James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:19 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  Happy Monday.  Okay, a couple of items for you all at the top. 
Today is an exciting day; we enter a new phase of our vaccination program and our effort to put the pandemic behind us.  Starting today, everyone 16 years and older, in every state, is eligible for the vaccine.  Thanks to the aggressive action we have taken through our wartime whole-of-government response, we have enough vaccine supply for all adults to get vaccinated; thousands of vaccinators — we will have, I should say, thousands of vaccinators ready to get people vaccinated; and more than 60,000 places — convenient places — for people to get their shot. 
So we have put up a couple of highlights here.  More than half of all adults in America have now received at least one shot.  More than 32 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. Eighty-one percent of seniors have at least one, and just about two thirds are fully vaccinated.  At least 90 percent of Americans now have a vaccine site within five miles of where they live.
And in order to make sure people know that they’re eligible, we’re blitzing the airwaves, including local media, constituency radio and television, and also have a range of officials doing national interviews, especially health and medical experts.  Google is providing information on its homepage to help people find a location near them.  And there are notifications from Facebook and Twitter, as well as even a stat — Snapchat message from Dr. Fauci.  Never too — never too young to Snapchat — too old, too young, either way.
There’s also a bipartisan AJP meeting happening today — American Jobs Plan — happening today.  This afternoon, the President — shortly after the briefing, I should say — and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will host a meeting in the Oval Office with a bipartisan group of representatives and senators who are former mayors and governors. 
There are, of course, more former mayors and governors than just this group; we will likely welcome them in the future as well.  But the President is looking forward to tapping into their experience and expertise overseeing local communities and states.  Hence, this is the group he’ll be meeting with today. 
They’ll discuss the American Jobs Plan, the critical need for infra- — investment in our nation’s infrastructure.  And their state and local executive experience, combined with their legislative experience, provides, in the President’s view, important perspective on how to invest in our roads, bridges, railways, and infrastructure across the country.
Two more quick items for you.  Today, we congratulate the men and women of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for yet again making history in outer space.  The space agency’s aptly named “Ingenuity” helicopter lifted off of Mars early this morning, performed the first-ever powered flight on a world beyond Earth.  And this brief flight now paves the way for more extensive exploration down the road.  Future Red Planet missions could include choppers as — as scouts or data collectors.  Very exciting.
Finally, today the Department of Housing and Urban Development is announcing the obligation of $8.2 billion in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds for Puerto Rico, along with the removal of onerous restrictions unique to Puerto Rico that limit the island’s access to these funds that were allocated following Hurricane Maria in September.  And these actions are the latest in an ongoing, whole-of-government effort to support the island’s recovery and renewal. 
Jonathan, why don’t you kick us off.
Q    Thank you, Jen, and happy Patriots Day.  I know you’re a New Englander, so —
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.  (Laughs.)
Q    In terms of — two matters for you: one domestic, one foreign.  Starting here at home: The nation is obviously watching right now the closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota, and I was hoping you could, please, walk us through what the federal level of preparedness is right now for a verdict that could be coming in a matter of days. 
What sort of coordination is there with the states, not just in Minnesota but elsewhere, you know, if there indeed will be, perhaps, unrest one way or the other, after the riot?  Could you walk me through conversations being had with local officials, mayors, governors, and so on?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, let me say, as you all know, the jury is deliberating, will come back with a verdict — or they will be deliberating, I should say.  After the closing arguments today, they’ll come back with a verdict, and we’re not going to get ahead of those deliberations.  I’m not suggesting you’re asking that, but I just wanted to restate that.
We — what I can say is, broadly speaking, we are in touch with mayors, governors, local authorities.  Of course, our objective is to ensure there is a space for peaceful protest; that, you know, we encour- — we continue to convey that while this country has gone through an extensive period — especially the Black community — of pain, trauma, and exhaustion, as we’ve watched these — not just the trial, but, of course, additional violence against their community over the past several weeks, we — it’s important to acknowledge that and elevate that at every opportunity we have. 
But in terms of your question, Jonathan, we’re in touch with local authorities.  We’re in touch with states, with governors, with mayors.  And certainly, you know, we will continue to encourage peaceful protests, but we’re not going to get ahead of the verdict in the trial.
Q    Is there recommendations about — in terms of the National Guard deployments?  Have there been communi- —  conversations about that? 
MS. PSAKI:  There’s a range of conversations about how to ensure that, no matter what the outcome, there is a space for peaceful protest.  But, of course, we’ll let the verdict — the jury deliberate, and we’ll wait for the verdict to come out before we say more about our engagements.
Q    Okay.  And the other matter: Aleksey Navalny — obviously in a Russian prison.  There are reports today that he has been removed to a hospital for medical treatment after the hunger strike he has been on. 
Can you provide us the latest in terms of what the White House has heard about how he is doing and if you believe this is an acceptable motive — if this is enough care for him?  And what sort of conversations are being had right now with the Russian authorities as to that situation?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I expect today, if not now, our National Security Advisor is going to have an — a conversation with his counterpart, and we’ll have a readout of that once that’s concluded.  That, of course, will cover a range of topics, but certainly the detention and treatment of Navalny will be a part of that. 
Let me say that, as a reminder, in the President’s first conversation with President Putin, he raised a range of concerns, including the treatment of Navalny.  On March 2nd, we announced, in coordination with several key allies and partners, our response to Russia’s use of a chemical weapon to poison Aleksey Navalny. 
So our — we continue to reiterate our view that what happens to Mr. Navalny in the custody of the Russian government is the responsibility of the Russian government, and that they will be held accountable by the international community.  As National Security Advisor Sullivan has said — he said just yesterday — we’re not going to telegraph our punches.  If Mr. Navalny dies, well, there will be consequences to the Russian government, and we reserve those options. 
But, in the interim, our objective is, of course, continuing to call for, push for his release and reiterate our view that he must be treated humanely.
Q    Okay.
MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Jen.  Can you explain where things stand right now when it comes to the refugee ban?  First off, the White House said on Friday that, actually, the 15,000 cap that was set by the Trump administration was — remained justified.  But then later, you said, “Actually, no, the number is going to go up by May 15th.” 
MS. PSAKI:  I wouldn’t — I would dispute that being our characterization on Friday, but let me walk you through what we did announce.
Last week’s announcement — or Friday’s announcement, I should say, was an effort — an important step forward, in our view — to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions of the world.  So there were many parts of the Middle East, parts of Africa where refugees could not apply and could not come into the United States.  And part — as a result of that, there were very limited number of refugees — in the low thousands — that had come over in a extensive period of time during the Trump administration.  That was an important step, on — in our view. 
In addition, there had been refugee flights that had not traveled, that had not been taking off to come to the United States, and we resumed those flights.  This was always meant to be just the beginning. 
In the announcement we made on Friday, we were clear in the emergency presidential determination that if 15,000 is reached, a subsequent presidential determination would be issued to increase admissions as appropriate.  And that is certainly our expectation.
In addition, we also announced on Friday that the President — while we are assessing right now what is possible in terms of — given the fact that the processing — the asylum processing has been hollowed out from the State Department, and also the ORR — the Office of Refugee Resettlement — has also been hollowed out in terms of personnel, staffing, and financial and funding needs, we are — have every intention to increase the cap and to make an announcement of that by May 15th at the latest.  And I expect it will be sooner than that.
The President also remains committed to pursuing the aspirational goal of reaching 125,000 refugees by the end of the next fiscal year. 
Q    And what role has the situation at the border, which the President called a “crisis” this weekend — what role has that played in decision making around the refugee cap?
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, if I walk you back just a little bit — and hopefully this will be helpful to you — during the transition, our team was — made an assessment of what our refugee cap should look like. 
And we looked back at the last few years and assessed that, because of the very low numbers — the restrictions I just mentioned that were in place, restricting refugees from coming from the Middle — parts of the Middle East — most of the Middle East, I should say, and Africa — we needed to go big and have a bold goal. 
And so that’s why we set the 125,000 cap objective by the end of fiscal year ’22.  62,500 was a down payment — meant to be a down payment in this year.  That was why we set that goal.  Now, that’s an a- — that was an aspirational increase of 10 times what was being led in by the Trump administration. 
In that period of time — we came into office; the President made that announcement, made those — put those aspirational goals out there — there were a couple things that happened: One, as you alluded to, there was an increase of unaccompanied children at the border. Our policy was always going to be to welcome those children in, find a place where they can be sheltered and treated humanely and safely.  That increase and that influx, as you all know, was higher than most people, including us, anticipated.
The second factor was that we did not — it took us some time to recognize how hollowed out these systems were.  The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees — while there have been different pots of money and different personnel — has both the resettling of refugees as well as unaccompanied children.  And there is — there are questions and have been assessments about reprogramming of funds and how we can address both at the same time.  And certainly, that ability and ensuring we can do that effectively has been on the President’s mind.
Q    And then, finally, on a somewhat related matter: The President has said that climate change is one of the factors that has created this surge at the border, but there are no Central American countries that have been invited to the Climate Summit that the White House is putting on.  Is there — how did you decide which countries to invite?  And has it been considered whether or not to invite some Central American countries?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’ll say that engaging Central American countries, countries in South America, many other countries around the world in the climate crisis is certainly our objective and our plan.  And you will see that play out through diplomatic channels, whether it’s through former Secretary Kerry, who’s now our Envoy; or Secretary of State Blinken; or the President himself.
There were 40 global leaders invited — this is our first summit of this kind — and obviously, a number of them will be speaking.  So I think the decision was made about how to impact and invite — or how to invite, kind of, some of the largest economies in the world.  That was the objective. 
But engagement with these countries, having a conversation about the role many of them play in addressing the climate crisis is absolutely on our diplomatic agenda beyond this summit this week.
Go ahead.  Go ahead, Kaitlan.
Q    If it is a “not guilty” verdict, will the President be disappointed?
MS. PSAKI:  I think we’re not going to get ahead of the jury — the legal process and the jury making their deliberations, Kaitlan.  And when the jury makes their deliberations and concludes and a verdict is found, I’m certain the President will speak to that.
Q    And you talked how the White House is preparing for whatever that verdict is.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters said, over the weekend, that they need to — “We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active.  We’ve got to get more confrontational.  We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”  Does the President agree with what she said about getting more confrontational?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I can speak to the President’s view.  He has been very clear that he recognizes the issue of police violence against people of color, communities of color is one of great anguish, and it’s exhausting and quite emotional at times.
As you know, he met with the Floyd family last year and has been closely following the trial, as we’ve been talking about, and is committed to undoing this longstanding, systemic problem. 
His view is also that exercising First Amendment rights and protesting injustice is the most American thing that anyone can do.  But as he also always says, protests must be peaceful.  That’s what he continues to call for and what he continues to believe is the right way to approach responding.
Q    Okay.  Thank you.  And on the refugee cap, you were saying that there have been other factors that have affected what that goal is now going to be with the limit that’s happened since he first announced he wanted it to be 62,500. 
But can you explain why, two weeks ago, when I asked if he was committed to raising it to that number by the end of this fiscal year, you said, without hesitation, “yes.”  So I don’t understand what has changed in the last two weeks to change those numbers, given, two weeks ago, there were the surging numbers at the border already happening.
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I mean, he remains — the goal he set was 125,000 by the end of the next fiscal year.  And 62,500 — sorry, that was a tongue twister — is meant to be a down payment on that.  And he will absolutely be putting out a cap — an increased cap — over the course — in advance of May 15th.
So he would absolutely like to get to that goal and get –reach that objective.  But we also want to assess — and that’s what we’re doing now — what is possible, given the fact that the — the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been hollowed out and given the fact that the system has been in worse shape.  And we’re just taking the time to do that.
Does he — that goal was always aspirational.  It was always a huge goal — 10 times what the Trump administration had welcomed, in terms of refugees.  And so we’re going to put out an — we’re going to put out a number — he will put out a number in advance of May 15th.
Q    But you say it’s “aspirational,” but clearly you thought it was possible, given the Secretary of State told Congress about it, the President committed to it.  So why put a number out there if you can’t meet it?  Because it does give people false hope that you’re going to let in 62,500 refugees by the end of September. 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think it’s also important for people to understand that the challenge is not the cap; the challenge is the ability to process, the abili- — the funding, the staffing, and welcome refugees in.
The cap is a number that anyone can set.  The biggest battle to getting more refugees in during the Trump administration was the fact that there were regional limitations put in on refugees coming in from the Middle East and Africa.  We’ve changed that cap — we’ve changed that policy, I should say. 
So, the cap, the — the number was always going to be.  We made — as I said in response to Nancy’s question, we — we knew it was an aspirational, big goal when we set it.  It was going to be 10 times what the Trump administration had — had set as their goal.
And we remain — we are looking ahead to and we — we hope — we are hopeful about reaching that 125,000 number as we look to the next fiscal year.  But as we came in and assessed and have had time to assess and have — the teams to have had time to assess where the challenges are, we learned more about how hollowed out the systems were; we learned more about the challenges in processing; we learn mo- — more about, of course, the impact of what the influx of unaccompanied children would be on these considerations.
Q    But shouldn’t you have assessed that before making a commitment?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, we made — the President made the announcement in early February, and he felt it was important to send the message to the world, which remains his view, that we’re now a country, again, that is going to welcome in refugees from around the world. 
That continues to be his point of view.  It continues to be his objective.  It continues to be his policy.  But sometimes it takes a little bit of time to lift up the hood, kick around the tires, and see what the big problems are.  And we — he made that announcement within two weeks of taking office, so clearly we’ve had some time to do it since then. 
Go ahead.
Q    Thank you, Jen.  I’m still just a little bit confused about what changed between 1:00 p.m. on Friday and around 4:30 p.m. on Friday to go from “we’re not raising the refugee cap” to “we are raising it by May 15th.”  What — what changed in those three and a half hours?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think, as I just outlined, we never said we’re not raising the refugee cap.  In the morning, we said actually — and with the information we put out — was that once we reach 15,000, we will raise it.  That was not accounted for in some of how people were di- —
Q    But you also said —
MS. PSAKI:  Let me finish.
Q    Okay.
MS. PSAKI:  — some of how people were digesting the information.  And we wanted to be clear and send a message that we are a country that is welcoming refugees.  Let’s be clear: We are changing the policies of the last administration.  We are changing the policy of not welcoming in people from Africa or people from the Middle East.  That was the biggest factor preventing refugees come — from coming in during the last administration. 
Q    So are you saying this had nothing to do with the pushback from some Democrats on Capitol Hill — from Senator Dick Durbin, to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?  It had nothing to do with that?
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think you’ve articulated to me what our change in policy was.  What was our change in policy from the morning until the afternoon?
Q    The executive order from Friday morning said that “The admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified,” period. 
And yes, there was a caveat that you could raise that cap later, but, I mean, it explicitly says that right there.
MS. PSAKI:  That’s a pretty important caveat, that if we — when we reach 15,000, a subsequent presidential determination could be made.  And, again —
Q    But then, why —
MS. PSAKI:  — the biggest challenge —
Q    Then why the need to issue that clarification?
MS. PSAKI:  But the biggest — the biggest challenge —
Because people weren’t understanding what we were conveying to the public and weren’t conveying what we were trying to project to countries around the world. 
And it’s incumbent upon us to make sure there’s an understanding of what the President’s policies are, what he’s trying to achieve, and what he feels morally — is that we’re going to welcome in refugees from around the world, change the policies from the past administration that — where they were not welcoming in refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
And that was important to him to take that first step and move it forward.
Q   The line said, “The admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified.” 
MS. PSAKI:  And —
Q    Can you understand how some people would interpret that the way we did?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think we all have a responsibility to provide all of the context.  And so what I’m conveying is that we also included, would als- — is read that “a subsequent Presidential Determination [would] be issued to increase admissions.” 
And again, the battle is not the cap; the issue has been the limitations that have been put in place in the past.  We overturned those and changed those, and it was always meant to be a first step.
Q    So, back to my other question.
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.
Q    Did this have anything to do with the pushback from Democrats on Capitol Hill?  There was —
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t you’ve articulated what our change in policy is so — go ahead. 
Go ahead.
Q    That’s not my job to do that.  That’s not my job to do that. 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, it is if you’re asking a question.
Go ahead.
Q    But I’m asking about the pushback from progressives on Capitol Hill.  Did that —
MS. PSAKI:  But what was — was our change from the morning to the afternoon? 
Q    The change from the morning to the afternoon was that you explicitly said, “The admission of up to 15,000 refugees remains justified.”  And in the afternoon, you said that the President would be raising the cap on or before May 15th.
MS. PSAKI:  In the morning, we also said that, if 15,000 is reached, that “a subsequent Presidential Determination [would] be issued to increase admissions.”
That was not clearly understood.  We felt it was incumbent upon us to make sure people understood and were clear that our objective was to welcome in more refugees, and we remain committed to our goal.
Q    And I’ve got —
MS. PSAKI:  Oh, go ahead.
Q    — one more question.
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
Q    President Biden, over the weekend, called what happened at the border a “crisis.”  Is that now the official White House position, that there is indeed a crisis at the border?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me first say that we have made some progress — some progress in moving children from out of Border Patrol facilities into shelters.  Nearly 1,000 unaccompanied minors were transferred out of CBP facilities and into the care of Health and Human Services just this weekend.  We are — still have a lot of work to do, but we — that is a step forward, in our view. 
The President does not feel that children coming to our border, seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships, and other di- — dire circumstances is a crisis.  He does feel that the crisis in Central America, the dire circumstances that many are fleeing from — that he — that that is a situation we need to spend our time, our effort on, and we need to address it if we’re going to prevent more of an influx of migrants from coming in years to come. 
Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Jen.  The readout from Jake Sullivan’s call just hit a little bit ago.
MS. PSAKI:  Oh, good.  Timely.
Q    But it didn’t mention Navalny.  And the Russians, of course, last week, said that President Biden didn’t mention him in their call.  Any reason while — why his name hasn’t been in the readouts?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, I reiterated that the President’s first call with President Putin — he conveyed a range of concerns we have, including the treatment of Aleksey Navalny.  We issued, in coordination with our European partners, a number of steps to — a number of sanctions in response to the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny. 
I, obviously, haven’t spoken to our national security team about the call, given I was out here for the call, so I’d have to check on that for you.
Q    And then, another question on the refugee cap.  You mentioned the infrastructure constraints, et cetera.  I mean, how close do you think you all can get to the 62,500?  I mean, is there an initial projection of what you’re hoping to hit for that?
MS. PSAKI:  We want to get to that, and we want to provide that to all of you.  And we’re — our team is currently assessing exactly that.
Q    And then, lastly, on the Chauvin trial.  We’re expecting a verdict any day now.  I know you said you’re not going to get ahead of it.  But we’ve also seen — but, with that,  we’ve also seen, of course, the shooting of Adam Toledo in Chicago.  I mean, what is the White House doing to address policing?  Are there any more executive orders in the pipeline or under consideration?  I mean, what signal are you going to send to those communities?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, there’s a number of steps we’ve actually taken — the Department of Justice has taken.  Let me first reiterate that the President has said repeatedly that he believes we need police reform.  That is why he’s on — calling on Congress to deliver that to his desk.  It is incumbent upon Congress and the Senate to move forward.  And, obviously, there are discussions and negotiations about what that looks like.  But we’ve seen an unacceptable and a longstanding trend that is the cause of immense pain and hardship across the country.
During the campaign, then — former Vice President Biden emphasized the importance of the Justice Department using the authority he spearheaded as a senator to investigate systemic police misconduct. 
And there are a couple of steps that have been taken in recent weeks.  Last week, Attorney General Garland reversed a Trump administration memo that limited the use of consent decrees with respect to investigation of police department — departments.  And reversing the prior memo returns DO-day [sic] — DOJ to the use of all civil rights enforcement tools it has for its crucial work. 
The President also pledged to appoint DOJ leadership that would prioritize pattern-or-practice investigations.  That would, of course, ensure they were — that investigations into racially unfair and inappropriate conduct were taken seriously and prioritized.  And he has two critical nominees pending who would do exactly that: Vanita Gupta to be Associate Attorney General, and Kristen Clarke to head the Civil Rights Division. 
He also, of course, supports — firmly supports the George Floyd Act, as I’ve said.  He believes there’s a special — there’s definite urgency at this point in time, and he’ll continue to convey that. 
I’d also note our initial budget calls for increasing funding for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division by millions of dollars in order to advance accountability and reform for abusive police practices. 
And finally, multiple states have enacted bipartisan policing reform statutes in recent months.  And we believe that those are encouraging signs in some states of the country.  It’s not the only thing that needs to happen; we need federal legislation.  But that’s also something we certainly have been encouraging.
Q    One last question —
MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.
Q    — domestically, if I may.  Is the White House committed to including the $400 billion for elder care in the AGP [sic] — AJP package?
MS. PSAKI:  The caregiving proposal we have in there?  Obviously, we believe that that is important, imperative, and that will help address what we see as a caregiving crisis in our country where 2 million women have left the workforce.  A lot of those women had — did — have done so because they are in what many call the “sandwich generation,” where you’re caring for elders and you’re also caring for children. 
Also, the caregivers themselves are only being paid about an average of $11 an hour; that’s completely unacceptable.  That’s why he put that — we proposed that in that package.
There will be a range of views.  There are a lot of members who are absolutely for that and adamant that it should be included.  There are some who don’t feel that way.  So we’ll have the conversation.  More of those are happening this week, and we’ll go from there. 
Q    Could he slip it into the next package just to make it more palatable for — for this one to pass?
MS. PSAKI:  You know, it’s a great question, but we’re not quite there on the mechanics or the mechanisms for what different components will be — will be — how they will move forward on the Hill.  We’re eager to have those conversations with leaders in Congress. 
Go ahead. 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  India is facing a critical shortage of raw materials necessary to make vaccines.  And officials there are urging the U.S. to lift the U.S. embargo of exporting those raw materials.  My colleagues in India are reporting today that the Biden administration recently told them — recently told India that its request was being considered and would be active, in quotes, “at the earliest.”  Could you provide some more details on that and maybe some timeline? 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  So Ambassador Katherine Tai, of course, gave some remarks at a World Trade Organization virtual conference last week, and she highlighted a couple of piece that — a couple of points, I should say, that are very representative of our view.  The significant one being: “…the significant inequities we are seeing in access to vaccines between developed and developing countries are completely unacceptable.  Extraordinary times require extraordinary leadership, communication, and creativity.”
We are, of course, working with WTO members on a global response to COVID.  That respon- — that includes a number of components, whether it’s $4 billion committed to COVAX, or discussions about how we can aid and assist countries that need help the most. 
But our focus is on determining the most effective steps that will help get the pandemic under control.  We don’t have anything further in terms of next steps or a timeline, but we are considering a range of options. 
Q    I did a quick review of the President’s daily schedule, and I found that the White House had 38 listings that dealt with the COVID pandemic.
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm. 
Q    You conducted 32 COVID press briefings, 20 items dealing with the economy and jobs, 6 on infrastructure, but just 2 on guns.  One was happenstance in Georgia.  You know, if the daily schedule represents a public expression of the White House’s priorities, why shouldn’t we conclude that the guns and violence is not a top priority?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, having played some role in some White Houses on the daily public schedule, I will tell you that it often includes the issues that the public, one, has the appetite most to hear updates on.  And certainly the COVID pandemic is front and center for people across this country for understandable reasons; more than 550,000 — more than 560,000, I believe, people have died.  People are worried about their loved ones, their family, and they want to hear more on what we’re doing. 
I will say that there are also some discussions and policies in — to go back to an earlier question, the discussions about Aleksey Navalny, in a separate category, are actually an example of this as well, where conversations in private can be more effective.
And, on guns, there’s no confusion about where the President stands on guns.  He spoke to this issue quite passionately on Friday.  He’s been an advocate through the course of his career for decades — not only verbally, but he’s led the fight to get background checks in place; to ensure the assault weapons ban was placed; to — lead the effort to get 20 — almost two dozen executive actions in place during the Obama-Biden administration, and just announced a few recently. 
There’s no confusion about his view.  The American public also supports background checks — more than 80 percent. 
So I would — I would say that this will continue to be a central focus of his presidency, of his time in public office, and he will use every lever he can to get it done.  But I wouldn’t confuse public speeches for what actions or commitment he or any President has to an issue. 
Q    One other quick question.  There’s increasing evidence that methane emissions are much higher than what’s been accounted for.  Is the President committed to releasing a specific target for methane reductions as part of the U.S. announcement this week? 
MS. PSAKI:  I know we’ll start some preview and background calls tomorrow, and, hopefully, we’re going to have some climate experts come to the briefing room later this week as well.  But I’m just not going to get ahead of our planned public announcements or decisions that are still being finalized. 
Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Jen.  There were some reports in recent days about people counterfeiting their vaccination cards, going around with cards that say they’re vaccinated so they can maybe get in places where they otherwise couldn’t.  Is the administration aware of those reports?  Concerned?  Having conversations with local folk — local officials about how to counteract that, potentially?
MS. PSAKI:  We are certainly aware of them.  We’ve seen the reports.  And we, of course, defer to law enforcement and other authorities who are overseeing and — and cracking down where this has come up. 
I don’t have a number or percentage or data to give you on how expansive this is.  I mean, the fact is, as of today, every adult American over 16 is now eligible.  So the best way to get a vaccine card is to get vaccinated, and that’s what our focus will continue to be. 
Q    Another question on Navalny, given Jake Sullivan’s comments yesterday about consequences.
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.
Q    President Biden, obviously, has requested a summit with Vladimir Putin. 
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.
Q    If Navalny dies in Russian custody, is that summit still on the table? 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, let’s certainly all hope and pray that that is not the outcome we’re looking at.  And again, there are a range of private conversations that occur diplomatically, and we continue to reiterate publicly as well our call for him to be released, to be treated humanely.  And — but I’m not going to get ahead of a horrible outcome like that.  
Go ahead.
Q    Hi, Jen.  I’ve got a vaccine question.  But just, first, a quick follow-up to my colleagues’ —
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
Q    — questions about the refugee —
MS. PSAKI:  Yep.
Q    — cap earlier.  You — you said that the issue about the cap statement on Friday was not clearly understood by some people.  Would some of the President’s Democratic allies on the Hill be some of those people that did not clearly understand? 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I don’t think I was placing blame; I was more characterizing that we recognized that we needed to be clear and make sure people were understanding what our objective was and that the President remains committed to welcoming in refugees from around the world. 
That — the announcement on Friday was intended to be a first step intended to convey clearly that we are overturning what we felt was a xenophobic policy of the past administration to prevent people from many parts of the Middle East and Africa from applying for refugee status and to resume flights and that we remain committed to welcoming refugees in.  So we provided more information, as sometimes is necessary to do.
Q    Okay.  And then on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: It’s been almost a week —
MS. PSAKI:  Yep.
Q    — since it’s been paused.  The indication is that it may still be a few more days before we understand what the next step will be. 
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.
Q    Is the White House concerned — or what is the level of concern that J&J’s reputation may be harmed during this — this time period and it could hamper the administration’s efforts to reach out to skeptical or hesitant Americans about getting vaccinated? 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, it’s interesting; we actually haven’t seen data — unless you have, which is possible — that has suggested that has been the outcome.  The FDA is the gold standard.  They took this step out of an abundance of caution, as they’ve said, to ensure that the American people could have confidence in their actions, their — the high level of review and the high standards that we have in the U.S. government. 
They’re convening again on Friday, as Dr. Fauci, I think, spoke to over the weekend.  So we’ll see what comes out of that. 
But what we’ve seen as it relates to confidence or hesitancy is that, broadly speaking, it’s really an issue of access.  And we’ve seen that as the case in many communities across the country.  And our focus is on working to address that.  In part access, I should say — but also, in part messengers, and that’s why a huge amount of our $3 billion in funding is focused on empowering and funding local messengers, whether it’s doctors or clergy or local civic leaders, because we know they are the most effective in conveying the efficacy of these vaccines.
Q    Thank you.
MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.
Q    Hey, Jen.  Just a couple on the Jobs bill and Climate Summit.  Senator Cornyn and Senator Coons spoke about the possibility for a smaller, narrower infrastructure bill in the range of $800 billion.  Does the President see that as a viable alternative to what he’s proposed? 
And then: How does he view this idea that there might be an opportunity to get some kind of, you know, bipartisan agreement on infrastructure before you move on to the care economy?  That if you could do it in the near term, as President — as Senator Coons suggested, that, you know, that would be the way to go? 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, there are a range of ideas and proposals out there — some Senator Coons, Senator Manchin, some — some Republican senators, and some Democrats who may be more on the progressive wing of the party as well.  And our objective, at this point in time, is to hear and listen to all of those, and to determine what the path forward may look like in coordination and cooperation. 
We have — the President’s bottom line here is that the only thing we cannot do is — is fail to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, rebuild our economy, and create millions of jobs.  That’s the only piece he does not want to see us fail to do as a country, and fail to do as, hopefully, in a bipartisan manner, ideally.
But in terms of the ideas being put forward, we’re quite open to a range of mechanisms for agreed-upon legislation moving forward.  Smaller packages, pieces being peeled off — right now there’s the nitty-gritty work going on in Congress where members are meeting, staffs are meeting, committee staff are meeting to discuss what’s possible, where there’s agreement.  We welcome that. 
But, you know, in terms of what the package or size looks like, we’re — we’re just not quite there yet.
Q    On the Climate Summit, I know you don’t want to get ahead of the decision on emissions targets for 2030, but broadly, how is the administration thinking about striking the balance between a target that’s aggressive and that will meet the needs of — the demands of climate change, versus ones that may not be achievable and could lead to job losses in the next 10 years?  How is the President looking to strike that balance? 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President believes that inv- — cli- — green jobs are jobs, right?  I mean, they are a way to invest in our — and this is very central to the American Jobs Plan.  And when we talk about the Climate Summit and how we’re thinking about setting these targets and how we’re going to achieve them, a big part of that is investing in areas of our economy where there are industries of the future — where we can create and build out industries, and create jobs where we’re also able to meet our targets that we’ll set.
So, he thinks of them as in lockstep.  And that’s one of the reasons why, when he put out his climate plan during the campaign, he had labor leaders and climate advocates meet together and discuss how we could work together on a path forward. 
But, you know, if you look at areas like electric vehicles or, you know, re- — weatherizing infrastructure, these are areas where there — there’s alignment on — they’re creating jobs, they’re investing in industries, they’re putting people back to work, and they’re also doing it in a way that is, you know, helping us reach our climate targets.
Q    Can I just do one more? 
MS. PSAKI:  Yep.
Q    Just to follow Nancy’s question: You know, you mentioned the Office of Refugee Resettlement, that — that it’s exhausted its funding.  Do you expect the administration to ask for some type of supplemental for that office in the next few weeks to help them meet their demands?
MS. PSAKI:  I would say the first step — there are some considerations of reprogramming funding, which is, of course, a factor internally.  But I’m not aware of an intention to request additional funding.  I can — I can check and see.  Obviously, we’ll put out our budget that is forward-looking in May. 
But in terms of — I think, you’re asking about an emergency supplemental — I’m not aware of that consideration, but I’ll check on that for you and others who, I’m sure, are interested.
Q    Jen, can I jump in real quick?
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.
Q    Are we still on track for the one o’clock presidential meeting?  The pool call?
MS. PSAKI:  Oh, yes. 
Q    Okay, so you —
MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  We’re almost wrapped here.  Let’s just go to one in the back, go ahead.  Sorry, we —
Q    Thanks.
MS. PSAKI:  I was not paying attention to the time.  Thank you for the reminder. 
Go ahead.
Q    Just a couple quick ones.  On Johnson & Johnson: Between the pause and then the issues at the Baltimore plant, is — is the administration still expecting Johnson & Johnson to be on track to deliver its promised amount of doses by the end of the month?
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think the next step with Johnson & Johnson is for the FDA to meet and determine what the considerations are for the path forward.  As we look at our own preparedness here, we have ordered enough supply to ensure we can meet the demand by the end of May and have enough supply to vaccinate every adult American by the end of July without Johnson & Johnson.  So that’s where our objective and our focus remains. 
Pfizer has also announced that they are going to try to expedite some of their production as well.  But in terms of Johnson & Johnson, the next step is really Friday and whatever comes from there.  And we certainly will refer to the FDA. 
I’m sorry.  We have to wrap up because you guys are gathering in about 30 seconds here.  But thank you everyone so much. 
1:00 P.M. EDT

Stay Connected

Sign Up

We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.

Opt in to send and receive text messages from President Biden.

Scroll to Top Scroll to Top