Pool Reports of July 30, 2021
Pool Reports by George Condon, National Journal
|July 30, 2021
In town Pool #1
Pool is gathering to go to the South Court where the president will meet with governors to discuss the wildfires. Governors scheduled to be there are four Democrats and three Republicans -- Kate Brown of Oregon; Greg Gianforte of Montana; Mark Gordon of Wyoming; Jay Inslee of Washington; Brad LIttle of Idaho; Gavin Newsom of California; and Tim Walz of Minnesota.
Gather time was pushed back ten minutes from the 11:25 originally scheduled.
|July 30, 2021
In-town pool report 2
The president entered South Court at 12:03 and the pool was ushered out at 12:35 as the president was moving on to his third governor. The next pool report will include more of what was said. The basic message that he repeated several times is that he wanted an update, that he wants to know what the governors need from the federal government and that he appreciates the enormity of the problem and the bravery of those fighting the many fires.
The stage was set up with two small round tables. The president sat at the table on stage right and often flipped through a stack of maps he had asked his staff to prepare to show the situation in each state. The table on stage left was where Vice President Harris sat. In between them further back on the stage were eight television screens, four on top and four on the bottom.
In the top row, from left to right, were Julie Rodriquez, director for intergovernmental affairs; Gov. Inslee, Gov. Walz and Gov. Newsom.
On the bottom row, from left to right, were governors Little, Gianforte, Gordon and Brown. All the male governors were wearing coat and tie except for Gordon who was in a casual shirt. None wore masks. Inslee,, Walz, Newsom, Gordon and Brown had flags behind them. The stage was marked with a simple sign: "Wildfire Briefing With Govenrors."
The president made his initial pitch until 12:10 when the vice president spoke. At 12:12, the president addressed his first question to Gov. Gianforte, who then was asked a followup question by the president at 12:18. At 12:22, he turned to Gov. Inslee, who answered at 12:23. In their exchange, both stressed the importance of dealing with climate changes.
|July 30, 2021
In town pool report 3
Recovering from prematurely hitting send on Pool Report 2 and fleshing out more details from the event:
At 12:27, the president turned to Gov. Newsom, who then spoke from 12:29 to 12:34, repeatedly apologizing for going too long but stressing the enormity of the crisis facing the states. At 12:35, the president excused the pool as he turned to Gov. Little.
Here is a sense of what the participants said while the pool was present. As always, double check quotes with the transcript. Before he started the program, the president cracked to Inslee, "Jay, you're beginning to convince the American people there is such a thing as a climate crisis." Inslee responded, "About time." Addressing all the governors, the president reminded them that he had convened a similar session a month ago and noted the problem is even more severe now. He said the acreage had doubled and the number of workers tripled. He said 3.4 million acres have burned, including 220,000 acres in the Dixie fire. He called the fires "big" and "complex" and saluted the "incredible bravery" of those fighting them. "They need more help." He also stressed the supply chain disruption caused by the fires and noted the effort has been hindred by outbreaks of Covid at fire camps. This is another reason why, he said, "it is so darn important that everyone gets vaccinated." Of the firefighters, he said, "It is really, really dangerous work." He added, that "these heroes" deserve to be paid more. He talked about FEMA and returned to the energy supply chain problems, which includes firehoses, he said. He thanked allies like Australia for their help. He also noted the effect on air quality across the country because of the fires. He also stressed the importance of federal coordination with the states and the need to "make sure we're better prepared next time." At this point, he talked briefly about the impact of climate change and the need for "urgent, urgent action." To the governors, he concluded, "God love you."
At that point, the vice president assured the governors that "we stand with you. That is a commitment of our administration." She added, "know that we are here." Calling herself "a California girl," she said she has experienced fires. At 12:12, the focus returned to the president who noted his maps so he could know exactly where the fires are in each state. He turned to Gianforte, saying, "You have your hands full." He said he had a "simple question" for him – "what can we do for you that is not getting done now?" He asked him to "cut through all the jargon of all the policy wonks – what do you need…" Gianforte said local communities have been devastated and said the state has spent $13 million since July 1st. He talked of the need for dealing with what he called the "forest health crisis," later explaining that the federal government has to do a better job of thinning out dead trees which cause an elevated risk. He thanked "our federal partners" and concluded "now is the time to act." The president asked him to explain what he means by forest health plan – "what's that mean?" Gianforte said forests "have not had good stewardship" and that there are ares where 90 percent of the trees are dead. "It is a tinderbox situation," he said urging officials to be more proactive." In response, Biden noted the importance of dealing with climate change because right now "it is like dropping a match in a pool of fuel." He made a pitch for his infrastructure bill. "There is a lot of money in here to help you manage the fires," he said. He noted that he is from Delaware and the fires now are larger than Delaware and Maryland combined.
At 12:22, he turned to Inslee, asking "What is your biggest concern?" Inslee said it was "so refreshing to have a president who cares about the western forest." He said "everything is in dire need," while adding, "You've been totally on top of this." He said the thing he worries about the most is that Congress will not pass his bills with needed money. He made a pitch for Biden's "vision for clean energy." He added, "We are going to be with you as you stand tall." At 12:26, the president made a pitch for his civilian climate corps, calling it not that different in purpose from FDR's CCC. He asked the governors to tell him if he was asking for too much. "Take a look at it to see if as my mother would say, my eyes are bigger than my stomach." He then asked Gov. Newsom to talk about the costs of burying 10,000 miles of power lines. Newsom said the cost would range from $1 million to $3.5 million a mile. He told the president, "Your eyes are not wider than your stomach." He said the Biden proposal "is inspiring."
Biden interjected, "Not a joke. It is inspiring." Newsom said the fires "transcend politics." He said the state is "blowing past all the records" with 5,700 fires, saying they suppressed 59 just yesterday. He added, "Please pay attention to this fuel issue." He added, "We need more boots on the ground." He also said the states need more DC 10s, contending there are only four in the country. "We do not come close to having the tools in the air that we need." He complained that the Pentagon makes it burdensome to get approval for access to satellites he called essential to the fight. And he called "the elephant in the room" the fact that many fires are on federal property. He complained of a federal "culture of wait and see" instead of moving more quickly.
At 12:34, the president promised that "I will be on the phone with the Department of Defense" as soon as the session ended to work on that. At that point, the pool was ushered out as the president turned to Gov. Little and said, "My lord, what a beautiful state."
|July 30, 2021
In town pool report 4
Briefing has been moved to 2 p.m.
|July 30, 2021
Intown pool report 5
Briefing has been moved to 2:30.
|July 30, 2021
Intown pool report 6
Pool is gathering for the president's meeting with Cuban-American leaders in the State Dining Room.
|July 30, 2021
Intown pool report 7
The president started speaking as soon as the pool entered the State Dining Room. Including answering one question from Pooler Jeff Mason, he spoke for 3:48. Jeff asked if there will be more sanctions to come against Cuba. He responded: "There will be more, unless there's some drastic change in Cuba, which I don't anticipate."
He called the situation in Cuba "intolerable," blasted the regime's censorship of the internet, called Cuban-Americans the best ambassadors for Cuba and called the government a failed regime. He said there will be new sanctions against the Cuban police.
Four tables were set up. The president sat at one, directly in front of the fireplace. At the end of his table was Jake Sullivan. At the other end of his table was Cedric Richmond. there were five people seated at the table facing him and three each on the end tables.
Quotes to come.
|July 30, 2021
Pool Report 8
The president's remarks:
I’m honored to welcome members of the Cuban American community and Senator Menendez…to express how the United States is going to continue to stay with the Cuban people who have suffered for decades, decades, with their failed communist regime. Earlier this month Cubans took to the streets in an historic demonstration of the will of the people of Cuba. And the regime responded with violence and repression, mass detention and sham trials. People disappearing who have spoken out, just disappearing. Family members I am told, are not able, have no idea where there family members are back in Cuba. And in a brazen violation of the rights of the Cuban people, Cuban Americans are hurting, they are hurting because their loved ones are suffering and it’s quite frankly intolerable. So I want the Cuban Americans to know that we all around this table and myself included see your pain, we hear your voices and we heard the cries of freedom coming from the island.
The United States is taking concerted action to bolster the cause of the Cuban people. We brought to bear the strength of our diplomacy , rallying nations to speak out and increase pressure on the regime. And we are holding the regime accountable. Last week we sanctioned the head of the Cuban armed forces and a government entity called the Black Berets for their involvement in suppressing protesters. And today we are adding sanctions against the revolutionary national police as well as individual sanctions against the chief.. and deputy chief. We are going to continue to add sanctions on individuals that carry out the regime’s abuses.
At the same time, we are increasing direct support for the Cuban people by pursuing every option available to provide internet access to help the Cuban people bypass the censorship that s being mandatorily imposed. You always know something is not going well when a country will not allow, will not allow their people to be on the internet and being able to make their case known around the world.
And we are expanding our assistance for political prisoners and dissidents and I have directed the State Department and the Treasury Department to provide me within one month recommendations of how to maximize the flow of remittances to the Cuban people without the Cuban military taking their cut.
And we are working to increase U.S. staffing at our embassy while prioritizing the safety of our personnel. We’ve got a lot to discuss with this group. And mostly I am here to listen. I want to know what their ideas are. You are some of the best experts on the issue. The first person to bring this to my attention and to make sure we are on top of this was Sen. Menendez. And we think the Cuban American people are actually the best ambassadors for the Cuban people. SSo my administration is going to make sure their voices are included and uplifted at every step of the way. And we are going to get down to business. Thank you all for bothering to come in.
and from the White House:
In attendance for the President’s meeting with Cuban-American leaders:
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
|July 30, 2021
Intown pool report 9
The president emerged from the White House at 6:16 p.m.,, veered briefly over toward the pool, took three questions for one minute and headed to Marine One. Lift-off from the South Lawn was at 6:23.
Here is how he responded to questions:
Asked if will invite the Polish president to the White House, he responded, "No, I haven't yet." Asked if he expects more restrictions to be imposed because of Covid, he said, "In all probability. By the way, we had a good day yesterday. Almost a million people got vaccinated, about half a million of those people for the first time or for their second shot. So I am hopeful that people are beginning to realize how essential it is to move." He then moved down the line and was asked a question that was unclear even on the network tape. He responded, "We are in process and I am hopeful." Your pool, similarly, is hopeful that the White House transcript, which also is in process, will shed light on that question.
From the White House:
Traveling with the President to Camp David on Marine One:
A travel/photo lid was declared at 6:38 p.m.
|July 30, 2021
Pool report 10
The White House reports that President Biden in Marine One landed at Camp David at 6:58 p.m.
|July 30, 2021
In town pool report 11
We have an answer about the mystery third question on the pipeline. Well, we always had the answer. We just didn't know the question in pool report 9. Now, thanks to Dmitry Kirsanov, the Tass bureau chief who asked the question, we do. Kirsanov helpfully says he asked the president about the U.S.-Russia talks on strategic stability held in Geneva on Wednesday. He asked if the president was satisfied with the talks and how they went. As noted, he responded, "we are in process and I am hopeful." Now that that is cleared up, you are free to enjoy the weekend.
Joseph R. Biden, Pool Reports of July 30, 2021 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/351931