Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby

November 20, 2023

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:38 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, where is everybody? Oh, it's holidays.

Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon, everybody.

Q: Good afternoon!

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Happy Monday. All right. This Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for. While inflation caused by the pandemic and Russia's war continues to be a challenge, we have seen important progress.

Just in a time -- just in time for holiday travel, gas prices are down $1.70 from their peak, airline tickets are down 13 percent over the last year, and car rentals are down about 10 percent.

And as we start preparing our Thanksgiving meals, grocery inflation is at its lowest level in over two years, with prices for eggs, milk, bacon, and fresh veggies lower than last year.

In fact, according to the American Farm Bureau, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner fell this year. Prices are down for turkey, stuffing, peas, cranberries, pie crust, and whipping cream.

We had a big discussion about whipping cream in the back. (Laughter.) It was like -- I don't know what "whipping cream" is. I know "whipped cream" but not "whipping cream." Anyway.

Because wages are rising, this Thanksgiving dinner is the fourth-cheapest ever as a percentage of average earnings.

Finally, as we look ahead to holi- -- to holiday shopping, since last year, prices for toys are down about 4 percent, used cars and trucks are down 7 percent, and TVs are down 9 percent.

Lowering costs for Americans continues to be the President's top economic priority. From strengthening supply -- supply chains, to lowering energy and healthcare costs, to cracking down on price gouging by ba- -- banning hidden junk fees, President Biden's policy will continue bringing relief to American families.

Meanwhile, instead of lowering costs for middle-class families, congressional Republicans are trying to lower costs for the wealthy and special interests -- lower taxes, to be more exact -- including big corporations that are fighting tooth and nail to stop the President's efforts to ban junk fees.

Now, today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we grieve the 26 transgender Americans who were killed this year. Year after year, we see that these victims are disproportionately Black women and women of color. No one should face violence, live in fear, or be discriminated against simply for being themselves.

As the President said, there's still more to do to meet the promise. And it's why this administration has taken urgent action to strengthen rights and protect the safety of transgender Americans and all LGBTQ+ Americans.

As we mourn the loss of lives that have been taken too soon, we must also recommit ourselves to never stop fighting until all Americans can live free from discrimination and also from hate.

With that, Admiral John Kirby is here today to take any questions that you may have, obviously, on the foreign policy front and to give any updates that we have on the Middle East.


MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.

MR. KIRBY: You all right there?


Q: What happened?

MR. KIRBY: Let's just move right to the topper. (Laughter.)

So, today, I think you know, Secretary Austin is in Kyiv to meet with Ukraine's leaders and reinforce our staunch support for Ukraine's fight for freedom against Russia's brutal invasion.

The Secretary underscored President Biden's abiding commitment to provide Ukraine with the weapons and equipment that it needs to retake its sovereign territory and defend itself.

Now, in Kyiv, Secretary Austin announced a new security assistance package using previously authorized presi- -- presidential drawdown authorities. It includes Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and additional HIMARS systems, additional

HIMARS ammunition, 155 millimeter and 105 millimeter artillery rounds, Javelin and AT-4 anti-tank systems, and, of course, millions of rounds of small-arms ammunition.

This announcement will obviously help keep -- meet Ukraine's immediate battlefield needs, but only just that.

Again, we want to urge Congress to pass the supplemental request that we put in front of them to allow us to keep supporting Ukraine in an unimpeded, uninterrupted way. The runway continues to get shorter with each -- every -- each and every passing assistance package that -- that we provide them.

As President Biden has said, when aggressors don't pay a price for their aggression, they'll cause more chaos and death and destruction. They just keep on going, and the cost and the threats to America and to the world will keep rising.

So, the actions that we take and, just as critically, the potential actions we don't take will reverberate for many years to come.

Speaking of that, I'm sure you saw the op-ed piece that the President wrote for the Washington Post over the weekend, laying out how the world faces an inflection point right now, again, about -- where the choices we make will determine our future for generations to come.

As he noted, we continue to stand firmly with the Israeli people as they defend themselves against Hamas -- a terrorist group that has vowed to wipe Israel off the map and has promised to conduct attacks similar to ones on Sep- -- the 7th of October again and again and again.

So, President Biden and the team here is doing everything we can to help get the hostages that Hamas took -- get them released, including young children and, of course, Americans that are in that po- -- pool.

I think -- I know this is of great interest to all of you. I just want to let you know we're still working this hour by hour. I do not have an update for you on the hostage deal that we're trying to negotiate, but as you heard the Deputy National Security Advisor say yesterday, we believe we're closer than we've ever been.

So, we're hopeful, but -- but there's still work to be done. And nothing is done until it's all done, so we're going to keep working on this.

We're also working to increase the flow of lifesaving humanitarian assistance: food, water, medicine. We're calling for respecting the inter- -- international law in terms of minimizing the loss of innocent lives. And, of course, we're continuing to advocate for humanitarian pauses so that people can out of harm's way and that aid and assistance can get in.

And, of course, you saw us le- -- levy multiple rounds of sanctions to degrade Hamas's financial structure, cutting them off from outside funding and trying to make it harder for them to be able to resource the kinds of attacks that they conducted on the 7th of October.

So, just a real quick update on the latest figures, and then I'll be done.

Over the last couple of days, the 19th -- the 18th and 19th of November, almost 100 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were able to enter Gaza. That brings the total to over 1,260.

And then, following Israel's announcement that it's allowing fuel now into Gaza to support nongovernmental organizations at our strong request, we are now tracking that six trucks have cro- -- crossed now into Gaza with approximately 18,000 gallons of fuel. That will help support food distribution and it will help generators for -- for the hospitals so they can keep working.

Again, we expect those deliveries to continue on a regular basis and hopefully in larger quantities. I'm talking about the fuel specifically there.

And then, just lastly, the total number of U.S. citizens that we've been able to move out of Gaza through that Rafah Crossing is now up to 800. We're continuing to work that every day as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steve.

Q: Thank you, John. The United Nations says nowhere is safe in Gaza. Is the U.S. working with Israel to create a safe area in Gaza for civilians?

MR. KIRBY: What we've talked to the Israelis about, particularly now as they're beginning to plan operations in the south where so many people have moved, is to make it clear that they have obligations to not only allow for that safe passage but -- but to make sure they're not putting all those civilians -- now more civilians in Southern Gaza than were before -- putting them in harm's way.

Q: And secondly, I know you don't want to talk about hostages. But in general, is Israel on board with the idea of a pause of a few days?

MR. KIRBY: That gets into our negotiations here for the hostages. They have instituted -- again, at our urging, they've instituted these daily humanitarian pauses. And in some cases -- they were supposed to be four hours a day -- they've actually expanded them up to seven hours a day.

So, they're happening on a regular basis. And they're predominantly designed to allow people fro- -- in the north to move through a couple of safe corridors to the south. So, it's a pause to let people get out. That's the principal purpose of that.

But I think you can imagine -- and, again, I want to be careful here; I don't want to negotiate in public. But if you're going to secure the release of hostages -- and we certainly hope we're going to be able to do that soon -- you got to make sure they can get from where they are to safety and do that as safely as possible, which means you're going to have to have at least a temporary localized stop in the fighting to allow them to move.

I mean, we also can't take for granted that all of these people are easily mobile and don't have some sort of health issues that require perhaps a slower route out or assistance getting out.

So, I don't -- again, don't want to negotiate in public. But -- but we believe we're getting closer.


Q: John, you talked about the negotiations. Everybody has been sort of talking about the swirl of -- you know, the contacts between the U.S. and Israel and Qatar and Hamas.

What -- and when you talk to the family members, one of their deep, abiding frustrations is that it's, I think, day 45, and they don't have any information -- proof of life, conditions -- that -- that normally the Red Cross would -- would go in, would at least, you know, determine something about the fate of their -- you know, some of these people are -- you know, believe that their -- their loved ones either are sick or need medicine or -- or have been injured or whatever.

You know, is there -- is there nothing that the U.S. and Israeli governments can tell the hostage families without compromising the -- the ongoing negotiations to actually get some release? And if not, what -- to what do you explain -- what do you think explains the fact that the Red Cross hasn't been able to get in there?

MR. KIRBY: I can't speak specifically to the Red Cross access. You know, Hamas has control here over where they are and how they are. So, it could be an issue of Hamas holding -- holding that kind of access up.

I can tell you we're doing the best we can with the information that we have to keep the families informed -- American families informed. And we -- there's not that many of them. We know who they are, and we're doing the best we can to keep them in- -- informed, including keeping them informed on the -- the process of trying to secure release.

But it's a -- I'm not going to -- you know, I'm not going to lie here. It -- you know, there's, in some cases, a paucity of information. I mean, it's just -- it has been difficult to get any great detail on every single hostage -- where they are, how they are -- you know, and -- and move that process forward in terms of informing the families.

It doesn't -- we'll do what we can. We're informing them to the maximum degree we can. They have a right to know everything that -- that -- that we know. And we'll just -- we'll just keep doing it on our own as best we can.

Q: Thanks so much, John. Has the President had any additional calls with world leaders about the hostage deal today?

MR. KIRBY: Not that I'm tracking today.

Q: And was the last time he spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu --

MR. KIRBY: The last chat --

Q: -- last Tuesday?

MR. KIRBY: -- the last call that they had.

Q: Can you just give us a sense of the level of trust right now? And I know you can't speak to specifics, but in these negotiations, how much trust is there in those conversations of all pa- -- between all parties over the hostage deal?

MR. KIRBY: It's a negotiation. And it's over human lives. You -- you do the best you can going back and forth with the arrangements, which we're doing right now. And at some point, when you come down to executing -- you know, when you hit "go" -- then you're counting on everybody to meet their commitments. And that's what -- that's what we're doing.


Q: Admiral, over the weekend, President Biden, in his op-ed, said that the U.S. was preparing to issue visa bans against Israeli extremists attacking civilians on the West Bank. What effect would that actually have?

MR. KIRBY: Well, that would -- if you were to do -- con- -- impose a visa ban, it would prevent that individual from -- from traveling --

Q: But --

MR. KIRBY: -- to the United States.

Q: -- is there any timeline on when that might be instituted?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have a timeline for you.

Q: But --

MR. KIRBY: Nor do I have a final --

Q: Is that -- is that --

MR. KIRBY: -- decision.

Q: -- meant to be the terms of --

MR. KIRBY: Nor do I have a final decision.

Q: Is -- is the Biden administration upset by how this is playing out in the West Bank -- what those extremists are doing to Palestinians on the West Bank?

MR. KIRBY: Of course, we are. Of course, we are. The President has spoken to this many, many times, including from the Rose Garden when he was here with the Australian Prime Minister. I mean, what's happening with the settler violence is unacceptable. Absolutely reprehensible.

And yes, we -- and we wouldn't have talked about the potential of examining visa bans -- and, again, no final decision here -- if it -- if it wasn't just another clear statement of -- of our deep concern over this.

Q: What other sanctions are being considered besides the visa bans?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything else.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Annie.

Q: Oh, thanks so much. There's been fighting over the last few days and hours around the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: Can you speak to whether or not there is U.S. intelligence that suggests that that, too, is some sort of hub for Hamas activity and what the U.S. feeling is about those reports of shelling in and near that hospital.

MR. KIRBY: Hospitals should not be the scenes of firefights. We've been very clear about that. We got patients in there, you got medical staff, you got people whose lives are literally at risk and are innocent victims of this. They shouldn't be put at -- at more risk than they already are being held up in a -- in a hospital -- or holed up in a hospital because of health issues, can't -- and can't move. So, we don't want to see firefights in hospitals.

I don't have any specific intelligence about the degree to which Hamas is or is not using that particular hospital. Nothing to share today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Mark.

Q: John, I was just curious. You mentioned Hamas is still determined to try and carry out any sort of terrorist attack abroad this Thanksgiving week. Is there any elevated risk of terror attacks here at home, and are -- is the White House or NSC doing anything specific? Because of the holiday week, most people, obviously, kind of check out in D.C. I'm just curious, are you staffing up in a difference -- because of the terror threat?

MR. KIRBY: We're not tracking any specific, credible threat here at home over the holiday. That said, I think you can understand we -- we're going to be as vigilant as we have been since this conflict began and certainly make sure that -- that we, to the best we can, can identify any potential domestic threats and disrupt them before they can take place.

We're watching this all very, very closely for spillover effects from the fight between Israel and Hamas, both against the Jewish community and, of course, the Muslim community here in the United States. But, again, I'm not tracking any specific, credible threat that -- that's being acted on at this time.

Q: Back at the Indonesian Hospital, my colleague spoke with the hospital administrator who said that President Biden needs to do more to protect hospitals in Gaza because, quote, "he's the only one Netanyahu will listen to." Could you comment on that? And also, is the U.S. at all concerned that Israel keeps it -- is being seen, rather, as attacking one Gaza hospital after another and also areas in the south now?

MR. KIRBY: The President in every conversation that he has with Prime Minister Netanyahu -- and it's not just him -- Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, Jake Sullivan, the whole team here -- at every instance continues to urge the Israelis to be as cautious and deliberate and as careful as they can in conducting these operations against Hamas, which they have a right and a responsibility to do, to go after Hamas.

They also have a right and responsibility -- and added burden, if you will, because of the way Hamas fights -- to do everything they can to look after civilian casualties. It is a part of every discussion that we're having with our Israeli counterparts.

And, I'm sorry, the second question was?

Q: The second question was: Is the United States at all concerned that Israel is seen attacking hospital after hospital?

MR. KIRBY: Oh. Well, as I -- as I said, I think, in my previous answer, we don't want to see hospitals as battlegrounds. We don't want to see firefights in hospitals.

Now, as we've also said -- at least when it comes to al-Shifa; I don't have any intelligence on this Indonesia hospital. But at Al-Shifa, we did have intelligence that corroborated the Israeli claims that Hamas was using it as a command-and-control node.

So, it puts an added burden on Israel as they conduct operations in and around hospitals to be even more discriminant and more careful. Because, again, you've got real live patients, real live doctors, real live nurses that you got to look out -- out for.

On the other hand, you've got a real live threat. You got a group that seems to think it's okay to bury themselves in the basement of a hospital and use it to command and control their operations. And that presents a viable, legitimate threat to the security of the Israeli people. So, it's about striking that balance.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: Thank you. John, the White House condemned Elon Musk in pretty strong terms last week after he once again said something that was considered antisemitic. You called his comments "abhorrent." This administration, this government is very reliant on Elon Musk, particularly SpaceX technology, Starlink technology. Have there been any efforts made to wean the government off of his technology or find some kind of replacement for it?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any efforts to do that, Nancy, but I think we've been very clear about the rhetoric and how inappropriate it is. And we'll call that out every time we see it.

Q: But is the President concerned that the Pentagon and NASA are so reliant on someone who holds these views and appears to even more routinely embrace conspiracy theories?

MR. KIRBY: We're -- we're -- we rely on a lot of the defense industry, a lot of the private sector to help us with our innovation, to help us with research and development on new systems, and to help us in the realm of space and cyberspace.

There's a -- there's a real benefit to private-public partnership when it comes to those kinds of national security threats and national security challenges. There's innovation out there in the private sector that we'd be foolish to -- to walk away from.

I'm not aware of any specific efforts to address -- to address our concerns over his rhetoric through -- through the way that -- that his companies provide support to our national security establishment. But that doesn't mean that we accept or -- or agree with or condone, in any way, that antisemitic rhetoric that he pushed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, M.J.

Q: Thank you, John. Does the U.S. have any assessment of what the Israeli military is describing as CCTV footage of Hamas bringing through hostages through Al-Shifa hospital on October 7th?

MR. KIRBY: I don't.

Q: Okay. On the hostages, if women and children end up being released first, which is what it sounds like the situation is probably headed towards, does the U.S. have any sense of how many in that mix might be American citizens?

MR. KIRBY: I don't want to get ahead of where we are, M.J. And, I mean, I know that everybody is interested in the numbers and who they're going to be. We're working that through literally in real time with -- with both sides. So, I think it's better if I just don't speculate about what that pool is going to look like.

Obviously, we are laser-focused on the American citizens that we know are being held hostage, and we want them out. All of them -- everybody should be out now. But here we are in a negotiation. And we're getting closer to the end, we believe, of that negotiation. So, again, I'm -- I'm going to be careful.

Q: For any of the potential American hostages, is there confidence that they are alive? I know that you've addressed the lack of proof-of-life videos and such in the past, but --

MR. KIRBY: I would say we have no indication otherwise.

Q: Thanks, John. There was media reports over the weekend that U.S. pressure had resulted in the Palestinian Authority taking down a tweet that accused the Israeli helicopters of most of the deaths at that music festival. Can you elaborate on that at all?

MR. KIRBY: No. I mean, I don't know. What would you want me to say to that?

Q: Well, I mean, can you confirm any -- can you give any information about, you know, what kind of communications there were between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority about that messaging?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any specific messaging between us and the P.A. on that. I mean, obviously, it's simply not true. There was Hamas paragliding into a music festival. I mean, there was no Israeli participation in that at all.

Q: And then I just wonder if you can elaborate a bit on the President's remarks in the op-ed about a revitalized Palestinian Authority. Like, what would that look like? Is it new leadership? Is it a different structure? Like, could just talk about that a little more?

MR. KIRBY: It's -- you know, what it looks like is going to depend on the Palestinian people. But what he's referring to there is a Palestinian Authority that has the -- has the credibility, has the legitimacy, has the authority, has the support of all Palestinians so that they can effectively help with post-conflict governance, particularly in Gaza. But what it actually looks like is really and should be up to Palestinians.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. And a couple more in the back.

Go ahead. Go ahead, sir.

Q: Hi. Me?


Q: Okay. Hi, John. Thanks. And Happy Thanksgiving to you.

MR. KIRBY: You too.

Q: President Biden stood by calling President Xi a "dictator" at the APEC press conference. China's Foreign Ministry condemned this is as, quote, "extremely incorrect and irresponsible political manipulation." What is the administration's response or reaction to this?

MR. KIRBY: We came away from San Francisco with some concrete deliverables on fentanyl, on military-to-military communications, on getting our two teams together to start working on artificial intelligence, particularly in the national security realm.

There was an awful lot of very good outcomes out of this meeting between President Biden and President Xi. And the President is looking forward -- we're looking forward to managing this relationship in a -- in a more responsible way and moving things forward, looking for ways where we can cooperate, but also not being afraid to confront where -- where we can't, including on the tensions in the South China Sea.

So, the President and his whole national security team is focused forward now coming out of San Francisco.

Q: Still going to call him a "dictator" each time he sees him?

MR. KIRBY: The President -- the President made it very clear. He was asked a direct question; he gave a direct answer. He -- and he stands by that direct answer. That doesn't mean -- as true as that statement was, it doesn't mean that -- that there aren't still prospects here to find ways to cooperate and to compete with China in a more responsible way going forward. And that's where the President's head is.

Q: When these two leaders met, did they agree to meet again or speak again in the near term?

MR. KIRBY: They agreed that they would -- they would meet again, but there was no date put on the calendar.

But what's really important now is that the military-to-military comms will begin to start and -- even down to the theater commander level and maybe even lower than that. So, that's a -- that's -- that's the immediate channels of communication that we're looking at getting back open.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Steven, go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. I've got a question about fentanyl, then a question about the Gaza conflict.

On fentanyl, the Chinese President committed to reducing the export of fentanyl and fentanyl precursors. But under President Biden there have been 200,000 Americans who have stopped breathing and died as a result of these chemicals. As of earlier this year, we're still at record monthly numbers. If there is not a drop in American deaths, will President Biden hold the Chinese President personally responsible?

MR. KIRBY: It was really significant what President Xi was willing to commit to. To -- for the first time now in several years -- I mean, they were really going forward here and willing to take law enforcement action to shut down the export of these ingredients -- the precursor chemicals that the -- that the labs, largely in our own hemisphere, are creating to make fentanyl. It's a big step forward, and we're grateful for that.

And we'll see how they are in execution. And I think we all need to understand that it may be some time before you see the practical results of this crackdown on the precursors. But we're grateful for that.

But it's not -- you know, it's not just the precursals --precursor -- precursor chemicals. I'll try it again in English. The -- but it's the labs in our own hemisphere that are taking those chemicals, those ingredients, making fentanyl, and then -- and then moving it north up to our borders. And it's a serious problem.

And, again, as the President said at the press conference: This agreement will save lives -- will save American lives. And President Xi said he was committed to helping with that.

Q: But before turning to the second question, just to follow up on that: The Chinese President is in charge of a single-party state. He's -- he said in the past that he'd crack down on fentanyl, and U.S. deaths hit an all-time record last year. I mean, is President Biden not going to consider him personally responsible if American deaths do not go down?

MR. KIRBY: He has said he was going to be personally responsible for stemming the flow of these chemicals out of China, and we're grateful for that. That's been -- that's going to take a little bit of time as he goes back to Beijing and puts those processes in place -- those law enforcement actions. We're grateful for that.

Q: Thank you. And the second question. Protesters here in D.C., in New York, across the country -- they've settled on a nickname for the President. They've been calling him "Genocide Joe." They wrote it on the gates. Do you have a response from the White House for that nickname that they've settled on?

MR. KIRBY: We're not worried about nicknames and bumper stickers. I mean, it -- it's First Amendment, free speech.

The President is focused on -- as he wrote in his op-ed, on making sure that we can continue to support Israel as they fight a terrible terrorist group, Hamas, and as we all work together to get humanitarian assistance in and get people out, including hostages.

I said this the other day: Again, people can say what they want on -- on the sidewalk and that -- and we respect that. That's what the First Amendment is about.

But this word "genocide" is getting thrown around in a pretty inappropriate way by lots of different folks.

What Hamas wants, make no mistake about it, is genocide. They want to wipe Israel off the map. They've said so publicly on more than one occasion -- in fact, just recently.

And they've said that they're not going to stop, what happened on the 7th of October is going to happen again and again and again. And what happened on the 7th of October? Murder. Slaughter of innocent people in their homes or at a music festival. That's genocidal intentions.

Yes, there are too many civilian casualties in Gaza. Yes, the numbers are too high. Yes, fam- -- too many families are grieving. And yes, we continue to urge the Israelis to be as careful and cautious as possible. That's not going to stop, from the President right on down.

But Israel is not trying to wipe the Palestinian people off the map. Israel is not trying to wipe Gaza off the map.

Israel is trying to defend itself against a genocidal terrorist threat. So, when we're going to start -- if we're going to start using that word, fine, let's use it appropriately.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, way in the back. Go ahead.

Q: I wanted to ask you about White House Advisor Amos Hochstein's visit to Israel. Can you give us a sense of what the goal of these talks are? And does his visit signal that the White House is concerned about military action -- Israeli military action in Lebanon?

And then I have a follow-up.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Amos is in Israel today to follow up on his last meeting to Lebanon, about a week or so ago, where he -- where he talked to Lebanese officials and to Israeli officials up in the north about -- about the risks of a second front -- a northern front.

And he's in Israel today sort of back briefing his conversations with the Israeli counterparts there in -- in Tel Aviv.

Q: But in terms of a follow-up, is the White House concerned that Israel could be provoking Hezbollah?

MR. KIRBY: We don't want to see this war escalate. We don't want to see it widen. We certainly don't believe it's in anybody's interest -- certainly not the Israeli people's interest -- to have a second front there in the north. Though what Amos is doing, what our team is doing is everything we can to help prevent that scenario from happening.

Q: How fearful are you that -- that if this is something that is being provoked that it could draw the United States into it -- that is the goal of Israel right now?

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, we don't -- we don't want to see the conflict widen or escalate. That is why Amos is -- is having the conversations he's having. That's why Secretary Blinken has now had two extensive trips to the Middle East. And it's why the President has put forward additional force posture -- we were all talking about the carrier strike groups, but also air and missile defense, as well as fixed-wing aviation -- into the region so that we can send a strong signal to any actor -- nation-state or otherwise -- that if you're going to think about widening and deepening this conflict, don't do it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kemi.

Q: Yeah, thank you. South Africa just submitted they re- -- their referral to the ICC to investigate Prime Minister Netanyahu. Do you have any comments regarding that for war crime?

MR. KIRBY: I'll tell you, I'm going to take that question. I have not seen that referral by South Africa. So, before I go talking out of school here for our U.N. ambassador, we'll take that question and we'll get back to you.

Q: Okay. I ask a follow-up question. It's almost the first-year anniversary of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. President Biden said he planned to travel to Africa within the year. Do you have any updates when the President will travel?

MR. KIRBY: I do not.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Is there an assessment of the U.S. on the level to which Hamas has been degraded over the last several weeks?

MR. KIRBY: We don't have an independent assessment that I'm aware of. That's a question better put to the Israeli Defense Forces.

Q: Is it something that you -- I know that you have a lot of communications with the Israelis inside of their operation. Is that part of what the --

MR. KIRBY: They -- they --

Q: -- communications are between the U- -- I mean, I'm trying to get a sense of sort of what the next steps are and how long a campaign this may need to be based on that level of -- of degradation.

MR. KIRBY: Those are all great questions for the Israeli Defense Forces. This is their operation.

Now, yes, we're in touch with them daily. And they -- they provide us their perspectives. They provide us updates.

I'm not going to, from this podium, characterize those conversations. I'm certainly not going to quantify the degree to which Hamas has been degraded. They are continuing to go after their leadership, particularly in the north of -- of Gaza.

But really, that's a better question for them.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We got to wrap this up. Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q: Thank you so much. Has the President called the president-elect of Argentina or does he plan to do so?

And maybe a wider question: Does the administration think that this president-elect is the right man to reform the economy and the country?

MR. KIRBY: So, on your first question, I -- I don't have an update on the President's call sheet to talk about today. But obviously, I'm sure Karine and her team will keep you informed as -- as things progress.

You -- I probably saw it -- there was a tweet by Jake Sullivan congratulating him on his win. We look forward to working with him, his admi- -- and his administration.

Argentina is a terrific partner in the region. And -- and there's an awful lot of things we share in terms of values -- value of democracy, human rights, and -- and just -- just hemispheric security and economic concerns that we'll -- we'll look forward to working with him and his team on.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Joey, last question.

Q: Oh, yeah. Thanks. I -- I know you've been careful on what you can say regarding the hostage negotiations. But are you able to confirm that -- that we're talking -- that they're centered on women and children -- getting women and children specifically out?

MR. KIRBY: I'd really rather not.

But obviously, as I said in my opening statement, we -- we want to see -- specifically, especially, we want to see the children and women get released. Obviously, that's a high focus for everybody. And, of course, the Americans, too, because we know there's at least one American toddler in that pool.

But I think the less said the better as we get into the -- you know, into the -- what we hope is the endgame here on negotiations. It's probably safer if I don't go into much --

Q: When you say hopeful --

MR. KIRBY: -- speculating.

Q: -- that it's the endgame, what are we -- you know, what kind of timeframe are you looking at? I mean --

MR. KIRBY: I couldn't tell you.

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: Just -- just that we're closer now than we've been before. That's a good thing. But, you know, we don't want to do or say anything publicly that's going to jeopardize what we hope will be a positive result.

Q: Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You're too long --

Q: Regarding your injury --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- on your foot there.

Q: -- is it a break -- a sprain or a break?

MR. KIRBY: Both.

Q: Aw.

Q: Oh, man.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn't want to keep them too long on his feet.

Thank you so much, Admiral. Appreciate that. I know it's not comfortable.

Will, go ahead.

Q: Okay, I got a couple of things. Changing gears, will there be an order to lower flags to half-staff to mark Mrs. Carter's par- -- passing? And is the President planning on attending her funeral?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just say at the top -- I know you heard from the President and the First Lady yesterday on the passing of the former First Lady. I just want to say, certainly, that their thoughts are with President Carter and the entire Carter family.

As the President said yesterday, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have been dear, longtime friends. And Rosalynn Carter was an extraordinary, extraordinary First Lady. She was a champion for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls; an advocate for mental health and wellness for every person; and a supporter of the often unseen, uncompensated caregivers of our children, age -- aging loved ones, and people with disabilities.

The President and the First Lady are thinking of her and -- and of -- of him and keeping the Carter family in their prayers today, as well.

As it relates to any potential travel, the President and the First Lady plan to pay respects to the former First Lady. I don't have anything to share at this time on details or anything to confirm just yet. But certainly, as we have information or more details to share, we certainly will share that with all of you.

And as it relates to the lowered to half-staff -- the flag be- -- the flag being lowered to half-staff, yes, we will certainly do that. And we certainly will follow -- and we'll do that in accordance to -- with protocols and details of -- of when and how long that will happen. We certainly will share that at an appropriate time.

Q: I have one more -- another topic. How is the President planning to mark his birthday? I ask because he mentioned it during the turkey pardoning. It looks like he's got some family here. Are they going to have, like, a party or a dinner?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, he's going -- he's going to do what they normally do, how they celebrate the President's birth- -- birthday. There's a trandition -- a tradition, pardon me, which they're going to keep to the -- to that tradition, which is they'll be able to celebrate the President's birthday as a family together in Nantucket later this week and certainly will do that with coconut cake, which is something that they traditionally do.

Go ahead.

Q: Last year, we all remember the messy travel -- holiday travel season. I know the administration has taken steps to try to improve compensation for travelers who face delays and some other steps to hold airlines accountable. How confident is the White House that Americans won't face those same kind of issues this travel season?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, it's hard to predict, obviously, but certainly we take this very seriously. The Department of Transportation takes this very seriously. And so, we're going to be -- we're going to certainly keep eye on -- on what's going on the next couple of days as -- as Americans travel crisscross the country to get to their loved ones for Thanksgiving.

And so, if any issues arise, obviously, we'll -- the Department of Transportation, this administration will be on top of it.

Hard to kind of surmise what that's going to look like. But as you said, we've taken this seriously, and we've taken actions to work closely with airlines, to work closely with other transportation means -- vehicles, if you will -- to make sure that Americans get to where they need to safely, certainly on time, as I know they want to get to -- on time. And -- and so, we'll certainly be vigilant and on top of it.

Q: And if I could just ask one follow-up on Nancy's question. Some advertisers have pulled their ads from X, formerly known as Twitter. Is the White House at all considering suspending its official White House or the President's accounts on X given Elon Musk's comments?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have anything to announce at this time or any conversations -- internal conversations on that particular question. But we've been very clear. You heard from this White House after those abhorrent, as you heard from us, comments were made by -- by Elon Musk, and we are going to continue -- continue to certainly call that out, condemn those types of hateful, hateful comments that can be incredibly dangerous. And so, we will -- we won't stop doing that.

I just don't have any internal conversations to -- to read out or announcement to read out on that particular platform.

Q: Has anyone here spoken to Musk?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't have any conversations to read out. But we will continue to certainly condemn any type of hateful comments that, again, are dangerous.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q: How much more funding is available for Ukraine -- the military packages?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that is something I would certainly refer you to Department of Defense. They'll have more information on -- on the specifics on that -- on your particular question.

But, look, this is why we've been very clear about the supplemental, about asking for additional Ukraine funding so that the people -- the brave people of Ukraine continue to fight against the aggression that we've been seeing from Russia, against -- it's -- they're fighting against tyranny, right? They're fighting against terrorism, right? When you think about Israel as well, what Israel then is doing in trying to fight against Hamas.

And so, that's why that supplemental -- that national security supplemental for both are incredibly important. And we're going to continue to have those conversations with folks on the Hill about the importance of moving forward with the President's national security supplemental.

I don't have any specifics on how much money is left. Certainly would refer you to Department of Defense.

Q: And secondly, the Commission on Presidential Debates just announced dates and locations for the debates next year. Will the President participate in them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the campaign on that particular question. Thanks, Steve

Go ahead, M.J.

Q: Karine, what does the White House make of Democrats and particularly young people who say they do not approve of the President's handling of the Israel-Hamas war?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as -- I'm going to be mindful, right, because there's going to be a number of polls that are going to come -- be coming out, which, you know -- obviously, which we respect, and, obviously, that is kind of the way that things go. But what I'll be very clear about is we're going to -- not going to govern by polls here. We're going to -- or poll numbers.

We're going to focus on delivering for the American people. That's going to be our focus. We're going to focus on -- on how the President is going to, we believe, continue to deliver for -- deliver on what the American people sent him to do, right? Whether it's the economy -- let's not forget, when the President walked into this administration, the economy was at a tailspin, and that was because of what the last administration did.

And so, we had -- small businesses were shut down, we had -- schools were -- majority of schools were shut down, large jobs were lost, and the pandemic was not under con- -- under control.

Now, we understand so- -- actions and the historic actions, legislations that this President has done is going to take some time. It's going to take some time. It's not like turning on a light switch for people to certainly feel that.

But, look, as it relates to recent polling, look, we're going to focus on what we can do. We're going to focus on governing. We're going to focus on -- on making sure we continue to deliver. I'm not going to go point by point on each poll. But I just can speak to you about what our focus is going to be moving forward.

Q: Then maybe, polling aside --


Q: -- can you say whether this White House has a theory of the case on how you win over young people, whether it's on this conflict specifically or generally?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as -- when we say "when," going to be very careful, right? I'm not -- don't -- want to make sure I'm not speaking to 2024. That is something certainly that the campaign can analyze and speak to more broadly and how that looks for them and how it looks for that campaign, the President's reelection.

What I can say is we're going to continue focusing on delivering for the American people. That includes young people, right? That includes making sure that we meet them where they are. Whether it's student loans, whether it's an economy that works for all and does not leave them behind, those are the things that you see the President do day in and day out as we put forward policy, plans that include young people as well.

You know, I'm going to leave any of the analysis, any of the specifics to any poll to dozens of people, certainly on TV, right? It's kind of a cottage industry out there. They're going to analyze that. They're going to speak to that, leave that to them -- leave that to the campaign to speak to winning young people or anything that's related to 2024.

Q: Do you know what the President makes of the fact that so many young people are opposed to --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I can tell you this: The President is focusing on the job at hand. He truly is. He's focusing on how we're going to deliver for the American people. That is his focus, and that's what he's been truly steadfast about in the almost three years of this administration.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: Thanks, Karine. How closely is the White House tracking what's going on at OpenAI, one of the most powerful companies in the AI sphere -- the revolt there, mass resignations. And what does this mean for the recent executive order having to do with AI?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on the first question, look, we're not going to comment on any private company. We never do, especially as it's changing any -- any personal decisions that -- personnel decisions that they make and as they make those changes.

As it relates to the executive order -- a very comprehensive executive order that the President announced not too long ago on AI -- our message to tech companies continues to be clear: They need to assure AI systems are safe before releasing them to the public. We're going to continue to make that clear, have those conversations. But as it relates to a personnel decision made by a private company, we're just not going to comment from here.

Q: And then sticking with the tech theme, Twitter is back in the news -- I mean, not Twitter -- TikTok back in the news because of misinformation about the war, about Osama bin Laden. It's now been more than two years that the CFIUS investigation has been underway. Can you give us any kind of update on where that stands?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, it's an indep- -- independent committee investigation. Just don't have anything to comment on that -- on CFIUS and where they are on that investigation.

Go ahead, Jordan.

Q: Thanks, Karine. The senators are having some talks this week about an immigration deal that would unlock Ukraine aid. Is the White House planning to get involved with those, even sit on -- sit in on them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just not going to negotiate from here.

Go ahead.

Q: You mentioned the President is excited to cele- -- celebrating his birthday. But I'm curious -- David Axelrod told the New York Times, quote, "Biden thinks he can cheat nature here, and it's really risky." A, what's the President's response to David Axelrod? Does he respect his opinion? Does he think he's right?

But also, I mean, is there a real alarm happening behind the scenes that the President is simply too old to stick around for another four years?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, there's no alarm happening behind the scenes. Not --

Q: For Democrats?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There -- I -- I can only speak --

Q: Sure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- behind the scenes here. There is no alarm happening behind the scenes. And I'm certainly not going to comment on everybody who has something to say.

What I --

Q: But he's not nobody.


Q: I mean, David Axelrod is a --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn't --

Q: -- is a -- is --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn't say that. I didn't --

Q: Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nowhere in my response to you that I said that. I said I'm just not going to comment on everyone that has a -- that has a comment to say. They're going to speak for themselves. I'm going to speak for the President.

And here will I -- what I will say is: Look -- and -- and also, it's just not my job. It's not my job to think -- to think through or to -- to tell people what to think. Right? Whether it's an Am- -- the American -- American people out there or -- or a -- a, you know, political analyst or -- or as your question is about David Axelrod. It's just not my -- my place to speak to that.

What I can speak to is how we see this, how what our perspective is. Our perspective is that it's not about age. It's about the President's experience. That's what we believe.

And it's -- you know, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, right? The President has used his experience to pass more bipartisan legislation in recent time than any other president. That's just a fact. That is something that we have seen this president do, and that's because of his experience.

He's been able to manage multiple -- multiple foreign policy challenges. That's -- he's been able to do that. That's because of his experience.

He's been able to create jobs, raise wages, and lower inflation. Right? And that is also -- that is -- the proof is in the pudding. Right? We see that in the data. We see that where we are today -- than where we are -- than where we were when the President walked into the administration.

So, what we say is: We have to judge him by what he's done, not by his numbers.

And -- and one more thing I will add: This is the first president ever that's been able to go to an active warzone without our military, you know, controlling what's happening on the ground.

And so, look, I would put the President's stamina, the President's wisdom, ability to get this done on behalf of -- of the American people against anyone -- anyone on any day of the week.

All right, go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. I just wanted to follow up. I wondered if you had any update on whether the President or anybody else in the administration plans to attend the COP28 Summit in Dubai next week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any -- we don't have anything to read out on his schedule.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q: Thanks. You just told Jordan you wouldn't negotiate on the supplemental from here, but you and Kirby -- before, you had talked today just about how important it is to get this funding through. So, now that Congress doesn't have an urgent deadline until next year because of the CR getting passed, how concerned is the White House that this is not going to get through in a timely matter -- manner? And what is the President going to do in the next couple of weeks to try to push this through?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, again, I'm not going to get into negotiations from here, as you stated in your question. But I will say this: There's a lot at stake. There is. There's a lot at stake, as you think about our national security and also our domestic needs. So, it is crucial and it is important that we get this done.

And so, we're going to continue to have conversations. Our Legis- -- Legislative Affairs shop here, our OMB director is going to continue to have legis- -- have conversations with members of the Hill. So, yeah, it is important.

We wouldn't have put it forward if we didn't think it was needed. Right? These are emergency needs that we requested -- when you think about the supplemental, both the domestic one and the national security. So, obviously, we're going to continue to have that conversation. We're going to continue to do it in a bipartisan way -- do it both with Republicans and also Democrats on the Hill. And so, we take this very seriously. We wouldn't have put it forth if we didn't think it was needed.

Q: Will we see the President get personally involved engaging with lawmakers right after the hol- -- Thanksgiving holiday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don't have any -- don't have any -- any layout or readout about what -- who the President is going to call.

As you know, the President has personal relationships, long- -- longtime relationships with many members in Congress. And so, you know, certainly, he has done that before -- reached out. I just don't have any -- I don't have a strategy to lay out or a list of folks that the President might or may not call.

Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q: Oh, thank -- thank you, Karine. Just following up on what Steven was asking about with regard to fentanyl of Admiral Kirby. Can we expect some type of trilateral agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and China to tackle this issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't -- don't have anything at this time -- any policy announcement to make at this time.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, as always.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)

Q: I want to ask you about --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I might regret it, but go ahead. (Laughter.)

Q: I assure you, you will not. (Laughter.)

I want to ask you about polling. In February, the President conducted an interview with, I believe, it was Telemundo. And he was asked about the dismal state of his job approval ratings. And he answered in words to this effect: "Do you know anyone that believes the polling these days?" And he talked in some detail about the difficulty of getting people on the phone and compiling accurate polling.

Whenever you're asked about the President's dismal job approval ratings, you say, "We're not going to look at polls; we look at his accomplishments." And yet, when you are asked about various domestic policy initiatives, you will say, "These poll very well. People support what the President wants to do. If you look at the individual subjects on the polling, they support what the President's agenda is."

So, once and for all, are only certain polls valid in your eyes -- the ones that support your agenda? Or sh- -- is the polling data that shows that President Biden has been stuck for two years at the low 40s in his approval ratings, are those valid?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here's the thing: I think it's important to share that American people do approve of some of the Pres- -- President's initiatives. I think it is important. I think it's an important to -- for the American people to hear that when it comes to Medicare and fighting -- and fighting and being able to -- Medicare to be able to lower costs for the American people. I think it's important to share that. I think it's important to share that this -- that when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the American people care about that and want us to fight about that -- fight for it, which is what the President --

Q: So, those polls are valid?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it's not -- it's not that. It's not that. We are given -- anytime I'm asked this question, given an opportunity to speak on what the Pres- -- what the American people want to hear and what we're doing, right? And so, there are moments, just like when you ask me about certain polls, that I can say, "Hey, you know what? That is something that the American people support."

But in more broad terms, in general, we're not focused on every poll. We just are not. It is not important for us that we believe to focus on that.

We're going to continue to do the work and work on protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and making sure that Social --that Americans have their Social Security. And I -- and I think by saying that Americans support that, that is important for -- for us to say that from here, too, because we are actually delivering for the American people. We're actually doing what the American people want us to do.

So, when I say that, that's what I'm referring to: The work that we're doing, what we want to deliver on, what the American people care about. And it is the economy. It is lowering costs. Right?

I always talk about that: The President's number one priority is to continue to lower costs. And I talked about what he has done, whether it's junk fees, whether it's making sure that people have good-paying jobs by making sure that we've passed these historic legislation that's going to create good union paying [good-paying union] jobs. All of those things -- all of those things are connected.

Q: So, the polls that show that the electorate at large and also significant majorities within the Democratic Party believe that the President is too old, the polls that show the American people and also significant majorities within the Democratic Party don't want him to run again, and the polls that show his handling of the economy, foreign policy -- all of these dismal polls -- his job approval ratings: Does the White House have any basis to challenge the accuracy of that polling?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I never -- we never challenged. I'm not challenging the accuracy here. That's not what I'm doing.

What I'm saying to you is that, you know, we're not going to change the minds of Americans. I get that. Americans are going to feel how they feel, and we're going to respect that. And I've said that many times from here -- many times. I said that moments ago.

What I can tell you is what our perspective is. What I can tell you is how we see things. And we believe experienced -- this President having experience to get things done is important.

And we know that it's going to take some time -- right? -- for Americans to feel what we have been able to do in this administration: pushing through bipartisan legislation that is historic.

And as I mentioned earlier before, this is a president who has done more bipartisan legislation than any other recent president. And so, that's what I can speak to.

I can speak to our perspective. I can speak to how we see this. I can speak to what is important and how we're going to try to deliver for the American people.

And I will say this: You know, just a couple of just data points here -- I'm going to be careful not to talk about the 20- -- 2024 -- any of the elections. But I could look back in history, right? I can look back and see where Obama was a year -- President Obama was a year out of -- of his election, where President Clinton was a year out ahead of his election, and it didn't look like they were going to -- they were going to win. Right? It didn't look like that.

And so, it is not unusual. You're talking about dismal polling; it is not unusual for a president to be where they are ahead of that.

And so, look, the President is going to focus -- this is something that I can tell you for sure: He's going to focus on the American people. That is always, always the number one priority for this president, and that's what you're going to see him continue to do.

Q: Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I'm going to wrap it up. Thanks, everybody.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Happy Thanksgiving.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

Q: Are you briefing tomorrow, Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Shakes head no.) You're welcome. (Laughter.)

2:31 P.M. EST

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

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