James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:29 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday.
Settling in? (Laughs.) Come on in, team.
Q Plenty of chairs over here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. All right.
It’s been a busy week here at the White House.
On Monday, the President delivered remarks about our country’s efforts to end cancer as we know it with new actions, while rallying Americans of all backgrounds to do their part to fight cancer.
On Tuesday, he joined thousands of Americans to celebrate the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which lowers costs for families and takes aggressive action to tackle the climate crisis.
On Wednesday, the President visited the Detroit Auto Show to highlight how his economic plan is fueling an electric vehicle manufacturing boom in America.
Yesterday, President Biden announced a tentative agreement to keep our railways running and our economy moving in the Rose Garden, as you all saw, and also hosted a summit on ending hate-fueled violence in communities across America.
And today, we got some more good economic news. Today’s state-by-state job numbers show that unemployment rates in many states remain at historically low levels. In fact, nine states from across the country are at their lowest unemployment rates on record, from Georgia to Washington to New Hampshire, which is at just 2 percent. Eighteen states are at or below 3 percent.
So the President and his team have spent this entire week focused on delivering for the American people. We’ve been focused on strengthening the economy and healthcare, strengthening opportunities, lowering costs across the board for hardworking families, and so, so much more.
But while we’ve been focused on the things that matter to the American people, Republicans, while they have spent this week sowing chaos and division, engaging in cruel political theater, and working to roll back rights and benefits that Americans have enjoyed for generations. Literally every day this week, they’ve pushed to strip women of their rights, starting with Senator Graham’s proposed national abortion ban, which could send medical professionals to prison for up to five years — again, up to five years.
West Virginia signed into law a state ban on abortion with virtually no exceptions. And Indiana’s radical ban went to effect just yesterday.
But that’s not all. That’s not all that Republicans’ electeds have done this week.
Yesterday, two Republican governors reportedly lured 100 asylum seekers, including children, onto planes and buses with false premises and then abandoned them on the side of a busy road thousands of miles away with nothing — with nothing but Ziploc bags of their belongings in hand. These were children. They were moms. They were fleeing communism. And what did Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott do to them? They used them as political pawns, treated them like chattel in a cruel, premeditated political stunt.
Why else would Governor DeSantis have spent the time to charter a flight to take migrants out of a different state — not even his state, a different state — and hire a videographer to capture footage of that flight, but not bother to let Massachusetts authorities know that migrant children in need of food and shelter were about to land on their doorstep?
These vulnerable migrants were reportedly misled about where they were headed; told they would be headed to Boston; misled about what they would be provided when they arrived; promised shelter, refuge, benefits, and more.
These are the kinds of tactics we see from smugglers in places like Mexico and Guatemala. And for what? A photo op? Because these governors care about creating political theater than creating actual solutions to help folks who are fleeing communism, to help children, to help families. Instead, they want to do political stunts.
President Biden put forward a comprehensive immigration reform package on his first day in office and secured record funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We once again invite Republicans to support both.
President Biden will remain focused on strengthening and uniting our country even if extreme Republicans leaders remain hellbent on doing the complete opposite.
With that, we’ll start — get started with our NSC friend, John Kirby. Admiral John Kirby is here today. I know you guys had some questions about UNGA and the trip that the President will be taking to the UK this weekend.
So, come on up, John. And then I’ll take your questions afterwards.
MR. KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. I think as you all know, high-level week of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly takes place next week. This year’s high-level week is on track to potentially set a new record for leader-level attendance.
As President Biden has made clear since taking office, the United States is committed to renewing our engagement with all regions of the world as we partner on tackling the most pressing challenges affecting us.
A core message that I think you’re going to hear from leaders across the U.S. government next week is that respect for the core principles of the international order is needed now more than ever.
And just quickly, let me dive into some of the highlights of the schedule.
On Tuesday, the 20th of September, Secretary of State Blinken will co-chair the — African Union, European Union, and Spain — co-chair with them the Global Food Security Summit, which also will be co-hosted with Indonesia, Germany, Nigeria, and Colombia.
The goal of the summit is to reaffirm the commitment of world leaders to act with urgency and at scale to respond to the pressing global food crisis and avert famine for hundreds of millions of people around the world.
On the morning of Wednesday the 21st, the President will address the United Nations General Assembly. And Wednesday afternoon, he will host the Seventh Replenishment pledging session for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
The fund enables programs that prevent, detect, and treat the deadliest infection — infectious disease killers today, and will help ensure countries that — make sure that they have the resources they need to build strong, resilient health systems within their communities.
The President will also take this opportunity to encourage all nations to do more to help meet the proposed target of $18 billion to be raised by 2025.
And then, lastly, on Wednesday evening, the President and First Lady will host the heads of delegation and spouses at a diplomatic reception.
This week — I just want to hit Ukraine real quick — the world witnessed, again, courageous, determined Ukrainian resistance against Russia’s aggression. Together with our allies and partners, the United States has been delivering an unprecedented amount of weapons and equipment that Ukraine’s forces are using quite skillfully in the field.
And you just saw, I think, yesterday, we — last night, we announced our 21st package of security assistance using Presidential Drawdown Authorities. This is a $600 million package that includes ammunition for those HIMARS systems that you’re all familiar with now — the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems; tens of thousands of artillery rounds; additional counter unmanned aerial systems and mine-clearing equipment; small arms; and ammunition. There’s a lot more in the package.
We’re going to continue to provide Ukraine with key capabilities to meet their evolving battlefield requirements, and they are evolving battlefield requirements. I also want to just take a moment to address the reports that we’ve been seeing today out of Izyum and the potential there for mass graves, which, in Izyum, as you know, Ukraine just recently liberated from Russia — from Russian control.
The reports that we’re seeing just in general are more than 440 graves, which — it reportedly includes civilians. And it’s horrifying. It’s repugnant. And sadly, it’s in keeping with the kind of depravity and the brutality with which Russian forces have been prosecuting this war against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
And we’re going to continue to actively support efforts to document war crimes and atrocities that Russian forces commit in Ukraine and to assist national and international efforts to identify and hold Russians accountable.
Lastly, just on the South African bilateral visit today, as you know, President — President Biden looks forward to hosting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa this afternoon in the Oval Office.
As you heard from Karine yesterday, they’re going to talk about a variety of pressing global and regional issues, including climate, strong health partnerships between our two countries, and opportunities to increase trade and investment.
We look forward to strengthening our partnership with South Africa between — between and across multiple levels of engagement. And I’m sure we’ll have a readout for you when that meeting is over.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we’re going to keep track of time because I know folks have got to gather.
Q Can I follow up on Izyum really quickly?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, ma’am.
Q Does that change the President’s view on naming Russia as a state sponsor of terror? Because as you know, President Zelenskyy called for that again this morning.
The President has been very clear we think that there are better alternatives to holding Russia accountable and to increase the cost and consequences on their behavior in Ukraine. The “state sponsor of terrorism” designation could actually make it harder for humanitarian aid to get into Ukraine. It could — it could put in jeopardy the food security — the grain deal that is in place, which — now two and a half million tons of grain have now moved out of Ukraine. And we believe it could limit Mr. Zelenskyy’s flexibility at the negotiating table if and when it gets to that point.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Thanks, John. I have a question about the President’s meeting today with the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. After Brittney Griner was sentenced a month and a half ago, Sergey Lavrov said, quote, “The Kremlin is ready to discuss this topic.” That was a month and a half ago. So where does that discussion stand?
MR. KIRBY: The discussions are ongoing. I think Karine said it really well yesterday. Sadly, we don’t have a result here to tell you about. But the President felt it was important to continue the dialogue with the family members. That’s happening today. We have stayed in touch with them throughout. We have kept them informed throughout. But the negotiations are still ongoing.
Q But the negotiations are now taking place and the Russians have made some kind of significant response?
MR. KIRBY: They have not responded to our offer. We have made a serious offer to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back home. The Russians have not responded to that offer. But that doesn’t mean that — that we’re not still in negotiations and we’re not still trying.
Q Could you talk a little bit more about the bilat that’s coming up and what room will there be for discussions about Russia, about the war in Ukraine, given that President Biden and President Ramaphosa are not exactly on the same page when it comes to dealing with Russia?
MR. KIRBY: I do expect that the war in Ukraine will come up as a part of the discussion today. I would have every reason to think — think that would — that would be the case. I’ll let the leaders have that discussion before we read it out to you all.
But — but, look, President Biden has been very clear about our views here. I think he’s interested in hearing President Ramaphosa’s views, and I’m sure they’ll talk about it. But we’ll have a way to characterize that for you at the end of the day.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, MJ.
Q Thank you, John. Can you give us some insight into why there hasn’t been a real response from the Russians yet on the offer that was made to get back Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan? I mean, is it specific to the terms of the deal offered? Is the war in Ukraine a possible factor?
MR. KIRBY: I mean, man, if we had the answer to that question, we might already have a deal. I think that’s a better question put to — to our Russian colleagues. We made a serious offer. We want them to accept it. Frankly, these two individuals ought to be home anyway, period.
But we understand that there’s — that it’s probably going to have to be the result of a negotiating process, one that we’re willing to participate in honestly and fully. And we’ve been doing that. And we await — we await them to take the offer that’s on the table.
Q Can you speak to the President’s level of confidence right now on bringing these two people back to the United States?
MR. KIRBY: What I can tell you is that — what I can tell you for sure is the President is not going to let up. He’s confident that — that this is going to main — remain at the forefront of his mind and his team’s mind and they’re going to continue to work this as hard as they can. We want these two individuals home, back where they belong with their families. They should be there already.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Just a few more.
Q Thanks, Karine.
Q Actually — I’m sorry. Steve, (inaudible), I have a follow-up on the South Africa bilat today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No fighting. (Laughter.)
Q No, we’re friends here. So, on China’s growing influence on the continent, what can the U.S. offer to South Africa and other SADC countries to counter that growing influence?
And then also, I just want to let you know that the President of South Africa just criticized the pending — it’s called the Countering Malign Russian Activities and — help me out here.
Q Countering Malign Influence in Russia.
MR. KIRBY: I can’t, I’m afraid. You’re going to have to try that again.
Q Malign Russian Activities in Africa bill. When he said it is, quote, “punishing those who hold independent views,” is that the administration’s view of this pending legislation? Are you trying to punish African countries that are hesitating to condemn Ukraine —
MR. KIRBY: I think we’re reticent as always to talk about pending legislation. There’s — but just broadly speaking, there’s no punishment here intended for anybody. Every nation — look, the whole — the core of the issue at stake in Ukraine, aside from the lives and livelihoods of millions of Ukrainians, is the issue of sovereignty: a nation’s right to decide for itself what bilateral relationships it has and how it conducts those bilateral relationships.
The United States isn’t making anybody choose between us and somebody else, either when it comes to Ukraine or in the Indo-Pacific region. We respect sovereignty. That’s what — that’s what the administration — that’s the approach that we have taken throughout this. So, there’s not — there’s no punishment.
And as for your first question, I think you — I mentioned it at the top. I mean, clearly we want to talk about trade and investment with President Ramaphosa. Again, I don’t want to get ahead of — of the meeting and the results of it.
But we have — we are the — we are South Africa’s third-largest trading partner. So there’s an awful lot — 600 companies — United States companies are in South Africa. There’s an awful lot to talk about there.
And, you know, as you saw in the G7 — the G7 leaders — and of course, President Biden was right there at the forefront there — launching this Global Fund for infrastructure and investment.
I mean, there’s an awful lot of opportunities here for — for more developed nations to continue to provide investment opportunities to lower- and middle-income countries so that they can improve their own infrastructure and their own healthcare, their own education, and — and their own economic development.
And I think, again, back to my point about the U.N. General Assembly, I think you’re going to hear more from the President in New York next week on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just a couple —
Q Thanks. Once the President met with Trevor Reed’s family, the process moved pretty quickly toward his release. Is part of the goal with publicizing these meetings today to put more pressure on Russia to accept that U.S. offer?
MR. KIRBY: The primary goal of the meetings today is to — to be able to update the families and keep them completely apprised of where we are in the process and to make clear to them just how much of a priority it is for President Biden and his whole team to get them home. That’s — that’s the focus for today.
Q And can you tell us: Is the President holding any diplomatic meetings while he’s in London? Is he having any other conversations with world leaders?
MR. KIRBY: The main — the main reason to go to London, of course, is to pay our respects to the — obviously, to the Queen and to the Royal Family and to the people of Great Britain. That’s the main purpose of the visit. I don’t have any other meetings to speak to right now.
Q Thanks —
Q Okay, thank you so much.
Q Okay, can you walk us —
MR. KIRBY: What’s his name?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Simon.
Q On the war in Ukraine —
MR. KIRBY: Hey, Simon.
Q On the war in Ukraine, is it the assessment of the President that Ukraine is winning the war against Russia?
And on your job at the White House — because I’ve been trying to ask this question — there’s — there seems to be some confusion about what your role is, what type of questions should we ask you. Sometimes you act like a second press secretary. What’s — can you explain exactly what — what your job is at the White House? And if you’re a second press secretary, what type of questions should we ask you? Is it on food? Is it on national security?
And the reason I’m asking is because almost everywhere I go, I have Black people telling me that the reason you’re at the White House is to undermine the first female Black Secretary. So can you clarify that and explain why, you know, there are thousand national security expert at the National Security Council who can always be here and take question on national security. So what type of questions should we ask you that we can’t ask Karine?
MR. KIRBY: Look, on your first question, the — I think President has spoken to this many times — in fact, just in the last few days. I mean, what the Ukrainians have been able to do in the last week or so has been impressive on the battlefield — there’s no doubt about that — particularly there in the north.
They have been fighting for seven months now — going on seven months — and doing it bravely and skillfully. They have been on the offense as well as the defense, depending on the situation, the day, the time, and the place.
And what the President believes is that what we’re going stay focused on supporting them for as long as it takes to make them successful on the battlefield and successful at the negotiating table if and when it gets to that point.
But only President Zelenskyy can determine when that point is. And only President Zelenskyy can — can define success or failure. He’s the Commander-in-Chief of his armed forces; our job is to support him.
And it’s not just the United States; it’s more than 50-some-odd other countries.
Now, look, on your other question, if anyone gets any kind of idea in their head that I’m taking away from Karine or her work, that’s really regrettable. And — and I’m very sorry that that’s any impression that anybody would have.
I am simply working at the National Security Council on national security communications. And with her good graces, I’m able to come up here every now and then to talk to you about simply national security issues. That’s my portfolio. That’s where I’m limited. That’s where I’ll stay. And I do it at her — at her invitation and with her approval to come up here.
So I — that’s — that’s the focus. I’m happy to answer national security questions and — and that’s about it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, John. We’re going to do, like, one last question just to get us back on track.
Go ahead, please.
Q Thank you so much. I had one about the Asian leaders summit going on in Uzbekistan. This was supposed to be a show of unity around Vladimir Putin, and the Indian Prime Minister just told him it is not the time for war in Ukraine. So, is it your view that maybe the alliances that Putin was able to forge or to maintain around the war in Ukraine are, you know, weakening or crumbling? And do you expect other countries to change their stance publicly like India just did?
MR. KIRBY: I think labelling what Mr. Putin — Mr. Putin’s
relationships as an alliance is stretching the word “alliance” way, way beyond its limits. These aren’t alliances. And I think what you heard in Uzbekistan by both the leaders of China and in India are indicative of the fact that Mr. Putin doesn’t have a whole lot of sympathetic ears out there to what he’s been doing in Ukraine and he is only further isolating himself from the international community.
We don’t believe that now is the time to be doing any business as usual with Russia with respect to what they’re doing in Ukraine. Again, look at what — the imagery out of Izyum. I don’t know how any world leader can look at that and determine that it’s okay to do business as usual with Russia.
And I think you’re starting to see even countries who were not vociferous and strident in opposing him are beginning to question what he’s doing in Ukraine. And rightly so, because it’s just — it’s just brutal. It’s absolutely depraved and brutal. And I think it’s becoming more and more obvious to the rest of the international community what Mr. Putin and his soldiers are capable of in the worst possible way.
Actually, I’ll go.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, John.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right. Go ahead.
Q And I know we have to gather soon, but can you stay for, like, an extra 10 or 15 minutes since we got a late start?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think I can because I think there’s a pool spray.
Q No, no, no, but the pool will go. But if you could stay for an extra few minutes and answer questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. I was told that I could not by folks. So, we’ll — we’ll let — we’ll — why don’t we just start and we’ll see where we end up. (Laughter.)
Q I just wanted to — have a couple follow-ups on UNGA. I know Kirby said no formal meetings in London for now, but can you talk about whether he would meet with the new British Prime Minister at UNGA?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, nothing to announce at this time. When we have something to announce, of course we will share that with all of you. I’m not going to go beyond what Kirby shared.
Q Do you have any details on how President Biden is preparing for his UNGA address, how he’s working on the speech, or even along those lines?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, this is not his first UNGA visit as President. It’s, you know, the usual. He worked with his — with his speech team and his senior advisors on the speech.
He’s very much involved in edits and, you know, making sure that he communicates what is most important for the American people as it relates to domestic issues, as it relates to how foreign policy issues, international issues affect the American people.
I don’t have much more to share. Clearly, next week will be a big week at UNGA, and he will — he will look forward to joining other heads of states in — in, you know, delivering a message on behalf of the American people. I don’t have more much more than that.
Q I wanted to ask if the White House plans any legal responses for the state sending migrants on buses and, secondly, if there’s plans to reimburse those cities or provide funding for how they’re handling that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on your first question, it’s basically — we’re referring — I was asked a question like this yesterday — to Department of Justice on any legal actions that might be taken or being looked at. Certainly, that is for them to take a — take a look at.
As far as how we’re supporting cities: So, you know, as we’ve done many times in response to repeated attempts by these Republican officials to create chaos and confusion at the border, we are working to manage the consequences of including this latest political charade that we’re seeing. So, FEMA Regional Administrators have been meeting with city officials on site to coordinate — to coordinate available federal support from FEMA and other federal agencies.
Funding is also available through FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter program to eligible local governments and not- — not-for-profit organizations upon request to support humanitarian relief for migrants.
We’ll continue to do what we can as a federal government to support these cities as we rebuild our asylum processing system after it was gutted by the Trump administration.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q You’ve said multiple times that the bilat today is going to include discussion of trade. Does the administration actually have something new to offer South Africa on that front? Is there any — going to be any discussion about a free trade agreement, anything along those lines?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to get ahead of the two leaders who are about to meet shortly and have their — that bilat. There will be a readout. Clearly, there’ll be a pool spray at the top. I’m just not going to get ahead of what they discussed.
Q And do you have any reaction to the Democratic-led Senate basically pushing off this vote on codifying same-sex marriage rights until after the midterm elections?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we — we’ve talked — I talked a little bit about this yesterday. Clearly, when we look at same-sex marriage, it is an issue that is supported not just by Democrats but also Republicans and independents.
And we — we’re going to continue to — to encourage Congress to act, to make sure that they act on an issue that is what the majority of Americans agree on, what the majority of Americans support. So, we’ll continue to have those conversations with Congress — members of Congress.
It’s — clearly, this is something that this President has supported for many, many years; that he’s been a leader when it comes to, in particular, LGBTQ rights, but also this — same-sex marriage. And so, we encourage Congress to act.
Q Do they need to do that now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We think it’s an important issue that — that needs to be seriously looked at and thought through.
Again, this is something not just Democrats but also independents and Republicans support, and there is a majority consensus on that and — and, you know, Congress should — should act.
Q Just a quick follow-up on the migrants issue. Can you clarify whether legal determination is being made right now on whether the actions that are being taken by some of these Republican governors are legal or not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, that is something that the Department of Justice is going to — is going to handle. So, I — for any potential legal actions, this is not something that’s going to be happening from here.
Q And then, just in terms of what some of these cities and local municipalities are dealing with, will potentially have to deal with, in terms of the arrival of groups of migrants in this fashion, is there going to be or is there already sort of federal guidance being given to these different places for exactly how they should handle things logistically, you know, on a humanitarian level?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, we’re offering support through FEMA.
Look, this is an issue — and we have been clear about this — this is an issue that is inhumane, that is abhorrent. And we should not be using people, migrants who are fleeing communism, as a political pawn.
One of the children dropped off in D.C. had to be sent to urgent care. One asylum seeker reportedly said he didn’t know if he was going to Martha’s Vineyard until a pilot announced they would soon be landing. This is what is happening.
And if there are Republicans out there who feel like what these Republican-elected officials are doing in Florida in Texas is wrong, they should speak up. They should be part of helping to stop what is currently happening with these children and with these families.
Q So is it fair to say that when this kind of thing happens going forward, it is FEMA whose presence we should expect to see in these —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s local — it’s local city services. FEMA is jumping in as well. I just laid out the assistance that they are providing.
But again, this is — this should not be happening. We should not be using human beings — Republican officials should not be using human beings as political pawns. It is — it is not a way — you hear the President talk a lot about how we have to treat people with dignity and with respect. That’s not what’s happening here. The Republican elected officials are doing the complete opposite, not affording them any dignity. And we should call that out.
Q Thanks, Karine. ABC has a team right now in El Paso where local officials say there’s 1,300 migrants arriving every day. We’re seeing that people are sleeping on the streets because there are no beds left for people when they arrive. There is not enough buses to take them into other cities that might have capacity for them. Is that acceptable? And is there something the administration can be doing right now in a place like El Paso?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me — I’ll tell you exactly what the Department of Homeland Security has been doing. They’ve been surging resources to the region and working to quickly decompress the area.
As with all individuals encountered at the border, DHS continues to expel migrants as required by court order under CDC’s Title 42 authority. Those who cannot be expelled under Title 42 are screened and processed to have their claims for relief heard by an immigration judge in removal proceedings, which is something that this administration had made sure that we got more immigration judge — judges so that we can move these processes a little faster. DHS and other departments also continue to work with Mexico and other countries in the region to address migration challenges throughout the Western Hemisphere.
So, yes, DHS is currently surging their resources and dealing with what you just — what you just laid out in El Paso at this current time.
Q Have White House officials been in touch with the mayor there to talk about, like, what he needs immediately? And can FEMA provide buses to move migrants to places elsewhere where they might have contacts, family members?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that piece, I would refer you to the Department of Human Sec- — Homeland Security and also FEMA to get more specifics on what other steps they might be taking.
Our — you know, our team here is in constant communication with local officials on these types of issues. So I don’t have anything to read out or any conversation that has been had.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks. Karine, there’s an attorney in Boston claiming to represent some of the migrants on a voluntary basis, saying that DHS has assigned some of these migrants fake addresses and that that’s complicated their cases and their ability to get hearings. Do you know if that’s accurate? And —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say that la- — D- — you said DHS?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And say that — and then can you continue from there?
Q That DHS assigned some of these migrants fake addresses and that that’s complicated their cases and their ability to get hearings and so forth. Do you know if that’s accurate? And —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This is the first time I’m hearing of this, so I would have to reach out to my colleagues over at DHS to see if that is actually true.
Q And then just if you can respond to Ron DeSantis’s comment that this is apparently — you know, he said it was essentially no different than what the federal government has done in sending, you know, flights in the “middle of the night” — that’s the way he’s characterized it — you know, taking migrants to various different states. Do you have a response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we are offering solutions. That’s what the Biden-Harris administration has been doing since day one, including on the first day of putting forth a comprehensive immigration reform to deal with this issue. We have given DHS record funding. We have advanced policies.
What have they done?
They do these political stunts. They vote against our funding requests. They vote against policies to fix this broken system.
Stunts aren’t solutions here. Stunts aren’t policies.
We’re over — we’re over here trying to govern, trying to actually fix a system that has been broken for some time, trying to fix a system that was decimated by the last administration. And all we’re seeing is — from them is petty and dangerous stunts. This is dangerous. They’re putting children’s lives at risk. They’re putting families’ lives at risk.
And again — I’ll say to Republicans again: If they are interested in solving the problem, there are many ways to do this. They should vote for record funding that we have put forth for DHS, and they should sign on or work with us on a comprehensive immigration reform — again, something that this President did on his first day.
That’s my response.
Next. Go ahead.
Q On Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, can you elaborate on what the administration is doing at this point in negotiations with Russia for their release? Because Kirby said that there’s an offer on the table; they’re waiting for Russia to take it. But that doesn’t mean that the U.S. still isn’t negotiating and trying. So what does that look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, our national security team is in regular touch and is — it has been putting this as a priority when it comes to bringing Paul — in regular touch with — with — with the negotiation team, with Russia, and making sure that they are fighting for Paul and Brittney to come home as soon as possible. That is the goal. We want to make sure that they come home safely.
We have been very clear that Russia should take this offer. It is a substantial offer.
And we get it. We get how hard this could be for their families. This President understands how hard it is for families. And they are both being wrongfully detained. And we’re going to continue — we’re going to continue to do everything that we can, you know, working tirelessly every day, to make sure that we get them home.
That is why this meeting is so important that he’s having with the — these families. He wants to make sure that they understand that they are front of mind — that Brittney and Paul are at front of mind for this President and his team, and that we’re going to do everything that we can — working day and night, having those conversations — and making sure that we get them home.
It is — we don’t — we don’t want to get too far into the negotiations — or at all — get into negotiations at all. For security reasons, we’re not going to negotiate in public.
All we can tell you right now is that we’re doing everything that we can — the national security team here is, the State Department is — and the President is keeping regular touch with his team on what is happening and how we can get the two of them home safely.
Q Does the President anticipate making any progress on this next week during UNGA with Foreign Minister Lavrov there? Is that the goal?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re always looking to make progress.
And I’ll reiterate what I said yesterday: The Russians should accept this offer; the Russians should accept our offer that we put forth. A substantial offer is on the table, and they should accept it.
Q Okay. Totally separate: The White House announced that the President is going to go to Florida soon to hold a rally. Will you just clarify, was that already on the books or is that something that’s in response to Governor DeSantis?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It was already on the books. As — and as we have said, just to add — we said this in August — the President is going to — going to be traveling across the country. As we saw in early August, there were a bunch of legislation — economic legislation — that we saw success from Democrats in the House and the Senate.
And so he’s going to go out there, talk about the CHIPS and Science Act. He’s going to talk about the Inflation Reduction Act. He’s going to talk about the wins that we have had over the last 19 months. Let’s not forget the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and how the American Rescue Plan got us back on track.
And so he’s going to have those conversations directly with the American people. And as you know, Joe Biden likes to talk directly to the American people and have that conversation face to face. So that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
Q Thanks, Karine. I have a couple of questions about the migrants. But just to clear up this: Is the President meeting with Liz Truss on Sunday evening? The Prime Minister’s office says that they’re — a meeting is scheduled. So can you confirm that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to confirm at this time.
Q Okay. And with regards to the migrants, my colleagues in Texas are reporting huge increases in Venezuelans arriving at the border. The U.N. has called the Venezuelan exodus one of the largest migrations in the hemisphere. So what is the White House doing about this migration pattern? And why can’t the federal government provide shelter or immediately boost other controlled transition services as it did with the Afghans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first, when it comes to Venezuelans, we did have — we announced TPS last year. And to give you a little bit of that: It was determined by the Department of Homeland Security. My understanding is there is no plan to redes- — redesignate that. DHS did, in July, extend the designation of Venezuela for temporary protected status — that’s TPS — for 18 months. We have put appropriate recusals in place for individuals in the White House office who may directly or predictably benef- —
Oh, this is something else. That just got added on here. I apologize.
But then again, just to go back for a second: For 18 months, that’s what we extended it to in July.
Q But what about shelter?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as I mentioned before, DHS is involve — involved in surging resources. And so, again, I would point you to them directly on what they’re doing on the ground.
But, look, you know, with Secretary Mayorkas’s leadership, we have 23,000 agents and officers, and more than 1,200 individuals, support personnel working to secure our nation’s borders.
And so, again, you know, we are going to continue to do the work while — while folks are — folks are trying to, you know — while individuals — encountering individuals at the border, and making sure that — and making sure that we protect our border as well.
But I don’t have any more specifics on what we’re specifically doing for transportation. I would point you to DHS.
Q Just — just to sort of follow up on that, I guess the sort of heart of the question is: Why is there a difference between the way the United States reacted to both Ukraine refugees and Afghanistan refugees, and the way they’re reacting to, say, refugees from Venezuela? Right?
The United States, as we all know, in the wake of Afghanistan, set up — you know, undertook this massive effort to set up military base housing around the globe as temporary transit centers, and then set up, you know, housing for months, if not longer, at military bases here. That’s something the United States could do if it chose to, to confront. And then my colleagues are saying the same thing about the amazing wave of — in particular from Venezuela, you know, both here.
And, of course, TPS as you know, only — it doesn’t do anything for the future, right? Like, the designated — the designation of TPS and the extension to that only affects people from Venezuela who were already in the United States at the time of the designation, not anybody else coming — coming now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I would say — I understand the question. That’s why we have TPS. That’s why the Department of Homeland Securities [sic] and other departments that are involved in making decisions on TPS made the announcement that they did to extend it for 18 months, and that is the beginning of a process.
But I would also say it’s very different than what we see in Ukraine at the time when you have a — an unprovoked war, a brutal war that was started by the Kremlin. And we needed to act in that — in that moment, in that — in a different way in that moment.
In Afghanistan, we had our friends — right? — our U.S. nationals that were there, but also our friends who have helped us for the last two decades before this President decided to end the war in Afghanistan. And so we had to make sure that we kept those commitments to the Afghan people. And so we did that.
And, look, we’re going to have continued — you know, this is something for domes- — the Department of Homeland Security to decide on when it comes to TPS. We are doing all the work that we can at the border at this moment to address what we’re seeing. But again, I wouldn’t conflate. Those are — all of those — all of the things that you just mentioned, what’s hap- — with Venezuelans and Afghanistan and Ukraine are three different scenarios that were handled in very different ways to meet the moment that we were in.
Q Karine, just on the migrant issue, is the administration considering moving some of these migrants from these border communities to other parts of the country to relieve some of the crowding that we’ve seen along the border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So there’s — there’s always conversations happening about how to deal with changing circumstances at the border and improve border processing systems. I don’t have any new policies to preview from here.
But what I will say is we could be doing a lot more to rebuild our immigration system. As I just mentioned, on day one, the President put forward an immigration policy, legislation, which we got to remember this immigration system was also decimated and gutted by this last administration.
So, again, if Republicans official would stop blocking comprehensive immigration, if they would stop doing these political stunts and working with us — we want to work with them on solving this, and there’s ways to do that, whether it’s record funding that is provided to DHS or this comprehensive immigration bill.
And so, again, instead of doing these political stunts, putting migrants at risk, children and families at risk, why don’t they join us in trying to fix this problem at the border?
Q And I know you keep referring us to DOJ. But isn’t it accurate that members of the Cabinet are involved in this issue, as well as White House officials? That this is a — this isn’t going beyond the DOJ. Isn’t this — isn’t this considered a –(inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s not — it is not something — as I just stated, it is not something that’s being considered here. The legal actions is not something that’s being considered at the White House. That is something at the Department of Justice.
Q Yeah, but the Cabinet is involved in looking at this problem as a whole though, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Cabinet is involved in looking — if you think about DHS, if you can think about other Cabinet members, they are always looking at how to solve issues like this. Well, we have actually never seen anything like this, such a political play by Republican’s officials.
But again, as it relates to the legal action — I can’t speak to the legal actions — that’s the Department of Justice.
Q Thank you, Karine. On Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan: As the U.S. awaits the formal response to its offer from Russia, what negotiating channels remain open?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m not going to get into — I’m not going to get into specifics on how we’re negotiating here. We mentioned that we’re doing this using the same negotiation channels or path that we did with Trevor Reed. And so that’s as far as I’m going to go there. We got to keep — they’re for security reasons. We want to make sure that we’re not just doing this out in public.
Again, our main focus, our main priority is making sure that Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan return home safely. That is the President’s priority. That is the President’s national security priority. And that is — that is this administration’s priority. That’s going to be our focus.
Q And UNGA next week — what specific meetings does the administration expect Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan to come up in?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I was just asked something similar about the meetings and what we expect. I’m just not going to — I don’t have anything to share at this time.
We laid out what the President’s days are going to look like when he’s at UNGA. Outside of that, I don’t have anything else to share.
Q Back on the migrant issue. Has the White House or the President reached out to any border state governors to straight up ask them to stop? And beyond just the legal issues with DOJ, what can other agencies do to prevent this from happening again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So no calls to preview or to announce at this time.
Look, this is something that could easily be stopped if Republican officials decide to stop playing political games and using, again, children, families, women, and lying to them about where they’re going and what they’re going to receive, putting them on a bus, sending them across the country, putting them on the plane. This could end if they would stop playing that political game and causing confusion and chaos, and come work with us on a solution. That’s the question that we have for them. What are they going to do? Are they going to come and help and find a solution and not do political stunts? That’s how this stops.
Q And pivoting back to the meetings with the families, just to clarify, those haven’t happened yet, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It has not happened yet. It will happen later this afternoon. And we will have a readout of each of those meetings for all of you.
Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q Karine, yesterday, you repeatedly blamed the Trump administration for what we’re seeing at the southern border, but the record crossings have been happening under President Biden. One migrant we interviewed yesterday thanks the President for keeping the border open.
So I just want to confirm: The way that this administration sees it, ending Remain in Mexico or Title 42 had nothing to do with the surge that we’re seeing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just step back for a second and lay out what we have done. under this administration: Twenty-three thousand agents and officers, more than 1,200 additional support personnel working to secure our nation’s borders. That’s more than what was happening in the last administration.
Every individual that is encountered at the border is taken to CBP custody and processed and vetted by Border Patrol agents. Individuals taken into CBP custody are either expelled under the CDC’s Title 42 authority, as required by court order, or placed in a removal procedures. In fact, more individuals encountered at the border will be removed or expelled this year than any previous year. That is just a fact.
Q But what about the record crossing number. I mean, you’re reading off, you know, expulsions and things like that, because all these people are coming over.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. And they’re also being encountered. Individuals encountered are also being removed or expelled in this year more than — removed more in this year than any previous year.
Q Why would the President turn down a DHS plan then to move migrants to the northern border to relieve some of the crowding at the southern border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just — I was just asked about this question — that’s been already asked and answered.
Q So hasn’t — he hasn’t turned it down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just — I literally just answered that question.
Q I didn’t understand what your answer was. Did he turn down the plan? Or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When this is over, you can look at the transcript and take a look.
Q So you won’t clarify whether the President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I literally — Jacqui, I just answered that question.
Q Okay. So do you think then that the system that you have in place is working?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we are asking for — we are asking for Congress to act. Again, on the President’s first day in this administration, he put forth a comprehensive immigration reform. And instead of Republicans playing political games, using people’s lives — humans, individuals, children, families — as political pawns, they should help us and work with us in finding solutions, and they are not.
Q So it’s not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And, again, there is an immigration legislation — a comprehensive immigration legislation that we put forth on day one. And again, Republicans have voted — many of them have voted against the funding — record funding — for DHS.
So we’re willing to figure out how to fix this problem. We are. We put forth ways to do this. We put forth policies to do this. And we put forth ways to make sure that we’re dealing with a broken system.
Q Is that an acknowledgement that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just answered your question. We’re moving on.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two quick questions for you. There are some reports that Cabinet officials are meeting today on the issue of immigration. Can you confirm that those meetings are taking place?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Cabinet officials are meeting here?
Q Meeting in general about the (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I do not have a — I do not have a meeting to read out or announce to you.
Q Okay. And then on the President’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But just to be clear, any legal action, that is going to be decided and done by the Department of Justice
Q And on the President’s trip to Florida that was just announced on September 27, that’s also the tentative date for the Artemis One launch, which would also obviously take place in Florida. Is there any chance we’ll see the President attend that launch?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything more to — we don’t have anything more to announce on that trip.
Q Karine, I think we have to go.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, guys, I’ll see you on Tuesday. Have a great weekend, everybody.
2:19 P.M. EDT