Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, September 22, 2021
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:08 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay, today, the administration announced a historic new donation in the global fight to defeat COVID-19. President Biden announced that the United States is purchasing an additional half a billion Pfizer vaccines to donate to low- and lower-middle income countries around the world.
Before today, the United States had already committed to donating over 600 million vaccine doses to the world. That includes 500 million Pfizer doses that we purchased earlier this summer to donate to 100 countries in need — the largest donation of COVID-19 vaccines by a single country ever.
Overall, we have now shipped nearly 160 million of these doses to 100 countries around the world — from Peru to Pakistan, Sri Lanka to Sudan, El Salvador to Ethiopia.
To put this in perspective, the United States has now delivered more free doses than every other country in the world combined. Millions more get shipped each week. And importantly, our donations come with zero strings attached.
Today’s announcement brings our total to over 1.1 [billion] vaccines donated to the world to — overall. And we’re building from here. This is obviously a huge commitment.
And another piece to put it in perspective: One shots here — for every shot we are delivering here, we are giving — or we are committing three shots to the rest of the world.
This commitment also comes as part of a Joint EU/U.S. Vaccine Sharing Commitment that the United States and Europe will share doses globally to advance — enhance vaccination rates, with a priority on sharing through COVAX and improving vaccination rates urgently in low- and middle-income countries. We welcome the EU’s announcement today that they will donate over 500 million doses. This is in addition to the doses we have financed through COVAX.
And these announcements came as part of today’s, of course, summit — Global COVID-19 Summit — which gathered together — convened heads of state and leaders from over 100 countries.
Let’s see. With that — I just also wanted to also note the Vice President also spoke just recently at the summit. And she announced that the U.S. is contributing at least $250 million to establish a new Global Health Security Financial Intermediary Fund at the World Bank to coalesce resources for pandemic preparedness.
With that, why don’t you kick us off.
Q Thanks. Media on the border have reported that many Haitians are being released into the United States. Can you clarify why they’re not being placed on expulsion flights to Haiti? And does the administration have any concern that these releases undercut the public messaging that Haitians should not come to the border?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me explain to a little bit of how the process works. So, DHS — the Department of Homeland Security — continues to expel migrants under Title — CDC’s Title 42 authority. Those who cannot be expelled — and this has been the case and been our policy and process for migrants coming from any country around the world — under Title 42, and who do not have a legal basis to remain, are placed in either expedi- — or a form of removal proceedings. And individuals who are not immediately removed are either placed in an alternative to detention or transported to an ICE facility.
If they are placed in an alternative to detention, there’s also a process required — a legal document — a document they would have. As a part of that process, Border Patrol agents collect biometric and biographic information: fingerprints, photos, phone numbers, and an address in the United States, and also run a background check as a part of the process.
And those who do not report, like anyone who’s in our country without legal status, are subject to removal by ICE.
I give you all of that to understand the different steps in the process. Obviously, there are flights. We need to have enough flights to transport individuals to Haiti or to other countries. And there are a range of flights, as you know, that are going to different parts of the world, depending. And those are in process.
So if we’re not — if there isn’t a flight ready yet, those are indiv- — those individuals may be pli- — placed in alternatives to detention. And there, as I noted, is this mechanism where these documents are required.
Q And could you offer any further details on the call that happened late this morning between President Biden and President Macron? How long did it last?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q How was the tone? What — how much — you know, there was quite a bit of detail in the readout of plans for the meeting. How much of that was worked out beforehand, before the presidents even got together?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as we’ve noted in the past — to take your last question first — there have been ongoing discussions and engagements at a variety of levels between the United States and France. So, certainly, the possibility of a meeting was something that was naturally discussed in advance, but also natural for the President to raise that and discuss it at the leader level.
In terms of the tone of the call: It was friendly. It was one where — we’re hopeful and the President is hopeful this is a step in returning to normal in a long, important, abiding relationship that the United States has with France.
It was about 30 minutes long. As we noted in the readout and as you said, it was extensive. But part of the — and during the conversation, the President reaffirmed the strategic importance of France — French and European engagement, I should say, in the Indo-Pacific region — something that we look forward to continuing to work with them on.
And as we said in the readout, the French ambassador will return to Washington next week, and he will then start intensive work with U.S. officials. So that will be part of the ongoing next steps that we go from here.
And as we also noted, they will meet in Europe at the end of October.
Q And if I may just quickly follow up —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — on that. Boris Johnson, earlier today, dismissed French anger over the submarine deal, saying that French officials should “get a grip.” Substantively, does the administration agree with the Prime Minister’s criticism that the French had failed to acknowledge the value of AUKUS and the submarine deal to global security?
And then, secondly, is calling on the French to “get a grip” helpful at this point?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can only speak for our relationship with the French and our relationship with the United Kingdom. And I will say that the President during this call, as we said in the readout, acknowledged that there could be more of a — there could have been more discussion in advance of the announcement. And that was an important — an important message for him to convey during that conversation.
So I can’t speak to the comments, and whether they’re constructive or not, from other countries.
Q Thanks, Jen. A follow-up on immigration, and then I have one on the schedule today. So, Secretary Mayorkas has now been asked twice on the Hill and he’s not been able to provide an answer to this. So I want to ask you, do you have the numbers: How many Haitians have been deported? How many have been processed? And how many have been allowed to stay in the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you’re asking, and understand why people have been asking Secretary Mayorkas. Those are numbers that are — the Sec- — the Department of Homeland Security would have the most up-to-date numbers.
Q But why is it so hard to keep track of a simple number like that? Why can’t you give it? Why can’t he give it? It’s been — two days now he’s been asked that.
MS. PSAKI: I’m certain they will provide it. It’s an absolutely fair question to ask. And I’m certain he just wanted to have the most up-to-date numbers to provide.
Q On the campaign trail, then-candidate, now-President Biden said, quote, “We’re going to restore our moral standing in the world and our historic role as the safe haven for refugees and asylum-seekers.” How does what’s happening on the border right now with Haitian refugees square with that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, which aspect of what’s happening at the border?
Q What’s happening with the Haitians.
MS. PSAKI: Do you mean the photos we’ve seen?
Q Them being sent back —
MS. PSAKI: Or do you mean —
Q — the photos. Yeah. Them not —
MS. PSAKI: Well — well, first, we understand and agree that this has been an incredibly heart-wrenching issue. We’ve watched the photos of Haitians gathering under a bridge, many with families, and the horrific video of the CBP officers on horse — on horses using brutal and inappropriate measures against innocent people.
I think it’s important to take — to address that and separately address what our immigration policies are, and understand that people are combining them. But that’s why I asked that question.
I would also reiterate that there’s an investigation that will be completed by next week — which the Secretary confirmed — that will determine the next steps on both policy and personnel. All important questions people are asking. And in the interim, those individuals were placed on administration — administrative leave and will not be interacting with any migrants.
So, as it relates to those photos and that horrific video, we’re not going to stand for that kind of inhumane treatment. And obviously, we want this investigation to be completed rapidly.
I will say, on the broader question you were asking: The President remains committed to putting in place a humane and orderly immigration system that includes an established and efficient process for applying for asylum, that includes a range of programs for individuals to apply to stay in the United States. That requires Congress acting, and it requires also health conditions improving as we are in the middle of a pandemic. And we are continuing to expel people coming from a range of countries, as we are continuing to apply Title 42, because there is a global pandemic that is ongoing.
So, I would think it’s important to note that our policies, our border restrictions are being applied not just to Haitians, but to people who are coming irregularly to migrate to the country from anywhere. Ninety thousand — more than ninety thousand people were expelled in August. That was even before what we’ve seen in the troubling photos under the bridge.
We are applying immigration laws. We are applying what are — what are border requirements. And we are applying Title 42, which, again, is a health — a health application, given we’re in a global pandemic.
Q And just quickly on the schedule today, with all the Democrats that are here: Would you describe where we are at on the President’s economic plan as a make-or-break moment?
MS. PSAKI: I would never describe it that way. But I — well, I would say, look, this is an important moment where we’re in the — in a pivotal period of our negotiations and discussions. And we always knew and have always known that as we get close to points where there are votes called or where there are key moments that Congress has on the calendar, that, you know, there needs to be deeper engagement by the President — that’s what you’re seeing happen today.
As you’ve seen in our announcement of his schedule, he’s meeting not just with leadership; he’s also meeting with members of a range of caucuses across a broad spectrum of beliefs in the Democratic Party. And he sees his role as uniting and as working to bring together people over common agreement on whe- — and on a path forward. And that’s his objective.
So, yes, these meetings are important. He’s looking forward to hearing from people and looking forward to playing a role in bringing people together over achieving our shared goal of lowering costs for people and making the tax system more fair.
Q Jen, the border?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Go ahead, April. And then I’ll go —
Q Jen, just bear with me because there are a lot of moving parts on this issue.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were here today meeting with the national security team, Cedric Richmond, and Susan Rice. Can you give us an update — because they were talking about Haiti, the immigration issue at the border. Could you give us an update on that?
And what is expected for tomorrow’s meeting with civil rights leaders, be it teleconference or what have you, with White House officials?
MS. PSAKI: Just so I — what do you mean by “an update,” exactly? An update on what happened in the meeting?
Q Can you tell us what happened in the meeting, what was given to them, what did they ask for? Because Black leaders are making big asks of this crisis moment.
MS. PSAKI: What — tell me more about what you think they’re asking for.
Q Okay, what they’re asking for — asylum process, what does that look like? Reverend Al Sharpton is going to the border tomorrow to see what that looks like, if people are actually being able to get asylum who’s here.
Also, you talked about the condemnation of what the Patrol agents were doing with the reins or whip, whatever, with the intent to lash, to hurt people, to keep them away from the border. They want to know is that practice going to still be in place — horses and the lashing, those kinds of issues.
MS. PSAKI: So I just wanted to have clarity on exactly what you were asking about, April; that’s it.
On the second piece, there is nex- — there is an investigation that is ongoing that the Secretary of Homeland Security has made clear he wants to happen quickly, and he wants the outcome to be done by next week.
Once that process is concluded, that will be a deter- — that will help be a determinant in any policy decisions and personnel decisions both. All important questions. I’m sure that was what was conveyed as well.
On the first part, I think wh- — in the answer I gave just a few minutes ago here, I think what we are conveying to anyone who are our partners — whether they are civil rights leaders, members of the CBC, and others who have important questions here — is how outraged we also are by these photos in this video, our commitment to this investigation, but also how our immigration processing system works.
And in response to Aamer’s question before, what I tried to lay out is what happens, right? No matter where you are coming from, if you are irregularly migrating, we are still applying Title 42 because we are in the middle of a public health crisis. This is what is conveyed to anyone who has questions.
Those individuals who are eligible to stay in the United States through — through a range of our programs that — they would be allowed to stay in the United States through a range of our programs.
If they are — there are some who are placed into removal processes where they also can make the case, whether it’s fear or fear of returning back to countries, et cetera. They will go through the process as well.
So, I’m sure what they are doing is explaining exactly what our immigration processes are and reiterating, as well, our outrage at the photos in the video.
Q So — but I — bear with me because this is moving pieces — but with asylum, there are people — advocates, immigration advocates, especially for advocating for the Haitian migrants right now that are saying that this administration is breaking U.N. policies and its own policies by moving people out before allowing them to ask for asylum. Is that the case?
MS. PSAKI: First of all, April, what we are doing: One, Haiti has Temporary Protected Status for people who arrived here before July 29th. That is not a status that most other people who are migrat- — irregularly migrating from other countries have.
As individuals — as we go through this process, as I outlined just a few minutes ago, individuals who cannot be expelled under Title 42 — a range of reasons why they not — may not be able to be — those individuals are placed into removal proceedings. That is where the process would take place, where they would apply for a variety of programs. While they’re in that process, they are required to also provide biometric and biographic information and data.
So, that’s how the process works. What is important for people to know and understand is that this is how our immigration and border requirements apply to everyone, whether they’re coming from Haiti or any country in South or Central America.
Q But you have Africans as well that — you said there were people from other places, but you have Africans –Cameroonians, Ugandans, and Senegalese — who are coming to that border as well. What happens with them as they are looking for asylum? Do you lump them into the same category with the Haitians that are at the border, be it Del Rio or wherever along the border?
MS. PSAKI: I think the point I’m making, April — and then we just have to move on —
Q Yes. I’m good with that.
MS. PSAKI: — to get to more people — is that anyone who’s coming from anywhere, if there’s Temporary Protected Status for their country, as there are for Haitians who arrived before July, they can apply through that program.
If they’re coming from other countries where we don’t have that status, then they are expelled according to Title 42. If they are not — if they’re — can’t be expelled according to Title 42, they’re placed in expedited removal or in alternatives to detention no matter what country they’re coming from.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thank you. Going back to the phone call this morning, briefly, with the French President, did President Biden apologize to Emmanuel Macron?
MS. PSAKI: He acknowledged that there could have been greater consultation. And the call, again, as I stated earlier, was a friendly call, and there was agreement that we wanted to move forward in our relationship.
Q The French translation said that open consultation, quote, “would have made it possible to avoid the situation.” The English translation said, “the situation would have benefited from open consultation.” So, similar, but not entirely the same. So did the President apologize to his French friend?
MS. PSAKI: He acknowledged there could have been greater consultation. But again, this call was really focused on the path forward and returning back to normal and the important work we have to do with the French ahead.
Q Was the President using this as a learning point, perhaps? Who does he believe — or should he have been more aware of the potential fallout from this? Has he had conversations with any staff members, like the Secretary of State or the National Security Advisor, about exactly how this breakdown happened?
MS. PSAKI: We always look to assess how we can make improvements to how we do consultations, and, certainly, they’ll apply — and that — part of that happens through conversations with members of his national security team, and we’ll work to apply those moving forward.
Q Does he hold Jake Sullivan responsible for this?
MS. PSAKI: He certainly doesn’t hold anyone — he holds himself responsible, and, certainly, though, he has a responsibility to talk to his team always about how we can best manage our diplomatic relationships, and that’s what he does in any scenario.
Q One more small question —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — on the meetings this afternoon. On the price tag: Is the President still committed to a $3.5 trillion price tag, or does he believe now that more flexibility on that number is warranted?
MS. PSAKI: Well, even before today or before this week, the President has always been open to negotiations and discussions and knew that he was not going to be, alone, able to wave a magic wand and pass a proposal, right?
So, part of the objective today, while he’s meeting — as he’s meeting with a range of members with a range of viewpoints — which we welcome — is to see where people are and work to see how we can get this across the finish line moving forward.
What he’s encouraged by is the fact that there is actually — I know we focus a lot, understandably, on areas of disagreement — there’s a lot of agreement — a lot of agreement on lowering costs for American families, on making sure we’re investing now in addressing the climate crisis, in making the tax system more fair. There’s a lot of agreement on that.
And there’s — now it’s a point where we need to figure out what the path forward is. The President is going to play a role in, hopefully, uniting people around the next steps.
Q Just to follow up again on the French. You said in the statement that there will be a meeting in late October. Is that in France? Is that on the sidelines of the G20 or the COP26?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some international forums that are happening next month that might bring the President to Europe. I don’t have any formal announcements yet to make. But to your question, we’re still finalizing what it looks like exactly.
Q Democratic negotiators on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act say the bipartisan talks are dead. Is that the view of the White House? And any response to this announcement, that it’s apparently over?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d also say there was a statement put out by Senator Booker, who is a key — I think you were referencing that — I think that was the statement you were referencing.
So, I would say that, first, the President is — and everyone in the administration — we have strong s- — we have been strongly supportive of Senator Booker and Representative Bass in their efforts, and we’re greatly appreciative of their efforts, which we consider to be ongoing.
Unfortunately, Republicans rejected reforms that even the previous President had supported and refused to engage on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address.
And so, we are disappointed; the President is disappointed. Even after Senator Booker and Representative Backs [sic] — Bass did yeoman’s work, even after they worked to secure law enforcement support and were willing — showed they were willing to find consensus.
So, yes, we acknowledge, of course, what the negotiators have conveyed publicly at this point in time. I can convey to you that in the coming weeks, we’re going to consult — the President — we will all — our team will consult with members of Congress, the law enforcement civil rights communities, and victims’ families to discuss a path forward, including potential executive actions the President can take to ensure we live up to the American ideal of equality and justice under law.
Q And on the situation on the southern border: The meeting today with members of the CBC, the Vice President talked to the Homeland Security Secretary to express concern. How often does this get to the President? Does he get briefed on these situations, or is he just getting it in news reports?
MS. PSAKI: Of course, he gets briefed on them — absolutely — by his team.
Q Okay. Well, to the point, then, we were trying to ask him about yesterday: What is his impression of this situation down there? What does he make of how those Border Patrol agents were — seemed to be interacting with these migrants? And, you know, where is he on dealing with these wide range of immigration issues that continue to challenge this government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Ed, on the subject of the video footage and the photos, the President was horrified by that, just as we all were. He, of course, received a briefing, an update from his national security team on the efforts by the Secretary of Homeland Security to launch an investigation and one that he would like to see concluded rapidly.
As it relates to our efforts to implement our immigration laws and border requirements, the President is quite hopeful, as he conveyed on his first day in office when he introduced an immigration bill, that we can take steps to put in place a more humane, a more orderly system, especially after a very broken one over the last several years, that has better asylum processing, that has a more — a better system and a range of programs individuals can apply to.
The President also believes and knows, as we all do, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and we need to continue to administer Title 42, which expels individuals who come to the border.
So, he is horrified by the photos and the footage. He is also committed to implementing and abiding by our laws.
Q And what is your understanding of what transpired in the Oval Office yesterday when we were all in there trying to hear from the President and the Prime Minister?
MS. PSAKI: Which aspect?
Q Well, the British Prime Minister in the American Oval Office called on British reporters, and then, when American reporters tried to call on the American President, we were escorted out — we’ll put it that way.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, in that circumstance — and I think our relationship with the United Kingdom and with Prime Minister Johnson is so strong and abiding, we will be able to move forward beyond this — but he called on individuals from his press corps without alerting us to that intention in advance.
Q Thank you, Jen. Just following up on this very basic, but very important question. You’re telling us that the DHS chief has the most recent numbers about how many of these Haitians under the bridge have been sent back and how many have been released into the U.S. The DHS chief is telling us that he doesn’t know. So, who else can we ask?
MS. PSAKI: You can certainly ask the Department of Homeland Security. I am confident, Peter —
Q The chief says he doesn’t know.
MS. PSAKI: I am confident he wanted to have the most up-to-date numbers, and we will venture to get you those, I promise you, this afternoon.
Q Is this an issue of not knowing, or is this an issue of a lot more people are being released into the U.S. than are being sent out?
MS. PSAKI: That is certainly not the issue. First, I think it’s important to reiterate what I conveyed earlier about what the actual process is: Individuals are expelled under Title 42. If they can’t be expelled under Title 42, they are put into a removal process. If they’re put into a removal process, they’re either transported to an ICE facility or released with a legal document. That legal document includes fingerprints, photos, phone numbers, an address in the United States, and a background check. That’s the process that transpires. That’s a part of our immigration process, regardless of where you’re coming from.
Q And just because you keep using Title 42 to defend this administration’s immigration policies: That is a Trump-era regulation. You guys came in saying that the Trump-era immigration policy was very inhumane.
MS. PSAKI: Title 42 is not an immigration policy; it is a — it is a health authority, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The Trump administration approach to immigration was inhumane and was immoral. That’s why we need to put a new policy in place, and we need Congress to pass that policy.
Q Unified control — Democratic control of Congress. Many months in office. You have not even tried.
MS. PSAKI: That’s not actually true. There’s been a —
Q Well —
MS. PSAKI: Peter, just to —
Q — when’s the vote?
MS. PSAKI: — just factual here: —
MS. PSAKI: — there’s been a bill proposed first day in office. Currently, it was proposed as a part of — steps were proposed as part of the reconciliation process. The parliamentarian rejected that proposal. They’re going back and proposing new options. The President supports that. He would like to see immigration reform pass into law more humane processes.
Q Just one more. Has President Biden ever been to the southern border?
MS. PSAKI: In his life?
MS. PSAKI: I will have to get — look back in my history books and check the times he’s been to the southern border. I’d be happy to.
Q We have been looking all morning and we cannot find any record of him visiting the border as President, Vice President, Senator, or even as a concerned citizen. Why would that be?
MS. PSAKI: I can check and see when the last time or when he may have been. But tell me more about why you’re asking.
Q Because this is a President who makes a point when there are disasters in this country, like a wildfire or a hurricane, to go and see for himself firsthand what the needs are of the local community so that he can have an informed POV to make policy. Why doesn’t he do that — why doesn’t he go down to Del Rio, Texas, and see what’s going on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, Peter, I think the situation at the border is the result of a broken system. And the President certainly relies on his experience.
So, whether it was the work he did to address root causes as Vice President, his efforts when he was in the Senate to support comprehensive immigration reform — steps that at a time were done — being done and work toward in a bipartisan way — something that certainly we think should be the case today — he uses all of his experiences to inform how he governs, how he approaches challenges. And certainly, he looks, again, at the last four years and the separation of children who were ripped from the arms of their parents as a way he does not want to proceed.
So, all of his experiences and his time in office — whether Vice President or Senate — inform his approach to issues.
Q The Brazilian Health Minister tested positive for coronavirus. He shook hands and spent time with Boris Johnson on Monday. Boris Johnson spent time privately with President Biden yesterday in the Oval Office. Can you just give us a sense of the level of concern at the White House about that? What, if anything, has been done? How often the President gets tested? And any updates?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. The President is tested regularly. I think I conveyed to you he was tested last week. I can check if there’s more — a recent test over the last several days.
But as it relates to this specific incident, of course we take our protocols very seriously. White House protocols and his presidential travel protocols are based on CDC risk mitigation guidelines, and that includes the CDC definition of a “close contact” to determine when someone may be at higher risk for contracting COVID. Based on this definition and precautions put in place by our team and the U.N., we’re not implementing any new protocols — or new testing as it relates to those incidents.
Q There’s nothing different — there’s nothing different that happened in the last 24 hours since he was with Boris Johnson because of his —
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q — exposure?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q Okay. Let me ask you about this meeting a little bit later today, if I can. First, does the President want a vote on both the reconciliation budget package — or the budget reconciliation package and the bipartisan infrastructure package to take place on Monday?
MS. PSAKI: The President trusts the leadership of Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, and certainly he’ll work closely with them to get these across the finish line.
Q Who — bottom line: Americans are watching this. Who needs to give here: the progressive Democrats or the moderate Democrats?
MS. PSAKI: Sometimes there’s need for compromise from every end, but he’ll know more after these discussions today, in the coming days.
Q So let me ask this then, if I can, Jen: So, the President he —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — he campaigned — in his first months in office, he campaigned on this message of unity and competence; that he could make Washington work, that he would rebuild, revitalize these alliances. Now Americans are seeing headlines about Democrats divided about what they’re going to do on this agenda. France is furious at the U.S. There’s frustration among allies about Afghanistan. What should Americans make of that, given what they’ve seen in recent weeks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take each of those issues. The President just had a friendly phone call with the President of France where they agreed to meet in October and continue close consultations and work together on a range of issues.
Q And where he acknowledged the failure — right? — that he should have communicated better in advance though.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think, in terms of the level of American concerns, acknowledging there can be closer coordination and consultation, I don’t think is going to be the height of concern for most of the American people. But anyone who’s concerned about our relationship with France can rest assured that they had a friendly phone call and we have a path forward.
Q Poll numbers are reporting 3 percent —
MS. PSAKI: On the second —
Q — which is why I ask —
MS. PSAKI: — and the sec- — on the second —
Q — because Americans are expressing this concern.
MS. PSAKI: — on the second piece, I would say: This is a messy sausage-making process. The President today — what Americans should be encouraged by is the President is bringing people of a range of viewpoints on big, important packages that are going to make their lives better, here to the White House, to have a discussion about it. He’s rolling up his sleeves. He’s welcoming them to the Oval Office. He’ll have some COVID-safe snacks, whatever may happen.
People should be encouraged by that. And that’s the kind of President he is. He’s going to be deeply engaged with getting bills and legislation across the finish line to make their lives better.
Q I guess then, just to punctuate that: Why do you think, in the most recent poll from Gallup, that 43 percent of Americans now approve of his handling of the job, which had been well above 50 percent only a matter of weeks ago? What do you think, in the eyes of Americans, has changed that you guys have not done well enough?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the country is going through a lot right now. And people are still under the threat of COVID; that is concerning to a lot of people. We see that in polls as well. Even as they approve of the President’s handling of COVID, that’s still something impacting people people’s lives. There’s a great deal of anxiety about that. We understand that.
But our objective is to keep pushing his agenda forward and keep making their lives better, and, you know, look at that over the long term.
Q Jen, I was struck by what you said in response to Ed’s question about what happened yesterday in the Oval Office.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q Can you shed a little bit more light on this? Did the President feel he was upstaged by the British Prime Minister yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: I think the President has not spent a moment worrying about it.
Q Can I ask you — because there are so many issues that we have discussed here —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — that are of interest to the public — everything from the collapse of the police reform negotiations on Capitol Hill today to the pivotal period we’re in: Nine — eight days before the end of the fiscal year and no deal yet to avoid a government shutdown a week from tomorrow. When can we expect to hear — or when can we expect to have the opportunity to ask the President substantive, pointed questions about these matters in a way that he will elaborate on his views?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, the President knows that he was elected not to just get the pandemic under control and put people back to work, but protect our democracy and stand up for what’s right and be transparent. And, certainly, part of that is engaging with all of you.
I would note that he answered questions 135 times leading up to September; three times last week. And he’ll keep looking for forums to answer the questions from all of you — something that he sees as vitally important to our democracy.
Q But in this month of September, most of the occasions we’ve had have been fleeting. In fact, there are some occasions where he’s only taken one question and walked away, and most of those occasions have occurred outside of this building.
So, when can we expect to have an opportunity to actually ask the President questions in a formal setting?
MS. PSAKI: Again, Steve, I’m not trying to diminish your ask for a formal press conference — which certainly, I’m sure, we will have another one — but I will convey to you that as it relates to providing information to the public, elevating the importance of the freedom of press to our democracy, that I don’t know that the format, whether it is multiple shorter Q&As or a longer, formal press conference is at the top of the list of the American public’s concern.
Q We intend to raise the matters of concern to the public at those press conferences.
MS. PSAKI: As you have during 140 times you’ve asked the President questions.
Q Thanks, Jen. A couple to follow. On Macron first: The French had called for the cancellation of the EU-U.S. Trade and Tech Summit in Pittsburgh next week. After the phone call today, do you expect that to go forward?
MS. PSAKI: We’re still — our officials who are planning to attend are still planning to attend.
Q But no sense if the Europeans are?
MS. PSAKI: We’re continuing to plan for an inaugural meeting of the — of the group in Pittsburgh as a follow-on to the commitment made several months ago.
Q The readout said that the U.S. was committed to reinforcing its support for French counterterrorism operations. I’m wondering if that is sort of a broad, “We’re allies and partners,” or if that was, “We should read between the lines that that is some new commitment that we have given to the French,” in terms of, like, tangible support.
MS. PSAKI: I would — I would read it more as the former, in that they’re an important partner in the Indo-Pacific, they’re an important partner around the world.
And certainly, addressing the threat of terrorism that has metastasized and changed over the course of the last 20 years is a vital priority for us, as it is a vital priority to the French.
And as I noted, when the ambassador comes back, there will be consultations. Obviously, there’ll be a meeting between President Biden and President Macron, and I’m sure they’ll discuss this and a range of issues.
Q The Fed today shifted forward their projection of when the economy would be ready for a rate hike, which suggests economic strength, which I assume you’d be happy about. But, obviously, many Americans are still struggling. So, I wondered if you agree with that assessment from the Federal Reserve?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly agree with the — the independence of the Federal Reserve and their right to make decisions it deems necessary on monetary policy.
I would note that, even just yesterday, the OECD projected 6 percent GDP growth — certainly, a positive sign — which is nearly double what was projected in December. And the OD — OECD also increased its projection for U.S. GDP growth in 2022.
So, we’ve seen a number of positive signs as it relates to economic growth. That doesn’t mean that every issue — to your point — every American is having as it relates to inequality or access is solved. It’s not. But our focus and our policies is to address those over the long term.
Q And then one last one on the Congressional meetings today. What’s sort of the format of them? You seem to have leaders coming in, then moderates, then progressives. Why isn’t everybody in the same room? I mean, I think we’ve heard from all three of these people where they are, and it seems like you’re kind of inviting an echo chamber rather than a chance for people to hash it out, with the President sort of playing moderator.
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think the President wants to hear from everybody on what they’re most excited about, what concerns they may have. And he wants to play a role in hopefully unifying members of the party around the path forward. And he felt this was the most constructive format at this point.
I will tell you this is probably not going to be his last engagement with a single member of Congress in these important days forward.
Q Thanks, Jen. I wanted to ask — just building on something — did President Biden offer French President Macron anything, any commitments to make feelings feel a little better?
And then, in addition, did Macron ask for anything?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t — I’ll point you to the French to speak to President Macron. I would say that the — the conversation was really about the path forward. And as I noted, the President acknowledged that greater consultation would have been helpful in this case. But it was about how to work together as we look ahead; it was not about offering a specific proposal or policy item.
Q Can I ask you about immigration? Now that the parliamentarian has ruled against including immigration in reconciliation — and I recognize that Democrats are going to push for other avenues within reconciliation —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q But beyond reconciliation, what is the Biden administration’s path forward for immigration? The President, as a candidate, made — raised — you know, campaigned on this issue. What can — what type of relief is possible? And what can the Biden administration do to bring that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say our current and immediate focus is on supporting the efforts of senators who have been vocal about their desire, as you said, to put forward alternative proposals to be considered by the parliamentarian and see where that goes.
There are a range of passionate leaders in the Senate, in the House who want to see immigration reform happen. And we will certainly continue to work with them to see what vehicle and path forward — what that looks like. But I don’t — that’s our next step right now — is assessing — is them putting forward an option for the parliamentarian to consider.
Q Jen, back on the French call for a moment. Did the President seek or receive any clarity from President Macron on why the French wanted — decided to recall the ambassador and take that step which had never been taken before?
And does the President himself think that that step was commensurate with the offense?
MS. PSAKI: You know, I think, Anne, as I — as I’ve conveyed a little bit, the focus was really on the relationship moving forward. And as we noted in the readout, the French ambassador is returning later on this week. And the 30-minute call was really more about how we can work together in a substantive way on shared areas of interest.
Q So he’s not worried that the — Ambassador Étienne would be yanked again if the next thing doesn’t go right?
MS. PSAKI: I think he has committed to working together to ensure there is a consultation moving forward — close consultation, as is evidenced by their plans for a meeting in October.
Q And then, quickly on the coronavirus summit this morning. The President said rightly that the U.S. is a leader in vaccine donation. But, as you well know, there is criticism of the U.S. for the prospect of booster shots — a third shot, in many cases — for Americans before most in Africa have had one. Was that a topic of discussion? Why didn’t we hear anything from the President or from the U.N. ambassador on that point today in their opener?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re now donating three shots globally for every one shot we’ve put in the arm of an American. And our view continues to be that we can do both and it’s a false choice. Our view also continues to be that, frankly, the rest of the world needs to step up and do more.
And now we’re at the point where, of course, we’ve now committed to over 1.1 billion vaccines donated, but we’re also committed to — we also have a partnership with the Quad; obviously, they’re meeting later this week — to produce at least 1 billion doses.
Our work to boost vaccine manufacturing in South Africa is going to produce 500 million single-dose regimens in Africa, for Africa.
And we will continue to do more — share doses, scale manufacturing, invest in vaccines abroad. You heard the President talk about that. But we also need the world to do more, especially developed economies that can do more to contribute to this effort to defeat the pandemic.
Go ahead. I’m sorry, Jeff, I’ll come to you next.
Q Quick — just following, Jen, on Anne’s question there. You keep saying that the President will engage in deep consultations with the French. You could have said that in 1949 when the French first joined — joined NATO.
So I’m trying to understand here what is different now, after this, than it was before. Is the President’s vision here that you simply go back to the way things were, where clearly that consultation process failed? Or is the President’s vision that you have a new project of some kind with the French that begins to make reparations for what they view as what they’ve lost?
MS. PSAKI: I think, David, it’s more about, we’ve had a strong relationship for many decades. Of course, yes, there’s been ups and downs in that relationship. But the President’s objective is that we should go back to normal and that we should go back to a relationship where we work closely together on a range of issues facing the global community: addressing COVID, the global economy, security, the Indo-Pacific. And how we work together and those mechanisms we’ll determine as we keep having close consultations and discussions moving forward.
Q One question on the Quad meeting which is coming up —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — on Friday. So, they’ll have the Australians there, but then you’ll also have India and Japan. Would you envision for them a similar kind of military role that you’ve now defined for — with the Australians?
MS. PSAKI: AUKUS — what would it become? JAUKUS? JIAUKUS? (Laughter.)
Q Awkward AUKUS? I don’t know. Something like that. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think, David, that the announcement of AUKUS last week was not meant to be an indication — and I think this is a message the President also sent to his — to Macron — that there’s no one else who will be involved in security in the Indo-Pacific. Of course, it’s a topic of discussion, an important topic in conversations as it — with the French, with a range of countries who have a direct interest in the region.
I can convey to you that we will have a preview call on the Quad meeting, which I know there’s a lot of excitement about, for — probably tomorrow, in advance of that meeting, where we’ll go through more detail of the planned agenda for the meeting as well.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Jen, China’s Evergrande agreed to settle interest payments on a domestic bond today. I know this is very wonky, but it’s impacting —
MS. PSAKI: We love wonky in here.
Q — the markets.
MS. PSAKI: Everyone’s a nerd in here in some way. (Laughter.)
Q Is — is the White House satisfied with that solution? And are — do you have more concerns about contagion from that particular company?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said the other day — and I’m happy to talk to the Treasury team to see if there’s anything more we can offer. Obviously, the majority of their business is in China or has been in China. And we, of course, closely monitor the markets and the impact on the global markets, which is something, certainly, the Treasury Department does. So, that’s where we look and assess in terms of how it relates to the United States.
So, I don’t have anything new to provide from here, but I’m happy to check with them if there’s anything in addition.
Q All right. And just to follow up on the meetings this afternoon: Can you give us a sense of how President Biden plans to bridge those divides? I know he’s going to listen. And I know you’ve talked about him wanting to hear from all sides and be more engaged. How does he get there? What does he do? What does he say? What does he give up?
MS. PSAKI: The meetings haven’t happened yet.
Look, I think the President wants to play a role in talking and reminding people of what we have in common, how we can be united in making people’s lives better in this country.
He understands — and he’s been a part of the Democratic Party for 50 years — he understands there are disagreements — some of those are on the margin, some of them are larger.
He’s going to listen, he’s going to engage, and he’s going to, hopefully, play a constructive role as the leader of the party, as the President of the United States, on moving this important agenda forward.
But it’s hard for me to assess in advance of the meeting. Maybe we’ll have more to say after they’re over.
Q Thanks, Jen. On global vaccines, the administration has previously noted that there’s been logistical challenges in getting vaccines out to the countries that are actually in need. Just with this latest round that you just announced today, has the administration adopted any new strategies for increasing the actual deployment of these vaccines, not just the procurement of them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, those cases — I don’t know if you’re — are you referring to any specific country, or just —
Q Just, in general, you all have noted that it is difficult, in many cases —
MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It has —
Q — to get these on the ground. So —
MS. PSAKI: — it has been. What is a good sign, I should say, is that because we’ve now distributed, donated vaccines to a range of countries around the world, we’ve been able to work through some of those regulatory, legal, logistical hurdles that have been — have been challenges in some places.
There are requirements in some countries as well that they need — they have needed to address in order to make it easier to donate vaccines, whether it’s ability to transport or maybe they have regulatory requirements. But now that we’ve done rounds of donating 160 million doses to a range of countries in the world, it should be easier moving forward.
Q And building off that, is the — are the places where these vaccines that you just announced going, are they the same range of countries that you all previously announced?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, they are. So, we’re going to donate these doses to the same 100 low-income countries as we previously announced the donation of the 500 million doses to in June.
So, specifically, that’s 92 low- and middle-income countries, as defined by Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment; and eight — and all African Union member states — and eight additional countries to cover the African Union: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, the Seychelles, and Mauritius.
Q And then, quickly, just on police reform. You mentioned earlier that this is not going to be the end of the administration’s efforts, but are we looking at an end of bipartisan efforts in this way? When Biden goes back on the Hill to talk with Democratic leadership and potentially taking executive action of his own, are we going to see another round of attempting to work with Republicans on this issue, or is this officially a place where Democrats just think they have to go it alone?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re never going to close the door to bipartisanship. Obviously, they just made this announcement today. And we’ll see, through consultations, what the best steps are moving forward. And, again, as I noted earlier, that includes leaving the door open to executive actions.
Q Thanks, Jen. What’s the level of concern right now at the White House about the possibility of a government shutdown next week?
MS. PSAKI: Well, until — until a CR has passed that funds the government, we’ll certainly have a concern. But our goal and our focus is on preventing that from happening.
Obviously, the House passed the CR with — including a raising the debt limit attached. The Senate could pass that today and we could all rest easy the government is not going to shut down. The American people could rest easy. We’ll see what happens.
Q Has OMB started working on contingency plans for that possibility of a shutdown?
MS. PSAKI: They’re always working on contingency plans. But our focus is on preventing it from happening.
Q Jen, I spoke with several organizations that have been helping Haitian migrants, and they’re saying that even though you have been saying that the U.S. is going to continue with the immigration policies that we have, that it’s not a fair process. And for a country that talks about racial justice in this country, that the policies aren’t applied aptly.
And so, I asked them what are some things that they were talking about, specifically on the meter — on metering. Is the administration going to put less, sometimes, concentration on guns, ammunition, and border patrols, and also put people in places that can help push the process along? Some of them say that their numbers — they get their numbers and they’re bypassed or that they’re just skipped over or not chosen at all. That was one of the issues that they have. That’s the first questions that I had.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, first, I would say, one, as a part of our effort, we have surged resources, and we will continue to surge resources to help address the latter part of your question.
On the first part, the reason I went through what I did before about how our process works is to convey that this is how our application of our immigration laws, border requirements work no matter where you’re coming from. And we had not — we expelled more than 90,000 people in August — that was prior to the gathering of Haitians under the bridge and all of the photos and the visuals that are so heartbreaking.
And as it relates to policies — also a very good question — as we go through this investigative — investigation to these two border — to these Border Patrol officials, who obviously were in this horrific video, that will impact — it could impact policies. It could impact, certainly, personnel.
We’ll let that process expeditiously conclude and then we’ll — I’ll defer to the Department of Homeland Security on what that impact will be.
Q And then a question on police reform. Derrick Johnson, NAACP President, said — in reference to politicians that have really not helped in this effort — he said that, “They have chosen to stand with those who have lynched the very people they are meant to protect and serve.” And it’s “disheartening that there is a lack of courage and bravery to bring about true reform.”
And I know you asked — been asked questions over and over about police reform and how realistic we’re actually going to see this, but is there any fear that the very people that the President has brought into these meetings over and over on police reform — many of them are now not having faith in what can really happen?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I totally understand your question.
Q Did — the President has had meetings with Derrick Johnson.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q He’s had meetings with the National Urban League, even Reverend Al Sharpton. And we’re seeing quotes by them now, saying how they don’t even believe that this administration or those who are working —
MS. PSAKI: Critical of the President on police reform?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I — I just was trying to understand your question.
Q Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: I would say, in Senator Booker’s statement and the statements and comments of the negotiators, they’ve been clear about the support of this administration. As these negotiators were attempting to come to an agreement that had to meet the high bar that they had, they asked us to leave them space for their — those negotiations to take place, and that’s exactly what we did. And we supported them behind the scenes in any way that they asked for.
But we also agree that it’s unfortunate and disappointing that Republicans rejected reforms that even the President had supported, and refused to engage on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address. We agree that’s incredibly disappointing. And these reforms are long overdue, and that certainly is the President’s point of view.
Go ahead, Francesca. And then I think I got to wrap it up here in a minute.
Q Thank you, Jen. Two on the travel restrictions.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Are there any circumstances in which that early November vaccine mandate that the White House announced this week that that would slip a couple weeks, maybe into December or potentially into early next year?
MS. PSAKI: On what basis?
Q Well, that’s what I’m asking. Are you — is the White House committed to the early November deadline? Because early November is a vague —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we were in control — we were in control of when we announced it would be implemented. Right? And we announced early November.
Q Okay. And so, you are committed to early November, specifically?
MS. PSAKI: We announced it would be implemented in early November. That’s what we’re planning on.
Q Okay. And then, as far as unvaccinated foreign nationals go, is the White — is there any procedure that the White House might be considering for those people to be able to enter the country still, given that — that many of those countries, those people may not have access to vaccines?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are going to be certain cases where people may not have access, and we will deal with those accordingly. And we will have some exceptions that will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Thank you, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll do this again tomorrow. Thanks, every- —
Q Can you take some from the backrows next time?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. We’ll start in the back next time.
Q That would be awesome. Thank you.
2:59 P.M. EDT