Joe Biden

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

December 06, 2023

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:52 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What's going on? Where's the rest of the class?



Q: Sorry. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's all good.

All right. Good afternoon, everyone.

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A strong bipartisan majority of Congress supports Ukraine in its fight against Putin's brutal war.

Unfortunately, some Republicans are now holding urgently needed Ukraine funding hostage to a set of completely unrelated -- bipartisan, I should say -- border demands.

Instead of negotiating in good faith, as a group of Democrats and Republicans have been doing for some weeks now, they're doubling down on an all-or-nothing approach.

Now, let's remember the President's request that the Senate is -- is voting on includes funding to secure the border, with 1,300 additional CBP agents and tools to stop the flow of fentanyl.

Democrats have put bipartisan compromises on the table, but Republicans are playing chicken with our national security. If they don't get 100 percent of their extreme demands, they'll block critical border funding and -- and kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield, damaging our national security.

As the President said, the world is watching and history will judge Republicans for what they do at this moment.

If they continue to make extreme demands, Putin will be much more likely to succeed in Ukraine and more countries will be at risk.

Congress cannot let Putin prevail. The stakes are just too high.

Now, we are tracking the horrific string of shootings that took place in Texas yesterday. And our thoughts are with the six victims who lost their lives, as well as several others who were injured, including two police officers.

We have multiple federal agencies supporting local authorities, who are leading the response and investigation efforts, and we are deeply, deeply grateful for the courageous efforts in apprehending the suspect, who is now in custody.

As the President has said time and time again, we must all do more to stop this type of violence.

President Biden continues to take executive action and swiftly implement the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, but we need Congress to take further action to establish universal background checks, pass a national red flag law, and ban assault weapons.

We cannot become complacent here. There's too much at stake.

Today, the Second Gentleman will echo those sentiments at the 11th annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence.

The two deputy directors of the new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Rob Wilcox and Gregory Jackson, who are both not only experts but also gun violence survivors themselves, will also deliver remarks today.

Now, earlier today, you heard this from the President yourselves, he spoke at the third annual White House Tribal National Summit, where he reiterated his profound respect for Tribal sovereignty and shared some exciting new announcements.

The President signed an executive order that will usher in -- in the next era of Tribal self-determination and transform how the federal government funds and supports Tribal nations.

He also announced the administration's full support for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to complete -- compete under their own flag in lacrosse internationally at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Throughout the two-day summit, senior administration officials will highlight progress made to support Tribal nations, including record investment provided through the President's Investing in America agenda and to d- -- and -- and discuss critical issues facing Native communities with the 300 Tribal leaders in attendance.

And with that, we have Admiral John Kirby from National Security Council back with us in the briefing room to give an update on the Middle East. And I think there's some Ukraine stuff he's going to talk you -- all of you about and also take some -- some of your questions.

With that, Admiral.

MR. KIRBY: Good afternoon to everybody.

Q: Afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: Just bear with me. I'll try to get through this fairly efficiently.

I think you just heard the President and, of course, Karine speak about the critical importance of supporting Ukraine though funding and why we need Congress to take urgent action to stand with them in their fight for freedom.

Just today, we announced our latest security assistance package to support them. This is the 52nd package of weapons and equipment that we're sending to Ukraine to help meet urgent battlefield needs as they continue to fight this counteroffensive.

Now, this package includes more artillery, ammunition to help Ukraine defend their territory. And it includes more air defense capabilities to protect Ukrainian cities and infrastructure from Russian missiles.

I said the other day: We fully expect the Russians to go after the energy infrastructure. So, this air defense capability is meant to help them defend against those attacks.

But, again, as Karine said, without additional funding, these weapons will be among the last we'll be able to send. Cutting off support and giving Vladimir Putin exactly what he wants -- that would just be terrible, not just for Ukraine but for our own national security interests and absolutely the national security interests of our allies and partners in Europe.

As you all know, President Biden participated as well today in a virtual meeting of G7 leaders. And in light of all the number of significant events going on in the world, they felt it was important to meet before the end of the year.

Absolutely, they discussed about the -- the issue of supporting Ukraine and how important that is for all of them.

They also, of course, touched on the Middle East and a range of other global challenges.

Now, I want to switch gears quickly, if I could, to the Middle East.

We obviously continue to stand firmly with the Israeli people as they defend themselves against Hamas. Military assistance to the Israeli Defense Forces continues to flow. And, again, we are focusing on the kinds of capabilities, weapons, and systems that they need most as they go -- continue to go after the leadership of Hamas, and now, of course, as they're moving into operations in the south.

At the same time, under the President's leadership, we're also -- even after Hamas pulled out of the idea of a pause and the hostage exchanges, we're still working with our partners internationally to con- -- keep the flow of assistance into Gaza going up. That includes food, water, medicine, and fuel.

And what we've achieved with our Israeli counterparts is trying to help sustain the level of aid going in, even without the pause in place, at roughly the level that it was when the pause was in place, so several -- a couple hundred trucks a day.

Yesterday, we also conducted yet another U.S. military airlift of 3- -- 36,000 pounds of food assistance and medical supplies. I think in the coming days, you'll see yet another U.S. military airlift of aid and assistance going into Egypt to then to get trucked into Gaza.

We know that there's more than a million displaced people internally in Gaza. And we also know that they're desperate for this help.

The United States has been and we will remain the single-largest contributor to U.N. relief efforts, providing, as we already have, more than $1 billion since 2021.

Now, we also, of course, recognize there's been a significant number of civilian casualties from this conflict -- innocent people killed, both Israeli and Palestinian, as well as many, many thousands wounded. Each one is a tragedy. We mourn with them all. And we're going to continue to work with our Israeli counterparts to be as careful and as deliberate as they possibly can as they now re- -- go on renewed offensive operations.

Finally, if I could, switching to Mexico, the U.S. Department of Treasury today sanctioned 17 targets --- that's 15 individuals and two companies -- that are linked to the Beltrán Leyva Organization, otherwise known as BLO. It's one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world and heavily involved in the transportation and distribution of deadly illicit drugs, including fentanyl, to here at the United States. It's also been one of the largest suppliers of cocaine to the U.S. market over the last two decades.

Concurrently, the Justice Department unsealed indictments against 60 defendants on various international drug trafficking offenses related to the import of illicit drugs like meth, cocaine, marijuana, and, of course, fentanyl.

These actions are part of a whole-of-government effort coordinated with the government of Mexico to help counter the global threat posed by the trafficking of these illicit drugs. And, of course, the Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is down in Mexico right now, even as we speak, engaging our partners on this very -- very issue.

We take it seriously. Too many people are dying as a result of these drugs, and we're not going to stop in our efforts to try to stem the flow.

With that --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aamer.

Q: Thank you. First, on Israel. Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel would need to retain security control over Gaza, and Gaza would have to main -- remain dem- -- demilitarized -- sorry, just spitting out that word -- and the only force that will operate there will be the Israeli military, and ruling out any sort of international peacekeeping force. Is that acceptable to the President?

MR. KIRBY: The Vice President made our position very, very clear when she was out -- out in Dubai: We do not support a military -- an Israeli military occupation of Gaza. We don't support any shrinking in the territorial boundaries of Gaza. We don't support the -- any permanent displacement of the people of Gaza outside of Gaza. And, as we have said many, many times, we believe that there needs to be some critical questions asked of all of us, including our regional partners, about what governance in Gaza looks like.

Don't have the answers to all that -- all those questions, Aamer. But what we do know is it's got to be responsive to the aspirations of the Palestinian people. It has to be representative of them.

Q: So, would a buffer zone be also something that would be ruled out?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into specific back-and-forth on different ideas.

I'm just telling you that we do not support a reoccupation of Gaza. That's been plain, simple, clear right from the President on down.


Q: Thank you, Admiral. The President said he's willing to do significantly more with Republicans when it comes to border security but that they walked away from talks.

Before talks broke down, he said that there was some real progress. What is the President willing to agree to when it comes to border security?

MR. KIRBY: I think he answered that question with you all just a little bit ago, and I'm certainly not going to negotiate from -- here from the podium.

We put forth some serious proposals here on -- on border security. And unfortunately, the Republicans weren't willing to negotiate in good faith.

So, as he also said to you guys, we're going to keep talking to them. We're going to keep the conversation going. And we're -- we're willing to have good-faith negotiations over border security.

I would add, though it probably doesn't need to be added, that in this supplemental request that we're asking Congress to take up, there's some $6 billion there devoted to DHS and other border needs, including support to -- to HHS. It's not like the President was just whistling past the graveyard when it came to border security. It was part of his national -- urgent national security request in the first place.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the specific sticking points and what key Republican proposals the White House is against?

MR. KIRBY: No, I'm not going to get into negotiating here from -- from the podium.

Q: And the President also talked about how if Putin were to take Ukraine, he wouldn't stop, and eventually it could even lead to U.S. troops fighting Russian troops. If this aid does not get passed, how likely is that scenario?

MR. KIRBY: There -- there should be, by everybody -- and if you're up on Capitol Hill and you believe in national security, there should be a genuine concern about what happens if you just let Putin go, if you just let him have Ukraine, because -- make no mistake, Selina -- he hasn't given up his strategic goal of subjugating the entire country. He doesn't believe it ought to exist as a sovereign state.

And so, if we can't support Ukraine, their chief advisor yesterday said they're likely to lose this war if they lose U.S. support.

And if Putin gets all of Ukraine, then what? Then where does he go? Because right then, he's up against the eastern flank of NATO. And if you think the cost of supporting Ukraine is high now, just imagine how much higher it's going to be -- not just in national treasure, but in American blood -- if he starts going after one of our NATO Allies. Because, as the President also said, we take our Article 5 commitments very seriously. And what we've had over the last two years is a Ukraine -- a Ukrainian military actually clawing back territory and pushing back Russian aggression without any foreign boots on the ground, including no American boots.

American boots would very much have to be involved if Mr. Putin is let to -- have this strategic victory in Ukraine, and then perhaps goes after one of our NATO Allies.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Can you say anything more about the tone of the conversation with the G7 leaders on the aid to Ukraine? Did any of them express frustration at the U.S. or concern? Or did anyone -- did any of them say that they may, you know, follow through and similarly cut aid to Ukraine if the U.S. doesn't follow through?

MR. KIRBY: That -- there's a -- the joint statement is out there. I encourage you to read it. It's -- it's a fairly lengthy statement. That's why I didn't go into it in too much detail here in the opening statement of my -- of mine.

But clearly, Ukraine was discussed. All the G7 leaders agreed in principle that support has got to keep flowing to Ukraine, we've got to keep helping them defend themselves against Russian aggression.

I'm not going to speak for each leader in what they did or did not say to the President.

Q: And then, yesterday, the State Department said there was a new deal that was rejected for my colleague, Evan Gershkovich, from the Russians. Can you say anything more about what that deal looked like? Any -- any other details about it?



Q: John, we keep talking about the border. But at issue is immigration -- a broken immigration system. But the border is not -- from advocates for migrants, the border is not the only issue. Is there a focus still on the -- those who overstay their visas that have been for years the largest violators of the immigration system?

MR. KIRBY: Is there -- say that again? Is --

Q: Those who overstayed their visas --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: -- is there more of a focus now, as well -- not just on the border, but on that issue as well?

MR. KIRBY: So, let me take a -- take a step back here. I mean, what the President supports is immigration reform, and he's the first to recognize that the system right now is broken. He doesn't believe walls are the answer, but he does believe that increased border security is -- is required.

In fact, as part of his supplemental request was -- was going to add 1,300 extra Border Patrol agents down there and some additional asylum officers.

He also believes that we've got to continue to reform and improve the way earned pathway to citizenship is done. And that certainly includes people that are here legally and those who are here illegally, and making sure that -- that those who are here illegally face repercussions for that and are held responsible for that, but that we open up additional ways for people to come in legally.

Q: Right. But here's -- the here's the point that I'm asking. The focus is on illegal -- illegals here, and most people now are believing it's just the border. How do you marry the fact that there are illegals who are overstaying their visas who are not crossing the border? Is that still an issue for this White House?

MR. KIRBY: Of -- of course. Look, I mean -- we -- if you're -- if you're in this country illegally, that's obviously not okay, and you should be held to account for being here illegally. And we're -- and we're working with -- with state and local authorities on -- on trying to hold the proper measure of accountability for people here illegally. Of course, that's part of the problem.

I -- I didn't understand where you were going.

Q: And aren't those who overstay their visas still the largest viol- -- large- -- largest violator group that stay here in the immigration system?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have the data on that, April. I'm going to have to get back to you on that. That's probably a better question for my colleagues at DHS.


Q: Thank you, Karine. John, follow-up on Aamer's question. If Israel continues with its plans to reoccupy Gaza, would the President move forward with his consideration to withhold aid to Israel?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into a hypothetical. I just won't speculate about that. We've made very clear our position on any potential reoccupation of Gaza.

Q: And one question, if I may, on COFA. The administration has sent to Congress some COFA-related agreements for Micronesia and Marshall Islands. Can you explain what's at stake here if Congress does not pass the funding, in terms of U.S. national security interest in the Indo-Pacific?

MR. KIRBY: I'm going t- -- take that question.


Q: Thanks. John, there's the border security fight, but Speaker Johnson also said that he doesn't want to move forward on Ukraine funding because the administration has not provided a clear enough roadmap for how Ukraine wins this conflict using all of this U.S. assistance. What more can the White House do to lay out that roadmap for Congress?

MR. KIRBY: I lost count of the number of briefings that we provided to members of Congress in a classified and unclassified setting about what we're doing to support Ukraine and what Ukraine's ultimate goals and strategy are.

It's their war. They get to decide what victory looks like. They get to decide what plans they execute. They get to decide what targets they hit. They get to decide where they put their troops on the battlefront.

But let me put it clearly. We want Ukraine to be whole and free. We want their internationally recognized borders to be respected by everyone, including, especially, Russia and Mr. Putin. There shouldn't be a single Russian boot on Ukrainian soil. We've been clear about that.

Number two, as Ukraine continues to fight for that outcome, we're going to do everything we can to make sure they've got the tools and the capabilities to do that. And that assistance has been evolving over time.

I can't -- I have been talking about this myself from two different podiums now. It's been evolving over the last two years as the war has evolved. And we have been nothing but transparent with Congress about each and every security assistance package that has been delivered to Ukraine.

Every single one of them, including the one I just talked about, is done in full consultation with members of Congress.

Number three, the issue of accountability. We actually share the concerns over that. We've been sharing concerns over accountability of those systems and those weapons since we started giving them to Ukraine.

And I'll tell you something else: The Ukrainians are also concerned about that. They've said that they also want better accountability in their own system for where this -- these munitions and these systems are going. And we have added personnel to our embassy -- military personnel to -- into our embassy staff for that purpose alone -- to work with the Ukrainians on accountability.

The last thing I'll say on this is: It's a war. And if you think you can count where every single artillery shell is going and every single bullet that's fired, then you're dreaming. It's a war. It's combat.

Now, we're doing the best we can to -- to account for the aid we're giving them and how they're using it. We're giving them training on how to do it. And we're even doing retraining on how to do it, including some pretty sophisticated systems, like Abrams tanks and now F-16s.

So, we all take that seriously. But it is a war. And it is a war that we are committed to seeing Ukraine win.

Q: But is it possible to be more specific with Congress not just about Ukraine's desire to win, its drive to win, but also specifically how it's going to get past the stalemate that it finds itself in now?

MR. KIRBY: Again, Nancy, we have I don't know how many briefings that we have -- have done on Capitol Hill, again, in classified settings, and we'll keep doing that.

We certainly can be held responsible and answer questions about what we're doing to help Ukraine, our communications with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and what they need and why we're giving them what we're giving them, in what scale, and in what timeframe. But it is Ukraine's war.

They have to be the ones speaking to their plans and their operations, their tactics, their targets. And, you know, Congress has also heard multiple times from President Zelenskyy. And I have absolutely no doubt that the President -- President Zelenskyy will be more than happy to continue to inform members of Congress going forward.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Kirby, you talked in your opening remarks about aid coming into Gaza. Does anything more need to be done in terms of getting people out, considering how cramped that the -- Southern Gaza is right now?

MR. KIRBY: By getting people out, I assume you mean, like, foreign nationals and Americans?

Q: Or also just people who live there --

MR. KIRBY: We don't --

Q: -- temporarily.

MR. KIRBY: We -- we don't support the -- the relocation of Gazans outside of Gaza. And frankly, they don't support it either. I mean, they obviously don't want to be caught in the crossfire, but it's their home. And many of them would be afraid to leave lest they wouldn't be allowed back in.

So, we're not in favor of -- of setting up places for them outside Gaza. We are in favor of making sure that there are safe places for them to be, particularly in the south now that hundreds of thousands of more people are in the south because they were pushed out of the north or encouraged to leave the north.

And so, we're working with the Israelis on that. And they have taken that seriously too, Trevor. They have -- they have publicized maps and places where people can go or shouldn't go. They've dropped leaflets to that effect.

I mean, they are making an effort to make it clear to the people in Southern Gaza where to go and where not to be.

Q: And then on another issue, do you have any reaction to Putin -- his trip to -- to speak with U.S. partners in Saudi Arabia and -- about Ukraine and oil? Any reaction to that?

MR. KIRBY: I'll let Mr. Putin speak for his own travel habits.

The one thing -- the only thing I'd add is that, you know, we're continuing to watch this burgeoning defense relationship between Iran and Russia. That's worrisome, because Iran continues to provide drones to Mr. Putin, who uses those drones to attack energy infrastructure and kill innocent Ukrainians.

And what the Iranians are expecting in return is a measure of defense industrial support as well. And an Iran that has more advanced capabilities and availability to get their hands on Russian weapons, that's not an Iran that's healthy for the security environment in the Middle East.

Q: And the Saudis should be concerned about what's going on with Iran and Russia?

MR. KIRBY: I don't -- I'm not going to tell the Saudis what to be concerned about or what not to be. But I -- I think they certainly share our concerns about Iran's destabilizing behavior and their potential growing military capabilities. Absolutely.

I mean, this is a country that -- you know, outside of the truce that's been in Yemen -- not too long ago, came under direct attack from Iranian missiles and systems fired from the Houthis inside -- into the southern part of their country.

Q: Thanks, John. Is it your current assessment that the Ukraine war is at a stalemate? And would additional funding help break that stalemate?

MR. KIRBY: I won't characterize the -- the state of the -- of the battlefront. That's really for the Ukrainians to do. We've -- we've really taken a position of not armchair quarterbacking that and slapping bumper stickers on it.

I would tell you -- or point you to what President Zelenskyy has said himself: They haven't made as much progress in the counteroffensive as he wanted to. Some of his generals have said similar things.

We would agree that they didn't go as far or as fast as they themselves wanted to go.

And, again, as winter sets in, I don't think we should expect any more than we did last winter that the fighting is just going to stop. These two sides will probably keep at it.

Now, right now, there's not a lot of movement on the battlefront, either in the east or in the south. But the Russians have made it very clear that they're not just going to sit in camp all winter, that they want to go on the offensive. And they've got the advantage of manpower that they can throw at this stuff.

And so, we got to make sure -- that's why the President was so strident today. We've got to make sure that Ukraine continues to get the -- the support that they need going into these cold winter months.

Q: And part of the -- on Israel, sorry. Part of the truce agreement was for the ICRC to be able to go in and visit hostages --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: -- by the end of day four of the truce, but it's been well over a week.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: Do you know why Red Cross officials haven't been able to visit hostages yet, of course, among them American citizens?

MR. KIRBY: It's unacceptable. And it -- it -- the -- the blame has to be laid at Hamas's feet.

Q: You're saying it's Hamas's fault that Red Cross officials haven't been able to go in? Is it that they haven't offered permission --

MR. KIRBY: That Hamas has not allowed Red Cross in to visit the hostages as they agreed to do, and it's unacceptable.

I mean, one of the things you -- y'all keep asking us, and rightly so, about the condition of these hostages and what we know about them. When the truth is, we don't know a lot. And if we could get Red Cross access to them not only would they have a measure of solace, which is the most important thing -- that somebody knows where they are and cares about their condition -- but it would help give us some information.

Q: So, what you're saying is that Hamas has directly communicated to the Qataris that Red Cross officials cannot go into Gaza --

MR. KIRBY: No, I have not said that, MJ.

Q: -- to visit the hostages? Or --

MR. KIRBY: I said our assessment is that Hamas is holding up this access. But I have not said that, specifically.

Q: John, if I can, on Israel. The last time that President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to one another was November 26th. It's now been 10 days since then. That's the longest stretch that the two men have gone without speaking since the war began eight-plus weeks ago. I think they've spoken at least two -- at least a dozen times in some form to this point. Why have they not spoken in any form in the course of last 10 days?

MR. KIRBY: I wouldn't read anything into that, Peter. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there will be additional conversations with the Prime Minister.

Q: I guess -- so, we shouldn't read anything into that, though? It does seem like the last 10 days have been particularly dramatic, in terms of the escalation following the ceasefire there. There's every -- they are on the exact same page? The President is fully comfortable with the way things are being handled at this point?

MR. KIRBY: I just wouldn't read anything into the fact that there hasn't been a conversation in recent days. There absolutely will be additional conversations between the two. I have no doubt about that.

Q: Do we have any information -- does the U.S. or via Israel have any information that those individuals who are still -- women who are still being held hostage inside Gaza right now by Hamas have been the victims of sexual violence? We know about hostages who have come out. Do we -- is there any evidence, any information that those who are presently being held have been as well?

MR. KIRBY: I can't sp- --

Q: Or "are" being.

MR. KIRBY: I can't speak to specific cases, but -- and I know Karine talked about this this week. I mean, it is -- it is a sick truth of this particular group that they use sexual violence as a weapon and a tool. And, I mean, that's -- that's a matter of record, particularly since -- on -- on the 7th of October and since, listening to some of the -- the hostages that have -- that have been released.

So, sadly, I -- I think it's -- it's safe to assume that they're still using sexual violence as a weapon, but I can't speak to specific cases.

Q: Lastly, a quick one. Karine may have information on this -- if not, you yourself. And this may be happening just as we're speaking, but there's new reporting about an active shooter at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Is that information either of you knew before you got out here and have anything more you can share about it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I just was -- was told about the shooting. Obviously, we're going to continue to monitor what's currently occurring. I don't want to get ahead of what local enforcements are probably dealing with at this time.

You heard me at the top talk about, you know, another shooting that happened in Texas. And, certainly, this is an epidemic that the President has taken very seriously. That's why he's taken actions -- right? -- in doing more than two dozen executive actions and making sure that we deal with the epidemic, making sure that people feel safe in their community.

And I to- -- I talked about the Second Gentleman, who is going to be attending a vigil along with our two deputies, who are -- who are helping to head our gun violence -- anti-gu- -- Gun Violence Prevention Office.

And so, don't have anything to share at this time. Certainly, if we have more, we will share that with all of you. But we are monitoring very closely.

Q: Thank you. Thanks, John.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead. I'm sorry, John.

Go ahead, Danny.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Admiral. I just wanted to ask you about Venezuela. There have been -- tensions have been increasing with -- going on -- on their border after the referendum in Venezuela on the neighboring region. Brazil's military is now, sort of -- now reinforced in the area. Just wondered what your assessment of the situation is there. And, you know, how -- how concerned are you about the (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: I think it's concerning. We're watching this very, very closely. As I said, I think last week, the arbitral decision needs to be respected. We obviously don't want to see any violence occur here or conflict occur. And we're obviously in touch with all our partners.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. Thanks, Karine. And thanks, Admiral. So, on Monday, NSA Jake Sullivan said that the U.S. is in talks to establish a naval task force to ensure the safety of commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Has there been any additional progress on that? When would that task force be expected to begin, and have -- which allies and partners have said they will participate?

MR. KIRBY: We're still working through the modalities of all that. What Jake also said was it would be built out of an existing maritime task force that reports up to the Fifth Fleet commander in Bahrain, who is the naval component for U.S. Central Command, so there's already an existing organization here.

What we're talking about is directing them to conduct operations perhaps in different areas and for different purposes, and so there's -- I mean, there's already international support in -- buried in -- not "buried in" -- but baked into this task force. And certainly we will talk to partners in the region about whether they want to be additive to it, if they want to be -- to join it. But I don't have any updates from after, you know, Jake announced it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jared.

Q: So, just a couple of logistical questions on the aid that you were talking about at the beginning. As these U.S. aircraft are coming in, what is the level of trucks that are able to cross, sort of, now versus the couple of hundred a day during the pause? What's the comparison?

MR. KIRBY: Well, we reached about 200 or so per day during the pause, and that's the goal right now. I don't have the figures for the last 24 hours.

But we just had some representatives on the ground out there: Ambassador Power was there, our chief of staff of the NSC, Curtis Ried, was out there. And they came back just a day or so ago and reported that there's a lengthy line of trucks that are waiting for inspection to get in -- hundreds of trucks waiting to get in.

So, it's not for lack of -- of stuff, and it's not for lack of trucks. It really is the inspection regime and making sure that you can get the trucks in safely, since the southern part of Gaza now is much more a zone of conflict.

Q: And you had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that one of the challenges, at least initially, with getting the aid in was that Hamas controlled that side of the Rafah Crossing. Is that still the case? Is Hamas in control still of the Rafah area or --

MR. KIRBY: They still --

Q: -- is IDF playing a role now on that side?

MR. KIRBY: They -- the -- as far as I know, they still have -- they still have a measure of control there. But there's an inspection regime that really is the -- sort of, the long pole in the tent so that we can make sure what's going in is legitimate humanitarian assistance.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.

Q: Thank you, Karine. The Israeli army spokesman said that the ratio of killing Hamas fighter is equivalent to two civilians. That means if Hamas has 35,000, that means 70,000 civilians could be killed. Is this rate acceptable? Is it actually -- it's a positive rate? Is this acceptable to the U.S.?

And second, John, if you allow me, also, the Israel is saying that 15,000 Palestinians have been killed, which is more or less mirror what the Ministry of Health said. So, would you take now what the Palestinians said as credible figure?

MR. KIRBY: I can't verify the -- the numbers.

And the right number of civilian casualties is zero.

Q: Okay, well, the first question -- about the ratio.

MR. KIRBY: That is -- that's the answer to your -- both your questions. I can't -- I can't -- the right number of civilian casualties is zero. I'm not going to speak to the ratio that the IDF is putting out there. The right number of civilian casualties is zero. And I can't verify the 15,000 number. We've said many, many thousands have been killed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. And, Admiral, is the Lebanese army -- they are supported by the U.S. We receive millions of dollars over the years of -- of military aid. Is it part of the war? Is a part of the conflict? Because Israelis carried an attack against a Lebanese army base in south of Lebanon and killed some soldiers. Is that acceptable?

MR. KIRBY: It -- I didn't follow the first --

Q: Sorry.

MR. KIRBY: -- part of your question.

Q: An Israeli airstrike carried an attack against a Lebanese base -- an Lebanese army base in the south. Is it -- is it acceptable?

MR. KIRBY: I'll -- I'll let -- as I've said many times before, I'll let the Israeli Defense Forces speak to their airstrikes, to their military operations.

Q: Against the Lebanese army -- is it part of --

MR. KIRBY: I will let them --

Q: -- is it part of the conflict?

MR. KIRBY: I will let them speak to their operations. And I'm not going to armchair quarterback their operations here from this podium.

We're going to make sure that they have the security assistance they need to defend themselves.

Q: So -- so, do you and then express that there is no safe zones in the south? And now Israel -- Israel is encouraging people to move more to the south. So, is it a collective punishment again? I don't -- are we going to see more civilians dying in the south because --

MR. KIRBY: We don't want to see --

Q: -- there is no safe zones?

MR. KIRBY: We don't see a single more civilian killed. And we don't want to seeing a -- see a single more civilian injured. We don't want to see damage to civilian infrastructure, like hospitals, and we have made that case and we'll continue to make that case to our Israeli counterparts.

Q: But you don't want to see -- but that's not -- nothing is changing on the ground.

A CNN producer lost nine members of his family today. Killing journalists -- over 60 journalists died on the ground, even in South Lebanon. They're not a target. They were clearly journalists. What -- what's really happening?

So, if we -- if we call Hamas a designated terrorist group, killing civilians -- as a non-sector player, isn't also Israel acting like a terror state, act -- killing human -- humans -- civilians, unarmed people, journalists every day?

MR. KIRBY: So, again, we don't want to see civilian casualties. And --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we're going to move -- I'm sorry.

MR. KIRBY: -- and -- sorry, just one more point.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm sorry. I'm sorry, John.

MR. KIRBY: It's okay.

I don't know if this is going to answer your question.

Q: Go ahead.

MR. KIRBY: Hamas -- Hamas deliberately slaughtered and murdered some 1,200 people on the 7th of October, and it seems like we're all willing to forget that. Deliberately. It was their intent. And to take hostages. They actually -- that was the purpose of the whole thing on the 7th.

Now, we've been very honest with our Israeli counterparts. We want to be careful, cautious, deliberate. We don't want to see any more civilians harmed on this, but they have a right and a responsibility to defend themselves against that very genocidal threat.

And it is not the Israeli Defense Forces' strategy to kill innocent people. It's happening; I admit that. Each one is a tragedy.

But it's not like the Israelis are sitting around every morning and saying, "Hey, how many more civilians can we kill today? Let's go bomb a -- let's go bomb a school or a hospital or a residential building and just -- and cause civilian casualties." They're not doing that. They're trying to go after Hamas.

And it's a very difficult task when Hamas -- oh, by the way, in addition to deliberately slaughtering people -- is deliberately hiding themselves in residential buildings, in hospitals, in tunnels, making it -- putting the innocent people of Gaza directly in the crossfire.

Now, you tell me, is that right?

Q: Is that right? Okay, let's --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)

Q: Please, sorry, it's a --

MR. KIRBY: I think we got to move on.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we're going to --

Q: Okay, so -- but so --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're going to move on. Go ahead, Janne.

Q: -- think of the --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're going to move on. We got to move on.

Q: -- (inaudible) she was an important life. She was --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Janne. Go ahead, Janne.

Q: Thank you. Thank you, Karine.

Q: Sorry.

Q: And thank you, John. I have two questions. You may have seen this report in North Korea transshipped 10,000 containers to Russia yesterday and the -- whether this is a weapons or ammunitions. How do you think that this will affect Putin's war in Ukraine?

And second question, this weekend, the U.S. and South Korea and Japan national security advisors meeting in South Korea.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: What will be the main topic discussed at this meeting?

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Sullivan is very much looking forward to this -- this trip to Seoul to meet with both his South Korean and Japanese counterparts.

And I think they're -- I don't want to get ahead of Jake, but I think you can expect a robust agenda of -- of discussions of regional issues of mutual concern, particularly in the security environment. I know that Jake is looking forward to having discussions with both of those leaders about how we can build on the Camp David agreement and really try to improve our trilateral cooperation, as well as the bilateral cooperation between the Republic of Korea and -- and Japan.

On your first question, I haven't seen those reports, so I can't specifically talk about this shipment. But I have talked about many times our concerns about North Korea providing artillery shells, for instance, to the Russian military, and making it easier for them to -- to kill Ukrainians.

Q: Does the U.S. have any assessment of how successful Israel has been so far in achieving its military aims in Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, again, we're not -- we're not doing a report card on their operations. They get to do that. These are their operations.

I will tell you, though, Yasmeen, that they have said they want to go after Hamas leadership. And what we're seeing is that they are actually conducting operations with that result in mind, that that's -- that that's the -- the outcome that they're -- they're trying to achieve.

And they have achieved some measure of success going after Hamas leaders at various levels. Just over the weekend, we know that they were able to take out a battalion commander operating -- a Hamas battalion commander operating in the north.

But they -- but they are primarily focused on trying to decapitate the organization.

Q: And --


Q: Sorry, I just have one --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, go ahead.

Q: -- one quick question. Thanks, Kirby. Does the U.S. have any sense of when they think the military operation will be wrapped up or when you would like to see it sort of come to a close?

MR. KIRBY: I'll let the Israelis speak to their timing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, I'm going to start wrapping it up.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Thanks, John. So, we heard the FBI director yesterday testify that he sees flashing lights everywhere related to terrorism. What's the level of concern of the President about who's walking across our southern border with those 1.7 million gotaways over the past three fiscal years?

MR. KIRBY: The President is always concerned about threats to the safety and security of the American people, whether those threats come from -- from the southern border area or from -- from elsewhere around the world. In particular, threats to Americans that are living overseas. It's always on his mind.

Q: And -- and specifically about the southern border, though, so then why not cut that flow, stop that flow of people?

MR. KIRBY: We -- as -- as the President said, he's all about border security. And that's why he added money in the supplemental to increase border security, including some 1,300 additional Border Patrol agents and -- and, again, more asylum officers, more resources to crack down on fentanyl coming across that border. He believes strongly in border security.

Now, look, he has a difference of opinion with -- with some Republicans on Capitol Hill about what border security should entail and what it shouldn't entail, like a wall or not. But -- but he's absolutely serious about it and willing, as he said to you guys himself this afternoon, to continue to negotiate in good faith with Republicans about how to get at that.


Q: Karine, thank you very much. Admiral, thank you. One question on Ukraine funding and one on Israel, if you would.

On Ukraine funding, the President has stated publicly many times, as have a number -- a number of his aides, you included, that you're all confident that the President will be able to persuade the United States Congress to renew funding for the Ukraine armed forces. Today, he held that video call with the leaders of the G7, and it's manifestly clear that he's not necessarily going to be able to deliver on that promise. And yet, for the better part of a year, or more than a year, he's been telling those same G7 leaders, in essence, "I've got this. I will get that funding out of the United States Congress."

Today, he cannot make that promise to the same group of leaders. Is that a source of some embarrassment for him and for the United States?

MR. KIRBY: No, I disagree that it's not "manifestly clear," James. I'm not sure where you're getting that phrase.

The President remains confident that support to Ukraine is important for our national security interest. He remains confident that he's going to continue to work with members of Congress to get this done. He said so himself in those -- in those comments.

And he's confident -- oh, by the way -- that there's still strong bipartisan and bicameral support for Ukraine up on Capitol Hill. We got a small number of Republicans that are pushing back on that.

The President is not going to give up on this.

Q: You've also got a small window now.

MR. KIRBY: Well, the window is definitely getting smaller. I've been saying that for weeks now. The runway is getting shorter and shorter, and we've got, basically, until the end of this month.

Q: On Israel, does President Biden regard Prime Minister Netanyahu as a capable or even a great military leader?

MR. KIRBY: The -- the President respects the position that Prime Minister Netanyahu is in. This is a man he's known for many, many years. They don't agree on everything. But he is the elected prime minister of our good friend, ally, and partner in Israel.

And we're going to continue to work with him and make sure that he knows the United States will continue to have their back, as well, as they fight Hamas.

Q: But he believes that Mr. Netanyahu knows what he's doing right now as a military --

MR. KIRBY: James --

Q: -- (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: James, I'm -- I'm not going to play this game, and we're not going to get into characterizing foreign leaders here from this podium.

He's the elected leader of Israel. The President has respect for him. He understands the challenges that the Prime Minister is going through right now. And -- and we have done everything we can -- and we'll continue to do it -- not just in terms of weapons and capabilities, but advice and counsel and perspective and lessons learned from our own experience in this kind of warfare.

Q: But, presumably, the President would not preside over the provision of all of this money and intelligence and weaponry and strategic counsel to Mr. Netanyahu if Mr. Biden felt that Mr. Netanyahu did not know what he was doing with it all.

MR. KIRBY: He feels that Israel has every right and responsibility to defend itself against a truly genocidal threat represented by Hamas -- a threat that was on display for the whole world to see in sickening ways on the 7th of October.

He's coming at this from years and years of support and experience with Israel and leaders of all sizes and stripes coming from Israel. That's where this is coming from: a true love and respect for Israel as a nation and the Israeli people and the right for themselves to -- to be able to live in peace and security.


MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks. Thanks, Admiral.

Q: Thanks, John.

Q: Thank you, John.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, guys.

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

All right, Aamer.

Q: Thanks. Just going back on the Ukraine/border conversation with Republicans. Can you drill down specifically on what some of the compromises the President is willing to support?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I'm just going to reiterate what my colleague just s- -- just stated, that there is -- there is no negotiating from here. That's not what we're going to do.

You heard my topper, when I talked about how, for some time now, there were Republicans and Democrats who were -- who were behaving in -- in good faith and trying to -- to move forward with this.

And now what we're seeing from some -- many Republicans is trying to, certainly, set us back here.

It is a -- it is critical to our national security that Congress act now. You've just heard the admiral say that the -- it's by the end of this month. That is the timing here -- by the end of this month. We are running out of time. Congress has a choice. They have a choice.

And you heard this very clearly from the President earlier this afternoon: Are they going to support democracy and freedom by standing with Ukraine, as we have been doing from the beginning? Let's not forget, there was bipartisan support -- majority bipartisan support from Congress when this all started. When Putin launched its war, there was bipartisan support, and that should -- that should remain.

And so, you know, if we don't do that, we are -- we risk giving Putin the greatest gift -- the greatest gift right now. And so, we have to -- we have to act. The time is now. The world is watching, for sure. And we can't let Putin win. And so, that's our message. It's going to continue to be our message.

We have been talking to Congress for some time now, and -- and we're certainly going to continue to have those conversations. But I'm just not going to get into a tit for tat or policy for policy on -- on nego- -- by negotiating here at the -- at the podium.

Q: Can you just more broadly sort of address -- I think this overarching criticism that Republicans have had is that the -- they now have a -- and they've had for about a year now -- one chamber of Congress and that, sort of, the outlines of bills change with time -- who -- who -- who has the White House, who has control of the chambers.

So, should -- is the White House essentially acting in good faith and just acknowledging that this is a different Congress than that they had -- that you guys had at the start of this presidency --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look --

Q: -- and how you're going at this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not understanding the White House having to act in good faith.

What I can tell you right now is that we made it very clear -- there was a letter that was put out on Monday by Shalanda Young, our -- obviously, the director of OMB -- and there is no, you know, magical pot of funding available.

We -- we have a country, Ukraine, that is fighting for their democracy, that is fighting for their sovereignty. That is incredibly important. They are fighting against an aggression that they have seen -- right? -- for almost two years from Putin. And that is what matters here.

That is -- we have to understand that, yes, in the beginning, there was a bipartisan support. Let's not forget the Speaker -- Speaker Johnson himself talking about a new Congress. This is the Speaker. And he said, and I'll quote, "We can't allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine, because I don't believe it would stop there." "We're not going to abandon them." This is coming from the Speaker of the House -- right? -- the Republican leader of the House.

Q: But on the bo- -- and I apologize for being so inarticulate, but on the border aspect of this --


Q: -- Republicans are saying, you --


Q: -- just d- -- you just don't have both chambers of Congress, you got to be willing to have -- go along with a more conservative bill, that's just the nature of the moment.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I -- well, here's the thing: You know, we should not be making -- probably should not be making this a partisan issue. We shouldn't. And they're blocking funding, right?

There's a reason why the P- -- the President put border security in this national security supplement, because we believe it's incredibly important.

From -- from day one, the President put forward a comprehensive immigration policy to try and deal with this, but Republicans are playing politics with this. They're playing politics.

I'm not going to negotiate on the provisions they're asking for, the policies they -- they wanted to change. I'm not going to get into that.

But there's a reality here. There's a reality here.

And I talked about how there have been -- senators have engaged in good faith in negotiations. They have been, right? Democrats have been bipartisan compromises here. They have been some good-faith negotiation happening on -- in Congress. But then what you hear from Republicans yesterday is they doubled -- they are doubling down yet again.

And so, look, we have been taking this very seriously and trying to deal with this border security issue. This is an issue that has been happening before this president came into office. Democrat and Republican presidents have had to deal with this. The system is indeed broken, but they have to take this seriously. They have to.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: On this topic, the President said earlier today that Republicans are holding Ukraine's funding hostage for an "extreme" partisan border policy. Can you tell us specifically what it is about the Senate Republican proposal that is extreme?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, you heard from them directly. They -- there are certain policies that they want to get rid of, whether it's asylum components of it -- they have been very, very clear. And that's extreme. That is changing and making the system worse.

But I'm not going to negotiate. I'm not going to go point by point and saying, like, what we're going to agree on, what we're not going to agree on.

But it has been extreme. You just hear it from them. You hear it from the House and Se- -- and from -- from some Republicans in the Senate. They have been very clear about this.

But we need to actually fix the system. We actually need to -- to make the system, and you've heard us say this, and move forward with a system that is humane and orderly. That's why the President has put forward some of the ways that he wanted -- he wants to move forward with it.

That's why he's asked for more additional funding, because we need additional funding to deal with what's happening at the border.

But I'm not -- again, I'm not going to negotiate from here. They have been very clear on the provisions and the policy changes that they want to make. I'm just not going to get into details from here.

Q: So, I'm not -- I don't want you to negotiate from here --


Q: -- but just looking for more clarity. When the President says that he is willing to go further to change policy, what exactly is he talking about? Is he saying that he's open to curbing humanitarian parole authority?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get into -- get into the specifics. But all you have to do is listen to what Republicans are saying and how extreme that they are sounding, right? And what they're doing is, they're saying, "We have to mo- -- we have to move forward in these extr- -- in an extreme border negotiations ways…" -- right? -- with their policies -- "…and hold and kneecap Ukraine funding," which is something that we have to move forward with. We have to mo- -- make sure that Ukraine gets -- gets the funding that they need.

I'm just not going to get into specifics. They can speak for themselves. They have been.

Q: I asked about the President's policies, not them. What is the President --


Q: -- when he says --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I've been very clear.

Q: -- he wants to change policy --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I've been very clear.

Q: -- what does he mean?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am not going to negotiate from here. They have been -- Senate -- senators -- Republican senators, the House Republicans have been very clear on what they want to change. I'm just not going to get into details and specifics from here.

Go ahead.

Q: Karine, on the border negotiations. When was the last time that the White House spoke to Senate Republicans about this issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a timeline of conversations. I can tell you that there's been -- there is always multiple conversations happening pretty regularly from our Office of Leg Affairs, from folks here in the White House with members of Congress on an array of issues. I just don't have a breakdown on when conversations have been happening (inaudible).

Q: And Leg Affairs is -- is running point on this issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. And that's -- that's where it comes out of: Office of Leg Affairs.

Q: Do they have anything on the books as far as a future meeting or negotiations with Senate Republicans --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have --

Q: -- on this issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any specific calls or readouts or meetings to lay out for you.

As you know, the OMB Director, Office of Leg Affairs, you have the NSC, Jake Sullivan, who have had multiple conversations -- multiple conversation on the national security supplement more broadly -- obviously, also, with Director Young also talking about our do- -- domestic supplemental ask as well.

So, those conversations -- right? -- as we have been asking for these emergency needs, have been happening for some weeks -- for a few weeks from -- for some months now.

And so, that -- that I can tell you. We've talked about that. I think some of you have reported times that they have gone to the Hill and had those conversations.

I just don't have a timeline to lay out to you on when those conversations have been.

Q: And then one other Capitol Hill issue. There was a new piece of legislation that was introduced by Democrats in -- in both chambers that would allow for people who've been convicted of a felony to vote in -- in federal elections. Does the White House like this proposal? Is it consistent with your views more broadly on voting rights?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I've not seen this proposal. I would certainly have to talk to our team to see where -- where we are with that particular legislation.

I can say that there was an executive action that the President signed very early on -- how we can better make sure that voting is more accessible for Americans on the federal level. I certainly will point you to that executive action.

I just can't speak to this particular legislation or policy that's been fo- -- put forward.

Go ahead, MJ.

Q: Karine, I wanted to ask you about this congressional hearing yesterday where a number of college presidents were asked about antisemitism on their campuses.

One of the questions that got a lot of attention was whether calling for the genocide of Jews constitutes bullying or harassment. The presidents didn't give straightforward answers. I wondered what the White House's response would be to that specific question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And so, look -- and you know -- you all know this, and I think the President has been very clear. He's had -- he's had total moral clarity on this. And the President has -- has set an example for all leaders during this gut-wrenching increase in antisemitism.

He certainly has been -- he's spoken very forcefully against it. Calls for genocide are unacceptable. It's vile, and it -- it's counter to everything this country stands for. I can't believe I even have to say that. I can't believe I even have to say that. I shouldn't have to.

And, you know, we've talked about this. We have witnessed the worst massacre -- on October 7th, we witnessed the worst massacre suffered by the Jewish people since the Holocaust and the latest in a heartbreaking pattern that goes back thousands of years.

So, statements that advocate for the systemic murder of Jews are appalling, and we should all stand against them. We should all stand against them.

And so, just on the human side of thi- -- of things, you're talking about human dignity, right? You're talking about the most basic values that unite us as Americans.

And so, I should not have to be saying this at the podium. This should be something that -- that we should -- this should be who we are -- right? -- and how we move forward. We should be calling out -- calling out this type of hate.

Q: So, just because these college presidents had a hard time giving straightforward answers to these questions, I'm just wondering if a White House employee were to, for example, call for the genocide of Jewish people, would that person be reprimanded?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What -- what I will say is that is something that we do not stand for, right? We do not stand for calls for genocide. That is unacceptable. That is vile. We will call that out. We will be very clear about that. And that is something that -- you know, the President has had moral clarity on this. He has.

And so, antisemitism is unacceptable. It's unacceptable, and we will continue to be really, really clear about that.

It doesn't matter if you -- if -- if you're -- if you work in this administration and you make those type of vile comments, we will call that out. We will call that out.

I don't want to get into hypotheticals, but that -- we are very clear where we stay on here. Very clear.

Q: Why do you think it is that these college presidents --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can't speak for these college presidents. I cannot. They have to speak for themselves on this.

Go ahead, Selina.

Q: Thank you, Karine. The President has made defending democracy a key part of his presidency. What does he make of the former President's comments -- Donald Trump's comments that he would not be a dictator except for on day one of a second term?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I can't speak to the former President's comments. Obviously, he is now a candidate in the 2024 election. So, I want to be really mindful. There's the Hatch Act that I have to follow.

But look, I -- what I can say -- what I can say is that the President -- when this President decided to run in 2019, and also in 2020, he was very clear -- he was very clear on what he was seeing, right? He was seeing that our democracy was under attack, our values was under attack. And he believed that we needed a different view from what we were hearing from that president at the time.

And so, he -- he -- he's always believed in the importance of protecting democratic values and, certainly, protecting our rights. And it's not just us. It's a majority of Americans.

We saw that in the results of the elections in 2022, in that first midterm under this president. We saw that again in 2023, where Americans -- a majority of Americans want us to continue to fight for our democracy and also continue to fight for our freedoms.

And so, that is something that the President believes and has continued -- going to speak against it and also speak to why it's so important as a nation that we stand up and fight for our democracy. And that is who we are -- who we are at our ethos.

Q: Will the President plan to watch tonight's Republican primary debate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President is pretty busy tonight. He has a lot going on. I think he's going to be hosting some of you tonight -- (laughter) -- at the -- in the residence of -- with your loved ones. So, I think he's going to be pretty busy tonight.

Q: In the back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. The White House has previously said that they want to see a path for DREAMers in any new border security measures. Is that something the President still wants to see or (inaudible) --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. That's something he still wants to see. That -- remember that -- his immigra- -- first comprehensive immigration policy that he put forth on day one? That is something that he con- -- he wants to see.

Q: But is that still practical right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we got to continue to make sure we ask Congress to -- to -- you know, to act. You know, I mean, this is a president who certainly is optimistic. And so, certainly is not going to hold us back from -- from pushing forward on something that is important for this country, important for those DREAMers who have been here for some time, have been part of -- of the American experience. And we believe that they should have a path to citizenship.

Go ahead.

Q: Does the White House have any comment on former Speaker McCarthy saying that he's going to step down at the end of the year and the kind of narrowing Republican majority that's going on in -- in the House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, yeah, I do have a couple of things I want to say about that. The President wishes Speaker McCarthy well and congratulates him on a career of service.

While they have important differences about policy, the President appreciates that they were able to work across the aisle on important priorities for the American people. And he appreciates that Speaker McCarthy's story is an American one, rising from founding a small business to being the highest-ranking member of Congress.

The President also congratulates Speaker McCarthy's wife, Judy, and their children, Connor and Meghan.

I don't have anything else to add to that. But that is our statement on the -- on the Speaker -- the former Speaker's statement.

Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Should those university presidents resign?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is not for us to decide.

What I can say is -- give the moral clarity of where the President stands on this. It is -- it is sad. It is sad that I have to be asked about those comments that they -- they made or answering a question that should be very easy to answer. Right?

It's should be very easy to stand up and say, "We, of course -- of course, we're going to call out any type of genocide, especially as we have seen against the Jewish community. Of course, we're going to call out antisemitism."

I can't speak to how their process runs. That is not for me to speak to.

Q: And hearing your strong answer, you know, standing firmly against antisemitism, though, why is it not appropriate for the White House to stand firmly against antisemitism by calling for the resignations of those --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because they -- each -- it's a private -- they're -- some of them are private universities, right? Pri- -- they have their own process. We do not get involved in private university process and how they run their university.

But what we can be very clear on and give moral clarity and call out and be very -- being asked that question, we can say, "No, anti- -- antisemitism is unacceptable." It is unacceptable.

What we saw on Oct- -- October 7th, the slaughter -- the slaughtering of innocent people -- innocent people because of who they are and what they believe, that is unacceptable. That is unacceptable.

Q: Should their codes of conduct, at the very least, be updated if they --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't even know what their code of conducts is, so I can't even speak to it.

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that is something for the university to speak to.

Q: Can -- can you explain what the deal is with this

intern letter? I've seen some reporting that there were supposedly some interns that wrote to the President calling for a ceasefire, but there weren't any names on that letter. Has the White House determined if this was, in fact, White House interns that were writing to the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here's what I can say: As you s- -- as you stated, they -- it was anonymous. I know this is a painful moment for multiple communities and that many people have strong views and -- on -- and this conflict is personal for many people.

So, we've been clear about Israel's right to defend itself -- we've been clear, over and over, since October 7th about this -- in -- in accordance with the laws, right? We've also been clear about that -- the laws of war against an activist -- activist -- I should say an active -- an active terrorist threat from Hamas. They are a terrorist organization. So, Israel should be allowed to defend itself against a terrorist organization.

And let's not forget, they want to an- -- annihilate Israel. That's what they have said over and over again.

So, President Biden has been fighting to keep humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza, as well as pressing our -- pressing our Israeli part- -- counterparts to do all they can to minimize civilian casualties.

That is something that the President has worked on for -- since day one, to make sure that humanitarian aid does get to civilians in Gaza.

But I -- you know, as you stated, it was an anon- -- anonymous, but I can just state, more broadly, how we move -- how we've been moving forward with this.

AIDE: Karine, we have time for one more.

Q: Is the President's decision to run in 2024 final?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You heard from the President, obviously. I've got be careful: 2024, Hatch Act. But you've heard from the President on this. He answered this multiple times yesterday. Obviously -- obviously, it's final.

I'm going to take one last one.

Q: In the back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm trying to find somebody. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Just following up on Danny's question about Venezuela. Is that something the President is dialed in on? And is this something the administration views as a credible threat, that they might annex and actually seize territory from Guyana?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm not going to go beyond what the Admiral said from here. Obviously, the President is aware of what's going on. I just -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to go beyond what the Admiral stated from here moments ago on Venezuela.

Thanks, everybody. We'll see you tomorrow.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

3:53 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

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives