind of where — where I’m allowed to go.  But you — you —

Q    The first three years were also — vice president.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I’m going to stick to the last three years, if you don’t mind. 

Look, our relationship with India is extremely close and getting closer.  You saw it in our state visit.  I mean, we launched all kinds of new initiatives: working on critical emerging technologies together and bolstering and ex- — expanding the relevance of the Indo-Pacific Quad, of course, which India is a part of.  And then just the people-to-people exchanges and the military — military cooperation that — that we share with India. 

So, I mean, it’s a — it’s a very vibrant, very active partnership.  And — and we’re grateful for Prime Minister Modi’s leadership.

Q    One final one.  You spoke about Quad.  Does the President really believes that two of his Quad partners, India and Japan, are “xenophobic”?

MR. KIRBY:  No.  I mean, look, Karine already dealt with this one.  I mean, the President was making a broader point here about the vibrancy of our own democracy here in the United States and how inclusive and particip- — par- — participatory it is. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Danny.

MR. KIRBY:  That was not easy to say.

Q    Thanks, Admiral.  You mentioned that the aid coming through the pier was going to be screened by Israeli authorities.  How confident are you that that’s not going to cause sort of delays in terms of the aid being held up?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    And also, if I may, how confident are you that there’s not going to be delays at the other end when — at the pier end as well?

MR. KIRBY:  Look, I mean, it’s day one.  And as I just said, we got indications here just before I came on out here that some of that aid was already moving into Gaza.  That’s pretty impressive for day one — just day one.

The inspections are actually happening in Cyprus.  And that’s — that’s a really important component of this modular system that we’ve constructed here.  So, the inspections are happening before the ships even leave Cyprus and move on down to the eastern coast — I’m sorry, the Eastern Med, off the coast of Gaza. 

So, right now, it — it seems like a very good system in place.  But, again, it’s day one, so we’ll take a look and see how it goes. 

Q    Are those inspections being done in tandem with anyone else, such as the United States or — 

MR. KIRBY:  The IDF is responsible for the inspection regime in Cyprus.  And as I said, on this first day, it worked well. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    On Jake Sullivan’s travel this weekend.  Did the U.S. government receive any assurances from Israel that it wouldn’t expand its Rafah operation while he’s there?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll just say, without getting into our diplomatic conversations — we’ve said this before — that we’re going to continue to talk to the Israelis about alternatives to major ground operations in Rafah.  That is not what they’re conducting right now.  And they have assured us that they are willing to continue to have those discussions with us before they make any major decisions.  And I’ll leave it at that. 

Q    Can you share an update on the American doctors in Gaza who are trying to get out of there and what your understanding is, what the U.S. government assessment is of the holdup?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s no holdup.  They’re out. 

Twe- — there was 20 American doctors; 17 are out now — came out today.  And all 17 of the — they wanted to — they wanted to leave.  I won’t speak for the other three, but just — but I can assure you that any of them that wanted to leave are out now. 

Q    And then, just finally, you referenced the security plan for the port and the pier.  Secretary Austin, a couple of weeks ago, before it was operational, said his understanding was that if U.S. troops were fired upon that they may fire back.  Is that still your understanding of what would happen here?

MR. KIRBY:  100 percent.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Thank you, Admiral.  When it comes to those bodies that were recovered, the three hostages, what impact does that have on the current ceasefire negotiations?  Does it set those talks back?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t think we can say that right now.  First of all, our focus — and I’m sure our Israeli counterparts’ focus, too — is on the — on the families who are getting this horrible news.  As you know, the talks didn’t go anywhere last week.  Unfortunately, we just didn’t get to a successful conclusion. 

One of the things that Jake wants to cover when he goes over — back to the region is to see what we can do to keep those talks going and get — get some kind of resolution here.  But I don’t think — it’s difficult to see how this grim news today is going to have a major effect on — on the — on the hostage deal negotiations.  We really want to get this done so that we can get six weeks of a ceasefire that can maybe lead to something more enduring. 

Q    And part of that ceasefire deal is the release of hostages.  I know you’ve said you don’t know how many Americans are still alive.  But is there a broad assessment of how many hostages overall are still alive?

MR. KIRBY:  I would refer you to the Israelis for an exact number.  I know it’s — it’s north of 100.  I’ve seen estimates of maybe 130 total.  Not all of them — we don’t believe all of them are alive.  We don’t know exactly what the breakdown is. 

Q    And, of course, Rafah is going to be a big point of discussion when Sullivan is in the region.  Can you just talk about the impact that the President’s withholding of those 2,000-pound bombs have had on the relationship and Israeli decision-making when it comes to what we’re seeing in Rafah right now?

MR. KIRBY:  It was not a withholding.  Just — there was a pause put in place on a — on a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs, and that pause is still in place.  I would remind you that other aid, other weapons and capabilities from the United States continues to flow to Israel.  They are not left defenseless.  And they also have — without getting into specifics, they have inventories of existing — like similar capabilities that they already had available to them. 

I won’t speak to their operations, but I think you can just disc- — discern from news coverage alone that they continue to conduct operations in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza.

Q    So, you’re saying they already have inventories of the 2,000- —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m just saying they have —

Q    — pound bombs?

MR. KIRBY:  — existing inventories of capabilities, and more capabilities continue to go.  I won’t get into the details of that for their own operational security. 

But I did- — I guess I didn’t really answer your question, though, on decision-making.  I think — well, I don’t think — we know that they know what our concerns are with respect to Rafah and how they go into Rafah and what that looks like.  And, again, Jake is going to go over this weekend, and he’ll reiterate those same points.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    John, you had the assassination attempt of the Slovakian leader this week.  What is the level of concern that this could be an indicator of instability in Europe?  You have European Union elections coming up in June.  There have been some attacks on German politicians that we’ve seen.  You know, how much is this a worry of the administration across the world?

MR. KIRBY:  You know, it’s too soon to know whether you’re seeing some kind of a trend here, a wave of violent activity or intent with respect to political stability in Europe.  But obviously, we’re watching this real closely.  Certainly, we’re glad to hear that the Prime Minister survived the attack and — and is on the mend.  We wish him a speedy recovery.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Admiral, back to Ukraine.  Does the President hope to attend the Ukraine peace conference next month (inaudible)? 

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have anything on his schedule to speak to in that regard.

Q    I just wanted to ask you about the Strategic Consultant Group status, when the — when they will be meeting.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, you got the National Security Advisor —

Q    Is — it will be next week?

MR. KIRBY:  — going over this weekend.  That’s — that’s a pretty good — that’s a pretty good level of meetings here.  I don’t have another one inside the SCG context to — to speak to today.  We’ve had a couple live ones.  We’ve had some virtual ones.  I think that they’ll continue.  But the next — the next consultation, if you will, is Jake’s trip this weekend.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    John, just to follow up what you told me this morning.  Were there any conditions that Israel has imposed on certain items in this aid that will get into Gaza?  Because, in the past, they wouldn’t allow scissors, for example, wheelchairs, other items.  Or is it just purely food —

MR. KIRBY:  This is really focused — these — certainly today and I think in the coming days, it’s really going to be focused on food, nutri- — nutrition.  That’s really the focus.  And there’s been no restrictions placed by the Israelis on that.

Q    Okay.  And then —

MR. KIRBY:  And I would — I’ve got one to add — one — one more point.  You reminded me that — that the Israelis and the IDF, in particular, have been enormously helpful and supportive of this effort, this temporary pier and their role in — on the beach and on the ground in supporting it.  They’ve been very, very helpful — extremely cooperative.

Q    And the distribution, you just said that U- — U.N. agency is going to be in charge.  Is that — does this include UNRWA?  And second, will be any supervision by the IDF or in the steps of distribution, not just offloading of the pier?

MR. KIRBY:  I want to be careful here because I don’t want to violate operational security issues.  As I said in my opening statement, the food will be distributed by the U.N. and other aid organizations.  I’ll let the U.N. speak to th- — how they’re going to do that.

When you get the material ashore, it goes into what we would call a marshalling area.  So, it’s a part of the beach where it can be placed safely until it can be then head — head out on trucks into Gaza.  And there — I would just say that there’s an adequate security apparatus in place for that purpose.  And I think I need to leave it at that.

Q    And finally, I just want to follow up on the hostages.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

Q    (Inaudible) that there are actually reports indicating that the — the bodies that they recovered today, that the hostages were killed as far as December.  It — they were not killed recently.

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have that level of information.  I don’t know. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Nandita, go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Hi, Admiral.  Just quickly to follow up on the military pier.  Are U.S. troops guarding it on the ground?

MR. KIRBY:  There is a — not on the ground.  So, as I said in my opening statement, there are no U.S. servicemembers in Gaza.  There is a small U.S. military component on the pier itself.  And they’re there really to do sort of two things.  One is to provide a modicum of security for it but also to assist with the logistics. 

I mean, you’re going to have ships pulling up to this pier — not the big cargo ships.  They’ll — they’ll transport it to smaller ships off the coast of Gaza.  Those smaller ships will bring the goods onto the pier, and you’re going to need some logistical support to get it from the ships onto the trucks.

So, there’s a small footprint of U.S. military on the pier, but they will not — not go into Gaza.

Q    How — how many, when you — when you say “small”?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I’m going to let the Pentagon speak to the numbers.  I don’t want to — I don’t want to violate that.  But it’s not — it’s not a huge number.

Q    And — and why is the U.S. confident that Israel will not strike any of the vehicles that are taking aid in?  I understand you said that they’ve been helpful.

MR. KIRBY:  They have been extraordinarily cooperative.

Q    But have they offered explicit assurances that they will not?  I mean, because they attacked the World Food Kitchen cars that were carrying aid. 

MR. KIRBY:  And they investigated, and they fired people that they thought were at fault, and they apologized for the mistake.  And they have tried to improve their deconfliction process.  We are not worried about the Israelis striking the convoys of trucks that are coming off of that pier. 

They are actually participating in helping marshal that material ashore and then get it into Gaza.  So, that’s not a concern.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Patsy.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  So, just to clarify, John, the Israelis and the American soldiers — the small footprint of American soldiers will be working together to marshal these shipments?

MR. KIRBY:  There is a small component of U.S. servicemembers on the pier.  There are no Israeli Defense Forces on the pier. 

Q    And so, is there anything more that you can preview on President Ruto’s visit next week, especially in terms of shoring up partnership against China’s influence in the continent?

MR. KIRBY:  We’ll have more to say on the state visit as we get closer to it.

Q    Okay.  And then just one more — one more.  And feel free if you want to take this one, Karine.  Many of those protests and — on campus have linked the Palestinian cause to activism of other global injustices, including ra- — racism against African Americans. 

And so, you both have said often that the President understands the emotions behind these protests.  But I was wondering specifically: As — as the President is ramping up his outreach to Black voters, is he aware of and sensitive towards the Black community and how they might see a common parallel of injustice between themselves and Palestinians?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Let me — let take this.  Let’s let the Admiral finish what he came to do.

MR. KIRBY:  That — that’s a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And then I’ll take some —

Q    Okay.

MR. KIRBY:  That’s definitely not a question for me.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  We’ll take a couple more.  Go ahead.

Q    One is —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, the young lady right here.  Yeah.

Q    Oh, thank you.  John, I — you mentioned the U.S. providing some security.  I thought the IDF was going to be providing the security, but is there a small component of U.S. forces that are also there providing some security for the pier?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s a small component of U.S. servicemembers on the pier, as I said, that will be helping with force protection, of course.  I mean —

Q    But you can’t speak to the number?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to speak to the number.  I’ll let you — the Pentagon do that.

Q    And then, there’s still U.S. forces or U.S. troops offshore, in addition to those on the pier?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s a — there’s — there’s a Navy component — there’s a — there’s Navy assistance in getting the material onto smaller vessels out further away from the pier, well off the coast, so that those smaller vessels then can transload the material onto the pier.

I mean, you’ve seen the pictures of the pier.  It’s not practical to bring a big freight or cargo ship up against that thing.  I mean, it’s anchored to the seabed, but it’s temporary.  It’s not — you know, there’s not concrete piles in there.

So, what we do is we take the stuff off the bigger ships — all well off the coast — put it on smaller U.S. Navy vessels.  Those smaller U.S. Navy vessels will bring it into the pier and offload it so it can get onto trucks.

Q    And just overall, this — this area has been targeted before by a mortar attack.  What is the administration trying to do to prevent and deter an attack from happening again?  And — and what efforts are being done to —

MR. KIRBY:  I mean —

Q    — protect those U.S. forces there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — part of my being up here today is a little bit of that to make it clear what this is and what it’s not.  There’s been some bogus stuff out there in the information environment, particularly in the region, that this has some sort of military capacity or operational capacity for the IDF, and it just doesn’t.  It’s nothing more than humanitarian assistance.

And we’ve also passed that message back through the appropriate channels to Hamas so they understand exactly what this is.

And look, showing pictures — you all can get online and see what it is.  I mean, we’re making no secret about what this thing is and what it’s not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Just a couple more.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Admiral, I know this is day one — maybe closer to hour one of this pier initiative —

MR. KIRBY:  But —

Q    — but — (laughs) — you know, even at full capacity, it’ll only be a fraction of the amount of aid.  Is —

MR. KIRBY:  Correct.

Q    — the United States working on or negotiating, figuring out other methods of getting additional aid in via other avenues?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, look, there’s no better way to do it than the land crossings.  There’s just not.  And before the war, there was 500 trucks going in a day over a course of different crossings, and we want to get back up to that level if we can.  Now, that’s a tall order; I get that.  And we haven’t been able to even get a sustainable 300-plus trucks in a day.  But it’s important that Rafah open immediately. 

Other — other crossings are open, but there’s been challenges with getting some of that aid through those crossings, particularly protest activity on the Israeli side. And those delays, those problems have got to be solved. 

And I have no doubt that Mr. Sullivan will raise those issues as well when he’s over there. 

But this is meant to be additive — this temporary pier — additive, not an alternative.  There’s just no alternative really to getting trucks in on the ground. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Brian, you have the last one.

Q    Thanks a lot.  Hey, Admiral.  I have a question about the death toll in Gaza.  Does President Biden have confidence in the casualty numbers coming out of Gaza?

MR. KIRBY:  The President watches this very, very closely.  And you’ve heard him talk about the more than 30,000 people that have been killed, and he said the majority are women and children.  And he’s also said that’s unacceptable. 

And as we’ve maintained time and time again, the right number of civilian casualties ought to be zero.  But in terms of, you know, what — what specific number we’re quoting or citing on any given day, I mean, we’re doing the best we can working with the Israelis to — to ascertain the scope of the civilian suffering, but it’s obviously immense. 

Q    Has his —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank —

Q    Has his confidence in the numbers coming out of Gaza increased since late October, when he said he had “no confidence” in the numbers —

MR. KIRBY:  You — you’ve heard —

Q    — (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  — the President talk about the numbers and talk about the concern. 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  And the most important thing — aside from, obviously, how tragic that is — is what we’re doing to alleviate and help improve conditions in Gaza, including through this temporary pier today. 

Thanks, everybody. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, thanks, Admiral. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay.  Darlene, I don’t have anything else. 

Q    Great.  Thank you.  Does the President, who is a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agree with the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Justice Alito should recuse himself from 20 cases involving the 2020 Election or January 6th, because of the reporting of the upside-down flag flown outside of his house?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, obviously, we’ve seen the reporting, and I — I don’t want to comment on the specific report of — on that reporting. 

What I can say more broadly is that the President believes that the American flag is sacred — you’ve heard him say that — and is owed proper respect and honor of the brave men and women who have defended our — our country for generations.  And we should be respecting that flag.  We should be making sure that it is respected in that way.  It is sacred.

As for anything else, the conduct or recusing himself, that is something for the court to decide.  I just don’t have anything else to add. 

And just want to be very clear, the American flag is sacred.  That is something that the President has — believes in, and you’ve heard me say this before at this podium many times. 

Q    Can you give us a sense of how the President will use his time at Morehouse on Sunday?  Will there be any news in the speech?  Will it be more of a lofty “go forth and prosper” kind of speech?  Can you give us a sense of —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    — without getting specific —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.

Q    — because I know you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.

Q    — don’t want to get ahead of the President.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.  I don’t want to get ahead of a president. 

No, so, look, he takes these commencement addresses incredibly seriously.  He understands the importance of — of him being the president and, obviously, the Commander-in-Chief and speak — when he speaks to the — the West Point graduates later this month.  But he sees this as an im- — an opportunity to lift up and to give important message to our future leaders. 

I mean, these Morehouse Men who are graduating will be our future leaders, as you heard from Mayor Benjamin when he was standing here behind this lectern.  He talked about what it’s like to be part of — part of that HBCU, if you ima– — if you — if you can imagine, collective — and how important it is, and how respected that is. 

And so, look, he’ll have, I think, some important messages to share for these future leaders.  He will have themes in his — in his remarks — in his commencement remarks that he’ll share with them.  He’s been working on these remarks for the past couple days, I can assure you, with his senior advisors.  He’s taking this incredibly seriously. 

And he understands, as the President tends to do, meet the moment — the moment that we’re in. 

I won’t get beyond that.  But I would say, “Stay tuned.”  I think it will be a moving — a moving commencement address.  I think it will meet the moment.  And I think you will hear directly from the President on how he sees, obviously, the future of this country and also the community that they represent. 

But, again, as you just stated, I’m not going to get ahead of the President.

Go ahead, Weijia.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I’m going to try again —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  On Morehouse?

Q    Not on Morehouse.  On —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay. 

Q    — the flag.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay. 

Q    So, given the flag incident, does President Biden believe that Justice Alito can rule in — with impartiality for all the cases involving January 6th?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look — and this is something that I have spoken to the President about. And it — basically, what I laid out is how he feels: That the American Flag is sacred, and we should be respecting that flag. 

I do not want to get into the business of the specific actions that — that Supreme Court justices — if they should recuse themselves or not on a — on a court.  That is something for the Court more broadly.  They have to make that decision.  That is something that we’re not going to step into.  We’re not going to comment from here.

But more broadly, we can say, from the reportings that we have seen, that, you know, we believe that the American flag should be respected.  It should be — it — this is a — if you think about the brave men and women who have sacrificed, given their lives to protect our nation, it is — it is — we just — that is something that we will always say and be really, really clear about. 

I cannot speak to if he should recrus- — recuse himself, how he should move forward in the Court.  That is for the Court to decide. 

Q    Okay.  On another topic.  Did President Biden —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You seem — look — wow, you just seem so disappointed and like, “Ah, Karine — well, we’re going to move on.”  (Laughs.)

Q    Well, no, I mean — I understand that you can’t — that you’re not going to engage on — on that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sorry to disappoint you, Weijia.  (Laughs.)

Q    No, it’s — it’s okay. 

So, did the President see the confrontations from the House Oversight Committee meeting yesterday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so, I have not talked to him about if he’s seen it.  What we can say, and I think this is something the President would agree upon, which is, you know, you — as someone who was a senator for 36 years, he believes that people should respect each other, treat with — each other with dignity and civility. 

I am not going to speak to the ex- — to what happened, obviously, in that hearing. 

But what we — what we can say, as someone who — you know, a President, as I just stated, was a senator for some time, who — who knows how that place works, I think you have to treat people with dignity; you have to treat people with respect.  It is important.  It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you sit on.  It is important to do that because you are there to work on behalf of the American people. 

And that’s probably all I can share at this time. 

Monica.

Q    Thank you, Karine. 

Q    On Morehouse.  You said the President is going to “meet the moment.”  Does that mean he’s going to specifically address some of the concerns that students there and faculty have raised about his handling of the war in Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will say: Stay tuned. 

Q    Okay.  And then what was the President’s reaction to Senator Romney saying that the President should have pardoned Donald Trump after the Justice Department brought those indictments against him or that he should have pressured New York prosecutors not to pursue the ongoing hush money trial?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The current President of the United States —

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — getting involved in an ongoing le- — legal case?

Q    A current sitting senator saying that the President should have pardoned Donald Trump.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I mean, we’re just going to let the process mo- — we would never interject ourself in — in a criminal — criminal legal proceedings.  It’s not something that we do from here. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sticky fingers.

Q    Yeah. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  That’s what you called yourself.  You said you had sticky fingers. 

Q    Well, I kept dropping my notebook; I’m just so excited to be here today.  (Laughter.)

There — there is a billionaire, Ray Dalio.  Quoted by the Financial Times, he’s saying now that the chances of a civil war in this country are around 35 to 40 percent.  Do you think the chances are that high?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I am not in a place to — to give probabilities or — you know, I don’t — I don’t gamble.  I don’t spend my time in Vegas, so I couldn’t speak to that. 

But what I can say is the President has been really clear about the need to continue to fight for our democracy.  That is one of the reasons he jumped into the election back in 2019.  What he was seeing across the country, what was — seeing, obviously, in Charlottesville and what he saw there — the vile, the — the hatred — and it was concerning to him. 

And so — but, you know, you move forward and — from there to January 6 of 2021 — that was a very scary time in our dem- — democracy.  That was a stain on our democracy.  What we saw happening at the Capitol — rioters — of 2,000 rioters wanting to turn over a free and fair election. 

So, obviously, the President wants to continue to fight for that, continue to fight for our democracy, fight for our freedoms, and that’s where we’re going to continue to stand.  I can’t give probability.  I don’t even know who this — who you’re speaking of. 

Q    Okay.  And then I have some on the big story today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay. 

Q    What does President Biden think about the world’s number-one golfer, Scottie Scheffler, being cuffed and then hauled in for a mug shot for what appears to be a misunderstanding at a traffic stop?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I’ve seen the reports of Mr. Schef- — Scheffler’s arrest.  I just want to say that our hearts go out to the individual that was killed — 

Q    Unrelated.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, no, let me finish — in the auto — in the auto accident that preceded his arrest.  Obviously, someone did die.  Someone was killed — preceded his arrest — that, obviously, he was not involved in.  So, want to make sure that we share our condolences to that family and their loved ones. 

Anything else, as specifics to his arrest, that would be something for local authorities to speak to. 

Q    I think just — you guys have spent a good chunk of this week —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yep.

Q    — talking about how you don’t want anybody to ever go to jail again for pos- — possessing marijuana.  Do you think that somebody who was involved in what appears to be a misunderstanding at a traffic stop should be facing 10 years in prison?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There — we’ve seen the reports.  There — there’s a process there.  We have to let the legal authorities do — go to their, you know, process and how this all works.  I can’t comment from here, from the lectern, about something that’s being looked into by local authorities.  I got to be mindful about that. 

But let’s not forget: Someone lost their life.  Not — obviously, that preceded this.  But there was an individual that was killed, and there’s a family that’s mourning a death of a loved one.  And so, we want to be sensitive to that as well. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Can we still assume that the Kansas City Chiefs will be visiting the White House this year in celebration of their Super Bowl victory?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I can say is all — the team, per usual, when there is a — a champion — a championship team, gets invited.  I don’t have anything to add on their attendance or how that looks.  But the team is always invited.  All — everyone on the team is invited.  I just don’t have anything beyond that. 

Q    So, can you confirm — you said everyone on the team is obviously invited.  Is the Chiefs’ kicker, Harrison Butker, welcome at this White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can say — you would have to, obviously — what I can say is we invite the entire team, and we do that always.  I don’t have anything beyond that.

Q    Given his recent comments, is he specifically welcome at this White — White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We invite the team.  We invite the team.  It’s an invat- — invitation that goes to the team.  And so, it’s up to the team who comes and who doesn’t come.  That’s the way it usually works. 

Go ahead, Selina.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just going to take another stab at this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Which one?  Which stab?  (Laughter.)

Q    So, is the President concerned that having a Supreme Court Justice —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.

Q    — someone who is in such a high position of power, displaying a flag in his house in such a way, that that could fuel more extremism and division in this country?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just have to be really mindful when we’re talking about the highest court of the land.  That is — we’re not going to step into the re- — who should recuse themselves or not.  That is for the courts to decide —

Q    And then —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — that court to decide. 

Q    — what is the sense here about the wife’s role here?  Whether it is a Supreme Court Justice —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — wife of a senator or a president, should she be able and entitled to have her own political opinions and views without having them tied to her husband or not? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any comment on his wife. 

Q    And then, just lastly —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    — the Morehouse president said that he is prepared to stop the commencement on the spot —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — if there are disruptive demonstrations.  So, is the President prepared that that could potentially happen in the middle of his speech?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to let the president of — of Morehouse obviously speak to whatever procedure or whatever process that Morehouse wants to put in place. 

Look, I mean, just to step back for a second.  You know, the President is very much looking forward to Sunday.  It is going to be an important moment for, obviously, the students who are graduating, the young men who are graduating, but also their families.  This is some — this is a — when the President does commencement address — he’s done it many times — and I’ve said this — as senator, vice president, as president.  You all know this.  You have covered the President for some time in his different roles as a public — public — public person and — public servant, to be more exact. 

And, you know — and when it comes to this difficult moment in time that we’re in, as we speak about the protests, he understands that there’s a lot of pain.  He understands that people have a lot of opinions, and he respects that folks have opinions. 

And so — and you’ve also seen the President — when there has been protests, the President has treated those peacefully protesters very re- — respectfully — in a respectful way.  And that’s how he’s going to move with any event that he goes forward to do, including on Sunday. 

He will respect the peaceful protesters.  It is up to Morehouse on how they want to manage that and move forward with that.  But he’s going to be respectful, because it’s not just the students, it’s the parents, it’s the loved ones who want — who want to be there to celebrate — celebrate an important moment. 

And as always, we believe all Americans have the right to peacefully protest.  And I’ll just leave it there. 

Go ahead, Nandita.

Q    Just quickly following up on Mayor Benjamin’s appearance yesterday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.

Q    He said he traveled to Morehouse.  He spoke to students there.  He asked them what they wanted to hear from the President. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    And many of them said that they wanted to talk about the war in Gaza.  And I’m just kind of trying to understand if the President plans to bring that up proactively during his speech, and what is his message going to be to — to those asking him to change his policy in the Middle East?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple things.  When the mayor was here, he did say he had a private conversation with students and — and others and faculty there.  He said he wanted to keep their — their — that private conversation in private.  So, he was very mindful in what he shared from — from here yesterday afternoon.

Again, in asking me that question, that is previewing the President’s remarks.  I — I am not going to preview his remarks.  I will tell you, more broadly, at a 30,000-foot view, that the President sees this as an important moment to give fu- — our future leaders some advice on how — on how he sees the world or how he could give them a little bit of advice on how to move forward in their — in their careers, in their future. 

And so, not going to get beyond that. 

Q    Does he at least proactively want to bring up this issue, especially because the — these students, as the mayor said, want to talk to him about Gaza.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re going to have to — you’re going to have to tune in.  You have to tune in.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t know if you’re traveling with us, but you’re going to have to tune in.

Go ahead.

Q    Who’s helping him craft his speech? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s been doing it himself along with his senior advisors all week. 

Q    Which advisors?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The usual senior advisors.  (Laughter.) 

Q    I know — I know Mayor Benjamin was traveling.  I know the Vice President has —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t —

Q    — talked to Morehouse students.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a list in front of — in front of me to — to call out.  But, you know, he has about — you know, a good — more than a handful of senior advisors.  So, you can imagine any one of them have been in the room with him, helping him craft — craft this important — important speech that’s happening on Sunday.  But I just don’t have a list of names, but it is his senior advisors. 

And he’s been working on it every day.  That I can assure you. 

Q    For this week, he’s been working on it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Oh, yeah.  Oh, yeah. 

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s been diligently working on this and taking this very seriously and wants to, obviously, hit the right — hit the right tone, meet the moment. 

Q    And earlier today, at the museum, he said something interesting, where he — he mentioned, “As soon as I came into office, I signed the American Rescue Plan.  And I want to be political for a second, because we’re having problems — not one Republican voted for it — not one.”  What — what did he mean by “problems”?  Is it the message not breaking through —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh.

Q    — that — in your mind, do you think he was talking about —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s a good —

Q    — not enough people know about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s an interesting catch.  I did not catch that in his remarks.

I don’t know.  I would have to — I would have to ask the President. 

But what I will say is — and I think that I do re- — I do remember this in his remarks, which is the American Rescue Plan, not one Republican voted for it.  It helped turn the — the economy around.  It helped open schools, helped start small businesses. 

And I think it was — I think he sees it as such an important — important piece of legislation — the first one that he was able to sign into law.  That made a difference.  That made a difference.

And I do know that he believes there are Republicans out there in Congress who try to take credit for that really important piece of legislation.  And he tends to call them out, as you’ve heard him do so.  Some of them actually benefited from that — the American Rescue Plan, which he has been very, very diligent on calling that out. 

And it was an opportunity for them to be on the right side of history, and they were not.  And so, he tends to call that out. 

Anything beyond that, I don’t have any specifics or — or detail into that. 

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah.  Does the President plan to meet with any of the Morehouse students while he’s down there, in addition to giving the speech?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ll have more to share as we get closer to Sunday.  Don’t have anything for you at this time beyond that. 

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah.  I wanted to kind of follow up on that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, yeah.

Q    A lot of — a lot of the messages to Black Americans that Biden is doing over the last couple days are at — at them — you know, a speech at Morehouse, the speech at the museum, the speech in Detroit. 

I — I wonder if you can give any, you know, sense of whether that information flows both ways.  Is he asking questions?  Is he — are — is — are the Divine Nine, you know, saying, “This is what we would like to see from your presidency going forward”? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    You know, listening as opposed to speaking.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I — I know you’re saying “at them.”  I don’t — we don’t see it “at them.”  I think the President shows up in front of a crowd of — in front of a community and talks about how he’s been working on their behalf, working to deliver for that community or for all Americans. 

I think that’s important.  I think people want to hear from the President.  They want to hear what is it that he has to say, whether it’s about the economy, healthcare, whatever issues that’s important to them. 

And I think the fact that the President shows up at the African American Museum is important.  The fact that the President, you know, is here — has in front — has — is talking to the Divine Nine, I think it’s also very important.  Going to Morehouse, we’re talking about young men who are going into — going into their careers, and they get to hear from the President of the United States.  That’s actually important, I think, for them to hear from the President. 

So, I don’t — the “at them,” I think, is kind of a little harsh there.  I think it’s the President showing up and sharing and being very clear about what he has done, as — as their president, to deliver. 

And — and I think to the — I think to the heart of your question, you know, the President also loves to hear from people.  He does.  He loves to hear from what they have to say, what they have to offer.  He’s going to do that with the Divine Nine.  He did that yesterday with the different plaintiffs of — of Brown v. Board.  He does that very often, continuously, and I think it is important for him. 

The best advice, the best — you know, the best feedback that he gets is from everyday people — you know, Americans who are out there, who have — who are living the life — are living the lives that he’s trying to improve.  So, he’s very much open to that. 

Go ahead, Franco.

Q    I wanted to ask about the background checks that are going to go into effect next week — gun background checks.  There’s a number of lawsuits from state attorney generals against them, the Second Amendment —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Which background checks are you —

Q    The gun background checks.  The —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    — they were announced earlier this spring.  Expa- — licenses of private — private gun sales —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    — for the private market. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, I think that’s more for the Department of Justice.  I don’t have any — anything specifics on how that’s going to work out or the process of that.  I would have to refer you to Department of Justice.  Don’t have anything in detail for you at this time.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, since the announcement of the U.S. tariffs on China earlier this week, we’ve heard from the international community, including IMF and WTO and others, that are expressing concerns about the impact of these tariffs on the global economy.  And I understand we heard from NEC Director Brainard yesterday about the case she’s making for how underpriced exports have hurt the U.S. economy specifically.  But does the administration have any case to be made for how this is going to help the global economy in addition to the U.S. economy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a couple of things.  Look, he took this action — the President did — obviously, earlier this week, when we made the announcement on Tuesday, to make — to make sure there was a level playing field, because he knows that Americans can — can outcompete anyone just as long as that competition is fair, right?  And that — you heard us say that over and over again.  You heard that from the ambassador — Ambassador Tai. 

But China hasn’t been playing by the rules.  It’s just a fact.  Their unfair policies undermine the global trade, not just us — Americans and American businesses and companies — but global trade more broadly. 

And so, certainly, we’re not alone in voicing those concerns about China’s unfair trade policies and taking action to address them.  We’re not the only ones who have said anything about that, spoken about it, or taken actions.  A number of advanced and emerging economies have also expressed concerns.  Their industries also face damage from China’s overcapacity. 

And so, the President is going to continue, as he does always, to work with our allies to join forces to out — to outcompete China and whether then — rather than undermining our alliances, threatening jobs, and increasing costs for families by $1,500 with universal 10 percent tariffs. 

And so, we are — we are going to remain an open economy — the United States.  And so — and we’re going to do that with foreign investment and American manufacturing almost double its — its average before the pandemic.  Our China — our actions — pardon me — are focused on strategic sectors and not only on China. 

So, we’re going to continue to work with our allies.  And — and so, we’re trying to make sure that, you know, competition is fair.  And the policies that China had were unfair and undermined global trade.  And so, we’re addressing that.  And we’re going to continue to do that. 

Go ahead.

AIDE:  We got to wrap.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s okay.  It’s all right. 

Q    Any response from the — from the White House regarding the sentencing of Mr. DePape in the attack on Paul Pelosi?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I know that — I saw that when I was coming out.  I want to be really careful on that, too.  On — on the judicial — it’s a judicial process. 

But as you heard from the President immediately after we received the tragic news of the heartbreaking attack on Paul Pelosi, there’s absolutely no place for political violence in America — not at all.  As leaders, we owe it to everyone not to repeat dangerous conspiracy theories and speak out against violence and violent rhetoric.  We’re so grateful — and we had, obviously, the opportunity to see Paul Pelosi a few times, most recently at the Medal of Freedom.  And you all saw him as well. 

And obviously he has recovered.  And so, the President is grateful for his friendship.  He’s grateful for the friendship of Speaker Pelosi.  And we’re happy that he’s doing well. 

But I’m not going to speak to a judicial process. 

I’m being pulled, guys.  I will see you. 

Q    Karine, you haven’t answered my question, though.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my gosh.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Thank you.  So, just a follow-up —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re right.  I owe you.  I owe you an answer.  What was the question?

Q    Yeah, just — it’s basically to follow up with what my colleagues have asked about Morehouse.  I know you can’t preview the content of the speech. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    But is the President mindful of how Black students who are protesting in campus might see a parallel of their experience of injustice between themselves and the Palestinians?  Has he received input about this?  Is he sympathetic to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the President is sympathetic to the fact that many communities are in pain.  He has said that.  He is very sympathetic to what people are feeling right now.  He knows that it is a difficult time, and he respects that.  He truly does.  And — and, you know, that is also why he also respects the fact that people have the right to peacefully protest. 

And it is a difficult time, and we get that.  He gets that.  And, you know, as President, he makes incredibly difficult decisions.  And — but he also understands as president, there are people who are going to feel pain in a different way or see actions that he’s taken differently, in different views.  But this is what our democracy is all about, having different opinions, having different views, and being able to express your voice and be able to be very clear about that. 

And so, that’s why we’ve been saying — when you all have been asking about protests and what the President’s going to do — he’s going to do what he’s been doing for the past several months when there have been protests — respect the protesters who are doing it peacefully — understanding that all Americans have the right to speak their voice.  That is part of our democracy.  That is part of who we are. 

All right.  Thanks, everybody.

END 3:36 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby appeared first on The White House.

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Stephen Benjamin

Thu, 05/16/2024 - 17:23

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:52 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll wait for — for — I don’t want to call her out, but — (laughter) —

Q    Madam President.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Madam President, that’s right.  (Laughter.)  I was trying to be good, not call out people.

All right.  Good afternoon.

As President Biden said during his campaign, no one should be in jail for using or possessing marijuana.  That’s why in 2022, President Biden requested that DOJ and HHS review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

Today, the administration is taking a major step toward reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug under federal law.

If finalized, marina- — marijuana will no longer hold the higher-level classification it currently holds over fentanyl and meth, drugs driving our nation’s overdose epidemic.  And it will remove burdensome, longstanding barriers to critical research.

This announcement builds on the work President Biden has already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses for simply possessing marijuana.  His categorical pardon for federal offenses of simple possession in October 2022 and December 2023 lifted barriers to housing, small business loans, and more for thousands of Americans.

The reality is, while white, Black, and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionately higher rates.

The President’s actions today further his commitment to reverse longstanding injustices and to right historic wrongs.

Next, I want to talk about a part — as part of our series of engagements this week, we are marking the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education.  Today, President Biden met with plaintiffs and their family members at the White House.

Among those the President met with include Adrienne Jennings Bennett, a plaintiff in one of the original cases, Boiling v. Sharpe, that was argued alongside Brown v. Board, and Cheryl Brown Henderson, one of the daughters of the le- — of the lead plaintiff, Oli- — Oliver L. Brown, in the Brown v. Board.

The delegation represents litigants from the five cases that were combined under Brown v. Board of Education and heard before the Supreme Court, as well as the NAAC[P] President Derrick Johnson and other leaders of the NAACP who were critical in fighting for these and other hard-won freedoms for Black Americans.

The President was proud to participate in this meeting and honor the legacy of those who paved the way for progress and hard-fought rights for Black Americans while highlighting his vision for how we must continue to build on these freedoms.

Joining us today, as you can see from my right, to say more and make some news about this administration’s work to advance racial equity and opportunity for Black Americans is Senior Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement, the former Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin.  Thank you so much for coming again.

MR. BENJAMIN:  All right.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The podium is yours.

MR. BENJAMIN:  Thank you, Karine.  Thank you so much. 

Thank you, my friend.  I — I miss being mayor, y’all.  (Laughter.)  I — I think it was a much — a much simpler existence at times.

Today at the White House, as Karine mentioned, we’re recognizing — commemorating the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education becoming the law of the land, upending decades of discrimination since ni- — 1896.

President Biden and Vice President Harris will continue their long- — longstanding effort to honor the legacy of those who paved the way for progress and hard-fought rights for African Americans.

This morning, he met with the plaintiffs and their families, as Karine mentioned, in the Oval Office.  During the meeting, he commended them for changing our nation for the better and committed to continue his fight to move us closer to the promise of America.

Families from each of the five different cases that were consolidated in Brown v. Board were present today.

Tomorrow, the President is going to deliver remarks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. 

Here, he and the Vice President, a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, will also meet with leaders of the Divine Nine historically Black fraternities and sororities.

On Sunday, May 19th, the President is going to deliver the commencement address at the 140th Morehouse College commencement in Atlanta, Georgia, where today the faculty voted to confer upon the President an honorary degree.

President Biden and Vice President Harris — who also, as we all know, serves as the very first HBCU graduate, first to serve as Vice President of the Unites States — they know firsthand the value of HBCUs. 

And I’m proud and very pleased to announce today that the Biden-Harris administration has invested more than $16 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which is unprecedented — a record amount.

President Biden has also canceled $160 billion in student loans for over 4 million Americans, providing significant relief to all borrowers, with significant impact on Black borrowers; increased the amount of maximum Pell Grants, as well, by $900 — the largest increase in a decade — helping students from low- and middle-income backgrounds pursue their dreams of a post-secondary education — nearly 60 percent of African American students are federally — are federal financial aid recipients — with an average award of nearly $5,000 per student. 

This is only a snapshot of what this administration has delivered as President Biden and Vice President Harris have leveraged the full force of the federal government to advance racial justice and build economic opportunity since their first day in office.

As a result of their leadership, Black household family wealth is up 60 percent; more than 2.5 million jobs have been created for African Americans; and in 2023, we hit the lowest Black unemployment data on record.  And that remains consistently low, as we’ve seen, across the country — unemployment under 4 percent for the entire nation for 27 months running.

I’m very happy to be here with you.  More than happy to take your questions, I think.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Selina.

Q    Thank you so much for being here.  So, you recently met with students and faculty at Morehouse College.  Can you just talk to us about the concerns they shared and how you responded?

MR. BENJAMIN:  Sure.  And I — and I’ll do my best to be clear and transparent, because I also promised the students I would keep our conversation as closely as I possibly could.

But, you know, every day, as Director of — of Public Engagement here, we get out across the — the country and try to spend at least two days of every week on the road somewhere doing what — what my grandmother and other loved ones might say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.  You listen twice as much as you talk.” 

And really wanted to lean in with these young leaders to hear what they wanted to hear on their very special commencement day.  Many of you know that four years ago, many of them were denied a commencement because of the pandemic — the greatest pandemic since 1918.  And wanted to make sure that the President’s goal to center these students and have a chance to discuss the real issues of the world that they might have to address as leaders going forward was important.

So, we sat there.  We talked about everything.  I mean, we — we talked about the status of the world.  Certainly, many of them wanted to talk about the Middle East and — and war.  We talked about reconnecting communities and — and the amazing $160 million going — going in just up the street, The Stitch project in Atlanta, working to — to undo some of the damage done by previous infrastructure investments and how it’s connect- — reconnecting in a very reparative and restorative way the Sweet Auburn community.

We talked about — about wealth creation.  Each and every one of these young men — who, I will say, were exceptional — five students, all graduating seniors, going off to do great things at fine institutions and great places to work, four faculty members, and two administrators shared, individually, one by one, the things that were important to them to try and hear.

But the common thread was they wanted to make sure we were centering the young people and that the President did that on — on Sunday.  So — but we talked on — on any range of issues.

I have a college-aged daughter who also attends an HBCU and — and a 17-year-old, as of today — happy birthday, Jordan Grace Benjamin — (laughter) — who is plotting world domination and takeover as we speak.  (Laughter.)  She’s the real politician in the family.  But — but their concerns and interest areas were not dissimilar from the two teenagers who live in our household.

Q    And do you or the President have any concerns about the President’s address overshadowing the commencement, as we’ve heard from some students publicly?

MR. BENJAMIN:  Sure.  No, obviously, I think what — what’s going to be most important are — are the words that the President articulates.  And I know that he — he feels very deeply about what this means to these young men. 

And — and I say “young men.”  Many of you know that Morehouse is a unique institution.  Some of you who are familiar with — with the legacy of the great school is it’s probably the only place in the country, if not the world right now, where that many amazingly talented young men are being trained for leadership in — in the world at one time — young Black men.

No, the — the goal will be to make sure that we use this as an opportunity to continue to elevate the amazing work that’s been done at Morehouse over the last century and a half.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead. 

Q    Yeah.  I — I — Mayor Benjamin, hey.  I do wonder what kind of reception do you, having been there, expect the President to receive at Morehouse. 

Also, does he plan to have any direct engagement with — with students or faculty there?  A lot of them that I’ve talked to have said, you know, “We don’t just want a campaign speech or speech at us, but we want to be able to talk policy or talk about their issues.” 

MR. BENJAMIN:  Sure.  I’m — I’m sure the President will have a chance to engage with faculty, staff, and students while he’s there.  And I know that he looks forward to it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy.

MR. BENJAMIN:  Did I answer that question? 

Q    Yeah.  Well, the–

MR. BENJAMIN:  Okay.

Q    — the first one.  What kind of — having talked to students at Morehouse, what kind of reception do you expect him to receive?

MR. BENJAMIN:  Sure.  You know — you know, it’s so important to realize that no community is monolithic.  Even some of the — the range of — of opinions that we received last Friday and that I’ve heard from speaking with literally dozens and dozens of folk with just about — about this speech over the last several days, people have different thoughts about what they might want to hear. 

I do know that the President, again, is — is very focused on centering these young men and — and what this — this transition in life means to them.  So, we listen very closely.  We received those messages, and we shared those with the President and — and his speechwriting team.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy. 

Q    Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  And happy birthday to your daughter.

MR. BENJAMIN:  Thank you.

Q    Does the President share the president of Morehouse College’s belief that the graduation ceremony should be halted if there are protests or disruptions? 

MR. BENJAMIN:  You know, I’m going to let Morehouse handle Morehouse and let Dr. Thomas, who’s — who’s been wonderful to work with as we prepare for the commencement — I’ll let him speak for Morehouse College. 

The President has been very clear.  I mean, we live in a — an amazing country where you have three estates of government.  And you have a fourth estate that personifies the importance of — of the right to free speech.  You — you — and you do it well.  That right to free speech extends to — to even those who — who wish to protest.  And he respects that, and he makes it a point to lean in when there are protesters in the very same space. 

So, we’ll respect that.  I think, as long as there are peaceful protests that don’t disrupt the — the amazing moment that is for each of those graduates there today, I think we’ll all consider this a success. 

Q    Did the White House ever consider canceling the speech once you learned that there likely would be protests?

MR. BENJAMIN:  No, not that I know of.  But I’ll — I’ll defer that to someone else.  No — no, ma’am.

Q    Hi, Mr. Mayor.  Thank you.  Recent polls have Joe Biden and Donald Trump neck and neck among Black voters.  I’m hoping — hoping to stay away from the Hatch Act.  But do you think that the President’s message is resonating with Black voters?

MR. BENJAMIN:  Well, you have no responsibility to stay away from the Hatch Act, but I do. 

Q    Yeah.  (Laughter.)

MR. BENJAMIN:  So, I appreciate that.

I — as I mentioned, I spend a great deal of time on the road.  I mean, the — this is a wonderful citadel of democracy.  There are — D.C., the heart of the Republic.  But getting out and listening to people and hearing the impact of President Biden’s and Vice President Harris’s policies on helping change their lives inform my opinion as to where just everyday Americans stand.  We’re not going to talk politics. 

And I’ve had the chance to be, gosh, in Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, South Carolina, Georgia, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia the — just in the last several months — and listened to people talk about the impact of — of amazing things, like the criminal justice reforms and social reforms the President has led on and on how, in fact, while creating access to capital and — and creating economic opportunity, leading to not just these precipitously low unemployment rates but the greatest increase in number of Black-owned businesses in 30 years; how we’re not just talking about history, like we are do- — doing today with — with the — with the Brown and related-case defendants but how, indeed, the President is making history every single day. 

That’s the feedback I get from people.  And I think that we’re going to — we’re going to focus — continue on making history on this side of the — of — of the table by just leading through good government and the leadership of the President and the Vice President.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Kelly.

Q  Thank you.  Is there a connection between the investments that you talked about today in the HB[C]U community and the things you’ve been hearing from your travels, some of the concerns that have been expressed by students and communities across the country, especially in the last several months of the Israel-Hamas war?  Is there a link between the investments and what you’ve been learning?

MR. BENJAMIN:  Sure.  No.  The $16 billion number that we’re releasing today is new.  It’s an updated number.  But I mean, if you may remember that the previous total shared publicly was $7 billion, which is also a record, long before the — the last several months. 

This is consistent with the President’s very clear commitment from day one of his administration to making sure that — that not only do we declare that equity and — and — is a central theme sacrosanct to this — the core of this administration, but that we actually put in place real ladders to opportunity as he seeks to build an economy from the middle — middle out and bottom up.  I mean, so, this is — this is nothing new.  This is entirely consistent with the work that the President has been doing in day one — a whole-of-government approach, a whole-of-society approach that — that’s yielding fruit.

Q    And when you talk about this kind of investment and you’re meeting with groups of students who feel frustration, does it make a difference?

MR. BENJAMIN:  I — you know, so I will cross the line, maybe get back to the first question just briefly.  As — as we went through — it’s always important, again, if you — if you’re going to listen, you have to listen.  You — you can’t come in talking.  And — and you listen and you receive where people are, and you get into real public narrative — you know, the story of — the story of you, the story of me and kind of where we go from here.

And when you see opportunities to share these successes — and I’m not going to sit and go through it a tick list — but in every single corner of American society, when you think about the President’s leadership — the greatest pandemic since 1918; the greatest economic disruption many of us expected maybe since 1929; the greatest social unrest, we saw after the — the murder of George Floyd, since 1968 — all wrapped up into a moment that that — that, post-Charlottesville, propelled this genuinely good man to decide he wanted to help lead his country. 

That’s all part of what has become the Biden-Harris agenda, and they’ve been leading from the front.  As I go through those issues — and I did it last Friday with those amazing young leaders — heads were nodding.  People were very much appreciative of — of receiving the information.  And I know we’re planning to go out and share with others.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Mr. Mayor, I just wanted to circle back to the meeting today in the Oval Office.  The people who were there with President Biden came out and spoke with us briefly afterwards, and a few of them mentioned the work that still needs to be done and how schools are still in many parts of the country, still, effectively, segregated.  Did the President have anything to say about that in terms of continuing work?  And did he respond to — you know, a parent asked that a holiday be made out of the anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education —

MR. BENJAMIN:  So, that — that request came up in our meeting before the meeting as well, from one of the families of the litigants. 

I mean, it’s important to note that the first major national holiday established in decades is Juneteenth.  The President — that’s his legislation.  The establishment of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Memorial in Illinois and Mississippi — also because of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s leadership — the passing of the Emmett Till Antilynching bill.

Even some of the tough things left to do.  Hopefully, the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act someday.  Each of the elements of the — in those bills are part of the President’s executive order as relates to federal law enforcement agencies.

In his conversation, and I’m not sure if — one of the speakers, they may have mentioned, the President also talked to her mother — a 103-year-old litigant as well, by phone.

There’s an acknowledgement every day with our president that we’re — we’re not where we ought to be, but we’re certainly not where we used to be.  And every once — every — every moment you have to celebrate the successes we’ve had, celebrating the diversity of this country and how we move forward together is a moment to celebrate. 

Still a lot of work to be done, but it’s only going to happen with truly inspired leadership like we’re getting from President Biden and Vice President Harris. 

Q    Thank you.  And thank you, Mayor Benjamin. The Morehouse commencement ceremony has been described as solemn, steeped in tradition.  You just described it as “unique.”  And I’m wondering how the nature of the ceremony factored into the White House’s decision to have President Biden speak there at a time when there’s volatility on campuses nationwide. 

MR. BENJAMIN:  Sure, Morehouse and all the other HBCU — I served as a trustee at Benedict College, another proud, historically Black college in Columbia, South Carolina.  Again, my daughter also attends — she — she’ll tell you that she wears Spelman on her chest all day, every day.  She is a Spelman woman. 

More- — Morehouse is unique, but I dare say that every institution of higher learning is unique.  And HBCUs are — yes, are solemn places — most, almost every one of them, but most of them birth after one of the darkest periods in world history and certainly the darkest period in — in American history.  So, when you step onto those grounds, you’re always stepping into someplace special.

The President was invited to come to Morehouse, voted on by the faculty today to indeed receive an honorary doctorate, which we conferred on Sunday.  And I think, yeah, it’s a special place and having a chance to speak very directly to this very unique group of talented young men and women who — young men and their families, who are going to go out and help change the world — yeah, I’m sure it did factor in his decision to make — to make the move down there.

Q    The President of the United States receives multiple invitations to speak at multiple universities every single year.  And I’m — I’m wondering if you think that — even with the possibility of protests, that there’s an expectation of, potentially, a calmer reception at Morehouse than elsewhere?

MR. BENJAMIN:  Well, I’ll tell you, Morehouse is an amazingly special and dignified place.  Yes, he does receive a lot of invitations.  But this President has also been very intentional over the course of his career and certainly his presidency, to always make sure he makes time to go to HBCUs. 

He — he delivered the commencement address at Howard last year, and he’s been at SC State’s commencement address.  He’s obviously spoke to the president of Delaware State, where — where President Biden will tell you that he got his political start decades ago — spoke to Dr. Allen today.  And, obviously, it’s special to him. 

And he realizes that not only a speech but, more importantly, the $16 billion in resources to support this amazing — amazingly talented group of young leaders — that he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  We’re going to start wrapping it up.  Go ahead.

Q    A question on — a question on the Oval Office meeting, and then wanted to follow up on something else you said.  Had the President met with the families involved in the Delaware case prior to today’s Oval Office meeting?  Or was this his first time meeting them?

MR. BENJAMIN:  You know, it was interesting — and, obviously, this is my first time in the same space with each of them — he spent a significant amount of time with the Delaware families.  One of the ladies, a gran- — a daughter of one of the litigants indicated that the President had spent several moments on their couch over the course of — of his career.  So, he was very familiar with the case.  He kno- — he knows the case.  But he had engaged with the families in the past. 

Q    And then, on the question of enthusiasm for the President in the African American community, what do you chalk that lethargy up to?

MR. BENJAMIN:  You know, I will tell you — again, I can only speak, Francesca, to my — to my experience.  And when I get out there and we talk to people about the amazing successes of the administration and the leadership of the President and Vice President, people are psyched.  I mean, they’re — they’re happy about these meaningful developments that are helping change the lives of people all across this country. 

We got to make sure not — and that’s — that’s a campaign job.  Our job here is making sure we share the news and hopefully, in partnership with each and every one of you, that the news gets out to all the places in this very different world in which we live in which people receive their news. 

So, I’m looking over there.  (Inaudible) a third question, Francesca.  (Laughter.)

Q    No, I just wanted to ask: Are you saying that you distrust the polling that shows the President’s support among the African American community is lower than it was this time four years ago?

MR. BENJAMIN:  I can honestly tell you that I don’t follow the polls.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Hi, Mayor Benjamin.  Brown v. Board not only ended “separate but equal,” but it was a real preparation for the Civil Rights Movement.  Similarly, there’s a — a different movement happening after the Supreme Court ruling in Harvard vs. Students for Fair Admissions and — with affirmative action that has created this sort of — seemingly, this anti-DEI, anti-equity movement that impacted schools, businesses, and even this administration’s ability to implement some of these policies. 

Does the President believe that he has leaned in enough on this issue?  And how much can we expect him to speak to that in tomorrow’s speech?

MR. BENJAMIN:  Sure.  Well, he has one speech tomorrow at the — at the NAACP.  And then, obviously, he has several speeches this weekend.

The President is unapologetic about the — not only the principle of equity being a core value to him but also his administration, but he continues to make sure that, consistent with his very first executive order, that every piece of policy and — that comes out of the administration, as well as each of the cornerstone laws enacts — the infrastructure bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS bill, and — and also the American Rescue Plan — that each of those pillars have the same core of equity.  And it’s led to record amounts of contracting — I think $76 billion this past year for small, minority-owned businesses — record amounts in the Black community and the Latino community, as well.

So, he’s not stepping back on his commitment to equity and continues to lean in and expects his administration to do the same.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Okay.  Go ahead, Ebony.  You got last question.

Q    Okay.  I want to follow up on just two comments.  One, you just mentioned the $76 in — $76 billion in contracts for minority businesses.  But can you talk about what that looks like for Black businesses specifically?

MR. BENJAMIN:  $12.1 billion.

Q    Wow.  $12.1 billion.  (Laughter.)

And then my — my second question is: Earlier, you were talking about that we aren’t where we want to be, but we — we’re not where we used to be, but we’re not where we want to be. 

Specifically, when the question was asked, what — what are the things — or — or are there any orders or policies and executive orders that we can see coming from the President that can address some of these inequities in education? 

When we were at — earlier, I was talking about how we are seeing resegregation in some of the schools.  How can the administration — or is it — what are — what could we see from the administration to reverse that?  Because there’s been a reversal in some — in many areas.

MR. BENJAMIN:  Yeah.  I’ll try to make the answer as concise as possible.  But as you can tell, I believe very much so in data and — and good data. 

You know, the — the challenge that we faced at the height of the pandemic, recognizing the — still the way that most of our education systems across the country are funded — property taxes, local resources, not necessarily dedicated at the level that they ought to receive, even in — sometimes in the same town or the — or the same state, can make things particularly a challenge.

The work that the President led on, along with the Vice President, to make sure that we’re investing not only in HBCUs — record amounts here today — but also, under the American Rescue Plan, Title One schools are receiving $130 billion in — in funding for maintenance of equity requirements, making sure we’re protecting high-poverty schools from reductions in state and local funding.

I mean, it’s — it’s what he does every day.  When I talk about not — not being where we used to be and also not being where we ought to be, there’s this idea — and he talks about it often; you’ve heard him say it a mil- — a million times — about the idea of — of America. 

The idea is that we all aspire to be a more perfect Union, which means that it — it’s — every once in a while, you get to take big strides, big leaps forward — Brown v. Board was a big leap forward; today’s announcement of $16 billion for HBCUs is a big leap forward — but the everyday struggles are — are — that’s the hard work.  That’s the hard work that — that this President has decided that he’s going to lean into every single day. 

Some days, we’ll take strides.  Every once in a while, you know, it’s a — it’s three and out.  Sometimes it’s inches.  But we’re making progress towards that more perfect Union.  And it takes intentional fortitude and leadership and vision of the fact that we’re stronger when we’re together, that diversity is — is our strength, and it’s something that the President and Vice President Harris are very proud of.

Thank you all for having me.  All right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Mayor.

MR. BENJAMIN:  All right.

Q    Thanks, Mr. Mayor.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Appreciate it.  Thank you so much.

Q    Thanks, Mayor.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Seung Min. 

Oh, wait.  Let’s give him a second to — all right.

Q    Two topics, if I may.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, of course.

Q    First, President Biden decided to block the release of the audio of his interview with the special counsel.  And obviously, the letter from the White House Counsel laid out the reasons about the concerns it being used for political purposes.  But that seems to imply that the White House is concerned that these could be politically damaging.  So, why not just release them, especially with this White House’s —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — commitment to transparency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, one — for one, the transcripts, as you all know, is already out there.  I think the second piece of this, too, to note is that the Attorney General made it clear that law enforcement files like these need to be protected.  And so, the President made his determination at the request of the Attorney General.  So, just want to make that second point that I made really clear.

The Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s Office have provided extensive written letters — as you all know; I’m sure some of you have read this — on this issue and, like I said, that you have seen.  And so — so, when it comes to anything further or any specifics, obviously, I would — I would refer you to my colleagues at the White House Counsel’s Office.

But those are the th- — just to make that — that second point, again, very clear: This was taken by determination — the President took the determination at the request of the — of the Attorney General and wanted to make sure — the Attorney General wanted to make sure that — that law enforcement files like these must be protected. 

Q    But does the White House feel that the — the recording, the audio, could be politically harmful since that point was also raised in the letter? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can’t — I don’t want to get into — dive into the specific point that you’re making about the politics.  I would have to ser- — refer you to our Counsel’s Office on that.  But there were determination that the President took very seriously on behalf of the — obviously, at the request of the Attorney General.  And that’s how this decision was made.

Q    And on the — on the shooting of the Slovakian Prime Minister.  I know the President released a statement yesterday, but now that it — it looks more and more clear that it appears to have been a politically motivated attack, I was wondering if the — if the White House had more to say —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I —

Q    — on that front, of those potential motivations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t want to go beyond what I said here at the — at the lectern yesterday.  Obviously, we wish — we wish him a speedy recovery.  I don’t want to get beyond that.  And I’m glad that he’s doing okay, he’s doing better. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just to follow up on what Seung Min was asking for.  Speaker Mike Johnson said that President Biden is, quote, “apparently afraid” for citizens to hear his interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur.  How is the White House responding to that kind of criticism?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would say the transcripts are already out there.  They’ve been out there.  They have been released to the public.  The public has an opportunity to hear directly from the President and what — or to read and — what exactly the President said.

The Attorney General made it clear that law enforcement files like these need to be protected.  And that’s the determination that was made.  Anything further, anything specifics, I would — certainly would refer you to my colleagues. 

But that was a determination that was made.  And, again, anything more to that, I would refer you to my colleagues.

Q    You talked about the transcripts being released. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    But, as you know, hearing something and reading it is very different.  And if the transcript is already out there, why is it different to have the audio there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Like I said, there were determinations that the President — that was made by the President at the request of the Attorney General.  And so, we took that very seriously.  The President took that very seriously.  And so, that’s what I would say to your question. 

Q    And just one more question —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.

Q    — on another topic with Xi Jinping meeting with Vladimir Putin.  At the summit in Beijing, they pledged to deepen their strategic partnership.  What is the U.S. assessment of the current Russia-China relationship?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I know that there was a statement, obviously, that was a joint statement that was put out.  Look, we don’t see anything new here.  I will reiterate what I said yesterday, which was we find it unacceptable that Chinese companies are helping Putin wage this war against Ukraine.  We’ve been very clear about that. 

And if China purports to support peace in Europe, it cannot continue to fuel the biggest threat of the European security.  And that’s not just coming from us.  It’s coming from NATO, the EU, the G7 partners — they put out statement about this as well. 

So, look, the statement is nothing new.  It’s more of the same.  And we’ve been very clear where we stand on this.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    I’d like to follow up on that, actually. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    The — you said the statement is nothing new.  It was pretty anti-American.  I mean, if it’s — whether it’s new or not, is it concerning to the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, it — we don’t see — again, we don’t see anything new with this.  We’ve seen this before.  I — I get the point that you’re making.  We’ve seen this type of bilateral statement from those two — from those two countries.  We have been very clear about this. 

And it’s not just us.  You’ve heard from the EU, you’ve heard from the G7 partners, you’ve hear- — heard from NATO. 

And, look, we have been — all — all of the — all of the allies and partners that I just mentioned, we’ve been very clear on making sure that we do everything that we can to give the brave people of Ukraine, who are fighting Putin’s aggression, the — the se- — the security assistance that they need.  And that’s why it was so important to get that national security supplemental.

You heard — you heard us announce $1 billion on the day that it became law — that national security supplemental — to get that funding out.  You — you heard from Secretary Blinken, who was just in Ukraine and talked abo- — talked about giving more of that security assistance. 

So, we’ve all been clear.  There — you know, these two — this two bilateral relationship, obviously, they stand out as a — two countries who will — who are, as I said, put out the statement. 

But, you know, that is not the position — not — not just the position of the U.S.  They heard it from G7, NATO, the EU.  We’ve been very, very clear about that.  And we’re going to continue to — to stand by Ukraine as they fight for their freedom, they fight for their democracy. 

Q    Does this White House/does the United States have any leverage to dissuade China from supporting Russia as much as it is?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I mean, we’ve been very clear publicly.  We’ve been very clear privately.  And we’ll continue to do that. 

Q    But — but that — that doesn’t answer my question.  Like, saying you’ve been very clear — what — what kind of leverage do you have to — to change this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, here’s what I say, Jeff.  When you have the EU, you have the G7, you have NATO all saying what we are saying right now, which is we’re going to protect — or continue to help Ukraine defend itself, you know, that says a lot.  We’re — we’re talking about partners and allies here who mount a pretty — a pretty strong — a pretty strong force here in saying that we’re going to continue to — to support Ukraine. 

I mean, I think that says — that says what you need to know.

Q    And there’s just nothing more you can do about China?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I’m not going to talk about bilateral relationship.  I said this yesterday.  What I can speak is to what we’ve reiterated over and over again is that it is unacceptable for Chinese companies and how they’re helping Putin wage this — this — this war against Ukraine.  We’ve been pretty clear about that. 

But the fact that this is a President that has been able to make — bring NATO together — right? — been able to make NATO the more — more — you know, stronger than it’s ever been, that’s important.  The fact that he has been able to put — to bring more than 50 countries together in order to — in order to make sure that Ukraine has what its needs — it needs to fight against Putin’s war, that says a lot.  That says a lot about this President’s leadership, and that’s says — says a lot about where other countries are.  I mean, our partners and allies came together in support of Ukraine, and we’re going to continue to do so. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Republican Senator Mitt Romney said in an interview overnight that he believes that President Biden should have pardoned his predecessor from federal charges.  And Romney argued that it’s now been a win-win for Trump in his campaign and in his public profile that he’s been able to use these charges to his benefit. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to speak to pardons from here — I’m just not — especially for a candidate for the 2024 election.  I’m just not going to speak about it from here.

Q    But clemency is obviously a presidential power.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to speak about it from here. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The Bureau of Labor statistics yesterday released, inadvertently, some CPI data —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — 30 minutes before they were supposed to.  It came a month after it was demonstrated that an economist had been talking to Wall Street firms and a couple years after there was some suspicious trading activity.  So, I’m wondering what — what level of concern you guys have, how confident you are in the BLS leadership, and if you think that there should be an outside, sort of, investigation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And to your question, it was an inadvertent leak yesterday by BLS, and there was a statement that they put out.  BLS has alerted the Office of Management and Budget and DOL’s Office of the Inspector General of the incident.  BLS takes its data seriously and security, obviously, seriously and is conducting a full investigation into its procedures and controls to ensure the incident is not — is not repeated.

BLS can obviously speak more into their investigation.  We have — the President — we have confident that this will — this will get done.

Go ahead.

Q    Hi, Karine.  Thank you.  Two topics, if I can.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.

Q    Briefly on what we’ve been talking about with Ukraine.  The U.S. today — the Treasury Department announced sanctions on Russian entities for facilitating weapo- — weapons transfers between North Korea and Russia.  Also today, the — the chair of the NATO Military Committee said that Russia was outstripping Western powers in increasing their defense industry capacity. 

How big an impact are these sanctions realistically likely to have?  And is the U.S. considering more sanctions that target the Russian defense industry more directly?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, starting with your first — or your last question first, I’m not going to preview sanctions from here.  That’s not what we do. 

But I can say that, to your point, today, the Department of Treasury designated five Russia-based individuals and entities connected to the transfer of military equipment and components from the Dom- — Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — DPRK — to Russia.  This action builds a several — builds on several sanctions designations over the past year, targeting the Russia-DPRK military relationship, most recently in February 2024, just couple months ago.

These designations highlight our resolution opp- — our resolute opposition to these continued arms transfer.  We condemn Russia’s veto of the U.N. Security Council resolution that would have extended the mandate of the U.N. 1718 Committee Panel of Experts, a body that documented violations of U.N. sanctions related to the DPRK. 

We will continue to examine all possibilities to counter the destabili- — destabilizing Russia-DPRK partnership, but I’m certainly not going to preview any sanctions from here. 

Q    Okay.  And one on Israel by extension.  The Hou- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    The Houthis have threatened more actions against ships that they claim are heading for Israel and potentially even in the Mediterranean.  Will the U.S. continue operations against the Houthis if these attacks restart?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, obviously we condemn these Houthis — Houthis for these attacks and continue to take action to hold them accountable.  We’ve been pretty consistent in doing that for the past several months.  These reckless attacks by the Iran-ba- — Ira- — Iran-backed Houthis have not only disrupted global trade and commerce but also taken the lives of international seafarers simply doing their jobs. 

So, we have taken significant amount of Hou- — of Houthi weapons.  Our military is regularly destroying Houthi missiles when they’re being loaded and prepared to launch but before they can actually be fired at commercial ships as well. 

We will continue to act as needed to degrade the Houthi capabilities.  You have, again, seen us do this for the past several months, and so we are committed to doing that.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I want to ask you about a topic that’s getting a lot of attention.  The Kansas City Chiefs’ kicker, Harrison Butker, is facing criticism for his recent commencement address, where he told female graduates that the most important title a woman could hold is homemaker.  He was critical about surrogacy, IVF, and Pride Month, and he also criticized the President for being a Catholic who supports abortion rights.  Has the President seen those comments?  Does he have a reaction to them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, the President has been pretty busy today, so I haven’t had a chance to — to focus on this particular issue.  I think I’ve — I’ve heard some reports on it. 

Look, the President is not going to back away from supporting women and reproductive rights, reproductive healthcare.  It is important to do that.  It is important to fight for all of our freedoms, and that’s what you’re seeing the President do.  He’s not going to back away from that. 

And, look, I can’t speak to this specific thing because I haven’t re- — heard it in — in its entirety. 

But, look, you know, you have a former administration that — that had said — a former President that said over and over again that they were going to do everything that they can to get rid of Roe v. Wade, was successful in doing that by — by putting forward judges that made that happen — we saw the Dobbs decision in 2022 — and what that caused is chaos.  It caused women to — to have to do — you know, to have to, you know, be in a position to not get the healthcare that they need. 

I mean, that’s — should not be where we are as a country.  It should not be. 

And then you have extreme Republicans that continue to talk about — to talk about how they want to put a national abortion ban.  It’s causing chaos.  It’s causing chaos for women.  It’s causing chaos for families. 

When you’re saying that a family can’t make a decision on IVF, that’s not what this President is about.  He wants to make sure that women have the right to make these incredibly difficult decisions about their healthcare so families could make a decision about how they want to build and move forward with building a family. 

And so, can’t — I can’t speak to those direct comments, but what I can speak to is what the President is committed to, and he has shown that over and over again.  And you have a Vice President that has toured the country talking exactly about that: about how we have to protect our freedoms and — freedoms of — of, obviously, reproductive health, as — as we’re speaking right now. 

Q    And I know you said you can’t speak to the comments —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — but as the President gets ready to give his own commencement address, does he think a message like that is appropriate at a commencement address?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  From — from this particular —

Q    Yeah.  Mm-hmm.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, again, I haven’t heard — I haven’t heard this in context.  I saw some reporting.  So, I want to be super mindful.

Look, the Pre- — the President sees commencement day as such an important moment for not just the students but for their families, obviously, their loved ones, to talk about the future, to talk about how — how they — how, in the world that we are in n- — in the world that we’re in now, how do we move forward?

And you’ll hear themes from this President on that particular message.  And he understands how critical and important and how those message — especially a message from the President of the United States, how much it matters. 

I don’t want to get ahead of the President.  He’s going to, obviously, lay out and speak to his commencement address on his own.  But he’s done this many times before.  He’s done — he’s done this when he’s given commencement address as a senator, has done it, obviously, as Vice President, and now President.  And this is an incredible, important, impactful — impactful moment.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Just — just now, one of your colleagues at the State Department said Israel needs to do more to prevent settlers from sacking trucks of humanitarian aid bound for Gaza.

The people who are doing this sort of thing are supporters of Prime Minister Netanyahu.  They’re part of the far-right parties.  They’re a part of his coalition. 

Is the President concerned that the Prime Minister’s domestic political needs could be preventing him from cracking down on what is essentially aiding a famine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, a couple of things.  I do want to give an update on humanitarian aid that has gone into Gaza.  I think it’s important. 

Since April 5th, more than 7,000 trucks have been moved into Gaza.  So, that is an update.  Yesterday, nearly 250 trucks moved into Gaza, both via Kerem Shalom — so, that is open, so that is important, as you all know, in southern Gaza — and a new crossing, Erez West, in northern Gaza. 

So, we have seen trucks go in.  And I think that’s important to note.  And that’s because of the President’s — President’s push and relationship with the Prime Minister and insisting and pushing and saying we need to get more aid into — into Gaza, because we know how dire the humanitarian situation is. 

However — however, with saying all of that, we remain concerned about ongoing limited operations at the Rafah boarding [border] crossing and also the Erez crossing — I know I just mentioned that’s a new crossing, but we want to get more in — as well as the ability of humanitarian partners to move within Gaza to deliver assistance and fuel to the vulnerable people who need it. 

So, this level of aid remains insufficient.  And we want to continue to press Israel to increase the level of assistant [assistance] moving into Gaza.

I cannot speak to the Prime Minister’s domestic politics.  That is for him to speak to.  What I can speak to is what we have been working on doing and how much we understand and the importance of getting that humanitarian aid in.  And that’s what we’ve been doing. 

Q    I understand that you can’t speak to the Prime Minister’s motivations.  What I asked you, as the spokesperson for the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — is: Is the President concerned that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s domestic political situation may be —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What —

Q    — imperiling ef- — U.S. efforts to get more aid into Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is that we understand what I just laid out is not sufficient.  We want to get more in.  We are continuing to have those conversation with Israel, and we have seen some progress.  We need to get more in.  And so, the President is committed to that, and that’s what you have seen from this President.

That’s what I will speak to.

Go ahead, Nadia.  No, I know you have follow-ups.

Go ahead.

Q    Just want to follow up (inaudible) actually, on the humanitarian aid.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    But equally as important issue is the fuel.  So, now the U.N. agency are saying that no fuel — it’s impossible to get fuel to Gaza, and you know it’s vital for the hospitals.

So, is — what efforts are the White House is leading to push the Israelis to allow fuel in?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, the pier is in place, which is very important.  It will be operational in upcoming days.  So, that’s important.  And obviously, the Department of Defense will have more specifics on that.  And so, we’re confident that we’re going to be able to distribute this type of aid to get that in to Gaza. 

And so, we continue to have conversations with the U.N. and the Israelis and also NGOs to ensure — to ensure humanitarian workers are protected and we con- — we continue to get that aid in.

You heard from the National Security Advisor just mo- — days ago, speak from this lectern to say that we are trying to do everything that we can from air, sea, and land to get that humanitarian aid in.  It is — we understand how critical that is to get done. 

And so, this pier is now in place.  In the up- — next couple of days, very — you know, coming days, we’ll get that moving.  And that is one way, obviously, we’re going to get that fuel in, get the aid in. 

And obviously, we’re still working on the land crossings.  And as you just heard, I gave some updates on — on the trucks that have gone in to one of — a new crossing that just opened up and, obviously, Kerem Shalom. 

So, we are committed — this President is committed in getting that done.

Q    I have one more question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Yesterday, I did an interview with Senator Lindsey Graham.  And he said basically that a defense and security comprehensive package with Saudi Arabia, it could happen sooner than later.  And he suggests that, actually, it could be happening under a Democratic administration, and he is willing to help the President for delivery.

So, long —

Q    We know —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — Jake is going to the region.  Can you just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I can’t confirm — I can’t confirm Jake’s travel.  But — but go ahead.  (Laughs.)

Q    All right.  Well, we can confirm it.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I cannot confirm it from here.  I appreciate that.

Q    But can you weave this in and basically tell us that — if the White House believes this deal could happen — (inaudible), obviously, to what happened in Gaza and the (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you know, we’ve been — we’ve been very consistent about our long-term goal for more a peaceful, stable, prosperous, and integrated Middle East region.  And that remains a focus for us.  That remains a focus for this President.  That remains a focus for our U.S. foreign policy.  That is — will always be where we stand on that.

And we continue to have conversations on these issues in- — to include the need of a pathway to a Palestinian state, which is the only way to establish a sustainable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  That continues to be — we’ve been, again, very consistent about that.

Our immediate focus remains to securing the release of hostages, to make sure that we get — also get to a ceasefire, get that humanitarian — create an environment where we’re getting more humanitarian aid in.  So, obviously, that’s our focus right now, because we understand how important it is to get those hostages home to their loved ones and to their families, to get that humanitarian aid in, and to get to a ceasefire.  We want to see that.  We want to get to a ceasefire.

Go ahead, Michael.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The governor of Florida signed a bill today that effectively erases all references to climate change in Florida law.  Do you have a response?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s pretty shameful.  And, you know, the President, as you know, has been the most progressive, has done more on climate change than any other president.  And — and so, we are committed — committed in dealing with this crisis and meeting our goals.  And you have heard from this president, and it is unfortunate.  It is unfortunate that there are climate deniers still out there.

There’s a lot more work that we need to do.  And so, we think that’s shameful.

Q    The administration also today organized a deportation flight of 100 Haitians to Haiti.  How does the administration at this point justify deportation flights to Haiti given the situation on the ground there? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you’ve heard from us many times.  We are urgently trying to — urgently working with the international partners in Congress to expedite the deployment of — of the Kenyan-led multinational security support, MS- — MSS mission, as you’ve been hearing.  We’ve contributed $300 million to that mission, and we want to bolster the Haitian police, what’s going on — on that — on that front.

And we’ve also led — we’ve also led in humanitarian assistance with over $170 million since October 2022nd. We understand the situation is dire in Haiti.  We understand that.  And we are clear-eyed that the economic, political security and stability are key drivers for migrants around the world.

And obviously, as I — as you all know, you’ve been tracking what’s going on in Haiti.  So, we are closely monitoring the situation and the rou- — routes frequently used by migrants to reach our borders and would stress that, at this time, irregular migration flows through the Caribbean remain low. 

But that said, we are always planning for contingencies, and we believe that is important as well. 

I can’t speak to this particular — this particular incident.  I have not spoken to the team about this yet. 

But we get how dire it is there, and that’s why we’ve tried to move up our humanitarian assistant [assistance] here, leading the world in getting that humanitarian aid.  And we’re trying to get the M- — M- — MSS in place so that we can give the support to the Haitian National Police in dealing with the dire situation that’s happening.

AIDE:  Karine, time for one more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Patsy.  And then I have to go.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant yesterday publicly questioned Prime Minister Netan- — Netanyahu on his strategic endgame of the war, calling out for an establishment of a governing alternative in Gaza that’s not Hamas but also not Israeli military’s role.  And to me, he is basically saying what Jake Sullivan and Secretary Blinken has been encouraging —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — for the same things this week.  Even though this is the first time that Gallant is saying it publicly, this is something that we’ve known privately from Israeli defense — defense officials for some time now. 

I’m just wondering about the timing of this, how —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — Jake and then Secretary Blinken and then Gallant are all saying —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — the same things this week.  Was there any coordination of any sort?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So — so, I’m not going — I’m going to let others do an analysis of the speech.  That’s not something I’ll do from here. 

But we’ve been very clear that when it comes to the future of Gaza, we do not support an Israeli reoccupation.  We’ve been clear from this podium, from, obviously, behind this lectern.  And we obviously do not support Hamas governance in Gaza. 

So, that’s where we’ve been.  We’ll continue to be there.  The — that underscores the importance of having a clear and concrete plan for the day after the conflict at — in Gaza. 

As you just stated in your question to me, Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, was very clear about this very recently.  And so, we have discussed this with the Israelis.  And so, we’ll continue to do that, to have that conversation.  But I’m not going to analyze his speech and talk — speak to —

Q    My question was about the timing, though.  Was there any coordination —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, but I’m not — I’m not going to speak to timing.  I’m not going to give an analysis on it.  We’re continuing to have those conversations with the Israelis, as we have been.  And we’ve made our point.  And we’ve made our — our — where — our stance pretty clear on that.  You heard that from the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan very recently at this lectern.

Q    And just more broadly, on the — on the ceasefire itself.  It appears to be in deadlock right now.  So, at this point, is the President still confident that his strategic end goal to end the violence in Gaza and then what happens the day after can align with that of Israel and Hamas?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we have to continue to be hopeful.  This is a President that’s optimistic, that’s hopeful.  We’re going to continue to work around the clock to get this done. 

You know, this could all end today if Hamas would release the wounded, the women.  And — and we’ve said this over and over again — the elderly.  It could end today.  But we’re determined to get those hostages home.  We are determined to get — to get to a ceasefire, to get more humanitarian aid in.  And we have to be optimistic.  We have to be hopeful here. 

Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q    Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know I have to go.

Q    Thank you.  Israel said today that additional troops will enter the Rafah area and that its operation there will intensify.  Do you have a comment on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I will say is that we are continuing to monitor — just going to repeat what Jake Sullivan said from this podium.  Nothing has changed since he was here on Monday.  And we’re continuing to monitor.  We made our — our case very clear about a — a potential major military operation in Rafah.  We have our concerns about that.  We’ve made that clear to our Israeli counterparts.  We’ll continue to do that.

What we have been told by the Israelis and what we have seen is that these are targeted — what we’re seeing in Rafah — targeted operations.  And we’re going to continue to have those — those, we believe, constructive — these — these meetings that we’ve had have been constructive, and not just in those two virtual meetings, but on a daily basis, we certainly are talking with the Israeli government. 

All right.  You have the last one.

Q    Thank you.  The Deputy Director of ICE is telling us that two Jordanian nationals are in removal proceedings now after posing as Amazon delivery drivers to crash the gates at Quantico.  Does the White House think this might have been a failed terrorist attack? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, going to be really mindful.  These two Jordanians that you’re speaking of remain in ICE — ICE custody.  And given that it is an active law enforcement matter, so I would have to refer you to ICE. 

I just can’t dive into this because, again, the — there is a law enforcement ma- — this is a law enforcement matter. 

Q    Something totally different. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, gosh.  (Laughter.)  Where is this going?

Q    Have you heard —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, no.  (Laughter.)

Q    — that Vice President Harris is telling friends that she may go back to California and run for governor if the election does not go her way? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  That is news to me.  I — I would say this.  The Vice President has been a great partner to this President.  He is appreciative of the work that she has done.  It is impressive what she has been able to do on these tours that she has done on reproductive rights, her leadership on gun violence — to fight gun violence across the country — prevention, obviously, in leading the — in the first historic office coming out of the White House.

She has been an amazing partner, and the President appreciates her, appreciates her leadership.  And that’s all I’ll say to that. 

Q    And last one.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, gosh.  (Laughs.)

Q    Why is President Biden celebrating today the Dow reaching 40,000 if his position, dating back to 2021, about the stock market is “that’s not how I judge whether or not we have economic growth.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, while we have long said that the stock market is not the economy — and we have said that, to your point — it’s clear that — what we’ll say is that the President — President Biden’s economic plan is working.  It’s growing the middle class, as you hear us talk about all the time; spurs investment in manufacturing — created almost 800,000 jobs in this administration alone — and infrastructure; and outperform other countries.

That’s what the President has been very focused on.  Record stock market highs under President Biden are good for retirement accounts and household wealth.  And that is just a fact.

And so, which we — which, you know, we would never root for a stock market crash or for Americans to lose their jobs.  It’s something that we would never root for from here.  But obviously, you know, the stock market, again, is not the economy.  But we believe that the President’s economic — President Biden’s economic plan is working — again, growing the middle class — and I think that’s a good thing.  I think we should be really grateful for that — for the American people.

Thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

2:50 P.M. EDT

The post Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Stephen Benjamin appeared first on The White House.

POTUS 46    Joe Biden

Whitehouse.gov Feed

Blog

Disclosures

Legislation

Presidential Actions

Press Briefings

Speeches and Remarks

Statements and Releases