Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:57 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello, good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon.
Okay. So, today we have Dr. Jha, the White House COVID Coordinator. He's going to talk about kids COVID vaccines. And so, he is only going to be here for -- he has about 10, 15 minutes with us -- I think 15 minutes, looking at the clock.
So, he's going to open up, and then he'll take a few questions, and then we'll start the briefing.
We want to -- we have a hard time out at 4:00 today, so we're going to try and get out of here at 4:00. Thanks, everybody.
DR. JHA: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for having me. It's great to be back. Sorry, it's me and not BTS. (Laughter.)
I want to take some time today to explain the timeline of what's happening with vaccines for our youngest kids -- for kids under five -- and what parents and pediatricians and Americans should be expecting in the coming weeks.
So, as you all know, the FDA is currently working through a rigorous and independent scientific process. As part of that, the FDA's advisory committee -- VRBPAC -- will be meeting on June 14th and 15th. They will review the data submitted by Pfizer and Moderna for their vaccines, and we expect an FDA decision shortly after the advisory committee meeting. And we look forward to this process playing out.
Now, as you all know, because we've been through this many times, the FDA authorization is not the final step in the process. Before vaccinations can begin, CDC must also issue its recommendations.
If the FDA authorizes the vaccines, the CDC will have its advisory committee meetings and, ultimately, the CDC Director will make her recommendations. And we expect the CDC to make its dates for its advisory committee meetings public very, very soon.
So, let's talk about what we know at this moment. We know that many, many parents are eager to vaccinate their youngest kids. And it's important to do this right. And that's what this process has been all about.
So, as I talk through the process today, I want to be very clear that I am not here to prejudge the outcome of the process. But the administration is hard at work planning all sorts of scenarios based on whatever the outcome is from the process that's playing out.
We've been working very closely with states, with local health departments, with pediatricians, family physicians, other healthcare providers, and pharmacies to get ready.
We started with the playbook we've used for a rollout of vaccines for other age groups. At the same time, we're building this program to meet the specific needs of this specific age group.
We expect that the vast majority of these kids will be vaccinated by their primary care providers. Now, if and when FDA authorizes a vaccine, we'll move from planning to execution. So let me highlight a few things of what that will look like.
Now, the good news is we have plenty of supply of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to start our vaccination program. And we are going to make 10 million doses available to states, pharmacies, and community health centers, and federal entities to order initially.
Starting tomorrow, states can begin to place their orders. We have asked states to distribute the initial tranche of doses to their highest-priority sites, including those serving the highest-risk children and hardest-to-reach areas. And we've also asked them to prioritize sites that can handle large volumes, such as children's hospitals.
We've encouraged states and providers to find ways to ensure that parents have access to these vaccines for their kids outside of normal work hours, because we want to make this as easy as possible for working parents and their families.
Now, FDA authorization will allow us to start shipping doses. These doses are specifically formulated for these young kids. These doses will be shipped to thousands of sites across the country.
So, let me go back and think through the timeline with all of you. VRBPAC meets on June 14th and 15th. We expect FDA to make its decision soon thereafter. Once FDA has authorized -- if they have authorized vaccines -- we can begin shipping. We expect some of the shipments to start arriving to -- in their destination over that long weekend.
Remember, Monday is an important federal holiday, and many doctor's offices may be closed. And we can't ship vaccines until FDA has authorized these vaccines. And vaccinations can't start until CDC has issued its recommendations.
So, we expect that vaccinations will begin in earnest as early as Tuesday, June 21st, and really roll on throughout that week.
Now, it will take some time to ramp up the program and for vaccines to be more widely available. And as doses arrive in places throughout the country, more sites will have vaccines, more appointments will become available. And our expectation is that within weeks, every parent who wants their child to get vaccinated will be able to get an appointment.
We will of course do our part. We're going to continue monitoring. We're going to ship doses out as fast as possible. We're going to make sure that supply is always meeting demand. And we're going to do everything we can to make it easy for providers and parents alike to get their kids vaccinated.
So, let me just close with a few words about the bigger picture about the moment we're in.
It's been a long two years. This is the last group of Americans who have not yet been eligible to get vaccinated.
But as we think about getting ready to vaccinate our youngest kids, it's worth noting how much progress we've made: Two thirds of all Americans are now fully vaccinated, close to a third of all Americans are boosted, and highly effective treatment -- effective treatments are widely available.
As a result, when we look across the country, we see cases rising -- nearly 100,000 cases a day. And yet we're still seeing death numbers that are substantially -- about 90 percent -- lower than where they were when the President first took office.
Now, we know that COVID isn't over. We still have work to do. But we have made tremendous progress. And what we know is that we've got to keep vaccinating, keep reaching people who have not gotten vaccinated, keep making treatments widely available.
Because what we believe is that with science, with hard work, and with resources, we can continue to protect the American people, from our oldest to our youngest.
So, thank you. And I'm looking forward to questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Okay. Who has a question?
Q: What's your expectation on when most kids will be vaccinated? Is it a matter of months? When -- what's your estimate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we don't have an estimate of timelines of when most kids will be vaccinated. What we know is that, obviously, there are a lot of parents who are eager to get their kids vaccinated right away, and they will get vaccinated right away, within weeks, as I -- as I laid out.
There are other parents who are waiting to see how things go. And I think what we have seen in the past is that they will come on board as they see their friends and family getting their kids vaccinated.
So, I think this is a process that is going to take some time, but we want to make sure that we always have adequate supply and access for parents when they want their kids vaccinated.
Q: So, I think you are well aware about how much frustration and anger there's been from -- from parents of young children -- the fact we were talking about second boosters for much of the population before even this first one was available. I'm a parent of a four-year-old who got COVID while we sat around waiting for this.
And I think one point, in all of that, that really is frustrating and raised a lot of questions for parents is why the FDA didn't move to hold a hearing right away after Moderna applied, why it waited for Pfizer and Moderna. Can you just explain the thinking behind that delay?
DR. JHA: So, first of all, I have -- I have a 10-year-old, so he has been able to get vaccinated, but I have a lot of friends who have kids under 5. So, let me just say, I feel the frustration and I certainly hear the frustration.
Two things. First of all, the FDA makes its decisions on timelines really based on its ability to review the data, to do a careful analysis. And that's what they've been doing. I think they've done that throughout the entire pandemic.
If you look at from the early days of the early adult vaccines through this one, they have moved expeditiously and -- and they have made the determinations of when they can be ready to evaluate and when they can make a decision.
The specifics of it, you're going to have to, I think, ultimately talk to the FDA, but I feel like they have moved very quickly to try to -- to consume and analyze a very large tranche of data from -- from Moderna.
And, look, at the end of the day, we all want to move fast, but we want to get it right. And that has got to be priority number one, and that's what I think the FDA has been focused on.
Q: On Paxlovid, do you have any information you can share with us on how much Paxlovid has been used so far and how much is left, and whether Congress -- or whether the U.S. is committed to completing its purchase of the 20 million courses?
DR. JHA: I don't have the numbers off the top of my head. What I will tell you is we're getting out about 30,000 prescriptions a day right now. And that's at the end of last -- as of end of last week. I don't have this week's data yet. So about 30,000 doses a day.
We obviously want to continue to expand access to Paxlovid for any high-risk person who is -- who gets infected. We want to make sure they have access to it if they're clinically eligible.
You know, the President made a commitment to get 20 million doses, and we remain committed to making that happen.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Thank you. I wanted to ask about your COVID testing program, specifically the one that was launched to order COVID tests at home. Can you talk about what the demand has looked like lately -- now that we're seeing the up-and-down with cases is different than what we saw around Christmas; and what you're doing and to preserve supply -- I know that these tests eventually expire -- what you're doing to preserve supply should there be a big demand again?
DR. JHA: Good -- great question. So, we launched that about two weeks ago, three weeks ago -- I can't remember the exact time -- the third round of making tests available.
We actually saw quite a robust demand for that. I think we've had maybe 17, 18 million households order just in the last couple of weeks, so that --
Q: On the third round?
DR. JHA: On the -- on round three.
That's a lot. And it's great. And it means that there are -- people are still using these tests. If you've followed me the last two years, you know I'm a huge believer in making widespread testing widely available.
I think getting people tests at home is a really important part of that. We feel that when you have cases rising, Americans want tests, we want to make those tests available. We also obviously want to make sure that as we have future -- if and or when we have future surges of infections, we will have other tests available for Americans.
Q: Can you also talk about -- the President was very big at the beginning of that program on equity and that these tests were going to be distributed to populations that were underserved, in addition to populations that might be more well-connected.
DR. JHA: Yeah. So we've thought a lot about equity in this case -- in other areas, too, but certainly on tests.
DR. JHA: Yeah. And so, the way we've done this is -- I mean, obviously the website, but we can -- you can make phone calls, which for some people is easier. We've distributed tests to food banks. We've distributed tests to Federally Qualified Health Centers. We have a whole series of efforts that we have had to make sure that the testing is getting out through a variety of different channels so that people who may not normally be able to access it in other contexts can get access to tests.
Q: I didn't hear you -- sorry, one last thing -- I didn't hear you say about tests that are expiring.
DR. JHA: Oh.
Q: I know they must have shelf life.
DR. JHA: Yeah, so, with all these tests we're -- again, this is a standard issue. Anytime you have new products, they have a -- initially they have a specific shelf life, and then as you do more testing, you can extend that shelf life.
So, these companies are working with FDA to look at long shelf life. But obviously, we're always thinking about that, and making sure that they have -- there's plenty of shelf life for these products, as they said, in our stockpiles.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Karen.
Q: Thank you, Karine. Are there --
Q: Dr. Jha, what was the impact of the --
Q: -- any conversations about --
Q: -- Department of Defense --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Karen.
Q: Can you talk about second booster shots for under age 50? Are discussions right now about allowing those second booster shots? Are those conversations taking place?
DR. JHA: You know, so that's a decision of the FDA and CDC. They're always guided by evidence and data on that. All the data that I have seen -- or most of the data I have seen is in people over 50 -- really, in people over 60. That's where the strongest data are.
So I think those conversations are always ongoing. But I think the issue of looking at evidence and making a decision, that's really something that the FDA is going to have to think about it.
Q: Do you think where cases are right now, that second booster shot should be authorized for people under age 50?
DR. JHA: You know, that -- I really do leave that up to FDA to decide based on, kind of, looking at the evidence. So, I -- and I think they should be making that decision.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, last question, Tyler.
Q: Thank you. Do you feel confident that the U.S. has enough supplies for a potential summer surge? And at this point, what are your current predictions about what might happen in the South in the coming weeks and months?
DR. JHA: Supply of?
Q: Vaccines, antiviral treatments, all -- all the various things that are needed to treat COVID.
DR. JHA: Yeah, so, because -- because of prior funding, we purchased a decent amount of both vaccines and therapeutics. And so, I am very confident that whatever happens this summer, we will have enough tools, tests, treatments, vaccines to get us through the summer.
The challenge is -- and, again, we are in the -- I'm less in the prediction business, more in the planning business. As we plan the fall and winter, and look at a variety of different scenarios, that's where I started getting very, very concerned.
And if you want to ask what keeps me awake at night, it is that we are going to run out of vaccines. We're not going to be able to have enough of the next generation of vaccines. We're going to run out of treatments. And we're going to run out of diagnostic tests, probably in the late fall into winter, if we end up having a significant surge of infections.
We don't have the resources to buy those things. And those purchases need to be made now. They cannot be made in the fall.
So if you're wondering what is it that that really worries me -- I think we have the tools for the summer. We will not have the tools for the fall and winter, unless Congress steps up and funds us.
Q: And based on your modeling that you do in the government and with partners outside of it, what is your sense of what this potential surge might look like, both this summer and then when you warn that supplies might now -- in the fall and into the winter?
DR. JHA: Yeah, so, there are -- as you know, there are a lot of different models; they all come up with a variety of different answers. And we really look across all of them. And we try to plan across all the ones that we think are reasonable.
There certainly are models out there that suggest that we could have a sizable wave of infections in the fall and winter, especially if we don't have a vaccination campaign in the fall and winter. If we run out of treatments, if we don't have enough diagnostic tests, we could be looking at a more complicated situation.
So we -- those are -- those are models that we look at. We plan for them. Again, as I said, I generally try not to worry too much about predicting what's going to happen, and really focusing on planning for a variety of scenarios.
And given what we have in terms of treatments and vaccines and diagnostics, we do not have enough to get us through the fall and winter.
Q: And just one last one on the vaccination campaign you mentioned. Are you preparing that most Americans who are not yet eligible for that third vaccine, you will -- they will be encouraged to get a fourth one in the fall? And with that, will there be a new vaccine or a formula to adapt toward the newer variants that have emerged in recent months?
DR. JHA: So there were about three or four questions in there -- embedded in there, all of which are FDA questions. Right?
So let's just -- FDA is going to have to make decisions about: Do we formulate a new vaccine? There's a VRBPAC meeting that's going to happen in late June, I think, to look at exactly that question.
Based on the data, they're going to make determinations. CDC is going to decide who should get it, who should not. I mean, you guys know the process of how that's going to play out.
Q: Sure. I'm just wondering, from your vantage point at the White House as the coordinator of all these different agencies, what your expectation would be.
DR. JHA: My -- I am planning for all of those scenarios. I am pla- -- we need to -- because, again, we don't get into the -- we don't decide what FDA will decide. We don't decide what CDC will decide. They make those decisions. We need to plan for a variety of different scenarios, including planning for a next generation of vaccines for the fall and winter, which we want to make sure we have plenty of for every American.
We will not have enough for every American without additional funding from Congress, but we are planning for those scenarios.
Q: Doctor, do you believe all schools will and must be open this coming fall?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We got to go.
DR. JHA: Yeah, I unfor- --
Q: Parents want to know that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He has to go.
DR. JHA: I'm sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're over time. We're over time.
DR. JHA: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
Q: Doctor Jha, why are more boosted Americans having breakthrough cases than non-boosted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, guys. I have a few things for you at the top.
Okay. So, today, President Biden and Vice President Harris announced the launch of the White House Internship Program and that, for the first time in recent history, we'll pay our interns.
Since the beginning of his administration, President Biden has committed to advancing equity and opening doors by waiting to launch the White House Internship Program until receiving the statutory authority from Congress to pay interns. President Biden was proud to sign bipartisan legislation earlier this year that provides this authority and funding.
President Biden and Vice President Harris know that for too long and too often, unpaid federal internships have been a barrier to hardworking and talented students and professionals, preventing many of them from contributing their talents and skills to the country. Paying White House interns will help ensure that those who receive internships at the White House reflect the diversity of America.
Starting today, prosp- -- prospective candidates, as well as college and university administrators and faculty interested in the program can visit WhiteHouse.gov/intern to learn more about the program and apply for the fall 2022 session starting on Monday.
As the President conveyed earlier, we welcome the announcement today of a continuation of the truce in the Yemen conflict. The last two months in Yemen, thanks to the truce brokered in April, have been among the most peaceful periods since this terrible war began seven years ago. Thousands of lives have been saved as fighting receded.
For the first time in seven years, Yemenis are able to fly from Sana'a to destinations outside of Yemen. We have also seen additional fuel ships moving through the Port of Hudaydah, helping ease Yemen's fuel crisis. The parties to the conflict have now extended this truce for another two months, and it's important that work -- that we work from here to make it permanent.
This truce would not happen -- has -- if it was not -- it would not be possible without cooperation -- the cooperative diplomacy from across the region. We specifically recognize the leadership of King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in helping to consolidate the truce. The Omani Sultan also played a central role in hosting and facilitating dialogue. Egypt and Jordan opened their airports to flights from Yemen over the past month, thereby enabling a key component of the truce process.
The United States will remain engaged in this process over the coming weeks and months. Ending the war in Yemen has been a priority of this administration, and we urge all parties to move expeditiously towards a comprehensive and inclusive peace process. Our diplomacy will not rest until a permanent settlement is in place, and we will continue to support regional diplomacy to de-escalation tensions -- to de-escalate tensions and deter threats to our friends and partners in the Middle East region.
As the President continues to prioritize reducing costs for families, making historic investments in our infrastructure is a critical component to strengthening our supply chains, moving people and goods more effectively, and ultimately lowering costs of everyday items. This is part of transitioning to stable and steady economic growth for the years ahead.
Today, the Biden administration announced over $368 million in grants to modernize and improve rail infrastructure across the country, and Secretary Buttigieg is in Michigan and Mitch Landrieu is in North Carolina to highlight the impact these investments will have on local economies and regional supply chains.
Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will see funding triple for the critical rail infrastructure program to $1 billion a year for the next five years, which will help strengthen critical links in the -- in our supply chains that were weakened by the pandemic. This investment will allow -- will allow trains to get goods to market faster and cheaper and make it easier for Americans to travel where they need to go.
Two final important announcements that I wanted to make here.
As you may know, our dear Amanda Finney is leaving us. Though her official title is "Chief of Staff," Jen long ago gave her the honor -- the title of "Mayor of the West Wing." (Laughter.)
If you know her, and I know many of you do and adore her as we do, you know that Amanda shines thanks to her charisma, her humor, and ability to simply get things done.
Whether it's leading our team of wranglers or hiring the best of the best to join our team, I don't know where we would be without Mayor Finney.
She is leaving us to serve as Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Energy Department, and they're so, so lucky to have her.
Amanda has been the heart and soul of this team, and she will be truly missed. We love you, Finney. And we wish you the absolute best. And, "what a time," as you would say.
MS. FINNEY: What a time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What a time.
MS. FINNEY: What a time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What a time. Amazing. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We get that a lot. Amanda-isms.
Okay. One last announcement I want to make. Brittany came into our team very recently -- actually, six months. It feels recently, but it's been six months. We will be bidding her farewell. Our dear Brittany Caplin, who is returning back to the Department of Commerce after completing her rotation as Assistant Press Secretary here in our office.
Brittany's kindness, professionalism, and know- -- know-how have been apparent from day one. She is one of the nicest people that I know, and she has become an integral -- integral part of the -- of this team since then.
Stepping into the White House -- White -- the West Wing Press Office and taking on tough topics like the 5G -- you guys remember that -- and corporate mergers is no small challenge, as she knows. But Brittany has done so, so much, earning praise and respect from across the White House.
Brittany will be returning to Commerce, as I just mentioned, at the -- at the repeated insistence of Secretary Gina Raimondo. I have a story I'll tell you maybe at drinks. I've told Brittany this story about how I was told by Gina to make sure to return Brittany to her many times.
Anyway. And why -- and it's abundantly clear to anyone who has worked with you, Brittany, how amazing and how much of a star you are. And it's -- it's been exciting to see your accomplishments. And thank you so much for spending six months with us.
I know. Every day -- every day, I'm going to be give -- doing these little goodbyes, but I promise we will have a press shop. (Laughter.) Not everyone is leaving.
Let me make sure I went through everything. And that is it. You want to take -- you want to kick us off?
Q: Terrific. I have -- I have two questions. On the speech tonight, I'm wondering why there's reason to believe that things will be different in Congress, given that we haven't seen action repeatedly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just say, as you guys know, the President is going to give a speech this evening at 7:30. He's going to renew his call for action to stop the epidemic of gun violence that we've seen in Uvalde and in Tulsa and in Bu- -- and Buffalo in just a few short weeks. And in too many communities across the country, we see gun violence tearing up our communities, tearing up families.
And so, reducing gun violence has been a top priority of this president since his first day of office and throughout his career as a senator, as a vice president and, clearly, as a president.
He has been crystal clear that Congress needs to act. The President has done more through executive action, as you've heard us say, than any other president in th- -- in his first year -- in their first year in history. And the President has directed his staff to continue to explore additional actions we can take. But we can't do this alone, and it's time for Congress to act.
Your second question?
Q: Okay. On vaccines for -- for those under five, can you tell us: Is the President satisfied with the -- the pace of the FDA review process? You know, we've already had questions about the frustration among parents.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean, Dr. Jha talked about this and the frustration of parents. And we know parents are incredibly eager to get this done. And, you know, FDA is working rigorously through this process. And it's an independent scie- -- scientific process, so we do leave it to them. And it is the FDA authorization to get this done.
But we know many parents are eager to vaccinate their youngest kids. It's important to do this right, to do this in a safe way, as Dr. Jha was talking about. And so -- but the most important thing that we want to make sure we come across, which is why we had Dr. Jha here, is that the administration is preparing, we are prepared.
We're working with states, local health departments, pediatricians, family doctors, other health providers, and pharmacies to get ready, as we did with kids that -- between 5 -- 5 and 11.
So we want to make sure that we get this done swiftly, but also safely and, you know, so -- you know, follow CDC recommendation.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q: Yesterday, you noted that the President, given his history in the Senate, knows well how negotiations over gun reform work. And that -- you know, that giving talks a little bit of space, you think, is sometimes, you know, a good strategy, that that can help members come to common ground and work through some of these issues.
But that hasn't worked in the past, not on this issue -- right? -- given what we've seen in the past. So why pursue that same strategy now if it hasn't worked? Why not have the President play a more direct role in these negotiations now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, look, the President has been very involved and very direct. And he has done it multiple times throughout the -- this past year and a half, year and six months now. And he's done it at his first joint address; he made sure that he talked about gun violence and made that a priority in that speech. He did it in the Rose Garden, when he announced some executive actions on a comprehensive plan from here, from the federal government, from the White House on how to deal with gun violence and do what we can. He did that in the State of the Union and made sure that was -- gun violence was a priority.
So he's been involved. He's been engaged. As you just stated, he's been doing this all -- for a good -- you know, a good part of his career.
And I stated this yesterday, but our legislative team has been in close contact with the Hill since the tragedies in Uvalde and Buffalo, including through dozens of phone calls with leadership committees, with jurisdiction, and with the members who are involved directly in negotiations.
Look, he's encouraged. He's encouraged by what we're seeing on the Hill. You know, this is the first time in a very long time that we have seen this type of bipartisanship. And -- and he's done this before, as I mentioned. You know, he has beat the gun lobby before.
And so, tonight, you'll hear from him. It'll be basically making sure that he's still -- his voice is out there and calling to action and making sure that, you know, the American people know that he is -- he is still continuing to speak on their behalf and making sure that, you know, we get some action taken.
Q: You note the legislative team is making the calls, is, you know, obviously playing a central role in these negotiations. But why isn't the President picking up the phone and making those calls?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like I said, he wants to give it some space. And he's had conversations in the past with groups. He's had conversations with congressional members in the past -- in this past a year and a half on -- on making -- on -- being very clear on Congress acting.
He's going to take this opportunity today at 7:30 this evening, as I just said, so that the American public could hear him directly.
But we have to remember: The things that we are calling for -- when you think about -- you know, when you think about background checks, expanding that; when you think about, you know, banning assault weapons -- these are items that are incredibly popular with the very constituencies that these congressional members represent.
When you look at -- when you look at even NRA members, when you look at Republican voters out there, Americans out there, these are -- these are issues and items that we're talking about that should be easy. It should not be difficult to do.
We're trying to save our kids. We're trying to save families. We're trying to make it safe for people to go to grocery stores, so our kids could go to elementary school or to school. And so this is what the President is calling for.
Q: And just one more on this. You've said you're looking into possible additional executive actions that the President might take. Do you have a sense of how long that process may take, when we might learn what options are on the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President said this -- and not just myself, but he said this -- that we can take -- we're going to take executive action where we can, and we're continuing to explore new -- new steps, we can build on what we've already done.
I just want to make sure people also know what we've done, which is stemming the flow of ghost guns, which are the weapon of choice of many terrorists and criminals, and which are increasingly being found at crime scenes; cracking down on gun trafficking, including through a zero-tolerance policy for gun dealers willfully selling firearms illegally; as well as DOJ's gun trafficking strike forces around the country; and giving cities and states historic funding to keep cops on the beat and fund -- and fund gun violence prevention programs. We announced $10 billion so far with more money on the way.
Look, we have a team of 13 policy staff working on gun violence at the White House. In addition, numerous staff across agencies. And we're constantly -- constantly looking for -- for what else we can do.
But again, tonight's speech is going to focus on what Congress needs to do and Congress action because the President cannot do this alone.
Q: Is he going to outline specific actions that he'd like to see, Karine, like you mentioned the background checks? What's he going to say in terms of specifics?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't want to get ahead of the President. But he's going to make sure that he continues his call to action when it comes to Congress. And I don't want to get ahead of the President. But he'll be very clear, and you'll hear from him directly.
Q: What role did the U.S. play in persuading both OPEC-Plus to increase capacity?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is a decision that O- -- OPEC-Plus makes on their own. That is not something that we decide on or that we are involved in. As you know, you've heard us say this before, but we welcome -- we do welcome the announcement today.
And, you know, we welcome the important decision that OPEC-Plus made to increase supply by more than 200,000 barrels per day in July and August, based on -- on new market conditions. That's the analysis that they make. Right? That's not -- that's for them, again, to decide.
This announcement brings forward the monthly production increase that was previously planned to take place in September. You know, the United States will continue to use all tools at our disposal to address energy -- energy prices measures.
Q: Secondly, does this development, coupled with the extension of the Yemen ceasefire, increase the chances that the President will visit Saudi Arabia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything for you. We don't have anything for you on any -- any trip or plan for the President, or any trip to announce today. But I can assure you that what the President is focused on, first and foremost, is how his engagements with foreign leaders advance American interests. That is -- that's as true with Saudi Arabia as anywhere else.
Just as he has engaged recently with leaders of ASEAN in Asia and this week with the Summit of the Americas as it's coming up next week in Los Angeles, the President will look for opportunities to engage with leaders from the Middle East region. And I just have nothing to announce for you today.
Q: Thanks, Karine, I have a question on formula, but just to follow up -- so, can you say whether or not the President will call for anything new tonight when it comes to guns and what he wants to see Congress do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, his focus is going to be on -- on making sure and calling -- calling to -- asking Congress to take action because he cannot do this alone. I do not want to get ahead of the President's speech. Everyone will hear from him at 7:30.
Q: But he won't talk about any specific action that he wants to see Congress take besides --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going --
Q: -- generally passing something?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we've talked about that. We've talked about the actions that he wants to see taken. I've just spoke about them, which is a expand -- expanding background checks. He's talked about that. We talked about red flags laws as well. We have talked about banning assault weapons. These are items that the President has been very clear on; has talked about; and also -- also, when you think about this -- the banning assault weapons -- has led on, especially when he was a senator.
So that's -- that is not new. We have made that very clear in all of the remarks and speeches that he has done on gun violence in the past year and a half.
Q: Just this time around, I meant, specifically.
But on the executive actions, you said, you were exploring what he can still do, what still is left. Have you identified anything specific that he can still do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to announce. And -- but the President has said himself, we're going to explore where we can to see what else we can do on executive actions.
Q: But nothing imminent?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I don't have anything imminent to announce.
Q: And on formula: Did the President have any conversations with any Cabinet Secretaries or the FDA commissioner once he was confirmed in February about the formula shortage before April?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any meetings to read out specifically on that for you. Look, you know, as -- as more -- as you all know, the President spoke to -- to this yesterday: As more abnormalities were seen in supply and sales started to decrease in April -- you know, because people have asked about this -- senior White House staff made -- made the President aware of the problem, and this was in April. I don't have any calls to read out for you.
Q: Which senior White House staff made the President aware?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- so, as you know, the President deals with issues on a regular basis and that -- that boils up to him. And it's just an -- there's no specific person that I can call out to you. But it's the regular way that we -- we move forward through the regular channels. I don't have a specific person. But that's -- that's kind of how it goes on any issue, not just this one. It goes through regular channels, and senior -- senior White House staff usually brief him on different issues.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Yeah, thanks. The speech tonight wasn't on the schedule originally when the day began. Was there something specific that prompted the President to want to speak tonight? Was it the shooting yesterday in Tulsa, or was he trying to say remarks before he went out of town for a couple of days?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, the President has been wanting to have an opportunity to speak to the American people about this epidemic that we're seeing with gun violence. He wanted to make sure that, again, there was space -- there was space for negotiations, giving space in Congress to the folks who are leading that conversation. And he just felt tonight was the right time to do that. But he has -- he had been wanting to -- to make these co- -- to have this -- this speech.
Q: Just to clarify, I know you haven't disclosed exactly what he's going to say tonight that he wants out of legislation from Congress. But is he going to specify exactly what he wants?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but he has. I mean --
Q: Well, okay. So that's what he wants, though?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean --
Q: So that will be what he talks about tonight?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'm just saying that he has laid out what he wants from Congress. He's been very clear. He did that at the State of the Union, most recently. He did that during the -- the -- his comments when we talked about the executive actions for gun violence to -- to reform -- to comprehensive gun violence recently during the Rose Garden; his first joint Congress -- address to Congress. So he's done it many times, calling for Congress to act. And he's listed it out.
Q: So why would he give another speech?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because he wants to make sure that the American -- that his voice is still out there, and that the American people know that he's fighting for them and speaking for them.
So this isn't -- this is, as we have said many times, this is a priority for the President. And so, this is what we're going to see this evening. That's why we're doing it at this time.
Q: Karine, so on -- continuing on that topic.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: I'm still a little confused. So, on the one hand, you've said that he is -- he supports and wants an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and red-flag laws.
That's not the conversation that's largely going on up on the Hill. The Hill -- to the extent that there are discussions, you know, members on both sides have said they are not engaged in active negotiations over an assault weapons ban or universal background checks. They're -- it is much more modest than that.
So, I guess the question that -- that we're all asking is: Is he going to -- and I think you've used the word "renew" at the beginning -- is he going to repeat his demand that Congress pass an ab- -- a, you know, universal background check bill, a ban on assault weapons, and red-flag laws? Or is he going to lend his voice to the more modest gun control efforts that are actually underway on Capitol Hill?
Those are two different things, and I don't know that you can -- you can do both at the same time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I --
Q: Or maybe -- or maybe you can just do one and say, "But if that doesn't happen, I'm happy with the other one," maybe?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I guess -- I -- we think we can do both at the same time. Right? The President has been very clear in laying out his key priorities. He has done that for a year and a half: expand background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals; renew our ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine; pass a red-flag law, which, by the way, is being talked about -- right? -- in Congress; confirm Steve Dettel- -- Dettelbach to lead ATF -- that is something that we have talked about, and Congress is dealing with that. And we are very optimistic that he will be confirmed.
So those are -- just listed out a couple of things that are very much a reality.
Look, the President has been very clear: Congress needs to act. They should pass legislation so the President can sign it into law. We are seeing something right now that is encouraging. The process is still happening. Negotiation is still happening.
We do not know what it's ultimately going to look like, but that doesn't mean that the President can't call out his key priorities. That doesn't mean that the President can't list out what he thinks is needed to -- that needs to happen so that we can actually deal with this epidemic.
Q: But so we should expect him to repeat that demand for those --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- he's repeated it many times. I think -- I think --
Q: I -- I know he's repeated it in the past.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I'm saying is I don't want to --
Q: I'm asking about tonight for the --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- I don't want to get ahead of what the President --
Q: But you just have gotten ahead of him. You --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but -- no. I -- I haven't. I said he's going to call Congress into action. He has talked about these things over and over and over again. The President is going to speak for himself. That is all.
We've said this before. When you guys have asked us, "Can you please give us a preview on the speech?" Many times, we say, "Let -- we want the President to speak for himself." That is not new. That is not new here. That is exactly what I'm saying.
But you know his key priorities; he's been talking about them.
Q: I just had a question we are -- more here on strategy. You said the past couple of days that the President wanted to give space for Congress to work through the negotiations on their own and that he would only get involved when he felt he would be helpful. Tonight, he's giving a speech in primetime.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: Does he think it's now time for him to be helpful in these negotiations? Or is there a risk that his insertion into this moment could be potentially counterproductive and hurt the ongoing negotiation that doesn't --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean --
Q: -- seem to be finalized yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, it's a good question. We have -- our Office of Leg Affairs has been in close consultation with the negotiators on the Hill. So they are -- they were aware that we are -- that the President is going to give these remarks. We -- they -- we talked to them. We had consultation with them. We consulted with them about giving these remarks. So that is not an issue. That is not a problem.
The President wanted to make sure that the American people heard from him directly. This is a speech that he has been wanting to make, and that's what he's going to do this evening.
Q: And so, there is careful consideration here about what he might say to not interfere with an ongoing negotiation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I'm not saying that. I'm not -- that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that the President is going to use this opportunity to speak directly to the American people. That's what he's going to do tonight.
Q: And just one more on baby formula. I know you got a lot of questions about this yesterday. I'm wondering if you had an opportunity to speak with the President since his comments yesterday, when he said he was not informed about the situation until May.
Is there -- is he -- has he expressed any disappointment in his staff for not bringing the issue to him earlier? Are there any concerns about the information flow in the White House that -- given the manufacturers told him very directly they knew this would be a problem in February and he didn't know about it until months later, has he expressed concern about that gap and how that squares with the whole-of-government approach you outlined yesterday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just so that we take a little bit of a step back -- you know, Abbott is a major manufacturer and has been clear to the American people that they had shortcomings. They -- they made that clear very, very recently.
The FDA administrator has spoken to this as well. He said the FDA moved too slow, and it has asked Steve Solomon to lead a review into what happened.
The White House took urgent actions as it became clear a shortage emerged and existing actions were not so sufficing.
It's hard to understand the scales of actions: DPA, at a historical pace; Operation Fly Formula, expe- -- expediting timelines for millions of bottles from three to four weeks, to 72 hours -- these are incredibly important of what we were able to do; and 80 million safe bottles being imported and counting.
We understand that there's more work to be done. We understand what families are feeling. But this is -- we have to remember how this started. We have to also remember what the FDA Administrator said as well. He has spoken to this.
And so, this is -- you know, this is something that we're going to continue to work on.
Q: Right. But that doesn't answer the question about when the President was informed and whether or not he is satisfied with his staff not telling him about what has become a major problem --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he spoke --
Q: -- for two months.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He spoke to when he was informed -- that's his -- he spoke to that yesterday -- which was in April.
And you're asking me about the process and is he disappointed? Look, again, I'm telling you, the Administrator of FDA spoke to this. They moved too slowly. He -- and said that Steve Solomon is going to lead an after-action review on what happened.
And when the shortages emerged and actions by the FDA and USDA did not suffice to prevent any consumer impact, the White House led urgent -- an urgent, emergency, administrative-wide action with FDA -- Fly Formula, as I just mentioned.
Q: But that's the FDA Administrator; that's not the President. Those are two different individuals.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but I'm telling you the process. I'm telling you what happened. I'm telling you that the FDA moved too slowly. I'm telling you that this happened on the side of Abbott. And this -- what FDA tried to do at first was they -- they -- they called out Abbott for safety concerns. Right?
The most important thing here is that we have -- we have -- we have to make sure that babies have fa- -- safe formula. We have to make sure that American families feel comfortable.
So, FDA did their part here. But he also admitted that they moved too slowly.
And once we saw that the supplies were not meeting the demand, we acted. We took urgent action.
So that is the -- that is the way that it happened. That is the way the timeline was laid out.
And so that is -- I'm -- you may not like my answer, but that is the way that we see it -- in answering your question there.
Q: Is the President expecting his audience tonight should include those negotiators who are working on -- members of Congress who are working on this? Is he directly trying to speak to them? Or are you saying his audience is the broader public?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think -- look, I -- I think the -- the speech that he's making -- yes, it's to the American public; why we're -- we're having -- making sure that we're having it this evening so they can hear directly to the -- to the American people. But it's also a call to action for Con- -- to Congress as well.
You know, but, again, we have been in constant communication -- dozens of calls have been made -- with members in Congress, including negotiators from the Office of Leg Affairs, and that has been happening for the past couple of weeks. So we have been communicating with them and making sure that we -- you know, we get a sense of what's happening and how we can be helpful.
Q: And have you read the remarks yet? Have you seen the President's text?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I've seen -- I've seen a draft of the remarks. But, again, this is for the President to speak to. He is -- I do not want to get ahead of what he is going to share with the American public and what message he wants to send.
Q: I think part -- following up on what Michael said is, I'm trying to get a sense of if the President is trying to help close a deal and get something accomplished with Congress or if he is going to restate what he could say on any day -- a position he's held for decades -- or if he is trying to get this moment to produce a legislative result?
Because, really, nobody is talking about banning assault weapons on Capitol Hill at the moment. So, is he going to speak more to the specific elements that they are currently negotiating?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, when it comes to right now, as you all are asking me, look, the President has defeated the gun lobby before. He is the one who was able to pass an assault weapons ban and who was able to help shepherd the legislation that put in place the federal system of background checks. So, he understands how this process works.
The President is continuing to press Congress to act and he's giving them the room they need to find common ground, but he can still speak to this and speak to the American people.
But as -- as we have said, the President is going to continue to stay closely engaged on this to speak out. And he's going to use his bully pulpit, which is what he's doing this evening, to press for action, just as he's done throughout his presidency -- just as we've done at the State of the Union earlier this year, just as he's done when he did his first joint address to Congress, and he's done this many times.
And so, this is just another opportunity to use the bully pulpit to talk about the actions that he wants to see and also just talk directly to the American people. He thinks this is an important moment to do that.
Q: And can we ask you to go back on the issue of who briefed the President on baby formula? To say there was no specific person is not a satisfactory answer. When you have senior assistants to the President, there's a paper trail, I'm sure, about briefings to the President. There's a Domestic Policy Council. There's a Chief of Staff.
At some point, we need to know who would have been the most likely person to talk to him about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think what I'm trying to say is there's so many issues that come up that is presented to the President --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- as you know.
Q: We do know that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You've covered -- you've covered many administrations. And there are just regular channels that that happen that go to the President.
Q: It looks like it's evasive to not have the most senior people in the White House willing to say, "I had a conversation with the President about it" or "I had…" or "We talked about it in this context or that context."
And we're also all reporting on the consumer side of it -- of what you're doing, putting out and trying to get information. But we're also trying to understand the information flow in this White House, and it's important for us to get that answer, which is why we're going to keep asking it until we get that answer.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, you have every right to keep asking. That's why I'm here.
Look, really, Kelly O., he's briefed on countless priorities. He is the President of the United States. There are regular channels. He is briefed by his senior White House staff. And that is just the process that we have.
Q: So, should we assume it's the Chief of Staff then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm -- I'm not going to confirm who it was; I'm just letting you know that there are regular channels that we use, and, you know, it's senior -- again, senior White House staff that elevate issues to him when the time comes. And they're just regular channels.
And that's -- that's what I have for you to share there.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: Thanks, Karine. If the President thinks that Congress must act immediately to end this epidemic of gun violence, is he going to bring any of the key players from Capitol Hill to the beach with him tonight?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. So, I don't have any --
Q: But wasn't a big part of candidate Biden's whole thing that he "knows how to get things done with Congress"?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He does. He does. I mean, he's beaten the gun lobby before. He has. But --
Q: Then why not invite these lawmakers who maybe haven't beat the gun law --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But -- but it's not --
Q: -- and say, "This is how it's done"?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But it's not "his thing"; it's actually fact. We saw he did that in the Senate during his Congress days -- that he beat the gun lobby. Look, I --
Q: I'm agreeing with you that he has a lot of legislative experience. I'm asking why it is that you can say he wants to give these negotiations some space --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Do you want to go to the beach with the President tonight? Is that what you're trying to tell me? (Laughs.)
Q: I would love to. The weather is not great.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will -- touché on that one. (Laughter.) The weather -- it is pouring outside like cats and dogs. It is not great.
Look -- no --
Q: But if people are dying every day --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.
Q: -- why would this President then say he wants to "give it some space" and let somebody else up the street --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But you're also going to hear -- you're going to hear from the President tonight. And it's not that he -- it's not that he hasn't been involved, he has been involved.
I just listed out all of the conversations -- not conversations but speeches that he's made. I just listed out the executive actions that he's taken.
But I want to make sure that, you know, that it is very clear that the President has indeed taken action. He cannot do it alone, so he's asking for Congress to act. The American public is going to hear from him tonight.
I don't have any -- I don't have any meetings to preview or to lay out for -- I'm not telling you it's not going to happen; I'm just saying I don't have anything to preview for you today.
Q: And I get not -- you don't want to preview anything that's in the text tonight.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: But what law could anybody -- the President or anybody else -- propose that would guarantee that somebody who really wants to get their hands on a gun can't?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, they're having negotiations right now to talk through what the options are.
Look, I mentioned the red flags, right? Red-flag laws. If enacted -- if enacted, that actually we have seen, across the country in different states, where it has been helpful.
But look, we are -- we are -- we're going give them some space to see what they come up with.
The President -- the most important thing here is the President wants Congress to take action and to act.
Q: But -- okay, you got Chicago, for example. They already have plenty of very strict gun laws -- some of the strictest in the country. Forty-seven people shot there over the Memorial Day weekend. Nine of them died. So, which law would have prevented any of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Well --
Q: Do we think that all these people in Chicago who are shooting each other are legally buying their guns?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here's -- here's a couple of examples for you. I was just talking about the red-flags law. There are some examples here of how they've prevented tragedies.
In California, a study showed that a California red-flag law has assisted in the prevention of 21 mass shootings between 2016 and 2018.
Florida, since passing a red-flag law in 2018, there have been notable cases of few -- of the law intervening in multiple cases of potential violence -- of potential violence.
In Connecticut and Indiana, for every 10 to 20 preventions under the red-flag laws, there was one fewer death than would otherwise have been expected.
So, when enacted, it does help. There are things that we can do. And one of the things that the President talks about with expanding -- expanding the background checks, if we're able to do that, we are going to take more guns out of the hands of criminals. And that is incredibly important.
So, there are things here that can be worked out, that can be done that is not going to prevent every tragedy but will take us to a better place where we can protect our families.
Q: Okay. And my last one will be: You guys at the White House had some very hard headlines this week about inflation and about baby formula. If there's nothing new that you can point to in the speech tonight, did you just schedule it to get people talking about something else?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: People have died. People have died in the past couple of weeks, in particular. We had 19 kids die in Uvalde just recently of -- a mass shooter came into their classroom and killed them, plus their two teachers.
We had -- we had people doing everyday things on a Saturday, like some of us do, go to the grocery store, and 10 of them were murdered.
Just last night, in Tulsa, we're learning of people who were, again, killed.
So, this is not about politics. This is not about partisan politics here. This is something that he has worked on since he was a senator. This is very important and real for the President and for the grieving families that he has met with, sadly, in the last two weeks.
So, this is an opportunity, again, to call for action, to get Congress to move.
And, you know, it is -- it is disheartening to hear that this could potentially or -- if I'm hearing this right, could be used as a political tool. And that's not what this is. This is not about partisan. This is about people's lives.
Q: Hey, Karine. What's the President's message to people living in violent neighborhoods who can't escape --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q: -- and can't wait for laws to --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q: To follow up on what Kelly was asking about regarding the baby formula shortage: You were asked earlier by a few people -- I want to just ask this again, with all due respect.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: Were you able to speak with the President about when he was informed in April?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- here -- he talked about it himself. He said he was informed in April. So I don't -- I don't think I need to -- the President mentioned that. He said that. So I don't need to clear that up. You heard directly from the President on that.
Q: Part of the reason we -- I ask it, at least, is you talked yesterday about February 17th and February 18th. And what we were trying to figure out is when exactly in April was he told. Was it April 1? Was it April 30th? Was in April 15? Somewhere else in there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't have a date to share with you. What I can tell you is he spoke to this yesterday. And he said it was in April, so that -- that matters too.
Q: Take it down -- take it down a level from him --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Yeah, yeah.
Q: -- into the staff of the White House. And part of the reason there's so much curiosity about this across town is because, as you know, there have been stories written over the last several days and weeks about how things are going here in the West Wing, how things are operating.
And so, when we ask, "Who was told, either by the FDA or the Department of Health and Human Services or the USDA, here in the West Wing -- who was told first? How did that get from that person, eventually, to the President?" --
It's completely understandable. There are thousands of things going on across the federal government today --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There are thousands of things --
Q: But here's the issue --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- we were just talking about gun violence.
Q: -- something else could crop up suddenly as an unforeseen crisis, like this one. And so we're trying to get a sense of how do things operate here inside the West Wing and how they eventually rise to the level of presidential involvement that then lead to things like invoking the Defense Production Act five -- four or five months after the initial flags were raised.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Ed, the President was briefed through his regular channels, as he is briefed on countless priorities that the President of the United States has to deal with. There are countless issues, countless priorities that I talk about here all the time, every day, about different priorities that we have to deal with, whether it's the economy, whether it's COVID, whether it's climate change, whether it's foreign policy issues that we have to deal with and assess.
That is how we run the White House; it's how any White House is run.
Q: Right --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So there are regular channels of White House senior staff, and that's how it gets elevated. You're asking me for a specific name. I'm telling you how the process works, and I'm telling you how it goes from White House staff to regular channels to the President.
Q: Part of why this is intriguing is because we know, from what you've said, from what your colleagues have told us and what we've learned in our reporting over the last year and a half, is that he's a voracious consumer of information from across the federal government. And whenever he gets briefed on something like this, he asks a lot of questions. And he usually puts it to the staff to come back with him with some solutions or some answers to these questions.
So the idea that he was told about this in April and then it didn't get elevated until mid-May when Congress and when the press started raising bigger questions about this begs the question of, "Well, then what happened in April, when this very curious, very detail-oriented President, in briefings, would have been told about it and when steps were taken that are now underway?"
That's part of what is so intriguing and curious about this situation, and why we're so desperate for information. Because normally in these situations, we're told, "Oh, well, here's what he wanted to know. And here's who he tasked with doing it." But we're not getting it this time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I -- look, we've laid out timelines over and over again.
Q: No, you gave us two dates and then tell us, "Generally, in April he was told about this."
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so, by late -- let me try again. Let's try this again. By late -- by late in April, sales -- sales were going down and shortages were appearing. So that is what we -- we learned in late April.
And since then, through May, across the administration, we've aggressively invoked the DPA and used it three times, as you just mentioned, and that's because of the President's leadership; launched Operation Fly Formula, again, because of the President's leadership; secured 80 million safe infant formula bottles from other countries; and cut red tape and issued WIC waivers in all 50 states, because that's what happened in April that triggered our involvement in the way that we did throughout May in doing these four very specific things.
Look, USDA -- you know, they took immediate action. But USDA and FDA cut red tape and increased supply. A reminder: There was more supply on the market after the recall than prior. That did not happen by -- that didn't happen by accident. So these actions were designed to bridge demand while Abbott worked through its safe- -- safely opening to -- safely open and manufacture a product that met FDA's gold standard.
So they were acting at USDA, FDA were acting from the moment that the recall happened. But again, the sales were going down and shortages were appearing in late April. And that's when --
Q: So that's when he was told?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he said -- in late April -- right? -- and this --
Q: You said in early April.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In -- in April. I'm sorry. In April. Okay. He said in April -- in early April.
The point that I'm making is: What we started to see in April were sales were going down and shortages were appearing. And when that happened, we triggered -- we -- the President made sure that the DPA happened, the Operation Fly Formula happened. And that was what -- that was our focus there. And we wanted to make sure we got as much supply out as possible because, again, we saw the sales were going down.
Q: Real quick on Summit of the Americas: I know you said the invite list is coming. There's still some time left.
Countries that have been invited -- whoever they are; we'll find out about that later -- have they been told what's on the agenda for that summit next week? Do they know why they should come to Los Angeles?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we're still giving our partners time to decide, so -- to answer that question. But, you know, as you see from press reports, there have been quite a few heads of states who have confirmed via their own announcement.
But again, you know, I always bring this back, because what's really important is -- about next week is that the people from around the region are gathering together to address the core challenges facing the people of the hemisphere -- right? -- including economic prosperity, climate change, migration crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
So there is an array of issues for the region that we -- that we are going to discuss. These are priorities. These are incredibly important. And that's what you're going to see for next week. And others will confirm if they're attending. We're not going to do that until we have a final list and give our -- our partners opportunities to decide.
Q: You're at your time that you said you were going to wrap.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. Okay, go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q: Karine, the jobs report is going to come out tomorrow morning. The ADP report that came out was -- it came in much lower than what economists had projected. Are you guys expecting a less than optimal jobs report tomorrow? And usually the President speaks on the economy on jobs day. Is he going to do that, even though he's going to be in Delaware?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don't have anything -- we don't have anything to preview for you for tomorrow. Our day ahead, our daily guidance is going to be coming out in a couple of hours.
I don't have -- also don't have an estimate for you and haven't seen the numbers, clearly. But what we can say is that as we transition to this new period of stable, steady growth, we aren't looking to see blockbuster job reports month after month, like we have over the last year.
But that's a good thing. That's the sign of a healthy economy with steady job growth, rising wages for working Americans, everyday costs easing up, and a shrinking deficit.
That stability will put us in a strong position to tackle inflation. And in the short time since President Biden came into office, we have had record job numbers, record job creation, I should -- I should say; the unemployment rate is near historic lows; and the number of Americans on unemployment benefits is down from record highs to this historic lows.
And that's -- that's something that's really important that we want to make sure that the American people know what we've been doing.
Okay, we're going to go. It's four o'clock. Thanks, guys.
4:00 P.M. EDT
Karine Jean-Pierre, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/356288