Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

June 19, 2023

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Palo Alto, California

12:39 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello. Okay. Hi, everybody. Happy Juneteenth. So, while we normally don't do gaggles on a federal holiday, this is an exception. And we wanted to make sure that you all had the opportunity to ask a few questions as we head to California for an important trip, as you all know.

So, we're headed to Palo Alto, California. While there, President Biden will visit a salt marsh at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Preserve and announce more than $600 million in funding for climate adaptation projects across the country.

The President will be joined by California Governor Gavin Newsom and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, as well as environmental justice leaders and youth -- youth climate leaders.

The preserve, which sites -- which sits on the -- on what was once a city landfill, has become a leading example of the type of community-driven climate solutions that the federal government is investing in to harness nature to fight the climate crisis.

The funding the President will announce today as part of his Investing in America agenda will protect our coastal and Great Lake communities and the nation's power grid from worsening climate change impacts, like sea le- -- sea level rise, flood -- flooding, wildfires, and extreme heat.

The President will also discuss his historic actions to combat the climate crisis, create good-paying clean energy jobs, and protect our environment for future generation.

One thing I wanted to say about the June- -- Juneteenth: On this day, Juneteenth Day of obs- -- Observance, the President and First Lady continued to think of those killed and injured in the shooting over the weekend at the Illinois Juneteenth celebration. We have reached out to other -- to offer assistance to state and local leaders in the wake of this tragedy.

As you know, the President established Juneteenth as a national holiday to mark both the long and hard night of slavery and subjugate -- subjugation and a promise of a brighter morning to come.

As he has previously stated: "[I]t's not enough to just commemorate Juneteenth. Emancipation marked the beginning, not the end, of America's work to deliver on the promise of equality." It's about remembering history, not erasing it. It's about reading books, not banning them. "To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we must not" just -- "not rest until deliver the promise of America for all Americans."

Wishing everyone a meaningful Juneteenth.

With that, Josh, you want to kick us off?

Q: Hi, Karine. After Secretary of State Blinken met with Chinese President Xi, Xi had indicated in his statement that there were areas of agreement between the U.S. and China. Do you know what those areas were that he's referencing? And would this meet the President's definition when he said that he felt there would be a "thaw" in relations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. So, I'm not going to get into, like, any specific issues that were discussed. I will refer you to the State Department for the full readout. So, I'll leave it there.

A couple of things that I do want to say, just lay out: As you all have been kind of reporting on this as well, the State -- Secretary Blinken had candid, substantive, and constructive conversation with President Xi and -- Xi Jinping and Director Wang Yi and the State Councilor.

So, Secretary Blinken's overarching message was to emphasize the importance of maintaining open channels of communications across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of miscalculation. He made clear that while we will compete vigorously, the United States will responsibly manage that competition so that the relationship does not veer into conflict. The Secretary stressed that the United States would continue to use diplomacy to raise areas of concern as well as areas of potential cooperation where our interests align.

So, the President, as you could imagine, has been closely monitoring, wan- -- watching this. I was with him when he first got on Marine One to continue to get a sense of -- of how the trip was covered. He's been updated regularly by the National Security -- his National Security Council team. And once, as you know, Secretary Blinken is on his way back to the U.S., and once the Secretary lands, the President will get a full briefing from the Secretary.

So, I'll leave it there.

Q: Karine, do you have a sense of -- just more broadly on this whole idea of military-to-military communications -- what it is that is the obstacle there? Is it just the idea of sanctions on that defense official in China, or what -- what's in the way here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I know the Secretary spoke to this in his press -- press briefing, so I would refer you to his comments. He kind of laid that out since he did have a direct -- and as I just stated -- constructive conversation with the President and his -- and also the other leaders in the country. So, I'll just leave it there.

But, look, we've been very clear diplomacy -- this -- this President, this administration has been very clear how diplomacy is part of -- is part of really dealing with what's important to the American interest and how -- and also finding a way to work together. And so, I'll -- that's what you saw Secretary Blinken do today. That's what you've seen this administration do throughout these last two years.

I'm not going to get into any specifics on any other issues. I will just -- I will just point you to the readout.

Q: Is there any updates on when the President could actually meet with President Xi or have a call anytime soon?

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

So, he's looking -- the President is looking to do that sometimes down the road. I just don't have anything specific or any timeline to zero in on for you all today.

Q: And one clear question -- clarifying question. So, are you saying that President Biden has not yet spoken with Secretary Blinken after his meetings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what I can say is he's been kept abreast by the National Security Council -- regular communication with them. Once the Secretary lands, comes back -- gets back to the U.S., he'll have a full -- full briefing from


Q: And then a second question. Is it the White House and the administration's view that relations between the U.S. and China are better now after Blinken's meetings than they were before?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I think that what -- what I just stated: It was -- the meeting was constructive, which is important, right? It's important for America's interest. It's important for the American people.

The President has said that diplomacy is -- is the most -- is an important way to move forward as we talk about our relationships with heads of state. And I mentioned this last time: You know, China will continue to be around and a major player on the wor- -- on the world.

So, because we have -- we believe we have put a strong footing as we -- the President moves forward with his economic plan to be competitive. And we're -- what we want is competition, not conflict. We've been very clear about that.

But again, I think it is a -- is a good step forward. We believe it's a good step forward for the Secretary to have been -- to have a constructive conversation with President Xi. And that's what you saw, and that's what you've certainly heard from the Pre- -- from the Secretary during his press conference today.

Q: Do you believe that China is committed to the status quo with Taiwan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I can't -- look, I can't speak to China. I can only speak to where we are. I think the Secretary spoke -- underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Chi- -- the Taiwan Strait and reiterated there has been no change to the longstanding U.S. One China policy.

I could speak for us, for the U.S. I'm not going to speak on behalf of China.

Q: On the event today, how often does the President speak with Governor Newsom? Or how would you kind of describe their nature of their relationship?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President has been to California multiple times in the past two years. And I think you've all seen them interact and engage personally. And they have a very good working relationship.

This is a governor that has supported the President's agenda, his economic policies. He's going to go, as you -- as I just stated at the top, as you all know already, he's going to California to talk about the work that this President has done to fight climate change: one of the most aggressive policies -- the most aggressive policies that he's put forward to deal with a real issue.

And so, that's what he's going to go and do. The -- the Governor is going to greet him when -- when we land in California and be with him for today's event. And I think that's what you're going to see. That's what you're going to see from this President, and that's what you're going to see from their relationship -- continuing working -- good working relationship.

Q: One thing on climate. What is the President doing to engage climate advocates who were, frankly, disappointed by his decision to allow permitting to continue for the Mountain Valley Pipeline? Is he addressing their concerns? Is he meeting with them at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I think -- a couple of things there. I think if you look at what the President has done the last two years, it is more than any other president has done ever, right?

And -- and so, he's -- and we've said this before: He's driving the most ambitious climate agenda in American history. He just preserved -- if you think about the budget negotiation, what the President was able to do, preserving the Inflation Reduction Act, which is -- which is the President's historic piece of legislation to fight -- one of the things that it's going to do is fight climate change. And Republicans were trying to repeal that. This is a President, during those negotiations, made sure we held on to that.

So, what we're going to see is we're going to see what -- what -- how we're going to create clean energy -- clean energy jobs, millions of jobs. It's going to be incredibly important for Americans, incredibly important as we fight -- as we continue to fight climate change.

And the President is never going to back away from that. He's always going to find ways to continue to -- to continue his effort on -- on fighting a real crisis that we're seeing currently, not just in this country but around the world.

Q: Do you have any more details about what the President is going to be doing tomorrow and Wednesday during this three-day trip? Is he going to be meeting with any tech leaders or engaging on AI while he's in Silicon Valley?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So -- so, look, as it relates to AI, I can give you a little bit here. We remain committed to fostering responsible AI to benefit society, which actively work to -- working to mitigate the risk. This administration, as you know, has been very clear about the risk associated with AI, which is why we have been -- we have been very committed to doing that.

So what we'll see on this trip is additional details about the President's travel. So we'll have more on that.

But -- so I don't have anything else to engage. So, again, we're very much committed to this, and that's why the President and the Vice President has had -- has held meetings with -- with CEOs to talk about this incredibly important issue. As we know, AI is a rapidly moving technology. So there'll be more to share on this trip about that. Just don't have any details to share at this moment.

Q: Karine, has anybody from the --

Q: Just one question --

Q: Sorry. Has anybody from the White House spoken lately to Senator Tuberville after he continues to say that he's going to hold military promotions over the abortion policy at DOD?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You're talking about Senator Tuberville?

Q: Tubervilles [sic], yeah. Tuberville.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any -- I don't have anything to read out to you. It's like -- specific conversations, you know, we try to -- we try to respect private conversations that we have with Congress.

But we've been very clear -- very clear about what the senator is doing. It is hurting our national security. We -- we have been very clear that we need to move forward with these nominations, these critical nominations, as -- again, as we talk about national security. I think I've answered this question twice before just in the past week. And it is dangerous what is he -- what he's doing, and it is unacceptable.

So, I don't have any conversations to share with you -- recent conversation to share with you at this time. But we've been very, very clear about this. It is important to move forward with the President's DOD nominations as they relate to our national security, as it relate to military safety, as it relate to what we need to make sure we're providing for our military force. And so I'll just leave it there.

Q: On the Julie Su nomination, there's no sign of a vote happening, and several Democrats are publicly undeclared. Is the administration committed to a confirmed secretary in this role? And can you tell us a little bit -- you know, is the White House reaching out to those undeci- -- uncommitted senators?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we are definitely committed. Look, we believe she's a highly qualified -- Julie Su -- highly qualified to be labor secretary. And the White House and outside groups continue to -- a full -- full-court press to get Julie confirmed. That has not stopped.

I think last week, I read a little bit of -- I laid out a little bit of what we've been doing. Each night, senior White House officials join a war room call to ensure we are continuing to make progress on Su's nomination. The call continued throughout the negotiation over the budget agreement as well. So we have been consistent here.

Recently, outside groups forceful- -- forcefully and vocally made the case for Su's nomination, including 55 labor unions, which joined together -- which joined together on calling on senators to support Su's confirmation.

And just to give you a couple of examples of what we've done -- we have -- and I think I've talked about this already: The Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients, and Director of Legislative Affairs, Louisa Terrell, have been speaking regularly with Leader Schumer on the Su nomination, as well as other key senators, multiple times a week. Terrell specifically has been engaging closely with Senator Duckworth and House members, including Rep. Chu, to ensure widespread support.

So we are committed to her. As you know, she got the full support of Democrats when she went for the depu- -- the deputy role, secretary of labor role. And so -- and -- and so she has garnered support from business, labor, several organizations across the spectrum. So we are fully committed to get her over the finish line.

Q: And on Su, is part of your plan now reaching out to Senator Murkowski also to see if she could break party lines and help you out to get her confirmed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We've been in regular touch with senators. I don't have -- I'm not going to lay out every -- every engagement that we've had. But certainly we've been in touch with -- we think this is an important priority, as we have just laid out a war room that we put together that's been going on for some time now. And so this is something that continues, and we call on -- we call on the Senate to get her -- to get her through as soon as possible.

Q: Using drone footage, AP reporting suggests Russia was likely behind the dam that exploded in Ukraine. Does the U.S. government believe that Russia is the most likely culprit? And if so, what repercussions should Russia face?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Josh, we're still -- we're still assessing what happened. Of course, we're in touch with Ukraine. The damage that we have seen, the devastation that we've seen, obviously, it's heartbreaking.

So one of the things that I do want to point out: We swung into action to help in the hours after it happened. And USAID partners are on the ground providing aid to the thousands of Ukrainians who have been impacted.

And I've said this before, and I'll say it here: Look, it's -- Russians had control over the dam. No -- they had no business being there in the first place. They bear ultimate responsibility for the destruction caused by this war.

Q: Karine, Russian -- and Russian officials said today that Ukraine was working on some kind of a dirty bomb or something. Do you regard that as some kind of pretext for them to step up some -- their military campaign?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any -- I don't have any comment on that. This is the first time I'm hearing of this, so I don't have any comment on that at this time.

Q: And just one other foreign policy matter. Do you think that the Israeli government acted responsibly in the West Bank raid that occurred?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'll say this: I think the Department -- the State Department put out a statement on this, so I'll just refer you to that at this time.

Q: On the Illinois shooting: Obviously, we heard President Biden speak about gun reform just a few days ago, and then there's this shooting where 22 people were injured, one killed. Is there any plan for the President over the next few weeks to bring more senators and congressmen together to the White House to talk about ways that you guys could advance any type of gun reform, or anything like that, just to try and kind of drive home his message after he used the bully pulpit just this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so you hea- -- you saw the President on Friday, in Connecticut. He gave incredibly forceful, powerful remarks on -- on -- on where we are in this country, of gun violence. He also spoke to -- it was the anniversary of the bipartisan gun vi- -- gun violence prevention legislation that he signed into law just last year. Let's not forget that was 30 years in the making. And the President -- under this President, we were able to get that done.

Clearly, there's a lot more work that needs to be done, which is why he's calling on Congress to -- to deal with this issue on a legislative level, on a federal level.

We've seen some actions taken by this -- by different states, including Connecticut, where the President spoke to on Friday as well. And he said this, I said this, many of us have said this: how guns is the leading -- the leading killer of our children. So we need to get -- we need to get this done.

I do want to say more broadly: He -- about this particular shooting -- the President certainly has been tracking the shooting since yesterday. He was -- I was just talking to him about the shooting earlier today on this -- while we were on Air Force One. His team has reached out to state and local officials to offer any federal assistance needed with the -- this response. It's devastating. It's tragic. This type of gun violence needs to stop.

And the President is going to continue to use his bully pulpit to speak to that. He's going to continue to do everything that he can. Remember, he's done more than two dozen executive actions, taken more actions than any other president. So this is something he's taken very, very seriously, as we need to make sure that we keep our communities safe, our schools safe, our churches safe, and just continue to keep trying to do everything that we can to keep our children safe.

Q: Why does he believe it continues to happen? And does he think an assault weapons ban could significantly decrease the number of shootings that we're seeing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So you've heard the President say this, and I'll just repeat what he said: When -- when he was able to get this done in the '90s, to ban assault weapons, you saw -- you saw it have an effect on lowering the cost of vi- -- the lives, lowering violence in that -- in those first -- in that first 10 years. And then after that, once that -- once that law sunset, you saw that -- you saw -- you saw the increase of gun violence I think triple if -- and that's what he has said, specifically.

And so, look, we know that it's had an effect. We know that we don't need -- it's a weapon of war. It is a weapon of war that should not be in our streets. And we are going to continue to call on Congress to act. It should not be on our streets. It should not be in our schools. It should not be in our churches. It should not be in our grocery stores. And it should not be killing Americans.

Q: All right. Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, everybody.

12:58 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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