Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:53 A.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Hello. Good afternoon.
Q: Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Hi, Weijia. (Laughs.)
Q: Not quite. It's still morning.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, that's right. We are a bit early. We got nine more minutes before it's afternoon. Okay.
Today, President Biden announced that a record-breaking 21.3 million Americans have enrolled in healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act. It's another major milestone in his work to expand access to affordable healthcare and lower costs for families.
Not only do more Americans have healthcare coverage than ever before, but thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which every single Republican in Congress voted against, this President has capped the cost of insulin to 35 bucks for seniors, allowed Medi- -- Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for the first time ever, and has saved millions of Americans an average of 800 bucks per month [year] on their healthcare insurance.
The American people have made it clear. They don't want the Affordable Care Act weakened and/or repealed. They want it strengthened and protected.
President Biden will continue to fight to bring down healthcare costs and prescription drug costs as well.
With that, we have the Admiral in the briefing room today, who's going to give us a little bit of an update on travel to Africa and also an update on the latest on the Middle East.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you. Afternoon, everybody.
So, yeah, I do a little bit of gripe -- gra- --
Q: Good afternoon? Good morning.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good morning.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, good morning. I'm sorry. Yeah. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Okay. Okay.
MR. KIRBY: I wasn't paying attention, clearly.
I do have a little bit of a grab bag of stuff to get through. And I'll -- I'll promise I'll try to do it as quickly as I can.
Yesterday, as I think you're all aware, in direct response to a series of escalor- -- escalatory attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria -- including, of course, at al-Asad Air Base over the weekend -- the United States military conducted strikes on facilities that were used by the Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah (inaudible) militia group, as well as other affiliated groups in Iraq.
Initial reports that we're getting indicate that we had effective results on all three targets: Two headquarters buildings and an intelligence facility were destroyed.
I want to emphasize that these actions were taken in self-defense following, of course, the attack on our forces in Iraq and certainly consistent with international and domestic law.
As the President has said, we're not going to hesitate to take necessary action to protect our troops and our facilities, and we'll stay vigilant going forward, of course.
Separately, I'm also sure that you saw yesterday a joint statement from 24 countries expressing support for the action that the United States and our -- United Kingdom armed forces -- with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Netherlands -- took against the Houthis on Monday.
I think it's notable that more and more countries now wanted to show that they condemn the Houthis' indiscriminate and unlawful attacks on international commerce and that they support the actions that we and our partners are taking.
Now, as you may have seen, several Cabinet and senior administration leaders are engaging with countries across the African continent this week, building on our commitment to accelerate U.S.-Africa partnership opportunities following the Africa Leaders Summit last year.
Just run through quickly, if I can, just to, kind of, give you a sense of the scope.
Secretary Blinken, of course, is traveling to Cabo Verde, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Angola this week.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield is visiting Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone.
U.S. International Development Finance Corporation CEO Scott Nathan led a presidential delegation to attend the Inauguration of the DRC President Ta- -- sorry, To- -- Tsheke- -- To- -- Teshikedi -- Tshisekedi over the weekend. Apologize for that.
EPA Administrator -- Administrator Regan is in Mozambique and Ghana, sharing solutions and building partnerships on a range of environmental priorities.
USAID Deputy Administrator Coleman is traveling to Maputo and the central and northern regions of Mozambique.
And the CDC's Principal Deputy Director Nirav Shah is visiting the Sahel and West Africa to discuss our health partnerships.
And, of course, Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, spoke with his Kenyan count- -- counterpart earlier this week.
That's a lot of activity just this week across the continent. And there's just the start of what we think will be a very busy 2024.
We're looking forward to deepening those relationships and -- and improving on that coordination.
Now, before I get to your questions, there -- I do want to correct something that I said yesterday. I got asked about another meeting with our Mexican par- -- partners and whether there was something on the schedule. And I said that I wasn't aware that there was anything on the schedule. But if I had done my homework, I would have been able to answer that question better.
At the conclusion of the last U.S.-Mexico Ministerial on Migration on the 19th of January, we did say in our readout that we would continue our strong cooperation on migration on the margins of the Trilateral Fentanyl Committee meeting in Mexico City in early February. And so, we'll have more to share soon on that.
But -- but I had -- I was incorrect. There was actually something on the schedule, and it's in early February.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Chris.
Q: One person missing from your travel announcement with Africa: President Biden. Is he going to go to Africa this year? He has said he's going to go.
MR. KIRBY: I have nothing to announce with respect to presidential travel.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, April.
Q: Okay. And one more thing. Also, the Russians say that Ukraine shot down a military transport craft carrying Ukrainian POWs. Does the U.S. have any information on that?
MR. KIRBY: No, we don't. We've seen the reports, but we're not in a position to confirm them.
We're obviously doing the best we can to try to get more clarity and more information on it, but I don't have anything more for you right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, April, and then in the back.
Q: John, could you give us information as to what the roadblocks were last year for the President not to go and what some of the roadblocks could be this year, in what is considered an intense year, why he would not go? What are some of the roadblocks?
MR. KIRBY: I wouldn't describe them as "roadblocks," April. I mean, as you know, there was a lot of international travel last year, and it was really a scheduling challenge. And we'll -- we'll see what this year holds.
The President is still very, very committed to making sure we are expanding and deepening our relationships on the continent. And as I just laid out in the opening statement, there's an -- that's just this week. There's an awful lot going on.
Q: But, as you said, there are scheduling challenges --there are challenges, but the President made a commitment that he would go as well as his Cabinet Secretaries. The Vice President went last year. The Cabinet Secretaries --
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: -- are still going. What is the importance of going to Africa for him in this moment still?
MR. KIRBY: He -- he's still committed to making sure that that -- that we're all in on Africa. And, again, I don't have a --
Q: But a travel (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: I don't have travel -- I don't have travel to speak to now, April. But -- but I can assure you that the President is very, very committed to deepening the relationships we have on the continent and to furthering all the lines of effort that we agreed to in the Africa Leaders Summit. That's why so many administration officials are -- are visiting right now.
Q: So, what are the positives that have come out of all the administration officials going and not him thus far?
MR. KIRBY: There's an awful lot of good work being done here. And I just kind of laid out for you briefly who's going and what they're -- and why they're going and what they're -- what they're trying to get done. And all of these visits, all of these discussions very much build on the Africa Leaders Summit and the things that we committed to doing economically, diplomatically, socially, and even, in some ways, from a security perspective.
So, I think -- let -- we'll -- we'll have good -- I think, a sense once these trips are over and these -- these principals come back on -- on what kind of progress they made, and we'll just continue to work at it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Kevin.
Q: The U.N. refugee agency in Gaza says there has been a mass casualty event at one of its shelters in Gaza. They say it was struck by two tank shells. There are hundreds of people who are sheltering -- displaced people who are sheltering here. Does the White House have a comment on this? And does this reflect a lower-intensity phase of fighting in Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: I -- I don't have any information on this particular event, the way you described it. I -- I didn't -- I don't have any background on it to share. I'm just learning about it myself. So, look, why don't we -- when the briefing is over, we'll see if we -- you know, if we can comment on it one way or the other. I don't know.
That aside, with the -- with the caveat that I don't know anything about this particular event that you're describing, the Israelis have taken steps to -- to transition their operations. They have removed a division of troops. That's a lot of troops. That's thousands of troops.
And they are pursuing, on the ground, more targeted operations against -- particularly against the leadership. They are relying less on -- on airstrikes.
Low-intensity operations doesn't mean no-intensity operations. And even in a low-intensity environment -- again, I won't speak for them -- but from my own experience, even in low-intensity operations, you're still going to be in combat. There is still going to be fighting and there's still going to be casualties.
So, again, I would just -- you know, as we think about this going forward, we shouldn't expect that as they transition to low-intensity operations that there's not still going to be some violence.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Andrea.
Q: John, just continuing on the Gaza question. Yesterday, the President's speech was interrupted by multiple protesters calling for a ceasefire. Now, we've seen these kinds of interruptions at -- at various events, but we're also seeing increased polling among the American public that is clamoring for a ceasefire. Is the President -- you know, is his perspective on this changing at all, given the daily mounting casualty toll? Is he starting to rethink whether it might be prudent to -- to ask for a halt in -- in the fighting and beyond just the pause?
MR. KIRBY: I would remind that, since very early going in this conflict, we have been urging our Israeli counterparts to be careful and precise. We have talked about the civilian casualties and how we don't want to see more. We have urged them to take different actions, and they have responded to that advice and counsel.
He understands that there are strong feelings here on all sides, as you would expect. I mean, he's been doing this a long, long time. He also believes it's really important that Israel have the right and the ability to continue to defend themselves against which is -- what is clearly still a viable threat from Hamas.
But that doesn't mean we're going to stop, again, urging
a stronger focus by our Israeli counterparts on minimizing civilian casualties and on getting aid in.
And you talked about a pause. I would also remind that, from the very beginning -- or nearly the very beginning -- this administration, under President Biden's leadership, has argued and tried to push for humanitarian pauses in the fighting so that hostages could get out and aid could get in. And we are still doing that.
Brett McGurk is in the region as we speak. In fact, he's in Doha today having discussions with our Qatari counterparts about the possibilities of another -- another hostage deal.
Q: Can I -- can I just follow up on -- sorry -- on that?
So, the President has been pushing for pauses. You've been talking here from the podium about pauses. The Israeli -- Israelis today have again, sort of, ruled out a -- a Gaza ceasefire. They've said that there were pauses for humanitarian purposes. Those have been breached by Hamas. We're hearing out of the region that there's movement towards something like a one-month pause. Can you give us an update on that?
And then, you know, whether -- you know, whether that is -- whether there's any additional language that would come as part of that about if a further -- like, a more permanent solution?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I don't have any additional context to provide today. We talked about this a little bit yesterday. As I said, Brett is in the region right now. And while he's having lots of conversations on lots of issues, this is certainly top of his agenda. And he's in Doha, as I said, today.
I -- I don't want to get ahead of those discussions, except to repeat what I said yesterday, which is these are very sober and serious discussions we're having. And we certainly want to see another humanitarian pause put in place so that we can, again, get aid in and get people out.
But how close we are to that and what the parameters of that are going to look like, how many days and the -- that's all part of the discussions we're having right now. And it would not be appropriate for me to try to speculate on where that's going right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We sadly don't have too much time. Go ahead, Selina.
Q: Thank you, Admiral. On Sergey Lavrov. He's calling for an emergency U.N. Council meeting over the plane crash. Just want to get your reaction to that, and if there could be any truth to the Russian version of events that the U.S. believes there were Ukrainian prisoner -- prisoners of war on that plane.
MR. KIRBY: Again, we just don't have enough information to comment on this -- on this plane crash. We're -- we've seen the reports of it. We're trying to get more information. But it would be imprudent for me to speculate beyond that. I just don't know the veracity of these -- of these reports.
You know, the Ukrainians are claiming one thing. The Russians are claiming another. And we just don't know enough to comment on it.
Q: And Iran's Foreign Minister told ABC News yesterday that he believes the risks of a "wider war in the region" is going up. He's blaming the U.S. for it, says that if the U.S. stopped providing aid, then Netanyahu wouldn't survive for 10 minutes. Wanted to get your reaction on that.
MR. KIRBY: If -- if the Iranian government is concerned about escalation, then the best thing they could do would be to cut off the support that they give to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and these Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq and Syria. We don't want to see conflict escalate. We don't want to see some broader war. We're not looking for a war or a conflict with anybody. We're actually trying to de-escalate.
And if the Iranians are serious about that and they want to de-escalate, well, we would welcome them stopping this support.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: John, can you give an assessment on -- on what the White House's assessment is of the hunger crisis in Gaza? We know from several aid groups that, you know, this --
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: -- "could not be worse" is the words that have been used. But what's the White House's take on -- on that right now?
MR. KIRBY: We understand that the situation -- the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. And specifically, when it comes to food insecurity, we're mindful of that -- which is why, again, you got Brett in the region right now. We're trying to do everything we can to get additional humanitarian pauses in place so that aid can get in.
It is obviously designed to help us get hostages out, of course. But when you have a lull in the fighting, man, you got to take advantage of that, and you got to get more trucks in.
And so, we're very much focused on this. And that's why food is such a principal product of the humanitarian assistance that's going in. We're mindful, though -- we're very mindful --
Q: Has the White House seen --
MR. KIRBY: -- that a lot of people are hungry.
Q: Has the White House seen reports that there are Palestinians who are trying to make flour out of animal feed at this point, like, it is -- it is that level?
MR. KIRBY: We're -- we're mindful of the dire circumstances that some people are living in in terms of food insecurity there in Gaza. Absolutely.
Now, one of the things we talked about -- I don't know, a week or so ago -- was we had worked with the Israelis to open up the Ashdod -- Ashdod port for the delivery -- direct delivery into Gaza of flour, specifically because we know how important flour and the ability to create meals from that is to the people of Gaza. So, we're very focused on this.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Okay, thank you so much. Admiral, can you comment on what happened in the Red Sea this morning? Two Maersk vessels had to turn back after explosions happened. So, were these explosions due to strikes by the Houthis? And if so, does it mean that the campaign against the Houthis still is not working?
MR. KIRBY: What I can tell you and what I do know what happened today it was that there were three Houthi missiles fired at two merchant vessels and -- in the Southern Red Sea. One missile missed by something like 200 kilometers. The other two were shot down by a U.S. Navy destroyer.
That -- that's -- that's what I know. It's -- obviously, underscores that the Houthis still intend to conduct these attacks, which means we're obviously still going to have to do what we have to -- have to do to protect that shipping.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Weijia.
Q: Thank you. Following on the humanitarian crisis. President Biden recently said that there were no sticking points when it came to the border deal, which, of course, impacts the supplemental. But there does appear to be disagreement over an aid package for Palestinian civilians. So, would the President support any measure that did not include aid for Palestinian civilians?
MR. KIRBY: I won't negotiate here from -- from the podium. That wouldn't be appropriate.
We are, we believe, making good progress here on the Senate side in a bipartisan way to try to get this supplemental funding passed and in place. We understand that that certainly includes lots of different moving pieces, but it would be irresponsible for me to go into much detail here.
Q: Thank you. Admiral, I want to ask on behalf of my colleagues in Argentina: There are reports in local media down there that they're getting ready to finalize the purchase of the F-16s that was approved in the U.S. last year. I'm wondering what your read is on that and what you can say about the context of potentially Argentina moving closer to Washington, maybe further from Beijing?
MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything on the F-16s. Let me take that question and get back to you rather than try to pontificate from here. But obviously, we -- we value the biparti- -- the bilateral relationship with Argentina and certainly want to do what we can to improve it, grow it, deepen it. But let me get back to you on the F-16s.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question. (Inaudible.)
Q: Thank you. Two questions. On Iran proxies, any confirmed reports that Iran has provided Mohajer-6 combat drone to the Sudanese army?
And secondly, why is there a double standard when it comes to that administration dealing with the Iranian proxies in the region? On one hand, you (inaudible) Israel annihilating Hamas, but only (inaudible) degrading Houthis and the Iranian-backed groups in Iraq.
MR. KIRBY: I'm not sure I understand the premise of the second question. I'm not -- there's -- there's no double standard here. We're acting in self-defense. In both cases, strikes against the Iran-backed groups in Iraq yesterday were designed to prevent them from continuing to attack our troops -- self-defense.
And the same thing goes for the attacks against the -- the Houthis. And whether it's ashore or knocking their stuff out of the sky when it's on the way to these ships like we did this morning, it's about self-defense. There's no double standard here.
And I didn't understand your first question. What was a --
Q: Can you confirm reports that Iran has provided Mohajer-6 combat drone to the Sudanese army?
MR. KIRBY: To the Sudanese. I don't -- I have not seen that report. I'll take the question and get back to you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks so much, Admiral. Thank you so much.
All right. Chris.
Q: I just wanted to recap one thing. You said there was an Africa travel update. I'm just sort of puzzled that there's nothing more on the President -- you know, I just thought --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh.
Q: -- that was going to be -- we were all waiting for that at the end of that -- that (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. Well, he did talk about Africa travel, but not as it relates to the President. But there are, as you heard from the Admiral, Cabinet Secretaries, obviously, being -- being really active with their travel, going to the continent, and having really important conversations --
Q: Is it still the President's commitment to go to the continent?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- look, it is the President's commitment to go to the continent. As it relates to a timeline, a date, I don't have that to share with you at this time. But we wanted to lift up the Cabinet Secretaries, as we have also said that we would see an influx of Cabinet Secretaries traveling to the continent, which is what you're seeing.
And the President is -- very much wants to -- wants to go to -- to the -- to the continent, obviously.
One of the reasons why we lifted up in the topper today is because the President wanted to show his commitment to the continent of Africa.
Q: And a personnel question. Mike Donilon and Jen O'Malley Dillon --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A personal -- oh, personnel.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm like, "A personal question?" (Laughter.)
Q: Personnel question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I was like, "Why now? Why here?" (Laughter.)
Q: Mike Donilon and Jen O'Malley Dillon are leaving the White House for the campaign. When are -- when is their last day here at the White House (inaudible) --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just want to --
Q: -- stay for the State of the Union?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I appreciate the question. So, a couple of things. You guys all saw the President's statement yesterday, last night, announcing that Mike Donilon and Jen O'Malley Dillon will leave the White House in the upcoming weeks to join the reelection campaign.
Like the President said, they have served with dedication and purpose as we have delivered on a historic recovery. And he is thankful to Mike and Jen both for their service in the White House these past three years.
Both are trusted advisors to the President, as you all know, who have deep experience and played important roles in the historic successes he has delivered for the American people, ranging from building an economy that works from the bottom up, middle out, not the top down; standing up for our basic freedoms as Americans; or protecting our democracy from unprecedented threats.
And on a personal note -- now, I can -- I will say this personally, I've known Jen O'Malley Dillon for some time. And she is -- has been an excellent colleague. Mike -- Mike -- Mike Donilon has become a friend over the last three years. And we are very sad to lose them.
As it relates to a timeline, it's going to be in the upcoming weeks. I just don't have a timeline to share at this time.
Go ahead, Kelly O.
Q: In terms of the event yesterday, where the President obviously indicated that the views of the public are passionate and there are expected protests, is he now braced for protests at every event where the public is expected?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, let me just say more broadly, obviously, the President respects people's right to -- to speak out peacefully, as you just stated in your -- in your -- in your question to me, Kelly O.
As it relates to events and what to expect, that is something for Secret Service. Obviously, they deal with that. That's not something that I can speak to. They look out for that. They deal with that, so I don't want to get ahead of the Secret Service process.
But, look, you know, again, the President believes that Americans have the right to speak out, make their voice heard as long as they do it peacefully. And so, we res- -- we respect that.
Q: And, of course, the event was about, in large part, a strong view that the administration and the campaign have that reproductive rights, abortion rights are an essential in this campaign season. Do you get a sense that the President is going to find ways to do more to personalize this story of how women are affected by it? He cited ways where women are not getting medical care. He talked about how influential it is. Is there some other outreach that he can do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, appreciate the question. Look, I think what you heard -- obviously, yesterday was a campaign event that the President did with the other principals in the administration -- and you heard him speak passionately and fiery, I will say, about the issue.
On Monday, as you all know, this week would have been the 51st -- if Roe was still a constitutional law, it would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And we talked about -- you've heard from the President; you've heard from the Vice President -- talk about how devastating the overturning of Roe have been to women across the country.
And just the amount of -- of legislation that is restricting that right, restricting that reprod- -- reproductive right that we've seen in states.
What I will say as it relates to outreach -- there is something that I will share with all of you. On Sunday, the President and the First Lady spoke to Kate Cox, who was forced to go to court to seek permission for the care she needed for a non-viable pregnancy that threatened her life -- that threatened her life. They thanked her for her courage in sharing her story and speaking out about the impact of the extreme abortion ban in Texas. The First Lady invited Kate to join her as a guest at the State of the Union, and Kate accepted.
So, those are ways that you're going to hear the President lift up those very personal stories. You saw that yesterday with Amanda who came and who introduced the President. And it is important. It is important for Americans to hear the horroring [harrowing] stories that we're hearing from women of their experiences across the country.
And one last thing I'll say -- and it looks like you have a follow-up, and I apologize -- is that, you know, this is a President and administration -- the Biden-Harris administration is standing with the majority of Americans on this -- with majority of Americans. And Republican elected officials are just not.
Q: I had a follow-up (inaudible) there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know you had a follow-up. (Laughs.)
Q: Was that a private call or was that something that you recorded? Sometimes we've seen those --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- as released later. What's the status of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it definitely was a private car- -- co- -- call -- pardon me, a private call. I -- I cannot speak if it was recorded. But obviously, it was a private call that they thought it was really important -- the President and the First Lady -- to reach out to Kate.
As you all know and all have reported -- and she's been on some of the networks here -- her story is incredibly powerful, devastating. And -- and it speaks to the moment that we are in now when we talk about women having the right to make these deeply personal decisions about their healthcare that was taken away by the Supreme Court.
And we have Republican officials that continue to talk about -- and in Congress introduce, you know, national bans. And so, that is not where this President and this Vice President stands. And you're going to continue to hear us to speak to that.
Go ahead, Kevin.
Q: When you talked to the President afterwards, is he frustrated that he wasn't able to sort of deliver this speech as he intended?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look -- look, the President -- from my view -- and I think some of your colleagues have written about this -- it was a fiery speech. It was a deeply, deeply impactful speech. You heard how the crowd reacted to the speech. It was a speech that, I think, landed in a way that talked about how this President and his entire administration is going to fight for women. And that is also important.
Look, you know, I said this at the top when I was asked this question, he respects all Americans -- you know, their right to speak out as long -- and make sure that their -- their voices are heard, just as long -- they do it in a peaceful way. That's what we want to see.
And he's made clear about where he stands on -- you know, on the -- on the issue that we've been talking about, obviously, today with Israel being able to defend themselves, understanding the painful time that a number of communities -- and we're certainly working to be supportive of resource -- and resource -- and respect different points of views.
But he's been very, very clear. And, look, we're going to -- you know, we're going to continue to -- to be clear about that -- where we stand -- and also, obviously, respect the peaceful protest that, you know, Americans are allowed to do.
Q: Was there any effort after the speech yesterday to try and engage some of these protesters, to have President Biden talk with them directly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I can't speak to any -- any opportunities to engage with the protesters. But, obviously, they made -- they made their voices very loud and clear. And I'll just leave it there.
Q: When is the last time he talked to folks who are advocating for a ceasefire?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I think he hears from Americans all the time. I think he -- he --
Q: But in terms of, like, a direct conversation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, he -- I can't speak to a direct conversation that he's had, but he hears from Americans all the time about their different views that they have. And so, that is -- you know, that is the -- something that the President is very aware of.
So, don't have any direct conversations to speak to, but obviously the President has -- is aware of what's happening and how people feel.
Q: So, the UAW -- President Biden will speak to the UAW, today. The UAW has also called for a ceasefire. Does that complicate the -- you know, any effort to sort of get -- you know, does it complicate the relationship between President Biden and the union if these large unions -- it's not just the UAW, but others who are also calling for a ceasefire?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this. The President -- as you know, in the fall, the President joined UAW workers on -- on the picket line. And he was the first president to ever do that. Because this is a President who says it all the time: He believe the union built the middle class. He believes that the unions are -- should be able to, you know, get the benefits that they deserve for working so hard -- right? -- for working and -- you know, on behalf of the American people, obviously.
But, look -- and he supported them for their historic fight to get a historic contract. So, he has -- he believes he has and we believe he has a very good relationship with unions, not just the UAW.
And, look -- and -- and not just that. He fought very proudly to -- and -- and won the type of major investment needed to ensure that we have EV future -- EV future made in America, right? When we talk about manufacturing, when we talk about bringing manu- -- manufacturing back to America, and that is something that he has been very proud about.
And so, he's been a union guy for a very long time. He continual -- we will continue to do that. He's going to go and speak to UAW. Obviously, he has a good relationship with UAW if he's going to go do that.
And he proudly, proudly stood next to union workers, as I stated, in the fall to -- on the picket line -- something that no other president has done.
Go ahead. And then I'll come to the back.
Q: Thanks, Karine. The Boeing CEO is being scrutinized on Capitol Hill today. What has been the President's reaction to the ongoing safety concerns? And is there any message from the White House to reassure American travelers?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, as -- as I've stated, and I've stated this before, FAA, their -- one of their number one priorities is to make sure that Americans feel safe flying, and -- and certainly they've take actions to -- to show their commitment to make sure that, you know, flights are -- are safe and they feel safe doing that.
I don't have any specifics. Obviously, as you just mentioned, the executives are -- are on the Hill. And that is something FAA and -- is continuing to look into exactly what's going on there.
Just don't have anything more to share. I'm going to not get ahead of -- of what they're looking into.
Q: And just going back to the earlier question on the UAW. I know you can't talk about the campaign. But, you know, the President has called himself the most pro-union president.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: We haven't seen an endorsement yet.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: Could you just talk a bit about what the President's message is going to be and your views on whether or not he's going to clinch that endorsement soon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, and not just the President has called himself the p- -- the most pro-union president; other unions have called him the most pro-union president. So, I just want to make that clear.
I cannot speak to endorsements from here. That is something that the campaign would have to speak to.
Again, the President was very proud to join -- join union members at the picket line early this fall. He has fought for union members throughout -- not just the last three years, but throughout his career. And that's something that he's going to continue to do.
I'm just not going to speak to any -- any endorsements from here.
Go ahead, Jon.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Can you give an overview about the President's trip that he's taking tomorrow to Wisconsin?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you all know, he's going to go to Superior, Wisconsin. I'm not going to get ahead. We'll have more to share about that tomorrow or if not later in the day.
Look -- and I think I said a little bit about this earlier this week when I announced the trip -- he's going to continue to talk about investing in America; what he's doing to make -- make Americans' lives a little bit more easier -- right? -- a little -- giving them a little bit more breathing room; talk about Bidenomics.
And one thing that I will say -- and I don't want to get ahead of it -- I think you saw a tweet from a congressman from Minnesota 8, who -- who touted the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, something that this congressman -- Congressman Stauber -- who did not vote for it. And it -- what's interesting is it was a bipartisan piece of legislation.
Obviously, we were thankful to Republicans who -- who did work with the President to -- to put forth this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and voted for it and pushed for it. But there are some Republicans who didn't, and they see the benefits of this particular law and now are touting it, but didn't vote for it -- did not vote for it at all.
So, the President is going to go to Superior, Wisconsin. He'll have a -- he'll have more to say. I'm not going to get ahead of him.
Q: Do you suppose the President will call out that congressman, in particular --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll see.
Q: -- while he's on the ground there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll see. I mean, I called him out. And we called him out on -- on "X" -- now, I think it's called. (Laughter.) So, you know, we'll continue -- we'll continue to be very clear about that.
Go ahead, April.
Q: Karine, what do you have to say about the confirmation -- Senate confirmation this afternoon of the 34th and 35th Black women judges in this administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What -- what to say about that, specifically --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- the confirmation?
Look, this is a president who has been very clear and has stuck to his commitment: When he said that he wanted to make sure he had an administration that looked like America, including, obviously, a judicial system that looked like America. And he's been very proud. He has been very proud of the women that he's been able -- the women of color, Black women that he's been able to put forward to get confirmed for some of these judicial appoint- -- appointments.
And so, look, you see that in his administration. You see that in his appointments. He wants to make sure that we represent what this country looks like. And he's been very proud of that.
Q: In the long term --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- what does this administration believe that this will do to reshape the court system in this nation --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think --
Q: -- with these appointments?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think it's important that we -- that we have this type of representation. And you hear us say this many -- many times: representation matters. And I think that is important that we make sure we have, obviously, not just representation, but the women and the -- and the -- the men and women that he has been able to appoint to these position have been incredibly ex- -- experienced. They've been impressive with their own record. They are more than qualified to have these appointments. And I think that's important too.
Q: But I'm drilling down on the Black women, at a time when people are walking away from DEI. And this is historic.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is historic. We agree with you, April.
Q: We've never seen it before.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is historic and important. It is historic and important. And this is a --
Q: But they --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let's not forget, this is a commitment that the President said that he -- he would move forward with -- right? -- making sure we have representation, making sure we have diversity, making sure we have talented, experienced people in these roles. And that's what he's doing. That's what he's doing.
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q: Thank you, Karine. I have more questions about Boeing. Has the White House been in touch with Boeing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Any, like, personal, pri- -- like, conversations with --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- with executives of Boeing?
Q: Since the loose-bolt issues arose.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any -- I don't have any calls or meetings to read out.
Q: Okay. So, this isn't the first time the FAA and Boeing have been under scrutiny. You know, the 737 Max was grounded just a few years ago. And you just said that their priority is to make sure people are safe. So, did they fail here? I mean, how could we be in this position again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we always -- I'm going to start off and say the same thing that I said. Their priority is to make sure that -- that Americans feel safe and that they are safe, and they're going to continue to work toward that goal.
And look, certainly, everything is being looked into. There's a -- as you -- as was stated by your colleague, there is a hearing happening in the -- on the Hill. And we're always going to look into what we can do -- and FAA is going to do this -- to make sure that we continue to -- that we do everything possible to make sure that they are safe, that people feel --
Q: But what's your message to American flyers who might be thinking: "Well, we can't trust Boeing. We can't trust the FAA to do its oversight part. What are we supposed to do?"
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think -- I think what -- what the President has said and will continue to say is that that's the FAA's top priority. Their top priority is -- is certainly to make sure that Americans feel safe. That's why they launched an investigation and it is -- is increasing, obviously, their oversight of Boeing.
And -- look, and we've talked about how the Boeing Max 9 aircraft will remain grounded, right? That's what they're going to do -- that's one way that Americans could feel that FAA has taken action -- until FAA is satisfied -- they are satisfied that they are safe to return to service.
And so, look, that is -- that is a commitment that Americans could be sure of. That is a top priority of FAA's. We want to make sure that we look into it and figure out exactly what happened, and they're going to get to the bottom of it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Just wanted to get an updated read on inflation impacts of the Red Sea attacks. I wonder if the White House is seeing anything in the data that (inaudible) concern?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we've been asked about this a couple of times. I think the Admiral may have been asked about this yesterday as well.
Look, we're -- these are things that we're obviously going to continue to monitor. We have not seen any -- any impacts.
Our national security team and obviously our economic team are going to continue to keep a close eye on this, on the evolving situation in the Red Sea. The Department of Transportation and the Navy are in close communication with oc- -- ocean shippers and insurers industry and other stakeholders. And we're taking steps to ensure shipping in the Red Sea is an un- -- unobstructed.
So, that is something that we're certainly going to continue to monitor and keep an eye on.
Okay, go ahead.
Q: In the wake of recent job cuts at outlets like the Los Angeles Times, does the administration support legislation -- like that moving forward in California -- that would require social media platforms to pay news outlets for their content? And is the -- the administration concerned about the layoffs at the L.A. Times, Time, and -- and other outlets?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we are always -- we are always going to support the freedom of the -- of speech, obviously, and support -- and we believe journalists have a really difficult job -- right? -- to make sure that they -- you know, making sure that they are able to -- to report on -- on the facts. And so, certainly, we're always going to support that.
And we've been very clear in not engaging with the Los Angeles Times while they're going through -- while they're going through this process. I know they -- they went on -- went on strike. So, we're -- we're very respectful of -- of that as well.
As it relates to the legislation, I haven't seen the legislation. I have not spoken to the team here, so I don't want to get ahead of that.
Q: Thank you, Karine. This week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a crackdown on Zyn nicotine pouches, saying that companies seem to set their sights on young kids, teenagers, and even lower and use social media to hook them. Does the administration believe there should be a crackdown on Zyn?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's something for FDA to speak to. I can't speak to that from here. I've not seen that report, so I would refer to the FDA specifically.
Q: Thank you. There are about 800 gotaways at the border every day, 96,000 since October 1st. Does President Biden want to locate these folks who have disappeared into this country to parts unknown?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here's what I will say is that the President -- one of the reasons that the President is having these negotiation procedures or process with the Senate -- with both Republicans and Democrats -- as I've said many times before, is because we want to deal with what's going on at the border. He is taking this very seriously. He's -- he wants to make sure that we come up with a bipartisan agreement. And we are very appreciative for that.
But there's also the diplomatic aspect of it, of making sure that we're having conversations with Mexico, and we have had -- and we've had productive conversations with them.
And DHS is maximizing -- they are maximizing its enforcement efforts. And since May 12th -- and you've heard me say this as well -- DHS has been able to return more than 482,000 individuals who did not have the legal basis to be here.
So, we're doing what we can -- right? -- at the border. DHS is doing -- maximizing their process, doing what they can at the border.
But we need help, right? We need Congress to actually act and do their part as well. And we're having those negotiations and we're having those processes.
I cannot speak to the 800 -- the 8,000 number you just provided to me. What I can speak to as what we're trying to do on the policy side and the funding side to make sure that we -- the Border Patrol, the law enforcement on the ground have what they need.
Q: Different topic. Is election denying a joke now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What do you mean? You have to say more than just make a random statement (inaudible). (Laughter.)
Q: Why did the President say, "Hello, Virginia! And the real governor, Terry McAuliffe"?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He was making a joke about Terry M- -- he was making a joke --
Q: What's the joke?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He was -- I mean, if you play it back, it's clearly that the President was making a joke.
Q: What's the joke?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He was making a joke about McAuliffe's previous term as governor.
Q: How are you guys going to convince people, though, that this idea of denying election results is very bad if President Biden is going out --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: How is he --
Q: -- and making jokes about this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, he did not deny -- he did not deny it. He congratulated Governor Youngkin. Matter of fact, when he won his election, he did it out of the gate -- out of the gate. Really, truly. He -- he congratulated the governor. And not only that, we've had opportunities to work closely with the governor over the past couple of years.
And, you know, this is a president that works across the aisle. We've seen that many times. And he was making a joke.
Go ahead, Toluse.
Q: Do you have an update on the border negotiations? Has the President made any calls or done anything over the past couple of days to move those negotiations along?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the update that I can give you is that our team has been in regular contact daily with -- with the negotiators on the Hill doing -- obviously, as I've mentioned many times, both Republicans and Democrats. We feel like it's been in good faith. We feel like it's -- it's been -- it's -- we are grateful that these conversations have been happening for the past couple of months. And we certainly want them to continue.
As -- as it relates to the President, the President has -- tends to have conversations with members of Congress because of his long- -- long-term relationships with many of them. Don't have anything to read out. But I can say that our -- our -- our team here has been in regular contact -- daily contact with negotiators.
Q: There was reportedly a pretty raucous lunch in the GOP Senate conference yesterday. A little bit of debate over whether or not Republicans should have multiple days, potentially up to three weeks, to review this, as opposed to a deal being put on the floor and senators being forced to vote on it very quickly.
Does the President, who was in the Senate for a very long time, have thoughts on whether or not Republican senators and Democratic senators should have time to review what the deal is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is something -- as it -- as it relates to the process and how they're moving forward, you know, the process and the technical and the procedures and all of the things that is related to passing legislation or agreeing on a piece of legislation, that's something for -- for the leadership to speak to. I can't speak to it from here.
AIDE: We've got to wrap to gather.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. We have to gather. Let's see. Go ahead, sir.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Kirby mentioned those ongoing talks with Mexico about immigration. Have -- has that dialogue and, like, the handshake deal with China from last year yielded -- yielded any substantive results regarding fentanyl flow --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Q: -- in the country yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I believe we made some announcements.
Q: Can we get some numbers?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Happy to -- happy to get back to you with some announcement that we made after the meeting that the President had with President Xi on the -- on what we think was a productive conversation on fentanyl specifically.
Look, the President has been very clear. When it comes to fentanyl, he wants to make sure we get that out of our communities across the country and has been very committed in having conversation with Mexico and having conversation with China.
We'll -- happy to -- to give you a -- more update on that.
We have to go because you all have to gather because the President is heading to UAW. Thanks, everybody.
12:37 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 https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/369397