Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

February 14, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:11 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, everybody. Wow, this is a full house.

Q: They heard there was going to be candy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, Happy Valentine's Day, everybody. Let me just pass this around.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Keep our tradition here.

MR. SULLIVAN: That's from me.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's for -- from Jake. Jake insisted.

I just have one thing at the top, and then I'll hand it over to our National Security Advisor. But Happy Valentine's Day.

As you all saw, last night the President and First Lady called Representative-elect Suozzi to condra- -- congratulate him on his big win.

Just over a week ago, congressional Republicans killed the toughest, fairest bipartisan border security deal in a generation.

In other words -- or in their own words, they cited Donald Trump's concern that the deal would be effective and undermine his pol- -- politics as their reason for opposing it.

Faced with the choice of joining President Biden and the Border Patrol union to secure our border, congressional Republicans instead sided with Donald Trump, fentanyl traffickers, and smugglers. All because of politics.

You all saw the President's reaction when the Speaker blocked border security. He said, "I want to be absolutely clear about something: The American people are going to know why it failed. I'll be taking this issue to the country."

Tom Suozzi bu- -- put congressional Republicans' killing of border security at the forefront of his campaign.

Here's the Wall Street Journal this morning: Suozzi "called for securing the border and attacked -- attacked Pilip for criti- -- for critiquing Biden's border approach without providing an alternative." "Suozzi endorsed a bipartisan deal that would have established a new asylum process at the border."

And what happened? The people of New York's 3rd District issued a strong repudiation of Republicans who put politics ahead of national security.

But shockingly, House Republicans are still at it right now, siding with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Tehran against our defense industrial base, against NATO, against Ukraine, against our interests in the Indo-Pacific.

They have a chance to learn a valuable lesson here: Stop what you're doing. Put our national security first.

And now, as you all can see to my right, the National Security Advisor is here -- Jake Sullivan -- to speak to House -- House representatives and how the urgent -- what the urgent -- the urgent need for them to take action to pass the national security supplemental.

Jake, the floor is yours.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Karine. And Happy Valentine's Day to everybody. I'll make a statement, and then I'd be happy to take your questions.

Yesterday, the Senate took important action to advance America's core national security interests by overwhelmingly passing the national security supplemental agreement.

This bipartisan legislation will allow the United States to continue to support the people of Ukraine, alongside our allies and partners, as they fight every single day to defend their freedom and independence.

It will provide Israel what it needs to defend itself against Hamas terrorists and other terror threats, and help replenish Israel's air defenses so they're prepared against threats they face from Iran and Iranian-backed militia groups like Hezbollah.

It will provide resources for our troops in the Middle East who have faced attacks from Iran-backed militias as they continue the important mission of defeating ISIS, as well as our forces who are protecting international commerce in the Red Sea from persistent attacks by the Houthis.

The bill will provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for vulnerable people who have been impacted by conflicts around the world. That includes millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced by Russia's brutal invasion. It includes conflicts in Sudan and Nagorno-Karabakh. And this support also includes dealing with the urgent needs of the more than 2 million innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas.

We are engaged every day, and directly and at the highest levels, in getting more aid into Gaza and, once in Gaza, getting it to the people who need it.

In his calls and conversations with regional leaders, the President has worked through these challenges of humanitarian assistance at a concrete and granular level in order to help overcome obstacles and facilitate a sustained, increased flow of humanitarian assistance.

Innocent civilians in Gaza have suffered extraordinary pain and loss these last four months, and we're working around the clock to find a way forward that brings peace, security, and dignity for Palestinians and Israelis alike, with the security of the state of Israel guaranteed.

The national security supplemental agreement also continues our important investments in the U.S. defense industrial base, supporting jobs across the country. We have already ramped up production lines in 40 states over the past two years, expanding factories and hiring American workers to make the weapons Ukrainians are using on the frontline in their fight for freedom, thanks to previous funding that Congress that has provided.

The investments this bill puts forward will allow us to strengthen our own domestic manufacturing capacity, revitalize our submarine industrial base, and improve our military readiness.

It also increases support to allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific and sends a powerful message that, even as we're dealing with immediate crises and challenges in Europe and the Middle East, we're keeping our eye on the ball and the long-term strategic position of the United States of America in the critical Asia-Pacific region.

You heard the President yesterday thank the broad bipartisan coalition of senators who came together to advance this agreement, and he urged Speaker Johnson to quickly bring this bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. Because we know if that vote comes to the floor of the House of Representatives, it will pass on an overwhelming bipartisan basis, just as it did in the Senate.

As the President said, we cannot afford to wait any longer. Every day comes at a cost to the people of Ukraine and to the national security interests of the United States of America.

The stakes are getting higher, the costs of inaction are also getting higher every day, especially in Ukraine. We've been increasingly getting reports of Ukrainian troops rationing or even running out of ammunition on the frontlines as Russian forces continue to attack both on the ground and from the air, trying to wear down the Ukrainian air defenses that we've worked so extensively to build up over the past two years.

So, our allies are watching this closely. Our adversaries are watching this closely. There are those who say U.S. leadership and our alliances and partnerships with countries around the world don't matter or should be torn up or walked away from.

We know from history that when we don't stand up to dictators, they keep going. And the consequences of that would be severe for U.S. national security, for our NATO Allies, for others around the world.

And so, President Biden is determined to get this done on a bipartisan basis, through the House of Representatives, to get this aid out the door so that we are helping our friends and partners and we are helping ourselves.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.


Q: Thanks, Jake. Shortly before you came out, Congressman Mike Turner issued a statement saying that President Biden should declassify intelligence related to a, quote, "serious national security threat." What can you say about the threat and what the administration plans to do?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, first, I reached out earlier this week to the Gang of Eight to offer myself for a -- up for a personal briefing to the Gang of Eight. And, in fact, we scheduled a briefing for the four House members of the Gang of Eight tomorrow. That's been on the books.

So, I am a bit surprised that Congressman Turner came out publicly today in advance of a meeting on the books for me to go sit with him alongside our intelligence and defense professionals tomorrow. That's his choice to do that.

All I can tell you is that I'm focused on going to see him, sit with him, as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight tomorrow.

And I'm not in a position to say anything further from this podium at this time, other than to make the broad point that this administration has gone further and, in more creative, more strategic ways, dealt with the declass- -- declassification of intelligence in the national interest of the United States than any administration in history.

So, you definitely are not going to find an unwillingness to do that when it's in our national security interest to do so. At the same time, we, of course, have to continue to prioritize and focus very much on the issue of sources and methods. We'll do that. Ultimately, these are decisions for the President to make.

But in the meantime, the most important thing is we have the opportunity to sit in a classified setting and have the kind of conversation with the House Intelligence leadership that I, in fact, had scheduled before Congressman Turner went out today.

Q: And then --


Q: But -- but just to be clear, Turner calls this an "urgent matter with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability." Are you aware that there is an emerging serious threat here that he's referring to?

MR. SULLIVAN: Again, I'll just say that I personally reached out to the Gang of Eight. It is highly unusual, in fact, for the National Security Advisor to do that. I did that to set up a meeting. The Senate is not here. The four House members have agreed to that meeting. This was well before Congressman Turner came out today. We'll have that conversation tomorrow. I'm not going to say anything further today.

Q: But do you believe that was -- that this is about the same thing? When you set up that meeting to reach out to them, were you intending to discuss this matter?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I -- again, I'll -- I'll leave it to you to draw whatever connections you want. All I can say is I've reached out to see Turner. Turner has gone out publicly. I'm going to go see Turner tomorrow. That's where I want to leave things for today.

Q: Hey, Jake --


Q: -- without this funding, how long can Ukraine hold off the Russians? And then, do you have other ways to get them weaponry, such as through NATO Allies?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, first, our NATO Allies have stepped up in a significant way when it comes to burden-sharing in the provision of military assistance to Ukraine. Take a country like Germany, which has offered up $8 billion over the course of this year for Ukraine. And many of our other allies have brought forward a significant number of capabilities, from the UK all the way over to the Baltics. They will continue to do that.

But the United States has provided a significant share of that, and that hole cannot be fully filled by other allies and partners. And we need to stare that truth square in the face.

In addition to that, when it comes to some of the capabilities that the United States has that other countries don't have, we need the drawdown authority and resources to go with it so that we can replenish our stocks so that we can give things that we have that others don't have. So, when you put it all together, there just is no substitute for the United States coming forward with this funding.

As far as how long Ukraine can hold on, I mean, you're talking about a brave, resilient, courageous, determined people who are defending their homeland. They're going to keep fighting. But they're going to fight from a less strong position if they do not get the replenishment of ammunition, air defense interceptors, and other capabilities that they need to be able both to withstand Russian advances and to take territory back that the Russians are currently occupying. So, I can't put a timetable on it.

All I can say is that each passing day, each passing week, the cost of inaction from the United States that's being borne on the frontlines by brave Ukrainians is rising. And that's why we so urgently need to pass this bill.


Q: I have a question on the Middle East. But just a quick follow-up on what Congressman Turner said. Is there anything you can say to characterize what this threat is or what country it involves? I mean, should the public be alarmed at this point, since he has said this publicly?

MR. SULLIVAN: I'm not in a position to say anything further today. Like I said, I look forward to the discussion with him. And obviously, from there, we will determine how to proceed. But standing here at the podium today, I can't share anything further.

Q: And my question on the situation in the Middle East. As you are pushing for this weeks-long humanitarian pause and hostages release, does the U.S. expect that Israel would pick up its military operation once that temporary pause in fighting is over? Or is the expectation or maybe even the hope that that temporary pause would turn into a permanent pause and effectively an end in the war?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, what the President said earlier this week, when he was standing with King Abdullah after their meeting, is that we're looking for a temporary pause as part of a hostage deal and then to build on that into something more enduring. What that looks like exactly, on what parameters, where Hamas fits into that, all of the other pieces, that's things that we're going to have to work through with our partners in Israel and with others. But the goal would be to start with a temporary pause and see what we can build from there.

Q: But not have the fighting resume after that temporary pause. Is that right --


Q: -- that that is the goal?

MR. SULLIVAN: -- the -- the idea is that you have multiple phases as part of a hostage deal, and you try to move from one phase to the next so that an initial period of pause can be extended as more hostages come out, more commitments are made, and so forth. Where that goes exactly, I can't predict today.

What we would like to see -- what the President also said in his remarks -- is that Hamas is ultimately defeated, that peace and security come to Gaza and to Israel, and that we then work towards the longer-term issues related to a two-state solution with Israel's security guaranteed.

But it all begins by trying to get that pause in hostilities for a certain period of time, and then that opens the potential options for where things can go from there without prejudging anything because this is a dynamic situation. And we'll have to stay in very close consultation with the Israelis to ensure that their interests, their security is continuing to be protected in all of this.


Q: Thanks, Jake. On FISA, there are a couple of amendments that are being considered. One of them would require a warrant for every query of lawfully collected data. If that were to pass and get into the bill, would the President veto that bill?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I'm not in a position to stand here today and make veto threats on behalf of the President. Those are –- are, you know, decisions for him to make.

What I will tell you is that we do not believe that that serves the national security interests of the United States. And, in fact, today, I will be making that case to a number of members -- that the warrant requirement as conceived is not the best way actually to ensure the protection of the personal privacy of Americans. There are a number of other elements of the bill that we have supported that would reform and update FISA to protect the civil liberties of Americans, but a warrant requirement from our perspective would go too far in undermining the very purpose of FISA, and, frankly, it would put victims at risk.


Q: Also, on TikTok, sir. Just as the Nat- -- National Security Advisor, is it at all problematic for the President's campaign to be using a platform that is deemed a national security threat? Is that -- is there a risk that mixed messaging here could be a problem?

MR. SULLIVAN: I -- I'm not going to deal with campaign questions here. All I will say is that the United States has supported legislation in the Congress to give us a broad set of tools and authorities to deal with the larger issues of social media platforms. We continue to hold that position. Nothing in that has changed.


Q: Thanks, Jake. Is there any update that you can give on the 301 tariffs review on China? Do you know when we can expect a decision on that?

MR. SULLIVAN: I can tell that I'm fulfilling everyone's deepest desires here -- and I'll answer your question too -- by saying I have nothing to offer you on that, other than that review is ongoing, and when we have something to share, we'll share it.


Q: Thank you very --

Q: And one more just on Secretary Austin. I know that he's recovering from the hospital. But is there conversations about contingency if he's not able to continue to serve, just given that this is the second time he has been hospitalized?

MR. SULLIVAN: I spoke with Secretary Austin at some length yesterday afternoon -- secure -- on a range of issues. He is very much in the saddle doing his job, doing it as -- with the same level of effectiveness and capacity that he always has.

And of course, there is protocol, but that protocol has existed for a long time. It's the delegation of authority to the Deputy Secretary who takes on the duties of an Acting Secretary. That happened a few weeks ago. It happened again yesterday. And that's all built into longstanding department protocols that ensure the sanctity of the chain of command. That's how we intend to continue to proceed.

Q: Jake, I want to ask you about Israel in a second. But just a quick follow-up just to put this to rest. Obviously, the House Intelligence Chair is speaking out about an imminent or -- he doesn't say "imminent" -- serious national security threat. The lack of your ability to say anything has the potential to raise distress for some Americans.

In the simplest of terms, can you tell Americans that there's nothing they have to worry about right now in terms of what he describes as a national security threat?

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I think in a way that question is impossible to answer with a straight "yes" -- right? -- because Americans understand that there are a range of threats and challenges in the world that we're dealing with every single day. And those threats and challenges range from terrorism to state actors. And we have to contend with them. And we have to contend with them in a way where we ensure the ultimate security of the American people.

I am confident that President Biden, in the decisions that he is taking, is going to ensure the security of the American people going forward, and I will stand here at this podium and assert that, look you in the eye with confidence that we believe that we can and will and are protecting the national security of the United States and the American people.

Q: Perfect. Thank you for your answer.

I just want to ask you then about Israel, which is my -- which is my primary question here, which is that the White House has said it would like to have from Israel a credible plan in terms of what it's going to do in Rafah to avoid civilian casualties there. What does the White House believe that plan needs to look like? And what is the consequence for Israel if it doesn't meet that desire of the United States?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I'm not going to lay out all of the details standing here at the podium, because those are intensive conversations we're having with the Israeli government right now in detail. But broadly speaking, it means being able to deal with three realities.

One reality, you've got more than a million people in a very small area, and those people have to have a place to go that is safe.

A second reality is that the aid that Palestinian civilians rely upon comes in through Rafah, and so if military operations either disrupt the crossings -- Kerem Shalom and Rafah Crossing -- coming in or disrupt the distribution points, that will make it more difficult to move aid around. So, we need answers to the question not only where do people go, but how do they get a sustained level of aid -- food, medicine, water, shelter.

And then the third reality is that this is pressed right up against the Egyptian border. And you've heard directly from the Egyptians their concern about what that could potentially mean on that border. And there needs to be a clear answer to that question as well.

Those are the kinds of things we are talking about with the Israeli government. And the President has been clear, as we -- as he said in his remarks on Monday, we need to see that credible and implementable plan.

Q: And the consequence if they don't meet that?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I'm not going to speculate here today on the if/then hypothetical. I will just say that our position on the question of Rafah is clear, and we are pressing very hard on this basic issue that you've got exposed, vulnerable civilians in Rafah. They need to be protected.

Q: Thank you, Jake.


Q: Yeah, thanks, Jake. What is your response to this idea pushed by Donald Trump that foreign aid should be -- to other countries should be treated as a loan? It's an idea, a concept that appears to have picked up steam with some Republicans, Linds- -- Senator Lindsey Graham citing that as the reason he voted against the supplemental funding package.

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, there can be a place for loans in foreign assistance. There have been for a long time. But there's a number of categories of foreign assistance where that makes no sense. You know, try telling a Palestinian mother in Gaza that, you know, to get a piece of medicine, they have to take out a loan.

Humanitarian assistance in the best traditions -- bipartisan traditions of the United States has never been a loan. It's been something we provide to people in desperate need in conflict situations. So, that's one category where I think the loan concept just has never applied and makes no sense to apply.

The second is when you're dealing with a country that is fighting for its life, like Ukraine, that needs an economy to remain basically afloat, basically intact, to not collapse and have the entire weight of the country collapse with it. Talking about loans as opposed to providing the necessary infusion of cash is only going to make the economic problems of that country worse at a time we are trying to make them better, because a stronger, more stable, more secure Ukraine is in the fundamental national security interest of the United States. So, there's another place where it wouldn't make sense.

And then, of course, you have the funding for Israel in the supplemental, including money designed to ensure Israel's security.

I would ask the question: Is Donald Trump and is Lindsey Graham saying that we should only be providing that money on a loan basis? Or that the memorandum of understanding that has been supported on a bipartisan basis over the course of a decade should be converted into a loan? I think you would probably find them taking a different approach on that question.

So, from our perspective, we look at every element of U.S. foreign assistance through the lens of: Does it help solve a problem? And does it help advance the security and values of the United States?

And we believe that we can answer that question, yes, for what we're putting forward in the supplemental. And we believe we can put it forward for what's in our base budget as well.

Q: And then on another topic. Are you able to confirm a Wall Street Journal report today that the U.S. is investigating the potential use of white phosphorus by Israel on a recent attack in Lebanon?

MR. SULLIVAN: I mean, we look at reports that happen in all conflict situations all around the world. That's part of what we do to ensure our own compliance with international obligations. But I can't confirm any particular formal review of the kind that you're referring to.



MR. SULLIVAN: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jake. I wanted to ask -- there was an Axios report on a shipment of flour being blocked by Israel getting into Gaza. Can you confirm that this aid hasn't been able to come through? And if there's already issues right now getting aid like flour in to Palestinian people, then, when an operation, you know, does happen in Rafah, how can you guarantee that that aid will still be able to come through?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, that's why we're asking the question on the aid coming through. And you're right, that aid -- that flour has not moved the way that we had expected it would move. And we expect that Israel will follow through on its commitment to get that flour into Gaza.

But we are asking the question: How do you do something like Rafah and make sure all those innocent people not only are protected physically, but can have access to aid? That is precisely the point that we are pressing on quite actively as we speak.

Q: And can I just ask about the Munich Security Conference really quick? The VP, obviously, headed there today. The President said, when he went three years ago, that "America is back," "the Transatlantic Alliance is back." But there are some concerns from European allies about that. So, what message can the VP send when she heads there today?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well look, one thing she can say is that the NATO Alliance is bigger, stronger, and more vital than it has been in 75 years -- having just added Finland and about to add Sweden. That since President Biden took office, we've gone from nine NATO Allies who were hitting their 2 percent threshold to 18. We have doubled that number in three years.

You've got NATO countries stepping up now with implementable plans for the defense and deterrence of the east and the south in a way that you never did before. And you have unity among the NATO Alliance in a way that has really been pretty unprecedented in modern memory.

So, she's going to go with a story to tell not just about that, but about how the U.S. and Europe are aligned on some of the challenges we see -- from the People's Republic of China, how we're aligned on thinking about a clean energy transition, how we're aligned on sanctions against Russia and standing up for Ukraine.

So, her -- but she's also going to say, you know, we're at an important moment here and it is a time for choosing. And -- and President Biden is making clear where he stands on these issues, and he thinks the American people are with him in standing strong for NATO and for transatlantic unity.


Q: Thank you, Jake. There has been rocket fire exchange between Hezbollah and -- and Israel today. Do you think that can slip into some kind of escalation?

And on Gaza, President Abbas has asked Hamas to compromise and conclude the hostage deal. Will the United States put more pressure on Netanyahu to compromise as well?

And, you know, there's only one functioning hospital in Gaza for one and a half million people. Many paramedics and doctors have been killed, as you know very well. What can you do? Is this acceptable for the U.S.? What can you do, apart from the humanitarian aid, that actually there is functioning hospitals for so many people who've been injured?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, we do remain concerned about the possibility of escalation along Israel's northern border between Israel and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has been firing deeper and deeper into Israel, including in recent days. This is a matter of concern for us. It's something that we are in very close contact with the Israeli military, the Israeli intelligence services, and the political leadership about.

And we will continue to work to try to generate an outcome in which Israel's security is guaranteed, their people can return to their homes, and the terror threat from Hezbollah is not the kind of acute threat that it has grown into as -- as Hezbollah has moved closer and closer to the border in recent years. So, we will keep working on that.

With respect to the hostage deal, President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the weekend. He made a strong -- he strongly advocated for moving forward to get this deal done and to capitalize on the progress that we have seen. He will continue to do that, and we will continue to stand up for the need to get a hostage deal to get those innocent people home and also to get a sustained pause that can help us move a lot more humanitarian assistance in and, frankly, in that context, also deal with some of the urgent medical needs that your last question raised.

A hostage deal, a sustained pause opens the door to being able to alleviate a significant amount of the suffering, including the medical suffering of the people -- the Palestinian people.

It's interesting what Abbas said. I'd just make one more point about Rafah. You know, we have been unequivocal, as I have from this podium today, about the need for a credible and implementable plan to protect civilians.

I would also point out that Hamas has to account for itself as well. Hamas is hiding amongst civilians, embedding itself amongst civilians in ways that also put those civilians at risk.

And so, some of the international community's questions and pressure should be on Hamas as you --

And Abbas coming forward to do that today is kind of unusual, because there hasn't been enough of that from enough voices in the international community.

Q: Jake, can I follow up on Gaza -- on deal.? Because the Israeli Prime Minister has decided not to send a delegation to Cairo for the talks. So, what does this say about the prospect of this hostage dea- -- deal? Do you believe it can be reached?

And I have another question on Venezuela, but

can I ask --

MR. SULLIVAN: We believe that there can be a deal, there should be a deal, and everyone should keep working hard to get that deal.

I can't speak to the specific tactics of a meeting on any given day, but the direction of travel has got to be everybody doing everything they can, including the government of Israel, to try to reach a deal that is good for Israel, that is good for regional security, and that the United States is going to keep pushing hard on privately with the Israeli government and publicly from this podium.


Q: Can I ask one on Venezuela very quickly? Because the administration -- do you believe the administration misread Maduro's intention? Do you think -- now do you think the elections in Venezuela can be fair?

And another question very quickly about Brazil, because recently President Biden and President Lula exchanged letters related -- defending democracy. Last week, the Brazilian Federal Police seiz- -- seized the passport of former President Bolsonaro as part of an investigation of attempted coup in Brazil after the election. And do you think the U.S. can learn something related to these from Brazil and work together?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, on your first question, the structure of the understanding between the United States, the Maduro regime, and the opposition was not built on some kind of, you know, enduring faith in the implementation of the agreement. It was built on verification.

So, what did we do? We did a six-month license for certain sanctions alleviation. That six months is up in April.

We will see, at that point, where we are with respect to the Maduro regime following through on its commitments, and then we'll make our determinations about how we proceed from there.

So, embedded in the structure of the deal was the very kind of verification to see whether or not they were prepared to do the things they said they were going to do. We weren't going to prejudge whether they were they weren't. We were going to design an outcome where if they did, okay, we can move forward. And if they didn't, all right, we would take a different course. And that's exactly how we intend to proceed.

So, we laid out up front what we were going to do, and that's how things will transpire from here.

And I -- I'm afraid I don't have any comment on the particulars of the case in Brazil. You know, that's become a matter for the Brazilian courts to decide, and it probably wouldn't be appropriate for me to opine on from this podium.


Q: Thank you.

Q: (Inaudible) Brazil -- sorry.

Q: Thank you, Jake. Two questions on the Middle East. In -- in Gaza in recent weeks, there have been two 17-year-old U.S. citizens killed by Israeli Defense Forces. And there are at least three more U.S. citizens who have been detained in the West Bank by Israeli forces.

What's -- what Biden administration to -- doing to protect American citizens in Gaza and the West Bank right now? And then I -- I have a follow-up.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, first on that. In these cases, when we see reports like this or we get outreach from families, we engage with the Israeli government on it. There are investigations pending in -- in the cases that you described, and we'll continue to work that aggressively.

And we have made clear from the start that the United States is focused on the welfare and wellbeing of American citizens wherever they are, whether it's in the West Bank or Gaza or Israel or any other country in the region or indeed in the world. That remains the commitment of the President, and that's what he will continue to do.

Q: And on a broader political question on this -- this conflict and these relations with the Israeli government: Prime Minister Netanyahu has had, in the past, no qualms about meddling in American politics, usually to the detriment of Democratic presidents. I'm sure you're familiar with this history.

Why -- why does the President believe that Netanyahu is operating in good faith? And is there any concern, either among the President or his advisors, that the Prime Minister is deliberately inflaming the situation, in part, at least, because he believes doing so will inflame voters here in some constituencies, reduce support for President Biden, and possibly get him a more sympathetic president in January 2025 who would give him a free hand to do whatever he wanted?

MR. SULLIVAN: I'm not going to characterize the motives of another political leader from another country from this podium. I see no -- no upside in that.

President Biden has had a long relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is a direct and candid relationship.

The touchstone of everything the President does when it comes to dealing with any Israeli prime minister is: It's not about the leader; it is about the security of the State of Israel, the U.S.-Israel relationship, and the -- and most fundamentally the American national security interest.

That's what's going to motivate his decisions. And -- and I'll leave it at that.

Q: Having said --

Q: Jake --


Q: Having said that --

Q: Thank you --

Q: Thank you, Jake. I've got a question about Chinese lab safety, and then China-Ukraine question for you. On Chinese lab safety. There was a scientific study preprint last month that went viral that's reignited concerns about Chinese as -- scientific research after the coronavirus, of course, killed more than a million Americans after potentially leaking from the Wuhan lab.

In this study, humanized mice were injected with the coronavirus variants, and the variant killed nearly 100 percent of them, which scares people, of course, because I mean, that's all of them.

There are a lot of unknowns about this, but there are prominent scientists who are saying this research is reckless. So, I was wondering if you could say if the U.S. government is following this study and if there there's anything broader you could say about the concerns about Chinese lab safety?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, we've documented in the past, over many years, concerns about biosafety, biosecurity practices of a number of countries, China being one of them. That's something we continue to be vigilant about because biosafety and biosecurity, particularly of hazardous bio substances anywhere in the world, can ultimately come back and harm Americans. So, it remains a significant focus of multiple agencies of the U.S. government. And we'll keep working on that.

Q: And on --


Q: Yes --

Q: -- China, Ukraine, there -- there are a couple of significant developments recently in investigations into the President's role in his family's foreign business dealings that bear on current political debates, and I was hoping that you could help Americans digest these bits of information.

On China, there was a recent rel- -- revelation from impeachment inquiry testimony that the President in 2017 met with the chairman of CEFC China Energy at the Four Seasons Hotel not far from here. Ye Jianming has since gone missing in China amid corruption allegations. How does -- how do -- how should people think about that amid U.S.-China tensions and the President's potential exposure here?

And in Ukraine, according to laptop records and a former business partner, the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, was involved with the Burisma subsidiary that was chaired by the First Son. How should Americans think about that amid the Ukraine foreign aid debate?

MR. SULLIVAN: I've got nothing for you on that. Yeah.

Q: Thank you. Thank you, Jake. On the -- I'm sorry, on the NCG agreed upon by the President Biden and South Korean President Yoon last year. And what is the reason for the transition of the U.S. and ROK nuclear conservative groups from the National Security Council to being read by the Ministry of Defense? What is the reason for the transition for that?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, first of all, the NSC remains fundamentally engaged in the NCG. And this is an interagency process. It involves our Department of Defense, it involves our Department of State, the NSC, our intelligence community -- and the same on the other side.

This was directed by our two presidents out of the summit here in Washington -- the Washington Declaration. It remains a high priority for all of us.

And the work of the NCG, frankly, speaks for itself. And we will continue to be proud of that work because we believe it's enhancing the security and extended deterrence in the U.S.-ROK alliance.

I'll take one more question. Yeah.

Q: Thanks, Jake. The -- do you have any more information on Ukraine's claims to have blown up a Russian warship in the Black Sea? And could I also ask you what that says about Ukraine's ability to carry on operations despite the current blockage of U.S. aid?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I don't have anything beyond what the Ukrainians themselves have come out publicly to say.

And, you know, as I was saying earlier, it's not like Ukraine is going to lay down. They're defending their country. They're going to fight with everything they've got. And they have capabilities they're getting from other countries, capabilities that they are developing indigenously with their own defense industrial base. That will continue.

The point that I was making is the gap between that and where they can and should be with American assistance backing them is a significant gap -- a gap that needs to be filled for Ukraine to achieve its long-term aims in this war.

Q: Jake --

MR. SULLIVAN: Thanks, everybody.


Q: A question on the President, specifically, Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jake. Thank you, Jake.

Hey, Josh.

Q: Hi.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good to see you.

Q: Good to see you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will say this, it's been a while, I feel like. (Laughter.)

Q: Yeah, that's true. It's true. Happy Valentine's Day. Thanks for the gummy bears.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Valentine's Day.

Q: So --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Chocolate -- was it chocolate? No, it was --

Q: Gummies.

Q: It was bears.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Bears, yeah.

Q: I was bears.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. I bought it.

Q: I think -- I think German-made, though, maybe? Haribo? So --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, gosh. Well, there you go. Heart -- heart -- heart candy, right?

Q: So, two questions.


Q: First, is the White House confident that the Democratic-led Senate can and will move quickly to dismiss the impeachment case against Secretary Mayorkas?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, here's what I can say. And you saw the President's statement yesterday, last night, on -- on what occurred in the House. And we've been very clear about how we feel about what's occurring on the House.

I do want to just -- I know we -- we've gotten these questions a couple of times. I do want to say that the President did connect with Secretary Mayorkas earlier today, and they -- and you saw the President's statement last night, which said that, you know, history will not -- will not look kindly on House Republicans for this blatant act of what we believe to be unconstitutional -- unconstitutional bipartisanship [partisanship].

And so, we believe that what occurred last night is b- -- is -- is baseless. It's shameful. We have to remember this is a -- this is a Secretary who worked really hard with the Senate to try to get that bipartisan agreement with -- obviously, with Republicans and Democrats when it -- as it -- as it relates to the border security.

And we believe if that had been put into place, if we hadn't -- if it had been moved forward, it would have been the tough -- yes, the toughest, but also the fairest piece -- piece of legislation, obviously, would have been into law that would have dealt with a broken immigration system, beginning to deal with that, and, obviously, the challenges that we see at the border. And it's unfortunate that -- that House Republicans prioritize politics instead of actually getting that done.

I'm certainly not going to speak to the process of the Senate. The Senate is going to move forward in whatever -- in whatever way that they will. But we've been really, really, really clear that what we saw -- that the vote coming out of House Republicans -- they would rather play politics instead of doing their jobs.

And we saw bipartisan support against the impeachment just last week. And so, it is unfortunate that this occurred. It is truly unfortunate.

And so, I'm just going to leave it there for now.

Q: And then, secondly, Speaker Johnson has suggested that he needs a one-on-one meeting with President Biden. Given that Johnson has said he doesn't feel rushed on foreign aid, would that one-on-one meeting help?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look -- and I appreciate the question, Josh, but the President met with -- met with, obviously, congressional leadership less than a month ago -- just less than a month ago. And he made really clear how important it was to get that bipartisan-negotiated legislation coming out of the Senate, how important it was to get that -- to move that forward.

And let's not forget, it's almost as -- it's almost as if this -- the Speaker is actually negotiating with himself -- truly -- because he first said he needed to see the border security in the deal, in the national security supplemental deal, right? Meaning, like, border security needed to be dealt with first, because it obviously -- it was in the national security supplemental that the President put forward in October.

He wanted to see that done first. We did that. The Senate delivered that. The Senate, the President, in a bipartisan way, delivered that.

Then, he doesn't want it. Then, he doesn't want it in there, right?

And so, then, of course, the Senate goes back, takes it out, and presented a national security supplemental without the border. Then, he's like, "Well, I don't want that, either."

So, what is it? He decide -- instead, he decides to choose Donald Trump.

And let's not forget, there's fentanyl traffickers, right? That's what he -- he sided with over the Border Patrol, over -- over this President and what -- and doing what majority of Americans wants us to do. He's the one killing this. He is.

And what we believe is there is indeed bipartisan support in Congress for it. There is, and we've heard that. We've heard that there's bipartisan support.

House Republicans, like Andy Biggs, have been explicit that it would pass the House if allowed a vote. And that should happen. Even in House Republican leadership is -- is aligning, right? They're aligning.

If you think about -- you just heard -- you just heard Jake Sullivan talk about what -- how important it is to make sure we get that support to Ukraine, right?

By doing what they're doing in the leadership, they're supporting Putin, right? They're siding with Putin and Tehran. You heard me say that at the top.

So, if they were -- if the Speaker would actually put this bipartisan bill to the floor that deals with our national security, it would actually pass in a bipartisan way out of the House. And that's where we are today.

Q: But just to follow on that. You mentioned that the President did meet with -- with leaders about a month ago. Since then, the Speaker's office says the President has declined multiple requests that they have made for this one-on-one.

I guess, just given what you and the President say is at stake here, why not meet with him? I mean, it seems that you're saying there's -- there's just nothing to be gained --


Q: -- by the President getting in a room with the Speaker.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But, Mary, we -- and I appreciate the -- I get what you're saying. But we've actually delivered multiple times -- the Senate has -- on what the Speaker is asking for.

He first said to pull out -- pull out -- pull out -- deal -- I'm sorry, he first said: Put the border security -- if you're going to put border security into the national security supplemental, I want you to actually deal with it and come out with a deal that he would -- that would move forward in a way that he would support. And that border security negotiated deal that came out of the Senate in bipartisan way actually had provisions in there that he's talked about for a long time, and then he rejected that.

And so, then he was like, "I could only move forward with a national security supplement without border security." Then, in a bipartisan way, the Senate delivered on that.

So, I -- what is there to negotiate? Really, truly, what is the one-on-one negotiation about when he's been presented with exactly what he asked for?

So, he's negotiating with himself. He's killing bills on his own.

And if he were to put that bill that just came out of the Senate -- the nat- -- the national security supplemental that doesn't have border security in it because he said he didn't want it, he changed his mind -- it would pass. It would pass in a bipartisan way.

So, it just -- it just doesn't make sense to us.

Go ahead.

Q: So, how do you persuade him to put the bill on the floor?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're going to continue to put pressure on. We're going to continue to answer the questions that you're asking. We're going to be very clear -- the President was very clear -- very clear yesterday in his statement. The National Security Advisor was very clear in his statement. We have been talking to congressional leadership and congressional members for some time.

And this is about -- this is not about politics. This is about national security needs. And it is a critical -- it is important to make sure Ukraine has what it needs. It is critical and important to make sure we continue to -- to give -- to give what Israel needs to defend themselves against a terrorist organization.

It is also critical and important to get that humanitary assistant [humanitarian assistance]. You just heard from the National Security Advisor how important it is to get that humanitarian aid into Gaza.

And so, we -- we're -- I think -- I think the Speaker is confused. I think the Speaker doesn't understand what it is that his job is. Put that bill to the floor. Put that bill to the floor. It will get bipartisan support.

Go ahead, Jared.

Q: Does the White House still believe that there is an opportunity to sort of reopen the border and immigration talks or is that basically off now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we want got to continue to move forward with a -- with the challenges at the border. That's what we want to do: having those conversations, getting the necessary funding, the policy -- the real policy, meaningful changes.

I mean, that's what was so important. We spent the last couple of months talking to the Senate in a bipartisan way. I mean, to deal with an issue that's been around -- immigration system, a broken system that's been around -- that's been -- we've been dealing with for decades. So, we're always open to have those conversations. Always.

But, you know, House Republicans want to do something different. They don't want -- they sided -- again, I was very clear: They sided with Donald Trump. That's what they decided to do. They sided with fentanyl traffickers. That's what they de- -- decided to do.

When you have the Border Patrol union saying that they support a piece of legislation, that's important. That's important. When you have things in that bill that they -- meaning House Republicans -- have talked about endlessly for years and now they turn their backs on it. That doesn't make sense. That doesn't make sense.

Of course, we want to move forward with dealing with that issue in a real way.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you so much. I have a NATO question and then a Mid-East question. Starting with NATO. What does the White House make of candidate Trump's proposal for a tiered Alliance at NATO? And how would you characterize the difference between the Trump and Biden foreign policy doctrines?

And then, just secondly --


Q: -- is the administration seeking to reassure Allies in the wake of Donald Trump's comments on NATO?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the National Security Advisor literally just answered that question moments ago, so I would refer you to what he's -- to the -- to the transcript. He did a wonderful job laying out how that all works. So, I would refer you to Jake Sullivan's comment just moments ago.

Look, I want to be really careful on -- on making any comments on a 2024 election. And so, you know, I'll say this more broadly: The President has restored -- has restored our alliances and made stronger in the world because of what this President has been able to do.

And every -- you know, he knows every Commander-in-Chief's first job -- right? -- their first job is to make sure that the American people are safe. That is what the President understands.

And so, NATO is now -- because of his leadership, it's now larger, as you know, and it's also the most vital that it's been because of what this President has been able to do.

And I think this President's leadership speaks -- speaks fully and speaks really loudly with our closest allies. And it is -- it is truly appalling what was said. It's -- it's unhinged. And it endangers -- it endangers our American national security and global stability when you hear that coming from a former president.

So, you know, we're going to continue to be steadfast. The President understands how important it is to -- to continue to make our Alliance strong with NATO. And you've seen that -- you've seen it in the past three years.

But, obviously, those comments does not put our national security in the forefront. It does not help keep -- keep us safe. And it is -- it is appalling to hear those types of comments.

Q: Thank you for your comprehensive answer.

Moving along to the Middle East. Iranian proxies are still targeting Red Sea shipping vessels. Why is that? Why does the U.S. seem powerless when it comes to safeguarding commercial shipping?

And then just --


Q: -- very quickly, the President's campaign TikTok has been flooded with criticism over the U.S.'s support of Israel. How do you respond to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean, our position hasn't -- doesn't change. Right? We we've been really clear on our support for Israel to continue be able to defend itself, obviously, within the international humanitarian law. We've been very clear about that.

You've heard from Jake Sullivan and my other National Security Council colleagues, and you've heard from the President directly how important it is to do that, how important it is also to make sure that is -- that we protect a civilian lives in Gaza. We've been very clear. That is why we're working so hard.

The President -- you saw the Secretary just a couple of days ago be in the region, and we're working so hard to get that humanitarian aid so that we can get American hostages home, so we get that humanitarian aid home -- into -- pardon me -- into Gaza. And so that's always going to be what we're going to lean into, continue to make sure we deliver on. And so, that's not going to change.

Obviously, I can't speak to a campaign TikTok. I'm -- not something that I can speak to.

But that has been our position and will continue to be.

Q: I mean, this isn't a campaign issue. These are Americans who are asserting their -- their feelings on this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And we -- and we have said all -- we say -- we say at all times -- right? -- it is important -- we believe it's important for Americans to -- we value their -- we value their opinion. We know this is a difficult time. We get that. We get that this is an incredibly difficult time.

And we value and always make -- we always make -- obviously, bring the space -- make sure there's space available for folks to -- to -- for folks to, you know, share their concerns. And so, that's something that we've been very consistent here with.

Okay. Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Senator Blinken spoke with Paul Whelan yesterday. What prompted that phone call, and is there a new offer put up by the United States to secure his release? What can you tell us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, I -- and you tal- -- Secretary Blinken, so I would obviously refer you to the State Department to -- to get more on that particular conversation.

Look, we have been very clear. We are always, always clear about believing and -- and working very hard to make sure that Paul Whelan and also Evan get -- come home. And we do everything that we can. We're having those conversations to make sure that happens.

I wish today, as I'm standing in front of you, I can say that there's a deal and that we've made progress on that. I just don't have anything to share. But -- but we want to see Paul Whelan come home to his family and his friends, and we want to see Evan come home. And don't have anything to share on any deal or any further discussion. But obviously, we have been very, very clear about that.

Q: No deal, but can you say that there has been another offer put forward by the U.S.?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don't have anything to share about another offer. As -- as you know, in the past, we have put forth offers that has not been taken seriously by -- by the Russians. And we're going to continue to do -- do everything that we can to get them home to their friends, to their families, and loved ones.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Jake talked about speaking with Secretary Austin yesterday. Has the President had a chance to talk to him?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I can confirm that, yesterday, the President spoke to Secretary Austin, and obviously he continues to wish him a speedy recovery and is looking forward to the Secretary going back to the Pentagon. Obviously, the Secretary is still working -- is working from home. But he's looking forward for the Secretary to get back to the Pentagon.

Q: The President took time to call Congressman-elect Suozzi last night. Any chance he talked to the Homeland Security Secretary about his impeachment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I think I said that at the top.

Q: Did you say that already?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I did.

Q: Forgive me.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's okay. That's all right.

Q: I was distracted by the gummy bears.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) The -- the candy gummy bear -- the heart candy coming through there.

Q: And just real quick. We asked Jake about this earlier.


Q: It seems to have really kicked up a hornet's nest. If there's anything more to know later about this alleged serious national security threat, I think we would all just love to be, you know, briefed or informed in whatever way you guys can.


Q: If the timetable on his meeting, for example, moves up to today or something.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And Jake did say, at this time, he's not in a position to speak about this. I'm going to leave that to our National Security Advisor. Obviously, it is in his lane -- very much in his lane, but I will make sure that I pass that along.

But, yes, just to answer your first question, as I did moments ago, the President did call Secretary Mayorkas earlier today, and they had a conversation. I'm not going to get into their private conversation, but they did connect.

Oh, my goodness. I'm going in the back. Go ahead. Way in the back, go ahead. No, right -- yeah.

Q: Thanks, Karine. We've spoken here about the White House's outreach to Republicans about the Senate foreign aid bill. But, for example, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on TV last night sort of saying that she was a little bit skeptical about the humanitarian provisions in that bill. What is the White House doing in terms of outreach to more progressive Democrats?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the -- our Office of Leg Affairs and other White House officials are in -- always in direct contact -- continuous contact with congressional members -- obviously, congressional leadership as well. So, I can assure you that we've had regular conversations. I'm not going to get into private conversation.

We hear the congresswoman's concerns. I just don't have anything to share outside of what she said.

Q: And next week is the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Should we expect, sort of, programming around that? He has given -- the President has given sort of big speeches about that in the past.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Yeah, and as you know, he went to Poland. He went to Ukraine, actually, in a warzone country, obviously, last year in -- and Poland. I just don't have anything to share about any travel or -- or remarks.

Go ahead, Annie.

Q: Thanks. When Secretary Austin was initially hospitalized or when the news came out about that, the White House said that there would be a hotwash about his hospitalization and why that information hadn't been shared more quickly. Can you give us an update on the status of that hotwash?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have an update. I know that's something that the Department of Defense was doing. I don't have an update on that. I would refer you to them directly on that specific question.

Q: And then just one other question on East Palestine.


Q: Can you give us any more of a sense for why the President is going on Friday? Why -- why does Friday evening make the most sense? And, you know, what can we expect to hear from him?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we'll have certainly more to share with you. As you just stated, the President is going to go to East Palestine this coming Friday. It was at the invitation of the mayor. The President has always said when the time is right and when it made sense for him to go, he would go. And so, that's what he's doing.

He's going to be on the ground. He's going to get a briefing and -- on what's happening. He's going to hear directly from the people of Pales- -- Palestine -- Palestine. And -- and obviously this -- this administration is continuing to make sure that Norfolk Southern is held accountable, and we want to make sure that we support the community as it moves forward.

And they have said they do not want to be defined -- the community does not want to be defined by this one event. And so, we're going -- the President is going to be on the ground. And we've had those key important agencies -- FEMA, including DOT and others, and EPA, obviously -- on the ground since day one making sure that the community has what it needs. And we're going to obviously continue to call on Congress to pass the Bipartisan Railway Safety Act.

So, in short, the President is going to hear from the community. We've been there since day one, hours after the derailment. We continue to be on the ground. We want to make sure that the community knows that we're going to do everything possible to hold accountable Norfolk Southern. And the President is looking forward to having those conversations and getting the briefing on the ground as -- so, we'll have more.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q: A new poll found that nearly one in five Americans believe that Taylor Swift was part of a plot to help President Biden win the election. This conspiracy is particularly resonating with voters who believe the 2020 election was stolen. Is the White House concerned at all about this conspiracy theory and the fact that so many Americans believe it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, we've talked about this before. Obviously, what we saw on January 6th in 2021 spoke to -- spoke to that. It was an attack on our democracy, and the 2,000-plus angry mob that was there was there falsely believing that they -- it was their right or they could be able to turnov- -- turnover -- turnover an election.

That was, by the way -- you know, there were Republican judges, Democrat judges, many others who said it was one of the safest elections that we've had and -- and that the results, obviously, were the results of 2020.

And so, do we -- we have a concern about our democracy and where it's going and protecting our democracy? The President speaks to this all the time. The President has made really critical, key remarks about that. And does -- Americans care about that. You have a majority of Americans who actually believe that we need to protect our democracy, we need to protect our freedom. We saw that in the results of 2022, in that midterm election. That's what came out of that -- one of the big issues that came out of that.

And so, we're always going to be concerned, obviously, and speak to it. And, you know, there's a lot in front of Americans right now as it relates to our democracy, as it relates to our -- to our freedoms.

Anything else, look, I -- you know, the Taylor Swift conspiracy, that's for others to speak to. I'm not going to speak that from here.

Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Karine, the President said yesterday that he would be taking questions today or tomorrow. What was he referring to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to -- to share at this time. As you -- as you know, the President takes questions from you all often. I don't have a -- anything on the public schedule to speak to.

As you know, the President is going to be in -- in Ohio on Friday. Just don't have anything to share on his public schedule.

Q: Well, this is the second time, I think, in as many weeks that he has referenced taking questions at some point in the near future.


Q: I'm just wondering: Are White House advisors having discussions about generally the President finding more opportunities to take questions from reporters?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, he said it last week, and he did. He took questions from you on -- on that Thursday when he said that he would get back to you on Thursday or see you on Thursday. Give -- he gave remarks and took questions.

So, look, we always try to find ways to -- for him to have engagement with all of you. He takes initiative, obviously, on his own, many times, whether it's on the South Lawn, whether it's on the road, whether it's here in the -- at the White House to take questions from all of you. I just don't have anything on his schedule to speak to at this time.

Q: But was he likely referencing some kind of speech like he gave last week and then questions afterwards, or are we --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I really don't have any -- anything to share on the schedule. I would say, you know, may- -- you know, who knows. We'll see if something lands -- lands on his schedule. (Laughs.) You guys asked me yesterday, and I'm always very, very careful on -- on that.

Q: It's Valentine's Day. Are we going to have a late night? (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's Valentine's Day. He wants to share his love to -- with all of you. I -- you know, I just don't have anything. I mean, yesterday, you all -- you --

Q: Do it before dinner time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Do it before dinner time? Oh, you have a date -- date night tonight?

Q: Something like that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, you're -- you're a good -- you're a good guy. (Laughter.)

Q: I'm glad that's in the official record. (Laughter.)

Q: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But you all asked that me that yesterday, and I -- I'm always very careful, you know, and -- and didn't have anything at -- at the time when you all asked me -- asked me the same question.

Look, I just don't have anything right now to speak to -- the President's public schedule today or tomorrow.

But stay tuned, as we like to say from here. Stay tuned.

All right, everybody.

Q: Karine, the three police officers --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. We'll see you tomorrow.

Q: Karine, the three police officers shot today in D.C. Can you --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. I'll say --

Q: Is the President aware of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say something about that because I think that's important. Give me one second.

Q: Yeah, there were three police officers shot while trying to make an arrest.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I -- I understand.

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand. I got you.

So, let me just say a couple of things here. First and foremost, our hearts go out to these officers and their loved ones. The President is praying they make full recoveries, and he is deeply grateful for the sacrifices police officers make to keep our community safe. This shooting is yet another distressing and painful reminder of the toll gun violence is inflicting on families, on our communities, and, obviously, on our a -- nation.

It's why the President has taken executive actions to help keep guns out of the dangerous hands and DOJ is implementing the new gun trafficking law in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

But it's not enough. We need -- we need the Republicans in Congress to act. We need them to be willing to make -- to make sure that communities are safer. That's what we continue to ask them to do.

The President is going to take -- continue to take action to fund the police with billions of dollars in his budget that he's put forth every year. But he needs Republican laws and -- lawmakers in Congress to make sure that they put law enforcement first, as well as the President has been doing.

Q: And to follow up --


Q: -- doesn't, you know -- in D.C., homicides are up, crime is up, carjacking is spiking. Simple question: Does the President believe the nation's capital is safe for Americans from across the country to come visit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we see -- we hear the reports and see the data as well. And all violent crime anywhere is completely unacceptable, not just here in D.C. We're going to call that -- them all out in communities across the country.

Everyone in every community in this country wants the same thing. They want their families to be safe. And -- and not getting into a -- not get into, you know, politics on this. The President is wanting to make sure that communities feel safe.

And we're not seeing that from congressional Republicans. We're just not. They continue to get in the way. The President has taken action. He puts -- he puts that in his budget every day, making sure that we make communities safer. And we're just not seeing that from Republicans.

And so, we're going to continue to do our job here. We want Congress, co- -- Republican congressional members to join us in that. And I'm going to leave it there.

I'll see you all tomorrow. Thanks, everybody.

Q: Happy Valentine's, ma'am.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Valentine's Day.

1:13 P.M. EST

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

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