Joe Biden

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

March 01, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:39 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone.

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Friday.

Sorry, just give me a second. All right. Well --

So, I want to start by saying happy Women's History Month and reaffirm this administration's commitment to advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls in the United States and around the world.

This President has proudly championed historic legislation to advance gender equity, including legislation to support women in the workplace, such as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the Speak Out Act, and the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, and to ensure all people can live free from violence through the strengthening and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The President is also proud of having the most diverse group of women at the highest levels of government in U.S. history, including the first woman Vice President and the first gender-equal Cabinet.

But, of course, we're celebrating this month at a perilous time for women. Our most fundamental freedoms are under relentless attack.

Since the unprecedented and unconscionable dismantling of the rights enshrined in the Roe v. Wade -- in Roe v. Wade, we have seen an onslaught of abortion bans and other attacks on women's reproductive freedom.

Look at what happened just this week. After the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling put IVF at risk and raised issues about whether it would be available in other states, congressional Republicans rushed to proclaim their support for IVF.

On Wednesday, though, Senator Duckworth introduced a bill that would protect access to IVF in every state, and Senate Republicans blocked it. It's completely outrageous.

President Biden and Vice President Harris believe every woman in this country should have the freedom to make the decision to have a child. That includes the one in five women struggling with infertility and who may need to rely on IVF. This is just another basic issue of reproductive freedom now under attack.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it paved the road for Republican elected officials to pursue their extreme agenda for families in Alabama and across the country. And no attempts to publicly rebrand can change the fact that Republican elected officials have spent decades trying to eliminate the constitutional right to choose and undermine reproductive freedom.

President Biden and Vice President Harris will continue to fight to protect access to reproductive healthcare and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law for all women in every state.

And more broadly, not just during this woman's month history [Women's History Month] but every day. We remain committed to continuing this important work and service of advancing the full participation of women, a fund- -- a foundational tenet to our democracy.

And next, as you heard from President Biden earlier, today is an important milestone in ensuring access to mifepristone, a drug that has been approved by the FDA as -- as a safe and effective -- as safe and effective for more than 20 years, with major retail pharmacy chains newly certified to dispense this medicine. Many woman -- women will soon make the option to pick up their prescription at a local, certified pharmacy, just as they would for any other medication. The administration continues to encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification.

In the face of relentless attacks on reproductive freedom by Republican elected officials, the President and the Vice President will continue to fight to ensure that women can get the healthcare they need, including mifepristone. And we will continue to -- to defend the FDA's independent and evidence-based approval of this medicine and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law.

And today, we are also praying for the two lives lost in Texas as a result of the historic wildfires impacting the region. We're also thinking of the thousands of residents who have had to evacuate, many losing everything -- everything they own as a result of these ongoing fires.

We remain grateful to the first responders on the ground who continue to put themselves into harm's way to protect people and save lives. With over 1 million acres burned, this is the largest wildfire in the history of Texas. And unfortunately, this fight is not over.

But as the President said when he was in Texas yesterday, the Biden-Harris administration is doing everything possible to help the people and communities devastated by these fires. Hundreds of federal fire- -- firefighters have been deployed to help fight the blaze, along with critical fire suppression equipment. And FEMA has provided financial assistance to ensure Texas and Oklahoma have the resources they need to fight these fires and keep people safe.

We continue to encourage those in the affected areas to remain vigilant and heed the warnings of local officials, especially if you are ordered to evacuate. As always, we stand ready to provide further support as needed.

And finally, yesterday, as you all know, the President traveled to Brownsville, Texas, and heard directly from the Border Patrol, asylum officers, and immigration enforcement officials about operational realities on the ground. These officials emphasized the need for additional resources to secure the border and to make our asylum system fairer and faster.

That is why, months ago, President Biden ordered his team to negotiate in good faith with a bipartisan group of senators to deliver significant policy changes and additional resources to the border. And after months of negotiations, the President and the bipartisan group of senators reached the toughest and fairest border security and immigration agreement in decades.

But once again, you heard the President yesterday highlight how critical that agreement is to securing our border. You heard President Biden focused on solutions that would deliver for the frontline personnel and deliver for the American people.

But elsewhere, the American people heard a much different story when congressional Republicans rejected the bipartisan border security agreement because, by their own admission, former President Trump thought it would hurt him politically.

They showed the American people that, to them, partisan politics is more important than our border security. When Governor Abbott chooses to use migrants as political pawns and leave them by the side of the road in the dead of winter, he shows Republicans are more interested in politics than solutions.

Republicans called for policy changes at the border. We have a bipartisan border security agreement that is supported by the Border Patrol union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Wall Street Journal, and the bipartisan South Texas Alliance of Cities. It is time for Republicans to stop -- to stop blocking that agreement, put politics aside, and provide border officials with the tools and resources they need to secure the border.

With that, I -- Admiral John Kirby is here to give us an update on what's going on in the Middle East.

Admiral.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine. Appreciate that.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q: Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: I want to just start by talking about the tragic and alarming event in Northern Gaza yesterday in which many Palestinian civilians lost their lives while seeking humanitarian aid and assistance in the -- a dire situation on the ground there. We express our deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed and, of course, all those who are hurt as well.

As you know, we've asked the government of Israel to investigate. And it's our assessment that they're taking this seriously, and they are looking into what occurred so as to avoid tragedies like this from happening again.

This event underscores the importance, we believe, of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza since so much of it is in need. And by no means should what happened yesterday preclude or prevent additional humanitarian assistance from getting in.

I think, as you all know, the United States remains the largest provider of humanitarian assistance into Gaza. And you heard directly from the President today that we're going to -- that we need to do more, and the United States will do more.

As a matter of fact, as the President just announced, the United States will carry out airdrops of aid into Gaza in coordination with our international partners, particularly Jordan, in the coming days.

We're also going to redouble our efforts to open up a humanitarian maritime corridor to deliver amounts of humanitarian assistance by sea -- hopefully large amounts by sea.

This is, of course, in addition to expanding deliveries by land, which we have been keenly focused on now for -- for many months. We'll continue to push Isra- -- Israel to facilitate more trucks going in and more routes being open so that more aid can get to more people. We're going to continue to pull out every stop to get more aid to people who desperately need it.

Now, as you all know, a deal that would trigger a six-week ceasefire is currently on the table. In addition to the additional flow of aid that would come with that deal, we're continuing to work to make sure that we can get the hostages out as well, and to see a reduction in the violence.

With the fighting stopped, aid will be able to flow more freely and, we hope, at an increased level and, of course, the hostages -- starting with women, the elderly, and the wounded -- can be released in stages and returned to their families. And, again, we're going to keep our shoulder to the wheel on that and work that very, very hard in coming days.

Now, of course, as you all know, President Biden is glad to welcome Prime Minister Meloni of Italy to the White House today for a bilateral meeting to reaffirm the strong bilateral relationship that we have with Italy. In fact, the meeting just started.

Italy is the president of the G7 this year. President Biden has been looking forward to the opportunity to coordinate with Prime Minister Meloni on their shared priorities for the G7 and the NATO Leaders Summits that are happening this summer.

As you heard from the President just a little bit ago, the two leaders will, of course, discuss shared challenges on a range of global challenges that include humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, as well as the need to prevent regional escalation in the Middle East and to protect international shipping in the Red Sea.

The leaders will also underscore their commitment to continue to support Ukraine as it confronts Russian aggression. The President will, of course, raise the efforts that we've been pursuing to see our supplemental funding approved by Congress.

The President appreciates Prime Minister Meloni's leadership on all those issues. And he looks forward to a very good discussion with her.

With that --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Seung Min.

MR. KIRBY: -- I'll take some questions.

Q: Just to triple check, when -- when the President said we were airdropping to Ukraine twice, he meant Gaza, correct? He just misspoke?

MR. KIRBY: He was referring to Gaza.

Q: Just want to make sure.

And can you talk about how the U.S. ensures that the airdropped aid gets to the people who needs it and doesn't end up in the hands of Hamas?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I'm really glad you asked that question, actually. Having seen these kinds of operations myself over many years, there's few military operations that are more complicated than humanitarian assistance airdrops. This is -- this is a tough military mission to do because so many parameters have to be exactly right.

We're going to pursue this the way we would pursue any such operation: carefully. We know we have to move with a sense of alacrity. We're alive to the need. But -- but we're going to do this in concert with our Jordanian partners. And, again, the planning will be robust on this.

That said, I think -- I don't "think" -- I know that we will learn from the first airdrops and this will be a part of a sustained effort. This isn't going to be one and done. There will be additional airdrops planned and executed. And with each one, I think we'll learn more, and we'll get -- we'll get better at them.

It's very difficult. It is extremely difficult to do an airdrop in such a crowded environment, as is Gaza. Very, very densely populated. A lot of people confined to small spaces. So, you want to do it in a way that you can get it to -- close -- as close as you can to the people in need but not in a way that puts them in any danger.

And so, the Pentagon will be doing a raft of planning on this. They'll work their way through that. But I do want to stress that we fully expect that the -- the third and fourth and fifth one won't look like the first and second one. We'll learn and we'll -- and we'll try to improve.

Q: And are you able to be more precise than "coming days" as to when the airdrops will start?

MR. KIRBY: I can just tell you "in coming days," as the President said. I don't have an exact delivery schedule for you. But we're not waiting around. And the Pentagon is working on this very, very hard.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Thank you, Admiral. What are the risks associated with an airdrop like this?

MR. KIRBY: Well, my goodness, first of all, the biggest risk is making sure that nobody gets hurt on the ground. And so, you got to locate out areas to drop that you know will be safe for people so that they don't -- they don't become victims of the drop itself. I mean, when you're dropping out of an airplane -- again, it depends on what you're dropping -- in this case, the first deliveries will be food, most likely the MREs, the -- the portable food that the military uses.

And so, you want to be able to get it, again, in a place that's safe from -- nobody is getting hurt on the ground. And then you want to make sure that it's in a location that is also accessible to aid organizations to help distribute that food so that you want -- you want to see, as best you can -- and it may not be possible in Gaza -- but, as best you can, a presence on the ground to help with the distribution so that -- so that it -- the drop itself doesn't become a scene or a site of insecurity and instability, people rushing it and getting hurt in trying to get to it.

And then, lastly, the big challenge is making sure that it's physically in a -- in a geographic location that is close to people that are -- that are most in need.

So, there's an awful lot that goes into that. And, of course, then, you know, there's the whole air component of that -- you know, the weather and the winds and the -- you know, the -- the need for the pilots and the aircraft to be safe as well.

I mean, this is not -- you know, this isn't like an area of a humanitarian disaster such as an earthquake or -- or a hurricane site. This is a warzone. So, there's an added element of potential danger to the pilots and the aircraft. And we have to factor that all in, too.

Q: Can you talk about the timing of the airdrops and why the U.S. hasn't considered or hasn't done one before now, given that this need for aid is not new?

MR. KIRBY: We've been working on the idea for airdrops here for -- for a little while -- the idea of thinking about -- through whether we need to do this.

So -- but, again, it's not the kind of thing you want to just do in a heartbeat. You want to think this -- you want to think it through carefully. And we've been doing that.

But, certainly, the -- the need is much more acute here in recent weeks. And, again, we want to be -- we want to answer that.

We had tried -- and we still are trying -- to get the ground movement increased. And that's another reason why we're working so hard on this hostage deal, because it will give us some breathing space to increase that level of -- of stuff on the ground. But, obviously, it just hasn't -- we haven't been able to -- to meet the need.

For all the work we've done to open up Kerem Shalom and work with the Israelis to increase the level, it just -- it's not meeting the need, and we recognize that.

Q: Thank you.

Q: How sustainable of an option does the President see these airdrops as -- as being?

And also, was there any communication between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu before this announcement today?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have any conversations with the Prime Minister to -- to speak to. We obviously have been talking to our Israeli counterparts about this. This is not going to come as a surprise to them that -- that we're considering doing this.

In fact, they did one themselves a week or so ago. And -- and, certainly, we were -- we were mindful of that. They -- they kept us informed. So, no surprise to the Israelis that we're doing this.

As for sustainability, we'll have to see. We'll have to see how it goes.

What I can tell you is that -- in terms of how long, I can tell you that this first one coming in -- in a few days will not be the last one. It will be part of a larger, longer sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance.

I want to make another point, and that's -- it's not just -- you will see additional airdrops, but we're also, as the President said, working on whether there can be a maritime component to this. Is there a way to use shipping -- maritime shipping and -- you know, to try to get aid in from the coast as well as continuing our work to increase the flow on the ground?

I mean, the -- the trucks are really -- although it's a -- it's a dangerous way to get aid in -- and, tragically, we saw that yesterday -- it's also a very effective way of getting it in in scale. Now, you can do that through -- through the maritime effort, too, which is why we're going to do that.

Q: Real quickly, did the maritime option start being considered after the Gaza attack? Or has that been part of the discussion?

MR. KIRBY: That's been on the table before yesterday's attack, yeah.

Q: Thanks, Admiral. Can you just talk about the risks and how it actually works once -- when it gets airdropped on the ground? As you say, it's very dense. So, who takes the lead to actually distribute it, make sure it's the right person? Just, how does it work on the ground?

MR. KIRBY: We're working through all that, the -- the modalities of that right now. I mean, you want to make sure that, to the maximum degree possible, you've got aid organizations and partners on the ground that can help with the distribution -- the collection of that and the distribution of that aid and -- and to help us get it to the right people. They're the ones on the ground. Whether it's the U.N., whether it's the World Food Program and others, they know where the needs are.

Q: And can you talk about the size and scale of the impact here? Is it equivalent to how many trucks -- one airdrop, for instance?

MR. KIRBY: I mean, look, on a -- you know, one airdrop, which would be multiple pallets of -- of material -- you're not just talking about, you know, one pallet, but you'll have multiple pallets, depending on the size of the aircraft that we end up using and how much we drop -- it can -- can be, certainly, significant in terms of the size and scale and scope. And the one advantage that it has over trucking is that it's pretty quick. I mean, it can -- it c- -- it can get to need, it can get to location pretty quickly.

And as I said, we'll try to do this in a sustainable way over time. It will be a supplement to, not a replacement for, moving things in by ground.

Q: In terms of the maritime corridor, when do you think that could start? And what are the key risks as you assess how to implement that?

MR. KIRBY: Again, we're at the early stages right now of working our way through this. There -- there's going to be a security component to that. You want to make sure if you do it that -- same thing, that you're getting the aid to people that need it and that the folks that are getting it ashore can be safe. It is a warzone.

And, you know, again, you're talking about doing things in the maritime environment. You know, weather and other external conditions -- things you can't control, obviously -- play a -- play a role.

So, we're still at the beginning stages of working through what that's going to look like.

We -- we are in a much -- we're much further along in terms of the being able to execute airdrops than we are a maritime corridor.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Danny.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Admiral. You mentioned earlier that the -- you've been working on the idea of airdrops for -- for some time. Were the tragic events in Gaza yesterday -- did they help -- did they, you know, encourage the President to accelerate that decision? Did that sort of push him to -- to push that decision forward?

MR. KIRBY: Again, we were working on this idea now, again, for some time here, knowing that we weren't meeting the need totally through convoys.

I think what yesterday's event underscores, and certainly underscored for the President, is the need to continue to find alternative routes and alternative means of getting humanitarian assistance in to -- to Gazans. It certainly underscores the importance of that.

But again, I want to be clear: This isn't about replacing trucks. It's not about replacing ground routes in. It's about supplementing those ground routes.

And the last thing I'd say is it -- it also underscored for the President how vitally it is -- important it is for us to get this deal in place, this six-week ceasefire so that we can increase the aid.

Q: But when did he make the decision? He made the decision yesterday after -- the final decision, did he make that yesterday after these events in Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have an exact tick-tock of when he actually, you know, hit "Go." But in recent days, he certainly made it clear that he wanted to move forward in that direction.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nandita.

Q: Thank you, Karine. You spoke about U.S. asking Israel to investigate the events yesterday. Just want to understand why the U.S. believes Israel can do a good job investigating itself.

MR. KIRBY: Well, as I said in my opening statement, we do think that the indications are that they're taking this seriously. You saw them, I think, put out a -- a statement from their IDF spokesman last night walking through their initial assessments of what happened. So, as far as we understand it, they're still looking at this.

And there have been examples in the past where they have investigated incidents and have been very honest and upfront about mistakes they've made for -- at the IDF level in the past, and not -- not distant past, either.

So, let's see what they -- what they come up with. Let's see what they learn. And then -- and then we'll go from there.

Q: Is there a separate investigation that you have commissioned? Or are you waiting for Israel to come up with it?

MR. KIRBY: We've asked Israel to investigate.

Q: And is there a timeframe that you're hoping they will finish this investigation by?

MR. KIRBY: We're not -- we're not giving them a deadline. I mean, obviously, we -- we want to see as many answers as soon as possible because of the situation on the ground, because it's so dire, because people are so desperate. You know, we obviously want to make sure that appropriate steps are taken as soon as possible so that something like yesterday can't happen again.

Q: And the President said yesterday that, you know, he expects the -- the events to disrupt the talks in Qatar. Do you have any updates on how this could potentially impact those talks? Are there any updates?

MR. KIRBY: I think it's too soon to know right now. The -- the talks are ongoing. Negotiations are ongoing. We still believe that -- that they're moving in the right direction. But I think it's too soon to know whether what happened yesterday is -- is going to have a practical effect on it.

I can tell you that we're working very, very hard on this, as evidenced by the President's phone call yesterday with the Emir of Qatar and the President of Egypt. I mean, that should indicate to you just how hard we're working on this. And we're still hopeful that we'll be able to get there, hopefully, soon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: I think you've gotten at this a little, but can you just articulate why the U.S. cannot simply just send this aid in over ground into Gaza? What -- what are the holdups on the Israeli side by sending the trucks in? Why -- why does it have to be by air?

MR. KIRBY: Well, Kevin, it doesn't have to just be by air. In fact, as I said earlier, we're -- the idea of airdrops is to supplement the delivery on the ground. And even though you can pack an awful lot into a military aircraft, you can't replicate the size and scale and scope of a convoy of 20 or 30 trucks. I mean, it's still the best way to get the maximum amount of assistance in over the shortest period of time.

So, the airdrops would be a supplement to that. And as we have said many times, the process that has been set up that the Israelis have been willing to work through is having an inspection regime of these trucks before they go into Gaza and recognize routes for how they're going to get to people in need and routes that are informed by our aid partners on the ground.

Q: What leverage does the President have in convincing the Israelis to allow more trucks in? And what levers is he willing to pull on that front?

MR. KIRBY: This isn't about pulling levers and -- and trying to hold something over Prime Minister Netanyahu or the War Cabinet. They have been willing to work with us on getting aid and assistance into -- to Gaza.

I want to be, as I said earlier, clear that it's not been enough, not been -- not been enough to the need, certainly not been enough for the speed that's required. We recognize that. And that's part of the conversations that we've been having with our Israeli counterparts.

But we urged them, for instance, to open up Kerem Shalom as a second route. They've done that.

Now, has it been perfect? No. There's been some protest activity in recent weeks that shut it down temporarily. We worked our way through that. There's -- there's still a lot of hard work to do.

The Israelis have tried airdrops themselves, and they're supportive of our efforts to do the same.

Q: What about all the other crossings, though, in -- in Israel, into Gaza? Why aren't they allowing aid through those places?

MR. KIRBY: There's other potential crossings -- you're right -- into Gaza. And, again, we continue to talk to the Israelis about the practicality of that.

Q: Thank you, John. Was part of the consideration into moving into this airdrop plan and -- and the maritime plan -- I mean, there had been delays for ground shipments of flour just a couple of weeks ago, and Israel had been holding that up. So, is part of this because Israel hasn't been a reliable partner as much as the U.S. would like to see in terms of getting aid in?

MR. KIRBY: Part of this is very much because not enough aid is getting in and not enough people are getting the food, the water, the medicine, and the fuel that they need. That's what's driving this.

We are rec- -- we recognize the situation is dire. We recognize the need is great. And it hasn't been filled simply by the -- the use of ground convoys.

Q: And is this a way to, kind of, get around the need for Israel to sort of go through these checkpoints when it's on-the-ground convoys --

MR. KIRBY: This is --

Q: -- coming in?

MR. KIRBY: This is a way to get more aid to more people quickly.

Q: And I know he said you don't have an exact timeline. But is there a plan for this aid to be dropped over the course of weeks? Is it months? What does that --

MR. KIRBY: I would say, certainly, coming weeks. I don't want to -- I can't get too predictive right now. We haven't even done the first one. I can assure you there won't be just one. This won't be a one-and-done kind of thing. There will be additional airdrops. We will learn. We will get better at them over time. But I'd say, certainly, coming weeks.

Q: Thank you. Will U.S. continue to supply weapons to Israel after what happened yesterday in Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: We are still helping Israel with their needs to defend themselves.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Patsy.

Q: Thank you, Karine. John, just a little bit of clarity on the maritime corridor that the President mentioned. Is this the same kind of idea that was floated in Israel in December of having it come through Cyprus?

And, if I may ask the same questions that my colleagues have been trying to get to, did what happen in Gaza City yesterday reaffirm the President's suspicion or frustration about the fact that Israelis cannot guarantee the delivery of aid to Palestinians and hastened his decision to airdrop?

MR. KIRBY: So, on your first question, certainly, I think -- well, the -- the discussion that we've been having about a potential maritime option is -- is informed by recent conversations about the potential use of Cyprus, for instance, as a potential way to maybe stage some of that.

Again, I don't want to get into too many specifics now. The -- this idea is still in its infancy. And there's a lot of work that has to be done. So, I'm not guaranteeing you that, for instance, Cyprus would be used in any way.

I'm just saying that the discussion we're at now certainly was informed by previous discussions with partners in the region about what that could look like. But, again, we've got a long way to go here, a lot of work on the maritime front to get this done.

And as for your second question, again, the idea of airdrops is not a new one. It's something that we have floated in the interagency before yesterday.

Yesterday's event, I think, underscores the need to find more creative ways of getting assistance in faster and at greater scale. And we're going to continue to do that.

Again, I want to stress this -- I know you're getting tired of me saying this, but airdrops would supplement not replace ground movements.

Q: And can I -- can I just add -- continue on Gaza? But on a separate note, I've been noting that administration officials have been repeating the line that Israel is a sovereign country and the U.S. does not dictate to them. Matt Miller says this. Olivia, I think, said this yesterday at the gaggle.

So, help me understand here, because for the past couple of weeks, you've been telling us that you have been successful in affecting change in Israeli behavior. You just mentioned it again in terms of opening of Kerem Salom [Shalom].

But I'm seeing a shift -- and I don't know if this is correct or not and if you can explain what's behind the shift. Is the administration trying to distance itself from what Israel is doing in terms of its conduct? Or is it reflective of the pessimism of your inability to close the gap between what President Biden wants Prime Minister Netanyahu to do and what's actually happening on the ground? Can you explain if there is a shift?

MR. KIRBY: I think maybe you're reading a little bit more into what we've been saying. Reiterating that Israel is a sovereign country is not -- it's not a shift at all. It's -- it's the truth. When we -- we don't dictate terms to other sovereign countries.

Israel is also a great friend and an ally. And we -- we can have conversations with them that, in some ways, you can't have with other countries because you are friend and an ally, and you can be tough and you can be candid and you can be forthright with Israeli leaders. And we -- and we're not afraid to do that.

And, I mean -- but, no, there's no -- there's no shift here. I mean, make no mistake, as I've said many times just today, not enough aid is getting in to people that need it. It's not happening fast enough. It's not having -- happening in the quantity that -- that we need. And we're -- we're trying to act to the need. We're trying to behave and change and be more creative to meet the desperate need of the people of Gaza.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just a couple more. Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, John. You've laid out now, a couple of times, the practical challenges that will be part of this airdrop or these airdrops? And I'm kind of curious about that, because those are risks that the United States now has to take on for itself, conducting those airdrops.

The reason that those risks might fall to the United States is because Israel is starving those people. So, why are we still so supportive of Israel when it is the one that is creating the problem that the United States now has to try to ameliorate?

MR. KIRBY: Israel itself has tried to -- to help with the delivery of humanitarian assistance. As I said, they tried airdrops themselves just a week or so ago, on their own accord. And we --

Q: So, why are so many people still starving?

MR. KIRBY: We -- there -- it's a -- it's a warzone. And they -- and there's -- there's nowhere else for them to go. It's not like in some other con- -- conflicts where they can -- they can easily flee.

And -- and let's not forget how this started. Okay? There'd be no need for airdrops if Hamas hadn't chosen to break what was a ceasefire in place on the 6th of October. So, let's not forget how this -- how this started.

There is a need. Many people are in desperate need of food, water, medicine, and fuel. And the United States was and remains and will continue to be the leading provider of humanitarian assistance to them. And we'll -- we take that responsibility seriously.

Q: But also remain -- continue to be the main supporter of the people who are causing that assistance to be necessary.

MR. KIRBY: We also know and recognize that Israel has a right to defend itself against a still-viable threat. Again, please, if you haven't done it, I encourage you to go online and read the 2017 manifesto of Hamas. I know you're smiling, but you should do it. Because if you don't have any --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY: Wait, let me finish. Let me finish.

This is an organization that has military capabilities and has every intent of wiping Israel and the Israeli people off the map. That has to be unacceptable to everybody. Mr. Sinwar chose to start this war. There was a ceasefire in place; he broke it.

Q: Do you think that the Israelis were defending themselves legitimately when they killed a hundred --

MR. KIRBY: There have been --

Q: -- people yesterday?

MR. KIRBY: There have been too many people killed over the course of this conflict. The President has said that himself. Secretary Austin said it in testimony again yesterday. Each civilian life -- Palestinians certainly included in that -- each one is a tragedy and should be avoided.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Sorry. Thank you. Last night, the IDF said they only fired warning shots into the crowd and the deaths -- the majority of deaths was by trampling. As of now, does the administration believe that assessment to be accurate?

MR. KIRBY: We don't have enough information to -- to verify those comments. That's why I said we want to see an investigation. We want to see more work done to figure out what happened.

Q: Admiral, the U.S. was one of several countries after the October 7th attack that cut funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, given reports in Israel suggesting that there were people there with ties to Hamas. That obviously is the agency, really, that would be in a different situation responsible for bringing a lot of the humanitarian aid.

Is the administration rethinking cutting off funding for that organization at this point, given your assessment that not enough aid is -- is getting in?

MR. KIRBY: No. No. The suspension of assistance to -- to UNRWA, what was left unallocated, is still suspended. There's been no change in our policy on that. And we're working with other aid organizations, like the World Food Program, who are on the ground to assist with distribution as well.

Look, you know, 13-some-odd thousand UNRWA employees on the ground in Gaza -- the vast majority of them do great work, do it with good intent. And as I said many times, you know, you don't want to impugn the entire agency because of the potential actions of a few.

Now, they are investigating this. We expect a full, thorough, credible, transparent investigation as to the -- those employees that might have been involved in supporting Hamas and that those who were need to be held properly accountable.

Q: It seems like not having them funded though and having to rely on other organizations, not having to resort to airdrops, that has complicated the situation.

MR. KIRBY: I would -- I would --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY: -- remind, as I said earlier, that the unallocated funds for UNRWA that we suspended were actually not intended for Gaza. They had been earmarked for work in Jordan.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Just a couple more. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. I've got two questions. First, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is threatening to hold Secretary Blinken in contempt if the State Department does not hand over material concerning the Afghanistan act- -- After Action reports, specifically some internal notes. What is the White House's response to that contempt threat?

And then, how -- did the White House ever direct the State Department to hold off on releasing those documents?

MR. KIRBY: I'm going to refer you to the State Department on that.

Q: So, the -- the committee says that in their interactions with the State Department, the State Department referred them to a White House lawyer. So, can you tell us --

MR. KIRBY: Again, you need to talk to the State Department about that.

Q: All right. And a follow-up about Gaza. You mentioned a second ago that the ceasefire was broken when Hamas attacked Israel. Are you suggesting that Hamas bears ultimate responsibility for the current and ongoing humanitarian crisis there?

MR. KIRBY: The -- the war that they're in right now was started by Mr. Sinwar. He's the one who chose to break a ceasefire that was in place on the 6th of October.

Now, obviously, in the -- (a cellphone rings) -- you got -- you going to get that?

Q: That's not me.

MR. KIRBY: Okay. Obviously, in the conduct of this war -- and we've been very honest about this too -- that there have been too many innocent people killed through Israeli Defense Force operations in Gaza. We've been very honest about that. We want to see zero.

So, certainly, we recognize that the prosecution of efforts against Hamas have caused civilian damage, civilian casualties. And we don't want to see anybody else hurt. And that's why we continue to work with our Israeli counterparts to be as careful and discriminate as possible.

Q: Thank you, sir.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Oh, thank you. So, I have a question regarding (inaudible) on ECOWAS. Do you (inaudible) with the ECOWAS -- he recently lifted sanction (inaudible). And I wanted to find out whether you agree with that. (Inaudible) talk to the president -- President Bazoum of Niger.

MR. KIRBY: Ma'am, you're going have to let me take that question, if you don't mind. I'm not prepared to answer that one. And I owe you an answer, and I'll get you one.

Q: Okay. Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. We got to wrap it up. Go ahead.

Q: Admiral, there was a pretty scathing report out this morning from the State Department IG's office about a U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, Jonathan Kaplan. It alleged, among other things, that he had poor relationships with local officials that were undercutting U.S. strategy there, he had poor relationships with staff, and that he ran afoul of some finance and other rules. I'm wondering if you can state whether the President still has confidence in the Ambassador and if he shares any concerns about how his performance has hobbled U.S. efforts in the region.

MR. KIRBY: The President understands that the State Department is taking this IG report seriously. As far as we understand it, they've already started to implement many of the recommendations that the -- that the IG has put forward.

Obviously, the President always wants his representatives overseas or at home to -- to act and to lead and to manage people with -- with dignity and respect. That's -- that's his expectation for -- for all of us. But -- but he's -- he's comfortable that the State Department is taking this seriously.

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

MR. KIRBY: Thank you. Appreciate it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Have a great weekend.

Q: John, can we get quick comment on the Russian

nuclear threat?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks. All right, go ahead.

Q: Just one quick one. Could I have the White House's reaction to the CDC deciding to drop the five-day isolation guidance on COVID? Just your reaction to that and also how that may or may not affect protocol here at the White House.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as far as protocol here, I don't have any update for you at this time. We'll certainly have more to come soon.

What I do want to say is that this announcement actually reflects the progress that we've made under this administration over the past three years to protect communities against COVID. And it's not by accident. It is because of the policy that this President has put forth.

Because when the President walked into this adminis- -- into this administration, understanding COVID was obviously one of the crises that we had to deal with, he took action and put forth a comprehensive strategy to move forward; passed the American Rescue Plan that only Democrats voted for -- not one Republican voted for -- and it got to get the economy back on track, open up schools; and also make sure that we had a comprehensive strategy in making sure Americans got shots in arms, making sure they wore masks when we needed them, giving -- giving the -- the Americans the opportunity to actually deal with this pandemic.

So, now we're coming out of this pandemic. Things have changed. We are in a different place, which is good, right? We are in a different place than we were when -- obviously, when we walked -- walked into this -- into this adminis- -- administration. COVID no longer controls our lives, right?

But we still have to use proven tools that protect people against rep- -- respiratory viruses. And that's what the CDC guidance actually tells us.

As it relates to here and the White House and this campus, we'll have more soon. I just don't have anything for you today.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. In his speech yesterday, the President actually extended an olive branch, inviting Trump to work with him to try and get that border deal through Congress. Why did the President decide to do that? Does he believe that Trump could be a trusted partner in this situation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know this President. If you watch this President very closely the last three years -- shoot, if you've watched him his entire career, he believes in going across the aisle and working in a bipartisan way.

And when Republicans decide to do that, when they come and work with us, we actually have gotten some really big things done on behalf of the American people. Think about the CHIPS Act, right? Think about the PACT Act that helps veterans and their family. You think about the bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

There have been things during this administration that have been historic and will change Americans' lives that we have been able to do in a bipartisan way.

Let's think about the gun violence: the first piece of gun violence legislation that was done in a bipartisan way. We hadn't seen that in 30 years.

So, look, the President -- it's not about politics for him. I think when he put out the olive branch yesterday, as you just stated, at the end of his speech, it was to show this wasn't about politics. This is about the American people.

And what we continue to see is Republicans not doing that. They keep letting politics get in the way.

So, the President, as he does many times, when he wants to work on behalf of the American people, he wants to see it d- -- see it done in a bipartisan way. And not just him -- we've learned and we've seen that that's what the American public wants to see as well.

Q: Is there anything you can share about what he learned from his visit in Texas yesterday and how it might inform potential executive action he'd take?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, as far as executive action, I've been very clear about that from here, from this podium, when you all have asked me. We always, obviously, look at every -- every scenario, every option. We evaluate all of those things.

But we do believe -- which is why the President went to the border, to Brownsville, Texas, yesterday -- that the way to move forward -- the bottom line is we need to take action and -- and move forward with the bipartisan agreement that came out of the Senate. That is the way that we believe we can actually deal with what -- the challenges at the border, we can deal with the broken immigration system.

There is no executive action that will -- that would do -- would be able to do what this -- what this negotiation came out in a bipartisan way.

Look, what he was able to see -- first of all, he was a- -- eager to hear from -- from the folks on the ground who deal with this every day. As you know, the mayor of Brownsvil- -- Brownsville is Republican himself and has to deal with this as well in his community. And -- and he wanted to -- to see, you know, how -- ho- -- what's going -- what happens on the ground. He also wants to see -- continue to see that while we're moving forward, it d- -- it's done in a fairly, humane way -- right? -- in a fair and humane way. And that's one of the reasons that he went down there.

And he wanted to -- he wanted to see what -- what are the officials on the ground had to -- had to say. And it was clear to him that they desperately need resources. They need more to do their jobs, to be able to do it in a fair and humane way. They need more to be able to do their jobs and not see Republicans get in the way and continue to vote against what we're asking for -- more resources -- and not actually do the job and actually protect Americans and deal with a broken immigration system.

So, he saw that for himself. He saw that they need more resources. And he's going to continue to be really steadfast and ver- -- speak very clearly to the American people about what's happening and why we are not able to get this bipartisan deal that came out of the Senate done because Republicans continue to reject it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Oh, thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, Z- -- oh, go ahead.

Q: Oh, sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll -- I'll get you. I'll get you, Zolan.

Go ahead.

Q: Just a quick question on mifepristone. CVS and Walgreen ha- -- Walgreens have started -- are expected to start selling the pill in several states this month. And we understand the President, of course, has encouraged all -- a lot of other pharmacies to follow suit. Are there any other retail pharmacies that have expressed interest since the White House, you know, released that? Do you have any update on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I will let pharmacies decide on their own. Obviously, they can apply for certification. We encourage them to afl- -- apply for certification. So, I don't have any additional list to -- to share with you.

But obviously, this administration has a strong record on partnering with pharmacies on a range of issues. And we're going to continue to support pharmacies.

And if they are interested in certainly -- in that certification -- and that's what we want to see. We want to make sure -- the reason why this happened is because this administration has been committed and making sure that women have the ability and the right to make a decision -- right? -- the ability and the right to get what they need as they're trying to figure out what is necessary for them.

I mean, it is their decision, right? These are personal decisions that women have to make, and they should be able to have access to this. And so, that --

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- has been our priority since the -- since Dobbs decision almost two years ago.

Q: And these pills are not available by mail yet. Is that sort of the logical next step here? Is that what the White House or the administration, you know, try to facilitate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't -- look, I don't want to get ahead of what could be potentially next. I think this is a big deal, right? This is a big deal when you have these two major pharmacies that are -- are now able to move forward.

We're going to let other pharmacies decide if they want to move with the forward certification. We're going to work very closely with these pharmacies and partner with them. But I just don't have anything else on -- as to the next steps.

Q: And I have one follow-up on the President's trip to the border yesterday. We understand that a lot of migrants fly to Mexico and then cross the border. And we don't know if that was on, you know, that particular -- discussing that particular topic was on the President's agenda. I mean, you know, was anything discussed on whether Mexico should be vetting more of these migrants or, you know, any discussions yesterday dur- -- on this topic during the President's visit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, we've had continued diplomatic conversations with Mexico and other -- other countries in the region. Right? This is not just about -- this is not just about the United States. This is about -- this is a regional situation, an issue that we have dealt with for the past three years, actually, under this administration, trying to do it in a diplomatic way.

I don't have anything else new to share. We are -- we talk to the government of Mexico pretty regularly. We -- you've seen our -- some of our officials here, whether from NSC or just from the White House, who have gone down to Mexico and -- and met with the Mexican president on trying to figure out how do we deal with the migration issue.

And I think the most important thing to take out from the President's trip is that he wanted to make it very clear to the American people: There is actually a piece of paper -- right? -- a negotiation, a proposal out there that was done in a bipartisan way, supported by the Border Patrol union, supported by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others that you don't normally see.

And we have a bipartisan deal that came out of the Senate. Republicans listened to the former President, and they have rejected it. They put politics in front of actually getting a solution for the American people.

That's kind of where we are. He's going to continue to make that really clear and push -- and push to make sure that the American people know this.

Q: Can you give us an update on the President's State of the Union prep? I know he's up at Camp David for a while this weekend. Is he bringing a team with him up there? Do you know if he's enlisted any outside writers to help him on it? What's -- where does that sort of stand?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, certainly, we'll -- we'll have more to share, more color to -- to provide on the President's preparation for the State of the Union.

What I can say is what the President is -- wants to do and what you will hear during the State of the Union is that he'll lay out his historic achievements over the past three years and what he's been able to do on behalf of the American people. You're hearing him talk about how he is on the side of the American people. That's important.

The President has done more in three years in this administration than most president has done in two terms. I mean, that is what we've seen: historic legislation after historic legislation, whether it's done in a bipartisan way, or whether only Democrats voted for it. That's what this President has been able to do.

And now, you know, he's going to also talk about how we want to protect and implement those pieces of legislation, whether it's the infra- -- Inflation Reduction Act or the CHIPS and Science Act, we have to implement that so the American people can see the work that's been done out of Washington, D.C. -- again, whether it's a bipartisan fashion or just Democrats voting for it.

And so, you know, he's going to talk about lowering costs, lowering healthcare costs in particular; making sure that we're saving our democracy; protecting women's rights, as I've been talking about; uniting the country. Those are the things that the President is going to put at the forefront, certainly, of his -- of his message to the American people next week.

And so, we're -- I would say stay tuned. Stay tuned for more.

Q: And last year's speech had sort of an unusual amount of audience interaction. (Laughter.) How much of that is going into the planning this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, that was -- I mean, I think what you should take out of what happened last year is as -- we were not expecting that. The President was not expecting audience interaction, as you just stated. (Laughter.)

And you saw the President was pretty sharp in -- in responding back to those Republicans in front of him and -- and -- and making them promise something that they didn't think they would promise on protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

And I think it was a moment that the American people really, truly appreciated.

I can't -- I can't speak to -- I can't speak to what Republicans are going to do this year. I can tell you that the President is ready. He's ready to take that moment, to talk about the state of the Union, to lay out his future vision of how he sees this next year and beyond, and what is it that he wants to get done and continue to build on historic accomplishments. And I think that's going to be really important to see.

Go ahead, Zolan.

Q: Thank you. So, yesterday at the border, the President once again called for legislative action at the border. A month ago, he -- he repeated that, but he also said that he was willing to take action himself. Is the administration -- could we expect to see him take action by himself, whether that be executive actions or an executive order?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I kind of just answered this a moment ago. Look, we're -- we always evaluate options. We are. We're going to evaluate options. That is something that we -- we're going to do here. As we've done with any big issue that has come in front of the President, we evaluate all options.

We have not made any decisions yet. That is kind of where we are -- and -- and about any additional actions, to your point, executive actions.

But ultimately, what we believe the bottom line is: No -- no executive action, no matter how aggressive it is, is going to do what came out of the Senate in a bipartisan way that the President worked with those members for -- you know, for a couple of months.

Q: What are the factors that the White House is weighing here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: I've -- I understand if there's a preference for legislative action. The Homeland Security Secretary was saying that's less likely to run into legal -- legal trouble. But, I guess, what does -- if that -- if it's the preference for legislative action, what tells the White House that there's any chance that this bipartisan bill actually has a chance of passing at this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, we've been here before, right? We've been here -- and what I mean by that is there -- there have been some bipartisan bills that have come out of this adminis- -- come out of this -- under this presidency -- right? -- in the past three years, where people thought it was dead and it wasn't going anywhere, and it move forward. Right?

And so, the President has to be optimistic. He has to lay down what's at stake. He has to call out Republicans and say to them, "Hey, you want to fix this? This is a bipartisan bill that actually lays out ways to fix the challenges at the border and this immigration system." And he's going to continue to do that.

But the reality is -- and you said -- you said it yourself: The Secretary said that, you know, this is the way -- legislation is the best way to go so that we don't have to deal with the courts -- right? -- making this into law a piece of legislation that would be tough, that would be fair, that would do this in a way that moves it forward in dealing with the challenges at the border.

And so, look, we're always going to evaluate the options. We are. But the reality is the way to actually deal with the challenges at the border, to actually move forward with what we're seeing with this immigration -- this broken immigration system that's been -- that we've been seeing for the past couple of decades, is to move forward with this bipartisan legislation.

Q: But you don't think we get an announcement of anything before State of the Union?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I -- what I'm saying to you is no decision has been made. We are continuing to be very loud and clear. The President, I thought, was very -- very clear about that, very strong about that. He -- he went to Brownsville not -- with other elected officials who were on the other side of the aisle, if you will. And he saw for himself what was going on on the ground. And he saw that more resources needed to be provided, and he spoke to the American people about this.

So, you know, I think that this is something that Republicans really need to understand. There is a deal. There is a bipartisan deal. They can't listen -- and they omitted [admitted] this -- right? They -- they're listening to the former President. They're listening to Donald Trump, who is trying to do things for himself. It's politics for himself, not about the American people.

And what you saw from this President yesterday is how he's putting the American people first. And that's what you're going to see at the State of the Union as well next Thursday.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. You talked about IVF at the top of the briefing. But announcing the VP's trip to Selma this weekend, the White House said she would encourage Americans to continue to fight for fundamental freedoms under attack throughout the country. Will she specifically talk about the IVF ruling in Alabama and talk about reproductive rights during her remarks there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don't have anything to share at this time on what the Vice President is going to speak to. But what I can say, and you all have seen this -- that she's going to continue -- continue to speak out against these continued attacks on reproductive freedom, as she has done for the past several -- this past two, three years throughout this administration -- obviously since the Dobbs decision.

And he's -- she's been on tour, right? She's been on tour talking about reproductive rights and how important it is to protect -- to protect that. She's been to Wisconsin, Georgia, California, Michigan. And so, she's going to continue to do that.

I'm not going to get ahead of what -- her remarks and what she's going to say in Alabama this weekend.

Go ahead, Weijia.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Given the uncertainty around when and if the House will take up the national security supplemental, can you talk about the President's level-setting today with Prime Minister Meloni?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we -- Prime Minister Meloni has been, certainly, a partner in -- as it relates to the war in Ukraine -- obviously, that was started by the -- by Mr. Putin. And she has been a great partner. So, that -- obviously, that's part of the agenda and having that conversation.

I mean, what you're asking me is a really good question, right? I think our role in this and how we move forward -- everyone is watching. Everyone is watching how the U.S. is going to move forward as it relates to the national security supplemental. Are we going to continue to provide the assistance that we have for Ukraine as they are bravely fighting for the democracy? The world is watching.

And that's what House Republicans need to understand. We were able to do it 70 to 29, getting that national security supplemental out of the Senate. Now, all Speaker Johnson has to do is put it on the floor.

We know that there is overwhelming bipartisan support for it. We've heard from Republicans in the House say that.

And it is -- I mean, it is true that the world is watching what we're doing. And we've got to continue to be a leader on this. The President has been a leader as it relates to what's happening in Ukraine and making sure that they have the assistance and the security assistance to -- to fight -- fight for their freedom.

And so, that is something that we do have to deal with when we meet with these leaders. Like, you know, we have to be -- they -- they're seeing what happened. And so, Congress needs to take action. Lives are at stake here.

Q: I'm just asking if the President is being blunt and saying, like, "Hey, it's not looking good."

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I'm not going to get into specifics of -- of their private conversation. But I don't even think that the President needs to say that, right? I mean, the Prime Minister sees for herself, I'm sure, what is happening. And they're going to have an honest conversation.

The President is good about having honest conversation with his counterparts across -- obviously, in other countries. So, they'll have an honest conversation. They'll discuss that. Not going to get into private specifics about that.

But this is for -- House Republicans need to understand: The world is watching how we're -- what we're doing here, how we're moving. What are we going to do to -- to really assist Ukraine?

And it's not just about Ukraine and Israel and Indo-Pacific and, obviously, the all-important humanitarian aid that has to get into Gaza. All of that is also connected to our own national security. And we have to put the -- Americans' national security first.

And right now, they're not doing that. They're picking politics. And so, that is something that they need to understand.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: So, yesterday, the administration nominated Marty Walsh to the Board of Governors for the Postal Service. Democratic and Republican members of Congress have been complaining about issues of the Postal O- -- Postal Service now for a couple of years.

Does the White House think there needs to be a change in leadership? Are you satisfied with the job that Postmaster General DeJoy is doing? Do you think there need to be changes in -- in how the Postal Service is operating?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I don't have anything specific to share about that.

But I can say, look, Marty Walsh is someone who served in this administration as Secretary of Labor. The President was -- you know, the President was proud of -- of the work that Marty was able to get done. And he is -- he is certainly thrilled to -- to nominate him in this new role.

And, look, the President always wants to make sure that every agency, every department in this -- in this -- in this administration -- obviously, in the federal government operates at its -- at its best capacity -- right? -- at full capacity.

And so, that's what we want to see. And it's not about us. It's about the American people.

Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Is the administration coming around to the idea that physical border barriers work?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say more? Where is this -- what do you mean? Where's this coming from?

Q: Well, it's been six weeks since you guys won the Supreme Court case that would have allowed you to remove razor wire at the Texas border that you guys argued was -- there's an emergency, immediate need to take down. But it's still up. So, DHS hasn't touched it. Why is it still up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you have to -- to speak to the Department of -- of DHS, obviously. I just don't have anything for you on that.

We were very clear about what we thought about those wires. Obviously, DOJ took action. I just don't have anything on timeline on those coming down. I'm sure they'll have more for you on that.

Q: And the President said at the border yesterday that it's long past time to act. Heard all of your previous answers on, you know, executive orders. But the President took 94 or so executive actions in his first 100 days that largely loosened immigration policy. One of those was narrowing who ICE could remove. And the administration, as of yesterday, I believe, is now calling on sanctuary cities to cooperate with ICE.

So, why doesn't the President act like he said it's time to do and start undoing some of those policies that he put in place right when he got into office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think a couple of things. On -- since day one, the President took action. He did. He put forth a comprehensive immigration policy. And he read -- he did that because he understood what was happening -- right? -- he understood that the immigration system was broken. He understood that we needed to take action. And he did -- three years.

And during those three years, Republicans got in the way. Anything -- any resources -- any additional resources that we asked for, they voted down. They didn't want to move forward with it.

And so, the President tried to do the best that he can with what he was able to get. And, you know, we get to a point at the end of the year where we start negotiating with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, we come up with a piece of -- piece of legislation, a proposal that is supported by the Department of -- pardon me -- the Border Patrol -- right? -- union, that's supported by U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I mean, we took action. We have taken action over and over and over again, and Republicans reject it.

Q: It's a comprehensive immigration --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They get in the way --

Q: -- overhaul versus narrow action that he could take to secure the border, improve the situation that we're seeing ravaging communities.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But we -- we took action at the end of this -- at the end of last year, worked with Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the Senate, came up with a bipartisan agreement that would actually make a difference. I mean, it's Congress's job to legislate. It is their job to legislate.

Q: But you were never afraid of legal challenges with things like student loans.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But here's the thing --

Q: I mean --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here's the thing. We take --

Q: -- you've used executive orders --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We -- we have --

Q: -- when you wanted to.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- taken action over the last three years on the border. We've taken policy action. We have taken action. The President has.

Now we need to get it into a place where we can actually make a real difference on the border challenges that we're seeing. And we did.

I mean, we -- this is -- this is Republicans getting in the way because of what they were told by the former President. That's shameful. It is. You know, it's -- we're talking about the American people -- getting things done for the American people. Majority of Americans care about this issue. They care.

So, the President worked across the aisle to get a -- get a piece of -- a proposal done that was negotiated in a bipartisan way that's getting support from organizations that you would never dream would support --

Q: But in the meantime, while he's shaming people for not acting, he is also not acting.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am so sorry. That is so false. He has taken action. He has taken action. Republicans rejected it because of the last president. That is not is -- what is going on here. It isn't.

I mean, they told on themselves. Republicans told on themselves and said that the former President told them to not move forward with the bipartisan Border Patrol deal.

Q: So, are you saying that there isn't --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They told on themselves.

Q: -- executive action he can take?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're saying that the best act -- the best way to move forward is legislation. That's with any issue. The best way to move forward is legislation. Put that into law. And we have a bipartisan agreement that would do that.

By the way, the bipartisan agreement, that border -- border -- border deal has provisions in there that these House Republicans want -- these congressional Republicans have been asking for for years. So, what's the problem? What's the problem? Is it politics or is it the American people? That's for them to answer.

Go ahead.

Q: Karine, I just wanted to check in if the White House was tracking the troubles at New York Community Bancorp and if there were any concerns. Given that it's a big commercial real estate lender, is there any concerns about the broader commercial real estate market or community banking?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm going to be careful. And we -- we are very mindful here. We don't comment on -- on -- in every individual situation or institution, obviously. But Treasury and regulators monitor the banking sector. But broadly speaking, the banking system remains sound and resilient with substantial liquidity, including among regional banks.

So, just going to be super mindful. It's being monitored, obviously, by -- by Treasury and regulators.

All right, I know I have to start wrapping it up.

Q: In the back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jared. I know I meant to call on you before.

Q: I know that the President signed a CR today to prevent --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, he did.

Q: -- the shutdown this weekend. What's his level of confidence after the meeting he had with the Big Four earlier this week that this might be the last CR he has to sign for some time? Does he think that there really is a bipartisan agreement here to lock in these appropriations bills?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the bipartisan agreement obviously prevents a shutdown. But it is a -- it is a -- as you call it, a short-term fix, not a -- not a long-term solution. It is not a long-term solution.

And so, Congress needs to do its job. We're going to continue to say that. It is the basic duty that they have is to keep the government open. They have to do this.

And let's not forget: They have to move in a -- in -- on the bipartisan nat- -- national security supplemental. Obviously, it was passed in a bipartisan way out of the Senate. Just needs to go to the floor, and it'll get bipartisan support -- overwhelming bipartisan support. And we got to do that.

And -- and, as you know, as I just stated, it is vitally important to Ukraine. So, we've got to get that done.

And so, look, we're going to continue to say that the House has to do its job. They have to move forward in keeping the government open. It's their basic duty. It's not difficult. It is not difficult.

I'm glad -- obviously, we're glad -- you said the President signed the CR -- and we're glad to see that -- to prevent a shutdown. But it is a short-term fix. And we need a long-term solution. The -- the American people deserve this.

Q: But that meeting this week was really focused on finding that long-term solution, right? It was on -- on --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it was also --

Q: -- sort of the -- the full-year appropriations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I told -- yes, that's what we want to see.

Q: Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But they also -- it was also about preventing a shutdown, which we were able to see, which is good, right? It is good that the government is not shutting down t- -- today. It is good, right? That is important for the American people.

But we need to find a long-term solution. That's what we need to find.

All right, in the back. Way in the back. Go ahead, Haisten.

Q: Thanks. One immigration question. Immigration has definitely risen since Biden took office, even without legislation being passed. It's much higher now than it was five years ago. So, why is that if it's not because of Biden executive actions that he took when he got into office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, that's why it's so important to get this bipartisan deal that came out of the Senate done. We understand that there's challenges at the border. We understand that the immigration system is broken. It's been broken for decades. It was broken under the last administration. We want to get this done.

But I will say, since May of last year, DHS has removed or returned more than 565,000 individuals, and the vast majority of whom crossed the southern border. So, you know, 565,000 removals and return is more than every full fiscal year since 2013. So, that has been happening. DHS has been doing everything that it's ca- -- it can to get that done.

But we need to do more, which is why the President worked with the Senate in a bipartisan way. We've got to see -- we've got to see that bipartisan border -- border deal move forward.

Q: Thanks. And one more on a different topic. ABC is reporting that the President's aides are working to minimize disruptions from pro-Palestinian protests: making events smaller and withholding their locations until he arrives. Do you have any reaction to that report?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I --

Q: And how do you -- how do you guys vet --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I have not seen that report. I would just refer you to Secret Service on that one.

Go ahead, go ahead.

Q: Thank you. A federal judge ruled against AstraZeneca in its lawsuit challenging the drug-pricing program. Do you have a response?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have a response to that.

Q: And drugmakers are expected to answer by today on if they agree or disagree with Medicare's initial offer on your drug-pricing program. Have you received any responses from companies yet or have any update on how that's going?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here's what I'll say. One of the important provisions that came out of the Inflation Reduction Act was the fact that Medicare was able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, getting to a place where we can actually lower costs for the American people dr- -- obviously, on drugs -- pharmaceutical drugs. And that's incredibly important. And so, that's what we're going to see.

We -- the President wants to continue to -- to make sure that we lower costs on these drugs -- on these important pharmaceutical drugs for the American people. That's why he moved forward to do this. Many, many elected officials for decades tried to do it and couldn't do it. And the President beat Big Pharma.

I'm not going to get into any pharmaceutical companies.

But I'll get in -- what I wanted to say, obviously, was how important it was for -- to get that Inflation Reduction Act done, how important it is now for Medicare to be able to negotiate and help out millions of Americans across the country who pay just too much -- too much for drugs -- the pharmaceutical drugs here that are much cheaper in another country. That shouldn't be. That shouldn't be who we are as a country. And so, the President obviously wants to see us continue -- Medicare continue to lower some of these costs.

Q: And someone asked about mifepristone and CVS and Walgreens, and you had implied -- or not implied -- suggested that you worked with pharmacies on -- or were encouraging --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Their certification?

Q: -- pharm- -- pharmacies to apply for the certification, excuse me. Can you talk about what that looked like with CVS and Walgreens and what the collaboration (inaudible) there was between the administration and those two companies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things back in.

Back in -- a year ago, January 2023, FDA took independent and evidence-based action to establish conditions under which pharmacies could choose to become certified to dispense mifepristone. So, that's how it all started.

Several pharmacies had already been certified to dispense mifepristone, but today's news confirms that some major national pharmacy chains have com- -- have completed that process with drug sponsors and can -- can begin dispensing mifepristone for the first time. So, we expect certification effort to continue through the drug sponsors.

And so, that's how it works. You've got to get the certification. We work in partnership with pharmacies. We want to encourage them to get that certification. And that's kind of how the process started over a year ago.

All right, guys. Have a great, great weekend. See you all next week.

Q: Thank you.

3:49 P.M. EST

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/370393

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