Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, September 30, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:01 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday.
Q Happy Friday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, today was a historic day for the country. We should all be proud of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and her historic investiture to the United States Supreme Court.
More than 100 justices have served on the — on the United States Supreme Court over the past 200 years. But today, for the first time, Americans and people across the world will see four women sitting on the bench. And today, for the first time, Americans will see a Black woman serving on our nation’s highest court.
This is a proud day for America, for our democracy, and in particular for women and Black women.
This fulfills major promises President Biden made — to help make sure our Supreme Court bench reflects the diversity of our nation, and, more broadly, to strengthen the judiciary by fighting to nominate and confirm federal judges at a fast rate.
He promised his nominees would be experienced, committed to the rule of law, and that they would represent diverse personal and professional backgrounds.
Since taking office, President Biden has made 143 nominations. Eighty-four have been confirmed, which is stand-out progress. And of his 143 nominees, 68 percent have been women and 66 percent are people of color.
He’s nominated groundbreaking “first” who would be the first Black, Latino, and AAPI judge to serve in their circuit or district around the country.
Today, as we celebrate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson investiture, we also want to celebrate the many others across the country making history. And the President is going to keep building on what he sees as one of his proudest accomplishments, and he thanks the Senate for their leadership on this issue as well.
Finally, as I — as you heard directly from President — from the President a short time ago, our hearts are with everyone impacted by Hurricanes Ian and also Hurricane Fiona.
The President remains in regular touch with the state and local officials, and spoke with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster this morning.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is also on the ground in Florida today. Since before the storm made landfall, President Biden has been clear that it is a priority for the entire administration to get those impacted by the storm help that they need.
One week ago, the President issued an emergency declaration for Florida, which meant we could pre-position teams and resources like food, water, and generators on the ground.
Yesterday, the President did the same thing for South Carolina in anticipation of the storm hitting there.
Currently — currently, efforts are focused on saving lives and search and rescue as part of an unprecedented level of coordination with the Florida National Guard and state and local responders.
Teams started search and rescue missions before daylight yesterday and are continuing that effort today. By the end of yesterday, they had already saved hundreds of lives and completed thousands of structural assessments, allowing people to safely return to their homes.
Federal teams are continuing to assess damage and work to restore critical services, ensuring emergency power is available to critical infrastructure like hospitals, and evaluating bridges, airports, and ports as well.
We’re also continuing to support the people of Puerto Rico as they recover from Hurricane Fiona. We’re providing support for emergency response, recovery, and power restoration efforts and recovering one hu- — and covering 100 percent of the cost of public assistance, debris removal, and more.
We have a — we have over 1,000 federal response workers on the ground, and we are providing millions of dollars to repair highways and bridges as well.
We are also investing millions of dollars to make Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, including its power grid, more resilient to climate change.
The people of Florida, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and everyone impacted by these storms have the full support — the full support of the federal government.
And as you can see, today, finally, we are joined by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the podium to talk about the United States’ response to Russia’s attempts to annex parts of sovereign Ukraine.
And with that, I will let Jake take to the podium. Go ahead, Jake. Thank you for being here.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Karine. As Karine said, I will have an update for you all on Russia, but first I want to take a moment, just as Karine did, to acknowledge the devastation of Hurricane Ian and the millions of people who have been impacted by this terrible storm. And as Karine said and the President said earlier today, our hearts are with the people of Florida, South Carolina, and the southeast.
As President Biden made clear, we’re going to do everything we can across this White House and across this government to support the people who have been impacted by this storm with the full resources of the federal government as communities endeavor to recover and then to rebuild.
I also want to say a special word of thanks to our first responders at every level of our government for everything they are doing and for the lifesaving and dangerous missions they have undertaken over the last two days to keep people safe.
And if you’ll indulge me just a word on what was a very important foreign policy development yesterday, President Biden hosted a historic U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit. He released the first-ever U.S.-Pacific Island Strategy. He announced over $810 million in additional expanded programs to help these countries combat the climate crisis, provide development assistance, enhance maritime security, and more.
And finally, President Biden and all 12 Pacific Island presidents who joined him here at the White House for this summit issued a joint declaration to strengthen our partnership and to chart an affirmative vision for the region.
Today, as you all saw just a little bit ago, President Biden issued a strong condemnation of Russia’s fraudulent attempt to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory.
This act is a flagrant violation of international law, and it has no legitimacy.
Unfortunately, it’s also not surprising. It’s straight out of Putin’s playbook of deceit, disinformation, and aggression, and we’ve been warning about it for months. In fact, I’ve stood at this podium and warned about it several times, including as recently as last week.
Based on our information, every aspect of this process was pre-staged and falsified under orders from the Kremlin.
The sham referenda were held at gunpoint. Ukrainian civilians were forced to cast ballots through coercion, intimidation, and, in some cases, under the watch of armed guards.
Saying that it somehow reflects the will of the people is an absurdity.
The United States will never recognize these actions. The world will never recognize these actions.
And we still stay the course, as the President told you earlier today. We have built, led, and maintained an extraordinary and coordinated response with our allies and partners, and that response will continue. As President Biden said, we will not be deterred.
So, what does that mean specifically in reaction to what has just happened?
First, as we saw from the Treasury Department and as the President underscored, we are sending a clear warning from the United States government, supported by all of our G7 partners, that we will sanction and impose export controls on any individual, entity, or country that provides political or economic support to these attempts at annexation. We have put in place authorities to enable us to do that rapidly and efficiently.
We are also announcing new sanctions today that target additional Russian government officials and leaders, including State Duma members who are accomplices in these fraudulent actions, and including the central bank governor.
We are also sanctioning Russian and Belarusian military officials, and we have specifically targeted defense procurement networks, including international suppliers supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex.
Second, we will continue to provide military equipment so that Ukraine can defend its territory and its freedom.
Today, President Biden will sign legislation from Congress that contains more than $12 billion in additional funding for Ukraine. And we are grateful for the continued support. There is no stronger, more bipartisan rebuke of what Russia has just done, no more timely rebuke, and no more assertive statement that we can make through resources, and not just through words, that we are going to continue to help Ukraine defend its territory and to de-occupy those parts that Russia has occupied.
Earlier this week, we announced a significant new billion-dollar arms package, which included 18 new HIMARS for Ukraine as part of our long-term commitment to strengthening Ukraine’s armed forces over the years ahead. And we expect to have another announcement of immediate security assistance to announce next week.
Next, the United States and the international community have been crystal-clear that we will use diplomatic tools at our disposal to fundamentally reject Russia’s attempts to take its neighbor’s territory by force.
Today, the United States is supporting a resolution at the U.N. Security Council to condemn these sham referenda and to call on Russia immediately to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
If Russia seeks to shield itself at the Security Council, the United Nations will work with partners around the world to take action next week at the U.N. General Assembly.
Leaders around the world have spoken out about what’s at stake: the independence of the democratic nation of Ukraine, the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the very foundation of the United Natio- — United Nations Charter and the modern international order.
As the Secretary-General of the United Nations said yesterday, quote, “It must not be accepted.” And it will not be accepted. To put it simply, the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia remain Ukrainian territory.
Ukraine has every right to continue to defend its sovereignty, which the people of Ukraine are doing bravely and courageously every day with the support of the international community. And the United States, for our part, under President Biden’s leadership, will support them at every step along the way for as long as it takes.
And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Q Ukraine is seeking accelerated membership in NATO. Is that something that’s possible or something you would seriously consider?
MR. SULLIVAN: The United States has been clear for decades that we support an open-door policy for NATO. Any decision on NATO membership is between the 30 Allies and the countries aspiring to join.
Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine, and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time.
Q Thanks, Jake. In his speech this morning, the President called the Nord Stream pipeline attacks, quote, “a deliberate act of sabotage.” And he said, “…now the Russians are pumping out [mis]information and lies” about it. Should we take that to mean that the U.S. now believes that Russia was likely responsible for this act of sabotage?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, Russia has done what it frequently does when it is responsible for something, which is make accusations that it was really someone else who did it. We’ve seen this repeatedly over time.
But the President was also clear today that there is more work to do on the investigation before the United States government is prepared to make an attribution in this case. One of the practical reasons for that is that because gas is emanating from these pipelines, the Danish authorities and other authorities in the Baltic Sea can’t actually get down to the source of the leak to do forensics on what appears to be an explosion.
So we will have to wait until a combination of physical inspection, intelligence gathering, and consultation with our allies to make a definitive determination.
But what we can say unequivocally is the suggestions Russia has made about the United States and other countries are flat-out false. Russia knows they’re false. But, of course, this is part of their playbook.
Q But how many countries or entities are even capable of carrying out the kind of attack that we saw with hundreds of kilograms of explosives, 250 feet below the surface of the sea?
MR. SULLIVAN: Not many. And I think this is obviously an act of sabotage that took place, we believe, in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 meters — 230 to 270 feet — under the ocean. You know, that takes some degree of sophistication.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself in terms of asserting how exactly this happened or who exactly did it until we’re standing on solid ground. We will continue to work with our allies and partners to gather all of the facts, and then we will make a determination about where we go from there.
Q Jake, two questions. Putin clearly had nuclear weapons on his mind today when he was giving this speech. He said the West is “deceitful,” “hypocritical.” “The United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons.” And he said, “By the way, they’ve created a precedent.” How worrying is that to you?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’ve been clear myself, President Biden has been clear, our administration has been clear that there is a risk, given all of the loose talk and the nuclear saber-rattling by Putin, that he would consider this. And we’ve been equally clear about what the consequences would be. We have communicated that directly to the Russians.
We do not presently see indications about the imminent use of nuclear weapons. We are, of course, monitoring that carefully and staying in close consultation with allies and partners.
But this is something that we are attuned to, taking very seriously, and communicating directly with Russia about, including the kind of decisive responses the United States would have if they went down that dark road.
Q Is the risk of that higher now than it was six or seven months ago?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, what’s interesting is that at various points over the course of this conflict, including right at the outset, Putin has brandished the nuclear card. He’s doing it again. So the risk has been there from the start. It’s there today. I’m not going to characterize its exact level, only to say that we have been taking this seriously for some time, and we continue to take it seriously now.
Q And can I ask one broader question before you move on? What lessons from 2014 and from Crimea are you using now? What did you learn from that that you’re — that you’re applying here?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, there’s a number of — just in terms of the tactics of how things unfolded in Crimea, including the fact that you didn’t have the kind of sustained military conflict associated with it that you do in these cases, that means you cannot draw the analogy too far.
On the other hand, one of the things that we have been clear about from the start of this conflict — and even in the months that preceded it, when I stood at this podium and warned that it was coming — is that we were going to be prepared with clear, swift, and very certain responses.
And so when I stand here before you today to talk about sanctions, to talk about new funding, to talk about new transfers of military equipment, and diplomatic initiatives that are unfolding the very day that Putin gives his speech, that is all the product of months of planning and coordination with our allies and partners so that we do not allow time to elapse, so that we seize the diplomatic initiative, and so that we communicate very clearly: We will not accept this, and we will help equip the Ukrainians to push back aggressively against it, even as we rally the international community to condemn it.
That has been our strategy from the start. We have tried to be as clear and transparent about that as possible, warning what was going to come, indicating what we would do, and then following through and doing it. And that’s what we’re doing today.
Q Thanks, Jake. Would the U.S. actively enter the war if Putin used nukes on Ukraine?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I have said before that we have had the opportunity to communicate directly to Russia a range of consequences for the use of nuclear weapons and the kinds of actions the United States would take. I have also said before that we are not going to telegraph these things publicly.
And so, all I can tell you is that the Russians understand where things stand on this issue. We understand where things stand on this issue. And I will leave it at that.
Q Does it — do we run the risk, though, if we’re not moving more firepower to Europe right now, that we would be unprepared for a serious response if he were to take that kind of action tomorrow?
MR. SULLIVAN: President Biden, even before this conflict began, moved a substantial number of additional U.S. forces on land, sea, and air to Europe.
After the conflict got underway, within 72 hours, he had ordered the movement of even more forces beyond that. So we are standing at a level of enhanced force posture across the eastern flank, in the major maritime domains.
And with all of the capabilities we need in the air as well, we feel that we have in place, right now, the capacity to effectively deter and respond to any contingency and to make good on what President Biden emphatically reinforced today — that we will defend every inch of NATO territory. The United States has put in place the pieces for that.
And if you look at what our NATO allies have done, in terms of surging their own capabilities to eastern flank allies, upping their own defense expenditures, we are at a level, a state of readiness to take on any contingency, and we’re doing the active coordination and scenario planning to be prepared for whatever comes our way.
Q And is there anything we can do to protect energy infrastructure now, before something that’s actually in use gets attacked in Europe?
MR. SULLIVAN: The President mentioned today, actually, in response to a question, that we have, in fact, begun coordinating with allies to increase surveillance and monitoring of energy infrastructure, including pipelines in the Baltic Sea. And we will continue to work closely with Norway and other countries that have come out publicly and announced that they are stepping up their efforts in that regard.
The United States has capabilities to be able to bring to bear, and we are bringing those to bear.
Q Can you describe a little for us about the scenario planning? I would think that when this war began, there was a certain category of planning that has gone on. And how significantly has that changed as the facts have changed, as these threats have changed?
And does it suggest that this is a very dynamic situation where — is the President engaged in approving new plans on a frequent basis? Or is this something that is part of a ready playbook that would already be at the disposal of the Department of Defense? Or is this something that’s being retooled in real time?
MR. SULLIVAN: There are elements that are consistent and elements that are dynamic. And what I mean by that is: From the very beginning, we’ve known the broad categories of forms of escalation that Russia could conceivably undertake. We’ve known the broad categories of contingencies that we might face, our allies might face, and Ukraine might face.
But of course, as time goes on and circumstances change on the battlefield and broader diplomatic circumstances change, and as we gather new intelligence, we can refine the contingency planning within those broad categories to be more specific about different scenarios.
And so, over time, the President gets updates on the intelligence, updates on the likelihood or lack — lack of likelihood of different circumstances, and refinements in the planning that’s taking place across every element of our government, including the Defense Department, the intelligence community, the State Department, USAID, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation.
We have people — experts from across our government working on a range of contingencies. And the President is in regular touch with his National Security Council principals to get updates on this and to give direction about how to continue to refine and sharpen these plans.
The other thing that’s happened is you’ve seen this steady stream of engagement — engagements President Biden has had with foreign counterparts, particularly in NATO, the G7, the European Union. That has been an opportunity to engage on different scenarios and to make sure that the leaders of these countries are directing their teams to coordinate together so that we can have a common playbook for how we respond in different circumstances.
That’s been a very important planning function that’s almost unprecedented in the intensity and frequency of engagement at the leader level in a circumstance like this.
Q Jake, I — I wanted to ask you about the sanctions. I know we’ve had batches of sanctions rolled out for last six, seven months. And I wanted you to help us understand what makes you all confident that these latest sanctions would deter or change Putin’s behavior when thus far we have not seen his behavior change.
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, so, first, one of the key elements of our sanctions strategy has been to reduce the capacity of the Russian military machine to regenerate its ability to threaten Ukraine. And we think we have had an impact on that, denying inputs to the weapons of war that Putin wants to manufacture and place on the battlefield.
Second, we have wanted to undermine Russia’s major sectors in technology, in industry, and, of course, in defense so that its capacity to project power, threaten and coerce its neighbors, and wage wars of aggression is reduced over time. And we think that there is demonstrable progress on that front as well.
Third, we want to send a clear message to the rest of the world that those companies, those individuals, and those countries that are going to stand beside Russia on this issue of illegal annexation, they will subject themselves to sanctions. And we do believe that that will have a considerable deterrent effect and have seen that in other circumstances.
So, for all of these reasons, we feel that the sanctions element of our strategy, the economic pressure that we are placing on Russia, and the denial of their ability to gather what they need to be able to regenerate their war machine, this has been a critical element to how we have prosecuted our strategy so far. And the impacts of it will continue to be felt month on month as we go forward and put us in a stronger position and Russia in a more disadvantaged position as this unfolds.
Q Jake, one follow on annexation. Can I just ask, real quick, on — on sort of the broader view of U.S. policy on annexation: Is it U.S. policy that any land gained by defensive or offensive war cannot be legally annexed?
MR. SULLICAN: It is the U.S. policy that the attempt to annex at the point of a gun to conquer territory, hold sham referenda, and then declare that territory your sovereign territory and not your neighbor’s sovereign territory is as flagrant a violation of the U.N. Charter as possible.
And this case is cut and dried. And it’s for that reason that the U.N. Secretary-General — who has been a careful voice, a neutral arbiter in multiple efforts on diplomacy between Russia and Ukraine over the last six months — came out with an absolutely unequivocal statement in this regard yesterday. And every word of it is something that the international community can collectively stand behind.
Q Do Russia’s actions give you any second thoughts about enacting the oil price cap policy, which essentially would, you know, encourage countries to buy Russian oil at a discount as opposed to a full-out global ban?
MR. SULLIVAN: We’re continuing down the road of negotiating alongside our G7 partners and working with countries who are purchasers or prospective purchasers of Russian oil — what the parameters in terms of a price cap would look like.
We are not currently discussing a change in that policy, but rather continuing to find ways to both protect global energy markets and to deny revenues to Putin to feed his war machine.
That is our fundamental objective. We believe this is the best method by which to achieve that objective. And we’re not looking at a fundamental course correction on that at this time.
Q Are you concerned there could be attacks on U.S. and Western infrastructure after the Nord Stream 1 incident?
MR. SULLIVAN: We have to be concerned about the possibility of Russian action, Russian aggression against Western infrastructure, Western facilities. We have been concerned about that from the beginning of the war.
We don’t have any specific intelligence to share with you today on that. But that is the reason we do contingency planning. It is the reason that we send strong deterrent messages like the President today saying that the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory.
And it’s why the President said today that we’ve elevated our surveillance and monitoring of critical infrastructure in NATO territory, in the event that it is put at risk, either physically or through cyber means or otherwise. And we will continue to do that.
Q So you would say there is a heightened concern about that possibility?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, before this war even began, I stood at this podium and said the possibility that we could see attacks in the United States — cyberattacks — or we could see attacks in Europe, whether physical or cyber, was real. It was real then. It remains real today. And what happened with Nord Stream 1 and 2 only reminds us that it is real.
Q Thank you. There is a clear nexus between Russia and Iran regarding the drone program that threatens Ukraine. How worried are you about this? And is there any way to stop it?
And will you impose more sanctions on Iran in the aftermath of the killing of Ms. Amini that you yourself condemned? And also, they issued some sanctions, but do we expect more sanctions on the Iranian regime?
MR. SULLIVAN: We continue to condemn the brutality and the repression against the brave citizens of Iran, the brave women of Iran, who are simply marching for their rights and their dignity and their justice. And we continue to stand with them — not just in word, but in deed.
We have issued several sanctions against Iranian entities for what they have done in this killing and brutality. And, yes, we will continue to look for targets to impose sanctions in response to these brutal human rights violations.
We have also issued sanctions with respect to the transfer of UAVs from Iran to Russia. And we are looking for additional methods to reduce Iran’s capacity to be able to manufacture and then to sell these kinds of systems to Russia. We will continue to work on that.
And the entire world should see that Russia, as it runs into problems being able to regenerate its own capabilities, has to turn to other countries to try to get a hold of whatever kind of precision munition it can, including Iranian UAVs; that this is a move Russia has been forced to make because it is being denied inputs.
And we’re going to try and cut off other countries who Russia would seek to go out and approach to get these kinds of weapons to be able to feed their war machine in Ukraine.
Q Can I very quickly ask whether the profile of weapons and stuff being sent is changing and, in particular, whether you have a view on whether tanks should be provided to Ukraine, either by the U.S. or by other countries facilitated by the U.S.?
And separately, while we have you, it’s been about a year since that AUKUS deal was announced. I’m wondering if you have any update on the status of that. Are the Australians going to be buying American submarines, British submarines, or a combination of the two?
MR. SULLIVAN: Actually, our leaders just recently put out a statement following the one-year anniversary of the AUKUS announcement, which took place last September, just over a year ago. And we’ve made substantial progress over the course of the past year.
We feel very good about the trilateral cooperation on the submarine program. We think that we have a good path forward.
I’m not going to get into specifics on exactly what the nature of the platform will be. That — some of the details of that need to continue to be worked out. But even more importantly, I need to protect the sensitivity of it.
I will just say that our three countries are very much on the same page about the path forward. And there has been significant progress from concept, one year ago, to now the process of actually putting this in place.
We also are pursuing a significant number of advanced capabilities through the AUKUS partnership in cyber, artificial intelligence, and other areas.
We’ve seen significant progress on those as well, and there are certain areas where we are looking to bring in other partners as well, as part of an open platform approach.
With respect to tanks, we actually have facilitated the provision of tanks to Ukraine from some of our Eastern European partners who have provided the same type of Soviet-style tanks that the Ukrainian army trained on and is in possession of, and we will continue to do that.
In terms of other weapons systems, what the President announced this week was a further provision of HIMARS, which we have provided before. We expect the next package will be a re-up of many of the capabilities that the Ukrainians have moved so effectively. And I don’t have any announcements of new and additional capabilities beyond that.
Q What about NATO stand- —
Q Mr. Sullivan —
Q Jake, what about NA- — sorry — on NATO standard tanks — the Abrams tanks, Leopard tanks — like a higher, more modern tank. That’s what is being sought by either the Ukrainians or advocates for it. Is — are you ruling that out or is NATO ruling that out?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m not ruling anything out. I will say I don’t have any announcement on a U.S. tank today. And in terms of German tanks, I would refu- — refer you to the Germans, who were in their own consultations with the Ukrainians on that.
Q Yeah, thanks, Jake. Senators Blumenthal and Graham introduced legislation yesterday that would cut off U.S. military and economic aid to nations that recognize Putin’s annexation of Ukraine. Does the White House support this proposal? Or would it consider such a policy move like this?
MR. SULLIVAN: So I haven’t had a chance to read the legislation, and in these circumstances, the details end up mattering. But at a broad level, the basic proposition that we should be imposing economic costs on countries, individuals, and entities that are providing political and economic support to these annexations not only do agre- — we agree with that, I just announced that from this podium today. We are going to do that ourselves under executive authority.
And I want to issue a clear warning to those who would think about providing political and economic support to these annexed territories or to Russia’s efforts to justify and defend the annexation: You can be subject to U.S. sanctions as a result of those activities.
We look forward to working with Senators Graham and Blumenthal on an approach in the Congress that could be consistent with and help drive that forward.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Q Thank you, Jake. A couple of questions on Ukraine, and then a follow-up on Iran, if I may.
I’d like to get the administration’s reaction on President Zelenskyy’s statement saying that “We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia.” That’s my first one.
And then the second one is, we understand that U.S. diplomats have been pressing Russia’s allies to convince Putin to deescalate. Can you be more specific about those kinds of overtures? In what ways does the administration believe that China and India can apply more pressure on Moscow to de-escalate, not go the nuclear route?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, on your second question, we think any country that believes in the principles of the U.N. Charter — and, frankly, that should be every country that signed up to the U.N. Charter — should be taking on its measure of responsibility to communicate directly to the Krem- — Kremlin that what it is doing is wrong, it is unjustified, and it must stop.
And we are asking that of countries around the world. We’d like them to speak out publicly. And we would like them to convey things privately diplomatically.
With respect to the first question, which was — I’m sorry —
Q President Zelenskyy saying that he’s ready for a dialogue with Russia but with another president of Russia.
MR. SULLIVAN: President Zelenskyy has consistently said throughout this conflict that the war ultimately will end through diplomacy, and we have consistently backed him up in that.
I would have to refer you to him on that precise statement and what he means by it, but what I will tell you is that we have had daily engagement with the President, his chief of staff, his foreign minister, his defense minister, and much communication, of course, between our military and their military, to make sure that we are understanding one another well, that we are transparent about the support we’re providing and the strategy they’re pursuing. That continues today. And that will continue every day from here on out.
Q But does the President share the sentiment of President Zelenskyy that a dialogue is only possible with another president and not Vladimir Putin?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t know the context of the statement, unfortunately, so I can’t answer it in the characterization you’ve just provided it.
What I will say is that President Biden believes that a diplomatic solution in Ukraine is possible but it is only possible according to the basic terms of the U.N. Charter that everybody signed up to.
That’s what he said in his U.N. speech last week. He continues to believe that quite strongly. And in his conversations with President Zelenskyy, they’ve been of the same mind on that point.
Q And a follow-up on Iran, please. A follow-up on Iran, Jake.
Q On the pipeline — on the pipeline and a broader question — on the pipeline, did I hear you correctly to say that the U.S. government has ruled out the involvement of any European allies, including Eastern European countries, some of whom are very angry about that pipeline and — in the sabotage? And then —
MR. SULLIVAN: We do not believe that this was the work of any NATO Ally.
Q All right. And then more broadly, Putin, in his speech, cast this as a kind of cultural struggle with Russia standing for tradition, and the U.S. and the West standing for Satanism, attacking the family and traditional values and things like that. How do you — how do you answer that argument?
MR. SULLIVAN: It’s — it’s raving. This — the fact that he’s using words like “Satanism” is, to me, precisely the kind of over-the-top rhetoric and ranting that you hear from someone who has no basis to justify what is a colonial and imperial land grab.
And so, rather than fill in any kind of logic or moral defense of what he has done, he has to resort to these kinds of absurd arguments. And I think that can be plain for the entire world to see.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah. And I’ll —
Q Thanks so much.
MR. SULLIVAN: This will be the last one, so —
Q Thank you, Jake. On another topic, what is your expectation for the election in Brazil this Sunday? What are you going to be watching for? And how fast is the White House going to recognize the result once it’s announced?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t make predictions about American elections, so I promise you I will not make predictions about Brazilian elections or the elections of any other country.
Thank you, guys.
Q Thank you, Jake.
Q Thanks for coming.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Jake.
We don’t have much time, because I know folks have to gather. But, Colleen, you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. Karine, can you give us an update on the President’s plans? Will he go to Florida? Will he go to Puerto Rico?
And then, also, do you have any idea how much money you’ll have to request from Congress yet to replenish the disaster fund?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’ll say this: The continuing resolution in Congress, as you all know, is voting — they’re voting on this all today. So we’ll help ensure that FEMA has the resources it needs to address immediate response and recovery needs, including those in Puerto Rico and also in Florida.
So we will remain in close touch, obviously, with Congress on — on continuing that — continuing to evaluate that.
As far as — as what’s currently happening. Look, the President has been very clear. He wants to focus on what Florida needs, what Puerto Rico needs. And we — they both have the full force and the full support of the federal government. And we will continue to have close conversations with the officials on the ground to make sure that they have — that the people in Puerto Rico and the people in Florida have what they need.
As you heard, he — he spoke to the South Carolina governor today, offering those same kind of — that same support.
One of the things that I just want to reiterate, which is really important about what we have seen these last couple of days — more — actually more than a week — is, if you think about what the President was able to do in Florida and what the President is going to be able to do in South Carolina, which is pre-position employ- — federal employees, responders on the ground in a way that we have not seen before.
It is unprecedented what we’re seeing — the type of coordination that we’re seeing on the ground. And so that is because the President has made this a priority. And he wants to make sure that we are — you know, we are offering all of the support.
Just to name a few — because this is, we think, important — it’s the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, DHS, the Department of the Interior working hand in hand with the Florida National Guard, and state and local responders. And these teams are doing the work day and night to make sure that they’re rescuing folks on the ground but also offering water, food, and generators as well.
Q Karine, when the President does go to Florida, whenever that might be, does he want to meet with Governor DeSantis personally?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, I want to be very clear about this. This is not about politics, right? This is about — this is about the people of Florida and what they need.
When we saw Surfside — the horrible, catastrophic, you know, building falling in Surfside and killing so many Floridians not too long ago, over a year ago — you saw Governor DeSantis and you saw this President sit side-by-side talking about how they were going to work together to make sure that that community got everything that they need.
So this is not about politics. I don’t have anything to share about a trip that the President is going to be making. He spoke for himself yesterday. He — it’s something that he wants to do when it’s appropriate, in Florida. He does want to also go to Puerto Rico. And once we have an announcement to make, we surely will make that announcement.
Q There’s apparently a meeting today between the administration and oil executives. Could you tell us a little bit about that? What’s that for?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: For sure. So, from what I understand — like, as you stated, there is a — there is a meeting that happened with the Department of Energy, with the oil companies. I don’t have anything to share at this time as to how that meeting went or what’s — what the — what was on the agenda. But certainly it is an important meeting as we look at continuing to keep those gas prices and oil prices down for the American people.
As soon as — I’m sure there’ll be a readout and some more information to share to all of you.
Q Yesterday, President Biden said that Governor DeSantis, when they spoke, complimented him and praised the immediate response from the federal government. Is that a sentiment that the President returns? Does he think Governor DeSantis has handled the response to this well, so far?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I can’t — I can’t — I can’t speak to the specifics of a private — private conversation. I can say that, you know, we gave a readout from our end about how the conversation — how the conversation went.
Again, we don’t want to make this about politics. We don’t want to make this about, you know, red states versus, you know, blue states. This is — this is about the American people that are, you know, families and everyday people who are on the ground who need the assistance. And they are going to continue to coordinate. They’re going to continue to have conversations. They had, I believe, three conversations in just a week’s time about what they can do to help the communities in Florida.
But I don’t want to get into politics here because this is not about that.
Q Right. I’m not asking about politics. I’m just asking if the President thinks that Governor DeSantis has done a good job so far.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to — look, I haven’t had that conversation with the President. What I can tell you is that they are working closely together. The FEMA Administrator is down there currently with the governor. They are traveling the state together and looking at what is currently happening on the ground. I’m not going to get into particulars of who’s doing a good job and who’s doing, you know, I don’t know — I don’t know — could do a better job, I should say.
Right now, we are working closely, hand-in-hand, with the officials on the ground. We have had multiple conversations, not just this President, but also the FEMA Administrator. And you can see the fact that they’ve had conversations, the fact that the FEMA Administratio- — Administrator is on the ground, that this is a working relationship that is about the people of Florida. I’m not going to get into score cards here.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. I don’t think you got called.
Q Yes. Thanks. Just real quick: Is the President — the President will sign the CR today. Is that the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — that’s a very good question. I don’t have any specifics on that. I know it takes some time. Like, there’s mechanics that need to be handled on the Congress side before a bill gets here. I don’t have any specifics on when that gets signed. Clearly, he will sign it as soon as he’s able to do that.
Q Okay. And that is the White House still committed to an early October timeline for the application for student loans to go public? Because yesterday there was a — there was an email that went out to some borrowers that said October generally; it didn’t say early October. I’m wondering if the timeline has slipped at all.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I do have a little bit — I don’t have a specific date in October, but let me just — since you mentioned the email. Yesterday, we began the first of what will be regular updates to borrowers interested in debt relief.
We shared information of what people can expect in the coming weeks around the program and process for applying. We shared the following: The application for debt relief will be available next month in October. No date set yet, but we will — next month — it’s this month. We are in October, right? Or tomorrow.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Tomorrow we’re in October.
The application will be a short online form. Borrowers won’t need to upload any documents or use their FAFSA ID to support their application. The application will be available from October 2022 through December 2023.
Once an individual submits a form, the Department of Education will review the application, determine if the individual is eligible for relief, and will work with their loan server to process the relief.
Our goal, as you all know and we have said this, is to provide borrowers a seamless and simple experience working closely with the server — the servicers who will actually process the relief. We will have additional information for borrowers in the upcoming days.
Again, I know you’re asking for a specific date, but that was what we provided in the email, and we should have more soon to share.
Q And just really briefly: Do we have any week ahead guidance for next week? I know that you don’t want to say anything about the trip to Puerto Rico or Florida. But, you know, typically on Fridays we get —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We usually put out our week aheads — for those who — who follow their week aheads — coming out of here on Sundays.
If there is a trip next week, we certainly will — we’ll share that with you. Don’t have anything to announce at this time at the podium.
Q I’ll just put a plug-in for on Fridays as much as possible, trying to give some week ahead —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I understand. We’ve been here for 19 months, and we’ve always done the week aheads on Sundays. I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear you. I get it. But I’m just —
Q Can you give us just a little bit of a heads up (inaudible)?
Q Jen used to do that on Fridays.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, yeah, that’s right. We just don’t have — I hear what you’re saying. We just don’t have anything today, for Friday, to share.
I get the question. I got it. But normally, yes, we do our week aheads that we send out on Sundays. And you’re right, we used to do that on Fridays. I just don’t have anything to share.
And we will — we will try and be more proactive in doing that on Fridays for sure.
Go ahead, Jacqui.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Karine. A couple times this week, the President came after oil and gas companies. He threatened again to investigate instances of price gouging. But John Kirby said yesterday that there — he hadn’t seen any evidence of that happening. And I remember the President first put out this — this call for the FTC to investigate possible price gouging in November of last year.
So my question to you is: Why does he keep throwing that out there? And does it have anything to do with the possibility that OPEC will announce a production cut next week, and we might start to see prices come up? Is he trying to deflect away from —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we’re not going to speak to OPEC, OPEC+. We are clearly not — not a partner or part of OPEC+. So we — they are an independent entity, and we allow them to make their — make their news and their announcements on their own.
What we — what we’re saying is: We’re just making sure that while we’re — while people are dealing — while we are all dealing with a hurricane, that gas and oil companies don’t take advantage of it. It’s just — it’s just a little bit of a, “Hey, we want to make sure in this time, when people are losing their homes, when people are dealing with an incredibly difficult time, that we shouldn’t take advantage of it.” That’s it. It is just coming from the President. And we feel that coming from the President is a powerful voice.
And so, look, we don’t — we know that disruptions from hurricanes can pose challenge to markets, but the latest projections show that major refineries should not be impacted by Hurricane Ian. And so — so we’re just making it very clear to the oil companies. The President is making it very clear to the oil companies.
So there’s nothing more to it than just — being just vigilant about that.
Q Does it at all run the risk of further fraying the relationship between the administration and these — there’s been, you know, obviously, some space between, you know, their position — industry heads’ position and the White House in terms of attitudes toward fossil fuels and, you know, sort of casting of blame from side to side. They — the companies will say, “Well, the Biden administration is hostile, and that’s why, you know, we can’t ramp up production.” So does this kind of rhetoric —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean, I —
Q — make it worse?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — I don’t think so.
As you know, the oil companies are currently meeting with — with officials — White House officials and the Department of Energy.
And so, look, I think the President thinks that he is standing up for the American people and making sure that oil companies are passing on the savings that they’re getting to consumers. And we have said that time and time again. And this is something that the President thinks it’s important to use his platform to do so.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you give us — I know you’re going into the week ahead. But for the weekend, President Biden is in town. He’s going to the Congressional Black Caucus dinner tomorrow night. Are there other things he’s doing this weekend? Anything related to the hurricane that he’s planning to monitor?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he is getting regularly — daily updated on Hurricane Ian, as you’ve heard him say many times. If we have anything else to share, we certainly will.
As I mention, Administrator Criswell is in Florida. So she’ll — when she — either before she gets back or when she gets back, she certainly will give the President an update on what she saw on the ground. So that’ll be very important. And she has spoken to him ma- — many times — multiple times this week.
So, again, he’ll get a daily update, as he has been for the past week or so, on both Hurricane Fiona, when that was happening, and currently with this hurricane. And we will have more to share if there’s any other calls that he makes on the ground with officials as well.
Q The other thing I wanted to ask was: You had said the other day that Jackie Walorski’s family was going to be here today for a bill signing. Has that happened? Is it happening? It wasn’t on his schedule, so —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And as you — as you all know, we don’t put every bill signing on — on the schedule. As you can imagine, this is a personal — a personal moment that — that the President was doing.
You know, like I mentioned in the briefing a couple of days ago and as you just stated, the President has been, you know, looking forward to hosting the late representative’s family and other lawmakers to honor her legacy. And he is signing the bill naming a post office in her memory. And that is happening; it was happening when we started the briefing, so I haven’t gotten an update on how that went. But clearly, this is a — this is an important — this is an important moment for her — for her family.
And so, I can give you a little bit of who was in the meeting so that you all know. It included the late representative’s husband, mother, brother, staff, and several bipartisan members of Congress — Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Representative Jim Baird, Representative Jim Banks.
So this, again, happened while we were — while I was coming to the podium. And, as you know, the majority of bill signings are not necessarily always done in public, and so this is that example as well.
Q So, Kevin McCarthy was here for the bill signing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Is that the first time he — has he met —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a — kind of a, you know, a data or — on when he’s — how many times he’s been here. So I can’t — I actually can’t speak to that at this time. But he was here for this particular bill signing.
We have to remember that the issue that she fought so hard for, on — on ending hunger — ending child — child hunger, specifically, has been an issue that’s been bipartisan. And that’s what we saw a couple of days ago from that summit.
Q Yeah, thank you. The Education Department, yesterday, tweaked some eligibility issues with the student loan forgiveness plan that — basically saying that borrowers with federal loans that are owned by private banks are now ineligible. It will affect perhaps 770,000 borrowers. I’ve also seen “a couple million.”
Just curious — is that a disappointment for the White House that you have to make this change seemingly around some legal issues? And could there be future changes before applications are made that could narrow eligibility further? Or is the plan final now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first, I just want to make sure, because I know this was out there, that the number of borrowers impacted are — are — change — in this change is much smaller. I know there was a number of “millions,” but it’s actually —
Q Yes, so I hear. Yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s actually much smaller.
So our goal from day one has always been to deliver relief to many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible. And this change helps us achieve that. So we will continue to make sure we zero in on that.
Look, the Department of Education continues to explore alternative ways to provide relief to those borrowers with commercially led — held — held loans.
I do want to say that, you know, when you think about what we’re trying to do — right? — we’re trying to give relief to — to everyday Americans. Right? We’re trying to give relief to working families. We’re trying to give relief to working Americans.
And the fact that you see folks out there in Republican states that are making it very hard for us to do that, for us to give a little bit of a breathing room to working Americans, I think it’s a — it’s — it’s really unfortunate, because what we are doing is actually popular with Americans. What we are doing is actually giving Americans an opportunity to put money down on a house, an opportunity to start a family. And so that is what — unfortunately, we’re seeing that red — these red-state Republican officials are doing.
And remember, this is going to help 40 million Americans who truly, really need just a little bit more space.
Q Do you anticipate, though, that the plan is now final? Or could there be other modifications like this before the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t want to — I can’t speak to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is: We’re going to do everything that we can to explore alternative ways to give relief to those borrowers — -these particular borrowers that you were asking me about that are — that are — that are with commercially held loans.
And so we’re going to do everything that we can. The Department of Educa- — Education is going to do everything that they can.
Again, this is about giving relief, a little bit of breathing rooms, some extra — extra kind of opportunity for folks to really, you know, be able to get that house, again, to start that family. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to focus on.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think I have to — to go. I’m getting the — but I’ll see you all next week. And we will — we will have a week ahead as soon as we can.
3:54 P.M. EDT