James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:42 P.M. EDT

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.

Q    Hello.

MS. PSAKI:  Happy Thursday.  (Laughter.)  Is it Thursday?

Q    (Inaudible) “Happy Birthday”?

MS. PSAKI:  I said, “Happy Thursday.”  Well, I was going to say — I did hear it was Steve Holland’s 29th birthday.  (Laughter.)  So, happy 29th birthday.  I am a terrible singer, but I am willing to lead a song here if you are all game.  (Laughter.)

Q    Is this a good day to ask for an interview with the President?  (Laughter.) 

MS. PSAKI:  It may be.  It may be.

Q    You got to at least give him the first question.

MS. PSAKI:  Who’s with me?  Someone here has a good voice.

(“Happy Birthday” is sung to Steve Holland.)  (Applause.)

All right.  I will also note: Brian Karem, excellent voice.  I don’t know what you do with that, but that’s one thing I learned today.  (Laughter.)

Okay, a couple of items for you.  Today, as you all know, the President and Vice President will meet with Black leaders from top civil rights organizations.  We are about to put out the list of these names if they are not already in your inbox.  But that is happening this afternoon.  We’ll have a readout.  We also expect a number of them will go out to the stakeout after the meeting.

Later today, Vice President Harris will also deliver remarks at Howard University on how the Democratic National Committee is expanding their “I Will Vote” campaign, for which the DNC can give you additional specifics.

As the President has been emphatic since taking of- — before taking office, our constitutional rights are on the line because state legislatures have forced through a wave of anti-voter laws based on the same repeatedly disproven lies that led to an assault on our nation’s Capitol in one of the darkest days in the history of American democracy. 

So the meeting today, the Vice President’s event are a part of our ongoing effort to elevate this issue, to work with every lever of the federal government.

I also wanted to note, as you may have noticed, we’ve been doing kind of a daily announcement about our competition executive order.  So the new announcement that went out today will — focuses on saving American businesses money on shipping costs.  In turn, that will lower prices for American consumers.

A lot of American companies rely on railroads to ship their goods domestically and ocean carriers to ship their goods internationally.  Both of these industries have grown more concentrated over time.  Many freight routes are monopolized because they’re served by a single railroad.  Three foreign-owned shipping alliances now control more than 80 percent of the market.  I did not know that.  I’m learning something new every day with the competition EOs, which I appreciate.

That concentration has contributed to a spike in shipping costs and fees during the pandemic.  For example, the index price to ship one container has gone up eightfold.  And shipping container companies have charged companies massive fees while their goods sit at ports.

So, this executive order takes several steps to address these problems.  On international shipping, the executive order calls on the Federal Maritime Commission to crack down on unjust and unreasonable fees and work with the Justice Department to investigate and punish anticompetitive conduct.

And on domestic freight railroad, the executive order urges the Surface Transportation Board to allow more shippers — allow shippers to more easily challenge inflated rates when there is no competition between routes.

Finally, today we also have more doses that are going out to the world.  We will ship 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Uruguay and 1.4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Afghanistan. In the coming days, we will complete the entire 3 million shipment of J&J doses to Afghanistan — something the President will also mention in his remarks today.

Zeke, why don’t you kick us off.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Yesterday, the President said he would know more today about what he would do in response to Russian ransomware attacks on U.S. entities.  What does he plan on doing?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, Zeke, I think what he intended to convey is that he’s continuing to be updated by his team on a regular and near-daily basis.  And certainly, when they have new information to provide, they provide that to him. 

So, we are continuing to gather details on if this incident occurred with the knowledge or approval of the Russian government.  That’s what we’re really digging into at this point in time. 

And while the intelligence community has not yet attributed the attack and we still don’t have new information on the attribution as of today, the cyber community — security community agrees that the criminal group, REvil, that we’ve talked about a bit in here, operates out of Russia with affiliates around the world. 

We’ve been in touch at a high level, as you all know, with Russian — high-level Russian authorities — counterparts, I should say — regarding this incident.  And we’ve continued to send a clear message: If the Russian government cannot or will not act against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will act.

In terms of what we will do, I’m not in a position, of course, to discuss operations.  That’s not in our interest to preview those.  But the President sent a clear message to President Putin; we’re continuing to send that clear message in our engagements as well.

Q    And, on Afghanistan, on the SIV process, any updates on the administration’s efforts to find a third country to host processing of those visas, as well as can you confirm the administration is adding additional staff to help vet those applicants?  And how long will that take, and how is the administration going to address security concerns among those who are applying for visas here?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, one of the areas the President will talk about in his remarks this afternoon is certainly ensuring that we are taking care of Afghan nationals who worked side by side with U.S. forces, and the SIV applicants, as you noted, including interpreters and translators.

So we have already dramatically accelerated the processing time for Special Immigrant Visas to bring them to the United States.  We’re working closely with Congress — we’re continuing to work closely with Congress to change the authorizing legislation so that we can streamline the process for approving visas, even when they are in a third country.  And we have stood up an operation to physically relocate thousands of these Afghans and their families before the U.S. military mission concludes so that they can wait safely outside of Afghanistan.

That operation has identified U.S. facilities outside of the continental United States, as well as third countries.  Because of security reasons, we’re not going to outline in detail at this point where those are.  But I can confirm that we will be conducting flights of our Afghan allies to these locations in August, so, of course, in advance of the timeline of bringing our troops home.

Q    And then, we’re going to hear from the President later, but is it an acceptable outcome to the President if Kabul were to fall to the Taliban?  I mean, that’s widely been predicted by experts, including in the U.S. mil- — in the U.S. government as a potential outcome here of the U.S. withdrawal.  Is that an acceptable outcome to the President?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, Zeke, let me say what — the reason the President is speaking to all of you and the American public today is because he views this as an opportunity to once again communicate to the American people the security challenges he inherited in Afghanistan and affirm why he made the decision he made in April to withdraw our troops and end our involvement in the war.

And the question fundamentally facing him was: After 20 years, was he going to commit more American troops to a civil war in Afghanistan?  And if we look back 20 years ago, which many people in this room covered when Steve was 9 years old — I’ll just — by math — (laughter) — we — we did what we wanted to do, which was we got the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, we degraded al Qaeda’s capacity to the point they did not present an active threat to our homeland.

He made the decision after a clear-eyed assessment, in part because he’s never seen there to be a military end to this war, and also because, as we came into office, we had an agreed-to timeline.  After May 1st, the uptick in violence was coming this summer; the status quo was not sustainable. 

And we are still continuing to support diplomatically — through security assistance, humanitarian assistance — the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, including a political negotiation process that’s ongoing that we expect the ambassador to continue to return to. 

So, we have always anticipated, Zeke — and the President was very clear about this when he made his speech in April — that there would be an uptick in violence, that there would be an uptick in turmoil on the ground.  We knew that, and we knew the security situation would become more difficult. 

But he made the decision in part because, if you look back at recent history: In 2011, the NATO Allies and partners agreed that we would end our combat mission by 2014.  In 2014, some argued for more — for one more year.  So we kept fighting, kept taking casualties. 

If we did not make the decision we did, there would have been severe consequences.  That’s why he made it. 

Q    Do you believe it’s still —

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.  Oh, go ahead, Steve.

Q    Do you believe it’s still possible that the Afghan Security Forces can repel the Taliban?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly, under — as we expected, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are now under real pressure, and that was certainly a part of the discussion the President had with Afghan leaders just two weeks ago.  And we’re going to continue to provide funding and ensure they have capacity to maintain the Air Force.

And I would remind you that even since we were — since we engaged, together with our NATO Allies and partners, we have trained and equipped nearly 300,000 currently-serving members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

And one of the clear messages that the President sent directly in the meeting he had and he will continue to convey is that it is now time for them to be in the lead.  They are in the lead as we pull our troops back, and we will continue to support them with security assistance and ongoing training.  And we have — continue to have the authorities that we’ve long had through our withdrawal later this summer. 

Q    And, separately, do you have an update on Haiti — the search for the killers of the president there?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have a — an extensive update, I will say, Steve.  We continue to be engaged; of course, in touch through a range of channels, but we don’t have updates at this point.

The Haitian authorities are, of course, leading the investigation, which is, of course, in its early stages.  We’re ready and willing to support Haitian authorities, but we’re going to let the investigation play out.

Q    A follow-up on Haiti, please.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead, April.

Q    What is this administration doing, in the midst of this assassination, to stand up the Haitian democracy in the midst of this?  What is this administration doing? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say that it is still — it is our view and we continue to call for elections to happen this year.  And we believe they should proceed. 

We know that free and fair elections will facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected President, and we certainly continue to support Haiti’s democratic institutions.  We will call on all political parties, civil society, and stakeholders to work together in the wake of the tragedy and echo acting — the acting prime minister’s call for calm.

We have not re- — offi- — received an official request for assistance, a formal request, but we stand ready to receive that when it comes in.

I’ve got to move on, April, because we have limited time. 

Go ahead, Jeff.  Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Is this speech this afternoon by the President considered the final word by the White House, at least, as America’s longest war draws down?  Or does the President plan to mark this in some other way when all of the troops are out?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, Jeff, I would say that we — we are — the President will continue to update the American people, as Commander-in-Chief, why he’s making choices to — that are in our national security interests.  Today is an example of that.  And today is an opportunity to communicate again why he made the decision he made and communicate again why it’s in our interests. 

So, I’m not going to rule out when — if he will or won’t speak on Afghanistan in the future. 

In terms of plans for the end — for our men and women coming back, I don’t have anything to preview, but we don’t — we’re not going to have a “Mission Accomplished” moment in this regard.  It’s a 20-year war that has not been won militarily. 

We are proud of the men and women who have served — incredibly grateful.  The President will note that in his remarks today — how grateful he is for their service and the families who have sacrificed over the last 20 years.  And we will continue to press for a political outcome and a political solution. 

But beyond that, I think we’re going to continue to look for ways to communicate why we make the choices we make.

Q    You mentioned “Mission Accomplished.”  Has this mission not been accomplished?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say, we did exactly what we wanted to do.  What I was referring to, Jeff, is we’re not having a moment of celebration.  We’re having a moment where we feel is in our national security interests to bring our men and women serving home.  And we feel it’s in our national security interests for Afghan forces to be in the lead. 

We did exactly what we intended to do, and certainly that is something, thanks to the leadership of our military, we have achieved.  However, there is not benefit, in our view, in continuing to fight this war militarily.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  If the military withdrawal is 90 percent complete at this point, why wait until August to finish that?  Is there an effort to stall because of this situation — because of the conditions that are worsening?

MS. PSAKI:  I would say, Rachel, that that is under the purview of the Department of Defense, and they’re doing — bringing our troops home in a way that is — keeps them safe.  We have not had a single casualty, as I — as, I think, everyone has noted, and we will continue to keep that as our priority. 

But in terms of the operational timeline, speed is safety, but we also want to manage our withdrawal in a way that protects our service members, makes sure that we are conducting our drawdown in a way that keeps that as the top priority.

Q    And just a quick follow-up: Is the administration considering granting visas to vulnerable women in the region, including prominent activists, politicians, or journalists?

MS. PSAKI:  We maintain a range of contingencies and plan for a range of operational options, but I don’t have anything to preview on that front.

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, thank you.  If it turns out that the Afghan forces are not equipped and the Taliban has a complete takeover, would the President consider sending U.S. troops back into Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to get into a hypothetical.

Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    And I had a question on something you briefly mentioned yesterday.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    The President said he would deliver a message to Putin, which he already did last month.  So, when he said that yesterday, did he mean he has a new message for Putin?  And under what circumstances will he deliver that?

MS. PSAKI:  I think, in the context of the Q&A, he meant, “I’m not going to provide to you an update of the briefing I just received.” 

Q    But he said he had a message to deliver.

MS. PSAKI:  But that was the context of how he answered that question.

Go ahead.  Go ahead, Jacqui.

Q    Thanks.  Thanks, Jen.  On ransomware, in terms of the Kaseya hack, does the administration consider this to be an escalation, given that it didn’t attack one entity but hundreds of entities?  And does the U.S. consider it to be critical infrastructure in any way, given how it hampered transactions for grocery stores and that kind of thing?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, first, I would say, critical infrastructure, broadly speaking, would perhaps take out an entire se- — economic sector in the country.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t take every cyberattack, every ransom attack incredibly seriously.

And as it relates to the impact here — or how we’re evaluating it, I should say — there has been an escalation of ransomware attacks over the course of the last several years.  It’s been a growing — an escalating problem that even predates President Biden.  And it’s not just the United States; it’s something that’s happening around the world. 

So, we know it’s not going to be turned off with a light switch.  It’s not an up and down.  We know that this needs to be ongoing engagement, and we’ll have to assess, over 6 months and 12 months, what our success looks like.  So that’s how we’re looking at our impact as it relates to the cyber threats.

Q    And then, in the conversation with Russia about, you know, enforcing this red line that the President drew at the summit, what concrete asks have we made of Russia in terms of cracking down on actors that are within that state and clearly are attacking our companies here?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  I would say the President hasn’t minced words.  And should he speak with President Putin again — to Weijia’s question — he will convey the same message, which is: We — if you do not take action to crack down on criminal actors in your country, even if the government didn’t know, we will.  We reserve that option too.  And that is — continues to be his clear message.

Q    Is there a timeline, though, on that?  Is — have we given Russia, you know, two weeks to do something? 

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not going to preview that for you all.

Q    And I want to go to the meeting yesterday between the Chicago mayor —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — and the President.  Can you talk at all about the request that she made of the administration in order to crack down on crime in that city?  There was a report that she requested federal support.  Did that involve troop presence in any way? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t — I don’t have any summary of the conversation in that regard.  I don’t know if that’s something they’ve read out from their ends. 

From our end, what the President conveyed to Mayor Lightfoot is that he will continue to work with her, in partnership, and work with cities around the country to address the rise of cri- — of violence and, specifically, the rise of gun violence was — is predominantly the driver in Chicago. 

He also reiterated that, as the Department of Justice had announced just a few weeks ago, Chicago is one of the cities that will be a beneficiary of these groups that will go and help them — help directly crack down on combating drug violence and drug traffic- — I mean, sorry, gun violence and gun trafficking — something that we’re doing in about a half a dozen cities across the country.  And he also reiterated his continued efforts at the federal level to crack down on the illegal passing of guns.

So there has been a great deal of funding that has been provided already to the city of Chicago — Cook County, specifically — and certainly some of that can be used to address crime as well.

Q    How is the DOJ’s strike force going to specifically interrupt the networks that are trafficking these guns?

MS. PSAKI:  They’re work — going to work directly with the city.  They’re doing them — we’re doing these strike forces in about five cities around the country, and they want to work directly with them to use legal authorities to crack down on illegal gun trafficking and work in partnership with law enforcement authorities in the cities and add that additional heft and — and resources.

Q    And lastly, is there any push to, you know, fund more efforts to equip police departments?  There’s — you know, the White House position was that Republicans defunded police. Obviously, the Biden administration has talked a lot about the budget proposal for the COPS program, but there’s been some pressure that the administration hasn’t vocally enough talked about this spike in crime. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say the President gave an entire speech on it and will continue to speak about what he’s doing.  A big driver of the rise in crime is gun violence — a personal passion of his for decades. 

I will say that there are a number of components — I know you referenced the budget — but the President called — called for a $300 million increase in funding for the COPS program.  That’s up from two hun- — from $237 million in the last budget passed by President Trump to $537 million.  And he also calls for an increase of $753 million over 2021 levels to federal law enforcement agencies.  It includes ATF — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  It also includes a $10.2 billion — an increase of $465 million over 2021 — enacted for the FBI.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q    Yeah, back on Haiti, just for a second, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    Are you in a position to describe or detail some of the assistance the U.S. is standing ready to offer Haiti if asked?

MS. PSAKI:  I think we have to wait to see what their formal request is.  And we stand ready to respond rapidly to whatever they — their needs are on the ground, but they’re the best equipped to assess that. 

Q    Can you describe how the President views security and stability in Haiti vis-à-vis American interests today?  I mean, I ask that because there’s a clip of the President in 1994, when he was a senator, comparing the situation in Haiti to the then-ongoing Bosnian War, in which he said something to the effect of — you know, he called it a godawful thing to say, but he said, “Haiti could sink into the Caribbean Sea or rise 300 feet in the air, and it wouldn’t matter to American interests.”  Does he stand by that view today, or has he changed his view on Haiti?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say: First, the fact that he is now sitting as President of the United States — he issued a statement in his voice yesterday about the horrific killing of the President — and he has made clear to the administration and administration officials that we are — stand ready to assist in any way they need, whether it’s in the investigation or other federal assistance we can offer from here — sends you a clear message about his care and concern for the people of Haiti.

Go ahead, Kelly. 

Q    The administration and the President has, in some way, included in the calculus on Afghanistan the American public’s view that it’s time to bring U.S. forces home.  Is the President believing that the American people would be satisfied with Kabul falling, with the threat to women and children there, and with some ill-defined numbers about how many of the Afghan interpreters, translators, support are able to be removed safely from the country?  Does the President feel the American people factored those risks into that judgement about bringing troops home?

MS. PSAKI:  Look, I think at the end of the day, Kelly, the President feels that the American people elected him to serve as Commander-in-Chief, make decisions that are in our national interests.  It doesn’t mean they’re always easy, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t drawbacks to the decisions that he makes.  But he is not going to ask another generation of kids to go and serve in Afghanistan in a war that he does not feel can be won militarily, and that is the core driver of his decision here.

Q    On REvil, quickly: You mentioned that it’s now the assessment of the administration that they were responsible and that part of their criminal enterprise is working outside of Russia.  You mentioned that the U.S. is in touch with high-level Russian entities.  Is there also outreach to specific locations where our cyber resources know their actors are at work?  Is that happening as well? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I used that context because I think it’s important for people to understand that even though the cybersecurity community has assessed it was REvil, we know they operate in different parts of the world.  So even as we’re directing and we’re having a conversation largely about Russia’s knowledge, we — as we assess and before we make an official assessment by the United States government, we look at that.

But, certainly, as concerns arise, we’d certainly be in touch with countries as relevant.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI:  Of course, yeah.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    Jen, thanks.  On voting rights, the Supreme Court has upheld the voting laws in Arizona.  Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the latest voting rights bill.  What specifically can the President and the White House do to increase voting access without filibuster reform?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say that, one, there are a number of announcements being made by the Democratic National Committee today — which is most appropriate for them to address — that the Vice President will be elevating. 

You’ve also seen that we’ve taken steps from our Department of Justice to use legal action, where relevant and where legal — where the law allows for, to push back on and take action in states where it is — where legislation is making it more difficult or where laws are making it more difficult for people to vote. 

We also believe very much that empowering and engaging activists and creating grassroots movements — something that the Vice President is continuing to play a very prominent and prevalent role in doing — is also a part of how we’re going to work to fight legislation and fight actions to suppress voters around the country. 

So, certainly, the President would love to sign a piece of voting rights legislation into law.  He is — looks forward to doing that.  But he also knows that there are a number of levers from the federal government that we should continue to use, and he’s not waiting to have the legislation on his desk.

Q    And one more on the Olympics.  You know, fans have been banned from attending the Summer Games.  Is it your assessment this is still safe for U.S. athletes?  And has there been a determination on whether the First Lady will be attending?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure, well, I would say the President supports the Tokyo Olympic Games and the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff, and spectators.  He has pride in the U.S. athletes who have trained for the Tokyo Games and will be competing in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit. 

The government of Japan has stressed that public health remains a central priority as they host the Games — or they prepare to host the Games.  And we’ve stayed in close contact with the Japanese government throughout the planning process and on related public health measures. 

So we’re well aware of the careful preparations, including the public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff, and spectators that the government and international committee has undertaken, which is why, as we’ve said, we support the Games moving forward.

In terms of the First Lady, we’re still assessing the feasibility of the First Lady attending.  And our advance team arrives in Tokyo later this week.

Q    Jen, can you clarify one point, please?  Just one —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — on Afghanistan.  And I guess it’s off of Kelly’s question.  But you said that you all met many times and there was a decision process in drawing down the — our presence in Afghanistan.  Yes?  That’s the —

MS. PSAKI:  That we met many times?

Q    Yes.

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not sure what you mean by that.

Q    Yes, that — well, you have discussed this; there is a plan in place.  So, the question naturally is whether or not, at the end of the day, you’re accepting the fact or the possibility that the Taliban could indeed take over Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, Brian, I, again, will refer you to intelligence assessments and the fact that the President asked for a cleared-eye assessment — a clear-eyed assessment at the beginning of this process.

Q    So —

MS. PSAKI:  And what I can convey to you clearly is why he made the decision.  That’s also what he’ll be delivering an entire speech on —

Q    But —

MS. PSAKI:  — just this afternoon. 

Okay, we got to go on.  Go ahead, Mike.

Q    Again, Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure. 

Q    You and I and a lot of the people in this room will remember early 2009, when the Vice President, you know, expressed his — his opposition to the way that that war was being conducted and his efforts to try to pull back then.  He largely hasn’t changed his position over the time — if anything, gotten more opposed to it.

I guess, at the end of the day, does the President think this war was worth it?  And will he tell the American people that today, whether he — what he thinks about the worth of having conducted this two-decade war?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think what you can hear — what you’ll hear the President talk about today is one, of course, that he is proud of the men and women who served, and he is grateful to the sacrifices that have been made over the last 20 years.

He will also reiterate, as I’ve talked about a little bit, the fact that he believes the United States did what we went to Afghanistan to do: get the terrorists attacked — who attacked us on 9/11, deliver justice to Osama bin Laden, root out the terrorist threat so that Afghanistan can never be used as a base from which to attack the United States and our allies.

And he also will talk about what he’s done — what we’ve done, as a country, to help prepare and assist and provide security assistance and humanitarian assistance to the military in Afghanistan, but also to the people of Afghanistan. 

But we’ll — what you’ll also hear him say — which I think is important for the American people to hear — is that there would have been significant consequences had we chosen not to bring our troops home. 

In April, if he had instead announced that the U.S. — the United States was going back on this agreement made — the U.S. and allied forces remaining in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future — the Taliban would have begun to target our forces.  The status quo was not an option.  Those are difficult decisions you make as Commander-in-Chief. 

So, you are right.  His view has been, for a decade or more consistently, that he does not feel this is a military — a war that can be won militarily. 

He does still believe and support the people of Afghanistan, the future of the government of Afghanistan.  He supports a political process — something that our ambassador is continuing to engage in.  And he will continue to provide and advocate for providing — and he could make this decision as President — humanitarian and security assistance to the people there. 

So it’s — this is not a speech that is going to give a grade.  This is a speech that’s going to explain clearly to the American people why he made the decision, what the consequences would have been, what assistance we’re going to continue to provide, how we’re going to help the brave interpreters and translators who served alongside our forces, and also what the counterterrorism factors are here, including the changing threat from Afghanistan, but including the need to take our CT resources — counterterrorism resources — and put them in parts of the world where we have the largest threat. 

That is no longer Afghanistan.  That is other parts of the world, whether it is, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa.  That is where al Qaeda and ISIS is greater, and that’s where, as Commander-in-Chief, he needs to put our resources.

Q    But — but fair to say he — fair to say that he thinks this should have been done a decade ago?

MS. PSAKI:  I think his view has — is well publicly known.  But again, he has made the decision because he is now President and he assessed what is in our national security interests. 

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, shifting gears to a different topic: A USA Today investigation published yesterday revealed that the FBI played a role in locating Princess Latifa of Dubai just before a yacht was raided in the Indian Ocean in 2018.  The capture of the princess has outraged human rights activists, given the accounts that she was trying to flee her father’s oppressive rule. 

Two questions: Was the FBI assistance appropriate?  And does it raise concerns that the assistance, even if provided unwittingly, forced Latifa’s return to the family she sought to flee?

MS. PSAKI:  I understand your question.  I’m certainly — I’m just not going to have anything to offer you from here, so I’d refer you to the FBI.

Q    And one other question.  Multiple media outlets, including Politico and ABC, reported yesterday that the White House is seeking to have bi- — have the bipartisan infrastructure plan on the Senate floor as early as next week.  Can you confirm that timeline as being the one sought by the White House right now? 

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, as Leader Schumer has said, he wants to move on both the bipartisan plan and the budget reconciliation resolution — or we’re now calling the Build Back Better plan — during the upcoming July/August Senate session. 

So our understanding is that the process could begin as early as the week of July 19th, given that committees are still finalizing legislative text for both the budget resolution and the bipartisan bill.  We, of course, support and would like to see it move forward as quickly as possible, but it would be a mistake to think of July 19th as anything more than the opening of a window, not a deadline.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Two questions.  One, Al Sharpton said earlier this morning that he and other civil rights leaders would press President Biden to do more than just put boots on the ground for voting rights —

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    — that he’d pushed for a legislative solution and one that works through or around the filibuster.  What does the President plan to say in response? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well — well, we’ll wait for the meeting to take place and then they’ll come out to the stakeout. 

But I will tell you the President agrees that a federal legislation is an important part of protecting voting rights and people’s right to vote, which is a fundamental right in this country.  He agrees with that. 

He also believes there’s a range of levers that can be used from the federal government concurrently and that he’s not going to wait either, even as federal legislation — even as we’re determining what the path forward looks like.  But we’ll see how the meeting goes, and certainly that will be the — a central topic. 

Q    One more question.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    Does the White House wonder that — worry that elevating voting rights to a Democratic issue — a Democratic platform issue will give Republicans more fodder to make partisan attacks against voting rights? 


Go ahead.

Q    If I could piggyback off Michael’s question.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    With the benefit of hindsight, does the President feel that the war with Afghanistan was worth it? 

MS. PSAKI:  Again, I think it’s important for people to know — understand that as President of the United States, he’s not here to give grades.  He’s here to provide context to the American people on why he made the decision he made to bring men and women home from serving; why it’s in our national interest, our counterterrorism interest, and the interest of our — of our positions around the world. 

I understand why you all are asking the question, but I think this issue, the complexity of this issue over 20 years deserves more context than that. 

Q    And one quick follow-up.  Will there or are there consequences for the Taliban in terms of just the encroachments that they have been making in the country?

MS. PSAKI:  Consequences from the United States?  Well, I would say that right now what we’re supporting is a political process and one where we are hopeful that that can move forward to have a more lasting solution and bring peace and prosperity to the country over the long term. 

Q    And so that means engaging with the Taliban as sort of (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, as you know, we have an ambassador who is engaging — or playing a role in these negotiations.  Ultimately, it’s, of course, between the Afghans and members of the Taliban, but we are engaged and supportive of those political — that political process.

Go ahead.  Oh, go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Oh, thanks.  Shortly after the company DiDi was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, China blocked the app, resulting in it plummeting in value and American investors losing money.  Does this concern the President?  And more broadly, does the President agree that regulators should block companies that do not adhere to U.S. auditing regulations from IPOs? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m not going to speak — comment on this specific company from here or speak to actions that could be taken independently by the SEC. 

Broadly, the U.S. will continue to ensure we remain the destination of choice for investors and companies seeking investments around the world, and always protecting Americans’ data and our national security. 

We do think it’s essential that all companies that list in the U.S. adhere to high standards of transparency and disclosure, and welcome companies that meet those standards. 

But beyond that, I’m not going to have additional —

Q    Just one more question, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, go ahead.  Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    On COVID: When will the White House make a decision on reopening travel to certain nations?  And what will it be based on?  Will it be based on vaccine thresholds, or is there a certain country that you want to open travel to first? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, as you know, Nancy, there are working groups that are currently engaged and in touch about the criteria that will need to be met in order to reopen.  We certainly understand and know that this is a point of frustration for a lot of people around the world, including people who are separated from their family members.  And we put these working groups together so they could work together directly to assess what the criteria should be on when the travel can be reopened. 

Go ahead.

Q    Is the United States now recognizing Claude Joseph as the leader of Haiti? 

MS. PSAKI:  We recognize the democratic institutions of Haiti, and we are going to continue to work with them directly.  But we have long call- — we have been calling for elections this year, and we support those proceeding.

Q    Do you think that those elections should be delayed from September?

MS. PSAKI:  We believe they should proceed this year.

Q    Has the President reached out to the interim prime minister?  Has he reached out or does he plan to reach out?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any calls that — he has not reached out.  I don’t have any calls to preview for you, no. 

Go ahead.  Go ahead, Rachel. 

Q    The President’s reference to door-to-door campaigns for vaccines sparked kind of a backlash.  You know, Missouri’s governor is saying he doesn’t want that.  The Republican lawmakers saying, basically, “Stay off our lawns.”  Can you say who is doing the door knocking and where?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, let me first say that this has been ongoing since April, and the best people to talk about vaccinations are local, trusted messengers: doctors, faith leaders, community leaders —

Do you have something, April, you want to share with the group?  (Laughs.)  Okay.

So, those are the people who are the trusted messengers around the country.  And we believe that we need to empower these individuals to continue to work in communities to make sure people know that these vaccines are safe, that they can save lives.  And so these are grassroots voices across the country. 

They are not members of the government.  They are not federal government employees.  They are volunteers.  They are clergy.  They are trusted voices in communities who are playing this role and door knocking. 

And this is one of the tactics that we’ve used over the last couple of months, but we’ve seen — so, it’s not the only factor — but I would say that we’ve seen, in some states — Alabama: the adult vaccination rate increased by 3.9 percent; 149,000 additional adults got their first dose in June.

In Florida, the adult vaccination rate increased by 4.4 — 4.4 percent.  In Georgia, the adult vaccination rate increased by 3.5 percent. 

So, in our view, this is a — this is a way to engage and empower local activists, trusted members of the community.

Q    So, the follow-up would be: Is it working?  And who are — who are these volunteers reaching other than, say, shut-ins?  Because people don’t even have to get off their couches to see who’s at their door these days. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, that’s fair — depending on the technology in your house, I guess, I suppose.  But I think what’s important for people to know — and I appreciate you asking the question — is that the federal government does not have a database of who’s been vaccinated.  That is not our role.  We don’t maintain a database along those lines, and we have no plans to.

We do know where there are rates of vaccination across the country, and we know — as I just listed in some of the data — that there are tactics that are powerful and impactful. 

And so, I will say, the thing that is a bit frustrating to us is that when — when people are critical of these tactics, it’s really a disservice to the country and to the doctors, faith leaders, community leaders, and others who are working to get people vaccinated.  This is about saving lives and ending this pandemic. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Was that me? 

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, go ahead, Yamiche.  Yeah, go ahead.  I’m sorry.  And then I’ll go to you, right in front of her.  Go ahead, Yamiche.

Q    So my — I have two questions.  The first is: You’ve said over and over again that the United States believes elections should happen in Haiti this year.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    People in Haiti are so scared they can’t leave their homes; they can’t go to the grocery store.  How does the United States think elections can happen when people are too afraid to even go to their front doors? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, Yamiche, first, we understand and see the trauma that obviously the horrific killing of just thirty- —

 Q    It’s happening for months.  So, yes?

MS. PSAKI:  I understand that.  I didn’t say anything otherwise.  But I’m saying what’s happened over the last 36 hours.  We, again, stand ready to provide support, provide assistance in any way that is formally requested by the government there. 

We’re — we’re looking forward to hearing from them on what they would request and how we can help them through this period of time.  And we called for an election this year — or we’re continuing to call for one because we feel that supporting democratic institutions, the democratic process, is something that would be in the interest of the people of Haiti.  That’s why we’re advocating for it. 

We stand by to provide assistance, to provide help in any way possible, as we long have, even before yesterday.

Q    And the people of Haiti, including human rights activists, clergy members on the ground, they’ve been saying over and over again for months now that elections aren’t possible.  I’ve talked to people specifically who say that they’re disappointed in the President’s stance on Haiti, that they see him as continuing failed policies that go back to his predecessor, former President Trump. 

What’s the President’s response to Haitians who say they are disappointed in him and they don’t think that he’s really listening to their cries, which are saying that elections cannot happen? 

MS. PSAKI:  I would say that the message to the people of Haiti is: We stand with you.  We want to provide assistance, whether that is assistance requested by the government or assistance that is needed for the people of the country to prosper in the future.  And that is the President’s view. 

Go ahead.

Q    Is the President —

Q    Jen —

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.  We’re going to have to keep going.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, right now, on Haiti — right now —

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, I’m sorry.  I’ll come back to you, I apologize.  Go ahead. 

Q    Yeah, right now there are two politicians who are claiming, in Haiti, the role of prime minister: Claude Joseph and Ariel Henry.  How does the U.S. think that this impasse should be resolved?  And are you worried that it could lead to further instability? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, we continue to support Haiti’s democratic institutions.  And we have been in touch with the acting prime minister, and we echo his call for calm.  But I would again reiterate that’s one of the reasons we have called for elections this year, and we believe that they should proceed. 

Of course, we are worried about and closely monitoring the security situation, the stability in Haiti, and understand that — even before yesterday, but certainly as a result of yesterday — that is even more of a concern for the people who are living in the country. 

Q    But right now, you are not backing any one of the two?

MS. PSAKI:  We are calling — we support the institutions, and we are continuing to call for elections this year.

Go ahead, Monica.

Q    Jen, on voting rights: The President indicated he may tour the nation and talk about that, give a major speech on the topic.  That hasn’t happened yet.  Should we expect it still to take place?  Or what can you tell us about that? 

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, I would say, first, that the President felt it was important to meet directly with civil rights leaders and talk to them about how we can work together to continue to push for federal legislation, continue to use every lever in the federal government to make voting more accessible across the country. But certainly, he conveyed he wants to speak to the country about voting rights and how he’s going to address it moving forward.

I don’t have any scheduling updates for you today, but he certainly plans to continue — continues to plan to do that, I should say.

Q    That’s still the plan.  Okay.

MS. PSAKI:  Yep. 

Q    Jen —

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, I’m sorry.  Go ahead, go ahead.  I apologize.  Thank you. 

Q    Thank you.  There are hurt feelings among government officials in Taipei after the White House COVID team posted and then deleted a tweet that had an image of Taiwan’s flag along those of other nations getting vaccine doses from the United States.  Was this tweet a mistake in the first place?  And if not, then why was the tweet deleted? 

MS. PSAKI:  So, this was an honest mistake that was made by the team handling graphics and social media, and should not in any way be viewed as a shift in official U.S. policy.  When we recognized the mistake, we removed the tweet.  So we did exactly as you said.

We remain committed to our One-China Policy based on the Taiwan Relations Act, the three joint communiqués, and the six assurances.

Go ahead, in the middle.  Go ahead, Eugene.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  It seems pretty clear on —

MS. PSAKI:  And you just got engaged, I think. 

Q    I did.

MS. PSAKI:  Random aside.  But congratulations.  (Applause.)  Yes.  We’re just a lot of news you can use in here.  (Laughter.)

Q    It seems pretty clear that, on voting rights, a legislative fix isn’t going to happen, right?  Like, the Republicans have made it clear they’re probably not going to get on board; you’re not going to get 10 votes.  And the President has talked about being open to filibuster reform if it’s used, kind of, too much.  And, I guess, advocates keep asking us to ask you guys: What does that look like?  Is there a time period?  Because we’re — they feel like they’re running out of time, that they’re not seeing a lot of urgency on the President’s part. 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say the President is meeting with civil rights leaders today because he feels there is urgency on determining how we can most effectively work together to move voting rights forward — access to voting rights, I guess I should say, forward. 

And he’s an optimist by nature; otherwise, he wouldn’t be President of the United States.  So he continues to believe that there should be a pathway forward for federal legislation.  He did say, as you just quoted, he has made comments in that regard.  And certainly obstruction and the fact that there is an unwillingness to move forward in making voting more accessible to people across the country is something that he’s mindful of and he believes and has said — and we have said before — could change the conversation in the Senate. 

We’ll see what happens, but he will continue to press for federal legislation moving forward. 

Q    (Inaudible) one more.

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, yeah, go ahead.

Q    I’ve talked to Reverend Sharpton quite a bit, and one thing that he is really interested in seeing and hearing from the President is a carve-out for voting rights and police reform for the filibuster.  Is that something that the White House is going to be pushing for?  Is the President calling Joe Manchin and other holdouts on filibuster reform?

MS. PSAKI:  The President’s position hasn’t changed.  We certainly understand the position of Reverend Sharpton and others.  And the President, though, shares their desire, commitment, interest in moving forward on voting rights legislation and moving forward on initiatives across the country that can help make voting more accessible to people across the country.  I’m sure they will have a robust discussion today.

Go ahead.

Q    I have a question about the executive order —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — on non-compete mandates. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yep.

Q    Businesses use those mandates because it helps protect their investment in employees; it also helps protect their intellectual property.  So will there be any kind of carve-out or anything in this executive order to protect businesses?  And what is the White House message to businesses that are concerned about this executive order?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m happy to follow up with our team and see if there’s anything specifically to your very good question. 

I will say that the overarching objective with the executive order is to make sure the President is encouraging competition in industries around the country.  It doesn’t sound right to most people that there are three shipping companies that are dominating the market, and upping and increasing costs for suppliers, small businesses, people across the country.  That doesn’t sound right or fair, because it isn’t.  So that’s what the President is trying to address.

In terms of the specific carve-out you’re asking about, I’m happy to ask our team if there’s anything more.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  Just on voting rights: Vice President Harris, as we speak, is announcing a $25 million expansion of the DNC’s —

MS. PSAKI:  Yep.

Q    — “I Will Vote” initiative.  This is just one of the examples that voter — that Democratic committees are launching in terms of voter protection.  Can you speak about the White House’s collaboration with these committees on the strategy?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, I referred specifically to the DNC because it’s most appropriate for them.  I know the Vice President is making this speech to — but to outline the specific details given they’re the political arm here, so they can get into all the specific details.

But it’s just an example of how every lever of the Democratic Party and the federal government is working and looking for ways that we can make voting more accessible around the country.  But they’d be the most appropriate entity to outline details. 

Q    But is the White House specifically involved?  Were they aware of this strategy?  I mean, what was the collaboration between the two?

MS. PSAKI:  Yes, we’re aware of it.  But again, they’re the political arm, so they’re the most appropriate body to outline details.

Go ahead. 

Q    Hi, Jen.  Thanks.  I wanted to ask you about the global tax negotiations.  I know that Secretary Yellen is supposed to be in Italy tomorrow about it.

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    Can the White House credibly guarantee to its counterparties in that agreement that you can get something through the Senate and the U.S. will actually be able to enact the legislation that the deal requires?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, that’s something we’ve proposed and we’re going to continue to press on.  And this agreement wouldn’t be the case — wouldn’t be happening without the leadership of the United States, of Secretary Yellen and others in the government.  So certainly, it is very much our desire, our interest, and our commitment to deliver on that promise. 

I think you’re going to have to gather in a moment here.  Go ahead.  One more.  One more. 

Q    Thank you, Jen.  You may have seen yesterday the former President filed a class-action lawsuit against three social media companies, and one of the targets as part of that lawsuit is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  He would like to see that particular aspect of the law ruled unconstitutional.

In January of last year, Joe Biden, when he was running for President, spoke to the New York Times, and he said Section 230 should be revoked — revoked immediately.  Does he stand by the comments that he made to the New York Times last year?

MS. PSAKI:  I have not spoken with him about Section 230.  I remember those comments, and I remember the New York Times article.  I’m happy to venture to do exactly that. 

I will say that, as it relates to these lawsuits, it’s certainly a decision for the platforms to make.  I think it’s safe to say that the President spends a lot less time obsessing over social media than the former President. 

With that, thank you, everyone.  Happy birthday, Steve!

1:29 P.M. EDT

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