Joe Biden

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

April 09, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:12 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. Well, thank you. (Laughter.)

So, I want to start by addressing some devastating and alarming news from the Arizona Supreme Court.

With today's decision, millions of Arizonians will soon face an even more extreme and dangerous abortion ban than they did before. This Arizona law, which was initially enacted in 1864, more than 150 years ago, fails to protect women even when their health is at risk or in horrific cases of rape or incest.

There are now 21 extreme state abortion bans in effect across the country. One third of all women of reproductive age now live in a state with an abortion ban.

And all of these bans, including the one upheld today that was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court, are a direct result of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

When the President's predecessor handicapped [handpicked] three Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, it paved the way for the chaos and confusion we're seeing play out across the country today.

President Biden and Vice President Harris will continue to stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman's right to choose. And they will continue to fight to protect reproductive rights and call on Congress to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade for women in every state.

On the topic of healthcare, you just heard from the President earlier today. He marked Care Workers Recognition Month by joining care workers, union members, and advocates to highlight his administration's work to make care more affordable for American families, support family caregivers, boost compensation and job quality for care workers, and expand care options.

Through the first-ever care EO signed by President Biden just last year, as well as through the American Rescue Plan and the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan-Har- -- the Bi- -- pardon me -- the Biden-Harris administration is marking transformational investment in childcare, homecare, paid family and medical leave, and tax cuts for workers and families. And the President's plan would pay for these investments in working families by making billionaires and the biggest corporations pay their fair share.

That is in sharp contrast with congressional Republicans, who released a budget that would make devastating cuts in funding for childcare, Head Start, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare -- all to pay for massive tax cuts for billionaires and big corporations.

Care workers play an essential role in our economy, and President Biden will never stop fighting for them.

Finally, today, the President spoke with UConn Coach Dan Hurley and congratulated him on last night's championship.

The UConn Huskies had an incredible year, which culminated in a series of dominant performances in the NCAA tournament. UConn is the first team to win back-to-back championships in the men's bracket since the University of Florida accomplished this feat in 2006 and 2007.

We also congratulated Coach Dawn Staley and the University of South Carolina on their undefeated season and national championship. The women's tournament featured fantastic games and generated record ratings.

It was really a March Madness to remember. We congratulate the University of South Carolina, UConn, and the atle- -- athletes on their victories.

With that, as you can see, we have the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, who is here to speak about the Ja- -- Japanese -- the Japan state visit that's happening starting today and also talk about the developments around the world.


MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know you're, like, much taller than me.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thanks, Karine.

Thank you, Karine. And thanks, everybody. I've got some opening comments on the Japan state visit and -- and a couple of other topics, and then I'd be happy to take your questions.

Starting this evening, the President and First Lady will welcome Prime Minister Kishida and Mrs. Kishida to the White House for an official visit and state dinner.

From the very outset of the Biden administration, we have focused on reinvesting in and reinvigorating our alliances. And nowhere has the strength and vibrancy of that strategy been on display more than in the Indo-Pacific and especially with Japan.

The two leaders, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida, have met nearly a dozen times over the past three years, in Tokyo and Washington and in cities around the world. And this official state visit will build on the immense progress between our two nations that we've made towards creating a safer and more secure Indo-Pacific as well as mutual prosperity for our peoples.

Over the course of the visit, the President and the Prime Minister will highlight the high ambition of our alliance -- yes, in the defense and technology space but also across the board -- deepening our partnerships on space, technology, economic investment, fighting climate change, coordinating global diplomacy, and strengthening our people-to-people ties.

I'll briefly touch on some of what you can expect the two leaders to announce.

They will announce measures to enhance our defense and security cooperation to enable greater coordination and integration of our forces and ensure that they are optimally postured and linked to other like-minded partners.

There will be major deliverables on space, as we lead the way on space exploration and returning to the Moon.

There will be announcements of significant research partnerships between our leading institutions on critical and emerging technologies, such as AI, quantum, semiconductors, and clean energy. All of this will strengthen our economic ties and economic security as we announce significant commercial deals as part of the state visit.

Japan is one of the largest providers of economic assistance and budget support to Ukraine, one of the largest investors in development and infrastructure in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. And this visit will highlight Japan's continued role in global diplomacy and development and the coordination that the U.S. and Japan have together with significant deliverables on global assistance and investment both inside and outside the Indo-Pacific.

And we'll also announce new initiatives to further foster -- foster our cultural connections and promote ties between current changemakers and future generations of leaders.

Following the important visit that Prime Minister Kishida is initiating this evening and that will carry through tomorrow, President Biden will welcome President Marcos of the Philippines to the White House on Thursday for his second bilateral meeting at the White House in as many years.

President Biden will also host the first-ever trilateral leaders' summit between the United States, Japan, and the Philippines.

The U.S., Japan, and the Philippines are three closely aligned maritime democracies with increasingly convergent strategic objectives and interests. Just this past week, our three countries and Australia held joint naval drills in the South China Sea.

When I met with my Japanese and Filipino counterparts in Tokyo last June, we agreed to enhance our nations' trilateral partnership. And this week is a culmination of months of effort since that meeting in Tokyo last June.

The three leaders will announce new initiatives to enhance energy security, economic and maritime cooperation, partnerships on technology and cybersecurity, and joint investments in critical infrastructure.

And with this first-ever leaders trilateral, we're continuing to deepen our cooperation with our closest partners to ensure what we've talked about many times from this podium and elsewhere: a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

Over the past three years, the President has achieved historic breakthroughs across the region -- across the Indo-Pacific. He's launched AUKUS; elevated the Quad; brought the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral to new heights; upgraded relations with ASEAN, Vietnam, and Indonesia; and hosted two Pacific Island summits and one ASEAN summit here at the White House.

And we look forward to adding another momentous chapter to this story with both the state visit that Prime Minister Kishida has embarked upon and this historic trilateral meeting among the U.S., Japan, and the Philippines.

I also want to take a moment before going to your questions to address the events of April 5th in Quito, Ecuador.

We condemn this violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including the use of force against embassy officials. We've reviewed the security camera footage from the Mexican embassy and believe these actions were wrong.

The Ecuadorian government disregarded its obligations under international law as a host state to respect the inviolability of diplomatic missions and jeopardized the foundation of basic diplomatic norms and relationships.

We've asked Ecuador to work with Mexico to find a resolution to this diplomatic dispute. And to that end, we welcome the Organization of American States Permanent Council meeting this week to help reach a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

Finally, let me say something on an important issue that's moving through the House this week: reauthorization of 702 of FISA. The administration strongly supports the bipartisan bill, whose text is now with the Rules Committee, to reauthorize this essential intelligence authority and other FISA provisions before they would expire on April 19th.

If we lost 702, we would lose vital insight into precisely the threats Americans expect us in government to identify and counter: terrorist threats to the homeland; fentanyl supply chains bringing deadly drugs into American communities; hostile governments' recruitment of spies in our midst; transnational repression by authoritarian regimes; penetrations of our critical infrastructure; adversaries' attempts to illicitly acquire sensitive dual-use and military commodities and technology; ransomware attacks against major American companies and nonprofits; Russian war crimes; and more.

So, to protect the American people, we need to maintain this vital collection authority, while strengthening its protective guardrails with the most robust set of reforms ever included in leger- -- legislation to reauthorize Section 702. And this bill does that.

For these same reasons, the administration strongly opposes the amendment we anticipate being offered that would rebuild a wall around, and thus block access to, already lawfully collected information in the possession of the U.S. government.

The amendment, if it looks like what we've seen before, would prohibit U.S. officials from reviewing critical information that the intelligence community has already lawfully collected, with only exceptions that are exceedingly narrow and unworkable in practice.

Our intelligence, defense, and public safety communities are united: The extensive harms of this proposal simply cannot be mitigated. And so, the administration strongly opposes the amendment. But we strongly support the underlying bipartisan bill, whose text is now with the Rules Committee.

With that, I would be happy to take your questions.


Q: Thank you. The White House is still reserving judgment on the IDF report on the killing of -- of the World Central Kitchen aid workers. Why? Why is this review taking so long?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, that report just came out last week. And what I have done is asked an interagency team of experts who actually have knowledge of the humanitarian, operational, oth- -- other elements of this to look at the circumstances, to look at the findings of the report, and then to come up with some judgments as a result of that.

This isn't a formal process. It's an informal review. And as we gain some judgments from that, we'll be prepared to share them with you. But that process is underway now.

Q: How long does -- is it going to take?

MR. SULLIVAN: I can't tell you exactly how long it's going to take.


Q: Jake, could you update us where -- where things stand on the latest hostage negotiations? Is any real progress being made? I think Hamas rejected the latest proposal. Are both sides making the kind of concessions that are going to be necessary?

MR. SULLIVAN: As you know, Bill Burns was in Cairo on Sunday. There was a marathon session that went late into the night among the United States, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt. Qatar and Egypt, of course, were communicating with Hamas through this process. And we have seen Israel take some steps forward in terms of what they're putting on the table. And, of course, we've seen the public statements from Hamas that have been, shall we say, less than encouraging.

But I spoke with the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed, this morning. He does not yet have an answer from Hamas. I pressed him to try to secure an answer from them as soon as possible. And when we have more to report on that front, we will report it to you.


Q: Thank you, Jake.

Q: Two things. Prime Minister Netanyahu says he has a date for the Rafah operation. Will the administration take any action or restrict military support for Israel if Netanyahu moves forward on Rafah?

MR. SULLIVAN: If he has a date, he hasn't shared it with us. So, I've seen his public comments, but I have nothing more on that front.

I'm not going to comment on hypotheticals, but I will state here what I stated the last time I stood at this podium, which is that the United States does not believe that a massive ground invasion of Rafah -- where 1.3 or more million people are sheltering, having been pushed out of other parts of Gaza that are now destroyed, into the area where humanitarian assistance comes in -- this is not the best way forward.

There are better ways to go after Hamas in Rafah. We presented those ways to our Israeli counterparts in a session we held last week. There have been ongoing technical talks between our teams since then, and I anticipate we'll have another opportunity at senior levels to engage them in Rafah and that conversation will stay ongoing. And then we will make determinations about how we proceed based on how those conversations unfold.


Q: To follow up on that, Jake. If the U.S. is not even being looped in on the date for when this military operation is set to take place, why do you think the U.S. has any influence in those upcoming meetings to change Israel's strategy?

MR. SULLIVAN: First of all, when you talk about "looped in," the Prime Minister makes public statements. He also talks to us in private about aspects of operations, about their thinking with respect to Rafah, in some considerable detail.

I sat in the Situation Room not long ago on a secured video conference that went on for hours going into specifics on this.

So, I can't speak to every public comment he makes. What I can tell you is that we have open channels of communication with the Israelis on these issues. They understand our position. And we have been very clear about our deep and abiding concerns about a Rafah operation and our belief that there are better ways to deal with the strategic threat Hamas poses than some of the ideas that have been put forward. And our further belief that any kind of plan to protect civilians in a serious way in Rafah, that's something we have yet to see be presented to us.

And so, our concerns continue. And now we will have to wait and see what happens. And the United States will respond accordingly.


Q: There's a report out today that the Israeli government plans to purchase 40,000 tents ahead of its invasion of Rafah. Has the U.S. seen any sort of an evacuation plan, particularly one involving those tents?

MR. SULLIVAN: As I said just in the answer to the last question, I have not yet seen a credible and executable plan to move people that has the -- any level of detail about how you not only house, feed, and provide medicine for those innocent civilians but also how you deal with things like sanitation, water, and other basic services. We have not seen that yet.

Q: Do you think --


Q: -- 40,000 tents would be sufficient? Would more be needed?

MR. SULLIVAN: I'm not going to stand at the podium and substitute for the judgment of humanitarian experts who could speak to what precisely on the shelter front, as well as on all of these other fronts I just described, would be sufficient. So, I just can't react in real time to news reports like that.


Q: On -- on the Japan visit tomorrow. The President has said to U.S. Steel workers, "I have your back. I mean it." What is his message to the Prime Minister tomorrow about the potential acquisition of U.S. Steel? How strongly will the President convey his opposition? And will there be any specific things that the President will either urge the Prime Minister to do or will say steps that he's willing to take to prevent -- prevent an acquisition?

MR. SULLIVAN: You guys all know Joe Biden. You've seen Joe Biden. He's been very clear that he's going to stand up for American workers, he's going to defend their interests. He's also been very clear that he is going to make sure that the U.S.-Japan alliance is the strongest it's ever been. He's going to accomplish both of those things.

That's what he has set out to do as President. That's what he'll continue to do. And I -- I won't comment further on the -- the specifics of diplomatic conversations between the two leaders.


Q: Jake, can you give us a better understanding -- what is the U.S.'s assessment of the troop withdrawal we've seen by the Israelis recently from Gaza? Is this in response to pressure from the United States? Was there any commitment made to the U.S. there, or is this a way of trying to advance negotiations with Hamas? And do you view this as a change in the way Israel is prosecuting its war there?

MR. SULLIVAN: You'll have to speak with the Israelis about the purpose or motive behind their particular operational moves. I'm not going to characterize that from the podium. What I will say --

Q: So, you don't think -- there has been no private commitment made to you that "we will remove troops" based on the conversation you had or after months of pressure --


Q: -- to help --

MR. SULLIVAN: As you might expect, I'm also not going to get into private diplomatic conversations between the President and the Prime Minister. But what I will say is that a reduction in the intensity and scope of military operations does create a greater opening for the movement of humanitarian goods around Gaza at a critical moment when there is a real humanitarian crisis there.

So, we welcome the opportunity to move more trucks in and then move more trucks around Gaza so that the innocent people, innocent civilians there can get the food, water, medicine, and other essentials that they need for their --

Q: You also welcomed Erez and Ashdod -- the announcement that was made by the Prime Minister -- or by the Israelis last week. Neither of them have opened now approaching a week since then. Are you satisfied with this timetable? We were told that the U.S. -- from your colleague, John Kirby -- needed to see action within hours or days. It's now days, but certainly well beyond hours. Are you satisfied by the pace of this? And what commitments has the U.S. been made about how soon that will occur?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, just to take the -- the opening point of your question, which is that we welcome these steps. What we actually said very clearly from the first minute was: Israel has made public statements; now we need to see them follow through with action and that action needs to be specific, concrete, and measurable.

And that goes for the opening of a crossing into northern Gaza from Israel. It goes for the opening of Ashdod port. When it comes to those two things, we will watch to see what unfolds over the next few days.

What John Kirby was talking about in terms of hours was a step change in the willingness of the Israeli government to take action to get more aid into Gaza. And if you look at the last two days, there has been a substantial increase in the amount of aid going into Gaza. That's good. It is not good enough.

We would like to see more action following through on what the Prime Minister has announced publicly, and we'd like to see that over the course of the next few days.

Q: Thank you.


Q: Thank you, Jake. CNN has reported that the U.S. is bracing for a retaliatory attack by Iran in the Middle East. What can you tell us about your current assessment, whether that's inevitable and what the U.S. is doing to safeguard its assets there?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, we are watching public statements by Iranian officials, public reports of Iranian plans to potentially take retaliatory action. And we have made clear that as the President said to the Prime Minister and as was read out in his call that America's support for Israel's security is ironclad and America's support for Israel's defense against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad.

And I'm not going to speak to operational details beyond that.


Q: And on Ukraine. Speaker Johnson has said that he will pursue what he described as "innovations" to the Senate package. Has the White House has been briefed on what those innovations are and whether the President could support any of them?

MR. SULLIVAN: We -- our teams -- between the White House and Speaker Johnson's teams as well as with the other leaders in both the House and the Senate -- have had ongoing discussions about how we get a bipartisan -- a bill that is supported on a bipartisan basis passed by 70 votes in the Senate. We believe it could be passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House, actually on to the floor and voted upon.

And I'm not going to speak to the specifics of those conversations because I don't want to negotiate from the podium.


Q: Thanks, Jake. Just on Russia. Russian investigators said today they're opening a probe into the financing of terrorism that they say involves Western countries, specifically including funds received by the firm Burisma, by which Hunter Biden was employed. What's your comment on that? Is that just a political ploy or what -- how do you view that?

MR. SULLIVAN: I mean, it's nonsense. Russia knows that it was ISIS who committed the attack in Moscow. We know it was ISIS who committed the attack in Moscow. We warned Russia of an impending terrorist attack in Moscow. And all of the rest of this is noise.


Q: And just very briefly -- very briefly, if I may. Yesterday, David Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary, met with Donald Trump. What's your -- what's your view on that? Is the President concerned to see him meeting a potential election rival?

MR. SULLIVAN: I'm not going to speak to campaign-related issues -- Hatch Act. So, I'll plead that and move on.


Q: Thank you. So, you are saying that changes from Israel are good, but not good enough. So, to pursue more changes, are you going to do something besides talking to them?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, what the President said on Friday is that our policy will be determined by the actions that we see unfold. We've seen them take some actions. We would like to see more actions. And as Secretary Blinken said last week, if Israel doesn't continue to sustain and make further changes, then our policy will change. And I won't go beyond that today.

We're going to continue to watch. We've seen positive steps. We have welcomed those positive steps, and we have said that we need to see more steps, particularly the follow-through on the things that they have committed to publicly.


Q: Thank you, Jake. Two questions, quick. Regarding the defense industry cooperation and joint production of defense equipment between the United States and Japan, do you think South Korea and the United States and Japan will be joined in this industry cooperation as they -- to strengthen their power in the Indo-Pacific region?

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I believe -- I don't necessarily like to use the word "synergies" very often, but I do believe that there are synergies on a trilateral basis in terms of our technological, industrial, economic capacity, as well as our security and military cooperation. And we want to build on that.

For tomorrow, what we are announcing will be bilateral measures in this space. And then, of course, we would be open in the future to discussing things more broadly.

Q: And one more. Japan is approaching North Korea for a summit, but North Korea says it is not interested because there is no context for the summit. What is the United States' position on Japan's push for the summit with North Korea?

MR. SULLIVAN: I'll -- speaking from the United States' perspective, we believe that principled diplomacy is a good thing. It's a necessary component of an overall strategy to confront the North Korean threat. We ourselves have indicated we're prepared to engage in diplomacy with North Korea.

Of course, the North Koreans have not shown any interest in that. They have only tried to move down the track of further development of their weapons -- their missile and nuclear programs. And so, we, the United States, have pulled closer together with our allies to enhance our capacity and posture in the Indo-Pacific, and we'll continue to do that.


Q: Thanks. Jake, you were scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia before you were recently injured. First, how are you doing? And, second, is there a rescheduling of that meeting with the Crown Prince back on the books?

MR. SULLIVAN: Cracking your rib is very painful. Maybe not as -- maybe not as painful as answering your questions. (Laughter.)

But I -- I kind of rushed the timing on that joke, which I prepared for. (Laughter.) So, yeah.

No, it actually -- it -- it hurts a lot. Some of you may have cracked your ribs at some point. There's not a lot you can do about it other than just rest.

And, yes, I intend to go to Saudi Arabia at some point soon.

Q: What happened to you?

Q: But nothing -- nothing is scheduled yet?

Q: What happened, Jake?

Q: Jake, can I follow up?

Q: You've got to tell us, man.

Q: Just to follow up, you mentioned bilateral deliverables for the Prime Minister tomorrow. But can you also touch on some of the more regional stuff? There are also plans for an integrated air and defense missile system with Japan, Australia. For example, if you can speak about that -- how Japan can support AUKUS.

And also, any plans for trilateral joint naval patrols between U.S., Japan, and the Philippines. Anything you can share?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, on the naval patrols, we just saw trilateral, pr- -- plus Australia -- a new form of quadrilateral joint naval patrols last week. So, you can expect to see more of that in the future.

With respect to AUKUS, there was an AUKUS defense ministerial yesterday with a statement that came out of it that indicated what we've been saying for quite some time, which is that, under Pillar 2 of AUKUS, which is the advanced technology pillar, we're prepared to work with additional partners beyond the three of us where they can bring capabilities.

And Japan is one of the countries that could very well bring capabilities to that. So, we will explore partnership with Japan under the -- under Pillar 2 of AUKUS, as well as other partners.

Q: So, is -- is -- the approach, broadly, I mean, if we look at this, it's kind of like what you guys have been trying to do in the Middle East against Iran, this joint -- this integrated missile air defense system. So, is the President's ultimate vision, ultimately, an air and also naval network of alliances against Iran in the Middle East and then China in the Indo-Pacific? Is that's where he's going?

MR. SULLIVAN: That is not how I would characterize it. The President has said that his alliances are not designed against, they're designed for. They're designed for a free and open Indo-Pacific, for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

And, frankly, the American alliance system has helped bring peace and stability to the Indo-Pacific for decades. And now, we need to update and upgrade that alliance network for the modern age. And that includes also reaching out to partners who are not traditional treaty allies of the United States, who have a key role to play in ensuring that the Indo-Pacific remains free, open, prosperous, and secure.

So, that's how we're looking at things across the region.

And, by the way, it goes way beyond security. It's economics, it's technology, it's infrastructure development, and it's diplomacy. And that's all going to be on display in the meeting with the Prime Minister, and it's all going to be on display in the trilateral meeting among President Marcos, Prime Minister Kishida, and President Biden.


Q: Just really quick on Gaza --

Q: Xi Jinping --

Q: -- please, Jake, if I may. Tomorrow is --

MR. SULLIVAN: I think -- I think --

Q: -- the end of Ramadan. The President originally said that the goal was a ceasefire before Ramadan. Tomorrow is the end of Ramadan. What does that say about the President's ability to bring about peace?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I think it says more about the fact that you have a party, Hamas, who is holding innocent people that it took hostage a long time ago. Doesn't get a lot of attention, unfortunately, in the commentary, and I've said that from the podium before. And there could be a ceasefire in place today that would extend for several weeks to be built upon longer if Hamas would be prepared to release some of those people.

So, let's train the attention where it belongs, which is that the world should say at this moment to Hamas, "It's time. Let's go. Let's get that ceasefire."

We're ready. I believe Israel is ready. And I think Hamas should step up to the table and be prepared to do so as well.


Q: Xi Jinping met earlier today with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. I wondered what you made of that meeting. And just -- is the U.S. seeing any evidence that China may offer some type of direct military aid to Russia in the war with Ukraine?

MR. SULLIVAN: We have not seen any evidence that they'll provide direct military aid to Russia, but we have expressed our concerns about inputs to Russia's defense industrial base -- something Secretary Blinken spoke about, I think, quite effectively in Europe last week.

I can't comment on the meeting or characterize it yet because I actually haven't had a chance to get a readout.

Q: Jake --


Q: Jake, just to -- to follow up on Danny's question -- a policy question, not a political question. With Cameron at Mar-a-Lago, is this something that the administration knew about in advance?

And is it helpful to have the former President potentially weighing in more on Ukraine and meeting in -- meeting with foreign leaders?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I -- I'll take the first of that as a factual question. Yes, we knew it -- about it in advance. And beyond that, I'm not going to comment on it.


Q: Just wanted to follow up on the AUKUS question, because we heard a lot from the Australian Prime Minister yesterday about how it wasn't an invitation for Japan to join that alliance. Is that something that the U.S. envisions happening someday and is any part of this discussion this week part of moving toward that goal?



MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah. So, what the statement said was that we're engaging in discussions with a range of partners, and then it went on to say that Japan could be a critical contributor to this. You will see, when they speak tomorrow, an indication that that's the direction we're moving in.

And I'll leave the precise terms of that announcement to the President and the Prime Minister to make so I don't front-run them.


Q: Hey, Jake. Thanks. On the meeting with J- -- Japan tomorrow, is the President going to discuss the high-speed rail in Texas? And how does he square support for that with opposing the Nippon Steel merger or acquisition of U.S. Steel?

MR. SULLIVAN: I can't tell you, standing here today, whether the high-speed rail issue will come up tomorrow or not.


Q: One more, if I could, on BRICS. One more, if I could, on BRICS, Jake. Iran, Egypt, UAE, and Ethiopia have joined BRICS now, with Saudi Arabia considering it. How worried is the President that -- that he's been degraded on the world stage in terms of -- of the leadership?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, if you look at what's happened with NATO, we've made NATO larger than ever.

If you look at what's just happening this week: a historic trilateral with the U.S., Japan, and the Philippines.

If you look across the Indo-Pacific at how we've upgraded our relations not just with traditional allies, but with the likes of Vietnam, Indonesia, ASEAN as a whole.

If you look at the fact that, next month, the President will welcome the President of Kenya for a state visit here -- a historic moment -- one of the few times that a president has welcomed an African leader.

If you look at the fact that twice he's hosted all of the leaders of the Pacific Islands; that he's hosted all of the leaders of Africa at a summit in the United States; that the United States has increased its investments in the infrastructure -- physical, digital, energy infrastructure -- in the Americas, in Africa, and Southeast Asia and beyond; the partnership between the U.S. and India -- a country in BRICS -- has gone to new heights with an engagement across technology and so many ot- -- and security and so many other dimensions.

I think if you look at the U.S. role and standing and its relationships across the key regions of the world, we fe- -- we feel very good about where we are.


Q: All right. So, Jake, really quick. I just need an update on immigration and the funding for Haiti. The immigration piece. Is there going to be some kind of temporary movement to allow Haitians as they are dealing with war, the assassination of the president? Democracy is pretty much gone. They're in tyranny from coordinated militia there. Will there be a temporary change in status for immigration to the United States so they can seek asylum here instead of seeking asylum there?

And what's going on with the funding that the White House proposed and that Republicans are kind of holding up when it comes to Haiti?

MR. SULLIVAN: We are consulting with the Congress to try to unlock that funding, because it is critical to get a multinational security force led by the Kenyans on the ground in Haiti as soon as possible to help bring about stability and calm so that we can alleviate the suffering of innocent people in Haiti, as you were referring to.

And then the United States has a very forward-leaning policy relative to Haitians being able to access programs to come to the United States. We will continue that as we go forward. It's a historic level of access for people who would be fleeing violence or otherwise seeking to deal with their circumstances in Haiti by coming here.

Q: But if -- but just --

MR. SULLIVAN: And that's going to be our --

Q: Just to -- a follow-up, though. But if everything is so broken down in Haiti and a militia is basically controlling everything, how can people genuinely go to file for asylum and really make it happen and -- and come here versus just getting on a boat or going some kind of way to get here? I mean, it's -- wouldn't -- isn't that harder in a war-torn or militia-torn country to do that there versus just coming here?

MR. SULLIVAN: I'm not sure I entirely understand the question. But the root of all of this, of people's ability to operate freely in their country or choose where they're going to go from there country, is security and stability. And the United States is leading a global effort to try to help restore stability and calm to Haiti through a multinational force.

And we need the funding to do that, and I thank you for raising that, because we would like support on a bipartisan basis from the Congress to unlock that funding, which is currently being held. And we're pressing for that on a daily basis.

I'll take one more question.


Q: Thank you, Jake. The French Foreign Minister said that France is contemplating imposing sanctions on Israel in order to speed up humanitarian aid. Turkey, as well, which is a close ally of yours, imposed restriction on -- on trade and goods with Israel. At what stage the administration will consider similar meas- -- measures?

And, also, do you still believe that Israel is not in violation of the Geneva Convention or international humanitarian law?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I will say -- sound a bit like a broken record to your first question, which is repeating what the President said, repeating what Secretary Blinken said: Our policy going forward is going to be determined by whether we see sustained follow-through on specific concrete and measurable steps to provide access, provide deconfliction, take other measures to alleviate the suffering of people in Gaza.

And if Israel's policy doesn't change on a sustained basis, in that way, our policy will change. And I can't go beyond that.


Sorry -- all right, fine. One more. Yeah, go ahead.

Q: So, back to North Korea. If Prime Minister Kishida decided to meet Kim Jong Un, does the U.S. support of such a meeting under any concerns?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, again, I can't speak to a hypothetical of what may happen or may not happen. I've only just made the point: On a principled, sustained basis, the United States has supported diplomacy with North Korea, as long as it fits into a broader approach that is well coordinated with us, with South Korea. And we should continue to work in that direction.

And I can't speak to any particular meeting, because I don't know the specifics of it.

Thanks, guys.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Jake.

We have about 10 minutes or so. I think -- I think some of you are tracking that the -- the hostage families -- or the families of the hostages are going to be speaking at the Sticks. And we want to give you all an opportunity to ask questions -- at, like, three o'clock.

Q: Did they just meet with the Vice President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I bel- -- I believe so. Yes, they did -- just met with the Vice President. I shouldn't say I believe so. Yes, they just met with the -- or they're meeting -- or I'm not sure where they are in that process.

So, don't have too much time. But, Joshua, it's always good to see you go. Go ahead.

Q: Good to see you. Two quick -- following up on Arizona. Other than calling for a national law, is there anything else the administration plans to do in response?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I think we've been very vocal here, right? We've been very straightforward. We've been -- I don't know how -- how more vocal and -- and leaning into where we stand on this, which is with the majority of Americans. We believe and have been very clear -- the President, the Vice President, this administration -- that we have to make sure that there is a -- when it comes to repr- -- reproductive freedom, that it is available to -- to all, to women -- you know, millions of women right now who are put in a incredibly difficult situation.

We -- you -- you all have written about the stories. You've all heard the stories about what women have to go to now because of these restrictive -- extreme, restrictive bills that we have seen -- laws that we have seen across the country.

So, we're going to keep the issue of reproductive freemo -- freedom at the forefront. That's what we're going to do. We're going to continue to call it out.

It is causing chaos, what we saw this former President do in making sure that there were Supreme Court justices that he appointed to the -- obviously, to the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade because of the Dobbs decision. And, you know, it's -- it's created some -- some awful stories, some chaos, as I just mentioned.

And so, we're going to continue to put that out at the forefront. We believe that women's lives are at stake across the country, and we're just not going to stop speaking out.

And, obviously, we're going to ask Congress to legislate and make Roe v. Wade the -- the law of the land. And that's something that we're going to continue to do.

Q: And th- -- and then, inflation is at 3.2 percent. It's higher than it was in January. Are there any concerns that the disinflation we saw last year is starting to stall out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm going to say that this is a president that -- that is doing everything that we can to fight inflation -- right? -- to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out. And we've been pretty consistent about that.

And over -- what we have seen over the past several months is that inflation is down two thirds and core inflation is at the lowest since it -- since May of 2021. That matters.

Wages are rising faster than prices over the last year. Since the pandemic, we've seen 15 million jobs created because of the policies that this President has put forward -- some -- some really historic -- bipartisan, even -- legislation that's come into law to help create those -- those millions of jobs. Unemployment is at under 4 percent.

Is there more work to be done? Absolutely. We're going to continue to do everything that we can to lower -- lower cost. We're going to take on -- continue to take on Big Pharma, for example. We're going to continue to lower housing costs, which we know really hurts families.

And you hear talk -- talk about, you know, junk fees, getting rid of junk fees and the gouging that we're seeing from corporations. That's also very important.

Congress -- congressional Republicans want to do the opposite. They want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations. That's not where this -- the President is. You heard him talk about it in depth during the State of the Union, and we're going to continue to fight for Americans.

So, look, we see inflation is down. It is important, and we're going to continue to build an economy that leaves no one behind.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. In Michigan, the parents of a school shooter have just been sentenced to at least 10 years in prison. Does the White House think this precedent could impact the number of school shootings in the future? And does the President believe parents should be held accountable in this way?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I -- I -- I don't want to get ahead of the legal process here. There is a legal process. I want to be super careful.

But the President obviously remains committed to stopping tragedies like these from happening. It is a tragedy that we're seeing in all communities across the country. Ending the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing up communities is a -- is a priority for this President.

We know that, when it comes to guns, it is the number one killer of our children, and that shouldn't be. So, we know that most students who carry out the K to 12 school shootings are using firearms they obtained from home of a friend or a family member. That's why we recently announced new executive actions to help promote the safe storage of firearms.

The U.S. Department of Education released guidance to help parents and families learn about the importance of safe firearm storage. And the DOJ released the gun guide on best practices for safely storing firearms.

Under the leadership of this President, of this administration, we'll continue to use every tool at our disposal to implement these and other commonsense gun safety measures to protect our children. We're going to continue to work. We did the Bipartisan Safer Communities Ac- -- Act that you know that we passed in 2021, obviously, in a bipartisan way. That was important. But we need Congress to take another step.

And so, we're going to continue to push Congress on -- on taking more steps to get -- get those -- get those weapons of war, if you will, out of -- out of -- off our streets. And that's what the President wants to continue to do.

Q: So, no reaction?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I'm going to be super careful about the legal process. I -- I've talked through -- I just laid out, I think in pretty detail, about what we're doing to make sure that, you know, the stu- -- as we know, the K to 12 students who carry out those types of horrific actions are getting their -- easily have access to firearms. So, we're trying to -- through DOJ, through executive action, trying to figure out and -- and really help parents and -- and folks really store their firearms in a way that this doesn't happen.

So, we've taken actions and steps in those -- in those forms, in that way. And so, look, we're going to continue to do what we can to work with Congress to do more.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q: Just a follow-up on Jake's comments on Rafah. You know, he stopped short of saying that an invasion would lead to a change in U.S. policy; you want to see how these high-level talks and conversations play out. But the White House has been very public in warning Israel that if they don't make concrete changes to address humanitarian suffering, there will be these changes. Why not extend that warning to an invasion that you clearly have very deep concerns about?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I want to be really careful. I mean, you had the National Security Advisor right in front of you lay out where we are with the conversations. We had a virtual conversation. Jake was part of it. He just talked about how it -- it took some hours. That -- that happened just about a week ago.

And the most important thing there is that there's conversations happening with the Israeli government and our government. And we're -- and they are listening to what we're saying. They're -- and -- and obviously, we're hearing them out. And we understand -- I want to be really clear. We understand that there are Hamas operatives in -- in the Rafah, but they're also more than 1 million innocent civilians who are taking refuge in -- in Rafah, and we want to make sure that they are protected.

So, a major military operation is not something that we support. We've been pretty consistent about that. Don't want to get into hypotheticals here. But we believe that the conversations are happening. They've been productive. That is important.

There's going to be a face-to-face conversation, in-person conversation that the Israeli government agreed to. So, that's going to happen.

And so -- but those open line of communications, as the National Security Advisor was saying just moments ago from this podium, is continuing. They're happening almost every day. And so, just want to be super, super careful about not getting into hypotheticals.

But we're in conversation. They've been productive. We had one last week virtually. And we're going to continue to make sure that we're having those discussion and they hear from us directly about how we believe protecting those more than about 1.5 million civilians in Rafah -- we got to protect those lives.

Go ahead.

Q: When should we expect that U.S.-Israel meeting to take place?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I believe it's going -- from what I've been hearing from our folks at National Security Council, it's going to be in a couple of weeks. But, again, those open line of communication -- there's constant communications happening every day. But as it relates to this particular conversation, when they're going to be here in person, members of the Israeli government, that's going to happen in a couple of weeks.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. A couple days ago, in Dearborn, there were protesters chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel." Does the President condemn that?


Q: Is the President at all concerned that Dearborn is becoming -- is facing a risk of becoming a hotbed of any sort of homegrown threats?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't have any intelligence to share with you on that. Obviously, that's something that we're always very vigi- -- vigilant about. But don't have any national intelligence to -- to share it with you.

Q: And then --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But obviously, we will condemn any -- any violent rhetoric --

Q: Will we be seeing a statement --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- which -- which we have been very -- I mean, you're hearing from me -- right? -- you're asking me a question. I'm answering it. And we've been very vigi- -- vigilant about -- or very consistent about denouncing that type of -- that type of rhetoric.

Q: Should we see a -- should we expect a statement from the President on that, though? I mean, it was a pretty significant display.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you're hearing from me. I think that's important.

The other part, too, that I do want to be very clear about: You know, peaceful protest is something that the President has also been very, very clear that is important for -- to give folks space to peacefully protest. But any type of violent rhetoric, we are going to denounce.

Q: And then, on some of the comments he made today. Did -- did the President mean to essentially accuse Republicans of -- of murder? I mean, the language that he was using to describe opposition to the Affordable Care Act -- the quote was, "They want to 'terminate' the Affordable Care Act. 'Terminate.' Well, guess what? Killing millions of Americans…" Does he think that Republicans are trying to kill Americans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I -- I think you're -- I think you're taking the most extreme -- extreme definition or extreme evaluation of what the President said.

Here's the reality: The Affordable Care Act, which obviously started in the Obama-Biden administration, the President expanded on that, making sure that people have affordable healthcare. That saves lives. It does.

It is important --

Q: (Inaudible) use other language, though.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, wait -- it is -- it is --

Q: It is stronger than usual.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But -- but you're -- but you're taking what he said to the most extreme part of -- of your definition or your realization --

Q: Well, he said it. (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know, but -- but let's be -- let's be really clear --

Q: He's -- he's said --


Q: -- "harm" and --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let's be really clear. People having healthcare is important. It saves lives. It is important to have that. The fact that this President was able to expand that is important, right? We're talking about people who didn't have access to -- to healthcare that could -- whether they're dealing with diabetes or cancer or something that is affecting their everyday life. Right?

And I think, you know, when you have a party that is trying to get rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and says it bluntly and wants to repeal -- they tried to repeal affordable healthcare -- or Affordable Care Act, to be more specific, more than 60 times -- they literally voted on it -- when it is saving people's lives. Why? Why do they do that? Why?

Do they not want Americans to have healthcare -- affordable healthcare to protect themselves, to save their lives? I mean, that's the question to be asked.

The President is trying to do the right thing. He's trying to be -- be where majority of Americans are and protect -- protect their healthcare, protect their Medicare, and protect their Medicaid.

And you don't see that from the other side. You just don't.

He literally had a back-and-forth with them during the State of the Union about that. So --

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you.

Q: On the nomination of a Adeel Mangi. There are three Democrats publicly opposed. Do you -- does the administration feel like there are some winnable Republican votes here?

(Cellphone with wind chime ringtone plays.)

And is the administration committed to filling this circuit court position ev- -- by the end of the year, even if that means, you know, moving on from --

(Cellphone with wind chime ringtone plays.)

Q: Please, turn it off.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Somebody's door? I don't know what's happening. A chime?

Q: (Inaudible) turn it off.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Everything okay here?

Q: It's windy. (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's windy.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Q: Go ahead.

Q: It's actually warm.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) But to your question, I'm going to be -- I'm not going to comment or respond to particular members. I will say what I've said many times from here, is that the President is deeply proud to have nominated an extraordinary, qualified person for this position, who is being targeted by malicious attacks. We know that.

We -- we have heard from the Anti-Defamation League. They made that clear. They debunked a right-wing smear campaign against Mr. Mangi. They said it was profoundly wrong. And it is unfortunate that we're seeing this.

And so, we're fighting for him. We are continuing to have conversations with members of Congress about this. We're committed to getting him through. And, you know, we -- again, this President believes that he's highly qualified and is proud to have nominated him to this position.

We have, like, one more question --

Q: Back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- because we're -- we're running out.

Go ahead. Go ahead, Brian. Go ahead, Brian.

Q: Thanks a lot, Karine. I wanted to ask about the Mayorkas impeachment. House Republicans are planning to send articles of impeachment to the Senate. What is the President's response to this? And has the President personally reached out to members of the Senate to talk about this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President spoke -- I think, the last time they tried to do this and were unsuccessful, the President put out a statement, and he said that the history will not look kindly on House Republicans about this.

It is a blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship. That's what the President has said, and he continues to believe that.

Look, the President was in Madison, Wisconsin, yesterday. He talked about student loans. He talked about ways to give Americans a little bit more breathing room, making sure that they can go after their dreams -- right? -- making sure that borrowers who have been really crunched by -- by student loans has an opportunity to get out from that.

And that's something that Republicans could be helpful with. But, instead, they get in the way and s- -- they get in the way and block what the President is doing. But he's going to continue to do that.

There is a national security supplemental that could go to the floor in the -- in Hou- -- in the House, that the Speaker can put to the floor. We know it would pass overwhelmingly. We know that it would protect our national security. It would help Ukraine -- the brave people Ukraine, who are fighting for their democracy -- help them. They are getting in the way of that.

So, look, there -- there are ways. Let's not forget the bipartisan border deal -- right? -- that the former President said to Republicans to reject that deal because it wi- -- it would help Joe Biden and hurt him.

Who -- who are they working for? Are they actually working for the constituents who put them into office? I mean, that's a question for them to -- to have to answer.

Majority of Americans -- the things that I just listed out, majority of Americans want to see action. They want to see us work in a bipartisan way. We saw that coming out of the 2022 midterm election. They want to see us come together and get things done.

So, House Republicans need to stop playing politics. They need to stop being partisan about these issues that matter to majority of Americans and get to work -- and get to work. We expect them to be leaders, but so do Americans expect them to be leaders as well.

Guys, I have to go, because I know they're going to go to the sticks. And I want to make sure that you guys get that.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And so, the President, obviously, is going to have the two-plus-two press conference tomorrow, and then we'll be back on Thursday.

Thanks, everybody.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

Q: Thank you.

3:03 P.M. EDT

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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