Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, June 6, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:34 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey! Okay. Good afternoon, everybody. Okay, I have one thing at the top for everybody.
So, I know a lot of people have been asking about the Summit of Americas. And you probably saw: Tonight, at six o’clock, there’ll be a background call with some of our experts, who — later today, clearly, at six o’clock — who will discuss the summit in detail and give you all the information that you wished for.
But I wanted to give a quick preview each day of the summit so you all have it now. And it will be arranged around five key areas that President Biden will focus on.
On Wednesday, the focus will be on economic agenda for the region and promoting health systems and health security.
Thursday will be responding to the climate crisis and combating food insecurity.
And Friday will focus on migration in the Western Hemisphere.
You can expect to see deliverables in those areas announced by the President and other members of his Cabinet on all the — all three days, relating to those focus areas.
And one final item of note: Later this afternoon — hoping before our background call at six — we will share the list of countries attending for — for the summit. I’m sure — I know everyone is excited about that. Everyone has been looking forward to that.
And also, we’re going to try and end this at 4:15. I want to make sure I get to people in the back, so I just want folks to be mindful. I want to make sure that we make our rounds and so that people can have their questions answered.
And, with that, Chris, you want to kick us off?
Q Okay. I just have two questions. So, given the people who are not going to the Summit — the President of Mexico; President of Honduras, who the Vice President recently spoke directly to — what does it say about the strength of the U.S. influence in the region if these people are deciding they don’t want to go?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just speak to the President of Mexico very quickly, because I have something in there for you.
We have had candid engagement with President López Obrador, as well with other regional partners, for more than a month regarding the issue of invitations to the summit.
It is important to acknowledge that there are a range of views on this question in our hemisphere, as there are in the United States. The President’s principal position is that we do not believe that dictators should be invited, which is the reason that he has — the president has decided not to attend.
We look forward to hosting Foreign Secretary Ebrard as the Mexican representative. And we welcome Mexico’s significant contribution to the summit — to the — to the major summit deliverables.
President Biden and First Lady — and the First Lady look forward to welcoming President Obrador and Fir- — and the First Lady of Mexico to Washington in July for a bilateral visit. At that meeting, President Biden and President Obrador will have the opportunity to carry the work forward for the summit.
To your second — to your other — to your actual question — I just wanted to make sure I dealt with Mexico because we had a little announcement there: The U.S. remains the most powerful force in driving hemis- — hemispheric actions to address core challenges facing the people of the Americas –inequality, health, climate and food security. And so, the President continues to be a leader in the hemisphere.
Q The other question is: Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if the West continues to deliver rocket systems, Moscow will “hit objects we haven’t yet struck,” possibly expand the attacks (inaudible). What is the administration’s thinking on that? How is the White House interpreting that comment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so I would refer you to the President’s op-ed that he did just last week — the New York Times — in which he laid out our objectives, which is — in Ukraine — and explain why we are sending Ukraine more advanced rocket systems and munitions. We are providing them with capabilities to help them defend their territory from Russia’s advances.
Remember, this is Russia’s advancement onto their sovereignty, onto their territorial integrity. This is Russia’s war.
And what we’re trying to provide — what we’re trying to provide with historic assistance to Ukraine is to — so that Ukraine could fight for their freedom.
Q Thanks, Karine. The compromise that is being worked on, on the Senate side, on Capitol Hill, sounds like it might include some incremental expansions to background checks, possibly maybe encouraging more states to adopt red-flag laws, but it wouldn’t be a major expansion of background checks or raise the purchasing age for semi-automatic weapons or ban magazines — large-capacity magazines.
How is the President thinking about a compromise like that? How disappointed would he be if it didn’t include many of the things that he just laid out the other night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just say that the President is encouraged by the discussions that are happening currently in the Senate by the bipartisan group that’s being led by Senator Murphy and other members, and it shows the urgency of the moment.
Look, so we have to remember that while there have been measured victories on gun violence prevention in recent years, there hasn’t been a wide-ranging bill passed since 1994. That’s almost three decades ago.
So the President has made it clear that it’s time for Congress to act. We’ve seen the House do — take some actions last week; they’re going to take some more actions this week.
And so, we can’t — he can’t do it — he can’t do it all alone, right? He has taken some actions — some executive actions, as we’ve talked about here. And he believes that Congress should continue to act. And we are going to see how the negotiations go. We’re going to give it the space that it needs. And we’re not going to speak to what exactly is being discussed — the pieces of legislation — but we are encouraged and we think these incremental steps, these steps that they’re taking, this conversation that they’re having is very important for the moment.
Q So does he consider this compromise that is potentially taking shape to be wide-ranging?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he — what he’s calling for, clearly — and we’ve heard him talk to this on Thursday when he talked about how it is “enough” and how, when he went to Texas, Uvalde, the parents that he met with for more than three hours asked — asked him to do something, asked for Congress to do something. And this is what we’re seeing now.
We believe Congress needs to act. And what we’re seeing is that they’re taking those actions by having this conversation, by having these negotiations to act.
And again, we’ve seen — we haven’t seen these types of steps in a long time. And so, the President is encouraged by it. He welcomes it. We have to see what the exact — what will come out of the negotiations.
Q And finally, you said he’s giving them space. You mean he’s not in regular communication —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’m —
Q — with either the Democrats or Republicans involved in that compromise?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’ll say this: What I can say is that, you know, what I’m — I’m not going to — as we, you know, we like to say, we don’t read out any private conversations.
But — and I mentioned this last week — our Office of Leg. Affairs — his Office of Leg. Affairs have been in constant communications. Since the Uvalde shootings, more than — dozens of conversations with leadership in Congress, with the negotiation — negotiators, and also with staff. So that has been continuing. So his — his staff is really — has been very involved in that.
One more thing I do want to add: Senator Chris Murphy was on one of the networks here, and he said that he has been in constant communication with us every day during these — this time of negotiation. And he also said that he believes it’s time for the Senate to make a move and it’s time for the Senate to take action.
Okay, let me just go around. I’m going to go back a little bit, but go ahead, Mary.
Q Just following up on that — I think trying to get a sense of how the President defines success when it comes to this issue. I mean, you note those pleas to do something. Is doing something — even if it is far short of, obviously, you know, sort of the sweeping legislation that the President is looking for — is that still a success in the President’s mind?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think the way that the President — and he has said this, right? — which is: Yes, he has laid down a sweeping list of actions. He did that very passionately and very effectively on Thursday. And what he is saying, because the parents — he heard directly from the parents in Uvalde, and families — is that they just want to see some action. They want to see that — that Congress actually can put their politics aside and come in a bipartisan way and deliver something.
And when you think about the red-flag law — I know Nancy was asking me about that — 72 percent of Americans want the red-flag law. And so, that’s — that’s encouraging. That is important.
And if — if you think about it, too — if you look at the shootings in the past: Parkland — if the red-flag law was in — was in place back in 2018, that would have prevented — if it was enacted, that would have potentially prevented that tragedy. So — and now Florida has that red-flag law, and it has prevented tragedy in the state.
So, there are things here that are very important, I think, that are going to have some impact. Does — of course, the President is always going to call for more, but we want to see action. And that’s — that’s what we’re hoping to see with the negotiation that’s currently happening in the Senate.
Q And on the timing of all this, Leader Schumer wants to give enough time for negotiators to try and find some common ground but also wants to be able to get especially Republicans on the record on where they stand here. How long does the President believe these talks should be able to continue if there isn’t a real formal agreement yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President wants action right away, as soon as possible. He doesn’t want to — clearly, the families don’t want to wait, who have lost their loved ones, sadly. But we leave the mechanism to how this process is going to work and move forward to Senator Schumer.
I’m just go to take — I’m going to go take some in the back here. Oh, my gosh. (Laughs.)
Go ahead, you with — you in the — I know you yelled a question at me when I was walking out the other day.
Q Real quick — yeah, so, on Chinese tariffs, I want to ask you about — the Commerce Secretary said the President has asked her to look into possibly removing tariffs on some imports coming in. If that happens, has there been conversations with the Chinese about them dropping their tariffs for U.S. products going into China?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I just don’t want to get ahead of that. I know the — when the Secretary was doing Sunday television yesterday, she spoke to this.
As she said, the President has asked her and others in the administration to look at this — to look at the Chinese tariffs. I do not want to get ahead of it. She even said the President is going to have to make a decision once it’s presented to him. I just don’t want to get ahead of any of that at this time.
Q All right. And one more on the Defense Production Act that was announced today. The President — what — taking a step back from that, what emergency is the President using to invoke the Defense Production Act? Because, historically, it’s been — in the 1950s, for the Korean War, and during COVID it was enacted. What emergency is it — what’s the real emergency in the solar industry for the Defense Production Act?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me — I was going to say, first, the President — you know, when he takes the Defense Production Act, it’s to make sure that he’s delivering for the American people. It is an important tool that he has used a couple of times, and it has been incredibly effective.
So, for this particular clean energy Defense Production Act, he is invoking the Defense Production Act to rapidly expand domestic production of solar panel parts, building insulation, heat pumps, and more. He is putting the full force of the federal government’s purchasing power behind supporting American clean energy manufacturers. And he is providing U.S. solar deployers the short-term stability they need to build clean energy projects and deliver more affordability energy to American families and business.
Altogether, these historic actions will cut costs for American families, strengthen our power grid, and tackle the climate crisis. And with a stronger clean energy arsenal, the United States can be an even stronger partner to our allies, especially in the face of Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Q But what’s the emergency in the solar industry?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, this is just a step to get to — to a place where we do have a clean energy arsenal. And so, this is a very important part of the President’s — this is a very important part of the President’s agenda in getting to that clean energy system that he’s been talking about since he walked into the administration. So, this is that, and this a way that we felt that we can act to get moving in that way.
I’ll come back up. Go ahead.
Q On the Summit of the Americas with the U.S. not inviting Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua for “principled reasons,” as it’s been described —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — about democracy, does the President feel in any way embarrassed that a neighbor like Mexico is not coming? Does it rise to that level of awkwardness?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just first say that the President was aware that — when speaking to Obrador — that he wasn’t going to attend. He was aware before the press conference was made, before he made his decision to make that announcement.
So, there was communication there, and he was made aware. Look, we have had candid engagement with the President of Mexico, as well with other regional partners, for more than a month regarding the issue of invitations to the summit.
It is important to acknowledge that there are a range of views on the question — in our — on this question in our hemisphere, as I mentioned earlier. The President’s principal position is what — we do not believe that dictators should be invited. That said, we look forward to hosting Foreign Secretary Ebrada- — Ebrard as the Mexican representative, and we welcome Mexico’s contribution to the major summit deliverables.
And so, I mean, at the end of the day, to your question, we just don’t believe dictators should be invited. And that’s — and so we don’t regret that, and we will stand — the President will stand by his principle.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q There was understandable skepticism — and, to some degree, pessimism — about the ability to get something related to guns over the finish line in the immediate wake of Uvalde. Has that shift — shifted at all inside the White House? Are you moving more towards an optimism, “this could actually get done” type of moment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President is going to continue to use the bully pulpit to call on action. That’s what we saw him do Thursday, and he has been doing that for this past year and a half. It is an issue that is a priority to him. This is why he has done the most executive actions than any President at this time.
You know, we are optimistic, we are encouraged, as I just mentioned, of what we’re seeing on the Hill. The House has taken some action; they’re going to continue to take some action. But as we know, in the Senate, it takes 10 Republicans to get things done, to get something like this — as big as this done.
So, again, we’re encouraged. Chris — Senator Murphy has been pretty positive. And so, we — you know, that is something that we listen to. And we’re going to continue having conversation from the staff level to members and staff on the — on the Hill.
Q And then one on a separate issue. On gas prices, I understand what the administration has done up to this point on the policy side of things. I also understand it’s a global marketplace.
Given the fact that they keep hitting new highs, are there new initiatives, new policy proposals that your team is working through right now that could possibly have an effect or that you could roll out in the weeks ahead if prices continue where they’ve been?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, everything is on the table, as you heard us — as you heard us say the last couple of weeks. But I do want to say: Look, you know, if you look at what happened when Putin started amassing troops on the border with Russia, the price of gas has increased by $1.51.
And I also want to add — because this is really important so that people understand and flag that similar issues are happening around the world.
In the EU, gas is $8.15 per gallon. It has increased by $1.74.
In Germany, gas is $8.88 per gallon. It has increased $2.16.
In Canada, gas is $6.23 per gallon. It has increased $1.93.
And all of this has happened since December of 2021. This is — to your point, Phil — which is — this is a global challenge. This is something that everyone is feeling across the globe. And — but we understand that prices — these gas prices, including food prices in particular — those two things, as we look at inflation and trying to make sure that we’re fighting inflation in every way that we can, is hurting families — is hurting families, especially as they sit around their kitchen table.
But we’re going to continue to do everything that we can. I don’t have anything to preview for you. But, you know, one thing also I want to say: The Rescue Plan has really been able to help us put — put us in a — in an economic — a place where we’re stronger.
And we saw that with the jobs numbers on Saturday — I’m sorry, on Friday — and that is an important thing to note as well. Because when the President walked in — and this is — you know, this is something that we have to really continue to remember — we were in an economic crisis. And the President met that moment by putting forth the American Rescue Plan, by Democrats on the Hill voting for that plan, and really putting us in a place where we look at today in a much stronger economic situation where we can actually deal with inflation head on.
We have a lot of work to do, and we understand what the American people is feeling, but we are in a stronger place to take that on.
Q Karine —
Q Karine, to the back.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh — oh, my gosh. Okay, let me just go to the back. Let me just go to the back. I’m trying.
Go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah, I haven’t seen you in here in a while. So —
Q It’s been a while, yeah.
So, a Washington Post feature over the weekend showed that the U.S. still has 94 contracts with the Saudi military and that Americans have been helpful in the coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen. The admin has said the U.S. support is only defensive. Is the Post report wrong on (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait. Say that last part. I didn’t — you kind of went out a little bit.
Q Yeah. The admin has said the U.S. support is on the defensive.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say — wait, say that whole — can you just say the whole thing? You said —
Q Sure, sure.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — 94 percent.
Q Sure, sure, sure. So, a feature in the Washington Post this weekend —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — showed that the U.S. still has 94 contracts —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q — with the Saudi military, and Americans have been helpful in the coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen. But the admin has said it’s only — support is only defensive. So, is the Post wrong on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me speak to the Washington Post piece — is that U.S. diplomacy under our administration has established a ceasefire in Yemen and the most peaceful period there — there has — that we have seen in six years.
So, I think the results of our approach speak for themselves, but I can’t speak to what has happened earlier before the — prior to this administration, earlier years of the war.
And just to your point about aircrafts and what’s happening there — and even training pilots — I know that’s been part of the discussion as well: Look, we are committed to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory. Since last year, Saudi Arabia was attacked by nearly 500 missiles and drones. Most of these threats were defeated by the anti-air systems and Saudi aircraft firing air — in-air munitions. Seventy thousand Americans lives and work — live and work in Saudi Arabia, including in the areas targeted by these missiles and drones.
So, we’re going to continue that support because they — because of — because they need to defend themselves and what they’re seeing.
Q And one more on Saudi. What evidence can the White House point to that repairing relations with Saudi Arabia will lead to reduced gas prices here in the United States?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, when it comes to oil or gas prices, that’s something that OPEC-Plus deals. We do not get involved in any of that. That is not the conversations that we have with Saudi Arabia. And I know they — OPEC-Plus made an announcement last week, on Friday, and we welcome that announcement. But that is not a part of our agenda when we have a discussion with them.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
Hold on. Hold on. Oh, my goodness.
Go ahead. Go ahead, Jenny.
Q Thanks, Karine. Back to the Summit of the Americas: With Mexico and Honduras not coming and El Salvador not being expected, how do you have a high-level or effective immigration discussion with the region, with the presidents of Mexico and two thirds of the Northern Triangle countries boycotting this event?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think we’re able to still — you know, we’re able to still have an array of conversations and really focus on our agenda.
I do want to list out who are — who is going to be attending. I know we’re going to have a list fairly shortly, I hope. We’re going to have 68 delegations, including organizations and observers, are scheduled to attend. We have at least 23 heads of state of government — heads of — I’m — I should be careful here — heads of government who will be attended — attending. And more than 10 U.S. Cabinet members will attend, reflecting President Biden’s whole-of-government approach.
So I listed out each day what our agenda is going to be, what we’re going to discuss, which is also very important. But we are going to have on par — our attendance is going to be on par of what we’ve seen in the past. And so, that’s important to know.
Yes, you know, we have these — you know, these — these couple of countries who are not going to be attending, but we have to — the President has to stick by his principle. He believes that he needs to stick by his principles and not invite dictators. But we can still have a fulsome conversation. There is a full agenda where he’s going to be very busy.
I was looking at his calendar; he’s going be very busy those three days. And he’s looking to having conversations with other heads of states who will be there.
Q And then, one more on the DPA action that you announced today. Invoking the DPA and imposing this two-year freeze on any new tariffs is a pretty novel way of using these wartime powers to declare the lack of solar goods a national emergency. Should we expect similar actions from this administration when it comes to other clean energy imports or goods that we import that are facing tariffs or could be facing tariffs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I don’t have anything to — to preview — anything more coming forward. But I do want to talk about how this is going to work.
So, the first step is to invoke the Defense Production Act, which is what the President is going to do today — is doing today. This kicks off a process that includes relevant federal agencies and stakeholders to quickly determine most immediate needs and identify the appropriate financial tools and resources to meet those needs.
As that process unfolds, we will, of course — we will use — we will continue to work with Congress to advance these important priorities, which are necessary to position the United States to win the 21st century.
So I just wanted to give — I know some folks had questions about how the DPA was going to act.
Q I just want to get back to what you said a minute ago with Saudi Arabia. I mean, finding more oil and getting that to market is such a key part of the broader strategy with Russia right now. When OPEC-Plus made that announcement, you put out a statement saying, “We recognize the role of Saudi Arabia…in achieving this consensus.”
You’re saying, when the President, when senior administration officials are talking to people in Saudi Arabia, the question of oil production never comes up?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m saying it’s not — it’s not the — it’s not the focus; it’s not the — on the agenda, right? That’s something for OPEC-Plus to decide. Clearly, Saudi Arabia chairs that. And so, we just want to be very clear on that.
And I was asked the same question last week, and I pretty much said the same thing. And so, that’s — you know, I’m just going to leave it there.
Q Okay. And then a quick question on the — on the solar announcement today. I understand the policy reasons for the announcement, but given how many times the administration, the Commerce Department said, “We want to be really careful to not get in the way of this investigation” — I think the Secretary said, “My hands are tied when it comes to this” — can you just explain the administration’s thinking in how this two-year pause and guarantee doesn’t undermine an investigation into those tariffs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so the President is invoking an authority under the Tariff Act that authorizes him to suspend certain important duties to address an emergency. In this case, the emergency is the threat to the availability of sufficient electricity-generation capacity to meet expected customer demand. So that’s the emergency there.
The President’s action will help ensure that we have the solar capacity additions necessary to meet our electricity and generate — and generation needs.
So, the President is invoking section three- — 318(a) of the Tariff Act, and that’s how we’re moving forward.
I’m going to move aro- — I’m going to move around.
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to — I’m going to move around.
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m goi- — go ahead, Steven.
Q Just to follow up on Saudi Arabia: It’s been reported as fact that the President has decided he is going to go this summer. You said on Friday it was still a possibility. Can you give us a sense of where that decision stands today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we have no travel to — to announce today. But I can assure you that what the President is focused on is — first and foremost is how his engagements with foreign leaders advance American interests. That is — that as — as true with Saudi Arabia with — than anywhere else — than any — with anyone else.
Just as he has engaged recently with leaders of ASEAN in Asia — and this week, he’s going to do that at the Summit of Americas — the President will look for opportunities to engage with leaders from the Middle East region. And we just ha- — don’t have anything to announce today.
But I do want to be — make — you know, be clear here: People have been asking if it was postponed. You — look, he said — the President said himself on Friday — I believe, yes, Friday — that the — that there was a — a visit in the works. But it was — it was — it wasn’t moved or postponed. It was — that — that reporting is actually not accurate. We were still having discussions, it was being considered, but it was never locked in. So I just want to be very clear on that.
Q Just to follow up: Congressman Schiff said, on “Face the Nation” yesterday, the President should not go to Saudi Arabia, and that he would not shake the Crown Prince’s hand. He said, “This is someone who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way.” How does that weigh on the President’s thinking about a possible trip?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, Congressman Adam Schiff is someone that we — we respect very much, that the President respects very much. As the President said on Friday, he believes it’s his job to try to bring peace where he can.
This trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, when it comes, would be in the context of significant deliverables for the American people and the Middle East region.
You know, we look forward to consulting closely with members of Congress. But again, I don’t have a trip right now to announce. So there’s really — I don’t want to get ahead of something that we’re just — don’t have anything for — to share.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Back to guns and the Capitol — what’s going on there. Senator Toomey said on “Face The Nation” this weekend that the President has actually not been helpful, that the speech was too left leaning. And I’ve know I’ve had sources — and including some Democrats — who also feel like this White House has not really helped talks, whether it be on this or Build Back Better.
Can you can you respond to Senator Toomey’s idea that the President has not been helpful? And also, just what is the President doing to try and build this compromise? Or is staying away from the Capitol what he’s doing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, so we would respectfully disagree with Senator Toomey. We’ve been in close, regular contact, dozens of conversations that our Office of Leg Affairs has had with Senate — Senate negotiators, leaders of Congress, since Uval- — since, sadly, the shooting in Texas, in Uvalde. So they’ve been in constant communication while this has been happening.
And, you know, we’re calling for action that broadly shared by — by the vast majority of Americans. According to a CBS/YouGov poll out this weekend, 81 percent of Americans want universal background checks. As I mentioned, 72 percent want a national red-flag law; 62 percent want a nationwide ban on AR-15s; and, importantly, 72 percent agree that mass shootings are something we can prevent. And the President agrees, and this is why he’s calling for them to act.
But the President has been involved — or, in- — involved in this since day one. Since the day — since day one, when he walked in and talked about comprehensive gun reform and what he was going to do. Again, the State of the Union — you’ve heard me talk about — say that he made sure that that was a par- — a big part of his address to Congress and to the country.
When he — when we talk about the executive actions that he’s taken — more than any president at this time of their administration — those are real steps that this president has taken. And not just as president, during his Senate years, in 1994, the banning of assault weapons; that is something that he led on.
And if we even look at what happened those first 10 years of that — of that assault
ban weapon [weapons ban] was in law — into law, it actually brought down mass shootings. And when it — when it expired in 2- — in 2004, 10 years later, we saw mass shootings triple.
And so these are the things that the President continues to call for.
But he’s encouraged. He’s encouraged by what he’s seeing in Congress. Again, we’ve been in constant communications; Senator Murphy said this yesterday during one of his Sunday show interviews.
And so, we’re — but we’re going to continue to do our part. The President is going to continue to use the — his bully pulpit to call for action, which he did on Thursday.
Q Karine, on Boris — on Boris Johnson?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, on Boris Johnson.
Q Thank you. It just came over the wire: Prime Minister Johnson has survived a no-confidence vote among Tory MPs, 211 to 148. Was the President concerned that he might be removed? And does he have any plans to speak with him?
And is the President concerned that perhaps his weakened standing — 148 conservative MPs wanting to remove him — might hurt the attempts to keep this coalition that the President has built, with respect to Ukraine, together if the possibility of a leadership change in the UK government remains?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to comment — we are not going to comment on inter- — inter- — internal politics. I would refer you to the UK government. We just are not going to comment on that.
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my — go ahead. Go ahead. I haven’t seen you in here in a while. Yeah. Yeah.
Q Oh, yeah. Thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, please go ahead.
Q Back to the summit. You spoke about a month or so of engagements between U.S. and Mexico. I wonder if you can talk about the tone and timbre of those conversations, particularly if the President or the Vice President talked to President López Obrador.
And I have another question too about the summit.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, look, you know, I don’t have any conversations to read out to you. We try to keep our — as we say over and over again, we try to keep our conversations private. I don’t have any readout for you on the tone or tenor of a conversation. And I don’t have a — you know, I don’t have any calls to read out that the President may have had with any — with the Mexican President in particular.
Q And Senator Menendez accused, you know, López Obrador of siding with dictators, and said that, you know, his actions will, you know, have a negative impact on U.S.-Mexico relations. Does the United States or the White House share, you know, that assessment or have worries about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This is — say that one more time.
Q Yeah. Senator Menendez said —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Yeah.
Q — accused López Obrador of siding with dictators and it will have a negative impact on U.S.-Mexico relations. I wonder what the White House feels about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we see our relationship with Mexico — they — we see them as a close ally, as a partner. They’re coming here in July with the — the President is coming with his first — with the First Lady. They’re going to continue to talk about the opportunity to carry out the work of the summit forward. And so, we see them as a friend and a close ally.
Q Karine, in your description of the three countries that were not invited, you said President has drawn a line at dictatorship, which is basically taking the moral position and putting that in a priority above, say, getting more oil from Venezuela and so forth.
But when you got to Saudi Arabia, you said you were looking to work for the American people toward a better solution. Does this suggest that the President, who called Saudi Arabia a “pariah state,” does not believe it is a dictatorship or believes that, for whatever its governance’s shortcomings, obtaining the oil is more important?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you — as you started off saying, the President is focused on getting things done for the American people. You know, and if he determines that it’s in the interest of the United States to engage with a foreign leader and that such enga- — such an engagement can deliver results, then he’ll do so.
In the case of Saudi Arabia — to your question — which has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly 80 years, there’s no question that important interests are interwoven with Saudi Arabia. And the President views the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an important partner on a host of initiatives that we are working on, both in the region and around the world.
And as I said on Friday, the extension of the “Yemen Truce,” as we — as we talked about, is a clear example of where our engagement with a foreign leader can deliver results. Ending the Yemeni war is a priority of the President’s. And the King of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Crown Prince played a critical role in securing an extension of the truce that has been in place since April.
This truce brought about one of the most peaceful periods since this terrible war began seven years ago and saved thousands of lives.
The President has also repeatedly confirmed our commitment to supporting Saudi Arabia in the defense of its territory from Iran and other threats, as I just laid out a moment ago.
There’s also no question that, as with many countries where we share interests, we have concerns about its human rights record — that is a very — a very important thing to the President — and past conduct, much of which predated our administration. And we raised those concerns with them, as we do with others.
And, of course, there are also strategic priorities that are important to address. And our contacts and diplomacy have intensified recently, and that will continue.
I’m going to continue because I want to get around. We have about 10 minutes.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the White House have a reaction to Russia imposing personal sanctions on Secretary Yellen, Secretary Granholm, and others in the U.S.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I — I have not seen that, so I don’t have a comment from here on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Does the war effort and the attack over the weekend by Russia in Kyiv give the White House pause about the status of the battle between those two countries and influence additional U.S. support, perhaps, for Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Russia continues to make incremental gains and limited progress in certain areas of Ukraine. That’s why we are continuing to provide deliveries of weapons and equipment as quickly as possible. So, that has not changed; we’re going to continue to do that.
And it’s why Secretary Austin and the Department of Defense have organized meetings with more than 40 countries to facilitate weapons transfers from our Allies and partners to help Ukraine defend the democracy — their democracy.
We are committed to make sure that Ukraine is able to fight for their freedom. This is the — this is coming from the President’s New York Times article last week.
Again, this is Russia’s aggression on Ukraine sovereignty, on their territorial integrity. This — they are fighting for their democracy. And so, we’re going to do everything that we can to put them in a position of strength so that they can defend themselves. And if there is an opportunity for them to negotiate, they would be able to do that at a — in a position of strength.
Q Thank you, Karine. On the solar panels, how is this not a gift to Chinese solar manufacturers who — many of whom operate with forced labor and are subsidized by the Chinese Communist Party?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, today’s announcement is about one country and one country alone, and it’s about the United States.
It is about the reliability of our power — of our power grid. It is about reducing costs for American families, and it’s about enabling domestic solar manufacturers to move forward with their projects.
The actions that we’re — we are currently doing is being applauded by members of Congress, by labor, by climate groups, by U.S. CEOs, and domestic solar manufacturers as well.
The — the actions do not apply to any materials imported from China. Import duties will remain in place on solar cells and panels from China or Taiwan. So it has nothing to do with either; it’s about making sure that we’re delivering for the American public.
Q And then on the summit: Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela aren’t getting invites because of their human rights records — I know you just got a question on this — but then how does it make sense to then have the President visiting with Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA says ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? How does it make sense to deny those countries and then have a visit with the Crown Prince?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, first of all, there’s no — there’s no trip for me to announce. That’s what I’ve said. The President even said that, you know, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here when he was asked specifically about meeting with MBS.
Q So he may — he may not do it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying that I just don’t have anything — it’s a hypothetical, and I just don’t have anything to announce or to speak to about a meeting. You said, “He’s going to be meeting with…” I’m telling you I don’t have anything to announce at this —
Q Are there some in the administration who say he shouldn’t be meeting with him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just — you asked me about Khashoggi. Let me just say this: When the President came into office, we were determined to make sure that our decades-long relationship with Saudi Arabia was serving our own interests and our values as we move forward, but also preserving it, because it has also help us accomplish many important things, and that’s largely what we’ve done.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was something that we and so many others around the world took very, very seriously. One of the things that we did early on was to release our own report on this murder. At the same time, we initiated the so-called “Khashoggi ban” to make sure that any country that seeks to use tools of repression against people abroad who are criticizing, in one — one way or another, the government would pay a price for that. And we’ve used it multiple times since.
At the same time, we thought it was very important to engage Saudi Arabia. Yemen was one of the most important places that we wanted to do that, and we’ve seen, as a result of our work with Saudi Arabia, is a real progress in actually dealing with one of the worst conflicts in — the world has seen over the last decade.
I’m going to take one more question.
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m trying to go to somebody I haven’t called in — on in a long time.
I haven’t seen you in a while. So —
Q Thanks. I want to go back to the solar energy announcement.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q We’re seeing big increases in electricity rates in many places around the country for the summer. Regulators are warning about an elevated chance of blackouts this summer, particularly in the Western and Midwestern states. The DPA announcement today isn’t going to have any kind of immediate impact on those events. So I’m wondering if there are actions that the administration can take that would address those issues this summer and if that’s something that you’re working on.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I said earlier that, you know, we will cont- — we’re going to continue to work with Congress to advance important priorities. So that’s going to continue as well.
But the steps we’re taking today are in response, you know, to an urgent need of — to grow the domestic clean energy economy and strengthen U.S. energy security. They are part of the President’s multi-pronged approach to accelerating the transition to a cleaner — a clean energy future made right here in America.
This is particularly urgent given the impact of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine on the global energy supply, as well as the intensifying — the impacts of climate change on the electricity grid.
So this is just one part. We’re going to continue to call — call on Congress to make sure that they are also acting. But this is an important first step in getting to our goal.
Q Does it have an impact this summer on —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just say — I — what I would say is: This is an important first step. I don’t have the specifics on when it will have an impact, but this is an important step to getting to where we need to make sure that we are actually heading to a place where we’re getting to a clean energy.
That’s it. All right.
Q (Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to go. We’re going to get going, guys. It’s time.
4:16 P.M. EDT