James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:20 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon.

Q    Good afternoon.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, it’s so good.  Love it.

I just want to say a few words about the verdict — the Brittney Griner verdict.

So, today’s sentencing is a reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.  She never should have had to endure a trial in the first place.

We have repeatedly called for Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.

Under President Biden’s direction, the U.S. government continues to work aggressively, pursuing every avenue to bring home Brittney, Paul Whelan, and every American held hostage and wrongfully detained around the world.

As you all know, we have made a substantial offer to bring her and Paul Whelan home.  We urge Russia to accept that proposal.

I’m not able to share more publicly at this time, but we are willing to take every step necessary to bring home our people, as we demonstrated with Trevor Reed.  And that’s what we’re going to do here.

I can assure you this is something the President and our national security team are focused on every single day.

The President receives regular updates about the status of our negotiations to secure Brittney’s release, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world.

So we will continue our — we will continue to focus on getting our U.S. nationals home.

So, additionally, as you have — you might seen — you have might seen, the People’s Republic of China launched 11 ballistic missiles towards Taiwan.

To speak on this and other foreign policy news of the day, National Security Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby is here to join with — join me today.  And he’ll take over and take your questions.

Go ahead.

MR. KIRBY.  Thank you, Karine.  Good afternoon.

As Karine alluded and I’m sure all of you have covered, overnight, the People’s Republic of China launched an estimated 11 ballistic missiles towards Taiwan, which impacted to the northeast, the east, and southeast of the island.

We condemn these actions, which are irresponsible and at odds with our longstanding goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region.

China has chosen to overreact and use the Speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.

We anticipated that China might take steps like this.  In fact, I described them for you in quite some detail just the other day — Monday.  We also expect that these actions will continue and that the Chinese will continue to react in coming days.

The United States is prepared for what Beijing chooses to do.  We will not seek, nor do we want, a crisis.  At the same time, we will not be deterred from operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific, consistent with international law, as we have for decades, supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open Indo-Pacific.

To that end, Secretary Austin today has directed that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the ships in her strike group will remain on station in the general area to monitor the situation.

We will conduct standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks, consistent, again, with our longstanding approach to defending freedom of the seas and international law.

And we will take further steps to demonstrate our commitment to the security of our allies in the region, and that includes Japan.

Beijing’s actions are of concern to Taiwan, to us, to partners around the world.  You probably saw the G7, yesterday, rejected Beijing’s attempt to coerce and intimidate Taiwan, which is a leading democracy.

The nations of ASEAN also released a statement overnight about the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait.  And today, the Japanese government reported that five PRC missiles landed in their Exclusive Economic Zone, noting their grave concern — another example of how China’s actions are undermining peace and security in the region.

Now, we’re going to continue to communicla- — communicate closely with our partners around the world, which we have demonstrated over and over again is a strength of this administration.

Beijing’s provocative actions are a significant escalation in its longstanding attempt to change the status quo.  As just one example, over the past two years the PRC has more than doubled the number of aircraft that they have flown over the center line that separates China and Taiwan as compared to the fir- — to the time period between 2016-2020.  And Beijing has pursued economic coercion, political interference, and cyberattacks against Taiwan, all of which erode the cross-Strait status quo.

The United States will be resolute but also steady and responsible.  We do not believe it is in our interest, Taiwan’s interest, the region’s interest to allow tensions to escalate further, which is why a long-planned Minuteman III ICBM test scheduled for this week has been rescheduled for the near future.

As China engages in destabilizing military exercises around Taiwan, the United States is demonstrating instead the behavior of a responsible nuclear power by reducing the risks of miscalculation and misperception.

We will continue to demonstrate transparency in our U.S. ballistic missile tests through timely notifications.  That’s a practice that China has often rejected.  Rescheduling this test will not in any way — not in any way — impact the modernization, the readiness, or the reliability of America’s safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.  And the test will happen.  It will be rescheduled for the near future.

I want to reiterate, as I’ve been saying all week: Nothing — nothing — has changed about our One China policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint U.S.-PRC Communiqués, and the Six Assurances.  And we say it that way every time because it’s exactly consistent.

Now, we said that we oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side.  We’ve also said we do not support Taiwan independence and that we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.  We’re also maintaining communication with Beijing.

As President Biden told President Xi, the Speaker’s visit was consistent with our One China policy, that she had a right to visit, and that a previous Speaker of the House has also visited Taiwan before without incident.

This is how we’re going to defend America’s national security interests and our values.  And that is how President Biden directed us to operate in the days ahead — with consistency and clarity and transparency.

And we’ll keep doing that — what we are doing — and we’re going to keep supporting cross-Strait peace and stability, because it matters — not just in the Strait, not just to Taiwan, but to the entire region.

With that, I’ll take some questions.

Q    Thanks, John.  A couple questions about Brittney Griner’s sentence.  First off, why do you believe the Russian judge chose a nine-year sentence for what appears to be a very minor infraction?

MR. KIRBY:  I certainly can’t get inside the head of a Russian judge.  What we — we have seen similar maximal — maximum sentences for drug charges of foreigners in Russia. 

They typically — it’s just, historically speaking, foreigners that are arrested on drug charges and then convicted under their system tend to get much higher sentences than would be Russian citizens.

But I honestly can’t speak to it.  I will tell you that, as Karine rightly said, she shouldn’t even been on trial.  She’s wrongfully detained.  Absent that, we find the sentence reprehensible in its — in its scope.

Q    You know, you’ve — some details of the U.S. prisoner swap offer have obviously been public.  Do you think the Russians would ever accept a prisoner swap that wasn’t one-for-one or two-for-two — two of our prisoners for two of theirs?

MR. KIRBY:  That’s a better question for the Russians.  What I can tell you is that we put forth a serious proposal.  And I know everybody is making some assumptions here about what that proposal is; I won’t go into detail about it.  But it’s a serious proposal.  We urge them to accept it.  They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it.

Q    Why did you make the details of that offer — or the fact that you made an offer —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — public?  Doesn’t that encourage Russia or, really —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — any bad actor to take more Americans prisoner, thinking the Americans are going to be willing to deal? 

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, Tyler asked me that same question, I guess, a week or so ago.  We didn’t make it public — we didn’t make the decision to make it public lightly.  I mean, it’s not the kind of thing that you typically do. 

But what was happening in her case a week ago, what wasn’t happening in our negotiations a week ago, and in the context of her having to testify in her own defense at a sham trial — all of that played into our decision to at least make public the fact that there was a proposal.

It was an — it was an earnest attempt to see if we could get to some outcomes here.  And we’re still going to — we’re still going to keep making those attempts.

Q    Thank you so much.  You had called a counteroffer by Russia “unserious,” which involved their offer that the U.S. release a convicted Russian national, who’s being held —

MR. KIRBY:  That’s right.

Q    — in Germany, convicted of murder.  Is it still an unserious offer?  Are you giving it another look in light of the sentence?

MR. KIRBY:  Nothing’s changed about our position on that — on that topic.  I mean, I — I don’t think we’d go so far as to even call it a counteroffer.

Q    Okay.  President Biden said today in response, “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.” Does — is that a suggestion that he’s willing to go even further?  Is there more that the U.S. can do to pressure Russia to accept this offer?

MR. KIRBY:  I think Karine covered it really well in her opening statement.  I mean, the President is laser-focused on this and he — he and the whole team are working this literally every day.  And just like I won’t get into the details of the proposal that we’ve put forward, I don’t think it would be helpful to Brittney or to Paul for us to talk more publicly about — about where we are in the talks and what the President might or might not be willing to do. 

I just want to, again, reiterate what Karine said: He wants to see Brittney and Paul home, and he’s personally involved in seeing — to making sure that that outcome happens.

Q    And very quickly, has the President spoken to Brittney Griner’s family?  And does he plan to do so? 

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any recent in — like in terms of like the last couple of days, I don’t have any conver- —

Q    Not in the wake of the sentencing, or —

MR. KIRBY:   Not in the wake of the sentencing.

Q    Okay.

MR. KIRBY:  Not — no.

Q    And just very quickly on China.  Given what — China’s actions that you talked about at the top, does the administration believe it was a mistake for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan?

MR. KIRBY:   We have said — we have said consistently that the Speaker had a right to go.

Q    But now there’s been action from China.

MR. KIRBY:  As Speaker of the House and a member of Congress, she — she had a right to go.  And I know we’re all focused on the stop in Taiwan and I — and, certainly, given the events of the last 12, 18 hours, understandably so — but she’s not just going to Taiwan.

I mean, she’s — she’s moved on now to visits in Japan and South Korea — two treaty allies.  Japan, in particular, deeply concerned about what’s going on.  We’ll let the Speaker talk about her travels and what she’s learned, what she’s heard, what her takeaways are.  I won’t — I won’t talk for her. 

Members of Congress have every right to travel overseas, and that includes Taiwan.  And they have bo- — both — from both parties have just this year. And she’s — yes, she’s the Speaker of the House, but she’s also a member of Congress.  She has the right to go.  And our job was to make sure that she had a safe and secure visit; we did that.  We’re still in touch with her staff.  We’re still responsible for making sure the rest of her trip is safe and secure.  We’ll let her talk about it when she gets back.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Thanks, John.  On Griner, I know you said you can’t get into too many details here, but can you say if there are non-prisoner concessions on the table at all that you would be willing to consider? 

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get into any more detail. 

Q    Okay.  And then on China, is the President considering another call with President Xi at all, given these escalating tensions? 

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any call on the schedule to talk to or to announce.

Q    Is that being considered at all?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s schedule.  As I said in my opening statement, the lines of communication with China are still open at different levels, of course, but I won’t get ahead of the President’s schedule.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Just going to jump around.  Go ahead, Patsy.

Q    Thank you so much, John.  So you’ve explained what the U.S. is trying to do in terms of sending out military — the USS Reagan to the region to ensure, I assume —

MR. KIRBY:  She was already in the region.  Yeah.  But —

Q    Understood.  Okay.  So that — I assume that’s also part of keeping shipping routes and — open and safe.  I understand that the Taiwanese president is also saying that she’s in contact with U.S. allies to ensure that airports and seaports remain open.  Is that also part of the — what the administration is trying to do here? 

And the other thing is, just to touch on the kinds of communications that you’re having with the Chinese government: Do you believe that, at this point, there is a diplomatic off- ramp for this crisis? 

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we certainly would like to see the tensions deescalate.  And if that’s best done through diplomacy, the United States would fully support that.  We want to see the tensions come down. 

I would submit to you that they can come down very easily by just having the Chinese stop these — these very aggressive military drills and flying missiles in and around the Taiwan Strait.  You don’t need diplomacy to just simply stop doing something that’s — that’s escalating the tensions and putting peace and security in the region at risk. 

Look, the Ronald Reagan and her escort ships are a very capable strike group.  They’re there to monitor the situation.  They’ll — they’ll be there for a little bit longer than they were originally planned to be — to be there. 

Again, I won’t get ahead of the ship’s schedule, but the President believed that — that it was the prudent thing to do: to leave her and her escort ships there just a little bit longer. 

Q    Can we just — just to follow up, is there any kind of support that the U.S. is providing to Taiwan in terms of protecting it in the context of cybersecurity attacks?  I think that’s also something that the Taiwanese are concerned about.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, look, I — I — for lots of good reasons, we don’t talk about steps we take either unilaterally or bilaterally in cyberspace. 

We are committed, as we have been now for decades, to Taiwan’s self-defense.  I’ll leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Can you give us a sense of what Griner’s sentencing may mean for negotiations?  Her Russian lawyer had said that a deal wouldn’t be possible until after she was convicted and sentenced.  So now that that’s happened, is it more likely, you think, that we may see them willing to negotiate?  Essentially, does a conviction open new doors for negotiation? 

MR. KIRBY:  That’s really up to the Russian side.  We’re still — we’re still open to having our proposal seriously and positively considered.  And if on the Russian side that means that they feel like they’re more empowered to do that, then so be it. 

We want them to take the offer that’s on the table because it’s a good one, it’s a fair one, and it’ll help bring Paul and Brittney home.  And if — if this is what’s going to — it’s going to take to get them to — to “yes,” then, okay, let’s get to “yes”; let’s get them home.

Q    And it has been now almost a week since Secretary Blinken and Lavrov spoke over the phone.  Have you gotten any serious signs from Russia that they’re willing to negotiate?  Is there any glimmer of progress since then, in the last week?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to negotiate in public.  Conversations are ongoing at various levels, and I’ll just leave it at that.

Q    And just to follow up on Nancy’s question, what message do you think the Russians are trying to send to the U.S. by giving Brittney Griner so severe a sentence?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I can’t speak for the Russian judge.  And — and your question presupposes that it’s a message-sending exercise.  Maybe it is; maybe it’s not.  As I said the —

Q    You think it’s possible it’s not?

MR. KIRBY:  Historically — historically, what we’ve seen is foreign-born citizens that are arrested and convicted of drug charges tend to get — just historically, anecdotally speaking — tend to get higher sentences, almost to the max, which in many cases is 10 years, in Russia, as opposed to Russian-born citizens of the country convicted of the same offense.  It’s just — it tends to be the case there. 

So I — honestly, I just — I wish I could get inside the judge’s head; I can’t do it.  So I can’t define why he chose nine years.  As I said to Nancy, it’s a reprehensible sentence.  She shouldn’t have been on the — on trial to begin with.  But that — and that, again, that’s why we — I think that’s why you saw the President come out so strongly against this — this sham trial to begin with.

Q    But to be clear: You — do you think she’s being used as a political pawn here?

MR. KIRBY:  We think that Brittney and Paul Whelan are being wrongfully detained.  They’re being wrongfully detained.  They need to — to be let go.  They need to come home.  We’re going to keep working on that.

I — I cannot ascribe Russian motives or intent here.  I just — I just — it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to try to speculate what’s in their heads. 

All I can do is tell you where President Biden is and the national security team: wrongfully detained, need to come home.  There’s a deal on the table.  Let’s make the deal.  Let’s get them home.

Q    In the way back?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, Pete.  I’ll come back (inaudible), then Peter, and then — and then I’ll come back. 

Q    Thank you.  Thanks, John.  Why is it that, over the last couple of months, President Biden has been so much tougher on Russia than he is on China?

MR. KIRBY:  I wouldn’t agree with the premise of the question, Peter. 

Q    Well, I think just — when Russia was getting aggressive around Ukraine, the President was out every couple of days telling Putin, “Don’t do it.”  And now China is getting aggressive around Taiwan, and we’re not hearing anything like that from the President. 

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, beg to differ.  We’ve been standing up here for almost a week, Peter, talking about our concerns about what China was preparing to do.  We put out declassified information that we saw what the Chinese playbook was going to be. 

Look, I stood at another podium not long ago, and much of the same way we reacted then we’re reacting now, in terms of being honest and transparent about what’s going on and calling it out for what it is. 

And then, today, we’re talking about exactly what we’re going to do to make sure we can help preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

So I’m — I’m afraid I just challenge the premise of your question. 

Q    I know you said that there is not a call scheduled with Xi.  Is there a reason why?  Because President Biden has known him for decades. 

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    He’s got a lot of free time up there in the Residence this week.

MR. KIRBY:  He doesn’t have free time.  He — he’s —

Q    Is there a reason he can’t just pick up the phone and call?

MR. KIRBY:  He’s been working all the way through his illness, quite frankly, Peter.  So that’s a little bit insulting. 

And as for a call —

Q    It’s not insulting to —

MR. KIRBY:  It is.  It is.

Q    — say that the — that someone who is isolating by themselves —

MR. KIRBY:  You suggested he has a lot of free time, as if he’s not doing anything.  And you know that’s not the case, Mr.  Doocy.

Now, look, as for a call with President Xi, I don’t have anything on the President’s schedule to speak to. 

If ever the President felt like a call with President Xi was the appropriate way to respond or that it would — that it would have an effect and an outcome that he wants to achieve, he certainly would be willing to do that.  He’s talked to Xi now five times; it’s not like he’s afraid to pick up the phone and call President Xi.  And if there’s a — if a call is the right answer, I’m sure that President Biden will do that.  But I’m not going to get ahead of the President on this. 

I do want to stress — I said it before, but I do think that your question begs me to say it again: The lines of communication are still open with Beijing, and we’re using those lines of communication.  And I think you’ll see that in days to come as well.  That’s really important. 

And that’s one of the reasons why President Biden made that call a week or so ago, was to make sure — and you saw it in Karine’s readout — to make sure that those lines of communication stay open, and they are.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jeremy.  And then I’ll come to the back. 

Q    Thanks.  John, you said a few moments ago that the President has been personally involved in Brittney Griner’s case.  Can you talk about what that has involved beyond getting daily updates on her situation, and whether or not the President would be willing to speak directly with President Putin to negotiate her release and the release of Paul Whelan?

MR. KIRBY:  When I say “personally involved,” I mean he’s — he’s in constant touch with all the members of his team that are working on Brittney’s case.  And it’s not just Secretary of State Blinken, but Jake Sullivan; the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs; the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, Josh Geltzer. 

I mean, there’s a lot of people involved in here, and he’s driving a process of continual updates that he can get from his team.  He’s offering guidance to them as needed.  You’ve seen that he has talked to Mrs. Griner herself. 

And certainly would expect that he’s going to continue to have those kinds of conversations going forward.  He’s staying focused on this. 

Q    And as for speaking with President Putin directly on this?

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, I’m sorry.  I — again, I don’t have — similar to President Xi, I don’t have any calls to announce or speak to with President Putin.

The President is comfortable that the proposal that we put forward is a serious one.  And he urges the Russians to accept that proposal so we can get Brittney and Paul home.

Q    And then, you talked about the decision to make public that you had made an offer to the Russians.  And you suggested that part of that was perhaps to put some pressure on the Russians because they hadn’t been really all that responsive.  Do you feel like making that offer public has changed anything, has changed the status quo?  Have you achieved desired outcome of that — of that decision?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, she’s — she’s not home, neither is Paul.  So, can we say that making it public had a direct line to bringing them home?  Not yet, but we hope it will.  We hope it will. 

Q    It’s going to move the ball.

MR. KIRBY:  We felt — we felt it was important to make sure the American people knew, but as well as people around the world, how seriously we’re taking these two cases, and that — so seriously, in fact, that we had made a proposal that we believe the Russians ought to accept. 

And you’ll notice that the day after we did that, the Russians started talking — even publicly.  So I’ll leave it at that. 

Q    And then on a separate issue: CNN reported today that the Department of Homeland Security is going to stop wiping mobile devices of high-level officials and political appointees without backing them up first, and is launching a 30-day review of policies.  Is the White House directing any other agencies to take similar steps, including the Department of Defense, for example?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not aware of any other instructions to other agencies. 

Q    And then just lastly on Russia, more broadly: Can you speak at all to this newly declassified intelligence that Russia is preparing to plant fabricated evidence as it relates to this attack on the —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I can actually. 

Q    — on the prison?  Yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  So I can share, based on downgraded intelligence, that we expect that Russian officials are planning to falsify evidence in order to attribute the attack on the Olenvika [sic] prison — Olenivka — sorry — prison on the 29th of July.  They’re going to try to attribute that attack to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

We anticipate that Russian officials will try to frame the Ukrainian Armed Forces in anticipation of journalists and potential investigators visiting the site of the attack.  In fact, we’ve already seen some spurious press reports to this effect, where they have planted evidence. 

And we have reason to believe that the — that Russia would go so far as to make it appear that Ukrainian HIMARS — the High Mobility Advanced [Artillery] Rocket Systems — that have been in so much in the news lately — were to blame.  And to do that before journalists arrived on site.

And again, we’re beginning to even start to see some press reporting to that effect. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, way in the back, in the blue.  Way in the back. 

Q    It’s me? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You.

Q    Yes, thanks. 

MR. KIRBY:  (Inaudible) in the blue jeans.

Q    John — yes — when you say that the U.S. is prepared — when you say that the U.S. is prepared to what — for what China will do, do you mean that you are prepared to engage militarily?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m saying we are prepared for what China may do.  And I think it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go into a great level of detail on that.

Let me say that when I say we’re prepared for what China may do, it’s across all the tools of government power.  It’s not just about the military. 

We have a robust military capability in the region.  We have strong alliances and partnerships in the region.  We also have economic throw-weight, right?  And we have diplomatic throw-weight.  There’s a lot of things that the United States can — can bring to bear if we feel like we need to. 

But here’s the thing: We shouldn’t need to do it.  And it shouldn’t come to blows.  There’s no reason for this manufactured crisis to exist.  They’re — the Chinese have used Speaker Pelosi’s trip as a pretext.  Yes, they’re claiming it’s a protest.  I got it.  But it’s also a pretext to try to up the ante in tensions and to actually try to set a new status quo to get to a new normal where they think they can keep things at. 

And my point in coming out here today was to make it clear that we’re not going to accept a new status quo and that it’s not just the United States, but the world will reject it as well.

Q    After that last call between President Biden and Xi, there were indications that a meeting between — between the two presidents may take place.  There’s — there was any room for that.  Given the current situation, do you think there’s a room for a meeting between the two presidents?

MR. KIRBY:  Nobody is ruling out the possibility for a meeting between the two presidents.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Phil, then Ed.

Q    There’s reporting that the Biden administration is lobbying against legislation that would designate Taiwan as a Major Non-NATO Ally.  Can you tell us if that’s accurate? 

And as we move towards what President Biden has often described as an era of autocracy versus democracy, should we be strengthening ties with Taiwan by entering into such a designation?

MR. KIRBY:  I think we’re — with respect to this proposed legislation, I think we’re going to avoid too much comment right now. 

We certainly appreciate and respect the role of Congress and, frankly, the support across the aisle this year and so many years in the past for support to Taiwan.  But I don’t think it behooves us to try to get ahead of some proposed legislation before it moves — it moves further on down the — down the ways.

I will only add that the Taiwan Relations Act, which is the law of the land, does provide the administration a lot of vehicles and venues. 

And we get fixated on the — on the Taiwan Relations Act in terms of a security perspective and arms sales.  And those have continued under this administration, and they will continue under this administration. 

But if you read the act, there’s an awful lot more to it than just — than just arm sales.  And we fully respect that law of the land — we’ll follow that law of the land.  It does provide, on its own, an awful lot of flexibility and authority for the administration to continue to support Taiwan, particularly in their self-defense, and — and we’re going to keep adhering to it.

Q    And then more — just a quick follow-up.  You mentioned this briefly about the canceled ICBM test.  Can you speak more generally to the decision not to move in that direction, to cancel that?  Was that the President’s decision?  And, I guess, can you put a little bit more meat on the bones in terms of lessening tensions right now?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, yeah.  First of all, it’s not canceled.  It’s only been postponed.  And it’s been postponed for a short period of time.  I’m not going to tell you what the date certain here is on the calendar, but there is a date certain.  And it’s — it’s just been postponed for — for a short period of time.  So, it’s still going to happen.

And because it’s not being postponed for an exorbitant amount of time, it’s not going to have, as I said, any effect on our nuclear readiness.  The — the decision came in light and in context of the tensions that we’re seeing right now, and they’re pretty escalated.  I mean, it’s — the temperature is pretty high. 

And the President believed and the national security team believed that a strong, confident, capable nuclear power can afford to wait a couple of weeks for a test to make it clear — not just in word, but in deed — how serious we are when we say we have no interest in escalating the tensions.  We don’t think there should be a pretext for crisis or conflict.

And we’re not, as I said in my opening statement, we’re not seeking one.  And this decision to postpone for a short while is meant to prove indeed what we’re — what we’re saying in words about how serious we are.  It’s the responsible thing to do.  It’s the strong, confident thing to do.  And the President stands behind that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And just a couple of more.

Ed and Sebastian.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, John.  So given the aggression that we’re seeing from China around Taiwan and the FBI Director today saying that China is the biggest threat to the U.S. — or the number one threat to the U.S. in the next 10 years, would the President then caution companies from expanding business or doing business in China?

MR. KIRBY:  We have been nothing but transparent with — with businesses about — and private corporations about our concerns regarding operations in or with China.  But they’re private companies and they make their own decisions, and we have to respect that.

Q    What about supply chains with the — with the activity going on around Taiwan?  How is that affecting our supply chains and will we have problems?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t think we’ve seen any effects yet.  I mean, we’re only a few days into this.  So, it’s something we’re watching and certainly concerned about. 

But we’ve also, I would add — thanks to COVID, we’ve done a lot of work, particularly in the last 18 months, to make more resilient our supply chains across a range of sectors.  Doesn’t mean everything’s fixed.  Doesn’t mean it’s perfect.  But we’ve done a lot of work in that regard.  So, we’ll just watch and see how this goes.  But there is a lot more resiliency in our supply chain capability now than there was, you know, a couple years ago.

(Cross-talk by reporters.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Sebastian.

Q    Thank you, Admiral.  Over here.  Sebastian.

MR. KIRBY:  I see you.  I’m looking right at you.

Q    Okay, okay.  Because there’s a lot of people in blue jackets here.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  I noticed.

Q    So, back to Ukraine and the deaths of those Ukrainian POWs.  So, the U.S. is coming under — you’re saying like a whole fabricated, you know, propaganda narrative is being spun.  Is there anything that — that the administration will be able to point to and have people look when they look at what, you know, the pictures (inaudible) that will tell you that — that would not be a HIMAR?  Is there any evidence that you’re going to be able to bring?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, let’s see what they plant, right?  I mean, let’s see what they — let’s see how they play this.  And if they — we have evidence, information that suggests they’re going to plant evidence to include maybe pieces of HIMARS.  And we’ll see — we’ll see what they do with it.

I mean, I think, yes — I mean, analysts would probably —  depending on how big the piece is and, you know, whether you’d be able to look at it and know whether it was, in fact, coming from the munitions that HIMARS fire.  Is that what you —

Q    Yeah, I kind of meant starting from now, not when whatever is going to be shown to journalists shown.  I mean: Now, so far, is there anything that people could look at and say, “That doesn’t look like a HIMAR impact or — “

Is there anything the U.S. is going to be able bring forth itself?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not aware of any imagery now that we have that will allow us to do that.  But, look, this is all fresh information.  We’ll see what they do with it.  And, you know, it’s a — it’s another common play out of the Russian playbook here to accuse others of what you did yourself.

And I’m not a criminologist, but I reckon you don’t plant evidence unless you’re trying to put the blame on somebody else.

Q    Just quickly on Iran, if I might — the nuclear talks that have restarted.  Would it be fair to describe this as a “last ditch effort”?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m sorry —

Q    The Iran nuclear talks that have restarted.

MR. KIRBY:  A “last ditch effort”?

Q    Yeah.  Is it — is it fair?  Because, I mean, the Europeans are calling, like, a little bit of a “last chance saloon.”

MR. KIRBY:  I would tell you, clearly — I mean, look, the negotiations are pretty much complete at this point.  And you heard the President say we’re not going to wait forever for Iran to take this deal — the deal on the table.  They ought to take it.

I am not going to slap a label on it and say “last ditch,” but clearly time does appear to be getting very short in terms of being able to get to a deal.  And again, we urge Iran to take this deal on the table.

No problem in the Middle East — none — gets easier to solve with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Q    Thank you very much.  The U.S. Senate, as well as President Zelenskyy, call on the administration to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.  Is President Biden willing to do it?

MR. KIRBY:  The State Department is taking a look at the — at the possibilities around the potential designation.  They’re still looking at that, and I don’t want to get ahead of their — their process.

I would also add that a lot of the things that that designation — a lot of the authorities that come with it — I mean, a lot of them — a lot of the actions you can take, we’re already taking.

I mean, we have levied unprecedented sanctions against Russia just unilaterally from the United States, let alone the rest of the world.

Q    And one more on China.  You just, a few minutes ago, said that China is trying to set a new status quo, a new normal.  Could you elaborate on that?  How do you see — what do they exactly want to achieve by creating this crisis?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, you’ve seen them — you’ve seen them fly over the median line, you know, on several occasions in just the last 24 hours.  You’ve seen them now declare naval operating areas — exercise areas much closer to the island than they did 25 years ago.  You’ve seen them now fly at least 11 ballistic missiles in and around the Taiwan Strait, and apparently going — according to our Japanese allies, a couple of them — at least a couple of them landed in their economic exclusion zone, which means they most likely flew over the island.

You could see a scenario where they’re just — they’re just taking the temperature up, right?  They’re boiling the frog, right?  They’re taking — they’re taking the temperature up to a higher level, with perhaps the intention of maintaining that sort of intensity or at least being able to conduct those kinds of operations on a more frequent, regular basis going forward.

That’s — that’s — that’s a different status quo than the one that we had just a few days ago, just a week ago.  And we’re not going to —

Q    Are you concerned that they may take a military action against Taiwan?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to speculate for what the Chinese may or may not do.  We’re telling you what we’re seeing, and we’re telling you what we’re expecting.

We’re expecting more exercises, more bellicosity and rhetoric.  We’re expecting additional — additional incursions.  And we’ll see how this plays out.

As I said, there’s no reason for this to erupt into a crisis.  There’s no reason for this to come to blows.  And nobody wants to see that happen.

And I’ll tell you this, having operated a little bit at sea myself, the more hardware you have in close proximity like that with tensions as high as they are, the higher risk you get of miscalculations and mistakes.  And that is what could lead to something getting a lot more dangerous than it is right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, we have to wrap it up. 

Q    So it’s not a crisis right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  One last question.

Q    Mr. Kirby, can you clarify —

MR. KIRBY:  Who’s ask- —  who’s asking —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.)

Q    Can you clarify whether —

Q    Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, sir.

Q    — the White House is —

Q    You said that our policy —

Q    Can you clarify —

MR. KIRBY:  Hey —

Q    — towards China has been consistent —

MR. KIRBY:  Your name is Simon, right?

Q    Yeah, I really wanted —

MR. KIRBY:  Si- — Simon —

Q    — to ask you —

MR. KIRBY:  Simon.  Simon.

Q    — a question —

MR. KIRBY:  Simon.

Q    I’ve been trying to ask you this question —

MR. KIRBY:  Simon.

Q    If you’d allow me to ask you the question —

MR. KIRBY:  Sir, I’m going to — I’m going to call on this man. 

Sir, listen now, I’ve been polite to you, but I expect a little bit of respect in return. 

Q    I respect you.

MR. KIRBY:  You know where we are?  This is the White House Press Briefing Room —

Q    I know.  I respect you.

MR. KIRBY:  — and you need to be more respectful.

Q    And I’ve been raising my hand since.

MR. KIRBY:  I’m going to call on this reporter.

Q    Thank you.  You have described our policy —

Q    (Inaudible) the White House (inaudible) —

Q    — toward China as consistent and clear, but the U.S. policy toward Taiwan is also described as strategic ambiguity.  Don’t you think it’s sort of that ambiguity that has allowed tensions, like we’re seeing now, to have developed?
MR. KIRBY:  No, we would not agree with that at all.  No.
Q    So, on the subject of Americans detained abroad, the United Arab Emirates detained an American lawyer, a man named — let’s see here — Asim Ghafoor.  He is an attorney who’s previously represented Jamal Khashoggi.  It happened shortly before the President’s trip to Saudi Arabia.  Is there anything you can say about the administration’s efforts to free him or, sort of, any conversations on — with the UAE?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s not a lot I can say about this particular case, sir.  We’re certainly aware, monitoring.  I’d refer you to the State Department to speak more on that.  I’m afraid I just am not able to talk much about that particular individual and that particular case.

Q    Hungary’s head of state, Viktor Orbán, is coming to the United States.  He’s going to speak at a conservative political conference in Dallas.  Has the administration been in touch with Hungary at all over the trip?  Is there any planned conversation that might happen?

MR. KIRBY:  No and no.  It’s a private visit.

Q    Is the administration concerned at all with, sort of, an authoritarian-leaning leader coming to the United States to pursue this, sort of, opportunity?
MR. KIRBY:  He’s coming at a private — private invitation.  And Mr. Orbán and the CPAC, they can talk about his — his visit.

Thanks, everybody.  Appreciate it.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, John.

Q    Mr. Kirby, can you react to a letter you received today from a law firm in D.C.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  We’ll continue.

With that, so we all — we all know how annoying it is when your flight is canceled or delayed and then it either takes forever to get your money back or you only get a flight credit for that airline.  I’m sure many of you have gone through that in the last several months.

Today, the Department of Transportation issued a new rule to fix that.  If your flight is canceled or delayed three hours for a domestic flight or six hours for an international flight, you must get a refund within seven days of a refund request if you paid by credit card.

That refund policy also applies if they change your arrival airport, if they add more stops, or if they downgrade the class you’re flying in.

The rule also has new protections if you can’t fly due to a pandemic or medical advice.

Under the DOT’s proposal, when that happens, you’re entitled to a non-expiring travel credit or voucher or a refund if it’s an airline that got government assistance during the relevant public health emergency.

With that, Josh, you want to kick us off?

Q    Yes.  Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.
Q    Tomorrow is jobs day, which is like Super Bowl for some of us.  (Laughter.)  Friday’s —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Is it really?  (Laughs.)  

Q    Look, there are a lot of nerds — (laughter) —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wow.

Q    — in Washington.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t follow the Super — I don’t follow football, but wow.

Q    I’m just saying —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s —

Q    — 12 Super Bowls a year is great.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sounds exhausting.  (Laughs.)

Q    Friday’s employment report is expected to show the job gains last month slowed to 250,000 from 372,000 in June.  Does the administration view this as a sign the economy is healthy?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as we’ve been saying for many months now, we are in a — and the President — including the President — has been saying that we’re in the transition to a stable and steady growth.  And during that transition, what you’ll see is instead of that record-high-breaking number — job numbers that we’ve been seeing every month in the realm of 500,000 to 600,000 jobs on average per month, we’re expecting to be closer to 150,000 jobs per month.

And so that would actually sign — that will be a sign of — of a success of this transition.  And this kind of job growth is consistent with the lower — the low unemployment numbers that we’ve been seeing — that rate of 3.6 percent.  And we see that and others have seen — see that as a healthy economy.

I’m going to jump around.
Q    Just — quick one.  One quick one.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t know.  (Laughter.)

Q    With every —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Usually this goes on for a while.

Q    I — I just have one left.  Based on everything that’s happening —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hmm.

Q    — in Asia right now, does President Biden consider China to be an opponent or a competitor?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look — and Kirby said this and we’ve been saying this for the past couple of days — right? — more than a week.  And I’m going to answer it this way because this goes to why this has come up, which is the Speaker going to Taiwan.

You know, she has the right to go to Taiwan.  She has the right to travel wherever she wants.  She is the Speaker of the House.  She is a member of Congress.  We can — we will not ever tell her where to go.

And we’ve been really clear with — with China.  We’ve — we have said, “No policy changes at all.”  The One China policy stands. 

And — and the President, just a week ago today, spoke to President Xi.  It was the fifth time that they spoke.  They have — continue to have an open — an open dialogue.

And so that is — I just want to make that really clear.  And just, you know, they’re — they’re the ones escalating here.

Q    Just — the relationship moving forward, though, would he consider China a competitor or an opponent of the United States?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, when we — when you think about — when you think about our economy, when you think about how we’re competing around the world, around the globe, you think about the CHIPS Act — right? — in the CHIPS and Science Act — one of the reasons we talked about making sure that that got done in a bipartisan way — we saw that happen just a couple of days ago — is we want to be able to compete, right?  We want to be able to compete with China.  And we want to be able to have those manufacturing jobs investment in — in the United States, and also strengthen our supply chain, make sure we strengthen our national security.

So, you know, as it — it relates to that, in that — in that — in that realm, you know, yeah, we want to be competitive as a country.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  When was the last time President Biden spoke with Senator Sinema?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a call to read out to you at this time.

Q    Okay.  Can you tell us how he views his role in getting the Inflation Reduction Act over the finish line?  I know you’ve been asked some version of this question probably every day this week.  I’m trying to take another stab at it though.  What does he think he needs to do?  Is he going to be picking up the phone?  Will he be inviting senators over here?  What — how does he view his role?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I can tell you how he views this anti-inflation piece of legislation.  He’s grateful for it.  He thinks it should be passed.  He thinks it’s going to change the lives of middle-class Americans across the country.

When you think about the prescription drugs, when you think about lowering utility cost, this is going to be critical.  When you think even about the ACA provisions — lowering healthcare costs, as we talk about premiums — and how important that is to many Americans.

So that’s how he sees his role in continuing to talk about it.  We have been talking about these pieces, these components of this legislation for some time now.  And so, he’s going to continue to have conversations.  Our — our team is going to continue to have conversations with members of congress. 

And — but he’s been very clear: He wants to see this pass and — and to his desk so he can sign.

Q    Yeah, but, given how important he believes it is, as you just laid out: He took a decidedly step back and let Senators Schumer and Manchin really be the two engaged in the negotiations to get the Inflation Reduction Act to this point. 

So I guess the question is: Does he feel like he wants to have a more direct engagement in these final rounds of negotiations with Senator Sinema asking for changes now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So what we’ve been pretty clear about — I think, for about a year — actually, probably since the beginning of this year — is that we were not going to negotiate in public.  We believed that the Senate, the House — they need to do their work.  They — we let them speak to the pieces of legislation that they’re putting for — forward, and they’re trying to move forward.  We support this.  We support the work that — that Senator Schumer and Senator Manchin are doing.  Again, this is incredibly important to the American people. 

I think, though, what is important — I know there’s always this focus on Democrats and on what’s happening with members — Democratic members in the Senate.  I think what’s important here is: When you look at this bill, when you look at this —
this anti-inflation piece of legislation, and you look at the support across the country, it is bipartisan.  It has bipartisan support.  There was the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that came out yesterday, more — so more than 70 percent of support for many components of that bill. 

And it’s Republicans in Congress who are opposing us.  They’re the only ones who are opposing this.  And I think that’s what matters. 

What matters to us is what Democrats are trying to do and how we’re trying to change the lives of the middle class.

Q    Just very quickly, Senator Sinema is not yet supporting it.  And based on our reporting, she is opposed to closing the carried interest tax loophole.  Would the President support a final piece of legislation that did not include that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what we — and I can’t speak for Senator Sinema.  I’m not going to.  She can speak for herself.  I know that she’s more than capable of doing that.

What I can do is speak for this President and how he sees this piece of legislation that is so critical and important. 

And when you think about the corporate tax component — that 15 percent — you have corporations who are paying zero dollars.  Zero dollars.  And this is an opportunity for — to close that loophole.  We’ve heard from — many experts talk about how — you know, that tax — that 15 percent on corporate — corporate in- — corporate businesses is going to make a difference.  It’s going to be able to add — bring — add that $300 billion so that we can bring down the deficit.  It’s going to be able to have — Americans have lower costs. 

And so that’s what we see and we think.  And we have been very clear on that: how important it is to have — to close that loophole and make sure that we’re not increasing taxes on middle-class Americans that are making less than 400,000. 

And that does this.  This act does that. 

Go ahead.

Q    We have seen big oil companies report huge profits yet again in recent days.  But since gas prices have started falling, we haven’t seen the same level of criticism from this administration.  Are — is profit-taking in that industry and a lack of investment in production still a big issue —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    — for the Biden administration?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So can you say that one more time?

Q    Sure. 

We’ve seen big oil companies take big profits —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — make big profits in the recent days.  We haven’t heard the same level of criticism from this administration since gas prices started falling.  And I’m just wondering if that is still an — is still an issue for the Biden administration.  Are you still looking to curb profit-taking and increase production?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’ve been very clear about — about that piece: making sure that the oil companies — what — the profit that they’re making actually goes — goes — goes to the American people.

The American — we say this all the time: The American people should not be the first one to pay the increased costs and the last ones to see the benefit.  And we all — continue to call on oil companies to make sure that they pass on that profit to Americans. 

I want to talk a little bit about — we had that — the Department of Energy had that meeting with oil companies, and it was very constructive — the conversation with oil companies.  And we — we welcome the steps that they are taking to increase production. 

For example — I just want to give you a couple of examples:

After discussions with the Department of Energy, one company just last week announced that they are bringing back refinery — refining capacity at a New Jersey facility.  So, that is important.

And in June, America produced, on average, 12 million barrels of oil a day, and that number continues to increase and is on track to reach high — a high — record high.

So all of these things are important as we’re trying to bring prices down.  Oil is down about $25 a barrel from June.  Gas prices have gone down every day this summer and are now below $4 for most of the country.  So that indeed matters. 

And so, we’re going to continue to do the work.  We know that we have to give Americans, as you hear the President say, “a little bit of breathing room.”  And we’re going to continue to do that work to make sure that happens. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Does the President have any plans to intervene or fire the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, Joseph Cuffari?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No. 

Q    We asked your predecessor, Jen Psaki, about this in
— in April when the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee — Senators Durbin and Grassley — expressed concerns about him.  Obviously, this was before some of the concerns that have been raised in recent days about January 6th.  And she said that she would “follow up on that”. 

I’m wondering, have there been any conversations in the White House about —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s no —

Q    — his leadership and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s no — there’s no personnel
updates that I have for you at this time.

Look, the President has been very clear — I think I answered some of this yesterday — that he believes in the independent role of the Inspector Generals and that they serve an important function in ensuring accountability for the American people.  That still stands.  He believes that.

So, you know, again, we’ve seen the reports, as you’re — as you’re laying out, and the comments from members of Congress, as you told — just told me, expressing concerns with his performance.  But, again, we believe in the independent role, and I don’t have any news for —

Q    Right.  And just to follow up on that, you said the job of the Inspector General is as you just outlined.  Does the President have confidence that, given what has unfolded in the past few days and weeks, he — does he still have confidence in his ability to do that important job you just outlined?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, it’s important to do the job that the Inspector General is doing.  We have confidence in that.  And, again, we’re not going to comment any more, any further than that, but we have seen the reports.

Q    And just one more that I want to follow up on that I asked earlier this week — about the President’s own COVID protocols.  As soon as he tests negative, is he fully free from isolation?  Or is there — I know other White House staffers have been required to test negative twice before returning to work.  What are the protocols for the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, basically, for isolation — you know, today is day five of the rebound, because this is not — this is a rebound, not the — the first — the first — I don’t want to say “bout” because this is a continuation; it’s just a rebound.

And so he’ll — will remain — he will remain isolated until he tests negative, as we previously stated.  And so, the — when — when we’re doing that test to make sure that he’s negative, that is above and beyond, as you kind of, I think, were alluding to.  That’s — that’s what the White House protocol is for us. 

And so, he — we won’t see him again until, at least in person — you guys have seen him virtually, and he’s been working from the White House Residence these past couple of days — until he has — at least in person — until he has that negative test.

Q    So just one day of — the first time he tests negative, he will be —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, the last time we shared — because of his unique role — right? — he is the President.  And we try to make sure that we protect all of you and protect the staff — we did do two tests and make sure they were both negative.

Q    Afghanistan?

Q    Karine, can I follow up on Tyler’s question, please?

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On the issue of the Chinese tariffs, the President has been weighing for some time whether or not to ease some of those tariffs.  And just given the aggressive action we’ve seen out of China since Speaker Pelosi’s visit, I’m wondering: Will that factor into this decision on tariffs at all, or does the White House see those as two separate issues?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to go into any detail of the thinking of how we’re moving forward with the China tariffs.  I know it’s been on — the questions of — on the minds of all of you — a question that’s been out there. 

The President is taking this decision very seriously.  And once we have — once we — once he makes his decision, we will share that with all of you.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just to put a finer point on Tyler’s question: So will it be two negative tests this time or just one? 


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, it’ll — we — I — we put out a pool note that said just that, I believe, on Saturday.

Q    I don’t think you guys said clearly whether it was two negative tests like he did the first time or if one will be sufficient.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, what we’re going to do — there’s five days of isolation; this is the fifth day — we will have a negative test.  It is — you know, it is up to his doctor to decide, you know, if there will be a second one. 

What we did last time, what I can speak to — and we shared that — the — his personal physician shared this: that they did two negative tests because of the unique role that he has.  And that is something that his doctor decided.

Q    Okay.  And then, on monkeypox, we learned in the last 24 hours that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to ask that the bulk of the stocks of the vaccine that it already owned be bottled for distribution quickly enough.  And does the President feel like his administration — and the Department of Health and Human Services in particular — has acted with enough urgency to confront this monkeypox outbreak?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I want us to take a step back on this because this is really important and I know that many folks have questions about this.  And we are going to do everything that we can to end this outbreak.  That is our commitment, and that’s what we’re going to make sure that we do that. 

So, as you all know, the monkeypox outbreak has evolved rapidly and uniquely from prior outbreaks.  So we are in a different — it’s a different dynamic than it was the last couple of times, because monkeypox has been here in this country before.  And so, we have aggressively responded at different stages of this outbreak.  And so, just wanted to give you a little bit of that context because it’s spreading at different phases here.

So, first, within two days of the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the U.S., we began deploying vaccine to states and jurisdictions and prepositioning tens of thousands of additional doses in the Strategic National Stockpile. 

The initial science led us to believe — and this, I think, will answer your question a little bit — based on recent past monkeypox outbreaks, that those doses would be sufficient to meet the needs of the country as what we knew at that time — because it’s dynamic, it’s changing. 

And so — but however, infectious diseases are dynamic, as I just said, and unpredictable — inherently unpredictable, which is why as soon as we saw that this outbreak was different and transmitting much more rapidly, we quickly moved to order tens of thousands of more doses. 

So just to give you a little bit of the numbers that we have: We have made more than 1.1 million doses available and shipped more than 600,000 doses.  Those are currently out there, going into jurisdictions, to states, and so — and with more being delivered each day.

We also have ordered 5.5 million additional doses, which are helping us get more doses out sooner, knowing that more are on the way.

So, this is — this is just part of the process and what — we have been following the science and making sure that we are — you know, we are rapidly reacting to this.  And that’s what we’ve been doing these past couple days.

Q    But just given that there is currently a mismatch between the number of doses that the government has in bulk, the number of doses that have been bottled and sent out to state and local authorities, and then the number of doses that are actually needed, does the President feel like his administration has acted with enough urgency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, what we’re — what we’re saying to you is that I laid out how dynamic and how rapidly changing this virus has been.  And I’m — and also, you know, we — we just had — they just held — HHS just held a press conference and talked about this.  That’s why we kind of moved the briefing, so you all can have a sense to hear what — to hear directly from them.

There was the 600,000 that they talked about.  They went from testing capacity from 6,000 to 80,000 a week.  That matters as we’re trying to make sure we deal with monkeypox.  And we’re working hand in hand with local authorities to get the resources they need. 

And so — and as you also know, we took — they took an additional step, which is to announce a public health emergency declare — declaration of monkeypox.  And that’s important because of what that’s going to do; it’s going to help accelerate the vaccine production and distribution.  This includes new dosing strategies that have the potential to increase the number of available doses by fivefold.

So, yes, the President has confidence in HHS.  And — and let’s not forget we just brought on the monkeypox coordinat- — coordinators — the response team — which is going to also make a difference.

Q    And on that — on that front, it does seem like this week you’ve named a monkeypox coordinator, you’ve now declared this public health emergency.  It seems like the administration is shifting into a higher gear as it relates to responding to this outbreak.  And I’m wondering, was there any new information that led to these — these steps and that higher-geared response?  Because, you know, the WHO — it was nearly two weeks ago that they called this, effectively, a public health emergency.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I think I — I think I answered that in the first question that you asked, which is: The dynamic of this — of the virus has changed.  It’s spreading a lot more rapidly than it had in previous times.  

And when we — when we first — when the first two cases came — were — were known by the CDC back in — back in May, we — we were meeting the moment at that time.

And so, now, it’s — again, it’s spread much more — it’s spreading much more rapidly.  It’s — the dynamic of it has changed.  That tends to happen inherently with viruses.  And so this is what we’re doing right now to make sure that we are responding to the needs of jurisdictions and states.

Q    Afghanistan please, Karine?

Q    Karine?  In the way back.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I haven’t called on you.  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah.  Thank you very much.  Can you go back to his event earlier today?  Mary Barra of GM was there talking about the Inflation Reduction Act.  One of the debates currently among Democrats is the electric vehicle subsidy provision.  One of the senators from Michigan has been objecting to that.

Can you say whether the President discussed the EV provisions in that at all with the participants in the call, beyond the public media portion?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I haven’t gotten a download from that call.  And we were busy doing many other things before coming out here, so I can’t speak to that specifically.

Q    On another bill: Senator Klobuchar has a Big Tech bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, that looks like it’s spilling into September.  Senator Schumer looks like he’s planning to bring it to the floor in September.  Does the White House have a view on that — on that bill coming to the floor for a vote in September — the anti-Big Tech bill, which — or the Big Tech bill that would prevent those platforms from giving preference to their own products?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I mean, we’re trying to deal with all the pieces of legislation we have.  (Laughs.)

Q    A lot of legislation, I know.  I know.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We — there’s a lot going on.  We’re trying to deal with what we have in front of us.

I would have to —

Q    Senator Klobuchar is very passionate about this issue, I’m sure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, yes, we are aware of that. 

I would need to just talk to the Office of Leg Affairs to get more specifics and details on where we are on that. 

As you know, reform in the tech — tech industry is something that’s very important to the — to the President.  We’ve talked about that many times in the past 18 months.

But I don’t want to get too — I don’t want to get ahead of our team.

Q    Okay.  And finally, on the — going back to the monkeypox issue, do you have a sense of whether there will be a need for new funding from Congress for this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, again, I would — I — we are — we have been asking for, as you know, new funding — additional —

Q    On the COVID response —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, for the COVID response.  Again, I would just have to get in touch with our team.

In some — at some point in the next couple of days or weeks, we will have the monkeypox coordinators here in front of you, and you all can —

Q    That would be welcomed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — can get to know him — both of them and ask your questions.

Q    All right.  Thank you.

Q    Karine?

Q    Afghanistan, please? 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Oh, you want to do this guy?  You go to me next?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and I’ll come to you after. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just haven’t — I don’t see you very often. 

I see you all the time.  (Laughs.)

Q    Just to follow up on the monkeypox updates: California, Illinois, New York have all declared states of emergency each.  But due to the fact that most of them will be — how will declaring monkeypox as a public health emergency affect colleges and universities in those states particularly that have already declared a state of emergency?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  How will the states, for themsel- — I — you would have to — that — you would have to talk to the states directly on that piece, because that’s their own state emergency — public emergency.

Q    Is there any plan from the White House or any guidelines that would possibly come down, looking forward to essentially explaining what the colleges and universities should do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — we don’t have anything for you at this time. 

But I would go to the state specifically.  You’ve talked about California, you talked about New York having their own state of emergency.  I’m sure they have plans as schools are opening back up and dorms are opening back up.  I’m sure they have specific guidelines to that that I cannot speak to from here.

Go ahead.  Yeah.

Q    There was a report yesterday that Kyrsten Sinema — number one, she wants to nix the carried interest loophole, which is like a $14 billion revenue raiser, and also she wants $5 billion in drought resiliency funding.  Does the administration think we need a few more billion dollars for drought resiliency?  Would that be a good thing? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to — I’m not going to speak to — to what — what the senator is calling for and asking for.  That’s negotiations that are happening in Congress.  I’m just not going to speak to that from here.

Q    And then, can I quickly get you to respond to the Peter Meijer situation?  He’s one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.  He went down on Tuesday night.  But the DCCC and other groups were going hard to boost his pro-Trump opponent.  Does the President have a view of playing ball in primaries like that in a way that helps Trumpists?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, because of the Hatch Act, I cannot speak to any political campaigns or elections — midterms including.  And so I just can’t speak to that at this time.

Q    (Inaudible) about the old — the “old-fashioned days” when you could, you know, hang out with —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, we don’t —

Q    — a bunch of Republicans. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — do the old-fashioned days.  (Laughs.)  We do it the right way. 

Q    A follow-up on DHS, please? 

Q    Afghanistan, Karine?  Afghanistan. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just going to take — go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Can you walk us through the President’s involvement and engagement on the monkeypox outbreak: when was the first time he was briefed on this; how he’s getting updates on case numbers, testing capacity, vaccine supply and distribution?  How much is he getting updated on this right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President is regularly briefed on monkeypox.  This is something that is — is top of mind as well for him.  And so I can assure you that he is regularly briefed by his senior teams, also by Secretary Becerra. 

I don’t have a — like, a list of how many times he’s been briefed, but he’s very aware, clearly, of what’s happening.  And he actually is — is — you know, is constantly asking, “What are we doing?  How are we — you know, how are we getting the vaccines out there?”  And is — is clearly interested in the specifics and making sure we get this under control.

Q    You talked about how this virus has been evolving.  We heard today from the conference call about how this is spreading very quickly. 

One of the criticisms during the baby formula shortage was that the President acknowledged later that he didn’t realize at the time how bad that was getting, and that he wasn’t — he didn’t know how quickly that had gotten bad.  Can you say, now, that the President was informed in a timely manner about how quickly this was spreading and how fast this was going?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can tell you is that this is an urgent matter — monkeypox — for this administration, for this President.  That’s why you have seen the announcements that we have made in the past several weeks — not even just today or yesterday or the day before. 

Last week, we were announcing vaccines — 800,000 — and now we’re talking about how much have been shipped.  Now, we just announced the coordinators for that rapid response team.

Again, this is — this is a virus.  As we know, viruses inherently can be dynamic.  And — and it is spreading rapidly.  And we — we acknowledge that.

When we first — when we first heard about the first couple of cases, we met — we believe we met that moment. 

And now we are wrappidit- — wrappiding [sic] — wrapping things up and making — and making sure that we are meeting the moment across the country in what people need.  That’s why we have 80,000 capacity in testing.  How important that is.  We went from 6,000 to 80,000.  That’s why we now have 1.1 million vaccines. 

The other thing I do want to say is that, as we accelerated delivering of 150,000 Jynneos vaccine doses to the U.S., those — these doses, which had been slated to arrive in November — it’s now going to be in September. 

So, again, we’re — we’re wrap- — we’re taking this very seriously.  We’re taking — we’re accelerating and strengthening the — and — our comprehensive response so that we can make sure that we end this outbreak.  And that is the number-one priority for the President.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

Q    Karine?  A follow-up, Karine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ll be here tomorrow.  I’ll be back tomorrow.  I’ll be back tomorrow. 

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

Q    Can I ask you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  If you — if you take a seat, I promise I will take your question.  But you have to take a seat. 

Q    Really?  (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, ever- — I take everybody’s questions if they sit down.  (Inaudible.)

Q    There are often not seats here.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would talk to the association then.

4:28 P.M. EDT

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