Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton

October 13, 2023

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1:54 P.M. EDT

MS. DALTON: Hey, guys.

Q: Hello.

MS. DALTON: Hey. Good afternoon, everyone.

As you know, we're on our way to Philadelphia, where we are going to deli- -- deliver -- the President is going to deliver remarks at an event as part of our "Investing in America" tour. There, the President, at the Port of Philadelphia, will announce that seven -- the seven regional clean hydrogen hubs that were selected to receive $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to accelerate the domestic market for low-cost -- low-cost clean hydrogen.

The President's investments in infrastructure and clean energy are a core tenet of Bidenomics and are also helping us cut harmful pollution, create good-paying jobs, and meet our historic climate goals.

I also just want to say a word about the President's engagements this morning. This morning, the President, before departing the White House, had an opportunity to meet with his national security team and then had an opportunity to spend more than an hour on a Zoom call with family members of the 14 Americans still unaccounted for following this week's horrific attacks in Israel.

Today's call was led by Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens and included members of -- a couple members of each family.

The President conveyed directly to these families that they have been in his prayers and reaffirmed that the U.S. government is doing everything possible to locate and bring home their loved ones. Several of the family members shared -- shared information about their loved ones and their personal experiences as they endure an unimaginable ordeal.

White House and State Department officials also stayed on the call to answer any additional questions these family members had about the ongoing efforts.

I also finally just want to say a word about the breaking news that we just saw about the reports of a Reuters photojournalist killed and an Al Jazeera and AFP journalist both seriously injured in Southern Lebanon. Our heartfelt prayers are with the families -- the family of the journalist who was killed, and also our prayers are with the injured journalists for their full and swift recovery.

We know that the work that you all do is incredibly dangerous, and today is a reminder of that. And we just hope that those who are injured are taken care of swiftly.

With that --

Q: Can you comment on the -- some House members that were in the national security -- in the Sit Room today, who was there, and what was discussed?

MS. DALTON: I don't have any further details to confirm on that at this time, but we may have a little bit more detail to -- to share with you a little bit later today.

Q: Are you confirming they were there, for sure?

MS. DALTON: I don't have any details to confirm with you about any meeting today. But, of course, we have engaged regularly with members of Congress. And we may have more to share on this front later today.

Q: Is there anything you can share on communication with the House on the supplemental?

MS. DALTON: So, we've been in regular touch with Congress about our needs. We, of course, have communicated publicly and privately about the importance of making sure that there is no lapse in assistance to our partners. Obviously, there are appropriated and authorized funds in place already for Ukraine and Israel, but we want to ensure there's no lapse in either.

And, you know, as we've said, as the President has said, we'll be putting forward a request for additional assistance to meet those critical needs as, you know, we look to support Ukraine in the face of this brutal and unprovoked war of aggression by Russia that unfortunately continues and to meet the needs of Israel in this hour of need.

Q: Olivia, is the President now considering traveling to Israel at any point to show solidarity with the government there, like he did in Ukraine earlier this year?

MS. DALTON: I -- I certainly have no presidential travel to preview for you today. But I would just note that Secretary Blinken was there yesterday, making very clear our commitment; Secretary Austin there today, making very clear our commitment; the President, having done four different calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu today -- or to date and continuing to be in regular touch with not just the Prime Minister, but heads of states of our Quint allies and other nations around the world as we continue to respond to this.

You know, we're going to continue that level of significant engagement as we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel and make sure that they have every level of support in the days and weeks ahead.

Q: Can you talk about what the call was like for the President, talking to those families? Was he emotional during the call? What was that like for him to hear those personal stories?

MS. DALTON: I haven't had a chance to speak to the President personally about this yet, but I know that it was an emotional call. I mean, these are families who don't know where their loved ones are today. And I can't imagine what that must feel like.

Certainly, Secretary Blinken spoke to many of these families yesterday and heard similar accounts of the ordeal that they have been through, the unimaginable trauma that continues.

And so, I imagine that that was a similar experience the President had t- -- today, and I expect you might hear a little bit from the President today about that.

Q: What's the status on humanitarian corridors in -- in Gaza? Is there -- is it feasible? And is it something that U.S. assets that are being deployed in the region are able to support?

MS. DALTON: The United States -- I don't have anything on assets to share with you, but I can tell you that, you know, the United States continues to aggressively work with our Egyptian and Israeli counterparts both to navigate the possibility and cr- -- create the conditions for the possibility of corridors for both safe passage for civilians who want to leave Gaza and flee the danger and also for humanitarian corridors to allow humanitarian assistance that is critically needed to replenish stockpiles within Gaza.

Both of these things are critically important. And we continue to talk to our Egyptian and Israeli allies about the importance of those things -- and as well, I would add, also with the U.N.

Q: Does the President support Israel's order to evacuate Northern Gaza?

MS. DALTON: I'm sorry, can you repeat that?

Q: Does the President support Israel's order to evacuate Northern Gaza?

MS. DALTON: I -- I'm not sure the nature of your question. I'm not going to, you know, weigh in on Israel's military operations. But I think what you're seeing here is Israel trying to mitigate civilian casualties, right? And certainly, we've been very clear that the right outcome here is not one more casualty, whether that be an innocent Israeli civilian or an innocent Palestinian civilian.

Q: Do you have any comment on -- on Israel's reported use of white phosphorus munitions?

MS. DALTON: We have not been able to independently verify that, so that it's not something I would want to speculate about or weigh in on at this time.

Q: The UAW announced they're not expanding strike targets against Detroit automakers. Is that a signal to the White House that a deal is getting closer?

MS. DALTON: I don't want to get out my crystal ball here on this, but I will say that Gene Sperling, Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su have been working very, very hard to stay in touch with those -- both parties. And we've been continuing to encourage both parties to stay at that negotiating table and reach a favorable outcome.

And that's -- that continues to be what we're doing. But I'm not going to preview anything further.

Q: There are reports that Hamas is setting up roadblocks to keep civilians from moving to safety. If that is true, should the Israelis not move forward with any plans for any ground invasion?

MS. DALTON: What you've just noted here is the brutality of H- -- Hamas, right? Once again, they are using civilians as human shields. And, you know, we saw that -- we've seen that every day since last weekend when they brutally murdered 1,300 civilians -- kidnapped people, took them back to Gaza to use them as human shields without regard for Israeli life; without regard for Americans' lives, who are among that group of people, as we now know; and without regard to Palestinian lives.

Hamas continues to engage in tactics like using tunnels under residential buildings to conduct their operations, holing up in hospitals and mosques and schools.

This is a terrorist organization with no regard for human life, with no regard for civilians. And, you know -- and frankly, it is barbaric and brutal, and we've got to continue to call it out.

Q: What's the reasoning for the President's trip to Delaware to -- this afternoon?

MS. DALTON: The President is making a brief stop at home.

Q: And on Monday, he'll be going to Colorado. Do you have any information on what he'll be doing during that stop?

MS. DALTON: I -- I don't at this time, but we may have more for you later today.

Q: Do you have any update on the number of Americans that have asked the State Department for help getting out of Israel, that would be taking these charter flights or other options?

MS. DALTON: I -- I know, obviously, the first charter flights left today from Israel to points in Europe. I would want to refer you to the State Department for the latest data on the uptake on that.

I think we're landing, so I've got to conclude it here, guys.


Q: Thanks.

Q: Thanks, Olivia.

2:03 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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