Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Aboard Air Force One En Route Tulsa, OK
12:42 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Got a few things for you all at the top.
Today in Tulsa, the President will tour the Greenwood Cultural Center, meet with surviving members of the community, and deliver remarks to commemorate the Tulsa Race Massacre.
One hundred years ago, the thriving Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was ruthlessly attacked by a violent, white supremacist mob. An estimated 300 Black Americans were killed, and another 10,000 were left destitute and homeless.
The President is honored to have the opportunity to listen to them and learn from the survivors of the community. He plans to convey his heartfelt gratitude for their bravery in sharing the stories of the trauma and violence that was wrought on them and their families. And — and frankly, he plans to discuss his shared sense of frustration and pain that justice has been denied to these families for so long.
As the President will explain in his remarks, he is traveling to Tulsa to shine a light on what happened and to make sure America knows the story in full. He will explain that we need to know our history — from the original sin of slavery, through the Tulsa Race Massacre, to racial discrimination in housing — in order to build common ground to truly repair and rebuild.
This morning, on the centennial of that massacre, the Biden-Harris administration announced new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities that have been left behind by failed policies.
The administration is expanding access to two key wealth creators — homeownership and small business ownership — in communities of color and disadvantaged communities by launching a first-of-its-kind inter- — interagency effort to address inequity and racial bias in home appraisals and conducting rulemaking to aggressively combat housing discrimination; using the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small business — small, disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years.
This builds on the President’s historic approach to advancing equity and racial justice across the whole of federal government.
On day one, the President signed an executive order directing federal agencies to identify concrete opportunities to advance equitable outcomes — which has already led to the Department of Agriculture announcing a new $6 billion initiative to help small and socially disadvantaged producers; the Department of Transportation imposing an unprecedented pause on a highway project in Texas to review civil rights and enviro- — environmental justice concerns.
The President has proposed historic plans — the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan — that will make generational investments in racial justice and support underserved communities like Tulsa, who face challenging economic conditions resulting from histories of discrimination and disinvestment.
One more thing, as soon as I get there. One more update for — for all of you. Meat producer JBS notified us on Sunday that they are the victims of a ransomware attack. The White House has offered assistance to JBS, and our team and the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day. JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia.
The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals. The FBI is investigating the incident and CISA is coordinating with the FBI to offer technical support to the company in recovering from the ransomware attack.
USDA has reached out to several major meat processors in the United States to ensure they are aware of the situation. We’re assessing any impacts on supply, and the President has directed the administration to determine what we can do to mitigate any impacts as they may become necessary.
Combating ransomware is a priority for the administration. President Biden has already launched a rapid strategic review to address the increased threat of ransomware to include four lines of effort: one, distribution of ransomware infrastructure and actors working closely with the private sector; two, building an international coalition to hold countries who harbor ransom actors accountable; expanding cryptocurrency analysis to find and pursue criminal transaction; and reviewing the USG’s ransomware policies.
This builds on President Biden’s executive order, which is now being implemented. The executive order outlines five high-priority cybersecurity initiatives that, if implemented, will reduce the risk of cyberattacks including ransomware.
We call on organizations across government and the private sector to take the threat of ransomware seriously and modernize their cyber defenses, including implementing the practices in the executive order.
CI- — CISA has also built a toolkit to further guide organizations on addressing ransomware threats: CISA.gov/ransomware. That is the site that they have built.
Q Karine, can we have you move in a little bit, just so you’re not talking in the doorway?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Thank you. Just to make sure we’re picking this up.
Q I — all I heard you say was “ransomware.” Can you just briefly summarize what you were talking about there for us — or those of us that couldn’t hear clearly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure. Oh, I’m so sorry. I can repeat that part again. Do you mean about the cyberattacks in general? You guys didn’t hear any of it?
Q All I heard was “ransomware” and I heard “agriculture” at one point.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, this is the JBS cyberattack, which happened — which occurred recently. So, one — one more — it was another update that we had for all of you. The meat producer J- — JBS notified us on Sunday that they are — that they are the victims of a ransomware attack.
The White House has offered assistance to J- — JBS, and our team at the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day.
JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia. So, the White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.
The FBI is investigating the incident, and CISA is coordinating with the FBI to offer technical support to the company in recovering from the ransomware attack as well. USD- — USDA has reached out to several major meat processors in the United States to ensure they are aware of the situation. And we’re assessing any impacts on supply, and the President has directed the administration to determine what we can do to mitigate any impacts as may become necessary.
And on the President’s meeting tomorrow with Senator Capito: Is it just Senator Capito, or is it Senator Capito and other Republican senators?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, it’s just with Senator Capito. That is the meeting that — where he’s having tomorrow. This is to discuss the counteroffer.
As you know, the President and the Republicans in — on the Senate have been in a good-faith, healthy discussion on the American Jobs Plan — how to move forward; how do we invest in our infrastructure; building roads, bridges, and making sure that we’re creating jobs as well, which is what the President wants to do.
They came back with nearly a trillion-dollar counteroffer. And so, the President is going to have a conversation with Senator Capito tomorrow to continue those discussions that they’ve been having the past several weeks.
Q Has — does the President have any reaction to what’s going on in Israel with the government there? Has he spoken to any of the leaders involved, like Prime Minister Netanyahu or the others who are vying for that job?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so, Jeff, as you can imagine, we’re not going to comment publicly on government formation while that process is underway. So, we’re just not going to comment at this time.
Q Just one — just one other topic, with regard to the Texas voting restrictions. There are calls from Democrats now for the President and for Congress to — for the U.S. Congress and congressional Democrats to do more to help stop what’s going on there. What’s the White House’s reaction to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to — just to state a couple of things here. The Texas legislation is part of a concerted attack on our democracy being advanced in statehouses across the country on the basis of the same repeatedly disproven lies that led to the assault on our nation’s Capitol on January 6th.
This must stop. We need to make it easier, not harder, for all eligible voters to register and cast their ballots. We need to move forward, not backwards.
The fact of the matter is that the Texas — Texas legislation would make it harder to vote in a state where it is already too hard for many to vote. Among other restriction provisions, the bill would have restricted the ability to apply for and help others apply for voting by mail, including a provision forcing people with disabilities to identify as such; given expansion permissions to partisan watchers in a way likely to lead to interference with both voters and officials; made it harder for local election officials to open polls at times that work for voters, including on Sunday mornings and at late-night hours that accommodate shift — shift workers.
The President put out a pretty — a statement over the weekend about this, about his thoughts on how — how un-American and un-democratic what we’re seeing across the country and in Texas, in particular, because that was the most recent — recent legislation that came forth. And so, he’ll have more to say in — in short order later today.
Q Karine, what does it mean that the President is going to visit Tulsa, which was relatively obscure in the history books, at a time when Republican legislatures are really trying to beat back attempts to teach racist history at school? I’m thinking of the 1619 Project and other backlash to racist historical events.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so on that question, Mario, the President strongly believes that the federal government has no role in setting school curriculums. Setting academic curriculum is the responsibility of state and local officials. Curricular decisions should be — shouldn’t be driven by politics, as you can imagine, but the President does believe that it is important for our nation’s students to fully understand our history.
America is the greatest democracy in the world because of our founding ideals of liberty and freedom. Our democracy is strongest when our citizens understand the times in our history (inaudible) we have not lived up to these ideals, so that we can all strive together to form a more perfect union.
Q Karine, does the President support reparations for the families of the victims of the Tulsa Massacre?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President believes that what these survivors have endured is tragic and devastating. First and foremost, he is honored to have the opportunity to listen to them and learn from their experiences. He also plans to convey his heartfelt gratitude for their bravery in sharing the stories of the trauma and violence that was wrought on them and their families. And that is — that is going to be his focus today, and that’s what he wants to do. He wants to hear (inaudible).
Q Will he specifically talk about any government effort to repay those families in this meeting with a couple of survivors, but the others who he won’t be meeting with today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, the fact that 100 years after a violent racist mob destroyed an entire neighborhood, murdered hundreds of innocent people, and burned churches to the ground, there — there are survivors of that violence who are still forced to fight for recognition should — should — should appall us all. And that is the focus of what the President wants to do.
He wants to make sure that this is on record, that this is not forgotten — a story that has not been told is told. And, you know, it is an indictment of systemic racism that these survivors have been forced to fight for literally 100 years to have their humanity recognized and to have justice served, and justice and fairness still eludes them.
President Biden believes we have to take core steps right now to fight systemic racism, things like fighting redlining, supporting funding for under schools — underfunded schools that are too often located in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods, and more.
He also supports a study, as we’ve said before, into reparations, but believes that, first and foremost, the task in front of us is not to root out — is to root out systemic racism where it exists right now. And that’s why it’s a — central to all of his agenda.
As I mentioned in the topper, he has put equity in everything — in every plan that he’s put forward, if you think about the American Rescue Plan and how that’s going to cut down poverty by more than 50 percent — child poverty in Black communities. You think about the American Families Plan, the American Jobs Plan — all of those things also has equity at the middle of it.
If you think about the COVID task force — the Racial Task Force, we actually have a COVID task force that deals with making sure we don’t leave communities behind. And so, that has been his focus throughout his presidency thus far.
Q One thing, just to follow up. Can I just follow up really quickly, because — on that point? The NAACP president says, “You can’t begin to address the racial wealth gap without addressing the student loan debt crisis.” So, with everything that the White House announced today ahead of this trip to Tulsa, why wasn’t cancellation of student debt a part of that? And is this still something the President is considering?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the American Families Plan, which is included in the President’s budget, includes a historic $46 billion of investments in HBCUs, Tribal colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions. These institutions are critical to helping underrepresented students move to the top of the income ladder. And so, President Biden is calling for a historic investment in affordability through subsidized tuition and expanding institutional and — grants.
These investments will enable America’s HBCUs, TSCUs, and MSIUs to tackle long standing inequalities in post-secondary education.
Q Secretary Buttigieg, over the weekend, talked about the week of June 7th as another important milestone in terms of the negotiations over an infrastructure package. Is that the moment at which, if there isn’t the kind of progress the White House has wanted to see already, the White House goes ahead and moves alone? The Transportation Committee — the chairman on the Democratic side has already set a markup for a different infrastructure proposal at that point.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, thanks — thanks for the question. So, look, as you just stated, you know, the President is — as I stated earlier, he is thank- — he is — he is appreciative and heartened by the good — good, you know — the good-faith effort that we’ve seen from Republican senators. But as the President said last week, we do need to finish these negotiations soon because we’re in a race to win the 21st century. And the pandemic exposed just how badly we need to invest in the foundation of this country.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is doing a markup on infrastructure on June 9th, as well, which is a relevant date in terms of the overall timeframe. And so, we are working actively with members of the House, of the Senate this week so that there is a clear direction on how to advance much-needed jobs legislation when Congress resumes legislative business during the week of June 7.
So this week will be incredibly critical. As we’ve mentioned and announced, Senator Capito is going to be meeting with the President tomorrow, and we’ll continue to have these conversations as we move forward in the next few weeks — in the next couple days.
Q Could you circle back to the NAACP criticism about student debt cancellation? Should we expect the President to address that at all today in his remarks? Or what does the White House make of that pretty harsh criticism from the NAACP on that front?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As I stated, you know, in his American Families Plan, this is a priority — you know? — making sure that he made historical investment into HBCUs, Tribal colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions. And he wants to keep to that promise and is going to work very hard towards that.
Today it’s going to be about, clearly, the Tulsa — Tulsa Massacre that happened 100 years ago, commemorating that, having conversations with the survivor. He announced, as we know, some key — some key elements on how he wants to deal with, you know, the wealth gap in communities, in particular minority communities, Black communities. So he’ll talk a little bit about that as well.
And so I don’t want to get ahead of him, and he’ll have more to say later today.
Q One more commodity question. OPEC decided to boost production. Did the President speak to any OPEC leaders about that move?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any comment on that.
Q So, just to expand on Jeff’s question about Texas: The White House seems to have preferred ignore everything that former President Trump says and does — right? — ever since he’s left office. But isn’t this, kind of, the elephant in the room? Because he is the one pushing all this, you know, election theories and, you know, pretty successfully. There are millions and millions of Americans who seem to be, you know, drinking it and following it and acting on it, and pressuring their own elected officials. So does the President — does he ever plan to try and address this head on — what’s going on out there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, a couple of things. You know, the President spoke about it. We put out a statement yest- — over the weekend. It’s part of a — as the President stated over the weekend — look, it’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year, and often disproportionately targeting Black and brown Americans. And it’s wrong; it’s un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.
So he is again calling on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act, and will continue to call on Americans — every party and persuasion — to stand up for our democracy and protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections.
And, look, you know, if you look back to November of 2020, that was an election to save our democracy, right? That was exactly what this election — that election was about. The President clearly won, because he’s now President. But President Biden also understands it’s going to take time to bring everyone together.
He was — he was elected partially because people thought he would be a president that would bring both sides together. And that is the work that he’s been trying to do for the past hundred, you know, thirty days now — I’ve lost track of how many days — of trying to bring bipartisanship back — something we haven’t seen in, you know — in D.C. in some time.
And if you think about the American Rescue Plan, that had bipartisan support across the country — Republicans, Democrats, and independents. And that’s what the President is going to continue to do: try to bring both sides together and work with Congress to get the For the People Act passed, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act passed. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. And he’ll have — he’ll actually have more to say about that later today, so I don’t want to get ahead (inaudible).
Q Senator Joe Manchin has expressed some concerns about the voting rights bill. Obviously, a crucial vote to push that forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m so sorry, say that (inaudible).
Q Senator Joe Manchin has expressed concerns. Has the President had any outreach with him or his office? Should we expect, you know, some more from the President on being more forceful in trying to get that passed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, like I said, Tyler, we’re going to have more. The President will have more to say about this later today. And as you could imagine, he talks to members on the Hill — House members, senators — pretty regularly. He’s been meeting with them pretty regularly on both sides of the aisle, and they’ve talked on — about an array of issues.
And so I’m going to not get ahead of what he’s going to say later today.
Q Just one other topic. Is there any reaction from the White House to the reports that Denmark was assisting the U.S. in wiretapping some of these European leaders?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, in 2014, the United States issued a full review of our approach to overseas surveillance. President Obama issued a presidential directive that changed our approach in significant ways.
We will work with our European allies and partners to address any questions through the appropriate national security channels.
Q (Inaudible) on Tulsa. Do you have any details on the survivors that he’s going to be meeting with? How many? If you don’t have names, can you say how many, how big the group is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think we’ll have more for all of you pretty — as we get closer to the meetings. I think what we announced was that he was going to meet with three of the survivors. And so we’ll have more. We’ll have more on that as we get closer to the meeting to share with you.
Q Are you able to say at what point the President learned about what happened in Tulsa 100 years ago?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so, as you can imagine, it’s a story the President has been long familiar with, a story that has not been told. The President wants to make sure it’s not a forgotten story. And the President wants to put it on record, which is one of the reasons why he’s coming today.
And I just wanted to read out a Tweet that he put out last year about this, which is: “The Tulsa Race Massacre is one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our history — and it has been erased from our national conscious[ness] for far too long. It’s time we reckon with what happened in 1921.”
So this is, like I said, something that the President has been familiar with for some time.
Q Karine, just a housekeeping thing on that, on the survivors meeting. Just a housekeeping: Could we put in the request with you that we’d love to see that? I know it’s closed as of right now, but if there’s a photo op that we could get, that’s a very significant meeting that I think people would like to see or have a chance to hear from the President after he has sat down with them.
And then, a follow-up: Is there any consideration, given this latest ransomware attack — is there any rethinking of the summit with Vladimir Putin in two weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that? I’m sorry. Say that —
Q Is there any rethinking of the summit with Vladimir
Putin in two weeks, given this latest ransomware attack? You said a criminal organization based in Russia. And conversations (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Appreciate the question. So we do not regard, as you can imagine, this meeting with the Russian President as a reward. Right? We regard it as a vital part of defending America’s interests.
President Biden is meeting with Vladimir Putin because of our country’s differences, not in spite of them. There’s a lot we have to work through. President Biden is the most effective communicator of American values and priorities, and hearing directly from President Putin is the most effective way to understand what Russia plans and intends.
There is no substitute — right? — for a leader-to-leader engagement, particularly for complex relationships. So it is important for President Biden to sit down with President Putin, face to face, to be clear about where we are, to understand where he is, to try to manage differences and to identify areas where we can make progress.
Thank you so much, everybody.
1:07 P.M. EDT