James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:23 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay, just a couple of items for you at the top. President Biden believes that the surge in gun violence and violent crime that has affected communities across the country over the last year and a half is unacceptable. That’s why his administration is moving decisively to act with a whole-of-government approach.
Today, the Biden-Harris administration is announcing a comprehensive strategy to combat violent crime and gun violence that targets the crime itself, implements preventative measures that are proven to reduce violent crime, and attacks root causes, including by addressing the flow of firearms used to commit crimes.
Combined, this plan will stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence, including by holding rogue firearm dealers accountable for violating federal laws; support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to help address violent crime; invest in evidence-based community violence interventions; expand summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and support for teenagers and young adults; and help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities.
One of the key elements of this strategy is helping state and local governments fight gun violence and violent crime in their communities through the historic funding levels in the American Rescue Plan.
Today’s strategy builds on that by providing further guidance for states and cities to expand their ability to improve public safety in their communities. And we’ve already seen examples of what is happening around the country. In Philadelphia, Mayor Kenney is using funding from ARP to address gun violence, reform and improve the police department, and invest in violent interruption programs.
In Albuquerque, Mayor Keller plans to spend $3 million to expand the city’s gunshot detection system, and millions more to recruit police officers and refurbish station houses.
In Akron, Ohio, Mayor Horrigan has proposed $20 million to reduce community and youth violence through employment training and opportunities, as well as recreation assets.
I’d also note, today — and obviously the President will speak to all of this later this afternoon — today, the Vice President will hold a listening session with leading civil rights and voting rights groups from across the country following the Senate vote on the For the People Act just yesterday.
The meeting builds on the Vice President’s work to bring together a national coalition on voting rights to promote voter registration and engagement — engagement among Americans across the country — from Greenville, South Carolina, to Atlanta, Georgia — to protect our fundamental right to vote.
She will drive the message that the fight is not over and that the President and the administration remain committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to the ballot.
Finally — I do have one more thing — tomorrow, the President will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina — some of you may be on that trip — as our administration continues to work to continue encouraging vaccinations across the country, ensuring every American knows just how to ensure it is easy to get vaccinated.
While he’s there, he will highlight the importance of getting vaccinated and kick off a community canvassing event at the Green Road Park Community Center in Raleigh.
He will also tour a mobile vaccination unit and meet with frontline workers and grassroots volunteers who are the boots on the ground working to get people in their communities vaccinated.
Alex, why don’t you kick us off?
Q Thanks, Jen. First off, the Vice President’s office just announced that she will be visiting the border Friday. What can you tell us about the visit? And you have, in the past, defended the decision not to visit the border by anyone, really, in the — by President Biden or Vice President Harris. So what’s behind the, sort of, change of course?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. First, I think many of you may have seen it, but just to reiterate the specific details — the Vice President will travel to El Paso, Texas, on Friday. She will be accompanied by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Ali Mayorkas.
Earlier this year, as you all know, the President asked the Vice President to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador to Guatemala and Honduras. And, as a part of this work, she recently traveled to Guatemala and Mexico last month to have those discussions. And this trip to the border on Friday will be a part of this effort.
I will note that I’ve also said here, from this podium — and she has also said — that when it was the right time, she may go to visit the border. And so, this trip on Friday, which is being done in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security — Secretary Mayorkas is, of course, joining her on this trip, you know, and the planning and timing of it was done in coordination with them — is — is part of the coordinated effort between her office, her work, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services to continue to address the root causes and work in coordination to get the situation under control.
Q Sure. And then on voting rights: The President’s statement yesterday said he’ll have more to say on this next week.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q Can you give us a sense of what we should expect from the President on voting rights? And you also have said that there are other avenues for protecting voting rights. What do those look like?
Then I’m going to take another stab at this — I know you’ve been asked this five different ways, but —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q — does the President believe that the filibuster is — defending the filibuster is worth more. and more important than protecting voting rights?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say — as the Vice President said yesterday and I’ll just reiterate — the fight to improve and expand access to voting is far from over. And the President, as he noted in his statement yesterday and as you just touched on, will be speaking to this next week. And this is a continuation of his efforts to use the bully pulpit to elevate this issue, as he did just last week when he marked Juneteenth, and also as he did in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just a few weeks before that.
So I expect you — we’ll have more to preview as we get closer. But I can tell you that what you should expect to hear from him is that there are many ways to work across the country — with activists, with states, with legislators — using every lever at our disposal to expand access, improve access to voting for people across the country.
He’ll talk about some of the ways that he wants to continue to do that. He’ll also reiterate his view that it’s a fundamental right and that people across the country should be able to exercise that to decide who they want to be their mayor, who they want to be their congressman, who they want to be their President. And everybody who supports democracy, who supports equality, who supports justice should be supporting improvements to our voting rights laws.
Q And one more last one on this conversation around crime.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q How should the American people measure success for President Biden on crime? Should they be looking for a reduction in crime in their localities? Or, I mean, what exactly is he aiming for in announcing these new policies today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that certainly is the goal, of course. But I would say, Alex, that what the President has watched closely is that there has been, of course, an increase in violent crime — gun violence, specifically, in a lot of communities — over the last 18 months.
He’s obviously taken a number of steps over the past couple of months to work to address that. This is a continuation of that in his view. And part of that is empowering local police communities and making sure that local communities have the funding they need to — to support efforts by the local police. It also means taking steps to address the prevalence of gun violence across the country.
So, of course, his objective is to take steps — steps he can do, as the President of the United States, using the tools he has at his disposal — to empower local communities, get them the resources they need, and ensure we’re putting laws in place that reduce gun violence.
Q Thanks, Jen. Can you tell us a little bit more about what the Vice President will be doing at the border? Is she visiting a detention center or a facility for migrant children? And how much access will the press have to whatever sites she tours while she’s there?
MS. PSAKI: They’re all great questions. Obviously, they just made this announcement. I’m sure they will have more details to share with you. I just don’t have any more to share with you at this particular moment on what she’ll be doing specifically there.
Q Okay. And then can you tell us a little bit more about this decision for the U.S. to seize website domains used by Iranian state TV? What led to that decision and why now?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a Department of Justice decision and action, so I would point you to them.
Q Is there any concern that this could hamper negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program?
MS. PSAKI: We are still at the point in those discussions — we just finished the sixth round. Obviously, all of the negotiators are back in their capitals, having discussions, as is appropriate.
We see advantage to us in moving toward a diplomatic solution. We hope others who have seats at the table do as well. But, again, this was an action by the Department of Justice, not — not coordinated with other aspects of our negotiations.
Q And then what can you tell us about the talks that took place on the Hill yesterday over the bipartisan infrastructure proposal? Were those fruitful discussions? And where does that go from here? Is the President going to be hosting any of those senators here at the White House in the coming days?
MS. PSAKI: If we continue to make progress in these discussions, then the President looks forward to welcoming members to the White House before the end of the week. We’ll see.
There were a couple rounds — there were two rounds of discussions yesterday. And I know you’re all aware of this — or many of you who cover this closely — but there was one in the afternoon; there was another one last night. Additional progress was made last night.
This afternoon, Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell, Brian Deese are all back up on the Hill right about now having continued discussions about the path forward. That’s one track where we are moving forward on these bipartisan negotiations. And we assess, as we conclude each round, what the next step should be.
So, again, if we make progress and if we assess that — that it is the appropriate time to bring these officials — these elected officials to the White House, the President looks forward to doing that.
Q Thank you, Jen. So, about today’s announcement: Why is the Vice President visiting the border this week when, earlier this month, she dismissed a trip like that, saying it would be a “grand gesture”?
MS. PSAKI: She also said in an interview with NBC that she would be open to going to the border if it was an appropriate time. She said that after she said that, so that’s important context as well.
Q Okay. And, important context: I’ve got the NBC interview right here. She was talking about how she hasn’t been to the border; she hasn’t been to Europe either. So, does she think that these two things are the same?
MS. PSAKI: And, again, Peter, I think she also said in the same interview that she would be open to going to the border at an appropriate time. And what I’m conveying to you is that, while, as a part of her assignment, she has, of course, hosted a number of bilateral engagements — she’s visited the Northern Triangle; she’s taken — made a number of announcements about how to address root causes — that she’s going — was going to assess, with the Department of Homeland Security and with the administration, when it was the appropriate time to go.
And I will note that we’re at this point in part because we’ve made a great deal of progress. And if you look just to a couple of months ago, when 6,000 children were in Border Patrol facilities, we’re now at the point where there’s far less than 1,000.
If you look to just a couple of months ago, when there were children who were waiting in Border Patrol facilities for more than 100 hours — and they were certainly overcrowded — now it’s less than 30 hours.
In April, there were 22,000 kids in HHS facilities, and now that number is 14,000.
Is there still more work to do? Absolutely. That’s the purview of Secretary Mayorkas. But it’s important every component of our government is coordinated.
Q Was it important for the White House to have her seen at the border before former President Trump has a trip there next week?
MS. PSAKI: We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go to the border.
Q And then just one about the crime today. You mentioned expanding —
MS. PSAKI: The crime prevention roll out.
Q — crime prevention, yes. (Laughter.) Not the crime. But there is a lot of crime in big cities. How do you reduce —
MS. PSAKI: Much of it caused by gun violence, would you agree?
Q Yes. So, how do you reduce gun violence by expanding employment opportunities, including summer jobs for young people?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, there’s several components of this proposal. One of them is an initial set of actions on gun violence — or an additional set, I should say, of steps on gun violence, which the President feels are important to get guns off the streets, make sure they are not in the hands of people illegally, many of whom are playing a role in violent crime across the country. That’s part of his objective.
He also wants to provide — as we’ve seen has been effective in communities across the country — incentives and alternatives for young people in communities where that has shown to be an effective step.
Q So is the thought there basically that somebody — some criminal who has been committing crimes with limited interruption or interference from police for the last couple of weeks or months is going to stop this easy life of crime if they have a summer job?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President believes that we shouldn’t — we shouldn’t allow access to guns to those criminals who are currently illegally buying them from some dealers across the country, and part of his announcement is taking steps to do exactly that.
But part of his announcement is also ensuring there’s specific guidance to communities across the country to ensure that they have funding to get more community police around the country, something that was supported by the American
Jobs [Rescue] Plan, that was support- — that was voted into law by Democrats just a couple of months ago. Some might say that the other party was for defunding the police; I’ll let others say that, but that’s a piece.
Q Would you concede there is a political calculation to having the Vice President visit the border before Donald Trump goes and with a drumbeat from Republicans who have counted the days that she has not visited the border? Isn’t there a political decision in the timing of this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Kelly, I would say that we have no way to predict what President — former President Trump will say when he ha- — when he goes to the border. We can only guess. But I don’t think we’re — our view is that the Vice President making a trip to the border with the Secretary of Homeland Security to assess and take a look at progress that’s been made is going to prevent or change what the former President of the United States says when he goes to the border in a couple of days.
Oh, go ahead. Did you have another question? Go ahead.
Q Senators, including Senator Tester, are saying that they believe they’re at really the, kind of, razor’s edge — a moment with deciding to payfors —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — for infrastructure: Can they go forward? Do you feel that there is the possibility of some kind of a development within the next 24 hours? Would you agree with that sense of the timing? And is there anything new that the White House has offered for paying for these infrastructure programs that we have not learned of from you before?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no question — as you know, it’s much easier to negotiate with Congress when they’re in session. So we’re certainly hoping to make progress over the next couple of days. I’m not going to put a 24 or 48 — there’s a couple more days in the week, and we’re hopeful to make progress.
If we see progress continue to be made between our discussions with our members of our senior team and members, then we look forward to welcoming Democrats and Republicans here to the White House to meet with the President.
In terms of what we would offer: The President has offered a range of ways to pay for these proposals. And we’ve also taken — we had so many options of how to pay for these proposals we’ve even taken some of our own proposals off the table, including ensuring that individual — individuals pay a higher rate for this specific negotiation and also raising the corporate rate for this specific negotiation, even though we’re keeping it on the table for later on — to be very clear.
But the bottom line — it’s pretty clear and simple to the President. The choice for him on the payfors is: Are you going to ask Americans who are just trying to go to work — just trying to drive their cars to work, drop their kids off at school — to pay more through the — through a gas tax? Or should — should the wealthiest Americans pay what they owe in taxes? To him, that’s a pretty clear, no-brainer choice. That’s part of the discussion though.
Q Thanks. Back to the President’s crime prevention announcement today: You’ve noted that violent crime has been up over the last 18 months and several years. So what specifically prompted the President to come out and make this announcement today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a policy process that has been underway for the last couple of weeks and months even. We’ve had a series of announcements, as you know, over the past several months, on gun violence prevention. Obviously, there was funding in the American Rescue Plan to support keeping cops on the street. And there were several components that were just prepared to be announced.
Q And you’ve made clear you’re tackling this, you know, as a gun issue. The President has urged Congress to take action on this. We have seen very little movement on the Hill. It’s been years since we’ve seen sweeping gun reforms out of Washington.
What is the President’s message then to Americans who are concerned about rising crime in their communities? In order to achieve real progress, do they have to wait for Congress to act?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President would certainly like to see Congress act on universal background checks, on an assault weapons ban, a number of the pieces of legislation that are currently — I shouldn’t say “working their way through Congress,” but are currently alive in Congress.
But he’s not going to wait. And his message to the American people is: He’s going to take steps that he has the power to take as President to reduce gun violence, to put in place measures that will reduce the likelihood of criminals having access to guns on the streets. There are authorities you have — any President has. And he’s going to take steps to do that, even as he pushes for legislation to move forward.
Q So, beyond the announcements today, he is preparing or considering additional steps that could tackle some of these issues?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re going to focus on the announcements he’s making today, a lot of which are on gun violence and gun violence prevention measures. I don’t have anything beyond that to preview, but there are some significant steps he’s certainly announcing this afternoon.
Q And just one more question on how the funding for all of this works. You know, you’re allowing state and local governments to reallocate some of the COVID-19 relief funds to hire more police officers, invest in other areas to combat this rise in crime. But when Republicans pitched that idea to try and pay for some — an infrastructure plan, the White House said that money was already allocated. So what’s — what’s the difference here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the money was always allocated in state and local authority — to state and local governments. One of the authorities they could always have taken was to ensure there were more cops on the beat, more police in place, and that’s something we have always said was a part of the plan and the proposal. I don’t know why Republicans oppose that or why that would have prompted them to vote against the package.
Q Just to follow up on Mary’s first question, public safety can be a potent political issue. To what degree, if any, has the politics played a role in the decision to really try and get out in front of things today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has been very consistent in his views over the course of decades. He has never been for defunding the police. He has always been a supporter of ensuring there are — that local community policing is funded and adequately supported by the federal government. He’s also been a longtime advocate, for decades, and leader on addressing gun violence. So this is actually a continuity of his leadership on these issues over the course of decades.
Now, he has taken steps since President on each of these issues as well, including supporting funding — proposing funding in his own budget for community policing — and this is just an opportunity to put additional meat on the bones.
Q And then, two more quick ones. You’ve answered this before, but just to make sure I understand red lines in the elusive search for payfors that are amenable to everybody: User fees on electric vehicles, is that in the same category as indexing the gas tax from your guys’ perspective in these negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, we are not for a Ford F-150 tax. I’m not sure why others are.
Q Good framing. And then, quickly, given the tempo of some of the Taliban offensives that we’ve seen in Afghanistan, are there contingency plans at work right now to either move troops out faster or, perhaps more importantly, embassy officials — folks that we plan — the U.S. plans to keep on the ground if they advance much quicker than perhaps was initially thought?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say that our Department of Defense is overseeing an orderly withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan and doing that at a pace that, in their view, will keep — ensure their safety and ensure we are doing it in a way that’s effective and in a coordinated manner with the government.
I will say that while, in general, we are seeing elevated attacks on ANDSF and Afghan government versus a year ago, we have not seen an increase in attacks on our military presence since February 2020. And we also assess that, had we not begun to draw down, violence would have increased against us as well after May 1st, because that was what the Taliban was clearly conveying. So the status quo, in our view, was not an option.
In terms of personnel and others on the ground, that’s certainly something that our State Department and our team takes very seriously and assesses whether there is a need to take any additional action. And I would certainly refer — defer to them on any additional preview they’d do on that front.
Q Thank you, Jen. We understand that the administration plans to replace the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s federal regulator after the Supreme Court ruling that has now made it easier for the President to install his preferred overseer. Do you have a comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct, given the Supreme Court ruling this morning. But I don’t have any timeline for you on when that nomination will be made.
Q Is there — is there — are there any preferred candidates?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any candidates to preview. When we’re ready to announce one, we will announce one.
Q Okay. And any comment on the — on Russia firing warning shots and dropping bombs to chase a British warship out of waters Moscow now claims that — in the Black Sea that they claim belongs to Russia?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the British. We don’t have any more comment on it from here.
Q And one question on voting rights. We’ve been kind of talking to a lot of voting rights and civil rights activists who are saying that the President isn’t just simply doing enough on the issue and is betraying Black voters who actually helped him — get him — get into the office by not doing absolutely everything he can. And he’s instead spending his time negotiating infrastructure with Republicans. How would you respond to that criticism?
MS. PSAKI: Who was saying that?
Q A lot of civil rights activists and voting activists.
MS. PSAKI: Like who?
Q We’ve spoken to several groups and outfits. I mean, I can reach out to you with names after the briefing. And —
MS. PSAKI: Sure. That sounds good.
Okay. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q Thanks, Jen. A number of lawmakers have asked the administration to extend the federal moratorium on evictions which expires at the end of the month. Is that something the administration is considering? And why or why not?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me first say that that would be a decision — the decision to extend the eviction moratorium will be made by the CDC, based on public health conditions. And we certainly wouldn’t get ahead of their assessment.
As you know, the moratorium — the eviction moratorium expires on June 30th — 30th. Hence, I think, your question. It was always intended to be temporary. And the President remains focused on ensuring that Americans who are struggling, through no fault of their own, have an off-ramp once it ends. Hence, we’ve also worked to take additional steps to ensure people are getting the support they need to stay in their homes, whether they are renters or homeowners.
But we’d certainly defer to the CDC on their decision and their timeline.
Q Thanks, Jen. The Miami Police Chief, Art Acevedo, expressed concern, disappointment that his association wasn’t invited to the discussion. He — his association represents dozens of the largest city police forces: the Major Cities Chiefs Association. I just wanted to ask why the group wasn’t invited, considering the role that they would likely be part of it.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we were putting together the roundtable that the President is taking part in today, we tried to have a diverse group of individuals representing a range of interests from across the country who have all played an active and vital role in addressing crime and crime prevention across the country.
It is not meant to diminish anyone, including the individual you mentioned. And I’m sure we will be closely engaged with them and others who are not a part of this roundtable.
Q One more question on —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — the crime and gun prevention effort. This effort involves redirecting some of the relief aid (inaudible). It gives wide latitude for spending that money in certain areas. But the Biden administration largely opposed redirecting relief funds for infrastructure projects. There were some limited exceptions: water and sewer. But why was it not okay for infrastructure or limited for infrastructure, but it is more okay for this area? This —
MS. PSAKI: I think this is similar to the question Mary just asked. I mean, it has always been the case that ensuring funding was used by state and local authorities to keep cops on the beat was always a part of what was allowed in the parameters of the spending. And that is something that a number of communities, as I outlined at the beginning, did take the steps to do. So this is just giving additional guidance on how to use the funds.
Q Thanks, Jen. On the meeting later today between Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and White House officials: What is the White House’s message to them going to be with regard to the infrastructure talks? Are you going to insist on continuing going down the bipartisan route? Or is this going to be a decision point where they may sort of kick the tires and go ahead with reconciliation on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve always seen this — or seen this for some time, I should say — not always — as a two-track strategy. Right? So there are different discussions and negotiations happening today.
One track — the American Jobs Plan, or big components of it — is a part of the infrastructure negotiations that we’re discussing — Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell, Brian Deese — right now with members who are part of that bipartisan discussion.
Later tonight is a discussion that will also include Shalanda Young, also includes Susan Rice and others. That’s a part — a discussion, in part, about the budget reconciliation process — the second track. And that track will include the American Families Plan and components that are not a part of the negotiation.
So we’ve been saying two tracks. Today is an example of two tracks actually moving forward at one time in one day.
Q Which track is moving more smoothly right now? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: They’re both moving at a rapid pace. You know, they’re both moving. We — we know that, one, we’re at a later stage, obviously, in the bipartisan negotiations. You all know that. And obviously, we want to make progress over the next couple of days.
We’re in an earlier stage of the budget reconciliation progress — process. That’s because that’s how that process works. But it’s important to keep both tracks going.
Q And then just one more for you on — I just wanted to follow up if you had any answer from yesterday what — about whether President Biden discussed interest rates with the Fed Chairman Powell and other financial regulators.
MS. PSAKI: I just — the interest rates, as you know, are the — under the purview of the Federal Reserve. I gave you an asses- — an overview of what was discussed in the meeting and don’t have anything else to add to that.
Q On the For the — thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q On the For the People Act that — you said this week that it would be the fight of this presidency. The President said last night the fight is not over. Now that the Senate has put itself in the record, how do you see this fight playing out in the 117th Congress on the floor? Is it going to be won on the floor before the end of this Congress?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see. I don’t think we can assess that quite yet. And I think what’s important to know is that the President is going to keep fighting for federal legislation. The Vice President is going to keep fighting for federal legislation. Leader Schumer and others have also made clear, I think, on the floor last night: They’re going to continue to look for paths forward.
We will — we will see what that looks like, but we’re — we’re still assessing that in the coming days.
What the President will also talk about though, next week, is — not that fight — but also what we can do in states around the country, what we can do through a range of the authorities that the federal government has. Because for all of these, our objective is to make it easier to vote, make it more accessible to vote. And there’s a lot of ways to do that, even as we’re continuing to fight for federal legislation.
Q I want to ask you another question about the border. You said that a lot of — a great deal of progress has been made.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q Border Patrol statistics show something close to 900,000 interactions or encounters on the southwest border so far this fiscal year, 170,000-odd per month the last three months. Is that where you’re measuring progress? You spoke of the unaccompanied minors, but what about the influx of people? The Vice President was tasked with the diplomatic efforts there. Has that been successful? And how are you measuring that success?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I think the Vice President has made a number of announcements about coordinated efforts with countries in the region, in the Northern Triangle, through her leadership in that area. And we’ll — we’ll be able to assess over time what it looks like in terms of migration numbers.
I was pointing to the fact that, a couple of months ago, we were looking at very overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, we were looking at kids waiting for far too long in those facilities, and there being a timeline of getting kids to vetted family members that wasn’t up to our — up to our bar. There has certainly been progress made in that regard, but the work is ongoing.
Q Thanks, Jen. My colleagues are reporting that the U.S. intelligence community concluded last week that the government of Afghanistan could collapse as soon as six months after the American withdrawal is completed. What is your reaction to that? And do you think that would also factor into speeding up an evacuation, especially for Afghans who helped the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, on SIVs — on Special Immigrant Visas — and these are individuals who have played an incredibly courageous role in helping the United States at various times over the course of our recent history: We are processing and getting people out at a record pace. We are working with Congress right now to streamline some of the requirements that slow this process down, and we’re doing the kind of extensive planning for potential evacuation should that become necessary.
So we are continuing to evaluate what our options are there, continuing to take steps forward. And certainly, we want to take every step we can take from the federal government to treat all of these courageous individuals as they deserve.
Q Is there a reaction on that intelligence community’s assessment at all — that the government could collapse within six months of the U.S. withdrawing?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more assessment beyond the intelligence community.
Q Follow-up on the Afghanistan, please?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead.
Q Yes. As you know, President Ghani will be here on Friday.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q While President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah are visiting Washington, D.C., Taliban has still continued their attack all over Afghanistan. Do you think that President Biden is committed to a stronger, long-term support for Afghan people, especially Afghan military? Because Afghan people have high expectations from this trip — the President of Afghanistan.
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say I don’t anticipate — the timeline for withdrawal is not going to change by September, which, of course, is overseen by our Department of Defense. A part of their discussion on Friday will certainly be the President reiterating his commitment to work with the government of Afghanistan to continue to provide humanitarian support, over-the-horizon security — you know, work that — that he committed to when he made this announcement. And I’m sure they’ll discuss this during their meeting on Friday.
Go ahead. Francesca, go ahead.
Q I’ve got a couple. I’ve got a couple for you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Firstly, on the — on the Vice President’s trip to the border, why does the White House view this as the appropriate time for that visit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Francesca, the decision on the timing was made in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security. As we’ve said from the beginning, we didn’t want to have anyone visit at a time where it’d be disruptive to efforts and progress being made on the ground, but they made that assessment. And she had said, just a few weeks ago, that she’d be open to going to the border if — at the appropriate time.
Q And earlier today the White House announced that 15 jurisdictions would participate in its community violence intervention program.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q Do you anticipate that list expanding to include other cities — like Kansas City, which has grappled with gun violence and has been engaged with the White House on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: That’s a great question. And you’re right that it was 15 cities that we announced — or 15 jurisdictions that we announced this morning. Those jurisdictions stepped — or we will announce — I guess, I should say, “later this afternoon” — they stepped forward to join the collaborative because they’re committed to using these strategies as a tool to reducing the scourge of gun violence.
They have also designated a portion of their American Rescue Plan state and local funding — or another source of public funding — to support CVI efforts and have committed to city leadership and infrastructure, such as leading local efforts through an Office of Neighborhood Safety. We’re calling for more cities to follow these jurisdictions’ lead, and, certainly, we’d welcome engagement and a desire to follow those trends as well.
Q And lastly, is the White House worried that its non-infrastructure agenda is being stymied to the point that it could have a negative impact on Democrats competing in next year’s elections?
MS. PSAKI: You mean our budget reconciliation process we’re meeting about today?
Q No, I’m talking about the $15 minimum wage, voting rights. There’s ongoing disputes over childcare, other elements of the Families Plan, immigration reform. There’s — there’s a number of different things.
MS. PSAKI: I will say that the American Families Plan is a part of the budget reconciliation discussion and process. That’s an historic investment in childcare, and community college, and universal pre-K — a number of areas that are a huge, huge priority to the President, as well as many Democrats.
I think, ultimately, I’m not going to assess, 18 months from the midterm elections, what that looks like. But the most important topics on the Ameri- — minds of the American people are COVID and the economy, and we’re certainly moving forward on all fronts.
Q Thank you, Jen. First, a question on Afghanistan. The Afghani leaders who are coming to meet with the President on Friday are going to want specifics about U.S. support to secure the governance and human rights gains that have been fraught for the last 20 years there. Can the President guarantee that those gains won’t be lost?
MS. PSAKI: The President can guarantee that we will continue to support humanitarian assistance; support for progress — human rights progress that’s been made on the ground; and a range of investments the United States have made that we’ve already committed to continuing.
Q Has he determined how much money that is needed?
MS. PSAKI: Over the course of time? That’s going to be done on kind of a year-by-year assessment.
Q In the next year then, is there any sort of estimate there?
MS. PSAKI: Beyond our budget? I don’t have anything more beyond our budget.
Q On crime, I just wanted to ask quickly if you could give us any details about who helped shape the President’s crime plan. You know, was there was input from various activists, perhaps from the Floyd family?
MS. PSAKI: It was certainly driven, of course, by the President of the United States, who oversees all of our policies here, and driven by policy leaders within the government — from Susan Rice, Cedric Richmond, a number — there’s obviously economic components — Gene Sperling, Brian Deese. And they certainly do assess and engage with a range of activists and leaders around the country, but I don’t have any more detail to read out for you.
Q Jen, just one more.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, yeah. Go ahead.
Q Just really quickly: On the Vice President, there’s a lot of discussion today about the Vice President’s role in immigration, but I was wondering if you could outline any of her involvement, in the last few moments, on infrastructure — a different topic that is, sort of, in the closing stage right now. Has her portfolio there, sort of, gotten lower as other things have risen, or can you just give us the, sort of, state of play?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I would say that the negotiations are primarily being led at a staff level by Louisa Terrell, Steve Ricchetti, and Brian Deese. And again, if we’re at the point where we’ve made enough progress, the President will invite them here, and I’m sure the Vice President would be a part of that. But they’ve really been led at the staff level over the past couple of days. And if there’s calls that warrant the Vice President or the President making, certainly they would make them. But that’s really what the action — where the action has been over the last several days.
Q Thanks. Just to follow on my colleague’s question about the eviction moratorium —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — there’s some reporting that there’s a one-month extension that’s going to come out pretty soon. I know you said you don’t want to ahead of the CDC, but the CDC is punting all of our questions back to you. So is there anything you —
MS. PSAKI: That’s confusing. Sorry.
Q It is. (Laughter.) Is there anything you can tell us about whether a one-month extension is to be expected?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything I can confirm for you from here today.
Q Okay. And then, on guns: All advocates are saying there should be gun czar. Is that something that’s still being considered by the White House: one person that’s responsible and spearheading this work on gun reform?
MS. PSAKI: The President is responsible.
Q Yes. Thank you, Jen. For some months, lawmakers of both parties have been asking the administration to prohibit polysilicon from coming into the country from China because it’s being made in Xinjiang. It’s a key material, as you may know, for solar panels.
So, is there some concern that prohibiting that from China could hurt the President’s net zero goals? Or what are you looking at doing, in regards to this, from the human rights perspective?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that, in Cornwall, just two weeks ago, G7 countries committed to ensuring that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labor. And they’re — which was a significant statement and agreement among G7 countries.
And so, as a part of that, you can expect that the United States will continue to hold those who engage in forced labor accountable and that we will continue to remove goods made from local forced labor from our supply chains.
As you also know, and I think this is the root of your question, we also remain committed to making progress internationally — glo- — domestically and internationally on addressing the climate crisis. But we think we can certainly do both.
I don’t have anything yet to announce as it relates to specific products — or substances, I should say — that are planned, but we’ll see if we have more on that in the coming days.
Q We have to gather for the event.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. Great. We have to gather for the event.
Thanks, everyone, so much. Have a great day. See you tomorrow.
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