James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:42 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So as the President spoke to yesterday, the United States undercoo- — undertook a counterterrorism operation in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday. At his direction, the U.S. intelligence targeted and killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s leader.
We know you have questions about this today, and so we wanted to make sure that we had John Kirby come back. He’s going to talk about the specifics of that operation and the extension also of truce in Yemen, which is incredibly important, and any other foreign policy news of the day.
With that, I give you John Kirby, the Nationals — National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There you go.
MR. KIRBY: Appreciate it. That’s a mouthful.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a mouthful. Yeah. (Laughs.)
MR. KIRBY: Okay, as Karine noted and you all have obviously been tracking — the President’s announcement yesterday — that on the 30th of July, the United States undertook a precision counterterrorism operation in Kabul. They targeted and killed al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Zawahiri was the world’s most wanted terrorist. He was Osama bin Laden’s deputy during the 9/11 attacks and became his successor in 2011 following bin Laden’s death during a U.S. counterterrorism mission.
Zawahiri continued to pose an active threat to U.S. persons, interests, and national security.
As President Biden has consistently said, we will not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists who might bring harm to Americans, to the homeland. We met that commitment.
This action demonstrates that without American forces on the ground in Afghanistan and in harm’s way, we still remain able to identify and locate even the world’s most wanted terrorist and then take the action to remove him from the battlefield.
That is the definition — this mission — of when we talked a year ago of over-the-horizon counterterrorism capability. What we did this past weekend is a perfect, clean example of what that capability looks like.
Now, on to Taiwan. As you all have seen, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, arrived in Taiwan earlier this morning East Coast time. As we have said, the Speaker has the right to visit Taiwan. And a Speaker of the House has visited Taiwan before without incident, as have many members of Congress over the years, including this year.
This trip was the Speaker’s decision, and Congress is an independent branch of government; you all know that.
We’re obviously monitoring her travel, as we always do for members of Congress, and we’ve taken all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of her travel throughout the region.
Let me be clear: The Speaker’s visit is totally consistent with our longstanding One China policy. We’ve been very clear that nothing has changed about our One China policy, which is guided, of course, by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint U.S.-PRC Communiqués, and the Six Assurances.
We’ve said that we oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side. We said we do not support Taiwan independence. And we’ve said, as I said again yesterday, that we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.
Now, we have communicated this directly to the PRC at the highest levels, including in last week’s call between President Biden and President Xi. The National Security Advisor, Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also made this very clear to Beijing in a half a dozen recent high-level conversations.
Now, we’ve seen a number of announcements from the PRC in just the last several hours that are unfortunately right in line with what we had anticipated and what we talked about yesterday. Now, there’s no reason, as I said yesterday, for Beijing to turn this visit, which is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy, into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressiveness and military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait, now or beyond her travel.
And again, as I made clear yesterday, before the Speaker’s travel was confirmed by her, China has positioned itself to take further steps, and we expect that they will continue to react over a longer-term horizon. I couldn’t give you a date certain of what that horizon looks like, but we certainly would expect them to react even beyond her trip, including announcing additional large-scale, live-fire exercises — of course, they’ve already started doing some of that today; flying across the median line — we’ve seen press reports of them doing that today; and using economic coercion. It’s exactly in line with the playbook that we anticipated and talked to you about yesterday.
The United States will not and does not — will not seek and does not want a crisis. We are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do.
At the same time, we will not engage in saber-rattling. We will continue to operate in the seas and the skies of the western Pacific, as we have done for decades. We will continue to support Taiwan, defend a free and open Indo-Pacific, and seek to maintain communication with Beijing.
We’ll keep doing what we are doing, which is supporting cross-Strait peace and stability.
And then just real quick, lastly — Karine hinted at this at the top: The President welcomes today’s announcement of an extension of the truce in the Yemen conflict. The truce in Yemen, of course, was a key agenda item during the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with the King and the Crown Prince and with leaders from across the region.
We’re grateful for the leadership of Saudi Arabia throughout this truce process, as well as the Sultan — as well as for the Sultan and leaders of Oman who have also played an important role throughout.
Now, this truce, which is now going on five months, has brought a period of unprecedented calm in Yemen, saving thousands of lives and bringing tangible relief for countless Yemenis. Five months, which may not sound like a lot, but when you’re talking about seven years of war and thousands and thousands of Yemeni lives, it counts for a lot. And now we have a chance to extend this another two months.
So we urge the Yemeni parties to seize this opportunity to work constructively under U.N. auspices to reach an inclusive, comprehensive agreement that paves the way for a durable, Yemeni-led resolution to the conflict.
Advancing the peace process is going to require courage and dedication from all sides. The United States will remain committed and engaged in efforts to advance peace in Yemen and to bring relief to the Yemeni people.
And with that, I’ll take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead, (inaudible).
Q Thank you, Karine. Thank you.
John, how concerned is the administration right now that the — Afghanistan has become a safe haven for terrorists?
MR. KIRBY: I think if you were to ask some members of al Qaeda — ask them how safe they feel in Afghanistan right now, I think we proved to a fare-thee-well this weekend that it isn’t a safe haven and it isn’t going to be, going forward.
Q What will the repercussions be for the Taliban harboring al-Zawahiri?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to telegraph moves and decisions that we might make. I’m certainly not going to get ahead of anything at this point.
I would just make two points. One, the strike itself shows how serious we are about accountability. It shows how serious we are about defending our interests. And we’re going to maintain — as I said at the outset, we’re going to maintain this over-the-horizon capability. In fact, I’d go so far as to say we’re going to continue to try to improve that capability going forward.
And number two, we’ve communicated very directly with Taliban leaders our views of their willingness, at some level of course, to harbor Zawahiri and his family.
Q Will they be held accountable?
MR. KIRBY: And we have made it clear that not “we believe,” not “we think,” not “we suppose,” but we know that that’s a violation of the Doha Agreement.
Q So, obviously, John — just to follow up on that — clearly, this shows accountability for Zawahiri and for al Qaeda, wherever they are —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — as you got him in Afghanistan. But it doesn’t show accountability for what the Secretary of State described as a gross violation of the Doha Agreement. So can you commit that there will be some act to demonstrate that they will be held accountable in some way? And how do you do that without it looking like, “Yeah, we’ll just take out one by one; you can keep allowing more in”?
MR. KIRBY: Well, again, I’m not going to telegraph punches that hadn’t been thrown yet or decisions that haven’t been made yet. We’re going to stay vigilant to the threat.
We’ve made it clear to the Taliban that — that we know what — what they did and we know who they harbored. And we know some of the steps they tried to take after the strike to cover up the evidence of it. So we’re mindful of it.
But I’m not going to get ahead of decisions — policy decisions that haven’t been made.
I mean, the — it’s not that we take the Taliban at their word, but just indulge me for a second: They claim they want a relationship with the United States and with the West. They claim they want to open up and be part of the international community.
Q They need financing, they want embassies.
MR. KIRBY: They claim they want financing. That’s exactly right, Peter.
So, if that’s true, if that’s what they really want, then it would behoove them to pay close attention to what we just did over the weekend and to meet their agreements under the Doha Agreement.
Q Without identifying them, how many other al Qaeda individuals or leaders do you assess are presently living in Afghanistan?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get into intelligence matters, Peter. We said, even before we left Afghanistan last August, that we knew al Qaeda was present in Afghanistan in relatively small numbers. And we know that there are still some al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
I would — again, without getting into classified information here, I would say the number is not very large. And that’s core al Qaeda. There are also offshoots, like ISIS-K, which we know are very active in Afghanistan and — right now.
The other thing that I want to say — and I know, rightly, we’re focused on Afghanistan — but again, I want to take you back in time a little bit to about a year ago, when we talked about this threat and then our departure from Afghanistan.
We know that al Qaeda has metastasized, both in terms of character — now, they’ve got different offshoot groups — al Shabaab, ISIS, and ISIS has got splinter groups of its own — but they’ve also metastasized geographically. They’re not focused as much on a presence in Afghanistan. They’re in North Africa, they’re in the Sahel, they’re throughout the Middle East, and they’re in Yemen.
So, I mean, there’s — there are other counterterrorism threats in other parts of the world. We’re going to stay focused on them all. I get — I get that we’re focused on Afghanistan right now, but we’re not taking our eye off the rest of the world either.
Q John, something you’ve just said is not consistent with what we were told last year. You’re saying that you’ve always known there was a small number of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. President Biden said, “What interests do we have in Afghanistan, at this point, with al Qaeda gone?”
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I mean, in a major way, al Qaeda was not playing — now wait, let me — let me finish. They weren’t playing a major role in operations or resourcing or planning in Afghanistan.
But, Peter, I know specifically, because I was at a different podium a year ago, and we talked about the fact that al Qaeda had a presence in Afghanistan — but small and not incredibly powerful or potent. And I think — again, without getting into numbers — we would still assess that to be the case.
Q So, we know that the Taliban was harboring the world’s most wanted terrorist. You guys gave a whole country to a bunch of people that are on the FBI Most Wanted list. What did you think was going to happen?
MR. KIRBY: I take issue with the premise that we gave a whole country to terrorist groups.
I mean, again, I’d encourage you to ask —
Q The Taliban was harboring the world’s number one terrorist. How is that not giving a country to a terrorist-sympathizing group, if not giving them permission to have terrorists just sit on a balcony —
MR. KIRBY: The question — I mean, Peter, the way you ask that, it makes it sound like we owned Afghanistan a year ago. It wasn’t our country. It was an independent, sovereign state.
And the President made a bold decision to end a war that had been going on for 20 years, because he believed then and still believes now that our national security interests are best met by meeting the threats of today, not the threats of 2001.
And we — you know, I don’t want to relitigate the whole war here, but obviously, no one anticipated the Ghani government to fall as fast as it did. But we said at the time that as we depart Afghanistan, we’re going to keep vigilant, we’re going to stay ready, and we’re not going to let Afghanistan become a safe haven for terrorists who threaten our homeland. And this past weekend, we proved that case precisely.
Q But — so now that you know that the Taliban is not living up to the part of the deal that they made with the U.S. to not let Afghanistan be a place that terrorists feel like they can be safe, what are you going to do about it?
MR. KIRBY: Well, that gets to Peter’s question. I’m not going to telegraph decisions that haven’t been made or policy initiatives one way or the other. I would just say —
Q Are we just waiting for some spectacular terrorist attack in the U.S. to then say, “Oh, well, there’s terrorists in a safe haven —
MR. KIRBY: If we were, Peter —
Q — in Afghanistan. Now we can go get them.”
MR. KIRBY: If we were Peter, then we wouldn’t have taken the hit on Saturday — the strike that we took on Mr. Zawahiri — if we were just waiting.
This isn’t about waiting. It’s about watching. And we watched very closely, and we acted on what we learned. And I would go so far as to say not only the American people are safer as a result of President Biden’s decision, but the rest of the world is safer.
Does that mean that the threat from al Qaeda is over? No, of course, it’s not. Now, they’ll have to make some decisions here, and we’ll watch that too. And if we discern a threat to the American homeland again, from them or any other terrorist group, the President will reserve the right to take that action again.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to go around. Go ahead, Alex. And then (inaudible).
Q Thank you. John, now that the House Speaker is actually in Taiwan, can you give us a sense of President Biden’s thoughts on the matter? Does he support that?
And then secondly, what kind of lines of communication, if any, are ongoing today between the two governments?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I mean, you have the Speaker of the House that’s in Taipei right now. Of course, she’s going to be meeting with government leaders.
We have stayed in touch with our Taiwan counterparts, of course, and we’ve stayed in touch with Speaker Pelosi’s staff as she has progressed through this trip.
Q Just to clarify, I meant with Beijing.
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any specific conversations with the — with the PRC leaders to speak to today. But we — as you know, we have an ambassador there. We have an embassy. I mean, we are in routine communication with leaders in Beijing. But I would refer you to the State Department for anything that they might or might not have communicated.
Q And then, about President Biden, does he support —
MR. KIRBY: Oh, look, I’ve said — I said this yesterday: The President, as a former senator, fully respects the right and the prerogative — frankly, the responsibility — of members of Congress, to include the Speaker of the House, to travel overseas.
Q But that’s a different question though, or that’s a different response than does he support her going.
MR. KIRBY: He respects the Speaker’s decision to travel to Taiwan.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Courtney, in the back.
Q Thanks. I wanted to ask about Ukraine, specifically the refugee situation. The President had committed to accepting 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. And I know that whole idea is that they would stay here temporarily for two years. Is the expectation that — or is that still the U.S. view that they should be here for two years? Or would you or the — or would the President consider extending that, given that the war is ongoing and you don’t know when people may or may not be able to return home?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t — I don’t have any policy changes to speak to today. So, I mean, I can happily take that question, or refer you, to the State Department.
But I — I don’t know of any changes to the essential decision by the President to provide a place for Ukrainian refugees to come, even if it is just temporarily.
I mean, what we’ve seen over the course of — of now almost six months of war is that a lot of Ukrainians who left in the early weeks are going back for various reasons. And in the early weeks of the war, we were seeing families cross the border and then either the mom or the dad, or both, would drop the kids off with somebody and go right back in.
So there’s a strong desire by Ukrainians to be in their homeland, to be in their country. And we respect that.
Q Would you have to ask Congress for the ability for them to stay longer? Or is that —
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to — I won’t get ahead of policy decisions that haven’t been made yet. I mean, our commitment to supporting Ukraine has not changed. There’s been no change to the President’s commitment in this regard in terms of welcoming refugees. But I just don’t have any changes for you today.
Q Thank you.
Q Mr. Kirby, al-Zawahiri killed — he killed more than 200 people in Tanzania and in Kenya in 1998. And right now, even though the U.S. compensated U.S. citizens who were victims of those bombings, the people in Kenya and Tanzania — they’ve received nothing. What message do you have for them now that you’ve killed him?
MR. KIRBY: Same — yeah, I’d say the same thing I told Mr. Doocy here: that this is not just a good day for the United States of America, it’s a good day for the world.
Q Yeah, but I’m saying that the families of the victims of those bombings were not compensated by the U.S. What message do you have for them?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any compensation policies here to speak to. Again, Mr. Zawahiri’s death is good for everybody around the world. He was a killer. And — and it’s — it’s a good thing that he’s no longer walking the face of the Earth. It also means that we’re going to have to stay vigilant to this threat going forward.
Q So are you saying that the lives of Kenyans and Tanzanians don’t really matter?
MR. KIRBY: Wow. I got to take issue with that. I did not say that. And I don’t even know where you came from on that one.
Of course, all lives matter.
Q No, they’re upset. The —
MR. KIRBY: I didn’t say that — I didn’t say —
Q — inaction right now.
MR. KIRBY: I didn’t say that, sir. And I really, really take exception to the — to the tone and the implication in that question. Of course, their lives matter. Every life matters, particularly a life taken so violently as by the hands of a terrorist.
If those lives didn’t matter, sir, we wouldn’t have taken the action that we took this weekend. And if those lives didn’t matter, sir, we wouldn’t be staying vigilant to the threat going forward, which we will do.
Q John, on Taiwan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Two Nancys.
Q Which Nancy?
MR. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. (Laughter.) Go ahead, Nancy, and then other Nancy.
Q But all the Nancys. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nancy squared.
MR. KIRBY: Second-row Nancy.
Q John, was anything you saw today from China’s response a surprise? I know that there were the drills and missile tests that Beijing announced that they would conduct. Was that what they’d been warning about in private to the White House?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to talk about private discussions.
What I would tell you is that what we’ve seen thus far — and she just arrived — is consistent with the playbook that we expected them to run. And we’ll just keep watching it.
It’s one of the reasons why I came out here yesterday to sort of lay some of that out for you. So what we’ve seen so far has been pretty consistent.
Q And is the President planning to speak with Speaker Pelosi after she leaves Taiwan or when she gets back here to get a readout or a sense of that trip?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any conversations that I — that I’m — that I could announce or speak to. Obviously, if he does have a conversation like that, I’m sure Karine would — would let you know.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nancy. Zeke.
Q When it comes to Taiwan, it appears the retaliation has already begun. China banned exports from 100 Taiwanese brands. Are you concerned that Taiwan is going to end up paying too steep a price for this U.S. visit?
MR. KIRBY: There’s no reason for that to happen, Nancy. As we said today and yesterday, no reason for China to take what is a perfectly legitimate and consistent travel by the Speaker of the House and turn it into some pretext for amping up the tensions or creating some sort of co- — crisis or conflict. There’s just simply no reason for that.
And because we- — she’s not acting, we’re not acting in any way inconsistent with the way we’ve been acting now for decades since the Taiwan Relations Act was — was passed into law back in the late ‘70s.
I can’t speak for Chinese actions or Chinese decisions one way or another. We’re going to continue to watch this and monitor this.
I would just say that we don’t support Taiwan independence; we’ve said that before. We do support Taiwan’s self-defense. In keeping with the Taiwan Relations Act, we’re going to keep doing that. And we’re going to keep working on revitalizing our alliances and partnerships in the region for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Q And what is this going to do to the U.S.-China relationship, which is already so fraught?
MR. KIRBY: I think the fact that the President talked to President Xi last week for two hours is an indication of how much the President understands and respects the consequential nature of this bilateral relationship — as I’ve said before, one of the most consequential not just in the region, but in the world.
The President wants to keep those lines of communication open. It is particularly important to do that when there’s times of tension, like right now — to make sure those lines of communication remain open.
So, I would say, to answer your question: One, we don’t want to see this spiral into any kind of a crisis or conflict. Again, we would say there’s no reason to. Number two, we want to be able to maintain those lines of communication.
But a lot of this is going to depend — what — to an- — answering your question, it’s going to depend a lot on how China behaves over coming days and weeks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Zeke.
Q A follow-up. A follow-up.
Q Hey, John —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’ll come back. We’ll come to the back. Go ahead, Zeke.
Q John, given the concerns here just talking about with China’s actions in response to this visit by the Speaker — the heightened tensions, the risks of provocations, and the like — does the President believe that the Speaker’s trip is a net benefit to U.S. national security interests or not?
MR. KIRBY: Look, we — the President doesn’t typically comment on congressional travel. As I said, he respects her decision to go, and he believes it’s perfectly consistent with American policy, going back decades and supported by both parties.
Q But he’s — he doesn’t — does he believe it hurts U.S. foreign policy interests in the region?
MR. KIRBY: The President has already seen that Speaker Pelosi has already accomplished some important conversations on this trip, with respect to foreign policy, with her stop in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. And then, you know, she’s already announced she’s moving on to Japan and South Korea — two of our treaty allies in the Pacific.
So he welcomes her conversations. He welcomes her contributions to American foreign policy and our foreign policy objectives overseas. But, I mean, the trip is not even over yet, so I think we ought to give the Speaker a chance to talk about what she did, what she learned, and what she took away from this trip when she gets back.
Q And then just back to the al-Zawahiri strike. Does — you mentioned that you weren’t going to telegraph punches before they were thrown. But has the President decided that the Taliban should pay a price, or has he not decided that they should pay a price for harboring al Qaeda?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of the President on this. I think the Taliban already has paid a price just in terms of the now very public acknowledgement that they were harboring Zawahiri and his family, and that the United States did exactly what the President promised we would do.
Now, beyond that, I’m just not going to get ahead of the President or any decisions he might or might not make. The Taliban have a choice now — well, they always did, but they certainly have a new choice — and that is they can comply with their agreement under the Doha Agreement — comply with their commitments under the Doha Agreement, or they can choose to keep going down a different path. And if they go down a different path, it’s going to lead to consequences not just from the United States, but from the international community.
This is a — this is a group that says they — they want to govern, that they want legitimacy, that they want financing, that they want international support. And if that’s true, then one would hope that they would behave in a manner consistent with those goals.
Harboring Mr. Zawahiri and his family and being willing to — to allow them to live in downtown Kabul, and then — and then to try to cover up the fact that they were — seems inconsistent with those goals.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, Jeremy. Then we’re going to the back, to Phil.
Q I have a question on Taiwan, but first on Zawahiri. Was Siraj Haqqani aware that Zawahiri was in Kabul?
MR. KIRBY: There were senior members of the Haqqani network that were aware. I’m not going to go any further than that.
Q Okay. So you won’t say if Siraj Haqqani himself was aware?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to go any further.
Q Okay. You held up these strikes — this strike as a vindication of the U.S.’s over-the-horizon capabilities, but what makes you confident that you can maintain that capability and that this wasn’t simply a one-off? I mean, to my knowledge, this is the first and only counterterrorism strike the U.S. has conducted since the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
MR. KIRBY: It’s the first and only over-the-horizon counterterrorism strike we conducted in Afghanistan —
Q That’s what I — sorry. That’s not what I’m saying.
MR. KIRBY: — since then. But you remember we also killed Haji Abdullah in Syria using an over-the —
Q Yeah. I’m asking specifically about Afghanistan.
MR. KIRBY: — -horizon capability.
So what gives me confidence is the — coming from a place of understanding myself from previous assignments — what our capabilities are in the region. And they’re robust; we said that at the time. You’ve heard Secretary Austin say there’s not a scrap of the Earth that the United States can’t touch if we — if we need to, and that’s true.
And since last year, Jeremy, we have worked hard to try to improve those capabilities. And I’m not going to get into the details of how we’re doing that right now, but we have. We’ve worked hard to make them more robust. And the process of improvement doesn’t have a — it doesn’t have a shelf life; there’s no deadline on that. You constantly try to improve military capabilities and particularly one in this realm.
So, I mean, we can expect al Qaeda is probably going to behave a little differently now, so we’re going to have to be mindful of that. So we’re always going to be working to get better at it. But —
Q And are you going to limit those efforts to targeting only the highest-of-value targets in Afghanistan?
MR. KIRBY: The President, I think, laid it out very clearly back then and then — and then yesterday that we’re going to make sure that Afghanistan cannot become a safe haven for terrorists who want to attack or are plotting to attack the United States of America and our interests.
Q And then very quickly, on Taiwan, what is the U.S. doing to prepare for any further Chinese action and, particularly, any military repercussions for Taiwan from China? Are we seeing any force posture changes in the region? And anything else that the U.S. is doing to help Taiwan gird itself?
MR. KIRBY: I think you can understand I’m not going to talk about force posture or military movements one way or the other.
Q Maybe from a different podium. (Laughs.)
MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Yeah, nice try.
No, I’m not going to do that. We — we take our security commitments in the region, broadly, very, very seriously. We have robust military capability obviously available to meet those commitments. We’re going to watch what happens here as closely as we can.
The only thing that I will say, as I said at the top, is that we’re going to make sure that Speaker Pelosi’s trip — the whole trip — is safe and secure for her.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Phil, in the back.
Q Thank you. As you mentioned, we’re seeing some pretty provocative stuff, unfortunately, from China — whether that’s canceling food exports or planned military exercises.
I’m wondering: Given these developments, does the White House believe that it would have been better that news of Speaker Pelosi’s proposed trip had not leaked last month? Would it have been better if this remained secret until she was on the ground?
MR. KIRBY: It’s hard to speak to leaks in this town and what effect they — I mean, you’re asking me to sort of go back in time and — and, you know, just sort of disprove a negative here.
I — look, we — the leak was certainly unfortunate. Wherever it came from, it was unfortunate, because the Speaker, as we have said — Karine has said and I have said — should be able to talk to her travel in her own terms.
And — and, you know, she — when she — she landed, she announced she was there.
Q And then one more, very quickly. House Republicans are already moving forward with legislation that they plan on proposing that would create a sort of lend-lease program for Taiwan. Is this an overreaction? Is this something that perhaps heightens tensions at a moment when they should be mellowed?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t speak to Congress and their motivations or whoever — and I’m certainly not going to talk about proposed legislation. I would tell you that —
(Phone alarm sounds.) It’s time to wake up. (Laughter.)
I would tell you that there’s been longstanding bipartisan support since the late ‘70s for the Taiwan Relations Act, both — both sides of the aisle. And that remains today.
And we take our obligations under that act very seriously, which provides for a way, a method of assisting Taiwan with their self-defense.
And so, through the — I can’t — you know, I can’t speculate about where this proposed legislation is going to go, and I’m certainly not going to offer an administration policy statement on it since it’s simply proposed, but I can be certain — and it’s important for everybody to understand how seriously we take our obligations under that Taiwan Relations Act, and we’re going to continue to do that.
I mean, even just under — under President Biden, you know, we’ve — we’ve provided a billion dollars’ worth of defense articles under the Taiwan Relations Act. So it’s a serious commitment.
Q Thank you, sir. Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sebastian and then Steven.
Q Thank you. Thank you, John. I’m Sebastian. So, two questions, please. Can you confirm Chinese media reports that the U.S. ambassador in Beijing was summoned by the government and it was in the middle of the night? That’s — the Global Times is reporting that.
MR. KIRBY: We — we know that Ambassador Burns has had discussions with his Chinese interlocutors, but I’d refer you to the State Department in terms of being summoned in the middle of the night.
Q Okay. And the other one: There was a — there was an interesting nugget in the middle of a latest Thomas Friedman column, which was ostensibly all about Taiwan but he then mentions Ukraine. And there was an intriguing couple of paragraphs in there where he’s supposedly quoting people from inside the administration telling him that — I can’t remember the exact words, but it was essentially that there’s — there’s more — there’s less trust in Volodymyr Zelenskyy than is being reported and that’s there — actually, I’ve got it right here. “There’s deep mistrust between the White House and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.” I’m only asking you because Thomas Friedman is obviously somebody who is read widely and supposedly has, you know, contacts with people inside the White House. So —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, the President has spoken many, many times to his admiration for President Zelenskyy’s leadership and courage in this time of war. He has obviously spoken to President Zelenskyy personally many times, and he knows — understands the stress that President Zelenskyy and all the Ukrainian people are under. And that’s why he has remained very committed to continuing to support Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression.
He has privately and publicly expressed that respect for President Zelenskyy and for the challenges that he and his fellow citizens are facing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steven, and then Tam, and then Nandita. And I’ll come to the back.
Q Thanks. John, in an effort to advance the public’s understanding of what happened in the Zawahiri operation, can you explain: The Hellfire missiles apparently have these blades. Can you explain how operationally that worked and, to avoid civilian casualties, what the capabilities of those missiles are and how it all played out?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q All right. How about this one? Last night, a senior official was asked to avoid any doubt being aired about whether, in fact, it was Zawahiri who was targeted. There’s multiple intelligence sources, multiple methods. Is there anything you can tell us to avoid any doubt being aired about the fact that it was, in fact, Zawahiri who was killed?
MR. KIRBY: There’s a limit to how much detail we can provide on this. I would tell you that it’s a combination of visual evidence and evidence collected through other means that led us to the certainty before that this was the guy. And that led us to the conclusion after, with a high degree of confidence, that he was no more.
Q Is it physical evidence?
MR. KIRBY: It’s a visual evidence and a — and evidence collected through other means. I really think that’s about as far as I can go.
But the assessment is high confidence that — that we got who we were aiming for. And I think — you know, just without getting into more detail, I mean, just the various things that people on the ground did afterward also helped us come to that conclusion.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Tam.
Q Yeah. Last year, the Biden administration was undertaking a review of its drone policy. I can’t find any evidence that that review was completed or released to the public, and I’m wondering what the status of that is but also what this — what this operation tells us about President Biden’s approach to the use of drones in foreign policy.
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have an update on the policy review. We can take that and see if we can get back to you on something. I just don’t — I don’t have an update for you on that today.
But I think in every thing that you’ve seen President Biden do as Commander-in-Chief — and now I can speak with some authority on that, having served in another building — it’s –there is a respect for the use of force and an appreciation for both the power that’s resident in the use of force, as well as the limits of some of that power around the world that the President fully, fully respects. And he has a deep appreciation for, if the military tool is going to be used, that it’s used to pursue a very discrete national security interest and that the tools used are appropriate to the task.
And unmanned aerial vehicles are a tool — a very powerful tool. You can’t use them for everything; you shouldn’t use them for everything. But in a case like this, well, I think the results speak for themselves.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A couple more. Go ahead, Nandita.
Q Thank you. If you could talk a little bit about why the President, in the case of Zawahiri, ordered a CIA drone strike and not a military strike, and specifically if Pakistan was notified ahead of time in this case.
MR. KIRBY: There were no notifications in advance. Given the — given the collection of information that we had over the previous six, seven months, the location of the target, the geography, and the President’s strong desire — strong desire — to avoid civilian casualties, it was his decision that the best way to execute this strike was to do it with unmanned aerial vehicles.
You might remember, months ago, when we launched another over-the-horizon counterterrorism strike in Syria against Haji Abdullah, that there was a blend; there was a use of actual American forces, as well as unmanned aerial — unmanned aerial vehicles in support.
So, every case is different. Every mission is different.
And back to the previous question: As Commander-in-Chief, the President takes a very discerning view about the use of military or — or any kind of what we call “kinetic power” and how that’s — how that’s applied.
I’m not going to, again, speak to the units here or what personnel were involved in this, but this was done only with the UAVs. And again, it was a result of a very careful, thoughtful, deliberate, I would say almost painstaking, decision-making process led by the President and his national security team to make sure that the target was valid and that the tools to go after that target were the best ones.
And again, I say the results speak for themselves: Zawahiri is gone, and nobody in his family got hurt.
Q So then you’re saying this had nothing to do with sort of having any kind of plausible deniability if the mission were to not succeed? I mean, was that even part of the calculation here?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q And a quick question on the Speaker’s trip to Taiwan. I mean, I know you’re saying everything China has done was largely sort of anticipated, but from all the reactions you have seen so far, are there any that have caused — you know, are a cause of concern for this administration?
MR. KIRBY: Look, I think just broadly speaking, the — it’s concerning to see them react in the way they’ve reacted. There’s no need for that. There’s no — there’s no justification to turn this into a crisis. So, it’s unfortunate that they have already chosen to act in ways we kind of predicted that they would.
We would, again, remind leaders in Beijing that there’s nothing unprecedented about this trip. I heard a Chinese spokesman earlier today who was saying that it violates their sovereignty. There’s no violation of sovereignty. The Speaker going is perfectly consistent with other members of Congress going, as I said, including this year.
So there’s just no reason to amp this up. And we’re not going to participate in that. As I said at the outset, we’re not going to do saber-rattling. We’re simply going to do what we have to do to make sure that her trip is safe and secure and that we can meet our security commitments in the region writ broadly, and also to make sure that we can keep those lines of communication open because it’s important — again, particularly when things are tense.
Q So how should we interpret then —
Q Can we get the way back maybe?
Q — in that case, John — just a quick follow-up, if I may. How should we interpret in that case, you know, the U.S. parking — the U.S. Navy parking warships to the east of Taiwan? How should we interpret, you know, the Chinese warplanes flying over the line to — divvying up the Taiwan Strait?
MR. KIRBY: Well, as a former naval officer, I can assure you we do not park warships anywhere. But we deploy them as appropriate. And —
MR. KIRBY: And I’m not going to speak to individual unit movements right now. We have — the Seventh Fleet is present in the Western Pacific, based in Japan. We have a lot of naval assets in the region. And they’re — they’re constantly moving around, and they’re constantly conducting operations and exercises to include, what we call, “freedom of navigation exercises or operations.”
Q Is this in reaction to what is happening there?
MR. KIRBY: I — I’m not going to —
MR. KIRBY: — talk about force-level movements with respect to this.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We got to move on.
James, are you ready?
Q Oh, my goodness.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The floor is yours.
Q Thank you. Admiral, one on Taiwan, if you would, and one on the Middle East very quickly. You keep telling us that U.S. policy hasn’t changed and that the United States does not support an independent Taiwan.
And yet, if we look at what Speaker Pelosi tweeted from the ground in Taiwan, her post actually states, quote, “America stands with Taiwan.”
We all know that Taiwan harbors ambitions towards independence. When the Speaker of the House says we stand with Taiwan — “America stands with Taiwan” — how can the Chinese construe that as anything else but that you’re supporting independence?
MR. KIRBY: I’ll let the Speaker speak for herself.
All I can tell you, James, is what I told you yesterday, and I’m happy to repeat it: Nothing has changed about our adherence to the One China policy. Nothing has changed about our stance on Taiwan independence, which is that we do not support Taiwan independence. And nothing has changed, James, about our commitments and how seriously we take those commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.
Everything is consistent, James. I can’t say that any more clearly.
Q So when she says, “America stands with Taiwan,” is she misstating administration policy?
MR. KIRBY: You — you should talk to Speaker Pelosi about her comments. I’m not going to parse —
Q So, you don’t endorse that language?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not — I’m not saying that, James. I’m not going to speak for Speaker Pelosi. That’s beyond my writ.
I can speak for the administration when it comes to national security policy, and nothing has changed about our policy.
Q On the Middle East, very quickly: Is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps presently engaged in the conduct or support of terror activity?
MR. KIRBY: I think I know where this is getting.
Q It’s — it’s — you don’t have to know. You just have to answer —
MR. KIRBY: No, I think I know where you’re getting with this. Look, I think the President has been very, very clear. And —
Q It’s a yes or no: Are they or are they not conducting or supporting terror activity?
MR. KIRBY: The Iranian state is a —
Q The IRGC is what I asked about.
MR. KIRBY: — is a state supporter of terrorism. And they support terrorist networks throughout the region. And when asked if he would be willing to lift the FTO designation of the IRGC as a function of the negotiations with — with Iran over the nuclear deal, the President said no.
Q But are you — are you able to say the IRGC supports terror operations?
MR. KIRBY: I think I’ve answered the question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: James, we’re moving on. We’re going to do three. You. You. And then Tyler. Go ahead.
MR. KIRBY: Which ones? Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to do —
Q Brittney Griner’s —
MR. KIRBY: You — you know who you’re pointing at; I do not.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am so sorry.
MR. KIRBY: That’s okay. (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Then we’re going to Ed. And then we’re going to end with Tyler.
Q How about me?
Q Okay. Brittney Griner’s trial in Russia resumed earlier today. And a sentencing is expected potentially by the end of the week. In the — considering the fact that Russia made that counteroffer that the U.S. said was not a serious offer, how confident is the U.S. that they will take such an offer for a prisoner swap?
And if they do not, has the administration already talked about other plans of action to bring her home?
MR. KIRBY: Obviously, we’re not going to negotiate this thing in public. And I do appreciate the question, but we — look, we’ve made a serious proposal, made a serious offer. And we urge the Russians to take that offer, because it was done with sincerity and — and we know we can back it up.
But I don’t think it’s helpful — for Paul or for Brittney — for us, from the podium, to get into a back-and-forth with the Russians over what the negotiations might or might not look like going forward.
Bottom line is: We want to see Brittney and Paul come home to their families where they belong. And the President takes that responsibility seriously. And so seriously, in fact, that an offer has been made, a proposal has been put forth to effect that outcome. And we urge the Russians to take it.
Q And one follow-up. I spoke to Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign, and he said something that Reverend Al Sharpton has said — that a group of diverse religious leaders would like to take a delegation trip to Russia if such negotiations do not work to bring Brittney home to make some type of moral, compassionate, humanitarian, compelling argument to bring her home. Would the U.S. support a delegation trip if there was — if your negotiations were unsuccessful?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I don’t want to — I don’t want to speculate on a hypothetical here. I would just tell you that we are working hard, government to government, to get Paul and Brittney home, so much so that we did put forth a very serious proposal. And I — I think I’m just going to leave it there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah, I want to ask you about oil. So, I saw that the State Department approved a potential sale for Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia. The trip last month from the President between the King and the Prince happened.
So tomorrow, OPEC decides to increase production or not. How confident are you that the Saudis will push OPEC to increase production?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t get ahead of the Saudis or OPEC. I think you can understand I wouldn’t speak to that. We — we had good discussions with them on the President’s trip, to include productive discussions on — on energy security.
But look, this is a decision that OPEC has to make, and I just wouldn’t — I wouldn’t want to get ahead of that.
Q But do you expect —
MR. KIRBY: Regardless —
Q But you expect the Saudis to — I mean, you know, you — we’re giving them weapons now. We had the meeting between the King and the President. Do you expect them to help us (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, the question kind of presupposes there’s some sort of a quid pro quo here, and that’s just not the case.
We provide defense articles like Patriots — sell those to Saudi Arabia because they have a legitimate need for air defense. In fact, one of the things they discussed on this trip was the potential or possibility for some sort of integrated air and missile defense throughout the region, and the Patriot batteries would contribute to that.
And, yes, he met with the King and — and the Crown Prince and his leadership team, as well as all the leaders of the GCC+3 when he was out there, because there’s a range of issues to talk about. Energy security was on the agenda, but it wasn’t the only agenda.
I’m not going to speculate on — about what OPEC might or might not do.
But I do want to just get back to one point, and that is how seriously the President takes the issue of supply in the energy market out there. And he has worked domestically to improve and increase that supply by releasing a million barrels a day all the way — this will go — will take us all the way through October. That’s nothing to sneeze at. That has actually helped stabilize the oil market.
And OPEC, as Karine has told you, just this summer has increased by 50 percent their productions for July and August already, and that has helped stabilize the market. And you’re seeing the price now coming down. Depending on which — which variant you want to look at, it’s either $93 a barrel or it’s $99. Either way, it’s come down here in recent days. That’s all good. That’s all goodness for the market, because more supply means more stability and it helps depressurize the prices, which then will get hopefully translated down to the pump.
So the President is working hard here at home, incre- — you know, increasing the numbers of permits that are out there. And he’s certainly working hard on the world stage, with world leaders, to try to, again, help stabilize that market.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. We’re going to take Tyler and then the foreign pooler. We should take him as well since you’re here. But, Tyler, go ahead.
Q John, just a quick question. Did the President alert former President Obama or Bush or Trump be- — after the strike, before he informed the public? President Obama did so when the U.S. killed Osama bin Laden. I’m wondering if there’s any communication between the current President and his predecessors in the last (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: You know, Tyler, I don’t have — I — I’d have to go back and check. I don’t know if there was outreach to former Commanders-in-Chief after the fact. There was no notifications to anybody before the act — before the strike.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Lalit, you have the last question.
Q Yeah, thank you. Do you believe that Afghanistan is now emerging as a safe haven for terrorists?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q Why not?
MR. KIRBY: Because we’ve made it clear that — that we’re not going to allow that to happen. Now, I want to also be clear, Lalit, that that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be terrorists in Afghanistan. And we never said when we left that Afghanistan would never have a terrorist on their soil.
What we said was the Taliban agreed to not allow Afghanistan become a safe haven for terrorists, particularly terrorists that would attack the United States. That was part of the agreement. And what the President said was he’s not going to allow that.
Regardless of whether the Taliban meet their commitment — and he said that back then — we’re not going to just take them at their word. We’re going to watch ourselves, we’re going to be vigilant, and we’re not going to allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists that can attack the homeland.
You shouldn’t take away from the strike that — that every single terrorist, whether they’re card-carrying or not, is going to be the victim of an airstrike by the United States or anybody else. But if we have credible evidence that a terrorist operating in Afghanistan or anywhere else — and as I said earlier, the threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan — the President will take action to defend this country and the American people.
Q And (inaudible) to what extent the Chinese actions last one week is impacting peace and stability in the neighborhood?
MR. KIRBY: I’m sorry, can you say that again?
Q To what extent the Chinese actions is impacting the peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region?
MR. KIRBY: Well, it’s certainly not helping — these actions that they’ve taken in just the last hours and days certainly not helping to increase stability and security. And again, as I said in my opening statement, we’re invested in that peace and security and that stability. And we’re not going to be saber-rattling. We’re not going to do anything to increase the tensions. We’d like to see the tensions come down. We’d like to see the lines of communication with Beijing stay open.
And again, we reiterate: There’s no reason — just no justification whatsoever — for the tensions to amp up any more than they already are.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks for the time.
Q Thanks, John.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, guys.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: See you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks for the time, John. Appreciate it.
MR. KIRBY: Yes, ma’am.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, now for the boring part of the news. (Laughs.)
Okay, so today, HHS released a new report showing that the lowest number of Americans in history are uninsured; today, just 8 percent. This progress happened by — did not happen by accident. More than 35 million Americans are enrolled in Affordable Care Act-related coverage, the highest total on record. That includes 21 million people who are enrolled in ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. And 5 million more people have gained health insurance coverage since the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration, in large part because of the improvements to the ACA in the American Rescue Plan.
In order to keep this progress moving forward, Congress should pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which will lock in an average of $800 per year savings in health insurance premiums for 13 million Americans and prevent 3 million Americans from becoming uninsured.
Today, President Biden, as you all saw for yourselves earlier, joined Governor Gretchen Whitmer, members of the Michigan congressional delegation, and business and labor leaders to mark the signing of the governor’s executive direction to implement the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. This is just the first example of the federal-state partnership that will launch across the country as states leverage its once-in-a-century investment in their own states to bring in new projects and to create the project jobs — and project jobs.
We will have — I know folks are wondering and asking, but we will have an announcement on the official signing of CHIPS and Science Act soon, which will lower the costs, as you all know and you’ve all sa- — heard us say, everyday goods, creating high-paying manufacturing jobs across the country and strengthen our national security and U.S. leadership in the industries of the future.
Lastly, a growing body — I’m sure you all saw — of economic experts have analyzed the Inflation Reduction Act and agree that it will lower cost, reduce inflation, and address a range of important and longstanding economic challenges. A hundred and twenty-six leader — leading economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners, former Treasury Secretaries, and a CBO director, and former CEA chairs wrote to Congress this morning, endorsing the Inflation Reduction Act and calling for its passage.
They wrote that “These investments,” and I quote, “will fight inflation and lower costs for American families while setting the stage for strong and stable and broadly-shared long-term economic growth.” End quote. They note this package will — again, I quote — “quickly and noticeably bring down health care costs for families” and “would be more than fully paid for.” End quote.
They also underline that the revenue raised to finance these investments would come exclusively from wealthy individuals and corporations.
These are major priorities for the American people, including fair — tax fairness, closing the tax loophole, as you heard us say. And where the President and congressional Democrats have a verif- — a verified plan to fight inflation, congressional Republicans, on the other hand, are standing against these investment, because they are more about protecting tax welfare for those who game the system than they do about curbing inflation.
They are screaming bloody murder because this bill repead- — repeals sweetheart deals that led hedge fund managers pay for less income tax — income tax than the average American, or stop multibillion dollar corporations from exploiting loopholes to pay literally nothing, or stops shielding wealthy tax cheats taking advantage of everyone in this room.
As you all know, this year, congressional Republican, like Rick Scott, proposed rai- — proposing raising taxes on about 100 million middle-class Americans — 100 million middle-class Americans.
Americans have a clear choice between these agendas and the values behind them. Do we attack inflation with the Inflation Reduction Act, which we know works — or will work? Or do we extend the pain of inflation like congressional Republicans are arguing for, because they think it’s more important to let the wealthiest Americans and big corporations take advantage than all of us — than to cut costs for the middle class? That’s what we’re left with here. Those are the choices that we have to make.
Okay, with that, Zeke.
Q Thanks, Karine. I’m getting word from some of your staff you might have a bit of hard out in about 15, 20 minutes or so.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q But just two questions for — on the drone strike in Afghanistan, following up on some of John’s answers earlier. Does the President believe that the strike against al-Zawahiri disrupted an active plot against the United States? And also, is the President — has he been briefed on any threats to U.S. interests at home or abroad in potential retaliation for taking out al Qaeda’s top leader?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — the way — I would just reiterate what John Kirby said up here. It was — it was — the President has consistently said that he will not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists. He has said that a year ago and he continues, and we meant that commitment.
And what I will say is that we showed — we showed that without American forces on the ground in Afghanistan and in harm’s way, we remain able to identify and locate even the world’s most wanted terrorists and then take action to remove him from the battlefield. And that’s what we did. That’s what the President talked about yesterday. And that’s the action that we took on Saturday.
I’m not going to go into any intelligence previewing or hypotheticals or anything like that. All I can say is we took action. This is an operation, a counter — counterterrorism operation — a precision — precise counterterrorism operation that we — that we took in Kabul, Afghanistan, as you know, on Saturday. And this is something that the President has said we would be able to — have the capabilities of doing that over-horizon approach. And that’s what the President was able to do.
We have to remember who — who he was. He was the emir to al Qaeda. He was — he was someone that we were not able to get those 10 years that we did have troops on the ground. And when the President made that decision to — to stop this, to end a 20-year war that cost $2 trillion, that put American women and men in our military at risk — when he decided to do that, in less than a year, we were able to take — we were able to get him.
And so that’s what matters. I can’t get into any specific intelligence from here.
Q And then the President, obviously, is still isolating with COVID in the Residence; he was while the strike took place and also when the strike — when he authorized the strike last week. Can you provide a little bit of color in terms of how he was briefed on it — you know, how the strike authorization was given? Was this is all taking place over Zoom or video — secure video conference? You know, could he be in the Situation Room?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the President could be president anywhere. And as you know, he also, as you just mentioned, he’s isolating in the White — in the White House Residence, as he has been since he tested most recently from a rebound positive on Saturday. And so, he’s able to do — to do these — to do these types of conversation with his national security team, clearly through secured lines. And that’s what he was able to do.
We have laid out the best that we can — right? — to share with all of you the steps that were taken to make this decision. I believe it was July 25th where he actually gave the authorization to move forward. This has been weeks and months in discussion with his national security team, leaders from his national security team to have this conversation.
And as we all know, July — on
July 20th [July 30th], 10 minutes or so before the 10:00 p.m. hour, the action was taken that the President — the directive that the President gave.
Again, the President can work from anywhere, including the White House Residence. That is always the case. And he has been doing the job for the American people — 8-plus, 10 hours a day — as he has said to me many times during his isolation.
Q Just quickly, Karine: The DOJ filed a lawsuit against Idaho for its near-total abortion ban, saying that it violates federal law. I mean, does the White House have a comment on that? And is the President aware? Does he have any thoughts on this lawsuit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a couple of things that I do want to say on that, because I know that this just happened. So, the administration, President Biden remains committed to defending reproductive rights.
The Department of Justice, as you just stated, today sued the state of Idaho whose abortion ban is set to go into effect later this month imposes a near-total ban on abortion and criminalizes doctors who provide abortions.
Idaho’s law and its treatment of women is devastating, it’s extreme, and it threatens lives. Period.
Federal law makes clear doctors must provide women emergency medical care, including abortion services, to stabilize women facing health and life-threatening conditions.
But under Idaho’s near-total ban on abortion, women seeking emergency care for medal- — medical conditions like ectopic pregnancies or hemorrhages can be denied medically necessary — necessary healthcare by doctors.
To put a finer point on it, pregnant women whose health and lives are in serious jeopardy may not receive the care they need under Idaho’s abortion plan.
President Biden has said many times that the only way to fully secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to take action to restore protections that Roe was — has given women for almost 50 years before the extreme decision was made at the Supreme Court just over a month ago.
Until then, the President is doing everything in his power to defend reproductive rights and protect the access to safe and legal abortion. And then we’re going to continue to do that.
Q Do you have any thoughts on specifically the lawsuit today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not spoken to him about this — this lawsuit today, specifically.
Q This is the first from the administration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This is the first that you’re hearing from us on this today.
Q Thank you.
Q Just a question following up on Zeke’s. Did the — this has been one of the most successful weeks of the President’s tenure in the White House so far. I’m wondering if it’s just a coincidence that it’s happened while he has largely been isolating in the White House. You know, the CHIPS bill has passed, an historic agreement with Manchin and Schumer.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. (Laughs.) What are you trying to say?
Q I’m not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wow. (Laughs.)
Q I’m just — I’m just wondering if the White House finds it a coincidence or — I mean, the President had a successful 2020 campaign where he was mostly working from his home. Work from home has seemed to be successful for the President. And I’m wondering if —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Tyler! (Laughter.) My goodness! Geez.
Q — any feeling that — that you guys have on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. The cynicism. (Laughter.)
Look, the President is going to continue to work for the American people regardless. You know, it doesn’t matter where he is. I hear — I hear what you’re saying. But, you know, we’ve had successes over the last 18 months. It’s not just been this week. Right? (Laughs.)
Q I’m not — I wasn’t saying just — just this spurt —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you, but —
Q — has been a quite successful week for the President by — by all accounts.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, but it’s not the first time. We had the American Rescue Plan. We had the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. You know, we’ve had other successes in this White House.
And so, look — look, you know, what we have seen the past couple of days — is the Pres- — President grateful? Absolutely, from what we’re seeing from Congress — the work that we have continued to do with them, the partnership that we have had with them for the past 18 months.
You know, when you look at the Inflation Reduction Act, that’s something that we have been working so hard for that he was talking about during the campaign, that is like a down payment from what he was talking about from 2019 that we’re now seeing moving forward. And we are grateful for that.
You know, and — and so we’re going to — the CHIPS Act, as you just mentioned — he did an event with the governor of Michigan. And that’s going to be something that we’ll see more on — those types of events with state — state, local officials.
But, look, you know, I will say this: This is all — what we’re seeing right now is because of the hard work of this administration, is because work that we have been doing for some time now just happens to be coming down at this time.
But I wouldn’t put it all together in one — in one week or two. I’m just saying: This is the work that we have been working towards. This is the hard work of this President. This is the hard work of this administration to continue to do the business of the American people. And he has still been working.
Q I know —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He has still been working.
Q I know, and I’m not suggesting that he’s not working. It’s just at a time when, for the first time, when he has been forced by his medical diagnosis to stay in the Residence, there’s been a string of successes.
I’m getting the sense that you’re saying it’s just a coincidence that the timing has aligned. But — but I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I don’t want to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Tyler, my goodness.
Q I just — I just think it’s an interesting phenomenon that we’ve seen, across a range of his priorities, they’ve all kind of come together at this moment.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think we should just be really thrilled and really excited that we’re getting work done for the American people. And I think that’s — I think that’s what matters at the end of the day.
Go ahead, Tam.
Q Just a couple of quick infectious disease questions, first about — well, monkeypox and the President’s COVID.
First, on the President’s COVID: I think you may have answered this before, but I’m a little confused about when he would come out of isolation. Is it five days? Does he need to test negative twice? Could he —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we —
Q — be stuck there forever?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I believe we answered this when we sent out a pool note on Saturday. I hope — we — no one wants that — (laughter) — to be stuck forever. I — we’ve — some of us here have had COVID. You want to get out, and you’re r- — when you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go.
We sent a pool note out. We’re going to follow CDC guidance on that. I believe it’s five days of isolation and — and then, clearly, with the test — a negative test.
We’re going to continue to share with all of you what his personal physician is sharing with us on his condition. You guys got a — you got an update on — he’s doing fine. He’s doing well. And he’s — he’s ready to just continue to work, but work in person and not from the White House residence. So that’s going to continue.
Q And then the other question is about monkeypox. There — the access to vaccines and treatments has been pretty uneven at this point, with patients and their doctors kind of muddling through and trying to figure it out. And we’re wondering what the new monkeypox response coordinators will be able to do to improve this situation or what they’re — what they’re being tasked with.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, they were both lead — Mr. Fenton and Dr. Daskalakis will lead the federal response to the monkeypox virus, as you just mentioned. They’re going to be coordinating efforts with HHS, DHS, and other federal agency and teams.
This is not the first time, clearly, that we have done this. We have — you guys got to know Dr. Jha for a couple of days with me up here at the podium during — during the first — during the President’s first bout with COVID.
And so we’ve done this before, and so this is not new. Each federal agency will continue to play an important role in the response. The monkeypox response effort will be the best able to coordinate across the federal entities, listen to the needs of communities, and ensure timely follow-up.
Secretary Becerra, Dr. Walensky are playing their critical roles in the monkeypox response to date, ensuring the federal government can be responsive to testing, treatment, and vaccine needs of communities and nation- — nationwide.
One of the things that I did want — want to lay out about their specific expertise — operational expertise that’s really important as we think about the coordinator and the deputy coordinator is that they have over four decades of experience in emergency response and
manageable [managing] national and global public health issues, such as COVID-19 emergency response, HIV prevention, and other disease control and urgent national crises.
And as we talk about equity and being — and expanding equit- — equitability, this is something that they are — have experience in, and they will be working through as well.
And look, you know, we have about 1.1 million vaccines that are available across the country. We are procuring another 5.5 million doses. And so, this is what we’re ramping up, working on — having a comprehensive response to monkeypox.
Another thing that we need to do and that we’re doing is making sure that we have the testing out there. I talked about, yesterday, how we have the capacity of 80- — we’ve met the testing capacity of 80,000 tests around — across the country, and outreach.
So those are the things that we will continue to do. We know — we always know there’s more work to be done. And so, one of the reasons that we had made sure that we announced the coordinator for monkeypox.
Q Thanks, Karine. On the Inflation Reduction Act, is the primary aim of this legislation to reduce inflation or to fight climate change and reform the prescription drug pricing system?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think all of it. I don’t think it’s — I think we — you know, one of the things that the President has talked about and you’ve heard us talk about is one of his economic priority is to lower costs, which is fight inflation. We see it in the name: Inflation Reduction Act.
And we have heard — I just listed out 126 economists who agree with us that it’s going to lower inflation and — which is incredibly important.
But we can’t forget the historic investment to climate change — right? — to fight the climate crisis, which is something that the President has been doing from day one. He’s taken bold actions. He wants to make sure that they’re — that we lower those energy costs for families. All connected. I think they’re all connected.
You think about the pharmaceutical drugs. This is also historic, as many — as many, you know, Democrats, including this President, has been fighting for a very long time to make sure that Medicare can indeed be able to negotiate and lower costs for our seniors.
So, I — I wouldn’t pull anything out. I think this is — together is going to lower — lower cost for families.
And — and if you think about the deficit — bringing down the deficit, adding another $300 billion to the $1.7 trillion that we saw last year, that’s going to help as well fight inflation and lower costs.
Q But it — it is called the Inflation Reduction Act. And it seems that the most favorable interpretation from economists, including those that the White House has cited, is that this legislation will help bring down inflation in the long term, perhaps later this decade. But there’s near-universal agreement that this is going to do very little to actually bring down inflation in the near term, which seems to be when Americans would be looking for an Inflation Reduction Act to actually address inflation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — you know, I — look, that is something that we disagree with. Right? We think that this is going to have some effect for a fam- — for American families.
When you think about negotiating with Medicare and — so that it could lower cost for your grandparents, for people who are senior in your household that you’re trying to help, and make sure that they’re able to get those — that funding or those funds are paid for, those chronic medicine — that matters. And so that is really important as well.
There’s going to be rebates for families so that they’re able — as it relates to energy costs that’s going to matter as well. Those are — those are huge. Those are incredibly big for — for families just across the board, especially in the middle class.
And, you know, you think about congressional Republicans and their plan: It’s the complete opposite. They are not interested in lowering costs. If they were, this is it. This is the bill that exists in the House right now — in Congress, I should say — in the Senate at the moment — that could do that. And they don’t want to jump on board to help us lower cost for families.
Q But do you have any evidence that this is going to lower inflation in the short term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I just listed out 126 top economist who said that it’s going to do that.
I have —
Q They didn’t say “in the short term.” They just said “generally.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’m just saying that it is a step forward. We do believe that if you lower cost for Americans, that matters. That is incredibly important. Because when you think about inflation — right? — you think about how it’s increasing prices, right? Prices — people are paying more for gas prices.
And we saw the work that we have done in this administration. For the past almost seven weeks — right? — we have seen gas prices go down, saving families, like, 80 bucks a month if you have a two-car — a two-car household. That matters. If you think about prescription drugs going down — bringing down the cost, that matters.
That is connected to what the pain — the inflation that peop- — of American families are talking about.
And so — and when you talk about lowering the deficit, this is what this will do. That matters as well.
And so, you know, we’re going to — we believe it is — if you look at the name of the legislation — Infla- — Inflation Reduction Act — it’s going to do that. We have support of economists who say it’s going to do that as well.
And so, we are grateful for this piece of legislation. And, you know, we hope it gets to the President’s desk as soon as possible.
I want to —
Q And just very quickly, on Saudi Arabia: The State Department today approved the sale of these 300 Patriot missiles. It was announced the same day as the extension of this truce in Yemen. Were those two things connected?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have anything to share on that.
I’m going to move on though.
Q Thanks, Karine. We heard John Kirby say today that the threat from al Qaeda is not over. But can you talk about how big of an operational impact on al Qaeda this strike on Zawahiri will have?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I’m not going to go beyond to what John Kirby said today.
Q Hey, Karine. Yeah, so on the Inflation Reduction Act: So the corp- — this corporate tax increase to a minimum of 15 percent, how confident is the President that the companies will not pass that cost on to people in the form of higher prices?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the reason why we — we talk about — we think the global minimum tax of 15 is — or the minimum tax — the corporate minimum tax of 15 is so important is because you have 55 companies — corporate companies right now who pay absolutely nothing, who pay zero dollars.
And by doing this, we are fixing the tax loophole. It is important to do that. It is important to have a fairer tax system. And it is important to just — for people to pay their fair share. We’re talking about tens of billions of dollars profit that we are seeing these companies bring in and not paying a cent, not paying anything for it.
I cannot speak — your question that you’re asking me, I cannot speak to that. What I can speak is to this legislation and why it’s so important and why we needed to get it done.
And — and there should be — there should be bipartisan support for this legislation. There should be. When you think about Medicare; when you think about energy cost; when you think about the deficit — lowering that deficit, continuing to do that; and just making sure the tax code is fair — it’s, like, people are paying their taxes — there’s nothing here that we should be against. We should be supporting this legislation and delivering for middle-class families.
Q Thank you. Later this month, India will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. It’s the world’s largest democracy. It has done a lot in the last 75 years.
As the President of the world’s oldest democracy, does the President have a message to the people of India or Indian Americans as well?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we congratulate the people of India on 75 years of independence. India’s nonviolent freedom struggle was an inspiration to the world. And we hope that the next 75 years see India continue to prosper.
This year, the United States and India also celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relationship — relations. As the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy, respectively, we will continue to work together every day to deliver opportunities, security, freedom, and dignity to our peoples.
We are partners in many important areas, including defense, vaccines, climate, tech, and our ever-growing people-to-people connections.
The United States will continue to work with India to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific and address the challenges both our countries face around the world.
All right. Okay.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, thank you guys.
Q Thank you.
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