Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

April 29, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:36 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey. Good afternoon, everyone.

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Monday. Hopefully everyone is recovered from the weekend. (Laughter.)

Q: What happened over the weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't know. I don't know. Nerd prom. (Laughter.) I think that's what they call it.

Q: You never know.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You never know.

Okay. So, I have a couple -- like, two things at the top, and then we can get into it.

So, I want to begin, actually, on a solemn note. Over the weekend, deadly storms devastated communities across the Midwest. We are praying for those impacted and the families who lost loved ones, as well as those who were injured.

The White House is coordinating with state and local officials, and we stand ready to provide support as needed.

FEMA will be on the ground today to assess the extent of the damage. And tomorrow, the FEM- -- FEMA Administrator will travel to Oklahoma to meet with state and Tribal leaders and hear directly from those who have been impacted.

We are grateful for the first responders and rescue teams who have been working around the clock. Residents should remain vigilant and continue to heed the instructions of local officials.

Turning to this week, today kicks off National Small Business Week. Under President Biden's leadership, we have empowered small businesses and small-business owners nationwide, leading to a small-business boom.

We have been -- we have seen historic growth in business applications over the last three years, and we're on pace to s- -- to set more records in 2024.

There have been more than 17 million new business applications filed during the Biden-Harris administration. Building on this progress, the Small Business Administration announced that our administration has awarded a record amount of federal contract dollars to small businesses. And we are releasing the third annual Small Business Boom Report, which shows how SBA has nearly doubled small dollar loans to small businesses compared to 2020.

To highlight this work, Vice President Harris is kicking off her new -- her -- her national Economic Opportunity Tour in Atlanta where she will meet with small-business owners who are taking advantage of how -- resources to help launch and scale their businesses.

The President and Vice President will continue fighting congressional Republicans' attacks on small businesses, including their attempts to cut SBA funding by 31 percent.

And I lied. I have one more thing for you, and then we'll get going.

Looking ahead to later this week, the President will travel to Wilmington, North Carolina, on Thursday to discuss how his investigation [investing] in Amer- -- in America is rebuilding our infrastructure and creating good-paying jobs in Wilmington and across the country.

We certainly will have additional information for all of you in the days ahead. And please stay tuned.

With that, hey, Darlene.

Q: Hi. Thank you.


Q: Two foreign questions and then one quick domestic one.


Q: Does the White House see any forward progress with the latest hostage deal that Secretary Blinken described as "extraordinarily generous" on the part of Israel?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. As you know, we put out a readout yesterday that the President -- the call that the President had with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. And the significant focus of that -- of that call was obviously on securing the release of all hos- -- of all hostages and paving the way to a prolonged ceasefire that would provide relief to the people of Gaza.

In recent days, there has been new progress in talks. And currently, the onus is indeed on Hamas. There is a deal on the table, and they need to take it. We believe that all efforts need to be brought to bear to convince Hamas to accept the proposal immediately.

And so, to that end, just a little information for all of you. This afternoon, the President will speak with the Amir of Qatar and President of Egypt. Secretary Blinken, as just you noted in your question, is in the region right now to carry out the same message that I just laid out to you.

This has been a sustained effort. And the United States is not alone in this effort.

You saw our joint statement -- the joint statement last week with the 17 other world leaders demanding that Hamas release our citizens without delay.

And so, we're going to continue to have those conversation. It is a priority. It is a priority to get those hostages home. It is a priority to get to a ceasefire. And is -- obviously and a priority to get that all-important humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Q: Would the U.S. or the White House see any potential arrests by the ICC as a -- as an aggravating factor in the negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we've been really clear about the ICC investigation. We do not support it. We don't believe that they have the jurisdiction. And I'm just going to leave it there for now.

Q: On U.S. and Mexico. The joint statement from President Biden and López Obrador today talked about agreeing to implement immediately concrete measures to significantly reduce irregular border crossings. Have those concrete measures already been agreed to? And can you give any detail on what they are?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep. As you just mentioned, the President and the President of Mex- -- our President and the President of Mexico spoke yesterday. There was a joint statement that we put out. I'm going to be really careful here. I'm not going to get ahead of what was laid out in the statement.

But this is -- I would say this is a continued commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship that we have and the reg- -- regional cooperation. And let's not forget, that regional cooperation will benefit here -- us here in the United States but also the people of Mexico.

So, I'm not going to go beyond the readout, that joint statement that came out.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q: Following up on that. Darlene mentioned Secretary Blinken did describe this new proposal as "extraordinarily generous." Can you explain a little what he meant by that? What about this -- this new proposal is so generous?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to characterize the proposal. I'm not going to get into any of the specifics. But what we believe is that now is the time for Hamas to take this deal. It is on the table. It is time to -- is way past time to get these hostages home. It is way past time to get to a ceasefire. And we need to make sure we continue to get that humanitarian aid. As we know, it is a dire situation in Gaza.

I just don't have anything to share beyond what -- what S- -- the Secretary spoke to. He's going to, obviously, meet with regional partners as he's there to continue that pressure, to continue that conversation, to continue that diplomacy that -- that we -- that's needed in this time. But Hamas needs to take this deal.

Q: And on another continuing conversation. Is there any update on this in-person meeting between Israeli and U.S. officials that keeps being pushed down?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you talking about the Rafah --

Q: Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- re- -- in regard to the Rafah operations?

Look, as you -- as you know, Israel had -- has a lot on their plate. They had to deal with what occurred with Iran. And so, they've been -- you know, they've been pretty -- pretty busy in -- in the last couple of weeks, having -- having to, you know, protect their security.

And so, we have had two virtual meetings that Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, has led. We believe that they've been productive. We believe that -- that the Israeli government is taking our concerns into account. And those conversations are going to continue.

Q: Is it still your expectation that there will, at some point, be --


Q: -- an in-person --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We would -- yes, we would like to have an in-person meeting. That is certainly what we would like to do. But in the meantime, we've had two important virtual meetings. And in -- in the readout yesterday, we mentioned that that -- that the Rafah -- potential Rafah operations did come up between the two leaders in their conversation.

Q: And just on another topic. We're -- obviously, everyone's watching today what's going on at Columbia University. Has the President or anyone from the White House spoken to -- to university leadership? Is the President satisfied with how they're handling the situation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I will say this. Look -- and -- and we've said this many times. This is nothing new. The President has always been clear that while Americans have the right to peacefully protest -- that's something that we believe here in this administration -- he stands squarely, squarely against any -- any rhetoric -- violent rhetoric; any hate -- hate threats; and physical intimidation and hate speech.

Obviously, we believe and we have said antisemitism is dangerous, it is hate speech, and it is abhorrent. And there is no place for antisemitism on campuses or any- -- anywhere else.

It is a painful moment. We get that. We get that it is a painful moment that Americans are dealing with. And free expression has to be done within the law. And, you know, we're going to continue to be very clear about that. That has not changed. We've been very consistent.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Does the White House have a reaction to World Central Kitchen's decision to restart operations in Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can I just fir- -- can I just first say that the work that humanitarian aid workers do is brave, is incredibly important, and it is good to hear that they are going back to deal -- to do the brave work that they continue to do not just in Gaza, obviously -- in Haiti and Sudan and many other places around the country -- around the globe, pardon me.

And -- and so, we are -- we're -- we're happy to hear that. As you know, the President had a conversation with the Prime Minister about making sure that we deconflict and protect the lives of humanitarian aid workers as they're out there being brave, offering assistance to -- to Palestinians in Gaza.

And so, we have seen some steps being taken by Israel to do just that. And we will always encourage and continue to have those discussions with Israel to do more.

And so, we are certainly encouraged by that -- by humanitarian aid workers from WCK going back out there -- and also encouraged by -- by the steps that -- that the Israeli government has taken to make sure that more humanitarian aid gets in.

Q: Did you consult with them at all about that decision? And are you -- are you confident that -- that the aid workers are not going to be at further risk?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we're going to con- -- again, we're going to continue to be very clear with the Israeli government on making sure that they are protected -- humanitarian aid workers are protected. And we have seen some progress in that -- in that deconflicting, and we've seen aid increase.

I do want to lay out a couple of things that in the aid -- humanitarian aid going in that we've seen increase: Overall, nearly 5,000 trucks have entered Gaza since early April. That includes almost 200 humanitarian and commercial trucks a day, on average, entering Gaza in the late three -- in the last three weeks. Some days, 400-plus truckloads enter. The United States conducted over 30 airdrops for relief supplies, including over 1 million meals, a hundred and forty-one thousand three- -- -- 141,300 bottles of water to Gaza as of April 28th.

And a lot of that is because of the President stepping in and making very clear that we need to do more. And the -- the United States have -- have led in the effort on getting that humanitarian aid.

Q: Just lastly, a follow-up on Mary's question.


Q: Does the White House support peaceful protesters at Columbia or elsewhere being threatened with being removed from -- from the school or being put on discipline or probation?


Q: Is that --


Q: -- do you think that that --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm so sorry.

Q: -- that that is fair?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, got to be super, super mindful. These are institutions -- some of them are private, some of them are public -- and it is up to their leadership -- university leadership and colleges to make that decision. Not going to weigh in on that from here.

We're going to continue to say all Americans have the right to peacefully protest. At the same time, we have to call out any hateful rhetoric that we hear. Antisemitism is wrong. And so, we're going to continue to -- to do that.

But universities and colleges make their own decisions. It is up to their leadership. We're not going to weigh in from here.

Go ahead, Weijia.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Our new CBS News poll found that registered voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania believe that they would be financially better off if Trump wins. How do you explain that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to be careful because we're talking about vote- -- registered voters. We're talking about a candidate now -- obviously, the former President, who is now a candidate. I got to be mindful of the Hatch Act, and so can't -- can't speak to -- to that specifically.

But what I will say more broadly is we understand what Americans have gone through. We understand that the pandemic was a heavy, heavy burden on Americans. We understand that Putin's aggression into Ukraine caused inflation to rise -- right? -- pandemic caused inflation to rise, caused damages to the supply chain. And so, that's why the President took action.

The American Rescue Plan, obviously, was incredibly important in turning the economy around, dealing with the supply chains.

And we also understand that prices are still too high. They're still too high, so this is why you hear us talk about junk fees. This is why you hear us talk about lowering prescription du- -- drugs -- it is important -- making sure that big corporations and billionaires pay their fair share.

And so, we're going to do more work. And we're hoping that message gets through to the American people. That's why you've seen the President in New Hampshire; in Las Vegas; in Madison, Wisconsin, laying down that message to -- directly to the American people.

But there is a contrast here. There's a stark contrast to what we see what the President has been doing, this adma- -- administration -- the Biden-Harris administration -- and what Republicans are trying to do. They literally put out a budget that cuts Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and gives special interest groups, billionaires, and corporations a tax break. The President doesn't believe that.

So, that -- that's what I will say. I have to be really mindful to not speak specifically to that poll.

But, more broadly, that's what I can say, and I understand -- we understand what Americans are -- are feeling right now. That's why we're trying to do more.

Q: Is the President frustrated that despite the fact that he continues to say --


Q: -- what he has done, that Ame- -- some Americans are not feeling the impact --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look --

Q: -- of his policies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- we have seen some consumer confidence go up over the past couple of months, and I think that's important to note. And so, that is out there -- that data is out there.

Look, this is a pr- -- we're talking about a president who understands what it feels like to sit around your kitchen table and have to make difficult decision. We get that. He gets that. This is why he's trying to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out. He's been very, very clear about -- this is a sympathetic president, so he gets it.

So, it's -- he's not going to be frustrated by that. What he's going to do is continue to do the additional work to lower cost and do everything that we can there and to go out there -- to go out there and speak directly to the American people. I think that's the most effective way to do that.

Q: Just one quick follow-up --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure. Sure.

Q: -- on Jeff and Mary. And correct me if you already answered th- --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Jeff and Mary?

Q: On Jeff and Mary.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, Jeff and Mary, the -- your -- (laughter). I'm sorry. Your colleagues.

Q: I know. It's a blur for everyone today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It felt -- it felt really -- it felt like, "Jeff and Mary?" Oh, gosh.

Q: From the weekend. (Laughter.) So --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I do know who -- who you guys are. I -- (laughs) --

Q: I'm sorry if I missed this. But --


Q: -- is the answer, no, the administration has not been in touch with anyone at Columbia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't have any readout. I should have -- I should have answered that in -- I believe that was Jeff's question. I -- I don't have any calls to read out to you of conversations with any university -- any university leaders at this time.

Obviously, the President is going to go speak at Morehouse. And so, we've been in touch with them because he's going to give -- deliver a commencement speech. He's looking forward to doing that. It is such an important moment in time for graduates. And he's going to go, obviously, to -- to West Point. Those are the two that he's doing.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thanks, Karine. I wanted to go back to last week. The administration announced that it was again delaying --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last week?

Q: I know. (Laughter.) All the way back a few days ago.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All the way back.

Q: The administration announced that it was again delaying a potential ban on menthol cigarettes.


Q: What do you say to critics that say this decision is prioritizing politics over health outcomes?


Q: And can you give a timeline for this decision to actually be made?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, Secretary Becerra obviously put out a statement on this, I believe on Friday.

And I'll say this. Look, the rule garnered a lot of attention -- historic attention and -- during the public comment period, obviously. And -- and so, we got an im- -- an immense amount of feedback. And this is including various comments and feedback from civil rights organizations and also the criminal justice movement. And we want to be really mindful to that.

And so, obviously, there's more conversations to be had. And we have to really address the concerns of civil rights leaders and also the criminal justice leaders and also the many, many Americans who wanted to make sure that their voices were being heard.

And so, it's going to take more time. I don't have a timeline. This is an OMB process. They're going to run through that process. And we just want to make sure that -- that

we deal with this significant policy issues that are in front of us right now.

Q: The Secretary of State met with the Saudi Crown Prince today. Obviously, they were talking primarily about the hostage ceasefire deal. But I'm wondering, headed into the summer months, if that conversation or any conversation with the Saudis recently have touched on oil production and what you'd like to see from them.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don't have anything to say about -- about that piece. I think the State -- the State Department -- this is Blinken's trip -- if that came up, they will have more to say on that.

I don't want to lose -- to lose -- you know, to lose the importance of the Secretary Bli- -- being in the region right now. We have to get this hostage deal done. It's on the table for Hamas to -- to take. He's going to -- the Secretary is going to meet with regional partners.

And it is time to -- only Hamas is standing in the way right now. It is time to move. We got to get these hostages home. We got to get to a ceasefire. And we got to continue to get that humanitarian aid. It is dire. The situation is dire in Gaza, as you all know.

Q: And a last quick one. The Washington Post had a lengthy story today detailing efforts by Indian intelligence services to carry out an assassination in the United States.


Q: Now that some of those -- I know you were asked about it when they were --


Q: -- when this first emerged. But now that the details are known, can you talk about how, if at all, this has impacted our relationship with India --


Q: -- what steps we may be taking to make sure that, you know, something like this doesn't happen?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, any specifics -- there's an investigation, as you know, going -- going on. So, as you just stated in your question to me, in a criminal investigation, De- -- Department of Justice obviously is running that, so anything specific to that, I would have to refer to the DOJ.

Look, India is an important strategic partner here in the United States for the -- of -- sorry, of the United States. So, we are pursuing an ambitious agenda to expand our cooperation in sev- -- in several areas.

As you know, we've been really consistent about that and have laid that out multiple times, whether it's a meeting here with the -- with the Prime Minister or a meeting abroad.

This is a serious matter, and we're taking that very, very seriously. The government of India has been very clear with us that they are taking this seriously and -- and will investigate. And we expect that accountability from the government based on that.

And so -- but we're going to continue to raise our concerns. That's not going to stop. We're going to continue to raise our concerns directly -- directly with the Indian government.

Go ahead, Gabe.

Q: Karine, with regards to the ICC's potential warrants, I know you've said that it's the White House's position that the ICC does not have jurisdiction. But did the issue come up yesterday during the President's call with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to -- to read out beyond the readout. I don't have anything to lay out there.

Obviously -- and I said this moments ago -- the si- -- what was the -- what was significantly discuss- -- the primary focus of that call was obviously that hostage deal, getting to a ceasefire, getting humanitarian aid into Gaza -- that was incredibly important -- and, obviously, our continued support for -- for Israel's security. That continues to be ironclad, obviously, that -- we've shown that.

But we need to get to that hostage deal. We need to get the hostages home. We need to get to a ceasefire. And that was the primary conversation. And obviously, the Rafah operations was discussed as well.

Q: Is the U.S. directly involved in any diplomatic effort to prevent those warrants from being issued?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything beyond that.

Look, we just don't -- we don't believe it's in the ICC jurisdiction in this situation. We do not support the investigation. And I think that kind of answers that question, when we say we do not support this and we do not believe it's in their -- in their jurisdiction --

Q: And following up --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- ICC's jurisdiction.

Q: And following up to -- excuse me.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, sorry.

Q: I'm sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no.

Q: I'm sorry to interrupt, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no, no. I just have -- I have a little bit to say, but it's okay -- (laughs) -- Gabe. Go ahead, Gabe.

Q: Switching gears to another topic --


Q: -- and following up on what you said earlier about the protests at Columbia. Earlier you talked about how you didn't want to comment on what school administrators might do. But the protesters themselves have now defied that 2:00 p.m. deadline. Should they leave?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The protesters themselves have --

Q: At Columbia, yes. There was a deadline for them to leave by 2:00 p.m., and they have not done so. What does the White House think --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You mean that Columbia has -- has -- has said there is a 2:00 p.m. deadline --

Q: Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- for them? Okay.

I'm just not going to comment on leadership in -- in col- -- at colleges and university, their decisions. That's for them to decide.

We've been very clear. Americans have the right to pro- -- to peacefully protest. And we're going to continue to call out any type of hateful rhetoric, any type of potential hateful violence here. It has no place in America. Antisemitism we're going to call out. It is abhorrent. And -- and that is hate speech.

We're just going to be consistent. When it comes to those types of decisions on campuses, that is something for college, universities' leadership to decide on.

Q: And finally, one more, Karine.


Q: As a dog lover -- as a dog lover yourself --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. Oh, gosh. (Laughter.)

Q: What does the President and the White House think about Kristi Noem's upcoming book?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I saw that. It's very sad. It's very sad. It's a sad story. That's all I have for you. It's -- it's sad.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. More broadly, is the White House concerned about safety issues at university graduations this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll sa- -- look, I'll say this, and I kind of said this at the top: Commencement day for -- for college kids is such an important day. You all know that. I'm sure you all have experienced the -- how important it is that day, not just for you or for them, in this case, but for parents and loved ones who are here to -- to celebrate -- to celebrate their -- their loved one graduating from college. And that is really important.

You know, it is important that Americans are given the opportunity to peacefully protest. We have to make sure that is something that -- that is afforded to Americans. And -- and respecting what commencements are truly about, those things are really important.

You know, we hope that schools can -- can hold commencement celebrations while respecting difficult viewpoints that -- that we're seeing right now in these issues. And we understand that it is a painful, painful moment.

Q: Are you -- is the White House in touch with -- or the Department of Education in touch with universities to check on their planning or security measures they might be taking?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I would refer to Department of -- of Education on that. I don't have anything to share at this time from here.

Go ahead, Asma.

Q: Thanks, Karine. What is the administration's response specifically to the use of police force in some of these college campus protests? We saw this at Indiana University, Ohio State, Emory, UT Austin.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, again, I'm going to be really repetitive here. It's -- Americans have the right to peacefully protest within the law. That is really important here.

Antisemitism is dangerous.

I know I've seen -- we've -- you've seen the -- the videos that have pretty much gone viral out there. And I can't speak to that. We may have more to say about those videos once we look into the -- once -- you know, we'd have to look into them. Just don't have anything to share beyond that.

But it is important. It is important for Americans to have the right to peacefully protest. We understand this is within the law. And we understand this is a difficult time, and we're going to call out any type of hateful rhetoric.

Q: And so, does the administration think that police force or police presence we've seen so far is acceptable?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, as far as police presence, that's up to the colleges and the universities. That's for them to decide. And we have to be able to allow Americans to peacefully protest within the law. That is important, and that's what the President wants to see.

I can't comment on every case. I can't comment on everything that we're seeing out there.

What I can speak to is more broadly and what we want to see and what we've called out.

Q: If I can shift gears real quick.


Q: I know there was discussion -- the President himself also referenced the idea -- of an immigration-related executive order. Is there any update on that front?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, and I've said this many times before, we believe the bipartisan proposal that came out of the Senate that Republicans rejected because of the former President saying that it hurts him politically, helps the President and not himself -- not Donald Trump -- that's what we saw. That proposal -- that proposal will do the significant work needed at the border, the significant work to move forward on a broken immigration system. That's what we want to see.

In the meantime, we always said that we don't believe it is -- it -- moving with an executive action is the way to go. We want to see that proposal. But we're always going to look at all options.

I don't have a decision to be made. I don't have anything to announce. But, you know, we're going to continue to call on -- call on Republicans, call on Congress to move that Senate pro- -- that bipartisan Senate proposal forward.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. A couple of questions for you on Saudi Arabia and also on Ukraine as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, yeah.

Q: Secretary Blinken has obviously been in Riyadh discussing the Israel-Hamas war. He's also been discussing the Abraham Accords and normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. How confident is the U.S. that those talks can be revived?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we're going to continue to have those diplomatic conversation. It's important to do so. We're going to -- we got to be confident. We're going to be confident that we could -- that it gets to a place where -- you know, where we -- we are -- we have -- we have a solution here.

And so, I can't go beyond that. You know, the Secretary, as you said, is in Saudi Arabia. He's going to have -- really, I -- look, the important part about what we're trying to do this week and what you're seeing Secretary Blinken, what you've heard from the readout and heard me talk about -- you read yourself the readout from the President with his call to Prime Minister Netanyahu -- is to get to this hostage deal.

We got to get to this hostage deal so we can get to a ceasefire, get that all-important -- continue to get that humanitarian aid into Gaza. We know the situation in Gaza is dire. And they also had a conversation about the Rafah operations.

And so, that is really the focus here. That is the significant focus. It is important to get to that deal.

Q: The U.S. also said that it's preparing -- preparing to offer a security package to Saudi. What would that entail?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to share on that.

Q: Okay. On Ukraine. Ukraine has lost more ground in the last couple of days as it awaits U.S. aid to get there. Is there any updates on the -- the state of those shipments?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the aid into Ukraine is -- is ongoing. They have been receiving that security assistance. I'm going to be really mindful here because there are operational security that I want to be careful. And what we hope is it gets to the frontlines so that Ukraine could def- -- continue to defend itself.

And, like you said, they have lost ground. And so, we're hoping to get that security aid to -- to the brave pe- -- to the brave people in Ukraine. And so, look, it's ongoing. That aid is getting into -- into Ukraine. I want to be really, really mindful on speaking to operational security from here, from the podium. I would refer you to Department of Defense for anything further.

Okay. Go ahead, Gerren.

Q: Thanks, Karine. First on, as you mentioned, the Vice President kicked off her Economic Opportunity Tour today in Atlanta, which is a majority Black city. Next week, she'll be in Detroit, another majority Black city. It seems like the administration is trying to reach Black Americans, in particular, as it relates to the economy.

Data suggests that Black Americans feel economically burdened and are not aware of some of the work that the administration has done. According to an Economist/YouGov poll, only 22 percent of Black Americans feel they are economically -- they feel like they're not economically better off than they were a year ago.

Does the White House fe- -- believe that this tour or hope that this tour will help change perceptions --


Q: -- amongst Black Americans as it relates to the economy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. It's -- I think Weijia asked me this question, but a more broader sense of how people are feeling about the economy.

And we are very -- we think it's very important, the Biden-Harris administration, to go out there and to talk directly to the American people. We believe that if they hear from us, they will know exactly what we've been doing and how we've been delivering.

But we also understand that people are still feeling that prices are too high. They feel that the economy is not working for them. And so, we're going to lay out what we've done this past three -- three and a half years, almost, in this administration.

And as it relates to the Black community, when the President walked in, unemployment was above 9 percent. Now it's at a record low in the Black community. Now it's at a record low at around 5 percent. That's because of the -- the work that this President has done. Black wealth jumped up by 60 percent. That's important. That's because of the work that this President has done.

But we understand, especially as it relates to the Black community, housing is important. We understand that prices, again, are too low [high]. And so, we're going to do the work in the Black community, yes, but also for all communities.

And so, having that conversation -- and we believe this tour that the Vice President is going to do is -- is important.

But we're -- we're going to speak to all communities, Black communities and every other community out there, who have felt -- who have felt what the pandemic has done and what the high -- the high inflation that came after Russia's war into Ukraine.

And so, we're going to continue to do the work, whether it's, you know, talking about junk fees; lowering prescription drug costs, which we've been able to do -- continuing to do that, healthcare costs more broadly. This is incredibly important to this President.

Q: And just one more question.


Q: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has a study that came out a few days ago. Amongst a study of Black Americans, 45 percent feel a connection to Palestinians, which aligns with reporting and data that suggests that Black Americans see a similarity between their historical subjugation and what the Palestinians are experiencing.

What is the White House's message to Black Americans who have distinctly supported this President and feel like his policies go against what they believe morally and see this connection to what's happening to Palestinians?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And it's the message that we have said to Arab Americans, Palestinian Americans, Muslim Americans, and many Americans here who -- who are looking at this moment and it is incredibly painful. We understand. This is a painful moment for many. And that's why White House officials, including this President, has had many conversations with communities, leaders of those communities to talk about -- to hear from them, to listen to them, and to talk about how to move forward.

And it is also why it is so important that the President spoke to the Prime Minister of Israel yesterday. That is also why it's important that we see the Secretary -- Secretary Blinken in the region this week to talk about how do we get to a hostage deal that will lead -- getting Americans home, getting hostages home to their loved ones -- but to also lead to a ceasefire.

We understand how important it is, and we get -- we get that the dire humanitarian aid -- that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. That's why we've done an uptick and spoken -- direct conversations -- with the Israeli government on what we can do to put -- to get more aid in -- into Gaza. And so, that's what we're seeing.

And so, we got to get that hostage deal. We do.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. I wanted to see if you could just elaborate on how the President is taking in some of the scenes from college campuses around the country. He doesn't have any public events on his schedule today. Is he watching some of the coverage? What's his reaction been?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can tell you, the President is -- like he does every day, is having meetings with his senior advisors, with his team here on an array of issues. I just mentioned that he's going to have conversations with leaders in -- in the Middle East region to talk about this hostage deal, to make sure that we get this done, get Americans home -- hostages home, more broadly -- and make sure we get to a ceasefire. That is something that is incredibly important that, you know, Americans want to see.

As you're talking about the -- the protesters, they want to see this war end.

And that's what the President wants to see: it get to a ceasefire. And so, he's focused on that. That's his focus.

I can't -- I can't speak to him catching any of what's happening on TV, but I can speak to the importance of the meetings that he's having and these two head-of-state calls that he's going to have this afternoon.

Q: Last week, House Speaker Mike Johnson visited Columbia and said that after that visit he was going to be calling President Biden to discuss potential response, even the potential for a role for the National Guard. Did that conversation happen? And has the President weighed --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look --

Q: -- in on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- I would refer you to the Speaker. I don't have a -- a call to speak to.

As it relates to the National Guard, I've been asked this question --

Q: Did -- did that call happen?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a --

Q: Did they have a conversation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a call to -- to speak to.

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is that, as it relates to the National Guard, that is something that is under the jurisdiction of governors.

And I know, if it wasn't last week -- I believe it was last week, actually, Governor Hochul spoke to that as it relates specifically to what's happening in New York. And so, I would refer you to -- to her office.

But National Guards, that's not under our jurisdiction; that's under governors.

Q: And military aid for Israel. There is a May 8th deadline for the Biden administration to certify that Israel is in compliance with international humanitarian law. Several bureaus within the State Department have reportedly raised serious concerns over what they call Israel's noncompliance. How is the President planning to make this decision? What meetings is he taking? What information is he evaluating? And when do you expect him to make a decision?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I will say this: In that conversation that the Prime -- that -- that he had with the Prime Minister, he continued to -- to say that -- give the commitment that Israel's security is ironclad -- our commitment to Israel's security is ironclad. That will continue, and that is a commitment that the President has.

I'm not going to speak to a May 6th [8th] deadline. I'm -- that's not something I'm going to do at this time.

But, look, that -- the President has been very clear. As it relates to making sure that -- you know, that Israel conduct their operations in Gaza, to make sure that we're protecting innocent Palestinian lives, that -- two things could happen. Right? Two things can be true, which is making sure that Israel's security is ironclad. We saw what happened with Iran very recently. They live in a -- in a neighborhood that is -- that is tough, and they continue to -- they will continue to need that support.

So, two things can be true. We can give that commitment to the iron- -- ironclad commitment but also have those conversations with Israel about making sure that they conduct their operations in Gaza to make sure that we're protecting -- we're protecting innocent Palestinians.

Q: But since the President's last called with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Congress --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which was yesterday.

Q: -- Congress -- well, but between the call two weeks ago or three weeks ago --


Q: -- and the call yesterday, Congress has newly authorized about $16 billion --


Q: -- in additional military aid. Did President Biden communicate what it would take for the U.S. to begin dispersing some of that aid? Progressives have urged him to place conditions on it or to use it as leverage over Israel.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I've been very clear. Two things could be true. We're going to have the ir- -- give our commitment to -- to Israel's security -- that is ironclad -- and also have those conversation with Israel about making sure that how they conduct their operations in Gaza protects innocent Palestinian lives, hence the conversation about Rafah -- the Rafah operations -- right? -- the two virtual calls that Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, has led. And we're going to continue to have those conversations.

It is important. It is important that we protect Palestinian lives -- innocent Palestinian lives. As Israel continues to defend itself, it is important that they are able to do that, but we have to make sure that, also, in those conversations, that they conduct their operations in a way that innocent Palestinian lives are -- are happening.

I don't have anything beyond that. We've been consistent about that. I know Jake Sullivan spoke to this just last week when he was at the podium.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Two topics, if I can. First, right before we came out here, there were reports of a shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina, involving law enforcement officials. Were you guys aware of that? Has the President --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. No, that's -- that's actually the first time I'm hearing about that.

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Obviously, I don't -- want to be really mindful, since I don't have all the information. I'll certainly look into that and see -- and see what's going on there.

You know, police officer, law enforcement officers put their lives at risk every day. And -- and so, you know, that is -- if that is indeed true, it is very sad news.

And we also know gun violence is an epidemic in this country. That's why the President is doing everything that he can to make sure that we deal with this epidemic. And by -- as you know, signing two dozen executive orders, starting an -- an anti-gun violence White House office -- the first ever -- and passing the bipartisan -- a bipartisan legislation to deal with this.

We need to do more. We need to do a lot more, and we're going to continue to ask Congress to do so.

Q: And then second topic. The Affordable Connectivity Program runs out of funding this week. What is the White House plan to get this renewed? Are there conversations about trying to get this included in the FAA reauthorization?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I got a couple things that I do want to say about that. Despite repeated calls with -- from President Biden, congressional Republicans have not extended the Affordable Connectivity Program. This essential program has helped millions of Americans participate in school and work, access healthcare, and stay connected with their loved ones and more.

We announced earlier this month that we are encouraging providers to take steps to keep their consumers connected at this crucial time by offering low-cost, no-cost plans.

We'll continue to push congressional Republicans to take action. And anything else to that I will refer you to FCC.

Q: Right. But do you see it potentially ending up with the FAA reauthor- --


Q: -- this is, like, the last big bill that could be --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we are con- -- we contin- -- continue to call on -- obviously, continue to call on -- on Congress to act here and take action. And so, that's what we're going to continue to do.

But obviously, we've taken some steps so that consumers can protect themselves.

Go ahead, Danny.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Just on Rafah. The readout yesterday from the call with Netanyahu said that the President had "reiterated his clear position," but it didn't say what it was. Can I just -- can you just clarify to us exactly what the position still is at this moment? Is this --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean, it hasn't changed, Danny. We have concerns about a major military operations in Rafah. We've been very clear. There are more than 1 million Palestinians in Rafah, and we believe that they need to be protected. Whatever operation they -- they want to move forward when -- and we understand there are Hamas operators in the region. And we understand that there are concerns there.

And so, we have shared our -- our concerns with that. And we believe that they're going to take our concerns into account.

And we're going to continue to have those conversations. There were two virtual meetings that were led by Jake Sullivan, as I mentioned before.

But our position hasn't changed.

Q: And is the position that you have concerns about that or that -- that the President would oppose an operation without a credible --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have concerns. We have concerns about that. And we want to talk and discuss and continue having those conversations about what their potential plan might look like.

And we believe they're going to -- we're going to have further discussions and they're going to certainly take our concerns into account.

And so, I'll just leave it there.

Q: And you haven't had the credible plan yet?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have not seen a credible plan yet.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you so much. For the first time in public, the President urged Russia to release Alsu Kurma- --


Q: Sorry, I'm going to say that again. Alsu --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Alsu -- mm-hmm.

Q: -- Alsu Kurmasheva --


Q: -- from detention in Russia. What prompted him to make this mention in public? And when will the administration declare her wrongfully detained?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, and you heard from the President, obviously. He talked about it during the White House Correspondents' Dinner. He believed it was an opportunity, speaking in front of all of you, to talk about what journalists have to go through and how brave it is for journalists to go out there and deliver -- really deliver the news and reporting to -- to the public. And it is important to lift that up. It is important to speak to that.

We believe -- and I've said this many times from this podium -- journalism is not a crime. It is not a crime. It is not a crime here. It's not a crime there, and it is not a crime anywhere.

And so, as it relates to her designation, that is something that the State Department has spoken about. And so -- and so, we're going to just leave that to the State Department.

Obviously, we've shared our concerns about her detention. And so, I would refer you -- refer you to them. And the State Department has -- has shared their concerns about their -- their -- her detention.

But it is a designation that the State Department makes.

Q: Got it.

So, today, we heard China's government denying an accusation made by Secretary of State Blinken that they were seeking to interfere in the U.S. election. Does the White House share this concern? And what are you doing to combat it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, it -- the -- the Secretary is speaking on behalf of this administration. So, obviously, we share those concerns. But -- but we're going to continue to have those diplomatic conversation.

The Secretary, you know, is -- delivered a message there, and I just don't have anything beyond that.

Q: And then, finally, you just mentioned two head-of-state calls this afternoon.


Q: Who are they? Is one of them perhaps President Erdo?an, and -- (laughter) -- are they still talking about a possible meeting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to share. I thought you were -- didn't you hear what I said about who he's -- he's going to be calling?

Q: No, who is it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The -- the Amir -- he's going to call the Amir and Egypt. Those are the two he's going to call today.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know you're trying to get me to say about Erdo?an. I don't have anything to share on that. (Laughter.)

Go ahead.

Q: Karine, good afternoon. By all accounts, the FAFSA rollout was a mess -- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. College -- our high school seniors depend on that for financial aid for college. Decision day is May 1st. Who does the President blame for the mess?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that one more time. I'm sorry.

Q: Who does the President blame?


Q: For the FAFSA mess -- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid -- out of the Department of Education.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we -- we take that very seriously. Obviously, our goal has been to make it easier for very -- you know, Americans who need that relief, as they're thinking about furthering their education and getting that college education.

And so, we want to make sure that it's easier for them to be able to get through that process to get that much-needed aid.

As it relates to FAFSA, we have -- we have said, yes, the process has not gone smoothly, and we're doing everything that we can to make it go smoother. We've been -- I know the Department of Education have put processes in place to make sure that that happens. And that's what we want to see.

We do not want to make it more difficult for Americans to get that much-needed aid. We want to make it easier. That's one of the reasons the President has talked about, you know, student debt relief, giving Americans a little bit of breathing room.

Now, obviously, this is on the other side of that. We want to make sure that Americans do have -- has -- have an easier process in getting that done.

Q: Does the President still have confidence in the leadership at the Education Department after all this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President has confidence in his Education Department.

Q: And is he aware that applications -- FAFSA applications are down some 30 percent --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We understand.

Q: -- impacting minority --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We unders- --

Q: -- and low-income students?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We understand the impact. That's why we're doing everything that we can, the Department of Education is doing everything they ca- -- we can to rectify that issue. And we have.

Go ahead. Go ahead, Jon.

Q: Thanks, Karine. As a result of those ongoing campus protests in the past few days, the main commencement at USC, the University of Southern California, has been canceled. Just today, final exams have been moved at GW Law School. What's your reaction to the repercussions of these protests and how they have impacted students on these two campuses, but also, likely, all across the country at both private and public universities?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, when it comes to decisions about commencements, decisions that universities and colleges are making, that's really up to them to make. That is a decision that they have to decide what's right for their student body, what's right for their community, and that is on them. So, want to be very clear about that.

As it relates to commencement -- and I've said this before -- look, you know, it is a special day. It is a very special day for students. The President is looking forward to speaking to Morehouse University. He's going to be at West Point later this month.

That's something that he -- that's important to him. And he knows how -- how -- what families and students are feeling at this time to wanting to celebrate that moment, especially as they're thinking about their last four years and moving -- and moving forward. And so -- so, he's looking forward to celebrating with them.

We continue to believe -- and I've said this multiple times already today -- is that peaceful -- peacefully protest, Americans should have the right to do so -- to peacefully protest. Whether it's at a commencement or at their school or anywhere in this country, it has to be done where we do not have hateful rhetoric, violent rhetoric.

We cannot -- we not -- we got to condemn those. That should not be allowed in this country anywhere. And so, we're going to be consistent on that. We're going to be -- we have been about condemning hateful rhetoric, hateful vio- -- hate has no place -- should have no place in America.

But those are decisions that are made by colleges and universities, their leadership.

Go ahead, Phil.

Q: Thank you. Two topics quickly. When the President expanded the definition of Title IX to include gender identity, a handful of states, including Florida, announced that they were directing their public school systems to ignore that policy directive. First, what's the White House's response to their objections? And then, second, should we expect the administration to challenge state policies or laws that distinguish between biological males and females in high school sports?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm -- there's a lot of litigations happening, so I need to be really careful.

So, I'll just say that every student deserves a right to feel safe in school. That's what -- that's what it should be all about: strengthening and restoring vital protections that the previous administration got rid of, when you think about the Title IX updates that you've seen from this administration.

And so, look, I don't have much more to share outside of that. The Department of Education has more information on that specific -- what -- the new announcements that we've made. But every student deserves to -- the right to feel safe. And I'm just going to leave it there.

Q: And then a second topic. Last week, a Secret Service agent who was assigned to Vice President Harris's detail was removed from her duties after reportedly attacking the commanding agent in charge. Was the President made aware of that incident? And are there any steps that are being taken to ensure that the vetting is absolutely perfect --


Q: -- so that someone in that important of a detail --


Q: -- (inaudible).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have to be really mindful and careful. That's something for Secret Service to speak to. I can't -- I can't go beyond that. I know --

Q: Secret Ser- --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I know that they -- they put out a statement, and I believe, yes, the President is aware.

Q: Great. Thank you.

Q: Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Yeah. All right. Okay.

Go ahead, Monica.

Q: Karine, there are two pieces of legislation that have been introduced that would take steps to counter antisemitism on college campuses and more broadly. Has the White House made a determination about which one it would support --


Q: -- or would both --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I'm aware of those two pieces of legislation. Obviously, the President condemns antisemitism.

I don't want to get ahead of -- of our Office of Leg Affairs here. So, need to discuss with -- about those two pi- -- particular pieces of legislation.

Obviously, we've been very clear: We condemn antisemitism. We're going to continue to do that. It has no place. It is hate speech. And so, we're going to continue to do that. I want to be really mindful about getting ahead of -- of that.

Q: Would the White House support having antisemitism monitors on college campuses?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I need to be super mindful. As you know, we have -- we put out a strategic plan here on dealing with antisemitism because we understand that it has risen here in this country and we have to do everything we can to fight hate.

And so, we put a -- together a comprehensive plan. I just want to be mindful. I have not spoken to anybody about these two particular legislation. Don't want to get ahead of the team here.

But the President has been very clear -- very, very clear. I've said it multiple times throughout this pris- -- briefing that we condemn antisemitism and any form of hate.

Q: Separately, what is the White House's backup plan for the President's Cancer Moonshot Initiative, since that funding appears not to have been replenished by Congress? Is the plan to go to the --


Q: -- private sector for help?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, Cancer Moonshot obviously is --is so important to not just the President, but the First Lady. It is a -- a -- it is an issue that is incredibly personal to them. And we want to make sure that we get to a place that, you know, cancer no longer is an issue in this country.

Don't have anything beyond -- beyond that. Don't have anything to lay out on what the next steps are, but it is a priority for this administration.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

Oh, Michael, go ahead. Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Back on the ICC.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know I was going to call on you. I forgot.

Q: I'm just wondering how concerned is the admin- -- the ICC.


Q: I'm just wondering, how concerned is the administration that any potential charges against Israeli officials could maybe jeopardize the ceasefire talks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I -- I'm not going to go beyond with what I've said. We don't believe the ICC has the jurisdiction. We don't support this investigation. And I'm just going to have to leave it there for now.

Thanks, Michael.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Bye, everybody.

Q: Thank you.

3:28 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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