James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:13 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello. Good afternoon. Okay. As I’m sure you all have seen, there has been a few important foreign policy announcements over the last couple of days. And so, we were unable to have a full briefing yesterday, and I wanted to make sure you all had an opportunity to ask some questions on all of our foreign policy news.
So, today, we’re happy to have here, join me at the podium, Mr. John Kirby — Admiral Kirby. he likes to call me “Ma’am,” so I call him “Kirby.” I’m sure he’ll call you guys “sir” and “ma’ams” as well.
He is the — as you all know, the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications. Not only does he have an extensive military background, but he also has experience at the State Department.
And he is happy to take a few questions. Kirby, I’m going to leave you to it.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you. Hey, everybody.
Q Good to see you.
MR. KIRBY: Pardon me?
Q Good to see you.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, you too. (Laughs.)
Listen, just a — just a note off the top. I think you saw the statement, but I think it’s worth reiterating: The President had a very good call today with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
It was an opportunity for President Zelenskyy to update President Biden on what’s going on on the battlefield and on the ground, and to talk to the President about Ukraine’s security requirements and capabilities going forward.
The President also, obviously, took this opportunity to inform President Zelenskyy that we’re announcing today, I think you saw, a billion dollars in additional security assistance to support Ukraine’s armed forces in their brave defense of their country.
Now, that includes a drawdown of security assistance valued up to $350 million — that’s where the Department of Defense pulls from their stocks; as well as $650 million in equipment that’s provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds — that’s where the Pentagon will go out and procure material according — in that amount to then just provide directly to Ukraine. So, there are two different buckets of that billion dollars.
Now, this is the 12th time that President Biden has authorized presidential drawdowns to help Ukraine defend its democracy. And that brings the total amount of security assistance that we’ve provided to Ukraine to approximately $5.6 billion just since Russia launched its assault in late February, and then approximately $6.3 billion since the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration.
The President also informed President Zelenskyy that the United States is going to send an additional $225 million in lifesaving humanitarian assistance to help people inside Ukraine obtain safe drinking water, critical medical supplies, healthcare, food, shelter, and all kinds of other essential items.
I think you all realize the scope of the numbers of internally displaced people just inside Ukraine, let alone the millions that have had to leave Ukraine.
So, since February 24th, the United States has now, then, provided more than $914 million in humanitarian assistance to address the needs of people in Ukraine and for those who have had to flee. So, that’s almost a billion dollars just in humanitarian assistance.
And with that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Ready?
MR. KIRBY: I’m ready.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Who had a question?
Q Thank you, sir.
MR. KIRBY: You bet.
Q My question is more about the temperature in Europe surrounding as you guys are continuing to crank up aid. But today, President Macron said that, at some point, Ukraine’s President will have to negotiate with Russia. And that seems quite different from what President Biden and many administration officials — including, I think, you — have said about the need of stressing not telling the Ukrainians what to do. Would the administration prefer the French and also other Europeans to sort of dial down the nudging?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I think we’ll let other foreign leaders speak for themselves and — and for their countries and for their national interests. I think that’s appropriate.
But nothing has changed about President Biden’s view here — is that “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” and that Ukraine is a sovereign country. President Zelenskyy is the democratically elected leader of that country, and he gets to determine how this war ends. He gets to determine how he defines victory and how he gets at that outcome.
Q Okay, just real quick, another small associated Russia question. Navalny confirmed today on Telegram that he was moved to a maximum-security prison in Vladimir, I believe. Have you guys been able to confirm that?
And second, is there any sort of response to the Russians moving him into even stricter confines?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, well, we’re not — I don’t think we’re in a position to absolutely confirm the reports. Certainly, we’re also in no position to refute them at this time. Obviously, Mr. Navalny is speaking for himself.
But I will tell you, we continue to reiterate our demand for his immediate and unconditional release from — from being imprisoned over spurious charges after a sham trial. And the Russian — Russian authorities ought to immediately end their harassment and intimidation against him and his supporters and, again, continue to call for his immediate and unconditional release.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q I had a question about U.S. national security. How is it that you guys have determined that it’s in the U.S. national security interest to ask Saudi Arabia to drill more oil instead of just letting oil companies drill more here in the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I think you know, Peter, there’s some 9,000 unused drilling permits here in the United States as well.
Look, the oil production issue is a global issue. And OPEC+
3 has already increased preset increases by more than 50 percent just for July and August. And we’re grateful to Saudi Arabia’s leadership on that. But we’ve never said that — we’ve never said it’s a national security interest that somebody has to pump more oil.
And again, there’s — there’s unused permits here in the United States.
Q And — but as a national strategic issue then, how is it in the — how much lower can we let the Strategic Petroleum Reserves get before that becomes a problem?
MR. KIRBY: I think I would refer to the President’s energy advisors on something like that, Peter. I don’t — I don’t know what the inventory is. But I do, you know, remind — and I think you know this — the President did tap into the Strategic Oil Reserves to try to relieve some of the pressure at the pump, and he’ll use a range of tools available to him going forward.
I think that’s about the best I can do on that.
Q Thanks, Karine. I have a Saudi question. But first, can you comment, or what does the White House have to say, about these two Americans that have been captured that were fighting alongside Ukrainian forces? They’re missing. They are feared captured by the Russians.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I can’t confirm the reports, Kaitlan. Just was made aware of them before I came out here. We’ll do the best we can to monitor this and see what we can learn about it. And — well, without getting into a hypothetical, obviously, if it’s true, we’ll do everything we can to get them safely back home.
I do think, however, that this is an important point in time to remind that we discourage Americans from going to Ukraine and fighting in Ukraine. It is a war zone. It is — it’s combat. And if you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there’s any number of other ways to do that that are safer and just as effective.
I — we just — Ukraine is not the place for Americans to be traveling.
Q And has the President been made aware of these reports?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not aware that the President has been made aware of it. I mean, it just — it just broke — broke. So, I don’t know.
Q And my question on Saudi Arabia: Why not have the President go there and just not meet with the Crown Prince?
MR. KIRBY: The President is going to Saudi for the GCC — the GCC+3, to be honest. It’s nine states in the region. There’s a big agenda there, Kaitlan, on the Gulf Cooperation Council. It’s counterterrorism. It’s climate change. Certainly, it’s — oil production, obviously, is going to be on the agenda.
And — and a big item on the agenda is the war in Yemen. We got a ceasefire now that’s been in place for two months, got extended another two. That’s a big deal. That’s thousands of lives now in Yemen. So —
Q I understand there’s a lot to talk about. But why — if the President won’t even speak to the Crown Prince on the phone, why would he go and meet with him in person?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I was kind of getting there. So, in addition to the GCC meeting, there’ll be a series of bilateral discussions, as there are on the sidelines of all cooperation councils and summits.
He will have a bilateral meeting with King Salman and King Salman’s leadership team. And the Crown Prince is on that leadership team, so you can expect that he will see the Crown Prince while he’s there.
Q But he could ask for the Crown Prince not to be in the room, given the CIA has concluded he authorized the murder of a reporter that lived in Virginia.
MR. KIRBY: He’s going to have a series of bilateral discussions with the kings — the King and his leadership team. The Crown Prince is the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia, and one would expect that he would need to be in the room for those meetings.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Trevor Hunnicutt, from Reuters. Just wanted to close the loop first on the meeting that President Biden had with Bolsonaro of Brazil last week.
There has been some reporting that suggested that Biden told Bolsonaro that he would reexamine steel tariffs — Brazilian steel tariffs — and that Bolsonaro asked him for support in the October election against Lula. Are either of those things true?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I think we gave a pretty fulsome readout of that meeting when — the trip that Karine — Karine was on. I don’t have anything more to add than what was in the readout.
Q (Inaudible) about those two issues, but not —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I’m not going to go beyond the readout.
Q And then, on China tariffs, we know that that’s something that the President is looking at. Could you talk a little bit about, one, the scope of the tariffs that he is looking at and if you expect that that will be finalized by, say, the end of July?
MR. KIRBY: I would just go so far as to say is the — the President wants to make sure that if we have tariffs in place, that they’re serving our interests and the interests of the American people. And — and he wants to make sure that as he reviews the — a tariff regime, that it’s — that it’s meeting those needs. And I think he’s going to keep his mind open, but I don’t have any more detail than that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll take some in the back. Go ahead.
Q Thanks very much. Two quick questions, please. One on — following the latest Xi-Putin call, where apparently Xi was talking about expanding cooperation with the Russians, has — has there been any sign so far and do you see any sign coming that China is actually helping Russia militarily in any shape or form?
MR. KIRBY: No. We haven’t seen any indication that there’s been specific military assistance provided by China to Russia.
Q Thank you.
And the other question: Could you give a little bit more on the President’s comments yesterday about these grain silos being — the plans to build grain silos on the borders of Ukraine? What’s the timescale of that? And what’s the scale of that? And how much difference would it make?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Look, I think we’re working real hard –not just with the leadership in Ukraine, but in the region — to try to relieve the pressure that has resulted from Mr. Putin literally weaponizing food.
And so, the President is looking at a range of options here to — to try to see if we can get grain out and into the market. And that’s a — that’s tricky business. That’s not going to be easy. I mean, he’s essentially got a blockade in the Black Sea where it’s not going out by — by sea. So that doesn’t leave you a whole lot of other options. And we’re working through — with the international community to do that.
I don’t have any additional information on options about temporary silos, but I can tell you that, again, the President is keeping an open mind here. He wants to do everything he can to try to get that grain to market.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nadia. Nadia.
Q Thank you. Hi, John. Despite your — going back to Ukraine — despite your announcement today of the military aid to Ukraine, it seems that Europe is divided between two camps. They call it the “peace camp,” led by France and Germany, Italy; and the “justice camp,” led by Poland and others, which is — basically, some wants Ukraine to negotiate and others want them to continue fighting.
Where does the United States stands? And the fact that you keep supplying them with weapons, does that mean that you are with Poland and the Baltic States and others?
MR. KIRBY: Look, the President is on the side of the people of Ukraine, and he wants to make sure that — that we’re doing everything we can to help Ukraine’s armed forces succeed on the battlefield and to give them — if and when this gets to a negotiation — that they have the leverage and the position they need in that.
But ultimately, Nadia, that’s going to be up to Mr. Zelenskyy to determine. He is the democratically elected leader of a sovereign state, and their sovereignty is what’s at risk right now. And he wants to make sure that that sovereignty is preserved, that they — that they get to decide what that looks like here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q I wanted to ask you about this, sort of, ongoing question of an investigation around the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera journalist and U.S. citizen.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q I know that Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that he would look for an independent investigation. And I was wondering if you all could explain what type of investigation this administration wants. I know a number of news outlets — Washington Post, CNN, AP — have come out for new investigations. And then also, we’ve seen Mitt Romney and I believe it was Jon Ossoff write a letter to the administration calling for an investigation. So what type of investigation would you want? What does an independent investigation look like?
MR. KIRBY: What — what we want is, obviously, for this to be fully investigated and if there needs to be accountability had, accountability had at the end of that investigation.
We’ve called for thorough, complete, transparent investigations into her death. And we’re going to be watching this very, very closely. I don’t have any additional details on what an independent investigation would look like.
MR. KIRBY: I just don’t have that for you today. But I don’t want you to walk away thinking that we don’t want this fully investigated and for that investigation to be thorough and transparent.
Q Is this something the President intends to discuss on his trip? I mean, he is going to two countries, as Kaitlan mentioned, where journalists have recently been killed and there has been a lot of public outcry. And I know you all talk a lot here about press freedoms — and I’m sure we all appreciate it — but I’m just curious how that’s going to come up both in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
MR. KIRBY: It means a lot to President Biden — press freedom. And I won’t get ahead of the President’s specific discussions on this trip. I can just tell you that — that his foreign policy is really rooted in values — values like freedom of the press; values like human rights, civil rights. And he’s not going to be bashful about raising those issues with any foreign leader anywhere in the world.
Q Thanks. I want to ask you about — Turkish President Erdoğan today said that his concerns about Sweden and Finland joining NATO have not been assuaged. So how much less optimistic are you now that accession talks might begin before this month’s summit in Madrid? And does the U.S. plan to get more directly involved to try and resolve that dispute?
MR. KIRBY: We’re still optimistic that — that these issues will be able to be worked out, and that Finland and Sweden will be able to join NATO. Now, I couldn’t give you a date certain here and a time, but I think we’re still optimistic that they’ll be able to work this out.
And we know that both countries are working directly with Turkey to try to address those concerns. And I think — we think, at this point, it’s better left to them as sovereign nations to do that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Ed, the last question.
Q Two — two on Ukraine. And welcome to the room. Going back first to — you talked about food and how it’s being weaponized by Putin in Ukraine, and that there are U.S. officials starting to discuss how to get grain and whatnot out of —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — Ukraine and to the areas of the world that need it. A big area of that world that needs it also happens to be countries that will be at that conference in Saudi Arabia and OPEC-producing countries.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q Can you say any more about what’s being considered or what’s being done, potentially, to get that out and whether — or to what extent that agreement stretches regionally, beyond Ukraine and the United States being concerned about it?
MR. KIRBY: What I can say is that we’re working very hard inside the international community here to try to find solutions. And, you know, you’ve heard us talk about this quite some time, and I talked about it even from my previous perch at the — at the Pentagon. It’s difficult to do when you’re talking about a country that’s at war. I mean — and we’ve already seen the ability of the Russians to strike long-range targets all the way to the west of — in the country.
So this has to be — everybody has — everybody understands the sense of urgency here and the importance of it, but there also has to be some very careful thought put into how you’re going to do this. And you’re going to have to have international cooperation and support to do it, particularly if you’re looking at ground routes.
So, while I don’t have a specific plan to brief you today, or a set of, you know, options here, I can assure you that, again, the President is keeping an open mind. He’s working directly with his interlocutors around the world to try to find ways to get this grain to market.
We all understand how important it is. We’re all mindful of the sense of urgency here, not just from an economic perspective, but from — from a humanitarian perspective. I mean, this — this is food. This is — this is sustenance for people and their livelihoods.
So we’re working it really, really hard.
Q Potentially (inaudible) especially in North Africa and the Middle East politically (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: I mean, well, around the world, certainly, but in the region and in North Africa.
Q One other. You mentioned all the money that’s being distributed and the — a billion more today. Does the White House currently foresee the need for Congress at some point to pass another major multi-billion-dollar aid package (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: You know, I don’t think we’re there yet. I mean, we’re just now beginning to spend on the $40 billion supplemental that Congress approved, and we’re grateful for that, of course.
You will see additional packages coming on — on a fairly routine basis here. And we want to meter it out so that we’re in lockstep with the Ukrainians and where they are on the battlefield and what they need in real time.
That’s why conversations like today with President Zelenskyy are so important; the contact group that Secretary Austin is hosting right now in Brussels — 50-some odd nations; also putting forward other materials for security assistance.
But you need to do it — because it’s a war and it’s active combat, and it changes from day to day, you kind of need to do it in almost real time.
So we’re going to meter these out over time to — so that we’re appropriately meeting what Ukraine needs. And right now, I just don’t think we’re at a stage where we think we need to go back for more at this time.
Q But in terms of that $40 billion, none of it has been spent yet? Or —
MR. KIRBY: Well, we just announced — we just announced that —
Q So that is part of it?
MR. KIRBY: This billion is coming right out of that.
Q That’s (inaudible) also part of (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right.
Q Mr. Kirby, is the President tracking negotiation in Ethiopia? We know that more people have died there than in Ukraine.
MR. KIRBY: You know, I’m going to have to take that question, and we’ll see if we can get you a better answer. I don’t know.
Q Thanks for coming.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. All right, guys. Okay, I have a couple of things for you at the top.
So, I wanted to provide you an update on our work to lower gas prices for American people. As you know, the President has taken historic actions to address Putin’s price hike at the pump. He is releasing — he is releasing a record 1 billion barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He has rallied our partners to join releasing an additional 240 million barrels of oil. He expanded access to E-15, which will lower prices at thousands of gas stations.
But oil companies need to step up too. And the President made that clear in a letter to major U.S. oil refiners today. And I have a chart behind me.
In a time of global crisis, oil companies should be doing everything they can to expand capacity and lower costs at the pump. Instead, they are charging record profits at the expense of American families. The last time the price of crude oil was $120 a barrel, the price of gas was425 cents a gallon. Today, it’s about 75 cents higher.
As you can see through the chart behind me here, that difference is a result of company’s record-high profit margins for refining oil. Profit margins have tripled — you can see it right there at the end over here — since the beginning of — of the year. So right here, as you see, diesel and gas.
They should be putting those record profits into expanding refining capacity from — back to pre-pandemic levels.
President Biden is putting a spotlight on this and calling on oil refiners to invest those records — those record profits to increase capacity so cost at the pump could come down.
He is signaling that he is prepared to use any emergency tools he has, but these companies have a responsibility to step up too. We are focused on getting to solutions.
We are also closely monitoring the extreme heat conditions impacting many Americans across the country, and the President has been briefed regularly, including today.
Federal agencies are working with state and local partners to provide clear, accessible, and timely information on extreme heat and how people can protect themselves.
We are also protecting workers, including through a new administration initiative to proactively inspect over 70 high-risk industries in areas under a heat warning or advisory.
Our team is also in contact with the Department of Interior on the horrific and catastrophic floods at Yellowstone National Park, and the President was briefed about this as well today.
We are grateful for the brave and swift work of federal and state first responders to help get people in Yellowstone National Park and in surrounding communities to safety.
We know the impacts of extreme weather are intensifying and no one is immune from climate change, as you hear us talk about for this past year and a half. That is why President Biden has made tackling climate crisis one of his top priorities.
Today as well, we are also commemorating the 10-year anniversary of DACA, which President Biden considers one of his proudest moments, accomplishments with President Obama when he was then Vice President.
President Biden shared a video messaging — message marking the anniversary. And Vice President Harris, the First Lady, and Ambassador Susan Rice are also hosting meetings with DREAMers and DACA recipients here at the White House.
In 10 years, DACA has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought here as children who only know America as their home.
DREAMers contribute to their community in ways big and small. They are on the frontlines of the pandemic. Others are job creators and entrepreneurs. Many serve in our military.
The President is committed to preserving and fortifying DACA. But as he said in his State of the Union Address, we need to “provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers,” and he continues to call on Congress to pass a bill that does just that. And he would be ready to sign it right away.
Finally — this is the last thing here — following today’s briefing — we know we have to gather at — for — you all have to gather at 3:45, so I’ll try and take as many questions as possible. The President will sign an executive order advancing equality for LGBTQI+ individuals, which includes historic steps to support LGBTQI+ families and children.
The E- — the EO directs federal agencies to address extreme legislative attacks, help put an end to conversion therapy, improve mental health care and prevent youth suicide, launch a new initiative to protect foster youth and prevent homelessness, and more.
These are historic actions that build on the progress we have made advancing equality of LGBTQI+ Americans and people around the world, but the federal government can and most — it can and must do more — critically by Congress passing the Equality Act.
The President will renew his call for Congress to send a bill to his desk.
And with that, Aamer, you want to take this?
Q Yes. Fed officials expect the unemployment rate will rise to 3.9 percent next year as they move to lower inflation. Does the White House think slightly higher unemployment is an acceptable trade-off to fix inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, here’s the reality that we’re in, and the facts are: We brought unemployment down below 4 per- — 4 percent. You’ve heard, most recently, at 3.6. Four years faster than forecasters thought was possible before we passed the American Rescue Plan, which was over a year ago, back in last April of 2021.
Part of that means a transition over the course of the next year. We have added an average of more than 400,000 jobs per month in recent months to something closer — like a cooldown, if you will — to the range of 150,000 jobs per month.
That would be consistent with the unemployment rate as low as it is now, with the 3.6. That will be a good thing and a sign of a healthy economy, and also a transition as we are going — as we are headed towards.
Let me just call people I haven’t called on yet. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. In the letter from the President to the oil refinery — the refiners, he said they need to work with the administration to bring about a near-term solution. Is there an “or else” in there from the President? Is there some way that the administration plans to try to hold these companies accountable? You used the word “responsibility” in your message at the top here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right. We see it as a patriotic duty, as we’re — as we are — as we’ve talked about. There’s war happening right now in Ukraine that was caused by — caused by Russia, which is why we’re seeing these hikes in gas prices. Especially since — since Russia has amassed — started amassing troops on the border, we saw a — we’ve seen a $2 increase of gas prices.
So, we know where to put the blame: on the war. But oil companies, they have — oil refineries, they have a responsibility too. What they have been doing is taking advantage of the war.
And as — as I showed earlier, they have tripled — tripled their — their income. And so, this is a problem. But what we’re trying to do — by putting out the letter, we’re saying, “Hey, we need you to act. It is time to act.” We want to have a conversation. We want to come to a solution. There is going to be a conversation later this — this week, I believe, with the Energy Department. And so that’s going to happen.
So this is basically a bit of a “Hey, we want — we want you to act. It’s time to act.” We have done our part with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — the one — the 1 million a day for the next six months, and so we need them to act.
So that’s where we are. We want to come to solutions, which is why we say we want to have that conversation. And we will see where it goes from there.
Q And is there something the President is considering to compel them or a consequence if that does not happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have anything right now to preview as to what would come — what would come next. But what I will say is that we are — we are calling on them to do the right thing, to be patriots here, and not to use the war as an excuse or as a — as a reason to not put — to not put out a production, not — to not do the capacity that is needed out there so that the prices can — so that the prices can come down.
Q On the economy —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I probably should have called on somebody who I haven’t called on, but go ahead.
Q Just very quickly —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Really quickly.
Q — Atlanta Fed economic forecast puts real GDP growth for the second quarter at 0.0 percent now. With the United States potentially on the knife’s edge of a ‘70s-style stagflation kind of period, I’m curious about, kind of, your policy preferences.
Do you expect that the administration will prioritize stimulus to get growth higher and curtail unemployment? Or do you think that you will — you will continue to favor deficit reduction to get inflation down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President laid out in his — in his Wall Street Journal op-ed very recently what he’s doing, the points that he’s taking to make sure that we are fighting inflation, attacking inflation.
One of them is giving the Fed its independence and — and allowing them to deal with inflation under their purview. They have the best monetary policies to do that. And so we want to give that independence there.
And, of course, he has taken actions, as I said early on in in the beginning of the briefing, on things that will help ease that — ease the cost for families. We understand gas prices are high. We understand — the President understands what it means to have food prices.
Again, that’s connected to Putin’s war against Ukraine and them attacking another country’s sovereignty. That’s what we’re seeing happening there.
And so we’re going to continue to do everything that we can. We feel that we are in a transition right now from a economic — historic economic growth — recovery. And so, going into that transition with stability and steady — steady growth, we feel that’s going to help with inflation.
So, we’re going to just focus on the points that the President laid out in his — in his op-ed.
I’m going to — I’m going to move on so I can get other people.
Q It’s okay. Go back.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You sure?
Q I’m fine. Yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. Okay, I’m going to — let me get — I’m going to get you, and then I’ll start moving around so I can be done with the first row. (Laughs.)
Q Are there other industries that you think need to step up in a patriotic fashion to try to help reduce inflation or costs for Americans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t — I — there’s not a list that I have right now for you. Right now, we want to focus on the oil refinery, which is why we put out the letter today, or yesterday. I’m losing my — my track of time.
And so, we see that as an important first step in making sure that the oil refineries are doing their — their part — again, patriotic duty — in making sure that they’re putting out capacity and they’re not taking advantage of a — of a war that is hurting the American public.
And so we’re going to have — hopefully, we’re going to have — we’re going to have a conversation, we’re going to get to a solution and move this forward.
Q The President often talks about being a capitalist, and, obviously, market forces drive a lot of that. So how would he find the balance between trying to encourage them to do more without looking like he is trying to move a sector of the private industry?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the facts are the facts, Kelly O.
We — what we have seen is they are not — their capacity is not there. And they — from the chart — they are using this moment — using this moment of war where the American — where American families are feeling — are feeling the high costs with food and gas. I mean, that is not a patriotic thing to do.
And the person — the President has the right to call them out. And so, he’s using his perch. He’s using this opportunity that he has to make sure that — he always said he’s going to use every lever that he can to make sure he’s delivering for the American people. And that’s what he’s — he’s going to try and do at this point. Thank you.
Q Progressives in Congress are calling for the passage of a windfall profits tax targeting the oil and gas sector. What’s the President’s position on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have a position for you to share — to share at this time on that.
Q When we talk to oil analysts, they say that one thing we all ought to be concerned about is the prospect of a hurricane hitting refineries on the Gulf Coast. Are you aware of any steps the administration is taking now to gird against that possibility?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything on a hurricane at this moment — like what we’re going to do to take steps on hurricane and oil refinery. I’m happy to check in with the team and get back to you to see if there’s a pla- — a plan in place. But I don’t have anything for you at this time.
Q One more quick thing because I know you got to go.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure. Sure, sure.
Q The country’s refineries are aging. A major refinery really hasn’t been built in this country since the late 1970s. If one were to be proposed, would the President support the construction of a new refinery or oppose it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That would — I have not seen any of that reporting. And that is not something that I can confirm from the podium at this time. Okay?
Do you want to go, Andrew?
Q Thanks. Let’s just try one more time on the refinery issue.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q In the letter, the President said that he’s “prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate federal government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity.” What are those tools exactly that he has?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, he is open to all reasonable uses of the federal government’s tools to increase output and lower costs at the pump, including emergency authorities like the Defense Production Act.
Already, the President has demonstrated his willingness to use that emergency powers to lower costs for families. As I’ve mentioned, the petroleum — the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — as we’re using right now to get — to get oil every day to make sure we’re — we’re doing everything we can to lower costs; the ethanol 15 — the homegrown biofuels that is going to help many, many families across the country, including in the Midwest. So, that’s a way that the President has acted.
And so, he is going to auth- — he authorized the use of DPA to accelerate domestic production of key energy technologies, as well.
And so, the letter — just to put — put in context for a second — the letter is intended to solicit companies’ best ideas on how to increase capacity and how the government can help them do it in the spirit of the earnest and pragmatic dialogue.
But we feel like this is a good step for us to move forward, and hopefully we’ll come and get some solutions.
Q So are you saying he could use the Defense Production Act to expand capacity?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’re — we — I don’t have anything to share specifically how we would use the DPA, but we’re saying that the President has used it before and he’s willing to do that again.
But the first — the first step that he wants to do is make sure to have the conversation and hear ideas — right? — from the oil refineries how we can be — how we can be helpful to them to actually get more capacity out.
Q If you want to take one more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll take — I’ll take like two more. I’ll take two more.
Q Thanks very — thanks very much. We’re just about to go into a Pride event, obviously.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q We know that Saudi officials have been seizing rainbow-colored toys and clothing as part of an apparent crackdown on homosexuality in the country there. That’s according to state-run media.
I wonder what the White House response is to that, given that the President is about to set up his Pride credentials in the next event.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have not seen that reporting. But what I can say: Globally, we work around the globe to protect LGBTQI+ persons from violence and abuse, criminalization, discrimination, and stigma and — and empower local LGBTQI+ movements and persons.
We do this through bilateral and multilateral channels, raising official concerns with governor — governments, both
principal [publicly] and privately; coordinating our efforts with likeminded countries; and offering emergency assistance to LGBTQI+ persons at risk.
Through our foreign assistance program — programming, we support civil society in providing LGBTQI+ individuals and communities with tools and resources to prevent, mitigate, and recover from violence, discrimination, and stigma.
We see human rights as being universal.
I’m going to take one last more.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
Well, I’m going to take one last one. I’m going to take one last one.
Go — go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancé said today she was, quote, “very disappointed” President Biden plans to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. She said in a message to the President, quote, “If you have to put oil over principles and expediency over values, can you at least ask, ‘Where is Jamal’s body?’” and, quote, “‘What happened to his killers?’”
So will President Biden ask the Crown Prince these questions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, first, I want to say — you know, just hearing that — it’s devastating, right? It is — it is Jamal Khashoggi’s widow. And so, clearly, our hearts go out to her and the pain that she’s currently going through.
You know, when it comes to human rights, this is not something — the President is a straight shooter. This is not something that he’s afraid to talk about. He has those conversations — leader-to-leader conversations on a regular basis.
I cannot read out right now or lay — or lay out what the agenda is going to be or what the conversations are going to be. But I can assure you — I can assure you that when it comes to human rights, this is something that is a priority for this President.
I just laid out how — at the end of talking about the LGBTQI+ community — how human rights is universal, and that is very, very true in — in many ways.
And so, I — once we have more to share, we’ll share more about what the trip will look like.
Okay, I have to go.
Q Karine, can I just follow on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I got to go, guys.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
I got to go, guys.
3:50 P.M. EDT