James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:05 P.M. EDT     

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  Hello.  Okay, a couple of items for all of you at the top.

As you know, the President is headed to the West Coast tomorrow, and I wanted to give you a quick preview of his first trip to Oregon and Washington.  He will highlight the historic economic growth and nearly 8 million jobs created as a result of his and congressional Democrats’ actions, including the American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and his work to lower costs.

He will visit Portland International Airport tomorrow to highlight critical investments to ensure stronger, more resilient infrastructure, such as an earthquake-resilient runway at the Portland Airport, and to help lower costs on everyday items by ensuring goods can move faster and more efficiently.

Governor Kate Brown, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Congressman Kurt Schrader will join the President at the airport.

On Friday, he will mark Earth Day in Seattle, Washington, by speaking to the need to bolster our nation’s resilience in the face of threats like wildfire, and the need to rapidly deploy clean energy.  He will be joined at the event by Governor Jay Inslee.

The President will also discuss how he is fighting to bring down prescription drug costs, such as insulin, where he will be joined by Governor Inslee, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Congresswoman Kim Schrier.

The President will call on Congress to pass his plan to lower prescription drug prices and energy costs, but he’s not waiting for Congress to act.  And he will highlight recent actions he’s taken to lower energy and healthcare costs, and give families more breathing room. 

Those actions from just the last few weeks include: a historic release from the — from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, extending the use of E15 gasoline, taking 100 actions this year that would save families more than $100 annually on their utility bills, finalizing standards for cars and trucks that will allow drivers to travel further on every gallon of fuel, fixing the “family glitch” in the ACA, reducing the burden of medical debt, freezing student loan payments through August, and helping 3.6 million student loan borrowers move closer to debt forgiveness.

Also wanted to note on that front: Yesterday, you may have seen, as part of the administration’s historic commitment to support student loan borrowers and get borrowers the relief they are eligible for, the Department of Education announced changes that will move more than 3.6 million borrowers closer to student debt forgiveness; make 40,000 borrowers eligible for the immediate discharge of their loans under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program; provide immediate relief to thousands of borrowers in income-driven repayment plans.

We’re delivering this relief to borrowers by fixing longstanding failures in the income-driven repayment program — or “IDR,” as it’s often known.

Income-driven repayment is one of the best options borrowers who have — they have towards tackling their student loan debt.  For too long, the system for tracking payments has been broken.  And there were significant flaws that suggested borrowers who were entitled to forgiveness were missing out on their — on their progress toward debt forgiveness.

So, these steps include making sure that any months in which borrowers made payments will count toward IDR forgiveness, regardless of the repayment plan, and any borrower who has made the required number of payments for IDR forgiveness based on this payment-count revision will receive loan cancellation automatically.

Additionally, we know that in past — in the past, loan servicers placed borrowers who were struggling to manage repayment into forbearances without giving them adequate information about alternatives.

And that meant, in forbearance, while no payments were due, interest continued to accrue and borrowers did not get credit toward IDR forgiveness.  This was often not the best option for borrowers, particularly when they would be eligible for an economic hardship deferment or a low or zero payment on an IDR plan.

And to make sure that existing borrowers aren’t permanently harmed by these failures, the Department will apply PSLF and IDR credit for borrowers who ended up in long-term forbearance.  Those are forbearances of 12 or more consecutive months, or 36 or more total months.

So, important steps on that front.

The last thing I just wanted to note — and you may have seen this — but this morning, the Department of Treasury sanctioned Trans- — Transcapitalbank, a key Russian commercial bank that has offered services to banks globally to evade international sanctions, and more than 40 individuals and entities that are part of a Russian sanctions evasion network led by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev.

We have also imposed sanctions on companies in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry that operate vast server farms and provide revenue to the Russian government. 

And the Department of State imposed visa restrictions on more than 600 individuals in response to human rights abuses by Russia and Belarus.

So, this is part of our stepped-up effort to crack down on those attempting to evade our unprecedented sanctions.

With that, Darlene, why don’t you kick us off.

Q    Thank you.  A couple of questions on masking.  The President said yesterday that people should decide for themselves whether to wear masks on airplanes.  And I’m wondering whether his comment was intended to signal a shift in thinking in the administration away from mandates toward more personal responsibility.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the question — the President was answering the question quite literally, which means, right now, as you know, we are not implementing the mask mandate because of the court order, which we disagree with, while he is still abiding by CDC guidance.  And we recommend Americans do that across the country.  They’re still recommending people wear masks on airplanes; on Air Force One — which, of course, is a federal, not a private, plane.  We all wore masks on the plane when we traveled to New Hampshire yesterday.

But we are not le- — people are not legally bound to wear masks.  So, it is a point in time where it is up to people — it is their choice, in that regard.

Q    And then, one other question, actually, on a different topic, in the interest of time here today.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    Are you able to confirm reports that the President is replacing the Acting ATF Director with another gentleman who will also be the Acting ATF Director until the person he nominated last week is confirmed by the Senate?

MS. PSAKI:  Yes.  So, I know there have been reports about this out there.  And I will say that the President is making the designation under the Vacancies Reform Act, which, of course, says that any President, and only the President, may direct a person who serves in an office for which appointment is required to be made by the President, by and with the advice and consent of Senate, to perform the functions and duties of the vacant office temporarily.

We, of course, are strongly advocating for and pushing for his eminently qualified nominee to be confirmed and have an ATF confirmed Director for the first time in many years, which is something we would be eager to see happen.

Q    Thank you.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  On the long-range missile test today, Putin says this is meant to provide “food for thought” for those who threaten Russia.  Can you talk us through how the administration is interpreting this and whether you’re viewing this as a warning or a threat in any way?

MS. PSAKI:  We are not — they were — they notified under the START Treaty, and so, from our perspective, while we — they provided advance notice of this launch under its New START Treaty obligations that have planned to test this missile, the Defense Department said today that we did not deem the test a threat to the United States or its allies, and the timing of the scope of Russia’s missile tests do not influence our approach to countering Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine. 

So, it was noticed through the proper process and the Department of Defense has spoken to this as well.

Q    And on an unexpected announcement of another round of assistance to Ukraine, could you walk us through any specifics, if you have any, on that and when that’s happening? 

And just big picture on this: The U.S. has already given more than $2.5 billion since this war started.  How long can the U.S. expect to continue to bankroll so much of this war?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, okay, there’s a couple questions there, so let me do my best in answering them.

First, we are working, of course, around the clock, as you know, to provide security assistance to Ukraine.  And just to give you an example of how that assistance has flowed, just in the last few days — and I think I gave an update the other day — but five flights with military assistance have arrived in the region over the last few days.  More than half a dozen flights from the United States are scheduled to land in the region shortly with additional equipment.

And as we look at providing this assistance, which I know — I’ll go back to the first part of your question, of course — but what we’ve tried to do — we made a strategic decision given we’ve seen Russia reposition their troops and their military to the eastern part of Ukraine to fight a different kind of war on the ground, which will be more, you know, kind of shooting back and forth through long range. 

And so, we have been working with Ukrainians and the Ukrainian military to determine exactly the kind of security assistance they need for this stage in the war.  And that has included an increase, as you’ve seen, in artillery and ammunition and weapons, like Howitzers and others, that can do these sorts of — they can — are effective in this long-range shooting and long-range fighting that we are seeing or we anticipate will happen in this stage of the war.

So, we have been expediting this assistance to the ground over the last couple of weeks to ensure they are prepared as this — as this portion of the war is starting — not because they are using all of it in in seven days, but because we want them to have all of this equipment as quickly as possible as they prepare to fight this war on the ground.

In terms of assistance and what we will be — what we’re preparing or the reports that I know have been out there, I will say I expect we’ll have more soon on this, but I have nothing to preview at this point in time.

I would note that out of the $3.5 billion in drawdown authority Congress granted for this fiscal year, we’ve used over $2.4 billion so far to provide Ukraine the military equipment and capabilities they need to defend themselves.

So, obviously, there’s more of that approved drawdown assistance that we can provide.  And we’ve been working to expedite and ensure, as I noted, that it’s meeting exactly the needs they have at this point in the war.

Go ahead.

Q    I had a couple quick ones on masks. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    The DOJ said yesterday that they would decide, essentially, whether or not to appeal that ruling based on what the CDC says they need or don’t need. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    Is the White House or the Cabinet involved in any way in that decision-making process?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we are entirely able to and legally able to be a part of the discussion, but right now it’s — we, of course, are deferring to the CDC on what they believe is needed at this moment. 

They have already — they obviously put in place this two-week extension because they felt they needed that to take a look at the data, given that we’ve seen a rise in cases.  So, we certainly anticipate to hear more from them soon on their ask for being able to have that time, which we think is entirely warranted.

And the Department of Justice, as you noted, has indicated that they would appeal not just because they think it’s entirely reasonable, of course, to have this additional time to look at it, but because they think that the current — for current and future public health crises, we want to preserve that authority for the CDC to have in the future.

Q    And then just — when you said a moment ago that it literally is a personal choice as to whether people are — decide to put a mask on or not on planes, is — does that messaging still reflect a shift for you all — and, maybe to some degree, a capitulation — to just the mood of the public about wanting to be over this pandemic or people who have politicized the wearing of masks in the first place?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say we continue to recommend everyone wear masks on planes.

What the President was speaking to is, of course, because we are not currently implementing the mask mandate, it is not a requirement.  So, people can choose, even as we recommend it. 

But to be clear: We are recommending everyone wear masks on planes.  That is what the CDC is recommending.  That is the public health guidance we are following.

I would note — I know this is often said and maybe some of it is because there was the video of people on planes — on the plane — on one plane taking off their masks: Public polling does not actually show that there is a universal view of people getting rid of masks.  That’s not actually what public polling shows.

Now, it doesn’t matter to us because we are making our decisions based on public health and data and what the CDC is recommending.  But that is not the universal view of the public.

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, a Ukrainian commander in Mariupol is saying that his forces and civilians in the area may only have hours to make it out alive, and he has been making this direct plea to the President for the U.S. to somehow be involved in extracting people from the area.  Do you know if that’s a request that the President himself is aware of?  And can you just walk us through — can the U.S. be directly involved at this point in making that happen or helping to make that happen?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  We have certainly seen these — these cries for help and these asks for help.  What — we certainly urge the Russian government to do the right thing: guarantee safe passage for any civilians or others who wish to leave the city.  We also encourage them to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid, such as food and medicine and safe passage for volunteers to help people in need.  But I don’t have any additional updates from here.

Q    And quickly, on the President and whether he might visit Ukraine, you’ve obviously said a couple of times: Currently, there are no plans to do that.  Yesterday, when he was asked “Are you going?,” he said he wasn’t sure.  Is a trip completely off the table for now for him?

MS. PSAKI:  Nothing has changed in our assessment.  I would also note, as I’ve said in here before, if anyone were to visit Ukraine from the United States, it’s not something we would announce in advance, confirm in advance, give details on who, if, and when because of security reasons.

And that’s something I think anyone who’s traveled to a war zone with a President or a Vice President or anyone is quite familiar with that policy.

Q    So when he said he didn’t know, was he trying to indicate that it could be on the table?

MS. PSAKI:  Nothing has changed in our plans.

Q    I have one more —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — one more question.  There, obviously, are so many horrific images coming out of Ukraine.  They are very readily available photographs, videos of civilian deaths.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    As we enter the third month of this conflict, can you walk us through — give us a sense of how the President himself has been sort of processing these images?  Who does he talk to?  What does he lean on as he processes images that, you know, coming from what he himself has called a genocide?

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, look, I will say that the President is processing these images, as many Americans are — with horror; with sadness; with, you know, fear for the people of Ukraine — for the families, for the children, for innocent civilians who are at risk. 

It is — obviously, this conflict is consuming a great deal of his time, as much as he is working on a range of other priorities here, but he is consuming them as many people are — as I am, as many of you are, as Americans out there watching all of your networks are. 

It’s emotional.  It is — you know, watching some of these images is very raw for people, including the President, because you’re seeing people suffering at the hands of a dictator who is brutally targeting civilians. 

Go ahead.

Q    A few on Ukraine for you.  Does the fact that the U.S. is committing heavier weapons systems than it did initially indicate that there’s less — at least in the assessment of the United States, less risk of retaliation from Russia now?

MS. PSAKI:  The types of weapons systems we’re providing, Ed, are really a reflection of the conversations happening with the Ukrainian leadership and military about what they need in this stage of the war. 

And because this stage of the war is different — because it’s going to be more on the ground and more — more, kind of, back-and-forth, long-range fighting — there’s different kinds of weapons and system they need: more artillery, more ammunition.

It’s a different — different war than it was when they were, you know, in the western part of the country. 

Q    You had said earlier that you — that the government is continuing to monitor that whatever is sent over is meeting the needs of the war.  How exactly is that monitoring happening?  (Inaudible), there are going to be a lot of questions about how was the money spent, who did the equipment get in the hands of, how was it used.  It may not be the next few weeks —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — but this could be over the next several months or years of “Was this worth it?  Was it worth the cost?”

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    How is that being done now? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, look, I think that if you ask most Americans, if you ask members of Congress, if you ask most people in this country, what we — what’s important to do now is to equip and provide the type of support, assistance, including military equipment, to help them continue to fight — and win, in some cases, as they did in the Battle of Kyiv — this war.

That is our focus.  Obviously, we coordinate very closely with them, but we provide them the assistance to distribute amongst their military.

Q    Because there was support in the beginning of the Iraq War, in the Afghanistan War, and then there were years spent trying to retrace the spending and all that.  I’m not saying that necessarily is going to be the case in this one, but there’s —

MS. PSAKI:  And —

Q    — no mechanism in place right now at least to track —

MS. PSAKI:  I would point you to the Department of Defense to detail that further.  But I would note: Obviously, this is different, given we don’t have U.S. soldiers on the ground.

Obviously, equipment, ensuring we’re reducing waste, fraud, and abuse is important to the President, but it’s a different kind of war for a range of reasons.

Q    Given that Russia has conducted an ICBM test, is there any plan to reschedule the one that we cancelled back on April 1st?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s not something we would preview. 

Q    Okay.  And what’s the latest on the reported chemical weapons attack in Mariupol?  Did the Russians use chemical weapons? 

MS. PSAKI:  There’s no new assessment from here.

Q    Do we have any sense of when or how much longer that would take?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t.  I mean, what we talked about at the time — and I know my colleagues at the Department of Defense and State also referenced — is we don’t have a team on the ground.  It is difficult to assess.  So, it is something certainly we continue to work to do, but we don’t have any additional updates or confirmation.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  I have a question about marijuana policy.  President Biden, as a candidate, promised to decriminalize marijuana.  When is that going to happen? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President continues to believe that no one should be in jail because of drug use.  I don’t have an update here.  We are continuing to work with Congress. 

But what I can say on marijuana is we’ve made some progress on our promises.  For instance, the DEA just issued its first licenses to companies to cultivate marijuana for research purposes after years of delay during the prior administration. This is a key step in promoting research because it broadens the amount and quality of cannabis available for research purposes.

Additionally, the President is continuing to view his cleme- — review his clemency powers, which is something he also talked about on the campaign, and he certainly remains committed to taking action on.

Q    So he remains committed to what he said during the campaign, that people charged with marijuana-related offenses — number one, everybody gets out, record expunged?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, he’s reviewing his clemency powers.  That’s exactly what that looks like.  I don’t have any updates or previews beyond that, though. 

Q    Okay.  And a question about immigration.  Does the President still have confidence that the Vice President can get to the bottom of root causes of migration? 

MS. PSAKI:  He absolutely does and is grateful for her work in doing exactly that. 

Q    Why?

MS. PSAKI:  Why does he have confidence?  Or — should I — should I give you an update on a couple of the things we’ve done?

Q    Well — so, does the President — what gives the President confidence when he sees that March 2022 has 28 percent more migrant encounters at the border than March 2021, when she got this assignment?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, you asked me about root causes — right? — so let me address that first and what the Vice President and other members of the administration who have been working with her have been doing. 

So we’ve been working with source and transit coun- — countries in the region to facilitate the quick return of individuals who previously resided in those countries, as well as to stem migration in its state.  Some of that is getting agreements with partner countries on migration-related matters, and that’s something that the Vice President has been deeply engaged with.

I’d also note that Secretary Mayorkas — who, of course, has worked with her on this — traveled to Costa Rica recently, where he joined the President of Costa Rica in announcing a bilateral migration agreement outlining our shared commitment to both manage migrant flows, as well as to promote — promote economic growth in the region. 

And we also are maintaining a close partnership between the government of Mexico and the United States to stem irregular migration. 

So, there are — what “addressing root causes” means is working with countries in the region to take steps to have partnership, be able to have people sent back to the region as needed. 

Q    And then the last one on this: Is the President or are you guys having discussions with advisors about delaying the removal of Title 42?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would again remind everyone — because you gave me the opportunity, so thank you — Title 42 is not an immigration authority.  I will —

Q    Is it going to be —

MS. PSAKI:  — I will get to your —

Q    — around past the end of May?

MS. PSAKI:  I will — I will get to your question.  I promise, Peter. 

It is a public health authority.  Congress gave the CDC authority to make determinations about when it should be lifted.  So, right now, we are planning and preparing for the end of Title 42 enforcement on May 23rd.  But I would say that there are a range — the President agrees that immigration in our country is broken; it’s a system that is broken. 

There are a range of ideas out there in Congress — Democrats, Republicans, others — some who support a delay of Title 42 implementation, some who strongly oppose it.  And there are a range of other ideas of reforming our immigration system.

This would all require congressional action.  We’re happy to have that conversation with them.

Go ahead.

Q    Along the Title 42 — excuse me, sorry, it’s allergies. 

MS. PSAKI:  It’s okay.  We understand. 

Q    I’m good.

MS. PSAKI:  We understand.

Q    We’ve been reporting that the administration is projecting a big budget shortfall for ICE and CBP should Title 42 be lifted.  Is there a plan for how to get additional funding that’s going to be needed to handle immigrants coming into the country?  If that — Title 42 is lifted, will you need funds from Congress?  Can you divert funds from somewhere else?  What’s the thinking?

MS. PSAKI:  So what DHS said last month is that they expect the current funding levels will not be sufficient to meet operational needs, but they have a number of options available to secure the resources required to implement our comprehensive strategy. 

This includes reprioritizing and reallocating existing funds; re- — requesting additional support from other federal agencies; if necessary, engaging with Congress on that discussion. 

And I would note that, as a part of this — you know, as we prepare for the implementation as — of the end of Title 42, there are a range of steps that we’ve been taking to prepare for that, including surging resources; deploying resour- — resources to address increased volumes.  That includes moving officers, agents, DHS volunteer force personnel to rapidly decompress points along the border and more efficiently process migrants.

It also entails the deployment of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including the use of continued — use of PPE, providing the COVID-19 vaccines.  It also includes expanding these efforts to cover migrants in CBP custody. 

So, the point is there are a range of steps in this comprehensive plan that — I know Secretary Mayorkas is testifying today on the Hill, and I’m sure he’ll be testifying more in the future.  But what they said at the time when we announced this was that we expect current funding levels would not be sufficient.  There are a range of ways to address that, and we’re working on exactly that.

Q    And if — because we’re just about a month away from this being lifted — if the administration doesn’t feel like that plan is in place yet, would that be a reason to delay lifting Title 42?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we proposed a plan.  So that’s a plan that is being implemented.  In terms of any ideas to address immigration, including any delay of Title 42, that would require congressional action. 

So — go ahead.

Q    More than 3,000 Ukrainians were processed along the southern border — people who had flown to Mexico to try to get into the U.S.  That’s a big leap over February.  That number is expected to increase. 

Does the administration have any plans to announce a program that would make it easier for Ukrainians who already have family ties in the U.S. to be expedited into the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI:  We are — we are working — so, we’ve obviously announced — the President has announced plans to accept 100,000 Ukrainians into the United States — if they want to come, of course.  We are working to finalize the details of that. 

Of course, right now, we are still — as you all know; as we’ve been talking about — implementing Title 42, no matter what country you’re coming from, whether it’s Ukraine or any other country in the world. 

Q    Sure.  But nothing — is there anything immediately in the works for a plan — a program similar to that to (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI:  Well, no, the President announced, a few weeks ago, plans to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian — Ukrainians, right?  So it’s just the details of how that program will work.  I understand why you’re asking; we just don’t have the final details yet.  But —

Q    Sure.  And then, on supply chains, millions of people in China are on lockdown.  Experts are sounding the alarm for what that could mean for further crippling supply chains, which already are — obviously are already under strain.  Is the administration concerned?  How concerned is the administration about what that could mean for Americans waiting for goods here in the U.S.?  Is there anything that the U.S. can do to mitigate that?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  So this is a very fluid — and I think you’re talking about the lockdown around Shanghai — right? — and the impact.  So it’s a very fluid situation, obviously.  There’s some uncertainty surrounding the impacts of China’s lockdown on our economy. 

We are in close contact with key actors in the supply chain, including the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  We’re not seeing currently, according to the Port of LA, any slowdown in ships coming from Asia, but we’re going to continue to keep our eye on that. 

What we’ve seen happen within China is moving of the manufacturing of some of the goods — semiconductors, consumer electronics, et cetera — that are coming — typically come from Shanghai to other hubs, moving them around to see if they can keep the manufacturing up.  And they’ve also moved ports and where — moved around where the — where the goods are going from in ports there, which may be why we haven’t seen a reduction in goods coming from Asia.

The last data, in terms of Chinese exports, we have is from March, because it’s not yet the end of April, and that showed a 15 percent increase from last year.  But we’ll have to look at the April data when it comes out in May.

Go ahead.

Q    I might be being a little thick, but I still don’t quite understand what the administration’s position on the — how you’re, kind of, approaching the mask issue is. 

So, the Justice Department said that they would appeal the decision if the CDC wanted them to.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    The CDC has said that they wanted masks, they still think masking is important, and that they had that policy in place. 

So, I don’t understand why the Justice Department is not immediately appealing it and especially seeking an emergency stay to potentially keep this in place while the CDC continues its sort of broader evaluation.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, I’m — I don’t even play a lawyer on TV, so I won’t get too much into legal strategy.  But what I will tell you is the CDC obviously, as you noted, called for this extension because they wanted to look at more data.  So I think we can all expect they’re going to continue to want it. 

The Department of Justice is just waiting for that kind of final comment to — to take action in appealing.  They said they would appeal.  In terms of when they will appeal, I’ll leave that to them to speak to. 

Why not a stay or an emergency appeal?  They can speak to that.  But what I would note — the objective here is, of course, to appeal the 15-day extension but also to preserve the CDC authority over the long term.  Because as we’ve noted from here, we expect there to be ups and downs in the pandemic, and we certainly want the CDC to continue to have this authority.

Q    So — in, I guess, plain English: If the CDC determines at the end of that 15-day review period that they already had undergoing that they wouldn’t continue the mask mandate, then the Justice Department will not pursue this appeal?

MS. PSAKI:  I would expect you’ll hear from the CDC very soon.  And I don’t think it’s at the end of 15 days, in terms of their expectation and ask for an appeal.

Q    On Title 42, you kind of floated congressional action out there and (inaudible) because Title 42, I think, was like a key part of the — in scuttling the negotiations over COVID money. 

And so what I’m trying to, I think — the question I’m curious in is if you’re signaling that sort of willingness by the administration to negotiate over the lifting of Title 42 as part of trying to get that COVID package across line. 

And — and if not, or if so, do you have any sort of update on the strategy there?  Because you — you were certainly banging the drums about how important it was before Congress went away, and they’re coming back soon.

MS. PSAKI:  We’re still banging the drums about the COVID money, I promise you.  I was just making clear, because I think there’s been some confusion about this, that while the CDC had the — has the authority — right? — to determine when the — the — when — when the conditions exist to lift Title 42, that was given to them by Congress. 

If Congress were to want to extend that, they need to take action.  It’s not a — it’s not an executive authority from the White House.

Q    So, the President would be open to legislation that provided COVID funding but also extended —

MS. PSAKI:  We’re not in any way there, so I wasn’t going there.  I was just conveying that, as you know, there are strong views on a range of immigration issues and proposals in Congress, right?  I’m not telling you something you don’t know.

There are some people who would like to see it extended; there are some people who definitely would not.  And so, I’m not making a prediction of the future, only conveying to what authority would be required — what — what the process would require.

Q    Would the White House support the bill that Senator Sinema is — is bringing forth, which is working to extend Title 42 until there’s a plan in place — to, sort of, end the public health emergency?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any prediction of that.  The President has proposed, put forward, called for immigration reform — something he did on his first day in office.

We’re happy to have a range of conversations with members about a range of ideas.  But I just wanted to note what authority would be required or what — how the process would work.

Go ahead.

Q    Two things.  South Korean media is reporting that President Biden will visit the country next month, May 20th through the 22nd.  Can you confirm that?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have anything to confirm yet on the trip beyond what the President himself has already confirmed.  But we will have more to say soon, I’m sure.  (Laughter.)

Q    All right.  And on COVID aid, I’m wondering if the administration has sort of a drop-dead date by which Congress has to give them the additional funding?  I know you’ve talked about it.  The supply of monoclonal antibodies will run out in May —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — and the test capacity will ramp down by the end of June.  So, is June your deadline or is it much earlier?  Or is it later if you can repurpose some of the existing money?

MS. PSAKI:  I would say it’s as soon as possible because we have already had to take steps — right? — like ending our program for the uninsured.  We haven’t been able to make purchases that we would normally purchase to get ahead.

I mean, even on monoclonal antibodies or some of these treatments, some of them take months to make, so it already puts us behind where we need to be and want to be in planning.  So, we don’t have a long-term deadline, nor would I punt that out.  We want to do it as quickly as possible when they return.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Several senators, Democrats and Republican, have called on the President to appoint a coordinator or a czar, if you will, to oversee the transfer of military equipment from the U.S. to Ukraine.  What does the administration think of this idea?  Do you think it’s needed and is it something that’s even being considered?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any personnel updates.  Obviously, ensuring that it is — and this kind of goes back to Ed’s earlier question — that it is done effectively, efficiently, quickly is — is our — is a priority for the President.  But I don’t have any — any personnel previews or updates at this point in time.

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, two questions.  I wanted to ask you about the concept of athletic boycotts to deal with Russia and if this is something that the administration supports.  I’m sure you saw some of the news that Wimbledon decided to ban athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing in the tournament, and I’m just curious if the administration believes the athletic boycotts are a good tactic to use.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’ve seen 600, if not more, companies –private-sector companies — pull out voluntarily, I think, their investments in Russia.  I don’t — I don’t think we have a policy specifically on athletic events at this point in time.  I’m happy to check.

Q    And then, also, there were reports that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and some other U.S. officials walked out of G20 rooms when Russian officials began speaking.  Could you just explain a little bit more about why they took that move?  And is it a move that we could anticipate President Biden making himself?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the President and Secretary Yellen have both said that we can’t have business as usual at the G20 or in a lot of these international forums as it relates to Russia.

And she and the Treasury team made clear that she was planning to participate in some and not other meetings, which is certainly something we support.

The President also has conveyed he doesn’t believe that they should be a part — that Russia should be a part of the G20.  That’s now six months away, in terms of his participation, so I can’t make a prediction of what actions he may or may not take.  But certainly, we support her steps, and it’s an indication of the fact that President Putin and Russia has become a pariah on the global stage.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  Just today, Russia issued another warning about consequences of Finland and Sweden joining NATO. Do have a response?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, the decision of any country to join NATO is up to that country and NATO to make a determination about.  And certainly, that’s the case here.  We strongly support NATO’s open-door policy, and I’m not going to indulge Russia’s saber-rattling.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  Just to zoom out a little on the Ukraine —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — aid and the policy talks about this war.

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, was there today in Kyiv.  And he said, quote — it was unusually clear, I thought.  He said, “You are not alone.  We are with you and will do everything which is possible to support you and to make sure that Ukraine will win the war.”  Is it the policy of the United States that Russia should not only lose but be seen to lose this war?  Is that a strategic goal?

MS. PSAKI:  I think we’ve been pretty clear that we’re going to do everything possible to make sure President Putin and Russia recognize this is a strategic loss, that the President is a pariah on the global stage.

Now, when you have a country that has lost as many people as Ukraine has — millions of people have been left homeless — you know, I don’t know if that feels like a win to them.

But I think it’s also true that the Ukrainians have clearly won the Battle of Kyiv.  They have surpassed the expectations of the world in terms of their ability to fight back against Russia.  And Russia has not only become a pariah on the world stage, but they have effectively united NATO, effectively driven countries to desire an interest in joining NATO, have united the West in a way that has never been their objective, while also their economy is crumbling.

So, you know, that is all a victory in terms of — in terms of isolating Russia.

Q    Okay.  But is the concrete goal of the aid that is going there — now it’s artillery and more — is the goal a battlefield defeat for Russia, ultimately?  Not a compromise, not — not, you know — no gray areas, just —

MS. PSAKI:  We’re doing everything we can to equip the Ukrainian government, Ukrainian leaders to effectively fight back in this military battle.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Just to go back to the mask ruling.  You mentioned some of the videos that we saw, but it certainly did prompt some very abrupt changes on Monday after it came down — passengers being told mid-flight to take their masks off.  Can you share more about what the President’s personal reaction was to the decision, to how it came down, and what unfolded over this couple of hours and the stories we’re hearing about some of those flights?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not sure we have a story here about some of those flights.  I —

Q    No, no — the story that — I mean, you know, we’re hearing now about parents talking about being on a flight with their kids and them being concerned because they were mid-flight.  But just — what was his reaction to the decision and what happened then over the next couple of hours on Monday?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we obviously didn’t expect the decision because we wouldn’t have known in advance how a court would act.  So — and we disagreed with the decision immediately.  So the immediate steps were to determine what power we had to respond to that.  Obviously, that — that came in the form of the Department of Justice, came in the form of the CDC acting and putting out the statements that they did. 

But, you know, we also don’t take photos of flights as data about how the country reacts to issues — you know, whether they’re ripping off their masks or not.  I mean, our focus here was seeing what power we had to preserve what we felt was in the public health interests of the country.

Q    And are the President’s COVID advisors concerned that there could be an increase in cases, a spike in cases in the coming weeks because, specifically, of the mask mandate being lifted?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m not going to make a projection of that because I’m not a doctor.  And certainly, I can check with our health team and see if they have any predictions of that. 

Obviously, they wanted more time because they’ve seen rising cases and they feel it is in our interest to preserve the mask mandate, even for that short period of time — or have the authority moving forward in case cases go up and we needed to take that step in the future.

But I don’t have a prediction of rising cases.  I would point you to the CDC or other health officials. 

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, there are reports in Mexico media stating the Mexican government has decided to dismantle a binational police group that was fighting Mexican cartels and drug cartel operations down there.  I wonder if the administration is aware of that, and if you have any reaction to that decision. 

MS. PSAKI:  I’m happy to check with our NSC team and see if they have any specific reaction.

Q    Thank you.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks.  First of all, on Israel, does the administration have a reaction to the recent deadly clashes in Israel with Palestinians?  Does it change your stance on the Abraham Accord?  Do you have a different view now on how to achieve peace in that region?

MS. PSAKI:  We are — while we are deeply concerned by the recent violence in Jerusalem at the Temple Mount — on the Temple Mount and across the West Bank, we also strongly condemn the recent rocket attack on Israel.  We continue to call on all sides to exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo of the Haram al-Sharif Temple Mount. 

We also continue to urge Israeli and Palestinian officials to work cooperatively to lower tensions and ensure the safety of everyone. 

And we, of course, continue to closely follow the situation on the ground and stay in touch through diplomatic channels.

Q    Any change in stance on the Abraham Accord?  Or —

MS. PSAKI:  There is no change in our — on our stance.

Q    On Cuba — as you know, administration officials are meeting with Cuba to —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — discuss maybe including them in a migration policy.  What might that look like in the future?  And is that a possibility?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say that we see these talks as pretty standard.  The migration talks provide an opportunity for discussions on migration issues between Cubi [sic] and the — Cuba and the United States.  And they’re part of regular order meetings continuing over nearly 30 years of engagement on Cuba on — with Cuba on migration matters. 

We maintain — we maintain these in order to discuss safe, orderly, and legal migration.  That remains a primary U.S. — a primary U.S. interest.  So, beyond what they will look like — I mean, to us, they — this is just a standard operating process and discussions that have been happening over the course of many years.  The last ones were, of course, in 2018.

Q    Thank you, Jen.

Q    And then, finally, just on some of the munitions being sent to Ukraine: How does the administration justify sending Claymore munitions, which critics say are quite dangerous and, in their antipersonnel-mine form, have been banned by 160 countries, including Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI:  I’d point you to the Department of Defense to speak to any specifics of the military equipment or assistance we’re providing. 

Obviously, we’re providing this to a country that is facing an invasion by Russia that is targeting their civilians and their people.  And this is meant to effectively help them fight that war. 

Thanks, everyone. 

3:46 P.M. EDT 

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