Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Chicago, Illinois
4:32 P.M. PDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Hello, everybody. Okay, first up, this week marks two years since the start of the conflict in northern Ethiopia, a war that has led to an extraordinary humanitarian crisis, more deaths than the war in Ukraine, and millions displaced.
We therefore welcome the announcement in Pretoria on Wednesday of a cessa- -- cessation of hostilities in northern Ethiopia. The White House commands -- commends -- I'm so sorry. I am very, very tired. I'm sorry, guys. It's late.
The White House commends the decision by the Ethiopian government and the TPLF to "silence the guns," and there is a joint responsibility to implement and verify the terms of the agreement.
We also applaud South Africa for hosting the talks and Kenya for its active support. We extend our sincere thanks for the expert facilitation by the African Union panel to reach this agreement.
President Biden welcomes the government of Ethiopia's commitment to expedite the resumption of sustained and unhindered humanitarian assistance to all those in need and to restore essential services.
This agreement represents an important first by -- by [but] critical step in a long process to rebuild peace through dialogue.
And while the parties have agreed to stop fighting, there must be unhindered access for human rights monitor -- monitors and accountability for those who have committed gross violations of human rights, including those responsible for the killing of aid workers.
The United States stands ready to continue to support Ethiopia's peace process under the leadership of our African partners.
And -- and now we have quick week ahead for all of you.
Tonight, the President will travel to Chicago, Illinois, where he will participate in a political fundraiser.
Tomorrow, he will travel to Joliet, Illinois, and deliver remarks on how we are lowering prescription drug costs and protecting Social Security and Medicare while congressional Republicans are proposing repealing the IRA -- the Inflation Reduction Act -- which will increase prescription drug costs and putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block.
He will travel on to Philadelphia for a political rally with former President Obama, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and others.
On Sunday, the President will depart Wilmington and travel to Westchester County, New York, to participate in a political event with Governor Kathy Hochul.
On Monday, the President will travel to Columbia, Maryland, where he will participate in a rally for the Dem- -- the Democratic National Committee.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the President will be working from the White House. We'll have more to share about his Election Day and day-after schedule next week. I know all of you guys are eager and have a lot of questions and want to hear about that, but I promise you we will have more to share soon enough.
On Thursday, the President will depart Washington, D.C., for Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The President will attend the 27th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change -- which is COP27 -- in Egypt.
At COP27, he will build on the significant work the United States has undertaken to advance the global climate fight and help the most vulnerable build resilience to climate impacts, and he will highlight the need for the world to act in the -- in this div- -- decisive decade.
On Friday, the President will then travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to participate in the annual U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit. In Cambodia, he will reaffirm the United States' enduring commitment to Southeast Asia and ASEAN centrality, building on the success of the historic U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington, D.C. He will underscore the importance of U.S.-ASEAN cooperation in ensuring security and prosterity [prosperity] in the region, and the wellbeing of our combined 1 billion people.
On Sunday, the President will travel to Bali, Indonesia, for the G20 Leaders' Summit. In Bali, the President will commend President Widodo's leadership of the G20 and highlight the U.S. commitment to his premier forum for economic cooperation with countries representing more than 80 percent of the world's GDP.
He will work with G20 partners to address key challenges such as climate change, the global impact of Putin's war on Ukraine, including on energy and food security and affordability, and a range of other priorities important to the global economic recovery.
We will have additional information for you on bilats and other engagement next week.
The President will return to Washington, D.C., on Thursday, November 17th.
And with that, Aamer, you want to kick us off?
Q: Yeah. First, just a quick scheduling question. On Chicago, where we're headed to now, who is this political fundraiser benefitting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, it's going to be Congresswo- -- Congresswoman Underwood and Cast- -- and Congressman Casten.
Q: Sean Casten?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: Okay. And then, I just wanted to ask you about the mass layoffs at Twitter. Is there a concern from the administration that shrinking the staff so substantially could make this important platform even more susceptible to spreading misinformation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, two parts here. We've seen the reportings, clearly, like all of you, on the layoffs. You know, I haven't had an opportunity to speak to the President about this, so, clearly, don't -- I'm not going to give any -- any comment at this time on what the business practices have been.
On the misinformation piece, look, the President has been outspoken about the importance of social media platforms continuing to take steps to reduce hate speech and misinformation. That belief extends to Twitter, it extends to Facebook and any other social media platforms where users can spread misinformation.
He's also long called for fundamental reforms to Section -- as you know, Section 230, as we've talked about many times, because he is concerned about the power of large tech platforms over our everyday lives.
Specifically on the layoffs, still not -- I'm not going to comment. Again, I -- it's not something that I have talked to directly with the President about.
Q: What is the President's reaction to former President Donald Trump's announcement that he would "very, very, very probably" run again in 2024?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, as you all know, I'm covered by the Hatch Act. So I'm not going to get into any -- I'm not going to speculate on that -- on the question that you just asked me.
Look, the President has been very clear. He's made -- he's focused on what's happening right now and what the work that he's been doing with congressional Democrats these past several months, which is lowering costs for the American people, passing -- passing legislation that's really going to have an effect on everyday people's lives, like the Inflation Reduction Act, which is lowering healthcare costs, lowering energy costs, and is going to make a fundamental difference to the American people. Like spending almost every day this past several months lowering -- lowering gas prices a buck 25 per gallon, which is the work that -- because of the work that this President has done -- historic, bold actions that he has taken. That's been -- that's been the priority.
We've been very clear; he's been very clear. The choice is very -- is very stark for the American people at this time, because we know what congressional Republicans want to do. They want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. That's the first thing that they want to do. And that's going to, if anything, increase inflation, increase costs. And so there is a stark difference.
Let's not forget about our freedoms, our rights, the right for a woman to choose. They want to codify Dobbs; we want to codify Roe. And so it is very stark differences that we're seeing.
And what the President is going to keep doing is making sure that he lays that out very, very starkly and clearly for the American people. And you guys have seen that, certainly, this past several days.
Q: Is the President at all concerned that Mr. Trump could use his political candidacy to dodge any criminal liability?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'm not going to speak to, as you know, any ongoing investigation. We respect those investigations. Those are independent investigation, and so that's not something that we're going to speak to. We will let -- we'll -- we will let those folks do their job.
What the President is going to do is continue to talk about how he's going to do his job for the American people.
Q: Yesterday, Karine, at the rally in San Diego, President Biden said, quote, "We're going to free Iran. They're going to free themselves soon." Can you explain what he meant by "We're going to free Iran"?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So a couple of things. The President was expressing his -- our solidarity with the protestors, as he has been doing from the very onset. As you all know, he's been very clear on that. They're -- he was -- he spoke very loud and clear on that when he spoke at the -- in the well of the -- at the U.N. just about a month ago -- more than a month ago -- on that issue, and was very -- was very clear and bold, and talked about how he supported the Iranian women and citizens who were -- who were speaking up, fighting for their basic freedom. So that is what he was talking about.
Iran is --
Q: There's no change in pol- -- oh, go ahead.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, Iran's leadership is facing problems of its own making. We're going to continue to look for ways to hold the regime accountable for -- for the -- for a way that we are treating -- for the way that they are treating their people. And you've seen that. You've seen us put forth sanctions.
And we've been very, very clear about that, working with our partners and allies.
And so the President is going to continue to speak very -- very -- very boldly about that.
Q: Just to follow on that: Were his comments an indication at all that there will be additional pressures, new mechanisms of putting pressure on Iran that we have not seen to date?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Our policy is to support the right of peaceful assembly and free speech -- that's what we are doing -- the very things these young Iranians want and deserve. They should get to determine their own future and the future of Iran. And the regime must stop its violence and intimidation. We've been very clear on that.
Just last week, as you know, we announced sanctions, and we're going to continue. Don't have anything new to announce, but certainly we're going to speak out.
Q: Can I ask one quick follow on Twitter? I know you said you haven't gotten a chance, really, to talk to the President about the misinformation piece. There were some comments that the president of the NAACP put out today expressing concern about advertisers putting -- I mean, basically expressing concerns about Twitter as a platform for democracy.
Given that the President has expressed so many concerns about threats to democracy, I'm curious if this White House has concerns about Twitter being a place where misinformation, again, and hate speech and threats to democracy are flourishing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, we've been on the ro- -- on the road and at events all day, so I have not seen those reportings.
But to your question about our concern: Look, there's no place for hate speech. We've been very clear about that. We've condemned that. No space -- no space for -- for hate speech or harassment on social media.
The President has long said that the social media companies need to take action to address the spread of hate on their platforms. And he's also been clear in his concern about the power of large social media platforms have over every -- everyday life. So we're going to continue to speak out to it.
Again, I'm not going to -- I have not seen those reporting. I'm not going to get into specifics about a company's policies.
But certainly when it comes to hate speech, when it comes to, you know, any type of attacks on that level, we're going to continue to speak -- speak up -- speak out against it, because there's no place for it, especially, to your point -- as you were asking me about social media.
Q: Karine, Secretary Blinken is in Ukraine today. Any information you can give us about his conversations with Zelenskyy and sort of the think -- the thinking behind sending him to Ukraine right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you talking about Jake? Jake Sullivan?
Q: Sullivan, I'm sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I'm just going to basically give you a readout of what we've already kind of shared. So National Security Advisor Jake's Sluvi- -- Sullivan met with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, head of the Office of the President, Minister of Defense, and others in Kyiv today to underscore the United States' steadfast support to Ukraine and its people as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Jake announced an additional $400 million security assistance package, which includes refurbished T-72 HAWKs [tanks], unmanned aerial vehicles, and the refurbished of 250 HAWK surface-to-air missiles for eventual -- eventual transfer to Ukraine.
He also affirmed the continued provisions of economic and humanitarian assistance, as well as ongoing efforts with partners to hold Russia accountable for its aggression.
Again, this is -- this is a continued -- what we -- what the President has promised is to continue to support Ukraine as they're fighting for their freedom. And -- and that's what you're -- that's what you saw by the -- by the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's trip today.
Q: On the midterms and abortion rights, we're going to be just a few hours from Michigan where abortion is literally on the ballot. How confident do you feel that abortion rights as an issue that can hold up against rising concerns about the economy this close to the midterms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that last part?
Q: How confident do you feel that abortion rights as an issue can hold up against rising concerns about the economy this close to the midterms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What you've seen this President do is talk about all the issues that matter to the American people, and that is the economy, that is inflation, that is abortion rights, that is even student loans, as we have laid out in the President's plan, which is incredibly popular. We announced 20 -- more than 23 million people have already signed -- have already signed up for it. Sixteen million people, as you heard from the President, are, you know, have been approved to get those benefits.
So, the President has talked about all these issues, again, that matter to the American people, even voting rights and democracy, as you've heard from him directly just a couple of days ago.
And, look, when it comes to -- I understand you're asking about Michigan. I want to be really careful about talking about any politics or strategy. What I can speak to is what we've heard directly from the American people when it comes to abortion rights and what the President has said. When it comes to abortion rights, a woman's right to choose, the President is going to continue to speak -- speak against the actions that we've seen from congressional Republicans and national Republicans who want to, again, codify Dobbs and take away every right that we see when it comes to -- when you think about national abortion, right? It doesn't matter if you're in a red state or a blue state; that right would be taken away across the board and -- and without -- without exceptions. And so, the President has been very clear about that.
Look, you've heard him talk about the economy almost every day this week. And he has done that for -- for the past several weeks, for the past several months. And that's going to continue to happen.
He's also going to talk about abortion rights. He's also going to talk about democracy. Because all of those things, as you guys ask me about polling, all of those things are important for the American population.
Q: One more about jobs. Any reaction from the White House to that report?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. So, the President put out a statement, I think you all saw, that today's jobs report adding 261,000 jobs with unemployment rates still nearing historical lows at 3.7 percent shows that our jobs recovery remains strong.
We have added jobs every single month of Biden's presidency. This is good news, and we will not accept an argument that the problem is that too many -- too many Americans are finding good jobs, so -- or that too many -- too many working Americans finally have more dignity in the workplace. As you know, that's something that the President talks about -- about American people -- some people having that dignity, that respect.
Our goal is for steady and stable growth in the job market, and that is what we are beginning to see here.
Q: How is -- sorry, hi.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, hi. (Laughs.)
Q: Sorry, I'm, like, hiding. (Laughs.) Can you talk a bit about how the White House is preparing for the potential of a Kevin McCarthy and -- sorry. Can you tell me a bit about how the White House is preparing for Kevin McCarthy to potentially take over as House -- as House Speaker?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean, you guys heard the President when we -- I want to be super, super careful.
You heard directly from the President about how he sees these next couple of days. So, I'll just -- and how optimistic he is. So, I'll leave that. So I don't want to get into hypotheticals here about what may happen after Tuesday.
Q: Karine, it's not really -- I mean, polling is like -- it's -- it's pretty clear that --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you. I totally understand. I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals. I can't do that from here. I'm just going to just direct you to the Pres- -- you -- you were there. You heard from him directly about how he sees the next couple of days. But I'm just going to leave it there. I don't want to get into hypotheticals about what the -- what the makeup of Congress is going to look like post Tuesday.
Q: Can I ask you about something that I think a lot of Americans have been focusing on? There's been a stretch of really terrible antisemitic situations. You have the situation in New Jersey today with the arrests that the FBI made, and the real almost unprecedented alerts out on synagogues. You have the Kyrie Irving situation. You have Kanye West and some of the remarks he made.
My question is: One, does this administration and this President feel we're in a moment when people that hold extreme views, particularly on Jewish -- people of Jewish faith, are willing to just be more emboldened about speaking out about these without consequences?
And then, second, I know the President is a basketball fan. Was he disappointed with how Kyrie Irving handled that situation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me start with your, like, more broad question about what we're seeing currently. Because I -- there's a couple things that I do want to lay out and say here.
And I want to start by saying that we -- we know this -- this time is painful for Jewish communities across America as we witness an ugly increase in antisemitism.
As the FBI has already confirmed specifically to the New Jersey synagogues alert, they have identified the source of the threat, and it no longer poses a danger to the community. So that is incredibly important to note.
The President is deeply concerned about hate-fueled violence and how it's taken significant steps -- and has -- he's taken significant steps to address antisemitis- -- -semitic violence in America, including by working with Congress to secure the largest-ever increase in funding for the security of synagogues and other religious institutions.
And last month at United We Stand Summit, his administration announced a series of actions and commitment to take on hate-fueled violence, including a White House initiative to strengthen federal coordination in preventing and responding to such violence.
When it comes to -- so, again, you -- I just laid out what the President has done during his administration, and we are, of course, continuing -- we will continue to condemn antisemitism. We will continue to conden- -- condemn hate -- hate speech and racism. That is something that you've heard from me. That is something that you have heard from the President directly.
When it comes to -- when it -- and it doesn't matter -- right? -- it doesn't matter if it's someone with a large platform or as you've heard us condemn others in the past. And so we're going to continue to do that.
I cannot -- I have not spoken to the President about -- about this particular basketball player. We have not had that conversation. So I can't say what he thinks -- what he thinks about that specific issue.
But what I can tell you: Anyone -- anyone that is fueling hate, fueling antisemitism, we will condemn. We will condemn that type of vulgar -- that type of language, because it is incredibly dangerous.
Q: Karine, just to quickly follow then. Are we going backwards?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think -- and the President said this and I've said this before: He's an optimist, right? He believes a majority of Americans -- as he talked about our democracy, the threat of our democracy, and political violence just the other day -- he believes a majority of Americans, you know, want to protect our democracy, don't have this -- this -- this kind of antisemitism, this vile hatred. And we -- he believes that is a -- a minority.
But, again, this comes to where we are today. There's a lot at stake, right? This comes to why this President even ran for President, right? It's because he -- wanting to save, protect the soul of our nation.
So this is -- this is something that he's talked about, and he will continue to do so. And we will continue to call out political violence. We will continue to call out hatred -- hate- -- hatred, as we have these past several months.
Q: Karine, in California, the President kind of suggested that there was going to be some kind of altar call or something with -- with these oil companies. What -- what is that exactly? And who's going to be invited?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think he answered that a little bit, just -- I think you asked him that directly. And he said -- he said there's no meeting set up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? And so -- but as the President has said before, these companies are using their record profits to pad shareholder pockets rather than boost production and lower gas prices. And he said that if oil companies don't change their behavior, he will work with Congress to hold them accountable. And he's making it clear that he's serious about this.
But, again, I thi- -- you asked him that question when we were just -- right next to the plane.
Q: So there's nothing coming, in --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And he said -- he said no meeting is set up. That's what -- I'm just going to give you what he told you directly.
Q: One follow-up to Trevor's question. In California, gas prices are above $5. And I guess I'm just wondering what the President's message is to people who aren't feeling, like, the breathing room that he's talking about.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So -- and then I would say to you that those prices in the past couple of days have gone down and -- the prices in California and some states in the Midwest. And a lot of that is because of the work that this President has done, because that -- because of what he -- you know, the bold action that he took on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And so -- and those are historic actions.
So, look, we have always said, and we will continue to say, that we understand that inflation is -- is -- is a priority, is important for the American people. They're feeling the squeeze of high cost, and the President is doing everything that he can and will continue to make that a number-one economic priority to lower costs.
But we have to understand, and you all know this: This is a global challenge that we're seeing. It's not just happening here. This is happening globally.
And because of the work that this administration has done, because of the leadership of this President, we are -- as the United States of America -- is in a better place to handle -- to handle -- to handle inflation and these global challenges because of the economic policies that the President has put forward.
But, again, you know, we have seen gas prices fall by a buck 25 per gallon for the past -- past -- past several weeks because of the work that this President has done. And we're going to continue to do that work. And on the other side, you know, Republicans want to do the opposite -- congressional Republicans.
Q: And on student debt relief: Is it safe to say at this point, because there hasn't been a ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, that money will not be relieved by the midterms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When you say -- oh, you mean from the student debt?
Q: Because it's Friday, and Tuesday are the midterms, is it safe to say no payments will be relieved by the midterms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'm -- so, look, we're continuing to receive and process applications to debt relief, and we're continuing to encourage eligible borrowers to apply for relief. And, again, they should go to StudentAid.gov.
But look, the Eighth Circuit order does not reverse the lower court's dismissal of the case or suggest that the case has merit. It merely prevents debt from being discharged until the court makes a decision. So the court -- until the court makes a decision -- right? -- you know, to your point -- to your point --
Q: (Inaudible) nothing can be discharged? I mean, do you --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There's no --
Q: -- expect it to be able to be discharged before Tuesday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The court has to be -- has to make a decision. Right? So that's the -- you know, until the court -- we're waiting for the court to make the decision.
But we're still doing the work as -- the Department of Education is still doing the work. You heard from the President about the -- about student loans yesterday in New Mexico. It doesn't stop us from doing that.
We have about 26 million people who have gone to that website -- the StudentAid.gov -- who have signed up. Sixteen million borrowers are -- have -- are approved.
But, again, the court -- we're waiting for the court to make the decision.
Q: Earlier, the President, at the event today, said that the Times had called the jobs report today in the "Goldilocks" zone. From the White House's perspective though, what is, at this point in the fight against inflation, the Goldilocks zone for jobs reports each month?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean -- I'm going to say it pretty -- pretty simply, in the way that we have been: is that we believe -- look, we believe that we're in a transition, right? We believe we're in a transition for steady and stable growth. And the la- -- and the reason why is because of the work that this administration has done.
We have a strong labor market. Unemployment is still at its lowest that we've seen in a long time -- 3.7 percent. And we are creating jobs, and that is a good thing for the American people. We are creating good-paying jobs, which is a good thing for the American people. And so that's our message.
We are going to continue to work to make sure that we lower costs for people, as we have been doing with congressional Democrats these past several months -- this past 20 -- 20 months, with the economic policies that we've put forward, with an Inflation Reduction Act, for certainty. And that's going to lower cost for the American people.
And the thing that -- again, the thing that you hear from the President, while he's on the road, while he's out there talking directly to the American people, is that congressional Republicans want to take that away and take us down into a spiral when it comes to our economy. They want to increase cost for the American people. And so, that matters.
And so, again, that's -- that's our message. And that's what we're going to -- we're going to lay out very clearly for the American public.
All right --
Q: Will the President speak at all to crime in Chicago?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to get ahead of -- of the President's remarks. But, again, you know, we've been very clear about what's at stake. There's a lot at stake here.
The President has talked about, yes, crime. We have been -- the President has been leading the way on making sure that there are funding for -- funding for local communities.
When you think about the American Rescue Plan, something that Republicans did not vote for, had hundreds of millions of dollars for -- for communities to bring -- I should say, billions of dollars for communities to be able to hire -- to hire police officers in their communities. And Republicans voted against that.
And so the President has always been very clear the importance of having police on the ground, making sure that communities felt safe, and making sure that he pushed a budget that allowed -- that asked for 100,000 more police officers. Something, again, that Republicans don't -- don't support.
So he's been very clear. We have talked about how -- all the work that we're doing to fight crime. We've talked about what we're doing to stop gun violence. We saw that piece of legislation that passed -- something that we hadn't seen in 30 years.
And the President is going to continue to also talk about banning assault weapons, which is something that is incredibly important to the American people.
And so, again, we have a -- a record on fighting crime that that the President has been working on for the past 20 months that, you know, the American people can see and we've discussed.
All right, guys.
Q: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
5:00 P.M. PDT
Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/358667