Joe Biden

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

January 11, 2024

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:30 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. It's so quiet in here. Okay. I'll be really quick at the top. Okay.

(A reporter drops their laptop.) Wow, don't lose -- don't break that.

Okay. So, kicking off -- kicking us off today is National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard, who will be previewing the President's trip -- as you all know, he'll be heading to Allentown, Pennsylvania, tomorrow; along with the new data -- she'll be talking about that today -- that came out on inflation; and the small-business boom under President Biden and Vice President Harris with three years in a row of record-breaking small business applications.

With that, Lael, the floor is yours.

MS. BRAINARD: Well, good afternoon. Tomorrow, the President will travel to the Allentown area, where he'll meet with small-business owners. And as he did in Milwaukee a few weeks ago, he'll hear about how communities that had been left behind are making a comeback.

Allentown was poorly served by trickle-down economics. It once was a booming steel town. But before the pandemic, employment and small-business opportunities were lagging in Allentown.

Thanks to the resilience and grit of the community and President Biden's policies, Allentown is making a comeback, as are many other country -- towns around the country.

Since the President took office, 32,000 jobs have been created in Allentown and the unemployment rate has dropped from 6.4 percent to 3.9 percent. That's the lowest rate in 30 years.

Seventeen thousand more Allentown residents now have access to high-speed Internet. And we're seeing investments in infrastructure and energy that are modernizing airports, fixing bridges, and supporting distribution centers and manufacturing, like Pratt industries.

And in an especially strong sign of hope and confidence, 4,000 applications have been filed to open businesses in Allentown in just three years.

And that is part of a bigger picture. We got some data today that shows that we really are seeing a small-business boom across America. Earlier today, the data showed that 16 million business applications have been filed since the President took office, making this the strongest three years on record for new business applications in 20 years. In fact, each of the last three years has seen more business applications filed than any previous year on record. That's more applications than in all four years of the previous administration, as you can see on this slide.

Analysis shows that those applications are translating into new business formation. And, of course, we know small businesses are huge job creators. Small-business growth has been particularly strong among Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, with Black business ownership doubling and Hispanic business ownership up 40 percent compared to before the pandemic.

We also received encouraging news today on inflation that shows inflation is down nearly two thirds as supply chain pressures have eased -- and you can see this in this slide -- with the reduction in supply chain pressures over the last year being followed by reductions in inflation.

The prices have come down for some key household items, like eggs, milk, and toys. And, of course, we've seen gas prices down. They're now below $3 in much of the country. And we are also going to continue our focus on lowering costs for American households.

So, the President is very focused on that. He has a agenda to lower prescription drug costs -- much higher here than in the rest of the world. So, bringing down insulin prices, bringing down out-of-pocket costs for seniors, negotiating Medicare drug prices.

And the President is also calling on corporations who increased their prices when supply chains were snarled and input costs were rising to bring those prices back down and to pass along the savings as input costs are coming down to consumers.

In contrast, congressional Republicans have no plans to lower costs. Instead, they just continue pushing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.

So, with that, I'm happy to take your questions.

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

Q: Thank you, Karine. Quick question on the CPI numbers. Car insurance rate increases alone accounted for about 15 percent of the overall increase in CPI and, as a category, was right up there with housing and rent. We want to understand what the administration is doing to tackle this. What leverage do you specifically have when you are talking with insurance companies?

MS. BRAINARD: Yeah, so, the administration has a variety of tools to look at particular areas where prices might be elevated. We are very focused, where we have legislative authorities, on using those. And that's really the earlier actions that we're taking on insulin, on Medicare, drug price negotiations, on out-of-pocket costs. Those are legislative authorities.

We also, through our independent agencies, have both enforcement and rulemaking authorities. And that's where you've seen the action that's been so important on overdraft fees and bounced check fees and areas like family seating and baggage fees.

And so, in the area that you're mentioning, we may have some authorities there as well. But those sit with independent agencies.

And then, finally, of course, there is just the call to Big Business to bring down those prices that they increased so much when supply chains were snarled and pass those savings on to consumers.

Q: Are any of those agencies specifically talking to any of the insurance companies going forward? I would imagine some of those conversations are ongoing. Is there anything new that's happening that you can talk about?

MS. BRAINARD: So, I can't speak to particular actions by some of the independent agencies. But I can say that over all of our independent agencies, there's a real focus on tackling unfair and deceptive price practices that are leading to greater costs for American consumers.

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

Q: Thank you, Lael. It's nice to see you. Can you talk to us a little bit about how your team is monitoring the situation in the Red Sea? And what is the level of concern right now about the potential for that to drive up prices and mess up the global supply chain?

MS. BRAINARD: Yeah, so, the national security team is focusing on the attacks in the Red Sea area. We are very focused on the economic side, on monitoring potential effects on the U.S. economy.

So far, we really have seen very little effect on the U.S. economy. Some shippers are taking alternate routes. That is leading to longer shipping times. But, so far, that really hasn't had an effect on the U.S. economy.

And again, as you can see here, the supply chain pressures measure that is the most comprehensive is down all the way back to pre-pandemic levels, which is due to all the work that this administration has done with the private sector on shipping, on trucking, on semiconductors, on a whole range of areas to get those supply chain -- those supply chain pressures down.

Q: Do you have a sense of how long before this becomes a bigger issue? Is it days or weeks?

MS. BRAINARD: So, we'll continue monitoring. Those shipping lanes are more salient for other parts of the world. But, of course, we'll want to continue monitoring for any possible effects on the U.S.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nancy.

Q: Thanks, Lael. Looking at the report, it looked like rent was one of the big drivers of inflation. It was up 6.2 percent over the course of last year. What's your analysis about why rent continues to be a driver of inflation twice as high as average inflation? And what is your outlook for the next year when it comes to rent, particularly since mortgage rates are still so high, making it difficult for people to buy?

MS. BRAINARD: Yeah, so, the rent affordability and housing affordability generally is an area that really is salient for a lot of households as they sit around their kitchen tables paying their bills. Housing is a big one. We are very focused on housing affordability.

We'd like to see Congress pass housing tax credits. The President has put them in his budget every year. Those have always been critical for increasing the supply of affordable rentals. We also have put forward proposals for first-generation homebuyers to make that more affordable.

Mortgage rates have actually come down over the last few months. So, they've come down by about one and a quarter percent. That will make a difference.

But we're going to continue putting forward proposals and fighting to make housing more affordable, and we hope Republicans in Congress will work with us on that.

Q: Without that legislation, do you foresee any relief in the rental market over the next year?

MS. BRAINARD: Well, certainly, there are a lot of forecasts that do anticipate seeing those average rents coming down. But that's not enough. We need to take action. We need Congress to work with us on that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Justin.

Q: Thanks. I wanted to ask about the tax negotiations on Capitol Hill. But first, just to follow on M.J.'s question, other than shipping time, what are the kind of real-time indicators that we should be looking at to see if there's an impact from what's going on in the Red Sea on -- on the U.S. economy?

MS. BRAINARD: So, of course, there's been a lot of focus on oil prices. Oil prices have been volatile, but we really haven't seen an increase there. And as you know, retail gas prices are down about $1.90 and are now below $3 for most Americans at the pump. But that is such an important expenditure for all American households that we're going to continue to monitor that very closely.

Shipping costs, shipping times are something that we're also monitoring.

Q: And then, on the tax negotiations, I know that a deal is still being hammered out and might not actually come together. So, you guys may not have been able to do a full analysis of the impact -- though if you have, feel -- feel free to share it with us.

But I'm wondering how the White House is sort of balancing the potential impacts -- obviously, a child tax credit is something the President has fought for, the R&D credits -- against the worry about inflation and how it could kind of counter- -- counteract some of the progress that you've seen on inflation.

MS. BRAINARD: So, we have consistently pointed to how effective President Biden's child tax credit policy was for lifting millions of American children out of poverty. And the President has consistently said that he wants to see the refundability, the availability of that child tax credit for low- and moderate-income families extended.

So, you know, we are very much hoping that we can see a balanced package. But what is critical for the President is that the child tax credit be extended and particularly be made available for lower- and moderate-income families because it's so powerful in reducing child poverty.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: You spent a lot of time last year on the banking crisis. How do you assess the current health of the banking industry, especially the mid- to, you know, smaller-size banks that were affected last year?

MS. BRAINARD: Yeah. So, this time last year, of course, we were very focused on the fragility of some regional banks. The regional banking sector has shored up capital, shored up liquidity, is in much more resilient shape now than it was a year ago.

And so, I think most of the analysis suggests that the regional banking sector overall is much healthier. And of course, that's something that we've been monitoring very closely.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Gabe.

Q: Inflation has cooled, but food prices are still high. What would you say to Americans who are worried about food prices? And why do you think that the phrase "Bidenomics" has not caught on?

MS. BRAINARD: Yeah, so, we are very focused on the kinds of expenditures that hardworking American families make every week. Food prices is very important. We've actually seen several categories of food prices coming down over the last year. So, if you look at dairy, it's come down. If you look at fruit and vegetables.

So, we are very focused on grocery prices for American families, and we are actually seeing prices coming down over the year.

But more generally, you know, when we think about the incredible progress in the economy -- you know, if you look at it, employment is up 14.3 million overall, 2.7 just the last year at a time of low unemployment. Wages are up since pre-pandemic, adjusted for inflation. Wealth for the median household is up, adjusted for inflation, since pre-pandemic. And small-business creation is up.

Those are good things. But what the President is very focused on is, you know, the hardworking American family and what their expenses look like, how much breathing room they have at the end of the month, and that's where his focus is very much on continuing to lower costs…

Q: Then why do you think the phrasing "Bidenomics" has not caught on?

MS. BRAINARD: So, I think, again, the President's economic policies are showing great results in terms of real wage gains, real employment gains, real wealth gains, but we still have work to do on lowering costs.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. We're going to wrap it up. Go ahead, Ed.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Lael, for doing this. So, if you run down inflation from since President Biden came into office, overall CPI inflation is up 17.6 percent. Food, you're talking about, is up about 34 percent. Electricity is up 27 percent. So, what's your message to Americans who are feeling this every day when they buy and use things?

MS. BRAINARD: Yeah. So, the President's message is very much he is fighting for American consumers, he is fighting to lower costs. And you can see it on healthcare. Healthcare is one of the single-most expensive thing for most Americans. And he has gotten real gains there: insulin prices down to $35 from $400, negotiated Medicare prices, $2,000 cap on seniors' out-of-pocket costs. We have gotten real gains on things like overdraft fees, bounced check fees, baggage fees, family seating.

So, we are going to continue fighting. And, of course, the President is calling on corporations that were all too eager to raise prices when supply chains were snarled and input costs were going up. Now that supply chains are healed, he is calling on those same corporations to pass those savings on to consumers.

Q: But in that same timeframe, when President Biden came into office, real wages are down 2.5 percent. So, people are -- are feeling that pain a little bit. We are in --

MS. BRAINARD: Actually, let me just update the numbers on real wages. Real wages are up since pre-pandemic. And so --

Q: 0.8 percent, right? 0.8 percent --

MS. BRAINARD: No, as of --

Q: -- from February of 2020.

MS. BRAINARD: So, that's just on average hourly earnings. Real wages are up over a percent for all workers, and they're up over 3 percent for moderate-income workers. If you look at overall purchasing power, people can buy as much as they could pre-pandemic, and they've got $1,700 extra to spend.

So, in fact, the wage gains have outpaced inflation since pre-pandemic, and, of course, employment gains are also, meaning more Americans are getting those paychecks, which is allowing them to continue spending and fueling the really good growth that we've seen.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We've got to wrap it up. Thank you so much, Lael.

MS. BRAINARD: Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll have you back. We'll have you back. Thank you.

All right. I have one more guest. So, thank you so much, Lael. And also joining, as you can see, is the Admiral, Admiral John Kirby, who is going to give us an update on the Middle East.

So, Admiral.

MR. KIRBY: Afternoon, everybody.

Q: Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: I'll be very quick to -- this afternoon. I'm sure you've all seen reports about the Iranians' apparent seizure of a merchant vessel called the St. Nikolas, a Marshall Islands-flagged and Greek-owned oil tanker, while it was lawfully navigating waters in the Gulf of Oman.

We condemn this apparent seizure. The Iranian government should immediately release the ship and its crew. These provocative and unacceptable actions need to stop.

We'll continue to work with our allies and partners to deter and confront the full range of Iran's concerning and destabilizing behavior in close coordination, of course, with the international community.

Now, I've gotten a question over the last two days, and each time I've gotten a question, my answer was probably as satisfying as a gravy sandwich. So, this is about the Israeli -- the decision before the Israeli Supreme Court.

Obviously, I can't comment about cases before the Israeli Supreme Court, but I can affirm that the United States completely supports the critical work that journalists are doing around the world and certainly in the conflict in Gaza. And we want to make sure that they're able to do that safely, securely, effectively, and -- and with full transparency.

So, we discuss a wide range of topics with our Israeli counterparts. I'm not going to get into the specifics of diplomatic conversations, but I can assure you that media freedom is and will always be a part of those discussions.

I don't know if that gravy is any more tasty than before -- (laughter) -- but that's the best I can do today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Two questions. Today at the hearing of the ICJ, the judge said that under Article 51 of the Convention that Israel is a signatory to, Gaza is an occupied territory. Despite the fact that Israel has withdrew troops, Gaza -- Israel maintains control over land and sea, and therefore, the protection of civilians in Gaza is a legal obligation of Israel.

So, number one, do you agree that Israel is -- Gaza is occupied? And second, is protection of civilian legally under the Israeli jurisdiction?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to render a legal opinion from this podium, Nadia. We have said repeatedly that we believe these allegations, this case is unfounded and that there is no basis for accusations of genocide against -- against Israel. That's not a word that ought to be thrown around lightly. And we certainly don't believe that it applies here.

Now, to the question about civilians. Again, I'm not -- I'm not an international lawyer. I'm not going to pretend to be. But we have, since the beginning, talked to our Israeli counterparts about the special burdens that modern militaries, particularly modern democratic militaries, have when they conduct military operations to protect innocent civilians and to protect civilian infrastructure. Those conversations continue, including on Secretary Blinken's trip.

Q: Okay. Since you're not an international lawyer, I will advise you to read what the judge said, which is Israel is in violation of Article II(a), II(b), II(c), II(d). He said that the bombing campaign in Gaza is the heaviest in the history of modern warfare, including what Russia is doing in Ukraine. So, he asked the Israelis to suspend immediately the military operations in Gaza. The White House position is no ceasefire.

So, is the Biden admin- -- administration in violation of international law --

MR. KIRBY: No.

Q: -- and the call of the judge --

MR. KIRBY: No.

Q: -- to suspend military --

MR. KIRBY: No. No.

Q: -- operation in Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: The judge statement notwithstanding, the answer is absolutely no. Israel has a right and a responsibility to defend itself. We're going to continue to make sure that they can do that. We're going to continue to supply them with the tools and capabilities they need to do that. No country should have to live to that kind of threat next door.

So, no, we are not in violation. And we're going to continue to make sure Israel has what it needs.

I'll add one more point. We're going to also continue to make sure that humanitarian assistance can get to the people of Gaza; that Israel conducts its operations in the most precise, careful, deliberate way possible so that they can minimize civilian casualties.

Q: Will you change your position if the final ruling is actually that you are in violation?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I'm not going to get into -- I'm not going to get into hypotheticals from here. We have made our position clear.

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

Q: I did want to follow up on the ICJ proceedings.

MR. KIRBY: Sure.

Q: You obviously made the position of the U.S. clear, but will the U.S. accept the court's decisions or penalties if Israel is found by the court to have committed genocide?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to get ahead of where we are in the process.

Q: Can the Isr- -- can Israel count on the U.S. to block any potential sanctions that are levied by the court should it come to that?

MR. KIRBY: I'm just not going to hypo- -- hypothesize or get ahead of the process here. We've made clear our view on this particular case. And we've made clear our view on supporting Israel as they defend themselves.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.

Q: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. is prepared to take action against Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. He seemed to make more forceful comments about it. Just how far is the U.S. willing to go?

MR. KIRBY: We talked about this yesterday. I'm not going to telegraph punches one way or another here. We're going to do what we have to do to -- to -- to counter and defeat these threats that the Houthis keep throwing up on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. We'll -- we'll continue to consult with allies and partners about the appropriate next steps. But that's as far as I'll go.

Q: What's the U.S. reaction to recent comments from the Houthi leader that any American attack will not go without a response and that the response would be bigger than the recent strike?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to speculate about potential future military operations one way or another. As we have said repeatedly, the Houthis need to stop these attacks and that they will bear the consequences for any failure to do so.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Anita.

Q: And you've talked about the U.S. having discussions with the Israelis to lower the intensity of fighting. When are we going to see that happen?

MR. KIRBY: You'll have to talk to the Israeli Defense Forces about their operations. I'm not going to lay out their -- their timetable or their schedule of events. They have talked about the fact that they -- they recognize a need to transition to a new phase in the military operation. We have obviously encouraged that kind of thinking and that kind of planning. And we'll -- we'll see what they end up doing. But it's really for them to speak to.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Anita.

Q: Thank you so much, Karine. John, Senator Kaine --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So- -- Patsy. I'm so sorry.

Q: (Laughs.) It's okay. You were looking at me, so it's okay. (Laughter.)

Senator Kaine and more than a dozen Senate Democrats are working to block future administrations' request to bypass congressional oversight of arms transfer to Israel. Your comments?

MR. KIRBY: I -- hard for me to comment on some amendment language that -- that I haven't seen and had a -- hadn't had a chance to take a look at. We're also very careful about talking about any pending legislation that -- that could be considered on Capitol Hill.

I would just tell you, broadly speaking, we obviously take the oversight responsibilities of Congress very, very seriously. We do the best we can to appropriately inform and consult with Congress as we provide foreign military assistance to other --other countries, including Israel, and that will continue.

Q: But if you're saying, as you have said to my colleagues last week, that the U.S. is not actively assessing whether Israel is using these weapons in accordance to the laws of war because you don't see any indication that Israel is violating those laws of war, and if there's no congressional oversight, no State Department internal review process, and no verification process on the ground, then how do we know that Israel is using these weapons in accordance to U.S. and international law?

MR. KIRBY: I don't kn- -- would- -- I wouldn't agree that there's no congressional oversight. I think that's going a step too far in terms of describing the -- the relationship that we have with the members of Congress and the kind of foreign military assistance that we're providing.

We are in constant touch with our Israeli counterparts, as -- as I've said repeatedly, and we still see no indication that they're violating the laws of armed conflict. They are -- they are defending themselves against a still viable threat.

There are too many civilian casualties. We've said that before. We want to see them take steps to reduce that. But there's -- there's no indications that they are deliberately and wantonly violating the law of armed conflict.

Q: But just to clarify on that, John, if you say there is congressional oversight, has the administration given Congress a complete list of weapons that you are sending to Israel when -- is that done before sendi- -- the -- the arms transfer or after?

MR. KIRBY: I've had your --

Q: Because, as we know, there's -- there's two occasions of arms transfer already -- December 9th and then December 29th --

MR. KIRBY: I understand that.

Q: -- done under emergency stipulation --

MR. KIRBY: We follow the law.

Q: -- by the Secretary.

MR. KIRBY: We follow the law -- the intent and the spirit of the law. I'd refer you to the State Department for more details about that process. That's really under their purview.

Q: Just to underline: Is the U.S. holding Israel with the same standard of accountability that we apply to other partners that receive American weapons?

MR. KIRBY: We are providing foreign military assistance to Israel as they defend themselves against Hamas. We have been very clear about what the expectations are for the use of that materiel, and that's not going to change.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Andrew.

Q: Thank you. Admiral, on Monday, you told one of my colleagues that the Situation Room's ability to track where Cabinet members are is, in your words, "generic," limited to the city they're in. That seem- -- that seems to be in line with Cold War-era capabilities, where principals in the line of succession had to call in their location to the central locator system that FEMA runs.

Are you saying that in 2024 -- when I have a phone in my pocket that can be pinged to locate me within a couple of feet, where I could get the same kind of capability for my dog, if I want -- that we don't have a way of knowing where each person in the line of succession is without them having to tell the Situation Room or -- or FEMA or whoever is in charge of -- of tracking their locations?

MR. KIRBY: I do not have a different answer to you today than I did to your colleague on Monday. There is a process by which Cabinet officials and their location is tracked by the -- the Situation Room. There is a check-in every morning where their general location is known and -- and logged and -- and reported.

Q: "Their general location." Each of these principals is issued -- I assume is issued a mobile phone. I'm sure you have one; I know Karine has one.

MR. KIRBY: Let me stop you right there. We're not going to track the GPS coordinates on somebody's mobile phone in the administration, and we're not going to plant a microchip in their neck like they're a poodle.

They check in every day. And we know where they are. And that's -- and I'd -- I'd leave it at that.

Q: But the problem is, with Secretary Austin, you didn't know where he was. You didn't know where he was for days. And you're telling me that these daily check-ins are -- are the best that can be done at this point?

MR. KIRBY: We had -- we had no indication that he was outside the D.C. area. Now, it's true, we didn't know he was hospitalized. And I've said repeatedly that that's a problem. That should not happen again -- that if a Cabinet official becomes hospitalized or has to be seen for medical, certainly to the degree where the authority has to be delegated, that the White House needs to know.

And Karine has talked about the -- the memo that Mr. Zients put out advising Cabinet agencies to review those protocols.

We'll get better at this. We'll learn from this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Why a poodle?

MR. KIRBY: Pardon?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Why a poodle? I'm just --

MR. KIRBY: Oh, I don't know. (Laughter.) I just --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm kidding.

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything against poodles. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just teasing.

Gabe.

Q: Admiral, back to the seizure of the tanker. The Iranians reportedly are saying that the seizure was in retaliation for the U.S. confiscating the same vessel and its oil last year. What do you make of that allegation?

MR. KIRBY: I would put little stock in anything coming out of Tehran. This was a commercial vessel freely transiting international waters. No -- no justification whatsoever to -- to seize it. None whatsoever. They need to let it go.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.

Q: Thanks. John, there's a new report out from the Defense IG that says that American Defense officials didn't fully account for nearly 40,000 weapons --

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: -- that the U.S. provided to Ukraine -- sensitive materiel small enough to be bartered, put on the black market. Does the White House have any reaction, any concern about that report?

MR. KIRBY: Certainly, I'd refer you to the Defense Department for a more detailed reaction. But just let me broadly say: We have for many, many months now been interested in proving -- in improving accountability over the end use of materiel that is provided to Ukraine. We have had that conversation with our Ukrainian partners, and they share our concerns about accountability.

Now, we are grateful for the work that the DOD IG did. This is a -- that was a significant body of work, and we appreciate that. We're going to go through this. I know DOD has already gone through this and -- and reacted to it.

I would also note that the report made clear that DOD has made some improvements, including things like handheld scanners, and tried to boost a little bit of the footprint there at the embassy to try to help with -- with better tracking of materiel.

The report also noted, which I think is not an insigni- -- two insignificant things that went on -- that it noted. One, that there's no evidence. The report noted there's no evidence of any sort of widescale diversion or illicit -- illicit diversion of any of the materiel that's been going on to Ukraine.

And, two, that it is a wartime environment, and there are real limits to our ability to count every bean, every bullet, every artillery shell. We have a small footprint at the embassy of military men and women who are working on this accountability. But we aren't going to -- we don't want to nor should we be expected to put them in greater harm's way closer to the front to inspect every little shipment and how it's being used.

I mean, it's a combat environment. And even in combat environments, Nancy, that -- that -- that we run, wars we're fighting -- and we're not fighting in this war -- there are real limits in actual combat, when you are being shot at and attacked and shelled, for you to account for everything that you're --everything that you're actually using.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Does President Biden share former President's -- President Trump's view that NATO took advantage of the United States and that Europe owes the United States billions of dollars?

And may I ask you for a comment on former President's refusal to fully commit to NATO?

And I have one more question on --

MR. KIRBY: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Before you -- let me put a fork in this one, because I'm not talking about the campaign trail, and I'm not going to talk about the former President and what he's saying on the campaign trail. I'm not going to get in -- into that. That would be inappropriate from my perch.

I -- I would ask you to look at the record that this President has had with respect to NATO. NATO is now bigger, larger, and -- and much more capable under President Biden's stewardship and leadership inside the Alliance and certainly in the context of Mr. Putin's war in Ukraine.

This is a president who has invested, literally from the beginning, in improving our network of alliances and partnerships, investing in their capabilities, investing in trusting in those relationships and making them stronger. And it's not just NATO; it's all around the world.

What's your second question -- or third question?

Q: Second question. Last week, you told me that you're still discussing with your allies whether to confiscate 300 billion of Russian frozen assets. But Bloomberg report- -- reported yesterday that in November the White House sent a note to Congress supporting similar -- such a legislation about -- about confiscating Russian assets. Could you clarify your position? Do you support, in principle, confiscating those assets, but you're discussing just details or the way to do it, or you're still waiting for (inaudible) --

MR. KIRBY: I don't have an update for you on that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, sir.

Q: Thanks, Karine. I have a question on Argentina. Argentina and the IMF announced a new staff-level agreement yesterday, and the IMF expressed support on President Javier Milei's economic policy. Does the White House support this new deal between Argentina and the IMF?

MR. KIRBY: I'll have to take that question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Courtney.

Q: Thank you. We're seeing an uptick in threats against judges. One recent example: The judge overseeing former President Trump's civil fraud trial in Manhattan was the latest victim of a false swatting call. I wanted to ask what the fed- -- you're doing at the federal level to help local police departments deal with this increasing -- or increase in threats against judges.

MR. KIRBY: I'm afraid that's a little out of my lane. That's probably a better question put to the Justice Department. Obviously, we don't want to see anybody come under these kinds of threats and want to make sure that they can do their jobs, particularly in jurisprudence, in a safe and effective way.

But I'm afraid I'm -- you're out of my swim lane on that one. I'm sorry.

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

Q: Just back to the situation in the Red Sea. I know you're loath to get into the details about any potential attacks. But understanding that, are there any red lines or steps that the U.S. would not take or would not be a part of that you could outline?

MR. KIRBY: No.

Q: Do those red lines exist, or you just wouldn't outline them from here?

MR. KIRBY: I just don't think it's helpful, M.J., from the podium here to talk about or speculate about any potential future military options, one way or another, that the Commander-in-Chief is weighing or has weighed. We take seriously the responsibility to protect our ships and our sailors at sea, as well as the responsibility to protect the flow of international commerce.

You talked to Lael Brainard here about how important that waterway is. It is. It's vital. And we take those responsibilities seriously.

I would add that we're not the only one. Other nations are joining us in that effort. Some 20-plus nations now are involved in the Operation Prosperity Guardian. These attacks need to stop. And we're going to do what we have to do to continue to protect that shipping to protect our -- our sailors.

Q: And just quickly on Secretary Austin. You know, you've now had to answer many, many questions about his hospitalization and the fallout from that, including today. Do you personally think that it might be helpful for the White House if the Secretary of Defense were to take questions from reporters himself? Is that something that you think might be a useful exercise when he is better, when he's out of the hospital?

MR. KIRBY: I don't answer questions up here personally. I am a representative of the National Security Council and the administration. I would refer you to the Pentagon to speak to, you know, the -- the work they're doing to better communicate in the wake of this and to keep the press and the public informed.

And I'm -- I'm sure that they are learning lessons, as we all are, from what happened here, and we'll -- we'll work to improve that -- that transparency.

Q: In your professional capacity, given that you're --

MR. KIRBY: (Laughs.)

Q: -- given that your job is public facing, given that you probably are more aware and more knowledgeable about the kinds of questions that the White House is now confronting about Secretary Austin and that situation, is that --

MR. KIRBY: But -- it --

Q: -- something you would recommend?

MR. KIRBY: Again, it's not for me to recommend. This is really a question better put to leadership at the Pentagon.

But -- and Karine has spoken to this -- the President is committed to transparency. We're all committed to being as transparent as possible on a range of issues. And we endorse -- and -- and are in favor of efforts to be as transparent with the American people as possible, national security implications, obviously, notwithstanding.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, sir.

Q: Yes, Mr. Kirby -- thank you, Karine. As the government of Ecuador is trying to retake control of all the country jails, I wonder if the U.S. has given any advice or any -- any aid to the president of Ecuador -- has deployed the military to try to retake control of all these -- all these country jails.

MR. KIRBY: With the caveat that I don't have a lot of extra detail -- we talked about this in some -- some -- some degree yesterday -- we are in touch with our Ecuadorian counterparts. Obviously, the State Department is in touch. We -- we obviously support the needs for the Ecuadorian people to be safe and secure. And we have offered support and will continue to stay latched up with the government there to see what it is they need.

But I -- I don't have any new updates to give you today from yesterday. The offer of support still stands. I'm not aware that they have asked for or requested anything like that, and the State Department is really a better place to go for that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q: Thank you so much. So, Politico reports that, according to U.S. officials, there is a rising risk of Hezbollah striking Americans in the Middle East or here in the United States. So, is there anything you can say about that? Has the threat environment changed in that regard?

MR. KIRBY: I would just say that we're constantly monitoring reports coming out of the region. We're certainly monitoring, as best we can, reports coming out of -- of Lebanon and mindful of the increased tensions there at that northern border between Israel and -- and Southern Lebanon.

We don't want to see the conflict esc- -- escalate. We haven't seen Hezbollah take steps to do that in any meaningful way in terms of, like, really coming to the assistance of Hamas.

And as for threats to American citizens, I'm not going to get into intelligence assessments from here. I would just tell you that we watch this very, very closely, and we will do everything we can to -- to make sure that Americans traveling overseas have the information that they need to be -- to be safe.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Going to start wrapping up.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. I want to follow up on the ICJ. We have 22 Arab countries, including some of American allies -- from Jordan, Saudi Arabia -- are supporting South Africa. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. KIRBY: Each country should speak for themselves about this particular case and what their view is. I have spoken for the United States and -- and what our view is, and that hasn't changed.

Q: I -- a follow-up on DRC election outcome. Do you have any reaction to that? Any comment?

MR. KIRBY: DR- -- I'm sorry, I missed -- I didn't get the last part of your -- DRC and what?

Q: Election.

MR. KIRBY: Election. Let me take that question. I wasn't prepared for that, but -- but I'll -- we'll get you an answer back.

Q: Okay.

MR. KIRBY: I promise.

Q: Thank you, Ms. Karine. This question I would like to dedicate -- national security question I would like to dedicate to a fellow journalist who just passed away in Pakistan. He started an English newspaper 40 years ago when the city did not have even a journalism department. And he was my father.

This question -- and I hope you like this question, because he sent me to a Christian school here in high school and university. So, then, going back to Pakistan, I met many religious fanatics over there who had no idea about Christianity. Then, when I came here, I saw many Christians being fanatics as well. And then I hear you talking about antisemitism and Muslim clerics being killed and these things growing in this, recently especially.

So, my humble suggestion as a journalist is that, as a national security advisor, don't you think it's time you create something where you can bring harmony to tell these people that, look, Isaac and Moses and Abraham -- it's the same people that are Is- -- that are in Islam as well.

So, as a student and as a journalist, I feel like, from national security point of view, America right now needs one place -- from national security -- where you can tell them, "Listen, these are the -- these were the same guys just with different names." So, this is one of my national security thing that I feel like I -- as an international journalist, I should bring this to you (inaudible) --

MR. KIRBY: Well, I -- I appreciate that. And my condolences to you and to your family for the loss of your dad. I know how painful that can be.

Look, President Biden has been very clear. We're -- you know, our -- our foreign policy agenda is really driven from a foundation of human and civil rights. And certainly, that includes religious freedom. And we -- and he does not and has not and will not tolerate discrimination based on -- on faith or -- or any -- any violence that's -- that's hate-based and that comes from that -- that basic core. So, we're -- we -- we stand by that.

Q: Okay, just one last one.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We -- we have to wrap it up.

Q: Last one.

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

Q: Thank you. Just a quick question on Gaza. Just given the very slow trickle of humanitarian assistance now getting into Gaza, are there any fresh concerns about a famine breaking out that -- that you have? Or is there any new assessment on that?

MR. KIRBY: We -- we see -- we recognize that -- that there are real food security issues in Gaza, 100 percent. And that's why food has really been one of the main staples of the humanitarian assistance that we have been trying to get in -- food, water, medicine -- but food certainly right at the top of that list.

We understand that there's a lot of -- of hunger and starvation in Gaza, and we're not taking that seriously, which is why Secretary Blinken, again, on this trip was so focused on trying to see what we can do to increase the volume and the speed with which those trucks are getting in.

Now, we're grateful that the Israelis have opened up now Kerem Shalom. That allows a second venue. But I'm not going to -- I'm not going to spin it here. There is not enough trucks getting in. We're not satisfied with the level right now.

You know, at the maximum on a given day, I think we've been able to reach around 200. And that's dramatically less than what was happening pre-war. Now, again, combat conditions make it harder to get stuff in there. But more work needs to be done.

And I can -- I can assure you that we're not going to take our eye off that ball. We know that there's many people suffering in Gaza, not just from hunger, but other needs. And we're going to do everything we can to alleviate that.

Q: Any new updates on military assistance to Ukraine? I mean, has the -- has the well really run dry here, or what does it look like?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, we -- we have issued the last drawdown package that -- that we had funding to support. And that's why it's -- it's critical that -- that Congress move on that national security supplemental request and we get more funding.

The -- the assistance that we provided has now ground to a halt. The attacks that the Russians are conducting are only increasing. And now, as I talked about earlier this week, they're using North Korean ballistic missiles to do their dirty work.

So, the -- the need is acute right now, particularly in these winter months.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral.

(Cross-talk.)

Q: John, the hostages -- are they any closer to being released, John?

Q: Thanks, John.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I do want to -- I do want to say one thing to Courtney's question about federal judges under threat and any violence.

Look, this is a president that's been very clear; this administration has been very clear: We condemn any form of threats or violence against any judges, against any group, against anyone. And so, I just want to make that clear. That is something that we're going to be certainly steadfast on continuing to say and be very clear about that.

Seung Min, do you want to kick us off?

Q: Thank you. Two topics, if I may.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.

Q: There are reports that Speaker Johnson might renege on the topline spending deal that he's reached with Senator Schumer. And now, the Speaker has come out and said that he's made no commitments to doing so. He was just talking with members of his conference right now. But what is the White House's message to House Republicans who want to not abide by that deal between Johnson and Schumer?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a couple of things to say on that. Like, House Republicans, as we know, voted for an agreement back in May. That is what we know. That is a fact.

Speaker Johnson reaffirmed it on Sunday. He did it himself -- his own words. And so, we have an agreement.

Republicans need to keep their word and stop -- stop playing or -- any games here. We cannot have a shutdown. The American people do not deserve a shutdown.

And that is their basic duty, to keep the government open. We've been pretty consistent about this.

But, again, there was an agreement House Republicans agreed on in May, and the Speaker -- Speaker Johnson reaffirmed -- he reaffirmed it on Sunday.

Q: And on another topic. This week alone, President Biden has had three of his judicial nominees withdraw from consideration. So, can you discuss what's happening with that? Is it -- are there vetting issues on the White House end? There didn't seem to be blue slip issues here. So, are you facing more resistance from members of your own party on nominees? Or do these nominees just not want to go through the confirmation process?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I -- I'm assuming it's a case-by-case situation. Every -- every person has probably their own reason to not move forward on their particular, specific, respective nomination. So, I can't speak to it in a broad -- broad stroke, obviously.

But, look, the President takes all these nominations very seriously. He always wants to put forth and he has put forth very credible, qualified folks, especially in these -- obviously, in these positions -- to how important they are.

But I -- I don't want to speak about it in a broad stroke. And I don't know each case. So, I just want to be super, super mindful. People may have their own reason to -- to, you know, step down from this nomination or step away from their nomination.

Q: Is the White House concerned that the pace of confirmations appears to be slowing, especially after the two, sort of, rapid-pace years that you had with the first two years?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you said something that's really important that I want to make sure the American people know. There has been a rapid pace. We've had historic movement on our nominations. So, we appreciate that. We appreciate, certainly, the Senate for moving in that rapid -- rapid pace.

Obviously, we want to get these nominations done. It is a priority. It is important to get these folks into their position.

I just don't have anything to share beyond that. I don't want to get into -- into specifics as to why folks may have stepped down or are not part of the nomination process anymore. I just want to be super mindful.

Go ahead, Selina.

Q: Senator Schumer said it's "crystal clear" that a CR is needed to keep the government open. You had said yesterday that "kicking the can down the road" is not the way Congress should be operating. But is the President prepared to sign a CR?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I'm not going to get ahead. These are -- there's conversations happening, obviously. I don't want to get into hypotheticals from here.

It is important to keep the government open. We're -- we've been very clear on that. There is a -- a framework agreement here. That is also important to note.

And so, I'm just -- don't want to get into hypotheticals at this point.

Q: Will the President sit down with congressional leaders this week --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, don't have any -- any schedule to preview.

As you know, the President spoke to Speaker Johnson yesterday on the phone -- so -- because he thought it was important to have that conversation right away. And so, they had that conversation.

I just don't have anything to share on a preview any -- any meetings as it relates to the budget.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. A question on immigration. We understood that Secretary Mayorkas is willing to testify before the committee trying to impeach him. Are you worried about him having to testify alongside other possible witnesses, like families of fentanyl overdose victims? We understand there's a committee hearing planned for Jan. 18th, and there are fentanyl victims' families who are likely to testify there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, that -- that is for Secretary Mayorkas's decision to -- for him to decide what -- how he's going to be moving forward.

We've been really clear. I mean, what we've said from here is we just don't know -- as it reletes -- relates to these impeachment proceedings on different members -- multiple Cabinet members at this point, and obviously the President -- we just -- we just are -- we've been really clear. Like, these are -- they are pushing and continuing to do these baseless -- kind of baseless accusation. It's almost as if -- you know, we have to ask the question: Who el- -- who else would they not impeach? Who wouldn't they impeach -- right? -- in this case?

And so, look, House Republicans are playing political games. They're playing political stunts. There are baseless allegations here. We've been clear about that.

What we want to see -- I was just asked about a CR; I was just asked about the budget. That's what House Republicans should be focused on: how we're going to continue to keep the budget -- the budget going, the -- the government open.

That's what we want to talk about. That's what the Americans want to see. They want to see a continuation of bipartisan movement here from Washington, D.C. There's a supplemental that they -- that we need to move forward on. And instead of playing these political games, he's having these political stunts. It is really shameful. And it's unfortunate.

Q: And AMLO, last week, said he has asked the United States to give work permits to 10 million long-term Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. illegally and also provide $20 billion in development funding in the Americas and also lift all sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela. A lot of demands. Is the White House willing to do any of those things?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Who -- and who did you say was asking this?

Q: AMLO.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. So, look, we have a very robust, strong relationship with the President of Mexico. So, I just want to put that out there. And we've worked well together in dealing with -- with irregular migration and what's happening in the region. So, I'm just going to not get into specifics about his ask.

It's not -- I will say this: It's not a transactional relationship with -- with Mexico. It is indeed a partnership, diplomatic conversations that we have with them. I'm just not going to get into specifics.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. President Biden has not had any events at the White House in the new year, and he's been kept from public view for three full days now. Why?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President had a three-day swing, went to four states in the new year. He went to -- just -- actually, I should say just recently, he went to Pennsylvania, Valley Forge, where he gave a really impactful, important remarks on our democracy, protecting our democracy, ahead of -- on the eve ahead of January 6th.

What we saw in 2011 [2021], on January 6th, was an attack on our democracy. And he went out there and he spoke to the American people. It was very well-received. And this is something that he's going to continue to do.

He went to -- obviously, he was in Delaware. And then he went to South Carolina. Also gave another impactful speech on our democracy and our freedoms.

And then he went to Texas to honor a former congresswoman, E.B.J., who recently passed away, and he went there to pay his respect.

So, the President did a three -- a three-day swing. He went to four states. He's been out there. He's been able to talk directly to the American people. And we think that's really important.

Tomorrow, he's going to be in Allentown -- you heard from Lael -- where he's going to talk about small businesses, how important, especially in Allentown, that's been -- 15 million applications in three years; that's a record -- a record number -- because it's important to see -- to see how Bidenomics is working. He's going to talk about Bidenomics.

But let's not forget, if people are starting small businesses, they must have some confidence in the economy. So, we are -- he's looking forward to -- to be out -- getting out there tomorrow and talking, again, to -- directly to the American people.

Q: So, he did a three-day swing. But for the last three days -- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday -- none of his constituents have seen him doing anything. Who decided that the American people are best served by seeing less of President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would disagree. I wouldn't say he was -- they saw less of the President. He was out there, again, a couple of states in a -- in three days. I think that's important to note as well. And be -- give -- give the American people full -- the full information here.

And yesterday -- we noted this -- he met with Paul Whelan's sister, Elizabeth Whelan. And this is a commitment, when it comes to American hostages, bringing them home. The President has been committed to doing that. And we have brought home more than 30 people -- 30 Americans who have been held hostage across the -- across the globe.

And so, the President is committed. He wanted to have a conversation with Elizabeth Whelan. He did that. He met with his national security team, as he does regularly. He did that. He had lunch with the Vice President yesterday -- important partner in everything that he's trying to get done on behalf of the American people.

So, the President is active. The President is doing what he needs to do to deliver for the American people. And he'll continue to do that.

Q: There's an item in Axios that President Biden was advised by the White House Counsel to stop giving big-dollar donors tours of the Oval Office. While he has been out of view of the public for the last three days, has he given any wealthy campaign donors tours of the Oval Office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just speaking to that particular point about those stories that were out there. So, as many of your outlets have covered, it is typical -- it is typical for all presidents, regardless of party, to host supporters at the White House complex, which is both, as you know, his working -- working office, as well as his personal residence as well.

And President Biden and his team take all of this very seriously. We take rules concerning the White House and reelection seriously. And so -- and we're proud of that. We're proud of taking those rules very seriously. I just don't have anything else to add.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q: On that meeting the President had with Paul Whelan's sister yesterday at the White House, was there something that prompted that meeting? Is there any progress on a deal to get Paul's release?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I -- I don't -- I wish I had an announcement to share on a deal on getting home Paul Whelan -- and then let's not forget Evan as well. This is obviously top of mind for this administration, for National Security Council, and for the State Department to get home Americans that are being held hostage or wrongfully detained. So, that is something that we are working on regularly.

So, the President and -- and Elizabeth Whelan have -- have had conversations before. She's been in regular touch with the National Security Council, Jake Sullivan, and also, obviously, folks at the Department of State.

Don't have any catalyst for this particular meeting. But the President obviously thought it was important for them to get together and to have a conversation, just not going to get into private, specific, you know, agendas or what was discussed.

But, look, this is something that the President takes really seriously. We saw him do that with the American hostages that are in -- in Hamas -- right? -- in Gaza and how seriously he's been taking that for the past -- since October 7th, working around the clock.

We see Secretary Blinken i- -- was in the region. We're constantly having those diplomatic conversations to get hostages home to their friends -- to their families and to their friends. And others -- right? -- so, he is taking this really seriously. So, it's no surprise that he would have sat down and have a meeting with Elizabeth Whelan yesterday.

Q: In December, the administration had said it made a significant offer to secure the release of Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, but Russia rejected it. Has a new offer been made since last month?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have anything else to -- to share on what we have said most recently. But this is something that the President -- is a priority for the President to bring them both home, to bring other Americans who are being held hostage or wrongfully detained home. That is something that he takes very, very seriously. And we're going to conta- -- continue to work on that.

Go ahead, Emily.

Q: Thanks, Karine. I wanted to follow up on some of the questions yesterday about Hunter Biden. You've said he's a private citizen, which is true, but the President is a public citizen. And what's happening on Capitol Hill is public. It's political. So, can you clarify why you're -- you aren't able to speak more about the President's role in his son's defense?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Emily, I really don't have anything else to add. He's a private citizen. He's not a member of the White House. He doesn't work here. I just don't have anything else to share. I would have to pre- -- I'd have to refer you to Hunter's representative. I -- I don't have anything else to add from that -- to that.

Go ahead, Jared.

Q: U.S. oil production hit an all-time high in 2023. I'm curious what the administration, sort of, response to that measurement is and how it sort of fits in with the broader agenda of transitioning to EVs and the green agenda that the President talked so much about in the context of, like, job creation and the economy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, look, we've always said how important it is to transition to, obviously, to the -- EV. And that's something that we take incredibly seriously. And as --obviously, the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infra- -- Infrastructure Law all play a very important role in this.

And, you know, one of the things that we've worked really hard on is making sure that -- you know, as we talk about oil production, making sure that gas prices go down -- right? -- and that is something that we've seen over the past couple of months. We see that they're under three bucks in over 20 -- in about 28 states.

So, look, when it comes to oil production, we've als- -- we've also said that when the corporation profits, like, Americans should feel that as well. And so, that's something that the President is going to continue to speak to as well.

I don't have any specifics to say about 2023. But that's been the -- kind of the road that we have looked at, as we think about oil production, as we think about clean energy and how we want to move forward with electric vehicles and how important that is, as we deal with the climate -- climate change.

I'm going try and call on a few -- go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. Do you have a new strategy to try to get Julie Su confirmed now that the President has renominated her? And why did he decide to stick with her after she couldn't get confirmed last year?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we think she's done an excellent job. She's done a great job as the Acting Secretary of Labor. We've had a couple of, you know, negotiation agreements that she was very much involved with with labor and helped us -- helped the -- helped either with technical assistance or being directly involved -- land -- land some of those agreements that were incredibly important to labor workers and -- and so -- and their families, so that's important.

We think she's done a great job. We think that she should go through the nomination process. We think she should be the Secretary of Labor. And so, of course, the President is always going to go with the person that he believes is the most qualified, and she is, indeed, the most qualified.

Let's not forget when she be- -- when she was the deputy secretary, when she was going through that process, she was -- she went through nomination. She got the support. So, there's no reason that this can't happen again.

Q: Back of the room.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to start -- going to start wrapping it up. Go ahead, sir.

Q: Yeah, thanks, Karine. Governor Wes Moore, earlier this week, proposed launching a statewide Gun Violence Prevention Center, like the White House has suggested. My question is: Have you been in touch with any other governors about this initiative?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I think it's important. We are glad to see that Governor -- the Governor of Maryland has -- you know, has started an -- an office to prevent gun violence. Obviously, as you know, we did that here, which is one of the -- the first office of its kind.

We are constantly in touch with local and state officials and localities on how they -- how to move forward in dealing with gun violence in their communities. I don't have any conversations to speak to about any other states doing the same.

Q: Is the President disappointed at all that that initiative hasn't, you know, been embraced rapidly by some of these states experiencing a rash of, you know, violent murders and other viol- -- violent crimes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President has been very clear: There is an -- a gun violence gun epidemic here in this country, and he is going to do everything that he can to deal with this.

That's why he took the executive actions that he has -- more than two dozen, more than any other presidents for -- certainly in the first -- in their first term. You know, that's why we were able to pass this really comprehensive piece of legislation that he signed into law, obviously, that dealt with gun violence.

All of these things are critical and important. We are going to work -- one of the -- one of the charges of the Gun Violence Office here at the White House is to work with localities, is to work with states on how to move forward in dealing with gun violence in their community, the support that we can give them, how to implement some of the executive actions that the President has signed, certainly parts of the le- -- the legislation that is obviously now law into their -- into their communities.

And so, we're going to continue to work hand in hand to prevent gun violence in those communities, as you just laid out what we're seeing.

All right, everybody. Thank you so much. We'll see you on the road tomorrow.

2:32 P.M. EST

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, NSC Coordinator For Strategic Communications John Kirby, and National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/369261

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