James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:37 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. All right. Just two items to highlight for all of you at the top. Two short items.
Today, we announced an upcoming Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. This will bring attention to the burden of hunger and diet-related disease, which were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the conference, we will release a new national strategy to eliminate hunger and reduce diet-related illnesses such as heart disease and eliminate disparities. This strategy will catalyze the public and private sectors around a coordinated strategy to accelerate progress and drive transformative change in the United States.
Also, I know the President spoke about this this morning, but I just wanted to lightly touch on the fact that during the President’s first year in office, the deficit fell by over $350 billion. Again, fell by over $350 billion. And that announcement this morning in his remarks were based on the Treasury Department’s revised estimates of the government’s financing needs from — for this fiscal year.
The Treasury Department also announced, and the President touched on it this morning, that it will pay down the national debt this quarter for the first time since 2016.
So, I just wanted to note those items. And then, Aamer, why don’t you kick us off.
Q Thanks. I had just a couple on — related to the Alito draft opinion that leaked. First, does the President believe that Justice Kavanaugh and Gorsuch misled or lied to senators about their views on Roe?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, given that — while the — while the Supreme Court has validated the document, they have made clear that this is not a final opinion. So the President — I don’t have anything to speak to in terms of his views on where members may or may not be — or Supreme Court justices, I should say, may or may not be on a final opinion.
Q And, secondly, President Biden again this morning warned that the draft abortion opinion could go beyond the issue and jeopardize other basic rights. And I think this morning he specifically talked about LGBTQ issues —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — if I remember correctly. Does he want the Court — does he think that this opinion needs to be, at minimum, narrowed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the President, as much as he spoke yesterday — both in a written statement and also to all of you who are traveling — about his strong views about this leaked document, he’s not going to prejudge or have a comment on an opinion that has not yet been issued.
What he was speaking to — and I — and he touched on it again this morning — was his long history working on a range of these issues. As you all know from his biography, he led the fight against the nomination of Robert Bork. And what struck him in reading the leaked document was how some of the language reminded him of Robert Bork’s view of the narrow definition of how one should analyze or review what the Constitution allows for.
And if you remember during that — those hearings — I know many of you, including myself, were quite young during the time, but we all read history — part of the big debate there, or the big discussion, was the Griswold vs. Connecticut case, which was related to privacy and whether married couples should be able to have the privacy to purchase contraception.
And so I think what you’re hearing play out is the President’s own reaction to what he saw in these documents and his view that — the protection of privacy and the protection of the ability of women to make decisions about their healthcare with their doctors, about people to be able to choose who they marry. And to him, reading that, it reminded him of how important those protections are. And that’s what he — why you continue to hear him talk about it.
Q And, finally, if I could just ask briefly on Chairman Powell.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q He just said that the Fed is limited in how it can deal with supply shocks that have been leading to higher inflation.
So what more can the White House and Congress do, given that challenge?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would — I would note also, as you and others have reported, that there were — there were announcements made about decisions — actions the Federal Reserve intends to take, which are consistent with what they have said they would do to date. And the President has said in the past that it’s appropriate, and he supports their decision to recalibrate. So that remains his view today.
In terms of what more we can do to address inflation — I mean, I would also note that during his comments, Chair Powell also noted the strength of the economy. He also noted that there’s a path for a soft landing without pushing the economy into recession. He had a lot to say, of course, during this press conference. So I just wanted to note a couple of the things.
But what more we can do beyond, of course, respecting the independence of the Federal Reserve and the decisions they make, including those announced today, is to continue to take steps to address costs for the American people. Chair Powell also said, or echoed — I think it was in response to a question — the point that energy prices, and specifically the invasion by President Putin, was having an impact on inflation.
And so one of the President’s primary focuses right now, as you all know, is taking any step we can to bring down costs, whether that is the historic release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, leading the world in their own release; continuing to talk to large global providers of oil and what they can do to help the global market, even the announcements we’ve made over the last couple of weeks about E15; and taking any step we can to reduce those costs; and also continuing to have conversations with leaders on Capitol Hill and members about steps we can take to reduce costs for the American people, whether it’s childcare, healthcare, eldercare, prescription drugs. All of these have an impact on people’s day-to-day lives.
Q Jen, back to abortion, if I can: Yesterday, you said the leak raises eyebrows, including for many here in the White House. But does the White House condemn — explicitly condemn this leak and — or has seeing this draft been seen as welcome by some here?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have a particular view on that other than to say that we certainly note the unprecedented nature of it.
What we are mindful of — and I spoke with the President about exactly this question yesterday, and obviously it’s up to the Department of Justice to determine what, if any, action they will take. And I know, obviously, there have been calls for that from some Republicans but also members of the Supreme Court.
But our focus is on not losing sight from what the content is in the draft and what is at risk here. And while we have heard a number raised concerns about the leak, our focus is on highlighting what the content in there would risk — put at risk for women across the country.
So, again, we’ll leave it to the Department of Justice to make a decision about that. I would note that many Republicans have wanted to talk about that and not about whether they support the protection of a woman’s right to choose, a woman’s right to make decisions with her doctor about her healthcare. Maybe not a surprise, given we’re — by more than a two-to-one margin, Americans want the Supreme Court to support abortion rights.
Q And as for the content of the draft — the document, the draft — it is, of course, a draft — but if the Supreme Court does move to strike down Roe, should Americans be prepared to just accept that decision as legitimate? And would President Biden accept that decision as legitimate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speak for what actions could be possible on the legal front; I would point you to the Department of Justice on that.
But what I can tell you will happen is — and this is what we are preparing for the possibility of — that if Roe were to fall, abortion would probably be illegal in about half the states in the country, up to 26 states, particularly in the South, the Midwest, and West, who have all spoken out — many leaders — about how they’re poised to restrict or ban access. Some have even taken action, even as recently as yesterday, as crazy as that sounds.
And depending on the Court’s position — decision — 13 states even have trigger laws. Trigger laws mean they would basically immediately put in place bans. And as a result of all of this, tens of millions of women may lack access to reproductive healthcare services as soon as this summer, if that were a decision to be made.
I’d also note — and as we’re thinking about and working with not just the Gender Policy Council but also the Department of Health and Human Services, also members on the Hill, also the Counsel’s Office, what we’re really focused on is the impact this would have. It would dramatically reduce access to reproductive care, particularly for women with low incomes, women of color, women in rural communities.
We know that 75 percent of those seeking abortions are living at or below 200 percent of the poverty level, and the majority of patients seeking abortions identify as Black, Hispanic, and AAPI.
So if you look at the 26 states, let’s take for example — or the 13 to 26, depending — and you look at a map, that means that women — the majority of whom are below that poverty level and are Black, Hispanic, or AAPI — are going to be forced to figure out how to travel, how to take time off of work, how to get childcare. It is a prohibitive cost. It will not be safe.
And that is what we are focused on working to address as we’re making policy decisions and considerations.
Q So it — it sounds like you’re saying, then, that’s a yes — he would consider this a legitimate decision.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there is not even a decision yet. We don’t know the validity of the — we know that this is a leaked document; it is not the final opinion. So, I just can’t speak to that hypothetically at this point in time.
Q Jen, just following up on that. In the President’s statement yesterday, he said he had asked the Gender Policy Council —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — and the White House Counsel’s Office to look at options. What can the administration do if that’s what the decision ends up being in June?
MS. PSAKI: Well, why — the reason I noted all of what I just did, Jeff, is because we’re really looking at who this would deeply, directly impact the most.
Of course, there is — the majority — overwhelming majority of women in this country do not want this to be overturned. But the impact directly will be predominantly on women of color, will be on the 75 percent of those seeking abortions who are living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
So, while I can’t at this point give you a preview of what we would do in response to a hypothetical final opinion, what I can tell you is that we’ve already seen states restrict — right? — in — across the country.
And if you look at Texas, for example, they — obviously, they put their restrictions in place. And Planned Parenthood and other organizations have put out statistics suggesting that clinics in neighboring states have seen increases of 600, 700, 800 percent of people traveling to their clinics.
So, you will see that. You will see people try to travel to states. And what we’ve done to date — and to try to help, to date, where we have seen restrictions — which gives you kind of a tiny bit of a roadmap, even though it obviously would be much more expanded beyond this — is created, for example, the Dire Need Grant awards, which provide funding to expand access to emergency contraception, family planning services.
We just announced $6.6 million in awards made to eight grantees across the country and around the country.
We also have — I would note, the Department of Justice and the Attorney General’s statements in response to Texas SB 8, which again is what — is an example of what we’ve seen in terms of the impact, to date — and their commitment to continuing to defend the law to protect the safety of patients seeking access to reproductive health services.
HHS has also announced a three-pronged, department-wide response to protect patients and providers.
So, again, what we’re looking at is how to ensure we’re expanding access, how to ensure we are taking a look at the enormous impact on a specific portion of the population. And this is an across-government effort beyond just the Gender Policy Council.
Q (Inaudible) breaking news on that?
Q And —
Q Sorry. Go ahead, Jeff. Go ahead.
Q I was just going to ask: Would that manifest itself in executive orders? Or what specifically might the framework for that kind of action be?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not there yet. Obviously, what we’ve done to date, Jeff, is taken steps through obviously the Department of Justice, which they can speak to; through grant programs and funding programs that we’ve been able to put in place, to date, to address even restrictions that are in states, to date, which is not the same as the Supreme Court overturning. And we will build on that from here.
What was the breaking news? Go ahead.
Q Jen, we just learned that the Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tested positive for COVID via PCR test. If you could walk us through what more you know about that — we’ve received a statement from the State Department — but most notably, the most recent time he was face to face with the President and the circumstances.
MS. PSAKI: The Pres- — he has not seen the President in several days, and he is not considered a close contact.
I would remind you all — that’s a strange phrase, I know — but “close contact,” as defined by the CDC, is being within 10 feet for 15 — 10 feet for 15 minutes.
Q Six feet.
MS. PSAKI: That is not — six feet, I’m sorry. Six feet for 15 minutes. He has not been and has not seen him in several
Q So, for clarity — because we’re learning about a lot of cases right now. It’s not the first time Washington has seen —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — these ricochets; it’s been going on for several weeks. Has the President been identified as a close contact to anybody who has just tested positive for COVID?
MS. PSAKI: If he had, we would have announced that publicly to all of you. And we have clearly made decisions when it has been Cabinet members or even when it’s been people who play a public role with all of you. We have made announcements out of an abundance of transparency.
Q And just — so, for transparency purposes, we know he has tested negative recently. When was the most recent negative test that —
MS. PSAKI: He tested negative yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: The President, that is.
Q And then, finally, in terms of preventive medications right now, can you say declaratively: Is the President taking any pre-exposure preventive medications to deal with COVID?
MS. PSAKI: He is not. The preventative medication that has been approved by the FDA is Evusheld, which is given to people who are immunocompromised, and he is not immunocompromised.
Q Also not taking Bebtelovimab or something?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any medication he is taking.
Q Jen —
Q Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. Several days since Blinken last saw the President. Do you know what day exactly that was?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you the exact day.
Q And to follow on Jeff’s questions when it comes to the options that the President has said he’s directed his team to prepare, should we not expect to see those options until this ruling comes down from the Supreme Court?
MS. PSAKI: I — that’s correct. That’s what I would expect.
Q Do you not think it would be too late to unveil the options then, given it seems imminent that this is the direction that the Supreme Court is headed in?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we don’t have a final conclusion. The Supreme Court themselves made clear this is not the final opinion. So, we will — we will be — we are already working a great deal behind the scenes, and we will have more to say if and when there is a final — there will be at some point, but when there’s a final opinion.
Q And a question about something Senator Manchin said today. He said he believes inflation will be the number-one driving factor in the midterms, not abortion, not this potential ruling from the Supreme Court. Does the White House see it that way?
MS. PSAKI: I mean, all we can judge it based on is what we’ve seen in public polls. That remains the data, to date. Right? But, obviously, the news of yesterday just came out yesterday.
Q And today, the President was sharply critical of the MAGA crowd and the MAGA agenda. Is that what we should expect to be his message going into the midterms?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, for those of you who’ve been covering him for some time, you’ve heard him say — and maybe back more to the campaign trail, less as President — “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” And I would expect you will hear him with that mantra much more out there over the next coming months.
You know, he is so- — he has been struck, clearly, because he has talked about this — as you mentioned, Kaitlan — this morning and he also has made comments over the last several days about the direction of some in the Republican Party — the MAGA direction of some in the Republican Party. And he’s been struck by the hold his predecessor seems to have on far too many members — not all, but far too many members of the party.
And what we’re seeing — the latest antics are — made clear that they are at war with Mickey Mouse, they’re against allowing women to make choices about their own healthcare, against lowering the cost of prescription drugs. And if that remains their platform, the President’s view is: That is out of whack with the mainstream of the country.
Now, at the same time, he’s always believed that — in working with Republicans in good faith and finding ways to do that. And he will continue to do that, but he is going to also call out — and you will see him call out more — places where he feels there are extreme va- — policies and extreme comments and extreme positions that are, unfortunately, overtaking far too much of the party.
Q And you just said “his predecessor.” Today, he seemed to purposefully say “my predecessor.” He did not say “Trump”; he said “MAGA” instead of “Trump.” Is that deliberate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as far as I know, he’s not on the ballot. A number of his — of Republicans who have seemed to be under the whim of his predecessor are, so that’s who he’s going to focus his efforts on.
Q Quick question about interest rates with the Fed’s action today. As interest rates go up, the cost of carrying the national debt also increases and interest payments go up.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Are there any concern about possible complications with the President keeping his deficit reduction pledge if the cost of paying interest on the national debt is going to go up as interest rates go up?
MS. PSAKI: I have not heard that concern expressed by our economic team. You know, we are proud of the announcement made this morning; hence, the President spoke to it. And taking additional steps to reduce the deficit remain his commitment.
So I have not — I have not heard that concern from them.
Q Another question. Axios is reporting that in his meeting with Marc and Debra Tice earlier this week, the President pledged to directly engage with Syria to se- — try to secure Austin’s release. Is that true?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would note that our hostage negotiator, our — Roger Carstens — that is the type of work that he does and will continue to do.
Q Thanks. Jen, why did you guys say anything about the leaked draft memo at the Supreme Court?
MS. PSAKI: How do you mean?
Q Well, in the past, you have declined to comment on leaked materials. So, why now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Peter, I think, as you would note and was reported, the Supreme Court confirmed this — this document was accurate, even it was — if it is not the final opinion.
Q The President had a statement out before they confirmed that it was real. So, what changed?
MS. PSAKI: And in that statement he made clear we don’t know if this is accurate. We don’t know if this document is accurate or the leak is accurate.
Q And to follow up on a question earlier, do you guys think — does the President think the leaker should be punished?
MS. PSAKI: Again, that’s up for the Department of Justice and others to determine. What our focus is on is not getting our — distracted — or our eye off the ball of what is most important to people across the country here, which is not the leak and the story of the leak. It is the fact that women’s healthcare is at risk for millions of people across this country.
Q The President said today: “What happens if you have states change the law saying that children who are LGBTQ can’t be in classrooms with other children?” What is he talking about?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Peter, we’ve seen extreme laws that target LGBTQ families, their kids across the country. And I think what he’s saying is: We don’t know what they’re capable of, given what they’ve already done to date.
Q Which state is trying to segregate LGBTQ children in the classroom?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen laws that are incredibly discriminatory. That’s what the President is referring to and the fact that he doesn’t know what additional steps could be taken by extreme wings of the party that would rather divide rather than work on issues that the American people actually are focused on and actually are impacting them.
Q So, another one about abortion. Why is the President talking about the judgment to choose to abort a child?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President’s view on a woman’s right to make choices about her own healthcare is well known, well documented, well stated.
Q He said “abort a child.” Is that —
MS. PSAKI: I understand, Peter. But what I’m telling you is what his position is.
Q And how can you guys say this is not a political issue when the President’s statement about this talked about getting pro-choice officials elected?
MS. PSAKI: Did I say it’s not a political issue?
Q Yes. You actually said, “Some call it a political issue. It is not” — aboard Air Force One.
MS. PSAKI: Well, because the vast majority of the public believes that this should not — that this should not be overturned, meaning I meant to say it’s not a partisan issue, and I don’t think it is. There are many Republican and independent women, men across the country who do not believe the Supreme Court should overturn a woman’s right to make choices about her own healthcare.
In fact, only 30 percent in recent polls thought they should. So, that’s what I’m referring to.
Q Jen, thanks. A couple on the Roe opinion. Earlier this year, President Biden made a speech on voting rights. He said they were under attack, it was important to do that. Will he make an address to the nation on abortion access?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to predict about an address to the country. I can tell you that you’ve heard him speak about his views today and yesterday, and it’s only been two days since we saw the leaked documents.
Q And on the comments today and yesterday: When he was asked about abortion, the President really focused on privacy, LGBT children, married couples. Why isn’t he speaking more directly about how this impacts women, poor women, women of color? How comfortable is he talking about this?
MS. PSAKI: He has. He did yesterday, both in his written statement and when he addressed this publicly. His point, as he’s continued to talk about this over two days, is also that this brings into question our fundamental rights and the fundamental rights of people across this country on who they marry, what choices they make about their own healthcare. And that goes to his own experience fighting against, again, Robert Bork in his nomination many years ago.
Q And he has not used the word “abortion” —
MS. PSAKI: It was in his statement yesterday.
Q — until yesterday. That’s my question. He hadn’t used the word “abortion” until yesterday. Why did he want to use it yesterday, and what should we take from that?
MS. PSAKI: When he talks about the — his protect- — his commitment to protecting a woman’s right to choose, women’s healthcare, he’s referring to protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion. I think most people know that.
Q Jen, yesterday, the President was giving a speech, and, when he was talking about the CHIPS bill, he said that the Chinese Communist Party was lobbying against the — “lobbying folks to oppose this bill.” I’m wondering what you guys saw to sort of add that — it was a new line in his speech — what you saw and what are some of the examples of them sort of interfering with our domestic legislative process.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what he’s referring to is the fact that it’s been well reported — maybe even by Bloomberg — I don’t know; I’d have to check — that the Chinese Communist Party is opposed to this legislation. And that’s what he’s referring to.
And, you know, he believes, as you know, that it’s absolutely critical for our national security for Congress to get this Bipartisan Innovation Act to his desk, in large part because it will help protect critical supply chains like semiconductors. It goes to — it’s going to strengthen our supply chains against global shocks. It’s going to help out-compete the rest of the world, including China, for decades to come. So, he was referring to their opposition.
Q But not a specific new sort of —
MS. PSAKI: Right. Their opposition to it. Exactly.
Q There was an Axios report that had, kind of, two parts that I wanted to ask you about. First, that the trip to Israel is going to be added to the European trip in June, but also more substantively that they’re consid- — or you’re considering a regional leader summit as part of that visit. Can you confirm either of those?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not quite there yet. What I will say is that he — you know about the trip at the end of June because there are some predetermined, kind of, international fora that he will be a part of.
And when he spoke with Prime Minister Bennett just a couple of weeks ago, he invited him to Israel. The President accepted and said he’s looking forward to coming, but we haven’t quite locked in the date yet. And so, I don’t have any further detail at this point.
Q And then last summit qu- — last question on summits as well. The Summit of the Americas is coming up.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Mexico and the President had a conversation a few days ago.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q The leader of Mexico has been pushing for countries — authoritarian governments — Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua — to participate in that summit. And I’m wondering if you guys have come to a determination about how you’re going to handle their participation in the summit yet.
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check. I’m not sure a final determination has been made — or I will check if one has and we can get you that information.
Q Thanks, Jen. Building on some of the questions Catherine was asking. Just in regards to keeping the focus on women’s rights, health rights, protecting privacy, how much of the President’s efforts moving forward will be on these issues? Does it — does it shoot to the top of the agenda? So far, it’s largely been in response to the leak. Does it — how much will be proactively taken now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would dispute that, only — and only because we have — just haven’t talked about this a lot publicly. But I would note that — remember that when these states have taken actions, we’ve also made clear that there was work that the Gender Policy Council, that the White House Counsel’s Office, the Department of Health and Human Services, obviously the Department of Justice would be taking and would be underway.
And we have been in touch with leadership about this issue and the threat to Roe in both chambers, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair Durbin; the House Women’s Caucus — yes, in the last 36 hours, but also many times in advance about that. And certainly, the leaked document is going to intensify after our efforts — after the news that millions of Americans’ healthcare is on the cusp of being thrown into turmoil. There’s no question about that.
But there’s been work by the Gender Policy Council that’s been ongoing for months. There’s been work and engagement with leaders on the Hill about what can be done for months. And certainly, it’s going to be redoubled at this point, given the leaked document.
Q On that point of intensifying efforts, what will that look like? Are we talking Oval Office meetings? Will he travel on this issue? Those kinds of things?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to predict in terms of his schedule at this point. But what I can tell you is that, as you’ve seen, this is an issue he has proactively talked about in the last two days, both of the two days since the document leaked.
The Vice President went and gave a rousing speech at EMILY’s List last night. And — but most — a lot of the most important work is going to happen behind the scenes, and that is going to be the work that is done across the government to determine and prepare for what steps can be taken should this final decision be made.
Q On Title 42, Mexico’s Foreign Minister mentioned, I think in the last day or two, that the Biden administration is expected to present a formal set of ideas to the government on how to contain the expected rise in migration. I assume — or can you share whether the White House is working with the DHS on those set of ideas? And is there anything you can share on what those are?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first that, as you know, Secretary Mayorkas testified and laid out six very specific pillars of effort and work that we would be pursuing. And some of that, of course, is directly with countries in terms of addressing root causes, addressing actions or attempts by smugglers to take advantage of this moment, and working with the Mexican government is part of that. And the President’s conversation and call was put together in order to discuss preparations for the lifting of Title 42.
As part of that, the tasking was for there to be follow-up for members of our national security team and Mexico. That’s continuing, but I don’t have any specifics to read out for you. That was just always intended to be the follow-up step.
Q Thanks, Jen. I wanted to pivot to Ukraine. Secretary Austin recently said — and I want to get the quote right — “We believe that we can win, they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support.” How does the administration actually define “winning” in Ukraine? And does it mean that every last Russian troop is out?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say the way that President Putin defined — defined “winning” a war that he started from the beginning was taking over Ukraine, enveloping Ukraine into Russia, taking away their territorial integrity and their sovereignty. Clearly, that has not been successful.
You know, he expected and was planning to be marching through the streets of Kyiv, victorious, next Monday. Clearly, that is not what is going to happen.
He wanted this to be a moment to divide NATO, to divide the West. Clearly, that is not what is happening.
We’ve said we want Ukraine to win. We’re going to do everything we can to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to strengthen the Ukrainians’ hands on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. That’s our role.
And they are defending their homeland courageously and bravely from the continued attacks from the Russians. But they’re going to define at the negotiating table, as we’re strengthening their hand, what they consider success on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. And we’re here to support their efforts.
Q I just want to follow up to make sure I’m clear. So, if Ukraine is fine with Russia taking over the eastern part of the country, for example, is that what the U.S. would consider a “win”? Is that what —
MS. PSAKI: The Ukrainians are going to define what a successful outcome looks like for them.
But what I think is important to note and not lose sight of is how the Russians have defined this. And they have already lost their — by their definition. They have not taken over Ukraine. President Putin is not going to be marching through — down the streets of Kyiv. They will not own the territorial integrity and sovereignty of this country. They have not divided NATO.
So now, at this point: Yes, what we’re trying to do is to — is strengthen their hand at the negotiating table, both by supplying weapons on the battlefield, both — and supporting them with whatever needs they have.
But it is for them to define through those negotiations.
Q I have two questions, abortion related. The President promised during the campaign to overturn the restrictions that the Trump administration put on the ACA’s requirement that workplace insurance plans cover contraception.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q And the agencies said in August that they would initiate the rulemaking within six months, and that hasn’t happened. Why hasn’t it happened? Is it still going to happen?
MS. PSAKI: I — it is still the President’s intention. I’m happy to check on the status and why — why there has been any delay.
Q And then following up on Catherine’s question on the President using the word “abortion” yesterday and today, just to be more specific about it: Was that a conscious choice to use that word, since he hadn’t been using it much before? Did he specifically — now that the stakes are much higher, did he specifically start using word “abortion” because of that?
MS. PSAKI: No, he approved the statement, made comments of his own accord today. So, I don’t think there’s more to analyze about it.
Q Hey, Jen. The President tore into MAGA — as you referred to. He called them an “extremist group,” and he also issued a statement on Ohio today when he was talking about Shontel Brown in the Democratic primary.
So my question is: What is his reaction to the Republican Senate primary? And does he view that as Trump gaining more control over the Senate and the process for potentially what happens two years from now?
MS. PSAKI: I’m going to be very careful about getting into the midterms here. I don’t make the rules; I just follow the rules from this podium. And I know the President, of course, as you noted, Geoff, spoke to — made comments himself this morning about the extreme direction the Republican Party is going in.
So, look, I would just say: Our focus continues to be on highlighting the fact that congressional Republicans want to raise taxes on half of Americans, squeezing the budgets of middle-class families. If you don’t believe me, you can check out Senator Scott’s website. I guess he’s called for that and we certainly agree; we hope you check out his website.
Q Is that why he tore into MAGA today?
MS. PSAKI: I think he — I answered this a little bit earlier, but I’m happy to reiterate. You know, he has been struck by the hold his predecessor seems to have on far too many members of the party.
And while he has always worked in good faith, will continue to work in good faith on addressing issues the American people have — whether it is bringing down costs, expanding access to healthcare.
And there are areas where we feel we can have continued success. Who — who is opposed to addressing opioids or making — doing more to help veterans and address burn pits? But he is still going to call out where he sees extremist actions and extremist rhetoric.
And I’m just not going to get into specific outcomes of the primaries from here.
Q And just one last try on the abortion aspect. Elizabeth Warren said she was “angry” by that draft opinion. Was the President angered by the draft?
MS. PSAKI: I think you heard anger in his voice yesterday, for sure.
Q Jen, yesterday, you said the President was still reviewing the report from his Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court. That was issued several months ago. I guess I’m wondering why that review is taking so long. And is there any renewed urgency on that review, given the draft that we’ve seen leaked from the Court?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important to remember that the report was never meant to be recommendations. In fact, it’s not recommendations.
It was an analysis done by 30 legal experts with a diversity of backgrounds and a diversity of views about a range of issues — not just Court expansion, but term limits and a range of issues.
So — but it was never intended to have an outcome where he came out and said, “I accept or decline recommendations.” It was just a resource he was looking to have, and one he appreciates and will continue to review.
Q Is there any renewed urgency though around weighing in on that report and what those experts, you know, put together on the Court since we’ve seen this draft come out, though?
MS. PSAKI: In what aspect?
Q Seeing, you know, the — there was a lot of discussion around term limits that was in that report, any- — anything about the issues that they studied specifically. And while it wasn’t meant to be a recommendation, anything that the President has, you know, claimed could be — made changes to the Court.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any different or new announcements or positions to announce today. His focus and, he believes, all of our focus needs to be on what we’re doing to protect women’s rights and women’s access to healthcare. And that’s where his efforts will be focused in the foreseeable future.
Q Thanks, Jen. This morning, when the President was talking about the deficit, he said, “My plan to continue reducing the deficit…” — and he rattled off a couple of agenda items, including prescription drug reform, tax incentives for green energy, changes to the tax code — some pieces of the old Build Back Better bill.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q And I just wonder: What is the President’s plan to getting that through the Senate, given the narrowing legislative window for this year?
MS. PSAKI: To continue having conversations about it that we don’t talk about publicly and encouraging members to have conversations with each other to see if we can come to a point where we have 50 votes to support a package moving forward.
Q But at this point, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case, given that Senator Manchin is off with — you know, trying to do a climate bill through a bipartisan working group and Senator Sinema continues to oppose changes to the tax code. So is —
MS. PSAKI: I’m just — I think there’s a lot happening behind the scenes in Congress that people are declining to talk about.
Q Hi, Jen. Thank you. Two questions, please. The “MAGA crowd,” as he called them today — this was almost half the people who voted in 2020. Does the President ever feel that maybe there could have been done — he could have done more early on to try and reach out to those people?
And does the extreme rhetoric basically signal that, you know, there’s no going back now and they’re sort of out of, you know, beyond the pale for him and — yeah?
MS. PSAKI: I think what the President — one, the President will be judged by Americans by his actions and what he does to make their lives better.
And the point he’s making is that there are — the platform of and the policies of many — far too many of these Republicans — these “MAGA Republicans,” as he refers to them — follow the whims of calling out Mickey Mouse and opposing policies that will help make the lives better of many, many Americans who may have voted for Trump, may have been independent, may be Democrats — including lowering the cost of prescription drugs, lowering the cost of eldercare, doing more to expand access to healthcare. And his view is that a lot of these policy positions and the rhetoric is extreme. And that follows what we saw a pattern of by his — his predecessor.
But he is going to continue to look for ways to work together — and work together with Republicans in good faith where there’s opportunity. And he believes you can do both.
Q Okay, thank you. Totally different question on sanctions. I know you said that he’s going to be discussing that this week and —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — there’s not much left of the week. Is Patriarch Kirill a possible target of sanctions?
And more generally, if you don’t want to comment on that, does the President ever talk about Patriarch Kirill? I mean, he’s a religious man, and he’s obviously keenly interested in other countries’ religions. He’s emerged as a pretty remarkable figure and, you know, has to be sanctioned by the EU. The Pope called him — said don’t be “Putin’s alter boy.” Does the President ever talk about Patriarch Kirill?
MS. PSAKI: I would say no one is safe from our sanctions. We’re continuing to review options, but I don’t have any to preview today.
Q A follow-up on those sanctions. There seems to be a few holdouts in — within the EU, especially Hungary, for example — that are not so much on board with — especially the oil ban. Is there any effort from the administration to sort of engage at any level on that topic to try to convince or give incentives to those holdouts to sort of get on board with the rest of the EU?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, our view — you know, we, of course, broadly support Europe’s efforts to deny Putin revenue to fund his war with the EU’s new proposal. But it’ll be up to them to finalize. We’ve taken strong action to ban Russian energy, but we have also been very clear that we have always understood that Europe and many countries in Europe are in different circumstances.
So we’ll continue to work with a range of countries, you know, and — and applaud efforts to deny Putin’s revenue — revenue to fund his war. But I don’t have any specific diplomatic engagement to read out here. It just wouldn’t be constructive.
Q On abortion, if the draft decision were to be sustained, obviously it would overturn Roe, but it would also overturn Casey. And as you know, at the core of Casey is the question of whether governments can require women to get parental consent or spousal notice — give spousal notice. Do you have a comment on that element of this?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get ahead of a final opinion that has not yet been issued.
Q And then, just on the Summit of the Americas: The Secretary of State recently spoke with Juan Guaidó, expressed continued support for Guaidó. Is he invited to the summit?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see. I know there’s a lot of interest in this, and it’s coming up soon. So let me see if we can get you all just, kind of, a broad summary to the group of where things stand on the invitations. It’s a good question.
Okay. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: This is throwing me off, but go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q I was double booked, and he’s earned a front-row seat (inaudible) —
MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes, yes. Of course.
Q You’ve been asked most of what I was wondering about abortion and Ukraine, but I am curious about this — and this follows up on the question about Patriarch Kirill.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q The Pope, this week, gave an interview to an Italian newspaper, offered to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow to try brokering a ceasefire, and says he thinks NATO’s presence in countries near Russia, quote, perhaps “facilitated” the invasion of Ukraine. Has the President spoken directly at all to Pope Francis about the war in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any recent calls he has had with the Pope.
Q Would he have any concern or preference about the Pope going to Russia and potentially brokering a ceasefire?
MS. PSAKI: I have not — I have not discussed that with him. But I would suspect that he would respect the decisions of the Pope to make any travel or engagements that he so chooses.
Q I know you’ve said they speak or they’ve communicated regularly. Do you have any sense of when the last time might have been?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check if there’s more we can read out for all of you, of course.
Q Thanks, Jen. Two questions. Can you just preview what tomorrow’s announcement of the administration’s China strategy is going to look like? And can you walk us through what that behind-the-scenes process looked like, putting this all together?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know this is coming from the State Department, so I would really leave it to them to preview. But I have nothing to — to preview for you from here.
Q Okay. And if I could just ask about Taiwan — the Taiwanese government said yesterday that due to limited American production capacity, the delivery of U.S. howitzers will be significantly delayed by several years, and anti-aircraft missiles may also be affected. So, are you concerned that these long delays and inventory issues will impact Taiwan’s efforts to potentially fend off a (inaudible) —
MS. PSAKI: I would really point you to the Defense Department to validate that or confirm where they are with these deliveries.
Q About the summits next week — we have the ASEAN Summit and the COVID Summit.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Which one would you like me to ask about first?
MS. PSAKI: Whatever one you’d like.
Q Let’s start with ASEAN, and let’s just ask: What — what does the U.S. hope to achieve at the ASEAN Summit? Are you looking to (inaudible) China or to isolate Russia? And how do you plan to achieve —
MS. PSAKI: I’m — I’m happy — we will have more to preview about it as we get closer. We’re just not quite there yet.
Q So, looking at the COVID summit then, with this funding still in limbo, what does the U.S. hope to be able to bring to the table? And please be as specific as you can: What does the U.S. plan to offer in the global fight against — against COVID, including maybe therapeutics, vaccines, so on and so forth?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to tell you all of our announcements several days in advance. That wouldn’t be a very effective communication strategy.
What I will tell you, in terms of — our objectives for this summit are to — to have focused attention at the summit on the need, as a global community, to continue to do more to address the pandemic. And we have done, far and away, more than the rest of the world. We have talked in the past about the importance of other countries and other developed countries doing more — not just on vaccines but providing know-how, capacity, storage capacity, the range of tools that a ra- — that countries need.
And we also know that it’s not about just getting shots in arms, or it’s not just about the vaccines themselves. It’s about ensuring that we are providing — you know, expanding and protecting the health workforce, expanding the supply of oxygen facilities, enhancing access to medical countermeasures. These are all steps that we hope to and plan to discuss there.
It is — there is no question that we will be advocating between now and then — and likely then as well — for how this shines a light on why we need more funding, not just domestically but internationally, so that we can continue to be the arsenal of vaccines for the world. And this is an opportunity to do exactly that.
But it should not be lost that the United States, regardless of that, continues to be far and away the largest contributor to the global fight against the pandemic.
Q And just springboarding on something that my colleague here asked about: commitments to allies like Taiwan —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — and to customers.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Can Washington assure these allies and customers that you still have their back, that you still can support them in helping them defend themselves?
MS. PSAKI: I think nothing has changed about our policy toward Taiwan or any of our other — other partners around the world that we have worked very closely with. And I don’t think there’s any reason to question that.
But I was pointing her to the Department of Defense, who can speak to the delivery of weapons and materials — that they have greater access to that information.
Q Thanks, Jen. I wanted to ask about the refugees from Ukraine. Can you provide an update on your program that launched about a week ago — any update on people that have volunteered to sponsor refugees or interest from refugees abroad to enter the program?
MS. PSAKI: To the degree we have those numbers to provide, the Depa- — I mean, we would, but — someone has them — but they’re in the Department of Homeland Security. They’re overseeing the implementation of the program, as you know. I’m happy to check with them, but you may want to go to them more directly.
Q And when was the last time that the President spoke with the Department of Homeland Security on the refugee program or was briefed on the updates on the program?
MS. PSAKI: He’s been briefed repeatedly on the — on the program throughout the development of it and certainly will continue to be briefed on the status.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q I wanted to ask about Brittney Griner. I know you’ve responded to many questions about her. But with the Olympians being here at the White House today — of course, she would potentially have been one of them, and she’s away in Russia being detained right now.
I wonder if you can update the public on why her situation is different, because you’ve mentioned that it is not a normal hostage situation, so it’s a bit different. Can you explain to the public why her situation is different?
And then I have one on abortion.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would note that, actually, the State Department changed the — how they classify — and this is up to them to change — her just a couple of days ago. It doesn’t mean that we are going to get into detail here about our efforts, because our focus is on, hopefully, bringing her home and being successful at that.
But the State Department determined that the Russian Federation has wrong- — wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner. They made that assessment about two days ago.
We’re going to continue to undertake efforts to provide appropriate support to her. And what this notes, with this determination, is that the Special Prose- — Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens, who I mentioned earlier, will lead the interagency team for securing her release.
So, while we’re not going to, of course, get into internal deliberations or efforts, this — you know, the Department basically reviews cases of U.S. nationals detained abroad to determine if they’re unlawful or wrongful, and this review assesses the facts of the case against numeral criteria — numerous criteria, and they made that conclusion just two days ago.
Q So, does that change our strategy on how we’re working to get her to come back? Does that change the timeline?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I noted, what it means is that the Spressel [sic] Pres- — Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens, will lead the interagency team.
Q Okay. And then real quick on abortion: A Christian conservative — his name is Albert Mohler — has commented on President Biden’s stance in an unusual position on abortion. I’m now quoting. He said that, “He and his administration do not trust the public in various areas to have the right to determine whether or not abortion should be legal in that area or not.”
So, he’s essentially saying that Biden does not think that states should have the right to determine how abortions — to the degree that abortions are legal or not.
MS. PSAKI: The President believes that it should continue to be federal law that women have the right to make choices with their doctors, as it has been for 50 years.
And I would just say, with all due respect to the person you mentioned, even a Fox News poll earlier this month showed that 63 percent of Americans want Roe to stand. So I think that’s actually kind of an outlier position as it relates to the American public.
Q Thank you. I’d like to ask a question about Indo-Pacific strategy. People are talking about Indo-Pacific economic framework, and allies and partners are anxious that we have not given the information on what this framework is going to look like —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — if it’s going to replace something like TPP. Could you give us some preview of what this framework is going to be about and if this is going to be an issue when the President visits Japan?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything to preview at this point. I know there’s a lot of interest in his trip to Asia, understandably; it’s going to be a great trip. But we’ll have more — we’ll bring Jake Sullivan or others to the briefing room to preview everything about the trip for all of you.
I certainly recognize that the Summit of the Americas is coming up very soon, so I will work and hopefully get you guys all more preview information after this briefing. And maybe we’ll have more to say tomorrow.
Okay. Thanks so much, everybody.
4:25 P.M. EDT