Aboard Air Force One
En Route Munich, Germany
11:21 A.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Welcome to our trip to Europe — G7 and NATO. I’m going to pass it over to John Kirby, who is going to lay out what we’re going to be doing tomorrow and on this trip, and take any questions that you all may have. And then he’ll depart and then I’ll take over and take whatever other questions you have.
MR. KIRBY: Hey, everybody. Just a couple of things right at the top here.
Obviously, we’re all horrified by the mass shooting in Oslo today, targeting the LGBTQI+ community there. And our ho- — our hearts, obviously, go out to all the families of — of the victims; the people of Norway, which is a tremendous ally; and of course the LGBTQI+ community there and around the world, quite frankly. And we stand in solidarity with our close ally, Norway, and the community in Norway and all who have been devastated by this senseless act.
I do want to add that we’ve been in touch with the Norwegian government to offer our condolences and — and also to offer any support that they might need as they continue to investigate this.
Now, for the G7, just — I just want to go over tomorrow, just the broad brushstrokes. I know you guys have been informed on background about all the things that we’re going to be doing.
But the President has got a very busy day. Before the summit starts, he’ll have a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. They’ll do a signals check before the summit, and they’ll continue to closely coordinate, as they have been, on supporting Ukraine, holding Russia accountable, and, of course, other important priorities between the two of us.
President Biden obviously appreciates Germany’s close partnership. They are a strong NATO Ally. You saw us all come together when it come to — when it came to putting in place significant sanctions against Russia, making Putin pay cons- — cons- — costs for his invasion, and, of course, providing security assistance to Ukraine. And Germany very recently, as you know, stepped up in providing lethal weapon systems to Ukraine. So they have been very, very important in that.
After that bilat, the President will participate in the actual summit. The first session is going to be focused on the global economy. And you can be sure that leaders are going to be talking about core problems that are on the top of mind for all of us across the board, like rising prices, supply chain disruptions, all exacerbated by this war in Ukraine and by Mr. Putin’s decision.
But we should also recognize the U.S. is positioned to weather these challenges because of the strong economic leadership in the United States — President Biden specifically — and the policies and investments that he is putting in place.
The second session of the day is going to be on global infrastructure. And right after that, the President and other G7 leaders will formally launch their Global Infrastructure Partnership.
As we said before, and I spoke about this from the podium the other day, the G7 leaders have agreed to explore, last year, an alternative to infrastructure models that sell debt traps to low- and middle-income partner countries, and advance U.S. economic competitiveness and our national security.
So you’ll hear about how the President is moving forward on that line of effort tomorrow, along with other announcements on some new flagship pro- — projects. I’m not going to get ahead of them specifically today.
So, again, a very full day for the first day in — in Germany. And the President is very much looking forward to it.
Q John, looking ahead to the rest of the trip, can you read out any other bilats the President is expected to have? Will he meet with President Erdoğan of Turkey, particularly as the NATO accession issue comes up later in the week?
MR. KIRBY: I think you can expect that the President will have multiple bilateral discussions. I mean, obviously, he’s starting out with the Chancellor — German Chancellor tomorrow. But I don’t want to get ahead of the schedule. And we’ll — we’ll let you know as they come up and, of course, read them out to you. But I don’t have anything specific with any other leader today to talk about.
Q And then in terms of the economic meeting, are you expecting any deliverables out of that, particularly as we’ve seen rising inflation in the United States and around the world? Any agreements from the G7 leaders on that?
MR. KIRBY: You know, I think you will see some announcements coming out of these meetings. Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the specifics here. But as I mentioned right at the top, I mean, a large focus of the G7 and the leaders are going to be, you know, how to not only manage the challenges in the global economy as a result of Mr. Putin’s war, but how to also continue to hold Mr. Putin accountable and to make sure that — that they’re — that he is — and he — that — that he is being subjected to cost and consequences for what he’s doing.
So there will be some announcements. There will be some — some muscle movements. But I’m not going to get ahead of that right now.
Q Hey, John, on — on the — another topic in the global economy session: China — which you guys have said there will be strong language condemning their non-market practices. Should we expect any deliverables there or any actions taken? Or will this be essentially just the G7 condemning what has been condemned many times before?
MR. KIRBY: Well, again, without getting ahead of deliverables — you’re going to get tired of hearing me say that, but it’s true —
Q Will there be any deliverables?
MR. KIRBY: But, look, China will be a significant focus here for the G7, and the impact that China’s coercive, economic practices, use of forced labor, intellectual theft — all those are front and center for the nations of the G7. And I think you’re going to see China very much at the forefront as the G7 goes on. But I don’t — I’m not going to get ahead of anything specific.
Q On — there is one thing you haven’t mentioned so far, which is climate change. Climate change is a big topic for the G7.
MR. KIRBY: Yes.
Q But at the same time, so are rising energy costs. So how are you going to articulate those two, you know, challenges without watering down some climate commitments?
MR. KIRBY: Well, there’s no watering down of climate commitments. I just talked about day one. I mean, climate is clearly going to be age- — on the agenda here at the G7. And the President has been a leader here on the search for clean energy solutions, because we’ve all seen, just in the last three months, the — the impact of — of reliance on fossil fuel and — and Russia’s weaponizing of that fossil fuel on — on the global economy.
Obviously, Americans are feeling this at home too, which is exactly why the President not only wants to, in the moment we’re in, hold Russia accountable for what he’s doing in Ukraine and try to find some relief — immediate relief. That’s why he pushed so hard and is an advocate for a federal gas tax holiday — to find some immediate relief — but also to move towards clean energy solutions that reduce the dependence on fossil fuel and reduce the dependence on Russia.
And so, even as we’re looking at long-term clean energy solutions, we’re also doing all we can to increase supply globally of things like natural gas and — and oil.
Q German Chancellor Scholz has signaled that he wants to roll back the G7’s commitment to end investment in fossil fuels overseas. Is that something that the United States would support on a temporary basis?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I — I’m not going to get ahead of the discussions here at the G7. Our position last May was — and the President was clear — that — that he — he did not feel like these — these investments were the right course of action. I know of no such change to that policy.
Q And on the infrastructure initiative that’s clearly aimed at countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is quite large in volume, do you have dollar figure in mind for how much you can — how much, you know, the United States and other allies can produce in terms of infrastructure?
MR. KIRBY: I think you’ll hear more about this as the G7 goes on. And tomorrow is the day that they’re going to get together and talk about the global infrastructure partnership.
Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the President here. But there are — I think you can expect them to explore a range of different opportunities and initiatives to allow low- and middle-income countries to address their own infrastructure and development problems better. And it’ll be a range; it’ll be a mix of federal funding, as well — as well as grants, as well as private-sector investments.
Again, I’m not going to get ahead of the President, but I do think you’ll — tomorrow you’ll be able to get a much clearer picture of just how many opportunities there are and how many — how much resour- — how much resource — how many resources — let me try that again — G7 leaders are going to be willing to apply to that problem.
Q Can I follow up on the GIP and then move us over to the Mideast? So, first of all, on the GIP, the Global Infrastructure Partnership, what is the difference between that and Build Back Better World, other than the name? Are there any tangible differences?
MR. KIRBY: This is a months-long effort here by the administration to work with leaders around the world to try to come up with, again, more innovative and creative alternatives for these low- and middle-income countries to foster their own economic development and their infrastructure needs.
And we’re much less worried about what it’s called than we are about what it does for these countries.
Q On Iran, Josep Borrell says talks might begin in, quote, “coming days.” Do we know when that might happen? And now that Iran is enriching uranium, are you worried that this round of talks might be like a make-or-break?
MR. KIRBY: Well, we still — we still believe in getting back into the JCPOA. And I can’t speak to the status of where the negotiations are right now, but there’s — nothing has changed about our position that a nuclear deal is the best way to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons status. And we want to get them back into compliance.
Q And then finally, on the Mideast trip, is Saudi-Israeli normalization a goal of this trip? And if so, what does that roadmap look like?
MR. KIRBY: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That trip is not until next month. But the United States has been very clear that we support normalization between Israel and Arab countries in the region, that these are obviously discussions that these sovereign nations have to have, but we’re fully in support of the Abraham Accords and normalization efforts.
Q John, on Chinese — on the Chinese buying Russian oil and gas, will there be any discussion of that at the G7? And will there be any sort of acknowledgement of concern that President Putin still seems to be able to fund his war machine?
MR. KIRBY: I think a big focus tomorrow is going to be — at least the first session — dedicated to the global economic issues here caused by the war in Ukraine.
And again, without getting ahead of ourselves here, I think leaders are going to be looking for ways to do two things: one, continue to hold Mr. Putin accountable and to increase the costs and consequences of his war on him and his economy; and, two, minimizing as much as possible the effect of these rising oil prices and the way he has weaponized energy on nations, particularly on the continent but also around the world.
Q India is also participating at the invitation of Germany. India is another one of the countries that is purchasing cheap Russian oil. Is there — are you at all — you know, are you seeing any movement on the part of India to sort of be more supportive of the global effort to hold Putin accountable?
MR. KIRBY: We’re glad that India is coming. There’s lots to discuss on the agenda with India. We have a very deep partnership with them, even in the defense world.
I’ll let Indian leaders speak for themselves here, but obviously, what President Biden is focused on, what the administration is focused on is making sure that the costs keep rising for Mr. Putin, that it’s harder for him to wage war. And obviously, we want to see all nations participate in those kinds of efforts.
Q John, we know this is coming on the heels of the Dobbs decision. You know, Macron, Trudeau both put out statements. The Secretary of State put out a statement. Obviously, there’s interest outside of America in this decision. Is the President worried at all that this is going to take away or overshadow at all the G7? And what’s his message going to be to leaders that are wondering what, you know, America is doing in that decision?
MR. KIRBY: The President is not worried about that at all. There is, as I just said, just on day one alone — I mean, there is a robust agenda of issues here to talk about at the G7 and then follow on at the NATO Summit.
There’s real national security issues here that have to be discussed. And the President is not at all concerned that that the Supreme Court’s decision is going to take away from that at all.
And I think his message to leaders around the world is exactly the same message that he gave to the American people yesterday.
Q Can I go back to Russian oil for a second, though? That price cap on Russian oil that Secretary Yellen has been negotiating or pushing for — I know you don’t want to get ahead of deliverables, but maybe you can give us a hint of how confident you are that the leaders will endorse — all the leaders, because there was some, you know, holdouts — all leaders will endorse this at the summit.
MR. KIRBY: I think what I can tell you is that all leaders are — we believe all leaders are going to be committed to those two things that I mentioned before: one, continuing to hold Mr. Putin accountable and make it even more painful for him to prosecute this war, as well as looking for ways to minimize the effect of rising oil prices and the profits that Mr. Putin continues to get from those oil prices on other nations around the world, including the United States.
Q John, are you satisfied with the amount of weapons that countries that have stocks of older-generation weapons have been giving to Ukraine? I mean, the U.S. is drawing down its stocks of weapons that can be transferred to Ukraine, on which they can be trained, but other countries have more stocks.
MR. KIRBY: So, a couple of things there. Two weeks ago, the Secretary of Defense held another Ukraine Contact Group, this time in Brussels — 50 nations. That’s the most that we’ve ever done, and we’ve had three iterations. Fifty nations showed up — not just from Europe, not just NATO Allies, but from around the world — Middle East and the Indo-Pacific.
And a large number of those nations are contributing security assistance, weapons, to Ukraine. Now, they’re doing what they can. Every nation has to make a decision about what they can afford to provide because they have their own national security needs. But I think — you know, I’d point you back to what Secretary Austin said at the end of that. I mean, it was impressive to see how many nations are willing to pull down from their own inventories or even to contract for additional systems.
Now, look, in the very early weeks of the war, there was a significant and, I think, right focus on making sure that Ukraine was getting systems that they were trained on, knew how to use, had them in their inventory already — ex-Soviet stuff. There’s still a need for that. I mean, they still are using those systems.
And so, Secretary Austin is — why he’s doing the Contact Group is to continue to talk to nations around the world to see what else they can provide.
But also now, because the war is now stretched into its third month, it’s becoming much more about artillery in the Donbas, the long-range fires. The United States has been willing to step up and provide other Western or American systems to Ukraine, to allow them to carry on in the Donbas. And that requires a little bit of training, right? That means you got to take some Ukrainian soldiers out of the fight.
So we want to make sure that we strike the right balance here, that they’re getting systems that they’re used to as well as systems that they need, without unnecessarily decrementing their combat readiness in the field.
But every nation that’s providing stuff, they’ve got to do it in accordance with their own national security interests as well. And I would say the short answer to your question is: Yes. We’re impressed, we’re grateful, we’re satisfied that nations around the world, not just — not just in the region, are coming forward and providing Ukraine as much as they can.
And there’s — and look, this is going to be an iterative, ongoing conversation. We’re going to continue to have these contact groups. We’re going to continue to talk to nations. We’re obviously going to continue to talk to Ukrainians about what they need every day.
Q A question on natural gas, maybe. Gazprom has started reducing its supply to Europe and Germany. And Germany has warned that it could, you know, interfere with their plans to replenish the reserve before winter.
So, two questions. First, do you believe the Russians when they say this is — this cuts are for technical reasons? And second question: Is there anything the United States can do right now or in the coming weeks to help the Europeans?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t — well, on the first question, we think this is just a piece of Mr. Putin’s willingness to weaponize now energy. And I don’t think we take any Russian claim at face value here with respect to what’s going on.
And I — again, I think — I won’t get ahead of where we’re going on G7, but, clearly, alternative energy is going to be on the docket here for the next couple of days.
I got to go. I’m going to let Karine finish.
Q John, (inaudible) food security?
Q A follow-up on landmines?
Q Food security obviously a huge — food security — getting the grain out. Are you expecting any — what’s the nature of the conversations between the U.S. government and Russian counterparts about trying to secure ways of getting that grain out? Does that place at the U.N.? Is that taking place bilaterally?
MR. KIRBY: So, I know of no bilateral discussions with the Russians on food security. But we are obviously — it will be on the agenda here at the G7. We’re working very hard with allies and partners to try to get that grain out of Ukraine. We’ve been able to increase shipments of it through the West by rail. But, obviously, that’s not the most efficient way to do this. It’s a perishable commodity.
We’d like to see the blockade, which is essentially in place by the Russians in the Black Sea, lifted. We know that Turkey is talking to Russia about some options there. We welcome those efforts.
But, you know, it’s — it’s very much on President Biden’s mind.
Q A landmine question. Just very quickly: With the U.S. — the new U.S. policy on landmines, does this change the weapons that are going to be sent to Ukraine? Because you were sending a number of Claymore mines. And are you satisfied that those munitions have been used responsibly and in accordance with the law by Ukrainian soldiers?
MR. KIRBY: I know of no shipments of U.S. Claymore mines to Ukraine. But separate and distinct, the Claymore mines are not covered by the Ottawa Convention because they have to be triggered with a person. They’re — they’re — the way they’re constructed is they have to be manually triggered by an operator, so they are not subject to the Ottawa Convention.
Okay? Thanks, everybody.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I don’t have anything else. I don’t have anything as a topper, so shoot away. Go.
Q Karine, the White House has talked a lot in the last six months, longer, about preparing for the fall of Roe. On the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, the President didn’t announce any executive actions. He didn’t announce any specific plans or proposals on his part to try to protect women’s rights to abortion, both — so, why is there a seeming lack of urgency from the President on this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — Zeke, I have to tell you, I disagree with the premise of your question there. There’s been a lot of urgency from this President and from this White House on how — on the next steps of — especially now that we know that the decision was made yesterday.
Look, the President — two hours after we learned about the decision, the President gave a — gave remarks — powerful, passionate remarks to the American public and laid out two concrete steps on how to move forward — how to move forward and really fight for women’s rights and women’s freedom.
And those two concrete steps that he laid out — one had to deal with HHS and making sure that we make FDA-approved medication available to women and protect that right; the other one was he gave his executive authority to the Department of Justice to make sure that we defend women who travel to — as they make decisions on their own healthcare.
And those two are very concrete, big steps. I know those — that’s using his executive authority. I know people are asking about executive actions. The President is going to continue to find solutions. He’s going to continue to talk to leading groups. He’s going to continue to talk to legal experts on what he can do from his — you know, his own executive perch, if you will.
And so that’s going to — the conversation is going to continue to happen. That’s not going to stop.
I do want to share what the group — the offices are in the White House and who’s been involved with this, because it’s been around-the-clock type of response in looking into how to move forward.
So, the White House senior officials, including from the Gender Policy Council, Office of Public Engagement, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, and the Office of the Vice President engage in dozens of formal meetings and private conversations on reproductive rights with over 200 stakeholders, including the leadl- — leading national organizations fighting to protect women’s constitutional right to keep her — her healthcare decisions to herself and doctors.
We have met with patients, medical providers, policy and legal experts, as I just mentioned, women’s rights groups and reproductive rights advocates, state legislators, faith leaders, political figures, and private sectors. And we have been doing that since we learned about the leaked document.
So, this has been a priority for this administration. And we will continue to see what else we can do.
Q Karine, just to follow up on that real quick: The challenge of that — the President yesterday announced that the administration will fight for those things — traveling across state lines and the FDA-approved medication for abortion — except, right now, in a number of states, those actions are punishable by civil or lega- — or criminal penalties, depending on the specific states and if the law is there.
That’s not — does the President believe that his sort of saying that HHS or the Department of Justice will fight for it means these women should do it? If women were to take those drugs right now, (inaudible) if somebody were to help them travel across state lines in some states, that could expose them to significant liability today. What’s the President doing to protect them right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that’s why he’s asked the Department of Justice to step in. Look, this is not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, state laws restricting the right to travel will undoubtedly be challenged — right? — in court. So that is — we understand. So, the DOJ will look to support the right to travel in appropriate cases.
Look, the Attorney General’s statement yesterday made it clear that the — that bedrock of constitutional principles support women’s freedom to seek care in states where abortion remains legal. So, they — they are going to step in where they can to defend women who may have to make decisions for themselves — should be making decisions for theirselves on their health.
So that is the executive authority that the President used, and that is what the Department of Justice laid out in a very long statement that they did yesterday on how they’re going to go about that.
Look, this is — you know, this is a scary time. We understand that. What happened yesterday with the decision from the Supreme Court is un- — is extreme. That decision is extreme.
This is about a constitutional right that was provided by the Supreme Court almost 50 years ago. And — and it was done — the judge that wrote that decision almost 50 years ago — it was a 7-2 decision — that was done by a judge who was appointed by President Nixon.
So, this — this constitutional right has been around, you know, with Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. And the President understands that we got to continue to fight.
So, the other part that we are trying to say as well is, yes, the President can use executive authority. We can look to see what other — what executive action we can take.
But the reality is we have to get Congress to act to restore Roe, to make it law of the land.
And if that can’t happen, the American public has to use their voice. And in light of this decision, they have to use their voice at the ballot box. And this is how we can turn this around.
But yesterday, again, he laid out two concrete solutions — or two concrete steps, I should say — to move forward. And we’re going to continue to see what else we can do.
Q A lot of people watching this ruling are concerned that it could be a slippery slope leading to limited access to contraception and to other rights that — that Americans currently enjoy. Is the White House concerned about that? And if so, how are you preparing and what are you going to do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We are concerned about that. If you look at what — what Justice Thomas said — he wrote expli- — explicitly that “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents.”
So make no mistake: Congressional — congressional Republicans have — have made it clear; Republican leaders — national Republican leaders have made it clear they are going to go after — they’re going to go after women’s reproductive healthcare across the country and beyond. That’s what we heard from them yesterday.
And so, we’re going to continue to stand up. We’re going to continue to fight against that. We’re going to continue to tell people to use their voice.
And so, look, the way that we — again, the way that we get to a solution here, the way that we get to really resolving this is for Congress to act.
Yes, the President is going to continue to look at solutions. He’s going to continue to figure out what else we can do, continue to talking to groups, getting that legal — legal expertise on what he can do from — from his executive authority.
But we have to make sure that — the American public has to make sure that they use their voice. And not only that, the decision that — that they made — the decision that the Court made on Roe v. Wade is out of step. It’s out of step with majority of the American public. A majority of the American public support Roe — support Roe v. Wade.
Q Karine, the President — you know, you talk about bringing the President out on the road, taking him on the road; he likes to connect with the American people. Will he dedicate some travel specifically to this issue, to reach out to young voters, to women who are outraged and — and frustrated? Where will he go? What are — you know, what are some of the messages that he could be bringing? And how soon could we see him start to take those kinds of trips?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to read out to you specifically on a strategy — a strategic strategy around the decision that was made by the Court yesterday. But what I can say, and the President spoke about this very forcefully: He vehemently disagrees with the decision that the Court made yesterday.
He’s going to continue to fight for women’s rights. He’s going to continue to fight for freedom — for their freedom. And also, even when we heard the leaked decision — this is kind of to your question — a couple of weeks ago, he had warned that it wouldn’t — they would not just stop at women’s — women’s reproductive rights. He warned that.
And now, what we saw from Judge Thomas should be chilling. It should be very chilling to people. But this is an opportunity to take action. And that’s what the President did yesterday. He did a call to action for the American public.
Q (Inaudible) — I mean, I was asking about trips, travel. Any trips, travel?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have — I just don’t have anything to — to lay out for you at this time. Clearly, we’re going to the G7 and NATO. It’s going to be for the next five days. We’ll get back on Thursday. And ma- — hopefully after that, we’ll have more to share on specific travel. Just right now, I don’t have anything to lay out.
Q Karine, you just said that the decision of the Supreme Court does not reflect what the American — the majority of Americans want. And polls also show that, you know, the — the credibility of the — the opinion that Americans have after the Supreme Court is now very poor. So is it time, in the President’s view, to think about reforming the Court? And if so, what changes would he like to see?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I know I’ve — I’ve been asked — I was asked this question yesterday, and I’ve been asked it before — and I think the President himself — about doing — about expanding the Court. That is something that the President does not agree with. That is not something that he wants to do.
There was a commission that was put together about how to potentially move forward with the Court — reform the Court. I don’t have anything more to share from any — any final decision that the President has made.
I do want to say, though — you know, we talk about the popul- — I was talking about the popularity of how much Americans support Roe v. Wade. Never — this is the — this is the most support that Roe — Roe v. Wade has gotten ever.
I mean, it is — it has such a majority popularity. And so for the Court to have made this extreme ruling is so out of step. It’s so out of step not only with this decision, but it’s also so out of step with the Constitution.
Q Karine, the fact that you haven’t yet identified, even after this leaked decision, executive actions that you could take, does that sort of just reflect that there isn’t anything more, even after more talks with legal scholars, that you can do on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think the way — I think the way to look at this — he did use executive authority. And that matters — right? — because he’s the President of the United States and using executive authorities to protect, you know, contraception for women and make sure they have that accessible to them — FDA-approved medication — is very important. I think that is something that’s going to be meaningful for many, many women across the country.
And secondly, to be able to have the DOJ defend women who are going to have to now travel to get — you know, after they make decisions on their own — their own health decision, I think, is actually really important. And again, we talked to legal experts about this.
We talked to other leading — leading groups in the — reproductive rights organizations. And so, these are two things that we thought were two concrete steps.
And so, you know, this is, again, a — first steps. We’re going to continue to see what else we can do.
But I guess what I’m trying to say about the executive actions is that nothing could make — could fill the hole that this decision has made with now upending Roe, which is what the Court did. The only way to make that whole again is for Congress to act, is Congress to restore Roe and make it a — you know, a law of the land. That is actually the best way to do that.
Q And on that, what is the President’s reform on — position on filibuster reform? He says, you know, “Elect more Democrats.” Let’s say he got two more Democrats in the Senate who would be okay with killing the filibuster on this issue so he had 50. Would he then support that stance?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, if we got more — more members of Congress, more — more members of Congress who support Roe, then the thinking would be that we would be able to pass a law to get that done. I don’t think the — I don’t think the filibuster would play a role there.
But that’s what we have to do. We got to make sure that we elect more members, or we have more members come in to — come in to Congress that can actually make a difference here.
I’ve got to be careful, because I can’t talk about — (laughs) — elec- — as you know. So I’ve got to be careful of what I say.
But the point that I’m making is: I hear — I hear you — I hear your point about the filibuster. But I think if — if we’re able to — if Americans are able to use their voice at the ballot box, bring in more members into Congress that support this issue, then there is movement that we can make. There is a way that we can restore Roe. And that is the most important thing that we can do.
Yes, can the President use — continue to use executive authority? We will see what else he can do. But, honestly, to fill that hole, we got to — we got to take action. And that’s what the President was trying to do.
Q Karine, can I ask you an Afghanistan question? Sorry. So the earthquake there has caused so much damage. And there’s some movement, again, for people to — to please release some of those funds, some of the central bank currency funds. Can you say what the U.S. position is on that and whether there’s any movement on that in light of the humanitarian catastrophe?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you talking about the — the assets in Ukraine? Yeah.
Q The assets — yeah. Not in Ukraine, in Afghanistan.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sorry, I meant to say Afghanistan. There’s so much going on in the world. I apologize.
So, in signing an executive order several months ago, the President took a significant step to preserve these funds and ensure they go toward benefiting the people of Afghanistan.
If the President hadn’t taken this action, the funds would have remained tied up for years. So we are energized across the U.S. government — energized across the U.S. government to get these funds moving.
We are urgently working to address complicated questions about the use of these funds to ensure they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not — not the Taliban. So that is a focus of ours.
But the President is not going to wait to help the people of Afghanistan recover and rebuild their — from their devastating earthquake, as I mentioned much earlier in the week.
USAID and our partner humanitarian organizations are already providing immediate assistance on the ground where it’s needed the most.
Q Karine, if I could, back on the abortion issue, what do you think the decision means for the standing of the U.S. overseas, particularly in parts of the world where you’re trying to promote women’s rights?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it’s a very good question, because what we saw — again, what we saw yesterday was extreme. It was an extreme decision on — on the American public’s constitutional right — a right that was given by that same Court almost 50 years ago.
You know, the — the administration has restored its commitment to advance women’s health both at home and abroad, revoking harmful global gag rule, as you know, and restoring funding to the United Nations Population Fund.
This administration will continue its work to advance women’s health and reproductive rights around the world, consistently with existing law. So we are going to continue to have those relationships, those leader-leader relationships that the President has.
Look, we’ve heard from a lot of the leaders already. I know some of them have put out statements — very vocal — about what they have seen from this decision in the last 12 — I’m losing track of time — 12, 24 hours — and — and giving — offering support to the American people.
But this is not going to — I don’t think this stops the work that the President is going to do or wants to do or looking to do with leaders.
Q But is it harder to get the message across if other parts of the world are going to turn around and say, “Well, look what’s happening in your own backyard”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I mean, I don’t think it’s — I don’t think it’s necessarily harder. The President — the President has his own career and reputation to stand on. Right? He has been a senator, he has been a Vice President, and he has been a President that has been able to unify the country — not the country, the world, especially as we look at what is happening in Ukraine with Russia’s invasion.
So, you know, we’re going to G7. We’re going to NATO. People have said that NATO is the — is the most unified that they’ve ever seen, at least in modern times, in most recent times. And a lot of that was due to this — due to this President. I don’t think that goes away. I don’t think that does at all.
So, if anything, it just highlights the work that needs to continue to be done.
Q The DNC Chairman yesterday called the Supreme Court “illegitimate” after the decision. One, is that something that the President agrees with? And two, does he think that that’s a winning message for the Democrats going into 2022?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I can’t speak for the DNC. I can only speak for the President. And the President — you know, when the President commented about the decision, about the Court’s ruling, it was about the decision. He sees the Court, obviously, as legitimate. And he respects the Court.
He does believe that this particular ruling that they — that they made yesterday is extreme and is out of step. And he is going to continue to call that out.
But, you know, this is a President that was the Chair of the Judiciary Committee for — for many, many years when he was a senator. He oversaw many — many nominations for the Supreme Court. It is a court that he highly respects, but it is — it should be — right? — this is America — we should be able to speak out or speak — or have a — you know, have a disagreement.
And this is not just a disagreement, obviously, but this is what we saw. That decision was indeed stunning, and it was extreme and incredibly unfortunate. It is going to devastate so many lives, taking that constitutional right away for so many people across the country.
Q Karine, you said a couple of times that the Court gave the right to an abortion to women 50 years ago.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But what I mean is that — what I mean is that they gave that constitutional right. Right? When that seven — 7-2 decision, Roe v. Wade, it was a constitutional right. Roe v. Wade was a constitutional right that was provided almost 50 years ago, and they took that constitutional right away.
Q So the President doesn’t believe that a right to abortion is in — is sort of — is built on the right to privacy enshrined in the Constitution, and ratification is only — it only came about at Roe?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President believes in pri- — in women’s privacy. He believes in a woman’s consti- — in a woman’s right to make their own choice. He believes that they should have their own freedoms to make their own decision.
What we’re saying is that decision that was made is going to — with that decision, things are going to, across the country, change so quickly because of that decision in states. And that is unacceptable.
If you think about, in some states, women’s — women will not be able to make a decision on how to protect their own lives. If you are a woman or a girl and you are raped, you will have to bear your child’s rapist [rapist’s child]. If you are a doctor, you could be criminalized for providing care. I mean, that is –those are the things that he spoke to himself directly in his speech.
And so he’s going to continue to fight for women’s rights. He’s going to continue to fight for their freedom. And he’s going to see what else he can do, as an executive authority, to see what other steps that we can do to move forward in protecting women.
Q Karine, you mentioned that the President has managed to rally NATO Allies and create unity overseas, but he clearly hasn’t in the United States. Is he frustrated by that? Is he going to be trying anything new ahead of the midterms?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, that’s a — that’s a good question. Look, when the President decided to run in 2019 — of April of 2019, he talked about redeeming the soul of this nation. Right? And two years prior to that, we saw what happened in Charlottesville. We saw the ugliness that was marching down the streets of Charlottesville. And he wrote — he wrote an op-ed and talked about that very personally. And when there was an opportunity for him to do something about that in a real profound way, he decided to run for President.
And in many ways — you know, he won with 81 million votes. Many people elected him because they believed he could bring the country together. And I think what the President understands is that we are in a very divided, politicized political environment at this time, and it’s going to take a lot more work. We are just not there yet.
Q Does he have any new strategies to achieve that? Or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he’s going to — I think he’s going to — look, let me — let’s step back for a second. We were able — this morning, the President was able to do something that hadn’t been done in almost 30 years, which is sign a bipartisan gun reform legislation.
So both sides were able to come together and really address an epidemic in this country. That matters, I think. And so he signed that into law. And it’s — and it’s — and then, hopefully, it will save lives.
And so, you know, when it comes to, you know, other — other issues that we see around the country, yeah, there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be done. There’s going to be still — we still need to figure out how we’re going to bring the country together. This is not something that he’s not aware of; he’s very clearly aware of that.
And so he’s going to continue to have to do the work as President.
Q Karine, there’s evidence showing that states are starting to segregate along political lines. Are you concerned that this decision could accelerate that move; that, in essence, the trigger states and states that follow on — I mean, there’s talk about something like 26 states could eventually pass such laws. Are you concerned that we could see a country that is geographically divided along these lines, where, basically, states that ban abortion and punish women are fundamentally more Republican and that you see an outflow, a kind of a great migration out of people who are more progressive and liberally minded?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, the President said this yesterday: We are — we are going to see some nightmare scenarios. These — we’re going to see some devastating consequences because of the decision that the Court made.
That is not hypothetical. That is just the facts as you look across the states and also the legislation that have been coming out, the bills have been coming out, out of the state — the state houses.
And that’s why the President made it very clear yesterday that he’s going to continue to fight. He’s going to continue to call for action as it relates to Congress, as it relates to the American public using their voice at the ballot box. And he’s going to continue to talk to leading organizations — and not just him, but also his team. I laid out offices that have been working since day one of the leaked document. And we’re going to see what else we can do.
But we believe — we put forward two concrete steps. You know, we’re going to try to see what else we can do. But, you know, the President talked about this: We are going to see some nightmare scenarios, sadly, because of this decision. I mean, this is a 50 — almost 50-year — almost five-decade decision that has been overturned and upended.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q One more on the gas tax holiday. Since the President called on Congress on Wednesday, has there been any movement or indication whatsoever that Congress is going to prioritize that when they’re back from recess? It doesn’t really seem like the important folks on the Hill are where you are on this. So I’m just trying to figure out how you’re going to try to get this done.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, let — just let me just reiterate: The President — you know, the President called for the suspension of federal gas tax, a gas tax — gas tax holiday, because he felt that this was the most simplest, easiest way to deal with a — an issue for the American public of high gas prices at the pump. And he felt — he felt that 90 days was, you know, an easy thing to do, because the American public — you know, this is the time that they drive the most: during the summer.
We’re still talking to — to answer your question, we’re still talking to Congress. I don’t have anything more to share with you as — as far as a priority for them. We’re going to have this conversation.
But the President made very clear what he believed this could do and giving that little bit of breathing room for the Americans as they travel, as they go to work, as they are trying to live their lives every day, especially this summer when it’s incredibly active.
Q Don’t you risk missing that window, I mean, given that, you know, Congress is out now? And —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, here’s the thing: Look, Congress can act on this anytime. It’s actually very simple to do.
Q If they want to.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If — well, we’re going to continue to have that conversation and, you know, see if we can make that a priority. But this is not a difficult thing to do. That’s why we keep saying it’s straightforward and easy. It is actually not a difficult thing to do, and we’re going to continue to call on them to do (inaudible).
Q Just one on abortion —
Q The President’s Sherpa is —
Q Sorry. Karine, just some activists are pushing for abortion clinics to be built on federal lands in conservative states. Is this an option that the administration is considering?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have anything else to share. We’re going to continue to look at what other options we have. I don’t have anything to share on that specific question.
Q Karine, one last one —
Q The President’s —
Q When the President went to the G7 a year ago, he came with ambitious COVID vaccine donation goals for the rest of the world. The U.S. is falling short on that because it doesn’t have the money to help countries administer and transport and store those vaccines safely.
Is the President worried that by failing to meet those commitments — in part because of Congress, in part because of other reasons — that U.S. credibility on the global stage around public health will be called into question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I’d have to look into where we are specifically on our international assistance on COVID. I know that we have been the country that’s provided the most — a leader — than any other country. It is a commitment. It has come up in every international trip that he’s had. COVID has always been a part of the agenda.
But I would disagree with — with your premise of the question.
Look, the President has — if you look at where we are currently as a country and the economic strengths that we have, a lot of — a lot of that is because of what the President did on day one, which is present a comprehensive strategy to get people vaccinated.
And now we have more than 200 million people who are vaccinated. We’re getting zero to five vaccinated. It’s about 18- — you know, there’s, zero to five, 18 million young people. The hope is to do everything that we can to get vaccinated.
So, if anything, he has shown leadership right here in this country on everything that he has done to make sure that — that folks — that the American public have access to vaccines and boosters. And so, we have shown our leadership here.
I can see what else I have for you on where we are with conversations at the G7 and our deliverables on this subject particularly. But this has always been part of an agenda in every — every trip that he’s done. And I think the President, we believe, and I don’t — and I would argue others across the globe believe, that we have been a leader in this.
12:11 P.M. EDT