James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
4:09 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello. Good afternoon. Oh my, it’s four o’clock. Oh my. So, no BTS today, but you do have KJP. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thanks, Peter. I worked on that.
Okay, let me see. Yes, okay. So there are two graphs behind me. What — basically, what they show is more supplies being sold on the market compared to a year ago. So — and this is without Abbott being in the market right now, clearly. And we’ve seen a lot of progress happening, as you can see, in 2022 compared to 2021, and as you can see up here as well.
And so — and that’s due to our actions here at the White House and just across the administration. So, obviously, we admit that there is still a lot more work to be done, but you do see some progress — some significant progress.
So, today, the President hosted a roundtable with infant formula manufacturers — including ByHeart, Bubs Australia, Reckitt, Perrigo, and Gerber — to receive updates on their progress in increasing the supply of formula.
Additionally, the President announced two new Operation Fly Formula missions. Beginning June 9th, United Airlines will air — will airship the equivalent of approximately 3.7 million eight-ounces bottles of Kendamil infant formula. This is the first Operation Fly Formula flight donated by an airline carrier.
Also starting June 9th, Bubs Australia will transport the equivalent of 4.6 million eight-ounce bottles of formula. This is the first shipment of 27.5 million bottles that Bubs Australia plans to export to the U.S.
These shipments are not — are on top of the 1.5
trillion [million] bottles of formula transported in the first two Operation Fly Formula flights.
These actions build on other important actions to ensure there is enough safe infant formula for families. And the President has been clear he will pull every lever to get more safe infant formula to American families.
Tomorrow, the President will join a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the White House. They will discuss preparations for the NATO Summit in Madrid at the end of June and the strength of our transatlantic alliance.
We will have a readout after the meeting for tomorrow.
And also, this is June 1st. As we all know, it is the first day of Pride Month. This month, the Biden administra- — Biden-Harris administration will be spotlighting the voices of LGBTQI+ people across America, especially children and families.
The President had made clear that the proliferation of hateful and discriminatory bills targeting kids in classrooms and families in their homes are simply bullying.
So, this Pride Month, we will be focused on protecting, uplifting, and supporting LGBTQI+ kids and families.
This month, you can expect to see the President and his administration reiterating calls on Congress to pass the Equality Act, agencies across the administration and embassies around the world raising Pride flags to celebrate our commitment to equality, Cabinet members meeting with LGBTQI+ families and community leaders, the White House fighting back against the onslaught of anti-LGBTQI+ legislation we’re seeing just across the country.
President Biden has always been a champion for families, and that includes LGBTQI+ families. We are proud of the historic progress this administration has taken to ensure everyone, no matter who they are or whom they love, has an equal place in our country. And we are excited to keep building on those actions this Pride Month and beyond.
One final thing, which is very hard to say but I’m very excited about this as well for our friend here, Vedant: I would be remiss not to mention that it is our very own Assistant Press Secretary Vedant Patel’s last day here at the White House.
I’m sure many of you know and have had the pleasure of working with Vedant, but for those who haven’t: He has been with us since day one of the Biden campaign and also the Biden-Harris administration. While — while here, he has worked in very — on very important issues — areas including climate, immigration, and education.
I cannot stress enough how integral Vedant has been to our team. He’s been a rockstar. He’s going to be incredibly missed. He is a true talent, an excellent communicator, a gifted writer, and a wonderful coworker and friend.
I and the rest of the press team will miss him dearly, but we know that he’s on to better and bigger things as he moves over to the State Department — so he’s not going very far — as the Principal Deputy Spokesperson.
We are so proud of you, Vedant. We will miss you terribly, and we cannot wait to see you at State. And congratulations to you, my friend.
MR. PATEL: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, with that, go ahead, Zeke.
Q Thanks, Karine. After U.S. intelligence assessed that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, was behind the killing of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the President said he’d — came out and said he’d make Saudi Arabia pay a price and a pariah. There’s a report today that the President plans to visit Saudi Arabia, including having a meeting with that Crown Prince. How is that consistent with making Saudi Arabia pay a price or turning it to a pariah?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just say first: His — his words still stand.
The President’s words — what you just laid out is — still stands today. I don’t have a visit to preview. I don’t have a trip to announce, so there’s nothing for me to just lay out for you at this time.
Q I’m just wondering, though, what price did Saudi — has Saudi Arabia paid already for the killing of that journalist that the President — that would then turn around — the President would reward them with a visit to that country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you, Zeke, but I don’t have — I don’t even have a visit to announce or to preview at this time. So there’s really no discussion to have because I don’t have a visit to even talk through at this time.
Q But, right now, the President believes Saudi Arabia should be a pariah. That — those — his words from then still stand, given its actions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m saying that that has not changed. The President’s words still stand. But you’re also asking me if there’s a trip being announced or a trip to preview; I just don’t have one at this time.
Q And changing gears to the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q — event that was just held in the South Court and the meeting with formula executives. One after another executive said they knew immediately, within hours or days of the shutdown of that Abbott plant, the magnitude of the crisis facing the U.S. baby infant formula industry was going to face — that supply crunch that we all saw play out over the last several months.
The President, though, said he didn’t — wasn’t informed about that until April —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — and then waited a full month to invoke the Defense Production Act and begin Operation Fly Formula, which we’re starting to see affect the marketplace now. So what this — the reason for the disconnect there? And is he going to hold anyone accountable?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just lay a timeline for you of what we have talked about before, but I’m happy to reiterate at this time.
So, we have been working on this issue since day one of the recall. The recall happened on February 17th. On February 18th, USDA issued detailed guidance to states on how to seek waivers in their W-I-C — WIC programs. We know directly from companies this is one of the most important areas for action to be taken from the government.
And this month, we are building on that work, with last week’s announcement urging states to cut all WIC red tape. So, that actually happened — this is June 1st, so that happened in May.
Also, importantly, agencies have been working closely with manufacturers to help them optimize process and boost production, which I just showed on these graphics that were behind me just a second ago. Because of quick action and it is not to — it is not by accident, today there is more infant formula coming off factory production lines in the U.S. than before the Abbott factory recall. That wouldn’t happen without — without the work that we have done.
For the last three months, the FDA has also been working with retailers to impose purchasing limits to prevent the possibility of hoarding.
And just to take a step back, so we — so just to remind folks how we got here: You know, we are in this position because there were safety concerns at an Abbott facility. The scientists and the experts at FDA have been working around the clock, 24/7, to come to an agreement, but, ultimately, have to ensure its facility meets their standards for the American people.
And as Califf said last week, the FDA has been clear they need to look into how we got here, how this all happened. So, he is calling for an after-action report. And so, that is something that the FDA has said last week during their oversight hearings.
Q You said — and, sorry, I know it’s a lot from me — but does the President want to see an after-action report about how this building responded to that? Because he wasn’t informed until April.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, let me just say that the President is frustrated, himself, about the situation, about the issue that we have on beha- — and he’s frustrated on behalf of the American families.
And so, we are doing — he is doing everything that he can to make sure that we take action. And we have been doing that 24/7 to make sure that we —
He gets what families are going through, how hard it is right now for many families to feed their infant, to feed their child. And so, this is something that he’s not taking very lightly. You heard from him, you saw him meeting with the manufacturers. And so, we’re going to continue to work around the clock to get this done.
Q So you — February 17th was the recall. February 18th, FDA issued instructions to states. Let’s — let’s — can we continue that through April? When did somebody call the White House to say, “This is a problem; you guys may need to get involved”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I could say that, again, the recall happened on the — day — day one of the recall, we took action as a whole-of-government approach — right? — with FDA, USDA, as I just laid out.
And the President understands — again, he understands how difficult this is. He understands how challenging this is, and we have acknowledged that. He understands that this is the job of the President to be able to multitask, to get things done, especially when it comes to making sure that your child gets healthy — healthy food.
Q Okay, but, again —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And so, that is what —
Q Mid-February, April —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is what we’ve been doing.
Q When was someone called here at the White House to say, “This could be an issue that requires presidential involvement”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have the timeline on that. All I can tell you, as a whole-of-government approach, we have been working on this since the recall in February.
Q The independent regulatory agency, the FDA, the one that questions have been referred to in the past, is now being embraced as “whole-of-government.” Let’s point that out here.
The other thing: Why wasn’t Abbott invited today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, well, because Abbott, as we know, they agreed on a path to safely reopen the Sturgis facility after safety concerns that FDA called — called them out on.
So look, we understand Abbott is working hard to get back to safely making infant formula. That process is ongoing and should remain between them. And we are encouraged by the progress they’ve made. Today is about progress and action we can take to ramp up right now.
But I want to — you know, I do — I need to say this, and I want to lay this out: Look, this meeting was focused on ramping up production and availability of safe infant formula to American families. That is what matters.
We have to remember what FDA did was to make sure that families were getting food that was safe for — for their kids. That is important. And that’s what matters. That’s why we showed the chart, to show where we are today compared to a year ago.
So, increasing production here at home and importing high-quality formula from
aboard [abroad]. We are working with many manufacturers. The companies joining today represent a sub- — a subset of companies working with the administration to increase on supply, whether it be through the DPA, which is something that we know that the President called on; Operation Fly Formula; and FDA’s importance [importation] guidance.
And so, the actions are making a difference. And so, I just want to make sure that we see what this administration has done — this whole-of-government approach.
Q But you all can understand that — you’re doing this now on June 1. If he knew about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we have been do- —
Q — this in April —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no. We have been doing this — a whole-of-government approach since — since the recall.
Q Yeah, but the Defense Production Act —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is what — and it’s not.
Q — wasn’t invoked until last month.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because we had to make sure —
Q That’s what got things moving.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We had to make sure and really look into what would work and what was the best direction to move forward. That’s what — we have talked about, we have talked to you all every day — every day that we can about each step that we’re taking, whether it’s the Defense Production Act or whether it’s the Operation Fly Formula.
So, every step of the way, we’ve explained why we’ve taken these steps. We’ve explained what the process has been to take — to take on these certain items. And so, this is — this is what we’ve been doing. And we have been working on this 24/7. And we have seen an increase of production.
The President met with manufacturers today. He met with manufacturers two weeks ago. And so, we have been working very hard to make sure that American families out there who have children are getting what they need. Whether it’s a mom, a dad, whether it’s a caregiver — are getting safe — safe and healthy products, food to their children.
Q Just to put a finer point on that: Is it my understanding that what you’re saying is that even if the President had known sooner, before April, that your response would have been exactly the same?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not saying when the President knew or didn’t know. He spoke —
Q But he — but he said —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. He spoke to that himself, so I’m going to let that stand. I am saying that we have been working on this — we, as a whole-of-government approach, have been working on this since the recall, which was in February. That is what I’m saying.
I’m talking about internally, not just the agencies, not just FDA, USDA, but also internally. We have been working on this for months — for months. And we have taken this incredibly seriously and have been in this briefing room and the President has spoke to this on — on his own about the different steps that we have taken. And we’ve also laid out a timeline for you all so that you know what — the steps that we have done.
Q It sounds like you’re saying, though, even if the President had known sooner, would that have made a difference?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that we have been working on this since we have found out — we found out about the recall, since day one. That is what I’m laying out to all of you as a timeline. That is what it’s important here to know — that, as a whole-of-government approach, we have taken this on since the first day that we learned about the recall.
Q Okay. On another topic here again, can you explain just a little bit more the President’s role in these ongoing negotiations over gun reform legislation? Because, yesterday, you said the President would get involved “when helpful.” A short while ago, he told us that he has been involved. So can you just sort of explain —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean —
Q — kind of, how does he view his role as these talks are ongoing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean, a couple of things: He has been involved. He has been involved since day one of his administration, since calling on Congress to take action.
Just this past two weeks, he went to — he went to Buffalo to grieve with the family, to make sure that he listened, and they had a conversation with the family — right? — because it was so important to him to do that, to console them, to hear from them. He went to Texas on Sunday to do the same.
He’s spoken about this from his — the first — the first joint — his first joint address to Congress. That was last year. He spoke about this in — in the Rose Garden when he talked about his comprehensive gun reform — the executive actions that he’s ta- — he was ta- — he was going to do.
He talked about this at a State of the Union.
So this is something that the President has been doing since day one. And not only that, you know, he worked on this in the Senate. You know, he knows how to get this done, and he’s done it before. As a senator, he helped pass our ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as enacted legislation that made the federal gun background check — check we use today.
So, this is something that he has been doing for a long time. And he understands — what we were talking about yesterday — he understands how these negotiations work. Sometimes, you have to give it a little space so it has that quiet so that congr- — congressional members, senators can work on the issue.
But he has been involved from — from, I would say, from day one, since he walked into this administration.
Q But on these negotiations, on any possible legislation now, is he — is he involved right now? Or is he giving them that space?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’s giving them space to do the work, to have that conversation. But — but since the — since the shootings, since Buffalo, our — our teams here — the Office of Leg Affairs has had more than a dozen calls with the negotia- — with the negotiators and senators and congressional members on the Hill. They have been having active conversation and working — working with them or talking through — to them about what — what actions and steps need to be taken and where they are with the process.
Q Just very quickly on Abbott. They’ve said that they can get the Sturgis plant restarted by Saturday. The FDA has said other things. What — what is your assessment of the credibility of that claim from Abbott?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When did they say this?
Q This week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This week? Okay. I don’t have a — you know, we’re going to — like I said, we’ve been working very closely with Abbott — not “we,” but the FDA has been working very closely with Abbott to get Sturgis facility up and running.
So that is something that they’ve been, you know, in touch with FDA about. I don’t — I cannot speak to their timeline. That’s for Abbott to speak to. Clearly, this is something that we want to get done as soon as possible. But it also has to be done in a safe way.
Q Okay. And then on the President’s New York Times op-ed about Ukraine, he said that the policy here is to see a “democratic, independent, sovereign, and prosperous Ukraine.” But he did not say, “within its internationally recognized borders.” And so, we’re wondering if that was a deliberate omission, intended to signal that Zelenskyy, that Ukraine is going to have to give up some territory in its negotiations with Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t read into that in that way. But I — the President just put out a statement that I do want to iterate just two lines from it:
“The people of Ukraine continue to inspire the world with their courage and resolve as they fight bravely to defend their country and their democracy against Russian aggression. The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself.” The “new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory [and] Russian advances. We continue to lead the world in advo- — in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”
And that is going to continue to be our focus.
Q But is your assessment that they’re going to have to give up territory as part of these negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s not something that I’m going to talk about this from — from the podium, from here.
Q Okay. And then just one last thing: The Bolsonaro meeting that’s happening at the Summit of the Americas. Do you guys have a date on that? And are you going to raise concerns with Bolsonaro about his questioning of the voting system?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything — I don’t have anything to preview at this time on the Summit of Americas for you.
Q Karine, just to follow up on the baby formula meeting.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure. Sure.
Q So, if the President is saying the baby formula manufacturers knew that things would be really bad as soon the Abbott recalls happened, the shutdown of the plant happened, but he did not, I guess, can you help us understand why they knew but he didn’t? Who failed to inform him? Why didn’t he know if they knew?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, what I will tell you is that we have been working on this issue from day one since the recall.
You know, what you hear from the President is — is his frustration with the issue itself — with American families having to deal with and what they’re going through because this market — because this more — this concentrated market and the problems of the Sturgis facility.
We have to remember how we got here. We got here because FDA learned that the Sturgis facility was not operating in a safe way. And so, we — they’ve — FDA wanted to make sure that families were getting healthy — healthy food to their babies. So, this is a responsibility that FDA has and that FDA did.
From our part, we did everything that we can from the moment that we learned about the recall to — to work 24/7 to make sure that the production went up.
Q I guess that just doesn’t address the question of why it was that the President didn’t know, when the manufacturers are saying that they knew — as soon as the recalls happened, as soon as the plant was shut down — that this would be a very serious problem. Was there a breakdown in the process here? Did somebody fail to inform him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I have not spoken to the President. I know that he just said that a few moments ago, so I would have to — I would have to talk to him about the April date.
But what I can tell you is what he has seen — and this I know for certain — is that seeing the empty shelves is unacceptable, seeing what families are going through is unacceptable. This is why we have been working 24/7 to make sure that we are using every lever at our disposal to deliver for the American people.
That is what I know for sure that I can share with you at this moment. And — and that’s how we’re going to, you know, going to continue to move to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can and beyond.
Q Yeah. Could you help us understand then — you know, you’ve said that the administration has been working 24/7 around the clock since February to try to address this issue. The President says he didn’t understand how bad the issue was until April.
So is it that you were working around the clock since February to address this serious problem, but the — but the President didn’t know? I just want to be clear about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the actions across the government began day one and — of the recall, as I’ve said. The White House has been in close regular contact with agencies responsible for addressing this issue since then.
While these action made serious progress, including by ensuring there was more infant formula coming off factory lines than before, the recall — it’s clear there is more work to be done and more levers to be pulled, which is why you’ve seen higher-profile actions this month. And we’re going to continue to do everything that we can.
So, to your question, the White House has been working with — across government to make sure, since day one of the recall, to do everything that we can.
Q So then perhaps the President wasn’t aware of the work that was going on around the clock since February to address the issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I mean, the President has multiple — multiple issues — crises at the moment.
You know, when he walked into the administration, he talked about the multiple crises that we needed to deal with as a country.
And so — and so — so, that’s number one to remember. But the most important thing is that as a — as a White House, as the — working with the inter-agencies, we have been working on this since day one since the recall.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q And I actually —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And this is his White — this is his White Hou- — his White House.
Q I actually had a follow-up to a question that we asked in here over two weeks ago, very much related to what we’ve been talking about. We had asked if there were specific actions that the administration took — including meetings, phone calls, briefings — either in February or earlier to begin addressing the shortage. You had said at the time that you didn’t have any specifics then, but you’d be happy to go back and get that information and be fully transparent.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, but I —
Q But it doesn’t sound like you have that update for us today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I don’t have that information. But, again, I can say to you, since the recall in February, we have been working around the clock on this issue. It is an important issue. We understand how frustrating it is for parents. And so, this is something that the White House, across — across the agencies have made a priority.
Q So do you plan on getting us that information that you said you would check —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, feel free to reach out to me directly. You have my e-mail. You have my number. Feel free to reach out to me, and we will do everything that we can.
Q Can I just do one follow-up on a separate topic?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean — (laughs) — MJ, we — I got to move on. I got to move on. Yeah.
Q That’s fine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q So, I think the question here is: We all understand that government operates at many levels. The President is not read in on every issue. Why this one seems to stand out is that these executives talked about it as a crisis. The President talks about it as one of the most personal crises that he has experienced.
And you’re now sort of saying that the White House was operating on this without the President being aware of or directing those actions. And so, there will be future crises and so I think we’re all trying to understand the information flow and the decision making when there is a crisis that rises to the White House’s involvement and is the President involved in that.
And so, the question really is — it sounds like you’re questioning the April date that the President just gave us.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I am not questioning the President at all. I’m just saying I have not spoken to the President. I know he just mentioned that date.
Q But you’re saying White House officials were involved in and engaged on this issue prior to the President being briefed on it himself?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right, which is not an unusual thing, as you know, Kelly O. This is a — this is a very common way of operation, way of moving. Nothing unusual about this.
You’re asking me to confirm something — and I — I was in my office. I did not actually hear what the President said. I do not like to speak on something without —
Q Understood. Understood.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — without commen- — having a conversation with the President first. And so — so that’s number one.
Number two, what I’m trying to say is that his team on very high levels, who run his policy offices, who runs his department, have been working on this since day one. And that is —
Q So they can act without the President’s direct involvement and make decisions before he’s even briefed on a subject that’s become one of the biggest issues for American families today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it’s not uncommon. I mean, what — it’s not — I mean, it’s not an uncommon thing to do to offer assistance, to offer help, to offer guidance to an agency when they need it. That is not an uncommon — an uncommon thing to do.
Q So, just to follow up on the rest of the front row. Who decided, after six or eight weeks, that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You said that. Hopefully, the back row here hears. (Laughter.)
Q Well, who decided — who is the person in the West Wing who decided, after six or eight weeks, that this baby formula shortage was finally something that somebody should tell the President about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again, I’d have to go back and talk to the President. I did not hear him take questions or answer any questions to all of you. And so, this is — I want to do my due diligence — right? — as his spokesperson to make sure that I have a conversation.
What I can tell you is what we have been doing as an administration since day one of a recall.
And — and just — let me — let me just say this, because I want to make sure — since, you know, we have folks watching — that the actions that we’re taking — that we took actually made a difference here.
DPA is allowing manufacturers to reliably plan for scaling production. In the case of Abbott and their suppliers, an increase of 25 percent, [so] they have — they can be manufacturing at 100 percent capacity.
Likewise, Reckitt plans to expand production by 40 percent. Operation Fly Formula has cut three- to four-week timelines for Nest- — for Nestlé product to move — the Europe — Europe to 72-hour periods.
Through FDA’s enforcement discretion, we will get 27.5 million bottles from Bubs Australia.
So, these, are all important actions, including the graphs that I just showed how high production — production is higher than it was a year ago. So, this is also important. We want to make sure that the American people, the American families know that we have been working on this 24/7.
The President has done everything that he is able to do or has been able to do. And we’ll continue to do more work, because we understand there’s more work to be done.
Q Okay. Another big topic. When are you guys going to admit that you were wrong about inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) No easy questions today, huh?
Q The Treasury Secretary says that she was wrong, so why doesn’t anybody here at the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Okay. So, look, what — what the Secretary was pointing out — this was talking about yesterday, when she was doing her hit with — her TV hit with CNN — is that there have been shocks to the economy that have exacerbated inflationary pressures, which couldn’t have been foreseen 18 months ago, including —
Q Why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me — I’m — I’m trying to answer your question.
Q It’s a big problem.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I — hold on. I was just getting to the “Why not?” Including Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine, multiple successive variants of COVID, and lockdowns in China.
As she also noted during that interview, there has been historic growth and record job creation. And our goal is now to transition to steady and stable growth as inflation is brought down, as Brian Deese said yesterday to all of you when he was standing behind this podium.
So, the President’s economic plan, as we see it, is working. Just today, we learned that the manufacturing was up in May, building on the 545,000 manufacturing jobs that have been created since he took office — further proof that companies are investing in America, we are on a path to stable growth, and we are addressing supply chain problems.
Our plan to tackle inflation, lower costs reduces the deficit and respects the
FDA’s [Fed’s] independence. It’s the best way for us to achieve sustainable and durable economic growth. So that’s how we’re — we’re doing — what — the work that we’re doing every day to make sure that we (inaudible) lower costs — well, higher costs.
Q And just so that I under- — just that I understand: The Treasury Secretary says that she was wrong, but the White House was not wrong about inflation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So here’s the thing: We have — we have achieved a — first of all, I explained to you what she was trying to say. So, I just laid that out. So those are your words, not my words. I just laid out what she was trying to say and try to explain in full- — in fullness her part and her answer.
We have achieved an historic recovery through an extraordinarily unprecedented economic moment. The President has consistently noted that the primary drivers of inflation are the pandemic and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The twists and turns of both these monumental events have affected energy prices and also food prices that we have seen these past several months. This is Putin’s price hike, which the President refers to, and that is what Secretary Yellen was referring to if you — if you read the entire transcript. And that’s what I’m — I’m trying to say to you, hopefully. Hopefully that lands.
Q Thanks, Karine. You say Legislative Affairs has had more than a dozen calls —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — with lawmakers on guns recently. Which ones?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I don’t have a list. And we are — we are always — you know, we are always very clear about not sharing who — you know, not saying who we talked to and keeping — keeping conversations private.
We’re just trying to give you a number so you see our efforts and what we’ve been trying to do. But I don’t — I don’t have a list. I won’t list our list to you right this time.
Q Right. I just ask because, often, the White House Press Office hasn’t given any level of specificity as a policy about conversations like that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I did say — I mean, look, I did say we’re talking to negotiators. So, I think that could give you a sense of who we’re talking to.
Q Sure. And then a question — a couple questions briefly —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q — on baby formula. Would the President support the FDA continuing to allow more foreign imports of baby formula permanently, more than just a temporary solution, given that we’re seeing that this crisis — this can become a crisis very quickly, given that we have just a few manufacturers who have a corner on the market.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we understand that we need to look at this further and figure out what needs to be done so that this doesn’t happen again. I don’t have anything new to share on if this is going to be a long-term way of doing — of moving forward with baby formula. I don’t have a policy update on that. But I’d note, to tell you now, as I’ve been saying, we are doing everything that we can possibly to make sure that the American families are getting their children healthy and safe formula.
Q And then just a real brief follow-up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q We talked — when the President spoke earlier, it was di- — came up in one of the questions that was asked — just the timeline of the FDA’s response when it came to investigating this Abbott facility. There are questions about what communications there were between the FDA and the White House. I mean, is the President satisfied with the FDA’s response in this crisis?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, he satisfied. But last week, the over- — during their oversight committee, he talked — Califf said that there needs to be an after- — he called for an after-action report. He appointed — he appointed Woods- — Woodcock to doing that after-action report. He wants to get down to the bottom of what happened, and so that is important.
I don’t know if you’re asking me does he still have confidence in the FDA. He does. And we’re going to — we’re going to — the FDA themselves are going to try and figure out what exactly happened and how do we avoid what happened these past several months with Abbott and their facility shutting down. And so, that is an important thing as well.
Q Thanks, Karine. On this baby formula issue, you said that the whole-of-government approach began in February — right afterwards. And I think a root of this sort of questions and — or that folks are having is that it, in fact, doesn’t seem like this extended beyond the FDA until, certainly, the President found out in April, but especially when this became really an acute issue in May, when the Defense Department was brought in, the Agriculture Department was brought in.
So can you — other than the FDA, who was part of this whole-of-government response, especially in this kind crucial February-to-April timeline where the President wasn’t aware of what was going on?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right. I mean, I mentioned the FDA. I mentioned the USDA. I’ve mentioned, you know, policy departments here within the — within the White House.
Q What did USDA do during the February —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The USDA issued detailed guidance to states. This is the — when the recall happened on February 17th. On — the next day, on February 18th, USDA issued detailed guidance to states on how to seek waivers in their WIC programs, which we learned was a very important element, which was red tape —
Q So, no- — not producing more formula?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — well, which was a red tape as we’ve learned that needed to be — needed to be cut.
So — and we know directly from companies that this is one of the most important areas for action to be taken from the government. And — and we’re building on that work with — with that — with the announcement that we made as it’s related to the USDA urging states to cut all of WIC red tape. So that was — that was that role in that particular component.
Q What — were there any efforts outside the FDA about encouraging either the import or production of additional formula? It would seem like —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — from an outsider that if a plant goes down, you know that it’s going to be a crisis, that you would immediately start looking for other sources of supply.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I can’t speak to, specifically, what the FDA was doing at that moment. All I can speak to is when — what happened at the recall, when it comes to production. I can talk to what we have done these last several months, meeting with manufacturers.
Again, the graphs that I showed showed how the production has even increased from last year — I think 8 million more in one of the graphs that I showed. And so, we’re going to continue the work. We know that there’s more work to be done. And we’re going to make sure that we get to the other side of this.
Q One other on a different topic.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q About a month ago, the Supreme Court decision or draft decision leaked on abortion rights. A lot of folks, including the President, at the time talked about how that really, you know, reframed the fate and the stakes for the midterm elections.
But since then, the President hasn’t publicly met with any abortion rights groups. He hasn’t spoken about it in weeks, given a speech on it. I know that you’ve and the Vice President have kind of occasionally mentioned it from the podium, but there’s been no sort of presidential action on it.
So, I’m wondering: Does that signal that the President is understanding of the politics of this issue have changed in any way? Or is there an event with the President that is going to happen before the Summit of the Americas or before he travels to Europe? I mean, it just seems to have fallen completely off his schedule.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, I don’t have anything to preview on his schedule. But the President is clear on this. You know, he believes the right to peace- — he believes the right that a woman has — has the right to make their own decisions when it comes to their own healthcare and their own health and their own reproductive rights. I mean, that’s something that he has said. That is something that he believes.
You know, our teams here are in constant communication and having regular meetings with groups out there who are — you know, who are focused on making sure that that continues — the rights of women to choose continues. But I don’t have anything to lay out.
Q Do you know why it — the President just hasn’t made this — I mean, he kind of —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — laid the stakes out as, you know, this should be something at the front of voters’ minds.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, let me — if we step back for a second, it is — it was a draft, it was a SCOTUS draft. We spoke to it. We were very forceful about it. The President put out a statement. You’ve heard from the Vice President. You’ve heard from other members of our team. So it’s not like we didn’t take this seriously and we don’t continue to take this seriously. So, this is an important issue for the President. We know that. We know that for the American people.
I just don’t have anything to share with you on — on his schedule.
Q Thanks, Karine. On Ukraine, the U.S. has been really clear that it would not engage Russia directly because it did not want to escalate the conflict. But General Paul Nakasone — and I apologize if I mispronounced that — but — who heads the U.S. Cyber Command, he reportedly told Sky News that the United States is engaged in offensive — offensive cyberactivity against Russia. Can you talk about that? Why disclose that? That seems — that seems contrary to what the administration’s position is.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, as it — as it relates to the Kremlin, to President Putin, you know, we don’t negotiate our security assistance packages to Ukraine with the Kremlin. They have been — they have not been pleased by the amount of security assistance we’ve been providing to the Ukrainians since far before this most recent phase of conflict began.
But we are doing what exactly the President said he would do, which is — and he told President Putin directly — we would do — what we would do if he — if he attacked Ukraine, back in December, which is provide security assistance to the Ukrainians that is above and beyond what we are — what we were already providing to help Ukrainians defend their country.
So that’s exactly what we’ve done and will continue to do. You know, remember, and we say this all the time: This is Russia that chose to launch a brutal war, that chose to attack Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity. And so, this is — this is Russia’s war. And so, they started this conflict, and we could — they could choose to end it at any time, and they have not. But we continue to maintain that dec- — deconfliction channels with the Russians for — for when necessary.
Q But just speaking specifically about the offensive cyber action being taken from the United States against Russia, is that not contrary to what the President has said in the past about not wanting to engage directly —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s not.
Q — with Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s — we don’t — we don’t see it as such.
Q Can you — can you talk about why offensive cyber activity against Russia is not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We — I mean, it’s just — we just don’t see it as such. We have talked about this before. We’ve had our cyber experts, here at the podium, lay out what our plan is. That has not changed. So, the answer is just simply: No.
Go ahead, Tyler.
Q Just following up on inflation question. I understand you walked through what Secretary Yellen was — was talking about, but she still said that she was wrong then about the path inflation would take. President Biden made similar statements saying that inflation would be temporary. Brian Deese was here yesterday; I asked him the same question. Does anyone in the White House have regrets about how they talked about inflation, given that it has turned out to do exactly what they said it would not do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I laid out from — from — if you look at the whole transcript, what it is that Secreta- — Secretary Yellen was trying to lay out when she was asked that question.
She was pointing out that there have been shocks in the economy that have, again, exacerbated inflationary pressures, which could have been — who — which could not have been foreseen 18 months ago. I mean, that is —
Q But whether or not the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — that is — that is just a reality that we’re — we’re working with.
Q Whether or not it could have been foreseen — what the President said and what all of his top aides said turned out not to be true and turned out not to happen. So, I’m wondering if there’s any sense within the White House that that was a mistake to say so, given that it turned out to occur very differently?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, there were — there were certain shocks to the economy that exacerbated the inflation pressures, right? So that includes Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine; multiple successive variants of COVID, as I’ve mentioned already; and the lockdowns in in China.
The President has consis- — consistently noted that the primary drivers of inflation are the pandemic and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The twists and turns, again, as I’ve talked about, have been monumental events. And so, as the Secretary Yellen has also noted, there has been historic growth and record economic creation. And our goal is to now — to do the transition, which is what — which is what Brian Deese was talking about to make sure that it is steady and stable growth as inflation is brought down.
So that — there are things that have occurred that has been unprecedented in this past year or two — or, actually three years. And that’s what we’re speaking to.
Q I hear you on that. But that still doesn’t necessarily answer the question about whether inside the White House there is a feeling that there should be a concession, like Janet Yellen made yesterday on TV, that the way that the administration talked about inflation was not best suited to — to describe to the American people the economic pain that they would eventually be feeling as we continue to see prices rise.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President is working — has said this and — over and over again, we have said this: We understand what the American people are going through. We understand the high costs that they’re dealing with. We understand what inflation is doing to gas and to food prices.
We have done — we have done — you know, we have taken multiple actions, which the President explains himself in his own voice in the Wall Street Journal, just a day or — a day ago. And so that has been our focus as well. And we have — we’re coming out of a very strong economic — economic period. And so, now we’re going into a transition.
There are things when — as it relates to inflation, there are things that were not predictable 18 months ago, that were not predictable from day one. So we were speaking to them as we saw it at the time. And so that is also important to note.
I mean, I know you’re asking me that — the question of did we speak about it wrong, or did we, you know, say — you know, did we misspeak or not — or not have it right at the time.
I mean, this is what — what I’m trying to lay out, is that there are things that happened — COVID variants; Russia — Russia’s war in Ukraine — that was not predicted at the time.
And so what we’re trying to do, what the President is trying to do is do everything that he can to make sure that we deal and attack and fight inflation. So that is our focus at the time.
Q I hear you. Just one last one on this. I understand that you guys did not — I understand that you did not predict that, but there were many economists — Larry Summers, among others — who were very clear in warning about the risks of inflation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so if we have learned anything the past two years, it’s that our globalized economy is tied to the world around us. Right? That’s the number one. You know, again, the variants of COVID; lockdowns, and shut- — and slowdowns in foreign countries due to the pandemic; Putin’s unprovoked invasion Ukraine — each of these events impact prices here at home and abroad.
It impacts the cost of food here at home, the supply of food abroad, the cost of gas here at home, and supply of oil around the world. Inflation is also a global issue. Inflation in Europe increased a record 8.1 percent in May, compared to last year. So that is how we’re looking at this. And this is also a global challenge.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Karine, just two questions. First, on baby formula, all of my colleagues’ questions have basically gotten to the same point, which is: People want to know who in this building knew what when in the leadup to the formula shortage. You’ve said that — that folks internally were on this since day one. You said that senior leadership in the administration was on it. But you also said that you don’t have that timeframe.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I said I don’t — you were — they were asking me specifically about the President. And I just don’t have that timeframe to share. What I can say is the White House began working on this from the first day of — of the recall, from day one of the recall, which was back in February.
Q Are you able to provide or commit to providing a timeline of who knew what when in this building?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, that’s the same question that MJ just asked me and I answered that question to her. I have laid down what has happened since the recall, which was on February 17th. I’ve laid that down. I talked about on February 18 with the USDA. I talked about WIC programs. I’ve laid out — I’ve laid down what happened — reminding folks what happened with Abbott and the factory, why we got here.
And I’ve also talked about what the FDA has said that they’re going to do — and they talked about that last week — which is look into this, make sure that we get to a place that we get to the bottom of what happened, do an after-action report. When that after-action report, we will have a lot more and that will come directly from them, and what they did and what they see could be done better.
So that’s the thing that’s really important. There will be an after-action report. We will be able to see exactly what happened from then — from their standpoint.
Again, we have been working on this since the first day of the recall on February 17th. That is our involvement here with the White House and — and FDA and what we’ve been trying to do.
Q And then, just lastly, on the Summit of the Americas, obviously this administration has been preparing for this for months. We’ve had many conversations about invitations to heads of state for months. We are now less than a week out of this, and there are still several significant, outstanding potential invitations. How did that happen that we’ve gotten so close to the 11th hour and you still haven’t decided whether to invite anyone from Venezuela, including the opposition leader who you recognize as the Interim President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think, if you’ve been following this administration for the past year and a half, one week is not the 11th hour when it comes to — when it comes to, you know, how things move.
And so, that is that is a lifetime away for us as a — as a White House. I think any White House would say that. And so, look, we still have some final considerations. And as soon as we have the final list, we will share that.
Look, you know, we’re gathering people together to focus on our collective responsibility to forge a more inclusive and prosperous future for the hemisphere. And that’s something also to note. I know, there’s always questions about the invite. There’s always question about who’s coming and who’s not. But we also should talk about and focus on what the — what the purpose of this meeting is. And that’s also critical and important.
But I have to tell you: A week away, that’s a lifetime. That’s a lifetime. And I think any administration would share that.
I’m going to try and go in the back. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Yesterday, there were leaders from Airlines for America and the U.S. Travel Association here at the White House for meeting staff, and they urged the administration to end the pre-departure COVID testing requirements for vaccinated travelers who are coming to the U.S. from overseas.
(A cellphone disrupts the briefing.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What was that? (Laughs.) Was that BTS? (Laughter.)
Q That was not my phone.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. That’s what she says, folks. (Laughter.)
Q Is the administration considering ending that requirement for COVID testing for international travelers?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’re constantly evaluating our policy. The pre-departure testing requirement remains in place, as we have it today. And any decision on pre-departure testing requirement would be made by our health and medical experts.
Q Is there a sense of how long that could and should remain in place at this point and what purpose it’s serving right now? The people in the United States can travel freely without any sort of testing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I don’t. It’s in constant — constant evaluation, as I just laid out. I don’t have anything more to share from here.
I’m trying to see who to go to. Go ahead. I don’t think I’ve called on you in a while. Go ahead.
Q Yeah. Oh, thanks, Karine. A question for you about this report out of California on reparations. I was wondering if the President has seen it, and if he would use it to guide any sort of executive action since the last thing he did on reparations was say that he supported study that Congress is potentially wanting.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, his stance on reparations and supporting the study hasn’t changed. I have not seen the California report. But his personal — his stance — policy stance has not changed on reparations.
Q Also, one more quick one. Deb Haaland has tested positive for COVID. Do you know when the — when the President and First Lady were last tested? Because they were with her on Monday. And would they be considered close contacts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I do not know when she last saw the President or the First Lady — Secretary Deb Haaland.
Q They were together on Memorial Day.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, were they? Okay.
Q There are pictures of them.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, great. Well, thank you for that reminder.
I know that — and we’ve said this multiple times: The President has a regular weekly cadence on testing that — that has been, you know, approved and talked with his doctor.
I don’t have when the last time he was tested.
Q And you weren’t aware about her positive test?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. This is — I’m just learning about this now.
Okay. I’m trying to see who else. Okay. You, sir, way in the back.
Q Thank you, Karine. Just one question. A few weeks ago, the State Department said that the U.S. did not look favorably on the construction of the EastMed oil pipeline from Israel to Cyprus to Greece, and then presumably to Europe. Has any of this changed as so many European countries try to wean themselves off Russian oil?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any more to share on that. I would have to check with our — with our policy folks at NSC. I do not know if that position has changed from what we’ve heard from the White House, but I would just have to check with the NSC to make sure.
Q From the State —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m so sorry, from the State Department?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, yeah I would — I would refer you to the State Department and check in with — with that — with them on that piece.
Q And not the NSC?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, because you said it was the State Department. I think I misheard. But I think you said that it was the State Department that had put out that announcement.
Okay. Oh, my goodness.
Q A question from the back —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q A question from the back —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If —
Q Yeah, sure. Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If you have a question.
Q I do. I do. But you’re — your finger is waving around a lot, so I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I’m trying to pick people I haven’t called on in a while —
Q No, you’re right. You’re absolutely right.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — so it’s fulsome — so people are getting a question.
Q I think (inaudible) —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q I’ll ask just one question. The — something the President mentioned when were in there now when he was talking about inflation — the wheat supplies or the food supplies. Can you talk specifically about — I guess he was referring to Ukrainian — the inability to export Ukrainian wheat.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Mm-hmm.
Q And that something had to be done about that.
Well, what the Ukrainian foreign ministers have been talking about this week about supposedly they’re in talks with other countries about navies going into the Black Sea and creating a corridor to get that wheat out. Is this something that is being discussed on any level in the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is something that I would actually have to go check on as well. That is not — I just don’t have an update on that as far as the wheat. That’s clearly something that we’ve been monitoring.
And we have said: Russia’s aggression on Ukraine has — has certainly raised prices, as we’ve talked about, on gases and food.
Wheat, I believe, is about a good percentage of — in Ukraine, a good percentage of the — of the kind of the global — the global market, and so we have seen prices go up.
I don’t have any update on that. I would have to check with — this time, I would have to check with NSC.
Q Can I ask you a question from the back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh my gosh.
Q Can I ask you a question from the back, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go — go ahead, Phil.
Q Thank you. I have a question about the President’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, but I wanted to ask a more general question first. And my more general question, which is, I think at the heart of a lot of things that you’ve been asked is: How serious does an issue have to be before it’s brought to the President’s attention?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just lay this out because I think this is really important, and I’ve said this multiple times: The reason that we are where we are with Abbott and this facility, with the baby formula, in this current situation — and we have seen production go up — again, the graphs that I showed — and are — and that has happened because of our involvement in what we were able to do.
Look, the market — there are four — four manufacturing facili- — companies. Just four. And that is something that we also have to address down the line. And this is something, as we talk about competition, the per- — the President has been very focused on.
But FDA, as I — as we’ve said, called out a safety hazard — a safety issue with Abbott, and they had to shut down one of their facilities. When that happens, they do all the things that happens when — when a — when a safety issue comes up, and Ab- — Abbott had to shut down that facility.
So that’s the thing. That’s why we got to where we got to. From the moment that we heard of the recall in February — on February 17th, as I’ve laid out, we took action. We took action, and we moved forward. And we did everything that we can. And I’ve laid out the — cut the red tapes.
And now we — the DPA — the Defense Production Act and other things that we’re — the flying in formula from across the board — all of those things — from abroad — all of those things were actions that we took to make sure that we dealt with this crisis.
But the government, the White House has been involved since they — we first learned about the recall. And so that is important to know.
The President deals with multiple crises. His administration deals with multiple crises.
When we walked in, a little bit over than a year ago, we talked about the economy; we talked about COVID; you know, we talked about climate change. All of the things that the President attacked and dealt with — and his White House dealt with on — all at once.
And we have seen his comprehensive plan when it comes to COVID and what we’ve been able to do in getting people vaccinated and boosted. We see where the economy is currently; now we’re in this transition.
All of those things are important to note — that there are always multiple crises happening that we are dealing with all at once.
Q Okay. And then on the Wall Street Journal op-ed. In that essay, the President reiterated that he supports the independence of the Federal Reserve. He called on Congress to pass tax credits. And he also called, again, for changes to the tax code to bring in more revenue, to drive down deficits. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these proposals aren’t exactly new. I mean, we’re coming up on a 40-year high of inflation. Does he have anything else in the pipeline?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I’m happy — and I’m happy to lay that out — lay that out as how he’s fighting inflation. Look, as you — as you just said —
Q But anything new that wasn’t reiterated in that op-ed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, well, I mean, let me — let me just — let me just tell you what we have been doing and what we will continue to do and what we know is important in order to fight inflation.
So, you mentioned it — giving the Fed the independence it needs to take the steps to bring down — to bring inflation down; pushing Congress to lower costs on things families rely on like prescription drugs, which we — you’ve heard us talk about, that eat up too much of Americans’ budgets; taking steps to stabilize the energy markets — for example, coordinating a historic release from the Strate- — Strategic Petroleum Reserves here in the United States and from countries around the world — all of these things matter.
And the lowering the deficit — this is a place where we have made notable progress, as we’ve talked about. More than $1.5 trillion in reduction in the deficit this year alone. And we want to keep making that progress, so that’s not going to end there.
And there’s more — other ways too. The lowering cost of high-speed Internet for 50 million fam- — 50 million families; building more than 1 million new — new affordable homes to help bring housing and rent prices down; helping America’s farmers increase crop yields to help bring down food prices; and fixing our supply chains to reduce the cost of moving goods to shelves and to families and homes. And we’re always looking at other things that we can do.
But these are actually action items that we have taken that are not small. That are — that shows the work that this President has done to really attack inflation.
We understand that there’s more work to be done. We understand what families are feeling right now. But we are doing the work to try and address this.
Q Karine, can I ask something that the administration launched today, please?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me see who else.
Q Thank you. So, today, the VP announced the launch of the Global Water Security Action Plan —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — which seems important because it essentially says that now the U.S. foreign policy will consider global water security as one of its core issues. Right? So, I guess I wanted some explanation from you as to why this was — will this be another element of the VP’s portfolio or is she just launching it? I mean, how do you — how are you guys dividing this up?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the First Lady had — I mean — “the First Lady,” my goodness.
The Vice President has, clearly, her own portfolio and things that she wants to attack that helps — that helps families; that helps, you know — that helps make sure that we’re — we’re delivering for the American people. And so, she has multiple things that she does. Clearly, that is something that’s going to be critical to foreign policy, critical to how it — how it tracks back here to the American public.
I can’t speak to — you know, I can’t speak to what — what her portfolio looks like and what things that she’ll be focusing on. There are so — there’s an array of issues to focus on. I would reach out to her office directly.
Q And then I have a follow-up on China.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q China has called for the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner to investigate mass shootings and gun violence in the U.S. So, can we get a reaction from you? So, this is, again, China requesting the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner to investigate mass shootings and gun violence in the U.S. Can we get a reaction?
And specifically, does the President consider gun violence as — you know, protection from gun violence as a part of human rights and a right to live?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he definitely has said that it is a — it is an epidemic. He’s called a public health — he called it a “public health epidemic.” So, he has taken this issue very seriously. He has laid out a comprehensive gun reform plan through executive actions. He has the most executive actions than any President at this time in this adminis- — administration.
He’s calling — he’s calling for Congress to act, and to continue the work that needs to be done on the legislative — on the federal side, whether it is a — whether it is expanding background checks; red-flag laws, as we’re hearing Congress talking about right now; making sure that we are keeping our children safe; we’re keeping, you know, churches and places where people go to — go to, like grocery stores or any public facility or even your home, safe.
And it is really important to this President. He’s made this a priority since he was a senator and a Vice President and now as President.
So this is something that he’s take —
Q But any specific comment on China?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I don’t have a — I don’t have — I’m not responding to — that.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re done. Thank you so much, guys. See you tomorrow.
Q Thank you.
Q Thank you, Karine.
Q Can you take questions from across the room next time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I did. I did. I took five questions —
Q I mean, you spent 30 minutes on the first and second row.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But I took Phil. I took your question.
Q And it seems like you don’t —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I took your question from your colleague right here.
Q — you don’t — you don’t respond to my e-mail. You don’t allow me to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not — I have not gotten an e-mail from you, Simon.
Q I’ve sent you e-mail that you haven’t seen. And you don’t even follow up after the briefing —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, maybe you have my wrong e-mail.
5:13 P.M. EDT