Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton

June 16, 2023

Aboard Air Force One
En Route West Hartford, Connecticut

**See correction marked by an asterisk below**

12:46 P.M. EDT

MS. DALTON: And, hey, everybody, they're telling us that there's going to be some turbulence in about 15 minutes, so we're going to try to keep this concise here.

Good morning, everyone. We're en route to West Hartford, Connecticut, my hometown, where the President will celebrate the anniversary of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, legislation he signed last year with the help of decades of work by gun safety advocates and survivors.

Earlier this week, the First Lady joined Gabby Giffords at an event for the Giffords Law Center in San Francisco to highlight the President's action and leadership on addressing gun violence.

This morning, the White House announced new actions that HHS and the Education Department are taking to help schools access mental health resources and training for students to better prevent and respond to gun violence in schools.

And today, the President will also highlight progress at the state level and call for state legislatures across the country and Congress to take additional action.

Connecticut has been a leader on gun safety legislation, particularly in the decade following the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Just over a week ago, Governor Lamont signed a gun violence prevention bill, which contains more than a dozen measures to improve gun safety, including strengthening the state's ban on assault weapons and secure storage requirements.

Other states are taking action too. This year, Illinois and Washington made historic pro- -- progress by passing assault weapons bans. And now 10 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws restricting assault weapons. Michigan and Minnesota passed legislation to establish extreme risk protection orders, and existing laws were strengthened in Colorado and Vermont. In total, 21 states and the District of Columbia now have these laws on the books.

And Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, and Washington have all enacted measures to hold gun manufacturers account- -- and dealers accountable.

Since 2021, seven states have passed laws to increase accountability for the guns industry. This is the kind of progress the President will continue to press on lawmakers at every level to accelerate.

In some other news today, the President announced his intent to appoint Dr. Mandy Cohen as the Director of the CDC. Dr. Cohen is one of the nation's top physicians and health leaders with experience leading large and complex organizations and a proven track record protecting Americans' health and safety.

As Secretary of North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Cohen developed innovative and nationally recognized programs that improve the health and lives of families across the state.

Her leadership through the COVID-19 crisis drew bipartisan praise, as did her successful transformation of North Carolina's Medicaid program and pivotal role in the bipartisan passage of Medicaid expansion.

Dr. Cohen has been recognized by leaders from both parties for her ability to find common ground and put complex policy into action.

The President looks forward to working with her as she leads our nation's finest scientists and public health experts with integrity and transparency.

And turning to an I-95 bridge collapse update: Tomorrow, Saturday, June 17th, President Biden will receive an aerial tour of the site of the I-95 highway collapse and receive a briefing on emergency repair and reconstruction efforts.

The President will be joined on the tour by Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Brendan Boyle, and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

President Biden has instructed his team to move heaven and earth and work around the clock to ensure the fastest possible reconstruction of the highway.

U.S. Department of Transportation officials were on the ground within hours, and the Federal Highway Administration has already advanced the first $3 million dollars in federal emergency relief funding.

While in Philadelphia, the President will provide an update on his administration's work to aid state and local reconstruction efforts.

I also want to note that neither the President's aerial tour nor his travel in the city tomorrow will interfere with the traffic around the highway, the detour routes, or the reconstruction efforts.

And finally, I just want to give you all a look at -- look very quickly at the week ahead.

Tomorrow, the President will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as I just said, and receive an aerial tour of the I-95 highway collapse. Later, the President and the First Lady will deliver remarks at a political rally hosted by union members. And in the evening, the President and First Lady will travel to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where they will stay through the remai- -- remainder of the weekend.

On Monday, the President will travel to the San Francisco Bay area, where he will remain until Wednesday, and then return to the White House from California.

On Thursday, the President and First Lady will host Prime Minister Narendra -- Narendra Modi of the Republic of India for an official state visit, which will include a state dinner. The Vice President and the Second Gentleman will attend.

And on Friday, the President will travel to Camp David where he will remain over the weekend.

Colleen, do you want to kick us off?

Q: Yes. Does the administration have a comment on the Justice Department's decision related to the Minneapolis Police Department and the, sort of, discrimination against minorities, long before George Floyd?

MS. DALTON: We just saw the -- the release come across from the Department of Justice. We're reviewing that report now. And we refer you to the DOJ for any specific details contained therein.

But more broadly speaking, I would just say that the President has -- has long talked about his work to make our communities safer, including through advancing effective and accountable policing -- community policing. And he has talked about the need to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

And so those efforts will continue. But certainly with respect to any details of this report, right now I'd refer you to the DOJ.

Q: Do you want to react to anything that Vladimir Putin said today, including that they -- Russia has stationed a nuclear weapon in Belarus?

MS. DALTON: So we are aware of those comments. As we've said before, we believe this kind of nuclear rhetoric is highly irresponsible. There's just no room for it. It is highly irresponsible. And I would just reiterate, as we've also said in recent days, we've seen no indication nor reason to adjust our nuclear posture at this moment in time.

But we are also reaffirming -- taking this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the NATO Alliance's collective defense.

Q: Olivia, there were reports out of Europe today that the President urged Secretary General Stoltenberg to stay on at NATO. Can you confirm that he asked him to extend his term further? And do you have any comment on those?

MS. DALTON: I have no updates to share with you today. But I would just say that, as the President has said himself in recent days, NATO has never been stronger, more unified than it is today as a result of the United States leadership and others in the Alliance coming together and working tightly across the -- on Ukraine and across -- on other issues across the globe.

The President has complete confidence in Secretary General Stoltenberg. You saw they just met at the White House last -- this -- earlier this week.

But with respect to any upcoming changes, that is something that certainly the United States will stay in close touch with its partners and Allies about and reach a consensus decision.

I -- but I don't have any news to share with you today on that.

Q: Does the White House have any more details on who was behind the cyberattack yesterday and what federal agencies or how many were impacted by it?

MS. DALTON: So with respect to the cyberattack, the -- about two weeks ago, the company involved released a patch. The CISA and FBI have worked with government agencies as well as those outside the government that were impacted in order to make sure that their software is updated and that they are taking the -- the most secure action that they can to protect themselves.

Right now, I can tell you the FBI is investigating. I don't have additional details to share at the moment.

Q: Can you give us a sense of what the President is going to do next week in California? Will he meet with anyone? Will he meet with Governor Newsom?

MS. DALTON: Stay tuned for more in California. We'll probably have more to share this weekend on his travels next week.

Q: There has been a longstanding logjam on any of the sort of gun control measures that the President wants. Obviously, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was something of a breakthrough but not the sort of ban that he wants. Is there realistically anything that would change if Republicans remain in control of the House and Democrats don't have a bulletproof Senate majority? Like, really, what could the President do to break through this?

MS. DALTON: Well, as you know, the President signed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law last year. That was legislation that was 30 years in the making. People didn't think that that could get done on day one of this administration, and this President signed it into law.

He's also signed now two dozen executive actions that we're continuing to implement and take action to strengthen gun safety across this country.

The President doesn't believe that inaction is acceptable at a time where guns are the number one killer of kids in our country.

At a time where every day you open the newspaper and see reports of communities across the country wracked by gun violence, the President believes that it's our responsibility to continue to do everything that we can to fight the scourge of gun violence.

Certainly, the President is doing everything within his power. He will continue to call on Congress to take action to ban assault weapons, like he successfully was able to lead Congress to do in 1994, to end this immunity from liability from gun man- -- for gun manufacturers, to require national sta- -- safe storage law, to take additional actions to hold gun manufacturers accountable.

And so, you know, part of what today is about is to find where there are opportunities for us to press forward at the state level as well.

You know, I just highlighted some of the actions that Connecticut, other states across the country are taking in the absence of meaningful action by Republicans in Congress.

So, the President is going to continue to focus on this, do everything in his power, do everything to use the -- seize the bully pulpit, and make whatever progress we can, because as we see every day, Americans are paying with their lives for the inaction we're seeing.

Q: NBC reported today that President Biden had to be talked out of his call with President Xi after the balloon was shot down. Where -- and he thought he -- his relationship with Xi could tamp down the situation. So, I'm wondering: Where does the President believe that his relationship with Xi stands right now? And does a call seem likely after the Blinken visit?

MS. DALTON: I want to be emphatic* that the President did not have to be talked out of a call with President Xi. We've been very clear and consistent about the need to maintain multiple lines of communication with China. And that's part of why Secretary Blinken is headed to the region very shortly.

Look, stepping back here, China is seeing that, right now, the United States is in a place where we are better positioned than ever before to outcompete them in the decade ahead.

We've added 13 million jobs. Twelve million new businesses have been created. Under this President's leadership, we've attracted nearly $500 billion in private investment. We are reshoring hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

Over the next decade, we're positioned to build a billion solar panels in the United States, a million electric vehicles, 100,000 wind turbines, billions -- literally billions, with a "B" -- semiconductor-power- -- -powered pieces of technology in our country.

And so that's the context through which, you know, in this moment of increased competition that we're seeing, we believe it's incredibly important to also maintain robust diplomacy and ensure that that competition does not veer into a place of conflict.

Q: Do you have a reaction to --

Q: What -- sorry, just to follow-up. What does the President hope that Secretary Blinken will accomplish on the trip?

MS. DALTON: Well, I just sort of talked about this idea that right in this era, where we are better positioned than ever to outcompete China, that we want to make sure that there are open lines of communication and that we are engaged in a robust level of diplomacy that helps us avoid conflict, avoid misperceptions, avoid miscalculation, and really responsibly manage any tension. That is the larger goal.

And with respect to any particular deliverables, I would just refer you to the State Department on that.

Q: Do you have a reaction to the synagogue -- Pittsburgh synagogue guilty verdict today? And that's a verdict that could bring the death penalty with it. But first, just a reaction.

MS. DALTON: Sure. Well, with respect to the sentencing, I want to be careful to leave that to the DOJ. They make those independent decisions. And so, it would be inappropriate for us to speak to that.

But broadly speaking, I -- I do want to communicate that the President's thoughts, his prayers, the First Lady's thoughts and prayers, are with all of the victims, the survivors, their families of this horrific shooting in Pittsburgh in 2018.

Certainly, I think it's important to remember, when you look back at the reason why the President ran for office in the first place, he talked about, you know, watching antisemitic bile being spewed on the streets of Charlottesville that were reminiscent of what we saw on the streets of Europe in the 1930s. And it inspired him to run for office, to fight for the soul of our nation, to root out hate wherever it rears up.

And he, just in the last couple of weeks, released historic administration policy on combating antisemitism, which contained over a hundred actions that we're going to be taking across the federal government to combat antisemitism, as well as a hundred actions that external stakeholders we hope will take to help root out this evil in our society.

And so, you know, I just would leave it there and -- and just underscore that today, first and foremost, the President, the First Lady, their thoughts, their prayers are with everybody impacted by this horrible, heinous attack.

Q: What have you seen on the -- whether you guys will do a two-and-two with the India Prime Minister later this week?

MS. DALTON: We'll have some more on -- of the tick-tock of the state visit to share early next week. I just don't have that for you right now.

Q: There's some bipartisan legislation on the Hill -- the Senate, actually -- that would claw back executive pay from banks like Silicon Valley Bank that -- that failed and needed the government inter- -- to intervene. Does the White House have an opinion on that legislation? Are you supportive of it?

MS. DALTON: So this is actually the second piece of bipartisan legislation that has been introduced to do just that. And without commenting on a particular piece of legislation -- of course, back in March, the President talked about his support for implementing -- or legislating new policies to be able to give regulators the tool to claw back compensation from senior executives of failed banks and to have more accountability.

And so, certainly we are, broadly speaking, support- --supportive of bipartisan efforts in Congress to address the things that the President has proposed. And we're taking a look at these pieces of legislation, without weighing on them, but just say, broadly, you know, these are reflective of the kinds of accountability measures the President has been seeking.

Q: Do you have a response to the -- the ship that capsized off of Greece? Hundreds of migrants coming in from Libya probably died.

MS. DALTON: Sorry, can you say the last part?

Q: Hun- -- I believe that hundreds of migrants were killed when this ship capsized that were coming over from Libya to Greece.

MS. DALTON: Certainly saw those reports this morning; were devastating. I don't have any, you know, readouts of conversations with counterparts in -- in those countries to read out quite yet. But I'll follow up with more detail as we have them.

Q: Olivia, next weekend, we know the Vice President is giving a major speech to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court overturin- -- overturning Roe v. Wade. Can you tell us what the President is going to do to mark the anniversary?

MS. DALTON: Right now, I can tell you: You can expect the President to mark this anniversary. As we've seen over the last -- just this past few months, we've seen more than 300 pieces of legislation introduced across this country attempting to restrict women's access to reproductive care, in some cases imperiling their health and their safety and their lives.

More than 23 million women now live in states where there are severe restrictions on reproductive healthcare. And that's simply unacceptable to this President. It's an unacceptable risk to this President and this Vice President.

As you just mentioned, the Vice President will be speaking in North Carolina, which is home to a draconian abortion ban that was -- that went into law over the veto of the state's governor, just in the last couple of weeks -- excuse me. And she'll talk about how that impacts negatively -- how that's going to harm women across the state of North Carolina and across the South.

And so, certainly you can expect the President to mark this date as well next week. I don't have details to share quite yet. But certainly this is something we feel is important, and the President will continue to fight.

Q: Was the President briefed on the severe weather in Texas or in the --


Q: -- South last night?

MS. DALTON: So, the President has been briefed. Our team -- the White House team has reached out to Governor Abbott's office and also been in touch with Governor Stitt's office and -- and Governor Stitt himself in Oklahoma. We've also been in touch with local officials in these areas to offer whatever federal support we can, in order to make sure that they have what they need as they recover.

I would just say, you know, also on a, you know, personal level, the President and the First Lady, they've seen these devastating images out of the region, and certainly their -- their hearts, their thoughts go out to the families who are hurting today, to the people who have been killed and injured, to the people who are still learning the fate of their loved ones.

And so, you know, we're prepared to offer whatever federal assistance we can in the days ahead.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the -- the campaign event in Greenwich? What's he doing there?

MS. DALTON: I can't speak to that. I'd have to refer you to the DNC since it's a political event. But I'll, on that note, leave it there. See you guys later.

1:05 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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