Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

October 12, 2022

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Vail, Colorado

12:55 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Hey, everybody. So, good morning -- good afternoon, shortly.

Over the next three days, the President will participate in events in Colorado, California, and Oregon highlighting the progress we have made from passing a historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lower prescription drug costs.

You'll hear the President discuss these accomplishments for the American people, and you'll also hear -- in California and Oregon -- the President draw a stark contrast between his and the con- -- and congressional Democrats' plan to protect Medicare and lower healthcare costs, and the MAGA Republicans in Congress -- Congress's -- Congress's plan put Medicare on the chopping block and repeal the IRA, which will increase prescription drug costs -- to be clear, the Inflation Reduction Act.

Today, as you all know, we're en route to Camp Hale, Colorado, where the President will talk about the administration's efforts to protect and restore America's most cherished lands for future generations. The President will establish the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument in honor of our nation's veterans, Indigenous people, and their legacy.

This is the first time President Biden is designating a new national monument. And today's designation of Camp Hale will support jobs and America's outdoor recre- -- recreation economy.

In addition, the President will also announce funding through the Inflation Reduction Act to mitigate the impacts of drought in the Colorado River Basin.

The President looks forward to being joined at today's historic announcement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory, Senator Michael Bennett, Senator John Hickenlooper, Governor Jared Polis, and local and Tribal leaders.

Finally, tomorrow in Los Angeles, the President will join Congress- -- Congresswoman Karen Bass and other officials to see progress on L.A. Metro's Purple Line through L.A. County. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we have made historic infrastructure investments in public transit projects like L.A.'s Purple Line, which will create jobs and opportunities, reduce traffic and popu- -- pollution, and increase opportunities across L.A.

On Friday and Saturday, the President will participate in events in California and Oregon highlighting his efforts to lower prescription drug costs, protect Medicare, and strengthen Social Security, and to fight efforts to congressional -- by congressional Republicans to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block and reinstate giveaways to Big Pharma.

We'll have more details to share on those events.

If only people on the ground knew -- could know what's -- knew what was going on up here at this time.

With that, Colleen, you want to kick -- you want to kick us off?

Q: Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Everybody hold on very tight.

Q: Yeah, so the CPR on Thursday is expecting to show that --


Q: Yeah, sorry CPI. "CPR." CPI -- I'm sorry -- is expected to show that core inflation rose. And then yesterday, we had the President saying that -- in his interview with Jake Tapper, I think -- that if there's going to be a recession, it'll be a small one, which I think is a change from what he said previously, which he thinks there's not -- which he said there wasn't going to be a recession. So are you changing? Are you preparing, you know, for job losses? I mean, how -- what's -- is the posture changing on the economy based on what we're expecting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: To take the one of -- part of your question first, so -- which is what the President said last night on -- on during his interviews: Look, the President has been pretty consistent. Has said multiple times in the past: While a recession is possible, he does not think there will be a recession.

We take this unique global economic moment very seriously, as you've heard me say, as you've heard him say. And the President wants the American people to know that because of Amer- -- of America's resilience and because of the President's economic plan that we have seen throughout the 20 months, we are in a stronger position than any other country to navigate these global challenges that we're -- that we're seeing in front of us. And so -- so that hasn't changed. He's been very consistent about that.

I spoke a little bit about the CPI numbers yesterday. Look, our num- -- our number-one focus, when it comes to the President's economic plan, is lowering costs for the American people, making sure that we are tackling inflation.

And we understand we have more work to do. We get that the American people are feeling that pinch. But we've also seen some progress, and it's important to note the progress that we have seen over the last several months.

And so that's real disposable income and real consumer spending both increased, in part thanks to the strength of our job market.

Gas prices, as I've talked about many times, we've seen -- we saw -- we've seen it come down over the last several months of over a dollar per gallon since the peak this summer. And that's -- and that's, overall, a decline of about 22 percent.

And we've -- we're giving families a little bit more breathing room with the Inflation Reduction Act. It's going to bring down everyday costs, as you heard me say at the top, when it comes to healthcare costs, when it comes to Medicare being able to lower those costs for our seniors, because they're -- are they going to be able to negotiate. All of those things are things that Democrats and this President have -- Dem- -- congressional Democrats and this President has worked very hard to do over the last several months.

And it's really a stark difference from what you're seeing from Republicans, from MAGA Republicans, congressional Republicans in particular.

Q: Can you give any updates on the President's thinking and the White House's thinking about recalibrating the relationship with Saudi Arabia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, the President was asked this -- I think you guys may have heard -- right before he took off, and he was clearly asked this last night.

Look, I know folks have been asking about a timeline. Look, as he said last night, as he said this morning, when the -- when the House and the Senate get back, we'll discuss and make decisions in a deliberate way.

But he was very clear: There will be consequences. We believe the decision that OPEC+ made last week was a mistake and it was short sighted.

And so, we have said -- and I said this yesterday during the briefing that the -- from the beginning, the President has talked about recalibrating, readjusting our relationship with Saudi -- with Saudi Arabia. And now we're going to get into a process where we'll review that and we'll have more to share on that.

Q: Can you -- in this era of telephones and email and text messaging, does he really have to wait for Congress to get back into town or could conversations be starting now, and are they? Has he spoken to Bob Menendez or others?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we're -- look, we're going to -- we're going to -- we're going to review where we are. We'll be watching closely over the coming weeks -- right? -- and months what's going to be happening with this decision that OPEC+ made.

And -- but there's going to be consultation with our allies. There's going to be consultation with Congress. And decisions will be made in a deliberate way. We want to be very deliberate about this, and that is going to take some time. I don't -- again, I don't have a timeline for you.

And so -- and also, I don't want to get ahead of what the President is ultimately going to decide. And again, he spoke to this last night. He spoke to this this morning to some of your colleagues who asked him this very question.

Q: Can I just ask one more, which is: Has he called the L.A. City Council members or anyone else involved in that scandal there? I know that you said yesterday he believes that the three of them should resign. Has he expressed that to them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, he -- I don't have any calls to preview at this time, as you know. We're headed to California right after Colorado.

But I want to be very, very explicit about this as I was yesterday: Racism has no place in our society and particularly no place coming from our elected -- elected officials and elected leaders, in this case. These council members should all resign. The President is clear about this. I laid that out yesterday. Their comments were hateful, and they were wrong.

And -- but I will also note that calling out racist and hateful speech should not be a partisan issue. It should be not because of one side or it shouldn't be hard to do. And so, we'll always call out racism.

And the question that I have and that we have and that I put out yesterday is: Republicans -- are they going to do this as well? You know, we -- when Democrats say something racist or antisemitic, we should hold them accountable. And when MAGA Republican says -- a MAGA Republican says something racist or antisemitic, they are embraced by cheering crowds and become celebrated and sought-after endorsements. That's a -- that's a problem. That should not be.

And so, what you won't see from us is us defending the indefensible just because the person has a "D" next to their name.

Q: Hey, Karine. Two foreign policy questions. Just back to Saudi real quick. If the July trip wasn't about oil, why are there consequences for Saudi cutting oil? And then -- but tied to that, does that also mean there'll be consequences for the other GCC members that are members of OPEC+ as well?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't -- look, we're going to review where we are and we'll have more to share once we have gone into that review.

Look, we were very clear that the OPEC -- and you're right, the OPEC+ decision is multiple members. Clearly, Saudi Arabia is the chair of OPEC+. And the way that we have seen it, and I said this: It was short sighted, it was a mistake, because it's actually going to hurt countries with, you know, middle-income economies. And that is -- that is something that we should react to while we're looking at the global challenges that are in front of us.

And the way we see it, it was short sighted because it was -- you know, it was a decision that was a self-interest decision.

And so, you know, we have been very clear to your point, our trip -- our trip this -- this past summer to the Middle East was not about oil. Yes, was energy security a topic? Absolutely energy security was a topic.

But the mistake that we see right now is the -- is what OPEC+ decided on, which, again, was a mistake. To the decision that they made, again, it's -- it's its own -- its own purported self-interest, and it was short sighted. And that's what we're going to react to it.

Q: Can I ask you one more? The President's assessment or evaluation that President Putin is a rational actor who made a bad strategic decision -- that term carries weight in the nuclear context. What -- what's that based on -- the idea that he's still a rational actor in the broader context of things? Is that an intelligence assessment, the President's opinion -- how do we view that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President, when it comes to foreign policy and when it comes to his relationship with leaders, he was a senator for 36 years and he was a Vice President for 8 years. This is a place that -- an arena, if you will, that he knows very well.

What -- the President was very clear. What he said was Putin was a rational actor who -- who badly miscalculated. And we've talked about why he badly miscalculated. If you look at how strong the NATO Alliance is -- Putin thought he would break that up.

And it was a miscalculation because what he has seen is a stronger NATO, what he is seeing is a strong West, and what he is seeing is a coalition that has -- that we have never seen before as far as the strength of the countries coming together to support Ukraine. And -- and that has been the case all along.

And so, that's what he was talking about. That's the context that he was leaning into. And so, I will leave those words -- let his comments stand.

Q: Karine, you (inaudible) about energy. Putin is saying that he believes that the world's energy infrastructure is at stake after Nord Stream. Does the U.S. also see it that way? And are there still efforts to support Europe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we have -- so, first of all -- and we've been very clear about this, that the -- that President Putin is weaponizing energy. And that's what we see him doing for the past several months. And so we've been very, very clear about that.

And we have also been very committed, as well, to helping Europe diversify, as well, when it comes to oil. And -- and the EU has created a task force that is addressing this issue.

And so, we are going to do everything that we can to help -- to help Europe in this time. And we know -- like, we understand that, you know, the winter month are -- is coming, and we understand how -- how difficult it's going to be.

But we are committed and we have been in conversation with -- with our European allies for the past several months on how to go about that.

Q: Karine, just one follow-up on what Phil just asked. I guess what we would like to get clarity on is why the President thinks Vladimir Putin is a rational actor.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I'm going to just let his words stand. He's a ra- -- he said -- the President's words -- he's a rational actor who badly miscalculated. He miscalculated what his aggression, what his war that he created against Ukraine would lead to.

And -- and we've seen that, you know? Putin has become a pariah --

Q: We know what he said. We're just curious why he thinks he's a rational actor.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I'm going to just let the President's word stand for itself. He said he's a rational actor that's miscalculated.

Q: It leaves a lot of open questions, what he said.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I don't think it think it leaves to a lot of open questions. The President was very clear. It was an interview that he did. He was asked multiple times about Putin. He was asked multiple time -- times about the war that Putin started. And the President answered it in -- in the way that he believed in.

You know, again, being in this foreign policy space for some time as a U.S. senator; as a Vice President, leading the foreign policy effort when he was Vice President in the -- in the Obama-Biden administration; and now as President, you know, he has a sense of what he is seeing. He has an understanding of -- of what -- what has been occurring these last 19, 20 months.

He has had multiple conversations with Putin, as you all know, as we've read out, certainly over the past 19 months.

Look, you know, the most important thing that the President has been very consistent about how he -- we are going to continue to support Ukraine. We've been very consistent on the security assistance that we are providing Ukraine. More -- very historic assistance -- more than $17 billion.

The President spoke to Zelenskyy just the other day. He had a conversation, as well, with G7 and Zelenskyy just yesterday that we read out.

I think what's the most important thing is how much we're committed and we're in this until -- as long as -- as long -- as long as it will last.

We want it to end as soon as possible, clearly, the war that -- the aggression that Putin has -- has created; the war that Putin has created in Ukraine. But we are committed to helping Ukraine fight -- supporting Ukraine's fight for its freedom and fight for its democracy. And that is the most important thing.

And, yes, you know, again, the President said, you know, Putin miscalculated. And we have seen that; we've all seen that. You all have reported on what Putin thought would happen and has not.

Q: Last night, the President, at a fundraiser, said that the Supreme Court is, quote, "more of an advocacy group" than "evenhanded." I'm wondering if the President's position on reforms to the Supreme Court has changed, if you can give us a little bit more context about what he meant by that comment, and whether he thinks there should be any sort of changes or repercussions given his assessment of that branch of government.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what he said is pretty consistent with how he has reacted -- how we reacted after the Dobbs decision first leaked -- which was several months ago, as you all know. And it's based on his respect for the institution as someone who spent decades working to strengthen it -- strengthen it and our courts write [sic] -- writ large.

As you all know, he was a -- he was a former Senate Judiciary Committee Chair. So the President believes the Supreme Court must be nonpartisan, and committees to uphold -- and committed to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law regardless of politics. That's something that he has believed since he was the Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

So that's why ever since the Dobbs -- ever since the Dobbs decision, you've heard from the President directly. His -- he expresses deep concern that this was an extreme and radical decision based on throwing out many decades of precedent.

We got to remember this was almost 50 years of precedent that we saw the Supreme Court overturn and that had been upheld by judges appoint- -- appointed by Presidents of both parties, and that this was the first time in recent years the Court had made a sharp departure from established precedent to take a right away. And he was very clear about that. He was very clear about the extreme action of the Dobbs decision.

So as someone who respects the Court -- he respects the Court; he respects the institution of the Court -- that has never changed. He's actually said that the past several months.

He's distressed by, you know -- and so is the American people; we've seen that from the American people as well -- that especially when other fundamental rights recognize -- recognized based on the right to privacy are under threat, like the right to marry and use con- -- and use contraception.

So he continues to respect the const- -- the institution, but he -- he will -- he will speak out, and he has spoken out by this particular decision and how extreme it was.

Q: Just a quick follow-up. Abortion is one of the issues that is most animating for Democratic voters. I understand you're not -- you know, you're hesitant to talk about politics. But as we travel around the country, he's doing a bunch of events related to IRA, trying to boost Democrats to create a contrast.

How come he doesn't do any events about abortion or talk more about abortion as he heads out to campaign trail races where all the candidates, they're -- one of the number-one issues for them is abortion and protecting that right. We just don't see that from him.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I would -- I would disagree. The President has talked about the Dobbs decision and how much it's a -- it's going to affect and change and has -- we've seen change the lives of women -- millions of women across the country, and how, again, this cons- -- this constitutional right of almost 50 years was taken away. This freedom was taken away.

And he has -- he has spoken to that in -- in a -- in a very -- I would say, in a very strong and passionate way.

As you know, the Vice President has led the -- led the way on talking about abortion rights. Specifically, it's been -- it's been something that she has done a great job doing.

And -- but one thing that we understand is that the -- the Democrat -- Democrats has something to -- to talk about. Right? We have something to sell. We have something that we can share with the American people, and that is an economic plan that is lifting up people, that is focused on from the bottom up and the middle out. And we talk about Inflation Reduction Act because it's going to make a difference in people's lives.

We talked about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law because it is historic, and it's going to invest in infrastructure like roads and bridges. And when you go to -- into states and cities, that is something that is -- those are number-one issues for states and cities.

When you think about the CHIPS Act -- he was -- he was in -- he traveled last week and talked about how important -- it's going to see businesses coming back and manufacturing coming back in America and creating an opportunity for businesses to, you know, invest, again, in something that we haven't seen in some time.

So I think -- I think the -- not the problem, but the opportunity that we have is we have so much to sell and such important policies that's going to matter to the American people, that we also have to talk about those things as well.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me -- let me get to -- because he hasn't asked anything.

Go ahead.

Q: Just one on Saudi Arabia and OPEC+ again. Yesterday, you said that the move made it seem that they are siding with Russia. Do you -- does the President see this as an indication that they are siding, potentially, with Republicans in sort of intervening in U.S. politics in a way, given that they obviously know the timing of the elections and the potential impact on gas prices and on Democrats politically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I -- I can't speak for their intentions. That is -- you know, or their timing. That's not something that I can speak from -- of. But what I can speak about is their decision.

And in the time of global challenges, economic challenges that we're seeing, this was a decision that was a mistake. And we can speak to that because it was actually something that we saw them do. And it's going to hurt, again, you know, economies, you know, across -- across the globe that are middle-lower income. And so this is a bad decision.

And so they will have consequences, as the President said last night. And it was, again, a mistake.

Q: Is the President sad to see Tulsi Gabbard leaving the Democratic Party?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any comment on that. I'm not going to comment on that.

Q: Just one more about the recession. What gives the President confidence that if there was a recession, that it would only be slight? And what does a "slight" recession look like?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I just answered that question. I just went into a full -- kind of full detail of what the President was talking about last night.

But I think the most important thing, which is what we have said a couple times, you've heard me say a couple times, is that the message to the American people is that we have an economy that is resilient. And it is resilient because of the economic policy that this President has put forward. Because the President, when he thinks about his economic policy, again, it's about building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out. It's making sure we don't leave anybody behind.

And we have to remember what the President -- this President inherited when he walked in. He walked in -- into an economy where businesses were shutting down, a majority of schools were shut down. And he had to put forward a comprehensive COVID strategy to make sure that people were getting shots in arms.

And because of what he led with -- with the American versus -- the -- the -- (Air Force One experiences turbulence) -- oh, my goodness -- AR- -- his first economic policy that was passed, the American Rescue Plan, we were able to have an economy that bounced back historically.

And so what we're seeing is a strong job market. What we're seeing is an economy that doesn't define what a recession would look like.

And so, we are going to meet these global challenges, as we have. We're in a good position than any other -- any other leading country is to meet these challenges. And that's what the President wants to make sure the American people understand, with the understanding that there's always more work to do.

Q: One more. On Brittney Griner, have you -- has the White House talked -- been in communication at all with Moscow over a potential meeting to discuss Brittney Griner at the G20? Is there any movement on that? Or can you say anything about it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President spoke about this a little bit this morning. And as he said, he has no intention of meeting with President Putin. And he strongly believes -- you know, he strongly -- he strongly believes that, you know, the Russians need to take this -- the serious offer that we put forward on the table or make a serious counteroffer to negotiate, but in good faith. And so, again, he has no intention of meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Q: Hey, Karine. Do you guys have assurances that Ukraine and the Griner case are viewed as separate by Moscow? Or are there concerns that they're interconnected in terms of the President saying, "I'm willing to meet with him on this, but not that"? Is that something that the Russians have said?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say that over again? Like --

Q: The idea that this -- Brittney Griner is not being held with any tie to seeking some type of concession related to Ukraine. Do you believe the Russians view the Griner case as separate and apart from what's happening in Ukraine and U.S. efforts to bolster Ukraine in the war effort?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I can't speak to how Russia is perceiving this. I can't speak to how they're thinking through this. What I can speak to is what I just said, which is that we have put a substantial offer on the table, a serious offer on the table.

We are communicating with Russia through various channels, as we have said before. And they -- we believe, again, as I've said, that, you know, they should take -- take this serious offer or make a counteroffer in good faith.

And so, you know -- and we've said this many, many times before: Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan are being wrongly detained, and we believe they should be released immediately. And that's always been -- that's always been our stance.

Q: Karine, one last quick question. Last night, at the virtual fundraiser, the President said he had to leave to go deal with something related to Ukraine. Is there any readout of what he went to go handle?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. I know he said that. I didn't check in to see what he was talking about, so I don't have a specific readout on that particular comment by the President.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

1:23 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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