Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Jared Bernstein, and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby

September 13, 2023

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:10 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone.

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And happy Wednesday, especially to all those who traveled more than 18,000 miles around the world with us over four days. The President met with more than 20 le- -- 20 world leaders, visited two countries. And in the words of my friend, Mr. Peter Doocy, who's not here, some of us even pulled some "all-nighters."

I hope everyone has gotten some rest. To all those who stayed back here at home, I hope you had a quieter few days, and it's good to see all of you again.

As you've seen, the trip was highly successful, and the President was pleased to once again show America's leadership on the world stage.

The President is looking forward to a major economic speech tomorrow and continuing to deliver results for the American people here at home. But before I turn it over to Jared Bernstein, our CEA chair, who's going to say more about the President's event tomorrow, I have a couple of things I want to say at the top.

Earlier this year, President Biden and congressional leaders reached a bipartisan budget agreement that set a framework to keep the government open and protect critical priorities for the American people.

A deal is a deal. The President, House Democrats, Senate Democrats, and Senate Republicans have stood by that agreement, with bipartisan movement in the Senate today. But Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans have taken a different approach, ignoring the agreement that a majority of them voted for and advancing extreme partisan bills that break their promise and gut investments in America.

Now, these bills would be devastating, in- -- devastating, increasing costs for families; hurting students, seniors, and rural communities; slashing law enforcement; undermining manufacturing; and so, so much more. And they are distracting from top priorities that we have, like fighting the fentanyl crisis, delivering disaster relief, and helping Ukraine fight Russia's illegal war.

House Republicans should keep their word and do their job: fund the government, especially these important -- we're talking about important, key, vital programs to the American people.

Next up, as I mentioned at the top, we have Jared Bernstein, who has joined us several times before, but -- at the podium, but this is the first time that he will be doing it in his new role as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Jared is going to talk about the latest economic data that all of you have reported on this morning and preview the President's major economic speech.

And with that, Jared, over to you.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

After a brief comment about this morning's CPI report, I'm going to say a few words about how Bidenomics is working but also why it's working and why, as President Biden will highlight in his speech tomorrow and as the record shows, trickle-down economics doesn't work.

Headline CPI rose 0.6 percent last month, driven by a spike in the price of gas. Headline inflation has also fallen substantially, down by about 60 percent over the last year, but we know that last month's increase in gas prices puts a strain on family budgets.

Core CPI inflation, which omits gas and food prices, was up 0.3 percent in August. Over the past three months, core CPI is up at an annualized rate of 2.4 percent -- the lowest rates since March of 2021 and close to its pre-pandemic level.

This is important progress.

Economists track the core because by omitting highly volatile gas and food prices, it provides a cleaner signal as to where inflation is likely headed.

This figure -- if you have Figure One here -- yeah. This figure -- this compares the contribution of gas and apparel to monthly inflation. And it paints a clearer picture of the relative volatility of the gas prices -- that's those, I think, yellow bars going up and down; I'm not great with colors -- and then the apparel is -- contribution is the red line. So, you -- you get the -- the point about the volatility of gas prices.

Turning to Bidenomics, we start from a position of strength. The U.S. economy is in solid shape, with real GDP growth supported by strong consumer spending that is itself supported by a strong labor market delivering wage gains accounting for inflation.

And I have a next figure showing that -- the extent to which you see inflation coming down and price- -- and wages actually beating prices there, both for all workers and for middle-wage workers.

This figure includes today's inflation report. Not only has inflation come down, it's now growing more slowly than the pay of low- and middle-wage workers, meaning their buying power is increased.

Now, our work isn't done, for sure. But wages outpacing inflation is some of the breathing room that the President talks about.

Now, what does that got to do with Bidenomics? Well, rising real wages for middle- and low-wage workers is at the heart of our middle-out, bottom-up growth agenda.

Our GDP is almost 70 percent consumer spending. So, when the middle class is doing well, the overall economy prospers. That's also a good reason why trickle-down doesn't work. It disproportionately helps those who don't need the help and, thereby, are less likely to spend the marginal dollar. Or, as the President says, Bidenomics works because when the middle class does well, the poor have a ladder up and the wealthy still do well.

Another sign that Bidenomics is working -- you see here in the figure -- both for today and for tomorrow is this -- is this other figure showing investment in building manufacturing facilities.

The incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are reversing decades of disinvestment in America through the powerful one-two punch of policy incentives crowding in private investment. That creates jobs today in constructing these facilities and good jobs tomorrow staffing these factories to manufacture semiconductors, solar panels, and wind turbines on our soil.

Going forward, we must build on the progress we've made. And that means maintaining the tight labor market while continuing to ease price pressures.

As you know, many economists argued that couldn't be done, that it would require much higher unemployment to achieve this much disinflation. President Biden never accepted the inevitability of that tradeoff, and he's been right.

Let me close with a quick word about what you can expect to hear in the President's speech tomorrow.

As you'll remember, the President traveled to Chicago back in June to outline the core principles of Bidenomics: empowering workers, investing in America, and boosting competition.

Tomorrow, he'll travel to Maryland to lay out the very clean contrast between Bidenomics and the congressional Republicans' trickle-down economic plan -- a plan that has failed working families every time it's been tried.

Instead of investing in the middle class, trickle-down shipped jobs overseas, hollowed out communities, and produced soaring deficits.

He'll contrast his agenda with specific policies cong- -- congressional Republicans have proposed and lay out what those policies would mean in concrete terms for the American people, whether it's unfair taxes, Medicare and Social Security, or increased costs for families. And he'll highlight what's at stake for families as fiscal and budget debates take center stage in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you. And I'll take questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Thanks, Jared.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jared. You mentioned gasoline prices pushing inflation up last month. But there are no good signs when it comes to gasoline prices in the near term. Crude oil prices are going up. Saudi Arabia has signaled it's going to continue to throttle oil production. Are you worried that inflation is going to go back up over 4 percent?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, let's talk about gas prices. As the President said in his statement this morning, he's well aware that they put a strain on family budgets. And that's why he's working with congressional Democrats to take action to cut energy costs.

It is correct, as you pointed out, that gas price -- the spike in August -- caused nearly all of the increase in inflation last month. But gas prices are down from last summer's high by about $1.20 per gallon. Their peak -- they peaked at north of $5 in June of '22. And that saves a family with two drivers about $120 per month.

Getting more directly to your question, the Energy Department is in touch with producers and refiners to resolve any issues and to try to ensure stable supply. There is some pressure relief coming in September in -- in the switchover from the summer blend to the winter blend. The winter blend is a -- is a -- is a somewhat cheaper blend. And also, we're moving out of peak driving season, so that lower demand also takes some pressure off.

But I think the key point to leave you with on that question is that, again, the President and congressional Democrats are cutting energy costs by investing in clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign countries that often don't share our values.

And so, I view the investment agenda that I talked about in my comments as very closely connected to the -- this idea of a transition to clean energy and more energy independence.

Q: But how closely are you tracking the possibility of a spike in gas prices? And are you worried that that could erase some of the gains that have been made in lowering inflation?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, to answer your first question: One of the first things I do every morning is click on the AAA gas price. So, we track it very closely.

The -- I think from a policy -- from a policy perspective, again, the actions that we're taking working with congressional Democrats to cut energy costs are at the core of our agenda.

Now, I think the important point here -- and you mentioned gas prices, you know, climbing and their impact on consumers -- the President has been straight up about that, including in his statement this morning. But I also don't think you can divorce that from all the other efforts that were taking to reduce prices in other areas that matters so much to consumers -- some of which, by the way, you could see in today's CPI report: the price of eggs, the price of dairy, the price of meat. All those prices actually came down. So, not just disinflation but deflation in those cases.

And I think the key thing -- if you'll go to that wage graph -- I think probably one of the key points there is that even accounting for -- this was the second graph in my presentation, if you can put that back up, or we can get it to you if you don't have it -- the key point there is that when wages are beating prices -- there you go -- so you have wages beating prices, wages growing more quickly than inflation -- and, by the way, most quickly for middle- and lower-wage workers. That's a direct result of the persistently tight labor market.

And it also links up closely to one of the first tenets of Bidenomics, which is empowering workers. So, a persistently tight labor market has delivered wage gains that, at this point, are beating prices. That means that the buying power of your paycheck is going up, and that's the kind of breathing room we're looking for here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jared. One potential risk to the economy is a UAW strike. Last week, President said he's not worried about a strike. Is that still the case? And is the White House ready to support those workers if a deal is not reached and they go on strike?

MR. BERNSTEIN: So, the President believes that auto workers deserve a contract that sustains middle-class jobs. I've worked for President Biden for a long time. He's clearly one of the most pro-union presidents we've had. He's encouraged the parties to stay at the table and to work 24 and 7 to get a win-win agreement that keeps UAW workers at the heart of our auto future and ensures UAW jobs are good middle-class jobs.

Let me just say a bit about our work over the years on -- on unions. I think the President understands that one of the purposes -- one of the things that unions do is they help more fairly distribute the benefits of growth. His view is that if you're helping to bake the pie, if you're contributing to American productivity -- and manufacturing workers and union workers and auto workers certainly contribute to that productivity -- then you want to get a fair shake. And that's one of the reasons why he's always supported unions.

There is a long economic literature showing that unions and these dynamics that I'm explaining to you are closely associated with a more equitable distribution of earnings, and I think that's one of the reasons why he's -- he's a pro-union president and why that's -- he's always talked about that in the context of Bidenomics.

Again, pillar one of Bidenomics: empowering workers. So, I think there's a clear --

Q: So, the President would support those --

MR. BERNSTEIN: -- a clear -- a clear connection.

Q: -- workers? He would support the workers if they go on strike?

MR. BERNSTEIN: I'm going to leave it at: He believes the auto workers deserve a contract that sustains middle-class jobs, and he wants the parties to stay at the table to work around the clock to get a win-win agreement. And he's encouraged the parties to do that. He's explicitly encouraged them to do so. An agreement that keeps the workers at the heart of our auto future and ensures that those are good middle-class jobs.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.

Q: Thank you. Jared, there were some alarming child poverty figures that came out very recently. Given the constraints with Congress and spending, what can the administration do or what is the administration planning to do to alleviate those?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, the explicit plan that we have talked about ever since the President got here and implemented it in the rescue plan is, of course, to extend the enhanced benefits of the Child Tax Credit. I mean, one of the things I took from that report yesterday and I think everyone should take from that report is that your child poverty rate is a policy decision.

This President decides to have the lowest child poverty rate in history -- that was his decision. And others, including, you know, 250 or something like that, members of the House and 50 -- Republicans -- and 50 Republicans in the Senate have made a very different decision to facilitate a more than doubling of child poverty by allowing the Child Tax Credit -- that was doing so much of the lifting to -- to achieve that historically low poverty rate -- to allow that to expire.

The President has consistently argued for reinstatement, and he won't stop fighting for that until we get it back.

Q: I guess, though, my question is: With those constraints that you've mentioned, in terms of lack of support, is there anything else you can do or intend to do to address that issue?

MR. BERNSTEIN: We intend to continue to not only fight for the enhanced Child Tax Credit but to do so in a fiscally responsible way that is in our budget. We have ample resources to offset that cost, and that's part of the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction that's raised in the budget that can be devoted to -- to that -- to that policy.

So, not only are we talking about re-achieving historically low levels of child poverty, but we're doing -- we're talking about doing so in the context of injecting much more fairness into the very top end of the tax code.

So, really, two very important values to this President: a much more fair, progressive tax code hitting only those above $400,000. And if we're talking about some of these measures well above that -- millionaires and billionaires who he often talks about paying an 8 percent tax -- effective tax rate. That's not okay in a context -- in a -- in an economic context where congressional Republicans have allowed child poverty to double by -- by refusing to extend this Child Tax Credit.

And Republicans go further. They more than double down on that deeply unjust relationship by continuing to -- to fight the extension of the Child Tax Credit while calling for trillions more in high-end tax cuts.

So, yes, he's going to continue to fight for the -- for those issues.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Franco.

Q: Thanks, Jared. Can you just talk a little bit more about -- on the UAW strikes or a potential -- can you talk about -- a little more about what the economic impacts would be to a strike?

And considering how significant they are, what plans does the President have or what recommendations are you giving the President to step in more to help prevent this, whether bringing them in to ha- -- to help with negotiations, for example?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: You know, I don't have a readout on this. We're closely monitoring the situation. You know, the Council of Economic Advisers -- CEA -- I sometimes think of us as "Constantly Evaluating Alternatives." So, every day we're waking up trying to figure out which way things are going. So, of course, we're going to monitor this on a daily basis; it would be irresponsible not to.

But I don't have a readout on -- on the situation. We're monitoring it as it develops.

Q: I mean, do you feel, though, that the President should step in more? Or does the President have plans to step in more, perhaps bringing in the negotiators to help prevent this from happening?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: The President has been very much engaged. Not only has he always fought for policies to ensure that workers get a fair deal but that the -- he's explicitly talked about the electric-vehicle future being made in America by American workers, promoting strong and good-paying union jobs. He's met with President Fain one on one in the Oval before the UAW briefed senior staff on their negotiating position. He called President Fain on Labor Day and called all Big Three executives before he left for Asia to encourage them to provide more forward-leaning offers and stay at the table.

So, that's what the President has done. And he will continue to press on that, as will the team that's monitoring that closely.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.

Q: Yeah. Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Jared. I want to ask you about PCE and CPI. So, we now have two inflation reports in a row where year-over-year, the headline inflation number has gone up. You couple that with real average hourly wages are actually down since the day President Biden took office about 3 percent. So, is that Bidenomics?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: Yeah, no, I think we have a disagreement on a fact there. So -- and we can certainly show you CEA's data on this.

Real wages are up relative to before the pandemic. They're up for all private-sector workers, but they're up even more for production non-supervisory workers. That's a term from the establishment survey that comes out every month. It's 80 percent of the workforce that's either blue collar and manufacturing or non-supervis- -- non-managers in -- in services. And, you know, those wages are actually above the pre-pandemic level in real terms. So, we just have a factual disagreement there.

In terms of the trend in inflation, I think we probably have a disagreement there is well. The trend in the PCE, the trend in the CPI, whether you look at headline or core -- and, in fact -- well, it's not here anymore -- but that graph that was just there showed a very clear trend in the year-over-year CPI.

If you take the more timely, say, three-month annualized average, then you see an even clearer result.

Inflation is easing. It continues to ease. There was a gas spike last month. No question. Gas went up almost 11 percent in August in the CPI. That's a little more than it went up in -- in the real world because they seasonally adjust. It was more like 6 percent.

But in -- in the report, it was up. And, you know, we obviously take that very seriously.

Q: Right, I think -- I think it's a timeframe issue. I'm looking at the day he came into office.

But I want to ask you about those gas prices. So, if gas prices are a large part of the increase we saw in the CPI, then why is the President then restricting future growth of the oil industry? He made the decision in -- or the Interior Department made the decision in Alaska just last week.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: Well, there are American -- American oil production now is at an all-time high; it's just below 13 million barrels a day. There are thousands of available permits -- places where oil companies could drill. They've been highly profitable. They've been highly productive. So, I don't think that's the problem.

The -- as you said, the gas price added 34 basis points to the -- you know, more than half of the inflation increase was the gas price in August.

I'm not going to predict gas prices for September because that is folly. But I will tell you there are various sources, which I mentioned a minute ago, putting downward pressure on gas prices this September, including the shift to a less expensive blend and the end of peak driving season.

And, at the same time, look, along with the fact that American producers are more productive than they've ever been, producing almost 13 million barrels a year, we're going to continue to work -- largely with anyone who will work with us, but certainly with the congressional Democrats -- in cutting energy costs by investing in clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign countries that don't share our values.

I mean, I think that is the right agenda. And that's the one that we're aggressively pursuing.

Q: To the back, please?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Jared, a follow-up on the potential auto workers stri- --

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: I'm sorry, could you speak up?

Q: Yeah, sure thing.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: She probably hears better than I do. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: On auto workers.

Q: No worries. I'll speak up. On the potential auto workers strike, I do have a follow-up to what some of my colleagues were saying.

A group that I spoke with -- an economic group says that there could be a $5 billion cost to the economy if there is a 10-day strike. So, is the White House preparing for that?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: We're certainly tracking all of those outside analysts. I don't think there's one report on this that we haven't seen and haven't read. And, you know, our job is to be ready for any contingency that comes our way.

I'm not going to give any readout on our own analysis at this point. We're monitoring the situation. We'll continue to do so. And we'll bring -- we'll certainly bring up-to-date information as -- as these things develop.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, last question.

Q: Two quick follow-ups from my colleagues' questions. You talked about how you're following it closely, you're looking at contingency plans. But can you confirm whether you've been asked by the UAW to get involved more? Or have you been asked specifically to stay out?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: I can't confirm any of that. I mean, at CEA, what -- what we do is what I've said we do. We -- we are asked by the President to track any development in the domestic and global economy that's going to have an impact or that might have an impact. And, you know, there's a long list of things that fit that description. So, we're -- we're tracking this carefully.

Q: And just a follow-up on the child poverty part, too.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: Sure.

Q: You talked about prioritizing a push, again, around the Child Tax Credit and pushing around taxes. But what about the fact that funds are going to expire for childcare centers and how that might relate to child poverty or at least the experience of working mothers? Is that going to be a priority and a push from this White House?

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: You know, I'm glad you asked that. It's something that we at CEA have written a lot about. And I encourage you to look at that. We have a blog on that.

Just a show of hands, how many people look at the CEA blog? (Laughter.)

Oh --

Q: Some honesty there. (Laughter.)

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: Okay. We have work to do, and you have work to do.

Q: But I'm asking about White House priorities.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: Yeah, so this is a -- this is --

Q: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: This is a longtime priority of this White House. We have ambitious plans in our budget. The President recognizes the linkage between labor force participation for caretakers, most often women, and -- and affordable, accessible childcare. And that's why not only have we, as I said, proposed ambitious plans that are fully paid for, fully offset in our budget, but we've also talked about -- used language in our supplemental to talk about the importance of childcare in our supplemental request.

So, this is something that we will continue to work towards because we recognize its importance as a working-family issue.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks, Jared.

CHAIR BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good to have you.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Jared.

I just wanted to add to the UAW, and just sort of -- and I know you all have been tracking this -- right? -- which is that one of the President's senior advisors, Gene Sperling, has been involved -- right? -- and also Acting Secretary Julie Su has been also, clearly, monitoring and having those conversations.

And I'll just add what we've said many times before, right? The President believes in collective bargaining, has encouraged sides to continue to have that conversation, to continue to be at the table. And that's what the President is going to continue to do.

So, I just wanted to add a little bit of that before I turn it over to the Admiral.

And so, as you know, John Kirby is here with us today. And he's going to take a few questions on foreign policy and any news of the day, clearly, on foreign por- -- foreign policy.

And with that, John -- Admiral.

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q: Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: So, I just want to take a moment or so to clear up some of the conflicting accounts and information that's been out there regarding actions that were taken to secure the release of five Americans who have been wrongfully detained in Iran.

These Americans have been suffering a terrible ordeal. I think you all know that. They -- many of them were held in the Evin Prison under ghastly conditions. And that we have been working very, very hard to bring them home to their families just as soon as possible.

Now, to secure their freedom, the United States is pursuing an arrangement in which Iranian funds held in South Korea are moved to restricted accounts in Qatar, where they would be available for humanitarian trac- -- transactions only -- things like food, medicine, medical supplies, medical equipment, agricultural products.

These funds will now be subject to more legal restrictions than they were when they were in Korea. They will be monitored by rigorous due diligence standards required by the U.S. Treasury Department. The U.S. will have visibility and will be able engage in oversight about where the money was going and for what purpose.

If Iran tries to divert the funds, we'll take action and we'll lock them up again.

I also want to be clear: This is not a payment of any kind. It's not a ransom. These aren't U.S.-taxpayer dollars. And we haven't lifted a single one of our sanctions on Iran. Iran will be getting no sanctions relief.

We will continue to counter Ira- -- the Iran regime's human rights abuses. We'll continue to counter their destabilizing actions abroad, its support for terrorism, its attack on maritime shipping in the Gulf, and its continued support for Russia's war against Ukraine.

As you have heard us say before, when we're trying to bring Americans home, we often aren't dealing on a level playing field. We have to use the leverage we have to bring them home. They aren't going to be released for nothing in exchange.

But we -- I don't think we should lose sight of the bottom line here, and that's that we're working to free these innocent Americans who did nothing wrong, had no reason to be detained -- bring them home to their families, bring them home whole and safe again. That's the goal.

With that, I'll take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.

Q: Admiral Kirby, thank you for being here. I know that you dispute that this is a ransom payment. Obviously, many critics of this agreement say that it is just that. So, in effect, they suggest it's $1 billion por Ameri- -- per American individual being released. So, how is this not incentivizing bad actors and rogue regime- -- regimes like Iran in the future to detain more Americans?

MR. KIRBY: Bad actors like Iran and like Mr. Putin in Russia don't need any incentive to continue to look for ways to wrongfully detain Americans. It's -- it's been happening a long, long time. And we have to accept the reality that it could happen again in the future.

It's one of the reasons why the State Department has a new designation for countries -- a D designation -- so that before you travel or you do business in a foreign country, you ought to look and see is the risk of detention -- wrongful detention high in that country before you go. We continue to advise Americans not to travel to -- to Iran and to Russia and other places like that.

But these -- these bad actors don't need incentives. And this isn't going to -- this isn't going to change the calculus, necessarily, of what they're -- what they've been doing.

What it is going to do is get our Americans home. And -- and that's what we're focused on.

Q: But for clarity, isn't -- why isn't it a ransom payment? I get that it's not American taxpayer dollars, but it's still $5 billion that had been frozen that was not available for use in any form by the Iranians. That $5 billion may be for humanitarian aid, but then it frees up $5 billion elsewhere to spend. So, how is that --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah --

Q: -- not ransom payment?

MR. KIRBY: So, a couple of points here. First of all, you're right, it's not U.S. money. It's Iranian money. It's Iranian money that had been established in these accounts to allow some trade from foreign countries on things like Iranian oil, to allow the Iranian oil to stay on market and for countries who wanted to buy that Iranian oil. This -- these transactions, largely a- -- were conducted in the previous administration. All legal. All fine. But to allow that -- some of our allies and partners to be able to continue to purchase Iranian oil without being sanctioned for doing so.

Several accounts were set up in several countries, South Korea being one of them. For many reasons -- lots of different reasons, this particular account was not accessible to the Iranians as others were. So, it is Iranian money. That's point number one.

Point number two: It's not a blank check. They don't get to spend it any way they want. It's not $6 billion all at once. They will have to make a request for withdrawals for humanitarian purposes only. And there will be sufficient oversight to make sure that the request is valid and that it's going through vendors who we -- who we and the Qataris can trust will actually contract for the goods -- the medical equipment, the food, whatever it is -- in an appropriate way and get it directly to the Iranian people.

The Iranian people will be the beneficiaries of the -- of these funds, not the regime. The regime doesn't get to touch the money, Peter. It doesn't go to them. They don't get to -- they don't get to decide the ultimate destination, and -- and they have no direct access to it.

Now, your second part of your question: "Well, won't this just free up funds for them to continue to do bad behavior?" (Laughs.) They've been -- they've been participating in bad behavior for a long, long time. And we continue to put pressure on them in ways, I would add, that the previous administration did not do, particularly in terms of their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

They're still supporting terrorists, they're still attacking shipping, and they're still supplying drones and drone manufacturing capability to the Russians. And for all of those things, we have and we will continue to hold them accountable.

We've not only added sanctions to them for the way they've treated protesters, for the -- for the arms sales that they've provided to Russia, but we have increased our military presence in the Gulf region, specifically to address the attacks on maritime shipping.

So, Iran has choices to make. They've -- they've had choices to make in the past. They've got choices to make in the future. And if they continue to choose to conduct these kinds of destabilizing activities, we will continue to use all the levers in our power -- economic and military -- to counter that and to thwart their efforts.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Thanks, Karine. John, you just said that Iran was not going to do this for nothing. But didn't they also get five Iranians?

MR. KIRBY: They will get five Iranians as well. Yeah, Jacqui.

Q: Then why did we need to add $6 billion on top of that to --

MR. KIRBY: This is the deal that we were able to strike to secure the release of five Americans. It would be great, wonderful if we could just pick up the phone and call the mullahs and say, "Hey, we want our Americans back. Send them back on the next plane." But you and I both know that's not going to happen, particularly with Iran.

And getting Americans home requires decisions, sometimes really tough decisions. It requires compromise. It requires negotiations. It requires negotiations with people you really would rather not be sitting across the table from, but you got to do it because Americans overseas in trouble wrongfully detained need to know and their families need to know that this President and this administration will do what it takes to bring them home.

We're comfortable in the parameters of this deal. I get it. I've heard the critics that they're -- somehow, they're getting the better end of it. Ask the families of those five Americans who's getting the better end of it, and I think you'd get a different answer.

We're comfortable with the parameters of this deal. We're comfortable that there'll be enough restrictions -- quite frankly, very rigid restrictions -- on the Iranians ability to use this money. And we make no apologies for the fact that we're going to get these -- these five Americans home just as soon as possible.

Q: President Raisi says it's up to them how they use the money.

MR. KIRBY: He's wrong.

Q: How are you going to guarantee that? Because once the money is -- money is fungible. So, once --

MR. KIRBY: No, ma'am.

Q: -- it's released --

MR. KIRBY: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. It's not fungible. He's just wrong. He's just flat-out wrong. The way this -- the way this deal is arranged is that these -- these -- the $6 billion, which is Iranian money, will go to a Qatari bank -- Qatari National Bank.

The Iranians can request withdrawals for it for humanitarian purposes, and the Qataris -- and it will be -- and us -- we will have oversight -- sufficient oversight into the request itself to validate the request and then to deliver funds appropriate to that request.

The money will be then -- will then go to qualified vendors to purchase and deliver the food, the medical supplies into Iran. So, it will go directly to aid organizations or appropriate relevant organizations inside Iran so that the Iranian people can benefit from it. And that's an important point, too.

While we certainly have issues with the regime, we don't have issues with the Iranian people. And this funding will be a -- will be important to helping them get over some tough times.

Q: What do you say to the criticism that this is only going to go against all these efforts to deter Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

I mean, this came right after the IAEA director said that the international community is losing interest in holding Iran accountable, that these violations are routine. And now we're making this deal where they're going to have money to use for humanitarian purposes but, to Peter's point, freeing up $6 billion that they can pull from other places to use for proxy attacks or building a nuclear weapon. How do you argue against that?

MR. KIRBY: I think I -- I think I answered that question before, but I'll try it another way: We'll continue to hold them accountable for destabilizing activities. This arrangement to get these Americans home is separate and distinct from the way we are holding Iran accountable for all their destabilizing activities, to include their continued nuclear ambitions and their burgeoning and improving ballistic missile program, which we have sanctioned and will continue to keep those sanctions in place. As I said, no sanctions relief involved in this at all. We will continue to hold them and put them under that pressure.

And now, look, the President has said many, many times, we're not going to allow Iran to ever achieve a nuclear weapons capability. We would have preferred to deal with that through diplomacy. Unfortunately, the previous administration decided to tear up a deal that had actually set their ambitions back by many, many months. And now they've been allowed to continue to re-enrich; nothing we could do about that.

We wanted to solve it through diplomacy. We're not able to --

Q: Nothing --

MR. KIRBY: We're not able to -- we are not able and we're not focused on returning to the JCPOA at this time. That said, we make -- we will make sure we have the appropriate capabilities in the region to defend ourselves and our national security interests if it comes to that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, we got to keep going.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. Is there a reaction so far on the Putin-Kim Jong Un meeting today? And does the U.S. have a better sense of what the DPRK can give to the Russians in terms of deliverables out of this meeting today?

MR. KIRBY: Well, we're watching this very, very closely. We'll see what the two sides say as a result of this.

As I've said before, we continue to urge North Korea to meet its public commitments not to support Russia's war in Ukraine.

No nation on the planet, nobody, should be helping Mr. Putin kill innocent Ukrainians. And if they decide to move forward with some sort of arms deal, we'll obviously -- we'll take -- we'll take the measure of that and we'll -- and we'll -- and we'll deal with it appropriately. As Jake Sullivan said last week, there will certainly be repercussions for North Korea, both from the United States and from the international community.

As for what either side will get out of this, again, I think we have to watch and see what actually comes out of this discussion. What we have said publicly when we had information to share with you about this budding arms deal was that it was entirely likely that Mr. Putin was going -- at the very least going to seek artillery.

What's going on in the Donbas and down in the south is -- it's a gunfight, as you've heard me to say before, heavily dependent on artillery. So, it's entirely likely that that's at least one type of ammunition that Mr. Putin is seeking.

I've said on the record a week or so ago that we expect it could be other types of munitions, but we just don't have perfect visibility on that. And so we're have to see how -- how it shakes out.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.

Q: Thank you. I'm going to go back to Iran. So, with $6 billion and five Iranians are going to be released, Hostage Aid, which is an organization that advocates on behalf of hostages, is saying that there are more American Iranians held in Iran -- at least there are two. So, why you couldn't negotiate at least for this amount of money and the five Iranians who are going to be released in return for every American citizen, whether it's a green card holder or American citizen -- citizens who held in (inaudible) --

MR. KIRBY: I can only speak to the parameters of this arrangement, which is these five wrongfully detained Americans in an exchange for five Iranians and, of course, the transfer of these funds. That's the parameters of this deal. That's all I can talk about.

I can just assure you that, as I said at the top, we're always going to take seriously the case of wrongfully detained Americans anywhere they are in the world and do everything we can to get them home.

Q: Can you confirm that the administration policy is never to pay ransom to any terrorist organization, i.e. non-state actors, whether it's al Qaeda or Daesh or whatever. In the past, Americans were killed as a result because the U.S. did not pay money, while Europeans did, to release their citizens.

MR. KIRBY: No change to our policy.

Q: Why -- I'm sorry, so, how is this different considering that you describe Iran as -- as the state that sponsored terrorism in the world? So, in -- in other words, that you differentiate between a state and non-state actors and, therefore, you deal with them differently?

MR. KIRBY: I've answered that question. This is not a ransom payment.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Danny, go ahead. Welcome to the briefing room.

Q: Thank you very much. Thanks for taking the question. I wanted to ask about the U.N. General Assembly next week. Firstly, is the President going to be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel there? And --

MR. KIRBY: No meetings to speak to at this point.

Q: And also, I just wondered if you know -- if you know if he's going to be -- that the President will be attending the Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

MR. KIRBY: Again, we'll have more towards the end of the week in terms of laying out the -- the calendar or the President's agenda at the U.N. General Assembly next week. I think on Friday we'll have a lot more detail for you.

The President is looking forward to it. This is a terrific opportunity to start to reinforce some of the things that you saw him reinforce on this trip in terms of improved infrastructure and investment in the Global South and developing nations, looking towards human rights, solving climate change.

There is an awful lot on the President's agenda up there in New York, and he's very much looking forward to it. We'll have more detail at the end of the week.

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

Q: Thanks. Just to follow up on Tarini's question on Russia and North Korea. I'm wondering if you could speak to what the administration's concerns on what North Korea could get out of this. Putin seemed to suggest that Russia would help North Korea build spy satellites. I'm wondering if there is concern around that or missile technology.

MR. KIRBY: Look, again, we got to see what actually shakes out of this meeting and the degree to which any kind of an arms deal is consummated and what that looks like. It's just -- I don't want to speculate.

But in a similar fashion to the concern we already expressed about the burgeoning defense relationship between Iran and Russia, we obviously have concerns about any burgeoning defense relationship between North Korea and Russia. Again, it remains to be seen what either side, A, wants out of this and, B, will get out of it.

These are not two countries that work well with others. And they don't really have all that much trust and confidence in each other. So we'll have to see.

But certainly, any arrangement that would improve North Korea's military capabilities would be of -- certainly would be of significant concern to us.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Hi. So do you have a timeframe for when Americans are coming back? And what is your -- the administration's message to the people, because this is happening on their first anniversary of Mahsa's killing, when the administration said that they are going to be standing by the side of the Iranian people?

And they are very critical of this money being transferred to Iran. They're actually calling it "appeasement." So, what is the message of administration to those people who lost their lives in the aftermath of Mahsa's killing? And also, do you have a timeframe for it?

MR. KIRBY: Well, we continue to mourn with the Iranian people for her loss. We held the morality police accountable for it, and others in -- in Iran. We continue to stand with the Iranian people and -- and for their human and civil rights. That's not going to change.

The timing here is the timing. And it -- it wasn't tied to any anniversary or any date. It was tied to an arrangement that we made with Iran to try to get these Americans home. And this -- the notification of the movement of these funds was the next critical step in this process -- a process, I would remind you, is not over.

They are still in Tehran -- our Americans. They are not home. And so, we're going to be a little bit careful about how much detail we're going to provide here publicly.

And your first question about timeline, I -- I don't have a timeframe that I'm at liberty to speak to right now. But we hope to get them home as soon as possible.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In front of you. Go.

Q: Yeah, thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No -- go ahead.

Q: Me?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q: Okay. I -- I hear you really emphasizing and belaboring the point that getting American's home is the priority of the administration. I wondered if there was any movement on the Pennsylvania-native teacher, Marc Fogel, who's been held in Russia, imprisoned for, I believe, going on two years now. Has there been any movement on getting that American home?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything with respect to his case to speak to today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: Thanks. What can you tell us about the five Iranian prisoners who are being traded? What were they convicted for here in the U.S.? And how were they chosen?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have -- I'm not at liberty right now, again, because this is an ongoing process and we don't have our Americans home yet. So, I will be careful about how much detail I put out there. I don't have a lot that I can say about these five individuals at this time. We will certainly have more information to share when it's appropriate to share it.

In general, without getting into each specific case, just generally speaking, you're looking at offenses such as sanctions evasion, that kind of level. But I think that's as far as I can go today.

Q: So, not serious, hardened criminals?

MR. KIRBY: Largely in the realm of sanctions evasions. And I -- I think I'm just going to have to leave it at that right now.

Q: The Iranians have shared the names with us. Are you prepared to release the names?

MR. KIRBY: We will at the appropriate time, and this is not the appropriate time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jenny.

Q: Hey, John. I've got two for you on China. We reported last week about China trying to ban iPhones for certain government agencies. Now they're saying they are seeing security threats with these phones. They're stopping short of issuing laws. But we have reported on the internal guidance, and the President even mentioned it in Hanoi, saying, you know, they're changing the rules of the game.

Should we expect the administration to respond and there to be repercussions for China if they do go through with that?

MR. KIRBY: I don't want to get ahead of where we are right now. We're watching this with concern. Clearly, it seems to be of a piece of the kinds of aggressive and inappropriate retaliation to U.S. companies that we've seen from the PRC in the past. That's what this appears to be.

The truth is, we don't have perfect visibility on exactly what they're doing and why. And we certainly would call on them to be more transparent about what they're seeing and what they're doing.

Q: So, you are -- it's -- it's accurate to say that you are trying to seek that information from the Chinese --

MR. KIRBY: We are -- we're watching this as closely as we can. I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get into diplomatic conversations, but it's concerning.

Q: Okay. And separately but related, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, has been pretty candid on Twitter talking about China and Xi Jinping's policy of disappearing officials in his Cabinet. Is this something that you guys are aware of or, you know, endorsing his message to be as forthright? I mean, the White House has been pretty careful in how you do diplomacy with China, which is not really poking Xi Jinping the way the ambassador is.

MR. KIRBY: I'll let the ambassador speak to his social media account.

We've long been clear about our concerns about a full range of worrisome PRC activities in -- in the region there. And I think I'd leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're just going to talk a couple more. Go ahead.

Q: John, in the past couple of weeks, the President has lied about being at Ground Zero the day after the September 11th attacks, falsely claimed he saw the Pittsburgh bridge collapse, claimed his grandfather died in the hospital days before his birth. What is going on with the President? Is he just believing things that didn't happen did happen, or is he just randomly making stuff up?

MR. KIRBY: The President was deeply touched and honored to be able to spend 9/11 with the military members there in Alaska and some families. And was -- was -- was honored by their presence and the chance to make an important set of remarks about why we need to continue to remember that day. And he did that.

And he spoke about a visit to Ground Zero, which he did participate in about a week or so after the -- the event, and what that looked and what that smelled and what like -- that felt like. And it had a visceral impact on him, as it did so many other Americans on that terrible day.

And he's focused on making sure that an attack like that never happens again, which is why we've improved our over-the-horizon counterterrorism capability and why we continue to hold terrorist networks accountable. And it's why he spent so much time last week shoring up our national security interests in a vital part of the world on issues that aren't necessarily tied to terrorism, but very much tied to our ability to secure peace and prosperity there and around the world.

Q: But he's had a string of saying things that happened -- didn't happen -- things that are easily debunked. Why does he keep doing that?

MR. KIRBY: The President was grateful to spend that time with those family members and those troops.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Has the Moroccan government accepted any earthquake assistance yet from the United States?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I -- I can tell you that we have been in constant touch with Moroccan officials and that USAID has -- has allocated a million dollars to assist in response relief. I'll let USAID and the Moroccan government speak to how they intend to -- to use that.

I would -- I'll also just, as the President did, reiterate that we stand ready to -- to provide even more assistance should it be required and needed. But we are in direct contact with them about their needs, and, obviously, you want to do the best you can to meet those needs as they see them.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. I'm just going to do two more.

Way in the back, go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Thank you very much. Admiral, what -- why wouldn't the administration reengage, if it would be possible, with the JCPOA?

MR. KIRBY: Well, we wanted it to be possible. I mean, my goodness, the first couple of years of this administration, we worked hard to try to get us back into the JCPOA. And Iran kept larding up the negotiations with -- with things that had nothing to do with their nuclear program. And we realized the futility of the effort, so we stopped putting energy and effort into it, all around the time that they were whipping and beaten female protesters. So we held them accountable for that. That was -- that was a significant moment as well.

Look, the President has been very consistent that we want to make sure they never achieve a nuclear weapons capability. He would prefer -- vastly prefer to do that through diplomacy, but that's just not a viable option right now.

Q: On Ukraine, what -- what is the administration's goal? Is it to defeat Russia? Or is it ultimately to seek some sort of negotiated settlement?

MR. KIRBY: Man, I don't know how many times I've answered this question in the last year and a half. And we have been, again, very, very consistent. We want to see Ukraine succeed on the battlefield. We want to see them get all their territory back. We want to see their sovereignty respected. We want to see no Russian troops inside Ukraine. We want to see the war end.

And it could end today, obviously, if Mr. Putin would do the right thing and just get the hell out. That's clearly not going to happen right now.

So, we're going to continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities that they need to be successful.

Q: And on the holdup of military appointments from Tommy Tuberville, what is the tangible damage being done to the military by a holdup on appointments of military officers?

MR. KIRBY: I can't say any better than the -- than the leaders of the DOD have been able to say. You've got more than 300, now, generals and admirals who are frozen, can't move, which means that in many cases -- literally, hundreds of cases -- you've got officers that are doing two jobs -- two big jobs -- while they're -- while they're still trying to maintain readiness. And readiness is starting to get affected by this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, Kayla. You have the last question.

Q: Thank you. CNN is reporting that Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia in 2018, is in Washington for meetings this week and she's been seeking a meeting with the President. Does the President plan to meet with her?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have any meetings with the President to speak to, but she is in town and she is going to be meeting with the -- with White House officials. It'll be a good opportunity for us to -- to update her on our efforts to get Paul back. And those efforts are very active and they're very ongoing.

Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks. Thanks, Admiral. Appreciate it.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine. Thanks, everybody.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thank you, John.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.

Darlene, it's good to see you.

Q: It's good to see you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I feel like it's been a while. Maybe?

Q: Maybe.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) All right, go for it.

Q: Will the President cooperate fully now that Speaker McCarthy has pulled the trigger on an impeachment inquiry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm going to refer you to -- to my colleagues over at the Counsel's Office on any specifics to -- to the inquiry. I'm certainly not going to -- going to speculate on -- on what has been a baseless inquiry that the House Republicans can't even really defend themselves and that many House Republicans have said -- they have said they couldn't support their own votes. So, again -- again, I'm going to refer you to my White House Counsel on any specifics.

Q: On -- sorry --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No --

Q: And on his speech tomorrow, he's going to Maryland. Why is he going to Maryland, a blue state, instead of maybe a red state to talk about his economic policies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm not going to get -- you heard -- you heard Jared, the chair of CEA, talk -- talk specifically about the economy, speak -- speak specifically about a major speech -- a major speech that the President is going to do tomorrow on Bidenomics.

You've heard us talk about Bidenomics and how we believe has turned the economy around and just -- not from us, but from the data that we certainly have seen.

And this is a President who has been very clear: He wants to see an economy that come -- that build -- that's built from the bottom up, middle out and not the trickle-down economy that we see that -- that congressional Republicans want to continue to do.

What I'm not going to get into -- well, I'll say this: The President bel- -- it doesn't matter where the President decides to give a speech, right? For him, it is an opportunity to speak directly to the American people, and that's what you're going to see him do.

And, you know, whether it's in Maryland, whether it's in a red state, the President always takes those opportunities -- incredibly important not just to speak in front of all of you who report on what he's going to say and how he's engaging with the American people, but directly to them as well.

And so, you know, in this case, location is not -- doesn't matter. He wants to give a -- a really important speech, a "major speech," as you heard us coin it, on Bidenomics. And I think it's important -- what's important is that the American people are going to hear from the President about an issue that matters to them, which is the economy and how he continues to make sure he's doing everything he can to lower costs for the American people and to continue to build an economy that leaves no one behind. And I think that's what matters for tomorrow.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. On impeachment, you just mentioned House Republicans' "baseless claims." How confident are you that there will be no evidence that incriminates President Biden in Hunter's business dealings as this goes forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just give a little bit of a -- a laydown here, because I think it's important: Any specifics to -- to the inquiry -- certainly, I -- I want to say this at the top, as I said to Darlene -- I'm going to refer you to my colleagues at the Counsel's Office.

But I want to -- also want to be clear about a couple of things. You know, I just talked about Bidenomics. I just talked about what the President's going to do tomorrow: really deliver a major speech -- something that the American people want to hear about: what are we doing to improve their lives, work on the economy. And these are real -- real issues, real priorities for Americans -- and like I said, like lowering costs.

But what you see Republicans in Congress -- right? -- they have spent all year investigating the President. That's what they've spent all year doing, and have turned up with no evidence -- none -- he -- that he did anything wrong.

I mean, that is what we've heard over and over again from their almost lear -- year-long investigation. And -- and that's because the President didn't do anything wrong. Even -- even --

Q: Is lying to the public wrong?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- even House -- even House Republicans have said -- have said the evidence does not exist. House Republicans have said that, to my friend in the back who just yelled out, which is incredibly inappropriate. But House Republicans have said that there doesn't --

Q: Do you dispute that he lied?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- there doesn't -- it doesn't exist.

Their own investigation have actually debunked their ridiculous attacks. And the only reason Speaker McCarthy is doing this -- is doing this political stunt -- and we have seen it; you all have reported -- is because Majorie -- Majorie [Marjorie] Taylor Greene has said she threatened to shut down the government. Can you imagine shutting down the government over a political stunt? And we're talking about vital programs that American families need. And -- and she said that because she wanted him to -- to actually do this. And if he didn't, she would shut down the government.

And you have -- Matt Gaetz as well threatened to oust him as Speaker if he didn't do it.

So, he didn't even put up for a vote, as you all know, because he knows that even his own members weren't going to support this.

So, you know, that's why we call it baseless. That's why I just called it baseless, because they have said themselves that there is no evidence. There does not -- the evidence does not exist, and this is a political stunt

But here's the thing, and I say this all the time: We look forward to working with Republicans in a bipartisan way to actually deal with issues that matter to -- to Americans -- real issues that meri- -- matter to Americans, not this baseless effort that they have continuing to do that shows no evidence.

Q: What -- given that, will the President still be able to work with House Republicans, including Speaker McCarthy --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well --

Q: -- to avert a shutdown in a couple of weeks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the shutdown should not happen. That is Congress's job: to avoid a shutdown. I've said over and over again here at this podium just -- for the past couple of minutes that these are vital programs that American families need.

So, that's their basic duty. Their basic duty is to keep the government open.

We've already agreed -- we've agreed. There was a bipartisan agreement on how to move forward with the budget that they voted on.

And so, look, they should -- a deal is a deal. They should keep their word, and they should keep the government open.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: You just brought up the lack of a vote. Does the White House view this impeachment inquiry as legitimate, given that there has not been a vote to open it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Nancy, I appreciate the question, but I actually -- from what I just laid out, Republicans have been -- made it pretty clear just how illegitimate this is. They've made that very clear. This is a -- this is an entire exercise of how to do this in an illegitimate way.

And, again, it's a politi- -- political stunt. And it is going after the President politically -- not about the truth. There is no truth here. And so, we think they should -- they should work with us on legitimate issues -- things that actually matter to the American people. And that's what they want to see. That's what the American people want to see.

We're going to talk about Bidenomics. You're going to hear from the President -- speak to that directly.

In a few minutes, the President is convening his Cabinet -- his Cancer Cabinet to talk about an issue that matters to the American people, about saving lives, what else we can do to deal with cancer across the country.

And, you know, that's what we believe.

Q: So, if you don't view it as legitimate, does that mean that the White House doesn't believe it needs to comply with requests that come as -- as a result of this inquiry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm going to let the Counsel's Office -- my colleagues there speak to this directly as to what -- when it comes to cooperating. I'm going to let them speak to that.

But I've been very clear: We believe this is -- this -- we're certainly not going to speculate on any bas- -- you know, on baseless accusations -- right? -- as we have seen from -- from the Republicans in the House.

And so, you know, again, they could not even support their own votes. They couldn't. Speaker McCarthy could not even get support for this vote. And so, I'm going to just leave it there.

Q: Has the President had an opportunity to speak with Speaker McCarthy about the looming shutdown and potential ways out of this mess?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have any conversations the President has had with the Speaker. I can say, definitely, that our -- our OMB director here, Shalanda Young, and also -- also the Leg Affairs Office has been in direct communications for the past several weeks, even months, with -- with members in Congress. That's going to continue. I just don't have anything to read out.

As you know, the President is -- you know, continues to have conversations with members in the House and the Sen- -- and Senate regularly. I just don't have a specific conversation to read out.

Q: Would the White House consider renegotiating

the agreement it struck with Speaker McCarthy earlier this year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But here's the thing: A deal is a deal. Like, they voted on this. They voted on this. It was a bipartisan deal. And, you know, they should move o- -- move forward with what they agreed on.

It was voted in the House, in the Senate. And Republicans voted for this. Dem- -- Democrats voted for this.

So, I don't see the issue here. They should move forward with this.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q: Karine, can you describe how President Biden reacted to the impeachment decision by the --

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

Q: -- Speaker?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to share about the President's reaction to this.

All I can tell you is the President is focused on the American people -- hardworking American people. You'll see him in a few minutes when he talks about -- when he speaks to his Cancer Cabinet. And then you'll certainly hear from him tomorrow with the Bidenomics.

Q: You listed a couple of things -- the -- the deal that the Republicans are now not supporting, the -- obviously, the impeachment. You say you look forward -- or the White House looks forward to working with the Republicans. How do you see that happening? How does President Biden plan to work with Speaker McCarthy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, for the past two years, we've gotten -- this President has gotten a lot of criticism in not being able to work in a bipartisan way with -- with Republicans on the other side of Pennsylvania. I mean, we've heard that over and over and over again. And he has been able to do that. And as you know, this -- the political climate is tough. We're in a different political climate -- probably one that we haven't seen in this -- in this fashion for some time. And the President has been able to do that.

He's been able to push incredibly key, historic pieces of legislation that's going to change the lives of Americans: when you think about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, you think about the CHIPS and Science Act, when you think about the PACT Act -- all important pieces of legislation. And that's just a few. There's been hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pieces of legislation that has been done in a bipartisan way that the President has signed these past two years.

So, it can still be done. It really, truly can.

We're talking about this moment in time -- right? -- that we're seeing from -- from Congress. Of course, we're going to call it out. Of course, we're going to as- -- as it relates to, certainly, the budget, of course we're going to say to them that they need to do their jobs.

And so, we've seen it over and over again -- what this President has been able to do things in a bipartisan way. And let's not forget, one of the things that we saw from the midterm results in 2022 is that Americans want to see us do this: working in a bipartisan way so that we deal with their -- with their key issues that they're having.

Bidenomics is going to be so important tomorrow. The President is going to speak, certainly, fully about that and lay out what his administration has done and going to continue to do. And that's what we're going to focus on.

Q: Just really briefly, on another topic, I saw the President's statement about Libya, expressing condolences. Does the United States have plans to send more money, more help to the people there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. I do want to share our -- you know, as you mentioned, there was a -- I think, a tweet that went out.

So, our deepest condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones in the devastating floods in Libya and, certainly, the earthquake in Morocco. These are difficult times, and the United States sent emergency funds to relief organizations in Libya, and we will also send disaster assistance response to the region and an initial $1 million to support Libyan efforts.

In the hours following the earthquake, we deployed a small as- -- assessment team to Morocco. And we are making available up to $1 million in initial humanitarian assistance to support people in the areas most affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks.

Obviously and certainly, the United States stands by the Libyan and Moroccan people. And we are wishing them a speedy recovery to those injured and, certainly, sending our hope to all those who are missing loved ones. It is certainly a difficult time in that region, and we are here to help.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. On impeachment. Does the President or the White House more broadly plan to comply with requests for

information from House Republicans as part of the impeachment inquiry?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I -- I've stated a couple of times, just in the past few minutes, that any -- any specifics, inquiries or anything like that, that is something that my Cou- -- the Counsel -- my -- the -- my colleagues at the White House Counsel certainly will -- will deal with. And they'll -- any specifics, I would refer you to them.

Q: But you suggested that there's no evidence to back up the Republicans' effort --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which is true.

Q: -- here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not suggesting it. That's actually a fact.

Q: If they are seeking information --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, that is --

Q: -- would you provide the information?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- something that the White House Counsel is going to deal with. And it's not a suggestion. It's actually an actual fact.

When you have Republicans saying that there is no -- no evidence, it doesn't exist. They have said that.

I mean, again, they couldn't even put it up for a vote because they didn't have the vote.

So, it's not a suggestion; it's actually the fact. That's their own words that I'm repeating back.

I'm just going to try and go to -- go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. The L.A. Times reported that the Biden administration is considering forcing some migrant families who enter the country without authorization to remain near the border in Texas while awaiting asylum screa- -- screening. Governor Abbott has threatened to sue if the administration goes through with this. Can you confirm whether this is under active consideration?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me -- I have to go back to the team. I want to get the right information to you. So, let me talk to the team about that specific -- that specific reporting. And then we're, certainly -- will have that information for you.

Q: Can you --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, the President has done everything that he can to work on the issue at -- at the border that has existed for decades, worked to improve the immigration system. He's done that alone, without the help of Republicans. And, certainly, you see the governor constantly doing political stunts. And the President is going to do everything that he can.

Go ahead.

MS. SIMONS: Time for one more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, one more time. I'll try and call -- I haven't called on you. Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. On the memo that was sent out to news organizations about covering this impeachment inquiry, can you give us some background into the decision-making of why you thought sending that was necessary?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to leave that to the White House Counsel -- from my colleagues who sent that -- that memo. It just laid out, really, kind of specifically as to how we see this process has moved forward, how there is no evidence. It's not even coming from us. It's coming from Republicans in -- in Congress. We've been very clear about that.

I actually think that memo lays out pretty -- pretty -- in pretty good detail of why we felt it was important to put that out. I'm just not going to get beyond what my colleague has shared with all of you.

And with that, folks --

Q: Can you explain why the President interacted with so many of his son's foreign business associates?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Have a great day, guys. Thank you so much.

2:17 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Jared Bernstein, and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/364961

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