James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:43 P.M. EDT

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  All right.  So I have a special guest with me today.  Joining us in the briefing room is actress and multiplatinum recording singer/songwriter, Olivia Rodrigo, who traversed red lights and stop signs to see us.  If you know her music, you’ll get that dad joke there.  And we just want to thank you for using your platform and your voice for elevating the important issue of young people getting vaccinated. 

She’s here today to meet with the President and Dr. Fauci later this afternoon, but she agreed to come say a quick hello to all of you first. 

With that, I’ll turn it over to you, Olivia. 

MS. RODRIGO:  Hi.  First, I want to say I am beyond honored and humbled to be here today to help spread the message about the importance of youth vaccination.  I’m in awe of the work President Biden and Dr. Fauci have done, and was happy to help lend my support to this important initiative. 

It’s important to have conversations with friends and family members, encouraging all communities to get vaccinated, and actually get to a vaccination site, which you can do more easily than ever before, given how many sites we have and how easy it is to find them at Vaccines.gov. 

Thank you, Jen, for having me today.  And thank you all for helping share this important message.  It’s so appreciated it.  Thank you. 

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  Thank you, Olivia, so much for joining us.  Good luck with your great day. 

Okay.  A couple of other items — a little less exciting, also very important — for all of you.  This afternoon, the President will be joined by a bipartisan group of governors and mayors from around the country, representing communities from Vermont to Arizona, to discuss the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and his Build Back Better agenda. 

The framework has received support from across the political spectrum, including, yesterday, from a bipartisan group of 369 mayors from all 50 states and a letter organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the bipartisan leadership of the National Governors Association, and a coalition of 20 leading business and labor groups — labor groups.

During the meeting, the President will underscore the broad, bipartisan sup- — public support for generational investments in our economy and middle class that will create millions of jobs and help us outcompete the rest of the world in the 21st century. 

He’ll also note some of the areas where Democrats and Republicans were able to come together in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, including money to remove lead pipes, expand universal access to high-speed Internet, boost transit options, and rebuild roads and bridges. 

He’ll also thank the leaders for their work on a range of important issues across the country and reiterate his commitment to being a partner to them moving forward. 

Today — this is a separate announcement — we’ll begin shipping 1.5 million doses of Moderna to Sri Lanka — our first doses to this country.  We’ll be shipping more doses throughout the week.  And as always, I will share updates with you as those are available.

We announced this in our week ahead, but just to give you guys a little bit more context on the APEC meeting that the President will be participating in remotely on Friday: He will be participating in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation — or APEC — Leaders’ Virtual Retreat, where leaders will discuss ending the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting the global economic recovery, hosted by the Prime Minister — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand. 

His participation demonstrates U.S. leadership in the Indo -Pacific region and his commitment — the United States’ commitment to multilateral institutions.  As the President’s first engagement with many of the APEC leaders, particularly those in Southeast Asia, he will also emphasize the importance he places on the region, as well as his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.  And he’ll provide an update to leaders on what the United States is doing to serve as an arsenal of vaccines for the region and to support all those suffering from COVID. 

Finally, he’ll also advance an economic agenda that promotes our shared prosperity, leverages the economic potential in the region, and builds inclusive and resilient economies.

Last piece for all of you: Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that more than 2 million people have signed up for health coverage during the Biden-Harris administration’s special enrollment period, which opened on February 15th.  Americans have until August 15th to go to Healthcare.gov, sign up for coverage, and take advantage of the lower premiums made possible by the American Rescue Plan.

Today’s announcement demonstrates the need to expand access to affordable healthcare, which is why the President is proposing to extend the Rescue Plan’s premium subsidies and lower the cost of healthcare for Americans across the country.

With that, Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  On the topic of youth vaccinations: Tennessee’s former top vaccination official says the state has stopped all outreach to minors on vaccinations — not just COVID-19 vaccinations — because of the political pressure.  Does the White House, the President have a response to that?  And is there something the White House can do to fill the gap there?

MS. PSAKI:  First of all, thank you for the question, Zeke. We, of course, have seen the reporting and coverage of this iss- — this issue.  We’re not going to comment specifically on a personnel step. 

But let me take it — this opportunity to say that the Delta variant poses a threat to Americans of all ages.  We continue to see young people hit by the virus as we vaccinated so many of the — our elderly and most vulnerable.  And we’ve been crystal clear that we stand against any effort that would politicize our country’s pandemic response and recovery from COVID-19.

So even as we’ve seen, unfortunately, personnel decisions made in other parts of the country as well over the past several months along these lines, we’re going to continue to work with partners in states like Tennessee and in states across the country to ensure that we are pushing back against misinformation; that we are conveying accurately that the vast majority — 99.5 percent of people — who are going to hospitals are not vaccinated; and ensuring we’re using every tool at our disposal. 

I’ll also note for you that, this week, the th- — our Surgeon General — tomorrow, actually — he’s going to come to the briefing room tomorrow to talk about — he will discuss health and misinformation in the United States, as well as our efforts to work with communities and get out information about COVID-19 vaccines.

Q    On a different subject: We’ve seen the Taliban continue make gains in Afghanistan.  And we saw the administration announced earlier about SIV visas.  How large is the pop- — the universe of people who would qualify for these visas?  And does the White House believe that there’s enough in — within the statutory cap right now in that program for all those who helped the United States in Afghanistan to come to the U.S?  Does Congress need to do more to lift that cap?  What is the timetable for, sort of, getting everyone in Afghanistan who wants to leave and come to the U.S. out of Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, you had a couple of questions in there, so let me try to address all of them.  First, we’re working closely with Congress to change the authorization legislation so that we can streamline the process of approving these visas.  Obviously, we have a number of authorities.  We want to make sure we’re working to expedite and work as efficiently as possible. 

What we announced today also is that we are launching what we are calling “Operation Allies Refuge” to support relocation flights for interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have supported the United States and our partners in Afghanistan, and are in the SIV application pipeline.

In terms of the specific numbers, I’m not going to be able to provide those to you for operational and security reasons, but I can confirm that flights out of Afghanistan for SIV applicants who are already in the pipeline will begin in the last week of July and will continue.  And our objective is to get individuals who are eligible relocated out of the country in advance of the removal — of the withdrawal of troops at the end of August.

Q    And just on a different topic: An American journalist, Danny Fenster, has been in prison in Myanmar for months now.  His family has raised considerable alarm about his health situation — that he’s showing signs of a potential COVID-19 exposure and is not getting treatment there.  Has the President been briefed on his condition?  And what has the White House engagement been to try to get him free and returned to United States?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, we take the detainment of individuals — Americans and journalists — around the world very seriously, and we work through a range of channels to raise concerns.  Obviously, the situation on the ground in Myanmar is quite concerning and quite challenging.  But we do work with international partners to raise issues, including these, through every channel that we have at our disposal.

I would say the — the most appropriate channel to raise specific issues and to move forward on action is through the State Department, given their diplomatic role in the world.  But in terms of the President’s awareness, he certainly is kept abreast of the detainment of individuals around the world.  I don’t have any update on his awareness of this particular case.

Go ahead.

Q    The compromise — the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.  Is the President satisfied with the level of funding?  Is he happy with it?  Is he — does it fund his priorities?

MS. PSAKI:  So, Steve, I would say first that, last night, when the agreement was announced by the Budget Committee — which, again, we acknowledge is just a step in the process.  Now it needs to move forward and obviously needs support of all Democrats in order to move it forward. 

That’s one of the reasons that the President is up on Capitol Hill as we speak — or headed up to Capitol Hill if he hasn’t departed yet, I should say — as we speak.  Because we recognize that that’s the next natural step in the process in moving his agenda forward. 

But as Senator Sanders said last night, “This is the most significant piece of legislation passed since the Great Depression.  I’m delighted to be a part of helping to put it together.”  We agree with that. 

What we’ve seen come out as the current framework is reflective of the President’s priorities, both what was in his budget, what was in his American Families Plan, and also what was what — what were the components that were left out of — out of the bipartisan agreement that was in the American Jobs Plan.

We certainly recognize there are additional steps to come, as we said.  That’s why he’s up on the Hill.  And we feel this is working exactly as it should: The President of the United States proposes a bold agenda, as he did back in March; Congress works out a path forward, works out an agreement on where things look.  That’s what’s happening now. 

Now he’s going to engage, he’s going to advocate with members, he’s going to advocate with the American people and communicate and sell the package about why it needs to move forward.  So that’s exactly what’s happening.

Q    And then, secondly, on Cuba: What is the status of the review of the Trump-era policy?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  So, I would say, Steve, that — and you and others who’ve covered this certainly know that, one, first, I will confirm, of course, we’re still reviewing our Cuba policy with an eye toward its impact on the political and economic wellbeing of the Cuban people.  The nature of the kinds of changes that were made by the previous administration, like redesignated — redesignating Cuba as a state sponsor of terror, carries significant statutory restrictions.  We’ve been running a thorough policy process on these and other issues with support for democracy and human rights always at the core of our work.

Now there’s no question that the protests over the weekend and the events of the last several days are significant event — significant events.  And it was the largest protest we’ve seen in Cuba in a long time.  That will obviously have an impact on how we proceed.  So, we will see how things develop in the days ahead and develop our policy responses accordingly.  We don’t want to do it as one-offs.  We want to look at it, as we have been, with a comprehensive approach in mind.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Are there must-haves — what are the must-haves for the President in this reconciliation package as it moves forward?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m not going to negotiate further from here — or at all from here.  Obviously, as I note — as I just noted, Senator Sanders, the Chairman of the Budget Committee, noted the historic nature of this package that has been agreed to by the Budget Committee.  We agree with that.

This package currently represents and is aligned with the President’s priorities, including what was — been outlined in his budget — which is quite public, out in a blueprint — as well as the American Families Plan, which is — includes key components of investing in our workforce, in childcare, and in the next generation.

We also understand that this is a process.  There are steps to go.  He is going to continue to advocate.  He is going to continue to talk with, engage with members just as he is today.  And we know that there can be changes as things move forward.  But it is certainly aligned with the priorities he’s outlined publicly.

Q    So Senator Padea saying that it’s his “understanding” — I want to get this right — “and expectation” that a pathway to citizenship would be included in this package.  He says it could be just a matter of months if all the necessary steps are taken.  Is that a correct assessment from this White House’s point of view?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, we have said in the past that we would — we certainly want to see an immigration bill passed through Congress.  There are a range of mechanisms to do that.  We will let Congress determine how they should — how they want to move that forward.  And certainly there are a number of advocates — advocates, in terms of people who are elected officials who support that as well. 

But in terms of additional contents of what would be in the package, I would refer you to the Senate.

Q    But is this one of those mechanisms that the White House would support?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Does the White House have a reaction to the charges that were filed against Iranian nationals, including the Iranian intelligence officials for a plot to kidnap an activist on U.S. soil?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  First off, this is a law enforcement matter, of course.  Hence, the announcement came out of there.  And we’re not going to weigh in on the specific allegations in the indictment.

Overall, though, we categorically condemn Iran’s dangerous and despicable reported plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.  We will forcefully defend U.S. citizens and U.S. interests.  That includes law enforcement actions like the one announced yesterday, as well as the actions the President has taken to defend U.S. forces in the region from Iranian-backed militant groups.  It also includes our diplomatic effort to constrain Iran’s nuclear program — one of our most important and urgent actions.

But it’s — it’s actions to attempt to silence the voices of those peacefully working to address the situation, both inside of Iran and outside of Iran, that are appalling.  We’ll continue to speak out against that, and obviously law enforcement authorities will take appropriate steps.

Q    And what kind of impact, if any, will this have on Iranian nuclear talks?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, it still remains we are — we have never assessed Iran to be a good actor in the world, not just by this — this plot to kidnap a U.S. — a person who is residing in the U.S., but their activities in the region, which we have had great concern about and the President has taken retaliatory actions for.

But at the same time, we still see it in U.S. interests and in our national interests, to engage in ongoing discussions so that we have — can have greater visibility into Iran’s path to acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

So, we will continue to pursue those talks, pursue the diplomatic path forward, which we think is in our interests and continues to be constructive.

Q    And then, on another topic: The President gave a very impassioned speech yesterday about voting rights, calling on Congress to pass sweeping voting rights legislation, but the political reality there remains the same, which is that the Senate is unlikely to pass anything unless the filibuster rules are changed.  Is he giving Congress a certain amount of time, a window to act before he changes his position on the filibuster?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I think what you saw — heard the President deliver yesterday — and what many people on the outside heard — was an impassioned case for why voting is a fundamental right in this country, and why we should use every lever at our disposal to advocate for it and ensure people have access.

One of those is certainly legislation — something he will continue to push for and advocate for.  And he’s asked his Vice President, and she has agreed, to serve as the point person on moving that forward.

We do hard things.  We don’t accept that there isn’t a path forward.  We’re going to continue to engage with leaders in Congress about not just the For the People Act, but also the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, something — voting rights has been supported in a bipartisan manner quite a bit in the past.

In terms of the filibuster, it is a legislative procedural process.  That is up to the Senate to determine the path forward on.  And I will leave it all to you to determine what the vote count and the whip count is there.  But there is not the majority to support that.  And we — I know we’ve focused on one or two, but it’s certainly more than that, of individuals who oppose changes to the filibuster because of the history.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  About voting rights and these Texas lawmakers who have come to Washington.  Do you know any — of any examples from his 36 years in the Senate that Joe Biden just hopped on a train and left town to avoid a vote that he knew he was going to lose?

MS. PSAKI:  (Laughs.)  Welcome back.  (Laughter.)  Look, I think that the President’s view is that these Texas legislators were making a statement through action in opposition to efforts in their state to oppose restrictions on people’s fundamental rights and their rights to vote in their state.  That is why they departed. 

The Pre- — the Vice President met with these legislators yesterday, and the Vice President — and the President, I should say, certainly applauds their actions and their outspoken opposition to states — to efforts to put in place restrictive measures in their state.

Q    And maybe it is funny to think about it that way, but the President is talking about this as the most serious assault on democracy’s since the Civil War.

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think anything about — I don’t think anything about this is funny.  I think what is important to note, though, here is that there are 28 states, including Texas, where there are laws in place or in process to make it harder to vote.  And it requires bold action, it requires bold voices to speak out against that and make sure people understand their rights.  That’s exactly what’s happening here.

Q    So does the candidate — who’s now President — who told people he was going — he knew how to make deals with Republicans — he’s meeting with Republicans today — does he think that the best way to prevent something bad from happening — that he thinks is bad — from happening in Texas is for these lawmakers to be hiding out in a different state or for them to go back and sit down at the table?

MS. PSAKI:  The President fundamentally believes you should work together in areas where you can find agreement, as he is on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that is going to help rebuild roads and rails and bridges around our country, and also that you should be outspoken where you have concerns about affronts to democracy.  That’s what he did yesterday, and that’s what these legislators are doing now.

Q    And then just quickly on Cuba: DHS Secretary Mayorkas is warning people there, “If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States” — why is that?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I think it’s important to understand the context of what the Secretary was conveying yesterday, which is just that it is still the case that it is not — the way to come to the United States is not through — through processes of trying to come to the border without going through an asylum process or coming by sea without going through an asylum application process. 

There are certainly programs that — through which that some of them have been — have not been reinstated, I should say, that were in place — put in place by the Trump administration that are being reviewed, as he said yesterday.  That would apply to the individuals and people of Haiti and the people of Cuba as well. 

Those have not been reinstated.  They’re being reviewed.  That’s what the Secretary said yesterday.  What he was reiterating is that this is not the time to travel irregularly.  It’s dangerous.  People can lose their lives, as they have in the past.

Q    And as the administration tries to figure out the root causes of migration to the country, don’t we know that the reason people want to leave Cuba is because they don’t like communism?

MS. PSAKI:  We —

Q    And so, as you’re trying to figure out, like, what the processes are for these people who want to leave Cuba, is —

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m not sure what your question is. 

Q    You guys have spent a lot of time —

MS. PSAKI:  Why are people leaving Cuba?  Or what is the process for them getting here?  I can explain either of them, but you tell me.

Q    Sure.  Yeah.  Do you think that people are leaving Cuba because they don’t like communism?

MS. PSAKI:  I think we’ve been pretty clear that we think people are leaving Cuba — or not — leaving Cuba or protesting in the streets, as well, because they are opposed to the oppression, to the mismanagement of the government in the country.  And we certainly support their right to protest.  We support their efforts to speak out against their treatment in Cuba.

I will say, separately, an important question is also: What happens when people are seeking protection or what happens when they are attempting to flee?  In the past, as I noted, we’ve had several humanitarian programs, such as Family Reunification Parole Programs for both Haiti and Cuba.  Those were policies or pol- — processes that were in place prior to the Trump administration. 

Though have not — those have not been turned back on, as Secretary Mayorkas said yesterday.  He also said we’re assessing the status of those parole programs.  Haitian and Cuban nationals in the United States with a fear of return for — for — to their home countries may be eligible for protection, such as asylum, under U.S. law.  Haitian nationals already in the United States may be eligible for Temporary Protected Status. 

But migrants interdicted in the Caribbean, who manifested in fear, are referred to USCIS for protection screening.  That’s what happens.  Those who do not manifest in fear or who are not found to have a credible fear following the screening are repatriated to their country of origin.  Those found to have a well-founded fear of persecution or torture are not brought to the United States; they are referred to a third country for resettlement. 

I’m sharing all of that with you so people understand what the process is when they’re trying to make what a treacherous journey is and a challenging journey where people can lose their lives. 

But certainly, we have said many times — and I will reiterate here — that we support not — not just the — the role of peace — of protest and peaceful protest.  We stand with the Cuban people in their call for pre- — freedom from both the pandemic and from decades of oppression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. 

Go ahead.

Q    I was hoping you could tell us more about Olivia Rodrigo’s visit here today.  (Laughter.)  What was the intended target of the message?  When will we see the video that we believe she made?  And — just more about the strategy of having her here. 

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, she’s meeting with the President and Dr. Fauci later this afternoon.  And I — in terms of when a video product will go out, I’ll have to check on that and see what the editing process looks like.  You all may have a better sense of that than I may. 

But she’s here because we recognize and understand — she offered to come, of course, so that is an important component of it — that we need to use — we need to reach people, meet people where they are.  And speaking to young people — people who are under the age of 18 — many of whom, as we’ve seen across the country, are huge Olivia Rodrigo fans; hearing from her that — that getting vaccinated is a way to keep yourself safe, a way to ensure you can see your friends, a way you can ensure you can go to concerts, a way you can ensure that you can live a healthy life — and is — is an important part of what we’re trying to do here.  So, she’s playing an important role in that. 

In terms of when the video is, I’m not sure.  But I will say, not every 18-year-old uses their time to come do this, so we appreciate her willingness to.

Q    In other news of popular interest, there’s a rally today at the Lincoln Memorial.  And I — this follows on a question I asked you a couple weeks ago about the White House’s position on conservatorships.  Have — has there been a decision on that here as to whether the President feels there’s a federal role in governing these relationships? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have anything new on that for you.  Understand the interest and the question.

Go ahead.

Q    Just to return to Cuba, will we hear from the President this week?  He said the other day that he would speak out on that.  And secondly, is it — is his position still that he feels that the Trump policies were a failure, didn’t effect change?  Is that still his policy? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, I would say: One, in terms of whether you’ll hear from him, he says that often, as you know. And what he means is he speaks out publicly nearly every day at events; sometimes you all ask questions.  If there’s an update to provide on what we’re doing, on what our policies are, certainly he’ll provide that.  Is there a planned speech or trip?  Not at this time.

In terms of our policies: Again, I would say, Alex, that we are continuing to review our policies.  It’s been an ongoing process to review the policies that were put in place by the prior administration. 

We also recognize that this was a significant event over the last couple of days, the largest protest in a long time that we saw in Cuba — people speaking out — Cuban people speaking out, calling for freedom from both the pandemic and from decades of repression.  That’s significant.  And, of course, that will play a role as we consider and factor in what our policies will be moving forward.

I would also note, though, that we will do that through the prism of what will help the people of Cuba, not what will help pad the pockets of the regime.  And that is challenging circumstance, given the control of the of the regime currently on the people. 

Q    Does President Biden endorse Senator Schumer’s bill on marijuana?

MS. PSAKI:  I’ve spoken in the past about the President’s views on marijuana.  Nothing has changed.  There’s no new endorsements of legislation to report today. 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead. 

Q    Just for clarity, housekeeping: Did you — maybe I missed it — will the President meet with the Texas Democratic legislators?  And if so, when? 

MS. PSAKI:  The President asked the Vice President to meet with the legislatures — legislators yesterday.  She was happy to do that.  She did that.  He supports, of course, their voicing of their strong views. 

Q    He still plans to meet with them?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any int- — any plans to preview for you at this point in time.

Q    And has he spoken to them in any form — by phone?  Did he call into that at some point when the media left?

MS. PSAKI:  He did not.

Q    Okay.  Let me ask you, if I can, about a couple other questions — one as it relates to the dark websites that are linked to REvil.  We saw that the ransomware gang REvil — those websites were no longer operating as of yesterday.  Is the U.S. behind the targeted attacks on REvil or the computer servers that have hosted those ransomware attacks?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have anything more for you on that.

Q    Do — is there any indication that they — REvil — has adapted to preempt a possible attack?

MS. PSAKI:  We just don’t have anything more for you on REvil’s absence currently from the environment.

Q    Let me see if there’s something else you can answer then, perhaps.  On Afghanistan: We know that Operation Allies Refuge and the announcement that this is going to begin for those who are already in the pipeline, as they describe it, in the last week of July — they can’t talk, it said in the note that was provided by a senior White House official — they wouldn’t say anything more specifically about the timing of it, but where are these Afghan nationals and their families?  Where will they be going?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, Peter, for operational and security purposes for the individuals that were relocating, we’re not going to be providing details of that at this time.  I don’t foresee that necessarily changing.  Once it is in a place where their security is — is affirmed, then we will, of course, provide information, as we have on the timing, as we have on the — what the operation looks like.

Q    Sure.  So on that basis then, as a security issue then, how many Afghan nationals and family members does the U.S. assess have been killed in the course of the last several months in Afghanistan, in the absence of their departure from that country so far?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any assessment of that, Peter.  I would say that the reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals.  We want to make sure we recognize and value the role they’ve played over the last several years. 

We are working on several fronts here — both working with Congress, using our authorities — relocating individuals who have played roles as translators and others supporting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.  So that should be seen as significant.

I would also note, because I didn’t note it earlier, that we have Ambassador Tracey Jacobson — a three-time Chief of Mission in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kosovo — is leading the State Department coordination unit that will deliver on the President’s commitment under Operation Allies Refuge. 

The unit also includes representatives from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.  Russ Travers, who’s Department of Homeland Security Advisor — the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center is coordinating the interagency policy process on the operation as well.

Q    And the Homeland Security Advisor is traveling in Uzbekistan — is that something you (inaudible)?  Or —

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, I — I can.  I cer- — she is. 

Q    She has or she is?

MS. PSAKI:  She is — let’s see — she is en route or she is there.  She is, I believe, there now.  She’s leading a U.S. delegation to a high-level international conver- — conference.  They’re going to be discussing the promotion of prosperity, security, regional connectivity.  While she’s there, obviously, security in Afghanistan and the region and all of our initiatives and priorities will be a part of the discussion.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  On the $3.5 trillion package that was unveiled last night: How does the President view that topline number?  There’s some in the party that balked at higher spending, of course.  Or is it too low?  How does the President kind of view that number right now?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, as I said a little bit earlier, the step forward, announced last night, is a significant step forward, I should say, in our view and the President’s view.  And we recognize there’s still a path forward, steps forward that need to be taken.  Because while it — while this was an important step in the — in the committee, we obviously need every member of the Democratic Caucus to support this endeavor moving forward. 

But I’d also note that, as Senator Sanders said last night, “This is the most significant piece of legislation passed since the Great Depression, and I’m delighted to be part of ha- — of help — having helped put it together.” 

So, yesterday was a major breakthrough for middle-class families, in the President’s view.

Q    And then, on voting rights, civil rights leaders and activists have characterized the President’s reluctance to mention a filibuster as a lack of urgency on the issue.  I mean, what do you say to those critics that say that’s a lack of urgency that he hasn’t yet pushed senators to support abandoning or modifying the filibuster to get this legislation passed?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would first that the President delivered a major speech yesterday on voting rights — which received a great deal of attention and many accolades from a lot of supporters/advocates out there in the country as well — because he wants to stand with them and is committed to standing with proponents of access to voting rights across the country in this fight and this effort moving forward. 

He also talked in his speech, as you know, about not just his commitment to the For the People Act, but also about what levers from the federal government he will continue to use — whether it was the executive order he signed into law just a few months ago or steps the Department of Justice are also taking.  But this is going to be a cause of his presidency.  The fact that he delivered a speech yesterday elevating the issue, educating people on the issue, making sure people understood their rights should be seen as representative of his commitment.

Q    Jen, a follow-up on that please, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Go ahead.  Well, hold on.  I’ll come — oh, go ahead. 

Q    And you’ve gotten close to this, but I want to make sure I’m clear.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.

Q    The President going to this lunch —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — should we take that as an indication that you don’t think you have all 50 Democrats signed on to this framework?

MS. PSAKI:  I would say, as you all know, if there were enough votes for each of these priorities, there would be a vote and it would have happened.  So, I will say that he’s headed up to the Hill because it’s the next natural step. 

And again, as I said earlier, he knows that, as President, you lay out a bold agenda, or certainly that’s your objective; members of Congress negotiate the details; and then it’s his role to continue to engage in selling both packages to members and the Senate and to the public. 

And I think you can expect you’re going to see him doing that until both pieces of legislation are passed.  So, going back home to the Senate — where he spent 36 years — and speaking with, engaging with Democrats in the Senate, answering their questions is certainly a part of that effort of selling the package.

Q    I have a sequencing question related to that, which is: The — Speaker Pelosi had said that the — that part two needs to pass in order for the part one bipartisan infrastructure thing to be taken up in the House.  I’m wondering if it is the White House’s view that this framework — if this budget resolution were to pass the Senate, is that then enough for the House to take up the bipartisan infrastructure package? Or is that not enough?

MS. PSAKI:  The President expects to sign both pieces of legislation into law.  They’re on a dual track, as he long said they would be on, and we’re going to leave it to leaders in the Senate and House to determine the sequencing. 

Q    Jen —

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    Jen, one more crack on the filibuster thing. 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    But the Vice President yesterday, when she was asked about changing it to have a carveout for voting rights, said, “I’m certainly having conversations with folks.” 

Is the President also having conversations?  Or is he sort of yielding completely on the idea of changing the filibuster, given that yesterday he compared the current state of democracy as in peril, comparing it to the Civil War?  So w- — is he talking to people about this legislative tool that could be changed?  Is he having conversations? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, of course, the President and Vice President have conversations about a range of issues, including members who raise concerns — or their advocacy for changing filibuster rules.  Some also advocate against, as you well know. 

But what the Vice President was acknowledging was that some members have raised filibuster reform with her — as won’t surprise any of you — and members have also raised it with the President.  But they’ve raised it on different sides as well.  And ultimately, it’s a legislative process, one that the President is — no longer gets a vote on.  It’s up to them to vote on what their processes will be moving forward.

Q    But as he is having conversations, is he advocating any particular way?  Is he expressing an opinion to — in those conversations?

MS. PSAKI:  Again, they both heard from members who have points of view on the future of the filibuster, as won’t surprise any of you.  That is what the Vice President was referring to.  And the President also has, of course, been a part of those conversations.  But his position, I’ve stated to all of you publicly, is what his position is privately as well.

Did you have a question, Kaitlan, or no?

Q    Yes, I do.  (Laughs.) 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    I’m not just here for fun.  (Laughs.)  I’m just kidding.

MS. PSAKI:  No, I know.  But I didn’t — I didn’t know.  You didn’t raise your hand.  I didn’t want to skip you. 

Q    Thank you very much.  He met with Senator Sanders earlier this week, who wanted this $3.5 trillion number, initially, to be a lot higher than it is.  There are other moderate members who wanted it to be a lot lower than it is.  So, does he plan to meet with people like Senator Manchin on this, one-on-one, as well?

MS. PSAKI:  I expect the President will continue to be deeply engaged with a range of members — Senator Sanders, Senator Manchin, others in the Senate — as they work to move this legislation forward.  And it is certainly a significant step, a big breakthrough last night in the agreement that was announced. 

The President will be the first to tell you, though, that he knows there are a number of steps ahead, and there will be continuing discussions, negotiations.  There are components of this that could certainly change, but it was a big breakthrough — a big breakthrough for middle-class families.  And certainly, he would ech- — echo the comments made by Senator Sanders.

Q    And then on vaccine misinformation, Ron Klain, the Chief of Staff, said recently that it would be a policy decision whether or not the administration went after regulating companies, like Facebook, on things like vaccine misinformation.  So what is the administration’s stance on that?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we — we believe that all of us — social media companies, platforms where a lot of this misinformation travels — the media, state and local officials — it’s important for everybody to step up and spread the word about the vaccines. 

There’s a report that will be coming out that, again, our Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will be coming to the briefing room tomorrow to talk about.  And certainly, the pushback against disinformation — information that is, you know, literally a matter of life and death — is something that is going to be a continued focus of this administration.

You are right that, obviously, decisions to regulate or hold to account any platform would certainly be a policy decision.  But in the interim, we’re going to continue to call out disinformation and call out where that information travels.

Q    Does the President have plans to speak with Mark Zuckerberg at all about this? 

MS. PSAKI:  There’s no plans that I’m aware of.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  A group of senators is urging the President to postpone a pause in federal student loan payments until next March.  I’m just wondering: What is the President’s current thinking about the timeline for reinstating those payments?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, there’s a certain timeline, I think, that’s required because I think they expire in the fall, if I’m correct.  So, obviously, it would be in advance of that period of time, but I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of where he will land.  I want to give him the space to make a decision.

Q    And I have another question on climate: The EU, today, said it will impose a carbon border tax, which could affect U.S. imports, which could complicate the President’s plan to present, sort of, a unified front later this fall in Glasgow.  Is the administration concerned about how the carbon border tax will affect exports to Europe?

MS. PSAKI:  This is a very question that I suspect that someone would ask me about today.  And I actually did not talk to our team about it, so let me get something — I’m sure it’s of interest to others — and I’ll get back to you after the briefing.

Q    Okay, thanks.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  So, as we speak, outside, right now, there’s solidarity protests with the Cuban people right outside the fences of the White House.  We’ve been seeing this all across the country, here.  And Democratic lawmakers in South Florida have actually called on Biden to come down to Miami to give a speech.  You all are reviewing your policies, but is there a way that you believe — either to answer these calls — that you can more forcefully show support for the Cuban people in that way?  Or is there anything in the works?

MS. PSAKI:  Through a speech? 

Q    Yeah.  It — it’s been asked.  So —

MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly I understand that, but I would say that I think what is most important to the Cuban people is understanding that the United States stands with them and their call for freedom from both the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected — subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.

And also, I would just note that, again, it is a policy process that has been under review.  There were a number of policies that were put in place by the prior administration.  We want to do that in a comprehensive and not a one-off manner.  We want to do it through the prism of what is going to help the Cuban people directly and help incentivize a change in behavior, if that is possible. 

And certainly, the events, the protests, the reaction, the continued oppression of the Cuban people weighs in on our decision-making process.  But I don’t have any speech or visit to preview for you.

Q    And then — so then, on policy changes: On the campaign trail, Biden promised that he would reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.  Is that — can you give us a readout, maybe, on where that process has gone so far in these comprehensive reviews or —

MS. PSAKI:  There is, again, an ongoing review.  Of course, the events and the protests and the reaction and the continued oppression of the Cuban people will weigh in on our — will be a factor in the — our decision-making process.  But I don’t have anything to preview for you.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Can you give us a preview of the President’s Child Tax Credit event tomorrow?  What’s the message going to be?  Is he bringing real people to the White House to highlight this?  Just, what’s it going to look like?

MS. PSAKI:  Yes, that is our intention.  “Real people,” as we call them here.  (Laughter.)  I will say — I will say that there are tens of millions of families across the country who will benefit from the Child Tax Credit that has been extended thanks to the American Rescue Plan.  Also, it’s something that he has advocated for and will continue to push for.  And there’s broad support for, in Congress, extending further than that.

But tomorrow, we’re marking the fact that these checks — or these direct deposit payments — because we’re in 2021 — will start going out directly to people’s bank accounts.  We have seen projections that the Child Tax Credit, the implementation — or the extension of Child Tax Credit could reduce — could cut child poverty in half.  And this is just extra money that’s going into people’s bank accounts who need help the most. 

So, the President felt it was important to elevate this issue to make sure people understand this is a benefit that will help them as we still work to recover from the pandemic and the economic downturn.

Go ahead, April.

Q    Jen, yesterday, in Philadelphia, after the speech, Reverend Al Sharpton said it was a momentous speech.  He said the President talked on race, but what was missing was the word “filibuster” in what he was going to do.  Also, after the speech, we talked to NAACP President Derrick Johnson who said that he was concerned that there was no path forward and there was no sense of urgency. 

I’m going back to that other question, but giving you a little bit more specifics as to what people said.  Can you address that about the path forward, the filibuster, and the sense of urgency?  The President talked about equating this moment to the Civil War, but where was the urgency in moving it forward — the path forward — and also the issue of the filibuster that’s holding this whole thing up?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, April, I’d also say that the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center said that “President Biden accurately characterized the anti-democracy actions by state legislators and others following January 6th.”  And President Biden’s speech today, ultimately, “was a needed call to action for [this] multiracial coalition of democracy defenders” in this country to rise to the urgency of the moment. 

The president of UnidosUS said, “I commend the President for asserting the importance of voting rights, especially as we’re seeing numerous states enact voting rules that are restrictive and discriminatory for Black and brown communities.” 

The President pr- — delivered this speech yesterday because he knows that there is still not enough information out there, not enough empowerment, not enough engagement with people across the country about what their rights are, on what is happening in states across the country that is oppressing and silencing their right to have their voices heard.  That’s why he delivered the speech. 

We — part of our focus is continuing to press for the For the People Act — he will continue to do that — and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.  And he will stand with civil rights leaders, who were just here at the White House last week, to have a conversation about how they can work together to move this forward.  He’s also not going to wait on that. 

He — obviously, the Department of Justice has already took — take action in Georgia.  They will make decisions about taking action to fight against these oppressive laws around the country.  We’re continuing to implement the executive order.  We’re continuing to fund efforts around the country to educate and inform citizens.  So, he delivered the speech to make sure people knew what their rights are and to make sure people knew what he was doing to fight against efforts to oppress.

Q    So what about the pathway forward, though, from this administration?  What do you — I mean, you’re telling the coalition groups to go out and act.  The President said that yesterday.  But what is the path forward?  What is the formula that this administration has to making sure that H.R.1 is passed and then H.R.4 comes behind it — H.R.1 and S.1 are passed, and then H.R.4 moves forward?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I don’t have details on a legislative strategy to outline for you here.  We are going to continue to work with leaders in the Senate, leaders in the House, who, as you know, are huge advocates for moving these pieces of legislation forward.  And we’re going to continue to lift up and empower voices across the country to ensure that people understand — who have a vote — how important this is to citizens across the country. 

Q    One more question —

MS. PSAKI:  I got to keep going, April.  I’m sorry.  I got to keep going because I’m not — I’m going to run out of —

Q    (Cross-talk.)

MS. PSAKI:  I’m going to run out of time.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  A two-part question about why the President is up on the Hill right now.

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    The three and a half trillion-dollar price tag of the infrastructure proposals and the reconciliation bill with the human infrastructure elements to it may give pause to some Republicans who would otherwise support the so-called “traditional” infrastructure bipartisan bill.  Is the President worried about that at this point? 

And the second part of my question is: It brings up the scenario that if the “traditional” bill is not going to be approved in the Senate, it can be pushed into the reconciliation bill, possibly.  Is the President going to think about that and talk about that?  I know I’m getting way ahead of the process, you’re going to tell me.  But is there — (laughter) — is that a possibility?  So, tell me, if you want.  But was that a possibility?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, certainly the President is going to continue to advocate for a dual track of these pieces of legislation moving forward.  To — you are right.  I’m not going to get ahead of that process.  (Laughter.) 

But I will say that the President was in the Senate for 36 years.  He’s the first to say that — and he knows well that voting for one measure you support never means you have to vote for a different measure.  That’s not how legislation works. 

And certainly, he said from the beginning that — and he’s been clear for months, as had — as his Republican colleagues have acknowledged for months — that we are proceeding on two tracks to pass his economic agenda: one is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework; the other is the Build Back Better reconciliation package where there was a significant breakthrough last night, led by the Budget Committee and Chairman Sanders.

So, a couple weeks ago, everyone said this was dead, it wasn’t going happen, no possibility.  They’re both moving forward.  The Senate Majority Leader says he wants to bring them both up for a vote, and we’re going to work closely with him to get that done.

Q    Does he want to talk to some Republicans?  Does he want to run into some Republicans while he’s in the hallway there?

MS. PSAKI:  He may, as you know how Capitol Hill works.  It could be wild and crazy up there.  But — but he is going to continue to engage, of course, with Republicans on moving his agenda forward.

Today is an opportunity to speak with Democrats about both pieces of his legislation — both pieces of legislation they support — many of them support — about moving them forward.

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, a quick question on COVID.  A question on —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    A question on Cuba, and then a question on COVID after that.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    Given the lack of Internet access in Cuba, how is the administration monitoring the situation, the crackdown on protesters?  And if the administration determines that there is violence against protesters, what options are at the President’s disposal?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say we continue to call for the swift release of pe- — those peaceful protesters who have been unjustly detained.  Again, we stand with the Cuban people and their call for freedom from both the pandemic and from decades of repression.

The protests in Cuba, as you all know, have largely stopped because of the regime’s violent crackdown and retaliatory measures against Cubans exercising their fundamental and universal rights.  This is unacceptable. 

Of course, we will continue to call for a change in approach, and we will continue to review our own policies about what is possible and work with our partners around the world in a coordinated fashion as well.

Q    And then on vaccinations, you’ve talked before about going county by county.  What do — what does the administration think is driving some of the variation of vaccination rates between counties?  Looking at Kansas and Missouri, for example: Missouri has more than 30 counties where there’s less than 25 percent of the population vaccinated; Kansas — right next door, culturally similar — only has 2 counties in that case.  What accounts for variation between states, between counties?  Is it local officials?  Is it state officials?

MS. PSAKI:  I can’t make a sweeping assessment of that.  It’s different in county to county and in state to state.  We also recognize, looking at the data, that there are portions of the population, demographics, including people under the age of 27, who have a much lower vaccination rate.  Hence, we are quite focused on communicating directly with those people.  Hence, our special guest today about why it’s important to get vaccinated, why these vaccines are safe, why they can still kill you even if you are under the age of 27. 

We need to be clear and direct about our messaging.  There is misinformation out there.  Sometimes that’s traveling on platforms.  Sometimes that’s traveling, unfortunately, out of the mouth of elected officials.  So, it’s really case by case, but the most important thing we can do is not see this as a partisan issue because, certainly, the virus is killing people, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans. 

If you’re vaccinated, you’re protected.  99.5 percent of people who are going to hospitals are not vaccinated.  That’s a pretty clear statistic. 

Go ahead.

Q    Olivia Rodrigo is here today.  Why would you invite Olivia Rodrigo, who’s only 18 years old?  She’s super popular, obviously.  She has a line of fans outside of this White House gate right now.

MS. PSAKI:  I’m sure she does. 

Q    And they made — they told me to make sure I get in a question for them. 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    So my question for them and the rest of the young people in this country is: What is it that Olivia Rodrigo is tasked with while she’s here?  What’s the goal of having her voice involved in this conversation? 

And I’m saying this in the context of youth numbers being very low right now.  Reports are saying that those who are eligible, even though you lowered — we — the government lowered the rate of eligibility, those young people are not getting shots.  So, I imagine that her being here today has something to do with that, but I would like you to go on record to explain her goal.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  I think I answered a similar question earlier.  But I would say that, certainly, a voice of someone like Olivia Rodrigo, who is a popular recording artist and someone who has legions of fans — some of them are outside the White House — and her willingness to play a role in making sure people understand — young people understand they are not immune from getting COVID, they are not immune from getting very sick from COVID; and that it’s important to know that the vaccine is safe, it’s effective, and it’s accessible. 

And certainly, her willingness to use her voice and her platform to speak directly to young people is quite powerful, and we’re grateful for hi- — for her time and effort.

Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    (Inaudible) crime prevention meeting on Monday. 

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    The administration is encouraging cities to use COVID funding to hire police.  But cops are walking off the job, applications to training academies are down, recruitment and morale is a real problem.  Is the administration going to take a lead with these cities to help improve recruitment and morale for local departments?  And if so, what would that look like?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, one, I would say that a number of cities have actually used funding from the American Rescue Plan to rehire police and to make sure that they have our funding — their COPS program — something the President has supported throughout his career. 

We also have just started a strike force to work from the Department of Justice with about a half a dozen cities around the country to crack down on illegal gun trafficking — another way that we are working with cities to ensure we are being an effective partner from the federal government. 

And the President has proposed a great deal of — an increase in funding for law enforcement in his federal budget that can be used to keep cops on the beat to ensure that we are supporting local community.  So those are all steps that he’s taking and he’s proposing in action. 

Q    But if people don’t want to be cops, what does — does this really matter — freeing up these funds?  I mean, that’s — we want — everybody wants better cops, better policing, more diverse policing.  Is just freeing up these funds going to be enough to do it?  Or does the White House need to do more?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, I think the President has been clear that he supports and advocates for and supports funding and has proposed funding to ensure that local communities and local police departments have the support and the resources they need.  At the same time, he’s also been an advocate and looks forward to signing a police reform bill into law.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  I wanted to ask you a question about a gender equity issue that I hope you could weigh in on.  You may be familiar with five-star safety ratings.  They’re the measure for cars, trucks, vans — how well they perform in crash tests. 

And it turns out, based upon an investigation that Gray Television has done, that testing is not done for women drivers.  It’s just a male crash-test dummy that is put behind the wheel of an automobile, not a female crash-test dummy. 

Since our investigation, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate to correct this gender inequity.  I was hoping that you could weigh in on this issue, number one. And could you support that type of legislation? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I do know that NHTSA, who oversees this effort, does use female crash-test dummies in some of their safety testing and uses data to determine where to use which sized and gendered dummies. 

They also use computer simulation, in addition, to enhance their research and fund the Global Human Body Model Consortium, which has developed simulation models for a variety of occupants, including men and women, but also children, the elderly, and more.  So that’s another way they rely on data. 

But otherwise, I would refer you to NHTSA, who would have more additional information.  I don’t have any announcements about support for legislation at this point in time. 

Go ahead.

Q    I would like to turn it back to immigration —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — for just a moment.  I know that President Biden has previously said that his administration is going to work to address illegal immigration in Central America by addressing root causes of it, including corruption.  And I’m wondering, with what we’re seeing right now in Cuba and Haiti — I think that was just that that can be a very long and tricky process that can lead to very dangerous situations.  Do you think that that throws any sort of wrench into the administration’s, kind of, plan to address illegal immigration in Central America in that way?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think so.  But tell me more about your question.

Q    I mean, really, I’m just asking, you know, given what we’re seeing in Cuba and Haiti, it’s clear that trying to address these issues — while I think everyone would agree that’s important — leads to potentially, you know, a lot of unrest.  Do — does that give anybody pause in the Biden administration for addressing illegal immigration in Central America in that way?

MS. PSAKI:  No. 

Go ahead.

Q    Yes, Jen, one more question, if I may, on this —

MS. PSAKI:  Yes.

Q    — Operation Allies Refuge.  I know you won’t divulge the third countries —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    — that these people will go to.  But can you confirm that Guam, which is U.S. territory, has been ruled out now as a waystation?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m just not going to rule in or rule out any places.  I certainly understand the interest.  This is a big priority for the President.  As we have information we can provide to all of you, we will provide it.  We — obviously, the security and safety of the individuals who are relocating is of utmost focus and concern.

Go ahead, Yamiche.  Go ahead, Yamiche.

Q    Thanks.  A question about Haiti and one on COVID.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    On Haiti, does the President support halting deportations to Haiti?  The Haiti Caucus in the House has written a letter calling for him to halt deportations of Haitians.

MS. PSAKI:  I have not spoken with him or our team about that.  I’m — I’m certainly happy to check for you, Yamiche.  But did you have another Haiti question?  Or you said you had another one.

Q    Yeah.  The other Haiti question I have is: Is there a timeline for when the United States plans to respond to this request for troops and military assistance in Haiti?  And then could you talk a little bit about what the United States is weighing if you can’t give a timeline?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, first, I would say that, you know, we have a very large diplomatic presence on the ground.  Our ambassador — our ambassador, Sison, has been very involved and deeply engaged in efforts on the ground.  We have more than 100 American citizens who are working on the ground. 

We’ve also responded to a number of their specific requests in terms of personnel and aid and assistance on the law enforcement front as they are working to move the investigation forward. 

In terms of additional considerations or considerations of requests for troops, that is still an ongoing review. 

Q    And then on the COVID, I want to ask you something about — we saw, in Tennessee — the Tennessee Department of Health, it halted all adolescent vaccine outreach not just for coronavirus vaccines —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — but all vaccines.  I wonder what this administration makes of that move.  And you’ve talked about taking the politics out of vaccinations.  How do you do that when you have a state like Tennessee now halting vaccine outreach in this way? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say, Yamiche, that I still am not going to comment on a personnel decision or pol- — or — in that way, which I know was a significant part of the reporting here — an important one.  Certainly, any effort to that prevents accurate information — information based on di- — data, on science as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine or any other vaccine is of concern to the federal government.  Because we have seen, as we’ve talked about a bit in this briefing, lower rates of vaccination, as it relates to COVID, specifically, among young people.  That puts young people at risk, puts young people in danger for illness and even death in this case.

So, we will continue to work with local health authorities. We will continue to work with local trusted voices in order to get the message out and the word out, and get accurate information out.  But any effort to repress or not share that information is risking people’s lives.

Q    Okay.  And (inaudible) you said that you’re going to get back on the deportations of Haitians.  But is it under consideration at all?  Is that something that the President is open to doing — to halt deportations?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t want to speak out of turn here.  I will see if there’s anything to report out on that. 

Go ahead, in the very back.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  Two questions on Afghan interpreters. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    I know you said you don’t want to give a specific number of people that will get evacuated, but there’s a lot of confusion on the ground, fear on the ground.  Is it going to be all SIV applicants?  Is it going to be just people who have cleared the first step?  One interpreter there told me this week, “If I’m left behind, I will 100 percent been killed by the Taliban.”  So what details can you give us for that?

MS. PSAKI:  So, as we’ve announced in the past, the focus is on applicants who are already in the pipeline.  That is what will be — begin the last week of July.  We, though, have a range of contingencies, and we are continuing to work to ensure that we can help as many of these bold and courageous individuals as we possibly can.  But those are the individuals — the translators — who are in the pipeline already, who will be the first focus of relocation.

Q    And one more question.  We’re hearing that the flights will happen only outside — out of Kabul, but there are a lot of interpreters that don’t live in Kabul.  They may not be able to get there.  Are you going to help them get there safely?  They’re threatened by the Taliban, and they often don’t go outside.  So advocates are wondering how they’re going to get to those flights.

MS. PSAKI:  It’s a — it’s a great question.  We, obviously, want to help advoc- — interpreters and applicants who may not be living directly near the airport.  I will see if there’s more from the State Department, in terms of the operational component of this, that we’re able to share.  But certainly, we keep that in mind.

Go ahead, Chris.

Q    So going back — I know this was partially asked —

MS. PSAKI:  It’s okay.

Q    — but going back to this question on decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.  So I just remembered, during the campaign — since then, the President has spoken about mass incarceration and reducing the levels.  Is he encouraged that this is coming back to the Senate?  I know you won’t speak specifically about endorsing the bill, but is he glad to see that this is resurfacing and that there will be a debate over it?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t — I have not spoken with him about this specific piece of legislation.

Go ahead.  Okay, go ahead.  Last one.  Last one.

Q    What about the — what about the issue of decriminalizing. 

MS. PSAKI:  Again, that remains his position.  And certainly, he would be encouraged by steps to implement that, but I have not spoken with him in recent days about marijuana or legislation — go ahead — on this.

Q    Special Envoy Kerry is in Moscow right now.  He met Foreign Minister Lavrov, I think, yesterday.  He held talks with his Russian counterpart, and he held a phone conversation with — (clears throat) — I’m sorry — with President Putin.  Is he delivering any additional messages?  Is he talking about climate only or something on top of that as well? 

And the other point, very quickly: Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov has announced that strategic stability talks will take place before the end of the month.  Any announcements from your side?

MS. PSAKI:  The former Secretary of State, my former boss, the Special Envoy — he’s got a lot of titles — his purview is on climate.  That is what the focus of his conversations and discussions are. 

In terms of strategic stability talks, I don’t have anything in terms of a timeline.

Thanks, everyone.  Have a great day.

1:43 P.M. EDT

Stay Connected

Sign Up

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

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

Scroll to Top Scroll to Top