Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jen Psaki Aboard Air Force One En Route Detroit, MI
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Detroit, Michigan
10:51 A.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone. Good morning and welcome to our trip to Dearborn. The President is traveling to Dearborn today to visit the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center to see firsthand how union workers are building the future of electric vehicles right here in America.
He will meet with Ford’s leadership and United Auto Worker members to tour a factory floor that manufactures electric vehicles. He will also deliver remarks about how the American Jobs Plan is a once-in-a-generation investment in America’s future that will help us lead the electric vehicle market.
Right now, the U.S. market share of EV sales is one third the size of the Chinese EV market, and the President believes that must change. That’s why he’s proposing a $174 billion investment in the American Jobs Plan to win the EV market, positioning America to outcompete China and the world.
With that, let’s get to your questions.
Q Thank you, Jen. About the call that President Biden had with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, he said that he supports a ceasefire.
MS. PSAKI: Yep.
Q Is he insisting that it happen immediately?
MS. PSAKI: I will leave the description to the readout that we put out last evening. The President’s objective is clear, which is that he wants to see an end to the violence on the ground, an end to the suffering of the Israeli and the Palestinian people.
As I’ve noted in the past, our focus and our strategy here is to work through quiet, intensive diplomacy. And he’s been doing this long enough to know that the best way to end an international conflict is typically not to debate it in public, so we will continue to remain closely engaged behind the scenes.
There’s been more than 60 calls, including three calls the President had with Prime Minister Netanyahu. And our team is actively engaged today as well.
Q What explains the change in — change in tactic? Because, obviously, the White House did not think there was value in supporting the ceasefire publicly before, but now you’re doing that.
MS. PSAKI: I would say: We don’t see it that way; we see it as an ongoing, behind-the-scenes discussion with our partners in Israel, with our part- — or Palestinian leaders, with leaders in the region about how we can bring an end to the conflict.
We also fully recognize it is up to the parties involved to bring an end to the conflict. And our objective is do — every statement we make, every action we take, everything we sign on to is going to have that objective in mind.
Q Jen, if the President does support a ceasefire, then why is the United States not supporting — why is it blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting?
MS. PSAKI: Darlene, that’s an excellent question. I will say that, again, our role in this conflict is to ensure that every conversation we’re having, every statement we support, every action we take is toward the end goal of ending the violence on the ground, to ending the suffering of the Israeli and Palestinian people. We’re not going to take actions or steps that we think would hinder that effort.
Q Do you think the resolution would hinder that effort then?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I would say: We make every decision about everything we sign on to, every statement we make, every call we do with that objective in mind.
And the President has been doing this long enough, as has many members of his team, to know that sometimes diplomacy needs to happen behind the scenes; it needs to be quiet. And we don’t read out every component. And we don’t read out every specific conversation we have with our partners.
Q But is the strategy working, Jen? Netanyahu says that they would still “continue to take whatever action was necessary to restore quiet.” The IDF said today that they still have thousands of targets to attack. So what are you — what are you getting out of this quiet-diplomacy strategy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this has been going on now for eight days. Every person who loses their life — every day it continues is one we’d like to see, of course, an end to the conflict. But our tact- — our tactical approach is that most of our conversations, the majority of them, will happen behind the scenes.
We continue to believe, as was clear in the President’s — in the readout of the President’s call last night, that Israel has the right to defend itself.
There have been more than 3,000 rocket attacks from Hamas — more overnight — into Israel. Civilians have lost their lives. Civilians have — Palestinian civilians have also lost their lives. And our goal is to get to the end of this conflict.
We’re going to evaluate, day by day, what the right approach is. It continues to be that quiet, intensive, behind-the-scenes discussion are, tactically, our approach at this point.
Q Jen, should there be a full accountability when — whenever this is over, on both sides, looking into the question of war crimes? You said yesterday you’d make that assessment. So should there be, on both Israel and Hamas, a — an investigation and accountability held on whether there were war crimes committed?
MS. PSAKI: That’s going to be a decision for the international community to make together.
I will say that our objective now is on bringing an end to the current conflict. And that’s what our focus is on. And, again, to bring an end to the suffering, the loss of life that we’re seeing on both sides at this point in time.
And I’ll also note that the only way to bring a longstanding end to the conflict is for a two-state solution, where people can live — from Palestinian people, Israeli people — can live side by side. Those are discussions we’ve had from the beginning, through our Strategic Dialogue with Israel. Obviously, it’d be up to both parties to move that forward.
Q Jen, just for clarification, did President Biden specifically ask Prime Minister Netanyahu for a ceasefire? Or did he just say that he would generally supportive of that?
MS. PSAKI: As was — as was clear in our readout, he conveyed his support for a ceasefire.
Q Jen, is it — is there some idea that it might be time to rethink the thinking behind the Abraham Accords, which basically — if like — if you sort of open them up, what they really seem to say is that, you know, “Forget the Palestinians; they’re not a problem. We’re just going to move on.”
And this clearly seems to have shown that that’s not true. Right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would say that we are not following the same tactics of the prior administration. We — the President has reinstated humanitarian assistance and security assistance to the Palestinians. That’s something that was stopped back in 2018 and we felt was not a constructive action by the prior administration.
Aside from putting forward a peace proposal that was dead on arrival, we don’t think they did anything constructive, really, to bring an end to the longstanding conflict in the Middle East.
So, obviously, we’re dealing with a conflict that is happening as we speak. Right? It is happening on the ground. People’s lives are being lost. There’s ongoing violence. We’re going to work to resolve that.
But our view continues to be that providing that humanitarian and security assistance to the Palestinians while still maintaining our longstanding security relationship with Israel is in the interest of the United States, and a two-state solution — which both parties would have to get together to agree on — is the only way to have a long-term outcome that’s peaceful and lasting.
Q I have a Dearborn question.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Ford spent over a million dollars lobbying, so far this year — including lobbying the White House — specifically on electric car vehicles. How can you assure the American people that this isn’t a pay-to-play situation and the electric vehicle subsidies aren’t going to be a boondoggle?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first let me say that —
(A USSS agent closes door.)
Oh, okay. He didn’t want to know the answer to that question. (Laughter.)
Q He hates electric cars. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: First, let me say that the President is a — is a longtime fan of cars, the car industry. His dad was a car dealer for many years. And he’s long believed that we should do everything we can, from the United States government, to support this industry that is the backbone of many communities, including Michigan, in our country.
The future of the industry is electric; everyone will tell you that. And the President believes that the United States should not be the — should be a larger percentage of the market than they are at this point, that China should not have the larger percentage of the market than the United States.
So I would say to any skeptics — anyone who’s questioning why we’re investing in the electric vehicle markets or why the President is proposing that: That’s where jobs are, that’s where the future of the auto manufacturing is, that is where the future of job creation in communities like Michigan is. And that’s the message he’s going to send when he’s on the ground today.
Q Jen, another Ford question. It’s among the automakers that’s asked the White House to get more chips allocated from Taiwan — Taiwanese and Korean companies. Has the White House gotten any assurances from these countries that they ramp up and send additional supplies to the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional diplomatic conversations on the semiconductor chip shortage to read out.
I will conve- — I will, though, reiterate: We support ongoing discussions with Democrats and Republicans to work to address the shortage, which we know is impacting a range of industries. And we’re also having continuing talks, through our national security team, with countries where — to help address the shortage.
Q Also on Dearborn, is the President having discussions with the Hill about his proposal today to spend money on electric charging stations and revamping factories and the electric batteries that need to be produced? So what kind of discussions is the President having with lawmakers on the Hill about this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, he’s proposed an enormous investment, as a part of the American Jobs Plan, in electric vehicles and in the industry because he thinks it’s the industry of the future.
So I’m certain he’ll see a number of members on the ground today, that they’ll talk about — they’ll talk about how this can help the people of Michigan, how this can help communities like Dearborn create jobs — create jobs for the future. But that remains one of the key components of the American Jobs Plan.
Q Just one follow-up. In his conversations with Republicans last week in the Oval Office, did this particular proposal come up? And is there any kind of readout or information about those discussions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ll say that, later this after- — I know this is out there a little bit, so let me just confirm this — that later this afternoon, some senior officials from the White House — including Steve Ricchetti and Louisa Terrell, as well as Secretary Buttigieg and Secretary Raimondo — will be headed up to the Hill to have ongoing discussions — have discussions about a counterproposal to the American Jobs Plan, historic investment in infrastructure later this afternoon.
We don’t expect that to be the end of the discussion; we expect this to be — this is democracy in action — we expect there to be ongoing engagements, follow-up conversations. But that is also happening today, and certainly the President’s trip to Michigan will, of course, be on the minds of our officials from our end.
Q I have a question on vaccines.
Q Do you anticipate the President having any other conversations today — either on this leg of the flight, the flight home, when he gets back to the White House — with other world leaders on the situation in the Middle East?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any to preview for you. If he does any calls on the plane or on the way back — and sometimes we evaluate these day by day — we’ll certainly let you know.
Q And a quick clarification on the Secretary of State — what he said today about it was his understanding that the Israelis have provided, through intelligence channels, information on the media tower strike. I know you’re not going to get into what, if anything, was shared, but can you confirm that the Israelis are — have indeed produced some kind of intelligence to — for us?
MS. PSAKI: I’m — I’m just not going to be confirming what intelligence we have, discussions about with our partners around the world.
Q And I have a question on vaccines, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Obviously Jeff Zients is leading the effort; we understand that. But how is the White House really prioritizing which countries will be picked first? And have you come up with a set of countries that are likely to receive these vaccines? Is India part of the list? If not, how soon can we expect a decision on that?
MS. PSAKI: We hope to have more details for all of you in the coming days. And what — we, of course, will be making decisions based on equity, based on ensuring we are — we are providing these vaccines in a transparent manner with the global community through COVAX and also through direct relationships.
So, hopefully we’ll have more for you on that in the coming days.
Q Jen, on the electric cars: Are any — do you know if any vehicles in the White House fleet are electric? Are any — is he ever going to have an electric Beast?
MS. PSAKI: Oh.
Q That sounds good, doesn’t it? An electric Beast. Sounds —
MS. PSAKI: An electric Beast.
Q Sounds like a rock band. Yeah, but anyway —
MS. PSAKI: Sounds like a lion.
Q There you are.
MS. PSAKI: That is certainly our objective, but I can —
Q (Inaudible) examples.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: I can — I can get you an update on sort of what the timeline is for that. That’s certainly something the President has talked about and is an objective for him.
Q People could say it’s ironic going in a huge gasoline motorcade to visit an electric car.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s going to take some time to continue to grow the electric vehicle industry in our country. That’s why the President believes there needs to be a historic investment. And certainly he’s talked about what we can do from the federal fleet as well, and we can see if there’s more of an update from DOT on the timeline for that.
Q Is he concerned at all about the job losses that will come with the switch from combustion engines to electric vehicles? I mean, that has been constantly cited as something that is likely to happen.
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen what those studies are. I don’t know if you want to — if there’s a specific study you want to cite.
Q There are several, but —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. But there’s also studies that show that the electric vehicle industry is where the industry is going in the future. And he feels, as we look ahead, part of his role as a leader is to look to see where job creation can be in the future and not just rest on the laurels of the past.
And there’s no question that his commitment to the auto industry — to ensuring that we are continuing to be innovative and creative and that we are on the cusp of where the global market is going to be — that’s his objective.
This is about creating jobs in Michigan. It’s also about competing globally. And it’s about making clear that we are not going to stand by and let our workforce be behind China.
Q So does that mean he’s going to support manufacturing in the United States over — over importing such cars? Because, I mean, the UAW President, for example, he just put out a statement asking for the President’s support for U.S.-manufactured electric vehicles.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President is heading today to a U.S. plant where they are producing electric vehicles. So I think that sends a clear message that he believes this is an industry that continues to grow, and we can invest in it from the federal government to ensure that’s the case.
Q Congress —
Q The January 6th commission is back in the news. There was a deal on the Hill yesterday. Kevin McCarthy came out against it today. Has the White House thinking or the President’s thinking on whether a commission is — he’d like to see one, does he think it’s necessary — has that changed at all? Can you update us or remind us where that stands?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Of course. Of course. We haven’t talked about this in a while.
The President has long said and has said before that January 6th was a — was a dark day in our country and a dark day for our democracy. And he certainly supports the efforts to put together a bipartisan commission by members of Congress to look back at what happened, how we got there, and prevent it from happening in the future. So that certainly is an initiative we support.
Q Is he deferring to Congress because he doesn’t want to make it more partisan by inserting himself?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he thinks it’s the role of Congress to put together a commission, as it has historically been, and something he is happy to support.
Q But he could push them, but he’s —
MS. PSAKI: It’s their role, through — through history, to create commissions — not the President’s, typically. They’re doing a bipartisan one; he supports that.
Q Any preview of his address tomorrow to the Coast Guard Academy — the commencement?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. He’s still going to review the remarks. But I can tell you, one — I know someone had asked or maybe — I don’t remember — he has spoken there before, back in 2013, so it is a return visit. He will certainly talk about the important role the Coast Guard has played both for our economic security and our national security, and he will talk about his own commitment to rebuilding our Coast Guard around the world.
And he’s still — he’ll be probably looking at the remarks on our — on our flight back.
Q Thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Great. Thanks, everyone.
11:06 A.M. EDT