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Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

July 01, 2021

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Miami, FL

8:55 A.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, good morning. Today in Surfside, the President and the First Lady will receive a command briefing from Incident Commander Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Governor Ron DeSantis, and Unified Command on the current status of the search-and-rescue efforts and the federal, state, and local resources being deployed as part of the response. Then they will thank the heroic first responders, search-and-rescue teams, and everyone who has been working around the clock for their tireless work.

The President and the First Lady will meet with the families who have been forced to endure this terrible tragedy to offer them comfort during this unimaginable, difficult time as search-and-rescue efforts continue.

At the end of the day, the President will deliver remarks on the tragedy, how he and the nation stand with the families and survivors, and the federal government's response efforts in coordination with our state and local partners.

On those efforts: As of 6:00 a.m. this morning, FEMA has deployed over 60 FEMA staff to support response efforts in Sunrise, Florida. FEMA is also deploying an additional 400 personnel across five urban search-and-rescue teams to assist with ongoing operation at the request of local officials.

Each of the -- each of the urban search-and-rescue team has 80 personnel, and all five deployed US&R teams will arrive on site and be operational today. Two additional urban and research [search and] rescue teams are on standby to rapidly deploy and provide relief to the first responders who are working tireless -- tirelessly if needed.

Last evening, FEMA awarded more than $20 million in federal funding to the Florida Division of Emergency Management for Emergency Protective Measures. Given the circumstances and the unprecedented response underway, led by the state -- by state and local officials, FEMA expedited this request for funding from the state.

These funds will support the state and local governments' on-going, unbudgeted costs to conduct rescue operations. This additional fund -- federal support from FEMA is authorized under the emergency declaration the President approved to coordinate disaster relief efforts, reimburse response costs, provide equipment and resources to assist with debris removal and emergency protective measures in order to try to save lives, and to provide temporary shelter and housing to alleviate the hardship and suffering for those who have been displaced.

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

Q: Sure. Most Florida counties don't require condo inspections. And I'm wondering if the President believes that there needs to be a change in local or federal policy to require more inspections and to prevent future situations like this from occurring?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this, the National Institute of Standards and Technology -- NIST -- announced last night that they're launching a full investigation into what caused the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South building.

So, as you know, the President supported an investigation in order to undermine [understand] what caused the terrible tragedy and ensure nothing like it ever happened again. So, we look forward to NIST's conclusions once the investigation is complete. And so, we're going to see what the investigation shows, and that will answer, hopefully, some questions that we all have on what happened.

Q: What's the President's reaction to the CFO of the Trump Organization being indicted in New York?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, that's -- so, at this moment, I -- you know, we've seen the coverage, clearly, for the past 12 hours or so. But I refer you to the parties involved by any further -- for any further comment. We're not going to comment on any specific case at this time.

And generally, this -- the President, you know, believes and has made clear that he -- it's long past due for wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. And he's announced a number of initiatives to crack down on tax evasion by high-income individuals and big corporations. But we don't have anything further to say on that.

Q: Does he think fringe benefits is a serious enough issue to justify going after the organization of a former President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don't have anything to say about -- about this particular case at all. I refer you to the authorities that are a part of this.

Q: (Inaudible.) It sounds like you're saying -- you're not -- are you suggesting there was something improper?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I'm saying is -- what I'm saying is, in general, the President believes that the wealthiest among us should pay their fair share. And we see that in policies and legislation that he's put forward, when we talk about the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan.

So, he truly believes, as he's -- as we look at his economic policy -- that everyone should pay their fair share, especially the wealthiest among us. And so that's what we're saying. I'm not commenting at all on the particular investigation. I'm just saying, in general.

Q: How do you know if he paid his fair share?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just saying this is what he believes, in general.

Q: Karine, does the President today want to get a sense of how the building collapsed, what factors led to the collapse?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, like I said, there's going to be an investigation that was announced last night. And so, we're going to see how that goes and let the -- let the invest- -- let NI- -- NIST, the experts there, do their investigation, and we'll see where that takes us.

But, to just reiterate: The President's goal today, his message today -- and the First Lady -- is to go there and to give -- offer up comfort to the families, thank the first responders for their tireless effort. They've been working 24/7, around the clock, with this search-and-rescue effort. And so he wanted to go there to be -- to thank them and also to send a message of unity to show how state, local, and federal government are coming together in this time, especially this time of tragedy for the community.

Q: Is there anything he wants to hear from Governor DeSantis while he's there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, he's going to be -- he's going to be meeting with Governor DeSantis when he lands. They -- we have been -- the President and the governor talked on the phone on Friday, and so the White House and FEMA have been in close contact with the governor's team to coordinate federal assistance throughout the entire process.

And what we're -- what the President wants to do is continue to offer whatever assistance that we may provide. I just listed out what we -- what FEMA announced last night -- what we continue to do to help the community, to help the state.

And so that's going to be the focus of today: How -- what -- how can we offer up comfort? What else can we do? And it's just a message of unity to be there for the people, for the community.

Q: Just a question on the schedule. Are we actually going to the site of the building collapse? Or will we be -- is the President going to be meeting with the first responders in Surfside, but not at that location?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, right now, as you can imagine, things have been -- things have been kind of moving in the last -- the last couple of hours, because we want to make sure that we don't take away any resources and we do this in a safe way. So, we'll have more updates on that for you all later.

But, as you know, he's going to be meeting with the first responders. He's going to be meeting with the family. And we'll -- guys, we'll let you know more of what else that looks like as for the day.

Q: Speaker Pelosi was at the White House yesterday, obviously, for the bill signing. Did she and the President have a chance to discuss some of the legislative strategy forward on the bipartisan bill, on the reconciliation package? And would he encourage her to delink those, as he's been asked to on several occasions by some of the Republicans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'll say this: I don't have any -- any conversation to provide to all of you that he had with -- you know, any private conversation that he had with the Speaker. He trusts the Speaker. Right? He supports the Speaker. And she's -- she's been a tremendous leader and partner over these past several months.

And so, as far as the process, when it comes to the bipartisan infrastructure framework, he leads that -- he leaves that process to Congress. He's going to continue to do what he did in Wisconsin, which is talk to the American people about the important elements of that framework.

As you know -- we've said this over and over again -- it is a historic investment in our country and infrastructure. And so, this is an agreement that he's very proud of, and he's going to continue to talk about it and work closely with Congress on getting it done.

Q: There were some questions yesterday about whether the elements of the hard infrastructure that are included in the bipartisan compromise preclude the White House from pushing for further elements of his Jobs Plan in the reconciliation package.

Jen, yesterday, said he will continue to advocate for the full package. But can you be clear about whether that includes pushing for more funding for some of these areas in the reconciliation package?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Like Jen said, he's going to continue advocating aggressively. This is -- you know, these are legis- -- what he put forth in his legislative priorities this year is something that he is -- he is committed to and will continue to push for them. And he'll do that in the reconciliation package. And some of the things that -- you know, that were left out of the package, including incentive rebates for electric vehicles; clean energy tax credit; and the components of his American Families Plan, including extension of the Child Tax Credit, universal pre-K, ensuring community college is a real option for millions of Americans.

So he's going to continue pushing what he believes in is incredibly important and that's going to help the American people.

Q: Karine, can I ask about the timing of today's visit? Because you all have spoken about the concerns about taking resources away from an ongoing search-and-rescue effort. So -- and, I mean, the incident was relatively recent. So why today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so, you know, we have been in regular consultation with state government and the mayor's office since -- since early this morning. And I know it's like, what, eight o'clock in the morning, right now -- it's still early -- but we have.

And the message that we've been given is very clear from the mayor's office, from the governor's office, from local official, which is, like, they wanted us to come today. Now is the time to come to offer up, you know, some -- offer up comfort and show unity and from -- from not just from him, but from the country.

And so this is why he and the First Lady decided to come today. It was -- a lot was because he was asked to come and he thought this was the right time to do it.

Q: When he meets with some of the families, we're at a point now in the timeline where those on the ground are saying we're talking about simply a recovery mission at this point and not a rescue mission. Has the President been briefed about the likelihood of survivors still being found in the in the rubble there? And I don't know if you've had a chance to talk to him, but how does he prepare for the conversations that he's going to be having with some of these families today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as far as that, you know, as we said, this is a rescue-and-search mission and continues to be that. You know, we haven't gotten any indication of it not being exactly that, to continue to search and res- -- to do the search and rescue, and looking for loved ones that -- that are there in -- in the site. And search-and-rescue operations, like I said, are still going on, and we're hoping for the best.

And -- but we, you know, we will refer you to the officials on the ground for anything more specific about what -- what the status of what is happening on the ground.

Q: (Inaudible) organizing those family meetings with 145, I guess, unaccounted for. Is it in groups? Is it any family of anyone who's missing or perished?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I don't -- (the interior door to the press cabin swings open) -- careful. We're about to lose Mike Memoli. Oh, my goodness. Hold on.

Q: Perish the thought.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Perish the thought, indeed.

Look, we've been working with local officials on the ground and making sure that we're meeting with the families that were impacted by this. I don't have any more -- any more to tell them about, like, the process of it. But the -- the important thing to remember is that the President is coming here with the First Lady to make sure that they are offering up, you know, their -- you know, their services -- their service -- or service and just comfort to the -- in this -- in this time of tragedy.

And so that's the most important thing. This is about the community. This is about the people and everything that they've had to endure this past -- this past several days. You know, this is an incredibly tragic time. And this is the President -- this is a President that understands what that means -- loss means. And so that's going to be his focus.

And like I said, we've worked closely with folks on the ground in making sure that the families were there when he -- when he was -- when he --

Q: Do you have any scheduling information over the next few days -- the holiday weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that one more time. I'm so sorry.

Q: Scheduling information over the next few days?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything more to share. I think we announced that he's going to Michigan on Saturday, and then he will be doing the Fourth of July event with first responders and military families on Sunday for Fourth of July. And I don't have any more further to share with that, Steve.

Q: (Inaudible) said he was going to speak about voting rights issues this week, last week. Obviously, today came up on the schedule and that wasn't originally. Is there something on the decks for next week that we should be --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don't have anything to preview, but clearly, that is something that's incredibly important to the President -- is the voting rights issue. And he is going to speak to that in the upcoming days. And so we'll have more to share once we have -- once we have something locked in.

Q: Karine, is the White House or HUD or any -- any other agencies in the federal government considering any other actions just to prevent things like what happened in Surfside happening again? Are there any executive actions you can take, anything HUD is looking at as you guys wait for the outcome of the investigation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, right now, we don't have anything else to announce or preview. I just listed out a bunch of efforts that FEMA is doing, on the funding that we've provided for the efforts on the ground. And once -- I think the investigation will be incredibly important to kind of steer us and give us a sense of what could be next that we could do to prevent this from happening.

Q: Jen was asked yesterday about this situation -- unusual situation in South Dakota with the National Guard where a private donation is being used to fund a deployment. I know she said she would get an answer. I'm wondering if you had an update on the White House's view of the appropriateness of that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So the White House is focused not on political gestures but rather on putting in the work and delivering the solu'.';tions. The progress made at the southern border in the first 150 days under the adm`/inistration is pretty clear. And so the administration has been significant -- has made significant progress at establishing a well-managed and secure border while also treating people fairly and humanely. The American people support this approach.

Separately, DHS and CBP continue to leverage their longstanding relationship with state and local law enforcement, including deconflicting operations in the border region and responding to call -- callouts from other law enforcement agencies.

Memoli, we may not -- (laughs) -- we may not make it to --

Q: (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- to Florida. (Laughter.)

Q: So, Karine, the former President is going to have a rally in Sarasota on Saturday night. Have you all taken a position on whether that should go ahead with?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we're in -- we are not focused on the former President at all. We are focused primarily on the American people, what can the President do -- this is what the President is focused on --- what he can continue to do to make their lives better.

I mean, right now, today, is all about the community of Surfside: making sure we're offering up our condolences, making sure we're offering up all the help that we can provide to them at this time, and also lifting up our first responders who have been working tirelessly around the clock doing the work that they're doing in their search and rescue.

Thanks. Thanks, everybody.

9:12 A.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/350667

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