Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:42 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, good afternoon, everyone.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello, hello. You guys will be very excited: I do not have anything at the top for all of you. So we're going to go straight to questions.
Darlene, want to kick us off?
Q: Thanks. Yep, I would. On the gun framework that was announced over the weekend, can you talk a little bit about what specifics the White House would like to see as the lawmakers sit down and try to turn this into a bill? Specifics on what you want regarding access to juvenile records, red-flag laws, and redefining which gun sellers now have to do expanded background checks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the text is now going to be written, so we're going to allow the negotiators to go through that process.
What -- what we do believe and what the President has said is this is a historic agreement, and it's the most significant legislation that we have seen to reduce gun violence since more than 20 years. And so it's a bipartisan. The President is pleased to see this as a step forward.
As we know, you know, this is about saving lives. And so the President is going to -- wants to see Congress act. He wants to see this on his desk as quickly as possible. And -- and that's -- and that's going to be our focus.
As it -- as it relates to his involvement in any of this, his team continues to talk to Congress on a regular basis, as we have been, as they have been this past several weeks. And we're going to continue talking to negotiators on the Hill, to congressional members and staff on the Hill. And -- and we will continue to have those conversation. But we want to -- the President wants to see this on his desk to sign as soon as possible.
Q: Will the White House weigh in at all in terms of the final legislative language and text and specific things that you would like -- you, the White House, would like to see?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any specifics on -- on any -- any, you know, pieces of the legislation and our involvement there.
What we will say is we want to see this move quickly. The President wants to see this move quickly. This is about saving lives. And we think -- again, this is a step -- a step forward in getting that done.
You know, legislating is -- when you think about legislating, it's about negotiating. It's about getting to a place where both sides can come to an agreement. And this is a bipartisan handshake, a framework, as you all know. And we want to -- we're pleased by that, and we want to get that done.
Q: One other question. Over the weekend, before the President left Los Angeles, he was asked whether he had decided to go to Saudi Arabia. And his answer was, "No, not yet." And there was a follow-up question, and then he said, "That's the reason I'm going." So, can you settle it? Is he going? Is he not going? Just tell us.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I don't have anything to announce for you today.
Q: When will you?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just say this: When the President is ready to make that announcement, that's when we will.
But we continue to plan for a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia. This would be an opportunity for the President to engage with leaders from across the Middle East region. Again, I don't have anything to announce for you today.
You know, if you think about the focus -- what the focus would be, and the agenda, it's on delivering results for the American people. That is what the President -- when he has these leader-leader conversation, that is the number one priority: those strategic partnership with those leaders and making sure that it indeed delivers for the American people.
And so, in this -- in this particular case, if this were to happen or when we are ready to announce, if and when we are ready to announce, it's -- it's -- would be about -- about diplomacy -- leading through diplomacy to bring stability to the Middle East region, which he has talked about himself.
And -- but again, I don't have anything to -- any further -- anything further to preview at this time.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Last week, you said that when the President met with the parents in Uvalde, they told him they just wanted to see some action, that they wanted to see if Congress can, quote, "put their politics aside and come in a bipartisan way and deliver something." Does this agreement that was announced yesterday deliver on what those parents in Uvalde were telling the President that they wanted to see?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just make clear: What he heard and all of you may have heard from the folks in the community as well is to do something. And so the President has called on Congress to do something. They are doing something.
Now, does this framework has everything that the President wants or that everything that the President has called for? It does not. And the President is going to continue to fight for -- for -- for the renew our ban on assault weapons; for, you know, making sure that we confirm Steve Dettelbach to lead ATF -- right? -- which is something that we -- we believe is going to happen. And so -- expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
So there are things that he wants to continue to see done.
But -- but, you know, again, this is about saving lives, and this is what's important right now. And this is a step towards that direction.
Q: You said -- you said repeatedly now for several weeks that the President was going to give lawmakers time and space. And in the statement, he said yesterday, as you just said, that it didn't do everything that he thinks is needed. If he had gotten involved, is there something now, where we are at this point in the conversation and negotiations -- if he had gotten off the sidelines, is there one thing that could have ended up in the agreement that he would have liked to have seen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I disagree with the framing of that question. The President has been involved. He has been involved since, I would say, day one of his administration -- the first couple of days that he's walked into his administration.
And what I mean by that is the executive actions that he took very early on and -- the most executive actions than any president at this time of his presidency, when it comes to dealing with a public health epidemic, which is gun violence.
And so he put that forward. He did everything at the time that he can from his perch in making sure that we -- we deal with this epidemic. He has said if there's anything more he can do on the executive action side, he will take a look, his team will take a look.
He's talked about it -- most recently State of the Union and also the first joint address.
So he has been vocal. He has been talking about this. And he also did a primetime -- a primetime delivery to the American people that, as you all know, that was about almost two weeks ago. So he has been involved, and to say that he is not -- he hasn't been is just not true.
Q: I meant in the negotiations.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm sorry?
Q: I meant in the negotiations with this bipartisan group.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But -- no, but I'm -- but more broadly, he has been involved. And he had Chris Murphy here just last week to -- to get a -- to get a download on the negotiations from him directly. And I think that shows involvement, and that shows him wanting to make sure that we push this forward.
Q: Thanks, Karine. On Saudi Arabia briefly, just to circle back on Darlene's question: The President seemed to say over the weekend that his trip would not focus on energy. You said just now that any trip to the region will focus on delivering results for the American people. If that's the case, why not make energy a major topic of the of the trip, considering gas prices are such a big part of what Americans care about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me -- let me first say: There -- there's no trip to announce at this point.
Q: But he's been talking about (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just saying that there's nothing to preview for you at this time.
But I will say this: You know, to view engagement with Saudi Arabia and energy security as asking for oil is simply wrong and a misunderstanding of both the complexity of that issue and our multifaceted discussions with the Saudis.
That said, Saudi Arabia is the chair, as you know, of OPEC Plus and its largest exporter. Of course, we discuss energy with the Saudi government, as we do with oil producers around the world. And we welcome its leadership in achieving a consensus amongst the group members last week.
Q: And just briefly on Afghanistan, if you could: Nearly half of Afghan -- Afghans are starving or don't have enough food. Is the administration considering doing more to send direct aid to Afghanistan, not just the United Nations, even if that means recognizing the Taliban?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything further on what else we might be doing, as ai- -- for aids -- as aid to the people of Afghanistan. As you know, we have announced humanitarian aid that go directly to the people and not to -- not to the government. But I don't have anything further to share on that.
Q: Are you sort of in a rock-and-a-hard-place position here? If the President were to go to Saudi Arabia, would you not see a benefit in embracing the idea that with gas prices at record levels, of course you would speak to the Kingdom and its role in OPEC Plus in trying to increase supply? So why not embrace that?
Because if you're going to go to Saudi Arabia, wouldn't that be a benefit for the President to try to deliver on that, even though there are some political downsides to doing that domestically as well?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think what we're trying to say is that there are more complexities to that issue, and it's multifaceted -- discussions with Saudi Arabia. And it is an array of agenda -- of agenda that we would -- we would potentially be talking about.
Look, I want to be careful because we don't have -- I don't have -- we don't have a trip to preview for you at this time. But I also -- you know, as I said, Saudi Arabia is the chair of OPEC and is the largest exporter. So we talk to them like we do with any other oil producers around the world. So that is -- there's no difference there. But -- but again, I don't want to go into -- go into specifics.
Q: Just on the surface, understanding no trip has been announced yet --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- we'll get there when we get there -- but the idea that the President would engage with Saudi and not talk about oil production and gas prices when Americans are at the highest level they've been in a long time just doesn't make sense to me. It would seem the White House would embrace that as one of the many complex issues you would deal with with Saudi Arabia. And we've all been covering Saudi Arabia's relationship, which has been fraught on many levels with the United States for a long time, so we know there are many issues.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: But you're not avoiding saying he's going to be dealing with --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I -- what I did say is: Of course, he will be -- they will discuss energy with the Saudi government. I think what I'm trying to say is to look at this trip as it being only about oil is not -- it would be simply wrong to do that. So we just wanted to be very clear on that -- on that regard.
Q: Thanks, Karine. President Biden once bragged about the stock market hitting "record after record after record on my watch." How about now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Meaning the stock market --
Q: All the gains from President Biden's time in office have been wiped out.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we are watching -- we're watching closely. We know families are concerned about inflation and the stock market. That is something that the President is -- is really aware of. And so, look, we face global challenges. We've talked about this. This is -- we're not the only country dealing with what we're seeing at the moment as it relates to inflation.
You know, Putin -- Putin's price hike, inflation, coming -- coming out of a once-in-a-generation global pandemic -- all of those things play a factor.
And, you know -- but the thing -- the way that we see this is that the American people are well positioned to face these challenges because of the economic historic gains that we have made under this President -- under this President in the last 16 months.
Q: Okay. So, as you say that Americans are well positioned to weather this stock market decline, what is the President's message to somebody who might want to retire but their 401(k) is getting wiped out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we know -- we know that the -- that high prices are having a real effect on people's lives. We get that. And we are incredibly focused on doing everything that we can to make sure that the economy is working for every -- American people. But we are coming out of the strongest job market in American history, and that matters. And that -- a lot of that is thanks to the American Rescue Plan, which only Democrats voted for that -- Republicans did not -- and it led to this economic boom -- this historic economic boom that we're seeing with jobs.
Q: Didn't it also lead to historic inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. That is not --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is -- that is -- that is not -- that is not how we're seeing the American Rescue Plan.
Look, the President came in -- we have to remember what the President walked into. When he walked into this administration, the economy was at a standstill. Schools were closed. Businesses were shutting down. Twenty million people were on unemployment insurance benefits. That is what he walked into. And he took action. He got the American Rescue Plan done. Democrats -- only Democrats voted for it. And it helped turn the economy around, including getting more than 200 million people vaccinated, having a comprehensive vaccination plan that -- that was not in place when he walked into the administration.
Q: Okay. And then, quickly, is the President running for reelection?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He has -- first of all, let's -- let's reset for a second. I cannot talk about elections. I cannot be a political analyst from here or -- you know, or the midterms or anything like that, or including 2024.
The President, as you know, has been asked that question many times, and he has answered it. His answer has been pretty simple, which is: Yes, he's running for reelection. I'm -- I can't say more than that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Karine, thank you. Back on the discussions about the gun framework. You said he spoke with Senator Murphy. You say negotiators continue to talk to people here at the White House. Has the President himself spoken with any of the Republicans engaged in the negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I hear the question. I don't have any -- any calls to preview or read out to you at this time.
Q: Did he -- I know he was flying this morning during the latest January 6th hearing. But has he had a chance to go back and watch any of it, or is somebody keeping him updated on developments? What does he make of it all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So as you know, the President is very busy today, and so he won't be catching it blow by blow but he'll get updates from -- from his staff.
Q: Do you know who's been giving him the updates?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't have a person to -- to share with who's been giving his up- -- an update.
Q: And has he been briefed on the arrests of the 31 men found inside a U-Haul truck near a Pride event in Idaho on Saturday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, he's been -- yes, he's been briefed.
Q: Oh, okay. Thank you. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right. (Laughs.) We'll move on then. Go ahead.
Q: Hi, Karine. I wanted to switch gears to Brexit for a moment. Britain, I guess, vo- -- Boris Johnson's party published today plans to override some of the post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland. I know Blinken told Foreign Secretary Truss that -- to continue good-faith negotiations with the EU to resolve -- reach a solution that preserves the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. But I know that Boris Johnson characterized the changes as "relatively trivial," and I wanted to know if the White House agreed with that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the U.S. priority remains protecting the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and preserving peace, stability, and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland.
We have welcomed the provisions in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol as a way to manage the practical challenges of preserving distinct EU and UK markets while preventing the return of customs infrastructure on the land border.
We recognize there have been challenges over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. We urge the UK and the EU to return to talks to resolve these differences.
We support a strong and close EU-UK partnership. Transatlantic peace, security, and prosperity are best served by a strong UK, a strong EU, and the closest possible relationship between the two.
Q: Thank you. And if I could just follow up quickly. Will this become an impediment to the U.S.-UK trade dialogue talks in Boston or a potential future U.S.-UK trade deal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I don't believe it will be.
Q: Okay, thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Karine, just back on the Saudi issue for a second. Does President Biden believe that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for Kamal -- Jamal Khashoggi's death?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we've spoken to this before. I think he was asked this question directly recently last week.
So, look, the President is focused on getting things done for the American people; that is engagement, leader and le- -- leader-to-leader engagement around the world. He takes that very seriously. And he takes delivering for the American people very seriously.
If he determines that the interests of the United States to engage with a foreign leader and that such an engagement can deliver results, then he'll do so. And so, as we -- as you have heard her say -- as you have heard us say, Saudi Arabia has been a partner to the United States for more than 80 years -- an important partner on a host of initiatives that we are working on, both in the region and around the world.
Q: On the question that I asked though, does he believe that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi's death?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we issued -- when the President -- when the President walked -- came into office, you know, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was something that we and so many others around the world took very, very seriously. He -- he issued an extensive report on Khashoggi's murder. And we instituted the so-called "Khashoggi ban" to make sure that any country that seeks to use tools of repression against people abroad who criticize their government will pay a price. We've used it multiple -- multiple times since. And we imposed sanctions or visa restrictions on over 70 Saudi individuals and entities, including the Saudi Royal Guard's Rapid Intervention Force.
As we emphasized then, it was also important to reorient but not rapture [rupture] relations with Saudi Arabia. So we took that incredibly seriously, and the po- -- the President spoken to this before, and I'm going to just let his word stand.
Q: Does he believe --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I'm -- I've already answered the question.
Q: Karine, regarding all the trapped agriculture exports in Ukraine, there's been some reporting that there was a cable sent from the Biden administration kind of warning African nations to not buy grain from Russia under the pretenses that it may be stolen from Ukraine. Is the White House warning African nations like Senegal to not buy any grain from Russia right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I can't speak to the wire that you're speaking of right now. But what I can say is: We are working with other countries to prevent the sale of grain that has likely been stolen from -- from Ukraine.
Q: Would there be any consequences for nations if they do buy grain from Russia at this time (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's a hypothetical that I'm just not going to answer from here.
Q: Can I have one more question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q: Recently, the family of Emad Sharghi told CBS -- he's an American Iranian citizen who was detained in Iran four years ago. His family told our colleague, Margaret Brennan, that they've requested a meeting with the President numerous times but has not received a response from the White House. Their latest request was a couple of weeks ago. They also haven't received requests from the State Department. Is there any update on when this meeting may take place?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have an update for you. I'm happy to check with the team. That is also a question for State Department, as they handle those types of engagements, situations.
As you know, the President is committed to bringing home U.S. nationals that are being held abroad. And that is a commitment that he has made to the American people.
Q: Does the President think the Fed is running the risk of hiking rates too quickly as it tries to tame inflation? There are some reports suggesting that there's going to be a larger rate hike than we expected on Wednesday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President believes -- as you heard from him directly multiple times and even in his op-ed most recently -- that the Federal Reserve is -- needs to have their independence. And he leaves -- he wants to give them their space to make their own decision -- monetary decision on how to deal with inflation. They have made that -- the Fed has made that a priority.
And so, that is what the President believes, and I'll leave it as that.
Q: Just one more follow-up question. The U.S. Ambassador to Beijing, Nick Burns, said over the weekend that the U.S.-China relationship is at its lowest moment since 1972, given the aggressive comments by China's Defense Minister on Taiwan. Is the -- does the President have any plans to speak with President Xi Jinping?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just say this, since you asked a question about -- about China: The National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, met today with Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission in Luxembourg. The meeting was about four and a half hours long.
This meeting, which followed their May [March] 18th phone call, included candid, substantive, and productive discussion of a number of regional and global security issues, as well as key issues in U.S.-China relations.
Sullivan understood the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to manage competition between our two countries.
To your question on a POTUS -- POTUS-Xi meeting, Nancy: Interactions are planned at a range of officials across the U.S. government, but nothing to announce on a POTUS-Xi meeting at this time.
As you know, they last talked on the phone, as I just mentioned, on March 18th. We will continue to maintain open lines of communication with China.
Q: But what about even just a phone call? Not even --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to preview at this time.
Q: I mean, just building on Nancy, does the President want to talk to Xi Jinping by the end of the year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don't have anything to preview. As you know, and I said this moments ago, leader-to-leader conversations and communication is important to the President as we deal with, you know, important issues across -- across the globe. I just don't have anything for you right now.
Q: On Roe vs. Wade: When the President was in California, he spoke to Jimmy Kimmel, and he said that there were some executive orders under consideration if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Can you share a little bit about what is being considered?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't -- we don't have anything to preview at this time. Yes, I remember -- I was there. I remember the President saying that. We just don't have anything to share at this point.
Q: Are there any, like, specific areas where the administration feels that they --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, the team --
Q: -- have had some space?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The team is looking into it; we just don't have anything for you at this time.
Q: And just one more. At the Summit of the Americas, the Argentine President, Alberto Fernández, he -- he invited Biden to speak at the next Plenary of CELAC, where he's the pro tem president. Is that an invitation that the President is considering?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don't have anything to -- to preview or announce at this time.
Q: Karine, I had a question about China and tariffs. With inflation still an issue, there has been some pressure on President Biden to lift some of the tariffs on China, but it's also meeting some resistance from union members. As he heads tomorrow to the AFL-CIO, what does he want to see done as it relates to China and tariffs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the President has asked his team to look at that particular issue. He will make a decision on that; I don't want to get ahead of it. So that is going to be for the President to -- to speak to when he's -- when he's ready.
Q: And what's the timeframe on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a timeframe.
Q: And just to follow up on MBS: I heard you mention the report, but does the President believe that MBS is responsible for Khashoggi's death? I didn't hear you, sort of, engage with that part of the question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President has talked about that. I've been asked about words that -- comments that he's made during the campaign. He -- he stands by those comments.
What I'm trying to say is that -- you know, the President said this last week: He's not going to change his view on human rights, and he'll -- let me quote him right now: "But as President of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can, and that's what I'm going to try to do." And that's how he answered the question when he was --
Q: I know, but that's a generalized statement. I mean, this is a very specific question about what he believes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we put -- we put measures in place -- we put out a report last year on that particular -- the serious nature of what happened, and we take that very, very seriously.
The President has spoken to it himself. And, you know, I'm going to leave his words -- as he has said himself, leave his words stand.
Q: Thanks, Karine. I want to follow up first on the Chinese goods and tariffs question. How quickly does the White House anticipate it would take for Americans to feel the effects on the price of goods if it lifts tariffs on some of these products?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President hasn't made a decision on that. So I -- that's a hypothetical that I actually can't -- can't answer.
Q: Does the White House feel that it would have a significant effect on inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I mean, that is a decision that is going to be put together and -- by his team. And the President is going to make a decision.
I -- that's a hypothetical I literally cannot answer.
Q: And one last thing. On the January 6th hearings, based on the evidence that lawmakers have presented so far, does the President believe that Attorney General Merrick Garland should prosecute former President Donald Trump?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President has said this before in voicing his support for the vital work of the bipartisan January 6th Select Committee. And as Kevin McCarthy said just days after the attack, "We cannot sweep this under the rug."
We agree all Americans should watch and remember the horrors of one of the darkest days in our history. But this is up to the Department of Justice. This is the Department of Justice. And the President has been very clear. The Department of Justice is inde- -- is independent.
The President chose Attorney General Garland because of his loyalty to the law and our Constitution, and to restore the independence and integrity of the Justice Department. And this -- that's exactly what the Attorney General is doing. So we leave it up to the Department of Justice.
Q: Has the President spoken to Senator Schumer since the agreement on guns was reached?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a call to read out for you.
Q: And on the arrests in Idaho over the weekend, what was the President's reaction when he was briefed? And what, if anything, has the administration done in response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that's still under investigation. I can't speak to that from here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll go to some people I haven't gone to. No one up here. Okay. (Laughs.)
Q: Thanks, Karine. A question on gas prices. They hit the -- an average of over $5.00 this weekend. So I was wondering: Is the administration reconsidering the idea of a federal gas tax holiday? And what other things are you guys thinking about are on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don't have anything new for you. We don't have anything new for you to announce on gas prices or the gas tax.
But as you know, gas prices are up nearly $2.00. And that has been the case -- per gallon. That has been the case since Putin started to threaten the borders of Ukraine with -- with the troop enforcement at the border.
The U.S. is on track to produce a record amount of oil next year. We're releasing a record 1 million barrels of oil per day from the Stra- -- Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That has been for six months.
We've rallied our partners to join us, releasing an additional 240 million barrels of oil. And that has been because of the President's -- President's leadership.
We've also expanded access to E-15, which will lower prices for thousands -- thousands of gasoline stations, including people, families in the Middle East. So that was an important move.
And as I mentioned before, we welcomed the production increase announced by OPEC Plus to increase global supply.
And if the President had not taken these actions, we would not have been able to blunt the -- to blunt what we're seeing now -- the prices. It would have been even worse.
And so -- but as far as anything new to share, we don't have anything new to share on that.
Q: Let me ask you: The President expressed some real frustration with Exxon last week. Is he reaching out to these CEOs? Is there talk about having a meeting with them? Is there anything like that on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, in just the first three months of this year -- just to give you a little bit of why the President made those comments last week -- Exxon made $8.8 billion in profits. That's triple what they made during the same year -- the same time last year and the most they've made in nearly a decade.
Those record profits aren't because they produce more oil. In fact, Exxon produced less oil this quarter than any quarter this -- since 1999.
Oil companies making their largest profits in years have a choice: to put money into producing and refining oil or to put in -- to put it into the pockets of wealthy sha- -- stakehol- -- shareholders while American families suffer at the pump.
Exxon made that choice. They made the choice. This quarter, Exxon announced that it is tripling its buybacks to $30 billion.
So, look, we're on track, as I just mentioned, to -- to reach record levels of production next year. But oil companies also need to do their part as well. And that's why the President was -- was very, very clear about what he said last week.
Q: Thank you, Karine. A couple of questions, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q: So as the Ukraine war drags on and the food cris- -- the resulting food crisis is clearly not going away -- it's only just getting worse -- there seems to be pressure growing in Europe from some of the U.S. allies to get Ukraine to a point where they're going to make some kind of deal with the Russians, or at least some sort of ceasefire -- anything -- primarily for the food situation.
So ahead of the President's trip to Europe this month, would you say his emphasis remains on helping Ukraine fight, or is it starting to shift into a place where the U.S. is going to be asking Ukraine to find a way to stop it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, the President has been very clear: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. Right? That -- I mean, he's been very clear about that. He wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, saying -- reiterating those comments.
We are going to continue to assist Ukraine in helping to defend their democracy. Again, you know, we've said this many times is -- this is Putin's war. This is Putin's aggression -- unprovoked aggression onto another country's sovereignty. This is Putin's war to end and not Ukraine.
Ukraine needs to defend its country, and they have done that in -- in an incredibly impressive of way. And, you know, we hoped that it would end with negotiations. But right now, we don't see that coming from the Kremlin.
And so, we want to make sure we put Ukraine in the strongest possible place so that if that time comes, they can do that.
When it comes to grain exports and what you're asking me about food insecurity, this is a priority for the President. He's spoken to this. You know, again, Russia has been repeatedly damaging grain storage facilities in Ukraine, stealing Ukrainian grain, and actively blocking the export of food from Ukrainian ports, increasing world hunger.
Russia could immediately cease its war in Ukraine, which is devastating global food security, and allow the free flow of Ukrainian food and agricultural exports.
Q: And a quick domestic one, please. Most presidents, I'm guessing, would say they don't pay attention to the polls. But does President Biden feel any concern that his approval rating is, really, pretty amazingly low and consistently low? I believe today it went under -- the average went under 40 percent for the first time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President is focused on delivering for the American people. That's his focus right now.
Q: Karine, thank you. Inflation has been above 5 percent for an entire year now. Why did the President wait until almost December to decide who would be leading the Federal Reserve?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President has taken -- taken the economy as a whole and inflation very seriously, especially these past several months, in making sure that he does everything he can when it comes to -- as we know, inflation is -- is increasing -- is increasing costs in two important areas for the American people: food and gas. I have listed out the things that the President has done.
And so, that -- you know, that hasn't changed. It has been a priority. That's why we see the economy in a -- in a strong -- stronger place than it's been -- a historic place than it's been in decades.
And so, the President is going to continue to do that -- to do that work. We do have a Federal Reserve -- you know, the Chair and others in place. We're going to leave that and make sure that they're independent, leave the work to them. They have the strongest tools in dealing with inflation. They have made this a priority. And so, we're going to leave it to them.
All right. Go ahead.
Q: The experts now suggest that --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to move on.
Q: Thank --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you, Karine. Over the weekend, a crisis pregnancy center in Oregon was firebombed. That's the fourth one so far. And then, last weekend, of course, a would-be- assassin was arrested outside the home of Justice Kavanaugh. I know that the administration condemns violence and you've said as much several times previously, but I'm wondering: Is there anything that the President is doing to cool passions before the Dobbs decision drops?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You mean in -- with -- as it relates to abor- -- the decision?
So, I want it to be really clear: You know, the Department of Justice, as it relates to Kavanaugh, has U.S. Marshals providing support to the Supreme Court Marshal. And the President supports legislation to fund increased security for court and judges.
And it is how -- it has now been reported that the marshals our administration assigned to help protect judges were instrumental in the person not accomplishing the horrible deed that he set out to do. This is the threat that we saw against Kavanaugh.
And so, we have taken this very seriously. Like you said, we have condemned -- condemned it. The President has, and we will continue to do so.
Any int- -- intimidation or threats against judges is something that we take very seriously.
And so, you know, one of the reasons -- again, one of the reasons the -- the act did not happen last week was because the Department of -- DOJ took that very seriously from the beginning when we were -- when we were hearing the threats and the intimidation and put U.S. Marshals there.
Q: And then, with regard to some of the arson that we've been seeing around the country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that's something, clearly, the DOJ is looking into. And, you know, they've taken that very seriously. We have seen an uptick of that type of arson and bombing and -- or attempt to bomb, as we saw just recently over the weekend. And so, again, that's for -- DOJ is taking that very seriously, and they're going to continue to do so.
Q: And then just one quick follow-up.
(An aide sneezes.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Bless you, Chris.
Q: Jen was asked about some of these protests that were occurring outside of Supreme Court justices' home -- homes, and she reiterated that the administration wants them to remain peaceful. But does the President believe that there should be any type of protesters picketing outside of judges' homes when there's a case pending before them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, we have not weighed in on where people should or should not protest. We have said that all Americans have the right to peacefully protest, whatever their point of view, but that -- but that attempts at intimidation and violence are totally unacceptable and that they need to be condemned at any time they happen, regardless of who does it.
Q: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Yeah, thank you. The President signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill on November 15th of last year for supply chains -- (phone alarm goes off) -- time is not up yet. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Time is up, Ed. Your time is up.
Q: I know.
We heard at that that point -- that -- "wait until year, and then the sli- -- supply chains will start to work themselves out." Well, it's June -- seven months later -- and we're still waiting for supply chains to work themselves out. So what's happening?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just say that we're funding major new initiatives on the docks and on-dock rail systems --the Port of Long Beach -- to move goods more quickly. So we're making those investment right now.
An example that I want to give because the President was just at a port in Los Angeles, as you know -- the Port of Los Angeles, to be specific -- and announced May cargo volumes. There, he announced that May cargo volumes landed at approximately 970,000 container units, the third-best month in ports in a 115-year history. The port set a new record, averaging 12,000 units loaded off and back on each vessel, and half-shelved [on-shelf] availability is at 89 percent, just a tick below pre-pandemic.
So we have seen the investments are -- are out there. And we have seen some improvements.
Q: But when is relief coming? Because when he signed it, inflation was 6.8 percent. It's now 8.6 percent. So when is that relief coming?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we're going to continue to expand capacity of our ports, and that's going to be thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
So we're -- again, we're seeing investments now. I just gave an example of how we saw an uptick -- uptick in the, you know, container units, which is very important as we're talking about supply chain and what the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been able to do. And we think we'll continue to see that.
Q: And can I ask you -- can I ask you a question on --
Q: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I was calling him and then we can -- yeah.
Q: Yeah, can I ask you a question on --
Q: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, go ahead.
Q: So there's a coalition of civil rights groups that have been calling for President Biden to sign an executive order that would do essentially what H.R. 40 is -- which is create a commission to study enslavement in the United States and consider reparations.
They've renewed these calls in the aftermath of the Buffalo shooting, saying that this is a symptom of the U.S. -- their inability -- the failure to respond or have -- to, sort of, reparatively respond to this issue.
I saw -- I talked to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. They are in support of President Biden signing this order, given the inability to get H.R. 40 passed in Congress in this session and probably not in the next session.
I know you were asked about reparations previously, earlier this month, in relation to the California Reparations Task Force -- that President Biden's position has not changed on this.
However, considering the fact that President Biden did sign an executive order that created a commission to study reforming the Supreme Court, would he sign an executive order to create a permission for reparations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- look, again, the President's position has not changed on this. You know, we've been asked this question many times. I haven't checked in with him on this new -- kind of, new ask from congressional members because -- as it's connected to Buffalo. But the President's position just hasn't changed. I don't have anything more for you to share on that.
Go ahead. You can go. I -- I -- sorry.
Q: Yeah, thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I accidently --
Q: That's okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: So, President Zelenskyy has been pressing for a quick Ukraine submission into the European Union. Does the President Biden support granting Ukraine accelerated path to the EU?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that's not up to us. We're not part of the EU -- the European Union. That is something that the members have to decide. We're -- we're not going to inject ourselves in something that we just don't belong to.
Q: One more, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q: So, Ukrainian officials warned that without a rapid increase in military assistance, Ukraine faces a defeat in a crucial region of Donbas. Is President Biden willing to respond to those demands? And is the President satisfied with military assistance for Ukraine from U.S. Allies in Europe, especially France and Germany?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you know, we -- as it relates to our Allies, we have seen them get involved in their own way. I think it's up to them on how they want to assist Ukraine. But we have seen a coalition when it comes to NATO Allies, when it comes to our European partners in coming together in a way to help Ukraine. And that -- a lot of that is because of this President's leadership.
So, I know that you're -- you're talking about a specific area in the east -- right? -- that people have been talking about. You know, it -- I don't want to -- I don't want to speculate with hypo- -- hypotheticals on what might happen there. I know the city has been under fierce assault and Ukrainians have been fighting bravely under constant bombardment and difficult conditions.
President Zelenskyy has described the fighting as "severe" as Ukrainian forces battle Russian's forces "for every meter." We are continuing to surge security assistance to Ukraine to help them defend that area of the Donbas. So that is something that we're doing every day. There's security assistance going into Ukraine on a daily -- on a daily clip, if you will.
Secretary Austin will be in Europe this week holding the next round of meetings of the Ukraine -- Ukraine Contact Group, where he will host ministers of defense and chiefs of defense from dozens of countries and ask them to continue to provide weapons and equipment as well. So that also answers your question about getting others to get involved.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh -- oh, we're done?
Q: Do one more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. (Laughs.)
Q: Can I -- can I ask you a question on --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh, who do I want to go to?
Q: (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, you in the corner. I haven't ever called on you.
Q: Thank -- thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, in the back.
Q: Thank --
Q: Thank you. So I have two questions on baby formula. So, first, what is the White House -- what is the latest update the White House has received on the current infant formula situation across the country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, let me see if I have anything new for you on that because I think it's been a couple of days since we have asked -- been asked that question.
Okay. I don't have anything new. I know we made some announcements last week, I don't -- I just don't have them in front of me.
But if you want to come back, and we'll -- we'll talk through the things that we have been able to do in the past -- what -- the most recent activities that we've done.
Q: And a second question. So, House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro sent a letter to the HHS Inspector General asking the FDA to -- or asking the Inspector General to investigate the FDA's recent policy to use enforcement discretion for certain importation of infant formula.
So -- but she expressed concerns that the rapid pace that they're making these approval decisions, with only nine full-time staff members. So is the President confident that the FDA is being able to make these decisions to make sure infant formula that is being imported is safe and --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first, I haven't seen the letter. So that's number one. So, can't really speak to the letter.
If you're asking me if the President has confidence in the FDA: He does.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.
4:27 P.M. EDT
Karine Jean-Pierre, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/356446