Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, October 4, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:43 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry for a very long two minutes. Apologize for that. (Laughter.) I am aware — I know, I know. Apologies.
Okay. Tomorrow, President Biden and First — the First Lady will travel to Fort Myers, Florida, to reaffirm his commitment to supporting the people of Florida as they recover and rebuild from the devastating storm. While there, the President will meet with small-business owners and local residents impacted by Hurricane Ian and thank the federal, state, and local officials working around the clock to provide lifesaving assistance, restore power, distribute food and water, removing debris, and begin rebuilding efforts.
Governor DeSantis, the FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, and other state and local officials will also provide the President with an operational briefing on the current response and recovery efforts
This morning, President Biden spoke with President Zelenskyy to underscore that the United States will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Ukrainian territory and will continue to support Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression.
President Biden informed President Zelenskyy that the United States is providing a new $625 million security assistance package to Ukraine as they continue to defend their country from Russia’s invasion.
Together with our allies and partners, the United States has been delivering an unprecedented amount of weapons and equipment that Ukraine’s force — forces are uti- — utilizing very efficiently, including to retake their territory that has been seized illegally by Russia.
This security assistance package is the 22nd utilization of Presidential — Presidential Drawdown Authorities for Ukraine by the Biden administration, and we thank Congress for providing the additional authorities in the continuing resolution to make this possible.
Today’s package includes 4 HIMARS, 32 Howitzers, 200 mine-resistant vehicles, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of artillery and mortar ammunition.
Throughout this year, the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy against Russian aggression. As we are demonstrating again today, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with key capabilities to meet their evolving battlefield requirements.
Also this morning, as you may have seen, Micron announced that it will invest $20 billion this decade and up to $100 billion over the next 20 years in chips manufacturing in Upstate New York.
This announcement is just the latest historic investment in America spurred by President Biden’s economic plan and his commitment to rebuilding American manufacturing.
Micron’s multibillion-dollar investment in American chipmaking will strengthen our nation’s economy and create up to tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. In fact, Micron estimates they will pay an average salary of more than $100,000 per year.
This is the latest in a series of historic business investments across the country, from New York to Ohio, Idaho, Arizona, North Carolina, and more. And they show the value in the President’s work to rebuild our infrastructure and supply chains here at home so that we are creating jobs and bringing down prices over time by making more in America.
Today marks 100 days since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, and President Biden and Vice President Harris are convening the second meeting of the President’s Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access.
This morning, we released a report from Jen Klein, who directs the Office of Gender Policy Council, to the
Vice President and Vice President on the onslaught of radical and dangerous actions from Republican officials since the Dobbs decision. That includes, of course, Senator Graham’s proposed national abortion ban and, in Arizona, a court decision to reinstate an extreme abortion ban that sends Arizona — Arizona women back to 1864.
As a result of these actions, millions of women are facing barriers to critical healthcare. And doctors and nurses are facing criminal penalties, including being thrown in jail, for providing that essential healthcare.
These extreme abortion bans also have consequences that extend beyond abortion, including reports of women being denied prescriptions at pharmacies to treat miscarriage and conditions like arthritis and cancer; and threats to contraception, including for college students as well.
In today’s taskforce meeting, the President and Vice President will hear directly from healthcare providers across the country about the impact that abortion bans are having on their work. And they will also be clear that the only way to fully protect a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to act by codifying Roe into law.
Finally, a note on junk fees. Last week, at the White House Competition Council meeting, President Biden put a spotlight on so-called “junk fees.” He explained that too often companies impose hidden or surprise fees that prevent customers from seeing the full price of what they’re buying and hit the most vulnerable Americans the hardest.
The President highlighted progress that agencies have already made to address these fees, which will lower costs for American families by over $3 billion this year.
And we’re pleased to share that the Biden-Harris administration has now delivered even more results for consumers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a new order requiring Regions Bank to pay nearly $200 million for illegal, surprise overdraft fees, including refunding $141 million to consumers, paying $50 million penalty, and stopping the illegal charges going forward.
With that, Colleen, do you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. Thank you. Has the White House given any more thought to a public health emergency regarding women’s reproductive health, especially as the, sort of, effects of abortion bans extend beyond abortion into miscarriage and other aspects of women’s reproductive health?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t have anything to announce at this time. But as you — as you are aware, we have made this a priority, the President and the Vice President, especially while we’re seeing these extreme laws. We see that the national bans from Republicans — the President and Vice President are doing everything in their power to protect women seeking abortion: their right to travel to states that provide care, their right to medication and contraception, and their right to patient privacy.
Look, we’ve taken a range of actions to ensure access. As you know, we’ve taken some executive actions very early on. And today you’ll hear from the President of [sic] Vice President — and Vice President on what the additional actions that we will be taking.
But we have been very clear — you heard that in my — in the beginning of the briefing and what I just said: We are going to continue to encourage Congress to codify Roe. That is how we believe women’s rights will be protected.
Q One more question. On oil prices: They’re up today on the expectation that OPEC+ is going to cut production by an estimated million barrels a day. Would a production cut endanger global supplies? And how does the President plan to respond?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to be very clear here on that piece, we’re just not going to comment on any OPEC action until OPEC acts, as you all know.
In any event, we will continue to take steps to protect American consumers. Our focus — and it’s been very clear for the past several — several months — has been on taking every step to ensure markets are sufficiently supplied to meet demand for a growing global economy.
And thanks to this President’s efforts, we — and his historic actions that he has taken, energy prices have declined sharply from their highs and American consumers are paying far less at the pump than they were several months ago. And again, it’s because of the historic steps that this President has taken.
Q Thanks, Karine. Is there — given the 100 days out from the Dobbs ruling, is there a concern in this White House, in the administration that this issue is falling in terms of top importance issues that voters are going to be voting on come the midterms, given that we’re now seeing these polls that show that it ranks below the economy and below inflation —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I want to —
Q — as the — his calendar moves forward (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you can — as you can imagine, I want to be very careful on how I talk about polls and how I talk about — I cannot talk about, speak to elections.
What I can speak to is: This was — if you think about Roe v. Wade and if you think about how it was a constitution- — it was a constitutional law for almost 50 years. It protect women for almost 50 years.
And in June, when the Dobbs decision was made by the Supreme Court, it took away nearly 50 years of protections for women. And we have seen women respond. We have seen Americans respond just across — across the country on — on different initiatives, clearly. And they have been — made their — their voices very loud and clear. And so, I expect that we will continue to see that type of reaction, we’ll continue to see not just from women but from Americans speak up.
And what we have encouraged, what the President has continued to encourage is to make sure that we — we, you know, get Congress to act. The way that we protect women, the way that we protect privacy, the way we protect contraception, the way that we protect healthcare for women and for women to make these decisions — they are — these are difficult decisions that women — that women are making, that they should be making for themselves with their — with their healthcare provider. No one else should be making that decision — no Republican official — no Republican official in their state or nationally.
And so, we’re going to continue to make that very clear.
Q And then quickly on North Korea, we’re seeing a record number of launches this year. This is the fifth test in just over the week. What’s the White House assessment on why this seems to be ramping up? And then, in terms of a response, when a similar missile strike happened in 2017, you saw then-President Trump send these supersonic bombs. Could you walk us through the difference in the response approach from this administration to the last, if you’re taking a quieter one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So since this is the first time I’m being asked this question, I want to lay out just a couple of things here. As we noted in our statement last night, we strongly condemn Democratic Re- — People’s Republic of Korea — DPRK’s dangerous and reckless decision to launch a long-range ballistic missile over Japan. The launch was a danger to the Japanese people, destabilizing to the region, and a clear — a clear violation of the United Nations Council’s — Security Council resolutions.
The United States will continue its efforts to limit the DPRK’s ability to advance its prohibited — prohibited ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, including with allies and U.N. partners.
As it relates to our response: Last night, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary Blinken spoke with their Japanese and Republic of Korea counterparts. This morning, President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Kishida of Japan, where he reinforced our ironclad commitment to Japan’s defense. And following this launch, U.S. Marine Corps fighters joined Japan air self-defense fighters in a bilateral exercise over the Sea of Japan to enhance operational readiness and responses to regional threats while defending our nations and to further strengthen regional peace and stability.
Additionally, just to add here, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and Republic of Korea — ROK — personnel conducted a bilateral exercise as well over the West Sea to showcase combined deterrent and dynamic strike capabilities while demonstrating our nation’s bilateral interoperability.
We will continue to coordinate the immediate and longer-term response bilaterally, trilaterally with the Republic of Korea and with the international community. So we have been pretty — talking to our counterparts; having — taking bilateral, trilateral actions over the — over the last 12, 20 hours or so. And so, we’ll continue to do that.
Q Thank you, Karine. And just a quick follow-up on that. Was there sort of any consensus that was reached on how to grapple with these missile launches considering we’ve been seeing them consistently?
And, you know, we understand that the President had this conversation and Jake had this conversation, but is the sense that the White House is just, sort of, resigned to continuing to let these launches take place? Or, you know, are there specific, sort of, points of action that you can share —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just laid out points of actions that we have taken — these bilateral actions. So, certainly we’re taking —
Q — for this — for this launch?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’re taking this very, very seriously, for sure. And we have been — and we have commented — as you know, and you’ve heard us comment on — on any missiles that have been launched over the last several months.
Look, our position though on this is: Diplomacy and dialogue remain the same. That has not changed. And so, this action underscores the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy. We understand that, and that’s what we have been calling for.
Our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We remain prepared to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy to make tangible progress towards that end. And we remain prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions. You’ve heard me say this multiple times from this podium over the last several months.
And it’s unfortunate that the DPRK has not responded to our outreach. But, again, we are committed to our allies. I just laid out what we have done in the past several hours to show that commitment. And that’s — that’s what we’re — how we’re going to continue to move forward.
Q And do you think, you know, this missile launch was sort of a direct response from North Korea to the Vice President visiting the DMZ recently?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to — going to get into the hypotheticals or get into — into the mind of the North Korea leader. I can just lay out our response to this current, most recent missile launch and, again, our commitment to our partners in the region.
Q And just to follow-up on, I think, on both of those to some degree. I understand what the actions that the U.S. and its allies have taken, but do you guys have an assessment — there’s a lot of general theories as to why there’s been kind of a rapid escalation over the course of the last several months. Do you have an assessment as to the why? What are they looking for? What do they want? What is the administration’s view of the goal behind these escalations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into any assessments from here. Clearly, that is — you know, that is something that we are always keeping a close eye on. What I can speak to is our response and our continued efforts to limit the DPRK’s ability to advance its ballistic missile and weapons. And that’s what we’re going to continue to move forward.
Again, I laid out our response. I’m not going to get into analysis or specifics as to the why.
Q Okay. And then on Iran, there’s been a notably different posture from administration this time around with the protests when compared to 2009 and those protests. Obviously, there’s already been sanctions. The President kind of telegraphed more sanctions potentially coming in the days ahead. What is the objective here for the United States? Is it to stop the protests crackdowns? Is it to have Iran change the laws that are being protested right now? Or is it regime change? What’s the end goal here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what our purpose is — and you’ve heard from the President, you’ve heard from me, you’ve heard from the National Security Advisor at this podium and on various networks — is that we stand with all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery, and we will continue to stand with them. That’s how we see our role — our role here.
Women and men in Iran should have the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Women should be able to wear what they want, free from violence or harassment. Iran must end its use of violence against its own citizens simply for exercising their fundamental freedoms, their fundamental rights.
We will continue to take action to hold Iran officials accountable and support the rights of Iranians to protest freely. We have — just last week, we laid out the actions that we were taking: making sure that Iranians had access to Internet as the government was stopping that — that freedom to access their right to global Internet. We took actions there.
And we are — we’ll have more this week. You’ll hear from the United States on what we’ll be imposing — further costs on those pr- — how we’ll be imposing further costs on those perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters. And we’ll continue to hold Iranian officials accountable.
Q But there’s no goal to elevate the protests to create perhaps instability in the regime or anything like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we see our role — are making sure that we show our support and stand with the citizens of Iran at this time. And as you have seen from my — our actions, that we are taking this very seriously, and you’ll hear more this week.
Q I wanted to ask about the status of Brittney Griner’s release. As you know, the Russian court has set a court date for her. But this offer has been on the table for months now. Is there any sort of movement to get her released? And is there any sort of deadline that the administration can propose to get some kind of movement on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me first say that we are aware of Russia’s announcement that Brittney Griner will be forced to undergo another sham judicial proceeding. She should be released immediately. As we have said many times, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan have been wrongfully detained by Russian authorities.
President Biden — who met with, as you all know, their families about two weeks ago right here in the White House — is continuing to direct his administration to engage with Russian government through every available channel and make every effort to bring them home. That is a commitment that he has made.
As I have said many times, it is — you know, it is a — again, a commitment that he has made on their particular negotiations.
But we want Russia — what we will say is that we want Russia to take the offer that we have put on the table — a substantial offer, as you’ve heard us say many times — seriously. And — and if — if not — if they — or they can make a serious counteroffer. But they need to make a serious counteroffer.
But again, you know, the President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as he did just over the weekend to bring home all of the Americans designated as “wrongfully detained” in Venezuela.
So, this is a commitment that he has made to the American people, and this is a commitment that he has made to their families.
Q You were saying, “And if not,” then what? I mean, for her family that’s been waiting for this for months, and Russia hasn’t made any indication that they’re accepting this deal, I mean, what else can the administration do to apply pressure? At what point —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we — I mean, I just laid out that we should take — they should take this serious — this — this offer — this substantial offer that we put on the table seriously or make a serious counteroffer. But we need to see a serious counteroffer on this.
Look, the President has demonstrated many times during his administration how seriously he takes this, how seriously he takes Americans who are wrongfully detained.
We have seen this just over the weekend. We saw this with Trevor — Trevor Reed. We have — we have made sure that we have taken every step possible to make sure that we bring these Americans home. And so, that commitment continues, that commitment stands.
And so, we’re not going to negotiate in public, as you’ve heard us say many times. But we’re going to continue to have those discussions with Russian authorities through the available channels that have been provided to us.
Q And then, a quick question on abortion rights and access. The administration’s position has been that Congress needs to act, but that is just completely unrealistic. I know the President has supported changing the filibuster rules to allow for a vote, but even — you know, there isn’t support in the Democratic Caucus for changing those rules.
Has the President been talking to, kind of, holdouts on the filibuster about this? Has he been talking to Republican senators who have their own proposal on abortion access? At what point, you know, is the administration saying that Congress needs to act but is the administration being realistic about what the dynamics on Capitol Hill are? Even if Democrats were able to gain seats, it still wouldn’t be enough.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right. And he’s also said that the American people need to make sure that their voices are being heard. That is also an important piece of Congress acting. You know, the American people have a say here; they have a say on what happens next on this issue.
And so, the President has been very clear on that. I have to be very careful in how I speak about the next couple of weeks because I can’t speak about elections from here. But he has — he’s made that very clear in every speech that he’s made about this particular issue, about codifying Roe.
And it is, yes, “Congress needs to act,” but also the American public have an important role to play here. They can make their voices heard on this issue by — you know, by making sure that they do what we have been — we’ve been seeing across the country, especially on issues that have been put — on Roe — on the ballot.
And you’ve seen — you’ve seen just, you know, a record amount of — of women come out and say, “No, we are not going to allow this to happen.”
I just want to be very careful of how far I can go here. But, again, this is something that the American people have a say in as well.
Q Hey, Karine. One more from me on North Korea. You’ve laid out a number of the bilateral and trilateral conversations that are happening at all levels of government with our allies in the region. In the past, we’ve seen that China is often a useful interlocutor in terms of dealing with the North Koreans. Is there any outreach at this stage to some of our Chinese counterparts to try to maybe see if there’s a way they can be helpful in the situation?
And do you have an update on whether the President might be meeting in person with President Xi at the G20?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, the President and — has been in — has had multiple conversation with President Xi, and we’ve read out all of those — all of those phone conversation.
We don’t have a meeting to lay out or preview for all of you in the next coming weeks or by the end of this year. When we do, we certainly will share that. I don’t have any other conversations with the Chinese government to share at this time as well.
Q And on the President’s call with President Zelenskyy, there was an announcement along with that of additional security assistance to the Ukrainians. I’m wondering how Ukraine’s success on the battlefield of late is factoring into decisions within the administration about potentially accelerating this delivery of assistance to try to press the advantage now and how that’s being calibrated with the threats we’re hearing from the Russian side about potential nuclear retaliation in this situation. Is that sort of a push and pull that’s factoring into our decision-making (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, we always say “nothing without Ukraine.” Nothing — “no action on Ukraine without Ukraine.” Right? That is something — when it comes to any type of diplomacy or conversation that’s being had, that certainly they have to be in the room for that — for that piece.
And, look, when it comes to a nuclear — a potential nuclear threat, we have been very — very clear about that. We take any nuclear — nuclear weapons or nuclear saber-rattling very seriously here.
But I do want to say — I do want to say that we have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, nor do we have indication that Russia is preparing to imminently use nuclear weapons.
What you’re seeing — the $600 million that we announced today of nuclear assistan- — pardon me, of security assistance, it’s just a continued commitment that we have showed to Ukraine. Because, as you all know, he is fight- — they are fighting — the brave people of Ukraine are fighting for their freedom; they’re fighting for their sovereignty. And so, this is something that we believe — not just the U.S. — our allies and partners around the world see this as an important — an important partnership that we have to make sure that Ukraine is able to do that.
And so, as we have seen their successes on the battlefield, as we have seen them take back even territory that was supposedly annexed just a couple of days ago, they are — you know, they are — we’re seeing them have those gains in taking back their own territory.
And so, we’re going to continue to make sure that we are there for the Ukrainians. That’s why you heard — we did the readout of the President’s call with Zelenskyy saying that we are going to continue to be there and be in partnership with them, and also give them a heads-up of what we’re going to provide and making sure that they continue those successes on the battlefield.
Look, this is important. This is very serious. When we’re talking about a country’s democracy, when you’re talking about a country’s freedom, it is important for us to be there and stand with the Ukrainian people, and that’s what you’re going to continue to see.
Q And one last question from me. You mentioned the President will be meeting with Governor DeSantis tomorrow as part of his trip to Florida. They’ve met in person in the past when he was visiting Surfside as well. Both of those conversations were above politics, focused on the tragedies at hand. But I’m wondering if the President will look for an opportunity behind the scenes, privately tomorrow, to speak with Governor DeSantis about some of his concerns about his actions as it relates to flying migrants to other jurisdictions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, obviously the President laid out his concerns and outrage by the stunt — the political stunt — and by the fact that people were misled. You’ve — you’ve heard me talk about this. You’ve heard the President talk about this and how they were misled and flown across the country with all kinds of promises that were not true.
There will be plenty of times — plenty of time to discuss differences between the President and the governor, and — but now is not the time. As you’ve heard from the President, he has said, you know, when it comes to delivering and making sure that the people of Florida have what they need, especially after Hurricane Ian, we are one — we are working as one.
And so that is what the President is going to be doing when he’s there in Florida. He’s going to be listening to the people who live there, who have lost so much. He’s going to be talking to the
respondents [responders] on the ground who have been — done tremendous work. As you know, the FEMA Administrator will be traveling with him as well.
And — and they’re going to — you know, Governor DeSantis and President Biden, as they have done several times leading up to — leading up to this day, as they’ve been — as Florida has been dealing with this hurricane, they’re going to talk about what — what — how — what else needs — what else are the needs in Florida to get to a place of recovery, to get to a place of rebuilding.
But again, this is going to be, as you’ve said, above politics. You have seen them do this before when Surfside — you — I remember you traveled with us when we went to Surfside, when the President and Governor DeSantis listened to the people of Florida who dealt — in that community — who dealt with so much lost, loved ones. And so that’s what you’re going to see again tomorrow. And also, you saw that yesterday in Puerto Rico.
Q Thanks, Karine. You’ve said the President was responsible for gas prices coming down. Is the President responsible for gas prices going up?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Right, Peter? You know this. There have been global challenges that we have all have dealt with. When I say “all,” meaning other countries as well have dealt with since the pandemic. There’s been pandemic and there’s been Putin’s war. And Putin’s war has increased gas prices at the pump. We have seen that over the la- — past several months.
And what the President was able to do — he took some historic steps, when you think about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and making sure that he — we were able to do everything that we can to bring that cost down for American families, give them a little bit more of a breathing room. And we saw that. We saw that every day this summer over — saving American families over a dollar per gallon.
And so that is what the President is going to continue to stay focused on — are American consumers; how do we continue to keep — to keep prices down.
That’s why we did the Inflation Reduction Act. That’s why we talk about the CHIPS Act. All of these things are going to help Americans here in this country.
Q And there are consumers now in California paying $6.41 a gallon for gas; Nevada, $5.51; Oregon, $5.46. Who can afford that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And we understand that. That’s why the President worked so hard the past several months to make sure that he did everything we can to bring gas prices down. We have seen fastest — I know you’re pulling out a couple of areas across the country, and I get that. And we understand that there’s more work to do. We have never said we were done here. We have always been very clear that there is more work to do.
But we have seen — the reality is we have seen the fastest decline in gasoline prices in over a decade. That’s because of what this President has done. And again, prices going down by more than a dollar per gallon. And these are real savings. You’re talking about $100 per month in savings for an average family with two cars.
Q When the President went to Saudi Arabia, he said, “I’m doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen.” What happened?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let’s — I want to be very clear. And we have said that, you know, his trip to — his trip to the Middle East was not about oil. It was about America’s position in the Middle East and consultation with 12 leaders from across the region on a range of issues, similar to his summits in Asia or the Americas and later this year with African leaders.
The President’s trip was crucial — it was critical to U.S. national security — a more peaceful, integrated region — and for global security. And there were plenty of examples that we laid out to all of you as why this trip was so important.
But aside from that, the President took action, as I just mentioned. He took action these past several months. And every day in this — this summer, you saw prices tick down at the pump. And that’s — but we didn’t just stop there. We did –you saw legislative actions, historic actions that the President took to make sure that we’re continuing to create jobs in America, we’re continuing to lower prices.
So there are multiple actions that this President has taken.
Q Thank you. Can I follow up on Iran? Does the decision by the CIA Director, Mr. Bill Burns, to speak out in support of the demonstrators in Iran was coordinated by the White House? Because as you know, Karine, CIA director do not speak often. So is this a direct message to the Iranian regime that the U.S. will help the demonstrators?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — can you say that first part about the CIA? I didn’t hear that part.
Q So he — Bill Burns gave an interview yesterday —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q — and he talked in support of the Iranian demonstrators. But was this coordinated by the White House? Because for him to speak, that has weight. So, is this a direct message?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But we — but we have been very clear. The President’s voice also has weight, right? The President has spoken about his concerns that he — about the intensity of the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Iran — again, who are demanding, as you know, their equal rights and basic human dignity.
He’s spoken — he spoke out about that during the U.N. — the U.N. — during UNGA Assembly that we saw — the General Assembly that we saw just two weeks ago. He was very clear. You’ve see- — you’ve heard statements from him. You’ve heard statements from his National Security Advisor. You’ve heard statements from me.
So as a — as an administration, as a — holistically, we’ve been very, very clear. And the President has taken actions. We’re making it easier for Iranians to access the Internet, including through facilitating greater access to secure outside platforms and services. And we’re holding Iranian officials accountable.
And so you’ve seen us take actions through the U.S. Treasury and do our part in making sure that we are supporting the Iranian people.
Q But my point to you that I’m trying to articulate is: Because he’s the head of the CIA —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear your question. Sure.
Q But because of that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No —
Q — do you think that the Iranian regime might see that as an interference by the American intelligence, which is — often they said this accusation against the administrations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — I hear your question, but what I’m saying is: We are — we, as an administration, the President directly is speaking out on what we are seeing on the ground. We have concerns. We believe that the Iranian people — women, in particular — have the right to their freedoms, and we’re going to speak out about that. And I think that’s important.
You all are reporting this. You all are seeing yourselves what is happening on the ground. And — and so we’re going to continue — we’re going to continue to impose further costs as — on the perpetrators of these violence. And so we’re going to — we’re going to continue to speak out. And I think that’s the right thing to do. We think that’s the right thing to do.
Q I have two health-related questions. First, on the abortion issue and the Title IX guidance that the Education Department released today, are there current examples of the types of violations that this guidance is trying to stop?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any particular examples for you at this time. I would refer you to the agency to ask for specific — specific examples that they can share with you.
Q Okay. And then, last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll showing that nearly half of adults had heard little to no- — little to nothing about the COVID booster despite, you know, the efforts by the administration and others to launch for this education campaign this fall to get people to get boosters. Do you have a reaction to this? Are you concerned about it? Are you going to be doing anything else in light of this to try to step up those education outreach efforts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — no, it’s an important question to ask. I know Dr. Jha actually spoke to this yesterday, and I want to give a little bit of context. I know people have had questions on the data, specifically on how many people are actually getting this new vaccine.
So just to give you a little bit about — on what we have: We estimated about 10 million Americans got their updated COVID-19 vaccines in the month of September. As Dr. Jha said yesterday, we are off to a strong start with about 10 million Americans with their updated vaccine. It means that in the first three weeks of our fall vaccination program, hundreds of thousands of Americans got their updated COVID-19 vaccine each day.
And so even with the limited funding, as we have spoken to many times, we’re absolutely doing more to make sure we’re redoubling our efforts on protecting those at high risk, especially elder — elderly Americans, including through a new paid media campaign and targeted engagement efforts.
And within the group, there’s been good progress. Almost half of updated vaccines administered so far have gone to those age 65 and older. And in October, we’re going to be building on that as well.
Next week, we are hoping to have Dr. Jha and also Dr. Fauci here in the briefing room to take — to take your questions, clearly, on this new va- — on this new vaccination program and how we’re making sure that Americans are aware and they know the importance of getting this new vaccine.
So you’re going to hear directly from the doctors next week and — just laying out how critical and how important it is to make sure that they’re getting that vaccine — that — vaccinated.
Okay. Welcome to the briefing room.
Q Thank you so much, Karine. It’s great to be here. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you sure? (Laughter.)
Q I’ll try to — try to make this as painless as possible.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Take — take your time. We have a lot of time. Take your time. No pressure. No pressure.
Q The administration and the White House is marking the 100 days since the Dobbs Act here. As you’re doing that, over at the Supreme Court, there are a number of other rights that are going to be on the table this term. I’m thinking about voting rights. I’m thinking about potential affirmative action, the Clean Water Act.
And, you know, this administration received some criticism for its — for how proactive or how reactionary it was to the Dobbs Act. And I’m wondering — decision. And I’m wondering if some of those other rights, if the White House is taking proactive action to potentially get prepared for seeing the Voting Rights Act scaled back or seeing the end of affirmative action in universities.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I just want to get back to your — what you were saying about — alluding to on abortion and the criticism that we’ve received there on the Dobbs decision.
I want to be very clear, because I think it’s important to note and I’ve noted it a couple of times — is, you know, when the leak of the document happened, we did take action. We did take action in those weeks leading up to the actual decision, and that was meeting with groups, that was meeting internally, trying to figure out the best way that we were going to take — that we were going to respond if indeed the leaked document at the time, during that moment, was true.
And so I want to be very clear and continue to correct the record here, is that the President has always taken this very seriously when it comes to Roe. He’s always taken women’s rights and women’s ability to make a decision on their own healthcare. And also, he was very clear that — what this could lead to, right? This could lead to not just Roe — the Dobbs decision — but it could also lead to marriage equality, contraception. He was ve- — he was one of the first voices that sounded the alarm on what this could potentially — down the path, the dangerous path that the Dobbs decision could take us to.
And we’re seeing that. We’re seeing efforts of that currently from, you know, Republican officials and Republican voices nationally. And they’ve been very, very clear.
So, as it relates to this question of the courts, yes, you know, the protections that we have held so dear and near are once again on the line in this term. And we are very clear about that and we understand what is potentially at stake here.
We will continue to do everything within our power to defend fundamental rights from special interests that are bent on destroying them. That doesn’t stop us. We’re going to continue to speak out on that.
And — and this is — when it comes to people’s fundamental rights, fundamental freedoms, this is something that the President and the Vice President is going to fight for.
Q And then just to follow up, earlier you talked about how the President knows that the American people will have their say in these matters in a matter of about five weeks. I know you can’t talk about politics from there, but how much can we expect the President to take that message on the road to the various places in the country where there are key elections and they will have a voice and that voice will impact the President’s term in terms of his legislative agenda?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I can’t get into the next five weeks and what — where he’s going to be and any of the politics.
What I can say very clearly is that, you know, back in August, we put out a memo laying out what this administration was going to be doing in order to speak to how we’re delivering for the American people. We talked about the Inflation Reduction Act and what that’s going to mean for millions of Americans across the country when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to Medicare, when it comes to energy costs, when it comes to putting one of the most important investment in fighting climate change. We’re going to talk about that.
We’re going to talk about the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. We’re going to talk about the CHIPS Act. I just gave an announcement on what Micron is doing, the investment that they are bringing into this country and making sure that we’re having a — strengthening our supply chain; chipmaking, which is going to be so important in lowering costs.
And so, it’s not just the President. It’s going to be the Cabinet Secretaries. It’s going to be — it’s going to be the Vice President. And it’s going to be congressional members within their districts or senators in their states.
And so, we laid out that plan on what you are going to see from us. Any specifics on any, you know, 2022-specific strategy, I cannot speak from — to that from here.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thank you. The governor of Puerto Rico yesterday made a very specific ask to extend the 100 percent disaster funding for 180 days. Is the President considering that? Has he made a decision? Where does that stand, that request?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that — that request, I would have to check with the team. Don’t have anything specifically on the request that the governor made. I did remember — I remember hearing that.
But, you know, one of the things that we want to make sure that came out — I mean, what you all saw from that — from the President and the First Lady’s visit is that you saw a President that was committed to making sure that the — that the people in Puerto Rico are not forgotten, that our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico got the need and the help — the need — the help that they needed to rebuild and to — and to make sure that they were not forgotten. And so that’s the takeaway that I would — that I would provide to you.
The President made a commitment. He made a promise that we will get them back on their feet and we will be there for the long term. And that’s why he made the announcement, if you all remember, on the Puerto Rico grid modernization team, which is going to — which is going to be coming out of the Department of Energy, which is going to support Puerto Rico in rebuilding its electricity grid so that it is more resilient and secure.
The Secretary will closely — will work closely with the governor to help address challenges and rebuild the necessary infrastructure, allowing the island to better withstand increasingly stronger storms and natural disaster. The team will work with other agencies — including FEMA, HUD, and Commerce — to coordinate resources from across the federal government and ensure funding is used in an expeditious and strategic manner to best serve the grid and the people of Puerto Rico. And that is going to be our commitment to — to the people of the island.
Q Just one quick thing. The President, yesterday, in Puerto Rico, in addition to getting the briefing, did give public remarks with the governor and others near him. Is he going to be giving, like, a public speech in Florida as well? And will Governor DeSantis be with him for that or just for the briefing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we know that the governor has a busy schedule as he is dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic storm — as we all saw for ourselves and many of you have been reporting on it — so I can’t speak specifically to where he’s going to be at every step of the day. We will have more to share on what the President and the First Lady are going to be doing tomorrow.
Q Thank you. Do you have anything on the — the Russians say that they detained — or actually imprisoned somebody called Robert Gilman, who apparently attacked a police officer over there. He’s been sentenced to four-plus years in prison in Russia. Is this on your radar? Is this seen as another problematic case or just a regular —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I would have to check with the team. I don’t have anything at this time to share on that particular individual.
Q Okay. And a very quick one. Did the President tell Al Sharpton he’s running? (Inaudible) clearly.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You love asking me — Sebastian, you love asking me about 2024.
Q Well, no, I asked you, “Did he tell.” Did he say it? Did he say, “Hey, Al, I’m running”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here’s what I will say —
Q I just want a clear answer. Only Al Sharpton has got it —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know you want a clear answer. I know. But he’s — (laughter) —
Q — apparently.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: If Al Sharpton says it, it’s — you know, look, I — oh, it’s so funny. You always ask me about 2024.
So, here’s what I can say — and the President has said this himself: He intends to run in 2024. As you know, I cannot weigh in on elections; I cannot speak to elections from here. We do — we do truly follow and try to follow the Hatch Act here. But I will just reiterate what the President has said many times, what I have said many times — is that the President intends to run.
Q Karine, thank you. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve — the run out — run off or release of 1 million barrels a day ends at the end of this month. Is there any conversations about releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum? And how is the President going to keep the supply up?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’re not considering new releases — releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve beyond the 180 million, which is what you’re talk — speaking about — the 1 million that the President announced months ago. We don’t have anything more to share or we’re not going to be considering new releases at this time.
Q Does the President except — expect gas prices to rise then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we — we have been very, very clear that we’re going to continue to do everything that we can to give Americans a little bit of breathing room. The decline that you’ve seen the last several months is historic in many ways, because it is the fastest decline in gas prices that we have seen in over a decade.
The President is going to continue to do that work, but it’s not just, you know, gas prices. We’ve talked about the Inflation Reduction Act and how he’s working to make sure we lower costs for Americans, whether healthcare or energy. We talk — I just laid out the CHIPS Act and how important that’s going to be in lowering costs and also creating jobs right here in America.
And so, we’re going to continue to do that work, but, right now, I don’t have — we’re not considering to be doing anything more with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Q Thank you, Karine. Is the administration worried that Elon Musk is spreading Russian propaganda?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you be more specific?
Q Well, this weekend, he put out this, quote, “peace plan” that includes giving Russia Crimea and, like, redoing some of these elections but with the U.N. watching. So, I’m wondering if there’s a concern there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’ve been very clear about this. And I just said this earlier in the briefing: Anything about Ukraine — we are not going to talk about Ukraine without Ukraine. It is their decision to make when it comes to any diplomacy or negotiations in that regard. And so, I leave that to the Ukrainian people.
But look, you know, we’re going to make sure that we’re going to be there for the Ukrainians as they fight for their own — for their sovereignty. And their — that decision about their sovereignty, about their freedom, about their democracy will be made with them.
Q And in — a sort of slightly different question — but are there concerns about Elon Musk acquiring Twitter?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Any concerns about — I have not —
Q Elon Musk acquiring Twitter.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not — has there been something new on that?
Q Yes, just today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m — we have been very clear on not commenting, and — on any specifics, potential transaction from here, so I’ll leave it on — I’ll leave it to them.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. The administration has said Americans will be able to apply for student loan forgiveness beginning early this month. Is the process being held up at all because of the lawsuits that have been brought?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything more on that. I think you’ll hear more from us, from the Department of Education on that piece of that implementation process. I think I’ve laid it out a couple of times here. They’ve made — they sent out some emails — emails last week.
But as it relates to the legal pieces, the lawsuits that you’re seeing across the country, it’s a shame. It’s a shame that you have Republicans out there — Republican groups, Republican states — that are trying to stop Americans from getting a little bit of a breathing room, a little bit of a break.
We’re talking about 40 million Americans that could benefit from getting student loan relief. And it is — it is shameful that they are siding with the special interests. It’s shameful that they’re not siding with the American people on this.
And let’s not forget: 90 percent of borrowers who are going to be receiving that relief will be making under $75,000.
This is a commitment that the President has made. He made it during his campaign. And this is one of the — one of the ways that the President is going to continue to work for the American people, trying to find ways to give them a little bit of a break.
And let’s not forget: The pause is going to — is going to lift in December, so people are going to be paying back their loans. And while we’re going through that process, he wanted to make sure that folks who are — who — you know, who were really affected by — especially by the pandemic, also got — that we didn’t forget them and give them a little bit of a break as well.
Q Thank you. A couple quick ones. Last week, I asked about Navy Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis. I didn’t know if you had an update on his case.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I do not have an update for you on that. I apologize. You did ask me about that.
Q And then I wanted to ask — the President recently praised a group of Coast Guard rescue swimmers. One of them reportedly faces termination because he isn’t vaccinated. I’m curious, given the threats that we’re facing abroad, would the President ever reconsider that vaccination requirement or consider issuing more exemptions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you — as — as you can imagine, the President has the most — the deepest respect for the U.S. Coast Guard. That is something that you would hear from him directly. And the country — the President and the country are grateful for all of the U.S. Coast Guard heroes that have led the effort to save lives in Florida. We have seen that with our very own eyes these past couple of days.
I would refer you specifically to the U.S. Coast Guard on this — on this issue, on this individual questions. It’s not something that I would comment from here.
But, you know, there, of course, have been multiple vaccination requirements, as you know, in place for quite some time. And — but, again, I’m not going to comment here — from here on an individual case.
Q Okay. Then, a third one. Last week, the President brought up the Italian election, unprompted, in some remarks. And he seemed to say that the election of the Italian prime minister — or, I should say, the incoming Italian prime minister was part of this larger, greater global struggle between democracies and autocracies.
Was the President suggesting that the election of that prime minister was somehow part of that larger threat to democracy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as we have said, and I have said this before, we respect the democratic choice of the Italian people. We have said that, and it’s something that we will continue to say.
And we stand — the United States stands ready and eager to work with the new government that emerges from the electoral process and to continue to work together as allies to advance our many shared goals and interest — mutual interests, as you know.
But I don’t have anything further on — on his comments.
You know, I will say, you know, he — you know, the President views — just in general, more broadly — the rise of the far right as — as well known, and that is — that is something he’s been very clear about. But I wou- — I wouldn’t have anything to add on what he said.
Q Thank you, Karine.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I was calling —
Q Thank you. One more on Ukraine. Today, India’s Prime Minister Modi called — had a call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, during which he said about this “no military solution” to this problem. And they talked about peace and diplomacy.
I just wanted you to check with you: Is there any coordination between India and the U.S. on the Ukraine and Russian crisis? Has President spoken to Prime Minister Modi on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any, like — anything to read out on any recent conversation with Prime Minister Modi. But I — you know, he — his public comments directly to Putin are very clear: Now is not the time for war. And it’s not the time — he was even more specific than that. He said “his” war, Putin’s war, he was — he was — he was alluding to.
Look, Putin is facing further isolation from international communities. As countries make clear, Putin’s decision doesn’t have a lot of sympathy ears. He doesn’t have a lot of sympathetic ears here on his decision to have this war and his decision to — to — to start this brutal war against Ukraine, a brutal — a war against their democracy. And — and so, not many people have a sympathetic ear to President Putin.
We are as- — we are asking that countries around the world — and we’ve been very clear about that — continue to speak out publicly and continue to engage diplomatically on this as well. And so I think that’s what you’re seeing from the prime minister.
Q One more on — last year, President quietly celebrated Diwali at the White House — Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights for the Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs.
You know President has appointed large number of Indian Americans in the administration — 113-plus and counting. A lot of them vote for him, support him.
Does the President has any plans to celebrate Diwali with the Indian Americans community leaders at the White House this year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, he has plans to celebrate Diwali, just like he did last year. We don’t have a date to share with you at this time. But it is an event that he thinks it’s very important, as he sees a partnership with Indian — with India, as well as Indian Americans here in this country.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And then we’ll —
Q Thank you. On abortion, it’s been 100 days since Dobbs; it’s been more since the draft leak — leaked. Isn’t it fair to say that if the administration saw any significant benefit in an emergency declaration, that it would have happened already?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the administration has taken bold actions for the past several months since the Dobbs decision back in June. And they have made a priority to make sure that we protect women’s health the best way that we can from the federal government. They’ve made that commitment.
You’ve heard from Jen Klein many times here at the podium. She’s been at the podium twice — the
General [Gender] Policy Council director — on the — on the actions that we have taken and how we’re going to continue to make sure that we keep that front of mind, making sure that we do not — we do not forget the women who are putting — you know, whose lives are now at risk because of the Dobbs decision.
So, look, at the same time, the President has been clear that the only way to — to really protect women’s health is to codify Roe. And so, that is something that you’re going to hear from this President today, you’re going to hear from the Vice President as well.
And the Vice President has led on this effort. She has met with, you know, I would probably argue, hundreds of local officials and has spoken to this across the country and made the voice of the administration very clear on this.
So, look, you know, we — we’ve been very clear: It’s limited on what we can do at the federal level. The President has been clear on this.
But we — the way that we get to a solution here, that we make sure that these difficult decisions that women have to make — the potential of contraception being at the — on the chopping block and privacy and — being at risk, and marriage equality being also at risk, as we are seeing from Republican officials and what they’re saying and what they’re alluding to that they will do next. We have SCOTUS that’s back, as somebody was asking me — the actions that they can particularly take — potentially take. We believe in protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of Americans. And we’re going to do everything that we can to make that happen.
Q And real quick on gas prices. You alluded to some of the steps that were taken to drive gas prices down. Now that they’re going back up, is the White House confident that it has the policy tools remaining to drive those prices back down? Or are all the good options essentially exhausted at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, again, we’re going to do everything that we can here in the administration to lower costs for Americans. That is going to continue to be a number one priority, especially as we look at the President’s economic plan.
We’re continuing to release oil from Strategic Petroleum Reserve through November. That has not stopped; that continues.
As the President, as we know, announced that pa- — this past — past spring, we’re continuing to engage directly with industry to ensure that the private sector is also doing everything it can to build resilience ahead of the coming season. We know winter — winter is here.
And on Friday, the President team met with energy companies and emphasized that energy companies with record high profits, record high exports, and record low invent- — inventories must step up and bring down the prices at the pump.
He’s been very clear. You heard him say that last week. The President and his senior team are directly engaged on these issues. And again, it will be — it will continue to be — lowering prices for Americans — a ty- — a top economic priority for this administration.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks, everybody.
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