James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:29 P.M. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. A few minutes ago, you heard the President mention — talk about Victory Day — Victory in Europe Day, which the world commemorated this weekend as a celebration of the end of World War Two and a victory for the United States and the Allied forces over the scourge of fascism and aggression in the defense of freedom and democracy.
While President Putin and the Russian people celebrated Victory Day today, we are seeing Russian forces commit war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine as they engage in a brutal war that is causing so much suffering and needless destruction.
This day is supposed to be about celebrating peace and unity in Europe and the defeat of Nazis in World War Two. That is what is celebrated every year in Russia as well. And instead, Putin is perverting history, changing history to try — or attempting to change it, I should say — to justify his unprovoked and unjustified war, which has brought catastrophic loss of life and immense human suffering.
We’re continuing to do what we can to provide support for Ukraine at this pivotal moment — flowing security, economic and humanitarian assistance. Today, the President signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, which adds to our suite of tools as we provide Ukraine with the weapons and equipment they need.
Yesterday, as you all know, the First Lady visited Ukraine in a historic visit to meet with the First Lady of Ukraine. She did that purposefully on Mother’s Day to be there and recognize the sacrifices of so many mothers during this time in Ukraine and send an important message of solidarity.
And our chargé on the ground led a group of diplomats temporarily returning to Kyiv to demonstrate our unity with the people of Ukraine on Victory in Europe Day as they fight to defend their freedom and their democracy.
President Biden also spoke with our G7 partners yesterday and President Zelenskyy about our collective response to President Putin’s brutal war.
And we announced a new round of actions to ratchet up the pain on Putin. This includes banning U.S. services that help Russian elites and companies build wealth and evade sanctions, additional restrictions on a broad range of inputs and products like bulldozers and industrial engines that Putin needs for his military, and sanctions on big executives at Russia’s largest banks and Russian military officials.
The United States also sanctioned the top three most-watched TV stations in Russia that bolster Putin’s war by spreading his propaganda.
And for the first time ever, the G7 agreed as a whole to ban or phase out Russian oil.
We will keep building on our unprecedented sanctions that are enacting a heavy toll on Russia’s economy, with GDP expected to collapse by double digits. Our export controls with more than 30 other countries have throttled Russia’s access to critical technology it needs to maintain its military.
With that, Will, why don’t you kick it off.
Q Thank you. We have the Prime Minister of Italy, who’s coming on Tuesday, and there’s some pressures on the European bond market. I’m wondering: Does the Biden administration believe that the European economy is facing recession solely because of the effects of Putin’s war, or are there other factors at work?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the impact of President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine here in the United States. We’ve seen, in our own economy, how inflation and an inflationary data over the last several weeks or even months has been impacted a great deal by energy prices. And a great deal of that is because of President Putin’s invasion.
I don’t have an assessment from here on the European economy other than to say we know — if we look at the past several months, even before the invasion — that the GDP here and our economic growth here was higher than the rest of the world, including Europe, because of the strength of the steps the President took earlier last year.
So, you know, we — they will have a range of topics to discuss, including ongoing efforts to hold President Putin and the Russian leadership to account, to continue to put in place crippling sanctions, to continue to support Ukrainians as they bravely fight this war against the Russians.
And they will, of course, also discuss our close cooperation on promoting economic prosperity, increasing Europe’s energy security, and combating clima- — climate change — all topics that we expect to be part of the preparations and on the agenda for the G7.
Q Can I do one more on another topic? You suggested that peacefully protesting outside the homes of judges and Supreme Court justices is part of freedom of expression and part of, sort of, what we do in the United States. But there’s a law of Virginia that actually prohibits protests outside private residence, even when done peacefully. So I’m wondering if any sort of demonstrations outside of private homes might run afoul of that law and other laws like it in other parts of the country.
MS. PSAKI: We’re certainly not suggesting anyone break any laws. I would note that the President’s view has long been — and I tweeted this earlier this morning and repeated — and made a number of these comments last week as well that violence, threats, and intimidation have no place in political discourse.
Yes, we are a country that promotes democracy, and we certainly allow for peaceful protest in a range of places in the country. None of it should violate the law; no one is suggesting that. And it should never resort to violence, to threats, to intimidation in any way, shape, or form. But that is what our position is and the President’s position is.
Q Thank you. On abortion, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said that a national ban on abortion could be possible, depending on the votes. Without court intervention, just how at risk does the administration believe the U.S. is to completely outlawing abortion?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re at serious risk. You heard — you noted Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in Congress are talking about a national ban on a woman’s right to choose.
There were a number — I think it was something — I can get the exact number here — but dozens and dozens of Republicans in Congress signed on to the — to the Mississippi court case and — advocating for severe restrictions on a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to make choices about her own body.
And we’ve seen in other places in the country — just yesterday, the governor in Miss- — of Mississippi said directly whether that — just yesterday, the governor said directly whether they would — wouldn’t say whether they would directly go after the right to use contraception, meaning that’s another area where —
So, as the President has said over the course of the last nearly week, his concern is about, yes, a woman’s right to make choices about her own healthcare, about what this final opinion could be. It’s also about what choices could be made that go beyond that.
I’d also note that Louisiana legislators advanced a bill to classify abortion as homicide, which would allow women who terminate their pregnancies to be charged with murder and potentially criminalize in vitro fertilization and forms of birth control.
So, in some ways, yes, you’re seeing an outcry by the nearly two thirds of the public, many of them peacefully protesting, who are concerned about what this opinion will say. But you’re also seeing a number of Republicans in states and some in Congress double down on this potential to overturn a law that has been the law of the land for 50 years.
Q You mentioned, though, the Mississippi governor and his comments on the possibility of banning certain types of contraception. Is the administration planning to take steps to try and preemptively safeguard access to contraception?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say there’s a range of considerations that are underway — both by our Counsel’s Office, by the Department of Justice, led by the Gender Policy Council — to take every step we can to protect women’s fundamental rights and protect rights beyond that.
I would note that — and the President talked about this a little bit last week — but when we’re talking about Roe, Roe has been the precedent for a number of other laws passed by the Supreme Court that impacts people’s fundamental lives — their basic rights, their freedoms, their privacy, and their protections — including if you look back, Griswold v. Connecticut; Eisenstadt v. Baird, which ensured the right to use contraception was protected.
That is law now, but we are clear-eyed about this being a precedent for that and what could come next.
Obergefell v. Hodges, which protects the right to marry; Lawrence v. Texas, which stopped government from preventing sexual relationships between consenting adults.
For 50 years, Roe has been the basis for a number of these decisions that have impacted and changed people’s lives — in our view, for the better.
Q You mentioned — again, I mean, obviously, you’re discussing next steps here. You’ve said before that you’re not going to detail what’s sort of on the table, especially until the final ruling comes down. But why not?
I mean, especially when states have trigger laws, sort of, why not communicate at least what the options are to try and get ahead of some of this, give women some assurances as we see, you know, obviously growing concern across the country?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Mary. Well, what I’ve talked about a little bit in here in the past, which people can look to as a model for what we’re trying to do, is what we’ve done in response to S.B. 8 in Texas. Right? We created the Dire Need Grant awards to provide funding to expand access to emergency contraception and family planning services.
In addition, you also saw the Department of Justice and the Attorney General released a statement in response to Texas S.B. 8 that reaffirmed their commitment to using existing federal law to protect the safety of patients seeking access to reproductive health services.
The Department of Health and Human Services has also been implementing a three-pronged, department-wide response to protect patients and providers.
We’ve also talked in here a great deal about the fact that we know that 26 states have indicated their plans on — on a different varie- — varying levels, I should say, of overturning women’s fundamental rights. Thirteen have trigger laws. And what we’re looking at — and some states have also taken steps — Connecticut, California are two of them; others are also examples — to protect women’s rights.
What we’re looking at here is nearly half the country potentially not having — allowing women to have access to choices about their own bodies and their healthcare that has been the law of the land for 50 years.
So — and we know who that will impact, because 75 percent of people seeking abortions make less than 200 percent of the poverty level. We know the majority of people seeking abortions are women of color. So, we’re keeping — taking into account all of that as we look at options.
Q Just to follow up on all that. Mary asked what I would, for the most part. (Laughter.) But when are we going to hear —
MS. PSAKI: Look at that collegiality at play.
Q When are we going to hear from the President on this issue? We’ve heard from just about every other Democrat. You’ve clearly come prepared with all the details today. Do we have to wait until the court ruling is official, or might he speak out beforehand?
MS. PSAKI: I would say he spoke multiple times last week, and I expect you’ll continue to hear him speak about this issue.
Q I mean, he spoke on the tarmac; it was noisy. (Inaudible.)
MS. PSAKI: Does that not count? (Laughs.)
Q Well, I’m just wondering if there’s going to be something slightly more prepared and thoughtful to try to, you know, make use of the presidential bully pulpit the way he can. When he wants to, he can draw attention to issues.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right. And I — and what I was pointing to, Ed, is that obviously this was in his mind and front and center for him last week, because he spoke multiple times to this, unprompted in some cases. Some — some prompted by questions, of course. And I expect he will continue to do that.
What I don’t expect he will do is speak to an opinion that is not yet final, that has not yet been released. But certainly, speaking to the protection of women’s fundamental rights, of their rights to make decisions about their own healthcare. And certainly, his concern — which he’s talked about for decades — about privacy and privacy protections, which he said last week was the basis of his leading the fight against the Bork nomination.
So, I expect you’ll continue to hear him talk about that. And there’s — hopefully, there will be more opportunities for you all to ask good questions.
Q Two other, if I could, real quick. Tomorrow, he’s giving a speech on inflation.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q I’m wondering if you can give us some sense of what more he’ll get into.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I would note that, as we — as we announced and previewed a little bit, the President will be speaking to his plan — his continued plan to continue the fight to address inflation in the coming months. There’s a lot of work that has been done to date on this front, whether it was the steps he’s taken to address energy crisis, the release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, additional steps he’s taken on that front, or whether it was steps he’s taken even in recent weeks to fix the family glitch, to help more people have access to healthcare, or steps he announced in the last couple of weeks to make E15 available to thousands of people at gas stations across the country.
But what you will also hear him talk about tomorrow is the contrast — and the contrast that his plan, and the plan he has been implementing for months now, draws with those on the other side of the aisle, who has not — who have not put forward any plan to lower costs for the American people. So it will be his opportunity to lay that all out together.
Q And there is growing concern about a persistent supply issue with infant baby formula.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q There’s about 40 percent shortage right now. Major retailers having to limit how much people can buy — especially acute in places like Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa. This is partly an FDA issue, but it could be a Biden administration issue. I’m just wondering if you guys are planning on taking any steps to help remedy that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, as you know, but — the FDA issued a recall to ensure that they are meeting their obligation to protect the health of Americans, including babies — who, of course, were receiving — or taking this formula — and ensure safe products are available. That’s their job.
Ensuring the availability of these products is also a priority for the FDA, and they are working around the clock to address any possible shortage.
(Playback of press briefing audio is heard on a cellphone.)
Okay, that is — that is like hearing your name — your voice on the answering machine, which I know — that’s a very outdated reference, but we’ve all been there. (Laughter.)
Okay, so what the FDA is doing — which, while they are independent, they are part of the administration — is taking a number of steps to address. That includes working with major infant formula manufacturers to ensure they’re increasing production, because part of this issue is, of course, making sure there is stock on the shelves — right? — and working with the industry right now to optimize their supply lines, product sizes to increase capacity, and prioritizing product lines that are of greatest needs. Because, obviously, as someone who — my child has long been out of formula, fortunately, but it’s close enough that I remember when you were trying to go to the store and get the specific kind of formula for your age child or whatever their needs are. So they are — they are taking steps with that in mind.
They’re also exercising flexibility and expediting review of notifications of manufacturing changes that will help increase supply, particularly in the case of specialized formula — so that applies to that as well — for medical needs.
And they’re also trying to streamline import entry review process — processes for already-notified infant formula products coming from notified foreign facilities.
So what they’re trying to do — in the shorthand of it — is increase supply by working with a range of manufacturers in what their capacity is to ensure that the kinds of formula that is — was recalled is — where they’re able to help ensure it’s on the — on the shelves.
Q It isn’t something that’s kept in a national stockpile — do you know?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe there’s a national stockpile of baby formula. But the FDA does — it is not just their responsibility, in their view, to ensure that we are meeting our obligations to protect Americans. It is also their obligation to take steps to ensure supply can be met when they take these steps. So that is what they’re very focused on.
Q What’s an answering machine? If you could — (laughter) — no, I’m just kidding.
MS. PSAKI: Since you’re 25, I’ll explain it to you after the briefing.
Q Could you say — just give some general reaction to Putin’s speech this morning?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I tried to do it a bit at the top. But what I will say is that what we saw President Putin do is give a version of revisionist history that took the form of disinformation that we have seen too commonly as the Russian playbook.
Now, what is fortunate is that we are all aware — reporters around the world are aware, Europeans are aware, Americans are aware — of the disinformation factory that President Putin and the Kremlin seem to be.
But su- — the suggestion that this war that was prompted by — directed by President Putin was prompted by Western aggression or Western plans is patently false and absurd.
And otherwise, I would say: You know, our view is that we should remember — and this is why I did this at the top — what this day is actually about, which is something that we have all celebrated, which is the defeat of Nazis in — after World War Two, something that Russians have celebrated in the streets for many years.
Q Quick question on a totally unrelated topic. Biden has blamed large meatpackers for the run-up in meat prices.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q And today, Tyson Foods have another record — or very good earnings out that showed its average prices for beef had climbed nearly 25 percent compared to the same quarter last year.
I wondered if you all have any reaction to that. Is this the sort of, you know, price gouging that the administration is seeking to stop?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any reaction directly to one company’s earnings. But what the President’s concern is and what Secretary Vilsack, who’s been here a number of times, is concerned about is that the meat industry — the conglomerates are so small, they’re so — I mean, not small; they’re very large — but they’re so dominant that they are elbowing out, of course, smaller producers and that they have this
capacity and ability to jack up prices and pass those on to consumers when they should not.
But I don’t have any direct reaction to one company’s reports. I am not aware of this issue and our concern being addressed, though. So, it’s an ongoing concern.
Q Just a little bit more on the Victory Day speech.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q Given that he didn’t really point to specific victories and he also didn’t signal, you know, some kind of upcoming massive escalation —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — or some pathway to ending the war, I’m just wondering if there were any takeaways for U.S. officials specifically related to the trajectory of the war from that speech.
MS. PSAKI: I would say, what we’re watching closely is what we’re seeing on the ground. And what we’re seeing on the ground is, you know, the — right now, a great deal of the war, as you all know and my colleagues at the Department of Defense have briefed on this even as recently as this morning, has obviously moved more to the east, and that terrain is very different.
The Donbas is a lot more flat. It’s little small villages. It’s very different from what we were seeing in Kyiv. That is a terrain that the Ukrainians know well.
And what we look at as we look to the totality of the country and if we go back to mid-February, when President Putin was giving speeches basically declaring he was going to subsume Ukraine, take over the country — the territorial integrity of the country — and go beyond that, is that is exactly not what’s happening today.
President Putin and the Russians are not marching through Kyiv. They are struggling to fight in other parts of the country. And the Ukrainians are bravely and courageously fighting every day.
So, we look at what’s happening on the ground, though it is important to note and to call out the revisionist history that we saw in this speech and the fact that any such statement that we saw — we’ve seen for months from President Putin that the war was prompted by the West is just patently false and inaccurate. And we can’t state that too often.
Q And on the First Lady’s trip to Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Is there anything more you can share? You’ve talked a little bit about —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — why she wanted to choose Mother’s Day to travel into Ukraine. In terms of, sort of, the security concerns, which you’ve talked about a lot, how were you all able to get to a point where you could feel confident, the President could feel confident that she would be totally safe?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into behind-the-scenes security concerns or considerations. Obviously, she would not have gone if we did not feel comfortable with the security arrangements.
I will note that she went there, as you said, because to — she wanted to go on Mother’s Day because she was thought — thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that the war has to stop, that the war has been brutal, and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine. That’s why she went yesterday, to show that the hearts of the American people are with the mothers of Ukraine.
She also, of course — you know, she’s been back now, and she’s had an opportunity to speak with the President and has conveyed — and she said this publicly directly to him — what she saw on the ground: the need to support the people of Ukraine. She saw the horrors and the brutality that the people she met had experienced. And, you know, that was something she conveyed directly to him.
But in terms of security, obviously we have a range of security considerations we make. And, you know, I’m not going to get into those — detail those from here, though.
Q Just had a quick COVID question.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q The warning about the 100 million potential COVID infections by the fall and winter if new COVID funding isn’t approved —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Dr. Jha has said that this is based on a range of internal and external models. Could the White House point us to which specific models were used to get to that number?
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of, as he said, internal and external models well within that range — is that number. It would hi- — the point he was making is that we know what we need to do. We have put out an entire playbook to address the pandemic to help — a preparedness plan to ensure Americans are protected and that we stay on the front foot in our fight against COVID.
If we do not take action, we also know that there are — we know that the virus is going to continue to evolve. And without us staying vigilant and prepared — like not having access to lifesaving vaccines, testing, therapeutics — it’s — it is going — it has the ability to upend our lives.
So, he is a doctor himself, as you know — a very experienced one. He talks to a range of experts internally and externally. There’s a range of models that are out there, and this is well within that range. And the point he was making is about the impact if we do not act, if Congress does not act.
Q Would the White House be able to make public —
Q Jen, can we spread out the questions a little bit? Can you yield to your colleagues, please?
MS. PSAKI: I — I would be happy to, but I think it would be polite if you let —
Q Just a quick follow-up —
MS. PSAKI: — MJ finish her question.
Q Seriously? Polite?
Q She’s had several.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Can she yield to her colleagues, please?
Q Could — could the White House make public the range of models —
Q — so that we’re able to see how we got to that 100 million infections warning?
MS. PSAKI: We’re — I’m happy to see if there’s more specific data we can make available. But what I can assure you of is that Dr. Jha is a very experienced public health expert. He talks to a range of officials internally and externally. And that’s what he’s basing it on.
Let me go to the back. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q (Speaks in Japanese.) That means: Many in Japan are welcoming the upcoming visit. And two quick questions. One, Japan has a populace of 130 million but only 39,000 deaths from the virus. I’m wondering if the administration is aware of that and maybe some best practices can be studied while we’re there.
And second, the — will there be a reaffirmation of the security treaty, especially about the Senkaku Islands?
And then I have one quick follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, what I can tell you is that we will certainly be doing a formal preview of the Asia trip — probably early next week, I would expect, before the President departs.
While he is there, as you know, he’s going to be holding bilateral meetings, including with his counterpart from Japan, and certainly discussing the ongoing COVID pandemic. And the global fight to address the global — the pandemic will be on the agenda, and we’re grateful for Japan’s contribution to that.
They’re also going to discuss a range of security issues, enhanced economic ties, climate change. There are a lot of topics that are on the agenda for this meeting.
And, of course, in light of North Korea’s continued stabilizing ac- — destabilizing actions in the region, including the test launch recently of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles, the President will also make clear that our commitment to the security of Republic of Korea, and our Japanese allies as well — range of topics. And we will have more, I promise, too.
Q Just to follow up — I brought this up before, but many of us who were embedded during the wars, we have a lot of personal relationships with people — Afghanistan as well as —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — Iraq. We have one family — the Ashu family — that have — still haven’t been able to get out. Just any update on — it’s been almost eight months. And these are, really, people that gave their lives for us.
MS. PSAKI: For this specific family? I’m more than happy to take their information and check in with the State Department after the briefing.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Jen, thank you. Lots of summits and meetings in the next couple of weeks —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q — even ahead of the travel. Do you have any preview on what the President’s participation will be in the COVID Summit?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. He will be addressing the COVID Summit. We are, of course, convening the COVID Summit in order to have an opportunity for the global community to continue to discuss our fight against the pandemic.
I would note, just to get everybody up to speed as you’re preparing for your coverage: We committed to sharing 1.2 billion doses of safe, effective vaccines with the world; we’re making good on that commitment. We’ve shipped over 530 million doses of vaccine to 115 countries around the world — over four times more than our next closest donor.
But what we expect to be a topic, or what part of our agenda is for this meeting, is to talk about the fact that those doses are getting harder to place because countries’ freezers are simply full. And we have tens of millions of unclaimed doses because countries lack the resources to build out their cold chains, which basically is the refrigeration systems; to fight disinformation; and to hire vaccinators.
And there are actually some good examples of where we’ve had funding, where we have worked with countries. So, for example, in Zambia, the U.S. government programs engaging local leaders in vaccine programs helped double vaccination rates from 12 to 22 percent.
We know meaningful gains are possible. But part of this is also going to be an opportunity to elevate the fact that we need additional funding to continue to be a part of this effort around the world.
Q And is it going to be — and is it going to be a problem if, over on Capitol Hill, they move ahead with the Ukraine aid package and sort of leave that COVID funding to the side right as this summit is convening?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s an active conversation, literally as we speak right now, on Capitol Hill. So what I will tell you is that the President is absolutely committed to signing into law both the Ukraine funding and also COVID funding. And he will continue to fight for both.
Q Thanks, Jen. Last week, you mentioned that the administration is talking to a wide range of people about how to respond to this upcoming decision on abortion.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q You mentioned business leaders. I’m just curious if you could elaborate on that. What kinds of businesses? And how do you see their role in this — you know, in this response?
MS. PSAKI: I think the point I was making — I don’t have business leaders to read out for you, and we’re going to keep a lot of these conversations private. But I would note that two thirds of the public, even in Fox News polls, have said that they don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade.
This is a mainstream position for the majority of the public. I’m not saying everyone agrees on it. That’s not — not at all what I’m saying. But it is about two thirds of the public.
So there are a lot of stakeholders, a lot of private-sector citizens and leaders who are concerned about what they could see if this opinion is — is a — if this is a final version or close to a final version of the opinion.
And part of our role here is to engage with leaders, whether they’re on Capitol Hill or they are women’s leaders or they’re in advocacy groups and, certainly, private-sector leaders as well.
Q Thank you. The President and you have talked about the “MAGA crowd” or the “ultra-MAGA.” How does that jive with his desire to be the bipartisan guy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President’s view is you can do both. He believes that there is work we can continue to do together. We’re actively advocating for — he was out traveling in — just last Friday on the Bipartisan Innovation Act. We believe that needs to move forward; it should move forward. And that can be — can build on the nearly 80 bills that we signed into law last year that are bipartisan.
But he’s also not going to stand by and not call out what he sees as ultra-MAGA behavior, ultra-MAGA policies that are out of the mainstream of the country and are not in the interest of the American people, whether that is efforts to prevent a woman from making choices about her own healthcare or whether that is Chairman Scott’s policy and proposals on — that would raise taxes on people making less than $100,000 a year.
He’s going to continue to call that out. But he believes there is still a path to move forward on where we have agreement.
Q And on the First Lady’s trip to Ukraine: Does that change the calculations at all about the President making a visit to Ukraine, since this presumably worked?
MS. PSAKI: Their travel is a little bit different — I think you all know from traveling with the President. But there’s not a trip currently planned. But, again, he would love to go to Ukraine. I just don’t have anything planned or anything to preview at this point.
Q Thanks, Jen. There are reports now — and you just alluded to this a minute ago — that Democrats are, in fact, going to bring forth that Ukraine aid without the COVID funding attached. And I know you told me last week that that was something that the White House wanted to see — them attached. But we’re being told that the President actually had said, “Look, the Republicans don’t support that. Let’s leave it aside.” Can you confirm that? Was there a change in thinking over the last few days at the White House over how this package should proceed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that has been his preference — to get both of them to — done and done together, which he has thought that would be the most efficient process. Since this is actively happening right now, I don’t have any confirmation of it from here.
I expect we’ll have more. I’ve — even though I have dwindling days left here, I’m still not going to get ahead of the President, because, you know, I want to enjoy those last few days. But hopefully we’ll have more to say on where we stand soon.
Q Does the President plan to condemn the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion or the doxing of the justices, now that we’ve seen violence unfold?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that we have been clear and the President’s position has long been that we should not see protests that takes the form of violence, that takes the form of vandalism, and that threatens anyone. That has long been his position for his entire career and continues to be his position.
Q And, for tomorrow, your office released that —
MS. PSAKI: But can I say one more thing? Sorry.
Q Please do. Please do.
MS. PSAKI: We have not seen violence or vandalism against Supreme Court justices. We have seen it at Catholic churches. That’s unacceptable. The President does not support that.
We have seen it at some conservative organizations. That — we don’t support that. And we certainly call for — we know the passion. We understand the passion. We understand the concern. But what the President’s position is is that that should be peaceful — the protests.
But continue. Go ahead.
Q And as for tomorrow, the President plans to offer, as you said, a contrast. And it was written, quote, to “Congressional Republicans’ Ultra-MAGA plan to raise taxes.”
Now, the Washington Post has called that claim false — that there was a Republican congressional plan to raise taxes. Why is this statement still being shared?
MS. PSAKI: Because Chairman Scott’s plan — and we welcome — we know he’s asked for people to go to his website. We would encourage people to do the same thing and check out his plan that raises taxes for people making less than $100,000 a year.
Q But Mitch McConnell and this report — there aren’t any other Republicans signing on to this at this point. So is it fair to say that Republicans as a whole are pushing a plan to raise taxes?
MS. PSAKI: He’s the chairman of the committee. If Republicans want to repudiate his plan, they should go do that. But otherwise, that continues to be what they’re running on. So that’s their position, not ours.
Q Jen, is the White House satisfied with the legislative strategy on abortion rights, which appears to be to have this vote on Wednesday, which will fail, and then make this a midterm issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we support Leader Schumer’s decision to get people on the record on this — on codifying Roe. And that’s something the President would be happy to sign into law.
At the same time, we certainly recognize that the votes — we don’t have the votes. You can tell me — you cover the Hill closely — you can tell me if I’m wrong.
We understand that. But we think it’s important and an important issue to get people on the record on.
Without getting into politics from here — again, I don’t make the rules, I just try to follow them — in the President’s statement last week, he noted that in order to take legislative action, we would need more Democratic senators, and we would need more pro-choice House members after the election in November. So we certainly recognize that, and we know that’s on the minds of many people across the country.
Q And then, if I could follow up on that. One of the votes you don’t have is probably Joe Manchin’s. I’m curious, when was last time the President spoke to him about either this issue or his domestic agenda, which Manchin has been signaling he’s open to maybe reviving some of these conversations that basically died in December?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are — we are open to this moving forward as well. I will say that just because we don’t confirm conversations happening, it doesn’t mean they’re not happening.
But the President has asked us not to get into specific details or confirm the timing or specifics of their conversation, so I’m not going to do that.
Q Is it fair to say they’re still actively happening?
MS. PSAKI: I can tell you that we are still in touch with Senator Manchin. We certainly are in touch with a range of Democrats about the need and the importance of moving forward.
And as it relates to the President’s remarks tomorrow, obviously moving forward with a reconciliation package that would lower costs on American people — on eldercare, on healthcare, on childcare — would be a step that would help address how inflation is impacting people across this country.
So we’re having a range of conversations. A lot of Democrats are having a range of conversations with each other. I’m just not going to detail them more from here.
Q Jen, on the sanctions against Russia, what would it take to lift those if — say if Ukraine agreed to a peace deal? Is that enough? Or would the U.S. want something more?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to negotiate from here on that. We do know that an end to this will required — we require a negotiated diplomatic process. And we support that. But we — our role is to continue to strengthen the Ukrainians’ hands, whether it’s through military assistance, economic, humanitarian, continuing to keep the world united. And we’re just not going to get ahead of the process.
Q And just real quickly, back on the Rick Scott question: Senator McConnell did repudiate that — that plan. So how can you say it stands for what Republicans —
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s the chairman of the committee. I wouldn’t say every Republican has repudiated. If they don’t — if that’s not at all the plan they’re running on and none of them are for it, then they can speak for themselves.
Q Jen, on abortion, this country is about to engage — some states that don’t have trigger laws are going to decide what they think the restrictions should be on abortion, and that’s going to be a tough question in many of these states.
Does the President have a clear belief in what he thinks the restrictions should be on, or if there should be any restrictions on abortion? I know you’ve been asked this before, but I just want to get a clear answer.
MS. PSAKI: The President’s view is that women should be able to make choices about their own healthcare. I’m not going to detail it further beyond what he said in the past from here.
Q So does that mean no restrictions?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to detail his opinion. He’s spoken to this a number of times.
Q Thank you, Jen. I have one question on ASEAN and one question on Russia.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q On ASEAN: The rotating Chair of ASEAN, Cambodia, said, prior to the upcoming summit, that the — it’s normal practice that the host of the nation to meet with the Chair of ASEAN. And we know President Biden actually wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen. And will the — will the President have a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister?
MS. PSAKI: I’m very happy to check on that. The schedule — I know it feels very close because it is; it’s in a couple of days. But I will check and see.
He obviously invited the leaders of ASEAN — from Brunei, to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as the ASEAN Secretary-General — to Washington to participate in the summit.
But in terms of bilateral meetings, I can check and see if there’s any on the schedule.
Q And another question on Russia about the intel leaks by the American officials. Thomas Friedman said that he was told that President Biden “called the Director of National Intelligence, Director of CIA, and Secretary of Defense to make clear in the strongest and most colorful language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately — before we end up in an unintended war with Russia.” Is that true? And is the President worried about an unintended war with Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what I will tell you, without confirming private internal calls, that the President was displeased with the leaks. His view is that it was an overstatement of our role — an inaccurate statement — and also an understatement of the Ukrainians’ role and their leadership. And he does not — did not felt they were constructive.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: “Did not feel.” That was grammatically inaccurate.
Okay, go ahead.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Jen. There seems to be a lot of bipartisan support for listing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Is that something on the Hill you’re talking about? Is that something being discussed in the White House? And if the President is not there, how would you define the line that would have to be crossed to go there?
MS. PSAKI: I know we’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past. I would note that to be named a state sponsor of terror, you — there’s only about four countries that have been named state sponsors of terror in the world.
There are a number of actions that are often taken if a country is named a state sponsor of terror. A number of those we’ve already taken, including economic — crippling economic sanctions, sanctions on individuals, other restrictions for the country. And obviously, making the country a global pariah is part of that objective. Those are all steps that we have already taken and implemented as it relates to Russia.
I don’t have anything to preview in terms of a consideration here. I can certainly — we’ll see what happens in Congress.
Q Thanks, Jen. What’s the White House reaction to Sinn Fein’s gains in the Northern Ireland Assembly over the weekend?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check with our national security team, and we’ll see if we can get you a comment on that specifically.
Go ahead, Geoff.
Q Hey, Jen. You were unequivocal in condemning the violence. But as you know, there’s also some allies who are protesting outside justices’ homes, including Brett Kavanaugh, who — if there’s any kind of a compromise — conservative ruling that preserves some of Roe, he could be part of that with Roberts. So, my question is: Is it appropriate to protest outside people’s homes? And is it productive or not productive?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I would say, in terms of the productive question, that’s not for me to speak to. Obviously, these justices make decisions as an independent body. How they are influenced or if they are influenced is not for me to make a determination of.
We do believe in peaceful protests. We do not believe in or support any intimidation of any kind — obviously, the violation or breaking of any law, as somebody raised before, or threats or intimidation of any individual.
What we do support is people peacefully protesting. And they do that in a range of places.
Q But you wouldn’t wave anybody off for tactical reasons?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not here to give tactical advice to protesters. What we are here to call for is peaceful protest, for people not to resort to violence, to vandalism, or certainly intimidation of any kind.
Q Yeah, as we look ahead to tomorrow’s inflation speech, let me ask you to look back at some of the warnings that were issued last year by Summers and Rattner and so on. In retrospect, were they right that some of the government policies were going to lead to inflation?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say we agreed with them then, and we don’t agree with them now.
I would note that as a relates to actions like the American Rescue Plan, the alternative to not putting in place and advocating for the American Rescue Plan would have been the economy continuing to spiral. Right? We would — we were providing assistance and relief in the form of checks to people who needed that assistance at the time.
That package also helped fund and prepare for a fight against COVID.
It helped keep schools open. One hundred percent of schools are open today, in large part because of the American Rescue Plan.
It helped states and localities support and keep teacher keep — keep police, keep local authorities, keep local governments open at a time where that was in question.
So we know, if we look at the recent inflation data, a large — depending on which data you look at, two thirds to even 70 percent of inflation data is a result of energy prices.
A large part of that is the result — and Chairman Powell has spoken to this and Secretary — Secretary Yellen has also spoken to this — is a result of President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact on the goual [sic] — global energy markets. Those are all steps and impacts that I don’t think anyone could have predicted a year ago.
Q So, yeah, thanks, Jen. So, on that, the economy is signaling some weakness going forward. What’s the level of concern? First of all, is the President watching the markets and the data coming in? And what’s his level of concern there’s a recession in the next 12 months?
MS. PSAKI: Well, without — as you know, we don’t — we don’t really speak to or comment on the judgments — ups and downs of the stock market — or the daily movement of the stock market, I should say. While it’s volatile — we’ve seen that, and we certainly monitor it from here — I would note that since President Biden took office, the market is up considerably.
When we look at economic data internally and when a lot of external economists look at economic data, they look at the fact that we’ve created over 8 million jobs since the President took office; that the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.6 percent; that GDP grew up 5.7 percent last year, the fastest rate since 1984; and also, that household balance sheets are strong and businesses are investing in the United States.
So, we look at that base data — those — that data as we look at the economy. And, of course, we continue to monitor as data comes in and as we see fluctuations.
Q So what’s his level of concern about a recession?
MS. PSAKI: Again, we monitor it. We are continuing to. We’re not predicting that at this point in time.
Q One more thing on the new sanctions that was just announced on Russia —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q — but China, last week, cut tariffs on coal from Russia coming in to zero. The Chinese have also had record imports last month from China — from Russia to China. Fifty-seven percent was the increase. At what point is China breaking the sanctions?
And then, when is the President going to stand up and say — and call out China to stop this behavior in supporting Russia?
MS. PSAKI: We clearly will watch closely. And if that were to happen, I don’t think we have seen to date a breaking of the sanctions at this point in time.
Q Thanks, Jen. Thanks. So, I’d like to ask you first about the coronavirus and then about a transparency matter.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q On the coronavirus, the CDC data indicate that we are getting pretty close to the 1 million death mark. Some outlets say we’ve already crossed a million deaths.
I was hoping — you know, as we’re talking about potentially rolling back tariffs on Chinese goods, can you say, you know, where the tariffs question comes into pushing China to be transparent on the origins?
And can you detail anything that President Biden has done with his levers of power, be it sanctions or tariffs or anything else to press for transparency from China?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, there was a lot packed in there, so let me do my best here.
I would say, first, as you noted at the top — or at the top of your question — we track the CDC data as well as Johns Hopkins’s data. And you are right: We are getting close to a million. And we will be marking that from here. And as we get closer, we’ll have more to mark from here.
The President has had recent engagements with President Xi, as we have had at a very high level from a range of national security officials. And we always raise transparency in those conversations, but I don’t have more to read out from those at this point in time.
And what was the third part?
Q Are tariffs part of — are tariffs — or, I mean, is that part of the pressure?
MS. PSAKI: There’s an ongoing review. I would look at it separately from the COVID deaths or from Russia. There’s an ongoing review on Chinese tariffs. We’ve been looking at those through the prism of how they’re impacting industries here in the United States.
We feel that a number of them have not been constructive and have hurt — had a — had a negative impact on a number of industries. So, we’re looking at and we’re continuing our review of that, which is being led by our Ambassador Katherine Tai.
Q Would tariffs be used to pressure China to be transparent, though? I mean, is that part of the consideration at all when considering rolling them back?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we consider a range of factors as we look at the tariffs. The largest factor is the impact on the economy and a range of industries.
Q And the transparency question I have: In 2017 and 2018, the President routed $13 million of income through S corporations. There are some ethics experts who are calling on him to divulge the specific sources of income in those revenue streams. Richard Painter, who ran for Congress for the Senate as a Democrat, has been among those who are calling for this.
Will President Biden be releasing the sources of income that were in that three — $13 million, particularly as there’s attention being paid to his son and whether he earned any money from his businesses?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the President doesn’t have dealings with his family members about business. And he has released decades of tax returns, which is more than I can say for his predecessor.
Q But the S corporation, in particular?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Jen. I wanted to ask about North Korea. So, some South Korean officials are saying that North Korea is likely to conduct another nuclear test around the time that President Biden goes to South Korea. Is the President monitoring this? And is the White House going to roll out any preemptive sanctions in the next week or so?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say we are — we are certainly monitoring. And I would note that when the President goes to South Korea and Japan, North Korea, especially given the recent tests, will be front and center in the agenda and discussing security in the region with them.
I don’t have anything to predict or preview in terms of any preemptive sanctions or actions.
Q And if I could just ask: The new South Korean President is coming in tomorrow, and he’s expected to take a much more hawkish stance on China and North Korea compared to his predecessor, who wanted to really work closely with North Korea. So, does the White House welcome this kind of new hawkish stance against the two countries?
MS. PSAKI: The President looks forward to having a conversation with him about security in the region and, of course, denuclearization of the peninsula.
Q Thanks, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much.
MS. PSAKI: Last one. Go ahead.
Q Just a few follow-up questions.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q About the Cambodian Prime Minister —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Q — he’s been in power since 1985, which is the last time answering machines were a thing. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. (Laughs.) More recently than that I would say, but —
Q He’s been accused of corruption —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
Q — of violence, of repression. This is the first time he’s come to the White House. How does the White House respond to criticism that by allowing him in here and meeting with him, you’re legitimizing that?
MS. PSAKI: I would say that the President has never held back in raising concerns about human rights when he has conversations with leaders where that’s relevant.
And this was — this is an ASEAN meeting, where all of the ASEAN member nations are included and invited. It’s not isolating. It’s not doing a state visit or anything along those lines. It’s an opportunity to discuss with leaders in the region a range of topics that we work together on, whether it’s COVID or econ- — or economic growth or security in the region. And that’s exactly what will be the focus.
But he has never held back in raising concerns where he has them, including with countries where we have a range of work we do together.
Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you tomorrow.
4:17 P.M. EDT