Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein, and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:04 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Trevor -- (laughter) -- what did you do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What's going on? You causing problems?
Q: We're ready. We're ready.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you sure?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I can -- I'm happy to just stand here and wait.
Q: You guys are early.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're -- we're --
Q: On time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- we're not -- we're on time. 1:02. I don't even know if it's 1:02. I think that time is a little either fast or slow.
Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. Where is the rest of the class?
Q: Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. Okay, well, good afternoon. Happy Monday. Today marks what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a ruling from the Supreme Court that recognized a woman's constitutional right to make deeply personal healthcare decisions free from the interference of politicians. But then the Supreme Court ruled to take that constitutional right away.
The aftermath has been devastating. Women's health and lives now hang in the balance.
Today, 21 states have abortion bans in effect, 27 million women of reproductive age live in states with bans. That's more than one in three women. Over 380 state bills restricting access to abortion care were introduced just last year. And on Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans have proposed three national abortion bans.
The stories of women being denied care are gut-wrenching. In Texas, a woman was forced to go to court to ask permission to receive the care her doctor recommended before she ultimately fled Texas to receive the care she desperately needed.
And she's not alone. We've seen one harrowing story after another of women who are experiencing a miscarriage and are turned away from emergency rooms, then, later -- later, nearly dying -- nearly dying because of that.
This should never happen in America. Never. But here's the reality: The overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to the chaos and confusion we're seeing play out -- out across the country. And it's exactly why President Biden will continue to fight back and urge Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade back into federal law.
The health and lives of women are on the line here. So, in about an hour, you will hear directly from the President on this, who will convene a meeting with the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare, while Vice President Harris today kicks off her reproductive freedoms tour in Wisconsin.
And with that, as you can see to my right, I am grateful to welcome Jen Klein, the Director of the White House Gender Policy Council, back in the briefing room. And she will talk about our actions that we're taking today.
MS. KLEIN: Thank you, Karine. As Karine said and as has -- as President Biden has made clear since the day of the Court's decision to overturn Roe, Congress must pass a federal law restoring the protections of Roe. And, in the meantime, the Biden-Harris administration will continue to fight to protect access to reproductive healthcare.
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the administration has taken action to help ensure that women receive the care they need in an emergency, to protect access to safe and effective medication abortion, to defend the right to travel for medical care, to expand access to contraception -- affordable contraception, to strengthen privacy protections for patients and doctors, to support access to reproductive healthcare for service members and veterans, and to partner with state leaders, who really are on the front lines of protecting reproductive freedom.
To coordinate this work across the federal government, the President established a Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, which I chair alongside HHS Secretary Becerra. And today, as you heard, as we mark what should have been the 51st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, President Biden will convene the fourth meeting of that task force with agency leaders.
The task force will hear directly from two physicians who are on the frontlines of the fallout from the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and who will -- who will share their on-the-ground experiences of how state abortion bans have wreaked havoc on their patients and interfered with their ability to practice medicine.
The President will then receive updates from his task force on the efforts to protect access to reproductive healthcare and the continued threats to emergency care and FDA-approved medication abortion.
Task force members will also report on new policy actions the administration is taking to strengthen access to reproductive care.
While the President is convening his Cabinet, the Vice President is in Wisconsin, a state where Republican elected officials want to enforce an extreme abortion ban from 1849 -- that's before women had the right to vote -- that includes no exceptions, including in cases of rape or incest.
As you heard from Karine, she'll kick off her Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour, and she'll be hearing and listening to women and healthcare providers about the devastating impact of state abortion bans.
And with that, I am happy to take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, go ahead, M.J.
Q: I'm just wondering how much more new action the White House believes they can take between now and November on this front. Or do you mostly expect that the actions and announcements that are to come will be, you know, expansions on actions we've already seen since the Supreme Court took action?
MS. KLEIN: Yeah, I mean, as the President has been quite clear since Roe was overturned, the ultimate solution is to pass federal national legislation to restore the protections in Roe. And we will continue to work to hope that Congress will pass that legislation so the President can sign it.
He has also been clear, literally since day one, of -- when the decision came down in Dobbs that we will do everything we can. So, that's why he's issued three executive orders and one presidential memorandum. The executive orders are on strengthening access to abortion and contraception, on protecting patient privacy, on protecting patient safety and security, on protecting access to emergency care, and defending the right to travel.
And we will take actions in all of those areas. We have already, and we will continue to.
So, to your question, is there anything left to do? I think the answer is yes. And today, when the President convenes his task force, you will see actions in a few more areas. They do build on the executive orders that he has already released.
So, just to outline what -- a little bit more about those -- what those policy actions today will be -- you know, first, on contraception, there will be new guidance to support expanded coverage of a broader range of contraceptives at no cost under the ACA. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will also issue a letter to private insurers, state Medicaid programs, and Medicare to reinforce their obligations to cover affordable contraception.
On emergency care, the -- there -- they will be -- HHS will be announcing a comprehensive plan to educate patients about their rights under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, known as EMTALA, and the process for filing a complaint; and also disseminate training materials for healthcare providers, convene those providers to ensure that they know how to comply with EMTALA, and also establish an expert team at HHS to help hospitals and healthcare providers comply with those legal obligations under EMTALA.
And last piece is we will take additional steps to implement the presidential memorandum on medication abortion to protect the safety and security of patients, providers, and pharmacies who need, prescribe, or dispense medication abortion.
Q: And could you just talk to us a little bit about how the White House is viewing ballot initiatives heading into November -- the importance of them, what the landscape is?
MS. KLEIN: Yeah, I think the ba- -- the series of ballot initiatives -- most recently in Ohio, but also in Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont, California -- really show how salient this issue is and how every time Americans are given the opportunity to make their voices heard, they make their voices heard very loudly and clearly in favor of reproductive freedom. And there are more ballot initiatives coming, and we will do everything we can to support state leaders, as I said, on the ground, who are on -- really on the front lines.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.
Q: Thank you. Can you talk a little bit about the significance of this rally in Virginia tomorrow and just how much more time you think the President is going to spend on the issue of abortion between now and November?
MS. KLEIN: I can't speak to the rally tomorrow directly because that's a campaign event. So, it's a political event.
What I can say is that the President has been prioritizing and delivering on reproductive freedom for his entire administration, starting with creating the Gender Policy Council and asking me, actually before Dobbs, to help lead the administration's whole-of-government approach to Texas S.B. 8, and then, of course, once Dobbs came down, to mobilize the entire administration's efforts, and he will continue to do that.
And, of course, the Vice President, who has been a leader on this issue, will continue to be that leader. She's, as you just heard, in Wisconsin right now. She will, of course, be part of the -- of the rally tomorrow with all four of the principals participating. And she will be around the country -- she's met with legislative leaders, state and local officials around the country. And they will both continue to draw the sharp contrast between what this administration stands for and what Republican elected officials stand for for the months to come.
Q: Just bouncing off of M.J., though, do you feel that the White House is reaching the limits of what it can do when it comes to abortion rights without congressional action?
MS. KLEIN: Again, I think, you know, the President was -- was quite clear. He literally said it, you know, within an hour of the Dobbs decision coming down: that the only way to restore the rights that were lost -- the fundamental constitutional right that was lost that was protected for nearly 50 years under Roe vs. Wade is to have federal legislation.
And that's why he is -- his entire administration is laser-focused on that. And he has made it entirely clear that when Congress sends him that legislation, he will sign it immediately.
I don't think that means that there is nothing we can do. I think there's quite a lot we can do. And I think that's evidenced by what we've done so far to -- you know, all the categories that I mentioned, but really to protect access to reproductive healthcare in this country.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kelly.
Q: Can the federal government help to define some of the circumstances that women have found themselves in when medical questions about is it the life of the mother at risk -- where state law may not spell it out very clearly or clearly enough, is there a role for the federal government there?
And since some of these instances do result in ordinary citizens having to get involved in litigation, is there something that the administration can do to support them in pursuing those remedies?
MS. KLEIN: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, to -- to state the obvious: We are seeing a lot of chaos -- legal chaos and medical chaos -- because of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the state abortion bans that have been passed across the country.
You know, it just bears mentioning that there are 21 states with abortion bans right now. That means that 27 million women, one -- of reproductive age -- one in three are living in states with those bans.
There are federal tools. So, the one that, you know, we are talking about today that we are going to build off of -- EMTALA, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act -- you know, the administration has long said -- long held the view that that law requires that when somebody walks into an emergency room requiring emergency care to stabilize their medical condition, that treatment, even if it includes abortion, is required under federal law.
So, I think, you know, that's one of the things that we're trying to make sure that, as I said, patients know what their rights are, know how they can file a complaint -- but even before you get to that, that providers know what is required of them under that federal law. And -- and that's what we will be doing more of.
Q: So, you think you can add clarity where there is confusion at this point?
MS. KLEIN: Yeah, I mean, again, you know, to return to where we started, ultimately, the only way to -- to ensure that, you know, women in every state across the country have the right that they lost when Roe was overturned is to pass a piece of federal legislation restoring Roe. But I do think this is a step -- an important step in that direction.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q: To your point about federal legislation, is the President willing to compromise with lawmakers who think there should be some restrictions on reproductive rights in order to get a bill through? Or is his approach more all or nothing at this point?
MS. KLEIN: I -- I think what the President has said -- and he will continue to say that he believes that Roe was rightly decided and that we need a bill that restores the protections that were in Roe.
And, you know, by the way, the majority -- the vast majority of American people agree that Roe was ri- -- rightly decided, and that's exactly what we need to do.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Danny.
Q: Thanks. You mentioned the 21 states that have a ban at the moment. Do you have any number or any estimate of how many women have been forced to travel out of state s- -- since the -- you know, since the decision?
MS. KLEIN: I don't have numbers on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Courtney, in the back.
MS. KLEIN: I -- I will say one thing, which is that the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in two cases in Alabama, where the right to travel is at issue, where the Alabama Attorney General has threatened to prosecute women and those who help those women cross state lines. But that's not a -- that's not a number for sure.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Courtney.
Q: Thank you. You've been talking about abortions and medical emergencies. On the Fifth Circuit's decision on that, it's unusual to see a court agree to review agency guidance, let alone rule on whether it can be implemented. How does that court's decision affect your strategy going forward as you try and navigate this post-Roe landscape?
MS. KLEIN: Yeah, as you probably know, in addition to, you know, making clear our longstanding position that that law and the guidance that followed it reflects the position that EMTALA does cover emergencies -- when somebody walks into an emergency room needing medical care and that's -- abortion is the care that is required, that that is covered by EMTALA -- of course, that -- we are also -- the Department of Justice is also litigating that, defending that in court, and that stands before the Supreme Court at the moment in a different case.
Q: And on traveling, are you doing anything to support providers in states that are seeing an increase in patients from neighboring states with more restrictive laws -- for example, Illinois?
MS. KLEIN: I think the best answer to that question is that we've been really working with those state leaders in states like Illinois, New York, where they're seeing an influx of patients. But, really, that's more about, you know, connecting states to each other, which has been one of the things we've done in our state convenings, so that they can learn from each other and help each other. There's less of a federal role there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Last question.
Q: Can I ask one more thing, Karine? Thank you.
Does today's announcement that the administration is going to publish training materials for providers in medical emergencies -- does that mean you're going to pr- -- advise that same information to hospitals in Texas and Idaho, which I know are the st- -- states involved in those cases that the Justice Department is in?
MS. KLEIN: That information will be available to any hospital and healthcare provider who needs to access it.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Last question in the back. Go ahead, Evan.
Q: I just wanted to ask about medication abortion and the Supreme Court weighing restrictions on the mailing of mifepristone. Do you see -- or rather, does the Biden administration see this as sort of the next big frontier of this abortion fight? And then, you know, what are the stakes of that case, and is there any recourse that the White House would have?
MS. KLEIN: I do think that that's a really important frontier. You know, they've already made it clear that, in some sense, they don't think they need to pass a national abortion ban because there is a national abortion ban if they were to be able to limit the mailing, the dispensing of mifepristone.
So, you know, I can't speak to the litigation. But, of course, you know, again, there's a case in the Supreme Court, Alliance Defending Freedom vs. FDA, where exactly what's at stake is the -- is whether limits can be put on the FDA who has made a judgment to -- to -- initially, a judgment to approve and then further judgments to regulate using their scientific, evidence-based judgment that this is a safe medication that should be available. It's, by the way, 53 or so percent of abortions in this country.
So, we will continue to -- to defend that and make clear that, you know, that is a safe and -- and legal drug.
You know, one of the reasons I think that case has attracted a lot of attention is because it is obviously squarely about medication abortion, but, you know, you have pharmaceutical companies and executives, you have medical associations, you even have conservative legal scholars re- --weighing in on the danger of that case, because it could have implications for any drug that the FDA, you know, long ago approved and has regulated several times since.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thank you so much, Jen.
MS. KLEIN: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know you have to go to the Oval Office.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Okay. Thanks, Jen.
Couple things before we continue. So, just a scheduling update. So, on Thursday, January 25th, the President will travel to Superior, Wisconsin, to discuss how his Bidenomics and Investing in America agenda are rebuilding our infrastructure, lowering costs, spurring a small-business boom, and creating good-paying jobs.
The -- President Biden remains focused on investing in America and opposing congressional Republican efforts to shower massive giveaways on the wealthy and big corporations, cut Medicare, cut Medicaid and Social Security, and block us from lowering costs for American families.
And before we continue with the briefing, I wanted to say one last thing to my dear friend, Emilie, the Deputy of -- the Deputy Press Secretary, as she is going to head out to maternity leave today. And, Emilie, we are so happy for you and Steven on your -- on your road to parenthood. And I think you are such an amazing human. You're going to be an amazing mom and just have so much joy. I know everyone here feels that and everyone, certainly, on our team. And I'm going to miss you terribly.
You're going to -- you're going to be gone for, like, five months -- five months too long. But I'm going to miss you terribly, and I hope you, you know, spend that time -- I know you'll spend that time being very, very busy. But, also, time with your -- your little one.
And so, excited for you. I have something for you.
MS. SIMONS: Aww. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Give me one second. Give that to you. Well, actually, you open -- you open that.
MS. SIMONS: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I want you to open it. I want you to show everybody.
MS. SIMONS: Okay. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Show my gift to everyone. (Laughter.) It's a little gift for Emilie.
Q: Aww --
MS. SIMONS: "Future President."
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: "Future President." (Laughter.)
Q: Very nice.
MS. SIMONS: So sweet of you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Please -- please come in the back -- to the back if you don't get a -- if you get a second today to say goodbye to Emilie and wish her -- wish her luck.
MS. SIMONS: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. We love you, Emilie.
And with that, we have Admiral John Kirby here to give us an update on the Middle East.
Q: Follow that, sir.
MR. KIRBY: Karine is bringing you up, and I'm bringing you down. (Laughter.) Just a couple of things, I promise, and then we'll get right to it.
Today, the United States is announcing additional sanctions designed to protect our -- not only our financial system but our national security. First, the United States, today, sanctioned Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and its CEO for supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, otherwise known as the IRGC, and, as well, supporting Iran- -- Iran-aligned militia groups in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
Additionally, the United States is designating three leaders and supporters of Kata'ib Hizballah, one of the IRGC's Iran-aligned ami- -- militias in Iraq, and one business that facilitates and launders funds for Kata'ib Hizballah.
Kata'ib Hizballah, I think as you all know, has been responsible for a series of drone and missile attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria.
Now, second, we imposed a fifth round of sanctions on Hamas. This is the fifth round since the October 7th attacks.
And alongside the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom are also placing sanctions on key Hamas officials and facilitators.
We'll obviously continue to use all the tools at our disposal to target Hamas, its financiers, and its financial transfer mechanisms that funnel funds in support of their terrorist activities.
In a -- in a related way, I can also let you know that the President just recently hung up the phone talking to Prime Minister Sunak of the United Kingdom. Clearly, they talked about what's going on in the -- in the Red Sea and the need for a continued international multilateral approach to disrupting and degrading Houthi capabilities.
They also had a chance to talk about, obviously, what's going on in Gaza with a -- stressing the need to continue to bring down the number of civilian casualties and to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
And, of course, they also talked about Ukraine and the urgent need that Ukraine is facing right now for additional supplemental funding and support for their ability to defend themselves in the -- on the field of battle.
And then, lastly, I'd be remiss -- speaking about the field of battle -- if I did not also point you to the President's statement today, acknowledging and mourning the death of two Navy SEALs who were killed while conducting an interdiction operation in the -- in the Gulf of Aden -- trying to interdict munitions and weapons that we believe were heading from Iran to -- to the Houthis in Yemen. It's a -- underscores how dangerous the mission can be and the dangers that these -- these brave warriors are willing to face every day.
And I think, as we all go about our day, we ought to just take a moment to remember that a couple of families are -- just got the worst news possible. And it's important that they know that the President and the First Lady will stay solidly behind them and their families, make sure that they get all the support they need. And I know that the same sentiment has been expressed to them from the Defense Department and from the Navy Department.
With that, I'll take questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Trevor.
Q: Thanks, Karine. John, I just wanted to go back to the President's comments from last week about there being a number of types of two-state solutions and referencing the idea that a number of -- of U.N. members don't have their own military. Is it -- is it the President's current view that a Palestinian state that's demilitarized is the most viable outcome there?
MR. KIRBY: I won't get ahead of -- of where the -- where we are in the process of trying to achieve a two-state solution, Trevor.
It's the President's view that a two-state solution is the best path forward for people of Gaza, for the Palestinian people, as well as the Israeli people.
And as he said in those comments, there's a lot that can go into creating what that construct looks like. And, you know, when we say "two-state solution," what does it actually mean? And there's many different interpretations. There's lots of different ways you can get at that ultimate solution. And the President, as he has always done, kept an open mind about trying to pursue that.
Now, he's also under no illusions at how difficult it's going to be to get there, particularly with this conflict going on in Gaza.
So, we're going to keep the discussions going with our Israeli counterparts. We're going to keep talking about it with Mahmoud Abbas. We're going to keep talking about it with our counterparts in the region in the hopes that more progress can be made.
One significant milestone to help us get there is prot- -- is try to pursue normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which we still believe is possible. We were working on it very hard before the 7th of October; we're still working on it hard. And we've got, you know, positive feedback from -- from the partners in the region, including Saudi Arabia, about pursuing that. That could open up additional opportunities to try to get at a reasonable two-state construct.
Q: Is the reporting accurate that the President has flo- -- floated that idea in his last call with Bibi Netanyahu and that it's something that he's --
MR. KIRBY: Floated what idea?
Q: -- sympathetic to?
MR. KIRBY: What idea?
Q: A demilitarized Palestinian state.
MR. KIRBY: I won't get into the -- the specifics of the discussions that the President is having with the Prime Minister. I think he was very clear with all of you about how he views the ultimate path to a two-state solution and the need for some flexibility in how you describe what that looks like.
But, again, it's going to require leadership on all sides in the region as well. And it's going to require leadership there to also be willing to look at it the same way that the President is.
Q: Just one more thing. By my count, there is at least two different Israeli operations today that are taking place in Gaza, in hospitals. What is the current U.S. guidance to Israel about operations within hospitals where civilians are seeking care?
MR. KIRBY: We don't want to see hospitals as warzones. We don't want to see hospitals as battle- -- battlefields. They should be as protected as possible.
That said, we know that Hamas deliberately uses places like hospitals to store weapons, house their fighters, even, to some degree, for command and control. And so, that places a special need on the Israeli Defense Forces but also a special burden on how they approach any fighting in or around hospitals.
They have a right to defend themselves. They have a right to go after these leaders. They have a right to take away the ability for Hamas to -- to store and -- and resource themselves, even if that is in hospitals.
But, again, I would say the same thing that we've said before on this issue, that we -- we expect them to do so in accordance with international law and to protect innocent people in hospitals -- medical staff and patients as well -- as much as possible.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Seung Min.
Q: And just a quick follow on that question. Has the -- have the Israelis briefed the U.S. on their plans to protect those civ- -- civilians?
MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of specific military briefings about that.
Q: And does the U- --
MR. KIRBY: But we've been very clear about our expectations.
Q: And does the U.S. agree with a prominent Israeli War Cabinet member who said recently that the remaining hostages can only be released through a ceasefire?
MR. KIRBY: We believe -- well, I mean, look, we've seen the way -- the way we got those hundred hostages out was through a one -- a week-long humanitarian pause, stopping the -- a temporary stoppage in the -- in the fighting, because, obviously, at the very root of it, you can't -- you can't enact safe passage for hostages out of a danger zone if people are shooting at each other. So, you need a -- you need people to lay down their arms at least long enough to affect a hostage transfer.
And that one week got a hundred people out, and the fact that there was no fighting helped enable that. So, clearly, we still support pauses in the fighting to get hostages out.
We don't support a general ceasefire, which is usually put in place in the expectation that you're going to end a conflict, that it's going to lead to specific negotiations. That's -- that's no -- no change to our policy there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Weijia
Q: Thanks, Karine. Thank you, Kirby. So, on Friday, the President did make his view clear about a two-state solution, but he also suggested that Netanyahu was open to that view. So, did Netanyahu express to the President that, or why did the President think that?
MR. KIRBY: I -- I -- they had a -- they had a very constructive conversation. And I think I just need to leave it at that. Pri- -- the Prime Minister should speak to his comments, and I'm sure he has and he will. All I can tell you is where the President's head is: still believes in a two-state solution.
And as you heard him say himself, he believes that there -- that there's a way to it. He's optimistic that we can get there and that it could -- you know, obviously, any two-state solution is going to require some compromises.
Q: On Friday, when we asked you about it, you said, obviously we see things differently than Netanyahu, based on his public remarks. But the President interpreted those public remarks differently. He said, no, Netanyahu didn't say that he was opposed to a two-state solution. So, based on what Netanyahu has said publicly, how do you interpret whether he's open or not to a two-state solution?
MR. KIRBY: I would point you back to what the President said: They had a good conversation, including about the importance of a two-state solution. That doesn't mean that we agree on every component of what that can look like. That's why leadership is important here. That's why the President is not going to let go of this, and it's why we need leadership in the region on moving forward.
But, look, this is -- if this was easy, I mean, my goodness, we -- we'd have a -- we've had a two-state solution for years now. It's not easy. It's hard. It's really hard. And it requires a compromise. It's going to require negotiation. It's going to require sacrifices, again, on both sides.
The President understands that. He's not Pollyannaish about that. And that's why he's staying -- he's staying true to it.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Two things, if I can also ask about this. Over the weekend, we did see Netanyahu make rather explicit, again, his opposition to a two-state solution. Do you or does the administration not take that opposition at face value when Netanyahu is saying he does think this is irreconcilable with a Palestinian state?
MR. KIRBY: We can and have, and I'm sure we'll have very frank discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Cabinet about the future of -- of the Palestinian people and what Gaza looks like post-conflict. And, as I said earlier, that doesn't mean we're going to agree with everything.
I'll let the Prime Minister speak to his comments.
Q: I guess I'm just struggling to understand. It seems like the President supports a policy or this White House does, and then the Israeli Prime Minister is coming out in direct opposition to that policy. And I don't understand (inaudible) --
MR. KIRBY: Well, is the suggestion that we should then change our minds --
Q: I don't understand how the --
MR. KIRBY: -- and we should not --
Q: No, no, no --
MR. KIRBY: -- advocate for it anymore?
Q: -- it's just, how does the President think that he gets there? That's what I don't understand. Or is he thinking that he gets there without Netanyahu?
MR. KIRBY: Well, only the -- the Israeli people determine who their elected officials are going to be, not the United States. That's one.
Two, the President still believes -- and he's, again, not Pollyannaish. He knows this is going to be hard stuff. And it has been -- it has proven extraordinary elusive -- ext- -- to date. But he believes that it's in the best interest of our Israeli friends to have an independent Palestinian state.
Now, how that looks, what that looks like, whether they have a military or not, that -- those are discussions that -- that need to be had in the region and with leaders on both sides. But he still believes in the power and the promise of it, and he has for -- for many, many years.
So, we're going to keep at this. We're going to keep these discussions going.
It's also important to remember that Israel is in the middle of a hard-fought fight here with -- with Hamas, and we've got to make sure that they can continue to defend themselves.
Q: Can I ask you one unrelated question as well?
MR. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: On Friday, you were asked about a Palestinian American teenager --
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: -- who was killed in the West Bank. I think you were trying to get some additional information.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: Do you have additional information? I'm just curious how you all are interpreting that situation and if the administration has been in touch at all with his family.
MR. KIRBY: I -- I don't know about family communications. I'll come back to you on that one. That's a good question.
But we have been able to get some more information about this. Cert- -- certainly a tragic killing by all accounts that -- that we've been able to glean so far.
Our deepest condolences go to the family. I think he was 17 years old -- just a teenager. So, our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the family. And we call on Israel to conduct a full, thorough, transparent investigation into his killing. And, of course, we have every expectation that those -- that those responsible for it will be held properly accountable.
This kid is 17 years old.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead --
MR. KIRBY: Talk about another family that is going through some enormous grief right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, sir.
Q: After last week's meeting on Ukraine here at the White House, the Speaker of the House implied that President Biden did not particulate -- articulate a clear strategy for Ukraine. So, does the White House have one? And what, quoting Speaker Johnson, is the "endgame" for Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY: Look, I -- I can't -- I can't speak to what the -- the Speaker has heard or read or understood from the countless discussions that we've had with members of Congress about Ukraine and what we're trying to do here. It's -- it's been pretty transparent and pretty clear: We want Ukraine to win this war, as the President has said. We want a whole, prosperous, sovereign Ukraine. We want Ukraine's borders -- internationally established borders -- to be fully recognized by everybody, and that includes Mr. Putin. And we want to be able to continue to give Ukraine the support that it needs so that it can -- so that it can achieve those outcomes.
And we've been nothing but clear about that. I mean -- and with every package that's gone out to Ukraine, there has been a consultation with Congress. There's been a conversation. We've been very clear about this.
And we have talked to the Ukrainians throughout this last two years -- it's hard to believe we're coming up on two years -- meeting their needs along the way. We want to continue to do that.
Q: What do you make of Speaker Johnson's comments --repeated comments --
MR. KIRBY: The --
Q: -- that there's no strategy?
MR. KIRBY: The Speaker can own his comments, and he should -- he should be the one answering questions.
I can tell you, we have been nothing but clear and consistent with members of Congress since the beginning of the war about what we are doing to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield and what we're going to need to continue to do.
I mean, we can get caught up in all this -- the comments out here on the microphones, but the next couple of months are going to be critical for Ukraine. I mean, if you think that the fighting is just going to stop because the snow is falling, think again. The Russians continue to fire drones and missiles at Ukraine. And the -- and while the battlefront hasn't moved a lot on either side, there's still a lot of active fighting going on there.
And Ukrainian commanders, I believe, can be forgiven right now for having to make some pretty difficult decisions about what weapons they're going to expend, what shells they're going to fire, what missiles they're going to use, because they don't know when the next shipment is going to come. And that's a horrible place -- that's a horrible place to put the Ukrainian military in as the Russians certainly aren't suffering under that -- that same uncertainty, as they reach out to North Korea for ballistic missiles -- and, by the way, continue to fire them -- and drones from Iran and -- and producing on their own.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Sabrina.
Q: Thank you. My colleagues at the Wall Street Journal reported on a proposal by Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar for a post-war Gaza that would create a pathway toward a Palestinian state in exchange for a Saudi recognition of Israel. Is the U.S. aware of this proposal? Does the administration support it?
MR. KIRBY: I am not going to -- obviously, not going to try to negotiate here from the podium. So, certainly seen that reporting. All I can tell you is that we -- as -- even on the call with Prime Minister Sunak today, we continue to be in touch with our counterparts, our allies and partners, about trying to get those hostages out, trying to get the appropriate humanitarian pause in place so that we can do that and get additional aid in, as well as making sure that -- that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.
But I -- I won't -- I won't get into specific negotiations one way or another.
Q: And is there anything else that you can tell us about Brett McGurk's visit to the region, both in terms of the focus of his discussions and how, you know, the first day of talks has gone?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I don't have any readout from his first day of talks. He just got in the region. I'm sure we'll have more to say about it as he -- as he moves through this trip. As you know, he comes in and out of the region all the time. And I suspect that in all his discussions he'll be talking to a range of partners and counterparts on a range of issues to include, of course, the fighting in Gaza and our desire to -- to get those hostages out.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kelly O. We have to wrap it up soon because we have to gather soon.
Q: Does the U.S. have any concern that the positions of the Israeli government on two-state solution or the pace or intensity of the war have more to do with Benjamin Netanyahu's domestic position in term- -- as opposed to the long-term goals that the U.S. and allies would have that there is a focus on his own needs versus what might be -- what the U.S. believes is the right course?
MR. KIRBY: In all our discussions, Kelly, with the War Cabinet, we're -- we're not having them from a perspective of their domestic politics. And -- and I recognize the validity of the question, but we're not -- we're not focused on what their domestic political issues are. That would be -- that wouldn't be a sound place for us to have discussions with them about the war in Gaza. That's really for them to speak to that -- whatever pressures they might feel or might not feel from a domestic perspective.
What we want to make sure is that they know they're going to continue to get our support but that we also want to see reduction in civilian casualties, more humanitarian assistance going in, and, obviously, as I said earlier, get those hostages out.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Admiral, just a quick one on China. Over the weekend, the Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands was commenting on ASML's ban of further chip equipment to China. And he said it stretched -- "The U.S. has stretched its idea of security far too far, even the matters that have nothing to do with military risks" and that the U.S. is "putting pressure on their allies to do the same." I was wondering if you had any response to that.
MR. KIRBY: No, we talked about this coming out of the -- the G20. I mean, there is -- it's not just about the United States. Other countries share our concerns about certain export licenses of certain technology that can have a national security implication. And we made it very clear: We're trying to de-risk, not decouple.
And our decisions in terms of -- of these export licenses is really designed specifically to make sure that we can continue to protect U.S. national security. That's what we're focused on.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead --
MR. KIRBY: And these -- and these companies obviously have to make their own decisions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jon.
Q: Thanks a lot, Karine. John, it seems as if the administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu are on the same page as it relates to the hostages, and that is that you can't talk about having a cessation of hostilities in Gaza without a release of the hostages. Would you agree with that idea?
MR. KIRBY: You -- you -- we believe that it's important for -- in order to be able to get hostages out safely, you've got to have a pause in the fighting.
Q: And where do things stand as it relates to that? We're almost approaching February. The hostages were initially taken October the 7th of last year. Are there efforts underway?
There's various reporting, for instance, about efforts in Cairo, Egypt. Can you confirm those efforts?
MR. KIRBY: What I can confirm for you is that there are ongoing, serious, sober discussions with our partners and -- and our counterparts to try to get another hostage deal in place. I wish I could stand here, Jon, and tell you that, you know, I can announce it today or we're going to do it tomorrow. I can't do that.
But I can assure you that this is not something we've -- we've forgotten about. It's not something we haven't worked on every single day. And as I said earlier, you know, Brett is in the region, and I have no doubt that this will be a key part of his agenda while he's over there.
Q: Thanks, Admiral. There have been roughly 150 attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. Is the U.S. response working? Is the U.S. doing enough to protect its troops?
MR. KIRBY: We'll continue to do what we have to do to protect our troops and our facilities. We are certainly mindful of the -- of the danger. And -- and in these attacks over the weekend, now, a small number, but a number nonetheless, of -- of U.S. troops were being evaluated for traumatic brain injury. That's a -- that's a wound, and we take that seriously.
Q: And the Houthis, they aren't stopping their attacks. So, when the U.S. retaliates, how can that not be seen as escalatory? And how does this all end?
MR. KIRBY: If you're trying to -- look, if -- if you're -- if you're going to scrap with somebody, and you can find a way to tie one or both of their hands behind their back, that's not deescalating -- or that's not escalating, that's deescalating. That's taking ability away from the other party to -- to inflict harm.
And the strikes that we have conducted ashore in Yemen have degraded Houthi capabilities. As I've said earlier, it doesn't mean that they don't still have offensive capability available to them. Clearly, they do, because they continue to -- to use it.
And as the President said, as long as they continue to make that choice, we have a choice too. We have a choice to keep defending our ships and our sailors and merchant traffic. And we have a choice, when we have the information available to us, to preempt their ability to conduct those attacks. And we'll continue to do that.
Q: And there was a pretty stark statement from a senior Israeli official to ABC News saying that Israel is closer than ever to a war with Hezbollah and possibly a full regional war. Do you agree with that?
MR. KIRBY: Everything the President has done since October 7th -- everything -- has really been designed to -- to keep this conflict from escalating and -- and widening. And we're going to -- that's -- that's going to be our focus.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Toluse.
Q: I wanted to get your response to a comment from the EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell. He was meeting with other European Union foreign ministers in Brussels, and he said that the Israeli military operation is not working and that it is "seeding hate for generations" in Gaza. I wanted to get your response on what the White House thinks of that.
MR. KIRBY: The Israelis themselves have talked about the progress that they've made against Hamas leadership. We believe that going after leadership is a useful approach when you're -- when you're dealing with a terrorist network. It worked for us with al Qaeda; it worked for us with ISIS.
I'll let them speak to their progress. We've been very careful not to armchair quarterback this thing and throw in plays from the sideline. But -- but they have made some progress against the -- the network. They've made some progress against the network's ability to resource itself and the infrastructure -- particularly underground infrastructure -- that they continue to use. But as the Israelis have said themselves, that's going to be a fight that's going to take them some time.
So -- and as for the second part of that comment, I mean, look, every single -- every single life lost -- innocent life lost is a tragedy and should be mourned. And we have been very clear with our Israeli counterparts about the need to be more precise, more deliberate, more cautious. There have been too many civilians killed in this conflict. And we -- the right number -- the right number is zero. And we recognize that there could be long-term effects from that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: M.J. And then you have the last question.
Q: Thank you, John. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected Hamas's conditions to end the war in exchange for releasing all of the hostages. Does President Biden support that decision?
MR. KIRBY: The decision by?
Q: Prime Minister Netanyahu.
MR. KIRBY: Again, I'd let the Prime Minister speak to his -- his comments. We want to see all of the hostages home. And we want to see Israel not have to face a threat next door like the fa- -- like the one that they faced on the 7th of October.
Q: I'm just asking if the President supports this decision to reject a proposal that would have freed all of the hostages, including, of course, the six remaining Americans?
MR. KIRBY: I can't val- -- I can't validate that proposal itself. I'm not in a position to confirm that proposal. What I --
Q: Well, the Prime Minister has talked about it publicly.
MR. KIRBY: I understand that. I'm not in a position to confirm that.
What I can tell you is that the President supports Israel being able to defend itself. He supports getting all those hostages out. He supports, in order to do that, an additional humanitarian pause of some length that will allow those hostages to go to freedom safely and more aid to get in.
And, again, you need a pause in the fighting to be able to do that. We don't support, still today, some sort of general ceasefire.
Q: And just on the -- going back to the phone call between the President and the Prime Minister on Friday. We reported that the Prime Minister, in that phone call, had privately indicated that he was not ruling out the possibility of any Palestinian state in any form. Obviously, you're aware of what he has said in public over the last few days. My colleagues have referenced those statements. I guess I'm just wondering, as far as you're aware, is there any daylight between what the Prime Minister says in private versus in public on this matter.
MR. KIRBY: That's a question for the Prime Minister and his office.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question.
Q: So, if the U.S. aid is delayed further for Ukraine, is there a danger -- does the President worry that other European states might withdraw their support?
MR. KIRBY: I would say that the President is mindful that other nations are watching what we do. Obviously, Mr. Putin is watching what we do. And other nations not involved in this conflict are watching what we do -- I'm sure. I'm sure China is watching it too -- President Xi.
But our allies and our partners, yeah, they're watching closely what we end up doing here, because American leadership has been critical in supporting Ukraine. We have literally led the way, not only in the contributions but in the coordination of contributions of other nations to get stuff into Ukraine.
And so, yeah, I think it's entirely possible we -- we should expect that some of our allies and partners might have to make different decisions if -- if they see American leadership falter here or the United States pull back from supporting Ukraine. And that would have potentially disastrous consequences for Ukraine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Admiral.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah --
Q: Has the President had any conversations with any of these European states?
MR. KIRBY: Well, he just talked Prime Minister Sunak today, and one of the topics was Ukraine. So, yes, absolutely.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks. Thanks, Admiral.
Q: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Admiral.
All right. We don't have too much time. So, rapid fire, I guess.
Go ahead, Seung Min.
Q: Okay. First of all, does the White House see this week as sort of a make-or-break week when it comes to the border deal coming together and advancing in the Senate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we think this week is -- obviously, you heard from the President on Friday -- right? -- right before he -- right before he addressed -- or when he was addressing the mayors. So, this is -- I think the way to look at it is this is an urgent moment, an urgent time to get things done at the border, to make sure we move his national security supplemental forward.
And it's not -- obviously not just the border security. You just heard the Admiral talk about Ukraine. You just heard the Admiral talk about Israel. All of these requests in that supplemental is urgent, is important. That's why supplementals are for when you have an emergency request.
So, the border is important. We think that -- we've had said before, and I think you also heard a little bit from the President on Friday, that we think it's going in the right direction. We are very grateful and than- -- and very thankful to the senators -- to the senators, both Republicans and Democrats, who have been doing this for several weeks, several months now trying to get to a bipartisan agreement on the border.
And we want to see that happen. It is time. They have to act. And we need to move quickly.
Q: And there is a robocall circulating in New Hampshire that uses what appears to be fake audio of President Biden's voice. And acknowledging that's obviously a campaign issue and that the campaign itself has spoken to it, can you nonetheless talk about the concerns that the White House has about the President's likeness being used in this false manner?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you just stated, because I always have to say that at the -- at the top: It's a robocall for an upcoming election, 2024, obviously. So, I just want to be careful in that comment.
But that call was indeed fake and not recorded by the President. I can confirm that.
And so, I just want to be really careful since it doesn't -- it is a primary election. It is a campaign. Don't want to speak too much about that.
And, look, more broadly, as we talk about deep fakes, the President has been clear that there are risks associated with deep fakes. Fake images and misinformation can be exacerbated by emerging technologies. And that's why this President has directed the Department of Commerce through -- through the AI Safety Institute at NIST to help develop clear watermarking and content -- content standards. So, that's important.
But, again, to the -- your -- your question on -- on this robocall, that was not the President. That was fake, and it was certainly not recor- -- recorded by this President.
Q: Thank you, Karine. On Friday, President Biden said that he does not believe the border is secure, which is different from what Secretary Mayorkas has testified multiple times on the Hill. Why do they have two different views of the security of the border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President has been really clear, right? He has been clear that we need to move on the border. The border needs -- he needs resources to deal with the situation at the border. That's why they're having these conversation at the Senate -- on the Senate level. And that's why he's asking for mor- -- more resources.
And he wants to see additional resources but also changes to policy to address what we've been seeing at the border. So, him asking for it, him saying that we need to deal with the bor- -- border security -- as Mayorkas, as we all here have been doing at the White House -- I think shows that, yeah, we have -- there's an issue at the border, we need to deal with it, and we have to act now. There's an urgent need to act now.
We want to find a bipartisan agreement to deal with that. And so, we feel that meaningful change and additional resources are critical at this time.
Q: But it's Mayorkas who is tasked --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- with, you know, making sure those resources are applied. If he is saying something different than the President about whether it's secure or not, I guess I just have a hard time understanding why there is a disconnect here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I -- look, the President has repeatedly said that the sys- -- the immigration system is broken. He has said that on day one -- from day one when he put forward his first piece of legislation. His first big policy was to deal on the border. And it's been three years. We haven't seen any action. We're glad to see that there's conversation at the Senate.
But he has said -- he has said it is broken. The immigration system is broken. Border security, we need more resources. He's been very, very clear -- very clear at -- at -- about that.
And I think those are the actions that he's taken over the last three years. Those -- when you look at this bipartisan agreement, obviously -- those conversation, when it leads to the border security, has been about that. How can we see significant, meaningful -- meaningful policy changes and also funding -- adding funding to that to deal with what's happening at the border?
So, look, it's broken. The system is broken. The President has said this. That's why we have -- that's why, on the first day -- again, I'm just repeating myself here over and over again -- he put forward a comprehensive immigration policy to Congress to deal with that broken system that we -- that has been around for decades.
Q: I just had a very quick follow-up on the -- the robocall.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: You know, understanding that that may raise some -- some federal issues as well, is there going to be any kind of federal response in terms of national security, election integrity, law enforcement policy, anything like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have anything else to share beyond, you know, confirming that it was indeed a fake. It was not recorded by this President. Want to be also really, really careful because it's an ongoing -- obviously, an election year that we're in, 2024, so I don't want to get too far into it.
But I also just laid out why we have to be mindful. Right? There are going to be deep fakes. That's why the President has taken this very seriously over the last couple of years here in the administration.
So, I don't have anything to preview or to lay out on any response from the federal level. But I can certainly confirm that that was not the President. It is not the President's voice. He did not re- -- record that message.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's been a while. Hi.
Q: It has. Hello.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Where you been?
Q: Just preparing for this moment. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think I'm going to disappoint you really badly if you've been preparing all this time for this moment. It's not going be that exciting, I'm pretty sure. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, let's see.
Karine, why do you think it is that more and more people polled feel like, over time, President Biden is getting less and less mentally sharp?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which poll is this?
Q: ABC has President Biden's rating for health since May down five points and for mental sharpness down four points.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I have to say that's a little confusing for me, because if you look at what this President has done the last three years, historical pieces of legislation -- right? -- and when it comes to a bipartisan infrastructure deal, many presidents before, like your favorite president, had said that (inaudible) --
Q: Who's my favorite president?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Why don't you -- why don't we let the American people guess. But had said --
Q: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, no, no, no, no. Let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish. You asked me a question. I'm going to --
Q: I don't understand what you're --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no. Let me --
Q: -- what you're getting at.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish, and you'll -- you'll guess who I'm talking about. Who used to say, "Infrastructure Week." Infrastructure Week, which was a punchline, became a joke. And now we are seeing Infrastructure Decade because of this President.
There's the CHIPS and Science Act. Right? There is the Infla- -- Inflation Reduction Act.
These are legislation that is going to have a difference for generations to come. Right? And so, this is something that this President has done. That's pretty sharp for this President to have been able to do that.
Let's look at the economy. The economy -- now unemployment is under 4 percent. Fourteen million jobs created. The economy is in a better place than when it was when he walked in. That's just a fact. That's just the data.
And we're seeing consumer sentiment is going up. And we saw just in December how -- how people spent more, and we hadn't seen that in some time.
So, I think you needed a president like President Biden to get that type of stuff done. Someone who's had Senate experience, someone who was the VP -- Vice President under --under President Bi- -- Obama, obviously, and someone who has been a pretty effective president over the last three years.
Q: Okay. Following up on immigration. Authorities in Fairfax County, Virginia, ignored an ICE detainer. They released an illegal immigrant from Honduras who is charged with sexually assaulting a Virginia minor and production of sexual abuse material. Doesn't that go to show that as record numbers of people appear at the border, you guys have no idea what kind of people are coming into this country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just say, first of all, this is why the President is having negotiations with the Senate -- senators, Republicans and Democrats -- right? -- for the past couple of weeks to deal with what's going on with the border security -- right? -- as it re- -- as it relates to border security.
This is why the President, on day one, put forward a comprehensive immigration plan that -- that, more than three years now, Congress didn't do anything about.
But he's appreciative that we're having these conversation in the Senate.
We've de- -- we've deployed additional troops and federal agents to the border who have, by the way, returned more than 482,000 individuals since May. That's the -- that's what we've been able to do.
We've led the largest expansion of lawful pathways, and -- that we haven't seen in some time. The President continues to have diplomatic conversation with Mexico, who have actually taken -- taken actions to deal with the situation.
There's more work to do. There's more work to do. We understand that. We have said that. You've heard that from the President on Friday. We understand that there's more work to do. We need more resources. We need more funding, which is why we're having these negotiations in -- on the Hill.
But Republicans in the Senate is working with us; Republicans in the House are trying to get in the way. So, it's up to them. Are they going to help? Are they going to actually deal with an issue or continue to move forward on a political stunt?
Q: And as President Biden tries to make the national conversation more about reproductive rights, abortion, how many weeks into a pregnancy does he think abortion should still be legal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you've asked me this question before. I have been very clear. The President has been very clear. We want to see the protections in Roe -- we want to see Roe become the law of the land. That's what the President wants to see. That's what the President believes in.
And let me be very clear here: It's not some sort of shift that the President is making. Majority of Americans want to see their protections protected by their -- by -- by this -- by -- by the -- by the folks who are here in Washington, D.C., in Congress, by this President and the Vice President. That's -- the President is standing with majority of Americans.
We saw that in the 2023 midterm elections, and we saw that in 2022 -- not midterm election, but the 2023 election and 2022 midterm elections.
They've been very clear. We need to stand for freedoms, for -- make sure women have the right to make their own decision -- personal decisions on their body, on their healthcare. That's where a majority of Americans are.
Guess what? Republican officials, they're not there. They're not with majority of Americans. So, the President is going to continue to stand with the majority of Americans on this.
Go ahead, Brian.
Q: Thanks, Karine. The President on Friday said that he wants to see massive changes at the border. What kind of policy changes is he discussing and open to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I am not going to negotiate from here. I'm going to be very careful, very mindful. We want to see meaningful change -- meaningful change -- so that we can actually deal with a broken system. The immigration system is obviously broken, and we want to make sure that we have resources to deal with what we're seeing at the border.
And so, that's what they're talking about in the Senate with both Republicans and Democrats. I'm not going to negotiate from here. I'm going to let them have those conversations. I think that's important that they have the space to do that.
But the President wants to deliver meaningful change. And he is also very grateful to -- to those legislators continuing to have those conversations. We think it's headed in the right direction, but not going to get into specifics as to what those policy changes would look like.
Go ahead, right behind you. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you. Biden admitted Friday that the border isn't secure. Does he have any plans to visit the southern border before the election?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President was in -- visited the border recently.
Q: In January of 2023?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, yeah, that was -- that was a year ago. He's been there.
Q: In December of 2023, there were 300,000 migrant encounters, which is the highest month ever on record. How bad does the border crisis have to be for Biden to take a trip back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to reiterate what I just said seconds ago, the President has been to the border. He has visited the border. He saw for himself. He spoke to law enforcement. He saw exactly what goes on at the border. The President understands what's going on at the border, which is why he included in his national security supplemental -- right? -- which is, again, a request that is -- when you feel like there's an emergency, you make that supplemental request, which is what the President did.
It included border security. It included, obviously, Ukraine and Israel. And it is incredibly important, which is why he continues to push for it. And you're seeing those conversations happening in the Senate in a bipartisan way -- a bipartisan agreement, and the President is very thankful to that.
And so, I'm going to leave that there. He's taking this very seriously.
Remember, day one -- day one, he put forward an immigration -- a comprehensive immigration legislation.
Go ahead, Earle.
Q: Thank you, Karine. You made clear that the -- that call in New Hampshire was a fake with the President's voice, and that was discouraging people from coming out to vote. Does that mean that he would encourage people to go out and vote in New Hampshire, even though he's not on the ballot (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am not going to speak to an ongoing -- an ongoing election. I can't -- I can't from here. I'm a federal employee. I cannot speak to this.
Q: Even if he doesn't (inaudible) or he doesn't want to (inaudible) --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I cannot -- I can't -- you -- I would refer you to the campaign. I cannot speak to that from here.
Q: And then a quick follow-up from, I think, Friday. I know that the President, through his Chief of Staff, apologized to Asa Hutchinson, who is a defeated candidate. It -- does that -- I know that he wanted -- he didn't agree with those words in the DNC statement, but does he fear that the DNC has taken its eye off the ball as far as trying to win over disaffected Republicans with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to be very careful, because you are speaking -- you're -- you are asking me, essentially, about an upcoming election, an election year that we're in. So, I'm not going to speak to the DNC. I would refer you to the DNC themselves.
But I -- I reiterated that the statement that came out from the DNC, that I can speak on behalf of the President, that what he -- what was said and what was in that statement did not reflect this President.
I just don't have anything else to share beyond that.
Go ahead, Toluse.
Q: Thanks, Karine. Governor Whitmer was on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, and she talked about the abortion issue. And she said that it would be good for the President to talk more about it. And she also said that he should use more "blunt language." What's your reaction to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, in a -- in a few minutes, you're going to hear directly from this President. He's going to be meeting with his task force. It is the fourth time he'll be meeting with this task force. The President has made it very clear that women across the country should be making these personal -- deeply personal decisions about their own bodies, and not politicians.
He'll continue to stand for that. He'll continue to stand with overwhelming -- overwhelmingly majority of Americans. And -- and, you know, he believes and agrees that -- that reproductive freedom is a fundamental right. It is a fundamental right.
Within -- I believe, if my timing is right, within the hour after the decision was made by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, you heard from the President. He -- he spoke passionately about it. He spoke forcefully about what had just happened, freedoms being taken away.
And at the top, I talked about how 21 states now have -- have bans on abortion or some sort of restriction -- restrictive ban on abortion or restrictive -- restricting rights on that. And that affects 27 million women -- 27 million women.
So, you're going to hear from the President in very -- like I said, in a few short minutes, you'll hear from him, and he'll speak directly to this. And he's been very, very clear, he's going to stand with the majority of Americans on this.
Q: On another issue, the President is going to South Carolina on Saturday. He's going to spend the night. Do you have any more information about what he's going to be doing --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll have --
Q: -- especially on Sunday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I believe the campaign will have more to share on his trip to South Carolina. I don't have anything at this time.
All right. Okay. All right. Go ahead.
Q: Karine, you said to Peter that the President wants to see Roe restored. It's still not clear to me, though, if he supports the late-term abortion restrictions that were included in Roe.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- well, if it's in Roe, then that's what he wants to see. I'm just not going to get into it. It's -- whatever is in Roe, what Roe was when it was a constitutional law, that's what the President wants to see restored. He's been very clear about that.
Q: He also said he wants to be a president for all Americans. But how, in this situation, with this issue, does he best represent the pro-life Americans who want to see more unborn babies saved?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I will say is a majority of Americans -- a majority of Americans wants to see their rights protected, wants to see women have their rights protected, wants to be able to -- wants -- want women to be able to make those deeply, deeply personal decisions on their bodies on their own, and not politicians. That's what the majority of Americans want to see.
And so, the President is going to stand with the majority of Americans on this issue.
Q: And do those unborn babies have any rights, then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to get into that specific -- I'm not going to get into that question. I've been very, very clear about this -- where a majority of Americans stand, and that's what matters.
But the President wants to see Roe become the law of the land, and that's what he's going to continue to ask Congress to do.
Thanks, everybody. We'll see you tomorrow.
2:08 P.M. EST
Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein, 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/369363