Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby

April 23, 2024

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Tampa, Florida

12:46 P.M. EDT

MR. BATES: I have a few announcements at the top, then Admiral Kirby is going to take questions. Nobody fall asleep while we talk, please.

Yesterday, the President took a major step to strengthen privacy protections of patients as part of his efforts to protect access to reproductive healthcare in the face of extreme attacks by Republican elected officials.

As the President said yesterday, "No one should have their medical records used against them, by their doctor, or their loved ones just because they sought or received lawful reproductive healthcare. Privacy and confidentiality have always been a cornerstone of high-quality healthcare."

But now, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision made possible by the former President, women and their families live in fear that their deeply personal medical information will be disclosed without their permission and used against them.

Patient privacy is not the only thing under attack as a result of the overturning of Roe. Twenty-one extreme state abortion bans are in effect -- including in Florida, where an even more dangerous ban will take effect next week. More than 27 million women of reproductive age now live in states with abortion bans. Over 380 state bills restricting access to abortion care were introduced last year. IVF is under attack. Contraception access is under attack. Doctors and nurses are threatened with jail time for providing the care they are trained to provide. And women are turned away from emergency rooms and being denied healthcare and lifesaving care.

Tomorrow in the courts, the administration will fight to defend a woman's ability to access that emergency care under federal law.

President Biden believes that healthcare decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not politicians. His administration will continue to defend a woman's ability to access emergency care under federal law, fight for reproductive rights, and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law so that women in every state can access the care that they need.

Next, we are excited to announce that this year, President Biden will deliver commencement addresses at Morehouse College on May 19th and at the United States Military Academy on May 25th. The President looks forward to speaking to graduates on their special day and thanking their parents, friends, and loved ones for all of their support.

He is especially grateful for the opportunity to address West Point graduates as their Commander-in-Chief and thank them for serving and defending their nation.

Lastly, today, we are passing the great state of North Carolina, home to the reigning ACC men's basketball champions, the NC State Wolfpack, who just celebrated both our women's and men's basketball teams winning their NCAA Regional Championships and advancing to the Final Four. Go Pack.

Q: Is this why you took the gaggle today, so you could say that? (Laughter.)

MR. BATES: No comment. (Laughter.)

And with that, I'll turn it over to Admiral Kirby.

MR. KIRBY: I would just note that we're going to Tampa, home of the Buccaneers and the University of South Florida.

Just a couple of notes at the top here, if you don't -- if you'll indulge me.

I wanted to take a minute to highlight the administration's efforts to advance U.S. priorities in the Western Hemisphere and to deliver on the President's affirmative agenda for a more prosperous, democratic, and secure region.

You'll recall that the President laid out this vision for the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, back in June of '22, a new regional framework to deepen economic integration and cooperation in our hemisphere. The President recognized that a stronger economic partnership is fundamental to overcoming our national security challenges, whether that's economic security, climate change, or irregular migration.

In November, during the inaugural Americas Partnership Leaders' Summit, President Biden and his counterparts agreed that ministers would meet annually across three tracks to build a more competitive and resilient regional economy. So, just last week, Secretary Yellen hosted all the finance ministers of the Americas Partnership countries in D.C. to take stock of the Inter-American Development Bank, or IDB, progress on supply chain competitiveness across three critical industries: semiconductors, medical supplies, and clean energy, including critical minerals.

The U.S. Development Finance Corporation and the IDB Invest will also -- also expanded the Americas Partnership platform and Innovative Joint Investment Framework that has identified about $3 billion in potential infrastructure investments in the Americas alone. By working closely with the IDB to finance high-standard infrastructure and resilient critical supply chains, we are making real progress under the Americas Partnership for the people of the Americas -- to put it in the President's words, to make the Western Hemisphere the most economically competitive region in the world.

With that, I'll take some questions.

Q: On Ukraine, it's looking more unlikely that Ukraine will be able to win the war this year. So, I'm wondering what they have to show and accomplish with the $61 billion in aid that they'll soon get to ensure that Washington, particularly Congress, continues to support their efforts?

MR. KIRBY: I think -- I -- it's critical that -- I mean, they're under the gun right now, literally and figuratively, as the Russians are advancing in the East -- in the Donbas -- and as the Russians continue to pelt their critical infrastructure and their defense industry with missiles and drones.

So, it's not so much about laying markers for them of what they have to accomplish on a certain scale or date. It's about making sure that as soon as we can get supplemental funding in place, once the Senate passes it, we can get them the kinds of critical materials and weapons they need now to start making a difference on the battlefield. It's not going in the Ukrainians' favor in the Donbas, certainly not in elsewhere in the country.

Mr. Putin thinks he can play for time, so we've got to try to make up some of that time. So, what you're going to see -- as soon as the President can get the bill on his desk and he can sign it, you're going to see us provide the kinds of capabilities they need most right now.

Over time, as we get into the summer, into the fall, we'll be able to continue to have conversations with the Ukrainians about what their longer-term strategy is for pushing back Russian aggression and then -- and then tailoring the packages to meet those needs. Does that make sense?

Q: Right. Right. And I mean, the administration has asked for this extra money for a long time since -- dating back to October. So, has that delay in getting aid caused actual damage on the ground in Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: Oh, my goodness, yes. Oh, yeah. No question about it.

When the Russians are launching these massive drone and missile assaults, they know darn well that the Ukrainians are only going to be able to shoot so many of them down and some of them are going to get through. So, part of it is: How much damage can I cause on the ground with the hits, but also, how can I help -- how can I make the Ukrainians expend --

(Mr. Kirby bumps a microphone.) Sorry, I know I -- it's my hands. (Laughter.)

-- expend munitions in the air to decrease their inventory, knowing, as Putin has for the last several months, they can't get them replaced?

The second thing is, just take a look at the -- the ground in the in the e- -- in the Donbas area, in the eastern Ukraine coming out of Avdiivka. I won't say every day, but most days since Avdiiv- -- Avdiivka fell, the Russians have slowly but successfully taken more ground from the Ukrainians and pushed them back against their first, second, and, in some places, their third line of defense.

And as they push forward, of course, they're causing infrastructure damage; they're -- they're shelling cities; you know, they're forcing people to flee; I mean, and they're -- obviously, the Ukrainians are taking casualties in this fight.

So, yes, the short -- it's a long answer, but the short answer is: Yes, there absolutely has been damage in the last several months.

Q: Quickly, is the President planning to sign the foreign aid bill this week? Is he hoping he can do that this week? And once he does that, how soon can you get weapons to Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I mean, obviously, it's going to depend on the Senate. We're hoping that the Senate can move this up to the President's desk here this week. We'll see what they can do. But I can assure you that once it gets to his desk, he will sign it as quickly as possible.

I can also assure you that quickly on the heels of that, you will see the first security assistance package going forward to Ukraine.

Q: What kind of weapons do they need the most right now?

MR. KIRBY: I won't get into previewing the next package. I don't think I want to do that.

But kind of like what we've been talking about here, clearly they need air defense capabilities -- interceptor missiles -- because those drones and missiles are not stopping.

They need artillery. 155, in particular, is of great need to the commanders on the ground as the Russians keep going forward. So, you've got to have ammunition.

I think they could use some -- they would tell you there will be some other long-range capabilities, like -- like HIMARS. And small arms and ammunition is always in great demand. And, you know, perhaps maybe some -- some vehicles -- track vehicles, wheeled vehicles, that kind of thing. We'll have to see.

But in the la- -- you know, since October -- and then our last package was December -- so, since -- really since December, since the last package, we've not been able to give them any of these things, and they're all critical.

Q: John, and then one on Rafah. When is the next round or Rafah talks? And do you expect that to be in person?

MR. KIRBY: I don't ha- -- I don't know. As you know, we just met with -- virtually --

Q: Yes, yes.

MR. KIRBY: -- a few days ago.

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: I don't know what the schedule portends for another one.

I want to remind you that these talks are being done in the context of what we call the "SCG" -- the strategic coordination group. So, there's an already existing process for this. We expect to keep using that process going forward.

Obviously, if we have something on schedule, we'll talk to you about it.

Q: Admiral, do you have anything to confirm about whether the President met with AOC yesterday about Gaza? And if so, what was his message? He suggested that in the remarks.

MR. KIRBY: I know they had a chance to talk on the sidelines of the climate event yesterday. I don't know what the topics were. I don't know how much they got into what's going on in -- in Gaza.

Q: Following-up on -- on Gaza. There have been these reports of mass graves near the Nasser Hospital. Does the White House have any response to that?

MR. KIRBY: Just seeing these reports. Obviously,

scenes of mass graves in general are deeply concerning. But I don't have anything that I, you know, can confirm the veracity of those -- of those reports.

I think nobody wants to see hospitals become conflict zones. Nobody wants to see fighting in hospitals and around hospitals. Hamas unfortunately uses hospitals as command centers, places to store equipment, house their fighters, unfortunately. I mean, this is the kind of enemy that the IDF is up against.

But, again, that doesn't mean we want to see hospitals as warzones or places where armed conflict is going on.

Q: There are some reports that some of the bodies that were found at the mass grave had shots to the head and looked like they might have been executed.

MR. KIRBY: Again, I -- I've just seen these --

Q: Is that something --

MR. KIRBY: -- reports like you are. I don't have anything --

Q: Is that something U.S. officials would want to investigate or want Israel to investigate?

MR. KIRBY: I wouldn't expect a U.S. investigation. But, obviously, we're seeing these reports the same as you are -- deeply, deeply concerning. I'm not in a position to confirm them. But we'll certainly talk to our Israeli counterparts about it and see what they know. But I just can't go into more detail on that.

Q: What about --

Q: Do you have any concerns these repeated meetings that the former President is having with foreign leaders? And are they complicating the administration's foreign policy?

MR. KIRBY: I'll -- I've got to stay out of anything about the campaign or what the foreign [former] President is doing or not.

I can only tell you that President Biden is focused on the discussions he's having with foreign leaders all around the world -- continues to do that -- about a range of issues that are important to our national security. That includes Gaza and what's going on in -- in the Middle East, as well as -- as well as Ukraine.

He's very comfortable and confident that he has those relationships and has the ability to have those communications. You saw he called President Zelenskyy just yesterday to talk about what we anticipate to be our continued support for them going forward.

Q: Do you have a comment on Russia denying -- rejecting Evan's appeal against pretrial detention?

MR. KIRBY: I wish I could say we were surprised by this. But it's just another example of the sham process that the Russians are running here.

Evan is a reporter. He's not a spy. He's not a criminal. He needs to come home with his family right now.

Q: Any response to the reports that Israel has failed to provide evidence that several members of UNRWA are militants and part of Hamas?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. So, we welcome the results of this report and strongly support the recommendations in the report. And we're going to be working with UNRWA and other -- and the U.N., as well as other aid organizations and partners to advance those recommendations into real progress.

And, again, as I've said before, UNRWA needs to take this seriously. This report certainly conveys that -- that it has been taken seriously. But what matters now is the actions that they take to conduct reforms and improvements so that -- so that this kind of thing can't happen again. It doesn't erase -- nor should it -- from anybody the good work that UNRWA is still doing on the ground. And in many cases, they're the main -- the main effort to distribute aid and assistance.

Now, obviously, if you -- in terms of our funding of UNRWA, that is still suspended. We're going to have to see real progress here before that gets changed. And, of course, we're going to have to follow the law of the land as well. But we are working hard.

And you saw in this -- in the supplemental package that hopefully will get to the President's desk -- I mean, there is some $10 billion for humanitarian assistance, to include Gaza and other regions too. And we will continue to work with other aid organizations as appropriate to make sure that the -- that the people of Gaza get the support that they need.

Q: I just had a quick question on Iran, considering we haven't heard from you for a few days. I mean, did the U.S. lobby Israel successfully for a smaller-scale response against Iran? And, I mean, do you think the spate of retaliation is --is over?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I'm just not going to be able to offer a comment on that one way or the other. The President has been very, very consistent throughout this conflict. We don't want to see it escalate. Everything he's been doing since the 7th of October has been designed to make sure Israel can defend itself -- we certainly proved that to a fare-thee-well a week ago -- but also that everything we're doing to try to keep it from becoming a wider regional war.

And everything he's done, from the additional military resources to the diplomacy -- the personal diplomacy, has been designed to do that. I think I'll just leave it at that.

Q: Did Israel give the U.S. a heads up, I mean, during the call that you had about this attack? And did the President approve the attack? I mean, can you at least speak about what -- what was discussed on that call?

MR. KIRBY: Again, this is a sovereign country you're talking about. And -- and I think we'll let them speak to their military operations one way or the other. But we have and will continue to have routine communications with our Israeli counterparts, including in the IDF.

But I think I'll leave it at that. Nice try, though.

Q: Given Seung Min's question that, you know, it's been since October that you've been asking for the supplemental package for Ukraine, I mean, have you guys kind of started to figure out, you know, if you do need more money, what is the political path look like in the future, given --

MR. KIRBY: We passed this --

Q: -- how much of a battle this was?

MR. KIRBY: I think we're -- right now, we're just focused on getting this to the President's desk so we can sign it -- so he can sign it and we can get that aid going.

Q: But does there need to be a kind of change of approach, given the way the Republicans -- so many Republicans have been kind of reluctant to pass this?

MR. KIRBY: Change in approach?

Q: Like, is there a different -- I mean, you've mentioned kind of how much money goes to members' districts. That didn't move many people. You know, you've tried a different -- a lot of different tactics to get more people on board. I mean --

MR. KIRBY: I think we just have to continue to make the case -- and you'll hear -- you'll hear the President will continue to do this -- that supporting Ukraine is actually supporting our national security interest. Standing up to Putin and not letting him take that country, which he still wants to do, is good for the United States -- our national security there in the region, but also elsewhere. It's certainly good for our allies and partners. And obviously, more importantly, it's good for the people of Ukraine, who are doing the -- all the fighting here -- the fighting and dying.

So, I think you'll just continue to hear the President make the case for why supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do.

Q: Are U.S. forces within reach of Iranian proxies on heightened alert since the attacks?

MR. KIRBY: I would just say we're always vigilant to the threats, particularly in Iraq and Syria, to our troops. As you know, they're there for a counter-ISIS mission -- still an important mission. And force protection is always at the top of the list of the military commanders that they report to. That's no different today.

And that force protection regimen changes as appropriate to the threat. And that's really as far as I go.

Q: Are you taking any new steps since last week?

MR. KIRBY: Force protection is always a concern. We take steps as we need to appropriately to the threat, and the threat does change from time to time.

Q: Admiral, just one on oil. Can you put a finer point on whether the U.S. has asked the Saudis to reboost their crude oil production?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything on that one. I can take that question and ask. I don't know.

Okay. All right. I'll give you back to Andrew.

Q: Thank you.

MR. BATES: Thank you. All right.

Q: On the Morehouse commencement. There's already reports that there are some faculty concerned about the President's planned appearance there at commencement. There is supposed to be a meeting on Thursday for concerned members to air out their thoughts, and I was wondering if the White House had any response to what some of the faculty at the school may be expressing.

MR. BATES: Like I mentioned, the President is proud that he was invited by Morehouse. He's eager to speak there. Commencements are about the graduates, their families, and their loved ones; about celebrating the accomplishments of the graduates; and then, in the case of West Point graduates, thanking them for their service defending our nation.

I'm not going to weigh in on processes happening at Morehouse, but he looks forward to going there and celebrating with the graduates.

Q: And also you and the -- you -- speaking on behalf of the White House and also the President had issues -- had talked about condemn -- or had condemned the -- the antisemitism we're seeing from college campuses and I'm -- or in these -- some of these protests. And I'm wondering if the White House is doing more. Are you reaching out to some of these schools offering sort of support or anything along those lines as these -- as these situations continue?

MR. BATES: As -- as you mentioned and as all of you covered in the President's Passover statement, he directly addressed the vile comments that circulated over the weekend with a call to action, saying that we must speak out against the alarming surge of antisemitism because silence is complicity.

Like we said, while every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous, and they have no place on any college campus or anywhere in the United States of America. Echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organizations, especially in the wake of the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable.

We are, of course, monitoring these situations closely. There -- there has been alarming rhetoric that we want to be sure we are meeting our responsibility to speak out against. We will continue to do that.

And that is a commitment the President made in the first-ever National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. That is something he feels very strongly about. You all remember that he made the decision to run because of the antisemitic bile that was chanted in Charlottesville. And that is something he will continue to do.

Q: Andrew, quickly, on the President's comments yesterday. When he said he's set up a program to deal with the antisemitic protests, what was he specifically referring to? Is this the work that the ED is doing? I mean, and -- and -- because they were set up in November to deal with this. What has been done so far? What -- you know, are they really leading charge on this issue for the -- for the administration?

MR. BATES: He was highlighting the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism that we are aggressively implementing. That involves monitoring for statements of concern and then making judgments about when to speak out forcefully. We saw a number of comments that crossed the line -- comments that were grotesque, that were violent. And that is a commitment we're going to continue to meet. You all have seen us --

Q: But what -- what's the program he was refereeing to, though? What is the program he was referring to that he has set up?

MR. BATES: He's talking about his National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.

Q: Okay.

What about the work that the Department of Education was charged to do in November to address these antisemitic protests around the country? What have they done? What are they planning to do? Are they really leading charge on this? You know, who else from the White House -- to follow up on Seung Min's question -- you know, is reaching out to these groups?

MR. BATES: The Department of Education does have an integral role to play in this. I would refer you to them for more specific details. I know that there is an investigation they are doing, so I just want to be careful about that in this kind of a context.

But I do just want to reiterate that when we see revolting, dangerous, antisemitic comments, that is something that we are going to speak out against in very clear terms. We watch for those kinds of remarks.

This is important: standing up for the dignity of every single human being. Antisemitism is a moral crisis, and so we are using multiple arms of the administration to make sure we are pushing back against it because there has been a very concerning spike in recent years when it comes to antisemitic language and violence.

Q: Andrew, I mean, the protests that have been going on in Columbia; Yale, yesterday, more than 40 students were arrested. I mean, these are protests that are also calling for the President to act on things. They want their universities to act when it comes to their stance on Israel and Gaza.

I mean, there's more protests popping up at UMD, UNC Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt, Michigan. This is not something that's going away, and it's only growing at this point. So, is that something that the President is tracking, especially because many of these students who are protesting have a message for him?

MR. BATES: He is, of course, aware of the protests. We know that this is a painful moment for many communities. We respect that, and we support every American's right to peacefully protest. That's something that we have been consistent about.

But as I said, when we witness calls for violence; physical intimidation; hateful, antisemitic rhetoric, those are unacceptable. We will denounce them. The President knows that silence is complicity, and that's why he uses the platforms he has to try and ensure that our fellow Americans are safe.

Q: Andrew, just want to try again. I know the Admiral said he didn't have a readout of any meeting or discussion that AOC had with the President. But did you have anything or could you at least clarify his line from the remarks yesterday where he said he would talk to her "about another part of the world"? What did he mean when he said that?

MR. BATES: I'm not going to go into private conversations between the President and any lawmakers. We appreciated her participation in the climate event, as well as Senator Sanders and Senator Markey and others. That is, of course, a national security and an economic crisis that we want to keep fighting very hard to resolve in a way that continues to bolster our economy and bring manufacturing back to the United States.

Q: Is the President meeting with other lawmakers to get any advice or context on talking about Gaza or Israel or how to deal with the number of young people, specifically, who are really unhappy with the way he's handling this?

MR. BATES: I don't have any meetings to read out right now or to announce.

Q: On the --


On the other side -- sorry.

Q: No, you're fine.

Q: On the other side of the political spectrum, some Republicans have been calling for the President to send in the National Guard. What does the White House make of these calls for people who are, you know, saying that the President should take more action about the protests?

MR. BATES: Like I mentioned, we're monitoring this closely. I know that Governor Hochul came to Columbia's campus yesterday to meet with university leadership and with the NYPD. She spoke out against the, quote, "vile and abhorrent rhetoric," end quote, that has been do- -- documented.

The decision to deploy National Guard members in support of local or state law enforcement rests with governors. DOJ and the FBI continue to offer support to universities and colleges with respect to the federal laws that apply to student conduct. And each institution has established points of contact with federal law enforcement should additional support be needed.

Q: The President is going to New York on Thursday. Does he plan to stop by the protests in Columbia?

MR. BATES: I don't have any schedule announcements to make.

Q: Is he planning to address the students at some point, Andrew? We've been seeing a lot of protesters, you know, including a lot of college students, follow him around the country, you know, trying to sort of get him to talk to them, to --

Is -- is he planning to address what is happening right now? You know, is he calling these youth groups privately? How is he getting involved in these growing pro- -- to address these growing protests?

MR. BATES: Like I mentioned, I don't have schedule announcements to make here today. But the President has had a number of conversations that you all have reported on with community members. He takes those conversations seriously. He also knows that this is a painful moment for many communities.

And I think you've all seen him respond. When -- when people speak out at our events, he shows empathy. He shows compassion. He respects their right to make their voice heard. And I think that that says a lot about how he is approaching what is a very complex situation.

Q: When the President signs the security supplemental, are there plans for him to do so publicly with anyone from the Hill?

MR. BATES: So, I -- I'm going to repeat what Admiral Kirby said, that, of course, we're waiting for the Senate to pass this legislation, which we strongly support. As soon as it does, he will sign the bill as quickly as he can so that we can start dispersing this critically needed aid that we have fought for going back to before last summer and which we're very glad Republicans and Democrats were able to come around about.

And si- -- since you raised that, I do just want to mention that the President, of course, has a long history of working across the aisle to f- -- to find common ground with Republicans.

Throughout the last six months, the President directed his team to continuously brief Speaker Johnson and other leaders on the urgent need for this supplemental. I know that Speaker Johnson has spoken about how consequential those intelligence briefings that the President ensured senior officials were providing were. And that is something that we will continue to do.

Q: You mentioned Speaker Johnson. He is facing some political pressure, calls for him to either resign or be ousted from the Speakership. You just talked about bipartisanship. Does the President have any thoughts on whether Democrats should support Speaker Johnson as he faces these calls to resign or potentially be ousted from the Speakership?

MR. BATES: We do not insert ourselves into the politics of any caucus or conference on Capitol Hill. That is true of either party, either chamber. And that is something we're going to hold to.

Q: Why does the Spe- -- what does the President think about how the Speaker has conducted himself more generally over the talk -- over the course of these talks?

MR. BATES: The President respects Speaker Johnson. They, of course, have important disagreements. But they do have values in common, like faith and family.

President Biden has always believed in working across the aisle in good faith and finding areas of common ground wherever it is possible. He's glad that they were able to do that in a way that benefited America's national security interests in the world.

And, again, he is grateful to Speaker Johnson and Leader Jeffries for getting this through the House. He hopes the Senate will pass it as soon as possible.

Q: And just one on the event today on abortion. Do we expect the President to use the term "abortion"? We know that often he talks about reproductive freedom, but sometimes he shies away from actually using the term "abortion."

MR. BATES: I will just caveat this by saying that this is a campaign event. And so, that limits my ability to preview the remarks.

But taking a step back, you all have covered that the President has put reproductive freedom at the core of his agenda. It's something you hear him speak about frequently. And when he does that, he mentions the word "abortion," and he calls -- he calls out Republican officials for their draconian attacks on basic freedoms that are having heartbreaking impacts all across this country.

These radical abortion bans are resulting in women being denied care even in emergency rooms.

I know the AP had a story that included a heartbreaking mention of a woman who -- who miscarried in a hospital bathroom because she could not get the care that she needed and that she deserved.

And so, the President does mention abortion when he talks about reproductive freedoms being at the forefront of his agenda. He also highlights the range of other fundamental reproductive freedoms that are being targeted by radical Republican officials, including access to IVF, as you all have covered, including access to contraception.

And we all need to keep front of mind that this is all taking place for one reason, and it is because the former President handpicked Supreme Court justices with the express purpose of overturning Roe v. Wade. That is what unleashed this pain all over the country. That is why one in three women in America live in a state with an abortion ban.

And that is something that we need to reverse with legislation that undoes that damage and protects people's core rights and takes government out of the most personal decisions that families make.

Q: Has the President been monitoring former President Trump's trial this week?

MR. BATES: I have not talked to him about what -- what he is viewing this week. Obviously, he has been -- he has been busy. And I'm -- I'm just going to, you know, do this with the ca- -- the -- you know, the caveat that we do not weigh in on the 2024 election or on independent judicial processes.

But the President's focus is on cutting costs and beating inflation, taking on rich special interests who need to pay their fair share in taxes, and, like we were just talking about, standing up for freedoms that are under assault by radical Republican officials.

He's -- he's working to make sure that we can expand the list of drugs that Medicare can negotiate for, and he wants to make sure that we stop MAGAnomics from triggering what former Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers said would be a, quote, "inflation spiral," with these massive tax giveaways to big corporations and to the wealthiest households that would worsen inflation, along with these across-the-board tariffs that would raise prices on the American people and also worsen inflation.

So, that's something that he's being attentive to.

Q: Just a quick follow-up, but on a -- on sort of a topic about Trump that he tweeted this morning. He was complaining about the U.S. dollar reaching a new high against the Japanese yen, calling it a "total disaster" for the U.S. He said, you know, "When I was President, I spent a good deal of time telling Japan and China, in particular, you can't do that."

What kind of concerns does the Biden administration have around currency manipulation when it comes to Japan? Or do you share some of the concerns that the former President raised this morning?

MR. BATES: Well, I will again say that I am not going to comment on the 2024 election. I'm going to follow the law. I am also not going to comment on the dollar. I have been well trained by my wife. (Laughs.)

Q: Sure. But, like, in a --

MR. BATES: But I -- I will say, again, that when you take a step back and you look at the MAGAnomics agenda that has been proposed by Republican officials, including tax welfare for the super-rich and big corporations, including across-the-board tariffs, there is a very real threat that that will exacerbate inflation.

President Biden's top economic priority is continuing to make more historic progress, bringing costs down for people. Doing the opposite: having wich -- rich special interests pay their fair share and ensuring that we can bring down energy costs through the Inflation Reduction Act; building on the list of drugs that Medicare is now empowered to negotiate because we beat Big Pharma; not letting Republican officials repeal the Inflation Reduction Act in a giveaway to Big Pharma.

Q: Sure. I was asking specifically about currency manipulation. That has nothing to do with 2024. I mean, are -- you know, does the administration share concerns that Japan, for example, in this case, is manipulating the current- -- currency markets?

MR. BATES: I am not going to comment on currency from here, but I -- I respect the question.

All good? All right.

Q: Thank you.

1:21 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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