James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:31 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Good afternoon, everybody.  I hope everyone had a restful long weekend.

I actually don’t have anything for you at the top.  (Laughter.)  I know you guys are always excited to hear what I got to say.

But, Darlene, you want to kick us off?

Q    Yes.  Thank you very much.  Is the White House looking into the possibility of having the President visit Highland Park?  The death toll there has risen to seven this afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the President, as you all know, is going to be traveling to Ohio tomorrow to discuss the American Rescue Plan.  So that’s the trip that he’s going to be making tomorrow.

We don’t have any plans right now to go to Chicago.  I know some folks are asking if he’s going to go to Chicago, will he go — I mean, if he’s going to go to Ohio, is he going to go to Chicago. 

The Vice President is going to be there, and she will speak to the devastation that we — that we all saw with our own eyes yesterday in Highland Park. 

But I don’t have anything to share about — for President’s travel tomorrow.  He’ll go to — again, he’ll go to Ohio, where he’s going to talk about the Rescue Plan, the Special Finance — Financial Assistance Program, in particular.  This program will provide financial relief to millions of workers in multiemployer plans who face significant cuts to their pensions through no fault of their own.

But again, nothing to share about him going to Chicago at this time.

Q    Not necessarily tomorrow though, but later this week, next week, before he leaves for the Middle East?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — we just don’t have anything to share.  But again, the Vice President is going to be there today.  She will certainly speak to — speak to the tragedy that we saw yesterday.  The President spoke to this yesterday during the Fourth of July in a very forceful way and laying out how he and the First Lady saw the tragedy, and he even had a moment of silence.

But we are not planning — right now, at this moment, I don’t have any plans of a future trip to Chicago.

Q    And since you mentioned the Ohio trip tomorrow, when the President is in Cleveland, which is relatively near Akron, do you expect him to address at all the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker?

Q    I don’t have anything to share on that either, whether he is going to potentially — I know it’s about 45 minutes from Cleveland, where the shooting happened.  We just — right now, we’re going to be focusing on the trip that we have planned, which is to talk about the American Rescue Plan and how to help the American public.

Q    And then one final question.  Can you talk about the status of the letter that Brittney Griner sent to the President?  Has he been briefed on it?  Has he even read it?  Griner’s wife was on television this morning; she really wants to hear from the President.  Will he reach out to her in any fashion?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can say that the President did read the letter.  I was there when he read the letter.  This is something — Brittney Griner being held in Moscow, we believe the Federation is wrongfully — she’s being wrongfully detained in Moscow at this time.  This is an issue that is a priority for this President.

As you have heard us say before, he believes that any U.S. national that is held abroad or detained or held hostage abroad, we need to bring back safely and we are going to use every tool that we possibly can to make that happen.  Again, this is a priority for the President. 

I do want to share that, on Saturday, Mrs. Griner spoke with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.  That is their second call in the past about 10 days that they have spoken.  Secretary Blinken also spoke with Mrs. Griner as well recently.

I don’t have anything else to read out as far as a potential call or a meeting with her family.  But clearly, we believe she was wrongfully detained.  We believe she needs to come home — she should be home; as well as Paul Whelan, as well, who’s being held; and any other U.S. national who is wrong- — being wrongfully detained abroad.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Hi, Karine.  Just to follow up on that: Griner’s coach said, “If this was LeBron, she [he] would be home, right?  It’s a statement about the value of women, it’s a statement about the… Black person, it’s a statement about the value of a gay person — all those things. We know…” as true.  Do you see this as a double standard?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This is a President who has put all of the things that you just laid out — the LGBTQ community, women, people of color — he has fought for those communities throughout his career.  And you — you have seen that in policies that he has put forward.

Again, this is a priority for this President.  He’s doing everything that he can.  The White House is closely coordinating as well with the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, who has met with Brittney’s family, her teammates, and her — her support network.

So we’re going to continue to have those conversations, and we’re going to make sure that she — she and others get home safely.

Q    And just to follow up since this is a priority for the President — I mean, she’s been detained for months now.  Her wife told “CBS This Morning” that she still has “not heard” from Biden.  “And, honestly, it’s very disheartening.”  I know it’s a priority, but why has it taken this long?  And why has it taken a letter from Griner in jail to reach the President to make this a priority?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, this has been on top of mind for the President.  Like, I was there when he read the letter.  And he takes this to heart.  He takes this job very seriously, especially when it comes to bringing home U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained. 

And you saw the work that his administration did to bring — to bring home Trevor Reed.  That is the same — the same work, the same focus that we did and put behind bringing Trevor Reed home, we’re going to do the same with Brittney Griner and others.

So, again, this is a priority.  We’re going to make this happen.  We’ve had — she’s — we have been in constant communications — Secretary Blinken; the Special Envoy, as I just listed out; and also Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor. 

We’re going to continue to have those conversations, and we’re going to continue to make sure we use everything at our disposal to bring her home and also Paul Whelan and all the others U.S. nationals that are abroad.

Peter.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  How did the President go from blaming high gas prices on Putin to Big Oil to small-business owners now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, here’s the thing about that, Peter, is when you look at — as of this morning, when you look at the crude oil and when you look at wholesale oil prices as well, they’ve declined about 15 percent.  And so, retail gas prices, however, have only declined just about 3 percent over the same time period as we have seen with crude oil prices and the wholesale gas prices.

And meanwhile, those same retailers are profiting; their profit have gone up about 40 cents — nearly 40 cents in that same period of time. 

So what the President is saying is that everyone along that chain, around that production chain line, needs to — needs to make sure that they’re doing what is possible, their part, in bringing down the costs for the American people.

That is what we’re asking.  Consumers should not — should not be the first to pay and the last to benefit.

Q    Jeff Bezos says the President’s tweet about this is “either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.”  Which is it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you know, we completely disagree with Jeff Bezos.  Look, we will continue to call on everyone along that distribution chain, as I just mentioned — from oil companies, to refineries, to distributors, to retailers — to pass their lower cost through to consumers. 

That is what is important: to make sure that we should not make, again, consumers pay first and get that re- — and get that relief last.

Q    Okay.  And then, on a different topic: Why is there a voicemail of the President talking to his son about his overseas business dealings if the President has said he’s never spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, first, I’ll say that what the President said stands.  So if he — if that’s what the President said, that is what stands.

And second — secondly —

Q    He’s leaving a voicemail about a New York Times article —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But secondly —

Q    — considering — concerning Hunter Biden’s business dealings.  And it says, “I think you’re clear.”  How is that not him talking to his son about his overseas business dealings?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re not — from this podium, I am not going to talk about alleged materials from the laptop.  I will — I am not —

Q    So are you disputing that it’s President’s voice on the voicemail?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am not going to talk about alleged materials on a laptop.  It’s not happening.

Q    Are you disputing then that it is not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Peter, I refer you to his son’s representative.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The President said the other day that he would meet with governors and then consider some more potential executive actions in response to Roe.  So now that that meeting has happened, is there anything on the table that you are considering in terms of executive actions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as we have said, all options are on the table.  The President is going to do everything that he can from his legal authority to make sure that we’re protecting women’s freedoms and women’s rights.  So that still stands.  That still is something that we are going to do.  I don’t have an executive order — executive action to speak to at this time.

As you know, when — when the decision came down almost two weeks ago, the President took quick action and he announced executive — and he announced some executive authorities that we believe protect women, ensure that they — and ensure that they can get access — health — healthcare access as quickly as possible.

As far as executive actions, I don’t have anything for you to preview.

Q    So just really quickly, is there an update on when the President will make a decision on Chinese tariffs?  And will he be speaking to President Xi before he makes that decision?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have a timeline for you on that.  The President’s team is continuing to look at our options on how to move forward.

As you know, the President and President Xi had a conversation back in March, and we continue to leave all communications lines open from the President on down.
Go ahead.

Q    Just following up on that: The President did say he would have specific announcements out of the meeting.  So has he changed his view on that, that there isn’t anything to announce right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  No, not at all.  I don’t think he’s changed his view on that.  Again, we’re going to do — he’s going to do everything in his legal — legal authority to make sure that we protect women and their freedoms and their rights the best that he can from, again, his legal authority.  I just don’t have anything for you to share at this time.

Q    It just sounded like he had something in the pipeline there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Once we have something, we will be sure to sho- — share it.

Q    On the matter of the Griner letter: Now that the President has read it, does he feel it is the type of an outreach to him that he would want to do some kind of personal response back in a letter form or in some other way to Griner, if that is doable through channels, or to her wife or family members — to have a direct response from the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you all read the letter, I presume.  It was out there in the press.  And it is a deeply personal letter.  As you know, this President is — takes that very personally as well. 

Brittney Griner talked about the Fourth of July, which we just celebrated yesterday, talking about freedom and how different it means for her. 

You heard the President’s speech, which was also very powerful, yesterday speaking about that and the time and the moment that we’re in.

I just — I don’t have anything to share about what — if he’s going to respond or what that would look like.  I can confirm, again, that he has read the letter, and it was, as we all know, deeply personal.  And we’re going to do everything — the President is going to do everything that he can, in his power, to — to bring her home, along with other U.S. nationals who are being held — wrongfully detained abroad. 

Q    And any — any follow-up on the energy meeting that Secretary Granholm held?  And the President had said he was looking for solutions from the oil companies and so forth.  Has there been anything brought back to the President for him to review or any updates on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, that meeting went very well.  We even heard from some of the CEOs who came out of that meeting as well.  We did a readout. 

We are look- — still looking to get to solution.  We think that was a first step.  There’s going to be more conversations.  I — we just don’t have more to share on the next steps — specific next steps and what has been presented to the President. 

But clearly, we’re looking for solutions.  We want to get that capacity up.  We want to make sure that refineries are increasing their capacity so that we can get gas — gasoline out there, we can get diesel out there so that the cost for the American people come — come on down. 

And so that’s what we’re going to continue to work on. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On the China tariffs again, the AFL-CIO and other labor unions have urged the President not to use these tariffs.  The President is going to Ohio tomorrow.  The Democratic Senate candidate, Tim Ryan, has also said this would be a major mistake to use those tariffs. 

So how is the President weighing those concerns among labor unions and some Rust Belt Democrats against other people who are saying these tariffs should be lifted?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, again, I don’t have anything to preview or announce at this time.  Look, there are a lot of different elements to this, especially since the previous administration imposed these tariffs in such a haphazard way, in a non-strategic way.  So, we are — we are — want to make sure that we have the right approach. 

And again, his team is talking — is figuring it out and they’re talking through this.  And once we figure out the right approach — this is about what is right for the American public, for the American people — we will have an announcement and we will let you all know.

Q    And on the stalled China competition bill, any calls to Capitol Hill to read out on that?  What’s the White House’s strategy to try to get that across the finish line?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, it’s something that we believe is incredibly important to the American people, getting that competition bill done.  We are — we are going to continue to have those conversations on the Hill. 

As you know, we don’t read out any personal conversations, but we’re going to continue to do the work with folks on the Hill to get this done. 

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, thanks.  A couple questions.  Overall, there was a — there was a published report today that say overall frustration among Democrats with President Biden.  Is this administration concerned about that criticism from Democrats?

And it also says that the President is incapable of the urgency needed because of Roe v. Wade being overturned.  Any response from the administration to those published reports?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So when you say “Democrats,” you mean Demo- — elected officials or —

Q    Mm-hmm.  Elected Democratic officials’ overall frustration with the Biden administration. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  So, here’s the — here’s the thing I’ve — I’ve heard — I’ve heard of this.  The President has shown, if you look at the different issues that have come up most recently — in particular, let’s start with gun violence:  The President showed urgency.  He showed fury.  He showed — he showed frustration.  He spoke to that issue every time that he could, whether he was in Uvalde or Buffalo or did a primetime address. 

And we were able to get a first step — still a lot more to do — a bipartisan gun reform piece of legislation, which is something that has — we have not seen in 30 years. 

A lot of that is because of his leadership.  Something — the same thing that he was able to do 30 years ago, when we saw the assault weapons ban.  So, that — he showed urgency there, and we were able to deliver in a bipartisan way. 

When it comes — when it comes to Roe v. Wade, within hours of the announcement of the decision that we heard from SCOTUS, he put forth executive authorities that went into — that went into effect with the medication that’s approved medication from FDA, and also making sure that — calling on DOJ to protect women who are crossing the lines because they have to make a decision on their health. 

And those are things that actually matter.  There’s more work to do.  He’s going to look at everything that he can do on the legal authority. 

And — but here’s the thing: When it comes to Roe, when it comes to a precedent that’s been around for nearly 50 years, what needs to happen is Congress needs to act.  We have to codify Roe.  We have to make sure that it is the law of the land.  And that’s what he’s going to keep speaking to.

Q    Well, with the criticism of the President, is this administration concerned about how the Democrats will perform in the midterm elections?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, I can’t talk about the midterms from here.  That will get me into big trou- — (laughs) —

Q    Is the President concerned?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — I’m just saying I got to be careful about that. 

Q    Has he expressed any concern?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I got to be careful about that. 

Look, the President wants to make sure that we continue delivering for the American people.  He has said — what I can say from here — if we are in a position where Congress does not act, as we’re speaking to on Roe v. Wade, and does not codify Roe, make that — make Roe the law of the land, then the American public should make their voices heard.  They should make their voices heard at the ballot box. 

And that is something that he’s going to call on.  That is going to be something that he’s going to speak on very loudly and very — very aggressively, as you — as you laid out. 

And this is an important, important issue.  He has said this was an extreme decision by the Court.  He has said this is going to change the lives of so many women, upend their lives, if you will, because of this extreme decision.  And it should not stand. 

And what we saw a couple of weeks ago is not — almost two weeks ago — is not — is not the end.  It is only the beginning.  And we just have to keep working towards that. 

Q    And finally, as far as — a different matter entirely, but as far as a letter that was presented to you, signed by 70 members of the White House Press Corps, any reaction from the administration regarding that letter?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you could say — I responded to you, didn’t I?

Q    Yeah, you did say —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    — you would talk to us.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    But that was all I heard.  Is there anything else you could add?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, you know, we’re — we’re coming — you know, we’re coming into a different — a different place of the CO- — of COVID.  Right?  Things are starting to open up.  We’re even doing tours here.  We had 7,000 people out in the — in the South Lawn yesterday, military families and others, to celebrate Fourth of July, which was a wonderful event.  It was great to have — to see our military families out there. 

And so, you know, we understand.  We want to make — we want to be accessible.  We want the President to be — his events to be accessible.  And we are working to that, with the understanding that we have been working through, as we look at his events during this pandemic, and we’re trying to — we’re trying to see what the next steps are. 

Q    So, you’re going to open up everything for us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not saying that.  I’m just saying that we’re willing to work with you on this.  And this is also a priority of ours. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay?  All right, great. 

Go ahead.

Q    So, just following up on the executive actions — I mean, the ones that the President had hinted we might hear more of Friday, you say are still being talked about: I mean, there’s — there’s broad frustration among voters we’ve talked to, among many Democratic lawmakers that you had this unprecedented situation of more than a month of knowing pretty much what was going to be, likely, in the ruling.  You had — the dynamics on the Court were clear in place when this case was heard. 

There’s a lot of frustration of why weren’t those orders deliberated and decided and ready to roll out at a faster pace, and here we are, about two weeks later, talking about when that next wave might come out.  I mean, what’s your response to that general frustration and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I would — I would — look, I’ll say this: We understand that the — the frustration.  What we saw the Court do almost two weeks ago should be frustrating, should be infuriating, and should have everyone angry — not just women, because this is not just about women’s rights. 

It’s going to, as we saw — as you just mentioned, Clarence Thomas and what he just said in — in his remarks, it is — we are in an incredibly scary time. 

And so, we have to take their words very, very seriously.  And that’s not — let’s not forget what Republicans — national Republicans have been saying for the past couple of weeks: is how they want to make a national ban.  And so, because of that, the President has been very forceful in saying that we have to take action.  He cannot just do this alone; Congress needs to take action.  So that’s number one. 

But to your point: Within hours, when this decision came down, the President used his executive — his executive authority, which matters here because we know those — those who want to ban all abortions, ne- — their next moves are going to be medicated abortion and travel across state line.  And so, we wanted to make that clear and get — and make sure we got ahead of that, if you will, as we’re seeing what we’re seeing across the states with the ban — the banning of abortion, for the next round of attacks. 

So that’s what we did first.  Now, we’re going to look at his legal authority on what he can do on executive actions. 

But we — we jumped into action, I would argue, within — within hours of the decision.  And the actions that we took — those author- — those executive authorities that we took were in consultation with groups, were in consultation with legal experts.  We’ve been having these conversations with them for many, many weeks since we heard of the draft — the draft proposal.

Q    And quick follow-up on January 6th hearings.  I mean, I know the White House has been pretty clear that due to the unique situation of January 6th, that executive privilege is not — is not a top concern about precedent.  But I’m wondering, given the unique nature of a White House Counsel’s position, is there any conversations about whether that sets a precedent for White House Counsel going forward to have to answer to Congress about deliberations inside the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just first say when it comes to January 6th — the hearings, the select committee — what we’re seeing: It is important — the President believes it’s important to get to the bottom of what happened, for the American public to see for themselves and get all the information that they can on what happened on that day. 

So as it comes to executive privilege, there is no privilege for trying to overthrow the government.  That’s what the President believes.  That’s why the President has consistently declined to assert executive privilege with respect to documents or testimony about the extraordinary events under investigation by the January 6th Committee. 

We’re going to continue to defer to the — to the committee as it conducts its bipartisan, independent investigation. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On Brittney Griner: You were there when the President read Griner’s letter.  What was his reaction?  And did he express a message for Griner and her family?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to share any personal interaction that I had with the President.  I just wanted to confirm that he did read the letter. 

And I will say, again, this is very personal to him, especially when someone writes a letter in such a personal way. 

He — we have made this a priority.  We have — you know, Secretary Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has spoken to Mrs. Griner and her teammates and her family.  And so, we’re going to continue to keep that — that open communication and have very honest conversations with them.  They’re private conversations, so I’m not going to share what those conversations have been. 

But this is also the case with all U.S. nationals abroad.  Again, this is a priority for U.S. nationals who are — abroad who are wrongfully detained.  It is important to the President to bring them home safely, just like we saw with Trevor Reed very — very recently ago. 

And so we’re going to continue to make that a priority, but I’m not going to share any private conversations.

Q    And then just a follow-up on the pleas from the Griner family on wanting to personally speak with the President.  After reading this letter, is that something that the White House at this point is considering?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — there’s — I just don’t have anything to share on what communication the President is going to have with Mrs. Griner and her family.  All I can confirm is that he’s read the letter, and he’s making this a priority.

Go ahead.

Q    First, just on the Illinois shooting.  Illinois already has a red-flag law.  It isn’t used that often.  It wasn’t used in this case, even though the suspect apparently had put some violent imagery online.  Is your expectation that the gun bill that just passed is something that would have addressed this kind of situation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I want to be very clear: Yes, the bipartisan gun — anti — the gun reform bill was an important first step.  It was the first step that we have seen in 30 years.  The last time was when this President led the banning assault weapons legislation that lasted for about 10 years and sunset in 19- — in 2004.  And so, the President believes that we need — we need to make sure that we ban assault weapons.  Right? 

That is one of the things that’s being reported that this suspect had.  And so, banning assault weapons is something, again, that he’s going to continue to fli- — fight for. 

With that said, he understand that there’s more work to be done.  The bipartisan bill is going to save some lives.  Like, that is — that is true; it will save some lives.  But we need more — we need to do more work. 

And the President is going to continue to do that — to do that fight. 

What we know — one thing I would say about red-flag laws, as we’ve seen them over the past several years, is that when they are implemented, they do work in red states and in blue states.  And they are also very much in lined of what a majority of Americans support. 

So, again, when they’re — when they’re actually enacted, red-flag laws are actually effective. 

Q    And do —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — do you — I know you don’t have any travel to confirm, but does the President wants to go to Illinois? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have anything to say about any travel to Illinois. 

Q    Okay.  And then just one other thing that I wanted.  Is it accurate that the White House was planning to nominate this anti-abortion Republican judge, Chad Meredith, for a federal judgeship in Kentucky the day that Roe v. Wade was decided?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we don’t — we — we make it a point here to not comment on any — on any vacancy, whether it is on the executive branch or judicial branch, especially those that have not — have not — the nomination has not been made yet.  So I don’t have anything to say on that.  It is something that we just don’t comment on. 

Q    Will the President ever appoint a judge who doesn’t support abortion rights to the federal bench?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, that’s a hypothetical that I can’t really speak to.  I —

Q    That’s not a litmus test for him though?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — I’m not going to — I’m going on to litmus test.  All I can tell you is that we don’t normally speak on vacancies that — where we haven’t made a decision yet, whether it’s on the judicial level or the executive branch. 

Go ahead.

Q    You’ve mentioned Trevor Reed a couple times.  His release was part of a prisoner swap.  Should we view that as a viable option when it comes to Brittney Griner or Paul Whelan or others?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I cannot speak to any discussions that are happening on how any U.S. national who’s being held abroad and wrongfully detained, how — what the process is going to be to bring them home.   I just cannot speak to that from here.

Q    Is there a broad kind of contextual structure in which you look at prisoner swaps?  Like, why — why was that considered an okay thing in the Trevor Reed case?  Is there kind of a construct that the administration follows?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I cannot speak from — about that from here.  Clearly, there are security and privacy reasons to not discuss the details of how — of how a release happens.  So it’s not something that I can speak from here. 

I can say that we have the Special Envoy, that this is their focus.  We are in constant communication with them on that process.  But it is — just for safety, security reasons, this is not something that I can speak from here. 

Q    Just one more on a different subject — on the China Competition Bill that Jordan asked about.  The Senate passed that more than a year ago.  Is there a concern that it was allowed to linger for too long and, in fact, gave Senator McConnell the opportunity to put the roadblocks he’s put up in front now because he didn’t move on it until 13 months later?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’re going to — look, it’s unfortunate that Senator McConnell has taken this approach.  Clearly, that’s not an approach that’s going to help the American public.  That’s how we see it. 

This competition bill is so — is important for many reasons.  So we’re going to continue to work with Congress to get this done.  And so, we’re going to just continue that process. 

I’m not going to go into any personal conversations or negotiations, as we tend to say from here, but, again, this is an important piece of legislation that we would like to see move forward.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, thank you.  Yesterday, President Biden, in his first opportunity to address the public in person, on the shooting, he did so sort of very obliquely and fleetingly.  And then he came back out on stage about two hours later and spoke a little more.  Was that because he fe- — he or his team felt he had initially missed the mark?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, he felt that he needed to speak on that himself.  He just — that was his own decision to move —

Q    But not from the statement.  I mean, from — he came out and he verbally said at the Fourth of July, “You all heard what happened today.  Things will get better still, but not without more hard work.”  And then two hours later, that same evening, he came out and said a bit more.  Is that because he felt —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — no, my answer is still the same.  He wanted to make sure that he had an opport- — he had an opportunity to speak to this, and he took that opportunity that second time.  He spoke to it very briefly, as you just stated, the first time.

And the second time, you know, he — you know, he got on stage and wanted to give an update.  He actually, if you remember, he gave an update of what was currently happening, and he gave a moment of silence.  That was — that was — that was him.  That was something he decided to do. 

Q    And just briefly following up on that: Governor Pritzker said in a press conference — he said he was “furious,” it was a time “to be angry.”  You have said, referring to what President Biden said, that he — he spoke “forcefully” yesterday; he spoke with “urgency.”

I guess I just want to make sure I understand: Do you and the President believe saying “You all heard what happened today” after yet another mass shooting — is that your definition of “forceful” and “urgent”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is that there has been many times that the President has spoken forcefully, urgently about a moment that currently exists in our country, which is a gun violence epidemic. 

And he has done that in primetime on many of your colleagues’ networks.  He has done it Uvalde, when he — after coming back from Uvalde after he met with parents and family members in a dev- — they’re dealing with their devastation.  He did that in Buffalo as well.  And he has shown, over and over again, how important this issue is. 

And it’s not just important during his presidency.  It’s been important when he was the Vice President and it was important when he was a senator.

So to say that this President has not shown urgency, it’s just — it’s just false.

Q    And last final follow-up on that.  On what we were just talking about, which is guns, but also on a range of issues — abortion rights, the threat to American democracy — why do you think so many members of your own party, elected leaders, voters, activists, pundits — why did they all seem to, in this moment, disagree with that assessment you just gave?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I can’t speak for them.  I can only speak to what we’re trying to do.  I can only speak to —

Q    But why do you think that’s not coming through, what you’re trying to do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I — again, I’m not going to speak for them.  I would — I would speak — I would go directly to these folks, these activists, and our Democratic colleagues and speak to them directly.  And I’m sure they will give you a very clear response on why they feel that way.

Look, you know, this is a President that has been working tirelessly, day in and day out, since he’s walked into this administration fighting for the American public.

That is what matters to him.  That is what is important is delivering every way that he can to make sure that we get things done.

I mean, let’s not forget: While, again, there’s more work to be done, there was a bipartisan gun reform piece of legislation that has been done that has not been done in 30 years.  That matters.

Is there more work to be done?  Absolutely.

Is he going to call for more action and do the best that he can?  Absolutely.

This is also a president, in his first year of office, has had more executive actions on gun reform, on fighting gun violence than any other president at this time.  So that matters as well.  His actions should peak — should speak as well for how he’s — how he’s delivering for the American public.

Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, thank you.  I know you said White House doesn’t comment on judicial vacancies.  But this case, the White House already provided a — an intent to — an intention to nominate to Kentucky Governor Beshear that it would intend to nominate Chad Meredith on June 23rd.  So does the President plan to nominate this individual who has come under criticism for being — from Democrats in Kentucky and nationally for being an anti-abortion attorney and a member of the Federalist Society?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m not — I’m not going to comment on something that has not been decided on that — on any open vacancies.  It’s still — currently, it is an open vacancy.  And so, I’m just not going to comment from here.

Q    Is there any deal with Leader McConnell regarding this jump ship that the President has entered into whereby McConnell wouldn’t hold up certain judicial appointments moving forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to comment on an open vacancy at this point. 

Q    Then what’s your reaction to all of this response — angry response from a lot of Democrats in Kentucky — Representative John Yarmuth, Andy Beshear, others — who have criticized that Biden would nominate somebody who stands against abortion and holds conservative views?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we haven’t nominated anyone — that’s what I would say — as of yet.

Let me — okay, I guess I got everybody.  Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.

Q    Following —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Following the Highland Park shooting, President Biden’s Fourth of July message was telling Americans to make sure they vote, but he didn’t make an explicit call for Congress to act. 

So, is that tacit acknowledgment that he sees Congress, as it stands right now, unlikely to take any additional action?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Can you say the beginning part of your question?

Q    Well, in his Fourth of July message, he urged Americans to go to the polls and vote.  But he didn’t specifically say Congress needs to act.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Act on?  Is there something in particular?

Q    Act on gun-control legislation.  So, is that tacit acknowledgment that Congress, as it stands right now, cannot do that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, Congress did act on gun reform.  There was a bipartisan bill that was passed.

Q    Is he frustrated that it didn’t go far enough?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, the President has been very clear that we need to go further on the gun reform, that he is pleased that there is a — that — that he was able to sign a bipartisan gun reform bill.  And that has been the first time, again, in 30 years that we have seen that type of reform or any type of reform. 

Do we need to do more?  Absolutely.  He has been very clear on that.

One of the things that I just mentioned a few moments ago was banning assault weapons.  That is something that, as we saw yesterday, we saw an assault weapon was used in a horrific, horrific event yesterday in Highland Park.  So that is something that he led on 30 years ago and he wants to continue to see — or see that happen — again, the banning of assault weapons.

Q    But is that something he believes this Congress can accomplish?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, we — this Congress was able to do a bipartisan gun reform legislation.  So, we’re going to continue to work with — work with members in Congress to see what else we can do.

Q    Since those mass shootings, has he called any members of Congress?  Has he planned to set up any meetings? 

A mass shooting just happened.  We’re just trying to understand what he’s done since then.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — I mean, again, he — we saw a gun reform bipartisan legislation pass.  He signed that into law, which was a first step.

Yesterday — this happened yesterday.  You heard directly from the President in a statement.  He spoke on this twice yesterday.  We are always in constant communication with members of Congress on a slew of — a long list of issues that are important to the American public.

And so, we will continue to have those conversations. 

Q    Is it my turn now?

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just a — kind of a specific question.  In a statement today, several prominent congressional Democrats criticized President Biden over his comments last week saying that he supports selling F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.  I’m just curious if the White House has any response to that criticism, which came from several members of his own party.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Is it because after Erdoğan’s meeting that he had at NATO?

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Is that what this is coming from?

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve been very clear about this.  The F-16 — that conversation about the F-16 and Turkey has been around for some time.  We’ve talked about this several months ago.  So there’s really nothing new.  The President has supported that effort.  So, there’s really nothing — nothing new to that.

Okay.

Q    A Mid-East question and — I’m going to take this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.) 

Q    A Mid-East question and also a Ukraine question.  Let me start with the Mid-East.

A U.S. District Court judge has given the administration until August 1st to decide whether to grant immunity to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in a civil lawsuit filed by his fiancée, obviously, in relation to his — to his death. 

I’m just wondering if the President is willing or ready to weigh in on that, or if that’s going to happen during his trip, or if that’s something he’s going to discuss with the Saudis.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, that’s a legal determination, so I cannot comment from here on that because it’s a legal determination.

Q    Cool.  Let’s move on to Ukraine then.  Can I just get the White House’s assessment on these recent Russian territorial gains and whether that changes your approach? 

And then also with the President of Ukraine calling for a swift end to this conflict by — by winter, is there a military solution to this conflict?  And if not, what is the administration doing to reach a negotiated settlement?  Could this happen at the G20?  Who’s involved?  Can you lay out any sort of roadmap?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as the President has said — to your last question, first — as the President has said many times: No conversation about Ukraine without Ukraine. 

What we have been trying to do and have been doing for the past several months is to make sure that we put — with our assistance that we have been providing — make sure we put Ukraine in the most — in the most strongest kind of position so when there is that opportunity to do those negotiations, they’re able to do that.

But what we have seen from — from President Putin is he has — he is not in a place or has no desire to negotiate. 

So, going to your first question now is: Our approach does not change.  We are going to continue to support Ukraine.  We’re going to continue to help Ukraine fight for their democracy, fight for their territorial integrity.

And, you know — and then, to your second question, going to the second one — you know, we have said for months that the fighting in the Donbas, which is where I think you’re speaking about, could be prolonged and protracted.  That is something that we have been saying for some time, and we would — we would see with gains and with losses on both sides.  We’re seeing that today, as you just laid out.

But that doesn’t mean that the Russians have — have been able to achieve their goals, and that doesn’t mean that the Ukrainians have stopped fighting.  They are — have — they have shown their bravery.  They will continue to fight and — and fight for their democracy.

And so, we will continue to support Ukraine.  We have given them the most amount of support than any other country as it relates to security assistance.  And that is not going to — and that is not going to stop.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I would like to ask you about the announcement that the President made in — at the G7 for the Global Partnership on Infrastructure. 

But before that, I would like to know what’s the difference between President Trump watching TV, even pleading to go to the Capitol while — while the Capitol was being attacked, and President Biden going to the beach and having fun while Supreme Court justices are on the attack by a verbally violent mob?  What’s the difference between those two leaders? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wait, what’s the comparison you’re making?  Could you say the first part? 

Q    So, I’m saying now: What’s the difference between President Trump not doing anything while the Capitol was being attacked and President Biden not doing anything when protesters — while the Supreme Court justices were under attack in their own homes with their families and with their children?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — there are two major differences here. 

First of all, our predecessor was very — we have said that his behavior on that day, on January 6th, was atrocious.  The President has said that.  And we are going to let the Select Committee — the January 6 Select Committee continue to do their independent review of that — their hearing.  And you guys all saw for yourselves, the American people saw — have seen for themselves what — what the — what our precede- — predecessor has done — his behavior and his involvement. 

So that is not the same.  That is absolutely not the same.  We are talking about what we saw on January 6th.  We are talking about an attack on our democracy.  We are talking about a very dark day that the person who was here before us seemingly, if you watch, was very involved.  So that’s very, very different. 

Now, fast forward to — to this President.  This President is fighting for women’s rights.  He’s fighting for women’s freedom.  He has spoken out.  He’s been very clear about what needs to happen next.  He put out two executive authorities that lays out ways that we can protect women.  He has — he has said that he’s go- — everything is on the table.  We’re going to see what else we can do. 

But he also has spoken very truthfully and very honestly with the American people, which is: If we want to see Roe become the law of the land, we also have to act.  We have to hold Congress accountable and make sure that they act and that that cannot happen.  Then Americans need to go to the ballot box.  And that is — that is very different. 

And to say — and to say that there is no difference, that is — that is just unbelievably wrong.

Q    But is it a concern that a Supreme Court justice may be harmed (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — I’m moving on.  I’m moving on.

Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Phil. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.

Q    Thank you, Karine. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Oh, hold on.  Go ahead, Phil, and then I’ll come — I’ll come back to you, Ed.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  I got a policy question about some of the oil that was released from the Strategic National Petroleum Reserve, but first a follow-up. 

We have all heard it.  The President likes to say “I will always level with you.”  He says that again and again.  Moments ago, though, you seemed to dismiss Peter’s question about his conversation with his son, Hunter Biden, with regards to his business dealings, and I’m wondering: How is that silence consistent with the President’s promise to always level with the American public? 

Because, you know, in public, he says he hasn’t discussed these business dealings.  And then, at least according to the voicemail that’s been obtained by the Daily Mail and the Washington Examiner, it certainly seems like he was seeking to do exactly that — have a conversation about these business dealings.  Is he leveling with the American public on this? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Phil, I hear your question, but what I can tell you from here, standing at this podium, is that I cannot comment on any materials from the laptop.  And I would refer you to the representatives of Hunter Biden.  That’s what I can share with you at this podium, at this time.

Q    Okay.  And then there’s a Reuters report out this morning that says that more than 5 million barrels of oil that were released from the emergency oil reserves were exported to Europe and Asia last month, and some of it, reportedly, was actually heading to China.  Is the administration aware of those reports?  And does the President mind that some of this oil that was meant to ease paying for consumers is headed overseas? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I have not seen that report, so I would honestly have to go look into it and see what — what the truth is in that — in that statement that you just laid out and see exactly what’s happening.  I — I just have not seen that report.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah, so —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, and then — I’m so sorry — and then Ebony.  I’m so sorry, I was supposed to go to Ebony.  But you go quickly, and then we’ll go to Ebony.

Q    Yeah, the Atlanta Fed GDPNow tracker is showing that the second quarter — it’s estimating second quarter is negative growth — 2.1 percent.  Should that hold — the U.S. has been in recession for the first half of this year.  Does the President believe that we are in a recession, first of all?  Second of all, if that does hold, does the President accept responsibility for his policies as part of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first, do we believe we’re in a recession?  No.  That’s — that’s my answer to you on that.

So, there is a nonpartisan data that came out recently — the National Bureau of Economic Research, which I’m sure you know, very well, Ed.  It determines and defines recession.  And so let me just quote here for a second.  “In recent decades, the two measures we have put the most weight on are real personal income less transfer and nonfarm payroll employment.”  So that is from the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economics Research, again, determines the definition of recession.

So here are the facts.  The facts are this: We’ve averaged more than 400,000 jobs every month for the past — over the last — I should say, over the last month — three months.  We’ve held steady — that 3.6 unemployment rate.  Consumer spending remains strong and above pre-pandemic trends.  Business invest- — investment remains strong, and household balance sheets remain strong.

So we do not believe that we are in a recession, and we have a nonpartisan entity to speak to that more directly and more specifically.

Q    One more quick one.  At the G7, there is video of the French president running up to President Biden and relaying a message, saying that the Saudis are about at capacity through the UAE.  Did President Biden ask the French to ask the Saudis to pump more oil through the UAE?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I did not hear this conversation, so I can’t speak to that conversation either. 

But what I can say is, as we know, the early week of Jan- — of June, the OPEC+ announced that they were going to increase their capacity for July and August by 50 percent.

So I will — I will leave that there.  And I think that says a lot about where they are with their capacity.  And, of course, we welcome that.  And — but — but, again, I’ll — I’ll leave it to OPEC+ to speak to that.

Go ahead, Ebony.  I know I promised —

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — you a question.

Q    Two quick questions — one on gun reform.  Is there anything or any consideration that the administration can do when it comes to regulating military-style ammunition, whether that be in production?  Is there anything that the Fed can do to move in that capacity?  Since you’re not getting anywhere with — on guns, what about ammunition?  Any talks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we believe that the best way to really have a comprehensive gun reform is through legislation, is to work with Congress as it comes through the federal level.  The President has done the most executive action than any president at this time in their administration. 

And so now what we are going to continue to do and — and continue to focus on is to — is to work with Congress to do more.  And one of the things that I’ve just been pointing out is the banning of assault weapons, which we believe is incredibly important, as the President led on this issue back in 1994.

We’re going to — tha- —

Q    The second question, really quickly.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure.

Q    The Senate recesses in August.  A lot of the President’s efforts on criminal justice basically have stalled, but I want to ask about the EQUAL Act legislation to end the disparity between crack and powder cocaine.  The House passed a bill last September — overwhelming bipartisan support.  Is the President leaning in at all on lawmakers to send — to get this bill to him?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I have to talk to our Office of Leg Affairs on that.  I do not know where that — that legislation is currently.  I don’t know if it went over to the Senate.  I don’t know in what — in what — where the mechanics are on that.  But happy to take that question to you in the back.

Q    Karine, one more —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, we got to go, guys.  Thank you.  We’ll be back — well, hopefully we’ll see you in Ohio tomorrow.

4:21 P.M. EDT

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