Joe Biden

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

March 25, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:02 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. Just have a couple things at the top before we get going.

President Biden -- today, he called Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland to recognize his years of service as a leader of Ireland and of the good relationship they have developed.

Having recently celebrated St. Patrick's Day at the White House, the leaders reflected on their cooperation over the years on shared priorities, particularly deepening U.S.-Ireland ties between our people and our economies.

They noted recent progress in Northern Ireland with the restoration of its Executive and Assembly, reaffirming the critical role these institutions play in preserving the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

The President conveyed that he looks forward to continuing to build a vibrant future for U.S. rela- -- Irish relations with the new Taoiseach once elected by the Irish Parliament.

Additional news from this morning. As a -- as part of President Biden's Investing in America agenda, today our administration announced the single-largest investment in industrial decarbonization in our nation's history.

The Department of Energy will provide $6 billion for 33 projects across more than 20 states, reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions, revitalize industrial communities, strengthen the nation's manufacturing competitiv- -- competitiveness, and support good-paying union jobs.

With this investment, the Biden-Harris administration will spur the next generation of decarbonization technologies and keep America's key industries competitive.

I want to turn to two pieces of news looking ahead to Tuesday. First, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the administration's appeal of the Fifth Circuit decision on mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortion that the FDA first approved as safe and effective over 20 years ago.

This administration will continue to stand by FDA's independent approval and regulation of mifepristone as safe and effective, and we will continue to fight back against unprecedented attacks on women's freedom to make their own health decisions.

As the Department of Justice continues defending the FDA's actions before the Supreme Court, President Biden, Vice President Harris remain firmly committed to defending women's ability to access reproductive care, and they will continue to urge Congress to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade.

Finally, I want to briefly preview tomorrow's travel. President Biden and Vice President Harris will head north -- to North Carolina to discuss the administration's vision for the future.

On the other hand, Republican elected officials are proposing a very different ver- -- vision for the nation. Last week, Republican Study Committee released a budget which proposes devastating cuts to Medicare, to Social Security, and Affordable Care Act. It would increase prescription drug, energy, and housing costs, all while forcing tax giveaways for the very rich.

Tomorrow's trip is an opportunity to contrast those visions, and we'll be sure to have more to share with you on this trip as well.

With that, my colleague, Admiral John Kirby, is here to discuss Israel and the U.N. Security Council resolution that you all are covering today.

MR. KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody.

Today, as you all know, we abstained on the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza until the end of Ramadan and the release of all the hostages. Our vote does not -- I repeat -- does not represent a shift in our policy.

We've been very clear, we've been very consistent in our support for a ceasefire as part of a hostage deal. That's how the hostage deal was structured and the resolution acknowledges the ongoing talks.

We wanted to get to a place where we could support this resolution. But because the final text does not have key language that we think is essential, such as condemning Hamas, we couldn't support it. Though because it does fairly reflect our view that a ceasefire and the release of hostages come together, we abstained.

Defense Minister Gallant is here today meeting with Mr. Sullivan -- in fact, as we speak. He'll have other meetings while he's in town today and tomorrow, certainly with Secretary of Defense Austin tomorrow.

And cert- -- we certainly look forward to having those discussions with him and making it clear to the defense minister that the United States continues to stand with Israel as they fight Hamas and will continue to work with might and main to get those hostages back with their families where they belong.

Thank you.

Q: John, what was the President's reaction to the decision by Netanyahu not to send an Israe- -- Israeli delegation this week?

MR. KIRBY: I got to tell you, Steve, we're -- we're kind of perplexed by this. A couple of points that need to be stated and, in fact, restated.

Number one, it's a nonbinding resolution. So, there's no impact at all on Israel and Israel's ability to continue to go after Hamas.

Number two, as I said in my opening statement, it does not represent a change at all in our policy. It's very consistent with everything that we've been saying we want to get done here.

And we get to decide what our policy is. The prime minister's office seems to be indicating through public statements that we somehow changed here. We haven't. And we get to decide what -- what our policy is.

It seems like the prime minister's office is choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don't need to do that.

So, again, no change in our policy.

Q: What does this do to the relationship between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MR. KIRBY: I have no doubt that the two leaders will have follow-on discussions, as they have, as appropriate throughout this conflict.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.

Q: Thank you, Admiral. You say it's not a shift in policy by voting for this today. Get specific with us as to why again.

And to the charge that by even abstaining -- because, normally, there may be some attempt at the Security Council or the U.N. overall to condemn Israel every so often for whatever reason, the U.S. usually stands up and vetoes those resolutions.

Here, now, for the first time in a while, the United States is at least abstaining and allowing it to go through. So, the perception broadly is that the U.S. has no longer got Israel's back when it comes to conversations like this with the U.N.

MR. KIRBY: No, that's just not true, Ed. There's a -- nothing could be further from the truth, quite frankly. Of course, we still have Israel's back. I mean, as you and I are speaking, we are still providing tools and capabilities, weapons systems so that Israel can defend itself against what we -- we agree is still a viable threat to [of] Hamas.

Again, no change by this nonbinding resolution on what Israel can or cannot do in terms of defending itself.

But, you know, the other day -- Friday when I was up here, Brian was asking me about, you know, how -- how come it was okay for -- or -- or not okay for Russia and China to veto a resolution that we drafted on Friday when we vetoed similar ones prior to it.

And -- and I -- my answer then is going to be my answer today: because of the substance of it. The ones we vetoed didn't condemn Hamas. This one didn't condemn Hamas, which is why we couldn't support it. But we didn't veto it because, in general, unlike previous resu- -- resolutions, this one did fairly capture what has been our consistent policy, which is linking a hostage deal and the release of those men and women with, of course, a temporary ceasefire.

Q: There are U.S. officials today saying Netanyahu is acting this way because he's facing some domestic political pressure; there's domestic political issues going on. Aren't there also domestic political pressures facing President Biden, and that's part of the reason why you all are allowing this to happen today?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I can't speak for --

Q: You've got -- you've got members of the Democratic Party saying he's doing this wrong. You've got the general public suggesting his support for Israel is misplaced. Is that part of why this is going through today?

MR. KIRBY: No. No, absolutely not. And I got to take issue with the premise of the question.

The President makes decisions based on the national security interests of the United States. And this decision to abstain on this resolution is in keeping with the national security interests of the United States. And, quite frankly, it's in keeping with the national security concerns of the Israeli people.

Q: The customs and border policy -- Border Patrol chief yesterday suggested in an interview that the situation at the southern border is a national security threat because of the roughly 140,000 known got-aways, or those that crossed the border and were detected as crossing illegally. Is that the position of the whole Biden administration or the White House, that the situation down there remains a national security threat?

MR. KIRBY: The President has spoken to this. I mean, he's talked about the -- the urgent need for additional funding for key capabilities at the border. And if you care about the border, if you care about the security of the border -- and the President sure does -- then we ought to get that national security supplemental passed. That's what that funding will do.

You -- there's only so much that he can do through executive action. In order to get more resources to prevent more people from getting in illegally, you got to have funding.

Q: But a national security threat is going a little further than the broad concerns the President -- and more specific --

MR. KIRBY: DHS monitors all available intelligence at the border every single day, Ed. We're certainly aware that -- that there could be national security threats that can arise at the border, which is why we're -- we're arguing so hard to get additional resources and capabilities down there.

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

Q: Two questions on Israel. I know you said earlier today that the meetings with Defense Minister Gallant weren't necessarily supposed to be a replacement for the -- for the delegation that was supposed to come here this week. But how much of those conversations with senior officials naturally become about alternatives to Rafah -- what the intent of the meeting was supposed to be this week?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I also said I fully expect that Rafah will come up in the context of these conversations -- the one he's having with Jake right now; I think he's going over to the State Department this afternoon; and, of course, at the Defense Department tomorrow.

Absolutely, I think we'll have an opportunity to talk about Rafah. But -- but it -- it probably won't be a full replacement for what we were hoping to do with a broader and larger delegation of Israeli counterparts.

That said -- and I also said earlier today that just because this meeting is now not going to happen doesn't mean that we aren't still going to look for an avenue and an approach to be able to share those alternatives with the Israelis.

Q: And following up on what Steve asked. Doesn't this speak -- doesn't this whole episode speak to a pretty poor state of relations between U.S. and Israel right now? And is -- how much is the President losing his ability to influence Bibi Netanyahu with everything that's happening?

MR. KIRBY: Israel is still a close ally and a friend. The Defense Minister is here as we speak, just in the other room. We still have a very close relationship with -- with our Israeli partners and with the government in place.

As we've said many times, it doesn't mean we're going to agree on everything. And, my goodness, we don't. But that's what friends can do. You can disagree. You can have those conversations.

But, you know, we all recognize how important it is that Israel still be able to defend itself -- at the same time, making sure that humanitarian assistance is getting in, civilian casualties come down, and we get those hostages out.

Q: Thanks, Admiral. Just following on that question, how would you characterize the relationship in specific between Netanyahu and President Biden since he didn't call President Biden to notify him about the cancellation of this delegation visit? Is their relationship at a new low?

MR. KIRBY: I wouldn't describe it that way at all. I -- I don't really have much more to add. I think I got the same question on Friday. These are two leaders who have known each other for going on, now, four decades. And they -- they haven't, in the past, agreed on everything, and they don't agree on everything right now.

But they both agree on one really important thing, and that is the importance of the State of Israel, the importance of the security of Israeli people, the importance of making sure that an attack like the 7th of October doesn't happen again.

Q: But is the President concerned about that Rafah invasion now moving forward in a way he doesn't want it to since he's not able to have this meeting with the delegation?

MR. KIRBY: We have the same concerns about a major ground offensive in Rafah that we had yesterday and the day before.

Q: And just lastly, an administration official said there could be domestic political reasons for why Netanyahu responded in the way he did. Could you elaborate on what those domestic issues in Israel could be?


MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Admiral, is it your expectation that the Defense Minister has with him the kind of operational details you've been looking for on a potential Rafah mission? Do you think he possesses that and would that likely come up in -- in the meeting?

MR. KIRBY: No, he's -- look, he's in -- in the -- at the top of the chain of command of the Israeli Defense Forces. So, we're quite certain that he has enough visibility on what their thinking is about Rafah to be able to share that if he chooses to.

Q: Does the President feel the delay of this other delegation meeting that he wanted -- is there a sense that there is an urgency in terms of lives when you're considering humanitarian crisis we've talked about, the potential for military operation? Does he view this kind of a delay on that sort of meeting as potentially causing much further harm to those in Gaza or this very delicate situation?

MR. KIRBY: Well, there's two ways to approach that. I mean, one is we haven't seen any indication that the Israelis are imminently getting ready to conduct a ground operation in Rafah, and we have not seen their plans for that -- operational plans for that.

So, there is no -- just to be clear, there's no sense right now that this is about to happen in coming days.

Now, when it would happen is -- of course, would be up to the Israelis. So, just in terms of timing, it seems like they're a ways off here from actually moving into Rafah.

That said, does the President feel a sense of urgency about the suffering in Gaza? Absolutely, which is why we've been pushing so hard to get additional crossings open, get more trucks in. Even -- even while we're negotiating for a hostage deal, still trying to do everything we can to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground, continuing to do airdrops. Now we're -- you know we've got this temporary pier that's at sea moving its way over to the Mediterranean as -- as we speak today.

The President has put a lot of energy and effort and made the team put a lot of energy into effort -- and effort into alleviating that suffering. Yes, there is a keen sense of urgency.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Sabrina.

MR. KIRBY: Sorry.

Q: Thank you, Admiral. Now that the Israelis have canceled this visit, is the U.S. moving closer toward withholding or conditioning weapons to Israel? Is that something that Secretary Austin might raise during his meeting with the defense -- Israeli defense minister tomorrow?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals and -- and speculate about that one way or the other.

Q: Why does the administration believe that the right path for the U.S. here is to conduct these airdrops, to build this pier, but not to leverage everything it can, including conditions on weapons, to open up more land routes and better protect civilians in Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: We have -- I would take issue with this idea that we're not leveraging everything we can. First of all, it's not a leveraging exercise. It's not about trying to -- to use some sort of power dynamics here with our good friend and ally, Israel. It's about helping them defend themselves. We need to remember what happened on the 7th of October.

Number two, from the very beginning, we have -- at the same time as we've been providing them the capabilities, we've also been able to influence some of their decisions on the ground and the -- some of the way they have prosecuted operations and in- -- including increasing the amount of humanitarian assistance that gets in.

It's not enough. I recognize that. A lot more needs to be done. But we believe you can do both at the same time, and that's the approach that we've been taking.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. John, on this resolution that the U.S. abstained for -- abstained to today that was within the power of the United States to block, the Prime Minister said, "It gives Hamas hope the international pressure will allow them to accept a ceasefire without the release of our hostages." Is he wrong?


Q: Does the U.S. still have leverage to change language in future resolutions now that this language without the Hamas component has been put into place?

MR. KIRBY: Well, let's see. I mean, they just voted on this nonbinding resolution today. I don't know of additional text that's coming. But we'll take each one in turn.

Q: And quickly on the border. Is the administration still considering executive action on the border?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have any announcements to make with respect to executive action. I would remind that, you know, this i- -- this argument that the President hasn't taken executive action or -- or -- is just not true. He has kept American troops down there at the border. He has worked as Commander-in-Chief with the government of Mexico to -- to improve their ability to try to stem that flow and to go after fentanyl traffickers. I mean, it's not as if he hasn't.

But there is a real limit that -- what really needs to be done, if you really care about the border and stemming the flow, is additional resources. And the President can't just sign those into being. You got to have funding behind that. You have to have a checking account for that. And that comes from the power of the purse and that comes from Capitol Hill.

Q: So, is there nothing more that he could do outside of Congress?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into anything more or he would or wouldn't do. I certainly won't get ahead of the President's decision space on this.

But the idea that he hasn't taken executive action when warranted is just not true. He has. But there is a real limit to executive action in terms of what's needed down there.

What's needed is funding, more than anything. And, again, for all the people out there expressing concerns about the border, number one, we share those concerns, which is why the President put, you know, billions of dollars into a national security supplemental to give the Border Patrol, to give the customs courts additional resources. You got to have funding for that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Josh.

Q: Some of these meetings are proceeding this week. Can you help us understand what the American position -- what the alternative is? What wou- -- what would you have suggested to the Israelis?

MR. KIRBY: Well, because I think we're going to still continue to try to have those conversations, I'm going to let those conversations happen before announcing it from the podium.

Q: Can you tell -- talk about when those conversations might happen?


Q: Are these through the regular channels you referred to --

MR. KIRBY: I wish I could.

Q: -- or is there hope of talks happening --

MR. KIRBY: I wish I --

Q: -- a week or two down the road?

MR. KIRBY: I wish I could right now. But, I mean, this decision just happened in the last couple of hours. So, we're going to have to see where it goes.

Q: And is there any circumstance that the U.S. would support a Rafah operation in the future? Are you ruling it out entirely, or are you ruling it out for now?

MR. KIRBY: I think we've been very clear. We don't believe that a major ground operation in Rafah is the right course of action, particularly when you have a million and a half people there seeking refuge and no conceived plan, no verifiable plan to take care of them. We've been very consistent on that.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thank you so much. On the nonbinding thing, the U.N. Secretary General said after the vote, "This resolution must be implemented." You say it's nonbinding. So, who is right here? And if it's nonbinding, if, as you say, it does not change anything, why has the administration blocked so many pretty similar resolutions in the past?

MR. KIRBY: Because they didn't condemn Hamas. I've said that repeatedly.

Q: This one doesn't condemn Hamas, either, but the --

MR. KIRBY: Because they condemn Hamas and because they also just called for a ceasefire with no linkage to the hostages. This one, the reason why we can't support it but didn't veto it is because it does link hostages and a ceasefire, which is in keeping with our policy.

Q: And on the binding thing, is it binding, nonbinding?

MR. KIRBY: It's a nonbinding resolution.

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

Q: Thank you, John. Steve asked this question earlier, but what was the President's personal reaction to the Israeli delegation canceling their trip, given that he had personally requested that they make this trip to Washington?

MR. KIRBY: I have not talked to the President, so I don't have his personal reaction.

Q: Okay. On the U.N. Security Council resolution, if there were to be language added to it -- updated to it that condemns Hamas, would the U.S. support that resolution? Is that what you are saying?

MR. KIRBY: That's pretty speculative, M.J. I don't know if I can go there. I mean, this one just passed. As I said, it's a nonbinding resolution. I don't know of any additional text that's coming up before the Security Council. So, I don't want to get ahead of where we are right now.

Q: Well, you were specific about the language and the reasons in the past for vetoing it and now just abstaining from it. So, I'm just wondering: If the language were to be updated to --

MR. KIRBY: I know of no plans to update the language that was just passed this morning. So, again, we'd have to -- if additional text gets brought before the council, then I guess we would have to examine it like we do every time, but I don't think it would be useful exercise to speculate on language that doesn't exist right now.

Q: And then, just finally, on the ground incursion into Rafah and talking about alternatives to that: Are U.S. officials basically envisioning, you know, highly precise, targeted military operations as opposed to a major military operation? Can you just talk to us a little bit, even if it's in broad strokes, about what the administration believes is possible that is an alternative to a ground incursion into Rafah?

MR. KIRBY: The way I would put it is that based on our own experience going after terrorist networks -- places like Iraq and Afghanistan, Somalia; places in the Sahel as well. We -- we feel like we've learned a lot of key lessons.

Now, you know, not every one applies to Gaza. Gaza is a unique environment. You've got meters and meters of tunnels under the ground. You've got a much more ur- -- urban environment, very densely populated, small geographic space. So, you've got to be careful in terms of apples and oranges here.

But we still believe that we have learned some key lessons about how to dismantle a terrorist network, how to decapitate its leadership, how to starve it of resources, how to put pressure on its fighters on the battlefield. And we were looking forward to and I think still are looking forward to having the opportunity to share some of those lessons and perspectives with the Israelis.

Now, what exactly that would look like, I'd really rather not go into it from the podium.

Q: But that's the kind of idea that we can expect U.S. officials to discuss with their Israeli counterparts, I mean, even today with Minister Gallant?

MR. KIRBY: Broadly speaking, yes. And -- and we'll see what the conversations with the Defense Minister look like here. Again, he's talking to Jake right now. So, we'll have a readout of that, of course. And, he's -- again, more discussions over the next day and a half.

We'll obviously expect that a key part of these discussions is going to be how we're going to continue to support Israel. So, let's not forget that. I mean, this was a prescheduled -- long-scheduled trip by the Defense Minister, largely to talk about how the United States is going to continue to support Israel and the tools that they need.

But I certainly would envision in the context of what happened this morning, with the Israelis canceling that delegation, that we'll take advantage of the opportunity to also talk about Rafah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Francesca.

Q: Thank -- thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, Francesca.

Q: Oh, thank you. Has the Pr- -- has President spoken to the Prime Minister today? And does he have any plans to?

MR. KIRBY: No, and I don't know.

Q: Okay. And will he join any of these meetings now with Gallant given the ra- -- the latest that's happened?

MR. KIRBY: I know of no plan to have him join the meetings with Defense Minister Gallant.

Q: Okay. And then, finally, before the meeting with Jake Sullivan today, the Defense Minister -- he stood out in front of the White House; he delivered a statement. He said, "We will operate against Hamas everywhere, including in places where we have not been," end quote.

So, it seems that they expect to discuss Rafah as well. What leads you to believe that they're open to these other alternatives that you're laying out or that the U.S. could even walk them off of an operation there?

MR. KIRBY: Well, they had agreed to come -- to send a delegation to Washington, D.C., a week or so ago. That expressed some interest. Now, they canceled the meeting because of what happened at the U.N. But our indications at work at -- at the working level are that they are interested in hearing our perspectives. So, we'll see.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. A couple more. Go ahead, Nadia.

Q: Thank you. I have a technical question and another question. On the technicality, you said the resolution is not binding. Is it nonbinding, or is it binding but not enforceable and no consequences for Israel, for example, if they don't abide by the ceasefire?

MR. KIRBY: My understanding is it's a nonbinding resolation -- resolution.

Q: Okay. Are you aware of the reports that Palestinian women were sexually harassed and some even were raped in Al-Shifa Hospital by the Israeli army? And have you seen, also, videos of Israeli drones targeting civilians in Khan Yunis? And if you're not aware of these incidents --

MR. KIRBY: I -- I am not. This is the first I'm hearing of that.

Q: Okay. I -- I mean, if you w- --

MR. KIRBY: Th- -- those are troubling allegations, obviously. Troubling reports. So, I --

Q: Yeah. The State Department confirmed one of them.

MR. KIRBY: Right. Let me take the question back.

Q: Okay, please.

MR. KIRBY: We'll see if we can get you a better response.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Toluse.

Q: Thank you, Admiral Kirby. A member of the Israeli War Cabinet, Benny Gantz, essentially broke with Prime Minister Netanyahu over his decision to pull back this delegation. He said that the delegation should come. And in -- in addition to that, he said that Prime Minister Netanyahu himself should come and meet with President Biden. What's your reaction to that? And is there a sense that the War Cabinet is not unified as it was earlier?

MR. KIRBY: That's the first I'm hearing that Minister Gantz made that remark. I would certainly respect his desire to -- his right to speak to his comments one way or the other.

As I said a couple of hours ago, it's disappointing. Obviously, we would have preferred to have that meeting here this week to talk about viable alternatives. And as I think I mentioned to Josh, we're going to continue to look for an opportunity to have those conversations going forward.

I can't speak to the dynamics on the War Cabinet. That's really for them to speak to. I wouldn't get into that.

Q: When it comes to you characterizing their decision as "disappointing" and "perplexing," is there also a sense of offense -- of being offended by the Israelis' decision to pull back its delegation. A lot of countries would love to have an invitation from the White House to have a -- a meeting.

MR. KIRBY: (Laughs.) I think I'm just going to leave it the way I described it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, John. Until recently, when I or one of my colleagues here asked if the U.S. would consider withholding military aid to Israel if they don't allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, you said that the administration would always make sure that Israel has the right to -- has what it needs to defend itself. Now you are saying, in response to those same questions, that you will not get into hypotheticals.

Should we read anything into that that now this is something that is being considered or discussed within the administration, that it is now a hypothetical being batted about back behind you in -- in those rooms?

MR. KIRBY: You -- the short answer to your question is: No, you shouldn't read anything more into it than what I'm -- than what I'm expressing. Even as we speak, the Defense Minister for Israel is just a few steps away meeting with our National Security Advisor in a -- in a long-scheduled meeting, which was, in part, designed to talk about what we can continue to do to help Israel defend itself against a still-viable threat.

You can still do that. You can still have those conversations. You can still provide those capabilities, at the same time, disagreeing with your good friend and ally about things like civilian casualties, humanitarian assistance, and where things are going up in New York City.

So, we're going to continue to have those talks. But I -- I'm not going to -- I'm just not going to get into the parlor game of what tripwire would be in place or what we would consider a tripwire in order to change the way we're supporting Israel in the field.

Q: And on the subject of humanitarian aid. Last week, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said that he was blaming Israel directly for the hunger crisis in Gaza because "arbitrary denials" were keeping food and other humanitarian goods from getting into Gaza. Is the provision of aid into Gaza something that Mr. Sullivan is discussing with Mr. Gallant right now? And how urgent is it that Israel stop what the foreign secretary described as "arbitrary denials"?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, humanitarian assistance will be on the agenda in Jake's meeting and, I suspect, in the other meetings that the defense minister will have. And we need Israeli -- Israeli support and facilitation of humanitarian assistance. They're a critical player in this. They have a real key role to play.

And -- and we're going to continue to urge them to do more, to allow more humanitarian assistance in.

Q: And one last thing. You just now talked about how you weren't going to describe tripwires that would potentially stop the provision of defense assistance.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Some of you call them red lines too.

Q: That's true. People have called them red lines before.

But the fact that you are not going to discuss them, should we in- -- should we infer that they now exist somewhere on some paper --

MR. KIRBY: No, I --

Q: -- or in some memo or proposal?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I appreciate the effort. And I understand where the question is going. I'm just simply not going to engage in that kind of speculative talk. We are still providing Israel the capabilities they need to defend themselves. That is one of the reasons why the defense minister is here.

And at the same time, we're having conversations with the Israelis about what they can do to increase humanitarian assistance.

I want to go back just real quickly -- and I apologize, Karine -- but on the humanitarian assistance, let -- let's also not forget that Hamas chose to break a ceasefire that was in place on the 6th of October. They -- they precipitated the conflict, and they continue to hide behind civilians, in civilian infrastructure, including in hospitals. And they know exactly what they're doing.

So, while, yes, there are things that the Israelis can and should do more to get more trucks and humanitarian assistance in, Hamas could solve all these problems right now by putting down their arms, letting all those hostages go.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. John, last question.

Q: Thanks, Karine. John, you made a point throughout the briefing about mentioning that this was a nonbinding resolution that the U.S. abstained on. Last week's resolution that the U.S. brought forward, was that binding or nonbinding?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I'd have to get an answer for you and go back -- go back on that. I --

Q: You don't know that answer?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have that answer for you. But I'll take the question, and I'll get back to you.

Q: And if it was binding or nonbinding, why would it matter? Why would that matter? Why -- why is that important in terms of that resolution that the U.S. put forward last (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: Well, let me get an answer for you and then I'll answer the second one as well.

Q: Okay. And then one additional thing. With the resolution that the U.S. put forward last week, why couldn't the U.S. have put that same resolution forward a week before or a month before? Why --

MR. KIRBY: Because we were working with previous texts for -- that previous countries were putting forward to try to get them into a better place. You know, it wasn't like -- you know, it's not -- it's not like -- y'all don't -- the -- this language doesn't just get cooked up and thrown onto the Security Council floor in a matter of 30 minutes. It's usually worked over time.

And we were working with the authors and other countries to try to get the language into a better place. And when we couldn't, we were left with no alternative but to veto.

In this case, we chose to abstain because it didn't mention anything about Hamas. But yet, because it did reflect our policy view that a hostage deal has to be linked to a ceasefire.

Thanks, everybody.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral.

All right. Seung Min.

Q: Hi. Thank you.


Q: Just one on Ukraine aid. Speaker Johnson said last week that, quote, "There is a big distinction in the minds of a lot of people" -- referring to members in his conference -- "between lethal -- lethal aid for Ukraine and the humanitarian component."

Now, I know the White House's preference is, obviously, to get the Senate passed -- package passed by the House. But is there any consideration in the White House to just focus on delivering lethal aid to Ukraine if that's what can get a majority in the House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the national security supplemental as it is could get a majority in the House. That's what we know. We understand that to be true. It can get overwhelming support, which means it includes Republicans as well as Democrats, if it just got put to the floor.

I think what's happening is the Speaker is giving an excuse that is not warranted, that is not needed. Because we know that if it -- if he were to put it on the floor, it would -- it would get through.

And so, that's why I'm not even going to take that -- really dive into that question, because he's bypassing what we understand -- right? -- 70-29 coming out of the -- coming out of the Senate. That's a bipartisan -- overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate.

And we know, hearing from Republicans in the House, we know where Democrats -- majority of Democrats stand that if he were to put it on the floor, it would get support. So, that is the facts. That is how we see it.

We encour- -- we would encourage and continue to encourage the Speak- -- Speaker Johnson to put that bill on the floor.

Q: And Chairman McCaul was on the show yesterday talking about how the Speaker has made -- has -- has made it clear that he would move on this after the Easter break. And does the White House have any specific commitments from Speaker Johnson on moving on Ukraine aid in whatever iteration?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can't speak to a commitment. What I can speak to -- agreements -- right? -- from the -- from even when the -- the Big Four met with the President not too long ago, earlier this year, that the understanding that we needed to move forward with this Uk- -- this aid for Ukraine. We need to move forward with the national security supplemental.

That was an understanding among them. They agreed with the President and the Vice President.

And so, that's what we want to see. I can't speak to their timeline. We want this to happen right away. Right away. The -- we originally put this forward back in October of last year.

And so, there's a need. We see what's happening -- as we were talking about Ukraine specifically in your first question to me, we see what's happening in Ukraine. They're losing ground and -- on the battlefield. And that is because -- partly because -- why Russia is being even more aggressive is because the inaction of Congress. And that's what we see. That's what the CIA Director told the Big Four not too long ago, right here in the White House.

So, he -- they need to move forward. It is about our national security -- just as we're talking about aid to Ukraine, but it is also our own national security. It's all connected here.

Go ahead, Selina.

Q: Thanks, Karine. If the Supreme Court decides to restrict access to mifepristone, what will the President do? What options does this White House have to ensure access to the abortion pill?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. I want to be super mindful here. We have confidence in our arguments before the court. And -- and so, there's a DOJ -- obviously, ongoing litigation I just mentioned at the top. It's going to be -- it's going to -- you know, it's going to be a process that's going to begin tomorrow. So, I want to be super mindful. Don't want to get into hypotheticals.

But the President and the Vice President have been very clear. We're going to continue to certainly defend FDA's approval. It is independent. It uses science. It is -- it is a medication, as I said at the top, that has been around, when you think of mifepristone, for more than two decades. And this is science based. This is science based, as FDA -- when they move forward on these types of scientific judgment, if you will.

But not going to get into hypothetic- -- hypotheticals. And we have confidence in our arguments.

Q: And Russia continues to indicate without evidence that Ukraine played some kind of role in the terror attack. Just how worried is the White House about that and the use -- Russia using that to justify its war in Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we've been very clear. You heard our -- you -- you heard -- you saw our statement from over the weekend. This was a terrorist attack that was conducted by ISIS. Mr. Putin understands that. He knows that very well. And, look, it is -- there is absolutely no evidence that the government of Ukraine had anything to do with this attack. We've been very clear about that.

I do want to step back for a second and offer up our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones, those who were injured because of this horrific, horrific attack. We continue to strongly condemned the heinous terrorist attack in Moscow. And we said this before that, you know, we -- in early March, the United States, the gov- -- this government shared information with Russia about a planned terrorist -- terror attack in Moscow.

We were very clear about that -- on March 7th. We actually informed Americans in Russia to -- to -- did a public advisory, to be more specific. And, you know, ISIS bears the sole responsibility here -- the sole responsibility. And Mr. Putin understands that. We shared that with -- with their government.

And so, there is no evidence -- absolutely no evidence that Ukraine was involved here.

Q: How did you go about sharing that information?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to --

Q: Was it through the State Department, U.S. Embassy, NSC --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just not going to get into specifics. We -- the U.S. government shared that with Russian authorities. And I'll just leave it there.

Q: And what do you make of Russia's decision not to act on that warning?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's something for -- that's for Russian authorities to speak to their own security operations. That's for them to speak to. You know, when we have imminent --imminent -- when we have information about imminent threat to civilian populations, we provide that information to the respective authorities. And that's what we did. We did that in early March.

It is up to Russian authorities to speak to what they do with that infor- -- what they did with this particular information that we provided early March.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask you about former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel being hired by NBC News. Given that this is a White House that has condemned lies about January 6th, condemned lies about the 2020 election, what do you make of the network hiring somebody who participated in a phone call, you know, pressuring Michigan officials to not certify certain votes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we're going to -- we're always very mindful about personnel decisions, in this -- in this instance made by a media organization. I'll say a couple of things, and I'll quote the President in a second.

So, you a- -- you all heard him at the Gridiron Dinner very recently -- about two weekends ago. He spoke directly about the critical role that journalists play and -- and they have in protecting our democracy by making sure that the public knows the truth, that the public knows the facts.

And what he said is, "We need you. Democracy is at risk, and the American people need to know. In fractured times, they need a context and a perspective. They need substance to match the enormity of the task."

It is a big task that journalists have. And we understand that. And the facts and the truth are critical here.

I'm not going to make any comments on that person- -- on a personnel decision. But as more broadly speaking, it is -- it is important. It is -- it is a burden on all of us here -- right? -- to be really mindful about that and that the public understands what the facts are and what the truth is.

Q: Well, you're -- so, you're quoting the President talking about that kind of --


Q: -- burden. I mean, do you, does this White House, does the President believe that that kind of voice -- the voice like hers -- that there's room for her in the national political discourse?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I'll -- I'll say -- I'll answer it this way. We saw what happened on January 6th. We saw what happened when 2,000 people, a mob, went to the Capitol and undermined our democracy, attacked our democracy because they didn't believe in free and fair elections.

And so, we understand and we saw that. And you -- some of you may have been there; som- -- many of you reported it. And it was an attack on our democracy, and it is important -- it is important that we are very clear to the public about the facts, that we are very clear to the public about the truth. And we understand the burden that you all have.

And -- and so, I just want to be super mindful. Not commenting on a personnel decision. But more broadly speaking, that is where we are. That is where we are as a country.

Go ahead.

Q: Karine, Senator Tim Kaine said yesterday that -- talking about immigration and executive orders, he said Congress should act. But he also says: Where the President can act, he should. Is the President receptive to this type of advocacy from senior members of his own party on this issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the senior senator -- speaking about a senator -- bipartisan agreement that came out of the Senate to deal with the -- to deal with immigration, to deal with immigration policy and the challenges at the border. There was a bipartisan agreement that, if it went into law, if -- if it'd gone through the process of the Senate and the -- and the House and -- and the President got it to -- got it to the -- to his desk and signed it, it would have been the toughest and fairest, you know, action on immigration in decades, in years.

And so, that is what the President continues to speak to. We believe that is the direction to go. That is the way that we can stand on some legal ground here. And we know that it was done in a bipartisan way to move it forward.

And so, that's what this President wants to see. Obviously, we're in constant conversation, communication with leadership in Congress. That is something that we do pretty regularly.

But there's a deal. There was a deal that was made. And the last former President -- the last president, President Trump -- said to Republicans -- some of you rep- -- some of you reported this -- to reject that deal because it would hurt him politically. And that's not what we're about here.

What the President wants to focus on is what Americans care about. A majority of Americans care about what's happening at the border. And we took a step to do that. We took a step. The President, along with Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the Senate, took a step to actually deal with this issue.

We've been very clear about executive actions. Will we look at execuv- -- executive actions to see what could work? Sure, we always do that.

But here's the thing. What we understand, the bottom line is that we have to move forward with legislative action to actually make a difference here. And that's what we want to see.

Executive action won't do it. It won't have the impact that this bipartisan agreement -- negotiation that came to fruition.

Q: Do you have any expectation, though, that the Congress is going to act? That -- that deal has been out there for a while. Congress is out for the next couple of weeks. The former President is against it; his party is now against it. I mean --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you. I hear you.

Q: But -- but in that case, it could be -- Congress, you know, often doesn't deliver what you guys want. Isn't that where then the White House steps in?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look -- look, I hear you.

So, look, we were able to get some additional funding for border security operations through the -- through the budget agreement. So, that was a good thing. But we need to take a step further.

And so, look, we're going to continue to doing the work. We're going to continue to have those conversation. And we're going to continue to be very, very clear -- take it directly to the American people. You saw the President do when he went to Texas -- Brownsville, Texas -- and be very clear on where we stand.

The split screen that day could not have been more clear about where the President stands and what he wants to do. And he has offered -- continues to offer an olive branch to the other side to get this done.

If you -- if they truly care about this, there's a way to do this. There's a way to meet where maj- -- meet -- meet the American people where they are -- majority of them -- is to move forward with that border -- border deal. That's the way to move forward here.

Go ahead, Kelly O.

Q: President Biden has recently talked about Donald Trump's financial issues in jest at fundraisers and so forth. Today, there was action reducing the amount that Mr. Trump has to put forward in order to stave off the judgment as he continues it. Does the President have any comment on that and also the setting of an April 15th trial date in one of the cases involving the former President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm going to be super careful. It's an ongoing matter, so I'm not going to speak to it. And I'm sure the President will have opportunities to speak to it himself. And so, I'll leave that to him. I'm just not going to speak for -- to -- to that particular or any ongoing litigation or case from the podium.

Go ahead, Josh.

Q: Can I ask you a bit about whether you can share any preview ahead of the Japanese Prime Minister visit on April 10th? And, in particular, has the government been in touch with the Japanese government on the Nippon Steel-U.S. Steel deal? Or has that been not a subject that has preceded this visit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don't have -- I've seen the reporting. This is the -- the FT reporting that you're speaking to, or is --

Q: Well, that -- that's linked to it.


Q: But there would be some sort of -- whatever you can share on that is great too.


Q: But, I mean, more broadly, have --


Q: -- have the governments discussed this steel deal at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I just don't have anything to share. Obviously, that -- that visit is -- is just in a couple of weeks. We'll certainly -- there's going to be many items on the agenda to discuss. I just don't have anything to share on that particular question.

Go ahead.

Q: Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, yeah. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. At the end of the week, it will be one year that Evan Gershkovich was detained.


Q: Is there any update on the negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I wish I -- I had one for you. I really do. I wish I had an update on Evan. I wish I had an update on Paul. As you know, we have been really focused on getting them released. And we have been -- it is a priority for this President. I just don't have anything to share at this time.

All right, guys. I have to go. Go ahead, Emily.

Q: Thanks, Karine. I just wanted to check in to see if the President or First Lady reached out to the British Royal Family. I know cancer is a personal issue to them. And did they call or write a letter or --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think you saw the President's tweet. Is it a "tweet" now? Whatever it is.

Q: Post.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Post. The President's post.

Obviously, our -- our hearts go out to -- to Princess Kate and -- and her family. We understand it's a difficult time.

As you know, this is something that the -- the President the First Lady understand very personally.

I don't have a call to read out to you. But, certainly, we wish her a full recovery. And our hearts -- our hearts and thoughts are with her and her family during this very difficult time. As you know, she has little children, and I cannot even -- do not want to even imagine what they're going through right now.

With that, folks --

Q: One in the back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- we'll see you -- we'll see you on the road tomorrow.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, everybody.

Q: Thank you.

2:48 P.M. EDT

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

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