James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:12 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. A couple items for you at the top.
President Biden is committed to doing everything he can to address — (staffer pulling chair seat down) — some sticky seats over there —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: — to address the pain Americans are feeling at the pump as a result of President Putin’s price hike and his unjustified war’s impact on global fuel supply.
Today, the EPA announced that it is issuing an emergency fuel waiver to allow E15 sales during the summer driving season. This, of course, is a follow-up to what the President announced in Iowa just two weeks ago.
The waiver is a critical step to address the fuel supply crisis. And, again, as I already noted, it’s a follow-up to the announcement from last week, and it will lay out actions to increase the use of biofuels in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, accelerate the clean energy transition, build real U.S. energy independence, support American agriculture and manufacturing, and save Americans money.
At current prices, E15 can save a family 10 cents per gallon of gas on average. And many stores sell E15 at an even greater discount.
There’s just over 2,000 gas stations, mostly in the Midwest, where, without this action, the E15 tank — pump would be covered and Americans wouldn’t be able to access it.
So this builds on the additional steps the President has taken, authorizing the release of 1 million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the next six months and the largest release in history; working aro- — and building a coalition around the world to release an additional 60 million barrels.
I also wanted to give you a little bit of a week ahead — a quick overview for the week ahead.
As you’re well aware, tomorrow the President and the First Lady will attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where the President will speak. And I will lower expectations and say it’s not funny at all. Just kidding. (Laughter.) See?
As you — the following day, President Biden will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to attend the memorial service of former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was his friend and mentor.
On Monday, the President will present the Presidential Rank Awards to 230 winners for 37 federal agencies in a virtual ceremony. Then, he and the First Lady will host a reception to celebrate Eid in the East Room.
On Tuesday, the President will travel to Alabama, as we’ve already announced, to visit a Lockheed Martin facility which manufactures weapons systems, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, which we are providing Ukraine to defend against the Russian invasion. He will also discuss while he’s there his supplemental funding request, which will help Ukraine defend itself over the long term, support democracy in Ukraine, and address humanitarian needs and economic disruptions due to Putin’s war.
And on Thursday, the President and First Lady will host a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden.
I also wanted to note: Gary Rosenberg — where are you, Gary? Hello, Gary. Gary is retiring. He’s one of the ABC crew members here at the White House. He is retiring today after 43 years. (Applause.) Great, Gary. So, amazing. Thank you for your service. We’re not going to make any connection between your timing and the fact that ABC is reportedly taking Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson to the dinner. (Laughter.) Maybe you’ll have a wild weekend.
Okay, so let’s get to your questions. I have, hopefully, a lot of follow-ups to a lot of the supplemental questions you all had yesterday, which I’m sure will come up.
So, why don’t we get to you, Chris.
Q I was going to start with the supplemental, actually.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, great.
Q So, just wanted to look for an update on where things stand with that and also with COVID funding. How have the conversations gone so far? And how are things going with Republicans as well in getting their support for some of these measures?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as I noted yesterday: After we put out and announced this request, we have been working full steam ahead in engaging and having discussions with appropriate members, committees, staff about the urgency in moving both of these requests forward.
The President, of course, put them forward because — together. And that is his preference: for them to move together, because they are both essential. There’s urgency to moving them both forward.
If I may — and this may come up as well, but can I give you just a bit of a rundown? This is to Alex’s questions yesterday of what has been spent from the 13.5.
Let me just see if I can find this here. Okay.
So, we noted and we’ve confirmed for all of you that of the 13.6, we had already spent 3.25 of the security assistance, so $250 million left. That remains the case.
The first supplemental also provided roughly $6 billion in direct security — in direct econo- — I mean, that includes — the $6 billion includes that 3.5, as well as economic assistance — all of that in there. So, 95 percent of that has been exhausted. And that means that, of course, the $250 million is part of the 5 percent left and also some economic assistance that has not yet been spent from that tranche.
The first supplemental also provided about $4.2 billion for humanitarian assistance, for humanitarian needs globally. We’ve spent about $600 million of that so far. So there’s more obviously left in that fund, which is why that — why we have only requested — less than 3 percent of what is in our new request package is for that type of humanitarian assistance, because we have more left and there are more global requests, of course, given the surge of refugees and needs around the world that we anticipate receiving.
And finally, the supplemental also provided $3 billion to support U.S. troop deployments to reinforce NATO territory, which the Department of Defense is using for this purpose. Of course, they plan ahead. It doesn’t mean it’s all been spent out, but it has been planned for how it will be spent.
So, as you can tell, the vast majority of what we had requested and what we had received from Congress has been spent, and the humanitarian pieces still left accounts for how we have framed the next package.
Okay, go ahead.
Q It appears the European Union is preparing a phase-in ban of Russian oil imports. The U.S. has been a partner in helping the EU to get natural gas. Is the U.S. committed to helping them get additional crude supplies? And will that include ways to increase U.S. production and get it over to the European Union?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, so as we’ve talked about a little bit this week with the announcement about Russia’s actions as it relates to Poland and Bulgaria, we started a task force last month with Europe to account for and plan for and work to help them diversify their energy needs and account for any steps that Russia may continue to take to weaponize energy.
There has — there was a meeting of that task force –I believe it was yesterday — to have a discussion about how we can continue to work together. We’ve already taken steps to provide for additional LNG or natural gas resources because we knew and anticipated that for some of these European countries, that was especially going to be a need.
In terms of oil — it’s, of course, a global oil market. So our effort there in anticipation of any needs was to take steps to provide more supply, whether that was through our own release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or the work that the President and his team has done to do the global release — the biggest ever in history. So, slightly two different things.
But this task force was started in anticipation of these needs. They already had a meeting. We’ll continue our work together to help the Europeans with any shortages they have and also to diversify and ease off of Russian reli- — reliance on Russian energy needs (inaudible).
Q Sure. On the E15 emergency waiver, it says it will last a statutory maximum of 20 days per the EPA and that you guys will review that as — to see if it’s still needed.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q The industry itself has been calling for it and I think Biden has been supportive of a summer-long lifting of the ban.
I understand there’s reasons why you do the 20 days, but is this administration committed to making E15 available all summer long?
MS. PSAKI: That is how the President made his announcement and is his indica- — is his intention. And I would note because it’s available — if you think of the just over 2,000 gas stations where it’s available in the Midwest — largely in the Midwest — without this, the prior regulations would have been — or without the waiver, that basically the E15 pump would be covered and wouldn’t be available.
So, we do anticipate needs continuing for taking additional steps to cut the cost for Americans. This lowers it for — by about 10 cents for those who use this type of gas. And this is just another way to do that.
Q Vladimir Putin has confirmed that Russia will be attending the G20 Summit. So could we get a reaction from the White House on that?
And then, related to that, is there any scenario — you know, anything that could happen between now and six months from now — where the U.S. would actually welcome Russia’s presence at the G20; you know, see it as being constructive or productive for Russia to be a part of that summit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a lot that could happen between now and then, but we certainly haven’t seen an indication to date of Russia’s plan to participate in diplomatic talks constructively.
Our hope certainly is that will change — because, obviously, diplomatic talks and conversations is the way to bring an end to this conflict, and President Putin could end this tomorrow, could end this right now.
But I’m not going to get ahead of what that looks like. Obviously, this is an ongoing war on the ground.
We have certainly seen those reports. And we have — the President has expressed publicly his opposition to President Putin attending the G20. We have welcomed the Ukrainians attending — or invitation to attend the G20. It is six months away. So, we don’t — we don’t know how to predict — we can’t predict at this point what that will look like.
Our understanding — and, of course, you could confirm this with the Indonesians, as we have reached out to them privately — is that they did invite them before the invasion. So any additional step beyond that I would certainly point to them. But we’ve conveyed our view that we don’t think they should be a part of it publicly and privately as well.
Q Just on a —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Yeah.
Q — separate matter.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q An American citizen and former Marine veteran, Willy Joseph Cancel, was killed this week in Ukraine while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. His mother told CNN that he went to Ukraine because he believes in what Ukraine was fighting for. First of all, is there a message for his family?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, our hearts go out to his family and loved ones. We have not officially — we don’t have official confirmation, even though we’ve seen the reports. But we have not had that official process through the government, so I can’t speak to other specifics about him beyond that.
But, you know, we know Americans are looking for ways to help. And the reports about this individual were that he’s a veteran; some — he had a child, I believe; and certainly sounded like a very passionate young man.
We know people want to help, but we do encourage Americans to find other ways to do so rather than traveling to — rather than traveling to Ukraine to fight there. It is a war zone. It’s an active war zone. And we know Americans face significant risks. But certainly, we know a family is mourning, a wife is mourning, and our hearts are with them.
Q So any — any other American that is looking to go to Ukraine for the purpose of fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, the U.S.’s message is strictly, “Do not go”?
MS. PSAKI: Our advice for months now has been that Americans should not travel to Ukraine for any reason.
Q In the President’s conversation with the Me- — with AMLO, with the Mexican President, just ended. Did President Biden make any specific requests of his Mexican counterpart in terms of increasing Mexican either troops or enforcement along either the U.S.-Mexico border or the Mexico border with Central American countries?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what the focus — I have not received an extensive readout yet. I know you will receive one probably while I’m up here. But the majority of the conversation was about migration and was about continued work on coordination, on economic coordination, on taking steps to reduce migration to the border. And they have been a partner in that over the last several months.
In terms of specific asks, I just don’t have more on that. But I know, Mike, that one of the follow-ups here will be coordination and discussion at a high level from members of their respective national security teams to continue to work together as we head toward the important meetings coming up in a few weeks.
Q Yeah, I mean, I think just — as a quick follow-up, I understand that that it just ended and so maybe you don’t have the information now.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q If there’s a way to get more information about the specific question of whether or not the United States has asked. You’ll remember President Trump pushed the Mexican government to try to — to increase enforcement along the border by threatening tariffs. Obviously, that’s a different strategy than —
MS. PSAKI: It’s not our approach.
Q It probably isn’t your approach. But it wouldn’t be out of the question to imagine that this government would encourage, pressure, ask the Mexican government to do more, especially on the eve of Title 42 potentially coming down, if it does.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important to remember — I mean, the tone of the call was very constructive. This was not a call where President Biden was threatening the Mexican President in any way. They have been an important partner; we expect them to continue to be.
And this call was planned in part because of the Summit of the Americas but also because of the approaching lifting of Title 42 and the anticipation and expectation from the Department of Homeland Security of the increased influx of migrants trying to come to cross the border.
So — but it was meant to be a constructive call. It was not meant to deliver a threatening message. That is my understanding of what took place. And certainly, if there’s more to provide, we will provide that to all of you.
Q Thank you, Jen. On the supplemental budget, the administration believes the package will support Ukraine for five months. Is there anything you can tell us about that timeframe? Is that when the administration believes the war will come to an end, or that it will last for at least another five months?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you a little bit of — more of a rundown of each of the components in the package too. I know some of this was done yesterday, but I think more of it — we could do more from our end on this front.
But to answer your direct question, Weijia: This is — that’s the end of the fiscal year. And what our objective here was, was to provide a long enough set of funding requests or a funding request that would meet — that would mean we wouldn’t have to come back in a month or six weeks — right? — to ensure that there was planning that was possible through the U.S. military and through our European partners and the Ukrainians as well.
Now, some of this funding — for example, the $6 billion of this — of this $20 billion of the security assistance component — is for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is basically direct support for Ukraine to purchase its own weapons from the defense — you know, defense contra- — you know, the defense industry here in the United States.
They could not even intake, you know, billions and billions and billions of weapons and security assistance in this moment.
So that is likely going to be longer term, because if they place an order for specific weapons, sometimes that takes months to produce. It’s just meant to provide security assistance so they can plan for what they need over the long term and make those orders directly, which is what that portion of the — of the funding provides for.
The other portions of the funding — so, $5.4 billion — is in drawdown. So, that — as you’re very familiar with that because that was a large chunk of what we requested and have implemented in our last package. And that basically allows the United States to — when we provide weapons or give weapons to the Ukrainians, to have the funding to backfill those needs and order those weapons so we can backfill them here and make sure we have what we need here in the United States.
$2.4 billion was to purchase high-demand weapons for the United States, build additional critical war reserves, and increase intelligence and other defense support.
And then $4 billion is in State [Department] Foreign Military Financing, which is not just for Ukraine. That’s for a range of countries. It’s FMF funding that a range — that will be applicable to a range of countries and what their needs are.
And finally, $2.6 billion is to continue supporting U.S. troop deployments in NATO territory. So, as you know, we had 80- — about 80,000, and now we’re up to 100,000. And we’re also, of course, you know, providing support to a range of our NATO Allies and partners in the region. And that helps support that. It includes U.S. troop transportation, special pay, medical support.
So that’s kind of the breakdown of what it is, but some of that would certainly go beyond. It was just meant to be a request that accounts for the fiscal year.
Q Got it. Thank you.
And then, turning to COVID, I know you’ve talked before about protocols in place to protect the President. But given what Kate Bedingfield tweeted this morning, I wonder: Is part of the protocol to make sure the President never has any close contacts?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the way we determine — we do take additional steps, and some of those are additional precautions that go beyond even what the CDC recommends. Right? So, if we are in a meeting with the President, I’ve noted before we — you always are tested. We often wear masks — almost always wear masks in those meetings. We are — try to socially distance whenever possible.
And the way the CDC defines a “close contact” is 15 minutes at a certain — a close proximity. So we try to follow those guidelines and take additional steps, of course, as a — out of an effort to protect the President.
Q So, those who are in a confined space with the President wear masks and are six feet apart from him?
MS. PSAKI: That’s an effort we make, exactly.
Q Okay, great.
And then, just quickly on the vaccines for children —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — because the FDA announced a couple potential dates for when they might start reviewing in June.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q When the greenlight is given, assuming it will be, is there enough supply already on hand to start giving these young children their first doses right away — the supply of both the vaccine and vials, materials, et cetera?
MS. PSAKI: My understanding, Weijia, is that there is. I will quadruple-check that and make sure for you.
But we have been planning for the possibility of approval for vaccines for children under five for some time now, and we like to plan ahead.
Q Okay. Thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q Thank you, Jen. The mayor of Eagle Pass told my colleague down at the border today — and the mayor is a Democrat, by the way — that the border is not being effectively managed and asked the President to come and see it. Does the President have any plans to go to the border?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any plans to preview at this point in time. Certainly, we’re open to it, but no plans to preview.
Q Is it something he would consider doing before the Summit of the Americas, where he’s set to meet with the leaders of Central and South America, see the situation firsthand before having that robust conversation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s meeting with leaders of countries that he’s traveled to many times, and certainly he is very familiar with the issues that will be discussed, which is addressing root causes, coordinating — whether it’s on the economic front or security front.
And that’s an initiative he led during the — when he was Vice President, so he’s very familiar with those issues.
Q On the economy: Austan Goolsbee, the former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under the Obama administration, said that he felt that the President yesterday in his comments about the GDP report was potentially underplaying the risks of a recession. And he pointed to geopolitical conditions with Ukraine, with Russia cutting off gas to Europe, and also the GDP shrinking, saying that people should be nervous. How do you respond to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I have a great deal of respect for Austan Goolsbee — he’s a former colleague — and so does the President. But what we look at is a range of economic data, including economic data that was in the GDP numbers yesterday, which I did some explaining of yesterday.
But some of the data that was in there show very encouraging signs that economists look at — independent — many independent economists monitor closely. American consumer spending, business investment, residential investment — all up.
The decrease, as it relates to exports, is largely because our economy is stronger than many economies around the world. And the inventory numbers, which is kind of the number that went down — that brought it down — is in large — a large — in large part because the fourth quarter inventory numbers were the highest in history, and these numbers are drawn — are done as a comparison from quarter to quarter.
So I think we felt it was important to explain the data and what it means. We continue to monitor economic data.
It’s important to note that the — some important components of it are: We created more jobs last year than any
job [year] in American history. We’re at a low — a very low unemployment rate. And while costs are high and inflation is not where we want it to be, the Federal Reserve continues to project that will come down by the end of the year.
So our economists and our economic team continues to feel confident in the strength of the economy even as we monitor a range of data.
Q Jennifer Granholm said something, though, that was interesting about inflation coming down. She said, “Some economists are suggesting inflation is going to level off a bit, but it’s just so hard to know because we don’t know what’s going to happen on the war on this.” So, she’s seeming to also allude to geopolitical conditions that might not result in these projections coming to fruition.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Federal Reserve makes the official projections — right? — for the government.
What I will note, and I think maybe she was referring to, is: Even the new economic data we saw today — energy accounted for 61 percent of the reasoning for the increase in the inflation numbers. And we know that because of Putin’s unprovoked invasion in Ukraine, that it’s driving food costs but also energy costs, and that is a huge driver.
So that’s why the President is taking a range of steps: the historic release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; even the steps, certainly smaller, as it relates to E15 today to work to really target and focus on energy prices and costs.
Q And then I have just a couple questions on the Disinformation Board.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Yesterday, you had told me that you were not familiar with Nina Jankowicz. I’m wondering if you’re — if you have more information on her today.
Also, Secretary Mayorkas said that he was not familiar with statements that she had made surrounding the Hunter Biden laptop. And I’m just wondering: How was she hired if you and the White House are not familiar with her, if Mayorkas is not familiar with her statements? What’s the process for putting her into a position like this? Who’s in charge of her hiring?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you a sense of who she is. She’s an expert on online disinformation. She was formerly in the Wilson Center’s Disinfor- — she was formerly a Disinformation Fellow at the Wilson Center. She’s testified before Congress as well as the United Kingdom and European parliaments; advised a Ukrainian foreign minister — particularly relevant in this moment — under the auspices of a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship; and overseen Russia and Belarus programs at the National Democratic Institute.
Any hiring decisions are up to the Department of Homeland Security, but this is a person with extensive qualifications.
What I will tell you about the board and what the board is doing: This is a continuation of work that began at the Department of Homeland Security in 2020 under former President Trump.
Q Is it though — I guess, can you describe what her job is going to be? Because there’s been some TikToks that she has put out, and it seems like rather than, you know, calling balls and strikes on “this, you know, story is false and this story — and here’s the truth on it,” one line stood out to me: “They’re laundering disinfo and we should really take note, and not support their lives with our wallet, voice, or vote.” So is —
MS. PSAKI: Well, here’s what the board is going to do, which I think is of particular interest — again, a continuation of the work of the former President. So for anyone who’s critical of it, I didn’t hear them being critical of the work under the former President, which is just interesting to note contextually.
But in the fact sheet that they put out, what they noted yesterday — what they noted in there is that this is meant to — one, the first bullet was about protecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, and the First Amendment. They said the primary mission is to establish best practices to ensure that efforts to understand and respond to disinformation are done in ways that protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.
I’d also note that the first example they gave about what they’re going to do is support the Department of Homeland Security’s work — ongoing work, back to the former administration — on — to address how and understand how misinformation is spread by human smugglers that prey on vulnerable populations attempting to migrate to the United States.
There’s no question — everybody — that bipartisan support for that, to address disinformation that’s going — that’s helping smugglers pushing, helping people migrate or providing false information, prompting people to migrate.
So — and this is also work that is helping to address unauthorized — terrorism, other threats, and see how disinformation and misinformation is being pushed to lead — to increase those. So that’s all work — we think it’s work that’s been ongoing for some time. This is the form it’s taking. And there’s a fact sheet that details the specifics of it.
Q You just outlined a lot of, you know, efforts that sound very worthy, but you’ve got some from the Home- — the Department of Homeland Security telling people how they should vote. How do you explain that to critics who say “That doesn’t sound right to me”?
MS. PSAKI: This is an individual who will overse- — be overseeing the work of that board. Personnel decisions are up to the Department of Homeland Security. I just outlined the extensive history and background this individual has.
But I think what’s important to note here is what the board is doing, which is continuing what is important disinformation-related work that began under the former administration.
Q Thanks, Jen. I want to ask you about some of the concerns that Democrats are expressing about Title 42, if it is, in fact, lifted. And these are some quotes that were in Politico today:
Maggie Hassan says, “What I didn’t hear… [were] specifics about numbers and deployment and really meeting the need” at the border.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto said she still hasn’t seen a “comprehensive plan.”
And Senator Mark Kelly has said, “There’s having things on a piece of paper and then what is going on on the southern border — and there is a huge disconnect.”
What is the administration doing to address those concerns and that criticism that there may be a plan on paper, but they certainly haven’t seen it at the border yet?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, there’s an extensive plan on paper that includes a six-pillar approach to planning for and preparing for the lifting of Title 42, including surging resources, personnel, transportation, medical support, facilities to support border operations.
It also includes enhancing CBP processing efficiency and moving with deliberate speed to mitigate potential overcrowding at Border Patrol stations — something in anticipation they are preparing for the possibility of.
It also includes administering consequences for unlawful entry. That’s pillar three.
It includes — number four is bolstering the capacity of nongovernmental organizations, who have been important partners to us as we’re working to implement — to receive non-citizens after they’ve been processed.
It also includes targeting and disrupting the transnational criminal organizations.
And finally, deterring irregular migration.
What it is not — and this is where we absolutely, of course, agree with these members and others — is an immigration reform plan. And that is something that we strongly support. This is a reminder of the need for — how outdated it is, how broken the system is.
But Title 42 has never been an immigration plan.
Q How soon will the plan that you just laid out actually go into effect? Understanding that it may take some time, but —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — how soon will people actually feel the real impact so that, as Senator Kelly is saying, this disconnect doesn’t exist, so that there’s actual proof that it’s taking place?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Title 42 lifts on May 23rd. It doesn’t lift —
Q So nothing happens until the (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Homeland Security for the implementation plan.
But I think that’s what’s important to note here. We haven’t seen, you know, the impacts of the lifting surges because it hasn’t happened yet.
I’d also note that Secretary Mayorkas testified, I believe, before four committees over the last two days about exactly this —
Q And yet, there’s still this skepticism.
MS. PSAKI: — in order to answer their questions. And I’m sure he’s happy to have continued conversations.
Q And how concerned is the President that these members of his own party — who are facing tough reelection battles, as you know — have these serious concerns and clearly are expressing fears that it might impact them politically — might impact their chances for reelection?
MS. PSAKI: Well, without speaking to the politics, I would say, Kristen: I mean, the President shares the concern about the lack of a workable immigration system, and that impacts many of the border state leaders quite a bit, of course, because there isn’t an effective asylum processing system; because we don’t have smart security and we spent years investing in a faulty border wall that was never going to be an effective mechanism.
He shares their concerns about that, and he recognizes and agrees with that.
Q How would you characterize how committed he is? Understanding that an appeal, if it comes to that — it’s not in his hands — would he want to see this fight go all the way to the Supreme Court?
MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly not going to get ahead of a legal process. I will note — and Mary — I think MaryAlice asked about this yesterday.
So let me — in terms of where things stand: So, right now what we saw yesterday is that the district court presiding over one of the challenges to the Title 42 rescission order officially entered — finally officially entered, because they just done it verbally — a temporary restraining order.
What that basically means is they’re saying we can’t lift Title 42 before May 23rd. That has not been our plan to date, as you know.
What is next is there’s going to be a hearing on Arizona’s preliminary injunction motion. That’s scheduled to take place on May 13th. So, any decision about what’s next, of course, would happen from the Department of Justice but wouldn’t happen after — until after that.
What I would note is that the judge has indicated he will rule unfavorably towards the administration at this time, but we don’t know — and we don’t officially know and we won’t know — until he makes a ruling, and then Department of Justice would make any decision about legal action.
Q One quickly on the supplemental, if I might. There’s obviously a divide over whether to link it to COVID funding, which we talked about a little bit here yesterday. But given that there is this divide and given the urgency that we are hearing from President Zelenskyy and others on the ground in Ukraine for this aid, why not just say, “Let’s de-link these two bills and move forward with the Ukraine aid and get it done as quickly as possible”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Kristen, I would note that the President feels that both are urgent, both are emergencies. Of course, the — we know there’s an urgency in getting additional assistance. We know we have a few more weeks depending on how the final military drawdown is spent out.
But in terms of COVID, what we are doing right now is we are preventing the United States from being able to plan and purchase ahead. So, for example, if there’s a better booster — which there may be, because science is amazing — one day, right? — if there’s a better vaccine, we can’t make purchases ahead of doing that. That is what we have done to date. That is why we have been so prepared.
It also makes it so that we can’t purchase Evusheld treatments that helps immunocompromised. We can’t make additional purchases of a range of the treatments we know are effective and make sure that we can say to every American, “We’ll get you a mask. We’ll get you a test. We’ll get you a free vaccine.” So, the President feels that is also incredibly urgent.
Q Do you have a reaction to the report that the FBI last year potentially searched millions of Americans’ data? And secondly, is the President briefed on that? Does he have any reaction himself?
MS. PSAKI: I have not spoken with the President about this. I can get you more details about this after the briefing.
My understanding is that some of this was about researching and doing an investigation into potential hacking and — so — but I will get you more from the FBI after this. Thanks for your question.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Yeah. E15 fuel is slightly less energy dense than what we consider typical gasoline, so Americans might need to fill up just a little bit more frequently. So how much did the — does the administration really think that this move will affect Americans’ wallets?
And does the White House believe the President has exhausted his authority on what he can do related to gas prices or are there more options still being considered?
MS. PSAKI: I mean, on the second question, we’re always going to look for more options. I mean, we saw — and I talked about this a little bit earlier, even as it relates to the recent — the inflation data that came out today. We know that 61 percent of that is driven by the price — by energy costs, by Putin’s invasion into Ukraine. And we need to continue to take every step we can whether that’s working with Congress, considering what authorities we have, continuing to ensure we take steps to make sure the supply meets the demand out there.
You know, the estimates have been: It saves Americans about 10 cents a gallon. And you know that, to the President and to us, felt like a reason to do it. And because without taking the step for the waiver, it basically would just be an option of additional supply that is a little bit less expensive that wouldn’t be available in these 2,000 gas stations.
We’re not saying that this is like the silver bullet; it’s not. It’s just a step that we felt would help ease the — ease the burden for Americans who go to those gas stations.
Q Sure. And then, with COVID, on — as we are talking about — as the White House is pushing Congress to pass for more funding, why hasn’t the administration released a plan, at least for now, to transition the burden of paying for COVID drugs and vaccines to the private sector, kind of like has been done with tests, so that insurance companies have time to negotiate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a range of steps happening at the same time. But I will tell you that what we want to continue to be able to do is to provide these treatments for free. That’s the objective. That’s the reason for this request for funding. But also, the request for funding is enabling the United States to be able to purchase ahead in bulk supply a lot of these treatments or, you know, vaccines so that we can make — when they are ready, we can make those available to treatment centers and hospitals around the country.
Q Thanks. I know you said that you didn’t get an extensive readout yet of the conversation with the Mexican President —
MS. PSAKI: And they’ll be a written readout at some point, not yet.
Q To the extent that you know —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — what happened, did the President make any headway in getting Mexico to take a harder line on Russia? And should we expect them to join the global coalition in imposing sanctions now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would note, obviously, the Mexican government can speak for themselves on any intentions they may or may not have. They have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so I would note that.
We will always encourage any leaders to take additional steps to support the Ukrainians and stand up in a range of ways against the — the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
But in terms of any steps they would take, regardless of the conversation, we would let them speak for themselves on that front.
Q Sorry. Has the reticence by the Mexican government impacted the U.S.-Mexico relationship in any way when it comes to sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would note they have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We know different countries are going to take different steps. Some have taken them quickly. Some took longer to take them. And we know different countries have different approaches to every step — whether it’s sanctions, assistance they can provide. We understand that.
We have an important, strong relationship with Mexico — one that the call today was set up in order to really focus the conversation on migration and addressing root causes in advance of the Summit of the Americas. So that was really the majority of the conversation.
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to miss you. Go ahead.
Q No worries. Thank you. So, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was asked this afternoon if he believed that Vladimir Putin was a rational actor. And he responded saying, “I can’t talk to his psychology, but I think we can all speak to his depravity.” Now, he later apologized for his emotions there. But I’m curious: Are these sentiments also shared by the President?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve heard the President call him a war criminal. So, I don’t think the President thinks of President Putin as somebody who is a model in the world. He feels — he views him as a pariah and somebody who is guilty of war crimes and of genocide. So, I think the President’s comments speak for itself.
Q And then also, piggybacking on Kristen’s last question: If Congress doesn’t pass supplemental aid to Ukraine or it’s delayed, how much longer can we keep the current pace in supporting them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a range of ways we’re supporting them, right? So this is why I felt it was important to outline in more detail than I did yesterday. Sometimes you go back and you say, “I need more information.” Right? But — and that’s what we did here. But we know we there’s $250 million left — right? — from the security package.
We know that we were giving — we were at a very rapid pace of providing assistance for several weeks. That was strategic because we wanted to frontload that, knowing that as Russia repositioned their approach to the war, the needs for the Ukrainians were different because it was going to be a longer, more drawn-out war that was more kind of on the ground.
So, we strategically frontloaded a lot of the security assistance. But there is not — we expect a couple more weeks this assistance could be. I don’t have the plans from the Department of Defense on exactly how they will — how they will roll that out.
I also noted that the vast, vast majority of our economic assistance has also been exhausted. Obviously, many of those — many of those needs are long term. Some of the funding — about $3 billion of it was for operating needs of the Department of Defense. Some of those are still being spent out and are part of their budget, not direct assistance, of course.
And then there are still — there is still funds in the humanitarian assistance bucket, but that doesn’t meet all of the needs, of course, that the Ukrainians have.
So this is why there’s an urgency to moving forward.
Q Gotcha. And lastly, I understand that the circumstances surrounding Mr. Cancel’s are still coming to light. But does the President have any plans to talk with his relatives?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a great question. And what I tried to convey — perhaps, not articulately — is that it has not gone through the proper channels that typically are the State Department, Defense Department, et cetera. Usually, the State Department, likely, in this case. And if there is a call to read out, I will certainly let all of you know.
Go ahead. I can do like a few more, I think. Go ahead.
Q So, it sounds like the President is still planning to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. In the past when he’s been exposed in large events, the White House has noted that there might be an increase in his testing following those. Are there any plans to change the President’s testing procedures following these big events that he’s been attending, like the dinner and the two memorial services he attended?
MS. PSAKI: The testing protocol is determined by his doctor. He was tested yesterday, and he tested negative. But I don’t have anything to predict in terms of the future.
I noted this the other day, but I think it’s important for your question here, is that the President — we made a decision — it was important to him to attend the dinner to honor the work of journalists — all of you, many of your colleagues around the world — something the former President didn’t do.
But we also took additional steps. He’s not attending the dinner portion. He’s coming for the program. So — and he will likely wear a mask when he’s not speaking. Obviously, he’ll speak. And so he’ll be there for about an hour or 90 minutes, I guess, depending on how long Trevor Noah speaks and others speak in the program. But we took that additional step as well.
And then he’s, of course, sitting on the dais up in the front. So the interaction — he’s not attending any of the receptions or anything along those lines either.
Q And then, on the remarks, the President has been a guest on several late-night shows. Has he consulted any of those hosts, comedians, brought in any outside help on his speech? Can you kind of bring us in the room on how he’s approaching this as someone who has attended several of these dinners and seen them play out?
MS. PSAKI: He has. I will tell you the President has a very good sense of humor and is working hard on his own speech.
Q Thank you, Jen. The administration has not said how long they expect the war in Ukraine to last, and that’s understandable because no one knows what the —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — future will hold. But the administration — and then also in this room yesterday — the administration has declined to say how much the United States is prepared to spend long term or to give a real definition of what a victory in the war in Ukraine would look like.
So my question is: How long does President Biden, the same President who got us out of Afghanistan because he said it was a costly and unwinnable quagmire — how long does he expect the American people to back this war when they don’t know how long it will last, how much it will cost, or what the ultimate definition of victory actually is?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, let me just reiterate something the President has said from the beginning.
Q (Inaudible.) Right.
MS. PSAKI: And I will get to your point.
Q And these are some of the questions.
MS. PSAKI: But this — I will get to your questions, I promise. That combating Russian aggression has costs. Leaving it unchecked would be even more costly. Allowing Russia to run rampant around Europe beyond Ukraine, which is what President Putin outlined in his speech right before he invaded, would be incredibly costly to the world and to the United States. We calculate that as well.
Right now, I know — let me — I will get there. I promise. I know you’re raising your hand. You asked me a few questions. I’m going to get there.
Right now, the importance of this package to the President is because, every day, Ukrainians pay the price of freedom in their lives, and he feels providing them with arms and food is the right thing to do. And trying to plan for — and I noted that some components of this package are not limited. It’s not that the spending will end at five months. It’s just allowing the ability for us, the Ukrainians, and the Europeans to plan over the long term. In fact, much of the security assistance will be much longer than that.
The reason it’s difficult to define what winning is is because, obviously, our view continues to be that an ends will be through a diplomatic process and a diplomatic conversation. The Ukrainians are the ones who determine what the outcome of that will look like, not for us to determine on their behalf.
Q So should we expect a line-item appropriation for military aid to Ukraine for the next 5, 10, 15 years? I mean, is this open ended?
MS. PSAKI: We, of course, want the war to end as quickly as possible, and President Putin could do that tomorrow. But right now, what we’re making a decision about, what we’re advocating for is trying to support and have the backs of an incredibly brave country and their people who are kicked out of their homes; fighting an aggressive dictator and his military; lacking food, lacking economic assistance; and preventing Putin from rampaging through Europe, which by the way, would be much more expensive than what we’re talking about here.
Q And one quick follow-up then. So the United States’ definition of what success or victory looks like in the region is contingent on how long the Ukrainians are willing to combat the Russians and whether or not they want to, you know, fight them and force them to the negotiation table or push them out of, you know, their borders? That’s up to them? But we’re — we’re on board?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not exactly what I said. What I will say is that what President Putin defined as his own version of winning and victory from the beginning was taking over Ukraine, their sovereignty, their territorial integrity.
Obviously, he’s already failed at that. Right? So in that sense, they are already defeating Putin’s effort to envelop them into Russia. But this is an ongoing war. We know that. We know that diplomacy and having a discussion and negotiation is the way to get an end to it.
Our effort and our focus is on strengthening them at the negotiating table, and that’s the role that we feel that we can play.
I’m going to have to wrap this up. Asma, go ahead. One more.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, and Asma, just — you asked me a question yesterday about credit.
MS. PSAKI: That is not possible.
Q Yeah. I did get that from (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Good. But for others.
Q Yes. So there have been reports that EU countries are looking to approve a phased embargo on Russian oil as early as next week.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q And if that were to happen, it would be huge. And I am curious how the White House is coordinating with the EU on this.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. So one of the steps that the President took last month was to start this task force with the Europeans.
I mean, we took steps before that — right? — to work with a range of countries in Asia and around the world to provide additional supply — LNG supply — where they had excess.
Japan, for example, did that to provide excess LNG supply because they had the ability to do that to the Europeans in anticipation that Russia could weaponize energy, as we’ve seen President Putin do.
There was a meeting of this task force yesterday to continue that coordination, have that discussion, and we’re just looking for ways that we can help them address these needs that we long anticipated.
Okay. Thanks, everyone. Thank you, everyone.
2:58 P.M. EDT