Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard, and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby

October 26, 2023

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:33 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone.

Q: Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I wanted to start with a word about the horrific news out of Lewiston, Maine, last night, where we saw another tragic shooting that has taken at least 18 lives, injured many others, and left countless people in grief, shock, and trauma.

As the President said in a statement earlier today, he and the First Lady are praying for the victims and their families; for those still fighting for their lives; and for the families, survivors, and community members reeling from this latest act of gun violence.

And, importantly, we continue to urge all residents to heed the warnings and guidance of the local officials and federal law enforcement who are on the ground to assist with the response.

During the state dinner last night, the President was informed and stepped out to receive an initial briefing of the shooting. Later, he stepped out to speak with Maine Governor Janet Mills, as well as Senators Collins and King, and Congressman Jared Golden. He pledged full federal support in the wake of this horrific tragedy.

This morning, the President received another briefing on the shooting from senior advisors, and he ordered that the U.S. flag be flown half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds out of respect for all the victims as well.

So, I want to echo the President's sentiments on this strategy -- tragedy and the epidemic of gun violence in general. This is not normal. We cannot accept this. There have been literally hundreds of mass shootings in the last year alone, leaving empty seats at dinner tables across the county and leaving those who survive these heinous acts both physically and mentally scarred.

And while we have made progress since the President signed the Bipartisan Communities -- Safer Communities Act into law, ma- -- much more -- much more must be done. And the President has been clear that executive action alone is just not enough.

As the President -- as the Vice President, who oversees the newly established Office of Gun Violence and Prevention, stated during today's state luncheon -- I'm s- -- I know many of you watched very closely as well -- and she said, "It does not…" -- "It doesn't have to be this way, as our friends in Australia have demonstrated."

Again, it does not have to be this way.

It's within Congress's power to pass legislation that will make our streets safer, that will make our communities safer, that will make our schools safer.

The House has a new Speaker who -- who -- who he said -- he said he's ready to -- to get to work and to find common ground. Now is the time. Now is the time to find common ground.

Let's work together to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Let's work together to enact universal background checks, require safe storage of guns, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous individuals who have no business being armed with a weapon of war.

The President will continue to do everything in his power to protect the American people, to protect our communities, to protect our children. And we urge -- we urge congressional Republicans to come to the table -- to come to the table if there truly is common ground at this time.

With that, as you all know, I am joined today in the briefing room by the Director of the National Economic Council, Lael Bra- -- Brainard, to discuss the GDP report that you all saw this morning and any other recent economic -- economic news that's out there.

With that, Lael, welcome to the briefing room for the second time.

MS. BRAINARD: Well, we thought this might be a good moment to look back to this time last year and recall what the experts were saying about the U.S. economy. A year ago, the consensus view was that unemployment would need to go up to 4.5 percent and the economy would need to stall out in order to get inflation down to where it is today.

It turns out that was wrong, and you can see that here in the chart. U.S. growth has been much stronger than the naysayers believed, unemployment has remained below 4 percent this entire time, but inflation has actually fallen in line with that forecast.

In fact, today we learned that GDP grew by 4.9 percent in the third quarter, even as core PCE inflation on a quarterly basis fell to 2.4 percent -- its lowest level in nearly three years.

That strong economy is a testament to the resilience of American consumers and American workers, supported by President Biden's plan to grow the economy by growing the middle class. Consumer spending is robust as Americans have rejoined the labor force in record numbers and real wages are up over the last year.

President Biden vowed to build the economy from the middle out and bottom up, and that is what we're seeing in the data.

Last week's Survey of Consumer Finances showed that in -- Americans' median net worth is 37 percent higher than it was before the pandemic -- adjusted for inflation. That's the largest gain in the history of the survey. And the wealth gains were strongest for the bottom half of the income distribution and for Blacks and Hispanic families that have traditionally not seen as large gains.

Just yesterday, the UAW and Ford reached a historic tentative agreement that provides a record increase for auto workers and is a testament to the President's strategy to ensure a strong future for auto manufacturing here in America with good, union jobs. That's good news for American workers and good news for the future of the U.S. auto industry.

So, in the data in that agreement, we can see that the President's strategy is yielding real results even as we continue to work to bring costs down.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q: Thanks. So, I wanted -- so, the President celebrated the GDP report, saying that it's a testament to the resilience of the American consumer. But the report also showed that personal savings dropped by $360 million.

Do you have a message to Americans who are dipping into those savings to afford the inflation?

MS. BRAINARD: Well, again, as I said, what you are seeing is: Americans are back in the labor force in record numbers, much higher participation than was anticipated, and higher than pre-pandemic. So, they're at work, and that is showing up also in the wealth number.

So, if you actually look at American households' median wealth in inflation-adjusted terms, it's actually gone up since before the pandemic. So, I think the U.S. consumer, U.S. workers, they are absolutely the reason that we're seeing this resilience in the economy, and they are actually seeing increase in their wealth over this period.

Q: But what about a message to Americans who are dipping into savings to afford their lifestyle?

MS. BRAINARD: So, I think that, again, because net wealth is rising, because real incomes are rising, because Americans are working, that's exactly what we would want to see in the economy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.

Q: Are you no longer worried about a recession in the near term?

MS. BRAINARD: So, I think the data in recent months has all pointed in the same direction, which is that we are seeing strong ongoing growth with inflation coming down. We're seeing unemployment staying below 4 percent 20 months in a row now, with inflation coming down.

And so, those data, which have been sustained now for a relatively long period of time, suggest that there's ongoing resilience there.

We're seeing small-business formation at a record rate. There's a lot of dynamism in the economy that people are really taking notice of.

And you know that the President has a historic legislation that is leading to historically high amounts of construction in the manufacturing sector. It's really leveraging private sector investments.

So, for all those reasons, the ability to see the economy continue growing with inflation down -- strongest growth, lowest inflation among the G7.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jon.

Q: Thanks a lot. Since this GDP number was released, student loan repayments have begun for tens of millions of Americans. Is this a headwind that you see in the U.S. economy for Q4? What other headwinds do you see for the rest of the year?

MS. BRAINARD: Yeah, so, the consumer was very strong in the third quarter, and we believe that -- based on the strong job market, that we can continue to see resilience there. But the President has always said that he would like to see student debt relief go forward. He's continuing to look to find avenues to do that in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

We've already announced a number of programs that have led to large and significant relief for a large number of Americans. But he's going to continue working to make sure that the full amount of student debt relief is available over time.

Q: And then what other headwinds do you see for the fourth quarter?

MS. BRAINARD: So, right now, what we see going into the fourth quarter is continued ongoing investment on the basis of the clean energy tax credits and the CHIPS program, the infrastructure law. So, there should continue to be a lot of private sector interest. We certainly see it in the numbers -- $614 billion worth of private sector investment on the basis of those laws.

So, those things, I think, will continue to provide uplift for the global economy. Little -- there's some soft spots there, so perhaps a little headwind there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question. Go ahead, Karen.

Q: Thanks. To follow on the consumer spending side, do you expect the pace of consumer spending to ease in the coming months?

And a follow-up on that if I can.

MS. BRAINARD: You know, there is the possibility that from quarter to quarter you see some variation, so it's hard to know right now what retail spending and consumer spending more broadly is going to look like.

Again, consumers have good sources of income, real wages rising, strong employment, strong participation in the labor force. But from quarter to quarter, we could certainly see variations in the relative contribution of consumers relative to business investment, for instance.

Q: Okay, and how do you see the recent spike in borrowing costs affecting consumer spending?

MS. BRAINARD: So, certainly consumers and businesses are taking into account the cost of credit. And that is, I think, a headwind on the economy.

Despite that, we've seen really strong GDP -- 4.9 percent in the third quarter. And we think that's because there is strong support from the policy on the investment side of the economy, the President's historic legislation there, and his broader plan to grow the economy from the middle out.

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

MS. BRAINARD: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Lael. Thank you for coming back.

Okay, and we're moving on. Okay. Yes.

As you know, Admiral John Kirby is here to do -- I think you have something to share at the top, and also take any of your foreign policy questions.


MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.

Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start -- I've got a couple of things I want to get through. Let me start with the -- the Middle East.

The President continues to be routinely updated by the national security team on the situation there. Obviously continuing to support -- we are continuing to support Israel's military. Security assistance continues to flow to them as needed, almost on a daily basis. And obviously, we're still laser-focused on the humanitarian assistance situation, making sure that more food, water, medicine can get in.

Since the 21st of this month, some 74 trucks have now gotten in, 12 over just the last 24 hours. Not enough. More needs to go. And we're working with partners on the ground to see if we can accelerate and increase the flow of humanitarian assistance in.

So, again, it's a -- it remains a high focus for him and for the national security team.

I do want to, if -- if you'll allow me to, just to take a couple of minutes to update you on the battlefield situation in Ukraine.

As we have said publicly, Russia has launched a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine across multiple lines, including around Avdiivka, Lyman, and Kupiansk.

Now, I spoke about this in a gaggle recently, but this offensive was not a surprise. We've been watching this build and come. And we've warned that President Putin still aims to conquer Ukraine, and we've been working to ensure that Ukraine has the equipment it needs to defend its territory.

Just today, you may have noticed, we la- -- announced another package of security assistance, which includes air defense capabilities, Javelin anti-tank missiles, more artillery ammunition, and more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, otherwise known as HIMARS.

Thus far, using all these capabilities, the Ukrainians have been able to hold on and hold the -- on the defense against this offensive, successfully repelling Russian tank columns that have been advancing on a Avdiivka.

Since the 11th of October, Russia has suffered significant losses in this offensive attempt of theirs, including at least 125 armored vehicles around Avdiivka and more than a battalion's worth of equipment.

We expect more Russian attacks to come. This is a dynamic conflict, and we need to remember that Russia still maintains some offensive capability and may be able to achieve some tactical gains in the coming months.

The pur- -- to pursue that outcome in Avdiivka and elsewhere on the battlefield, Russia continues to show no regard for the lives of its soldiers.

We believe they have suffered thousands of casualties in their effort to conduct this offensive, some of them on the orders of their own leaders.

We have information that the Russian military has been actually executing soldiers who refuse to follow orders. We also have information that Russian commanders are threatening to execute entire units if they seek to retreat from Ukrainian artillery fire.

Russia's mobilized forces remain undertrained, underequipped, and unprepared for combat. As was the case during their failed winter offensive last year, Russian military appears to be using what we would call "human wave tactics" -- just throwing masses of these poorly trained soldiers right into the fight, no proper equipment, no leadership, no resourcing, no support.

It is unsurprising that Russian forces are suffering from poor morale given all these conditions.

Russia's re- -- renewed attempt at an offensive is a sobering reminder that President Putin is not giving up on his aspirations to take all of Ukraine. And as long as Russia continues its brutal assault, we have to continue to support the Ukrainian people in their self-defense, because his intentions are clear. You heard the President talk about this last week.

He basically said that if Western weapons to Ukraine stopped, Ukraine would have a week to live. So, to ensure that we can continue to do that, it's critical that Congress step up and pass the supplemental request that the President put forward last week, which included a significant amount of resources for Ukraine for their self-defenses, for their humanitarian and economic needs.

It's time now to move forward with that supplemental funding, because time clearly is not on our side or on -- or on that of Ukraine going forward.

So, with that, I'll take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: The President, yesterday, John, said he has "no confidence" in the death toll numbers presented by the Palestinians in Gaza. What's he basing that on? How did he reach this conclusion?

MR. KIRBY: Well, we all know that the Gazan Ministry of Health is just a front for Hamas. It's a -- it's run by Hamas, a terrorist organization. I've said it myself up here: We can't take anything coming out of Hamas, including the so-called Ministry of Health, at face value.

Q: Okay. And then, secondly, the President is talking more about a humanitarian pause and reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. What's prompting this -- this tone shift?

MR. KIRBY: So, two thoughts here, Steve. For one, the President has never backed away or never stopped affirming the need for a two-state solution. Since coming into office, we've been working on that very hard.

And I know it's a lofty goal, and it's taken a lot of people a long time to try to get there, and we haven't gotten there. But he's not stopped working towards that goal. And he still believes, as he said yesterday, that when this conflict is over, that still has to be the goal we're driving to: a state for Palestinians that they can live in peace and security and justice.

That is a strategic long-term goal. In a tactical sense, as Secretary Blinken said, we do think that there should be consideration made right now for humanitarian pauses. These are localized, temporary, specific pauses on the battlefield so that humanitarian assistance can get in to people that need it or they, the people, can get out of that area in -- in relative safety. That's what a humanitarian pause is, and we think it's an idea worth exploring.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.

Q: Just to follow up on the first thing that Steve asked you, quickly, about the President's lack of confidence in the numbers that we're getting out of Gaza right now. As you noted, the Gaza Health Ministry is run by Hamas. But to be clear, the President and the White House -- you don't dispute that thousands of Palestinians, many of them innocent civilians, have been killed by Israeli strikes so far, do you?

MR. KIRBY: Of course not. We -- we absolutely know that the death toll continues to rise in Gaza. Of course, we know that. But what we're saying is that we shouldn't rely on numbers put forth by Hamas and the Ministry of Health.

Q: So, they say it's more than 7,000. Is there any way to assess how many it is? Are you sug- -- I mean, the President said -- it was pretty dramatic moment when he said, "Yeah, we don't have any confidence in that."

We respect that you can't und- -- you can't take Hamas at its word, but it does appear, by all independent journalism, including that by a lot of people in the room, that thousands of Palestinians have been killed. Would you agree?

MR. KIRBY: We would no -- we would not dispute that.

Q: Okay. Then let me ask you, if I can, very quickly, is the White House satisfied that Israel, to this point, has obeyed the laws of war, the rules of war, as the President has indicated? And is Israel, in the White House's view, doing enough to this point to protect innocent lives?

MR. KIRBY: Again, we're not going to react in real time to events unfolding on the battlefield and every allegation and every -- every strike. We're just not going to do that --

Q: But that means it's not until the war is completed that you guys could have an assessment of whether --

MR. KIRBY: I didn't say that either.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY: I just said we're not going to react in real time here, Peter. We have been in constant touch with our Israeli counterparts since the very early hours of this conflict to make sure we're asking them the hard questions that they -- we want them to ask themselves and to reiterate -- as the President said yesterday, to rei- -- reiterate that -- that there is a -- there is an added burden here on Israel to make sure that they are doing everything they can to minimize civilian casualties. And we're in constant communication with them about that.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Patsy.

Q: Thanks, Karine. John, to follow up on my colleagues' questions, does the President have faith in the numbers released by the West Bank Ministry of Health, which is run by Palestinian authorities, that says there's been more than 100 West Bank Palestinians killed by what the President called "extremist settlers"?

MR. KIRBY: I know of no dispute with the rough numbers coming out of there, either. We know that there -- there's still -- there's been quite a bit of violence in the West Bank as well. Obviously, the casualties are nowhere near the -- the numbers that we're seeing coming out of Gaza.

Q: Okay. Can I just follow up on the meeting between Jake Sullivan and Wang Yi tomorrow? What are the expectations? Will the President join the meeting? What are the key focus? And what kind of role can the U.S. expect from China on the war in Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: That wasn't one more question. (Laughter.) That was like seven more questions.

Mr. Sullivan is looking forward to this discussion with Wang Yi. I think you know he's going to be starting out with meeting Secretary Blinken later this afternoon and then tomorrow with Jake here at the White House. And it's a chance to continue the conversation that Jake himself has had with our PRC counterparts now for many, many months. It's another -- it's another milestone in that effort to keep the lines of communication open with the PRC.

Now, it'll be an opportunity for Mr. Sullivan to, obviously, address areas of concern that we continue to have with some of -- some of the PRC behavior, particularly in the South China Sea. But it will also be an opportunity to explore ways in which we can continue to keep these channels open and to try to get open the military-to-military channel of communication, which -- which is still closed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead --

Q: A follow-up on the Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: I'm sorry?

Q: China's role in the conflict in --

MR. KIRBY: Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah, I have no doubt that part of this discussion on the agenda will be what's going on in the Middle East and getting the Chinese perspective and -- and certainly looking for ways to encourage them to be -- to be helpful.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.

Q: Thank you, Karine. John, the Florida governor says that the state is sending weapons and drones to Israel at the request of the consulate in Miami. Have you been coordinating with the Florida government on this? And can states just send weapons and other material to foreign -- foreign states?

MR. KIRBY: I would certainly let the governor speak to what Florida is doing. It is not illegal for the governor of a state to offer a measure of foreign assistance to another country. There are -- there are laws and regulations which govern how the export process is handled, and that's all done through Commerce.

I couldn't speak with authority today about whether the governor is -- has checked all those boxes or not. You really should tal- -- talk to him and his staff.

But it's not illegal for a state governor to do that kind of thing.

Q: And just one quick follow-up on all of the questions regarding the death toll coming out of the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. Do you have any sense -- you acknowledge that thousands have died in Gaza. Do you have any sense of the percentage of those that are Hamas militants versus civilians?

MR. KIRBY: I do not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Admiral. More than 30 U.S. service members have been killed in attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. Will the U.S. respond militarily? And is the U.S. prepared to lead another war in the Middle East?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know -- I don't think -- did you say 30 have been killed? I don't --

Q: It was 30 -- I'm sorry -- have been injured. Have been injured.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I'll let the Pentagon speak to the -- the number of injuries that they've had.

My understanding is that -- that almost all the troops that have been injured are back on duty and -- and that there are some that have suffered what we call a traumatic brain injury. That's from con- -- the concussive effect when these rockets land close by. And -- and sometimes it takes a while for those symptoms to manifest themselves. So, the numbers -- again, I'd refer you to the Pentagon, because I suspect they could change over time.

As the President said yesterday, we've got troops in Iraq and Syria that are there on a very important mission: going after ISIS -- still a viable mission, because it's still a group that poses a threat. And they have in the past come under attack by some of these militia groups. And you might recall back in March, we responded and retaliated pretty aggressively.

And as the President also said, we're going to do what we have to do to protect those troops and our facilities. Now what we decide to do -- as Commander-in-Chief, that's his decision to make, and he'll make it in a time and a manner of his own choosing.

Q: And the U.S. and Israel have said that Hamas is using Palestinians as human shields. Is it acceptable that Israelis are attacking places even though they know that civilians would likely be killed? And are these strikes strategic or targeted enough?

MR. KIRBY: I will let the Israeli Defense Forces speak to their operations and their targeting procedures. We're not involved in that.

They have a right and a responsibility to go after Hamas after what happened on October 7th. And we've said, as I just mentioned to Peter, we've obviously had conversations with them about -- and the President said yesterday, the need to be -- to be careful about causing civilian casualties and to -- and to be targeting Hamas leaders in a way that minimizes risk to civilians and to collateral damage.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: You mentioned the idea of a humanitarian pause a little earlier. Did the President raise that with Netanyahu when they spoke yesterday?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I won't go beyond the readout.

Q: When -- when we talk about a humanitarian pause, can you fill out a little bit more of what the U.S. believes that would look like? How long would that last? Would it be like a cessation of the bombing? Would it be a -- a halt in some of the cross-border incursions? We saw some of that yesterday -- or, I guess, earlier today. Would it be just --

MR. KIRBY: Halting the cross-border incursions?

Q: Well, would -- the Israelis sent tanks over the border very briefly yesterday. So would it -- would it be a halt in that? A halt in the bombing? What exactly would it look like and how long would it last?

MR. KIRBY: Not going to be a satisfying answer to you, but it is -- the answer is: It depends.

A humanitarian pause is, by definition -- like I said -- a temporary and local agreement to stop the fighting long enough to do some discrete task.

In this case, it would be to get humanitarian assistance in and/or to allow people to get out because Hamas is not -- they're not encouraging and, in some cases, not allowing people to leave their homes.

So, it could be -- I mean, Kevin, it could be a matter of hours, could be a matter of days. I mean, it is by definition of short duration and of, geographically, sort of, a localized area.

Now, it could also be more than one spot. Right? I mean, it -- that's what I mean, it depends.

But we think it's a valuable idea that's worth looking at to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Gaza.

Q: And did you have any response or reaction to senior leaders of Hamas visiting Moscow today?

MR. KIRBY: I can't speak for their travel habits or -- or for their conversations with -- with the Russians.

Our message to any other nation around the world is: This is not a time to be sumor- -- supporting Hamas's ability to continue to kill Israeli -- Israelis, and it's certainly not a time -- you know, or any -- any nation out there that wants to be involved should look for ways to be involved to help Israel defend itself and to help get humanitarian assistance in. So, we'll see what comes of the conversation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Two quick things. Was there any coordination by the Florida governor with the White House on sending munitions over to Israel?

MR. KIRBY: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Okay. And then second, can you elaborate a little bit on the execution of Russian soldiers? How long has it been going on? Do you have any idea how many people? And why? I mean, it seems kind of -- I don't know, they're getting rid of their own soldiers, you know?

MR. KIRBY: It's -- I'm not qualified to answer that last question.

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: I mean, it's reprehensible to think about the that -- that you would -- that you would execute your own soldiers because they didn't want to follow orders. And -- and now threatening to execute entire units. It's barbaric.

But I think it's a symptom of -- of how poorly Russia's military leaders know they're doing and how bad they have handled this from a military perspective.

From the very beginning we've been talking about poor command and control, poor logistics and sustainment. They can't feed their guys in the field for crying out loud.

And now, again, they're -- they're willing to shoot them for following orders -- for not following orders.

It also speaks to the desperation in the manpower crunch. And I got asked this question a day or so ago, by the -- (reporters sneezes) -- Russia obviously -- bless you. Russia obviously has a bigger military than Ukraine, and they have access to more manpower to man it, but they are -- they are in such desperate need to make some kind of progress -- particularly in the Donbas, the Donetsk area -- that they are literally throwing young men into the fight who haven't been properly trained, haven't been properly equipped, and certainly are not being properly led.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q: Thank you, Karine. John, the President said that if Iran or its proxies attacked U.S. troops that we would respond. So, what is he waiting for exactly?

MR. KIRBY: He did say that.

Q: Where is the response?

MR. KIRBY: He said that. And he said that we will --

Q: So, repeating the warning is the response?

MR. KIRBY: Jacqui, come on now.

Q: It's an honest question.

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to telegraph punches here from the podium. We have responded and retaliated in the past -- quite aggressively, in fact, back in March. And as the President said: We will not hesitate to protect our troops and our facilities, but we're going to do it at a time of our choosing in a manner of our choosing.

And the decision to do it, if we do it, is his as Commander-in-Chief and his alone.

Q: You said that he issued a warning to the Ayatollah this morning. He talked about it yesterday. How was that warning delivered?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into that.

Q: Can you say if there was a phone call or if there was a third party? Was there a message that was relayed after U.S. troops were injured?

MR. KIRBY: There was a direct message relayed. That's as far as I'm going to go.

Q: And then why were the injuries not disclosed until Tuesday?

MR. KIRBY: I'd have to refer you to the Pentagon on that.

Q: And can you also say why the U.S. approved a visa for Iran's foreign minister, who is in New York this week? The Wall Street Journal reported that he partook in at least two planning meetings in Lebanon with Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, and Hamas leading up to the October 7th attack.

MR. KIRBY: The Secretary-General called a meeting at the foreign ministerial level. He's the foreign minister of Iran. We are the host of the U.N. We take that responsibility seriously.

Do we particularly like the fact that he's on U.S. soil? No.

But unlike a lot of other countries around the world, we take those responsibilities, those rules seriously. And so, we allowed him to come in to attend these meetings.

And we hope -- quite frankly, we're certainly going to take advantage of the opportunity -- we hope others at the U.N. take advantage of the opportunity -- to ask tough questions of him and what his country is doing to support these militia groups and what his country is doing to support Hamas and Hezbollah.

This is an opportunity for world leaders who are up -- up there in New York to -- to make their perspectives and their concerns known directly to the Iranian foreign minister.

Q: And there's a Pentagon official, Ariane Tabatabai -- I believe I'm saying her last name correctly -- she was alleged to be involved in an Iranian government influence operation. There was some discussion about whether she should keep her security clearance. She did. But she's now the Chief of Staff for the office that's overseeing hostage negotiations. Is it appropriate for someone with these connections to the Iranian regime to be overseeing rescue operations for Americans that are being held by Iran-backed proxies?

MR. KIRBY: I'd have to refer you to the Defense Department to speak to that, Jacqui.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jenny.

Q: Follow on --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jenny.

Q: Hey, Kirby. Thanks. Back on the Wang Yi meeting. You said that you would encourage China to be helpful in the Middle East. Can you elaborate on what you would like to see out of it? Do you want them to condemn --

MR. KIRBY: Well, we --

Q: -- Hamas? Do you want them to use their influence with Tehran behind the scenes?

And then separately, you have also called out Beijing in the past for providing support for Putin's war effort in Ukraine. What's your current assessment on whether that support is ongoing, whether that's reaching the level of a red line? You sort of didn't want to get into it, but it was non-lethal aid that was provided a couple of months ago. So where does that stand now? Obviously, Putin went to China a couple of weeks ago, so their alliance seems to be strong.

MR. KIRBY: We still haven't seen any indication that China is willing to provide lethal capabilities to the Russian military. We just haven't -- haven't seen that.

And as for them being helpful, they do have -- they are able to have conversations in some places like Tehran that -- that -- that we aren't.

So, we'll see -- we'll see what Mr. -- you know, what Wang Yi says when he when he gets here tomorrow and -- or this afternoon. But the -- but there's -- you know, if -- I think it would be irresponsible if we didn't try to explore this issue with them and see what their thoughts and perspectives are.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Franco.

Q: Thanks, John. Back to the numbers. Aid groups, including the United Nations, that are working in Gaza cite those numbers of the Health Ministry. Are they wrong to do that?

MR. KIRBY: They can make their own decisions about what numbers they want to cite. We're not going to cite them.

Q: The State Department is also using these numbers internally.

Q: I --

Q: Sorry.

Q: I was going to actually mention that. Thank you, Raquel. (Laughter.) I mean, the State Department has cited those numbers.

MR. KIRBY: Has cited them in the past. But what we've seen --

Q: And is the admin- -- is the administration's position that it now -- Hamas is now manipulating the numbers now but not before?

MR. KIRBY: Well, do you remember that attack on the hospital? And what did the Gaza Ministry of Health put out? Something like 500? They slapped the number of 500 on it, you know, within the hour of -- of that attack. And, of course, they -- the same ministry of health said it was an Israeli airstrike, so we know that's not true.

And we've now since found out that the numbers aren't that high, either. They never got up to 500.

Now, it was a -- it was at least a couple of hundred, and that's terrible. And that's atrocious. And that's sad. And we all obviously grieve with the families and loved ones who are affected by that.

But the numbers are not reliable. They're just not reliable.

And I don't need to tell you how to do your jobs, but if you're going to report casualty figures out of Gaza, I would frankly recommend you don't choose numbers put out by an organization that's run by a terrorist organization.

Q: So, what's the number now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead, Raquel.

Q: Okay, thank you so much, Karine and John. So, besides saying that he doesn't have confidence in these numbers, the President went further to say that innocents will die and that this is the price of the war. You also said that.

MR. KIRBY: I have indeed.

Q: Yeah. Don't you think this is insensitive? There have been very harsh criticism about it. For example, the Council of American-Islamic Relations said it was deeply disturbed and called on the President to apologize.

Would the President apologize?


Q: And does he regret saying something --


Q: -- like that?

MR. KIRBY: What's harsh --

Q: Okay. (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY: What's harsh is the way Hamas is using people as human shields. What's harsh is taking a couple of hundred hostages and leaving families anxious, waiting, and worrying to figure out where their loved ones are. What's harsh is dropping in on a music festival and slaughtering a bunch of young people just trying to enjoy an afternoon. I can go on and on. That's what's harsh. That is what's harsh.

And being honest about the fact that there have been civilian casualties and that there likely will be more is being honest, because that's what war is. It's brutal. It's ugly. It's messy. I've said that before. The President also said that yesterday. Doesn't mean we have to like it, and it doesn't mean that we're dismissing any one of those casualties. Each and every one is a tragedy in its own right, and each and every one we should try to prevent.

And that is why we're in close contact with our Israeli counterparts to do everything we can to help them minimize the risk to civilians that are in harm's way. It would be helpful if Hamas would let them leave -- leave their homes, leave the -- leave areas, not shelter in tunnels underneath their houses and in hospitals. And let them get out -- let them get out of Gaza if they want to leave. We know that there are thousands waiting to leave Gaza writ large. And Hamas is preventing them from doing it. That is what is harsh.

Q: Just another question if I may. Because the Israel -- Israel (inaudible) has a dispute now with the U.N. Secretary-General. I would like to know, what is the White House position on that? Because also, he revoked -- he is revoking visas from a U.N. representative in the middle of the war. So, what is the position of this administration on Israel --

MR. KIRBY: I'm sorry. Can you repeat the first part of that? I missed it.

Q: Yeah, Israel disputed with -- with Guterres, the U.N. General-Secretary.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: What is the position --

MR. KIRBY: Oh, you mean his comments?

Q: Yes, exactly. And then he's revoking visa right now from a U.N. representative in a time of war. What do you think about that?

MR. KIRBY: We'll let the Secretary-General speak for himself and speak for his words. I think President Biden has spoken repeatedly and consistently about where we are, including yesterday out there in the Rose Garden. And I'd leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Andrew.

Q: Can you be more specific about how soon U.S. funding for Israel might lapse if Congress doesn't take action? I know you said it's difficult to estimate. But are we talking days, weeks, months? I mean --

MR. KIRBY: It's difficult to know, because it's driven by the pace of operations and the security assistance that's flowing and their expenditure rate. I'd say the same thing about Ukraine.

I just know that time is not on our side. The runway is getting shorter with every passing week. We need this supplemental funding.

Q: And just briefly, as you know, my colleague Evan Gershkovich turned 32 in prison today. Any update on his case? And is there any concern that the focus on American hostages in Gaza could distract from efforts to release him?

MR. KIRBY: There's not going to be any distraction about our efforts to get Evan or Paul home. I should say Evan and Paul home. That work continues.

I wish I had an update for you. I don't except to say that the team is -- is - has not stopped working on both of them and trying to get them out. But we just don't have a -- we don't have a negotiation to speak to and no progress to make.

But -- but it is very much an active effort. And, again, we -- our thoughts continue to be with -- with both families.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, in the back.

Q: Admiral, as you know, an Al Jazeera journalist, Wael Al-Dahdouh's family was killed by an Israeli airstrike yesterday. His family was told to take refuge at a camp where they'd be safe. And it happened while our bureau chief was reporting live on air. This is coming as reports are emerging that the Secretary of State also told Al Jazeera to tone down its coverage of the war in Gaza.

Does the President believe that targeting Al Jazeera journalists and their families should end?

MR. KIRBY: The President doesn't believe that targeting journalists at all, in any way, is appropriate. But I can't speak to the specifics of that case. I -- I've seen the reporting, and certainly our -- our thoughts and prayers go out to -- to his family. I mean, that's --- that's just horrible. But I can't speak to the circumstances in which that strike occurred.

But make no mistake, the President believes strongly in what you all do for a living and how you need to be able to do that freely and securely. And we know that you take -- all of you take great risks sometimes in doing that job.

Q: But I'm talking about Al Jazeera journalists specifically in light of the reports that Secretary Blinken approached the Qatari government asking us to tone down our coverage.

MR. KIRBY: You're -- so, you're asking me in the context of like -- that we have -- that we have some kind of beef with Al Jazeera?

Q: Yes.

MR. KIRBY: I -- I'll let the Secretary and their -- and their staff speak to -- to his conversations in the -- in the region. I won't do that.

We recognize Al Jazeera as a -- as a valuable voice and a -- and an outlet that has incredible reach in the region and beyond. I don't need to tell you that. It's truly a global network, and we value the work that you do.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, just a --

Q: And one quick question just because this -- the Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least 24 journalists have been killed in Gaza trying to cover the story. Are you concerned that Israel is trying to silence journalists who are trying to tell both sides of the story, including our Al Jazeera Arabic bureau chief (inaudible) --

MR. KIRBY: I've not seen any indication whatsoever that Israel was going after journalists, you know, in particular, because of them trying to tell the story. I've seen absolutely zero evidence of that. I -- that is -- that's an unfounded allegation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: Thanks. Admiral, do you have any update at all on the progress of the attempts to have hostages freed?

MR. KIRBY: Nothing that I can speak to today. No.

Q: And the President said yesterday that if there -- he has conveyed to -- to the Prime Minister that if there is any way to buy some time to free these hostages that, you know, there should be a humanitarian pause. But if there is no progress, how long should that pause last?

MR. KIRBY: It should last as -- as long as we need it to last to get the hostages out. But to Kevin's question, I mean, a pause is by definition temporary and perhaps localized. Again, you're -- we can't assume that all these hostages are in the same place or in the same sets of conditions.

And while I don't have anything to specifically report out to you today, I can promise you, to your question of no progress, I can tell -- I can tell you that we're working on it very hard with our partners in the region. We want to see all those hostages released.

Q: Right. I guess what I'm saying is: Does Hamas need to show some effort to release more of these hostages in order to justify a humanitarian pause?

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, that gets into negotiating tactics, and I'm not going to do that. I mean, it would be foolhardy for me and dangerous if we started negotiating here in public in the briefing room about how those hostages can -- how we can work to get them out. We -- we need to keep that in private diplomatic channels.

But the work is ongoing and aggressively so.

Q: And Hamas recently said that 50 of the hostages have been killed in Israeli bombing raids since the conflict began. You talked a lot about the fact that the U.S. doesn't trust the numbers that are coming from Hamas. But do you have any way to independently verify whether that figure is correct or not?


MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Danny.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Thank you, Admiral. On the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister -- sorry, if I missed it, but did you say if we can expect the President to drop by on that meeting tomorrow?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything on the President's calendar speak to.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead, Jake.

Q: Thank you, Karine. And thank you, Admiral. I just want to start off by saying, anyone who's got beef with Kimberly is going to have to deal with me first. So --

MR. KIRBY: I'm sorry?

Q: Anyone who's got beef with Kimberly is going to have to go through me -- through me first.

Q: Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Okay.

Q: That's why I'm in the ro- -- row ahead of you.

MR. KIRBY: I consider myself fair warned then. (Laughter.)

Q: Yeah. I've got one question and one follow-up regarding the two-state solution. What is the President's vision for what that would actually look like? And are there any preconditions or contingencies that would be in place?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, we're just -- we're not there yet. I mean, obviously, the idea of a two-state solution is not a new idea. And it's one that President Biden has believed in for a very, very long time, through all his foreign policy experience.

Getting there has proven difficult. I don't need to tell you that. And, obviously, it's going to remain a difficult task. But what we hope is that it's not illusory, that -- that it's not impossible.

But what that could actually look like once we can get folks to the table, I mean, all of that would have to -- that -- that will come -- that will come in the future. I couldn't possibly begin to describe exactly what the parameters would -- would look like right now.

Q: Okay, so there's a Gallup Poll that came out about a month ago that's -- that shows 72 percent of Palestinians are against a two-state solution -- the highest it's been since they started polling this question, I believe. And, furthermore, they -- they showed 84 percent don't have confidence in this current administration's ability to bring about a peace agreement. How do you work with those kind of numbers?

MR. KIRBY: We just keep working towards the goal. I mean, recognize that there's different opinions out there, but -- but we don't enact policy, we don't pursue the -- the potential and the promise for peace and security in the Middle East based on opinion polls.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question, Lalit.

Q: Thank you. Why did the President believes that recently announced India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (inaudible) some players in the Middle East?

MR. KIRBY: Say it again?

Q: The President has said over the last week twice -- that --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: -- this is an instinct that the IMEC Corridor announced at the G20 Summit may have precipitated Hamas terrorist attack against Israel. So, my question is --

MR. KIRBY: I think you misunderstood him. What he said was that he believed that the normalization process and the agreement that we were trying to reach between Israel and Saudi Arabia for normalization, which we believe is an important stepping stone to getting to a two-state solution, was what may have motivated Hamas to -- to conduct those attacks.

I think you misunderstood what he actually said.

Q: I have one more question on --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you --

Q: Can ask one more question?

MR. KIRBY: That's up to Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. (Laughs.)

MR. KIRBY: Karine says yes. (Laughter.)

Q: Has Canada shared with you any evidence of its allegations against India?

MR. KIRBY: I won't talk about intelligence matters one way or the other, certainly not from here.

Thank you, everybody.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral.

Q: Thanks, John.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, ma'am.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much.

Q: Thank you, John.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right. Colleen, good to see you.

Q: You, too. Has the new Speaker been invited to the White House? And is the President concerned about working with the new Speaker given his track record on -- on gun control, on abortion, on the 2020 election?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple things. So, upon the Speaker's elect- -- election, we invited him today -- it's actually happening right now -- to a bipartisan briefing with leadership and relevant committee chairs and ranking members and -- on the President's supplemental natio- -- national security, obviously, package. And so, that's happening right now. I think it's still happening. And so, the Speaker is -- is here, and he did join -- join that briefing.

And -- oh, and the other questions. (Laughs.) So, the President was asked yesterday about 2020. And the President, I think, answered it pretty straightforward. You heard him say that when it came to the 2020 election, we had more than 60 judges who basically threw th- -- threw those -- threw those cases out of the court or proved it to not be true -- right? -- when it came to the -- the -- the accusations that the elections were not -- were not -- were not, I guess, real, or whatever -- however they -- they said it in 2020.

But, also, the Trump administration said the 2020 election was the safest -- was the most -- the safest election that we've ever had. Right? And you heard that from the Trump administration. And the President also said that, you know, he understands the Constitution. So, the President answered that question.

Look, more broadly, as it relates to the Speaker, the President has said that once -- once Congress -- the -- the House Conference was able to get their affairs in order after spending 22 days to pi- -- to pick a Speaker in their -- in their chaos that we have seen them do the last 22 days -- once they figure that out, he would be willing to work with them in good faith to get things done on behalf of the American people.

As we've -- and we've been able to do really big things in a bipartisan way, whether it's the CHIPS and Science Act, whether it's the infra- -- infrastructure law. We've been able to do that to deliver for the American people. And the President wants to do that. He wants to continue that -- that progress.

And let's not forget, in the midterms, the American people were very clear: They want to continue to see -- to see that type of bipartisanship. They want us to continue to grow the economy.

And so, that's the President's focus. He's willing to do that. He's willing to take -- to take up the Speaker's words on working -- now is working on common ground to make that happen.

Q: Is the President confident the House, since it's in order again, can get the supplemental taken care of before the rapidly approaching deadline?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things there. As we know, we've heard from -- from many -- from -- from many Republicans, even, on the supplemental, especially the national security supplemental, and how they have -- we've seen bipartisan support. And so, that's really important. And I have a couple of folks that I want to actually read out.

Leader McConnell said our national security priorities from Russia to Hamas to China are "all connected" and this "requires a worldwide approach."

Senate Armed Services Ranking Member Roger Wicker said he "absolutely" supports linking Ukraine and Israel aid, and that a "solid majority in the House and Senate" could too.

Senate Appropriations Vice Chair Susan Collins said "each of these four [elements] are critical."

So, we have seen a bipartisan support -- strong bipartisan support for the national security supplemental. That in- -- obviously, that includes Ukraine and Israel. And so, there is no reason we should not be able to move forward to get that done.

Go ahead, Selina.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Speak- --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Sel- -- sorry, sorry.

Q: Make sure it wasn't the person behind me.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry. Hi. Hi.

Q: Thanks, Karine. So, Speaker Johnson's voting record shows that he is strongly opposed to gun safety legislation. Even when Democrats controlled Congress, they could not pass universal background checks or the assault weapons ban. So, what realistically can get done with this Speaker? Wh- -- how can a deal around this be cut?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I hear the question. I mean, look what just happened last night. Look what happened. In Maine, in a small community -- I think about 30,000 people. And, clearly, you know, the gunman is still at large. And so, it's a dynamic situation on the ground. But as far as we know, 18 people were killed. And we should not have weapons of war in our communities, in our schools, and anywhere in our communities.

And this is an epidemic. This is a gun violence epidemic. And the time is now to act.

And here's the thing: Speaker -- Speaker Johnson and all of the members on the Hill -- Republicans in Congress, they have the ability to stop this. They have the ability to put forth legislation to deal with this issue. They can change this. They can help save lives.

And we're just not going to take -- you know, it's great to hear thoughts and prayers. We obviously want to give the families who ha- -- who are dealing with this tragedy and the victims who are clearly dealing with this tragedy -- obviously, we want them to make sure that they know that they're in our thoughts and prayers, but that's not enough. That's not enough.

And so, we were able to do a bipartisan piece of legislation to deal with the gun violence -- a piece of legislation, obviously, that's law that we hadn't seen in 30 years. So, there's ways to get there. There's ways to get there.

But executive actions is not enough. We got to do more.

And just because, you know, it may be difficult, it may be hard doesn't mean that we stop -- doesn't mean that we stop fighting, and that doesn't mean that the President is going to stop saying over and over again that we have to stop this gun violence epidemic.

Q: Is there -- is there other executive action that the President plans to sign?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have -- I don't have anything to read out at this time. We don't have anything to read out at this time.

As you know, there is a office of -- to prevent gun violence, which is a historic office, which -- which the President is very proud of, that's being led, as I said at the top, by the -- by the Vice President, who's part of that, you know, leading the efforts of that office.

But, look, we have to continue to do the work. We have to continue to do the work. And that has to be done legislatively. We can't just continue to do executive actions. As you know, the President has done more than two dozen of them -- signed -- signed two dozen of them, but we need to do more. We need to sign legislation into law. We need to build on the bipartisan action that was taken last year.

Go ahead, Kevin.

Q: Just to clarify, is the Speaker meeting the President today, or is it just --

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

Q: -- with the staff?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have -- I don't have anything to read out on the President -- on a -- on a visit with the President.

What I can say is that the Speaker is, indeed, here. He was, when I walked out, getting a briefing with other members of Congress on the -- obviously, the national security supplemental funding package, which we believe is an important, important package to move forward and has a lot of bi- -- and has strong bipartisan support.

Q: And was yesterday the first time that President Biden has ever spoken to Mike Johnson, or --


Q: -- did they any relationship before this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have any -- any engagement to list out. I can say that when -- when there was the Congressional Picnic, Congressman Johnson was here.

And then, I believe, there was an event -- an LSU event here not too long ago that the President shouted out then- -- obviously -- Congressman Johnson because he had attended. I just don't have any other specific engagement to (inaudible).

Q: Okay. And the Gun Violence Prevention Office that you've just mentioned -- are you able to give us any sort of read- -- I know it's been in place for a little while now. What exactly has it been doing? Like what are the meetings like? Are they talking about executive actions? Are they talking about potential new legislation? Are they soliciting recommendations? What exactly has it been up to?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, one thing that I can say is Greg -- Greg Jackson, who is one of the deputies of the -- of the office, he convened -- as it relates to what happened -- the horrific actions of la- -- of last night, he is -- he convened federal agencies -- he did that this morning to discuss federal resources already deployed and ensure readiness to meet any additional community needs as people of -- of Lewiston work through the unimaginable grief that they are -- that they may be experiencing.

So, we are in direct contact with folks on the ground there. And that is something that the office certainly is being part of.

I don't have any other executive actions. I was just asked about that. But our focus right now is to continue to call on Congress to take action.

We need to see legislation. We need to see -- make sure that weapons of war are not in communities. That's what we're seeing right now. We need to make sure that weapons of wars are not in communit- -- and we need to take more action that are common sense -- commonsense gun laws that the American people want to see -- majority of Americans want to see this.

And so, you know, it is for House Republicans to listen to their constituents, to listen to Americans across the country. They can help stop what we're do- -- what we're seeing here. They can help save lives. And it is their job to do that at -- in -- at the Capitol, on the Hill.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q: Do you anticipate the President going to Lewiston, Maine, when things settle down?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't have anything -- I don't want -- certainly want to get ahead of the President's schedule. Don't have anything to share. It is a dynamic situation on the ground.

I think the priority -- our focus is to make sure that Maine and local enfortmen- -- enforcement has the resources that it needs. That's what the President wants to make sure happens. We've got to catch this killer -- right? -- bring him to justice. That is incredibly important as well.

And so, we are with the community on the ground, clearly, and -- and certainly are going -- the President wants to make sure that they have the resources they need in this really, really critical time.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: Thanks, Karine. What are some of the concrete goals of the Office of Gun Violence Reduction [Prevention]?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I think having this historic office is incredibly important, making sure it shows how -- how -- how critical we see this epidemic that's happening across -- certainly across the country and want to make sure that we do everything that we can to save lives.

Look, one of the things, as well, that we want to do is make sure that we offer any type of emotional, mental assistance. That's going to be done through the office.

Want to see what other executive actions can be done. We believe that legislation is the way to go, but there might be oth- -- additional executive actions that can be done. So, we want to make sure that we look at -- that's one of the things the office is doing: looking at all of the potential options that we can do to continue to build on what the President has been able to do.

Having conversation with communities on the ground, listening to them, taking in advice on what it is that they -- further -- further actions that can be taken on the ground.

So, there is -- you know, this office is, I think, critical at this moment as -- what we're seeing with these communities, really, going through, you know, this horrific epidemic. When we see -- when you see guns being the number-one killer of children, we have to take action.

And so, I think this is a -- when you think about the office and you think about what it does -- you know, preventing gun violence -- it's a way for the President to show that he's taking this very seriously. It's a way to try to figure out what else can be done to -- to really stop this epidemic and also work with communities on the ground.

Q: And is there a timeframe for how long it's going to take this office to figure out what should be done before they start aggressively trying to implement?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I don't have a timeline. Look, as I said, we're going to see if there's additional executive action.

But honestly, it is for Congress. We have to see law, right? We have to see ways for Congress to do -- to take action on making sure that there aren't weapons of war on the street -- right? -- to make sure that there is commonsense legislation out there that Americans want to see. We have to actually see legislative actions to really deal with this issue. Build on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act -- we need to do that. That's how we're going to deal with this epidemic.

This office certainly is going to be there for communities. Certainly, we're going to see what else we can be doing from, certainly, this side of Pennsylvania Avenue. We're going to do everything that we can from here.

But at -- really, the answer is: Congress has to act. They have to take action.

AIDE: Karine, we have time for one or two more.


Go ahead, Peter.

Q: If I can ask you very quickly about the new House Speaker, who is apparently in the building as we speak right now. Does the President view Speaker Mike Johnson as a MAGA extremist?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I would have to let the Speaker speak for himself. Obviously, he has -- I think he has defined himself as -- that way. So, he's going to have to answer that -- that question for himself.

What we can say is, we want to get -- we want to move forward on making sure that we get the work done on behalf of the American people. The President is willing to do that in a good-fa- -- -faith fashion, as we have been able to do that on many bipartisan laws now that the President was able to push through Congress with Democrats and -- and Republicans. That's what we want to see.

Q: And just to be clear, I asked that because --


Q: -- the President last month when he was speaking at the -- in Arizona and honoring his late friend John McCain said, "Their extreme agenda," referring to members of what he described the "MAGA Republican extremists" -- "Their extreme agenda, if carried out, [will] fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy -- American democracy as we know it." Does that concern to -- does that concern apply to Speaker Mike Johnson given the leading role he played in trying to overturn the election in 2020?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the -- the Speaker has spoken to -- to it himself, publicly, about his -- where he sees his views ideologically. I'm not going to get ahead of that. And also, I'm not going to prejudge. I'm just not going to prejudge what the relationship is going to be like now that he's Speaker. I'm just not --

Q: Which is to say that: So, what he did in the past, you're willing to --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's -- it's --

Q: -- relieve that if -- if he acts in good faith going forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It -- we -- we want to make sure that -- the President wants to make sure that we get the business of the American people done. There is so much to get done, which -- I was just asked about the national security supplemental; we need to get that done, right?

We need to make sure in 21 days there is not a shutdown. And that is the job -- right? -- of Congress to make sure that they get that done.

Look, there is -- the moment that we're in right now should not be about partisanship. Americans -- the American people don't want to see that. They want to see us work in a bipartisan way.

The President, as you know, is a president that believes in bipartisanship. He believes on bringing both sides together. He has done that in the last two years. And so, he wanted -- he wants to continue that.

But as far as the speakership, look, we're going to see how that goes. That is -- I'm not going to prejudge what that relationship is going to look like moving forward.

All right. Go ahead, Kevin.

Q: Just -- you said you don't want to prejudge, but the Biden campaign put out a statement yesterday calling Johnson "MAGA Mike Johnson," "extreme" and a "loyal f- -- foot soldier" of President Trump. I mean, does that sort of break with your message here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm just -- I'm not going to speak to what the campaign does. That's the campaign. I'm just not going to.

I'm going to speak to here, right now, in this administration, speaking for the President in this administration.

And what I can say is the President -- and this is something that he has said himself -- that he wants to work in good faith with whoever they had -- had chose to be Speaker -- it happens to be Speaker Johnson -- and he wants to deliver for the American people. That is something that the President has said himself over the last couple of weeks as well.

And so, that is going to be our focus. That's what we want to get done. There is a lot of work to get done.

We have -- we have two supplementals that are -- that are out there. One is the domestic one; one is the national security supplemental. They are urgent -- we believe are urgent needs -- urgent needs as it talks -- as we speak about our -- our national security, as we talk about disaster relief -- right? -- childcare. All of these things are important to the American people. And that's what the President is going to focus on.

Oh my gosh. Wow, a lot of hands.

Q: In the back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, John, in the back.

Q: As it relates to the new Speaker, is keeping the government funded a major test for this new Speaker? If there is a government shutdown, do you essentially say, "Well, it's all the new Speaker's fault"? How do you view that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. We know that we have 21 days to make sure -- well, and it's their job, right? We've been very clear. It is their job -- Congress -- to make sure the government stays open. They have 21 days to do that.

Now, they have a Speaker. Now, they have to make sure that we do that, that that continues, that the government stays open, that we don't have military -- our military or federal employees not -- not getting paid. On critical programs that are out there that the American people need, that needs to continue.

And so, we'll see what happens. Again, 21 days to get that done.

As it relates to other -- other priorities that the President has that we believe are bipartisan priorities -- I just talked about disaster relief, I talked about child- -- childcare -- all of those things are bipar- -- bipartisan -- has bipartisan support. So, we believe those things can get done.

I'm getting pulled by the team here. Okay, guys. We'll be back tomorrow.

Okay, go ahead. You have the last question. Go ahead. No, right here.

Q: Thank you.


Q: California Governor Gavin Newsom is currently in China and met with President Xi yesterday. Has the White House coordinated with him at all on this visit, and did the White House sanction this trip?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I just don't have anything to speak to on that trip. I would refer you to -- I would refer you to the State Department and also to the -- the governor's office. I just don't have anything to share on that particular trip.

Thank you. See you guys tomorrow.

Q: Thanks, Karine.

2:37 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard, and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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