Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, May 5, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
5:16 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Hi, everyone. It’s been a bit of an exciting day around here.
So, before I get to the briefing, I just want to start by — I’m going to cry. Okay, whew. I want to talk about my friend Karine.
You’ve got to come up here. (Ms. Jean-Pierre goes up to the podium.)
So, I just want to take the opportunity to celebrate and congratulate my friend, my colleague, my partner in truth, Karine Jean-Pierre, the next White House Press Secretary.
Now, many people in this room have known her for some time, but for anyone who does not know her, I want to provide a little bit of a primer for you, so settle in.
First, as you all know, she will be the first Black woman, the first out LGBTQ+ person to serve in this role, which is amazing, because representation matters. And she is going to — she will give a voice to so many, and allow — and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard and dream big, and that matters. And we should not — we should celebrate that.
But I also want to make clear what all of her qualifications are, what a remarkable person is. She got her start in New York City politics. She comes to this job with decades of experience, even though she looks very young. We’re both in our 20s.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) That’s right.
MS. PSAKI: Having served in communications and political roles on many campaigns, in the Obama-Biden administration, and for both of former — Obam- — President Obama’s campaigns.
She’s a longtime advisor to President Biden and Dr. Biden — they are partners — having served in senior roles for him and for both of them back to when he was Vice President.
And she’s worked for a number of advocacy organizations, fighting for issues and justice for so many Americans.
And I just want to say: I will have a lot to say about how grateful I am for being — for the trust the President and the First Lady and the whole team have given me and entrusted me in the last 15 months, but this day is about Karine. And we’re — I want to celebrate her.
And on a personal note: I want to say that one of the first conversations we had when we both found out we were —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Yes.
MS. PSAKI: — getting these jobs was about how we wanted to build a drama-free — on your best days — place, workplace where everybody worked hard; where we, on our best days, we’re rebuilding trust with the public. And I am just so grateful to have had Karine by my side for this over the last 15 months, and I just can’t wait to see her shine at the podium.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: So, congratulations. And I can’t wait to see you bring your own style and brilliance to this job.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Love you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Love you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. PSAKI: I promised not to cry again. So that’s it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Doing a lot of crying for all of us.
MS. PSAKI: We already cried. We already cried.
Okay, with that note, this is going to feel like an abrupt turn but I’m going to give you an update on a Russian oligarch’s yacht that was seized that you may have seen. (Laughter.) It’s not meant to be funny, but I did want to note and make sure everybody saw it.
Today, the Department of Justice announced that the Fijian law enforcement executed a seizure warrant freezing the motor yacht Amadea, a 348-foot luxury vessel owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. The yacht is worth approximately $300 million or more.
This was done with support and assistance from the FBI, and Fiji acted at the request of the Department of Justice following issance [sic] — issuance of a seizure warrant from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Fijian authorities executed the request, obtaining a domestic seizure warrant from a Fijian court.
As you know, the President has made clear we will go after Russian oligarchs and their ill-gotten gains using every authority we have to hold them accountable.
Oh, and here is the yacht. Look at that. (Photo shown on television screen.) I wanted to really go out with a bang so we got a yacht, just to make the point about oligarchs.
Also just wanted to note: As you know, the President nominated Steve Dettelbach to lead ATF to end our nation’s fight against gun crime just a few weeks ago. And just today, he was endorsed by a group of over 140 former high-ranking federal prosecutors and DOJ officials, including more than 30 Republican appointees, two former AGs, and six former Deputy Attorney Generals.
Last note for you: As you know, the President is going to be traveling to Cincinnati tomorrow where he’ll meet with manufacturing leaders, see new additive manufacturing technologies at work, and discuss his plan to make more in America by passing the Bipartisan Innovation Act.
Since he took office, we’ve created 473,000 new manufacturing jobs, which is more manufacturing jobs on average per month than any other President in the last half a century. And we’re building on that progress through the Infrastructure Law, of course. And with the Bipartisan Innovation Act, we can help lower prices by strengthening our supply chains and domestic manufacturing.
With that, I promised we will not make it a marathon today. I know it’s 5:20. So, why don’t you kick it off, and we’ll get around to as many people as possible.
Q Excellent. Congratulations to both of you.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
Q First, will the President and/or White House officials participate in any way in the May 14th abortion day of protests?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any schedule, plans to preview for you at this point in time. We are certainly aware of the protests, but our focus right now is on overseeing and running a policy process to do everything we can to protect a woman’s right to make choices about her own healthcare.
Q And secondly, Senator Minority Leader McConnell today, again, made clear that he wants to see a clean Ukraine bill. Considering that, what other options is this White House looking at to secure money for therapeutics, other COVID-related needs, as it seems that Congress is unlikely to prove any more money soon?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we look at recent data — and we’ve seen, obviously, the growth of some subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5 — what it makes clear is that we are in dire need of being able to plan ahead and take steps to ensure that we are able to be ahead of the rest of the world in ordering the supply we need, especially if there are better vaccines, if there are better boosters, et cetera.
So, we’re going to continue to advocate, continue to sound the alarm on what the impact will be if we don’t get funding.
In terms of the exact vehicle, which I think is kind of what you’re asking, I don’t have any update on that for you. We are continuing to have conversations with Congress.
Obviously, the President sends up both together because he feels it’s essential. If we don’t get this funding, we will have fewer vaccines, treatments, and tests. We’ll watch others around the world have the best lifesaving tools. Americans will literally die. Businesses will be hurt.
There is not a plan B here. We need Congress to pass this funding so we have this funding to continue to prepare and continue to fight the pandemic.
Q First of all, congratulations to both of you. And this is not your last one, though, right?
MS. PSAKI: No. Don’t worry. I’m still here through next week.
Q Got it. There have been concerns and there’s stepped-up monitoring among law enforcement across the country for potential violence around this draft majority opinion and the ultimate decision by the Supreme Court. The justices have had to see their security stepped up in the last few days.
Just curious what the President would make of that, if he’s aware that that’s had to happen; what the message might be to those who are upset by this and are contemplating the unthinkable.
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say the President — for all those women, men, others who feel outraged, who feel scared, who feel concerned — he hears them, he shares that concern and that horror of what he saw in that draft opinion. It’s not a final opinion. What it has prompted is a redoubled effort across the administration and with Congress to take every step we can to protect women’s healthcare.
What he — his message directly would be to anybody out there who is feeling that frustration, is participating in peaceful protest, is: Ensure it’s peaceful; have your voice heard peacefully. We should not be resorting to violence in any way, shape, or form. That’s certainly what he would be conveying.
Q And the other day, you hinted there might be plans for the U.S. to join Ukraine or other European allies in some kind of May 9th commemoration as Russia holds its holiday. Any update on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update. I will note that what I — what our plans are that are in the works: We are working to finalize a G7 call that will likely happen in the coming days.
What our effort and our focus is on is continuing to emphasize unity but also lift up the unit- — that unity as we look and face Russian aggression.
But in terms of what we will do to mark Monday, I don’t have anything to preview for you at this moment. We’ll have more as we — time proceeds.
Q Thank you, and congratulations. In the Senate, they are moving forward with plans to vote on a bill that would codify the principles of Roe v. Wade.
Right now, that bill seems doomed to fail. But there are these two Republicans who do support legislation that would guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion — Senator Murkowski and Collins — but they oppose the current bill because they feel it’s too expansive and too broad. So, would the President like to see legislation that is perhaps more narrowly focused, just on guaranteeing the right to an abortion, codifying Roe v. Wade, if it was able to get more Republicans on board?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. The President, as you stated and I’ve stated a number of times, absolutely supports and would love to sign a bill into law codifying Roe. What he said in his statement the other day, as you know, is that there will be a need — and his sense is there will be a need for additional members who would support that in the Senate in order for that to happen.
We are in a range of discussions with leadership in Congress, with a range of members in Congress about the path forward and what’s possible, but I just don’t have the details of what that might look like, and so I can’t speak to it at this point in time.
Q But might he encourage Democrats to take a more targeted approach?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details to preview at this point in time. We’re having a range of conversations.
Q And you have said, you know, that the administration is considering, of course, additional options and steps that you may be able to take to support women’s reproductive rights. I know — you know, you haven’t wanted to get into the details of what those options may be, but are you confident that there are additional executive actions that you can take, options that can have an impact, that can withstand legal scrutiny?
MS. PSAKI: Well, yes. I mean, I would point to the fact that after Texas and S.B. 8 passed, we did take steps. And we did take steps to secure funding, to secure grants. Obviously, the Department of Justice made clear — in response to Texas S.B. 8, they reaffirmed the Department of Justice’s commitment to using existing federal law. We also created a grants program, and the Department of Health and Human Services announced a three-pronged department-wide response.
I think what’s important to remember here, in part, is who will be impacted across the country. And we are mindful of that as we are planning and thinking about what our policy options are.
We know that 75 percent of people who are having abortions or pursuing an abortion are under 200 percent of the poverty level. We know that the majority are — are women of color. And we know that there are 13 states that have trigger laws and a total of 26 states, including those 13, that have indicated plans to put in place more restrictive abortion, more — restrict abortion more.
And so this is not — there are states who’ve also affirmed that they would — they would take steps to protect.
So, we are mindful of all of this, what the impact could be, if this draft opinion or a version of this draft opinion becomes the final. And we are thinking about that — the Gender Policy Council, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and all of us working with — with Congress as well to see what actions we can take.
Obviously, codifying Roe is a way to protect.
Q Thanks, Jen. President Biden just met with organizers — labor organizers from Amazon and Starbucks and others. Could you just talk a little bit about what — what was discussed, and if he offered any specific commitments to, perhaps, support the Amazon labor union or the — you know, the different unionization drives that are underway?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has long been a supporter of the rights of workers to organize, the rights of work- — of collective bargaining. And he dropped by this meeting to simply offer his support for those efforts. But he is not engaging — we don’t engage or get directly involved in individual labor disputes, obviously, but he certainly supports the rights of workers and we’ve seen that take place across the country in a range of cases.
Q So should this then be viewed as his support only for the labor movement and not necessarily for Amazon? Or is that — I mean, that has to be a part of it, right?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t take — we don’t weigh in on individual labor disputes. Those are up to the workers and the organizers.
But throughout his career, for decades, he’s always been a supporter of organized labor, of the rights of workers to seek collective bargaining. And certainly we’re seeing that across the country.
Q And one quick question on the Senate Judiciary earlier today passing a bill from Senators Klobuchar and Grassley that, essentially, exposes OPEC to lawsuits for colluding to raise prices of crude oil. Given, sort of, the inflationary environment that we’re in, and, you know, how big a concern inflation is for this administration, does the White House support that piece of legislation? Is the President, you know, looking at it? If you can talk about that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. It’s called “NOPEC,” which is creative, even if you don’t like what the outcome is of the legislation, I will say.
The President has been clear that strong competition policy is essential to ensuring fair markets and lower prices, as is evidenced by the actions we have taken, like the President’s executive order to support the promotion of competition and innovation by firms large and small.
I don’t have an official position on this legislation right now, but we do believe that this potential — the potential implications and unintended consequences of this legislation require further study and deliberation, particularly during this dynamic moment in the global energy markets brought about by President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. So, we’re taking a look at it and certainly have some concerns about what the potential implications could be.
Q Are those concerns perhaps tied to this idea that analysts are, you know, talking about, which is, you know, if you actually go after OPEC in that way, they could either potentially refuse supplies to the U.S. or maybe flood the oil market? I mean, is that what the concern is broadly?
MS. PSAKI: Without detailing it further, obviously our objective is ensuring the supply in the oil markets meets the demands. OPEC has a role to play there. We’ve obviously been working with them and have had a great deal of engagement with them even prior to President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. And that is what our overarching objective is. So we’re taking a look at what the implications and impact would be.
Q One area that’s come into focus in the abortion debate is the use of medication abortions.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q The FDA relaxed some of the federal regulations tied to that, allowing them to be sent by mail. But does the White House feel like they have other viable options to possibly expand the access to these abortion pills?
MS. PSAKI: We are looking at a broad range of options. As we detailed earlier this week when this leaked document came out, I would expect we wouldn’t have more to preview before there’s a final opinion issued.
Q And U.S. intelligence assessments have shown that North Korea may be ready to conduct underground nuclear tests within the coming months. Are there concerns from the White House about that, and also specifically related to the President’s travel, given that he will be in the region later this month?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say we certainly always assess security, as we do with any of the President’s travel. But that has not been a concern as it relates to his travel coming up in just a few weeks.
There’s no question that North Korea is going to be on the agenda when he visits South Korea and Japan. I can give you a little bit more of the pre- — I know that some asked this yesterday, so I got a little bit more on the trip. So let me venture to do that as well.
While he’s there in South Korea and Japan, the President will hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts: newly elected President of the Republic of Korea and Prime Minister Kishida of Japan. The leaders will discuss opportunities to deepen our nat- — our vital security relationships and enhance economic ties. They’ll also discuss climate change, COVID-19, and other shared challenges.
In light of North Korea’s destabilize — continued destabilizing actions in the region, including the test launch of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles, President Biden will make clear that our commitment to security of the Republic of Korea and Japanese allies make — reiterate our commitment, I should say, including our extended deterrence commitments, is ironclad.
So that will certainly be a part of the discussion. Naturally, they will also be talking about joint efforts to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable. And you’ve seen South Korea and Japan join us in the unprecedented sanctions and export controls we’ve imposed so far.
While in Tokyo, the President will also meet with the leaders of the Quad — grouping of Australia, Japan, India, and the United States. The administration has made history already by establishing, for the first time, the Quad meeting at the leader level. So this will be a continuation of that.
So North Korea will certainly be discussed, of course, given the — the importance role that South Korea and Japan both play in security in the region.
Q Thank you, Jen. Sorry to see you go.
MS. PSAKI: Are you? (Laughter.)
Q Yes. And you’ve always been a good sport.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. As have you.
Q So on behalf of everybody, thank you for everything.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Thank you, Peter.
Q And I can’t wait to see you up there, Karine. (Laughter.)
So, you guys had some time yesterday talking about what you think are the extreme wings of the Republican Party. Do you think the progressive activists that are now planning protests outside some of the justices’ houses are extreme?
MS. PSAKI: Peaceful protest? No. Peaceful protest is not extreme.
Q But some of these justices have young kids. Their neighbors are not all public figures. So would the President think about waving off activists that want to go into residential neighborhoods in Virginia and Maryland?
MS. PSAKI: Peter, look, I think our view here is that peaceful protest — there’s a long history in the United States and the country of that. And we certainly encourage people to keep it peaceful and not resort to any level of violence.
Let me tell you what I was referring to and what the President was referring to yesterday.
Q Not about yesterday, though — just about moving forward. These activists posted a map with the home addresses of the Supreme Court justices. Is that the kind of thing this President wants to help your side make their point?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think the President’s view is that there’s a lot of passion, a lot of fear, a lot of sadness from many, many people across this country about what they saw in that leaked document. We obviously want people’s privacy to be respected. We want people to protest peacefully if they want to — to protest. That is certainly what the President’s view would be.
Q So he doesn’t care if they’re protesting outside the Supreme Court or outside someone’s private residence?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an official U.S. government position on where people protest. I want it — we want it, of course, to be peaceful. And certainly, the President would want people’s privacy to be respected.
But I think we shouldn’t lose the point here: The reason people are protesting is because women across the country are worried about their fundamental rights that have been law for 50 years. Their rights to make choices about their own bodies and their own healthcare are at risk. That’s why people are protesting. They’re unhappy. They’re scared.
Q The President’s position on choice has evolved over time, so just checking for his official position. Does he support any limits on abortion right now?
MS. PSAKI: Peter, the President has spoken — has talked about his position many times. He supports the right of a woman to make choices about her own body with her doctor.
Q But I know that one of the Democrats that he endorsed and — who won their primary this week, Tim Ryan, said yesterday that he does not support any limits on abortion. Is that where the President’s thinking is now?
MS. PSAKI: The President has stated his view many times.
Q So does the President support abortion up until the moment of birth?
MS. PSAKI: The President has spoken about this many times, Peter. And I would refer you to his own comments about abortion and a woman’s right to choose and make decisions about her body with her doctor, which is what any of those women would do.
Q Jen, does President Biden support Leader Schumer’s strategy to hold a vote next week on abortion rights, even though the votes are not there, that it’s doomed to fail?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly are working in lockstep and closely with Leader Schumer. Obviously, we have stated, and the President’s statement the other day made clear, that he did not feel we had the votes at this point in time. But certainly, providing a moment for people to voice their view and voice their strong opposition to overturning Roe v. Wade is something we support Leader Schumer doing.
Q I guess the fact that there are only so many moments, obviously, that exist right now and only so much political capital in this moment — so, I mean, doesn’t it highlight divisions within the party? A not too dissimilar vote back in February had only 46 votes. Are there any concerns about that?
Is this the best use of time for this administration, given all the urgent needs on COVID funding, the Ukraine funding that you’re looking for, and beyond?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we think that Congress should act fo- — move forward on all of those objectives. But having a vote and allowing people to voice their view and voice their support for the protection of a woman’s fundamental rights is something we also support.
Q Let me ask you: Yesterday, you were asked — I know that you guys have been heav- — that the White House has been heavily focused on the substance, obviously, as it relates and has the biggest impact on Americans broadly.
But you were asked about the leak itself. And given the historic nature of the leak, which was so unprecedented, as you acknowledged, you said: “I don’t think we have a particular view on that other than to say that we certainly note the” historic — or “unprecedented” — excuse me — “nature of it.”
Why wouldn’t the White House condemn this leak? Are there any concerns — do you have concerns about the, sort of, further politicization of one of the branches of government?
MS. PSAKI: Have you ever reported anything that’s been leaked to you?
Q I am — and you guys have criticized leaks before as it’s been provided. So, I’m ask- — you’ve criticized in the past. Why not criticize this leak?
MS. PSAKI: Again, because I think what is happening here, and what we think is happening here, is there’s an effort to distract from what the actual issue here —
Q Can’t both — can’t both be true, though?
MS. PSAKI: — which is the fundamental rights — I don’t think they’re at the same level.
Q Fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: We don’t think they’re at the same level.
Q So they’re not at the same level, but would you agree that it’s still worthy of condemnation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think there has been a call for an investigation by leaders of the Supreme Court. Decisions on that and how it will be pursued will be made by the Department of Justice and others. And that’s certainly their space and right to — to make that decision in government. That’s how government is set up.
But at the same time, what we’ve also seen, Peter, is many Republicans, who are trying to overturn a woman’s fundamental rights, try to make this about the leak. This is not about the leak. This is about women’s healthcare and women having access to healthcare and making choices with their doctors.
MS. PSAKI: And we are not — we are working not — to not allow that to be the distraction.
Q Understood. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
Q Is the President planning on meeting with abortion providers or activists at all next week?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything about his schedule quite yet to preview. Obviously, we are deeply engaged with a range of healthcare officials and experts from the government — both from the Department of Health and Human Services, from our DPC team here — and we will continue to maintain that engagement.
Q But, I mean, you’ve said a few times that this is obviously a priority for the President. Just any — a sense of what he is doing specifically on this issue, you know, would be good for us to know, just given how much of a priority you’ve said this is for him.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important for everybody to know — including the American people, of course — that the President, of course, oversees the whole of the government. He has launched a whole-of-government effort to look at options and pursue options from every department — whether it’s the Department of Justice and what they do, the Counsel’s Office, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Domestic Policy Council — to take — put together a range of steps we can take to protect women’s fundamental rights. And that is what his focus is on in reviewing those and considering those. And obviously, he’s spoken to this over the last several days multiple times, and I think he will continue to.
Q The Prime Minister of Italy is coming to Washington on Tuesday. Italy, like Germany, has done a U-turn on its Russia policy. How much has the U.S. taken note of this? And does it elevate Italy in the eyes of the U.S. in terms of being a key interlocutor in Europe?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s really important to note in that there were a number of countries, some you noted, where the world, and journalists who have covered this closely, were skeptical that they would remain as unified and take steps as aggressive as they have to stand up against Russian aggression. This is an example of that.
Certainly, there’s a lot we work with Italy on and we’ll continue to, and the meeting will have a range of topics discussed. But of course, we’ve taken note of the efforts they have — and their leadership in standing up against President Putin and Russian aggression.
Q Thanks, Jen. Congrats to you. And thanks for your words.
I wanted to ask Karine, though, if she could share some words about what this means to her — what this means to you, Karine.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q And — and if you could talk a little bit about the historic nature of what you’re about to —
MS. PSAKI: Come on up.
The good news is the podium height is the same because we’re both very short. (Laughter.) So, go — go ahead.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wow. Thanks for your question. I first want to — want to take this opportunity, while I have it, to thank Jen. She has been just a wonderful colleague, a friend, a mentor during this past year and a half. And I don’t think I would be here without so many people, but including her.
And she is just — just a true, solid, amazing person. And so, we were very lucky to have her here this past year and a half. So, I wanted to make sure I had the opport- — since I have the opportunity —
MS. PSAKI: I’m going to give you another hug.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — to say that. We were doing a lot of crying —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — so I’m trying not to do it now.
Wow. I am still processing it because, as Jen said at the top, this is a historic moment, and it’s not lost on me. I understand how important it is for so many people out there, so many different communities that I stand on their shoulders and I have been throughout my career.
And so, it is an honor and a privilege to be behind this podium in about a week or so, when Jen is ready. And that — that is something that I will honor and do my best to represent this President and this First Lady the best that I can, but also the American people.
And so, it is — you know, it’s a very emotional day. That’s probably the best way that I can explain it: a very emotional day. And I just appreciate this time and this moment. And I hope that I make people proud.
Q And, Karine, I mean, there’s a lot of folks who questioned when this day would happen. I mean, what is your message to those? And, like, what — what is the message to — to young girls, to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And young boys, too.
Q — minority communities. Young boys, too.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, young girls and young boys. Let’s not — you know, I think this is important for them to see this as well.
You know, I used to — I used to teach college students. I had the pleasure of doing that for about six, seven years. And they would ask me, you know, this — a similar question, like, “How did you get to where you got to?” And I would say to them — and it took me a little bit of time to figure this part out that I’m about to share with you, which is: Follow your passion. Follow what you believe in. And — and just, you know, keep that — keep that focus, because that matters.
I think if you are passionate about what you want to be or where you want to go and you work very hard to that goal, it will happen. And, yes, you’ll be knocked down and you’ll have some tough times. And it won’t be easy all the time, but the rewards are pretty amazing, especially if you stay true to yourself.
And so that’s what I would tell them. And I see them from time to time, and they always mention those words that I just shared with all of you. And so that’s what I would say.
And, you know, there are people who support them, people who will lift them up when they’re down. And so, I think that’s really important to know. And, you know, I think so many of them as well — they are standing on shoulders, on folks who came before them, and are creating these opportunities that I currently have and will, you know, take that on the best as I can.
Q Karine, have you ever doubt — being a woman of color, have you ever doubt be in this position one day?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, not at all. I just worked hard towards it. But I understand how hard it is. I do. We all do. But just keep working hard towards it.
I’m going to give it back to Jen. Thanks, everybody.
Q Jen, can I ask a question? A Catholic church was just vandalized with pro-abortion slogans in Colorado. It just happened recently. Is the White House aware of that, first of all?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve not seen that report. Obviously, we don’t condone vandalism. We condone peaceful protest, and that’s something certainly we’re encouraging with everybody who feels passionate —
Q What would you say to those vandals going after — targeting Catholic churches, especially when it involves Roe? That’s what they’re basically focusing on.
MS. PSAKI: Again, we don’t condone vandalism. We condone peaceful protest.
I think it’s important to note that 60 percent or 70 percent, depending on the poll you look at, of the American people do not want Roe to be overturned.
I’m going to move on. Go ahead.
Q Will the President respect the High Court’s final decision on Roe (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re moving on. Go ahead.
Q Jen —
Q This is a follow-up question. That’s all. Just like everyone else gets.
Q A coalition of racial justice advocates sent a letter to the White House asking Biden to issue an executive order about reparations. Has Biden seen the letter? Has he read the letter? Is there a response to the letter?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of the letter. I’d have to take a look at it. And we can see if there’s more of a substantive response to you after the briefing.
Q Okay. And just to follow, on executive actions, is — you know, as things get, sort of, harder to pass through Congress, is there a sense of whether or not the White House is looking more at executive actions as a means of getting things that are not able to get through Congress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you note that there are a range of executive actions we’re currently looking at. Right? We’re looking at one on police reform. The President is certainly looking at steps he can take on student debt. And there are others we’re looking at as well.
But at the same time, we’re also looking to get the Bipartisan Innovation Act through. We’re looking to see what can be done on a range of issues where we feel there is bipartisan support. And we’re continuing to engage closely with Democrats in Congress about a reconciliation package to lower costs for the — for the American people.
So, we’re doing both, and we’re pursuing both paths.
Q On the — on the police reform executive order, we reported in January —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q — that there was a draft of that executive order that was shared with stakeholders. It seemed like it was getting near to being issued; it’s now May. Can you just explain what the delay is and what exact work is being done?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Sure. I would say it was some good reporting on your part. And it was an early part of the process, and it takes months to get executive orders through the full legal and policy process. But it is still something the President has every intention of doing. We just haven’t finalized it yet.
Q So is — there’s — can you specify what work is still being done on that executive order? What needs to happen at this point? Or is it —
MS. PSAKI: Policy and legal review process.
Q It doesn’t have anything to do with not wanting to issue it before the midterms?
MS. PSAKI: No.
Q And on — you were asked earlier this week — I think it was Monday — that — on the President’s phone call with
MS. PSAKI: Oh, yeah.
Q You were asked about whether or not he asked for an increase in troops on the Mexican and southern border. And you said there — there’s going to be ongoing conversations. I just wanted to follow up on that: Did the President ask anyone in the Mexican government or in that conversation for an increase of troops on the southern border?
MS. PSAKI: No.
Q He has not?
MS. PSAKI: No. He did not and did not on that call.
Q So, yesterday — going back to executive orders —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — yesterday, the President met with a group of Democratic senators to discuss immigration. And Senator Menendez said today that one of the things they discussed was looking into executive actions that the President can take to provide relief to some immigrant families.
I guess, what are those actions? Can you give us a little bit more details on, like, what that meeting was like; what actions are there — you know, is the White House looking into; and, kind of, is there a timeline for that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a timeline to preview for you. I would say that the President met with Senator Menendez and a group of senators, members of the CHC, yesterday, as a continuing part of his engagement with different caucus groups from Congress. And there’s a range of topics that’s often discussed in these meetings — of course, immigration, but they discuss a range of issues typically. And it’s an opportunity for the President to hear, to listen, to understand what there is an opportunity to move forward, what there is not an opportunity to move forward.
And we’ve said before, and he reiterated during this meeting, that we are certainly open to and looking at what executive actions could be taken on immigration and on that front, even though, obviously, passing a law through Congress would ensure that it was permanent.
Q And going to that, there is a group of bipartisan lawmakers that met today to discuss immigration reform.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Has the President been in contact with them at all? Has he discussed, kind of, you know, what would he like to see in a bipartisan immigration legislation? I know he introduced his own, kind of, outline of what he would like to see in immigration legislation, but has he talked to any of these senators?
MS. PSAKI: He’s talked — well, he met with the CHC yesterday, and he met with the House CHC — House CHC members just a couple — in the last couple of weeks. And certainly, he’s discussed with those pivotal members recently what he would like to see and his interest in moving an immigration bill forward.
I would say the bill he put forward on his first day in office he very much thinks could be a bipartisan bill. It includes smarter security — something everybody should support. It includes efforts to fix our asylum processing system, to protect DACA recipients. Those are all steps and components that have had bipartisan support in the past, so he continues to see that as a model.
Q But has he reached out to any of — any Republican senators — Senator Tillis, Senator Cornyn — on this topic?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any individual calls or engagements to read out. I would just tell you that the fact that he put forward this bill his first day in office shows you how important he thinks this issue is. And he is open to working with anyone who — who wants to play a constructive role in fixing the broken immigration system.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Jen. Our ABC poll with the Washington Post this week found that in the states where abortion restrictions have been passed in recent years, only 30 percent of residents in those states were actually aware of the restrictions. What role does the White House have in raising awareness of those specific state restrictions? And what will you do about that in the coming months?
MS. PSAKI: You know, Karen, I’m not sure that’s the White House role, right? We obviously are in this moment now where the world — the country is tuning into the fact that women’s healthcare and women’s basic rights — fundamental rights that have been the law for 50 years — could be at risk. And that will likely alert many Americans to that as well as state laws in their own states, because there’s more reporting and there’s more talking about it. And, certainly, that’s something we fit into and we engage with. But it will also be leaders and elected officials in these states that will continue to educate their public about this as well.
Q And just on a different topic: The country is closing in on a grim milestone of a million deaths from COVID. We saw the White House mark the 500,000 deaths in February. How will the President mark that milestone? Will he, at the White House?
MS. PSAKI: He certainly will. We look at the CDC as well as Johns Hopkins data. I know different media organizations track it differently, so just so you know how we track it from here. And once we hit this milestone, the President will certainly mark this incredibly somber moment.
This moment will call on all of us to remember the tragedy of this number and the importance for all of us to act. That’s what the President has done: standing up a historic vaccination program, investing in lifesaving treatments and tools for the American people. And Americans have acted too by getting vaccinated and boosted.
But we have more to do. More — and more — and we can honor — and we can honor — also honor those who have lost.
I don’t have anything to preview at this point in time, but he certainly will be marking it here.
Q Thank you so much. Sweden has said that they have gotten security guarantees from the United States in case they decide to apply to join NATO. Can you maybe offer a comment and tell us whether those guarantees would apply to other countries willing to join NATO?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our militaries have worked together for years, and we are confident that we could find ways to address any concerns either country may have, if — about the period of time between a NATO membership application and the formal accession to the Alliance. We, obviously, strongly support NATO’s open-door policy and the right of each country to decide its own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements.
And both Sweden and Finland are close and valued defense partners of the United States. So we’ve worked with them for years, and we are confident we’ll be able to work with them to address any concerns either country may have. But those are ongoing discussions.
Q Hi, Jen. In the wake of the draft Supreme Court decision —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — Texas Governor Abbott indicated that Texas may seek to overturn the 1982 Supreme Court decision that found that states were required to offer free public education to all students, including the children of undocumented immigrants. Does the White House have any response to those comments from
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s ultra MAGA right there, as the President talked about yesterday. We’re talking about — I think, just to restate that — denying public education to kids, including immigrants to this country. I mean, that is not the main — a mainstream point of view.
What I will tell you is the President has looked at and reviewed — since you referenced the draft opinion, and he’s talked about this a little bit, but just to re- — build this out a little bit more for you. He’s talked about how it raised the alarms for him how and the draft decision would endanger other American rights, in addition to the basic right of every woman to keep her personal healthcare decisions between herself and her doctor.
Obviously, there are decisions like that out — way out of the mainstream that Governor Abbott has announced. But it’s also — if you look at Roe, Roe is the precedent. Right? It’s the precedent for the right to privacy. And that — and that has — that decision has been upheld numerous times since, and everybody doesn’t make the connections between what Roe has been the basis of.
So let me just spell it out for you, and this is what’s on the mind of the President: The right to privacy has been the basis for other landmark decisions that safeguard our basic rights as Americans, including who we choose to marry, with whom to have romantic relationships, and whether to use contraception.
For example: I mentioned Griswold vs. Connecticut yesterday; Eisenstadt vs. Baird, which ensured that the right to use contraception was protected; Obergefell vs. Hodges, which protects the right to marry; Lawrence vs. Texas, which stopped government from preventing sexual relationships between consenting adults.
This — the basis for the draft decision would cut against decades of precedent and throw millions of lives into turmoil. And when he talks about this — and when he talks about privacy and when he goes back and talks about the fight against Bork, he’s talking about this as a precedent for a lot of these decisions that have enormous impacts on people’s lives.
Q Yesterday, the House Whip, Clyburn, appeared alongside Congressman Cuellar. He’s facing a primary challenger who supports abortion rights; he doesn’t. Does the President think that Democratic leadership should be standing behind a member of Congress who is part of the Democratic Party who opposes abortion rights at this time, especially in Texas, which has a trigger law?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your question. I’m just not going to get into political — politics or political primaries from here.
Q Oh — on —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Do you have another question? Go ahead.
Q I thought you might say that.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q On the —
MS. PSAKI: The Hatch Act —
Q — the confirmation process —
MS. PSAKI: — it is the law. It is the rule. I don’t make the rule.
Q There’s been a lot made of what the — Justices Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Barrett said during their confirmation hearings about Roe versus what we assume they would have — where they would have come down in this draft opinion.
Obviously, the President was the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for a long time, and we’ve seen senators on the committee now say that this is just more evidence that, you know, we’re not — these aren’t informative or productive process if they’re not willing to answer these questions. What does the President make of the — of this kind of debate happening right now between the utility of the confirmation hearings?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think the President — we have not seen a final opinion. And I don’t think the President is going to weigh in on that. He may not even weigh in on that afterwards. But obviously, they will all be judged by what their comments were.
Now, at the same time, the President — no one is questioning, including certainly not the President — as you noted, former Chairman of the — of the Ju- — Senate Judiciary Committee — checks and balances or the legitimacy of the Court. We are certainly not from here.
As a former Chair of the Judiciary Committee who has been steeped in these issues for decades, he disagrees with the reasoning behind this draft opinion profoundly because it would throw the healthcare for millions of families into turmoil and would also threaten protections, as I noted. And that goes back to the precedent for a number of important cases that have determined who people have the right to marry, the privacy over contraception.
Remember, it used to be that you would have to — you wouldn’t have the privacy of deciding to get contraception with your husband. Imagine how crazy that is. That’s what we’re talking about right now: these type of rights that the American people have.
And he may strongly
agree[disagree] with the outcome or the final opinion of that, but he — but, you know, he, of course, believes in the legitismy [sic] — legitimacy of all three branches of government.
Q Jen, thank you. Yester- — I — first of all, congratulations to both of you and Karine.
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate I’m getting congratulations. (Laughter.) I guess it’s so that I can sleep and read books. And I’m taking all of the recommendations. Huge congratulations, really, to Karine.
Q Surviving (inaudible) months.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Thank you, though. Yes.
Q I have two questions. The first is: Yesterday, you were talking from the podium — the Fed Chair during his press conference as well — about the strength of the economy —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — the possibility for a soft landing. Today it’s a little bit of a different story. The stock market is down more than 1,000 points. A CNBC survey shows 80 percent of small-business owners see a recession in the next 12 months. So I’m wondering if the White House took note of the market route today and what, if anything, it signals about the health of the underlying economy.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t judge the economy by the daily movement of the stock market. And that is true — has been true of most Presidents and most White Houses in the past. We look at Main Street and not just Wall Street.
I would note, just for facts’ sake, that since President Biden took office, the stock market is up approximately 9 percent. I still think that’s true as it closed; you can check me on that.
But our focus and the focus of many economists who look at this question of whether we’re headed toward a recession is on fundamental economic data, including the number of jobs that have been created, the growth of — of the GDP. Obviously, we have the unemployment rate at 3.6 percent — the biggest single-year drop in U.S. history. Household balance sheets are strong, and businesses are investing in the United States.
And we even saw the invest- — the high level of investment, even with the GDP numbers that we saw earlier this week — last week? — we still saw high levels of business investment.
So, that’s all the data we look at. That’s the data most economists look at. We certainly understand that in terms of consumer confidence. And I don’t know what this small-business data looked at; it may be that people see costs, they see the stock market. We understand that when people are — when you’re measuring people’s emotions or people’s reaction, that’s what that captures. But we’re still looking at the basic fundamentals, as are many economists on the outside, including Jason Furman and others.
Q Jen, I have one more question, which is just about the — Operation KleptoCapture. You talked about the yacht that was seized —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — at the top of this. What does the U.S. do with all the assets that it’s getting? I mean, where do these yachts go? What are you using all of the money for that you’re obtaining from these oligarchs?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there is actually legislation that we’ve proposed and that we’re working with Congress on, on where some of this could go, but I can check on that for you. And where they — where the yacht is parked right now, I’m now very interested in that question as well.
Q Thank you, Jen. Just a quickie for you. Can you tell us your plans now that you have a successor?
MS. PSAKI: I have — I have nothing to announce on my plans other than, as I said earlier, to sleep, to read books.
Q Will we keep seeing you on TV?
MS. PSAKI: If there’s anything I should stream on Netflix or wherever — Hulu, other places — I’m happy to do that. I take recommendations.
So, I’m — I’m, today, obviously just celebrating Karine. And I will have a lot to say about my team, the President, Dr. Biden, all of you — I’m just kidding; it will be nice things about all of you — next week, but nothing to say or announce about what’s next.
Q A question —
Q Quick follow-up. Is anyone in the administration —
Q Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, last — last one. Go ahead.
Q — looking out for the unborn child?
MS. PSAKI: Sir — sir —
Q Is anyone in the administration looking out for the unborn child?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve taken two questions from you —
Q No, no, no.
MS. PSAKI: — so I’m going to take a question over here. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Jen.
Q When does the President believe life begins? Thank you.
Q Let me just first also say congratulations to you and also to Karine. I’m so excited to have you as a new person in this position.
Just two quick questions. My colleague before talked about what Texas is doing.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q But in D.C. tomorrow, there’s going to be a new bill introduced by a councilmember that would prohibit the city from cooperating with any other state’s investigation into someone who’s gotten or performed an abortion. And the states are trying to scramble what to do. Is that something that you would even see the administration kind of getting behind as we’re seeing all these things pop up in different states?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. So, if I understand it correctly, it’s to protect people’s rights so that they can’t be investigated?
MS. PSAKI: Right. So the Department of Justice — I’d have to check with them and Counsel’s Office on this. But one of the things they reiterated when we saw S.B. 8 in the Texas law is people’s rights.
And I think it’s important for people to remember now, even in this moment, that this has not been overturned at this point. The final opinion has not been out. People across the country still have fundamental rights to make choices about their own healthcare.
And so, that sounds to me like it’s an effort to protect people’s rights and those who support them. That’s something the Department of Justice has spoken out agains- — agai- — to make sure people understood that. I can certainly check on this specific law.
We’ve got to wrap it up because it’s six o’clock. But anyone going to Cincinnati: It’s going to be great. (Laughter.) Okay, thanks, everyone.
6:03 P.M. EDT