Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby
Aboard Air Force One
En Route San Francisco, California
2:07 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I got a couple of things at the top before I turn it over to the Admiral. Thank you.
So, this morning, President Biden shared big news in his work to tackle climate change. Over the past two and a half years, President Biden has delivered on the most ambitious climate agenda in history, from signing into law the largest investment in climate action ever, to including more than $50 billion in climate resilience, to taking bold action to reduce climate pollution across every sector of the economy, to protecting more than 21 million acres of public lands and waters, to restoring the vital role of science and guiding the Biden-Harris administration's decision-making.
As a result of the President's leadership and economic plan, energy jobs are on ri- -- on rise across the country and we're on track to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030.
And as you heard from the President a short while ago, we're not stopping there. The Fifth -- the Fifth National Climate Assessment released today shows that not only is every region of a country already experiencing the impacts of climate change, we're also making progress.
To keep building on that progress, the President announced more than $6 billion in investment to make communities across the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including by strengthening America's aging electric grid infrastructure, reducing flood risks to communities, supporting conservation efforts, and advancing environmental justice.
Now turning over to the economy. Today's CPI report that came out this morning shows more progress bri- -- bringing down inflation while maintaining one of the strongest job markets in history.
President Biden is delivering results for the American people.
Inflation has fallen 65 percent since last summer. Core inflation is at the lowest level in more than two years. Wages are higher than before the pandemic.
Gas prices are down by $1.65 from their peak after Putin's invasion of Ukraine, providing breathing room to families ahead of holiday travel.
Grocery inflation is at its lowest level in over two years. Egg, milk prices are lower than they were a year ago.
President Biden will keep fighting to lower costs, from taking on Big Pharma to lower prescription drug costs, to investing in clean energy to lower energy bills, to cracking down on junk fees.
Unfortunately, that stands in stark contrast to what congressional Republicans are doing, pushing trickle-down eco- -- wow, hold on, guys -- economics by slashing taxes for the wealthy and standing with Big Pharma, oi- -- Big Oil, and other special interests that raise costs for families.
Finally, I wanted to highlight that last Friday, the Major Cities Chiefs Association published data on violent crime for the first nine months of 2023 and compared it to the same period in 2022. That data showed that violent crime, which fell in 2022, is continuing to fall in 2023. The total number of homicides in -- in the reporting jurisdictions dropped more than 10 percent. Rapes dropped 7.6 percent, aggravated assault dropped 3.4 percent, and robberies dropped 2.5 percent.
The Biden-Harris administration's investment, including the $50 billion from the American Rescue Plan, that cities have used to improve public safety is working.
But, of course, we have more work to do. And that is why the President has proposed more than 100,000 police officers that engage in community policing. The President urges Republicans to support his proposal.
With that, I have the Admiral joining me today to -- to speak to tomorrow's summit with Xi and anything else on APEC that you may want to ask and, of course, the Middle East conflict.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.
I know you all heard from Jake yesterday about the -- the meeting with President Xi and, of course, APEC. I won't be able to improve much upon what Jake said. I'll just tell you that going into APEC, I mean, the President really feels we got the wind at our back here.
And with 21 countries, 60 percent of global economic output represented here in San Francisco, it's -- it's an exciting time.
And he'll be focusing, really, on three things.
One, not only improve and increase American investment in the region, but the region's investment in the United States.
Number two, lifting up and looking towards a vision for better international worker standards, cleaner environments, safer environments, collective bargaining, a chance for international workers to be able to compete on a level playing field.
And number three, building a more inclusive economy across the region.
Again, Jake covered all that yesterday.
I do want to just give you some updates on the Middle East if you'll just bear with me here. Since the very early hours after October 7th, the President has been personally engaged throughout the region. There's just been a lot of coordination, daily touchpoints with a number of partners all run out of the NSC, led by Jake Sullivan.
And he's -- the President has dispatched a number of senior officials to the region. Obviously, Secretary Blinken has made a couple of significant trips there.
But that's why I think you saw us announce earlier that the NSC Coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, is traveling to Europe and the Middle East this week. And he's leaving today. He's going to Belgium, Israel, the West Bank, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan.
Of course, the primary focus is going to be ensuring that we're freeing the hostages, that we're doing everything we can to get them released, including the Americans that are being held. But he's also going to be focusing on how we can contain this conflict and that we can prevent any further escalation as well as any effort by anybody to deepen the conflict.
We also are obviously going to keep working -- and Brett will be doing this -- with our partners on the humanitarian assistance front to make sure that the aid is getting in as well as people getting out.
I think you may have also noticed all -- I'll just draw your attention to it -- Treasury Department issued another round of sanctions against Hamas today. This is the third one since the attacks.
Together with our partners, we're going to be decisively
moving to degrade Hamas's financial infrastructure, cut them off from outside funding, and block the new funding channels that they seek to finance their terrorism.
Now, on the hospitals, I can confirm for you that we have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages.
Hamas and the Palestinian -- Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- PIJ -- members operate a command-and-control node from Al-Shifa in Gaza City. They have stored weapons there, and they're prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility.
Now, to be clear, we do not support striking a hospital from the air, and we do not want to see a firefight in the hospital where innocent people, helpless people, sick people are simply trying to get the medical care that they deserve -- not to be caught in a crossfire. Hospitals and patients must be protected.
And this just points out how challenging the military operation is, because Hamas has deeply embedded itself within the civilian population. Israel has now an added burden that they have to -- I'm sorry, they have an added burden, given the way that Hamas operates.
But as we have been clear on multiple occasions, Hamas actions did not lessen Israel's responsibilities to protect civilians in Gaza. And this is something that we obviously are going to continue to have an active conversation with our counterparts about.
And then, just -- just to touch on some of the figures over the last 24 hours: Some 115 more trucks carrying humanitarian aid were able to enter Gaza. That brings the total now to around 1,100. Again, we know it's not enough. We know more must be done. We got to accelerate it. We got to increase it. But we're up over a thousand trucks now that have gotten in.
And then since the 1st of November, we are now aware of more than 600 Americans and their family members who have been able to depart and -- and seek the support of our embassy team, our consular team on the ground in Egypt.
Q: Kirby, just on the -- on the --
Q: Hostages -- on the hostages --
Q: Could I just -- on the hospitals, first of all, what evidence or support or sourcing do you have to support the claim that you just made about Hamas?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, it comes from a variety of intelligence sourcing. I think you can understand that we're not going to be able to provide a whole lot of granular detail on that. We have to protect sources and methods, but we were able to downgrade some information to be able to provide it with -- for you today. But it comes from a variety of intelligence methods of our own -- of our own.
Q: Does that change the idea of whether or not there should be a ceasefire at the hospital in order to get the patients out? I mean, does this change the calculation? Would you -- would the U.S. support a --
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I think --
Q: -- temporary ceasefire at this point?
MR. KIRBY: I want to be clear, when we're talking ceasefire versus pause, there's a difference. So, we don't support a ceasefire. We think that's going to benefit Hamas.
Q: (Inaudible) pause?
MR. KIRBY: But we do support these humanitarian pauses that the Israeli military put in place.
Now some of them have gone up to seven hours a day, which is a good thing. It's allowing people to get out and to get to safety.
As I said in my topper, and you heard Jake talk about this yesterday, we don't support attacks on hospitals. We don't want innocent patients who are just trying to get needed medical care to be caught in the crossfire here. And this does point to the added burden that the Israeli Defense Force has.
As I said in my opening statement, now have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for a command-and-control node and probably storage of equipment, weapons up underneath that. This is -- this is -- that is a war crime. That -- that does make it much more difficult for the Israeli Defense Forces.
Q: On the hostages, it seems we're getting closer to a hostage deal. There seems to be indications and reports of that. Can you give us any information about how that's moving?
MR. KIRBY: All I can tell you is that we are in active discussions as we speak, right now, with our counterparts in the region. And one of the things that Brett will be doing when he goes over there is to continue to have that work, to continue -- to continue that work. So, it's an hour-by-hour discussion.
I think you can understand why I wouldn't get into too much detail about these active negotiations, lest I say something that -- that puts them in jeopardy.
But as you heard the President talk about this earlier this morning, you know, we're -- we're confident that we're putting the energy and the effort into that, and we're going to keep -- we're going to keep at it.
Q: Is there anything to that Washington Post report about the possible exchange of around 70 civilian hostages in exchange for a five-day ceasefire?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I'm just not going to get into the details.
Q: (Inaudible) on ICBC -- the ransomware attack on ICBC. First, did the U.S. give any sense of a warning to China about the vulnerability of that -- of that ransomware? And second, is that something that you would foresee coming up in the leaders' meeting tomorrow?
MR. KIRBY: I -- I don't -- we're wa- -- aware of the attack and, certainly, we're monitoring that. I don't have a lot of information for you.
We -- you know, the Treasurer is in touch with the financial regulators and with the market itself, but I really don't have much more information on that. It's obviously something we're going to watch very closely.
And as for whether it'll come up tomorrow, I don't want to get ahead of the President and the discussion that he's going to have.
Believe me, the agenda will be a very full agenda with President Xi.
Q: Does the President have plans to talk to Netanyahu before APEC gets underway, before his focus shifts to the summit in San Francisco?
MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any calls on his schedule with Prime Minister Netanyahu as we're speaking right now.
But he has maintained a constant communication with the Prime Minister, and I have every expectation that they'll be talking again, probably multiple times. I just don't -- I couldn't tell you exactly when that's going to happen.
Q: And on the sanctions -- the Treasury sanctions on Hamas -- are you seeing any evidence that that's having any impact right now?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I mean, sanctions sometimes take a little while before you can actually see the practical impacts, and we've done three rounds since the -- the attacks. And oftentimes, the effect just takes a little while. So, I couldn't tell you one way or another how much impact it's had so far. But eventually, these things -- they will certainly put a -- will certainly put at a disadvantage their ability to fund themselves, resource themselves, provide capabilities to their fighters.
We'll -- and, you know, this is the third round. We certainly aren't going to take off the table any additional sanctions.
Q: In tomorrow's meeting with President Xi, China's Foreign Ministry says they'd like to see, quote, "concrete actions" in terms of U.S. support for Taiwanese --
MR. KIRBY: Who said that?
Q: The Chinese Foreign Ministry said they'd like to see "concrete actions" in terms of U.S. support of the One China policy. Whereas, as we know, the U.S. would like to see Taiwanese citizens being able to exercise their right to vote freely and fairly. How do you square those two positions?
MR. KIRBY: First of all, nothing has changed about our One China policy, and we have been crystal clear about that. We
obviously don't support independence for Taiwan.
We certainly want to see Taiwan's democracy continue to flourish.
We don't -- don't want to see any cross-trade tensions that are solved unilaterally or upsetting the status quo in a unilateral way, certainly not by force.
So, there's no change to our One China policy.
Q: You said last week when asked about the President's schedule that the luggage isn't on the plane yet. You didn't want to -- you said last week when asked about the President's schedule for the conference that the luggage wasn't on the plane yet, so you didn't want to talk about it.
MR. KIRBY: (Laughs.)
Q: Well, we hope the luggage is on the plane. But I wanted to ask how fluid is the President's schedule given the budget --
MR. KIRBY: The President is looking forward to a good week in San Francisco and to a very robust agenda at APEC. And -- and then I think I'll just leave it at that.
Q: So, there's no plans to possibly leave early, go back to Washington, or --
MR. KIRBY: We're -- we're focused on having a good week in San Francisco. And -- and I have no updates to his schedule to talk about.
Q: Related to Xi, what interests does China have in what's happening in the Middle East right now? And why has their approach been so different to the United States on that issue?
MR. KIRBY: I'd have to point you to President Xi to speak to his views of what's going on in the Middle East. I won't speak for another foreign leader. And I certainly won't speak for their comments and -- and how they've reacted to what's going on in the Middle East.
All I can do is tell you what we're doing, and I just did that. And the President is going to stay focused on what's going on.
I have no doubt, Trevor, that -- that the situation in the Middle East will come up in the context of the bilateral discussion with President Xi. President Biden will be eager to hear President Xi's perspectives on this.
They have -- they have lines of communication in the region in some ways that we don't. And, certainly, we would -- we would welcome opportunities for -- if China was willing to be helpful in -- in making sure that Israel can get the support that it needs to defend itself and that we can get humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Q: And then also related to APEC --
MR. KIRBY: And we don't -- and that we -- there's not an escalation or deepening or widening of the conflict by any other actor in the region.
Q: And then related to -- also related to APEC. What discussions do you expect the U.S. delegation to have with the Russian delegation that's on site? And -- and who is the senior-most member of that delegation? And how will you be engaging with them?
MR. KIRBY: It's their Deputy Prime Minister, and I'm not -- I'm going to blank on the name. Their Deputy Prime Minister is representing them. And we look forward to having them as part of this larger economic framework and discussion.
Q: Admiral -- Admiral, President Xi has met with President Putin. So, how is Russia and Ukraine going to come up in the talks between President Biden and President Xi?
MR. KIRBY: I'm sorry, say that again.
Q: So, President Xi has met with President Putin and is keeping those lines open. So, how is the fight in the Ukraine going to come up between President Biden and President Xi? Like, what's going to be discussed there?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I don't want to get ahead of the conversation that hasn't happened yet. I do think that certainly they will want to talk about what's going on in Ukraine, and the President will make clear that we're going to continue to support Ukraine against Russia's aggression.
And that -- and, again, China could play a role here in helping us support Ukraine but also to -- helping advance President Zelenskyy's vision of a -- of a just peace here for when -- for when the conflict is over.
But I won't speak for the Chinese and what -- what they will or won't say about that. But I have every expectation that the fighting in Ukraine will come up.
Q: Given so much attention given tomorrow to the President's meeting with President Xi, can you talk about the preparation and negotiations for the lead-up to tomorrow? Was it a smooth negotiation? Were there contentious points? What were some of the things that were talked about about the two leaders sitting down together? Like, give us a little bit of a sense of what we're going to see in the choreography tomorrow and how that came about.
MR. KIRBY: Well, look, I mean, anytime you do a meeting at the leader level, particularly between our two countries, you know, there's weeks and weeks of discussion about what's going to be on the agenda, what's not going to be on the agenda, how we want the -- the meeting to progress.
And then, of course, it gets down to execution. Once these guys sit down at the table -- you saw in Bali, it went on for, like, three-plus hours. These are two leaders that know each other well, known each other a long, long time. They can be frank and forthright with one another. I fully expect that that will be the case.
I'm not going to get into the back-and-forth between the two teams about -- about how the -- all the modalities came into place. But -- but I think -- look, I think the table has been set -- again, over the course of many weeks -- for what -- what we hope will be a very productive, candid, constructive conversation here.
The President wants to make sure that we're handling this most consequential of bilateral relationships in the most responsible way forward.
He means to compete with China. He's coming into this discussion, again, with the wind at his back, from an economic perspective. He thinks the United States is well-poised in that competition with China. He's not going to be afraid to -- to confront where confrontation is needed on issues where we don't see eye to eye with President Xi and the PRC. But we're also not going to be afraid, nor should we be afraid, as a confident nation, to engage in diplomacy on ways which we can cooperate with China -- on climate change, for instance, and clean energy technology.
So, there's going to be an awful lot on the agenda. All of that was -- was worked out between the two teams and baked in, and -- and we're looking forward to seeing where it's going to go.
Q: Will there be -- are they going to wear matching outfits for the -- for the family --- for the family photo at the end?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What?
Q: I know. It's ridiculous. (Laughter.)
Q: Yeah, matching t-shirts.
Q: So, there's a tradition at the end of APEC that the leaders wear some kind of matching outfits. But the last time it was held in the U.S., Obama -- it was in Hawaii, and Obama did not want to have everybody wear Hawaiian shirts because he thought it was kind of embarrassing. So, I guess there's a question about whether or not there's going to be matching outfits this year. I don't know. Are they all going to wear aviators? I don't know.
MR. KIRBY: Well, you got me there. I wasn't aware of that one. I'll -- I'll take that back --
Q: I swear it's a thing. I swear.
MR. KIRBY: -- and ask. I -- I take your word for it, but first I heard of that.
Q: Kirby, do you have any sense of whether President Biden will meet with the Taiwanese delegation that's attending APEC?
MR. KIRBY: Other than President Xi, I don't have additional bilateral or even pull-aside discussions to speak to today. I mean, there'll be a lot of leaders here, and we'll see how things shake -- shape out. But the only one that I -- that I can speak to is the bilat with President Xi.
Q: On Indonesia, the President was seeking something like a free trade agreement regarding critical minerals. He didn't get it yesterday. Why? And is that going to be part of IPEF?
MR. KIRBY: Is that going to be what?
Q: Part of the IPEF (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to get ahead of the agenda here for the next few days. I mean, we'll -- there's a robust set of discussions, including on progress on the pillars of IPEF. And we'll have more to say about that in -- in coming days.
And as for critical minerals, there was a -- there was a good discussion with President Widodo about critical minerals and making -- making sure that -- that we can work collaboratively in the region to provide more resilient supply chains for raw materials like that.
So, I think that's about as far as I'll go.
Q: On the choreography of the meetings with President Xi, do we know it's going to work? Are they're going to have a handshake? Are they going to give statements? How long? And also can you tell us where it will happen?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to get into much of the modalities. I mean, there'll be a -- obviously a -- you know, a classic bilateral discussion between the two leaders. There'll be an expanded bilateral discussion with the two teams, but beyond that -- and then, you know, I think you'll get a chance to hear from the President directly after that. But beyond that, I'm -- I don't have more detail.
Q: On the aid trucks going into Gaza, you said 115 --
MR. KIRBY: Right.
Q: -- and that that's not enough.
MR. KIRBY: That's over the last 24 hours.
Q: Over the last 24 hours, but not enough, you had said. Have you -- do you feel that with these pauses that the pace has picked up a little bit, though -- that that's made a difference in the past couple of days?
MR. KIRBY: What the pause have done -- I would -- it would be hard to draw a direct line between the pauses and the trucks going in. The pauses are largely in North Gaza, so away from the Rafah Crossing.
What the pauses have done, though, predominantly, is allow people in North Gaza to leave. The Israelis now have two safe corridors -- one to the east and then one to the west along the coast road. And that's opened up more avenues for people to move by foot.
So, it's really had an effect on -- on getting people out of harm's way, which we hope, just mathematically speaking, would help alleviate the risk -- the greater risk of civilian casualties because now there's now just fewer people in the crossfire.
But it hasn't really been tied to the Rafah Crossing. That work is ongoing.
Q: So, going back to the Xi meeting, a slightly funner topic, but will --
MR. KIRBY: More fun than the --
Q: Than the t-shirts?
MR. KIRBY: -- matching shirts?
Q: I know. More fun.
Will President Biden ask President Xi about pandas and getting more pandas for the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: We're sorry to see the pandas go. But, obviously, that was a sovereign decision by the PRC, and, of course, we have to respect that.
Q: Kirby, should -- will there be any U.S. action against Ukraine if it's found that they were at all involved in sabotaging the Nord Stream pipeline?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to get ahead of what's active investigations here on the Nord Stream Two and the pipeline. And I'm certainly not going to speak hypothetically about what the results of that investigation might be.
What we're focused on is making sure that Ukraine continues to get what they need. And right now, that's a -- it's a critical need as they are still fighting in this counteroffensive. And without supplemental funding, you know, we're going to -- we're going to have a harder time here. The runway is getting shorter and shorter for our ability to support them.
Q: The President has a decision to make about a sanctions waiver on Iran that would free up $10 billion that's frozen, I believe, in an Iraqi bank. What's he going to decide and what is the justification for?
MR. KIRBY: Won't get ahead of the President's decision making.
But I will tell you this: We continue to hold Iran accountable. We've added force posture in the region. We have sanctioned, in two and a half years, some 400 entities -- 300 in just the last year alone -- for all manner of Iranian destabilizing behavior: the way they're treating their protesters, the way they're supporting Russia, and a -- and the way they're threatening maritime shippin- -- shipping in the Gulf Region. So, we're not turning any -- nobody is turning any blind eye to Iran's destabilizing activities. We're going to continue to keep that pressure on them.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thanks, Kirby.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Colleen?
Hold on. It's a little bumpy.
Q: I know. I'm leaning against the side.
So, on the -- the CR, should the Hou- -- should the White House have come out so strongly against the two-tiered CR, especially now that it's looking like it might pass? Where are -- is the White House on it right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, not at all. Look, I'm -- and I'm going to quote something that -- that was -- that was in the statement from Saturday, which is "House Republicans need to stop wasting time on their own political divisions, [to] do their jobs, and work in a bipartisan way to prevent a shutdown." So, that is still very true. We are not going to back away from that.
But we've -- we've been saying, and you heard from the President yesterday, you heard from me yesterday as well: We are in touch with that -- with both leadership in the Senate and in the House to talk about the best path forward for the American people. That's what we're -- we care about: How do we move forward for the American people? And so, we believe that House Republicans need to continue to do their jobs, right? We should not be here. We should not be just a couple of days away -- a place that we were before, as you all know, not too long ago -- and -- and so -- in September -- so, we should -- they should get this done. They should get this done.
Q: Do you think the President will support the two-tier?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, they were having a conversation. "They," meaning the Democrats' leadership in the House and the Senate, and obviously they're going to be, from what I understand, voting on it today. And so, we're going to let that process happen. We're not going to get ahead of that process.
The most important thing here is to make sure that we move forward and they -- in the best possible way for the American people. And that's where we're going to be on this.
Q: But the White House hasn't given an indication to Democrats that they should or should not --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're letting --
Q: -- be voting on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're letting the process happen. We're letting the conversations and -- the conversation happen in the House and the Senate with Democrats. And there's going to be a vote, and we're going to see how this turns out.
Q: So, if Democrats support this, the President would sign this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals from here. I'm going to let the process happen in -- on the Capitol -- right? -- in Capitol Hill. Let them have a conversation. There's going to be a vote. We're just not going to get ahead of what they're going to decide to do.
Again, we want to move in the best path forward for the American people. That's our -- that's our objective here. That's what we want to know.
Q: But has the President talked to congressional Democrats about this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, our Legislative Affairs Office has been in touch with -- with the leadership in Congress -- and also -- and also our OMB director. We've been in touch with them for some time.
Now, obviously, this is something that House Republicans have to fix. We've been very clear about that. And I don't have any calls -- we don't have any calls to read out of any conversation that the President has had.
But obviously, on this trip, he's going to stay in close contact with the office of -- his team -- right? -- Office of Leg Affairs. He's going to stay in close contact with congressional leaders as well. Just don't have anything to preview at this time.
Q: Sorry, I didn't -- I'm just -- I just let everybody jump in.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: But if this vote is happening in two hours -- the White House hasn't given Democrats any indication that the President would veto or sign this --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We --
Q: -- even if they're about to take a vote in two hours?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We've been -- that's not the first time. Right?
Q: No, I know. But --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? There's been --
Q: -- I'm saying, on something specific like this where there's such a --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you. What --
Q: -- so much at stake on Friday --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And that's exactly right. And we shouldn't be where we are today -- right? -- because so much is at stake. We're talking about vital programs for the American people. You're 1,000 percent right. We should not be here. And we've been very clear about that -- very clear about that.
But what we're saying is: There's conversations happening on the Hill. Yes, the vote is happening -- I don't know -- in two hours, at four o'clock, but there's still conversations, right? They're still negotiating. They're still having conversations. We're just not going to get ahead of that.
We're going to get the leadership in the Dem- -- in the -- and the Democrats' leadership in the House and the Senate, make those -- have those conversations. We're just not going to get ahead of that.
What we want to see is a -- the best path forward for the American people. That's who we're putting first here. That's who is the most important thing.
We're talking about critical, important programs that need to be funding -- funded to keep our law enforcement on the -- getting paid; to make sure our national security is -- is in -- is where it needs to be; to make sure education, food security, all of these things that are so vital to -- to Americans. That's what's our main priority, and that's what we're going to let the Democrat leadership in both the House and the Senate have those conversations. And that's what we want to see play out. And so, we're --
Q: So, would --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- not going to get ahead of that.
Q: So, would the President be back in Washington, D.C., before a shutdown takes place?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I know he just asked -- someone -- Emily just asked that question. Look, as you know, and you hear us say this all the time, the President is the president wherever he is, and that is the thing to remember.
And he -- he's going to stay in touch, again, with his team back home at the White House. He's going to, you know, stay in touch with congressional leaders. And he could do this anywhere, right? He can sign a bill anywhere. He can, you know, talk to them anywhere he is. He can be president anywhere -- anywhere in the country, certainly anywhere in the world. So, that is not going to -- that's not going to change.
Q: Karine, can I ask you -- earlier today at his remarks, the President sounded a little hoarse. He was coughing a lot. Is he feeling okay?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He's feeling --
Q: What --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He's feeling -- he's looking forward to this trip. He's feeling good. You'll see for yourself after the -- after he has his meeting with President Xi, you're going to hear directly from the President. He'll take a few questions in his solo press conference.
The President -- I just saw him. The President is very much looking forward to this trip -- this really important trip and consequential meeting with President Xi. So, that's what I can tell you.
Q: When was his last COVID test?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn't hear that. Sorry, Emily.
Q: When was his last COVID test?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I can't speak to that. I -- you know, if COVID -- we're in a different place with COVID, as you know -- a very, very different place because of what this President has been able to do in getting COVID and getting this pan- -- getting us out of this pandemic, getting COVID under control. We are in a totally, totally different place. And I think that's important to note as well.
So, we're not in the same place where -- obviously, I don't think you test every day right? So, we're just not in that same place. I just don't have any -- we don't have anything to share with you on that.
Q: On Israel, Karine, you saw the protests today outside the White House. But also, I haven't heard anything from the White House on the death of a protester in California a few weeks back. He sustained some injuries during a protest in California.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can -- can you say that one more time?
Q: Yeah. A 69-year-old California man was -- he succumbed to injuries he sustained during a protest.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, this is the -- the Jewish American?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: Yes, I haven't heard anything from the White House on him. Has the White House reached out to his family or his community?
And then zooming out to the protests today that we saw, can the White House assure American Jews that they are safe in America?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so let me -- let me touch on the first -- the first question about the gentleman -- the protester, the -- the Jewish American. It's -- it's awful. It's devastating that happened. Obviously, our hearts go out to -- to the people who loved him, his family.
And I don't have a -- we don't have any calls to read out, but obviously, we are sending our condolences to the family with that horrific, horrific event.
What I will say about the marches -- that we welcome today's march. The President has been very clear about his unwavering support for Israel to defend itself against terrorism since Hamas -- Hamas's horrific terrorist attack on October 7th. And President Biden has taken historic actions to fight hate, including antisemitism, announcing more steps to combat -- combat it on campuses today.
Federal, state, and local officials have made the saf- -- the safety of this event a priority and have worked to ensure that necessary precautions are enacted and resources are deployed to ensure the safety of everyone attending -- attending today's march.
We urge everyone to respect each other's First Amendment rights and not to engage in escalatory behavior.
And obviously, we take -- we take any hate crime on any group very seriously. And we've taken actions not just this year in the past couple of weeks, but obviously a year ago, we made -- we were very clear about where this administration stands.
Q: And you were at a roundtable about it with Neera Tanden last week. Can you just update us on how that --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that one more time.
Q: I believe you had an event with the Domestic Policy Advisor on this last week. Can you just update us on any --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to share. But obviously, the team -- the Domestic Policy team and other -- other members of the President's leadership -- White House leadership are going to continue to have conversation with leaders in different communities, as they're all dealing with what we're seeing: the increase in hate in the different groups.
And I'm -- obviously, we're going to continue to call out antisemitism. We're going to continue to call out Islamophobia. And we're going to continue to say, any -- any violence, any hatred against any group is unacceptable.
Q: Along those lines, we had a poll today that showed that one in three Asian and Pacific Island people in the United States faced some kind of racial abuse. I guess I wondered what's your message to that community and specific -- particularly as APEC is happening.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, very sim- -- very similar, right? Any racism, xenophobia, intolerance is unacceptable. We're going to be -- continue to be very clear on that. This is something that the President has been clear on since he was running to be president back in 2017. So, this is -- we're going to continue to be consistent there.
So, President Biden and Vice President Harris have led a historic whole-of-government effort to combat such discriminat- -- discrimination facing Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. That started their first week in office when the President issued a presidential memorandum leveraging the power of the federal government to stand against this hate. The President also signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law and signed an executive order to reestablish the White House Initiative on AA and NHPIs.
And earlier this year, we released the first-ever National Strategy to Advance Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian American, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander communities. The strategy details much-needer -- needed investments from 32 federal agencies, including improved data, language access, and combating anti-Asian hate.
Q: And then, in San Francisco, homeless advocates have been advoc- -- been pushing for a meeting with the President, especially given some criticism of a cleanup that's been happening around the city ahead of this meeting. Is he going to talk with them? Like, what are his thoughts on this --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like, speaking to the advocates?
Q: Speaking with homeless people, addressing the situation there, which is a big problem in San Francisco.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here's what I'll say: The President has taken homelessness incredibly seriously. And so, this year, the Biden administration -- they announced an ALL INside initiative to aggressively tackle homelessness and build a country where every person has a safe and affordable home.
The initiative is actually building on the American Rescue Plan, which -- which made the largest single-year investment in ending homelessness in U.S. history and helped prevent a surge of homelessness as a consequence of the pandemic, as well as work being coordinated across federal agencies -- including HUD and the VA, including HHS, including Treasury -- to reduce homelessness.
And let's not forget: Earlier this year, as it relates to California, the administration provided an additional $96 million to communities across the state of California specifically focused on addressing unsheltered homelessness and homeless encampments.
So, we believe Congress needs to act. And -- and they need to continue to do that to cr- -- so that we can create millions of affordable homes, if you think about it; expand rental assistance; and provide communities with the resources they need to prevent and end homelessness.
Let's not forget, the American Rescue Plan, which is -- which is what his initiative is built on -- only Democrats voted for it. We're the ones taking this very seriously. Democrats in Congress are the ones taking this very seriously. Only Democrats voted on the American Rescue Plan that actually have initiatives and provisions in there to deal with crime; to deal with homelessness, as I just laid out; to make sure we're getting more police -- more police officers in communities. And that is something that Democrats led, not Republicans.
Q: How has the President prepared for this meeting tomorrow with President Xi?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you know, the President has -- when it comes to foreign policy and being a leader in this -- in this space, this is the President -- something the President has done as a senator, as vice president. And you've seen him do this the last two years.
And you've seen the -- how -- what his leadership -- how this diplomatic -- how diplomacy -- pardon me -- how diplomacy plays such an important role. And he believes in that. He believes in face-to-face conversation. He believes in having those direct -- direct communication with leaders. And that's what you're going to see.
This is not cert- -- certainly -- obviously not the first time he's spent with President Xi in his administra- -- in his time as -- as -- in his administration. And so -- so, he takes this very seriously, right?
He's going to meet with his team. He's going to -- as he's doing now on the plane, as he'll continue to do even when we hit the ground, and as he's been doing for the past couple of weeks and throughout his administration. And -- and that's -- I think you could -- what you could expect is a -- is a president that's going to be prepared.
And he's going to be prepared not because he's talking to his team and -- and, you know, reading his briefing book. It's because he has the experience that -- I would say, that many other presidents haven't had. Right? If you think about him being a senator for 30 -- 36 years, if you think about being a vice president for 8 years, that is experience that is so needed as a t- -- in a time like this.
Let's not forget: This is one of the most consequential relationships that we have -- you think about China. And so, this is going to be critical. And you're going to see a president that's prepared and ready to have a direct and honest conversation.
Q: Karine, VOA reported this morning that the leaders will be meeting at a place called Filoli Estate. Why was that chosen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I don't have anything to share on location. I -- I just don't have -- we don't have anything to share about that.
Q: Just on the budget again. I mean, as you know, we were here a month and a half ago.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Here in San Francisco, you mean?
Q: No, I mean on the budget.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I'm so sorry. Budget.
Q: We're not -- we're not in a position --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All I heard -- all I heard --
Q: But I'm trying to project.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- was "here." We were here a month ago.
Q: We were at this point in time --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q: -- leading up to three days away from a potential shutdown. Do you -- can you give us a sense of sort of the m- -- mood music? Do you feel any better? Does the White House feel any better about the situation now, as opposed to three days from the last one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, there's conversations still happening, right? They still have to vote on this at some point today.
And so, we're certainly -- we -- this is a president that's always optimistic, but we also believe that we should not be where we are today.
This is something that -- when you think about -- when you think about the CR, when we think about where we are, we should -- there was a deal, as you know, earlier this -- earlier in the spring -- or late spring. And we believe that the President got involved -- right? -- and made sure that a deal was done. And we believe a deal is a deal. And now we are in a situation where we shouldn't be -- we really shouldn't be.
But I'm not going to get ahead of conversations. I'm not going to get ahead of the vote. Let's see what happens.
But we have to be optimistic. This is important to the American people. This is important to our national security. This is important to our veterans. We've got to make sure that we deliver for the American people and do the job that they sent us here to do.
And that's for Congress to do. Congress needs to make sure that they deliver. So, we're going to let -- we're going to let the Demo- -- the Democratic House and Senate, the leadership there, have those conversation, have those negotiations.
And hopefully we come to some sort of resolution here on behalf of the American people. That's what we're
Q: What about -- what about dealings with the new Speaker? I mean, is it better or worse than --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to, like, publicly judge the relationship that the President has or that the White House has with the -- with the new Speaker.
What we want to make sure is that the work for the American people get done. That is the most important thing. And that's what we want to get. That's what we want to see.
Q: Karine, I want to ask you -- DailyMail.com, through a FOIA request, obtained photos of the cocaine that was found in the White House in July. Is there any update on that investigation? Are the photos helping anything? Have there been any chan- --
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would just -- I would refer you to the Secret Service. That's their -- that's their -- that's in their wheelhouse. So, I'll -- I'll leave it to them.
Q: Is it frustrating for the President that the polls show that a majority of Americans think that, you know, the administration isn't doing that great on the economy when we have near -- unemployment is, like, a historic low and inflation is falling?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, as you saw -- I -- I just mentioned at the top that CPI -- right? -- which is incredible, important data -- came out.
And here's what we think the President is getting for results for the American people. Right? Inflation, in the pandemic, has fallen 65 percent since last summer, which is what I mentioned at the top. Core inflation is at the lowest level in more than two years. Wages are higher than before the pandemic, accounting for inflation. Gas prices are $3.35, down $1.65 from their peak after Putin's invasion of Ukraine, providing breathing room for -- to families ahead of the holiday travel. Grocery inflation is at a lowest level in over two years. Egg and milk prices are lower than a year ago.
And, look, we understand. We get it, right? The pandemic had a lot of strain and caused a lot of pressures for families and Americans. We get that. That's why the President did what he did, which -- I -- we were talking about the American Rescue Plan -- the first piece of legislation that he signed into law to get us back on our feet, right?
So, that is -- so, we get that. We get that Putin's inva- -- invasion, war in Ukraine that caused the prices to go up. That's why the President has taken these kind of historic steps when it comes to -- whether it's the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, whether it's the Inflation Reduction Act -- to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to make -- to make Americans' lives easier.
Whether it's healthcare; whether it's bringing down gas -- gas prices; whether it's making sure that, you know, unemployment -- if you look at unemployment, it's under 4 per- -- 4 percent, which is -- it's been doing that for more than 20 months. That's important to note. More than 14 million jobs created.
That is Bidenomics. That is what Bidenomics has been able to do.
But, of course, we understand -- right? -- we see and understand that some Americans are still feeling it out there. But this is a president that's taking this very, very seriously and doing everything that he can.
One thing that he says all the time: He believes that every American should feel like they have the dignity to be able to feed their family, to be able to earn -- to earn the wages to make sure that they can live their life that they see fit for themselves and their family. And that's important to the -- to the President.
Q: On the UK cabinet shuffle. Does this change anything between rela -- with relations between the two countries? And also, I think it's the King's birthday today. I think he's turning 75.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, it's whose birthday?
Q: I think it's the King's birthday tomorrow. Any birthday wishes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, to who? I didn't hear you.
Q: The King.
Q: King Charles.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, King Charles. (Laughs.)
Q: He's 75. Maybe the President, a fellow November baby, has some birthday wishes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, happy birthday to the King.
So, as far as the -- the UK government obviously inf- -- informed us to the changes to the Pri -- that -- to Prime Minister Sunak's cabinet. We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the Prime Minister and the new cabinet, including new Foreign Secretary -- new Foreign Secretary David Cameron, on a range of important priorities.
Certainly not going to speak to, you know, the -- the internal workings of another government's political -- political governance. I'm just not going to speak to that.
All right. Okay.
Q: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, guys.
Q: Thank you.
2:50 P.M. EST
Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/367859