Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 25, 2022
12:19 P.M. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay, I just have one item.
Welcome, MJ. I think — well, I know you’ve been here before, but it’s the first time since I’ve been here.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, one item for all of you at the top: Last night, President Biden spoke by phone with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to express his deepest condolences over the tragic shootings last Friday of two New York Police Department officers, including one fatally.
President Biden reiterated his admiration for the brave men and women of law enforcement who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect our communities, including the deputy killed in Houston and the officer wounded in Washington, D.C. And he expressed his firm support for Mayor Adams’s efforts to combat gun violence and violent crime.
During the call, the President also reiterated his commitment to serve as a strong federal partner for New York City and other communities grappling with the increase in gun crime we’ve seen over the past two years.
He discussed the steps his administration has taken to combat gun violence, including by providing cities and states with historic levels of funding through the Rescue Plan to invest in fighting crime by putting more cops on the beat and supporting community anti-violence programs, as well as through stepped-up federal law enforcement efforts, such as the gun trafficking strike forces the Department of Justice has established in New York City and other major cities around the country.
Since their announcement last summer, those strike forces have already opened over 350 investigations nationally and have taken over 2,000 guns off of the streets.
With that, Josh, why don’t we start with you?
Q Wonderful. Thanks, Jen. Ukraine’s government is telling its people that a Russian invasion is not imminent. Their defense minister said, “Don’t worry, sleep well. No need to have your bags packed.” Does the U.S. agree with that assessment that an invasion is not imminent?
MS. PSAKI: Well, no one can get into the mind of President Putin or Russian leadership. We all know that is the case.
What we have seen is a range of preparations, including 100,000 troops at the border, bellicose rhetoric, and actions, as we’ve talked about in here, including false-flag operations to try to spread misinformation throughout the region and even the world, setting up the predicate for an invasion.
So, while, of course, our preferred path is diplomacy — and we can’t predict where the mind of President Putin is — we’ve certainly seen aggressive actions and preparations increasing at the border.
Q And then, secondly, the FDA yesterday withdrew the EUA for some monoclonal antibody treatments because they don’t work against Omicron, but Florida continues to push for the treatment for people in the state. What’s your response to Governor DeSantis? And what’s your message to the people of Florida?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s just take a step back here just to realize how crazy this is a little bit. We’ve approached COVID treatments like filling a medicine cabinet. We’re not relying on one type, one brand, or treatment. We invested in and continue to buy a variety across monoclonal antibodies, preexposure prevention therapies, and oral antivirals.
We have provided 71,000 doses of antivirals to Florida, including 34,000 additional treatments that do work against Omicron, just this last week. I’m sorry, about — of a range of those treatments, I should say, to be clear.
What the FDA is making clear is that these treatments — the ones that they are fighting over, that the Governor is fighting over — do not work against Omicron, and they have side effects. That is what the scientists are saying.
We have sent them 71,000 doses of treatments that are effective against Omicron and are effective also against Delta. And they are still advocating for treatments that don’t work.
We’ve seen, unfortunately, from the beginning in our pandemic response, a range of steps or pushes that have been made — through social media platforms; unfortunately, from the mouths of elected officials — advocating for things that don’t work, even when we know things do work — injecting disinfectant, promoting other pseudoscience, sowing doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines and boosters, and now promoting treatments that don’t work.
We know what works: vaccines and boosters. We have a range of doses — of things that do work — and treatments, and we’re providing those to Florida.
Q Thank you, Jen. The President said last night that there is “total unanimity with all of the European leaders” on Russia. How can he say that when Germany, for example, has been so outspoken against even providing arms to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what the President is speaking to is united agreement among our NATO partners, including Germany, about the fact that there will be severe consequences — severe economic consequences should they invade.
As our National Security Advisor and our Secretary of State have said, that doesn’t happen — that unity doesn’t happen on its own; it’s required a lot of work. It also means that actions may not be identical, but we will be unified and they will be strong and severe.
I’ll also note that the Germans — and we expect the Chancellor to come here in February, and hopefully we’ll have more specifics on that soon — has also been vocal about this and about the severity of a response that would — that would take place should Russia invade.
Q And how is the U.S. currently assessing the risk of a Russian cyberattack on the U.S. homeland? And what is it doing to prepare for it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any intelligence that I’m going to read out from here, as I don’t think you would certainly expect.
Obviously, we’re focused right now on Russia’s intentions as it relates to military invasion on the ground and other steps they’ve taken pushing propaganda, false-flag operations that we’ve spoken about quite vocally from here.
Broadly, we are always preparing for any — any action that’s related to cyber or any other activity that any country could take. But I don’t have a prediction against — about that at this point in time, nor is that something that our national security team has assessed that I’m aware of.
Q Do you think we can expect that the President will speak with President Putin anytime soon again?
MS. PSAKI: He’s always been open to engaging at a leader-to-leader level. He knows how effective that is. He’s, obviously, spoken with President Putin directly and candidly a number of times, including in person. I don’t have anything to predict at this point in time. We’re — he’s meeting with his national security team on a daily basis, getting updates. And if that assessment is made — a recommendation is made, we’ll let you all know.
Q As it relates to the 8,500 American troops who have been put in a heightened state of readiness in preparation to go there, has the President or has the White House heard from our allies — NATO Allies — about the expectation or desire for any unilateral American troops to go to that region?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the announcement was made, as you know, Peter, to be a part of a NATO force, right? And so, all of these consultations that are — have been happening over the last several days with our European partners and NATO partners has been about that — 8,500 servicemembers, troops who are at the ready.
And the decision about whether they would be deployed would be made in coordination with our NATO partners and allies, including — any additional discussions or requests. Outside of that, I would point you to the Pentagon. I don’t have anything to assess for you.
Q So, for clarity, there’s no — to the best of your knowledge right now, it’s the President intention to work exclusively via NATO, to not send any troops unilaterally in any form?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re working through NATO to plus-up support in our eastern flank countries. That is what NATO is there for, and we are committed to the sanctity of that alliance.
Just to be clear, there is no intention or interest or desire by the President to send troops to Ukraine. NATO is a forum to support our eastern flank partners and countries, and that’s what the focus has been on.
Q And given the change in the state of readiness for that 8,500 troops that could go as part of this response force in conjunction with NATO, when should we expect to hear from the President of the United States about the situation as it relates to Russia-Ukraine in the form of some public remarks to Americans about whatever sacrifices that might take — in terms of the U.S. men and women going there and the like, and anything beyond that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything to predict in terms of a public speech. Obviously, he gave a two-hour press conference last — just a few days ago where he answered a number of questions on Russia and Ukraine, and we’ll continue to do that.
But right now, a lot of our focus and his focus is on diplomacy, is on engaging with leaders, is on having conversations with members of his national security team.
Q And lastly, very quickly, the French President obviously has expressed a desire for the EU to be working sort of as the leader on this, as opposed to NATO leading the charge, as the relationship goes to Russia and the negotiations go. Would the U.S. be comfortable with the EU leading those direct conversations, as opposed to NATO being the lead?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of formats and forums that have been ongoing — right? — including conversations through NATO, including conversations through the OSCE. I know that there are conversations that are happening through the Normandy Format, that are happening today in Paris. And we certainly support international efforts that take place in a range of forums.
Obviously, NATO is a forum that we work with and coordinate with our partners as it relates to military support and how we’re going to provide assurances to eastern flank countries. So that’s certainly the appropriate forum for that.
But again, there’s a range of forums to discuss de-escalation, negotiation, including the Normandy Format that’s taking place today.
Q Thank you, Jen. A question about immigration.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Why is it that large numbers of single adult men are being released into the United States just hours after being apprehended at the southern border?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure the specifics of what you’re referring to, Peter. What I can tell you, in terms of what our policy is and how we’re approaching the border, is that we continue to be under Title 42. Migrants who cannot be expelled under Ti- — Title 42 are placed into immigration proceedings.
And one of those avenues could be placement in an alternative to detention program in the interior of the United States. Sometimes that means moving migrants to other parts of the United States to move to different detention facilities, where they wait for next steps in the immigration process, such as a court hearing, and are required to check in with a local ICE office.
So that is some- — certainly something that is happening out there in the country and is consistent with our policy.
Q And you mentioned that they’re supposed to check in at a local ICE office. But we know that just between March and August, which is a very small sample size, DHS says more than 47,000 of these migrants that were given notices to report did not show up. So, why let them into the U.S. unsupervised in the first place?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we have stringent protocols and processes that we implement here. That includes expelling individuals who come in under Title 42, given we are still in a global pandemic, and includes those who are — do not show up will be subject to the repercussions of that.
So, that is the policy we’re implementing from our Homeland Security Department.
Q Okay. On Ukraine, President Biden met with Putin in person in June in Geneva. And afterwards, he came out and he said that the two of them arrived at a conclusion. He said, “‘It’s clearly not in anybody’s interest — your country’s or mine — for us to be in a situation where we’re in a new Cold War.’ And I truly believe he thinks that — he understands that.” Has the President changed his opinion about what Putin thinks?
MS. PSAKI: How — are you suggesting we’re in a new Cold War?
Q I’m just asking — it seems like the President thought in June that things were going to be good. And right now, things are not looking good.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t actually think that’s at all what the President said. He gave an extensive press conference where he conveyed it wouldn’t happen overnight and that there was work that we could do together. And that is something that — that’s how you approach a diplomatic relationship. You are vocal; there are consequences when you disagree and when you have strong concerns. And you’ve seen us implement those.
You still look for places and areas where you can work together. That remains how we’re working with Russia.
Q Okay. There’s a Buzzfeed report now, suggesting that the Ukrainian government is upset the U.S. pulled citizens out of Ukraine before many other countries did. And this report says that a close — a source close to the Ukrainian president thinks those Americans are safer in Kyiv than in Los Angeles. What do you make of that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re always going to make decisions that are in the security interests of people who are serving as diplomats around the world. And we have assessments that are made by the State Department. Hence, the decision and the announcement made over the last couple of days, and the fact that we put in a Level 4 advisory back in October, conveying very clearly to Americans they should leave Ukraine.
Look, I will let others assess, but there are 100,000 troops — Russian troops — on the border of Ukraine and no clarity that the leader of Russia doesn’t intend to invade. That sounds pretty dangerous to me.
I would also say that the Ukrainian leaders have welcomed the security assistance — and they’ve even met us at the airport — that we have been providing over the course of the last several days. So that seems to be contradicting that assessment.
Q Okay. And then, last one: The Secretary of State, a few days ago, tweeted, “I #StandWithUkraine.” Has that ever worked at stopping an authoritarian regime from doing anything — a hashtag?
MS. PSAKI: I will have to say that unlike the last administration, we don’t think Twitter is the only means of engaging or negotiating or discussing important topics. But it is important for us to convey to the Ukrainian people, who do view commentary through a range of forums — I don’t know how many are Fox News watchers; maybe some of them — and — including social media, that we stand with them, we support them. And that includes in their efforts to protect the sovereignty of their country.
Q Can I — you mentioned a visit by the German Chancellor.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Do you have a date on that, or is it sometime in the next —
MS. PSAKI: Not yet. Hopefully, we’ll have one soon.
Q Okay. Can I, then, pivot back to Russia? The U.S. is in talks with other countries to deal with potential shortages in gas supply.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Can you speak to that a little bit — and, in particular, what requests you’ve made of Qatar and whether they have responded about whether they would be able to step in and fill any shortfall should that happen in the case of a conflict?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. So it’s — our approach is not about any one country or any individual entity. We’re engaging with a range of countries and partners to discuss what we — what could be shortages.
So, I’m not going to get into any specifics of what any conversations entail. They can certainly speak for themselves.
But what I can give you an update on is that a disruption, of course, in physical energy supplies transiting — transiting Ukraine would most acutely affect natural gas markets in Europe. And so, we’re engaging our European allies to coordinate response planning, including how to deploy their existing energy stockpiles. That’s part of it.
But we’ve also been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from North Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and the United States. We’re in discussion with major natural gas producers around the globe to understand their capacity and willingness to temporarily surge natural gas output and to allocate these volumes to European buyers.
And we’re also engaging with major buyers and suppliers of LNG to ensure flexibility in existing contracts and storage is managed and enables diversion to Europe.
So, we are of course preparing, as we are in a lot of other areas, a range of contingencies should there be a disruption, for a range of reasons, to natural gas.
I would also note that natural gas markets are very regional by nature, given constraints on how much can be exported. So, any reduction in Russian exports of natural gas to Europe would have a minimal impact on U.S. prices. That’s what our anticipation would be.
Q And then, sorry, on Qatar specifically, there’s some — there’s a belief that they’ve sort of allocated their production right now, which is running at more or less full capacity, to Asia. Have you had any feedback from that country specifically or —
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak for any individual country or any individual diplomatic conversations at this point in time. That’s why I said that it’s about — it’s not based on our approach here and strategy is not based on one — any one individual country or entity. It’s a broad approach that includes engagement with Europeans, as well as suppliers in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and in the U.S.
Q And then, broadly, can you say — you know, last week was when the administration began to, sort of, ratchet up warnings that an invasion could be imminent, it could happen at any time. This week, where — can you say how, if at all, the President’s view has changed about the risk? Is it the same? Is it getting worse? Is it getting (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I think when we said it was imminent, it remains imminent. But, again, we can’t make a prediction of what decision President Putin will make. We’re still engaged in diplomatic discussions and negotiations.
Q So, there’s no new element in the last week that’s changed the President’s view one way or the other on (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Well, “imminent” has a pretty intense meaning. Doesn’t it?
Q I agree. I agree.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q And it’s still the belief that it’s imminent?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q Roger. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes, go ahead, Jeff.
Q Hi, Jen. The Kremlin is using the U.S. announcement of putting 8,500 troops on alert to say that it’s the U.S. that is fueling this conflict. The White House’s reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that our commitment to our NATO partners and allies is ironclad. If you go back to 9/11, the only — the first time that Article 5 was invoked, it was in defense of the United States.
And we take our commitment to our eastern flank partners and NATO Allies very seriously.
But what is important to note is that the aggressive behavior here is on the part of the Russians. This is a defensive alliance, not an offensive alliance. And what we’re doing here is not making a decision — as has been clear by NATO partners and by the President and members of our national security team — to deploy, but just to be ready. And we have a responsibility to do that so that people who might be deployed can tell their family members it’s a shorter period of time, and to be ready to deliver on our commitment to our NATO partners.
Q And can you clarify, are those 8,500 troops who are now “at the ready” as you said — are they already based in Europe? We obviously have a lot of troops there.
MS. PSAKI: Europe and the United States.
Q Europe and the United States.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q And did NATO request that the U.S. put them on the ready, or is that a U.S. offer?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a conversation with NATO — so, a collaborative discussion.
Q And a follow-up on Peter’s question about Ukraine. Are there direct ques- — or excuse me, direct contacts with Ukraine right now to allay their concerns that the U.S. was acting preemptively to — or too early, too soon to take personnel out of the country?
MS. PSAKI: So, yeah, we are in constant contact with the Ukrainians to reiterate our support, to convey updates on shipments of supplies, military equipment — something that’s been happening over the last several days.
Our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, has spoken with his counterpart at least eight times over the past few weeks. And U.S. officials at the State Department, Defense Department, and across our government continue to work in close coordination on a daily basis with Ukrainian officials.
Secretary Blinken, as you know, was in Ukraine last week, and he called his Ukrainian counterpart to read out his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
So, we have been in constant and close contact with the Ukrainians’ leaders at a range of levels, as well as with our European partners.
Q And just lastly —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q — Senator McConnell gave you some unusual praise — the White House — today about its preparations for Ukraine, saying that it looked like the White House was prepared to act “before an incursion” and not after. Do you know what steps he was referring to there? Is that just the troop deployment?
And, B, were you pleased to hear some positive words from Senator McConnell?
MS. PSAKI: Well, yes, of course, we were. I mean, look, I think abiding by our Article 5 commitments, standing up for the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, making clear that one country should not be able to invade and take over territory from another country — that’s not just a Democratic belief or a Republican belief, that’s central to who we are as a country and who leaders like Leader McConnell — or Senator McConnell, like President Biden have — that’s what their belief has been for many decades. So, we certainly welcome that.
I would note, there’s — there was a bipartisan delegation. We have had — done a lot of briefings from leaders in the administration, with Hill leaders. Those will continue as well.
And what was the second part? Oh, what was — he was referring to?
MS. PSAKI: I would — certainly would point you to him. I would say that we, obviously, have taken a number of steps in recent weeks, including very close coordination — more than a hundred engagements — with European partners; staying in close contact with the Ukrainians; obviously taking steps, including sanctions last week, making clear that we are going to have troops at the ready to support NATO efforts.
So, I would point you to him. But we have been taking every — and even noting false-flag operations and kind of calling out propaganda. But I would point you to him or his team on any specifics he was referring to.
Q Republican lawmakers in Florida are advancing a bill that would bar the state from doing business with companies that transport undocumented migrants into the state. Does the White House have a response to this legislation?
MS. PSAKI: I am not familiar with the specifics of the legislation. I can check with our team and see.
Q I’ll start with a question on behalf of a reporter who can’t be in the room today. His name is Pablo Manriquez; the outlet is called Futuro Media. And he asks: What unilateral authority is the President willing to exercise for immigrant relief that has not been tried yet?
MS. PSAKI: For immigration reform, or relief, or — well, I would say, we’re going to have to keep trying some of the measures that we have been working on to date. You know, the President put forward — proposed an immigration bill — a comprehensive immigration bill in his first day in office. We’ve obviously continued to work with leaders in the Senate to try to push that forward, including trying to work to have components included in the President’s Build Back Better agenda.
We’re going to continue to work to not only instill and –implement safer security measures, but also more humane measures with how people are treated, how children are treated.
And we’re also going to work — continue to work and double — redouble our efforts to address root causes.
So, we’re going to continue to approach this from many fronts.
Q Pablo also asks: Is the President willing to reallocate unused green cards and apply them to immigrants waiting in decades-long green card backlogs?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have reformed the system — green card system. It’s certainly something we’ve talked about as a part of immigration reform. I can check and see if there’s anything we can do unilaterally on that front.
Q Back on Ukraine and Russia.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Can you give us a status report on the written response to Moscow? When can we expect it? And will it be made public?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t have an exact timing update. Of course, that would be led by our Secretary of State and our diplomatic team who have been closely engaging in these efforts.
In terms of whether or not it would be public, I would note that typically it’s not. Typically, paper — paper that is part of negotiations or discussions — if you look at the Iran nuclear deal, or you look at any treaty — not that this is a treaty, but just as a point of comparison — negotiations or discussions, it is typically not made public. It’s a part of the diplomatic process and has been used by our diplomats for many decades.
Q Is the President involved in the crafting of the response?
MS. PSAKI: The President certainly engages, is briefed by, and approves every component of our response and our efforts in this — in this process.
Q One more, from me. One of the criticisms that some fellow Democrats have been voicing in the press recently is that the President has surrounded himself with four loyal aides who have been with him for many years, and increasingly, these Democrats are publicly saying that these aides have left the President ill-served. Are you aware of a response from the President to those criticisms?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of what?
Q Well, there was a Democratic senator quoted today in the newspaper that said that the — sometimes the boxcars are “empty.” You know, you know that Senator Manchin has publicly voiced (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: I was — I didn’t really even understand that quote, just to be honest.
But here’s what I would say — and I think I know what you’re getting at, Steve, so let me try to answer your question.
I am new to President Biden’s orbit. I’ve only been working for him since I joined the administration during the transition and then joined in this role here that I’m still in today.
What I have found is that — I see him on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. He asks me consistently what I think. And by the people who have been surrounding him for some time, whether that’s Ron Klain or Steve Ricchetti or others, they’ve certainly encouraged and supported that relationship and engagement.
What I’ve seen the President do — and I know this isn’t what everybody has visibility into, so I guess that’s why I’m sharing this level of detail — is if you’re in a meeting with him and you’re having a conversation, if you don’t know the answer, he wants more information, he picks up the phone and he calls the person he thinks does. Sometimes that’s Ron Klain. Sometimes that’s Susan Rice. Sometimes it’s Brian Deese. Sometimes it’s Louisa Terrell. That’s how the President operates.
And that effort to really empower team members and have that direct relationship with the President is something that — that’s been my experience to date.
Q Thanks, Jen. Just back to your comment about White House outreach on the Hill —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — can you confirm the White House is holding two classified briefings?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, sure. And let me give you a little bit more detail on that, because I think I have that here, too.
So, these briefing are led, of course, by the State Department and Defense Departments. But today we are providing two additional classified bipartisan briefings for House and Senate leadership and committee staff. They’ll be providing updates on recent developments with Ukraine and Russia and the state of play.
We’re also working on all-members briefings for the House and the Senate in the coming days. In the last week alone, Secretary Blinken and Deputy Secretary Sherman have spoken to nearly 20 members, with additional engagements planned this week.
And since December, we’ve had dozens of engagements with Congress on Ukraine and Russia, including two by President Biden, including one on December 7th with Big Fo- — with the Big Four; a January 19th virtual meeting with CODEL members; six briefings from National Security Advisor Sullivan to bipartisan members of the House and Senate, including leadership and national security committee chairs and ranking members; nine interagency briefings for bipartisan members of national security committees; eight interagency briefings for bipartisan Hill staff, including leadership committee and personal staff; and, of course, an open hearing that Victoria Nuland participated in back in December.
So, this is an ongoing process and we will continue to provide regular briefings — some classified, some not — moving forward.
Q Okay, great. And can I ask —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
Q Is there any updates on the federal website for testing? Anything you can give us on how many tests went out or how many were requested?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I certainly understand the question. There has been a great deal of interest. I don’t have an exact number. I know that’s something we will be putting out. Let me check on the status of that.
I know I’ve got to wrap this up, so let me just quickly try to get to as many as I can.
Q I also wanted to ask about the testing. Do you know, at this point, how many of the tests that you’ve already ordered have come in yet — I don’t mean going out to the American people — but are in your stockpile? And also when you’ll be signing contracts for the other —
MS. PSAKI: For the additional 500 million?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check on both of those questions for you.
Q And also, I wanted to ask you about yesterday when you were talking about the competition executive order.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q You were saying about how the White House has met 100 percent of the deadlines in that order. I know a lot of those deadlines were for writing plans to do things in different agencies.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Can you talk about what tangible results Americans will see in the next six months to a year out of all those different plans? You’ve met those deadlines, but now people will start to see the effect of them.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I mean, the President talked about this a little bit yesterday, but part of that — and I don’t have an exact timeline on it because they all have different implementation efforts. But some tangible things are being able to buy hearing aids over the counter, being able to take some of your products and get them repaired anywhere you want without worrying about that being a challenge, making sure we’re taking steps to address lack of competition that is out there in a range of industries where prices are going up.
So every agency is writing different plans, and I’m sure they can detail and outline in more specifics. But I also — Bharat, from our NEC team, has been one of the people leading this effort, and maybe I’ll see if he can come and give you guys all a more comprehensive briefing.
Okay, Todd, last one. And then I got to — you guys, I think, have to gather.
Q Two quick questions. Some members of Congress have been promoting this theory that the FBI had at least one provocateur in the January 6th mob. Can the White House say unequivocally that there were no federal agents who provoked illegal attacks on —
MS. PSAKI: Well, FBI Director Wray has already said that the FBI had no evidence of this baseless conspiracy, and he would certainly know.
Q And over the last week, we’ve seen a number of House Republicans announcing billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure projects in their districts. These are Republicans who voted against that bill. What does the White House have to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: We welcome their support for the President’s agenda and an agenda that was supported by some Republicans — not the majority. And, hopefully, they’ll take the right vote to support their communities and jobs — job creation in the future. Maybe it will make them think twice.
Q One quick question?
MS. PSAKI: I’m so sorry. I got to — I think you — some of you guys have to wrap, so —
Q We have some time.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, you have time?
Q Yeah, we have until one.
Q Yeah, one.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to cut it off so dramatically.
Q Does the White House have any words of support for the students in D.C. who are currently walking out to protest lax COVID standards in their schools?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, in D.C. and Arling- —
Q In D.C. right now, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think that we understand, as a parent myself. But I know these students are dealing with fears that they have themselves about the fear of going to a school, a classroom, a workplace where you don’t feel safe. That is one of the reasons that we have been so supportive and advocated for leaders and school leaders to follow public health guidelines.
So, you know, that is the way to keep people safe — to ensure people can feel safe in their school or their workplace, and certainly we support that.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Jen. Tomorrow, India is celebrating its 73rd Republic Day. As the leader of world’s oldest democracy, what is President Biden’s message to the people of the world’s largest democracy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we join India, the world’s largest democracy, in honoring Republic Day, the day that marks the adoption of India’s constitution.
As President Biden said when India’s Prime Minister Modi visited the White House last September: “[T]he relationship between India and the United States…is destined to be stronger, closer, and tighter. And…it can benefit the whole world.” “Our partnership…[is] rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values.”
Q One more, on Ukraine. You know, India has had a — is having a very strong and historic relationship with Russia. President Putin was recently in New Delhi for his annual summit meeting with Prime Minister Modi. Perhaps President Biden also has a strong friendship with Prime Minister Modi. Does President Biden think that India and/or Prime Minister Modi, in his role, can do something with both U.S. and Russia to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly welcome any efforts to de-escalate, and we are in touch with a range of allies and partners on this. But I don’t have any specific conversations to read out that relate to Indian officials.
Go ahead. Linda, go ahead.
Q Oh, sure. So, the President has nothing on his schedule today aside from the PDB. Can you shed any light on how he’s spending his day?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s see. This morning, I think he had some policy meetings, also a PDB meeting. He, later this afternoon, I think, is doing some remarks review. There are some days that we spend some time doing internal meetings and discussions with policy experts, with policy leaders, and that’s what’s happening today.
He would say he doesn’t have nearly enough time — of free time on his schedule because it is packed no matter whether people see him or not.
Q Tomorrow and Thursday — is it a lot of time in the Situation Room? Or —
MS PSAKI: There will be, certainly, some time where he’ll be meeting with and engaging with his national security team, I’m certain.
We have an event tomorrow on Build Back Better, where there’ll be a number of CEOs here. So that will be part of the day tomorrow as well.
Q Jen, can I ask you one last question?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Forgive me. It’s sort of the elephant in the room. Many people in the country were talking about it last night and this morning. Does the President regret saying what he said about Peter? Can you shed some light, if you have any conv- — have had any conversations with him today about what happened last night?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say what’s most important — and I — it’s — Peter is sitting here, so this is kind of a funny thing.
But the President — the President called Peter. And he confirmed this, so this is only why I’m speaking to this. And if you have private conversations with the President, I will assure you I’m not going to convey that on your behalf. But Peter spoke to this.
The President called him. He conveyed to him that, “It was nothing personal, man,” and also acknowledged that all of you are going to ask him a range of questions. So, I think that speaks for itself.
Thank you, everyone. Hopefully, I did that justice.
Q Yes. I can confirm. “Person familiar.”
MS. PSAKI: “Person familiar.” (Laughs.) Okay. We only do on-the-record stuff here, Peter.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone. Have a good rest of your day.
12:53 P.M. EST