James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:07 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hello. Hi, everybody. Good afternoon, right? All right. Good afternoon, everyone. I hope you guys enjoyed a long holiday weekend. It’s good to see everyone here.
Today I’m joined by John Kirby, who is the National Security Council — was it — Coordinator for Strategic Communications. I got to get that right.
And he’s happy to take a few questions. I know there’s been some news out there in his world. So, why don’t you take it away.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine. Just a couple things at the top, everybody.
I think you saw this morning that the administration announced important policy changes with respect to anti-personnel landmines. After conducting a comprehensive policy review, the United States is now joining the vast majority of countries around the world in committing to limit the use of anti-personnel landmines.
The use of these weapons put more civilians at risk of being injured by unexploded mines, including children, long after the fighting is stopped. And the President believes strongly that we need to curtail their use worldwide.
So, this new commitment will align U.S. policy outside of the Korean Peninsula with the key requirements of the Ottawa Convention. That’s the international treaty that prohibits the use of stockpiling the production and the transfer of these weapons.
The United States is the world’s singes- — single-largest financial supporter of steps to mitigate the harmful consequences of landmines and explosive remnants of war all around the world.
Since 1993, the United States has provided over $4.2 billion in aid to over 100 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs.
And I’m happy to take questions on that a little bit later.
The last thing I just want to open up with is: I think you know the President is preparing for his next trip. This will be to the — to Germany for the G7, and then on to — to Madrid for the NATO Summit.
He came into office with the express purpose of revitalizing and reinforcing our allies, our alliances, and our partnerships around the world. And that’s exactly what he’s done with the G7 and with NATO.
His leadership and diplomacy elevated these partnerships as central to meeting the biggest challenges of our time and advanced our shared values to define the decades to come.
He has been unafraid to use the convening power of the United States, which is still ample, still relevant, still viable.
The free world has demonstrated incredible unity and resolve to advance three key objectives that I think you’re going to see are central to this trip.
And we’re going to get some time a little bit later on in the week to preview the trip with more detail. But I’ll just tell you, these are the three overarching objectives the President has:
One, our unwavering — reinforcing our unwavering support of a democratic, sovereign, and prosperous Ukraine, and holding Russia accountable for his war of aggression.
Two, managing the disruptions in the global economy, including energy and food prices, that are caused by this war of aggression that are impacting families all over the world, including here at home.
And three, charting an affirmative vision for the world in which democracies can deliver and that we are confident will win over autocratic and corrupt visions.
Again, we’ll have more to share later in the week — including a background call I think we’re going to be doing here and the next day or so. And you guys will all get an invitation to that.
And with that, I’ll take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Thanks, John. What can you tell us about this second American who appears to have died in combat in Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t know a whole lot. But — but I think you saw the State Department has confirmed that another American citizen has been killed in the fighting in Ukraine. And I’d point you to State for more details on that.
Obviously, at the outset, our hearts go out to the family, which are clearly enduring an incredible grief here.
Again, we want to stress that this is not the place or the time for Americans to go to Ukraine. It is a war. And if you want to help the people of Ukraine, there’s a whole lot of other, better options to do that than going and putting yourself in harm’s way in the middle of that war.
Q The President said yesterday that he speaks to Volodymyr Zelenskyy three or four times a week. Is that accurate, or is that a bit of hyperbole? We only get a readout of their conversations once every couple of weeks.
MR. KIRBY: He speaks to Mr. Zelenskyy on a routine, regular basis. And I couldn’t sit here and give you the exact count — this is the beginning of week three for me here — but he speaks to the President — President Zelenskyy on a very routine, regular basis.
And I would add it’s not just the President. The Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense speak with their counterparts, again, on a routine, regular basis.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs — Joi- — Ji- — ugh, I’ll try this again using syllables — the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talks to — to his counterpart regularly, too.
And there’s an awful lot — and I would go so far as to say “almost daily” — conversation with Ukrainians at lower staff levels at both DOD and the Department of State.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: April.
Q Hi, John.
MR. KIRBY: Hey, April.
Q Two questions. Going back to Ukraine: Could you talk about the implications of the grains issue that’s heightening in Ukraine? Has the President of Ukraine talked to the AU about it — the African Union about it?
And also, the repercussions of what happened in Texas, on a national security front, when it comes to basically calling President Biden the “Acting” President.
MR. KIRBY: So, I’m going to come back to you on the second one, because I’m not completely sure I understand the question.
But on the first one — let me just do the grain one first. We’ve talked about this before: President Putin is, no kidding, weaponizing food. Let’s just call it what it is: He’s weaponizing food. He’s got an essential blockade there in the Black Sea so that nothing can leave by sea — and that’s, of course, how Ukraine has historically gotten its grain to markets.
And so the President is working with leaders around the world to see if there’s other overland ways we can do that. And he’s exploring a range of options, and he’s keeping an open mind about how that would look. And there’s lots of other — of our partners, particularly in Europe, who also want to see that done. So, there’s a lot of work being done here.
But as I said, I think the other day last week, you know, we know time is not on our side. I mean, this grain is a perishable commodity, so we want to get it out as fast as we can.
Q Yeah. And on second question: On the national security front, especially as we’re seeing what’s happening with the January 6th Committee, what does it do on the national security front for Texas to make those strong statements about the 2020 election?
MR. KIRBY: I’m afraid I didn’t see the comments. Can you elucidate?
Q The Texas Republican — the Texas Republican platform, I think, is what she’s (inaudible).
Q No, I don’t — thank you, no. They’re rejecting the Pre- — what’s happening is they’re saying the President is the “Acting” President. The state of Texas is saying (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: Oh, oh, oh. I’m sorry. Okay. Yeah. I did. I’m sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can take that one, too, if it’s okay.
Q But it’s — on the national security part.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, there’s — okay.
MR. KIRBY: On the national security front. I mean, look, the President is the democratically elected Commander-in-Chief of this country, and the men and women who serve in uniform understand that. And with the exception of what looks like a small number of Texas legislatures, the American people recognize that.
And he has the authority, he has the power, he has the responsibility to defend this country. And the things that we’re talking about today, whether it’s landmine use or grain shipments or assisting Ukraine, is all about our national security. And the President is charged with preserving and maintaining that national security.
And it — you know, again, with the — with the exception of a small number of folks there in Texas, the American people recognize that and understand that.
Q Thank you. John, what do you make of the Kremlin saying that the Americans captured in Ukraine aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention protections for prisoners of war?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, we’ve seen the comments by Mr. Peskov, with respect to this, not ruling out certain protections.
I would tell you a couple of things. One, we still are trying to learn more about these two individuals. Okay?
Number two, it’s appalling that a public official in Russia would even suggest the death penalty for two American citizens that — that were in Ukraine.
And we’re going to — again, we’re going to continue to try to learn what we can here about this and, again, stay in touch as much as we can with the families.
Q If they’re not afforded protections under the Geneva Convention, what’s the course of action that you’re thinking about?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I don’t think it’d be useful for us to get into hypotheticals right now, Jacqui. I mean, we’ve got — we got more homework here to do.
But I do think it’s important for us to make it clear: totally appalling for even the suggestion that — that that result could be the outcome here for these two individuals.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just going to go (inaudible).
Q Hey, John. Thanks, Karine. John, the Chinese have imported a record amount of oil from Russia, and the trade between the two countries is growing. What message do you have to the Chinese related to this?
MR. KIRBY: I think this is just a piece of China’s willingness to continue to go along with — with Russia. And we’re seeing this as a — yet another example of a growing collaboration between China and Russia with respect to Ukraine.
And we have, as we’ve said at the outset, called on China to be a responsible power here and to join the rest of the world in condemning what Russia has done in Ukraine and in enforcing sanctions against Russia for it. So, it’s just another example.
And look, it’s also another example of how global security really is interconnected. It’s not just about security on the European continent. It’s connected, what’s happening in Ukraine — this is a perfect example of how it’s connected to — to national security — our national security interests and those of allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific as well.
Q But at what point did it rise to the level where they’re breaking sanctions or pushing the line on those sanctions that the U.S. would like to impose?
MR. KIRBY: Well, again, they haven’t been participants in this — in the sanction regime so far.
Q I have a follow-up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. You can follow up, and then (inaudible).
Q Thank you. Thanks, John. Also, India has been buying a lot of the Russian oil that the Europeans aren’t buying. So how does the administration keep financial pressure on Russia? And what does this say about U.S-Indian relations that Prime Minister Modi is making these purchases?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Look, India is also a very key strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region. And there’s many ways that — that that partnership represents itself both in defense and security, economic as well.
I think we’ll let Indian leaders speak to their economic policies. What I can just tell you is we value this bilateral relationship with India and we continue to want — obviously, every country has to make their decisions for themselves. These are sovereign decisions. But we want as much pressure put internationally on Russia as possible.
There needs to be — just the last point: There needs to be costs and consequences for what Mr. Putin is doing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Francesca.
Q What, if anything, will President Biden be asking G7 leaders to do next week to bring down the cost of energy and bring down the cost of food?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of the agenda too much today. We’ll have more to talk about the trip in the next day or so with more specifics. So I’m not really prepared today to go into too much detail.
But as I said in my opening comments, one of the things — one of the objectives that the President has here for the G7 is to talk to international leaders inside the G7 about supply chain issues, food and fuel supply around the world, and trying — and trying to minimize the pressures that it has put on populations all over the world. But we’ll have more a little bit later.
Q Is there anything that you think that they can do, working in coordination, to prevent a global recession?
MR. KIRBY: I think leadership matters a lot here. Multilateral leadership matters a lot — because this isn’t just affecting the United States, it’s affecting the whole world.
And I know the President is looking forward to having discussions with world leaders about what, together, they can do — whether it’s increase production or less — more capacity for refining, less dependence.
And this is one of the reasons, you know, that the President is so committed to clean energy here in this country, is to — that’s one way of making us energy independent too. So, advancing — it’s also good for the climate.
So, there’s an awful lot of crosscutting objectives here.
Q A Russia follow-up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Just two more because we — go ahead.
Q Do you believe, John, the Peskov comments — obviously, in coordination with Vladimir Putin — do you believe they’re about more than the discrete facts involving these Americans, but a signal — a larger, sort of, tactical signal to the — to the American president, to the government about ways they can use American citizens as a part of this conflict?
MR. KIRBY: You know, I gave up a long time ago trying to get inside Mr. Peskov’s head and certainly Mr. Putin’s. It’s hard to know with great accuracy the answer to your question.
But either way, it’s equally alarming, whether they actually mean what they’re saying here and that this could be an outcome — that they could levy a death penalty against two Americans that were fighting in Ukraine — or that they just feel it’s a responsible thing for a major power to do — to talk about doing this as a way of signaling the President of United States and the American people.
Either one of them is equally alarming. And that’s why, again, we find it appalling.
Q Can I take the last one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. John, why the United States is trying to block the African countries to work with Russia? There is discussion going on right now at the Senate that the United States is trying to force, basically, the African countries not to work with Russia.
I don’t know if you’re aware: Russia have relation with many African countries, and Angola is one of them — and many other countries. But right now, it looks like there is a discussion going on in — at the Senate that the United States is trying to make African countries not to work with Russia.
In the beginning, President Biden said that he will work with all nations — Europe, Asia, and even African countries — diplomatically. Why don’t let the African countries decide who to work with, instead of just impose them not to work with, for example, Russia?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I can’t speak for what the discussions that are going on in the Senate about this. But you kind of answered the question yourself when you went back to what the President has long said about his foreign policy objectives and goals.
Look, he respects and understands that sovereign nations make sovereign decisions. Sovereign nations get to decide who they’re going to associate with or who they’re not going to associate with. He understands that.
He also understands and, I think, has been very clear with leaders around the world that there needs to be consequences for what Mr. Putin is doing in Ukraine. There needs to be costs. He needs to be held accountable for this unprovoked war of aggression.
And so, it’s difficult for him to look at countries around the world who might be willing not to impose those consequences, who might be looking for ways to reward Mr. Putin for what he is doing in Ukraine. So is it principled —
Q And why he is forcing countries not to work with Russia?
MR. KIRBY: This isn’t about —
Q Why don’t —
MR. KIRBY: Ma’am?
Q — let them decide?
MR. KIRBY: No, ma’am. This is not about forcing. And again, I — I won’t — I can’t speak to the language you’re talking about from the Senate.
This isn’t about forcing anybody. It’s about — it’s about standing up for a principle. And, look, the principle here is the principle of sovereignty. So — so it cuts both ways.
You know, obviously, sovereign nations need to be able to make their own decisions. The President understands that. That’s why, you know, when we were talking about whether Ukraine would or wouldn’t join NATO, it’s not up to Mr. Putin to get a veto on that. Sovereign nations have to make that decision and so does the NATO Alliance. He understands the sovereign decisions that nations in Africa have to make.
But he also believes and stands strongly on the principle that Mr. Putin needs to suffer consequences for this war of aggression — consequences around the world as well.
And so, he doesn’t believe that it’s in the interests of what’s going on in Ukraine — or European security, for that matter — for Mr. Putin to be able to get off scot-free here.
Q And when the President will travel to Africa? John, he traveled to Europe, Asia, but not Africa. When?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have a trip announcement to make today.
Q Mr. Kirby, is the President tracking the situation in Ethiopia?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, he is.
Q And also on the — the billions of dollars that have flowed to the Ukraine, how much of that money has gone to gun manufacturers in the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: How much money has gone to —
Q How much of the $40 billion —
MR. KIRBY: Are you talking about the money — the money that we are sup- —
Q The money that has been approved to Ukraine. How much of that money has gone to gun manufacturers here in the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: Okay, if you mean defense contractors, we can give you that, and I can — we can have somebody get you the –the amount of contracts that are going to be or are being let under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. This is for defense articles — weapons and systems that Ukraine needs.
If you’re asking me how many are go- — you mean like firearm manufacturers here in the United States?
Q Yes. How much of the — of the money that has gone to Ukraine, how much of that money actually goes to Ukraine —
MR. KIRBY: To the degree that we — that we supply small arms and ammunition — right? — to Ukraine, we can get you that figure. I don’t have it handy. But those are — that’s small arms and ammunition — combat arms that they’re using in the field.
And, you know, we get caught up a lot talking about HIMARS — right? — long-range rocket systems and artillery systems and tanks and all that — all those big-ticket items that the Ukrainians say they need. And it’s true they do.
But what they’ll also tell you is that the bullets and the small arms are making a big difference every single day, because the fighting in the Donbas is close combat. A lot of long-range fires, lots of artillery — no question. But there — it’s a lot of small-arms combat, too.
So we — we forget about that. It’s an important set of defense articles and systems that we’ve been sending to Ukraine, and we’re going to continue to do it for as long as we can.
But as for the exact figures, we have to get that for you.
Thank you, everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks. We don’t have a lot of time, guys, because we have to leave for — at 1:45, I believe, for the President’s travel — local travel.
Okay, so I have something really quick at the top and then I’ll take your questions.
So today, President Biden and the First Lady are visiting a local COVID-19 vaccination clinic, hosted by the DC Health, to highlight the recent authorization and recommendation of COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of five.
This weekend, the CDC formally recommended use of a COVID-19 vaccine for this age group following the FDA’s authorization on June 17th, marking a key milestone that ensures, for the first time since the pandemic began, that nearly every American can access protections from lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, including our youngest Americans age six months and up.
Following the visit, the President will deliver remarks at the White House on COVID-19 vaccines for children under five and the historic progress the country has made in fighting COVID-19 with safe, effective vaccines available virtually to all Americans.
Go ahead, Josh.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two subject areas, since I know we’re going fast — by 1:40. What data is President Biden looking at for the gas tax holiday? And is he expecting congressional support and state-level action?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’ll take your second question first. As you know, the President said he’s going to make a decision about this by the end of this week. The way we see it is there would be congressional action. Congress would take — would need to take action.
To your first question, the President is looking at an array of options to — to figure out how he’s going to help give relief to the American public, especially as they are looking at gas prices at the pump.
This is a number-one priority for the President. He’s looking at an array of options. I don’t have — we don’t have anything specific for you — to share with you at this time.
Q Gotcha. And then, secondly, real fast: What is President Biden’s reaction to Texas authorities saying the police response in Uvalde was an “abject failure” and that the gunman, in theory, could have been stopped within three minutes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, this is something that the President has talked about this very deeply. He — it is very — the actions that we have seen and the reports that we have seen is deeply concerning. The President has said that.
As you know, DOJ is doing a review. We’re going to leave it to their findings and their review before we’ll say anything more, but it is deeply disturbing to hear the reports on what happened on the ground on that day.
Q On the issue of the federal gas tax, has the White House started reaching out to Congress yet on this, working with members to try and get them on board with this? Because, as you know, you would of course need their approval for any suspension.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely, we would definitely, as I said, need Congress to act on this. I can’t lay out — I don’t have anything to lay out on — on any outreach that we’ve made to Congress.
The President, as you all know, understands the stress that the American public is feeling across the country. This is why he has taken action himself when it comes to tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — a historic amount of oil — 1 million of barrels of oil a month — I mean, a day, I should say, just to be exact; and also asking — getting his partners to do 240 million barrels as well.
There’s ethanol 15, as he has been able to make sure that we give relief to thousands — thousands and thousands of Americans across the country.
So, this is something that has been a complete priority for the President. I don’t have anything specific to lay out about meetings coming up or meetings that have happened.
Q And the President said he’s not planning to sit down with any oil and gas CEOs as he makes his decision. Why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as I can confirm here — I know it’s been — kind of been reported out there: Secretary Granholm is going to be meeting with the seven CEOs on Thursday — this coming Thursday. That’s the first step that he wanted to make sure happened.
Remember, our goal is to make sure that we have a sit-down conversation where we come up with solutions, that we work with the CEOs to figure out what else that we can do to move — to move that capacity forward.
So, we’re going to — the meeting is happening on Thursday with Secretary Granholm, and she’s going to sit down with the CEOs. And hopefully, we have some solutions that come out of the meeting.
Q You said that’s the first step. Is the — so the President is not ruling out meeting with them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m — the President spoke to this himself yesterday, which is like he’s not going to be meeting with the — with the CEOs. I’ll let that stand and speak for himself.
The way that we view this is — what I mean by “first step” is they’re going to sit down and have a conversation. The second step is coming up with solutions and ideas.
Q The President said last week that there’s no inevitability around a recession, but there is a greater deal of market concern about exactly that.
And I know that inflation is your number-one concern, but can you talk a little bit about if you’re doing anything at all to prevent a recession or a rise in unemployment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the way that we see this — and you’ve heard us talk about this that we’re in a moment of transition. We have seen — we are in a unique situation with our — with the historical gains with our economy. The way that we see it, this unemployment rate has held steady at 3.6, which is also near historic lows; business and investment remain strong; household balance sheets remain strong.
There was an analysis that came out recently that showed middle-class Americans had an additional $10,000 in savings than before the pandemic. Another analysis found that all income groups had higher checking account balances at the end of March than they had pre-pandemic.
So, we see that the strengths that we — our economic strength that we have seen from this past year from the action that the President has taken with the American Rescue Plan, with what we have seen with the historical gains, that is going to help us deal with a recession.
Right now — we don’t see a recession right now. That is not — we’re not in a recession right now. Right now, we’re in a transition where we will — we are going to go into a place of stable and steady growth, and that’s going to be — that’s going to be our focus.
Q And just one more. AAA was out with a report today saying that there’s going to be a record number of people driving for the Fourth of July holiday. And I’m wondering what that tells you about whether inflation is, in fact, the top concern for the American people and whether there’s a role for conservation to play, given the extreme demands on energy supplies right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say — say a little bit more. You’re saying —
Q Well, Americans are happy, it would seem, to go out and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. Oh, I see what you’re saying. Okay.
Q — and to pay as much money as gas costs to go on vacation and do all of the things that they would normally do — in fact, more so than in the past.
So, how do you — how do you — what do you think about that? And do you think it’s appropriate given the constraints on energy supplies globally right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, Americans are going to do what they feel is right for themselves and for the family — for their family. That’s not something for us to make a judgment on.
I think what we’re seeing right now is — you know, we’ve been in a pandemic for some time. And I think — and I think Americans are feeling as if, this summer, it’s time to get out and go visit families. And I think that’s a reaction that we’re seeing there.
But I have to say a lot of that is — is thankful to the President and the work that he has done to make sure that more than 220 million people get — are fully vaccinated. That matters.
Today, he’s going to visit a COVID health center where our — where we are going to be able to vaccinate our youngest among us, which is the zero to five. That’s about 18 million young people, which is — a lot of that work is due because of what the President has been able to do, and the American Rescue Plan, and the stra- — the vaccination strategy that he put — that he put forward the moment that he walked into this administration.
Look, I — it’s not — it’s not for me to say what Americans can do or can’t do. But I do think this is kind of the — kind of the pendulum swinging as we are — as we are — more people vaccinated and more folks are feeling more comfortable and more safe to get out there.
And I’ll go to the back in a second. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. What kind of visibility does the administration have into the, quote, “logistical error” that prevented Brittney Griner, who’s being held in Russia, from speaking by phone with her wife? And how was a mistake like that acceptable given, kind of, the stakes of this moment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, this was an unfortunate mistake and the Department — the Department of State is working to rectify this as quickly as possible.
From what I understand, there is a phone — a phone interview has been scheduled. I’m not going to speak to when. That is up to Brittney Griner’s partner to decide — her wife to decide if that — if they want to make that public.
Anything else, I would defer you to the State Department.
Q And has — Brittney Griner’s wife talked about meeting with the President or her desire to meet with the President. Is that something that’s on the table or an option at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share about — we don’t have anything to share about a potential phone conversation or meeting.
What I can say is that the State Department has been in regular touch with Mrs. Griner. She’s also spoken to Secretary Blinken, which we have mentioned before.
This is certainly — any American that is held — that is held abroad is a priority for this President. We’ve spoken to that. And we will do everything that we can to bring — to bring them home — to bring her home.
I’ll go to the back.
Q Karine, on Roe v. Wade?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on a second.
Q You can hear me.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m trying to go to somebody I haven’t gotten yet.
Q Thanks, Karine. So, in these deliberations about the gas tax, does the President have concerns about — what are his concerns about endorsing such an idea?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Endorsing a gas tax?
Q Yeah. He endorses congressional action on a gas tax holiday. Are there concerns that he has about doing that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President has been very clear in making sure that he does everything that he can to elevate — to alleviate the — you know, the pain that American families are feeling when it comes to gas prices.
He said all options are on the table. He has not — he said himself — just to reiterate what he said yesterday: He has not made a decision on this. He’ll have something more by the end of the week.
But — but this is about making sure that we deliver for the American people as it relates to gas, as it relates to increases — increase in cost.
And so, again, we have said this from day one: All options are on the table.
Q Yeah. I guess I’m trying to understand: What are the drawbacks that he sees? And does he think an endorsement could help Republicans get on board if it requires congressional action?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I’m saying is I’m not going to get ahead of the President right now. He has not — he — we have not laid out this decision.
Once we — once we have, I’m happy to have that conversation right here or in my office, however you wish.
But, right now, all options are on the table. He’s going to do everything that he can to make sure he relieves some pain and some pressure that Americans are feeling at the pump.
Q Question about Ethiopia, please?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, gosh. Okay. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thanks. Does the President have any thoughts on the Colombian elections this weekend? And does he have any plans to speak to the President-elect?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any calls to read out to you at this time. You know, the United States congratulates the people of Colombia on a free and fair election. The President looks forward to working with President-Elect Petro and to advance the U.S.-Colombia relationship and tackle key issues together, including climate change, building more fair and resilient economies, security, and more.
I don’t have a call to read out at this point or to announce at this point.
Q And then, when it comes to the federal gas tax, former President Obama has called it — called it a “gimmick” back when it was being considered during his administration. A number of Republican and Democratic congressional leaders over the years have said the same thing: It saves people a couple of dollars when they fill up, but it decimates the Highway Trust Fund.
Why is it suddenly on the table for this President when it seemed like it was an idea that the White House had sort of set to the side for months?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the President has — has always said all options are on the table. This is one of those options. He was asked a question yesterday, and he answered it.
I don’t have — I don’t want to get ahead of the President. We don’t have anything to announce at this time. Once we do, we will and be happy to answer all the questions around that decision once — and if he makes that decision.
But again, he has said — he has been very clear he wants to make sure that he is, you know, dealing with what the Americans are facing at the pump, which is high — high prices due to inflation, due to — that part of it is the pandemic, part of it is Putin’s war on Ukraine and the — Putin’s tax hike. So he wants to do everything that he can to make sure that we are answering — answering those calls of trying to lower the costs.
Q (Inaudible) follow up, Karine?
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, that’s it? Okay. Well, thank you, guys.
Q You could stay and (inaudible) in the back, please?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: How about — well, I actually have to go with him today so I can’t stay. But I’ll take — but I’ll take one more question. I’ll take a question in the back.
Phil, I know you had your — do you want to — you had a question. No? Oh, you’re passing. You’re passing. Okay. Okay, go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. Can you confirm that the White House intends to issue a rule on reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes? And if so, can you give us some details about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I — I’m not going to comment on any leak — leak information. I have no final decision to preview at this time.
But what I can say is: One of the President’s key Unity Agenda item is ending cancer as we know it, including by reigniting the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Already have been steps from the FDA to address the impact of — impact other tobacco products like
methanol [menthol] and flavored ga- — cigars have on the American people.
As I’ve mentioned here before, and I will take this opportunity to remind everyone, that what the Office of Management and Budget regular — regulatory agenda is and is not: Agencies place on the regulatory agenda a list of all the proposed and final rules they are currently planning to issue in the months ahead. However, no policy decision has been made at this time. And I don’t have anything else to preview for you at this time. Okay, we’ll see you guys tomorrow.
1:41 P.M. EDT