Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, October 26, 2021
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:15 A.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. Today, joining us — needs hardly an introduction — our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, who will be previewing the President’s trip — second foreign trip — later this week. And he’ll take some questions afterwards, and then I will do a full briefing — or as long as you guys would like to do a briefing — after that.
With that, I’ll turn it over to Jake.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Jen. And hi, everybody. It’s good to be here. As you all know, the President is leaving for Europe on Thursday. He’ll first head to Rome for the G20 and then to Glasgow for COP26, the international climate conference.
In Rome, he’ll start on Friday with a meeting with Pope Francis, followed by a bilateral program with our Italian hosts, including meetings with the Italian President and Italian Prime Minister Draghi. He’ll also meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
On Saturday and Sunday, he’ll attend the key G20 events. There’ll be several sessions covering the main elements of the international economy and international affairs. And while he’s there in Rome, he’ll also have the opportunity on the margins to engage with key leaders on a range of issues of importance to the American people, including supply chain resilience, energy prices, the Iranian nuclear program, and more.
In Glasgow, the President will give a major address on climate as part of COP26 and also have the opportunity to engage on the margins there on a range of important issues, including the Build Back Better World initiative — B3W — that the G7 announced at the summit in June.
Lots to say about the trip and happy to take your questions. I just want to make three broad points before we open it up:
The first is: After a lot of commentary in recent weeks about the state of the transatlantic relationship, the United States and Europe head into these two summits aligned and united on the major elements of the global agenda.
In just the past few weeks, we’ve seen the U.S. and the EU come together for joint action on COVID-19. We’ve seen the U.S. and EU launch a global methane pledge and other key climate initiatives. The U.S. and EU have launched a Trade and Technology Council to set the rules and standards for economics and technology in the 21st century. And President Biden and key European partners will sit down at these two summits to coordinate policies on Iran, on supply chains, on global infrastructure efforts, and so much else.
I would point out that neither China nor Russia will be attending the summit in person at the leader level — largely, it seems, due to COVID-19. The U.S. and Europe will be there, and they’ll be there energized and united at both the G20 and COP26, driving the agenda, shaping the agenda as it relates to these significant international issues.
Second, the trip is going to give the President an opportunity to advance some of his highest affirmative priorities on behalf of the American people. You’re going to see firsthand, in living color, what foreign policy for the middle class is all about. For one thing, he will cement progress on the global minimum tax — a major achievement secured with American leadership, with presidential leadership — that will help stop a global corporate race to the bottom and provide the resources that can be invested in workers and communities here in the United States.
He’ll be laser-focused on supply chains and energy prices because he knows that these issues impact working families here in America. And in advancing the Build Back Better World initiative — the B3W initiative — he will show how a high-standards, climate-friendly alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative can help American firms and American workers compete globally on every aspect of infrastructure, from physical to digital to health.
Third, I would just point out that we see no contradiction between pursuing ambitious and aggressive action to meet this pivotal moment when it comes to the climate crisis and supporting a sustained and swift economic recovery that delivers security and opportunity for the American people.
The President, going into COP26, has committed the United States to decisive action this decade: a 50 to 52 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, a doubling of our international finance commitment consistent with the $100 billion Paris goal. And he intends to make good on these commitments.
He also intends to address the short-term imbalance in supply and demand in the global energy picture so that the economic recovery here in the United States and elsewhere around the world is reinforced rather than undermined. We can do both. We intend to do both.
That’s the agenda and the mindset the President will take with him when we go to Europe later this week.
And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Q Jake, back in June, you and the President said that there’s no substitute for face-to-face dialogue with — between leaders. And you signaled then that the President — President Biden and President Xi could possibly meet on the sidelines of the G20. That’s obviously not happening since Xi is not attending. Do you see that as a missed opportunity, either for the U.S. or for China? And how do you expect to make progress in the U.S.-China relationship if you can’t even get these two leaders in a room together?
And then, secondly, the President suggested last week that one of the reasons OPEC isn’t doing more to ramp up supply is because he has refused thus far to speak with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Will the President speak with the Crown Prince? Is there a possibility of a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 between the two?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the second, I don’t have anything to announce. We don’t even know who is coming to represent Saudi Arabia at that event. So, we will see what happens over the course of the coming days.
On the first question, I was in Zurich just a couple of weeks ago meeting with the Politburo member Yang Jiechi, who’s responsible for foreign policy and national security policy for China. And he and I agreed that the two presidents will have the opportunity to have a virtual meeting before the end of the year. I don’t have a date to announce today. But they will be able to sit as close to face-to-face as technology allows to see one another and spend a significant amount of time going over the full agenda.
President Xi has chosen not to attend these summits. He’s chosen not to leave China at all in calendar year 2021 to see any leader. That’s, of course, his choice. So we are —
Q Is that a mistake on his part?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I’m not going to characterize the decision making he’s making. All I can say is, from the U.S. President’s perspective, President Biden does believe it’s important that he have the opportunity to have a face-to-face engagement with Xi Jinping. And if it’s not possible in person because of Xi’s travel constraints, doing it by virtual meeting is the next best thing. That’s what we’re intending to do.
And we’re intending to do that because, in an era of intense competition between the U.S. and China, intense diplomacy at the highest levels, leader-level diplomacy is vital to effectively managing this relationship.
Q Thanks, Jake. Just broadly speaking, as we’re now looking roughly 48 hours before the President lands here, you just said the President intends to make good on these commitments as they relate to climate change. How important is it, in your view, that he lands in Europe with this deal secured here at home as it relates to climate change, in terms of convincing allies that he will make good on his promise?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think what the allies are looking at is the effort that President Biden has undertaken to design and now negotiate an ambitious, effective, practical set of investments in climate, in clean energy, in infrastructure, in economic growth in the United States. They’re excited about it. They raise it when we see them. When we see our counterparts, they raise it with him. They want to see the United States making these investments.
They also recognize that the United States has a set of democratic institutions, has a Congress; that this is a process; that it needs to be worked through.
And so, I believe that whether there is a deal this week or whether the negotiations continue, there will be a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the effort the President is undertaking right now to make bold, far-reaching investments that will deliver on his commitments, both with respect to climate and with respect to economic growth in the United States.
Q Do you not see this as his credibility weakened if he shows up there without a deal reached?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think you’ve got a sophisticated set of world leaders who understand politics in their own country, and understand American democracy, and recognize that working through a complex, far-reaching negotiation on some of the largest investments in modern memory in the United States — that that takes time.
And so I don’t think that world leaders will look at this as a binary issue — “Is it done? Is it not done?” They’ll say, “Is President Biden on track to deliver on what he said he’s going to deliver?” And we believe, one way or the other, he will be on track to do that.
Q Thank you. I’ve got similar questions on Burma and Sudan today, although they’re very different countries. Can we get a little bit more detail on your meeting yesterday with Burmese officials? And what steps is the administration thinking about to bring this country back into the international order and into the fold?
And then, on Sudan, a similar question. What are the next steps? Could they be sanctions? Could they be talks? And how is the U.S. going to make sure that the Gulf States don’t prop up the new leaders in Sudan, the military leaders, and so on and so forth? So, what’s next for both countries, basically?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I’ll start with Sudan and then go to Burma.
On Sudan: Actually, we’ve been in close contact with regional leaders, including in the Gulf, to make sure that we’re closely coordinating and sending a clear message to the military in Sudan that they should, first and foremost, cease any violence against innocent civilians, that they should release those who have been detained, and they should get back on a democratic path.
We will continue to do that. We’ll stay closely coordinated and aligned with all of the stakeholders who we believe have influence in Khartoum.
Second, we have made clear that we are deeply alarmed. And Presi- — Secretary Blinken put out a very strong statement yesterday by the actions taken 36 hours ago by the Sudanese security forces, including the arrest of multiple civilian officials and the detention of Prime Minister Hamdok.
We believe it undermines the country’s transition to democratic civilian rule. And we firmly reject the assertions that this is within the authority of the military leadership in Sudan.
From our perspective, these actions are utterly unacceptable. They contravene the constitutional declaration, but, more importantly, they contravene the aspiration of the Sudanese people.
In terms of the tools you ask about, we’ve already made clear that we are pressing pause on significant aspects of our economic assistance to Sudan. And we will look at the full range of economic tools available to us in coordination and consultation with regional actors and other key countries to make sure that we are trying to push the entire Sudanese political process back in a positive direction after this significant and alarming setback.
Briefly on Burma: I did have the opportunity to engage very senior officials in the NUG and had the opportunity to express to them our gratitude for their courage and commitment to seeking to restore the democratic path in Burma as well.
And we discussed humanitarian aid and the difficult circumstances the Burmese people find themselves in. We discussed broader diplomacy with the key countries in the region and those with influence on the military junta, and how the United States could send strong messages to those countries as well.
And, in fact, just this morning, President Biden has participated in the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, and ASEAN has taken the step of denying a seat at that summit to the junta leader — the commander-in-chief. And President Biden had the opportunity to consult and coordinate with ASEAN in terms of how to move their Five-Point Consensus forward.
So, we will continue to stay focused on our steadfast support for the people of Burma, for a democratic path in Burma, and for the protection of the safety, security, and human rights of the citizens of that country.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Q Thank you so much. I have two questions. Economists believe — on the G20 — economists believe that, by 2024, most industrial countries will recover to a pre-COVID level, while developing country, obviously, is not the case. So, how is the White House trying to address this disparity and especially with COVID, climate change?
And second, on Iran: You just said that the President will discuss Iran. At what stage will the White House decide that Iran has passed the no point of return? They have enough enriched uranium. They have heavy water. They have the know-how. So, when do you decide that we have to enact plan B, if you wish? Thank you.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the second, I’m not fixing a date on that. Obviously, we closely monitor the progress in Iran’s nuclear program. We are alarmed and concerned by the steps that they have taken since they left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there were constraints on that program that were significant and substantial. We had a lid on that program. Now we do not because we don’t have that deal.
So, our first and highest priority is to get back to the table and get back to a deal that does, in fact, place a lid on Iran’s nuclear program.
In terms of emerging economies around the world, I would just highlight three things that will be on the agenda over the course of the next six days. The first is the capacity to recycle Special Drawing Rights from the International Monetary Fund to help emerging economies be able to deal with the immense fiscal burden that COVID-19 has inflicted on them. And we’re looking forward to having a strong and ambitious statement on that.
The second is debt relief — forms of debt relief that we want all of the G20 countries to sign on to together, and the United States will be pressing for that in Rome at the leaders’ level.
And then, third and finally, when it comes to climate, on both the adaptation and the transition and mitigation side, President Biden stood up at the U.N. General Assembly and said we are going to double our commitment to international climate finance to help less-developed countries be able to make this transition effectively. We think that is an effective and very affirmative way for us to contribute to the problem that you’re talking about.
Q Jake, just to follow up on Iran: You’ve been very patient. The talks have ceased. How long is this window going to be open, in terms of diplomacy? And what’s the second strategy if that doesn’t work?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I’m not going to negotiate from the podium, but I will say that part of the reason the President wants to have the chance to coordinate closely with our European partners, particularly with the E3, who are part of the talks, is for us to have a united front after the four years of division on the Iran policy in the last administration.
And we will be sending clear messages to the Iranians, as we have been doing over the course of the past few months, that this window is not unlimited; that we do need to see a return to diplomacy and progress at the diplomatic table; and that we, of course, retain all other options to be able to deal with this program as necessary.
But beyond that, I’m not going to comment further because we believe there still is an opportunity to resolve this diplomatically.
Q Jake, a couple of questions. One, with the meeting with the Pope, especially on the matter of abortion, what do you anticipate will come from that meeting, specifically as abortion is moving — it’s changing here in the United States with the pending court case happening on December 1 in the Supreme Court and other states creating very restrictive abortion laws?
The other issue: Haiti is now more of a world issue than ever before. Will that be part of the agenda?
And also, supply chain: What is the reality coming out of this meeting that things will open up with the supply chain issue here?
MR. SULLIVAN: Three very distinct issues. On the first one, I’m going to defer to my colleagues on domestic policy on that question.
I will say that the main focus of the meeting with the Pope — first, there’ll be the obvious personal dimension. The President and the Pope have met three times before. This will be their fourth meeting. They’ve exchanged letters. And they will have a chance just to reflect, each of them, on their view of what’s happening in the world.
On policy issues, of course, in the international realm, they’ll be talking about climate and migration and income inequality and other issues that are very top of mind for both of them.
But as respect to the issue that you raised, I would defer to others who can speak to that more expertly than I can.
On Haiti: Yes, this will be a topic of conversation with other countries at the G20, because what we’re dealing with in Haiti is an acute situation as it respects the creeping encroachment of the gangs into the political and economic and physical space of Haiti.
As it relates to ensuring that Haiti is getting the kinds of investment and international aid that it requires and — the United States has to step up and do its part, but other countries that have a longstanding relationship with and role in Haiti’s development also need to step up as well.
And then, finally, with respect to supply chains, what the President is hoping to do at the G20 is have the opportunity to get key countries aligned around some basics. For one thing: transparency. How do we know, at every level, where there may be bottlenecks or breaks in the supply chain so that we can quickly respond to them? How do we — and so, there’s a transparency piece.
There’s a piece related to COVID-19. How do we make sure that in those critical places — that if factories shut down, it has downstream effects that harm American workers — that we are getting support from the point of view of COVID response to those areas?
And other things along those lines that are highly practical, the President wants to try to have a roadmap coming out of the G20, building on all the work we’ve done for the past few months that helps ensure that we are smoothing out the supply chain issue as we head into 2022.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Q Jake, thank you. A lot of the work at the G20 typically happens at the ministerial level leading up to the meeting with heads of state and government officials coming to dot I’s and cross T’s. What concrete actions can we expect out of the G20? What are some of the things that you anticipate?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, let me just identify a couple of categories, because I don’t want to get ahead of myself in terms of coming to agreement on things.
So, first, we do need the G20 to ultimately, as I said at the top, cement progress at the end of the day and have leaders fully put their blessing on the global minimum tax issue. That will be the ultimate statement by the premier coordinating body of key countries around what is one of the most significant economic milestones we’ve seen in the international economic space in several years.
Second, there will be climate-related issues related to financing questions that we need to get G20 alignment around. And there are still — as we put it in the parlance of negotiators — brackets around the text of some of the issues on climate.
And then, when it comes to the future of health security and what we are going to be able to accomplish to prepare for and prevent the next pandemic, there are also open questions that will be worked right through the weekend to try to make progress to show that the G20 is aligned not just around effectively dealing with COVID-19, but putting in place a circumstance where we’re not going to face the same challenges in the future.
Those are some of the big areas, I think, that we’re going to end up focusing on.
Q Hi, Jake. Thank you for doing this. On the Pope, real quick, is that a — do we characterize as a formal visit or a personal visit?
MR. SULLIVAN: That is a good question for which I — I don’t have — I will — I’ll put it this way: There will be a formal portion to it insofar as he will — the President will have a delegation with him that meets with the Pope in a delegation, and then, of course, they will have the opportunity to visit personally as well.
So, I might say both.
Q Are you in a position to commit that we’ll be able to see at least part of this meeting?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m in a position to commit that I will turn that question over to Jen Psaki who will — (laughter) — be able to handle that.
Q I know you won’t (inaudible). Just real quick — one other though, because you’re taking unrelated questions here. On ISIS-K, the President had said over the summer that he would — that the United States would retaliate at some point of our choosing. What is the status of potentially retaliating against them or seeking those that were responsible for what happened at Kabul?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, I would point out that in addition to the strike that CENTCOM has spoken to — I believe it was on the 29th — there was a second strike that we took — a strike outside of Kabul against an ISIS-K facilitator.
So, we have had our initial response to that. It was, in our view, a successful and decisive strike, but it’s not the end of the matter, from our perspective.
We will continue to identify and action targets. We believe that we have demonstrated the capability to do so. And obviously, I can’t put a time or a date on that, but it’s something that remains a high priority of the President.
Q On Sudan, if I could go back to: The military takeover happened just hours after the special envoy called him up. How surprised was the administration by the timing of how that happened? Did he come away believing that there was a level of normalcy there, or at least the status quo?
And then, second, I was wondering if you could put a little meat on the bones of Secretary Yellen’s meeting with her Chinese counterpart or her conversation where she, frankly, raised some concerns. What were those concerns that she raised?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, one of the things I want to be careful about is getting ahead of Secretary Yellen, who ought to have the right to characterize her own meetings.
I will only say that Secretary Yellen went into that with a clear purpose of showing her Chinese counterpart, Liu He, that the United States has an affirmative economic agenda for macroeconomic stability in the world, that there are certain steps we’re going to take to protect our workers and our businesses, and then to inquire as to what the Chinese government is prepared to step up and do.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of the concerns, but I would refer you to her insofar as she wants to read that meeting out. Otherwise, how she manages that relationship I really want to leave in her hands.
On the question of Sudan, part of the reason that Special Envoy Feltman was there having intensive meetings is because we’ve been worried for some time about political stability in Sudan, about the fragility of the democratic process there. But I can’t speak to, you know, whether he thought it — the exact timeframe was going to be the timeframe.
I can say that the very purpose of his intensive diplomacy in Sudan was to address the fact that we were up against a circumstance in which there were a lot of forces pulling at this this fragile effort to move towards a democratic constitutional order.
Q Thank you, sir. After his first round of talks with the Chinese, the President’s Special Envoy on Climate, John Kerry, noted that his Chinese counterparts see a contradiction in that the United States is pushing them to reduce carbon emissions and yet, at the same time, the United States is sanctioning solar panel production. How does this President see the interplay between human rights and climate change? And is there any scenario where he would weigh one above the other?
MR. SULLIVAN: The President fundamentally believes that we can both take a strong stand against forced labor, against slave labor anywhere it occurs, including in Xinjiang, and at the same time cultivate and develop a robust, resilient, and effective solar supply chain.
There is no reason that the United States or any other country should be forced to choose between these two issues. There’s nothing structural, you know, when you think about the fundamentals about why that should be the case.
And so, the President is determined to produce an outcome in which we can both get the solar deployment we need and we can stand up unapologetically and unequivocally for our values.
Q On China, Jake. Jake, on China.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah, on China.
Q On China, Jake. Thank you very much.
MR. SULLIVAN: Sure. Go ahead.
Q Real quick. Thank you. Real quick but different subject, on China. It’s reported today that there are some 500,000 fewer people going to enroll in college in the fall. For education purposes, that estimates also that because of that, some vital roles, some vital jobs will be unfilled in aerospace and other industries where we have to compete economically.
The President has said that economic coop- — I’m sorry, economic competition with China is the future. How can we compete economically if we don’t have an educated populace? Do you consider that a national security problem?
MR. SULLIVAN: I do consider it a national security problem. In fact, it’s Dr. Biden who has repeatedly said — and the President frequently quotes her — that any country that out-educates the United States will outcompete the United States, and that is a fundamental national security issue.
Q Let me ask you a follow-up on Korean — Korean Peninsula issues. A week ago, Special Representative Sung Kim said he’s hoping to continue to talk about the declaration to end the Korean War. And I’d like to ask you how seriously White House take that into consideration when it comes to the policy towards North Korea and if you think it can be a catalyst to start a conversation with North Korea.
MR. SULLIVAN: I do not want to go too far publicly in terms of our intensive discussions with the Republic of Korea government. I will only say that Special Envoy Sung Kim’s recent discussions have been very productive, constructive.
And we may have somewhat different perspectives on the precise sequence or timing or conditions for different steps, but we are fundamentally aligned on the core strategic initiative here and on the belief that only through diplomacy are we going to really, truly be able to effectively make progress and that that diplomacy has to be effectively paired with deterrence.
So, on the specific issue you raised, I don’t want to get into it publicly. I will only say we’re going to continue the intensive conversations with China (inaudible).
Q On Afghanistan, I’m wondering what you are hoping to get out of the G20 discussions on Afghanistan and if you could talk a little bit about — there’s a sense that Russia and China have been blocking efforts, led in part by the U.S., to deliver humanitarian aid without recognizing the Taliban government. So if you could kind of flesh out the state of play there.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, the G20 had a leaders’ meeting by video conference on China a couple of weeks ago. It’s not one of the core agenda items when we go.
The President will obviously be able to consult with others to see how we can effectively get aid to the people of Afghanistan without recognizing or maneuvering that funding, at its core, through the government.
I think the characterization on Russia and China — I would take a little bit of issue with that. I think that we can have constructive conversations with both of them. It will be more difficult to do in this circumstance because neither Xi nor Putin will be there. But there are other formats in which we will be able to engage the Russians and Chinese on this, including through various regional meetings where they have empowered representatives and so do we.
Q Thank you, Jake. Just to follow up on your comments on Haiti: You spoke generally, but there are 16 Americans who are still being held hostage there by one of the gangs. What — I know this is a law enforcement matter, but what is this building specifically doing to help free the Americans? What urgency do you feel on this issue? And what does it say about the security situation in Haiti?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I personally give an update on this issue every single day to the President who is taking a deep interest in making sure we get every single one of those people home safely.
The main thrust of our effort thus far has been to deploy a significant number of law enforcement specialists and hostage recovery specialists to work closely both with the ministry, the families, and the Haitian government to try to coordinate and organize a recovery.
We are looking at every possible option for how to go about doing that. And I will be sensitive to what is obviously a delicate situation — not say more here, other than we have put the assets and resources in play that we believe can help bring this to a successful conclusion.
But these things operate and have operated in Haiti historically on different timetables, under different circumstances. And so, we need to manage this situation as carefully as possible so that, at the end of the day, we achieve our objective, which is the safe return of every single one of those — both adults and children. And the children aspect of this is something obviously the President is quite focused on, to make sure they’re taken care of and that they get home okay.
I’m just going to take one more question. Yeah.
Q Japanese Prime Minister Kishida say he will participate in the COP26 in person. Do you expect President Biden will meet with Japan Prime Minister Kishida there? If so, what are the main topics?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, President Biden had the chance to speak by phone with Prime Minister Kishida when he secured his position as Prime Minister. They had a very good conversation. It was substantive and detailed on key issues, including regional security and global issues like the economic recovery and climate change. And I’m sure they will have the chance to see each other at COP26 if the Prime Minister is there.
As for meetings, we’re not, at this point, in a position to announce any bilateral meetings at COP26.
I’m going to turn it over to Jen Psaki.
MS. PSAKI: All right. Thank you so much, Jake. Okay. All right. We are going to continue the briefing. Thank you, Jake, for joining us.
A couple of items for all of you at the top. Yesterday, the Treasury Department released new data on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which shows that, through September, state and local Emergency Rental Assistance Programs accelerated distribution and have now made more than 2 million payments to vulnerable households, totaling more than $10 billion.
In September, which marked the first month since the Supreme Court overturned the CDC’s national eviction moratorium, state and local governments distributed nearly $2.8 billion to over 510 households across the country. Those are people who could stay in their homes as a result of these programs and the way that it’s being implemented by state and local officials. $5.3 billion in assistance was distributed in August and September alone, more than all previous months combined.
Many renters, of course, remain at risk, but data from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab suggests that so far this has been — there has been no national spike in evictions following the federal moratorium coming down, with eviction filings remaining below historical averages.
This is really a credit to this funding and the state and local implementation of this that, as we’ve said from the beginning, was a way to basically implement a moratorium at a state-to-state level.
We, of course, remain vigilant and focused on our all-of-government approach to keeping people safe and housed during the pandemic through interventions, including the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, court-based eviction diversion efforts, and encouraging local eviction moratoria and protections.
Also wanted to note, as an update — and this didn’t come up, but I thought it — we might have. But an update on our global vaccination efforts. As you know, every day, we continue exploring and pulling every unique lever we can to get vaccinations out to the world, both in the near and long terms. It’s not just sharing doses that all — that all countries comb- — more doses than all countries combined and committing to donate over 1.1 billion doses, but also supporting an IV — IP waiver at the WTO, and calling on every country to do more.
We know there’s immediate urgency for so many countries, which is what is exciting about today’s announcement of a U.S.-brokered deal between the African Union and Moderna to get doses to the continent which much — with much-needed urgency. This deal will get the continent Moderna doses that have been long awaited and in high demand. And as you all have noted and asked me about in the past, Africa and African Union is a part of the world in great need, of course, of additional assistance and it will help them get the need — it’ll help get them the need in procuring more Moderna vaccines.
We will deliver — we will defer delivery of approximately 33 million doses of Moderna — of our own doses — between December and February that were originally intended for the United States so that the African Union can instead purchase and take delivery of those doses.
And this unique arrangement will help facilitate an agreement between the African Union, through its vaccine acquisition vehicle, and a U.S. manufacturer, Moderna, for a supply agreement for 50 million doses with an option for a further
50 million [60 million].
This is on top of the 55 million doses — if you’re all keeping track of the — of the numbers here — that we have shipped to Africa to date, the 17 million doses of Johnson & Johnson that will be sent to Africa in the coming weeks, and tens of millions of Pfizer vaccines that will be shipped.
And one more item — because if you join the Press team, you get married. That’s my promise. (Laughter.) And Emilie is here because I asked her to come out here because Emilie is getting married on Saturday. And we’re very excited for her. So we just wanted to celebrate. (Applause.)
Q Is it Halloween themed?
MS. PSAKI: It is.
Q It is Halloween themed?
MS. PSAKI: Now, I’m going to have to get more creative with the next people who get — who get engaged and married, but I did bring her a sash — (laughter) — because everybody liked the sash that Chris had so much.
So you have to come up here, Emilie. And I feel like this is just a moment — (“Bride to Be” sash is handed to Emilie Simons) — oh, there you go — to talk about — just briefly — (laughter) — Emilie, who has been a part of the team since the spring, and we stole from Congressman Adam Schiff — thank you, Adam Schiff, again. She came from an intel background. We asked her to become an expert on the economy. She’s gotten her master’s degree in economics and been just an incredible member of the team.
Last thing I will say is nobody can phone call — can call or email Emilie while she’s gone on her honeymoon. Call me, Chris, Karine, any of us. She can throw her phone in the river.
Okay, with that — while she gets married.
Aamer, go ahead.
Q Great sash. And congratulations. (Laughter.)
So, any updates, in the two days before the President leaves, on who he’ll be talking to to get his social services and climate change plan done?
And then, is there any reaction to criticism on the — on the billionaires’ tax as being too cumbersome and open to legal challenges? Are you guys going to stick with that?
MS. PSAKI: So, on the first part of your question, the President will have more members down here today. He could certainly have more members down here tomorrow. And we will keep you abreast of all of those. But his — he has flexibility in his schedule to ensure that he can make those calls, he can invite people into the Oval Office. And obviously, this is a top priority to keep moving his agenda forward in advance of his trip.
I would also say that there are phones on Air Force One and also in Europe. And so he will continue to be engaged even as we move to the trip.
As it relates to — the second part of your question was about the taxes component?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve talked about in — a bit in here, when the President proposed his initial Build Back Better Agenda, he rolled out a series of tax reform initiatives that were as important to him as the investment initiatives, because he feels that our tax system is unfair, that it’s outdated, and that it was a long in — long in need of reforms.
And so, you’re referring to what has been shorthanded out there as the “billionaires’ tax” — is an idea that has been put out there by a number of members of Congress, including our friend Senator Warren, and it is one of the ideas that is under consideration and discussion.
I will note that there are a lot of different tax proposals that are out there that are being discussed by members right now as a means of not just paying for the package but, again, making the system more fair, including a corporate minimum tax that would include a 15 percent corporate minimum. As a reminder, 55 companies last year, of the top companies, paid zero in tax. And so that would be an important step forward.
A global minimum tax — something that would be on the agenda — that is a key part of the agenda at the G20. We’re working to get 135 — or more than that — countries to agree to that. That will disincentivize countries from — or companies from moving jobs overseas.
And enforcement — IRS enforcement, something that Treasury secretaries — Democratic and Republican Treasury secretaries — have said could be an enormous revenue raiser, and something that was long overdue.
So, it is one of the tax proposals out there that is being discussed as we — as we get to the stage of the negotiations.
Q And then, if I could just follow up quickly. A question was asked of Jake on going overseas and pushing on climate and pushing on some of these other things when you’re having trouble getting it home — done at home. Jake made the point that these politicians are sophisticated and understand domestic politics is complicated.
But how — well, how are you — how is the President even go about talking about this? It’s going to definitely loom large if there isn’t a deal by the time he gets on that plane on Thursday.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just echo a little bit of what my colleague Jake Sullivan said, which is these foreign — these global leaders are sophisticated. They’re familiar themselves — although they all have different systems — with how you legislate here in the United States. They watch closely. They know that it can take some time.
And what the President is going to go to the G20 and COP26 with is either agreements — which, as he said, is his preference — or a commitment to continue to press forward on what will be the largest investment in addressing the climate crisis in U.S. history — six times the size of the Recovery Act, which would be the second-largest investment in climate in history — and a commitment to do everything he can through executive action and through working with the private sector.
So global leaders — I think the point Jake was making is that global leaders, one, understand that it can be a lengthy and messy process — bills becoming a law here in the United States. And also, they have seen the President raise up climate as an issue that is a central priority for him in his presidency.
Q Well, on that, I get the idea that global leaders are sophisticated and watch our system closely. But would it be easier to convince the rest of the world to adopt these aggressive climate change proposals if he went there with the U.S. having done so already?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as the President has said, it would be his preference. Yes, that’s why we’re pressing so hard. That’s why the President has space in his schedule to move forward and move his economic agenda forward. But it is also important to note that we have made a significant amount of progress and we are almost there, and that the President is on the verge — we are all on the verge of passing a bill that is the largest investment in addressing the climate crisis in history. And, of course, global leaders take note of that, too.
Q And is there — you don’t have to name it necessarily, but are U- — are U.S. officials aware of a country, perhaps, that would adopt these changes if he showed up with the U.S. having done this?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of — that are looking for a vote in order to move forward. No.
Q And just a clarification — another follow-up to that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q The fact that the schedule is still a little in flux — it’s unclear who else he might be meeting with on the margins — is that because —
MS. PSAKI: You mean on the trip — on the foreign trip?
Q Yeah. On the trip. Yes. Not here.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q On the margins, he’s going to meet with all sorts of people, it sounds like.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. (Laughter.) Just look out your window; see who’s coming down.
Q Exactly. We’ll be doing that. Yes.
Is that because of, sort of, pandemic-related scheduling issues and planning issues with this meeting? Or is it — why would we not know yet, perhaps, that he’s meeting with certain leaders, whether it’s somebody from Saudi Arabia or potentially Turkey? Obviously, Russia and China won’t be there —
MS. PSAKI: There are some — there are some countries, as Jake noted, where they haven’t finalized or they haven’t maybe announced who is going to be traveling. That is — that is true.
It is also true that we are working through a variety of engagements on a couple of the topics that Jake mentioned, including the supply chain and other issues that are a priority to the President here at home. And we’re working bilateral meetings around those as well.
So, it’s — it’s nothing more than a typical leadup to a trip scheduling process. But there are some, of course, changes where some people are remote or they’re — or we’re looking for the final delegations as well.
Go ahead, Mark.
Q So, the President is going to be going to Virginia tonight. Obviously, the Vice President is going to be adding another stop on Friday. Is the President surprised how close this race has become in these final few days?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Mark, I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not going to do any politics from here or political analysis.
I can confirm that the President is going to Arlington later this evening. And that — that is my hometown, as well. And, of course, the Vice President as well.
But beyond the scheduling details, I will leave political analysis to my friends over at the DNC.
Q And then, obviously, on the trip: Former President Obama is going to be going to Scotland. I’m just curious — to Glasgow, I should say — I’m just curious: Why would the President want the former President to be there with him by his side? What is he hoping to accomplish?
And should we read anything into that — that it’s President Obama going and, say, not, you know, Vice President Harris?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say: This is a global crisis that needs the — the power, the influence, and the impact of every current and former leader who’s willing to go to — go to Glasgow or stand up and shout that from the rooftops.
So, President Biden certainly welcomes the fact that his friend and former President, Obama, will be traveling there. They’re not there at the same time; there’s a bit of a gap between their visit. And, as you know, it’s about a two-week trip — COP26.
So, there is plenty of time for — for many prominent officials and prominent leaders to speak out about the climate crisis.
As you know, it’s not typical for Presidents and Vice Presidents to travel together or to go to the same trip, so I think it’s a reflection of that. And the Vice President, of course, will be traveling to France soon, as well, on her own diplomatic trip.
Q And last question from me, on the economy. I don’t know if you saw the New York Times this morning about — the cost of Thanksgiving could be some of the highest that we’ve seen in a long time.
We’ve obviously heard the President talk about gas prices as well. He was asked last week on that CNN Town Hall. Would there be a pri- — would there be a price that gas would have to get that the President would say, “Okay, now is the time to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President reserves a range of options. And he is certainly quite mindful of the impact of any increased costs on the American public. There are a range of factors here, which we could delve into.
But — but I will say that, on gas prices, one of the — one of the issues that Jake referenced — and, obviously, as we have more details on what this may look like, we’ll share it with all of you — is being able to rise [sic] — raise our concern and the President’s concern about supply issues as it relates to oil.
And that’s something that, certainly, he can do on the international stage, and there’s a power of the President of the United States engaging on that front. We’ve raised — that issue has been raised at Jake’s level, at a range of levels throughout government.
But certainly, the supply and — and OPEC and putting additional pressure on OPEC is something that — that, certainly, our national security team will continue to do.
I will also note that, as it relates to gas prices, we remain concerned about trends we have seen where, even as supply has increased at times over the last several months, we’ve still seen heightened prices.
The FTC — we’ve asked the FTC to look into that. They’ve said they were doing that.
But as it relates to costs, there’s a number of steps. So, let me just give you just a brief update on one step we are taking at the ports that is new — kind of new information.
One, I would note that one of the — and this is not about gas prices, but just about the movement of goods, which is certainly something that is impacting, I think, a lot of people across the country.
One, I would note — and I thought this was an interesting fact: Both ports — the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach — that we’ve talked about a lot because of the huge amount of volume that goes through them are moving an unprecedented amount of cargo this year.
So, one of the challenges — and we’ve talked about this a little bit, but I’m going to put some numbers on it. Both ports are moving 19 percent more containers than at the same point in 2018, which was the previous record. And the ports remain on target to outpace the previous record of 17.5 million containers processed in 2018.
That’s because of a range of factors. People are buying more things online. People are in a better — not everyone, but a lot of people, date-wise, across the American public are in a better financial system [sic] than — situation than they were a year ago, so they’re purchasing more goods.
And what we’re seeing right now are terminals that are filled with containers that have been sitting around for days without getting picked up, and that — holding goods in these containers. And that is obviously a challenge.
So, yesterday, just wanted to note that the ports announced they will address this problem and no longer let carriers use the ports as warehouse space. And this will hopefully help move things a little bit more quickly.
And starting on November 1st, for the first time, the ports will charge carriers $100 per container scheduled to be moved by truck that has sat on that port for nine days and more, and $100 per container scheduled to be moved by rail that has dwelled three days or more. The charge will increase $100 per container per day.
So, I’m using that example just because we are continuing to press on ways to address issues in the supply chain, which — some are at ports, some are at rails, some are at limited drivers, et cetera.
Q And if I can ask you about the agenda as it relates to Build Back Better.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Right now, there’s new haggling among Democrats, certainly among moderates, as it relates to paid family leave right now. Can the President support any reconciliation bill that includes no paid family leave?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, the President proposed 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave because he thinks it is long outdated, that this is something that is — should be a reality for parents, mothers, people who have — have need either for childcare or eldercare across the country. That’s what he proposed.
He also was elected — the reason that he won the Democratic nomination was, in part, because he ran on a commitment of seeking compromise in order to deliver historic change. That’s exactly what he’s working to do, and that’s what we’re seeing play out right now.
We know — and I’ve said this before — it’s not going to be everything that he wants in this package. There isn’t a final conclusion about what the key components are. We’re going to continue to fight for paid family leave to — to be in the package.
Q So, would he accept — so, to be clear, though — I know what he proposed — would he accept a package that included no family leave?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to litigate that from here. I think I would remind you what he proposed. And also, I would note that there are a lot of incredible advocates in this town for a range of issues: childcare, paid family leave, universal pre-K. A lot of these people have been fighting with their heart and soul for decades to get these things done.
We are right now on the verge of making a number of these policies law. And there are realities of governing and realities of policymaking, including the fact that the alternative to what is being negotiated is not the original package; it is nothing.
So, what we’re really facing right now is a question of whether people are going to support the largest investment in climate and clean energy. Do they want to be a part of the largest investment in early childhood education in history? Do they want to make healthcare more affordable and accessible? Or do they want to let the perfect be the enemy of the historic?
And that’s what we’re talking about right now in these negotiations.
Q Throughout the campaign, the President — I can pull up some of the dates over the course of the campaign when he said that — he said to large Democratic audiences — he says, “We’re going to get you things like tuition-free community college. We’re going to get you paid family leave.”
As we look ahead, as Mark was just noting, to the President’s travels to see Terry McAuliffe today, what do you say to those disillusioned Democrats right now who feel like they’ve put their marbles in this basket and they’re not going to get a lot of the things that they believe they were promised would come from Democrats in this administration, in this Build Back Better Agenda?
MS. PSAKI: First, we would say we are going to get those things done.
Q You’re going get —
MS. PSAKI: Second, we —
Q — paid medical leave and community college?
MS. PSAKI: Second, we would say — he’s nine months into his presidency. Second, we would say what we’re talking about here is the largest investment in addressing the climate crisis in history — six times the size of the Recovery Act.
We’re talking about the largest investment in childcare and early child educa- — education, something where we’re putting in place a structure that can be built on, just like the Social Security Act, the Affordable Care Act.
We’re talking about expanding access to healthcare.
These are all components of what the President ran on and what he promised. And they all would make — have a huge impact on people’s lives across the country.
So, do you want to be a part of that? Or do you want to be a part of nothing? Because those are the alternatives.
Q And if you don’t — and if you don’t get that, who should — who should these disillusioned Democrats hold accountable?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, Peter, I think what we’re talking about here is the realities of governing; negotiating; having 50 members of the Senate, not 60 members of the Senate, who are Democrats; and the fact that we are still on track to get a historic package through Congress with- — without precedent in history. And that’s something that Democrats have a right and should be very excited about.
Q Hey, Jen. You said, this morning, that the President had a little extra pep in his step after that meeting.
MS. PSAKI: (Laughs.) Were you up very early this morning?
Q No, I watched it after. I —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.)
Q But you said that he had a little extra pep in his step after that meeting with Senator Manchin on Sunday. Is that because there was any agreement on any specific provisions, such as climate change issues, for example, or some of the other outstanding issues? Or was it just a kind of general sense that things are moving in the right direction?
MS. PSAKI: There was agreement on the need to move forward, agreement on the need to make these historic investments in childcare and eldercare and expanding access to healthcare. There are important discussions now about exactly how to do that.
That’s where — the stage we’re at right now. But he was encouraged by the discussion in the meeting he had with Senator Schumer and Senator Manchin.
Q Given the outstanding issues on climate, was there any specific progress on those issues? I mean, the President is heading to the summit in a matter of days. You know, can you give us an update, in the spirit of the transparency the President showed last week at the town hall, in terms of the specific issues being negotiated?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me — let me talk to you about a couple of the components. I mean, what we’re looking at right here on climate specifically — again, I’ve said a couple times — a historic investment many, many times larger than the — currently the largest investment in climate change — or addressing the climate crisis in history.
But what we’re talking about here are some of the areas of consideration — are creating new dran- — grants and loans to support industrial-sector decarbonization from steel, cement, aluminum, in addition to expanding relevant tax credits to support this goal; creating targeted manufacturing credits that will help grow domestic supply chains for solar, offshore and onshore winds, with some of those credits targeted to auto and energy communities; expanding access to rooftop solar and home electrification to yield consumer savings; expanding grants and loans to rural co-ops to boost clean energy and energy efficiency; and expanding grants and loans in the agricultural sector.
So, what we’re talking about there is really an across-sector industr- — a range of industries — obviously, agricultural, industrial — and also, to consumers, incentivizing what we all need to be doing, which is moving toward a stronger focus on addressing the climate crisis.
Q And just on — just on Facebook: The President hasn’t really weighed in too much in a substantive way on the revelations that we’ve seen from these leaked documents, the hearings that have happened in Congress. I’m wondering if we can expect to hear from the President directly on that soon and if you could, perhaps, lay out his position as it currently stands on those issues.
MS. PSAKI: Well, he has a couple press conferences coming up on his foreign trip. He answers questions several times a week, as you know.
I will say that, as the President has said before, he has concerns about the power of social media platforms to — and the lack of progress in addressing issues like vaccine infor- — disinformation and election disinformation.
And I know there’s been a range of reports out there about what he’s looking to see and who’s representing his interests. Here’s the truth: If people are representing his interest in any of these social media platforms, they’d do more to crack down on vaccine misinformation, on election disinformation.
And he’s talked about his support in the past for reforms to Section 230. That remains his position. And, obviously, seeing not just the testimony but some of the revelations that have come to light is a reminder of the needs for some of these reforms.
Q Jen, just to quickly follow up on the climate question.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q One thing that we’ve reported as out is a methane fee on oil and gas producers. How much of a setback is that for you and your methane — your overall methane and climate goals?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that some spokespeople from leaders on the Hill have conveyed that it was still part of the discussion and negotiation, so I would point you to that.
Q So, it is, from your perspective still a part —
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to leaders and members on the Hill who have spoken to this recently.
Q Okay. And what’s your message to people like Representative Jayapal who said that they want to see both of these things — the infrastructure, the broader Build Back Better Bill — voted on at the same time? Is that something that you’re okay with if that means pushing things out a couple weeks?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll leave the mechanics to Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer. Obviously, the President continues to want to get both pieces of legislation done. We are in regular touch with Congresswoman Jayapal, who we’ve been working with through every stage of this process.
Q Jen, following up on this climate question: You just listed this — these historic investments — grants, loans, tax credits, manufacturing credits, you said. But environmentalists are pretty vocal about this; they say you need penalties in order to get industries to make these major conversions that they need to make. So, how do you get to these 2030 goals focusing on incentives?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would note that there have been, also, outside experts who have provided analysis that says that we are — there are a range of ways to reach our goals — to reach the bold, ambitious climate goals that the President has outlined, including a number of the steps that I’ve outlined here.
Q You’re talking about the Rhodium Group. They say there are a lot of “ifs.” They say “all must act”; that you need Congress in order to do this.
MS. PSAKI: Right.
Q You don’t have Congress right now on a lot of these.
MS. PSAKI: We do have Con- — we do — we are working with Congress on a historic investment in addressing the climate crisis — the largest, by many times, in history. So, that is what we’re working toward.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q I was wondering if you could walk us through what happened with Turkey over the last couple days. There was this threat to expel our ambassador, then we issued the statement confirming our compliance with the Vienna Convention.
And so, I’m wondering: Should that statement be read as us in any way retreating from the letter that we put out that sort of kickstarted this whole thing, that said that the continued detention of that philanthropist there was a shadow over, you know, a respect for democracy and the rule of law?
MS. PSAKI: It should not be seen through that light in any way. Obviously, we continue to speak out about the detainment of activists, of journalists, of individuals around the world, including in Turkey. And we also raise issues, privately and publicly, where we have concerns, as we have in this case.
Turkey remains a NATO Ally — a country that we will continue to work with on a range of joint shared interests moving forward.
Q There’s a number of issues — this, but also on defense contracts with Turkey. Is there any plan for the President to meet with President Erdoğan at these upcoming summits?
MS. PSAKI: We have space — as I think Ed noted — in the schedule, which we’re working to finalize for additional bilateral meetings.
As you know, he met with — he met with his Turkish counterparts last — when he was — in June on his first foreign trip. But I don’t have anything to predict quite yet. And hopefully, with each day that follows, we’ll have more.
For those of you who are on the plane, we’re going to do another gaggle with Jake on the plane on the way there.
Q Jen, thank you so much. I’m wondering what more you can tell us about the President’s visit with the Pope. And Jake had deferred to you on Ed’s question about press access, so can you guarantee press access for that meeting with the Pope?
MS. PSAKI: What I can assure you of is that we are working through every lever we have to advocate for access for the press pool and for press when the President visits the Vatican. We believe in the value of the free press. We believe in the value of ensuring you have access to the President’s trips and his visits overseas. So, I don’t have an update for you.
We are going on a visit. It is not a host here, so I can’t offer you a guarantee, but I can guarantee you we will continue to advocate.
Q Jen, one more on Saudi Arabia, as well.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q This weekend, “60 Minutes” interviewed exiled Saudi ex-intelligence official, Dr. Saad al-Jabri. The former Acting CIA Director Michael Morrell has said that the information relayed by Dr. Saad has saved American lives. So, first, what does the U.S. and the intelligence community owe Dr. Saad for the lives he has helped to save? And his children are being currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, so what is the U.S. doing to secure their release?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I did see the story. I don’t have anything additional in terms of intelligence assessments. I can check with our State Department team and see if there’s additional updates I can provide to all of you.
Thank you all so much. Have a great day.
11:13 A.M. EDT