Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, October 17, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:28 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. So, we have big news today, and — that is going to benefit as many as 30 million Americans. Starting today, hearing aids will cost thousands of dollars less than before.
President Biden’s executive order on competition called on the FDA to make hearing aids over the counter without a prescription; that is now a reality. This week, retailers across the country, including Walgreens, CVS, Best Buy, Walmart, Hy- — and Hy-Vee will start selling over-the-counter hearing aids in store and online. And adults with mild to moderate hearing loss can buy these hearing aids without a prescription, exam, or even fitting, which will lower the average cost by as much as $3,000. That’s thousands of dollars going back into the pockets of Americans and providing a little more breathing room in their family budgets as well.
Finally, President Biden looks forward to welcoming President Herzog of Israel to the White House on October 26, a visit that underscores the enduring partnership and friendship between the United States and Israel. They will consult on key issues, including regional and global challenges of mutual concern, opportunities to deepen Israel’s regional integration, and ways to advance equal measures of freedom,
prosterity [prosperity], and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
President Herzog will be in Washington October 25th and 26th for meetings with a range of interagency officials.
With that, Darlene, you want to kick us off?
Q Yes, thank you. I wanted to start by asking: Is the President aware of the comments that Donald Trump made yesterday about American Jews — basically saying that they’re “ungrateful” and they better “get their act together…appreciate what they have…before it’s too late”? Given that the White House weighed in pretty forcefully last week to the racist comments by the Los Angeles city councilmembers, would the White House denounce these antisemitic comments by the former President as well?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Donald Trump’s comments were antisemitic, as you all know, and insulting both to Jews and to our Israeli allies. But let’s be clear: For years — for years now, Donald Trump has aligned with extremist and antisemitic figures. And it should be — it should be called out, to your point, Darlene, just like we called out our Democratic friends and colleagues last week. And we will condemn and call this out as well.
So we need to root out antisemitism everywhere. It rears its ugly head. We need to call this out.
With respect to Israel, our relationship is ironclad and it’s rooted in shared values and interests. Donald Trump clearly doesn’t understand that either.
Q Just to follow up on that, it was announced earlier today that the rapper formerly known as Kanye West wants to buy the social — the conservative social media platform Parler. And this comes after he was kicked off of Twitter and Instagram last week for his own set of antisemitic comments. Is the White House or the President concerned that should this sale go ahead and that Ye be allowed to buy this platform, that it would it give him another venue for antisemitic comments, hateful comments with no — you know, no gatekeeper, no one to say that’s wrong or anything like that?
So, as you know, when it comes to these types of purchases or agreements, I can’t speak to that. So that’s not something — the actual agreement, you know, or inter- — interaction, I can’t speak to that.
But what I can speak to is hateful rhetoric. What I can speak to is insulting rhetoric. What I ca- — what I can’t speak — can speak to is antisemitism, which is hateful, it is dangerous. And we are going to continue to condemn that type of language, because at the end of the day, it is disgusting and it is — there is no room — absolutely no room, no place in our political discourse to be having that type of, really, vile conversation or comments being made.
Q Thanks, Karine. President Biden hasn’t attended any rallies or events in public in support of candidates in recent weeks. With the midterms just three weeks away, will we begin to see him do that more? What was — what will his schedule look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, can you — wait, can you say your first part?
Q He hasn’t attended any rallies or public-facing events with candidates in recent weeks. What will his schedule look like in the coming weeks as the midterms get closer?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I have to be careful because I can’t — we do — we do respect the Hatch Act and — and our strict limits from here. So, I want to be very, very clar- — careful.
But I would point you to this — the President’s most recent trip to — out West. So it’s kind of a bizarre question to ask because he was very visible last — this weekend and last week. He was out there. And again, I cannot speak to specific, you know, elections or campaigns or actions that he’s — he’s taken. But all I will do is point you to his West Coast trip most recently.
As far as upcoming trips, we’ve announced that he’s going to go to Pennsylvania. We’ve announced that he’s going to go to Florida. He was just in Colorado, Oregon, and California. And don’t — don’t have more beyond the next two trips that I have just laid out.
And he’s going to be out there with congressional Democrats and elected Democrats, and continue to talk about how congressional Democrats and the President has delivered for the American people when it comes to lowering cost, when it comes to making sure that we’re creating jobs right here in America, when it comes to what we just announced today with hearing aids.
So, he is — he is proud of the work that we have done here. And he’s going to continue to talk and make sure to talk about it in states, and make sure that the American people hear directly from him.
Q Karine, a lot of the places that you mentioned were private fundraisers or official events. Will we be seeing him appear alongside candidates in public? Is that intentional to not have him do stumping with these candidates and supporting his party?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m going to be very careful about what I say about ongoing elections. I am restricted here. But I will point you to Portland, Oregon; I will point you to LA, California, where he was out there with — with his — with fellow Democrats talking about how we have delivered in the past 19, 20 months.
Q But will we see him in public with the candidate — the trips — upcoming trips that you’ve mentioned with John Fetterman, Charlie Christ when he’s in Florida? Will cameras be allowed into his events? Will we see him alongside these candidates?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to go into the details of what these events are going to look like. But we were very clear when we announced Pennsylvania this week that he is going to be with Lieutenant Governor Fetterman.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the White House have a reaction to Russia’s latest drone strikes against Kyiv?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so we have talked about Russia’s escalation and have been very clear about what — what is — what is going to continue to happen. The most recent escalation — the United States strongly condemns Russia’s missile strikes today, which continue to demonstrate Putin’s brutality.
As you know, President Biden and the G7 leaders met with President Zelenskyy last week, and President Biden also spoke with President Zelenskyy, one on one, the day before that G7 conversation.
We are in daily touch with the Ukrainians across the administration, from the National Security Advisor to the Department of Defense and the Department of State.
On Friday, we announced an additional $725 million in security package for Ukraine to provide critical needs for its def- — it — for it to defend itself — continue to defend itself and bravely.
And last week, Secretary of Defense Au- — Secretary of Defense Austin brought together 50 defense ministers to announce more security support for Ukraine, including air defense capabilities.
We will continue — we will — as we have said over the past several months, to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes. We are going to — we’re going to continue to work with our allies and partners. We will continue to impose costs on Russia, hold them accountable, and — for its war crimes, as we’ve talked about — you’ve heard directly from the President on the war crimes piece — and its atrocities, and providing Ukraine with security, economic, and humanitarian assistance.
Q The President said on Saturday that he thought Prime Minister Truss’s initial economic plan was a “mistake.” Her new finance minister has announced a pretty complete U-turn on those plans. Does the White House welcome that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, like the President said — you were there — you — you may have asked him the question. I’m not a hundred per- — (laughs) —
Q I may have. Yes. (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, like the President said this past Saturday — the question that Jeff may or may not have asked — it is up to the UK to make these judgments. It is really up to them to decide what is right for their — you know, for their own constituents — right? — for their country.
The UK is a close ally, as you’ve heard us say many times. And we work with them on a range of issues, including strengthening the global economy. Our focus is on the long term, as we have said many times, which is growth and investment and increased manufacturing, as you’ve seen the work that we have done here in Congress and the President with the CHIPS Act, making sure that we are making — making things right here in America. And not only that — we have created about 700,000 manufacturing jobs right here in America in the past 19, 20 months.
So — and also the fiscal discipline that is leading to — to more jobs, as I just laid out, and rising incomes and rais- — rising incomes, as we have focused on, and — will make our economy stronger and more resilient as we have seen because of the work — because of the work that this President has done when it comes to his economic plan.
Q On the — back to the drone attacks, does the — does this administration believe that we are entering a new phase of the war in Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to go into any analysis about where are in this war. We have been very clear about how we saw — how we’ve been seeing Russia’s — Russia’s escalation over the past several weeks. And so, we — you know, what we will do is to continue to support the people of Ukraine. What we will do is to make sure that they have what they need to continue their brave — the way that they are fighting bravely on the ground.
We just announced, as I just mentioned, $725 million of new assistance just this past Friday. We are in regular touch with Ukrainians — the — in the administration, the government. As we — as I mentioned, National Security Advisor and others in the administration are continuing to talk — have close conversations about their needs. And so that’s going to continue.
We will be in this for as long as it takes. And we’ve been very clear about this as well. This war can end today. This is a war that can end right now, today, if — if Vladimir Putin wants it to. This is his war. He started this war.
Q Just two quick political questions. As the President prepares to appear with John Fetterman later this week in Pennsylvania, there’s obviously, as you know, been a lively debate over Fetterman’s health following his stroke. Do you know if the President believes there is any sort of reason for concern on that point specifically?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, because it’s connected to the — to his election, I want to be really careful of the Hatch Act. It’s something that we do respect and adhere to here.
But speaking only about the President’s personal conversation with Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, the President has found him to be an impressive individual and — who is just as capable as al- — who has been — who’s just as capable as always, and who is — who is carrying out his office. He’s currently the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, as we know, and he’s doing that with great ability and heartfelt concern for the people of the Commonwealth.
So, yes, the President feels that he is — he is very much capable of doing the job.
Q Sorry, you said that was based on a recent conversation that the two of them had?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, they’ve had — they’ve met many times, as you know. Most recently, I believe, on Labor Day — may have been the last time they’ve seen each other in person. And they’re going to see each other again, as you know, this Thursday.
But the President and Lieutenant Governor Fetterman have had many interactions over the past several months.
Q And then, just my second political question: At the end of last week, the President said that his reaction to the Herschel Walker controversy in Georgia was “negative.” I wondered if you wanted to elaborate on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m going to just let the President’s word stand. I’m not going to elaborate on that from here.
Q Hey, Karine. Thanks. I have a question about hearing aids, but, first, I wanted to take a stab at the question from earlier.
The President has called this the most significant election — or one of the most significant elections with abortion rights, voting rights being on the ballot — a lot of the gains you’ve touted from the — from the podium.
And, you know, he’s spending this weekend at his vacation home in — in Rehoboth, according to the schedule you guys released.
I wonder if you can talk about the calculus there, 16 days before the election, especially during a year when you guys have said Biden would be getting out into the country more, touting the gains that you guys have made.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, last week, we spent four days of — in the country, right? We left on Wednesday, came back Saturday night — to be more specific, 2:00 a.m. on Sunday. Some of us walked into our house at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday.
And the week before that, he spent four days out into the country. Some of that was, yes, for the hurricane in Puerto Rico and going to see the recovery there. Another day was in Florida to talk to the American people, who were — Floridians who were in — who were most affected by the hurricane there.
So, he’s been around. He just went to Colorado. He just went to California. He just went to Portland. We’re going to go to Pennsylvania. We’re going to go to Florida. And we’ll have more to share.
The President takes this very seriously. Again, I want to be very careful. There is the Hatch Act. I am restricted on what I can say from the podium and from here. But the President takes what he has done in this time during his presidency, his tenure — just about 20-months tenure — very seriously and wants to talk about what he has done, what Demo- — congressional Democrats have done to deliver for the American people. You mentioned the hearing aids, as I just talked about just moments ago.
So, yes, there is a lot at stake when you think about the national ban on abortion that Republicans — extreme Republicans want to do, taking away the rights of women, taking away a decision that is very difficult for women to make; when you think about what Republicans want to do with repealing the Inflation Reduction Act, which is going to lower costs or take away costs of what we were talking about, with lowering costs on healthcare, with lowering costs from — because of Medicare, being able to negotiate when it comes to fighting special interests. They want to take that away.
So, the President is going to continue to talk about that. Again, we were just out west for four days. And so, we’re going to continue to go out there. And the President is going to continue to talk directly to the American people.
Q I have just one more about the hearing — I did have one. It wasn’t just a segue. But —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Do you have a sense of when the cost savings will begin to accrue? Obviously, that’s not instantaneously. But you talked about prices lowering. Is there a sense of, like, when that happens and over what timeframe?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have a timeline for you right now. I’m — certainly, I can talk to our team to get a specific timeline.
But what is important about this is that the President took action. He did an executive order asking FDA to find ways to lower costs for 30 million Americans who do — who do benefit from hearing aids. That’s 30 million Americans. That’s going to save them thousands of dollars.
And so, this is an action — a deliberate action that the President took. And now we are going to see the benefits of that. As — I can get back to you on exactly how quickly that will occur.
But again, this is a huge deal — a big deal. When we talk about giving Americans a little breathing room, when we talk about taking inflation very seriously as one of our number-one economic priorities, this is — this is an example.
Q Thanks, Karine. The Inflation Reduction Act allocates about $80 billion to the IRS, but the IRS is not going to have a commissioner as of next month when Commissioner Rettig — when his term expires. Can you talk about what’s behind the delay for re-nominating — for nominating a replacement? And is that going to slow down the overhaul of the agency?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s not going to slow down the overhaul of the agency. We take this very seriously. I don’t have anything to preview for you at this time on a — any personnel announcement. When we do, we’ll be happy to share that.
Q Following up on the western swing last week, the President visited Colorado, California, Oregon. At one point, a couple of representatives from Nevada joined him in California. Why didn’t the President visit Nevada or Arizona on that trip? And does he have any plans to visit those two states in the next three weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I just want to be careful. I know you didn’t ask it in the frame of the midterms. I know that; I’m just being very careful here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I’m just being very careful. Hatch Act. We respect that here.
Look, you know, the President is going to get out there, as we have said multiple times, to make sure that he’s talking directly to the American people about how we are delivering — delivering on our promises, delivering on how we’re really taking inflation seriously, delivering on making sure that we’re creating those jobs that the American people really need at this time.
And so, he’s been on the road nonstop, and he will continue to be on the road nonstop. And, you know, where he is needed, he will go. And if we have more to add to his travel, we sur- — we certainly will.
As you know, he’s going to Pennsylvania on Thursday. And November 1st, he’s going to be going to Florida.
Q But why not Nevada and Arizona during the western swing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just said: If we have more to share, we certainly will. I don’t have anything else to add to what I just laid out.
Q Okay. And tomorrow, he’s expected to speak about abortion rights at an event in Washington, D.C. Why now is he speaking about that particular issue? What is the goal of that event tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll give you a little bit of preview. But I would — I would happily argue that the President has talked about that particular issue — Roe and protecting women’s rights, protecting the — the right for women to decide what — to make a really important decision, difficult decision on her body and her healthcare — from the beginning and even before the Dobbs decision was made.
But I’ll say this — again, I want to be careful. I can’t speak from here on tomorrow’s event beyond what we put out — put into guidance. But broadly speaking, I’m happy to take the chance to talk about this and what the President will be leaning into.
So, again, the assault on women’s access to reproductive healthcare by Republican officials is an assault. And the President is going to speak about that, as he has been for the past several months.
He just talked about — when he was out west, he talked about the national bans that we’re seeing from extreme Republicans, whether it be Lindsey Graham’s proposed national ban — abortion ban, or the effort in Arizona to enforce a law on the books from 1864, before women even had the right to vote.
And you’ve heard me talk about this before right here at the podium. Republican officials are dead set on moving America backwards and stripping women of their rights. That is what we have been seeing since the Dobbs decision in June. And their obsession with regulating women’s bodies is not just disturbing, it’s also very dangerous.
So, reporting from USA Today — your own publication — late last week indicated Walgreens and CVS can deny women medication now, even for unrelated medical conditions like arthritis.
And this isn’t happening in a vacuum. This is happening very clearly, very abruptly. It’s the product of overreach by Republican officials to regulate, again, women and their own healthcare, their own private decisions that they should be making on their own.
It’s backwards, again; it’s dangerous; and it’s severe — in stark contrast to the President and the commitment that he has to leave these decisions between a woman and her doctor. And that’s what you’re going to hear from him tomorrow.
Q Thank you so much. Pakistan, on Saturday, summoned the U.S. ambassador for an explanation after the President described Pakistan as the “most dangerous” world — place in the world. Does the White House have a reaction to that?
And also, if Pakistan is the “most dangerous” place, then why provide an assistance for the F-16?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I already spoke to this just the other day. I don’t have much to add. I spoke to this on Friday while we were headed to — to Portland. The President — this is something the President has said before, and I just am not going to add more to what I just laid out just a couple of days ago.
Q Karine, good to see you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good to see you. Oh, welcome back. It’s been a while. You’ve been out on the road doing things. (Laughs.)
Questions of foreign and domestic politics. First, the President’s comments on the British Prime Minister are intriguing in part because he doesn’t often comment on the specifics of another world leader’s policies. Is there any regret from him about saying that this proposed tax cuts are a “mistake”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q And when he referred to — who else was he referring to when he said he “wasn’t the only one” who thought Truss’s policies were a “mistake”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — any other countries or names to — to lay out or a name for you at this time.
Q Okay. I was just curious if he was talking to world leaders, if there was somebody in his own team who said, “These are a mistake.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have anything else to add to that.
Q On the political questions you’ve gotten — and I –you’re doing a great job of keeping the lawyers back there happy by not talking about the Hatch Act.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. (Laughter.) Yes. It’s important.
Q But let’s see where he’s been in the last month.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q He’s giving a speech tomorrow in D.C. He’s given fundraisers in New Jersey and New York. He campaigned with Democratic governor candidates in Massachusetts and Maryland. And then he was in California, Oregon, and Colorado next [sic] week.
Yes, he has plans to be in Pennsylvania and Florida, but behind closed doors, with two of the Democratic candidates.
There’s a White House Office of Political Affairs. Have they been getting phone calls from candidates in some of those other states — Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan — to say, “We’d love to have the President come”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I don’t have any calls to read out. We don’t have any calls or personal conversations to read out.
Look, the way we see it — and the — and the President has been traveling nonstop. You did a great job laying out the places that he’s been to. And he’s going to continue to be on the road nonstop. That is not going to — that is not going to stop. As you — as you noted, we announced that we’re going to Pennsylvania and Florida.
Look, he’s going to go where he is needed the most. And at this time, we’re not — we don’t have just any additional — we just don’t have any additional travel to lay out for you.
Again, I’m trying to be very careful here on what I can say. I am restricted at the podium because of the Hatch Act.
But again, he has been traveling nonstop. You just laid out where he has gone and where he’s going to be in the next couple of days. And the President is looking forward to it. He is looking forward to being out there. You all saw him just the past couple of days, talking directly to the American people, having conversations, laying out his thoughts. And you’ll continue to see that.
Q One other on China. Does he have any comment on President Xi’s speech to the Party Congress on Sunday and his anticipated third term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t want to comment from here on any internal political process of other countries. I want to be really careful; I’m not going to comment from here. So I’m just going to leave it there.
Q Thank you, Karine. Following up on something you said earlier: If President Biden’s top domestic priority is inflation, why doesn’t he have more to show for it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President understands — and we’ve talked about this many times — that inflation is an issue. High — high cost — cost is an issue for the American people. And so, he’s been very clear about making that his number-one economic priority.
And he has done the work. And he’s done the work with congressional Democrats, when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, which is going to lower the cost for our seniors — millions and millions of seniors across the country — when you think about that $2,000 cap on their own Medicare prescription; when you think about the thousands of dollars that our seniors pay a month. Now, that’s going to be $2,000 a year.
That is the work that congressional Democrats and Republi- — and congressional Democrats and the President has done. Republicans did not vote for that at all.
And what Republicans want to do is that they want to repeal that very historic piece of legislation that is also going to lower energy costs, that is also going to help fight climate change. They want to get rid of it.
So, there is a contrast that we are going to make, which is how Republicans are actually going to make things worse and Democrats want to do the opposite and make things a little easier.
I just talked about the hearing aids, which is going to help 30 million — 30 million Americans across the country.
Q But who exactly thinks the President is doing a good job on inflation? Because we’ve got a new poll that finds he receives his lowest job ratings on inflation — net negative 38 points.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We understand that there are challenges that are in front of us here in this country. That is why the President has taken action to lower costs.
Think about gas prices. You think about healthcare — healthcare premiums. You think about Medicare — again, beating special interests so that we can lower costs, so Medicare can actually be able to lower costs for senior citizens.
When you think about all of these steps that he has taken to make sure that that is happening, Republicans — Republicans in Congress refuse — they refuse to be partners with us on this. They refuse to help us.
If you think about the American Rescue Plan that has helped create an economy that is indeed resilient, that created jobs, they refused to help out.
Q And to follow up on that, on the American Rescue Plan:
Have the President’s economic advisors told him that the general consensus now is that the American Rescue Plan has contributed to inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, Secretary Yellen — who is incredibly well respected, as you know, in the economic space — has spoken to this. So I will leave her words speak to that — to the statement that you just made.
Here’s the thing: What the President has done, the issues that he has worked on — when you think about Medicare, when you think about healthcare, when you think about energy costs, when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, you think about the CHIPS Act — they are popular. They are popular with the American people.
They understand — the American people understand, with these pieces of legislation that we have worked so hard to get across the line, that are now law, it’s going to change — change the lives of American people.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Now, is there a work — is there work — work to be done? There’s always more work to be done. But we are making — we are taking the steps to do that.
Again, congressional Republicans, they are doing nothing — absolutely nothing. They want to repeal. They want to take away the advances that we have made.
Go ahead, Kelly.
Q When the President either hears or is briefed about
Senator Warnock in Georgia not saying that he would support or answering the question about would he support the President in 2024, does he view that as disloyal to the President personally or to the administration? Or does he view it as strategic in a race?
Georgia is a state President Biden won in 2020. And yet, as a candidate, the sitting senator would not engage on that question in a debate format.
So how does the President view something like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, just to be very mindful of the Hatch Act, I don’t —
Q Knowing the Hatch Act stuff. So, I’m asking President’s feelings about this.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear the President’s feelings. Here’s what the President understands and he knows — is that he is the leader of the party. And he is not only that, but he is the President of the United States, and it is important to him to make sure that he addresses and deals with the most important issues to the American people. That is his focus.
He’s not focused on 2024. And he’s spoken to that and I’ve spoken to that, and he said he intends to run. We’re going to leave that there. We’re not going to speak to it any further.
But he has been very clear about how important he sees his job to make sure that we — we understand that we meet people where they are when it — when we talk about inflation. That’s why he’s made this — inflation the number-one economic — number-one priority when it comes to his economic policy.
That’s why we have the bipartisan infrastructure legislation — right? — to really deal with what Americans care about, to make sure that we’re dealing with infrastructure, dealing with supply chain, creating jobs.
When you think about the American Rescue Plan — right? — to make sure we put money in people’s pockets, to make sure that we opened schools, got shots in arms. Those are the things that the President understood that was before him that he needed to address.
And so, that’s his focus. That’s how he’s thinking about things, as you’re asking me how he’s feeling, how he sees things. He sees this opportunity as being President of the United States, as — as being the person who is able to help create legislation, get things passed —
Q But does he see that as distancing from fellow Democrats?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — look, he sees the importance of the job that he has in front of him — right? — and which is delivering for the American people. You’ve heard him say that over and over again the last couple of days, and you will continue to hear him say that over the next several weeks.
Q A quick one on student loans. The beta period for applications has begun. Do you have a sense of how long that testing process will be or what people who are interested in applying should know about this early stage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ll have more to say on that soon, but we’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response, as well as a strong website performance since we — we began testing the site this past Friday night. So it’s been very positive.
Just a few things applicants over the weekend have said about this I want to just lay out so folks can hear. One said it was the easiest application they’ve ever filled out, took maybe 60 seconds. That’s a quote.
Another said, and I quote, “I just filled out the student loan forgiveness form in about one minute on my phone in my pajamas. It is possible that the government actually made a form that’s easy and straightforward.” End quote.
Another quote: “It is the simplest government form I’ve ever filled out.”
So the better — the — the beta testing period remains open. And the Department of Education’s technical team will continue to monitor the site’s performance in real time. And any borrower who — who submits an application for debt relief during the — this period will have it processed when the site officially launches later this month. Borrowers won’t need to — to reapply at all.
But again, we’ll have more to share.
Q No date yet on the official one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything at this time, but we’ll have more to share.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just a follow-up on that. Do you have an estimate of how many people applied over the last couple of days?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’ll have more to share on that. We don’t have a number at this time.
Q And the President said last week that gas prices are still too high. And he said he’d have more to say on the issue this week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q Can you give us a sense of what we should expect from the President on the gas prices? And does he — does he have new policies in mind, or is it more of just like a rhetorical
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’ll definitely have more to say. As you know, we don’t want to get ahead — I don’t want to get ahead of the President. And once we have something to share, we will.
I know we’re kind of limited on time, so I’m going to go really, really fast. Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thanks, Karine. You may have gotten into this in response to Peter’s question, but I want to approach it just somewhat differently.
A CBS News poll that was out yesterday indicated that two thirds of voters believe that the administration is not doing all it can and could be doing more to curb inflation. What does the White House think? Does the White House think it’s — it’s doing all it can to curve inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we understand is — you know, we understand that the American people are going through a difficult time. And we have said that. You’ve heard the President say that. And we understand how it is tough — it is a tough time for them.
That’s why we’re doing stuff like the hearing aid. Thirty million people saving $3,000; that’s a big deal. That is a big deal. And that’s because of the action that the President took by signing this executive order, as you all know, a couple of — a couple of months ago.
That’s why he’s worked so hard to get those gas prices down by more than a dollar a gallon from the highest — the highest points that we have seen just a couple of months ago. And he’ll continue to work on that. I was just asked by your colleague about what we’re going to announce. You’ll hear directly from the President.
That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act is so critical and key, because it’s going to lower energy costs and it’s going to lower healthcare costs.
We get it. We get it. I know you’re asking me about a specific — a specific poll, a specific number from your own publication. And we get it. We understand. But we’re going to continue to do the work. It’s not going to stop us. And you have seen the results. You have seen the results from this administration.
I’m going to just keep moving because we don’t have a lot of time. Go ahead.
Q The President has talked about there being consequences for Saudi Arabia after the OPEC production cut. I’m wondering if you can give us any update on that — whether that would be something that would come soon and what it might include.
Senator Coons has said that he thinks the most likely action — or one of the most likely actions is a halting of future arms sales, for instance. Would the administration support that? What’s — what’s the next shoe to drop on Saudi Arabia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — so, I’m not going to get ahead of — of the President. As — as we have said, you’ve heard from the National — our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan — just yesterday, he was on one of the Sunday shows — the options include changes to our approach; to security assistance, to your question, to Saudi Arabia.
The President has said since taking office that the United States needs a different approach, a different sort of relationship with Saudi Arabia. So that is in — in line with what he has been saying for some time.
And remember, when we came into office, we put a freeze on all offensive arm sales to Saudi — Saudi Arabia just last year.
So, there’s nothing imminently moving right now in Congress regarding this. So, there is time for the President to have those consultations, those conversations, to make those decision. He wants to be — he wants to be methodical and strategic about these — these conversations.
So, when we have something to share, we will. Don’t want to get ahead of him.
Q So it sounds like he wants to move either after Congress or jointly with Congress as opposed to unilaterally?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He definitely wants to have a conversation with Congress. This is something that Jake Sullivan said himself. When it comes to this — this relationship with Saudi Arabia, it was done in a bipartisan way if you look at the last several decades, and we want to be able to do that as well as we move forward with re- — realigning, readjusting our relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Q Elon Musk has been weighing in a lot on the Russia-Ukraine issue recently, over the weekend saying that Russia views Crimea like the U.S. views Hawaii and if Russia faces destruction, nuclear war will be imminent. Fiona Hill told Politico today that it’s very clear that Musk is transmitting a message for Putin.
I’m wondering whether the administration has any comment on what Musk has been saying about the Russia-Ukraine war and, in particular, whether it’s relayed anything to partners and allies about whether Musk is reflecting an American view or not.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this — and the President has been very clear, we have been very clear about this, and he believes decisions about negotia- — negotiations or decisions about Ukraine are decisions for Ukraine to make. And nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. And I will leave it there.
We’ve been very, very clear — clear on that. Our allies and partners have been very, very clear on that. And I won’t say more from here.
Q Is Musk helping or hurting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I won’t say more from here. I’ve been very clear about what we believe. And this is for Ukraine to decide.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll come to the back.
Q My colleague is reporting today that five current administration officials who worked with the CBP Commissioner have described him as unengaged in his job and seen him fall asleep during multiple meetings. Does the White House have a comment to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you talking about Commissioner Magnus?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, under Secretary Mayorkas’s leadership, we’re — we’re securing the border, taking thousands of smugglers off the streets, installing new technologies to catch more drugs and traffickers, and making historic investments in — in the Department of Homeland Security. That’s what we have seen, that’s what we have done in the past 20 months.
We’ll continue to focus our efforts on rebuilding the immigration system that the prior administration just gutted, decimated. And Commissioner Magnus plays a key role on all of this. That’s how we view his role.
Q Karine, can I follow up?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. I’m just going to go — go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. Quickly, so you talked about reviewing the Saudi Arabian relationship because their oil production cut sides them with Russia. Is the same review going to happen with China, who has been buying 50 percent more oil from Russia as well as propping up the Russian economy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to lay out with you on that specific question.
Q And one more then on inflation. On inflation, can you give us a timeline? You’ve laid out eloquently what the President has been doing. Is there a timeline for when Americans can start feeling some economic pain relief?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So in regards to the Inflation Reduction Act, early next year, they will see some of the — some of the pieces of that when you thou- — think about in energy costs, when you think about the Medicare kind of benefits from that. So, we’ll see some movement on that early next year.
But when we talk about inflation, gas prices, that’s been something that’s — the American people have seen for the past several months, several weeks, and as — as costs have been coming down. And the hearing aids that I just laid out, that’s something that once I have a clear timeline, we’ll — that Americans are going to see — that I’ll share with you on all of that.
But look, we’re going to continue —
Q But that’s starting now. What about — 18 months ago, when the President took office, inflation and gas prices started rising then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, 18 months ago, the President signed the American Rescue — Rescue Plan more than — about — back in April of 2021.
And that helped the American people, that helped start reopen small businesses, that helped reopen schools. That was something that was so critical to meet the moment that the American people were going through, that helped put shots in arms.
That matters. That was part of the President’s economy plan. Right? That was part of his policy that helped us gain these jobs back. And you’re — you’re with — you — you follow economy. You’re always asking me economy questions. And it — we created more than 10 million jobs. That’s because of what the President was able to do. So, we met that moment.
So you’re asking me about 18 months ago. That’s what was going on 18 months ago. Thousands of people were dying a day because of COVID when the President walked in.
The American Rescue Plan, which is only — again, only congressional Democrats passed — only congressional Democrats passed. They did — on their own — and was able to — to make sure that we got the country back on its feet.
All right. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. I have a couple of questions about the new program for Venezuelan migrants. When can Venezuelans start submitting their applications? When will that application processes start? Do you have any details?
And also, the administration mentioned last week that there was going to be some kind of security assistance for the regional partners. Do you have any details on that? Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So your two — your first question, first: Support is — will be able to apply in the upcoming days. Information on how to apply will be found on the DHS website, so I would refer folks there, to the website.
On the security assistance that was announced, as you just mentioned, last week: Again, I would refer you to DHS — the Department of Homeland Security — and also the government of Mexico as well — they’re — for their announcement that they’ve made for information on the coordinated response there.
I’ll take — I’ll take one last question.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
I’ll take one last — go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. I just have some quick questions on Iran. First of all, is the administration mulling sanctions over the use of Iranian-made drones in Ukraine? And do you believe it’s a violation of U.N. Resolution 2231?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just very quickly, I can’t speak to these specific reports. But, as you know, we have been warning since July — the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, was here at this very podium when he warned about this back in July — that Iran was planning to sell UAVs to Russia for use against Ukraine.
We also exposed publicly that Russia has received drones from Iran; that this was part of Russia’s plan to import hundreds of Iranian UAVs of various types; and that Russian operators continue to receive training in Iran on how to use these very systems.
So, there is extensive proof of their — of their use by Russia against both military and civilian targets there.
You’ll als- — you’ll all — you’ve all have seen as well the reports this morning of what appear to be an Iranian drone striking downtown Kyiv. Yet, Iran continues to lie about this. They have not been truthful about this and deny providing weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, according to these new reports, Iran is considering selling still more destructive weapons to support an invasion they claim to oppose.
Now, what we’re doing here: We’ll continue to vigorously enforce U.S. sanctions on both the Russian and Iranian arm trade — that’s what we’ll do from here; make it harder for Iran to sell these weapons to Russia. And we’ll stand with our partners throughout the region against that Iranian threat.
Q And then, over the weekend, VOA Persia got some worrying reports from human rights activists in Tehran who said that authorities at Evin Prison shot at prisoners who were trying to escape the fire. Does this change anything about the White House’s view on these escalating protests in Iran? And what might be the consequences of actions like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’ve — the President — you’ve heard from the President directly just — just this past weekend when he talked about how gravely concerned he is about the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, on brave — the brave women in Iran and their allies. And he talked about, you know, how he — you know, he’s proud of how much they’re fighting for their equal rights, for their basic rights. That’s what we’re seeing from the Iranian civilians.
The Iranian government has now killed, as you all know, more than 200 people in its crackdown, according to credible reports by human rights organizations, and we condemn — we condemn the Iran authorities and that — that have arrested and fired at peaceful protesters; the targeted arrests of journalists, human rights activists, teachers, and cultural figures; and the continued disruption of the Internet inside Iran.
You have heard from us the sanctions that we have put forth through the — the Treasury Department, and we will — we will have more to share when we do — when we can.
Q And then, finally, amid all of this, is the JCPOA still a priority? How is — how is the administration keeping it top of mind?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, my colleague at the State Department spoke to this last week, and I’ll just reiterate what he laid out, which is: The door for diplomacy will always remain open. But, as of now, we don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon.
Meanwhile, regardless of the nuclear talks, we will continue to confront Iran’s behavior in the region, protect our — protecting — protect our troops, including with military forces when necessary, and support the brave Iranian people who are demanding for their basic rights —
Q So are the nuclear talks dead? Is that what you’re telling us?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — they are demanding for their basic (inaudible) and dignity, which this regime has long denied them.
So, the United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world — you heard the President say this himself just a couple of days ago — with their bravery.
And we’ll continue to take action to impose costs on those who commit violence against peaceful protesters or otherwise seek to suppress their rights.
Again, we don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon, to answer the question in the back.
All right, everybody, I’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you.
2:14 P.M. EDT