Joe Biden

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

May 22, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:21 P.M. EDT

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

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Okay, I have a couple things at the top, and then I'll hand it over to our guest.

Today, we announced that the Biden-Harris administration canceled student debt for an additional 160,000 people, meaning 4.75 million Americans have now benefitted from our debt relief actions, receiving on average $35,000 in debt relief each.

One of those individuals is Tiffany from Oregon. She is the youngest of four children and was raised by a single mom. Tiffany had been repaying her loans since 1994. But thanks to President Biden's leadership, her debt was canceled and she is now excited about what her future holds.

The President will never stop working to provide some more breathing room for Americans like Tiffany, no matter how many times Republican elected officials try to stop him.

As you know, one of the biggest priority of the President is nominating and confirming extraordinarily qualified men and women who are dedicated to our Constitution and who represent the diversity of America.

Thanks to his hard work and our partnership with the Senate, we are at 200 judicial confirmations, which is monumental news for the rule of law and the American people.

These highly qualified individuals have diverse professional backgrounds. They are labor -- labor lawyers, civil rights lawyers, public defenders, served in the U.S. military, and much more. Over 60 percent of our nominees are women, and over 60 percent are people of color. They include Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

We've confirmed more Hispanic judges to circuits -- circuit courts than any previous administration. We've confirmed more Black women to circuit courts than all -- than all previous presidents combined.

And let's remember these judges will rule on issues critical to fundamental freedoms: reproductive healthcare, the freedom to cast ballots, whether workers have the freedom to unionize, whether children have the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

And while these milestones is great news, we know there is more work to be done.

Next, we are praying for those who tragically lost their lives as deadly tornadoes that -- ripped through Iowa. We are also wishing a speedy recovery to those who were injured.

The administration is deeply grateful for first responders who jumped into action to save lives.

We are in touch with state and local officials and stand ready to offer support.

Tomorrow, the FEMA Administrator will travel to Iowa to meet with local officials and affected residents and survey the damage.

In the meantime, residents in affected areas should remain vigilant and heed the advice of state and local officials.

And finally, tomorrow, as you all know, Senate Republicans will have another opportunity to decide whether they want to support the toughest, fairest border security agreement in decades or continue putting their partisan political interests ahead of the nation's security.

Let's not forget: After months of negotiations, we reached a bipartisan agreement that would have delivered the -- the significant policy changes, resources, and personnel needed to secure our border and make our country safer.

That included thousands of additional Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection personnel; technology to catch fentanyl and personnel -- and personnel to go after drug traffickers; asylum officers and immigration judges to improve the processing of asylum cases so they are resolved in a few months and not years; a temporary emergency authority to shut down the border when the system is overwhelmed; and access to lawful immigration pathways while expediting access to work authorization for those who are eligible.

The President is clear about where he stands. He believes we are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.

We can expand lawful immigration pathways, and we can ensure our border is secure and that those who do not have a legal basis to remain are removed.

Time and time again, the American people have shown that they do not want mass raids, family separation, or kids in cages. They want a secure border and lawful immigration opportunities for those seeking to come to America to enrich our country.

That is why President Biden is pushing for and that is what this bipartisan agreement would move us towards.

It's now up to Republicans in Congress. Do you actually want to do something to solve the problem or would you rather use it as a political issue?

With that, I will hand it over to Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, who would give us an update on the visit tomorrow with the Kenyan president (inaudible).

Q: Do you remember what you wanted to say, Jake?

MR. SULLIVAN: I'm not sure what that was in reference to -- (laughter) -- but good afternoon, everybody. Thank you.

The President and First Lady will welcome President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto to the White House for a state visit and dinner tomorrow. The official program will actually begin later today with President Biden and President Ruto sharing some informal private time together and then participating together in a technology and investment roundtable with U.S. and Kenyan CEOs and other business leaders in the East Room.

President Biden is really looking forward to celebrating and deepening our 60-year-old friendship with Kenya as it grows from a regional partnership to a global one.

This is the first state visit by an African head of state in nearly 20 years. It is long overdue. And it's emblematic of the priority that President Biden has placed on our commitment to the people of Africa and to elevating their voices in global governance and global problem-solving.

In December of 2022, the President hosted leaders from across the African continent for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., where, in fact, he first met President Ruto.

President Biden called for the African Union to be able join the G20 as a permanent member. And in September of last year, the G20, in fact, welcomed the African Union as a permanent member.

We've also had a historic number of senior U.S. government leaders travel to the continent. Since 2022, 24 senior officials have travelled to Africa, including the Vice President, the First Lady, and seven members of the President's Cabinet.

Now, as one of our closest strategic partners in Africa, Kenya has worked side by side with the United States to tackle some of the most significant challenges of our time. And over the next few days, you'll see President Biden and President Ruto commit to deepening our partnership on critical and emerging technologies, on improving health, on fighting climate change, on supporting civil society, on enhancing peace and security, and, of course, on enriching the people-to-people ties between the United States and Kenya.

Their statements and their substantive announcements will showcase that our ties -- which are founded on shared democratic values, economic aspiration, and global interests -- deliver in a tangible way for Americans and Kenyans.

Kenya is an emerging technology hub, and so you can expect announcements about new investments and partnership in digital technologies and emerging technologies.

President Ruto has been a leading voice on the challenges that debt poses to developing countries, so you can expect he and President Biden will announce their shared vision on how the international community can step up to mitigate the mounting burden of debt and unleash inclusive growth.

This visit will also highlight Kenya's important role in global peace and security. The U.S.-Kenya partnership, for example, plays a central role in international efforts to defeat al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations. And you can expect further announcements over the course of the visit that enhance our security partnership.

The United States is also firmly committed to supporting Haiti -- excuse me -- Kenya in its deployment to lead the Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti, which will provide much-needed security assistance to the Haitian people. And we appreciate, of course, the strong, principled, consistent stance that Kenya has taken in supporting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Through this visit, which will unfold through a series of events and culminate in the state dinner tomorrow night, we are demonstrating how, as President Biden has said himself, the United States "is all in on Africa and all in with Africa."

Most importantly, we are recognizing our rich history of partnership, friendship, and support for Kenya and focusing on our shared future. This year marks 60 years of partnership with Kenya. We're looking forward to the next 60 and the 60 after that. That's what will be on display in this important and historic state visit.

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

Yeah.

Q: Thanks, Jake. Two on your trip over the weekend to Israel and Saudi Arabia. A senior administration official said yesterday that Israel has addressed many of the U.S. concerns regarding its operation in Rafah. Nine hundred thousand-plus civilians have fled Rafah in recent weeks. Has Israel addressed all of the administration's concerns? Does the U.S. support what Israel is doing in Rafah right now?

MR. SULLIVAN: We had detailed discussions on Rafah during my visit to Israel. These have built on weeks now, as I've discussed with you from this podium, of discussions on a professional basis about Rafah and about how Israel can achieve the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah, while minimizing civilian harm.

I explained to the Prime Minister and other senior Israeli officials the President's clear position. I reiterated that position. I was briefed by Israeli officials and by Israeli professionals on refinements that Israel has made to its plans to achieve its military objectives while taking account of civilian harm.

What we have seen so far in terms of Israel's military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas. We now have to see what unfolds from here. We will watch that, we will consider that, and we will see whether what Israel has briefed us and what they have laid out continues or something else happens.

And one of you asked me the last time I was standing at this podium: How are you going to judge this? And I said that there's no mathematical formula. What we're going to be looking at is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation or if it is more precise and proportional. And we will see that unfold.

And we will obviously remain closely engaged with the Israeli government as we go. That's how we see the situation right now.

Yeah.

Q: Thank you, Jake. Did the U.S. in -- did you, in your meetings, provide any U.S. intelligence about Sinwar's whereabouts?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I think at the root of this question is a story that is just completely wrong -- that somehow we were withholding information from the Israeli government relating to Sinwar or any other Hamas terrorist who was responsible for October 7th.

The fact is that the United States has provided an intense range of assets and capabilities and expertise, which I got briefed on while I was in Israel, to help hunt down and deliver justice to Sinwar and everyone else who brought about October 7th. We have been doing that day in and day out for as long as this conflict has been going on, and we will do it until the job is done.

It's not tied or conditioned on anything else. It is not limited. We are not holding anything back. We are providing every asset, every tool, every capability.

And, frankly, we have some of the best there is in the business on this. And they are hard at work with the Israeli government to help them try to achieve their ultimate objective here.

So, I didn't have anything myself to come add because we've already flowed and supplied everything on a perpetual, ongoing basis through the work that we're doing on the ground right there in Israel. And we'll continue to do that.

Q: Well, I ask because the senior administration official --

Q: Thanks, Jake.

Q: -- had suggested -- which I believe is the administration's view -- that until Hamas is fully held to account that the peace process and any two-state solution could not go forward. Do you see Israel being able to deliver on that? And then do you see Israel accepting a two-state solution?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I -- you know, I'd have to refer you to the Israeli government about their position with respect to the future of a Palestinian state or the Palestinian question. I can just state to you what the U.S. position is. And it's been longstanding. President Biden believes that a two-state solution that guarantees Israel's security and also a future of dignity and security for the Palestinian people is the best way to bring about long-term security and stability for everyone in the region: Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs.

And he has talked about a regional vision of Israel actually being integrated with all of the moderate Arab states in an architecture that can deliver regional stability.

And I was in Saudi Arabia talking to the Crown Prince about that exact vision this weekend. And you saw public statements from him about what is possible if Israel moves down that path.

So, that's a conversation we'll continue to have with the Israeli government. In the meantime, what we will do is work to ensure the enduring defeat of Hamas and a day after in Gaza that involves governance and security not provided by Hamas but by an alternative that ultimately gets us on a credible pathway to that two-state solution that President Biden has talked about.

Q: Thank you, Jake.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.

Q: About the three nations -- European nations recognizing a Palestinian state. Is the U.S. concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg -- that we're now at a point where other nations, over U.S. objections, will recognize Palestine?

MR. SULLIVAN: Each country is entitled to make its own

determinations. But the U.S. position on this is clear.

President Biden, as I just said, has been on the record supporting a two-state solution. He has been equally emphatic on the record that that two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not through unilateral recognition. That's a principled position that we have held on a consistent basis. We'll communicate that to our partners around the world, and we'll see what unfolds.

Yeah.

Q: Just a sort of quick follow-up on that. How concerned are you about Israel's growing, sort of, diplomatic isolation? And do you view it that way? And what does this also mean for, you know, any deal -- any Saudi deal to recognize Israel going forward? I mean, does this diminish the chances of that?

MR. SULLIVAN: I think it's a fair question. As -- as a country that stands strong in defense of Israel in international forums like the United Nations, we certainly have seen a growing chorus of voices, including voices that had previously been in support of Israel, drift in another direction. That is of concern to us because we do not believe that that contributes to Israel's long-term security or vitality.

And so, that's something that we discussed with the Israeli government and something that we believe that a strategic approach to defeating Hamas, protecting civilians, surging humanitarian assistance, and then pursuing that vision of regional integration I just talked about will put Israel in the best stead to engage countries around the world and revitalize a lot of the partnerships and friendships that have been a source of great strength for Israel over time and can be again.

Yeah.

Q: Thank you, Jake. You just said that there's no mathematical formula as you evaluate Israel's offense of Rafah. But the administration repeatedly has said that the U.S. will not support a large-scale ground invasion. So, how do you define "large-scale ground invasion"?

And then, secondly, has the President's broken promise to visit Africa created any challenges as you try to deepen relationships with the countries there?

MR. SULLIVAN: The President would really look forward to visiting Africa. He intends to do so as President of the United States. I obviously don't have anything to announce today. But if you look at the breadth of his personal engagement on this issue, including being a president -- the first in 20 years to actually host an African leader for a state visit here -- I think it shows -- along with the specific, tangible policy actions that he has taken, including most recently, by the way, an -- an overlooked part of the -- the national security supplemental was funding, actually, to help emerging economies, including in Africa -- you know, his record will stand for himself.

And -- and we believe that what today will showcase is not questions about the U.S. commitment but answers that the U.S. is actually delivering for Africa, for the African people -- in this case, for the country of Kenya but also with Kenya for the broader continent.

In terms of how we look at Rafah, as I've said before, the key concern that we have is major maneuvers into -- into dense urban areas. And that continues to be something that we will look at. What we have seen so far has not been that. What unfolds in the coming days is something that we will -- will review closely day by day. And we'll continue to take briefings from Israel about how they re- -- are refining their approach, in part based on concerns that we have expressed to them.

So, this is something that will be a continuing source of engagement and conversation bet- -- between the two of us. And I'll keep you posted as we assess how things are unfolding.

Yeah.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Israel is responding to the move to recognize Palestinian statehood by withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority. What do you make of this decision and -- and the economic impact that it could have?

MR. SULLIVAN: I think it's wrong. I think it's wrong on a strategic basis because withholding funds destabilizes the West Bank. It undermines the search for security and prosperity for the Palestinian people, which is in Israel's interests. And I think it's wrong to withhold funds that provide basic goods and services to innocent people.

So, from our perspective, those funds should continue to go with all of the -- the necessary safeguards, but they should continue to flow.

Q: And, also, Leader Schumer is in talks with the Speaker to invite Netanyahu to come and address Congress. Does the President support the Prime Minister delivering an address like this at this time?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, we have not at this point heard from the Prime Minister on a joint address to the Congress. The President talks to the Prime Minister -- in fact, he just talked to him not too long ago. Senior administration officials engage with him. I just did so over the weekend. So, we'll stay in touch with the Prime Minister, and, obviously, we'll stay in touch with the Congress and -- and see what happens.

Yeah.

Q: Japan hosts the largest number of U.S. forces overseas, and the Pri- -- Prime Minister was just here -- the previous Prime Minister was just here. And with all these wars breaking out, there is great concern on what China is doing in the region. And there's been reports that there are U.S. military in Taiwan for the first time since 1979. Can you confirm that at all?

MR. SULLIVAN: I don't know what that report is. I know nothing about it. So, I can't speak to it.

Q: Also, I just need to fol- -- also, been waiting for an interview with Japanese media, so if that was possible.

MR. SULLIVAN: An interview with Japanese media?

Q: There hasn't been an interview with any of the Japanese media yet. So --

MR. SULLIVAN: The President has given a press conference in Tokyo and answered questions from the Japanese media.

Yeah.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thanks, Jake. Two questions. One, does the administration support the Republican push of sanctioning the ICC after the recent arrest warrant applications? And, if so, what would that mean?

And then, also, I wanted to ask you: After your trip to Israel this weekend, do you feel -- I guess, could you characterize how you feel about the Israeli exit strategy from -- for ending the war in totality?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the question related to the ICC, we're in consultations on a bipartisan, bicameral basis with the Hill on all of the options for how to respond to what the ICC has just done. We haven't made any determinations. When we do, we'll be sure to let you know.

And then your second question was?

Q: Was after the trip to Israel this weekend, do you feel like the Israeli government has a path towards ending the war? And what do you see as their exit strategy?

MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I'm going to let them speak to their exit strategy. What I will say is what I've said from this podium before: We believe the only way to defeat Hamas and lead to Israel's long-term security is connect the military effort to a holistic, integrated strategy for defeat of Hamas and securing all of the other objectives that we've discussed. That's something that we think Israel could be clearer about publicly as well as privately, and we'll continue to work on that.

But the most important thing is not really what I think. It's that you're hearing senior voices inside the Israeli system speak to these issues. And -- and that debate, we think, is a healthy debate, because at the end of the day, we know from our own experience that military force alone is not going to get the job done. It needs to be a holistic strategy.

Yeah.

Q: Jake, you talked about one of the key objectives, of course, is the provision of humanitarian aid and food to the people of Gaza. The Pentagon, within the last 24 hours, said that they did not believe that any of the aid from the pier, where the construction was led by the United States military, has been received by the people of Gaza to this point. Your thoughts on that?

Given this, has this been a failure? How do we fix this situation? And was the U.S. insufficiently prepared to utilize this as a means by which to deliver aid?

MR. SULLIVAN: First, just to level-set: Since Saturday, the U.N. has in fact distributed humanitarian supplies from the pier to Palestinian civilians in Deir al-Balah, in al-Mawasi, and in Khan Yunis. So --

Q: So, aid from the pier has now gone specifically to the Palestinians who need it?

MR. SULLIVAN: That's correct. And there's been about 695 metric tons of food that has come off the pier so far. About two thirds of that either has gone or is on its way to going to Palestinian civilians.

The issue is not actually getting food to the pier or off the pier; it's being able to ensure that we have necessary security arrangements in place to deliver it. We have had modalities to get some of that aid distributed. We are in the process of building out to get more of it distributed.

So, the answer to your initial question is, no, it's not a failure of planning. Yes, it is an ind- -- indication this is a dynamic environment and we need to continue to refine. But aid is flowing. It is not flowing at the rate that any of us would be happy with, because we always want more.

But we are actually seeing good cooperation between the U.S., the IDF, the U.N., and other humanitarian organizations to ensure that aid goes from that pier to innocent people in need. And we'll continue to do that as we go forward.

Q: Can I just follow up quickly on this situation in Iran? Obviously, we're within the five days of mourning after the loss of two of the key leaders in that country right now -- the mourning led by the Ayatollah there. Obviously, there were initially concerns that the U.S. may somehow be blamed, but the U.S. claims no responsibility, obviously, for the crash of this helicopter.

Can you give us any better understanding of if there are concerns that the U.S. is facing or you've been satisfied with the way Iran has sort of characterized things in the days since then? Is there a -- is there any reason for concern right now?

MR. SULLIVAN: All I can say is we had nothing to do with it. And if at any point Iran tries to accuse us of having anything to do with it, we will push back extremely strongly, directly, and vociferously.

Yeah.

Q: Thanks, Jake. The UK's Defense Minister said today that the U.S. and the UK has evidence that China could be providing lethal aid to Russia. Can you speak to that at all (inaudible)?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, going back to 2022, I've actually stood at this podium and warned about my concern that China might provide weapons -- direct lethal assistance to Russia. We didn't see that in 2022. We didn't see that in 2023. We have not seen that to date.

I look forward to speaking with the UK to make sure that we have a common operating picture. We have had one; we've been on the same page. So, I just want to understand better what -- what exactly that comment was referring to.

What I would point out is that just recently we have been articulating, in quite urgent terms, our concern about what China is doing to fuel Russia's war machine -- not giving weapons directly, but providing inputs to Russia's defense industrial base. That is happening. That is something we're concerned about.

We've taken action to deal with that in a concerted way with our allies and partners, and you can expect more of that action in the period ahead.

Q: And will the President go to the peace summit next month in Switzerland? He would be the only G7 leader who has not accepted that invitation.

MR. SULLIVAN: I don't have any announcements on that today.

What I will say is that I've personally engaged in preparations for that summit, as of others in our government, and, you know, we've been a key player in helping drive forward a vision of peace that includes Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principles the U.N. Charter.

But I can't make any announcements today about the President's travel.

Yeah.

Q: Can I go back to Africa for two questions? On --

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, you may. (Laughter.)

Q: There you go.

On President Ruto, the -- there has been a -- he has a kind of checkered past. If you look back a decade or so, he was a defendant at the International Criminal Court over actions taken after an election there. And then, more recently, there are folks who -- who express concerns about some authoritarian moves in the country. Is that something that the President will raise with -- that President Biden will raise with his counterpart during this visit or something that causes any concern on the part of the administration?

MR. SULLIVAN: We've seen robust and vigorous democracy in Kenya in recent years. But, of course, we will continue to express our view about the ongoing need to nurture democratic institutions across the board: an independent judiciary; a non-corrupt economy; credible, free, and fair elections.

And these kinds of principles are things the President will share, but he's not here to lecture President Ruto. President Ruto, in fact, is somebody who just was in Atlanta speaking about these issues. And we will invest in Kenya's democratic institutions, in its civil society, in all walks of Kenyan life to help make sure that the basic foundations of Kenyan democracy remain strong.

Q: And then just one follow-up on today. You mentioned that there might be some announcements on investment and the like during the visit. Do you anticipate any announcements being made today after the discussion -- either before or after or during the discussion with the CEOs?

MR. SULLIVAN: I would just say "stay tuned." If they're not made later today, they'll be made tomorrow morning. So, it will be one of the two, and you'll -- you'll have them soon enough.

Yeah.

Q: Thank you. Spain, Ireland, and Norway -- they have said that their decision to recognize a Palestinian state is because they want to contribute to the peace process, to a ceasefire. So, what is your view on that? Does this contribute to the process? And if so, will this affect (inaudible) relationship of the United States with these countries?

MR. SULLIVAN: I have not heard the logic for how it contributes. What I can tell you is we believe the only way that you are going to achieve a two-state solution that delivers for both Israelis and Palestinians, is through direct negotiations between the parties. That's what we've been focused on. That's what we've been driving towards.

And that's what a larger regional strategy -- engaging Arab states to try to generate momentum in that direction -- that's why it's been such a focus of President Biden from the beginning, not just post-October 7th.

But you'd have to ask them how they connect the unilateral recognition to actual progress on a peace process or a ceasefire, because I've not seen how that logic actually plays out.

Yeah.

Q: Thank you, Jake. Israel's National Security Minister went today to the (inaudible) of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is (inaudible)of what Sharon did in 2000. I'm sure you remember that.

Do you see this as provocation? Do you condemn this as a way to cause unrest in Israel, Jerusalem, and in the West Bank?

And I have another question.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, I have not seen what he did and therefore do not want to comment on it prematurely.

What I'll do is go check out what exactly unfolded today, and then we'll have comment for you as a result of that.

Q: Okay. And allow me to press you on what you said about the -- you refer us to the Israelis on the two-state solution. With due respect, this sounds like an easy answer, because the President's vision is dependent on the two-state solution. The President's vision is -- and the leverage -- is all on the Israelis to make them closer to hi- -- to what he wants to achieve. American national security is dependent on that -- whether it's with the Houthis in Yemen, the militias in Iraq, or the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

So, it is vital for you to use all the leverage to convince the Israelis. So, how can you tell us, "Well, go and ask the Israelis, because if they said no, then that's no, but this is our vision"? How can you see the two sides -- their vision and your vision -- as not contradictory?

MR. SULLIVAN: The two sides' vision --

Q: The Israeli vision of complete denial and rejection of a Palestinian state and your vision -- the President's vision of, like, the only way that you have secure Israel is to have a two-state solution. And hence, you have all these countries unilaterally recognizing the state of Palestine.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, look, I think I said at this podium not too long ago that diplomacy is a thousand days of failure and one day of success. Maybe in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's even more than a thousand days, since across multiple administrations, multiple decades.

And, by the way, this is not just a U.S. issue. Arab states believe in the two-state solution. European states believe in a --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. SULLIVAN: -- two-state solution. The world believes in it. So, this is not a bilateral issue between the U.S. and Israel.

And, of course, we make our views known. And, of course, we press on the diplomatic front on this. But at the end of the day, what the United States can do through hard gumshoe diplomacy -- led by the President, the Secretary of State, myself, others -- is try to put the pieces in place for a vision of an integrated region, of a secure Israel, of a two-state solution -- put all those pieces in place and show that for the long-term strength and vitality of the Jewish, democratic state of Israel, this is what's required.

Israel is a sovereign nation. It will ultimately have to decide what it does. What we can do as a friend is try to put the pieces in place to drive down that road. That's what the President has done throughout his career. It's what he's done as president. And it's what we'll continue to do.

Yeah.

Q: Thanks, Jake. We reported this morning that the Kenyan government has yet to submit paperwork -- necessary documentation to the U.N. Security Council on the MSS with details on the sequencing of deployment, details on the intended end state of the mission, and -- and rules of engagement as well. Are you confident that Kenya is prepared to answer those questions?

And specifically on rules of engagement: What do you want to see of the mission and specifically of Kenyan leadership?

MR. SULLIVAN: I am confident that Is- -- that Israel -- (laughs) -- too many countries -- that Kenya is prepared to carry out what it has set forth with respect to this multinational security support mission.

And it's not just going to be Kenya. It's going to be Kenya leading with a range of other countries, with the United States providing a considerable amount of financial and logistical support and a certain backbone to all of it.

Obviously, i- -- this is not something that, you know, is a completely straight line. It is a dynamic operating environment, to say the least, in Haiti. And this is going to require an adaptive, flexible approach, but one guided by certain core functions and operations.

Ha- -- Kenya has laid that out. It's worked that out in close collaboration with the United States. And it has consulted closely with the U.N. on this along the way.

So, with respect to whatever particular report or forms are necessary to file, that's one thing. In terms of whether the substance of the operation is well understood by Kenya, the partners in the United States, I believe it is. And we expect the deployments to unfold in the not-too-distant future.

In terms of rules of engagement, the key thing here is that this multinational security support mission is exactly that: a support mission. A support mission of the institutions of the Haitian state, not a replacement for it. That is the core proposition behind it. And that's what it's going to carry out.

Yeah.

Q: Thanks. Do you have a reaction to the British Prime Minister calling a general election for July 4th? Were you surprised to see that today?

MR. SULLIVAN: I confess that I was surprised to see it today, because I think it was not an expected announcement. But I don't have any real comment on it, because I'll leave it to the UK to deal with their politics while, of course, the United States deals with its politics.

We have a very strong -- maybe that's an understatement -- partnership and alliance with the UK, regardless of elections, regardless of prime ministers. So, you know, we wish them luck in the conduct of their election. And we'll be here as the United States standing with the UK through it all.

Q: Is the President going to meet with the Prime Minister at the G7? And -- and does this change anything given that the election will be two weeks later?

MR. SULLIVAN: Honestly, I heard about this two hours ago. So, I'm not sure exactly what it's going to mean from the point of view of the UK at the -- at the G7 summit.

What I can tell you is that we didn't have a specific bilateral plan. But, of course, he's going to sit around that roundtable with that small group of G7 leaders. And, you know, I assume the UK Prime Minister will be there, and they'll be talking about substance, not politics. So, that's not going to change anything in terms of the agenda of the summit.

I'll take one more question.

Yeah.

Q: Thanks, Jake. I have a China-related question. So, Secretary Yellen is in Europe encouraging European allies to work with the United States to counter China's overcapacity and the trade practice. What is the objective and the action plan for that?

And, also, China just announced a sanction against former Congressman Mike Gallagher, who just resigned last month. And he had been critic to the Communist Party, also a supporter of Taiwan.

Also today, China announced another sanction against 12 U.S. defense companies and its employees for selling weapons to Taiwan. What is the administration's position on China sanctioning U.S. congress- -- congressional members, companies, and citizens?

MR. SULLIVAN: We oppose all of those sanctions, full stop, four square. Simple as that.

With respect to the overcapacity issue, we've been very clear and the President has been clear, as well as Secretary Yellen, Lael Brainard, and others and -- and Daleep Singh have all spoken articulately to this challenge being not a challenge that's bilateral between the U.S. and China -- it is a global challenge.

China's distorted practices, nonmarket economic practices, subsidizing at dramatic scale industries where they are going to produce so much quantity of good and then flood the global markets with it threatens to create global imbalances that are not stabilizing.

That's why it's not surprising that you've seen countries in Latin America, countries in Europe, countries in Asia, and, of course, the United States step up and say, "We've got to look at this and take countermeasures to this."

And I think what the Secretary is hoping to do at the G7, building up to the summit in Italy, is to get a common picture of what the nature of the challenge is, get a common understanding of what the tools to deal with it are, and also a common understanding of how we engage with China in a dialogue on these questions to express our concerns and indicate that we need to take steps to defend ourselves.

That's what the intent is. That's what we hope to do.

Thank you all very much.

Q: One in the back, Jake.

MR. SULLIVAN: And I'll talk to you soon.

Q: One in the back.

Q: Thank you, Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jake.

Q: The last three rows send their regards, Jake.

Q: Question from an African journalist (inaudible) about Africa.

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

So, I know we don't have too much time because I know the First Lady's Office is holding a press event, and we promised her that -- we promised their office that would be done before then so all of you can have an opportunity to attend that.

But, Zeke -- so, we have a couple minutes.

Q: A couple follow-ups on Jake.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.

Q: He said the President intends to visit Africa while he is president. There are less than eight months until Inauguration Day. So, should we expect a visit be- -- of the President to the African continent between now and January 20th, 2025?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- and as Jake also said as -- in his answers, we don't have anything to announce at this time. (Laughter.) But -- but the President's -- he -- ob- --obviously, while he's president, he would like to keep that commitment and indeed make a visit to Africa. I just don't have anything to announce at this time.

Q: And then on one of your favorite topics: the Hatch Act.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)

Q: The Office of Special Counsel indicated that they would begin working to enforce the Hatch Act on White House employees. Is that something that this White House is supportive of?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'll say this. We are reviewing -- reviewing the opinion. Obviously, that -- that just occurred. I do want to note a couple of things -- that, as recently as November of 2021, the Office of Special Counsel stated that, and I quote, "significant constitutional concerns would be raised by referring White House commissioned officers to the Merit System Protection Board" -- this is the MSPB -- "for discipline."

And for decades -- we have to remember this as well -- OSC's practice with respect to Hatch Act matters involving White House commissioned officers has been to refer those matters to the President for discipline. That's what's been going on for decades now. So -- and that is also what OSC has said was legally required in 2021.

So, we're not aware of any changes in the -- in the law eliminating that requirement. But obviously, we're going to review that opinion. Just don't have anything to share at this time.

Q: That sounds like a no.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I'm going to leave it to my White House Counsel's Office colleagues.

Q: So, does that mean you're now more free to talk about all sorts of --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I wish.

Q: -- political matters? Because the Hatch Act apparently --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I wish. (Laughter.) I think --

Q: -- doesn't seem to be enforceable on you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I wish. I just don't have anything to share at -- at this time. But obviously, we're going to review the opinion. I -- I wish. I wish I could. I wish I could.

Go ahead.

Q: Has the President spoken to any of the governors in the Midwest who are dealing with a lot of this severe weather?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: And can you just discuss a bit any of the coordination that's going on between the White House and these states in terms of cleanup and recovery?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you heard me at the top mention how -- you know, how we are -- obviously, folks are in our thoughts and how devastating it's been with these extreme weather and what it's led to. And obviously, people have left -- lost their lives. And so, it's devastating to hear.

The President continues to be kept updated on what's happening in different states. Obviously, we just -- I just talked about Iowa at the top. And he has been -- I know he has had conversations with leadership on the ground. I know that, obviously, the FEMA Administrator has been all hands on deck -- Dea- -- Deanne Criswell -- and talking to folks on the ground as well.

I don't have anything to -- to read out on specific calls. But we are here to help, as we have -- as we have done over the past three years when these types of disasters occur. And we'll continue to be -- be here to help in any way that is needed. And so, I just don't have anything in detail or specifics to share.

But obviously, our hearts go out to folks who are recovering and folks who have lost loved ones. It is devastating to see.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q: The RNC headquarters is reporting that it received blood vials today. Right now, obviously, that's under investigation, but this White House has been very clear in the past about aggressively condemning political violence, intimidation of any kind. Will you do the same, given these circumstances?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will do the same as I have done many times before. As you just stated, the -- the Capitol Police is looking into this, so I would le- -- leave it to them to investigate what's going on. It is concerning. We have obviously seen the report.

And we are going to do what we've con- -- consistently have done from here is condemn any political violence, threats, or intimidation. That has no place in any community and certainly in our political discourse. And it is important that we continue to repeat that -- that that has no place in our politics, no place anywhere.

And so, we certainly condemn any form of --

Q: You --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- any form of threats.

Q: You opened today's briefing by talking about the latest student loan cancellations for -- I think we said -- what did we say in total? -- 4.75 million Americans.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, yeah.

Q: Now I think it's 160,000 in this latest round. Mike Johnson, the Republican House Speaker, today described this as a massive "wealth transfer" for Americans who did not attend college to those who did, and he described it as a shameful play to buy more votes six months before an election.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I will say to con- -- congressional member Mike Johnson -- obviously, the Speaker -- is that what is shameful is that Republicans continue to get in the way of helping us deliver a little bit of breathing room for Americans who deserve that opportunity, who deserve -- you heard me talk about -- about Tiffany, the young woman who -- who --

One of the things that people should know, and if -- if you don't, is that when folks are -- are receiving these -- these debt relief announcements from the President, they have an opportunity to tell their story. They have an opportunity to -- to say why this matters to them. And we're talking about millions of Americans who now have an opportunity to start a life, have an opportunity to move forward in a way that -- where they can reach that American Dream or reach whatever it is that they wanted to do not just for themselves but for their fa- -- for their family.

So, we believe -- and the President is not going to walk away from doing that. He believes it's an important commitment that he made to -- to Americans. It is a broken system. It is a broken system.

Q: I guess the question, though, is --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: -- what, then, is the White House's message to those Americans who did not attend college -- for a variety of reasons, perhaps, including perhaps that they didn't want to take on all the debt that went with it right now -- that they feel like, in some form, they are responsible for allowing those who did not to pay their fair share?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, here's the thing. This is a president who has been very clear about re- -- making sure that he's building the economy that leaves no one behind -- right? -- making sure that --

Q: Are those people being left behind --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, no, but -- but --

Q: -- the ones who didn't get support --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But --

Q: -- because they didn't go to college?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear your question, but this is -- if you look at what the President has done mo- -- holistically over the past three and a half years, he has tried to build an economy for everyone. This is one part of his economic policy.

When you think about creating -- creating 15 million jobs, many of those jobs, if you think about the different -- different legislation that he's (inaudible) passed into law -- whether it's the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the CHIPS and Science Act -- it's creating jobs that are good union-paying jobs that -- where you don't need a college education -- right? -- where you can make six figures and actually have that opportunity to start your family.

He is creating an economy from the bottom up, middle out -- making sure that the millionaires, the billionaires, and corporations are paying their fair sha- -- fair share, right? Not like Republicans in Congress who want to give them a tax giveaway.

So, he's trying to make sure -- this is one part of his economic policy, but as he's thinking forward, as he's looking at all Americans, all communities, he wants to make sure that there is an economy that doesn't leave -- again, doesn't leave anybody behind, and as -- historically that trickle-down economics does not work. And he does not want to see that.

So, we have given opportunities, and we want to continue to give opportunities for folks who feel like they need a little bit more help.

Q: Then, I guess, just to put a fine point on it right now --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: -- for the 4.7 million Americans who have received this debt relief, the average, as you said at the start of this visit was --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, about 35.

Q: -- $35,000, their relief has been for. So, I guess why don't those individuals who didn't receive $35,000 in debt cancellation deserve a $35,000 check from other Americans for what other means they would want to use it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You're talking about the --

Q: Those people who didn't go to college so they're

not getting debt relief -- the $35,000 that they don't get because --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean --

Q: -- they didn't go.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- we're talking about folks who are in debt who are literally being crushed -- literally being crushed because they took an -- they took -- you know, they took --

Q: They're not literally being crushed. Let's be s- --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Financially. Okay? Is that okay with you? Okay. Bu- --

Q: Literally means "literally."

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I know. But crushed financially.

And -- and so, they're trying to get their lives back on track, right? They're trying to get into a place, because they took -- they took a bet on themselves in a different way -- right? -- a bet of sel- -- on themselves in going to college.

And some of them, it is difficult to do that. Right? And they did that. Financially, it's hurt them, and we want to give them that breathing room.

But it's not just folks who have debt because of colleges. We're trying to help people in different -- in different communities as well. Folks who don't have to get that college degree and can get -- make six-figure salary. That is one of the things that the President was very proud of when he passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure legislation, when he signed the CHIPS and Science Act. Those are really important components of what he's trying to do as well.

Let's -- if you think about making sure healthcare -- healthcare is more affordable, getting that prescription drugs -- many for diabetes, for cancer -- making sure that those costs are lower -- insulin.

So, there are many ways that the President has made sure that Americans have what they need to move forward with their lives, create and build a family where they're -- they feel like they're going after their dreams as well.

And so, look, I -- you know, we want to make sure that -- again, the student loan piece is one part -- one part of the President's economic policy. And the President is not going to step away from it. He's not going to back down, because he believes it's the right thing to do.

Q: Thank you.

AIDE: Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know we have to wrap up.

Go ahead, Michael.

Q: One on the border.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Just -- I'm not sure -- forgive me if you've addressed this already, but the five Americans who are being held in Turks and Caicos on charges related to allegedly bringing shell casings in their -- in their luggage. They're facing 12 years in prison. Do you have a comment, and do you have a message for the (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I want to be super mindful. That's an ongoing -- ongoing case here, so I don't want to comment from here. So, I don't have anything to add beyond what's being reported out there.

Go ahead, Jared.

Q: On the border vote that's expected in --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: -- in the Senate tomorrow. I guess two questions related to that. One, can you kind of explain the timing of how this came together? I mean, are there developments that you are more optimistic this will be more successful than it was last time?

And if it is not, does the President intend to try and reengage Republicans and Democrats to come up with a new agreement before November's election?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, it's up to -- it's up to Republicans in Congress if this is going to be successful or not. As I stated, it took several months to come to this bipartisan agreement, obviously, coming out of the Senate.

It is -- we have said over and over again: We believe, if the President has an opportunity to sign this into law, it will be the toughest and the fairest legislation to deal with a broken immigration system that has been broken for decades. And we have not seen a legislation like this in some time. And so, we believe it's important to move that forward.

On day one, the President put forth a comprehensive immigration legislation. Nothing happened for three and a half years. And so, we -- you know, we got to work. And at the beginning of this year, we were able to make something happen. And we want it to see moving. We want it to see happening.

The majority of Americans care about this issue. They care about what's going on at the border. They care about fixing immigration.

And they have to do their jobs. Right? This is something -- an opportunity for legislators, for Congress to do something that Americans care about. So, we're going to let that process play out. The vote happens tomorrow.

We've been very clear. We could not be more clearer on how we want this to be moved forward. We could not be more clearer how important it was to us that the President and his team worked on this for months.

Q: But does the President want to see a new deal -- if this doesn't --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There is a deal right there. There is a deal --

Q: I mean, if it fails, and it doesn't move forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I'm not going to get ahead. I'm not going to speculate on what's going to happen tomorrow.

But there is literally a bipartisan deal that was worked on for months that can start dealing with this issue. There is.

And why do we need a new deal when there's one right there that they negotiated on? With our help, obviously. We were -- we were a part of that. But there is one. There is a deal that could deal with the broken immigration system and the challenges at the border. They should move forward on it.

Q: Is he considering --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Just --

Q: -- an executive order on the border?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Just wanted to follow up on the student loan debt forgiveness.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.

Q: In the announcement, the Under Secretary of Education said, "We congratulate those borrowers on their due forgiveness." I'm just wondering why people who take out a loan to go to school, then go to school -- why are they due forgiveness?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Everybody has a different story as to why they need student loans. Everybody has a different reasoning as to why they want to go to college. I cannot speak for everyone. What I --

Q: But why is forgiveness due to them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we're -- what we have been very clear about is the system -- the student loan system needs to be fixed. The President is trying to do that and fix it in a way where people are not feeling that crushing financial burden that they have to -- they deal with when they leave college.

Q: And --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And that is something that they shouldn't have to -- they should be given a little bit of breathing room. That is something that --

Q: Does the administration --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: By the way, that's something that a majority of Americans agree on -- to be given a little bit of breathing room so that they can --

Q: Our polls show more than half disagree with using --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that's one poll.

Q: -- tax dollars to --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's one poll. That's one poll.

Q: But a follow-up question, if you will.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.

Q: Does the administration think that student loan debt cancellation contributes to inflation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we believe is student debt cancellation gives an opportunity for Americans to start a life, to buy a house, to start a family. That adds to the economy. That is also important to the economy.

And it gives, again, a little bit of breathing room so that they can actually take action and do things that -- that they've wanted to do -- whether it's going after a dream; whether, again, it's starting a family; whether it's buying house. That matters. That matters to many, many Americans.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Thank you, Karine. On the border bill. Schumer isn't even allowing amendments, and this exact text failed before. So, how can this be seen as anything other than a cynical attempt to try to show Americans that Democrats care about the border?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I don't know how cynical -- I don't understand how that would be cynical when it sounds like Senator Schumer is trying to do his job and move forward a piece of legislation that had bipartisan support, that was a -- that was negotiated in a bipartisan way that majority of Americans care about.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He's trying to move that forward on behalf of not just -- obviously, not just of what the negotiators wanted to get done in that bipartisan way but also this is something that the American people want to see. They want Congress to take action on this particular issue.

I'm not sure how cynic- -- why that would be cynical.

Q: Well, because this exact text failed, and he's not allowing for any changes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm going to let Senator Schumer do -- do the work and move that forward. It is his decision to make that decision. We support it, obviously. We've been very clear about supporting that, about wanting to see that negotiation -- that plan move forward. We want to see that happen. We want to see that happen.

Now it's up to Rebub -- Republicans to decide -- to decide if they want to deal with this issue that matters, again, to majority of Americans.

Q: You opened the briefing by saying it's up to Republicans to do something to solve the problem or continue to use it as a political issue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: The President has the authority to do something about this unilaterally. Congress is in a divided government right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But why --

Q: Why isn't he doing anything?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But why should he have to do it unilaterally? Why -- why shouldn't we do it in a legislative way?

And let's not forget. That negotiate- --

Q: He took unilateral action before to --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. But --

Q: -- undo some of --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait. So, you're right. He took many executive actions before. But in order to deal with what's happening at the border, in order to deal with a broken immigration system, you need law, you need legislation, you need to ha- -- it to happen in a bipartisan way.

And there was negotia- -- it was negotiated. There was an agreement in the Senate. Republicans and Democrats came together -- you just said it's a broken -- it's broken -- it's divided, to be more clear -- and they came and they did that. And so, that matters.

We've been able, during this past three and a half years, to move forward in a bipartisan way on many legislation. So, this one is important. Why can't we do that here?

Q: Well, just because of the framework through which it's coming up again -- again, not allowing for any changes; no indication this vote is going to be any different; and it looks like, if anything, bringing up this vote again and setting it up to fail, again, is really just an indication that Democrats know that they're vulnerable on this issue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here's what I'll say is that I'm going to leave it to Senator Schumer. I'm going to lead it -- leave it to Senate leadership to speak to the votes, to speak through the process and how they're going to move forward. That is literally something for them to talk about.

What I will say is it is long past time to get this done, to get this moving. We were able to get a bipartisan negotiation -- a plan forward on an issue that many Americans care about, an issue that matters for our immigration system, for what's happening at the border. And that's a good thing.

And so, Senator Schumer -- and we support this -- wants to move this forward. We want to see this move forward as well.

The senator is -- is very good at this. He's very good at dealing with big legislation, obviously, as we've been able to move important legislation through over the past three and a half years. So, I'm going to let him speak to that.

Q: One last one on a different topic.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I really have to go.

Q: On the ICC. You said that the administration is working with Congress in a bipartisan way on this ICC arrest warrant issue. Is the administration willing to implement any visa bans or place sanctions on --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So --

Q: -- ICC officials?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- I'll say this. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan literally was just asked a question about this. I don't have anything else to add. We are in conversations on the Hill -- he said this -- in a bicameral way, in a bipartisan way. Don't have anything to announce. We've been very clear on where we stand on ICC.

Thank you so much, guys.

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 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/372228

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