Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House Nation Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

March 15, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:02 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, hi, hi.

Q: Good afternoon.

Q: Happy Friday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon. Happy Friday. We've made it today -- or this week, I should say.

Okay. I have a couple things at the top, so please, please bear with me here.

So, this morning, the President was excited to host Taoiseach of Ireland for a bilateral meeting. As you all know, this is a longstanding annual tradition -- the leaders of our countries -- and it is an opportunity to reaffirm the close and enduring partnership between the United States and Ireland and the strong connections between our peoples.

The President and Taoiseach discussed our countries' shared commitment to supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, and the President commended the people of Ireland for opening their homes to welcome and support over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fled Russia's brutal invasion.

They also discussed our global issues, including the urgent need to significantly increase deliveries of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

The two leaders welcomed the recent restoration of the Northern Ireland's Executive and -- and Assembly, reaffirming the critical role these institutions play in preserving the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, which has been essential to peace and progress in Northern Ireland.

This afternoon, the President traveled to the Capitol for the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon.

As you've heard the President say many times, the bond between the United States and Ireland has grown deeper and stronger over the years. We look forward to continuing to build a vibrant future for Irish -- for U.S-Irish relations, which is something that you all know is very important to President Biden, who is a proud descendant of the Bel- -- Belwitt -- Blewitts of County Mayo and the Finnegans of County Louth.

Sunday marks St. Patrick's Day -- and also my mom's birthday.

Q: Oooh --

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

Q: Happy birthday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Thank you so much. Happy birthday, Mom. (Laughter.)

And the President will deliver remarks at a celebration here at the White House as part of our annual tradition.

And now, if you give me another moment here, I also want to address a heartbreaking development in the tragic loss of Nex Benedict. For parents across the country, and I know for many of you here and some of you watching -- many of you watching, including myself, the cause of Nex's death was devastating to learn.

As the President said yesterday, "Every young person deserves to have the fundamental right and freedom to be who they are and feel safe and supported at school and in their communities."

Bullying is completely unacceptable. And it is an all -- it is on all of us to take reports of bullying seriously.

There is always someone you can talk to if you're going through a hard time and need support.

The President and his administration launched the 988 line to help. And we have a line dedicated to serving LGBTQI+ young people that can be reached by dialing 988 and pressing 3.

I want to close by saying that, LGBTQI+ young people across the country, you are loved exactly as you are, as the President has made very clear. And you should know this: The Biden administration -- Biden-Harris administration has your back.

Now, this morning, the President released a statement marking the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. In his statement, the President recognized the violence and hate that Muslims worldwide too often face because of their religious beliefs and the ugly resurgence of Islamophobia in the wake of the devastating war in Gaza.

Put simply, Islamophobia has no place in our nation.

That's why, in 2022, the President asked his team to establish an interagents poli- -- interagency policy committee to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination.

We are also currently drafting the first-ever national strategy to combat islamophobia and related forms of bias and discrimination. And we want to continue to implement the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism amidst the serious increase in antisemitism and to advance the White House Initiative on Hate-Motivated Violence.

Put simply, we are taking concrete steps to make real for all Americans the promise of America. And we affirm our commitment to do all we can to put an end to the vicious hate of Islamophobia here at home and around the world.

Now, for more than a year, the United States has engaged Haitian stakeholders across the political spectrum, CARICOM, and other international partners to support Haitian-led efforts for a peaceful transition of power. Since February 29th, the urgency of the support for Haitians has increased because gangs have escalated violence, exacerbating the humanitarian, security, and political situation.

On the humanitarian front, the United States remains the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Haiti with over $170 million since October 2022, including the additional $58 million we announced just this week alone, $33 million on Monday and $25 million today. With our assistance, U.N. agencies and NGO partners provide lifesaving assistance to more than 1.5 million Haitians.

On the security front, we urgently mobil- -- we ur- -- we are urgently mobilizing support we and the international community can immediately provide the Haitian National Police to help them restore security. We are working expeditiously with international partners and Congress to expedite the deployment of the Kenyan-led Multinational Support -- Security Support Mission, to which we have contributed a total of $300 million to bolster the HA- -- HNP's c- -- capabilities. That's the Haitian National Police.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke today to his Kenyan counterpart, Monica Juma, reaffirming a shared commitment to supporting the Haitian people and expediting the Multinational Security Support Mission to assist to the HNP.

We have surged law enforcement resources to counter firearms trafficking, and the Justice Department has prosecuted those responsible for smuggling firearms into Haiti.

On the political f- -- political front, Haitians from across the political spectrum and segments of society -- including religious leaders, business leaders, and civil society -- made tough compromises, which resulted in a Haitian-driven declaration released by CARICOM just this week. That declaration outlined the contours of an inclusive, broad Transitional Presidential Council. The TPC will name an independent Permanent Election Council, which was dissolved in 2021.

We applaud Haitians for creating a road map to establish a new Permanent Electoral Council to support free and fair elections and strengthen its democratic institution.

A lot of work ahead lies -- a lot of work ahead lies -- lies ahead, pardon me, and the United States remains committed to supporting the people of Haiti on the humanitarian and security and political fronts.

With that, I'll turn it over to my colleague, Admiral John Kirby, who's going to talk about Russia and Iran.

Go ahead, John.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine.

As you all know, we have expressed serious concerns from this podium that Russia is seeking to acquire close-range ballistic missiles from Iran to enable its brutal war in Ukraine and that Russian negotiations to acquire those close-range ballistic missiles have been active and they have been advancing.

Today, I just want to call your attention to a joint statement released this morning by the United States and other G7 countries warning Iran not to go forward with the sale of close-range ballistic missiles to Russia.

The G7 statement reads, in part, and I quote, "Were Iran to proceed with pro- -- providing ballistic missiles or related technology to Russia, we are prepared to respond swiftly and in a coordinated manner, including with new and significant measures against Iran," end quote.

So, we're speaking with one voice here on this matter, from the United States, Canada, Japan, the EU, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Now, shifting gears, next week, the United States will be sending a high-level delegation to the Summit of Democracy that will be led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The U.S. delegation will also include senior U.S. government officials from the NSC, from USAID, and, of course, from the State Department.

At the summit, being hosted by the Republic of Korea -- and we're very grateful for their leadership in that regard -- the U.S. will host a high-level event on the misuse of commercial spyware. And this is a significant priority for the Biden-Harris administration.

Our event will, for the first time, convene some of the most-senior government officials around the world with those from civil society, from the private sector, and even from those who have been directly affected by the nefarious effects of commercial spyware.

We're looking forward to the conversations at the summit and to continuing the important work of strengthening democratic resilience worldwide.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Colleen.

Q: Thanks. John, can you say anything more specifically on what possible sanctions would be levied? I had heard maybe they were mulling flights -- I don't know -- banning flights. And I know you're going to say no, but just if you can.

MR. KIRBY: No. (Laughter.)

Q: All right. Fine.

MR. KIRBY: But -- but -- (laughs) -- no, I'm not -- I mean, as you know, we don't preview sanctions, Colleen. But --

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: But clearly, we're looking at a range of options here. And without question, additional sanctions would be on the table of those options.

Q: And what stopped Iran from going forward with ballistic missile sales to Russia already? Why -- why the delay? What's happening?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I can't speak for the mullahs -- I wouldn't do that -- or for the Supreme Leader. We know they've provided drones, not only drones thems- -- the drones themselves but the -- but the ability to manufacture drones organically inside Russia.

And this is a burgeoning defense relationship that we've been watching very, very closely. We've talked about it many times here. They have -- we haven't seen them move forward other than the negotiation process actively advancing.

And we really wanted to set down a marker here, for Iran and for Russia, that there will be swift consequences for them to do that. What's in the -- what's in their calculus, I couldn't say.

But this would be, obviously, not just really bad for the people of Ukraine but also bad for people in the Middle East, because Iran is hoping to get something out of this too. It's not just about sales of ballistic missiles to Russia. They're hoping to get Russian military technology for themselves.

Q: Thanks, Admiral. Does President Biden want to see new elections in Israel and for Prime Minister Netanyahu to no long- -- no longer remain in power?

MR. KIRBY: That's going to be up for the Israeli people to decide.

Q: So, what about, beyond what he said in the Oval Office, did the President find good about Senator Schumer's speech?

MR. KIRBY: Well, the President spoke about the -- the passion with which Leader Schumer made that speech, and the President said that he knows that those remarks, they resonate with many Americans out there.

For our part, we're going to keep supporting Israel in their fight against Hamas, we're going to keep urging them to reduce civilian casualties, and we're going to keep working to get a temporary ceasefire in place so we can get the hostages back home with their families and more additional aid in to the people of Gaza.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: The Netanyahu government says it has approved an operation -- military, as well as evacuating of civilians -- for Rafah. What is the administration's expectation about knowing what's in that plan, what comes next? What do you know at this point?

MR. KIRBY: We haven't seen it. We certainly would welcome the opportunity to see it. And as we've said, Kelly, we can't support a major offensive in Rafah that doesn't also include a credible, achievable, executable plan to take care to -- for the safety and security of the -- the more than a million Gazans that are seeking refuge in Rafah.

To move in right now in a major way without a proper accounting for all those people would, as we've said, be a disaster. And so, we're going to keep talking to the Israelis about this.

Again, we -- we -- if they've got that plan, though, we certainly would welcome the opportunity to see it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Thanks, Karine. John, you guys are issuing this warning to Iran two days after renewing a waiver that unlocked $10 billion in frozen funds. Don't you think Iran is paying more attention to the actions of this administration than the words?

MR. KIRBY: I can't speak for the mullahs or what they're paying attention to or not. Jacqui, I would remind that this sanctions waiver is renewed or up for renewal every three months. It's a quarterly thing. It's a sanctions package that was actually put in place by the previous administration, by President Trump and his team, that allows for Iraq to be able to work its way off of Iranian energy so that they can keep the lights on.

And we're continuing to work with our Iraqi partners about how to do that. But right now, they still are dependent for a lot of energy from -- coming from Iran. And so, we don't want to penalize the Iraqi people for efforts that they're still trying to get to -- to wean off of that.

And I would remind everybody -- and we've talked about this before, I think; three months ago, we probably talked about this before -- none of this money goes to the mullahs; none of this money goes into Tehran. The sanctions relief that is provided actually is go- -- goes to vendors that provide humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people.

So, not only do the Iraqi people not suffer because of this; the Iranian people aren't going to suffer because of this.

Q: Wouldn't it be, though, the Iranian people who would suffer as a result of the teeth in the warning? I mean, you sa- -- you're saying you would suspend flights on Iran Air to Europe if Iran supplies ballistic missiles to Russia.

MR. KIRBY: I didn't say that. Press report said that.

Q: It's not -- but it's not like, you know, the Ayatollah flies commercial. I mean, that's -- the Iranian people would be the ones who'd be harmed by that if that comes to pass.

MR. KIRBY: It's also not like the -- the regime and the IRGC are sit- -- are thinking this is some sort of windfall, like they're going to -- like this is somehow going to make a big difference in their support for terrorist networks in the region.

I mean, they continue to support Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis. I could go on and on. That hasn't changed since 2018 when these waivers had been -- had been passed by this administration --

Q: Yeah, just --= just in the --

MR. KIRBY: -- and a previous one.

Q: In the --

MR. KIRBY: Wait, now. Hold on a second.

So, we -- this is -- you're talking about one of the most heavily sanctioned countries on the planet. And we're still going to look at additional options if we need to.

We've been nothing but clear and direct and, quite frankly, forceful in pushing back on Iran's activities in the region.

Q: In the last three months alone, since the last renewal, you had an Iran-backed proxy kill three American soldiers in a drone attack in Jordan; the Houthis in -- in the Red Sea firing anti-ship and ballistic missiles, suicide drones at commercial vessels and Navy ships; you had -- you know, three atomic bombs, apparently, could be built in Iran with ura- -- uranium has been enriched to that extent. Blinken today addressing that very issue in Vienna, saying there's still an issue of the IAEA inspectors.

I mean, what have they done in the last three months to justify another renewal of this waiver?

MR. KIRBY: It's a renewal that we go through every quarter. We -- and it's -- it's really about not penalizing the Iraqi people and the fact that they're still heavily dependent on Irani- -- Iranian energy.

But in the last three months, look what else we've done. We've gone after Houthi capabilities ashore. We've got a coalition of ships in the Red Sea protecting against Houthi attacks on shipping there. We have struck back and forcefully against some of these militia groups in Iraq and Syria.

We continue to have sanctions in place -- significant sanctions on the Iranian regime for multiple reasons: They're protester -- they're, you know, going after protesters who support for terrorist networks, their nuclear program. I mean, there's a lot of sanctions in place.

And, oh, by the way, we're still conducting interdiction operations at sea to try to prevent their shipment of materiel and arms to some of these groups.

So, the idea that we're just laying back and not doing anything on Iran just doesn't -- doesn't -- just flies in the face of the -- of the facts.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.

Q: Thank you, Admiral. So, you said the U.S. has not seen a plan to protect civilians in Rafah, yet Netanyahu has already authorized an invasion of Rafah. And that is exactly the scenario that the President said would be a red line. So, how is the U.S. going to respond?

MR. KIRBY: As far as I know, th- -- they -- there has not been an operation in Rafah.

What we've seen today is the Prime Minister's office saying that they have -- have seen a plan that accounts for the operational aspect, the military aspect, and the evacuation aspect.

As I said to Kelly, we welcome an opportunity to look at that plan. We still can't get behind a plan and we won't get behind a plan that doesn't properly account for those million and a half refugees in Gaza who need a place to go where they can be safe from the -- from the fighting.

Look, Israel has a right to go after Hamas, wherever they are. We get that. We're going to continue to support their opportunity to do that.

But as we've said a hundred times, if not more, they have a special obligation as well to look after the safety and security of the -- of the innocent people of Gaza who are getting caught up in this conflict -- a conflict that was started by Hamas.

Q: Does that signal a turning point in the relationship, though, that the White House has not been briefed on this, you still haven't --

MR. KIRBY: No.

Q: -- seen a plan to --

MR. KIRBY: No, not at all.

Q: -- protect civilians?

MR. KIRBY: No, no, no.

Q: And when you talked about the President saying the speech was good and you said Senator Schumer showed a lot of passion, did the President mean the substance of the speech was good, or he was just talking about the passion that resonates?

MR. KIRBY: I'll leave it at the President's comments.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)

Q: Oh.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right there. Go ahead.

Q: Oh, I wanted to -- Admiral -- thanks, Karine. Admiral, I wanted to pivot to Haiti real quick.

MR. KIRBY: Okay.

Q: On Jake Sullivan's conversations with his Kenyan counterpart, Karine said there was a shared commitment. I wonder if you can expound on what that means in -- in more tangible terms.

And -- and on the topic, the administration urged the speedy confirmation of Dennis Hankins. On the other side of that, you know, confirmation, what are his next steps? You know, when does he arrive in Haiti? What -- what does that look like in the days coming forward?

MR. KIRBY: I'd have to refer you to my colleagues at the State Department to speak to the now Ambassador's travel plans. And I have no doubt that he's going to want to get down there as soon as possible and get started. I mean, he's obviously been eager to -- to get confirmed. And we're really, really grateful that he got confirmed and he'll be in place. That will make a big difference down there.

But, again, the State Department can speak to that.

As for shared commitments -- and I do believe Karine actually covered quite a bit of this in -- in her opening statement. We have a shared commit with -- with the -- with the Haitian people and certainly with the Haitian National Police to make sure that they have what they need to better enforce security and stability in Haiti, which is being, obviously, torn asunder by these -- by these gangs and these criminal groups.

We have a shared commitment, as Karine said, to see a political transition here that is smooth, that is -- that is credible to -- to a new government that -- that can represent the Haitian people and to look after their interests.

And, of course, they -- they just want the same as anybody would want. They want to live in peace and security. They want a future for their kids. And we want to help them, from a political perspective, get there.

And then, again -- again, also, Karine mentioned this: the -- the Multinational Security Support Mission. We want to make sure we're continuing to work with our Kenyan partners about that. We want to make sure that the Kenyans have what they need to be effective and successful in this mission. And so, we're talking to them and, of course, the Haitian government about that as well.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, John. What is the White House view of the latest Hamas proposal, which is 700 to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 100 pardoned prisoners, in exchange for women, children, the elderly, and ill hostages?

MR. KIRBY: I would say the proposal that was put forward is certainly within the bounds of -- in broad brushstrokes, within the bounds of the deal that we've been working on now for several months.

I don't want to go into more detail than that, Nancy, because I don't want to negotiate here in public. The fact that there's another delegation now heading to Doha, the fact that this proposal is out there, that there are conversations about it, that's all good. That's all to the good.

Now, whether it ends up looking like that, I don't know. That's what the team will -- will work on. And we'll -- we'll stay engaged.

Q: That's interesting, because the Israeli Prime Minister called it "unrealistic." But from the White House point of view --

MR. KIRBY: The broad brushstrokes.

Q: -- do you think that's in the range?

MR. KIRBY: We think -- we think it's in the broad brushstrokes of -- of the deal that we've been talking about.

But the devil is in the details. And as I said before, nothing is negotiated until everything is negotiated. And without getting into the specifics of -- of these press reports, I can just tell you that we're -- we're glad that the conversations are going.

Q: More broadly, do you believe -- it sounds like you're saying that things are moving in the right direction.

MR. KIRBY: In general, we think -- look, the fact that there -- that we still have active conversations and now another chance to meet in Doha, that's all to the good.

Now, I know, for the families out there, it's just another set of agonizing days to wait. And we understand that too.

So, I don't want to -- we're cautiously optimistic that things are moving in a good direction. But that doesn't mean that it's done, and we're going to have to stay at this until the very, very end.

Q: Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Admiral, just to go back to Iran. Maybe I'm -- I'm -- I didn't hear correctly, but those close-range ballistic missiles, did -- does the administration think would be used in Ukraine by Russia? Is there any recent evidence that the Iranian weapons have been used in the war in Iran --

MR. KIRBY: Drones.

Q: -- I mean, in Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: Drones. Heck yeah. Drones by the hundreds -- Iranian drones -- have been used to kill innocent Ukrainians and hit Ukrainian infrastructure, to hit in- -- Ukrainian defense industrial base. Absolutely, yes, Iranian weapons have been used in Ukraine without question.

We haven't seen a consummation of this particular deal, which is why the G7 is warning against the consequences of it.

Q: And a question on the -- the Taoiseach's visit. When he -- he came out at the stakeout, and he talked to us. And he said -- and I'm quoting, "None of us like to use -- to see the American weapons being used in the way they are. This is not self-defense." Is it, Admiral?

MR. KIRBY: We are -- we've talked about this before. Israel has a right to defend itself against a still-viable threat by Hamas, a group that wants to do October 7th again and again. And we are continuing to support the Israeli Defense Forces as they go after that.

How they go after that threat matters. And that's the context of the conversations that we've been having at all levels, including at the President's level, with our Israeli counterparts about how they execute and prosecute these operations. We want to see -- the right number of civilian casualties is zero. We want to see the numbers come down. We want to see the damage to infrastructure come down. We want to see more humanitarian assistance get in.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: It looks like Putin is going to win a new term. Is the White House ready to -- prepared to --

MR. KIRBY: Shocked.

Q: Yeah. (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY: It's going to be --

Q: Is the White House ready for another --

MR. KIRBY: It's going to be a real nail-biter, isn't it? (Laughter.)

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Look, we'll watch this and mon- -- monitor and see how it comes out. I mean, the idea of free and fair elections in Russia is a -- is a misnomer. But we'll -- we'll see what happens this weekend.

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

Q: Thank you, John. I have a couple of things for you. You just referenced a meeting in Doha. I'm sorry if I missed this, but are you confirming that the U.S. is sending a delegation to Doha for the --

MR. KIRBY: We will not be -- we will not be participating in this particular delegation to Doha. But there is a meeting in Doha of the -- of the counterparts.

Q: Is there a reason that a U.S. delegation is not --

MR. KIRBY: I -- we're --

Q: -- going to this?

MR. KIRBY: I -- we have been at this, M.J., literally every day. I mean, believe me, we're involved in all these conversations. The fact that we're physically not going to have a delegation there should not be taken as any kind of signal that this isn't a serious, positive move forward. We think it could be.

Q: And has the White House asked the Israeli government to see its Rafah plans?

MR. KIRBY: We have made it clear to our Israeli counterparts that we would welcome the opportunity to see their -- their plans. But it's a sovereign country, and these are their military plans. And certainly, they -- they should speak to them, appropriately so. We're not interested in speaking for the IDF. But we've made it clear we would welcome the opportunity to see it.

Q: And just circling back to one thing you said earlier. Does the U.S. think that there is an achievable and executable plan, to use your language, that guarantees the safety of civilians in Rafah before a major military incursion into the area? If not --

MR. KIRBY: I think I kind of answered that already, though. I mean, lo- --

Q: Do you -- well, do you think that's logistically and physically possible, given how many people are in that region?

MR. KIRBY: I guess it would depend on the plan. Make no mistake about it, that's a -- that's a tall order. You're talking about more than a million folks -- probably about a million and a half in -- in a strip of ground that's 12 miles wide. I mean, there's not a lot of places for them to go.

So, having our own experience at doing noncombatant evacuations and -- and urban warfare points to certain lessons about -- about how this can be done and what some of the pitfalls are. I won't get into that here from the podium, but accommodating for a million and a half people in a confined urban environment with not a lot of geography is a very, very tall order for any military to do.

Q: And could I just ask you to clarify one more thing? When the President used the red line language last weekend, was he saying that Israel going into Rafah, period, was considered a red line, or did he mean Israel going into Rafah without a civilian evacuation plan in place, that that would be crossing a red line?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I'm not going to parse the President's words. Again, we've been very consistent, M.J., that we, the United States, can't support an operation in Rafah that doesn't include a executable plan for the safety and security of the million and a half Gazan refugees that are down there at Rafah. They -- that has to be fa- -- factored in and baked in and has to be accommodated.

That's -- that's our view, and that -- the President was restating our view.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: John, on humanitarian aid to Gaza. The humanitarian ship Open Arms arrived in Gaza today with about 200 tons of aid. Do you see that as a one-off? Is it something that could be replicated more? I mean, it's been described as a pilot project.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, difficult for me to speculate what the future is going to be on that. Look, any assistance, any food, any humanitarian goods that can get to the people of Gaza is good for the people of Gaza, no matter what the size is. But we're constantly looking for multiple opportunities to get it in.

I mean, we're obviously still -- the Israelis opened up the 96 gate. There are other crossings into Gaza we would like to see them open up, because trucks by the ground is the best way to do this by volume. We're working on this temporary pier that -- that could allow for additional shipments by sea. There's just no, really, good port on the Gazan coast.

So, I mean, whether it's a one-off or not, I don't know. We certainly would like to see more aid get in more quickly from a variety of different ways.

Q: Has the Biden administration asked countries like France to stop talking about sending troops to Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: No.

Q: Why --

Q: But would the U.S. oppose any nation sending troops to --

MR. KIRBY: No, that's go- -- those are sovereign decisions that a -- a nation has to make. I can just speak for this sovereign nation and this Commander-in-Chief, and he's made it clear that we will not put U.S. boots on the ground.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Thank you, John. I have a question on Indo-Pacific and then Ukraine. So, in Indo-Pacific, Fiji just decided to uphold the policing cooperation agreement with China. We know the Biden administration been working with the Pacific Islands for a few years right now. But it seems that country is still cozy with China. Is the United States losing the competition over there?

MR. KIRBY: We don't ask countries to choose between us and China. They've got to make their own decisions. These are sovereign decisions as well. We are deepening our partnership with Pacific Islands countries, and we're going to continue to do that across a range of -- of capabilities, not just military security capabilities.

But each -- each nation has to decide for itself. We are not asking people to choose between the United States and China. We have a bilateral relationship with China, which we greatly value and -- as you saw in the fall when we went to San Francisco.

Q: Regarding the allies in the Indo-Pacific, we know Japan, of course, is a trustworthy ally. But we're also seeing President Biden seems to opposing the Japanese company Nippon Steel to purchase the U.S. Steel. So, if Japan is not trustworthy enough to invest in United States, who else is?

MR. KIRBY: The -- the relationship with Japan is extraordinarily strong. It is one of the strongest alliances we have in the world. Five of our seven treaty alliances are in the Pacific, and that's -- that's a key one.

And I think you're going to see it -- you're going to see the -- the power and the promise of that alliance in full flower here when Prime Minister Kishida comes for the state visit. There is an awful lot to talk about.

The President has also been clear about making sure that steel workers in this country know that he has their back, and he's made his -- he made his views known on this potential merger. But that doesn't take away one bit from the terrific relationship that we have now and will continue to have with Japan.

Q: Last on Ukraine. Sorry. At least 20 people were killed and a dozen injured in Russian double strike on Odessa. What can the United States due to ensure Ukraine their needed air defense capabilities going forward, given, right now, the Congress situation?

MR. KIRBY: Your question should have been what can the Congress do to ensure. They can pass the supplemental bill so we can get critical air defense capabilities to Ukraine.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Vladimir Putin said that Russia is going to launch a nuclear power unit or some kind of a nuclear (inaudible) into the space. So, should the United States take it seriously as a serious threat? And are there any ways to deter Putin in space?

MR. KIRBY: I haven't heard that particular comment, so I can't -- I haven't heard him -- I haven't heard that actually been said. But just broadly speaking, your question is do we take it seriously. Yeah, ob- -- obviously we do. I mean, the -- the nuclear rhetor- -- rhetoric coming out of Moscow -- not just from Putin but from Lavrov and Peskov and others -- is -- is worrisome and you have to take it seriously with a nation with that kind of capability.

I would just tell you a couple of things. One, we monitor it very, very closely, and we see nothing that has caused us to believe we need to change our own strategic deterrent posture.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Just a couple more. Go ahead, Andrew.

Q: Thank you. Congress is still debating raising the cap on A- -- on visas for Afghan allies, who -- many of whom are still waiting to get into the country and waiting in pretty inhospitable places. What's the administration's position on the number of visas that the President would like included? Republicans are trying to keep it down under 4,000. And if they don't get this into the upcoming appropriations bill, is there a plan B?

MR. KIRBY: We -- I think I talked about this a little bit yesterday. We think that by the end of summer, we'll probably -- at the rate we're processing SIVs, we'll go -- we'll blow through the 7,000 we have left, and we're asking Congress for 20,000 more. And we think that that will really be able to help us get all those worthy SIV applicants safely out of Afghanistan.

Q: How hard is the President willing to fight for that 20,000 number?

MR. KIRBY: He has been clear since the beginning. We may have ended the war in Afghanistan; we never ended our commitment to our Afghan allies. He is 100 percent committed to doing everything he can -- and the rest of the administration as well -- on working with Congress to get those SIV visa applic- -- visa allowances in place so we can get those Afghans back --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

MR. KIRBY: -- out of Afghanistan.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q: Thank you so much. Question about the Houthis. They have warned that they will expand their operations and start attacking the ships taking the longer route, the one going around the Cape of Good Hope. So, how serious is this threat, in your view? And, also, how actively is Iran supporting the Houthis right now?

MR. KIRBY: They're still supporting the Houthis. They're still providing all the capabilities. We keep working to degrade those capabilities. And we take those threats seriously. We have to.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Admiral. There's a report that Israel is exploring using an international private security contractor to try and help protect international humanitarian aid going into Gaza. Is that something that the U.S. would support?

MR. KIRBY: First of all, that would be up for the Israelis to speak to about how they might want to help with the security of -- of humanitarian assistance that comes in by sea and then further distribution inland. Again, that would be for them -- something for them to speak to.

What I can tell you is that, as you know, we are already starting to move the first -- the first components of this temporary pier. It's called a joint logistics over-the-shore capability. And those are just starting to move from the East Coast over there. It's going to take some time to get in place.

And while we have that time before they get into place, we are working with allies and partners, including the Israelis, about the details of -- of how that temporary pier will be supported, how the aid that gets to the pier and gets to the people of Gaza, how that happens. All of that is still being discussed.

We're just not -- we're not at a point where we have final answers for that.

Q: And then, just to follow up on M.J.'s question, you said that you would welcome the opportunity to review this. But is it your expectation that you will get that opportunity --

MR. KIRBY: We would --

Q: -- to see the --

MR. KIRBY: We would welcome the opportunity to see it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Phil.

Q: Thank you, Karine. This week, the Russian Foreign Ministry included Jeff Seldin, a VOA reporter, in its latest round of sanctions. And earlier this month, the Russian Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Washington Examiner columnist Tom Rogan, who is a U.S. citizen. What's the administration's response to this effort by Moscow to intimidate and target U.S. journalists?

MR. KIRBY: Sadly, it's consistent with the -- the Kremlin approach to particularly journalists and -- and the crackdown by the Kremlin on free speech and speech, in fact, that -- that Mr. Putin finds offensive or inimical to his own selfish interests. So, it -- it's, I think, just another reminder.

And I think it underscores, first of all, the danger to Americans who may be in Russia and the need not to be there but also the real danger of an autocrat like Putin and what he's really after here.

Q: Thank you, sir.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Raquel, you have the last question, way in the back.

Q: Thank you so much, Karine. Hi, John. Two questions, John. One on the Russian election, including those who are -- that are taking place in Ukrainian territories. Will --

MR. KIRBY: Which are illegitimate.

Q: Will the United States recognize these results?

MR. KIRBY: No, of course not. No.

Q: And the -- on Haiti. As you were saying, the White House is ready to support a transition in Haiti. But how can the U.S. help with this transition -- or how effective can be the help -- the $3 m- -- $300 million be effective when it's not even clear who is in control? And is the White House concerned that the gangs could take over the country?

MR. KIRBY: Well, the gangs already have an awful lot of influence and power in certain places, particularly Port-au-Prince. There are parts of the c- -- of the country that are not suffering the instability that these gangs and -- and criminal thugs are -- are perpetrating on the -- on the Haitian people.

How much more? I mean, again, as Karine said right at the top, we're very committed to this. And we're going to stay committed to it. And we just announced another $25 -- I think, $25 million today in humanitarian assistance, and I suspect you'll see more coming from the United States. Not just from us, though, but from some of our allies and partners as well.

The situation on the ground is dire. We understand that, and we're doing everything we can to support a truly international effort to -- to better improve security and stability for the Haitian people. But it could take some time. We're going stay committed to it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral. Have a great weekend. Thank you so much.

Q: Thank you. Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Got a new mat.

All right. Colleen, what have you got?

Q: So, Speaker Johnson has said that he would be willing to put forward Ukraine funding and Israel funding once the shutdown situation is ended. I wondered if he has communicated that to the White House, if that's the White House's understanding, and, you know, how you think the proceeding will be.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, obviously, we've seen those reports. And I'll say this. You know, we've said repeatedly: The House needs to move forward the bipartisan national security supplemental, which, let's not forget, passed in overwhelming fashion in the Senate, and they need to put that in the -- on the floor. We know that if they put that on the floor -- if the Speaker puts that on the floor, it would get -- it would get overwhelming bipartisan support.

We need to make sure that we continue to stand with Ukraine as a defense against Russia's brutal invasion. We have to continue to do that, to stand with them, to stand as they're fighting for their democracy, as they're fighting for their freedom.

And it is -- you know, Ukraine is losing ground. You've heard us say this before. You've heard this from the NSC. You heard it from my -- my colleagues. They're losing ground on the battlefield because Congress is not taking action.

And so, we need them to move. We need them to put that on the floor. We need to -- that to happen as soon as possible. And we're going to continue to be very clear about that.

Q: What happens, you know, as American support for Ukraine funding continues to, sort of, degrade? How -- what else can the White House do to articulate the importance of it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we're going to continue to speak to it. But here's the thing: In Congress, there's bipartisan support. There's overwhelming bipartisan support. We saw that in the Senate. And we know that to be true -- to be a fact in the House. That's what we know.

And so, we have to -- the President understands the important role that Americans -- that Americans play. We -- as the United States of America, we play a leading role in making sure that we're continuing to fight for democracy. And the President will c- -- will speak to that directly to the American people as he has in the past two years.

We know history shows us what happens if we do not stop a dictator. It shows us what happens. We know -- we know what c- -- where we can end up. And so -- and we understand Americans understand that. They're smart enough to get that.

And so, Congress needs to -- to move. They need to act. Their inaction is, you know, leading to Ukraine losing ground in the battlefield. We heard that from the CIA Director. The Big Four, when they were here meeting with the President, they heard that directly from the CIA Director.

You know, it is -- it is un- -- it is unfortunate that they're putting -- that the Speaker is putting politics ahead of what our role should be, which is fighting for democracy and making sure that Ukraine has what they need for them to fight for democracy.

Go ahead, Jordan.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Did the President have a chance to talk with Speaker Johnson at the luncheon today about Ukraine aid? And if so, what was his message?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have to say, I have not touched base with the President. So, I do not know if they connected and what -- if they did, what their conversation was. I don't have anything to share.

We try to keep those conversations very private, obviously. What I will say -- I don't think -- the President is always very clear what he says publicly and in private -- right? -- which is when it relates to, obviously, the national security supplemental, it needs to be put on the floor. The Speaker needs to do this.

He didn't hear this just when the Speaker was here -- the Big Four -- meeting with the President and the Vice President. He just di- -- he didn't hear it just from the President. Right? He heard that from the other leaders as well, his counterparts -- right? -- his peers in Congress. And they all agreed that we needed to move forward on this.

So, the President is going to -- it really doesn't matter, because the President has been very clear. The Speaker needs to put the national security supplemental on the floor. It will get bipartisan support. It will get overwhelming bipartisan support. That's what we know. That's what we understand. And that's what we've heard from congressional members.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. So, the majority of Palestinian American, Arab American, and Muslim organizations that the White House reached out to for a meeting this week rejected the invitation. So, what is the White House strategy on this? And are there plans for the President to directly engage with these communities?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President, as you know, has had an opportunity to meet with members of that community not too long ago -- leaders of that community, the Arab American community, the Muslim American community, not too long ago.

And so, look, what I will say is we understand that this is a difficult time, that this is a painful time. We understand that the events of October 7th that -- you know, that killed more than 1,200 -- 1,200 souls -- right? -- took more than 1,200 souls in Israel and also took -- Hamas, the terrorist organization, also, as we know, took hostage more than 200 people. And what that led to -- that war that led to is incredibly painful. We understand that.

And so, you know, look, we're going to continue to -- as you know, the President -- senior officials from the White House met with members of that -- of tho- -- of those communities in -- in Illinois just yesterday, and we're going to continue to have those regular meetings to hear directly from them.

And -- and the President believes that's important to do --

Q: But --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- to hear from those voices.

Q: -- the majority of the groups that the White House reached out to for that meeting in Illinois rejected the request. And when was the President's last meeting directly with communities? What date was it?

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

Q: It was months ago, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear -- I hear what you're saying. But the point is that we -- the White House is actively engaging with the community. And we have been, and you know this. You know that to be true. We've been actively engaging with them regularly since October 7th. And we're going to continue to do that.

I'm not going to speak to who attended. That is not for me to do from here, because the point of those meetings actually is for them to be private, for them to -- so, we want to keep that private, obviously, so that -- so that members of their community could speak freely.

And so, as you know, senior members of -- of our administration, they were in Chicago yesterday. They met with those members -- members of the Arab community, Palestinian community, Muslim community. And this conflict is personal and painful for many, many -- for many people.

And so, again, they're private and -- private meeting, and we are committed to the participant that we -- so that they could speak freely. And we think that's incredibly important.

Q: And where does --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's what we can speak to.

Q: Where does the White House think the TikTok -- what's going to happen to TikTok? Because even if the bill makes it to the President's desk, the Chinese government needs to approve it, which they're likely not to. It could also face significant legal pushback. So, what does the White House ultimately think is going to happen with TikTok?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I'm -- I can't get into, you know, predicting here, right? What we have been very clear about is this bill is an important -- is important, and we welcome the step in -- in serv- -- in -- in ongoing efforts to address the threat posed by certain technology, right?

Services operating in the United States put -- these -- these services put Americans' data at risk. You heard the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, speak to this on Tuesday. It is important for us to have an understanding -- right? -- where this American data is going. Do they live here, or do they live in China, for example? He said that, right? Do -- is the ownership here or is it in China, for example?

And so, those are really important. And so, that's why we welcome that bill. This isn't a divestment bill. It's not a ban.

I'm not going to get into hypotheticals here. It's going through the process. We're going to offer technical support as it moves, obviously, from the House into the Senate. But this -- we welcome this bill, and we -- this is about our national security. That's what this is about.

Go ahead.

Q: There was a settlement in the National Association of REALTORS case that effectively ends the 6 percent commission.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that again. Can you start at the top? Sorry.

Q: There was a settlement in the National Association of REALTORS case that effectively ends the 6 per- -- 6 percent commission on house sales. You know, the Biden administration made a lot about fees and costs and consumer costs. Has the White House been tracking this -- this case? And any reaction to the settlement?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can't speak to the settlement. Obviously, you're talking about junk fees and how important it is that we --

Q: Yeah, I'm not calling --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: -- this a junk fee.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.

Q: I'm just saying that you guys have been focused on consumer fees, consumer costs.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: This is --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: -- kind of in line with those things. We're seeing that, effectively, the 6 percent commission is going away.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm going to be very careful, because I don't know much about this case, so I don't want to speak to this case. But I can speak more broadly to what the President has tried to do. Right? He is trying to make sure that consumers don't get taken advantage of by corporations. He's made that very, very clear.

That's why we speak to junk fees. That's why there's a Competition Council. And that's why we try to find out -- find out ways to save Americans money. You know, we're talking about billions of dollars -- billions of dollars that Americans have to pay because of these junk fees, because we don't -- we see coperat- -- cooperation [corporations] not passing on their -- you know, their -- their wealth, what they have been able to incur, to -- to the consumers.

So, look, it is very important. The President has always said he's going to stand up for Americans. And he believes corporations, obviously, should pay their fair -- their fair share here and -- and not -- not treat Americans like suckers. He has said that over and over again.

And so, I can't speak to this particular case. But obviously, this fits in more broadly in what this President has been trying to do.

Q: Sure. On Biden's opposition to the proposed purchase of U.S. Steel. I'm wondering if his comments were as a citizen or as somebody -- or a sign he's going to use his authority to actually block the deal.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that one more time. You wonder what?

Q: I'm -- I'm wondering whether he -- Biden, yesterday, made a statement about opposing the U.S. Steel purchase.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Q: I was wondering whether it's more simply -- is that a sign that he's going to use some executive authority to actually block the deal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what I can say is this. When it comes to American owned and operated U.S. steel companies, they're incredibly vital to our supply chains and our national and economic security. That is what you heard from this President when we put out a statement on this.

And so, look, the President has always said he has steelworkers' back. And he's certainly committed to the iconic American steel companies remaining in America. This is why he's done the work that he's done to make sure that manufacturers come back to this country, that we've created more than 800,000 jobs -- American -- American -- American manufacturing jobs.

And so, that's what the President's focus is always going to be -- make sure that he puts Americans first here.

Q: Sure. Last question. A lot of bad headlines around Boeing. Some news today. Wondering if -- if the White House thinks Americans should be concerned about flying commercial Boeing airlines?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, there are investigations happening by the N- -- NTSB, so I would have to refer you to them. On the specifics as it relates, in this particular instance, to Alaska Airlines, FAA is also conducting its own investigation and au- -- and audit of -- of Boeing.

Look, we take this very seriously. The F- -- FAA takes this very, very seriously. But there's investigations happening. FAA -- and we stand by FAA and the actions that it is going to -- that it's taking to increase safety oversight of Boeing.

And so, I'm just going to leave it there. But N- -- NTSB certainly will have more to share because it is their -- they are an independent agency that's looking into it.

Go ahead, M.J.

Q: Just following up on that. I know I've asked you this question in the past. But given the additional Boeing-related headlines recently, does the President still believe that it is safe for Americans to get on Boeing airplanes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what our commitment is, is to make sure that we want to put the safety of Americans first. And that's what FAA is doing. And so, they are taking actions -- we stand by those actions -- to increase safety. Obviously, an oversight of Boeing. And I think that's important.

There's investigations that's still continuing by NSTB -- NTSB, pardon me, and also FAA. And so, you know, we're going to do -- the FAA is going to take the action to do what they can -- everything that they can to make sure that it is safe and take those actions.

I don't have anything else to share beyond that.

Q: But would he tell the American people, though -- obviously, there is a lot of concern right now and nervousness that it is safe to get on an --

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

Q: -- Boeing airplane.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think what Americans should know is that FAA is doing everything that it's ca- -- that it can to make sure that Americans feel safe. They are taking the actions. We stand by those actions to make sure that there is -- there is increased safety, oversight of Boeing.

And that's what the Americans pe- -- the American people should feel reassured by, that FAA is doing everything that they can to make sure that we get to the -- to the bottom of it.

Q: Just on a --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.

Q: -- different topic. CNN reported yesterday that some Democratic senators have told the White House that there aren't enough votes in the Senate, including support among some Democrats, to confirm the President's judicial nominee Adeel Mangi. Where do you think his nomination goes from here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm not going to get into speculation. Obviously, the President put forth Mangi because he believed that he was the right person for the job. He was -- you know, has the experience to -- to get the job done on behalf of the American people. He stands by -- certainly stands by his appointment.

I just don't have anything else to share about how this is going to turn out. But certainly we -- we support his continued process, and we think that Congress needs to move and make sure that he gets -- he gets confirmed.

Q: Does the President himself believe that Mr. Mangi was targeted for being Muslim American?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, that is something that Congress needs to speak to themselves. Really, that is a question for them.

Q: Well, the White House has said that. I'm just wondering if --

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

Q: -- the President believes that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we've been very clear. It is -- if that is the case, that's unfortunate. That shouldn't be. That shouldn't be.

He is -- he has the experience to do the job. That's why the President put him forth. And if that's the case, that's certainly shameful.

Go ahead, Molly.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Two questions for you. Has President Biden had a chance to speak with Senator Schumer since his speech yesterday that he called (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a -- a conversation to read out to you at this time.

Q: And then following up on Selina. You know, we reported a lot on a meeting that the President held with some Arab American and Muslim leaders in late October. Is there another meeting that the President himself personally took part in since that (inaudible) --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have another meeting to read out to you. But, look, I think it's important that senior -- senior officials in the White House have had regular conversation, regular meetings with the communities -- right? -- with the Arab community, Muslim community, and Palestinian community.

I think that's important that we continue to hear directly from them. We want to hear what th- -- what they are feeling, how -- how they're feeling about the situation. We understand that is -- it is incredibly painful for them.

And so, we're going to continue to keep those lines of communication open. You just saw -- you -- you -- you're aware or you all know that there was a meeting in Chicago, there was a meeting in Michigan, and there's been others.

And so, look, the President gets fe- -- gets -- gets a readout of those meeting. He hears directly from the officials who have sat down and had these important, critical conversations.

We try to keep them private, because we want to make sure the leaders who are attending these meetings can feel -- can feel freely to say -- have the freedom to say what it is that they want to tell us and want to share with us. So, we try to keep those meetings as private as possible.

Q: Are there any plans for the President to take part in another one of those meetings --

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

Q: -- personally?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- on -- on the President's schedule as it relates to a meeting with the leaders.

He has met with the leaders, as you know, and he feels that is incredibly important for his White House to continue to have those conversations.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Regarding the Vice President's trip yesterday to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota, the President has spoken very often about how reproductive freedom is at risk. So, I'm just wondering why it was the Vice President that made this trip to this clinic instead of the President. And are there any plans for the President to go himself?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think it's -- I think it's important just to note that -- let's not forget: The Vice President has been on a tour -- right? -- she's been on a tour around the country since the beginning of this year to go to important, critical states to talk about what we're seeing, to talk about what Republicans -- extreme Republicans are doing across the country in these state legislatures -- right? -- trying to take away a woman's right to choose -- reproductive rights.

And so, it is -- it is something that we -- the Pro- -- the President even said in his State of the Union. He lifted up the Vice President for the work that she's done. But if you think about the State of the Union, now that I brought it up, it is the first domestic policy that he brought up during the State of the Union, is abortion right, is reproductive healthcare. That was the first thing that he talked about and leaned into.

And we are going to continue to stand with majority of Americans on this where they are. We have to continue to fight for women's freedoms. And so, that's what you see the Vice President do. The President said that to over 30 million people who watched -- the first domestic policy that he leaned into, that he talked about extensively, and he'll continue to do that.

What you saw yesterday is part of what the Vice President has been doing for the first couple of months, obviously, in this -- in 2024, which is continuing to go to key states where women are affected -- are affected by these -- these laws.

And we see -- we see in Congress -- Republicans in Congress have introduced three pieces of legislation that will ban abortion nationally, and we are not going to stand for it. We're not going to stand for it.

Go ahead, Molly. Oh.

Q: Sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: On Monday, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Murthy v. Missouri, which argues that the administration kind of overstepped and coerced social media companies into taking down posts. I'm wondering if you all are worried about what this case might mean for your ability to communicate with social media companies in the future.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm going to be really mindful here. I'm going to refer you to Department of Justice and their briefing of this case, and that's where I'm going to have to leave it for now.

Go ahead.

Q: Just to follow up on an earlier question about Boeing. The President flies on a Boeing aircraft anytime he leaves Washington. Is he concerned that the aircraft he flies on might not be safe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, he's not concerned.

Q: So, why -- so, why can't he say that Boeing aircraft, in general, are safe and that Americans should be confident in flying on them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I want to be really mindful. As you know, there's an -- an investigation happening. FAA is doing everything that they can to increase security, c- -- increase safety for Americans. And so, just want to leave it there.

Obviously, this is a major, major priority for FAA to make sure that Americans feel safe. And so, that's going to be his -- his focus.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q: Karine -- thanks, Karine. So, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told me on Wednesday that she does not see a smooth path down for inflation. I'm curious how bumpy a road will it be before we see all prices then fall.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just want to -- just going to reiterate a little bit of what she said here. She said: Inflation is down two thirds from its peak, and the trend -- this is a quote, "The trend is clearly favorable," end quote. She expects it to continue to decline with a strong market and economy.

And I also want to remind you what caused inflation. We know that inflation was caused by supply chains that broke down because of the pandemic. Russia's war in Ukraine -- we know that caused oil prices to skyrocket. Our economy was disrupted by so many ways because of the pandemic. That's what caused inflation.

And so, because the President took action very early on in his presidency to make sure that Americans got vaccinations and to make sure that we fix and strengthen the supply chain. He took historic actions on oil so that prices -- gas prices could go down. And so, we have an unprecedented economic recovery here. That is -- that is important to note.

But I do want to be really, really clear: We have seen inflation go down by two thirds at -- from its peak. And so, want to make sure that it is clear what she said and what the data also shows.

Q: But two -- but two thirds from its peak -- its peak was a year and a half into President Biden's office -- into -- into his term. He also cancelled the Keystone Pipeline, which also sparked it. And we passed $5.8 trillion in spending, which also pushes inflation.

But my question is: How much longer will it be for Americans to then bring down all prices?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, because the President's unprecedented actions that he took as it relates to the oil, we saw gas prices go down, which in -- is important at the tank to Americans across the country. And that was something that the President took really seriously because he knew what Americans were dealing with. He wanted to give them a little bit of a breathing room.

And we have to be -- we have to also -- you -- you're a data guy. You pay attention to the data. The fact that it went down two thirds matters.

And so, what the President is going to continue to do is making sure that we lower cost. Right? He -- that is the number one part of his economic plan, to continue to lower costs for Americans. And we're going to continue to do that.

Look, the pandemic, the supply chain, what we saw Putin do in Ukraine -- right? -- that caused inflation to increase. And in every part of what I just said -- said -- what I just laid out, the President has taken action on.

And so, he's going to continue to do everything that he can to low- -- to lower costs for Americans.

Q: One more, if I may.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: What does the President think about Bernie Sand- -- Senator Bernie Sanders's plan for a four-day workweek --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So --

Q: -- with the same -- same level of -- of income?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'll say this. The President has a very good working relationship with Senator Sanders. We've got to -- we've got -- we've been able to get some historic pieces of legislation done on behalf of the American people. We will review that piece of legislation. I don't have anything else to add from that.

Q: One about the press.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. I didn't hear you mention -- someone asked about Adeel Mangi being nominated out of New Jersey. Is the White House doing anything specific to get him across the finish line given his nomination has been pending for a while now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we're in continuous conversations with members of Congress and their staff. And that's what we normally do. We think it's important to get him through. And we're going to continue to make sure that that -- that that happens.

Q: Has there been any --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And so, we think it's important that happens.

Q: Has there been any personal appeal from White House staff or certain calls --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm --

Q: -- you can read out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- not going to get into specifics on our conversations with -- with senators. Obviously, it's important -- we believe it's important to -- to get Mangi through. We think he is more than experienced to -- to have this role. And so, we encourage the Senate to move quickly on this.

Okay. Thanks, everybody.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. See you next week.

4:02 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House Nation Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/370847

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