Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre En Route Dover, Delaware
Aboard Air Force One
2:19 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, everybody. Happy Friday.
Q Happy Friday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, today we’re on our way to Delaware State University, a historically Black college and university, where over 75 percent of students received a Pell Grant, meaning they could be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief under the President’s plan.
While there — while there, the President will provide an update on the successful launch of his program and highlight the life-changing impact student debt relief will have on millions of working- and middle-class Americans, particularly borrowers of color.
And as the President said earlier today: Even after providing middle-class families the relief they need and deserve, we’re still reducing the deficit by record levels. This year, the deficit fell by $1.4 trillion, the largest one-year drop in American history.
The President will be joined by Delaware State University President Tony Allen, Senator Tom Carper, Senator Chris Coons, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, Governor John Carney, and additional community leaders and students.
Earlier this week — sorry, guys, hold on one second. Okay.
Earlier this week, the President spoke about additional actions to bring the price of gas down. So I was — I also wanted to note on this Friday — this Friday afternoon that gas prices nationwide came down every single day this week. And we are seeing steeper declines in state across — in states across the country that had seen recent upticks.
Nationwide, gas prices have come down one — $1.20 per gallon since June, saving American families with two cars about 130 bucks per month on average.
Finally — finally, the week ahead, a quick overview of what’s going to happen next week.
On Monday, the President and the First Lady will host a reception to celebrate Diwali in the East Room. The Vice President and the Second Gentleman will attend.
On Wednesday, the President looks forward to welcoming President of Israel to the White House, 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, prosperity, and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
On Friday, the President and Vice President will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The President and the Vice President will participate in a reception for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
You can expect more details on that travel early — on travel, in general, early next week. But this is just a little bit of flavor for all of you.
Darlene, you want to kick us off?
Q Yes. Thanks for the week ahead. Is there any comment from the White House on the fact that the January 6 committee has now issued a subpoena? And I’m not asking you specifically about Trump but about where we are in the country where a former President is now being subpoenaed to testify before Congress.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m just going to speak more broadly on this, as we do not comment on any ongoing investigation. The Department of Justice is an indepen- — is independent and when it — in regards to any investigation.
But the President has spoken to this many times. It is important to get to the bottom of January 6. As you have heard him say, January 6 was one of the darkest day in our nation. And it’s important for the American people to know exactly what happened so that it doesn’t — so that doesn’t happen again, so we don’t repeat that very dark day in our nation.
Q And second question. Sorry, second question. An Afghan family is accusing a U.S. Marine of taking away their child as they were evacuated from Afghanistan. Do you know if the White House has been briefed on the situation? And has it been in touch with the military or the State Department or DOJ? And is anyone reaching out to the Afghan couple that is accusing the Marine of stealing their child?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, these are — I have not even seen those reports. But this is something that we would take very seriously. I don’t have any comments on it at this time. I would have to check in with our team to see if we have been briefed about it and what — and what our statement would be on this particular issue.
Q It was the subject of an AP story yesterday, so you can read our story. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m always — I always read your story. Yesterday we were on the road, as you know, in Pennsylvania, so it was a long day. But, yes, we’re happy to check in with the team.
Q Should former President Trump comply with the January 6 committee subpoena?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m not going to get into any specifics on that — on that — on the subpoena. Again, I would refer you to the Department of Justice. We’re just not going to comment about that from here. It’s an independent investigation. We’re just not going to comment.
Q Overall — overall, though, is it important to comply with congressional subpoenas?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, all I could say is what I said at the top when Darlene asked me the question, which was: It is important to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6. It was a very dark day in our nation. It was an attack on our democracy.
And as the President has said many times, it is important to get to the bottom of it and for the American people to know exactly what happened so that it does not — we do not repeat that day.
Q Karine, quick question on the EU agreeing to slap sanctions on Iran for supplying drones to Russia to fight Ukraine. How soon does the U.S. plan to match that? Can you talk a little bit about what’s under discussion? How soon does the President plan to respond to it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just say a couple of things here.
So — my gosh, it is so bumpy. (Laughs.) (Air Force One experiences turbulence.)
So, the United States is pursuing all means to expose, deter, and confront Iran’s provision of these — of these munitions against the Ukrainian people.
We will continue to vigorously enforce all U.S. sanctions on both the Russian and Ukrainian — I’m sorry, Iranian — pardon me — arms trade; make it harder for Iran to sell these weapons to Russia; help the Ukrainians have what they need to defend against these threats. And we will stand with our partners throughout the Middle East region against the Iranian threat.
We are also working with our Allies and partners, including the United Nations, to address Iran’s dangerous proliferation of weapons to Russia.
As you know, on Wednesday, just two days ago, in New York, we began the process — together with Ukraine, the UK, and France — to hold Iran accountable for its provisions of UAVs to Russia.
This closed meeting in the U.N. Security Council kicked off a process under the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 led by a panel of experts.
So, again, we’re going to continue to work with our allies and partners.
Q And then, one quick one on Ukraine and Starlink. Elon Musk has publicly withdrawn his request to have the Pentagon fund the Starlink Internet service in Ukraine. But without a contract, Ukraine’s Internet service sort of remains at his whims. Is the U.S. considering at any point perhaps starting a procurement process for Ukraine’s Internet service? Or is the administration and the White House satisfied with Musk’s promise that he will keep it running?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I — I’m — I — you know, I’m not going to share — I don’t have any — anything specific to share on that.
But what I would say is we continue to look at all options to support the courageous women and also men of Iran fighting for their rights. As you know, we’ve taken steps to make it easier for Iranians to access the Internet, including through facilitating greater access to secure outside platforms and services. We continue to look at all options in coordination with the private sector and Department of Treasury.
Q Would a contract be an option?
Q A follow-up on Iran.
Q Would a contract be an option?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I — again — I’m not — I’m just not going to speak to that. We are going to do everything that we can to make sure that we continue to support the brave men and women of Iran who are who are fighting for, again, their basic rights.
Go ahead, Jen.
Q Karine, two questions on energy. The Turkish foreign minister today weighed in and said the U.S. is “bullying” Saudi Arabia, in light of its OPEC+ decision, and this bullying is not right. Do you have any response to that, to the Turkish government? Are you concerned that you’re losing influence with partners in the Middle East, particularly the NATO Ally, Turkey?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ve been very clear about the OPEC+ decision and how we fou- — we found it to be shortsighted, especially in the time of what we’re seeing with our global — our global markets. And so we believe that it was a mistake. We believe it was shortsighted. And — and the President was very clear about that. We’ve been very clear about that.
It’s going to help — it’s going to hurt the countries who have — you know, low- — lower — lower economies and middle — middle-economy countries.
And so, again, the President is going to be reevaluating his relationship with Saudi Arabia; it’s something that he has said from the beginning of this administration. We’re going to do it in a bipartisan way. And he’s going to do it in a strategic — in a strategic way.
And as soon as we have more to say about that, we will say it.
Q No response to Turkey or any —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve been very — I mean, we’ve —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’ve been very clear about what we think about the OPEC+ decision, and we’ve said it multiple times. That doesn’t — that doesn’t change.
Q Karine, we’re en route to Dover. And next week, it sounds like you’re going to Philly, which is awfully close to Delaware. Is this part of what Ron Klain the other day was talking about is a low — a low-prile [sic] — low-profile strategy by design of not repeating, like, the failed 2018 and 2010?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President — first of all, I have to be — make — be very careful here — right? — with the Hatch Act and not say — and not talk about —
Q It doesn’t apply here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — (laughs) —
(Air Force One crew member asks press and staff to sit down.)
Yes, okay. All right. Okay. Well, we’re being asked to take a seat.
But very, very quickly, the President has been very clear that, you know, his focus is on delivering and continue to talk about how congressional Democrats and how he has delivered for the American people in the past 19, 20 months. And that is an economy that works for everyone, that’s — that works from — that — that is from the bottom up, middle — middle out.
And if you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, it’s going to lower costs, which is something that’s so incredibly important for the American people, and you have Republicans that want to do the complete opposite. They want to increase energy costs. They want to increase healthcare costs while we are trying to make sure we lower those costs, especially in the time when inflation is our top priority and it is really squeezing the American people. We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we lower costs for the American people.
Q Karine, (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I got to go. They’re literally — they’re telling us to sit down.
2:29 P.M. EDT