Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Atlanta, Georgia
12:04 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's good to see everybody. Okay.
Given the tragic shooting this week, we made changes to the schedule today. President Biden and Vice President Harris have postponed the previously planned political event for a future date.
The President and the Vice President will be meeting with state legislators and community advocates from the Georgia Asian American and Pacific Islander community. They will have an opportunity to hear about the impact on their community of Tuesday's heartbreaking, senseless acts?of violence, as well as their perspectives on increased anti-Asian hate incidents.
The President will offer his support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Georgia and across the country, and talk about his fierce commitment to combatting xenophobia, intolerance, and hate.
The President and the Vice President will also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where they will receive an update from health and medical experts who are helping lead the fight against the pandemic.
Throughout the day, the President and the Vice President will meet with Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock, Senator Jon Ossoff, and Atlanta's Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and also Stacey Abrams.
Today, the Department of Education took steps to grant full relief to borrowers and approved "defense to repayment" claims to date, where we determined that their institutions engaged in misconduct against them. There are tens of thousands of borrowers whom Education Department determined were harmed by their institution, sometimes years ago. But too many had been blocked from getting substantial assistance due to formulas for partial relief adopted by the prior administration.
We are rescinding those formulas, and we will be working quickly to grant full relief to borrowers where a careful review of the evidence showed by -- showed they were taken advantage of.
Full relief under the regulations will be granted to borrowers with approved claims to date. The ultimate effect of this change will be full cancellation of an estimated 72,000 borrowers, discharging $1 billion in loans.
This is the Department's first step in addressing borrower defense claims as well as the underlying regulations. The Department will be pursuing additional actions, including re-regulation, in the future.
Next week, the President will continue communicating directly and clearly with Americans about [how] the American Rescue Plan is helping them and their families, and making sure they understand how to utilize benefits available to them.
As Jen said yesterday, on Tuesday -- the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law -- President Biden will travel to Columbus, Ohio, as part of the Help Is Here tour. While there, he will highlight how the American Rescue Plan will lower healthcare costs for many American families.
On Tuesday [Wednesday], the President will host an event to mark Equal Pay Day.
On Thursday, the President will hold a formal press conference in the afternoon, as you all know about already.
Throughout the week, the Vice President, First Lady, and Second Gentleman will also travel for the Help Is Here tour. On Monday, the Vice President will travel to Jacksonville, Florida, and the Second Gentleman will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, for an event with Secretary Vilsack. More trips will be announced over the coming days.
All right. Jonathan, you want to kick us off?
Q: Thanks, Karine. Welcome aboard. I want to start with -- if you can give us a little more of the about today's events, in particular the President's message to the Asian American community, many of whom have expressed real fears about a rise in hate crimes and who have expressed frustration that this one has not been categorized as a hate crime and that other incidents have not as well. What is he going to say to them? And does he believe that more should be done to classify these as biased incidents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the first thing is, as you know, he's going to meet with the Asian American/Pacific Islander -- do a meeting with the local elected. So he'll have a conversation there. And I think, there, he's going to hear from them about the impact of this violent incident that we saw just a couple days ago, as you all know, in the community, and more broadly, their perspective on the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents.
The President will offer their -- his support to the community in Georgia and across the country, and highlight his commitment to combatting xenophobia, intolerance, and hate, as well as establish -- establishing -- the establishment in his executive order that he actually announced on January 26.
The President -- you know, he understands. He understands and knows the past year -- that the community has been vilified, they've been scapegoated, and they've been attacked. And so he is going to speak -- he's going -- he has -- he's spoken to the nation, as we know, last week. He made sure that, in his remarks, he lifted up the anti-AAPI hate that they have seen the last -- the past year, and he called it out.
And so this is what he will continue to do -- to continue to make sure that he's talking to the -- make sure that he's communicating that to the community.
And not only that -- as I was talking about the executive order -- in that executive order, he directed the DOJ to do everything that they can to end this violence and protect the community.
And so they have been doing that. The DOJ has started doing listening sessions with the community on this issue. And also, HHS was part of that executive order. We just confirmed the Secretary there, so we will see more action coming from them as well.
As far as his remarks, I can give you a little bit of what he'll be talking about in his remarks today. Give me a second.
So, as you all know, given the horrible incidents, things have changed. So he's going to, you know, address the issue broadly in his remarks, and you can expect the President to meet the moment that we are in. So, very similar to the AAPI meeting, but this one he'll actually do this by addressing -- by, in a public way, making sure that the country knows what he has to say while he's in Atlanta.
Q: Let me just ask you one about the events yesterday in
Alaska with the meeting with the Chinese officials. Obviously, it got very heated at times. One of the things that's come up is: China has failed to live up to their promised U.S. imports from the trade agreement done with the previous administration. Does the Biden administration plan to hold them accountable for breaking that promise? How much of a priority is the trade deficit with China right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me start here: Yesterday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Tony Blinken had their first meeting -- had their first meeting in Anchorage. They had two sessions yesterday, and they'll meet again later this morning.
The United States delegation came to Anchorage committed to laying out the principles, interests, and values that animate our engagement with Beijing. Knowing that exaggerated diplomatic presentations often are aimed at a domestic audience -- this is the message that they want their domestic audience to cover -- but we understand the U.S. delegation is continuing with our agenda while we're there. We will still have business to conduct. We will use the remaining hours to privately outline for the PRC officials the same messages we have consistently delivered in public.
As Secretary Blinken and NSA Sullivan emphasized, America's approach will be undergirded by confidence in our dealing with Beijing, which we are doing from a position of strength, even as we have the humility to know that we are a country internally striving to become a more perfect union ourselves.
And I just wanted to quote what National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said yesterday at the start of the talks, which is, "We do not seek conflict, but we welcome stiff competition. And we will always stand up for our principles, for our people, and for our friends."
Q: Does the administration worry that this friction with China could filter down and fuel more harassment or discrimination against Asian Americans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think -- I'm just going to go back to what I said before, which is, you know, what we saw was an exaggeration of diplomatic presentation often aimed at a domestic audience. Right? And so we aren't letting the theatrics from other sides stop us from doing what we want to do in Alaska, which is essentially lay out our principles and expectations and have the tough, early conversation we need with the PRC.
Look, we knew, going into this, it was going to be tough. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. But -- and -- but we are ready to have a frank -- they are clearly having a frank conversation with them, and we are -- we're going to continue those conversations.
Q: (Inaudible) about the future of the relationship, though. I mean, this is pretty -- you know, pretty -- a difficult first meeting. I mean, is this the -- is this how you want it to start off?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, like I said, we knew this was going to be a tough discussion, a frank discussion, and -- but we're still moving towards diplomacy, and that is the goal here. And every relationship with every country is different. And so we are just going to continue that, you know, as I quoted from Jake and Secretary Blinken -- from Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, and Secretary Blinken. So --
Q: Do you think it makes a meeting with President Xi and President Biden more or less likely in the near future, given the tenor of the conversation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I don't have anything else to say about that potential meeting. This was a standalone meeting that they're having in Anchorage right now. Like I said, this is part of the process. We knew it was going to be intense. We knew it was going to be -- you know, a frank conversation was going to be had. And we're going to continue moving forward.
Q: I don't want to lose the question that John asked earlier, which was really important, about China not meeting its commitments under the trade deal that it has agreed to, to the United States. What's the message that you're sending to them as far as that is concerned?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think having the mes- -- having this meeting that they had yesterday on U.S. foreign soil, I think that was the -- that was a key, kind of, you know, statement as how we wanted to move toward with China. Like, we know it's going to be a competitive relationship, but we understand that we're going to continue moving with diplomacy; we're going to continue having those conversations at all levels.
Q: And just more broadly, the tough talk from Biden on Russia; tough talk directly to China: What does it say about where you're going in terms of foreign policy, just broadly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I think -- I think, with Russia, he was asked a direct question, and he gave a direct answer. And he's not going to back off. He's not going to -- you know, he's going to be very frank and very open about -- about -- about that relationship, especially when he is asked directly.
And so, that -- you know, that is going to continue. You know, people are -- have asked this: When is he going to meet with the President -- you know, with the President Putin? The President will meet with President Putin when the time is right.
And so, you know, President Biden and President Putin have different perspectives on their respective countries, but where they agree is that we should continue to look for ways to work together where it is in our mutual interest, as we did with New START. From the first phone call with President Putin, President Biden has been clear that the United States will also respond to a number of destabilizing Russian actions.
As you know, we have requested new or disclassified [sic] intelligence community assessments in four such areas and plan to respond to each of them in the coming weeks. And we've said that before.
But -- and also, earlier this month, you saw the first such response went -- announced several actions in response to Russia's use of a chemical weapon in the attempted murder of Navalny. As the President has said, there will be more soon, and Russia will pay a price for its action.
Q: Been an influx of migrants at the border, and there were some Republicans saying they don't want to discuss immigration changes until that is brought under control. What does that mean for the prospect of the President getting through reforms that he wants on immigration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just want to step back for a second because there's a history here that we have to -- that we have to understand and remember in what the migrants are going through and the reason why they're coming.
They're coming from, you know, corruption, violence, a country -- countries where they face that every day, where they have to deal with economic struggle. There's climate change issues. They had to deal with two hurricanes in the region. And then, on top of that, you're talking about COVID, the pandemic, as well.
And so, you know, those are things that we have to understand -- like, why are they making this treach- -- this, you know, very difficult, difficult kind of journey here to this country.
And also, we've seen migrant surges before. In 2014, we saw it, and in 2019. So, here's the thing: You know, we have -- we have a challenge at the border. And what is clear from the last four years is that chaos, cruelty, and confusion did not enhance security, and it did nothing to fix our immigration system.
So the President is committed to implementing an immigration system that is orderly, that is humane, compassionate, and lawful, and his approach is focused on bold action to keep our country safe, strong, and prosperous.
And one of the things, you know, we can assure you that we're not going to do: We're not going to tear families apart or send unaccompanied children migrating without their parents back to -- back to a dangerous situation. That is not what we are going to do.
So the administration is going to treat these children with the same care and compassion as we would treat our own children. So they are working around the clock to move children from CBC [CBP] to HHS care, find and vet the sponsors and family of these children, and release children to these individuals, once the proper -- the proper oversight and vetting is completed.
Q: On the border, though, you previewed more trips this week and coming next week on the Help is Here tour, but there is no trip to the border planned. If he's going to be doing all these trips across the country, why not visit the border?
You mentioned multiple times that you changed the travel today to respond to the attack in Atlanta. Does the situation at the border not rise to that level to, you know, change his travel schedule and make a trip to the border to see the crisis himself?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This trip was already planned. We announced this trip, I believe, if not early this week or late last week. I can't remember at the moment. And so we made that very clear that we were coming here, and so we changed the trip because a horrific event happened just a couple of days ago. And we -- the President wants to make sure that he's meeting that moment.
When it comes to the border, there's a lot that -- you know, traveling, as you know, takes a lot from -- you know, from what is happening on the ground, which is critical work to make sure that we're processing, that we're moving things along.
And so, you know, it is -- right now, we have Secretary Mayorkas, who's on top of it; we have DHS, who's on top. We're going to have Secretary Becerra very soon, who was just confirmed yesterday.
So he has his team who is doing the work, and we're seeing it and trying to give -- bring capacity to the border so we can move this along a lot quicker.
And so we're seeing that. We saw -- we see FEMA down there, as well, helping with capacity. We have HHS and ORR that's been embedded into CBP. So just to make sure that we're moving this as quickly as possible.
But I do -- I know you, Chris -- you had a question about the influx of families, right?
Q: More specifically how that'll impact the debate on Capitol Hill over immigration changes. Some Republicans don't want to come to the table until they feel like the situation is under control. What do you say to them about, you know, how you move forward now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, immigration is a bipartisan issue; it has been for a very long time. And, you know, if we want to come to a solutions, you know, if they want to come to the table and help with the challenge that we're seeing, then they got to come to the table as well.
And so here's the thing: You know, the President is committed to the bill being voted on this week, as well as, you know, his -- you know the different piecemeals, as well as in the immigration bill. And so he wants -- he wants bipartisanship. He wants Republicans and Democrats to come together on a issue that has, like I said, bipartisanship history of it.
And so, you know, let's not make complaints; let's actually come together and try to fix -- to fix the problem.
Q: On the border, there is suggestion that part of the reason granting some of the vaccines to Mexico is getting help with Central American migration. Can you say whether there is -- that is part of the reason why the administration is going to be giving some of the vaccine to Mexico -- was for that kind of help on Central Americans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you can imagine, when you're having to -- when you're having conversation with countries -- different countries, different issues -- you're talking about different issues, right? And so that is that is what's happening there. There are just conversations on different issues. And, yes, the pandemic -- which is, you know, unprecedented -- is part of those conversations that we're having in a parallel way.
And so when you think about Mexico, when you think about Canada, those are our neighbors, right? Those are -- we have similar interests. And we want to make sure that we're doing our part as well in beating back this pandemic.
And so, you know, the pan- -- there are no borders -- right? -- when it comes to the pandemic. They don't -- it doesn't see a border. And so it's important that we -- that we do -- that we do our part in making sure that we're mitigating the infections that we see.
Q: My question is about getting help on the Central mig- -- in the migration, getting helping from Mexico and stemming, you know, some flow of migrants.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Those conversations are happening, just like I said, in parallel. You know, the conversations are happening in, you know -- at levels -- at levels of the agencies that they need to be happening.
Q: Did Mexico agree to take additional steps in return for the vaccines?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All I can tell you is that there are always multiple conversations that are happening at the same time. It's part of diplomacy. It's part of the process. It's part of how we're communicating with different countries.
Q: On taxes, I know you guys have said that the threshold for raising taxes on households is going to be $400,000 per household. Have you guys come up with a number for individuals, like income level? Where will that threshold hit for tax increases?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has always been very clear that he wants to make sure we invest in the middle class, we invest in working people. And so this is something that's incredibly important to him. As you said, when it comes to raising taxes, it's going to be on $4,000 [sic] and up, and anyone who's below the four- -- $400,000, pardon me -- $400,000 threshold will not see a tax increase.
But here's the thing: It's a little early, right? We're still working out through the process. And you're right, it's -- right now we said it's per household. And so we'll -- we will see, like, what develops, but it's still early in the process.
Q: So (inaudible) he's going to Georgia, which is right now -- its state assembly is debating measures that could pote- -- critics say would restrict voting rights of access to the ballot for the citizens there, particularly -- potentially communities of color. I know that the topic of conversation has changed today slightly because of a -- of that shooting, but that has also affect- -- impacted a minority community. Is this going to be a moment where the President addresses this? We're in Georgia, against the backdrop. Should we expect to hear from him today on this very important topic?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, he's going to be meeting with Stacey Abrams, and so -- who has played a leading role in voting access and voter protection, and she will be an important partner in tackling this major issue moving forward.
The President intends to take an active role in voting rights, just in -- not just in Washington, but also in states. You know, and that is an -- I think that meeting is an example of his commitment to making sure that happens.
And also, just a coup- -- just about two weeks ago, he signed an executive order on the access -- voting access and how to use, you know, the whole of government, the resource of the federal government to make sure that voting is accessible for eligible American people.
But to your point -- I mean, to your point: Look, the administration is committed to protecting the fundamental right to vote and making it easier for all eligible Americans to vote. Right? The President's campaign was about fighting for democracy, and we're going to continue to fight for democracy from the White House.
And, look, we need to protect voting rights, particularly as we see what is happening to systemically roll it back in states -- in states like Georgia, which is one of the leading states that are really rolling it back. He supports H.R. 1, "For the People." He supports -- he supports -- you know, to restore the Voting Right[s] Act, as we saw with John Lewis's bill, H.R. 4.
And so, you know, the President is pleased to seeing that H.R. 1 is out of the House, and so he's going to continue to show his support in that as well.
Q: We saw the President take a fall on the stairs. Is he doing okay?
THE PRESIDENT: So, as you know, it's pretty windy outside.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It's very windy. I almost fell coming up the steps myself. He is doing 100 percent fine. He's --
Q: Did he hurt his foot that was recently broken, at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He's doing great. All I can tell you: He's doing fine. He's preparing for the trip today, and he is -- he's doing just great.
Q: Did he get checked out by the doctor?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just -- all I know is -- I can tell you is he's doing fine. He's doing great.
Q: So, just one more question about vaccines. We're entering talks, possibly, or considering donating to Mexico and Canada. Is the thinking that bilateral distribution is the way to do it, as opposed to maybe giving some to COVAX -- like COVAX partnership of Europe? Or is bilateral the way to go? Is that the thinking?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible) you know, look, when -- like I said, when it comes to Mexico and Canada -- right? -- they are partners, they are our neighbors, and they made a request.
And so, as -- you know, as a relationship that has -- you know, there are multiple interests in that relationship. We -- and we -- you know, we had the vaccine. And so, you know, we're making sure we're doing our part in beating back the -- the pandemic.
Q: Is the administration considering giving vaccines to the COVAX partnership?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know what? I have to get -- I have to get back to you on that one. I don't have anything for you right now.
Q: One quick thing. Given Vice President Harris's Southeast Asian heritage, can we expect her -- to see her take a leading role today in the remarks in the meetings?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: She's on this trip, as you all know. We're going to meet her in Georgia. And I think it's incredibly important to have her with us; so does the President.
And so, as you said, she is a, you know, Asian American/Pacific Islander. And so she will be at the meeting -- the AAPI meeting. She'll be at the CDC meeting. She'll be at the remarks. But right now, the President is the only person who's going to be speaking.
Q: Thank you so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, guys.
Q: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
12:28 P.M. EDT
Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/348827