Joe Biden

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

January 29, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:39 P.M. EST

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

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I have a couple things at the top, and then we'll get started.

As the President said over the weekend, we have been working in good faith and across the aisle to make real progress on one of the most important issues we are facing: securing our border. Now we need Speaker Johnson to step up and provide the authorities and resources we requested to secure the border.

I want to point out one thing to all of you. Until recently, Speaker Johnson has also advocated for new resources and new legal authorities via legislation to secure the border.

The Trump administration argued the same thing with the full-throated endorsement of then-Congressman Mike Johnson.

For his part, over the last two months, President Biden and his team have been working with a bipartisan group of senators to put together toughest -- the toughest and the fairest border security bill in history.

This bipartisan agreement would deliver the resources the President asked for in his supplemental, like 1,300 new Border Patrol agents, 375 new immigration judges, 1,600 new asylum officers, 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to catch fentanyl.

It would also provide a president with a new emergency authority to secure our border when it becomes overwhelmed. And as you heard from the President, he would use that authority if the bipartisan agreement became law.

Now, if Speaker Johnson continues to believe, as President Biden and Republicans and Democrats in Congress do, that we have an imperative to act immediately on the border, he should give this administration the authority and funding we're requesting to secure the border.

Now, after three months -- or three months ago, President Biden issued a landmark executive order to ensure that America leads the way in seizing the promising -- the promise and managing the risks of AI.

The order directed sweeping action to strengthen AI safety, security; project -- and protect Americans' -- pardon me -- Americans' privacy; advance equity and civil rights; stand up for the consumers and workers; promote innovation and competition; advance American leadership around the world; and more.

Today, Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed convened the White House AI Council, consisting of top officials from across government. Agencies reported that they have completed all of the 90-day actions tasked by the EO, including using the Defense Production Act to compel developers of the most powerful AI systems to report vital information. And they have drafted a proposed rule to compel U.S. cloud companies to report on providing computing power -- competing -- computing power to foreign governments.

President Biden's directive to his team has been to move fast and fix things. In just 90 days, the Biden-Harris administration has taken the most sweeping actions of any country to harness the promise of AI while putting in place strong guardrails to protect against the risk.

Fifteen years ago, then-President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair -- Fair Pay Act into law, making -- marking a victory in the -- in the fight for equal pay.

To build on the progress we've made under this law, today President Biden announced new actions to advance pay equity for the federal workforce and employees of federal contractors.

These new actions will help pay millions of workers fairly, close gender and racial wage gaps, and result in tangible benefits for government workers.

These policies are good for workers, our economy, and American families.

They advance pay equity and strengthen the economic security of women across the country.

And President -- and the President remains committed to building on this work.

And finally, I have two shoutouts in the room.

First, I just wanted to introduce you all to Sam Michel, who is joining us in the briefing room today. He has been loaned to us by -- from USTR. I want to ca- -- personally thank the Administrator for allowing Sam to be with us while -- while Emilie is -- is on maternity leave. He'll be, of course, Acting Deputy Press Secretary while she's out. We hope you take a moment to come to the back, come to Lower Press, and say hello to Sam. We're very, very happy to have him for these next couple of months.

And one more shoutout. We want to congratulate Doug Mills on becoming a grandfather -- congratulations, Doug -- and welcome you back to the briefing room. I know you've been gone for some time, and we are really excited to have you back. And again, congratulations. We have missed you, my friend.

And, finally, I'm going to give it over to Admiral John Kirby, who's going to give an update on the Middle East.

Admiral.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine. Good afternoon, everybody.

Q: Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: I know there's a lot of interest -- and rightly so -- in the attacks -- attack that our troops faced over the weekend in Jordan -- an attack that claimed three of their lives and sent more than 30 of them to the hospital, some with serious injuries.

So, I just want to make a few points right at the top.

First, the President and the First Lady -- as well as everyone in the administration -- send their condolences to the family of those who were killed.

No Blue Star family ever wants to become a Gold Star family. And sadly, there are now three more families on that roster. It's hard to imagine the grief they're feeling right now and that they will feel for the rest of their lives.

We want them to know that we'll make sure that they get all the support that they need and that we mourn with them.

We also wish a complete recovery for all those wounded in this attack. They are receiving and will continue to receive the very best medical care that the military can provide them.

Second, these troops were conducting a vital mission in the region, aimed at helping us work with partners to counter ISIS. And even as the Defense Department gathers more information about the attack, that mission must and will continue.

Third, the counter-ISIS mission is separate and distinct --indeed it has been longstanding and unrelated to our efforts to support Israel and to prevent a wider conflict in the region.

We do not seek another war. We do not seek to escalate.

But we will absolutely do what is required to protect ourselves, to continue that mission, and to respond appropriately to these attacks.

Now, I know the first set of questions I'm going to get are: "Well, what does that look like? What's appropriate? And what response options is the President considering?" I hope you can understand why I will not telegraph any punches here from the podium, nor will I get in front of the President or his decision-making.

He's met twice with the national security team -- yesterday and today. He's weighing the options before him.

As he said yesterday, we will respond. We'll do that on our schedule, in our own time. And we'll do it in a manner of the President's choosing as Commander-in-Chief.

We'll also do it fully cognizant of the fact that these groups, backed by Tehran, have just taken the lives of American troops. And I think I'll leave it there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY: Now, quickly, just on one other topic. Over the weekend --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry.

MR. KIRBY: No, I'm sorry.

Over the weekend, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held more than 12 hours of meetings in Bangkok with his counterpart from the People's Republic of China, Director Wang Yi.

Mr. Sullivan and Director Wang took stock of progress on key issues following the meeting between President Biden and President Xi back in November. Now, that includes discussing efforts to resume military-to-military communication, which has occurred; addressing artificial intelligence safety and risks; and advancing bilateral counternar- -- counternarcotics cooperation.

In fact, the launch of a working group on counternarcotics will begin tomorrow in Beijing. Our delegation will be led by Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Jen Daskal.

The two sides also held constructive discussions on global and regional issues, including those related to Russia's war against Ukraine; the Middle East, of course; the DPRK; the South China Sea; and Burma. And they also discussed cross-Strait issues.

And with that, I will take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Zeke.

Q: Thanks, John. A couple of just basic fact-pattern questions. Can you confirm that the initial report suggests that there's the -- this -- the attack drone that killed the U.S. forces were misidentified for a U.S. drone that was returning to that base?

MR. KIRBY: I cannot.

Q: Can you update us on has the U.S. definitively -- definitively confirmed attribution of the attack beyond just vaguely "Iran-backed militias." Do you have the specific militia groups that you know launched this attack?

MR. KIRBY: We're still working our way through that right now.

Q: You said that the President was still weighing his options. Does that imply that the President right now has not made a decision how he wants to respond?

MR. KIRBY: I won't get ahead of the President's decision-making. He -- as I said, he met twice with the national security team, including not just -- not very long ago. When we have something to speak to, we'll speak to it.

Q: And will -- speaking of speaking to it, will we hear directly from the President? Will he speak to the American people about this attack and his response when it happens?

MR. KIRBY: Well, he mentioned it yesterday in South Carolina. I won't -- I don't have anything on his schedule to speak to, but I have no doubt that he'll continue to communicate with the American people about how important it is that these missions continue and that our troops and our facilities are safe.

Q: And last one for me. Has the President directed any change to force posture in the region to protect American troops there?

MR. KIRBY: We don't talk about force posture changes one way or another, and we certainly don't preannounce them, particularly when it comes to areas on the ground that are potentially under threat.

I can just tell you that the President is confident that the Defense Department, under Secretary Austin, will do what they got to do to -- to look after force protection issues.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kelly O.

Q: John, do you expect the President will go to Dover for the dignified transfer when these Americans are returned to the United States?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything on his schedule to speak to.

Q: Given the fact that, while there are Americans in harm's way frequently, it has been a while since we have had this kind of an incident resulting in deaths, do you think that is a consideration of the public type of response?

There are a range of responses the President could use. They go from, you know, military strikes, to -- sometimes it's cyber, sometimes it's things the public cannot see. Do you believe this event rises to a level where whatever the President's decision is, would have a public -- we would know when --

MR. KIRBY: You mean you're going to know?

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, without getting ahead of the President's decision-making -- I won't do that. And as I said, in my opening statement, I'm not going to telegraph punches. We'll make these decisions on our own time, as I said. We'll -- the President will choose for himself how he wants to respond.

And as I said in the opening statement, we'll do it fully cognizant of the fact that now and just -- and what just happened, American lives have been taken. And so, his decisions, whatever they are, will be informed by all those circumstances.

What that looks like and when that comes, I'm just -- I'm just not able to say right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.

Q: Thanks, Admiral. Was this strike in Jordan fundamentally different than what American forces have been facing for months now? In other words, does the U.S. believe this was a deliberate attempt at escalation?

MR. KIRBY: It is fundamentally different now because we have three families who just got the worst possible news. That's different. And the scope of the wounded now -- more than 30 injured, some of them seriously -- that's also different.

And it's possible that the number of wounded could go up. As you may know, traumatic brain injury symptoms, for instance, don't present themselves right away. And that is a very serious physical injury itself.

But, I -- look, I -- it is -- this wasn't the first drone attack on an American facility in the region. There have been others. And the fact that this one had lethal consequences doesn't mean that the previous ones weren't intended by these Iran-backed militias to have that same effect. This time they killed Americans, and they wounded a lot of them. It doesn't mean that they wouldn't have preferred that outcome in the past.

Q: An official has told ABC News -- confirming the report about how the troops there had mistakenly identified the drone as one of their own. Can you talk about how this might have gotten past the defense systems at Tower 22?

MR. KIRBY: I think I'm going to let the Defense Department talk about the forensics on this. I'm sure that they are already picking it apart and trying to figure out how this happened, and that be inappropriate for me to get ahead of that.

Q: In your interviews all morning, you didn't rule out a strike inside Iran. Can you just talk a little bit about the array of options in front of the President, and, for instance, could this be in phases? Could we see a smaller scale one than a larger scale one later? Like what -- what --

MR. KIRBY: No --

Q: -- what's the array of options?

MR. KIRBY: No, I'm not going to do that. I appreciate the question. And that's why I tried to take it out of the consideration in my opening statement. I'm not going to -- I'm simply not going to talk about that right now.

Q: And just lastly, do you think this could complicate the ongoing ceasefire negotiations to release more hostages?

MR. KIRBY: There's no reason that -- whatever our response is, there's no reason for that to have an impact on our ability to try to get these hostages released.

And as I said last week, so I can say today: Those discussions are ongoing. We believe they have been constructive and are moving in a good direction. Don't want to sound sanguine here. There's a lot of work left to be done. We don't have an imminent deal to speak to. But based on the discussions we've had over the weekend and -- and in recent days, we feel it's moving in a good direction.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.

Q: Thanks, Karine. John, how does the President balance a desire to not see escalation in the region with a decision to respond?

MR. KIRBY: That's the hard part of it, isn't it, Jeff? I mean, that's what being Commander-in-Chief is all about, is -- is acting in accordance with our national security interests --what's -- what's unacceptable to those interests and what has to be done to protect those interests.

There's no easy answer here. And that's why the President is meeting with his national security team, weighing the options before him. He'll do that, as he's done in the past, in a very careful, deliberate way so that our national security insers [sic] are -- our interests are best preserved.

Q: And has the President -- has the administration communicated via a third party to Iran what -- the message that you're saying on TV about not wanting to have escalation?

MR. KIRBY: I am not aware, as you and I are speaking, that there's been a private message relayed to leaders in Iran. We have done that in the past. But as you and I are speaking right now, I'm not aware of such a mechanism.

Q: And just on the hostages, can you give us an update on the latest there and what you expect in terms of a ceasefire (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, the discussions have been pretty constructive. What we're -- and I want to be careful here because I don't want to say anything that would torpedo the deal we're trying to put in place. But what we're -- what we're trying to work on is another humanitarian pause of sufficient duration that will allow a large number of hostages to get released.

And as you've seen in the past, when we did this back in November, you've got to have -- you got to have a pause in the fighting to get them safely out. So, that's what we're -- we're aiming at.

And then, of course, if you -- if you get that period of time, whatever that ends up being, then you can take advantage of it to get more humanitarian assistance in. And certainly, when -- when there's a pause in the fighting, that means there will be a reduction in civilian casualties, which is also a goal of ours.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: M.J.

Q: Admiral, can you confirm: Is the President currently actively considering potential attacks inside Iran?

MR. KIRBY: We are not looking for a war with Iran. We are not seeking a conflict with the regime in a military way. And as I said in -- in the opening, we're not -- we're not looking to escalate here.

This attack over the weekend was escalatory. Make no mistake about it. And it requires a response. Make no mistake about that.

I will not get ahead of the President's decision-making.

Q: So, you're not saying either way whether striking inside Iran is or isn't on the table?

MR. KIRBY: We are not looking for a war with Iran, M.J. I am not going to speak to the President's decisions.

Q: And the administration's assessment for a number of months now has been that Iran does not want a direct war with the U.S., either. Does yesterday change that assessment?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not at liberty to discuss -- or to -- to speculate about what the Supreme Leader wants or doesn't want. Clearly, these attacks continue, and now they've had lethal consequences. We know these groups are supported by Iran. Make no mistake about that. We know that.

And this administration has taken action in the past to hold them accountable, and we've taken action over the last three years to hold Iran accountable for a range of destabilizing activities: issued more than 500 sanctions -- or 500 entity sanctions just since we came into office, as well as changing our force posture in the Middle East appropriately.

So, we'll just -- I mean, w- -- but we're -- we'll continue to look at the options available to us.

Q: Is it clear to you now whether the attack yesterday was at Iran's direct urging or if this was more a proxy group that was mostly acting on its own?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about intelligence issues. We know that Iran supports these -- these groups. The degree to which they order and direct is -- is something that, you know, intelligence analysts will look at.

We know they support them, we know they resource them, we know they train them, and we know that they're certainly not discouraging these attacks, whether it's attacks by the Houthis, what Hamas did on the 7th of October, what Hezbollah has proven capable of doing, and now, of course, what these militia groups continue to do in places like Iraq and Syria and now -- now Jordan.

Q: And just one last one on the UNRWA controversy. Israel says that they have information about 13 employees who were connected to the October 7th attack. Do you have any reason to believe that that might have been more widespread, that there could be information that later indicates that it was beyond those 13 people?

MR. KIRBY: I haven't seen any information that affirmatively makes that case, that it's more than, now, 13. I think last week, we were looking at a dozen. That's why an investigation is so dang important here, so that we can look at the scope of the problem set.

But you got 13,000 UNRWA employees -- the U.N. Relief and Works Agency -- you've got 13,000 of them in Gaza alone. And, as I said last week, let's not impugn the good work of a whole agency because of the potential bad actions here by a small number.

I am not dismissing the seriousness of the allegations against those employees. And whether there's going to be more that will be found, hopefully the investigation will -- will give us more insight.

It is important -- the UNRWA staff and Commissioner-General and the U.N. Secretary General Guterres last week made it clear they're taking this seriously. That's our expectation too.

It's really important that this investigation be as thorough and as transparent and as credible as possible. And we're going to be watching real closely.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.

Q: John, can I push you a little bit more on the hostages and the linkage between the -- potential linkage between the hostages and whatever action you guys decide to take?

One of the things you guys talked about since -- since October 7th is how intertwined the region is -- whether it's Lebanon and Hezbollah or Hamas or Iran or the -- you know, the Houthis -- and the -- the difficulty with -- with, you know, not wanting to set fire in -- you know, a spark in one place that then, you know, goes all around the region.

So, what gives you any confidence that if you guys are close to a deal on the hostages and then the President orders a strike, that that deal doesn't fall apart as a -- as a result of outrage and anger in the region at the actions of the United States?

And how does the President -- you know, how does the President make that calculation given, you know, six Americans still in -- in Gaza and the other hostages and everything else?

MR. KIRBY: I didn't say we were confident though, Mike. We -- we're mindful of -- of the way some actors in the region are trying to make connections across the region.

What I -- what I said was there's no reason why our work on a hostage deal needs to be affected or impacted by what happened over the weekend or what we do about what happened over the weekend. And we will respond.

We still want to keep the work going, our shoulder to the wheel on this hostage deal. And -- and we'll just have to see where it goes.

I also want to repeat what I said earlier. We're not overly sanguine here. We're not cocky. We understand there's a lot of hard work ahead. And that work ahead of us diplomatically, certainly, might be affected by -- by events elsewhere in the region, not just -- not just what happened in Jordan and what -- what might come as a result of that.

But there's no reason why it should, and that's why we're going to stay at that task.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Francesca.

Q: Over here. Thanks, Kirby. Given these deaths, does the White House acknowledge that the previous retaliatory strikes that it has taken in the region have been ineffective at protecting American troops?

MR. KIRBY: The strikes that we have taken in the past have definitely had an impact on degrading and disrupting the activities of some of these groups. Clearly, they have decided to keep conducting those attacks. And now it's had lethal consequences for American troops.

And so, we will weigh an additional set of options before us. The President will make his decision to respond appropriately. The attacks need to stop.

Q: Does the President have all the legal authority he believes that he needs to respond to these attacks?

MR. KIRBY: Yes.

Q: What is the legal basis?

MR. KIRBY: Article Two, Constitution. Commander-in-Chief, self-defense of our troops.

Q: Doesn't believe he needs additional authority from Congress?

MR. KIRBY: The President has the authority to take the action he needs to -- to protect our troops and our facilities overseas under Article Two.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Danny.

Q: Thanks. The President faces a great deal of political pressure here at home -- with the Republicans, for example, calling for direct strikes on Iran. Does the President feel that pressure? And how much does that pressure weigh on his -- on his decision-making?

MR. KIRBY: The pressure the President is feeling, if you want to call it that, is to make sure we can continue to protect and defend our national security interests in the region.

First and foremost, his mind is solidly, as I put my opening statement, on the families of those who just got the worst possible news you can and troops that are in the hospital trying to recover.

Number two, on the vital mission sets that our troops are performing across the region -- in this particular case, a counter-ISIS (inaudible).

That's the pressure he's under to make sure that those troops get the support that they need, get the resources they need, and that the mission is able to continue; and that our national security interests in the region, which are wide and varied, are preserved and protected.

Q: And just one other thing, if I may. You -- you said earlier that, you know, this attack was -- (a reporter sneezes) -- escalatory --

MR. KIRBY: Bless you.

Q: -- but the United States doesn't want a war. Do you believe that Iran wants a war?

MR. KIRBY: That's up to Iran to decide and for Iran to speak to. I can't, as I said earlier, speak for the Supreme Leader. I wouldn't do that.

Clearly, there's a calculus by at least the IRGC that conducting these attacks is -- is worth the risk that they're taking. And we obviously are going to keep working to change that calculus.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. So, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stol- -- Stoltenberg is in Washington. What are you hearing for -- from the NATO Allies? Are you -- sharing with you any concern about the possibility of a wider war?

MR. KIRBY: You talking about the Middle East? Yeah, we're -- we're glad the Secretary-General is here. I think he met with Secretary Austin this morning. I know he's meeting with Jake Sullivan today. Lots on the agenda.

I won't speak for our Allies or the Secretary General. I think it's safe to say that our -- many of our European Allies certainly share our concerns about what's going on in the Middle East. I mean, my goodness, many of them are participants -- willing participants in our coalition in the Red Sea to protect shipping there.

So, clearly, they have concerns about that. And I have no doubt that the Secretary-General will raise those issues with Jake and -- and did raise it with Secretary Austin.

Q: And another question, if I may, around the U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees. Several American allies are suspending their aid to the agency.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: But others are saying, "Okay, we can't cut off money right now amid need warnings of famine, the collapse of the health system --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: -- and so many Palestinians displaced."

The agency is saying that it will run out of money very soon. Do you fear that suspending the American aid to this agency is going to deepen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza? Do you have a plan B, an alternative to bring aid to the Palestinians?

MR. KIRBY: I think a lot of it is going to depend on what the investigation finds and what accountability measures and corrective measures UNRWA is willing to make as a result of what happened.

I mean, these are serious allegations, even though it's a small number, percentage-wise, of the -- of the 13,000 who are on the ground in Gaza. I mean, this is serious, and they are taking it seriously.

So, let's see where the investigation goes. We understand that they are very, very dependent on donor contributions, and the United States has been the leading donor for many, many years.

We have suspended our -- our contributions to UNRWA pending the results of this investigation -- all the more reason that, as I said, this investigation be credible, transparent, and thorough, and frankly, timely.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Franco.

Q: Thanks, John. And thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask about the border. President Biden talked about shutting down the border on the basis of national security. Are there not steps that he could use under executive authority to -- some measures to, kind of, seal some of the border efforts?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He has said he's -- he's willing to use executive measures and -- and, you know, if he gets -- if he gets the -- the bill passed, if he gets border funding, and it -- and includes those authorities, he'll use those authorities.

Q: Why not -- why wait -- why wait until Congress? Why not --

MR. KIRBY: We need -- we need -- we need legislative support for border security measures. And we need the funding to be able to put in place border security measures that the President can utilize.

He has done some things, like putting U.S. troops down there to alleviate some of the responsibilities or administrative responsibilities of Border Patrol. And -- but we need this -- we need this funding.

Q: And if I could ask about Venezuela. Is the President considering any steps to take against Venezuela, whether it's tightening sanctions regarding the high court's decision to uphold the ban on the only viable opposition candidate posing a challenge to Maduro?

MR. KIRBY: The Maduro regime, when they signed an -- signed on in October down in Barbados, made some commitments about opposition political parties, about free and fair elections, and what all that meant. And they haven't taken those actions.

Now, accordingly, they got until April to do so, so we have options available to us. I'm not going to preview any of those at -- at this time. But we certainly have options, with respect to sanctions and that kind of thing that -- that we could take. They -- they've got until April. They need to make the right decisions here and allow opposition members to run for office and release the political prisoners that they're holding right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Admiral, so, the U.S. is backing Israel annihilating Hamas, which is an Iranian proxy. But why isn't the U.S. doing the same thing with other Iranian proxies, like the one in Iraq, the one in Syria -- which resulted in the death of the three servicemen -- and, down the road, maybe in Yemen? Why is -- there's, like, a -- not a consistency?

MR. KIRBY: Hamas violated a ceasefire that was in place, slaughtered 1,200 people, basically started this war against Israel. We're going to support our ally and our partner, Israel, as they fight this war.

We are not -- let me go back to what I said in the pas- -- in the beginning: We're not looking for a war with Iran, and --

Q: Aren't we already at war with Iran?

MR. KIRBY: We're not looking --

Q: Isn't that clear?

MR. KIRBY: We're not looking for a war with Iran.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: And can you --

Q: Thanks, Karine. John, I just want to clarify two of your previous answers in this briefing.

Are you suggesting, in response to the border question, that the President is withholding executive action on the border until he gets the money that is part of this supplemental?

MR. KIRBY: No, I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting that the way forward -- the proper way forward is to get the supplemental passed.

Q: Okay.

And then, in response to M.J.'s question earlier, it sounded like the administration has ruled out strikes within Iran.

MR. KIRBY: Jacqui, I appreciate the question. I think you can understand -- I hope you can understand I'm not going to telegraph punches here. We are not looking for a war with Iran. We are not looking to escalate the tensions any more than they already have been escalating. In fact, everything we've done has been designed to try to deescalate those tensions.

That said, this was a very serious attack; it had lethal consequences. We will respond, and we'll respond appropriately. I'm not going to telegraph what that's going to look like.

Q: The question, though, was if you were actively considering targets inside Iran. And your answer was, "We don't seek conflict with Iran," which indicates that the administration would view strikes within Iran as escalatory.

And so, is it that the administration ultimately does not hold Iran responsible for these attacks or that the current level of risk and loss to U.S. troops is somehow acceptable?

MR. KIRBY: I do appreciate the question and the chance to -- to say it again: I am not going to telegraph punches for the President of the United States. I'm not going to get ahead of his decision space on how he's going to respond. We'll respond appropriately.

And you're -- you know, you're right. This attack had lethal consequences, which these attacks in the past have not had. And as I said in my opening statement, as we work through what those options are, we'll be mindful and informed by the fact that there are now three American soldiers that have been killed.

Q: So, it's clear, obviously that "don't" didn't work. Does the President have any regret over not pushing -- punching back harder in any of the prior responses that he's taken to these proxy attacks on U.S. forces?

MR. KIRBY: I would -- I think I would push back on the idea that we did push back harder. We have taken significant action against Iran economically. We have certainly taken some additional and more aggressive steps to go after these groups. We're certainly taking aggressive action against the Houthis to try to defend shipping in the Red Sea.

I mean, this idea that somehow we've just, you know, whistled past the graveyard here and -- and walked away from the challenge that Iran poses just isn't borne out by the facts.

Q: Well, you --

MR. KIRBY: Iran -- these proxy groups have been attacking our troops and our facilities in Iraq and Syria well before this administration as well.

Q: There's been pretty strong criticism --

MR. KIRBY: And we --

Q: -- though. Like, for instance, Mike Waltz said this morning that, "When you're trying to play defense constantly, rather than punching back in a meaningful way, this blood is on this administration's hands." What -- what is the response from the White House to an accusation like that?

MR. KIRBY: What I would tell you and I would tell the congressman is: We're mindful of what Iran is doing in the region, and we have taken aggressive action against these proxy groups and about -- and on their influence in the region. And there are decisions yet to come.

So, let the President make his decisions. Let him weigh these options. And then we'll act. These groups have choices to make, and we're going to do everything we can to -- to make sure that they make the right choice here.

But the idea that we have somehow laid down and -- and not pushed back on Iran is simply not borne out by the facts.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Go ahead, Ken.

Q: John, in Israel over the weekend, some ministers from the Netanyahu government attended a conference that is calling for Israel's resettlement of Gaza. Did the administration notice that? And do you have any --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, we noticed it.

Q: -- view on that?

MR. KIRBY: Some of this rhetoric and the language that was attributed to some of these ministers at this event -- irresponsible; reckless; incendiary, I'd go so far as to say. And certainly isn't -- doesn't comport with our strong policy statement, what we have made clear, that there can be no reduction in Gazan territory.

Q: What does it say, though, about the persuasion efforts you've made to try to prevent Israel from pursuing these settlements?

MR. KIRBY: Look, I wouldn't -- you know, you got a couple of ministers in the Cabinet using this reckless behavior or conducting this reckless behavior and making these incendiary comments. That doesn't mean that we still don't have an open line of communication with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Cabinet, the War Cabinet, and that they haven't been receptive to -- to listening to us and to our messages.

I -- you know, these are individual Cabinet members. They can speak for themselves and what they -- and what they said and what they did.

It doesn't comport with our view, and we find it reckless.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In the back. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Oh, sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: You said that the President, in his response, has authorization under Article Two. Does that mean that he's planning to bypass Congress in any matter of war in terms of this response?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get ahead of his decision-making. He has the authority under Article -- Article Two as Commander-in-Chief. And as we have in the past, so we will in the future, appropriately inform leaders in Congress about what we're doing in -- in keeping with that authority.

Q: Okay. So, I just want to follow up, because the President was sent a letter on Friday from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, and he had been accused of unauthorized strikes against the Houthis. And by bypassing Congress, they said, "No President, regardless of political party, has the constitutional authority to bypass Congress on matters of war." Do you think that that would apply here given this escalation?

MR. KIRBY: We're not at war with the Houthis. We're not going to be at -- we're not looking for a war with Iran. The President is comfortable that he has the appropriate legal authorities to act in self-defense of our ships, our sailors, and our troops and our facilities at sea or ashore.

Q: Right, but isn't it time to involve the American people? I mean, given the fact that the American people were not happy about -- I mean, all --

MR. KIRBY: This is what the American people are not happy about: attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. I also suspect they're not happy about seeing American troops killed at a base in Jordan. The President has the authority to defend those troops and those facilities, and he'll do that.

Q: You said the President is weighing all of his options. This is an election year. Is the President looking at his polling when he's weighing all of these options? Is the President looking at what --

MR. KIRBY: I mean, my goodness. That's a heck of a question. He's not looking --

Q: Not really.

MR. KIRBY: Ma'am.

Q: Not really.

MR. KIRBY: Ma'am. Ma'am.

Q: Is the --

MR. KIRBY: Let me just stop you right there.

Q: Let me finish my question.

MR. KIRBY: The Commander-in-Chief is not looking at polling or considering the electoral calendar --

Q: He's not looking at --

MR. KIRBY: -- when he's defending --

Q: -- how they feel about the war on Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: I'll -- now can I answer the question?

He's not looking at political calculations or the polling or the electoral calendar as he works to protect our troops ashore and our ships at sea. And any suggestion to the contrary is offensive.

Q: Is he looking at the polling with respect to --

MR. KIRBY: Ma'am.

Q: -- does the American public want a broader Middle East conflict when he weighs his political decision-making?

MR. KIRBY: Ma'am, I've answered that question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Let's go.

Q: No, you didn't answer that question. Is he weighing that?

MR. KIRBY: He is not concerning himself with the political calendar.

Q: Does the American public have the opportunity --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.

Q: -- to weigh in on whether --

MR. KIRBY: Ma'am, I --

Q: -- they want "Made in America" --

MR. KIRBY: I have answered your --

Q: -- stamped on the bombs --

MR. KIRBY: Ma'am, I've answered your question.

Q: -- that are going to be dropped?

MR. KIRBY: I --

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

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.

Q: You touched on this briefly in response, I think, to Jacqui's question. But what is the President's response to Republican critics who are of the mind that this attack was the result of perceived weakness?

For instance, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said that, "President Biden's fear of escalation has morphed into a doctrine of appeasement."

MR. KIRBY: They can speak for themselves. That's obviously not the way we see this. We have held Iran accountable, as I've said, through various means and methods. We will continue to do that. We'll continue to act to defend our -- our troops and our facilities and the missions and our national security interests.

Q: And then a follow-up on the border. The terms of the Senate deal that are under discussion would get -- give DHS expulsion authority if border encounters hit an average of 4,000 a day over the course of a week. Does the President consider that threshold of daily encounters a crisis?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to negotiate in public.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Go ahead --

Q: I'm not asking -- of course, (inaudible) --

MR. KIRBY: You're asking me about a specific provision that the -- that you allege is in the deal. And, as Karine has said many, many times -- and she's absolutely right -- we're not going to negotiate here in public on what -- what's in or what's not in this -- in this deal.

Q: Setting aside the deal in question and waiting for more details to come to light, is there a number, in particular, with regards to border cr- -- crossings that the President would see as a crisis?

MR. KIRBY: The President himself has talked about the fact that -- that there's a crisis going on at the border and the numbers are too high and we're going to do what we have to do -- regionally -- not just with our own Border Patrol but regionally with Mexico and other countries -- to see if we can get that -- that number down.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. We've got to wrap this up. Go ahead.

Q: A question on Venezuela. My colleagues are reporting that the administration will restore sanctions on the country's energy sector if opposition candidates are not allowed to run. If Venezuela were to lift that ban, would the U.S. not take the options that you were referring to earlier?

MR. KIRBY: A lot is going to depend here on what Maduro and his regime do. They've got until the spring to honor their commitments -- the commitments they made back in October -- to allow opposition parties and opposition candidates to run freely, as qualified, for President and to release political prisoners. They've got the decision make -- they've got decisions they have to make before we weigh what decisions we'll -- we'll take.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, Jon. We've got to wrap this up.

Q: Thanks a lot, Karine. John, the Iranian foreign ministry has denied any involvement in this drone strike in northeast Jordan. What's your response to that denial?

MR. KIRBY: They support these groups, they resource them, they provide them weapons, they train them. They certainly aren't discouraging these attacks. Now, what -- to what degree it was directed out of Tehran, I can't -- I can't say. And I wouldn't get into intelligence assessments one way or another.

But, clearly, they continue to support these groups. So, clearly, there's a -- there is a responsibility that appropriately needs to be laid at the feet of leaders in Tehran.

Q: And then you also said the President is consulting with his national security advisors in terms of what steps he may take in response to what happened on Sunday. Will the President also reach out to congressional leaders just to consult with them? Will he reach out to, for instance, the --

MR. KIRBY: As we have in the past, so we will in the future. We will con- -- we will do appropriate notifications with leaders of -- in Congress, as we have just in the recent past. We'll continue to do that appropriately going forward.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question. Go ahead.

Q: Yes. Thank you. Thank you, Karine. Thank you, Kirby. Two questions. The AP is reporting that, apparently, there was a confusion between this enemy drone and another drone that has been launched out of this U.S. installation, and I guess two officials have stated that this was a confusion. Apparently, the enemy drone was confused with an American drone that was returning back to the U.S. installation. Do you guys have any information about that?

MR. KIRBY: That was, I think, one of the first questions I got here in the briefing. And, as I said then, we -- we can- --I can't corroborate those accounts by -- by U.S. officials. The Department of Defense is, as you would expect them to do, going through all the forensics here to figure out exactly what happened and how to make sure it doesn't happen again. And I certainly would not get ahead of them on that.

Q: Now, just one -- going back to the Venezuelan subject that we've been discussing. As you know, María Corina Machado is the leading opposition candidate there. She's been banned from running for office for 15 years by the Venezuelan Supreme Court. Does that put things in perspective, because there is some reporting that the U.S. is expected to renew the sanctions against the Venezuelan oil --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, again, I -- we've now dealt with it a few times. I don't have any additional context to -- to relay to you. Mr. Maduro and his regime have decisions they have to make. We want to see him meet the commitments they made back in October to allow opposition parties and candidates to run appropriately and to release political prisoners.

We have decisions to make as well if they don't do that. They've got until April. We'll see what they do.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Appreciate it. Thank you.

Q: Thank you, John.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Zeke.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Has the President called already or does he plan to speak with the families of the fallen service members?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any calls to read out. Obviously -- and as Kirby started off this briefing, obviously, the President and the First Lady sent out their deepest condolences and heartfelt thoughts to the families, to their friends, and also the units -- their un- -- their unit as well.

And this is a sad day. This -- yesterday was a very, very sad day for not just their family and the units and the friends but also the American people. And so, obviously, we continue to mourn with them. Once we have more to share about a call or outreach, certainly we will let you all know.

Q: And the President is scheduled to travel tomorrow on some political travel to Florida. Does he -- does he plan to keep that or is he going to stay back in Washington to consult with his national security team?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President will continue his travels tomorrow to Florida. It's a -- it's a political travel. So, any specific questions you may have -- I know you're not asking me --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I -- I know. You know -- I know you're going to ask me that. Obviously, the campaign is going to -- will answer those questions about the particular travel tomorrow.

The President has been, I think -- I think the Admiral started off the briefing saying that the President met with his national security team, including Secretary Austin, this morning and continues to stay focused on what's going on, obviously, in the Middle East and continues to stay updated. Just don't have anything to share beyond that.

Q: And why is he going to continue traveling -- do political travel in the midst of this (inaudible) --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, and you heard -- hear us say this all the time: The President is president wherever he travels, wherever he goes. It doesn't change in this instance.

Obviously -- obviously, what we saw happen yesterday in Jordan to our service members is -- it's a sad day. It's deeply troubling. And you heard the President yesterday in South Carolina. I know you were part of the pool that was traveling with him this weekend. He -- he said, "We shall respond." And he means that.

Obviously, we're not going to telegraph what that's going to look like and, you know, the President is going to make that decision. Just don't have anything else to share.

But he can be president -- he was able to speak to that in South Carolina at a political event and make sure that he lifted up the three souls, as he said, who were lost yesterday.

And so, he can certainly be able to deal with an issue like this -- you know, a -- a very important one, obviously -- anywhere that he is.

Q: And then lastly from me, is the administration contemplating any changes to the supplemental funding request for additional needs for security for the American troops in the region after this instance or the potential response --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm -- somebody was coughing, so I missed the beginning of your question. I apologize.

Q: Changes to the supplemental.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Changes to the supplemental?

Q: Yeah. In light of recent events, will more funding be needed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I see. So, look, I -- look, I don't have any changes to the supplemental. Obviously, the President, back in October, put forth his national security request, which is obviously an emergency request, as presidents tend to do. I don't have any changes to that.

And there's conversations -- as you know, you hear us say it -- say this very often -- negotiations happening in the Senate with Republicans and Democrats on the border security piece, which is also part of the supplemental. And we want to see that -- obviously, the supplemental pass in its fullness in what the President put forth in October, and that's what we're working towards.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: Thanks, Karine. On the immigration negotiations. Over the weekend, former President Trump urged his party to reject the deal. He said it's "a very bad bill" and it's okay. He said, "Please blame it on me." I wonder if I can get your reaction to that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what I will say this -- is this. You've heard the President -- you've heard the President loud and clear: Congress needs to act. It -- we ne- -- they must act.

Speaker Johnson and House Republicans should -- they should provide the administration with the policy changes and also the funding needed to deal with the border sec- -- border security, and also immigration more broadly, as we're talking about an immigration system that has been broken for some time.

And let's not forget, I mean, this is the thing -- right? -- what the -- what the senators in -- the senators of both Republican side and Democrat side have been talking about what they're dealing with -- the bipartisan agreement that they're coming forward with are things that House Republicans have said and Republicans more broadly said they wanted.

They have said over and over again this is what they want to see. They want to see tough -- a tough -- tough changes, right? They want to see something that's actually going to be instrumental in -- in being able to deal with what we're seeing at the border.

This is what is being worked on. This is what is being worked on right now. And so, if Republicans are serious -- if they are serious about addressing the situation at the border, if they are serious about addressing the security at the border, if they are serious about really changing -- changing real policies and -- and coming up with -- with policies that's going to make a difference and putting forward resources, then they would be part of getting this bipartisan agreement passed.

This is exactly what they've been asking for -- literally what Republicans have been asking for. And now here it is. It's coming to fruition. It's being discussed. There's potential bipartisan agreement.

That's what the American people want to see. Seventy-five percent of the American people have said that they want this issue to be dealt with -- an issue that -- again, that they have been for -- that they have been for for years.

So, they should get on board. They should get on board and help the senators get this done.

Q: Why do you believe Republicans haven't gotten on board?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's for House Speaker -- this is for the Speaker to speak to. He's -- he's been very vocal about this. The Speaker seems to want to make this a political -- a political football. Right? It's like a hot potato. They don't want to hold on to it.

But this is exactly what -- what the senators are talking about. As it relates to the border security, coming up with a bipartisan agreement is exactly -- is exactly what they've been talking about -- coming together with a tough, fair, bipartisan agreement that deals with the issue -- policy changes, funding, and resources -- right? -- that is needed so that we can deal with what's happening at the border and also really deal with the immigration system more broadly.

Q: If the deal does fall apart, are there elements of it that the White House could tackle on its own without Congress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don't want to get into hypotheticals. There's a deal happening. If I say -- if I answer that -- right? -- then it's getting in the way of the negotiations. I don't want to do that. I want them to have the free space to be able to have honest, good-faith conversations, as they've been doing for the past two months, and we appreciate what's happening in the Senate.

We want to let that process go. We think it's moving in the right direction. Obviously, the President supports what's happening. Our team has been working with them for the last two months. It is important discussion.

And we believe, again, we can -- we can get this done. And we appreciate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate working for the past two months, through the holiday as well, to really try and work out a bipartisan agreement.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. The President said the border deal that's being negotiated in the Senate would give him the power to close the border. Speaker Johnson, however, saying the President already has the authority to do that without congressional reaction -- action on this. What's your response to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'll say this. Speaker Johnson has been very clear as well, when he was pushing H.R.2, even during the Trump administration, that presidents -- presidents need new -- they need actual authority. Right? They need authority -- enforcement authorities, and they have said this.

The Speaker, when he was then Congressman Johnson, said this. "A president needs authority to actually deal with the border sec- -- border and actually deal with the security at the border."

And so, I don't know what's changed. I don't know why, all of a sudden, he believes that the President -- the President doesn't have -- already has the authority, when he says that the President needs authority. This is something the Trump administration said. This is something that they agreed when the Trump administration said.

And so, what is being discussed right now in -- with the Sen- -- in the Senate is a new enforcement tools that do not currently exist -- they do not currently exist.

And so, that's what we're -- that's what -- that's what the President is speaking to. You know, and he says the moment that he has those new enforcement tools that he will act. The day that he signs it, he will act.

Q: This deal is angering immigration advocates. What's being negotiated does not include anything to address the root problems of migration, and it has nothing included to provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, which is something that President Biden called for legislation he proposed on his first day. So, why is the President okay with this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we don't -- we don't even have the text yet to -- to what's being -- you know, what the bipartisan agreement is going to be. Right? So, I don't want to get ahead of that. I'm not going to dive into what's in it and what's not in it. Let's see what the senators put forward in the text. I think that's important to see.

Once -- once it's out there, folks will take a look. We believe it's going to be -- it's going to be tough but fair and it's going to provide new enforcement tools. Obviously, that's going to be important. Policy changes. That's going to be important. But also resources. That what -- that's what we believe.

But we're not going to get into what's in it, what's not in it. Let's let the senators continue to do their negotiations and put forward this -- the text.

Q: But we're already seeing immigration advocates slam what's being proposed as "callous," --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand.

Q: -- as "unworkable." So, how does the President respond to the message from some people that he's going back on his campaign promise?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand. But what I'm saying to you is that let's see what the Senate bipartisan agreement is. Let's let them put out the text, and then we can have that discussion on whatever it is that they -- they want to look through and discuss.

But, right now, we believe this is the best way forward -- a bipartisan agreement is the way forward in dealing with this immigration system. A bipartisan agreement is what we need to deal with -- what's the challenges that we're seeing at the border. That's what we want to see. And that's what the Senate is working towards.

Go ahead, Michael.

Q: Back in the winter of 2018 and the spring of 2019, President Trump vowed to shut down the border with Mexico, using almost the identical language that the President used on Friday. Many -- many, if not most -- if not practically all Democrats called that "xenophobic" and even "racist." Why shouldn't people make the same conclusion about this President's threat to shut down the entire border with Mexico?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we believe the new enforcement tools that currently don't exist, that will be -- we believe that will be part of this bipartisan agreement -- will be fair. We believe it'll be -- yes, it'll be tough, but it will be fair.

Q: But he didn't say he wanted to use -- excuse me. Sorry to interrupt.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no --

Q: He didn't --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no --

Q: He didn't say, "I would -- on day one, I will use enhanced enforcement to improve the processing of people at the border." He said, "I will shut the border down," which -- which suggests a total rejection of all people attempting to cross the border without -- without a visa or without -- without proper authorization, which, you know, stands in contravention to decades of international and U.S. law that -- that governs the -- the movement of people around the globe and the --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: -- and the refugees and asylum si- -- system.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, no, I under- --

Q: So, why isn't that the same thing that Trump did?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I understand your question. What I'm saying to you: The new enforcement tools -- right? -- that we believe -- that do not currently exist, that will be part of this bipartisan agreement -- there's going -- there are different -- there are different definitions -- right? -- of what that looks like, of what actually shutting down the border looks like. Right?

So, we're going to let them work through it. We don't know what that looks like exactly, right?

What we are asking for, what the President wants to see is that we deal with the challenges at the border -- right? -- that we have an opportunity to deal with what's going on, the security, and make sure that we have the funding and the resources to deal with what we're seeing at the border.

There are going to be different -- there are different definitions to what that looks like. And so, we'll see what -- the text comes out of the Senate. And so, we will -- we will make -- we will certainly have a -- I guess -- a broader conversation once that happens. But we believe it's going to be fair. It'll be tough. It'll be fair. They'll have the resources available to deal with what's going on at the border. And also, there will be some policy changes as well.

But to say that -- to define what that looks like right now, it's getting ahead of the process. And we need to let Republicans as well as Democrats -- there are Democrats up there, obviously, talking to Republicans. They are both having those conversations on what it will look like -- a bipartisan agreement. And that's what you need. In order to really deal with this issue, you got to do it in a bipartisan way.

Q: And just to -- just to follow up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: You've said a couple of times, as you did just now, that we should wait. You don't want to get ahead of the process.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: I think your answer to the previous question was that we don't know what's in it. Yet the President and the White House have explicitly said it should pass.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well --

Q: And so, how is it that, on the one hand, the President has --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well --

Q: -- said, "Pass this thing and send it to me," but then when asked about it --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look --

Q: -- you say, "I don't want to get ahead of it. We don't know what's in it." How could you --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because there --

Q: How can you say you want to --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no. No. Both --

Q: -- pass it, when you don't know what's in it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here's the thing: Both things could be true, and I'll explain why.

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The White House team has been part of -- right? -- the negotiations. Right? And the President has been getting regular updates, right? So, obviously --

Q: Right. So, you do know what's in it. You just don't want to --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no, no --

Q: -- tell us what's in it? (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I'm saying is, negotiations are still happening. They're literally still happening. They're still discussing this. If I tell you this is happening today, who knows what could happen the next day?

And also, I don't want to get ahead of the conversations, right? I don't want to get in the middle of negotiations. And that is true.

But the White House team has been really talking to and part of this discussion for the past two months. So, the President has been getting updates -- has been getting updates, but -- but at the same time, negotiations are still happening. And that's just the reality that we're in.

And talking about that from the podium, that will have an effect on negotiations. And you know that, Michael. It would. It would have an effect on negotiations.

Q: Right. Except the President has -- didn't -- didn't exhibit that kind of caution over the last few days, right? He --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, for me, from here, I have to exhibit that type of caution.

Q: Okay, fair enough.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And the President is the President. Right? And he wants to give confidence to the American people that we're -- that we -- he believes this is going to be -- yes, it's going to be tough, but it's also going to be fair, and we have to -- in order to deal with this situation. And it'll be a historic -- if it gets done, this will be a historic deal.

But, you know, we have to get this done in a bipartisan way. We truly do.

Go ahead, M.J.

Q: Karine, the families of some of the American hostages are back in Washington this week. Is the President willing to meet with them again?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to read out. As -- as you know, Jake Sullivan, the President himself, Secretary Blinken have met with the family of the hostages in the past. Just don't have anything to read out on -- on his schedule at this time.

Q: And just separately, we reported last week that the President had met with some of the ceasefire advocates backstage at the UAW conference. I wondered whether this is a kind of conversation that the President is willing to have more of these kinds of conversations going forward, given the immense pressure that he's facing from advocates calling for a ceasefire, calling on him to support a ceasefire?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, you know, it's hard to say if he's going to have regular conversations. Look, the President -- it's not the first time that the President has had conversations with protesters from whatever side of -- certainly of the issue that they're on.

The President -- he says this all the time -- he's the President for all Americans. That's something that he believes. And he's always willing to hear people out. And he believes -- and we've said this before -- when it comes to protesters, people -- Americans have the right to -- for their voices to be heard, just as long as they do it peacefully.

And so, hearing that, you know, what -- the President speaking to protesters, that's who he is. He's going to -- he's going to listen to Americans and hear what they have to say just as long as they do it peacefully. I just don't have anything else to read out.

Q: Do you -- do you have anything you could share, just from his end, how he spoke to these ceasefire advocates in that meeting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't -- I don't have anything to read out.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Is the White House tracking the latest developments with Evergrande, the Chinese real estate company that Hong Kong is now ordering it to be unraveled, and the implications that that will have on the Chinese economy and potentially the global economy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I've seen those reports. I just don't have anything to share on the President -- where the President is on being briefed about that.

Q: If his econ team is watching it and has a --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)

Q: -- view on it, we'd love to hear it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We will -- we will make sure we get back -- back to you on that.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q: Thanks, Karine. So, the Department of Energy has finalized a rule for energy savings standards on appliances like refrigerators; washing machines; wine, beverage chillers; freezers; clothes dryers; dishwashers; electric, gas, and stovetops. So, is our kitchen one of the root causes that's killing the environment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, this -- let me just start from the top here because I do have a couple of things to say. As you just stated, the Department of Energy today -- they finalized a congressionally mandated energy efficiency standard for residential cooking, as you just laid out the different products. And what it will do -- it's going to reduce household utility costs while improving appliance re- -- reliability and performance, which is really important.

The standards -- these standards, which reflect a joint recommendation from a wide range of stakeholders, including the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and Consumer Federation of America, they are projected to save Americans approximately $1.6 billion on their utility bills over 30 years.

And so, this administration is always committed to using every tool at our disposal to lower costs. This is certainly an option here, right? Something that we've taken -- an action that we've done and is going to be, obviously, for American families across the country.

Altogether, the energy efficiency standards advanced by this administration will provide nearly $1 trillion in consumer savings.

Q: But -- but do the standards -- the effects of the standards outweigh the cost of the regulations? Do the companies that have to build these things with workers and --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- what --

Q: Do the effects to the environment --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say more.

Q: Do the effects to the environment outweigh the added costs of the regulations for new manufacturing plants to be built -- changing standards, redesigning equipment, that kind of thing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we're talking about making sure that these -- these products are efficient -- right? -- making sure that they're working in a way that's not just that -- obviously, they'll still have the performance that they need, obviously, protecting the environment.

But I think one al- -- other big benefit, as I just laid out, is making sure that we're saving Americans money. I think that's important. That's important that we're -- we -- we're able to do that. 1.6 billion dollars over 30 years, that's what Americans want to see. That's an --

And let's not forget, this is a congressionally mandated ef- -- energy efficiency. So, this is something that Congress went through. This is something that they evaluated, and that's how it got put forward to the Department of Energy.

So, this has had a lot of eyes on it. Right? This has had a lot of, kind of, research to make sure that this was the right thing to do for the American family, the American people. And I think that's what should matter.

Q: One more, if I might, on Iran, actually. Could -- at what point does the President, then, cut off the money to Iran by -- by stopping or reducing their benefit from oil sales?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don't have anything to share on that particular thing. I -- as I -- as the President said himself yesterday, after he acknowledged the three souls that were taken from us, our service members -- brave -- who bravely -- who are -- who bravely protect our national security, and obvious- -- obviously, us as a country -- you know, he said that we shall respond.

So, I'm just going to not get ahead of that.

AIDE: Karine, I think you have a couple minutes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.

Go ahead, Brian. I haven't called on you.

Q: Thanks a lot, Karine. On the border. When the President said that he would shut down the border, does that mean that the President would temporarily sign off on shutting down border crossings at ports of entry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to get into specifics and details. The President is very clear: He wants to make sure that we deal with the border -- border security, that we deal with the challenges at the border. And he has said if these new -- these new authorities -- right? -- these new enforcement -- enforcement authorities were -- were put -- were made into law, obviously, he would use it.

They're working through the text. Right? The Senate is working through the text on what that looks like, how that is defined. So, I'm not going to get into specifics from here.

Q: Well, can you give us a little bit more about what the President meant when he said he would shut down the border?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he -- I just -- I mean, it's very clear.

Q: Does he mean he'd stop people --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well --

Q: -- from being able to cross back and forth for jobs--

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What he wants to do is --

Q: -- for employment, for trade?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear you. What he wants to do is make sure that we deal with the challenges at the border. That is what he wants to make sure that we do. He wants the -- the new authorities, the new enforcement tools that is being discussed -- that he believes, if it's put into law, will help him deal with the issues at the border.

And not just that. We're talking about immigration policy, actually doing meaningful changes to immigration policy so that we can deal with a broken system -- a broken immigration system that has been broken for some decades now.

And so, we'll have some -- I'm sure once they come and havw a bipartisan agreement, the text will be -- will be released, and then we'll have more to share there.

I think I have to go.

Q: So we should take him at his word is what you're saying, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'll say this.

Q: "Shut down the border" means "shut down the border"?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this. I'll say this. I'll say this. The first day of his administration, the President took this issue very seriously. He put forth a comprehensive piece of legislation to deal with what's happening with the --

Q: We've heard all that. We want to talk about the news.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me -- wait, let me -- you -- you don't get to decide --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You don't get to decide what I say and what I don't say. Either you -- either you hear me out, or we can -- you know, I'll see you on Wednesday. Totally up to you. Totally up to you.

Q: I just want to know if he means --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right.

Q: -- what he says.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.

Q: I guess not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I was -- he means what he says. Not going to go into his -- to details here.

Here's -- here's the reality: The immigration system is broken. It's been broken for decades, even in the last administration. The President introduced this piece of legislation three years ago. House Republicans got in the way. They refused to do anything about it.

Now he's in a -- he's in this position to have a -- potentially a bipartisan agreement that the Senate has been working on with Republicans and Democrats on a real -- on a real solution to move forward. Seventy-five percent of the American people, majority of the American people want us to work on this issue.

And they've been very clear. The 2022 midterm elections, what did they say? They want to see Congress doing -- doing things in a bipartisan way to really address the issues that matter to them -- that matter to them.

Here's this President actually working with Republicans and Democrats to deal with this issue -- to deal with this issue. That's important. And I think that's what the American people care about.

I'll see you guys on Wednesday. Thank you so much.

2:44 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/369543

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