James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:25 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
Q Hello. Good to see you.
MS. PSAKI: Good to see you. Okay, I have nothing at the top for you.
Josh, what is on your mind?
Q Thanks, Jen. Two questions. First, after the Rome meeting, since the war began, has China provided any military or economic aid to Russia or expressed any specific intentions to do so?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not in a position to confirm or detail any intelligence from here at this point in time.
Q Okay. Moving on to the Russia-Ukraine talks: What does the U.S. see that would be a sign for optimism that some kind of ceasefire could be reached? And which carrots and which sticks do you think Putin is most responding to, if that’s the case —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — most likely to respond to?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you’ve heard us say in the past, we certainly will continue to support the Ukrainian participation in these talks and conversations as long as they choose to continue to participate in them, of course. And we are trying to boost them by providing a range of not just economic and humanitarian assistance, but military assistance that we believe strengshens — strenghens — strengthens — excuse me — their positions in these talks.
Our view continues to be that, despite words that are said in these talks or coming out of these talks, diplomacy requires engaging in good faith to de-escalate. And what we’re really looking for is evidence of that. And we’re not seeing any evidence, at this point, that President Putin is doing anything to stop the onslaught or de-escalate. But that is really what we would be looking for.
Q Thank you, Jen. To follow up on the Rome meeting, what are the consequences for China if they do aid Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get into specific consequences. I think what we have conveyed and what was conveyed by our National Security Advisor in this meeting is that should they provide military or other assistance that, of course, violates sanctions or supports the war effort, that there will be significant consequences.
But in terms of what the specifics look like, we would coordinate with our partners and allies to make that determination.
Q Okay. But Jake Sullivan certainly communicated that there would be consequences?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, as we have also said publicly a number of times.
Q Okay. And then, is there anything you can share about the President’s potential meeting — potential trip to Europe in the next couple of weeks? Who he might be meeting with and really what the point would be of going to Europe?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we are, of course, closely engaged with our NATO partners and European allies, as you heard us say a number of times, about the next steps in diplomacy, whether that’s providing additional humanitarian or security assistance or the mechanics for future conversations.
But there’s not been any final decision about a trip, so I don’t have anything to preview about what that would look like if he were to take a trip.
Q Okay. Thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Jen. The President said back in February that the U.S. would respond forcefully if Americans were targeted in Ukraine. Brent Renaud was killed over the weekend. One of my colleagues was injured today. We’re still waiting to hear if he’s okay. So what is that response going to look like?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say: Your colleague, Benjamin Hall — I know there’s not final reports yet or we would wait for your news organization to confirm those — but our thoughts, the President’s thoughts, our administration’s thoughts are with him, his family, and all of you at Fox News as well.
In terms of specific actions, I think you have seen the President lead the world in taking — putting in place consequence — consequences, putting in place repercussions and steps in response to the actions of Russia — the brutal actions that have certainly impacted Ukrainian people and now have certainly impacted some Americans.
But in terms of next steps or what the next consequence would be, I don’t have anything to preview for you at this point in time.
Q But we’ve seen the President been, so far, unwilling to draw a red line on the kinds of atrocities that we’re going to watch from the sidelines. We’ve seen maternity wards being bombed, illegal weapons being used, pediatric hospitals being targeted.
President Obama drew the red line for Syria at chemical weapons. So is there any thought process about what we’re willing to watch happen before there’s —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jacqui, I think it’s important to reiterate as often as we can that what we’re seeing is horrific, what we’re seeing is barbaric. And the steps that the President has taken and led the world in taking have essentially led the Russian financial system to be on the brink of collapse. We have provided more military assistance to the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian government than any other country in the world and more historic assistance than any other year to Ukraine in history. And we’re doing that so that we can support them in this difficult moment.
So I would say that, at this moment in time, we have been hardly on the sidelines. We have been leading this effort around the world to respond to every step and every escalatory step that President Putin and the Russians are taking.
Q But isn’t there a concern that if we don’t draw the line at something like chemical weapons, that it’ll make it easier for malign actors to use them in the future, because they’ll just go unpunished?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jacqui, I think that you heard the President say on Friday that there would be severe consequences and the world would respond if they were to use chemical weapons.
And what we have been doing over the course of the last several weeks, if not months, is providing as much information to the global community, to the media, and to others about what to expect.
And when you have President Putin suggesting — and Russian — Russian officials suggesting that the United States and Ukrainians are the ones who are working on a chemical weapons program, it’s clear that this is a pattern that we’ve seen in the past of them trying to set up a predicate for their own actions.
Q But what does — what does that end up looking like if the world responds? Because so far, we’ve heard the President talk a lot about what the U.S. is not going to do, in terms of, you know, not wanting to trigger war with a nuclear power. But do we believe that Putin is, you know, a rational kind of person who, you know, would pay attention to something like that? I mean, he didn’t need provocation to, you know, invade Ukraine. Why wouldn’t we think that he would just create a pretext that is fabricated for something like that?
MS. PSAKI: We do. That’s why we’ve talked about it.
And I think, Jacqui, what’s important here is — and then I’m just going to move on to get to more people — is that for any President, you have to weigh how you can lead the world, how you can make very clear that actions are horrific, that they are not acceptable, they’re not aligned with global norms, while also thinking about our own national security interests. And starting World War Three is certainly not in our national security interests. Putting U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine to fight a war with Russia is not in our national security interests.
Q I do have one — one quick —
MS. PSAKI: I just have to move on because I — otherwise I’m not going to get to other people.
Q It’s a follow-up to what you had said though about misinformation and Twitter.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Because, last year, the President worked with Twitter specifically to address misinformation on vaccines, called it a “wartime effort.” Has there been any conversations with Twitter to address misinformation as it pertains to chemical attacks and that kind of thing, given that the — you know, Russia has banned this platform within the country and they’re using it to, obviously, target eyes outside of the country, including within the U.S., to spread propaganda and misinformation?
MS. PSAKI: We were the ones who told you all about that.
I agree. I don’t have anything to read out for you in terms of private conversations with Twitter or any other social platform. But I’m happy to check and see if there’s more.
Q Back on the Rome talks. Have you seen any — or did you — your colleagues see in this meeting any sign that China got the message, that they are going to heed your warnings?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what we’re going to be watching closely, of course, is actions. So beyond that, I think, as my colleagues just — just read out for you in a call that we delayed the briefing slightly to make sure you could all participate in: It was an intense seven-hour session reflecting the gravity of the moment. And it was an opportunity to be very clear about what you’ve heard our National Security Advisor convey publicly but more directly about what the consequences would be.
Q And, you know, your colleagues have said that your deep concerns were conveyed about what would happen if China were to align more closely with Russia. Just, big picture: If China does not heed the U.S.’s warnings, if they do move forward with this, how concerned are you that this is inching closer to the world war that the President has been warning of?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what we’re looking at here — one is: If China were to decide to be an economic provider, or to take additional steps, there to Russia, they only make up 15 percent or 20 — 15 to 20 percent of the world’s economy. The G7 countries make up more than 50 percent. So there are a range of tools at our disposal in coordination with our European partners should we need to use them.
But, again, we are — don’t have anything to update you on in terms of an assessment. This is obviously an area we’re watching closely.
While this meeting has been planned for some time as a follow-up from the November call that pres- — the President had with President Xi, it was a timely — an important moment to have this conversation, especially given the reports we’ve seen and — and the invasion, of course, of Ukraine.
Go ahead. Oh, one more? Go ahead..
Q Just one quick follow-up, actually, to Jacqui’s questions —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — about chemical weapons. You know, the President, as you noted, said on Friday that Russia would pay a severe price. What would that price look like? Are we talking in the realm of more sanctions? Can you give us sort of any big picture about what that would entail?
MS. PSAKI: That would be a conversation that we would have with our partners around the world.
But there’s no question if Russia were to decide to use chemical weapons, there would be a severe reaction from the global community.
Q So when you talk about, kind of, the possibilities for China if they don’t go along with what you’ve asked, would you say, like you’ve said with Russia, that “everything is on the table,” including ending trade negotiations, sanctions? Is that all on the table?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to be in a position to detail it further from here. We’ll see. We’ll keep having this conversation over the coming days.
Q But you won’t do nothing if China decides to provide military support?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve been clear there would be consequences.
Q And that you would — you all would initiate?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q Okay. And then, what’s kind of your end — thinking about what an endgame looks like, as far as these conversations with China, do you want them to shift their strategic priorities and not have a relationship with Russia that it does now? Or are you looking for something more modest?
MS. PSAKI: It’s less about changing their mind and more about making clear with them what the consequences would be should they take additional actions to support this invasion.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q On the additional $200 million in security assistance —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — the President signed off on this past weekend, an official said that part of it would go to anti-armor and anti-aircraft systems. I know the Pentagon says it’s still kind of in process right now. Are these — are we talking about weapon systems that have already been delivered, or is there consideration of new types of weapon systems in this tranche of funding?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question, Phil. My understanding — and just to give you all more detail: This weekend, as I think you all saw it, we announced — and I think this is why you’re asking — the President authorized an additional $200 million of security assistance, which utilizes the maximum amount of funding available to provide Ukrainians with the type of weapons they are using so effectively.
It’s really a continuity, as I understand it — let me double check this for you — of the type of weapons that they have been using very effectively on the ground to push back on Russia, both in the air and on the ground.
So that includes, as you — as you noted, anti-armor, anti-tank, and air defense capabilities and ammunition of other types, and other types of assistance to address the armored, airborne, and other threats that they are facing.
But my understanding, Phil, is it’s a continuation of the types of security assistance that we have been providing. And, of course, the President is looking forward to — there’s a significant amount of funding, as I think you all have noted, in the omnibus for Ukraine, which would enable us to provide even additional assistance to add to that package.
Q Okay. And then just a quick follow-up to one of Josh’s questions. The Deputy Secretary of State this weekend said, quote, she’d seen some signs of “willingness to have real, serious negotiations.” I think that differed a little bit from what we’ve heard from officials about the Russian posture up to this point.
Can you elaborate on what the signs may have been — may have been seen in terms of giving the Deputy Secretary of State that view of things?
MS. PSAKI: Well, she also said that they would have to back any words with actions, essentially, which I think is an important context. Right?
They did have talks today. There have been reports that they will have additional talks. We’ve been very appreciative of the efforts of our allies — France, Germany, Israel, and Turkey, and others — to be participants in these talks at times or engage in these talks at times.
But, again, diplomacy requires both sides engaging in good faith and to deescalate. And what we’re really looking for is specific delivery of actions.
I think it’s important to remember that there have been five or six attempts to implement a humanitarian corridor. Those have not been effective. Those have not worked. You’ve seen, through video footage and others’ reports, that those — that has not been abided by. So that is where we are keeping our eye and focus.
Go ahead, Kelly.
Q Do you get a sense that as this conflict with Russia and Ukraine is happening, that other actors that are adversaries to the United States — China, Iran, North Korea — are also testing the West, with China’s work with Russia, as you’re dealing with that, perhaps with Taiwan; Iran with its rockets; North Korea also showing its provocative nature?
Is there a test of the West coming from some of the adversaries of the United States?
MS. PSAKI: We have not assessed those to be related, as you have said. I mean, if you look at the Iran — the missile strike that we saw over the weekend, no U.S. facilities were hit, no personnel were harmed. We were not the targets of that.
We’ve obviously seen tests and information we put out publicly as it relates to North Korea. We’ve seen dozens of tests over the course of past administrations as well. So I would say we are not assessing it through those — that prism.
Q Has the administration reached out to American companies that have property, infrastructure in Russia — to expect that to be nationalized by Russia and to lose those assets in Russia?
MS. PSAKI: We have been, of course, engaged with U.S. companies — not encouraging them; obviously, we’ve — publicly applauding them. But they’re going to make their own decisions as private sector companies.
We’ve also conveyed, as we did publicly, I think on Friday, that there would be — we would certainly look to consequences should that happen.
Q The former White House COVID Advisor, Andy Slavitt, has a Twitter thread today in which he talks about the potential for an increase in COVID cases this spring. He says, “Based on European case increases, the U.S. could see a new rise in COVID cases…” Are you confident the administration has the real-time data it needs to provide the best information possible to the public?
MS. PSAKI: To pr- — to assess data?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, we are. I would note that — I did not see his tread — his thread, but let me note — and I’m not sure if it was related to the BA.2 variant. Was it related to the BA.2 variant?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. What we do know about the BA.2 variant, which I think is important context for people, is that it’s circulated in the United States for some time. We’ve been watching it closely, of course. We currently have about 35,000 cases in this country. We expect some fluctuation, especially at this relatively low level, and, certainly, that to increase.
I would also note that while BA.2 is more transmissi- — is a more transmissible version of Omicron, the tools we have — including mRNA vaccines, therapeutics, and tests — are all effective tools against the virus. And we know because it’s been in the country.
And so, as we’re watching, and I think a lot of the reporting has been about, of course, the UK but also China. And China has a zero-tolerance policy, as you all know, but they also did not conduct their vaccination and booster campaigns with mRNA vaccine. So that is important context, too, as you’re seeing the impact.
What I would note, just to go back to your earlier part of your question, is that we are still pressing — the place where it is concerning is the fact that we need additional COVID funding. And we have talked about this — we talked about this a little bit in the past, but — last week — all running together.
But — but without COVID response resources and additional money, there could be immediate impacts on testing capacity; the uninsured fund, which offers coverage of testing and treatments for tens of millions of Americans who lack health insurance; and on our supply of monoclonal antibodies. And that means that some programs, if we don’t get funding, could abruptly end or need to be pared back. And that could impact how we are able to respond to any variant, of course.
Q I do just want to ask you one more —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — quick question.
Q We noticed the President, when he came on stage today at the Marriott, had a mask on. Is that something he has been advised to do, or is that something he just feels more comfortable doing?
MS. PSAKI: Often he does that when it’s required by a specific event, as he did when he went to Texas last week. I can certainly check on that. He was tested yesterday and tested negative.
Q Thanks, Jen. So, on Ukraine, the President has made clear that he sort of has a red line with Russia, in terms of not wanting to do anything that would get into a direct confrontation or lead to World War Three, as he puts it.
I’m curious — I know you’re not sharing specifics, but in broad strokes, does he have a similar red line now with China assisting Russia? And are — is the — does he not want to get into a direct confrontation with China? And are there certain things he’s not willing to do because of that?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I can answer your question, but tell me if I’m not.
We don’t like red lines around here, so I’m not going to use that phrasing. But you are obviously correct that what he is — he’s been very clear and consistent about his — that he does not have the intention of sending U.S. troops to Ukraine. That has not changed.
I would look at — while we are certainly watching closely the actions of China, whether — whether that is support of any kind — in support of any kind for Russia, and certainly there would be consequences to that — I do think we look at it through a slightly different prism. I mean, Russia is invading Ukraine actively. So, I’m not — but I’m not sure if I’m answering your question or not.
Q Well, sort of. Just to follow up, I mean — right, no ground troops in Ukraine, but also, there have been other things, such as not enforcing a no-fly zone or not providing the fighter jets —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — that the President has been reluctant to do. So, again, you said you’re not sharing specifics. You said Jake Sullivan said “significant consequences” for the Chinese. But I’m wondering if there are certain things that you will not consider because it could lead to a direct confrontation with China that you’re reluctant to get into, the same way you are with Russia.
MS. PSAKI: I just think we look at it slightly differently. I mean, what I’m talking — what we — why the President has been so clear about not sending U.S. troops is obviously because that would be a military conflict. We’re not fighting, obviously, in a — there’s no military conflict at this moment with China, nor do we — nor are we predicting that. So I think we just — it’s slightly different.
Q And one just on a —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — different topic. How high is the administration expecting gas prices to go? And how much — is there a limit — not a red line but a limit at what you think — (laughter) — the U.S. public can bear?
MS. PSAKI: Just flows off the tongue. (Laughs.) It’s okay.
So it’s a good question. We don’t have — I don’t have a prediction from here, in terms of what it could look like. There are outside predictors, of course. And, obviously, what we’re trying to do is mitigate the impact. You know, and you’ve seen, of course, you know, the price of oil go down a little bit. And the President will continue to look at a range of steps that he can take, whether it is engaging through his team, or through even himself personally, with big global producers, or it is looking at a range of domestic options.
But we’ve seen it go up. I mean, we look at a lot of the same data you look at — AAA and other data — that shows us how much it has gone up since the period of time when Russian troops lined up on the border.
But in terms of how far — you know, we still believe it will continue to go up, but we’re trying to take steps we can take to mitigate that and reduce it.
Go ahead, Mara.
Q Thank you. I understand you don’t want to lay out what the severe consequences would be if Russia used chemical weapons, but I guess what I’m confused about is we know there’s not going to be any U.S. troops, no jets, no no-fly zone. Other than the things you’ve already done, which you have already described as severe, could you give us some examples of what more you can do since you’ve ruled out all these things?
Just — when you talk about severe consequences, what does that mean, given that we know what it doesn’t mean?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I —
MS. PSAKI: I understand your question. I’m just not going to outline that from here. Those are conversations that will happen — continue to happen with our national security team and with our partners and allies around the world.
Q But what you’re asking us to believe is that there are severe consequences that you haven’t used yet but that are not on the “no” list?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Q Okay. But you won’t tell us what kinds of things those might be?
MS. PSAKI: We’re going to have those conversations privately through our national security team and with our partners around the world.
Q Okay. But — but do you — I guess what I’m wondering — what about the argument that there just aren’t any more severe consequences for you to use because most of the severe ones you’ve ruled out?
MS. PSAKI: That’s inaccurate.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Just on the Fed nominations —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Nice try, Mara.
Q — does the White House have any assurances from any Republican senators that they would support Sarah Bloom Raskin’s nomination? And did Senator Manchin give the President or anyone in the administration a heads up about his opposition to her — to her nomination? I’m trying to figure out if that was a surprise.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I understand your question. We were aware of his position in advance of his — of Senator Manchin’s announcement. We are — she is one of the most qualified individuals to ever be nominated to this position. And so where we are now is — our focus is on continuing to work with Chairman — Chairman Brown to garner bipartisan support. But I don’t have anything to read out for you on that front at this point.
Q How did Senator Manchin make you aware that — of his opposition? Was there a call to someone in the White House? Did the President know? What did that look like today?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to detail more specifics.
Q Okay. And just one last question, if you don’t mind.
MS. PSAKI: Yep.
Q How is the administration preparing to respond to the potential supplies chain shock — excuse me — posed by China’s decision to lock down the tech production hub in Shenzhen?
MS. PSAKI: So we are, of course, monitoring this incredibly closely, and our team is quite focused on it. What I will say is that, because of the steps we’ve taken and a number of steps we’ve taken to better — better prepare and strengthen the supply chain, you know, we — we feel that that has helped us — will help us sustain.
But in terms of — right now, we’re basically in the stage where we’re monitoring with the State Department. What we’re looking at is, of course, as you know, the impact on some of these ports around where — the impacted areas of China.
And we know here that, of course, our Port Action Plan and the work of our Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, that we have a strong inventory that we can rely on. It’s about 90 percent of goods at groceries and drugstores are in stock currently. And we’ve also reduced the number of import containers sitting at the docks for over nine days by over 60 percent.
But in terms of specific impacts of ports in China, we’re monitoring it, and we don’t have a new assessment at this — in additi- — up-to-date assessment, I should say, at this point in time.
Q Thanks, Jen. Is it the U.S. assessment, just to be clear, that Russia is deliberately targeting civilians in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is part of our assessment and review as we’re looking at how we’re — whether we will designate as a war crime. And we look at this through a legal process internally. Obviously, the targeting of civilians — and we have seen a range of very concerning video reports — other would be categorized in that — through that as — in that phrasing, but we have a process that we’re still working through here.
Q And then, last week at a briefing, you told us that us, as reporters, should, quote, “not focus a lot” of our conversations “about the future of the United States importing oil at this point…from Venezuela.” Were you ruling out that the U.S. would import oil from Venezuela (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I was saying it’s not an active conversation at this time.
Q Hi, thanks. Does the White House have any reaction to Ginni Thomas acknowledging that she attended the January 6th rally?
MS. PSAKI: I do not.
Q And just kind of on that: Does her attendance there raise any kind of concerns about the independence of the Supreme Court, potential conflicts of interest, anything like that?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more comment on it at this point in time.
Q Hi, Jen. For the second time in two weeks, a group of hundreds of Haitian migrants has landed by boat in the Florida Keys. Given the surge we saw last year in Del Rio of Haitian migration, what is the administration’s reaction to these landings? Are there any plans to send any assistance either to Haiti or Florida?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you an update on the humanitarian assistance we provide directly to Haiti. We are the largest, if not one of the largest, providers of humanitarian assistance in the world. In terms of the individuals arriving, I think in Florida, as you said —
Q Yeah, the Florida Keys.
MS. PSAKI: — I would really point you to the Department of Homeland Security. We are still applying Title 42, and so that applies no matter which country you’re coming from.
Q Hi, yeah. The President of Colombia said last week that he had offered President Biden the possibility of supplying more Colombian oil to the U.S. as an alternative to Venezuelan oil. Is that an option that the White House is considering?
MS. PSAKI: We are continuing to talk to a range of producers on the importance of maintaining global supply. This is not, as you know, about just the supply in the U.S. but about ensuring there is supply for the global market. And we do appreciate our partnership with Colombia. And President Biden did discuss a range of issues like economic recovery, energy security during their conversation. But beyond that, I don’t have an update on what that might look like.
Q Would you say that it is under active consideration as —
MS. PSAKI: Again, they had a — they had a wide-ranging conversation, a very constructive conversation. This is really about supply in the global markets. But I don’t have an update at this point in time.
Q Yeah. And as a follow-up, Chevron is preparing to take operating control of its joint ventures in Venezuela — Reuters just reported that — in case the U.S. would grant them a special license to operate. Is that something that’s on the table?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered it a few minutes ago.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Oh, yeah. Thanks, Jen. You said earlier in the press briefing that nothing has been decided about President Biden traveling to Europe.” Can you confirm that such a trip is under consideration?
MS. PSAKI: We discuss a range of ways and mechanics for engaging with our friends and partners around the world, but I don’t have any more specifics for you at this point in time.
Q Okay. And this morning, Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi announced that Zelenskyy — President Zelenskyy of Ukraine —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — will be delivering an address to the full House and Senate on Wednesday morning. What’s the White House reaction to this address? Are there any concerns that the White House has about the Ukrainian President speaking directly with Congress as opposed to the White House on its various positions and requests?
MS. PSAKI: We speak frequently with President Zelenskyy. The President spoke with him — had a lengthy conversation with him directly on Friday, and we’re in touch with Ukrainian government officials nearly every day — not every day.
We certainly support leaders in Congress inviting him to address a joint session. And I would again reiterate that there’s strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine, for the leadership, and the bravery of President Zelenskyy. And we’ll all look forward to watching his speech on Wednesday.
Q And then, finally, on Sarah Bloom Raskin and Senator Manchin’s announcement that he doesn’t support her confirmation: Does the White House still see a path to getting her confirmed in the evenly divided Senate?
MS. PSAKI: We are going to continue our work with Chairman Brown to garner bipartisan support. But again, she is one of the most qualified individuals ever to be nominated to this position. So that’s where our focus is.
Q So you are pushing her forward still and —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q — and believe that you can get her —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q — confirmed? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: That is where our focus is. We wouldn’t be pushing for bipartisan support if she wasn’t still our nominee.
Q Thanks, Jen. Two questions on WNBA star Brittney Griner. Last week you had said you couldn’t comment on the case. Is there any update you can give now on the efforts the administration may be taking to secure her release?
MS. PSAKI: We do not have a Privacy Act waiver.
Q Okay. And does the White House have any reason to believe that Griner is being used as a political pawn by the Russian government? Or does the administration see this strictly as part of the Russian criminal justice
MS. PSAKI: We just can’t speak any more to the reports of this case.
Q Hey, Jen. Thank you very much, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: I’ll come back to you. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. On the possible trip to Europe: Is President Biden considering visiting, maybe, perhaps the Ukrainian border and visit refugees — Ukrainian refugees — like other foreign leaders are doing? Is this something you’d like to do?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more on the reports. Again, we have a range of conversations with our NATO partners and European allies about the next steps in diplomacy, but I don’t have anything to confirm for you in terms of the report.
Q And just one more.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Not just China but some of the biggest countries in the world, like India or Brazil, some countries in Latin America like Mexico, they’re not part of this economic war — warfare against Russia. Is this something that undermine the efforts from this White House and European countries?
MS. PSAKI: I would say it doesn’t undermine our efforts. We’ve been working to build a global coalition far beyond the G7 and our NATO partners, and had a great deal of success in that. And every country has to decide where they want to stand, where they want to be as we look and the history books are written.
Q And you believe the —
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve got to move on. We’ve got to get around.
Q Just very quickly.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q Do you just believe this economic pressure will stop Vladimir Putin from his invasion?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as we’ve seen, the impact of the President’s leadership on the global stage and the economic consequences that have been put into place have led Russia and the Russian economy to be on the brink of collapse. And there’s no question that, over time, that will have an impact.
Q Oh, actually — thank you. Furthering that point, you did mention at the top of this briefing that there has been no action on the part of Putin to stop the onslaught; you haven’t seen any action.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q And that is after, again, all of these severe economic sanctions have been levied. And so, you know, I’m wondering why the administration thinks that this threat of further severe action that is vague, that is unnamed will deter him from using chemical weapons.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the reason that we spoke out last week about chemical weapons is because we felt that it was important for the global community to understand that they had the capacity, the capabilities, and that they have used them in the past. And at the same time, they were accusing, inaccurately — they were spreading false information about the U.S. and the Ukrainians’ intentions. That was the origin of why we were so outspoken last week.
So, this is more about us making clear to the world what we’ve seen as patterns in the past and what their capabilities and capacities are.
Q Thank you, Jen. President Biden has repeatedly said, “No U.S. troops inside Ukraine.”
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Q Are there any U.S. troops still training Ukrainians outside Ukraine? And if not, could that be a thing, as we move
forward, if this turns into (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: You mean in neighboring countries?
Q Yeah, like bases outside Ukraine. And if it becomes a long-term conflict, as obviously many predict, would that be a thing the United States does?
MS. PSAKI: Let — let me check with the Department of Defense. We obviously had trainers on the ground for a period of time. We hadn’t — then we pulled them back. We obviously have a significant military presence in a range of countries in the region, but I can see if there’s anything that we are looking ahead to.
Q That wouldn’t be considered an escalatory type of thing? You know, a bit like the MiGs, which got complicated because no one knew kind of how to get them to the Ukrainians. Like, if you had Ukrainian soldiers going into Poland —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — being trained by U.S. troops to go back and fight Russians.
MS. PSAKI: I mean, I think, really, our focus right now is on providing them and continuing to expedite the military assistance to them. And the good news is that we still — through our coordination with them and our NATO Allies, we’re able to get them that assistance on the ground. They’re actively fighting now, so that’s where our focus really is at this point in time.
Q Yeah, on the Federal Reserve: Would the administration then support the four nominees, who seem to have the votes to be confirmed, to go forward and deal with the Raskin nominee after?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s enough support to move all five nominees through the committee. So we think the Republicans should show up so that they can vote them through the committee.
Q And on — one last thing. The fact that China is in the conversation about helping Russia, should U.S. companies then look at maybe decoupling from China with their investments there and be cautious? What’s the message that you have? Can you trust the Chinese?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it’s about trust, but we have not made an ask or a request at this point of that.
Q Jen, thank you. At the Democratic retreat in Philadelphia last week, some of my colleagues were hearing a lot from Democratic lawmakers who want the President to do more by executive action, whether it’s on immigration or whether it is on some of the other priorities of the administration. Did he have any conversations with the members there about possible further executive actions? And is there anything else — I think you’re hearing from the members in those meetings with the Black Caucus and other members of Congress in the last week or two — that may be coming forward?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say all of these members can speak for themselves on what they’re interested in and what they’re requesting from the President and from this administration.
We have a range of executive authorities — the President does, I should say, has a range of executive authorities. I think there have been some reports about some that are under consideration, including one on policing, which we have talked about a bit in the past.
So, sure, we still continue to consider what steps we can take through executive actions, even as we work with Congress to see what we can move through there as well.
Q And I take it that there’s no update beyond the legal review continuing on the student loan question.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update at this point in time. No.
Go ahead in the back. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Me?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. And then I’ll go to your friend next to you.
Q Thank you very much. On North Korea, it is reported that the North Koreans’ ICBM launch is imminent. Do you have anything on the North Korea’s imminent launch (inaudible) ICBM?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that report. I’ve not seen that report. What I can tell you is that, you know, as you know, last week, we proactively decided to reveal information publicly about recent tests and share it with allies and partners as well as Congress.
We have seen North Korea escalate its testing in different periods over the last four presidents. And this time, North Korea hid these tests, unlike the fanfare over past tests.
But I don’t have anything to predict in terms of the future.
I said I’d go to — go ahead.
Q Japan and some of the other treaty countries are increasingly alarmed after Afghanistan and this recent situation. Could you let the Japanese government know that the Security Treaty will be honored?
And then second, for those of us that were embedded during the war, the whole situation with Afghanistan is quite personal. There’s a large number of our people that helped us that are still left. Could you just update us on — almost six months — whether they’ll be able to come back?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say on the second part, that that is one of the reasons that we’ve worked so closely with our Qatari — with the Qataris to maintain a diplomatic presence there so that we continue to engage with neighboring countries to bring people home and help some of our partners and allies who stood by our side, fought by our side over the course of the 20-year war. That’s ongoing.
In terms of the numbers, I would point you to the State Department who would have the most up-to-date numbers.
I’m not sure I understand your first question.
Q Well, just a reassurance to Japan and a lot of the countries that have treaties with us that are worried — you know, if a situation like this develops, if those treaties are going to be honored.
MS. PSAKI: Which situation? How would it relate to Japan?
Q Well, Afghanistan is a long partner of ours. And so,
you know, the whole situation that’s happening now — Taiwan — there’s a great concern that if you have a treaty and it comes to a difficult situation, whether it’s really going to be honored.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve never stepped back from the commitments we’ve made under the Taiwan Relations Act. And the President stands by those.
Go ahead, James.
Q Thank you very much, Jen. Two questions on Russia/Ukraine. Prior to February 24, the President, our NATO Allies, and the EU were embarked on a deterrence project. That’s exactly the word that you and other senior U.S. officials used at the time.
Quite clearly, the invasion was launched on the 24th of February. And so we can say, as a factual matter, that that deterrence project failed. Is it the view of the White House that Mr. Putin could not be deterred by any set of steps? Or are you willing to concede that perhaps some other set of steps by the President and our allies might have deterred the invasion?
MS. PSAKI: You know, James, I would say that when we put in place the threat of sanctions and the threat of consequences, we never thought that that would be failproof or that would be 100 percent effective. We did that because we wanted to lay out the clear consequences should President Putin proceed in invading Ukraine, even as we predicted, quite consistently, that that was very much his intention.
And what we have done since that point in time is implement those sanctions and implement those consequences, far beyond what I think most people’s expectations were in the world about what those would look like.
I don’t think it’s — I don’t think I can look in a rearview mirror, or any of us can, and predict what would have been different. What we did is we took steps to rally the world to stand up to the aggressions of President Putin. And we have implemented them and followed up on what we committed to since that point in time.
Q One key decision made by the President early on was to remove strategic ambiguity from this equation. Never really was Mr. Putin forced to wonder what consequences he would face. He was told at the outset he would never face military intervention by the United States and NATO, that the full range of the punishments he would face would amount to diplomatic and economic sanctions.
I think a lot of people wonder why a greater effort wasn’t made to leave Mr. Putin in doubt about the consequences he might face.
MS. PSAKI: Because the President is the President of the United States of America, and he felt it was important to be clear with the American people about what his intentions were and what they were not.
And his intentions were not to send men and women, their sons and daughters to fight a war in Ukraine against Russia.
Q Thank you. On Iran.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, I’ll do bo- — go ahead. Ladies first. Okay, go ahead.
Q Thank you. On Iran: The Iran talks appeared to have stalled amid some last-minute demands by Russia. Are the Iran talks dead? And if not, what now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, right now, the negotiators are back home in their capitals. We’ll see what happens in the days ahead with diplomacy around the deal.
We continue to believe that, you know, obviously, a diplomatic path forward is the best path forward. But this is a natural part of the process. It is also standard for the most difficult parts of the conversation — negotiations to be happening at the end.
Q And then, just on Ukraine: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says he’s been asked to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Would the White House support that, endorse that, in any way assist with that, especially since the African model kind of tends towards, like, restorative justice, truth, and reconciliation instead of, you know, traditional justice?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our national security team on his role.
What I can tell you is that there have been a half a dozen global leaders who have been meeting with both the Russians and the Ukrainians and engaging, of course, directly through diplomatic channels and trying to come to a diplomatic conclusion here.
We have been engaged directly with them on the front end and back end of those conversations, and encourage them to also make sure they are engaging with the Ukrainians and not just the Russians.
But I will check if there’s any specific —
Q (Inaudible) South Africans about this offer (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check specifically. But again, there’s a range of countries that are already playing this role. So —
Go ahead. In the — go ahead.
Q With the COVID — thank you, by the way.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q With COVID funds falling off the omnibus —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — and it may take a bit — you know, if Congress kind of (inaudible) get done — has the White House ask changed at all? Have they come back to, you know, lawmakers and said, “Hey, while it’s going to take a while, you know, we need more,” or it’s in a different place? I’m just curious how that —
MS. PSAKI: You mean in terms of asking for less money or something like that? Or —
Q Or more?
MS. PSAKI: Or more money. Yeah.
Q You know, my question is: What is the timing — and does the timing change the needs of the White House?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the time — I mean, we’re asking for money to meet exactly the needs that are going to start to come up soon in the coming — in the coming weeks even, and in supporting a number of the programs that have been pivotal to people across this country, especially people who are uninsured, people who are relying on access to free treatments, testing, vaccines.
Obviously, these are programs that it’s not only in the United — in the U.S. government’s interest to continue, but it’s in the interest of the American people, especially people who don’t have the resources to cover and pay for a lot of these different treatments.
We had originally — we had requested $22.5 billion, I think you’re aware, for immediate and urgent COVID response needs because that is the funding we felt we needed. That does not mean it would cover the needs in — forever. That would just be the needs we have at this moment in time.
So these conversations are still ongoing with leaders in Congress. We are — but we want to be very clear about the fact that some of these programs could abruptly end and be pared back without additional funding.
Q A real quick follow-up. Just — you mentioned the uninsured, about the HRSA program that reimburses from uninsured funds. You guys previously said that would end this month. Is that timeline still there? I mean, is that —
MS. PSAKI: You mean if we don’t have funding?
Q Yeah. Is it still the end of the month they shut that down?
MS. PSAKI: A lot of these programs could end quite abruptly. So, it could. But I will check and see if that specific one would.
Q Jen, real quick on Title 42 — two related questions.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q One of them: Democratic senators and congresspeople and activists are criticizing the President. During the campaign, he said that this Trump-era policy was inhumane, yet he’s keeping it, even though the country is opening again. But then, a few days back, the CDC decided to let unaccompanied minors in. So the fear is that this is going to make a lot of parents just send their children by themselves and lead to another humanitarian tragedy at the border.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first — I mean, as you’ve noted, the CDC makes determinations about Title 42. I think, as it relates to the recent decision, I’d have to talk to the Department of Homeland Security specifically about that and how they’re applying it or implementing it.
As you know, our intention is certainly not to put more children at da- — in danger or put them — incentivize parents sending kids on a journey that’s treacherous and dangerous across the border.
But the President — you know, he is implementing this because we are still in the middle of a public health crisis. That continues to be the case, as
designed [designated] by the CDC.
Q But he still plans to reopen the border and make more humane policy, like he promised?
MS. PSAKI: That is — that is what he proposed on his first day in office. And we are very supportive of the efforts in the Senate to do exactly that.
And just because it’s not done yet, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to stay at the fight to get exactly that accomplished and done.
Q Jen, is there any reason why you have not condemned racism against Africans in Ukraine? I understand that Ukrainians are the victims here; they are being bombed by Russia, and they are being killed. But a lot of Africans, they are facing racism. I know you are providing a lot of financial assistance to Poland and to Ukraine, but Africans there are being banned from even entering Poland. Why have you not officially — the White House — issued a statement condemning racism against Africans in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: We have, and I believe the State Department has. But we have spoken out against that and expressed concern about any reports of discrimination or — at the border.
Q And then finally, if I may: I’m trying to understand where you’re trying — your endgame in Ukraine. You’re not going there. You’re not sending troops there. There will be no fly — no no-fly zone over Ukraine. And are you — will it be a fair assessment to say that you are pushing these guys to commit suicide, knowing that Russia has a superpower and, eventually, it will capture the main cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, and other these cities around there? What’s the endgame?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the endgame is really a question for President Putin. We have — we have completely crushed his economy. We have provided military assistance, humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainians, enabling them to fight back for far longer than the Russian leadership anticipated.
And, again, he has to — he has to determine what the path forward looks for — like for him.
Q Jen, can you confirm or deny the rumors that there are Russian hit squads in Kyiv going after journalists?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that for you.
Q But you’ve heard of it?
MS. PSAKI: I can see if there’s more.
4:10 P.M. EDT