Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, November 18, 2022
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
4:03 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And welcome back to those who — who traveled abroad with us. Good to see everyone.
Okay, I just have a few things at the top before we get started. I know you all saw President Biden’s meeting with business and labor leaders this afternoon, where they discussed the progress we have made building on an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, and giving Americans across the country more breathing room.
One example of that progress: Today we learned unemployment rates in many states across the country remain at or near record lows.
People across the country are going to work, getting paychecks, and benefiting from one of the strongest jobs recovery in history.
Our labor market, consumer spending, and business investment all remain remarkably strong. And as the President’s economic agenda takes hold, we continue to see historic new investments in America practically every week, from chips to clean energy.
America is on its way to leading the world again by rebuilding our infrastructure, supply chains, and manufacturing here at home.
On another topic, the President, as you know, has taken great pride in making sure that his administration looks like America.
And now that we have a little clearer picture of last week’s election results, we wanted to highlight how Americans turned out to elect a number — a few diverse and historic public servants to represent them at every level of government.
Here are just a few — a few. Just — just hold on. I’ll go through them.
First, a record number of female governors were elected in this year’s midterms. Maura Healey from Massachusetts and Tina Kotek of Oregon were elected the nation’s first openly lesbian governors.
Wes Moore will be the first Black governor of Maryland.
We have the first Gen Z member of Congress: Maxwell Frost of Florida, who is also Afro Cuban.
And in Ma- — in New Hampshire, James Roesener is the first trans man elected to a state legislature.
Delia Ramirez will become the first Latina to represent the Midwest, and Alex Padilla is the first Latino to be elected as a U.S. senator from California.
And lastly, the four largest cities in America — New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston — are each going to be led by an African American mayor.
There’s more progress to be made, but we’re encouraged by these strides at all levels of government toward leadership that looks like the country.
Now, as you know, President Biden doesn’t back away from a fight — you’ve heard him say that himself — especially a fight for the middle- — middle-class American families.
Today, we took that fight to the Supreme Court. We’re asking the nation’s highest court of the land to allow us to deliver student debt relief to millions of middle-class Americans.
Under our plan, nearly 90 percent of the — of the benefits will follow Americans — will flow to Americans making less than $75,000 a year. Many will be saved from delinquency or default. Others will be able to buy a home, a car, or just start a family.
This is critical breathing room that many middle-class families were looking forward to. And it’s outrageous — just outrageous that Republican officials and special interest groups are trying to block that, are trying to make it harder for these middle-class Americans across the country.
We are confident in our legal authority to carry out this program, and we won’t let these baseless lawsuits stop us either.
And finally — and finally, finally, as we head to next week, I have a little bit of a week ahead that I wanted to share with all of you.
On Monday, the President will pardon the national Thanksgiving turkey in a ceremony on the South Lawn. The President will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, reflect upon the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving, and wish American families a safe and healthy holiday.
The 2022 national Thanksgiving turkey and its alternative were — and its alternative — pardon me — and its alter- — alternate were raised near Monroe, North Carolina.
In the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will travel to Marine Corps Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. There, they will participate in a Friendsgiving dinner with service members and military families as part of the White House Joining Forces initiative.
On Tuesday, the President and the First Lady will travel to Nantucket, Massachusetts, where they will celebrate Thanksgiving with their family.
On Thanksgiving Day, the President and the First Lady will call members of the military to thank them for their service.
On Sunday, the President and the First Lady will return to Washington, D.C.
And with that — and welcome back. I haven’t seen you in a while.
Q I haven’t seen you in a while either. Glad to hear your voice is a little better.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A little better. A little better. We’re getting there. We’re getting there.
Q One little housekeeping question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely.
Q Can you help us understand why the briefing was delayed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. It’s just been — it’s just been a long week. There was a lot — there’s a lot to cover, as I know you all have a lot of topics. And it just took a little bit of time to get us out here tonight, this — well, it’s almost tonight — this afternoon — (laughs) — as the sun is probably setting at this time. But no big reason. Just — there’s just a lot going on today.
Q Okay. Was the President aware of the Attorney General’s decision to name a special counsel to oversee the investigations into former President Trump? And is there any reaction from him to that decision?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So just, first, I can just tell you: No, he was not aware. We were not aware. As you know, the Department of Justice makes decisions about its criminal investigation independently. We are not involved. We are not — we have not been aware about this particular investigation or any criminal investigation. I would refer you to the Department of Justice on any questions on this.
But again, we were not given advance notice. We were not aware of this — of this investigation.
Q And any reaction from the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No reaction. Again, this is going to be up to the Attorney General, up to the Department of Justice, as it relates to a criminal investigation. But I can tell you that the President was not aware, we were not aware. We were not given advance notice. And I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q And then, on the brief the State Department filed last night in the Jamal Khashoggi litigation, does the President have any concerns that the administration may be sending the wrong message about his commitment to holding the Saudis accountable on human rights? And can you say whether he signed off on that brief?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just — just let me just say at the top, just so that there’s clarity — and I know that you’ve heard from the State Department on this as well, and other colleagues.
At the request of a federal district court for U.S. government views on whether Mohammed bin Salman enjoys head of state immunity, the Department of Justice, at the request of the Department of State, informed the court that Prime Minister bin Salman is immune from suit in the U.S. — in U.S. courts while he holds the office of prime minister.
It’s nothing to do with the merits of this case; I want to be very clear on this. But this is something that State Department and the Department of Justice has more details on, so I would certainly refer you — refer you to them.
Q And then, just one last question. Can you say if the President was COVID tested after he got back from Indonesia? There was a possible exposure there, and then tomorrow he’s going to be among guests at his granddaughter’s wedding here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s a good question. I can tell you that he was not a close contact. If you’re speaking about John Kerry, he was not a close contact — I can tell you that.
I was not able to have an opportunity — it’s just been a busy day — to check in on when he was last tested. But, certainly, we will check in on that.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q And just to press this again, though: Was the President at all involved in the State Department’s decision regarding MBS and this Khashoggi case? Was he consulted by State Department officials, Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, anybody else? Was he asked to weigh in?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, again, this is — immunity determination is a legal one. That’s what I was laying out earlier. The United States consistently has afforded head of state immunity to heads of governments, such as prime ministers, consistent with customary institutional law.
U.S. practice on this issue is longstanding and consistent, including a number of head of state immunity cases from the past four administrations. And the example is President Aristide — this was Hait- — of Haiti in 1993. President of Zimbabwe — the president of Zimbabwe at the time in 2001. Prime Minister Modi, India, as we all know, in 2014.
And the State Department and DOJ will have more information for you on these particular — on these particular pieces.
I’m not aware —
Q Right, but I’m asking about presidential involvement.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m just going to answer. I’m not — I’m not aware of any conversations providing advance notice. And so, I can — I can just say that I am not aware of any of — any advance notice to this particular issue.
Q Okay. Two tech-related ones. There have been some Democratic senators today calling on the FTC to investigate potential violations of consumer protection laws by Twitter. I’m curious if the White House agrees that perhaps that agency should do that or has any other comment on the ongoing calamity at that platform.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, the FTC is an independent agency. I’m not going to comment on any actions that they — they may or may not be taking. Again, can’t — not going to comment. It’s — they’re independent. I’m going to leave it there.
Q Is the White House planning to continue using the platform amid the uncertainty about its future?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, we’ve seen — we’ve seen the reports, as all of you have, on what is currently happening with Twitter, you know, Ed. But we’re not going to speculate on its future of the site or what may happen next to the site. But we’re just not going to comment from there.
Q And there was a meeting yesterday between some Silicon Valley CEOs and White House officials regarding the passage or the potential passage of the Big Tech antitrust legislation that’s been pushed by Senators Klobuchar and Grassley. It has bipartisan support. Does the President support putting that bill on the floor during the lame duck, as various groups are calling for?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: It was a thoughtful and a productive meeting — the meeting that you’re speaking of.
We are very committed to moving ambitious tech antitrust legislation, as you’ve heard us say before, and we’re stepping up engagement during the lame duck on the President’s agenda across the board, including antitrust.
There’s a bipartisan support for these antitrust bills and no reason why Congress can’t act before the end of the year.
Q Thank you.
Q Thanks. Just first, really quick, following up on what you said about the special counsel. Even if the President wasn’t aware ahead of time, I’m sure he is aware now. Can you provide any details about who informed him today, when he learned of the news, how he learned of the news today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just not going to go beyond. I know you’re asking me about the President specifically. I’ve not spoken to him before coming — before coming out here, so I can’t give you details on that. I’m assuming it was — it was a — you know, a senior member of his staff who would most likely have let him know about — about the special counsel.
But, again, I just want to make very, very clear we were not given advance notice. This is — the Department of Justice makes their own decision when it relates to criminal investigation. We were not — we were not involved. And so, I just want to make that very clear.
I’m not going to say more about this particular case from here. I would refor- — refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q And I wanted to ask you about what you said at the top about the administration reaching out to the Supreme Court to intervene on student loans. Should Americans, at this point, be prepared for the reality that the student loan forgiveness might be entirely blocked? Or should — at the very least, should they prepare for the reality that it’s not likely they’re going to get relief by January 1st?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re — we’re confident in our — in our legal authority to carry out this program. We’re taking this fight to the Supreme Court so that borrowers can quickly, we believe, by doing this — by taking it to, you know, the largest court of the land, that it helps us get clarity in a — in a quicker way and relief to those who truly deserve it, who really need a little bit of breathing room.
So, no matter how hard — again, this is what we’re seeing here is what Republican officials are trying to do. They’re trying to block a plan that’s going to give relief to middle-class Americans across — across the country.
We’re going to continue to fight, as I just said at the top. The President is never afraid to get into a fight, especially when it comes to the American people. We’re taking this step because we want to get to a — to a quicker clarity on this. And we’re going to continue to — continue to fight.
Q I guess — but my question is, like, it’s the holidays. Millions of people are trying to figure out their budgeting right now. Should there be an extension of the moratorium? Have there — has there been a decision on that? Or what would your advice be to a borrower —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And that’s —
Q — that’s not sure what’s going to happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And that’s why we’re calling out Republican officials. You’re exactly right. Millions of Americans are trying to figure out their budget. Millions of Americans are sitting around the kitchen table trying to figure out how they’re going to pay for a critical — critical items that matter to their family.
This is why we’re — this is why the President actually took the step to give relief to the American people.
Look, we’re examining — to your question about the potential pause, we’re examining all options to provide middle-class families a little extra breathing room, as you hear the President say, as they continue to recover from the pandemic.
But it’s clear: We are confident in our legal authority to provide relief to student borrowers, and the President won’t stop fighting for them. Again, we are just not going to walk away from it. This is why we’re taking this to the Supreme Court.
Q If I could ask one more about this weekend. Why is the White House going against precedent and not letting any journalists in to cover a bit of this wedding that is taking place here at the People’s House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just give you a little bit of a wedding tick-tock because I know many of you had some questions.
So, at 11:00 a.m., the ceremony on the South Lawn will begin. A family wedding party luncheon immediately after. And then there will be an evening reception on this very joyous occasion.
These are two young people who have decided that they want
to spend the rest of their life together, and the President and the First Lady are going to be able to participate in their first grandchild’s wedding.
But here’s the thing — and here’s — here’s the reality: The wedding of Naomi Biden and Peter is a private one. The family — it’s a family event. And Naomi and Peter have asked that their wedding be closed to the media, and we are respecting their wishes. This is something that the couple has decided.
So — but understanding you all have interest, understanding that the media has interest in this — which I can understand it is a joyous occasion; we all want to celebrate them — we will be releasing — we will be releasing pictures, photos, and a statement from the President and the First Lady following the ceremony.
Again, this is their wish. And we should be — we should be thrilled and happy for them in making this really important step in their lives.
Q I wanted to close the loop on some Ukraine-related matters and then a domestic issue as well. Just first on Ukraine, it doesn’t appear that there was any conversation at all between the United States government and Russia while we were in the midst of that crisis where Russia was being blamed for the incident in Poland.
Milley came out and said that he wasn’t even able to reach the Russians on the phone. What — what should the Americans take away from — from that, as far as our preparedness for, you know, a nuclear standoff with Russia if we can’t even get them on the phone in moments of crisis?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’ve always been very clear here, as you speak about a nuclear — as you asked a question about a nuclear — a “nuclear standoff,” in your words, that — but we’ve been clear from the outset that Russia’s comments about the potential use of nuclear weapons are deeply concerning, and we take them seriously.
And we continue to monitor this as best as we can, and we see no indications that Russia is making preparations for such use. So that is also important that we do not actually see that those types of preparations or — or indications, I should say, for us to — for us making prep- — for Russia making preparations.
So, as we have said —
Q But is it an issue that you can’t get them on the phone is my question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I mean, what I’m saying is that we’ve been very clear. We’ve been clear — very clear in public. We’ve been clear in other conversations. You’ve heard Jake Sullivan said that he’s been in touch in the past with his — with his counterpart about this particular issue. We’ve been very clear we’re not going to lay out in public what — what those conversations were.
But we’ve been very clear that this is — this would be — this would be catastrophic. And — and there would be consequences. The President has made clear, over and over again, on this particular issue.
But I think what you should take, honestly, from what you saw that morning — you know, overnight, as you all know, there was an explosion in Poland. What you saw this President do is bring leaders from 11 countries to have — to hold a meeting. He did that in about 55 minutes. He brought leaders — some of your colleagues were in the room, were able to be there for a pool spray and capture that moment. And this is what this President was able to do. This is because of his leadership globally.
And you saw him do that at the G20. You saw his leadership there. They were very — and those leaders were very, very clear about where they were on what was occurring with Russia and Ukraine, and calling that out, and saying that, you know, what — what Russia was doing was inappropriate, what Russia was doing was brutal, what Russia was doing was attacking the sovereign — the sovereignty of another nation.
And so, we’ve seen this leadership of this President. And I think him saying this publicly, very loudly, about what would happen if nuclear weapons were used to Russia, I think, is a loud statement within itself.
Q Okay. One more on Ukraine. President Zelenskyy said that Russia has proposed a short truce. Is that something that the White House has an opinion on?
And also, have you — has President Biden talked to President Zelenskyy about his assertions that it wasn’t a Ukrainian missile involved in Poland?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me — let me first say this about your — your last question. Let me answer that first.
So, U.S. and Polish officials have been in touch with Ukraine to clarify the facts. Chair of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council has said that Ukraine remains fully open to a comprehensive analysis of the situation. The party ultimately responsible for this tragic incident is Russia, which launched a barrage of missiles on Ukraine specifically intended to target civilian infrastructure.
So, we have been pub- — we have been public about the fact that our information supports President Duda’s preliminary assessment that this was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland.
But the bottom line is Ukraine has a right to defend itself, as we have said many times, and Russia should — should end this war. This is something that they can do today.
Q And just on the short — on the short truce question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m sorry. Can you say your question again? I — I —
Q Zelenskyy was saying that there was a short truce that was proposed by Russia that he doesn’t support.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would — I would refer you to the government of Ukraine. I have not heard those reports.
Q Okay. And then, very quickly, one quick domestic one: So, 58 Democratic lawmakers have called for trading corporate tax cuts for extending the Child Tax Credit in this lame duck session. Is that something the White House has an opinion on and would be willing to entertain?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, the President strongly believes that any bill that cuts taxes for a big corporation must also tax — cut taxes for working families — working American families and — and, you know, working family — American families with children.
So, as the President said following the election, he is proud of how the Child Tax Credit expansion he signed into law helped cut child poverty nearly in half in 2021. Both Democrats and Republicans have put forth tax relief ideas for families with children, including the families who are struggling the most. And the President believes that these are the kinds of policies we should be prioritizing.
Q Thanks, Karine. First of all, on the appointment of the special counsel today, former President Trump reacted to this news in an interview calling this the, quote, “worst politicization of justice.” He said that this was an unfair and political decision. I’m wondering if you have a response to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I will say this, and I’ve said this many times before: We do not politicize the Department of Justice. That is something that the President said during the campaign. That is something that the President said in his early days of — of being in the White House. And that continues to be true.
We were not involved in this — in this particular issue. We were not involved in — let me just say that more broadly — we’re not involved in criminal investigations that are done independently by the Department of Justice. We were not given advance — advance notice.
Again, I would refer you to the Department of Justice on any — any questions on this. But this is not an administration — the President has been very clear — that will politicize the Department of Justice.
Q And then, on the MBS immunity issue, the administration was invited by the court to make a filing in this case, but it was not required to do so. So, why not let the court making its own determination as it relates to MBS’s immunity, particularly at a time when you’re supposedly reevaluating the relationship with Saudi Arabia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — look, again, it’s — a federal court requested the government’s legal position, so the Department of Justice provided it. That is what occurred, and that is what happened.
Q “It was not required” is the — is the question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I am — I would refer you to the State Department on any other specifics. This is what I’m laying out to you, is that the federal — a federal court requested the government’s legal position, so the Department of Justice provided it.
The immunity determin- — determination is made based on longstanding and well-established principle of common law, including customary international law.
The United States has consistently and across administrations applied these principles to heads of state, heads of government, and foreign ministries while they are in office.
The immunity flows directly from MBS’s role as prime minister in the Saudi government, which he was appointed to in September.
Again, I would refer you to the Department of State on any further questions.
Q And one last — one last question. The top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Comer, has said that he’s investigating the President’s involvement in his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings.
One, looking for your reaction to that. And then, on the merits of the allegations, can you address whether the President was involved in any of his son Hunter or his brother’s foreign business deals?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, there’s — there’s some — a little bit of interesting, you know, kind of, on-brand thinking here, because, you know, congressional Republicans ran saying that they were going to fight inflation. They said they were going to make that a priority. They were very clear about that these past several months.
And instead, what they’re doing is they’re focusing — you know, they’re focusing — they’re making their top priority — they get the majority, and their top priority is actually not focusing on the American families but focusing on the President’s family.
They’re not coming up with solutions on how we’re going to lower costs for Amer- — for American families. They’re not coming up with solutions as to how are we dealing with issues that matter the most to American families.
Look, the midterm elections were very clear. They were very clear where Americans said they wanted us to deal with real issues. They wanted us to deal with what we were seeing with democracy. They wanted us to deal with how are we going to fight for freedoms and for rights of the American people.
And so, that’s not — the first thing that — the top priority that they lay out is an investigation on the President’s family.
Look, my colleagues in the White House Counsel’s Office are handling these threats of investigation by the House Republicans. So, when it comes to specific allegations, I would refer you to — to them. I’m not going to get into specifics of what that might look like or anything else that’s related to this.
Q So you won’t say anything on camera as it relates to the merits of any of these allegations? Because we —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ve been very clear —
Q — we can speak to them but not on camera also.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ve been very clear. It’s like — you know, Republicans said that they were going to, during — during the midterms, they were going to fight inflation, right? They said that they were going to deliver for the American people, that they were going to actually do things that give relief to the Americans.
And what they’re doing instead — their top priority when they get a majority is to talk about investigating the Amer- — the President’s — the President’s family instead of doing what they said that they would do, is giving support to American families.
That is — that is what we’re seeing. But, again, it’s pretty much on brand.
Q Thank you. In light of the legal fight over the President’s student loan debt forgiveness program, is the President considering extending the moratorium on repayments that is set to currently expire at the end of the year? The NAACP and other advocates are pushing for that extension.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I sort of just —
Q Yeah —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — answered that question, and I said we — all options are on the table.
Q So, that’s under consideration?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying all options is — are on the table.
But what I really want to be clear here is the reason why we took it to the Supreme Court is because we want to come to resolve on this very quickly, because we understand what American families are dealing with at this time.
And so — look, and we’re going to continue to call out Republican officials and special interest groups who are instead — instead of giving relief to American families on a plan that will help — 90 percent of the — of the borrowers will be making less than $75,000. That matters.
And so, again, all options are on the table. I don’t have anything more to say. But, again, we’re going to continue to fight.
Q I know you said the White House is confident that the President has this legal authority, but how confident is the White House that a Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority is going to intervene on this matter?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what we’re saying to you is we are not going to walk away from this fight. The President is not going to walk away from this fight. We feel pretty confident in our legal authority to provide relief to these student borrowers.
And so that is — that is what we’re — you’re seeing from us. You’re seeing a fight from this administration to — for a plan that’s going to help tens of millions of people. As you know, 26 million peo- — people, borrowers already went to the website and filled out those applications.
And so, that — that tells you that this is a popular plan that matters to American — American people across the country.
Q And lastly, on a lighter note, the President turns 80 years old on Sunday. How will he be celebrating that moment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the First Lady is going to be having a brunch on Sunday for the President and — to celebrate the President’s family — I’m sorry — the President’s birthday on Sunday with his family.
Usually, they celebrate it on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but because everyone is going to — the family is going to be here this weekend, they’ll have an opportunity to celebrate his birthday on his actual day.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks. The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for the President and HHS to declare a public health emergency in response to the surge in cases of pediatric respiratory illnesses. They’re saying that this is going to free up — or could free up funding and make a national coordinated effort on this issue. Is this something the administration is considering?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, on — when it comes to public health auth- — emergencies — as you know, we’ve mentioned this before on different — on different occasions for different issues — that declaration, that comes from HHS. So, the HHS Secretary would determine the public health emergency. That is the case still here with the issues that you just laid out.
But I do want to take us a step back and talk about some of the sicknesses we’re seeing right now. I’d like to make, really, a few points because I think it’s important.
First, on COVID vacc- — vaccinations, we’re seeing more — some — we’re seeing some encouraging numbers on vaccinations. Last week, we saw the most vaccinations in a week since January 2022. And this week, we saw another high number of vaccinations.
At the same time, we need to continue to drive urgency around getting your updated COVID vaccine. It’s our best protection for the winter.
So, for Americans who are watching right now, it is important. If you haven’t yet, please do get your new vaccination, especially as you go into the Thanksgiving holidays and you’re going to see, you know, your elderly grandparents. This is an important step to take to protect not just yourself but them as well.
Second, flu is also increasing right now. We have safe and effective flu shots, but not nearly enough Americans are stepping up to get their flu shots.
On both flu and COVID, we are doing a lot of work to engage doctors and have an ad campaign in place. But this is another critical tool we must all encour- — encourage ahead of winter.
Get your flu shots, folks, please. It’s very important.
And, look, vaccines are our best tool for both of these issues, when we’re talking about the flu, when we’re talking about COVID. And we all need to encourage folks to get the protection right now, today. It is important to do so. You can even get them together if you wish. You can get both shots in both arms. Go do it, please.
And lastly, I want to note that HHS has been abundantly clear that — that it can provide resources to jurisdictions as requested. Already, they are hosting town halls to hear about any needs, and CDC is doing extensive work with doctors just across the country.
But again, folks need to make sure they get their vaccinations.
Q Karine, thank you so much. I want to try again on MBS and just ask you to respond to his fiancée, who said of this decision to grant immunity to the Saudi Crown Prince, quote, “Jamal died again today.” She said, “We thought maybe there would be a light to justice from #USA. But again, money came first.” What’s your reaction to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just first say that the President’s feelings about what happened to Khashoggi — Jamal Khashoggi — are very well known. And as we have said, he brought up the issue, he brought up Khashoggi to — during his — when he met with the Prime Minister, as you know, this summer. So, he’s been very clear. He’s been very — he’s been very clear about that over the past several years.
So, as it comes to this case, the immunity determination, again, is a legal one. It’s nothing to do with the merits of this case. I want to say that again: It has nothing to do with the merits of this case.
I would ri- — not read anything into this filing when it comes to the future of this relationship. We’ve been very clear about that from here; the President has been very clear.
And I just want to reiterate a couple of things here. We announced a series of actions last year in response to the killing, as you all know. We froze offensive arm sales, released the IC’s Khashoggi report. We imposed visa bans on nearly 80 Saudi officials. We sanctioned Saudi officials and entities, including the Royal Court’s Rapid Intervention Force. And we are working with Congress to more broadly reevaluate the relationship, which is something that we have done, meaning we do this in a bipartisan way, which is important as we reevaluate the relationship, because it’s something that we have done the past 80 years.
Q And what is your message directly, though, to his ex-fiancée? What do you — and I understand you’re laying that out, but what do you think the President would say to her directly, to what she said?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would say, look — look, our hearts go out to her. We understand she lost someone that she loved very dearly. And she — you know, we totally get that and understand.
You know, this was a legal determination; immunity is a legal one, as I just stated. You know, it has nothing to do with the merits of the case. I want to be very clear about that. And wouldn’t read anything into the filing when it comes to the future of the relationship, which I have said we are evaluating, which you’ve heard from the President and which you’ve heard from Jake Sullivan and others in the National Security Council.
Q And to that point — in reference to the trip, in the wake of that trip, you were asked if the President still believes that Saudi Arabia is a pariah. At the time, you said his comments stand. And I’m wondering if that’s still the case today in the wake of this decision.
His comments stand. I’m just not going to go beyond what the President has said in the past.
Q If I could try one more on the White House wedding. As I’m filing on this wedding and previewing it for folks, I’m looking at all of this video and images that we have of Tricia Nixon’s wedding, Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s wedding, the Johnson family’s wedding, and the historic record that now exists because the press was let in and able to get a glimpse of it. Why not just let the press in for a few minutes to have access? And, again, this is a wedding that’s happening here at the People’s House, not at a private residence.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I totally understand it’s happening at the People’s House. It’s a beautiful moment. It’s a joyous moment between these two young — these two young couple who have decided. It is their decision. They have decided to make this wedding private. It is a family event. It is — and we are going to respect Naomi and Peter’s wishes.
This is going to be, you know, the wedding of — of the First Lady and the President’s first grandchild, and these are their wishes. They want it to be private, and we’re going to respect their wishes.
We are going to provide a photo and a statement from the President and the First Lady after the wedding. And, again, these are their wishes, and we’re going to respect that.
Q Thanks. Karine, Russia says it’s working with the U.S. on a potential prisoner swap. Can you comment on where this stands? Could this lead to the release of Brittney Griner?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I heard — I’ve heard these reportings. Let me just say something at the top because there’s also been reporting about the location of Brittney Griner, so I just want to get this on the record.
So, we’re — we’re in frequent contact with Brittney Griner — Brittney Griner’s team and are aware that they were able to visit her earlier this week at IK-2 in Mordovia.
The administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release. As I said when we first learned she was moved, the President has directed the administration to prevail on her — on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure.
The U.S. government is ready to resolve the wrongful detentions of American citizens in Russia. We have made an offer, have continued to follow up on that offer, and propose alternative potential ways forward with Russia — Russians through a — through all available channels. We hope Russia is ready to negotiate in good faith.
And you’ve heard us say this before: The Russian government’s actions have contradicted what they have said publicly. Over the last several months, they have failed to seriously negotiate through the established channel or any other channel. And that’s what we’re going to see.
On the prisoner — prisoner swap, your specific question, look, we’re not going to comment on specifics of any proposals, other than to say that we have made a substantial offer and that the Russian Federation has consisensly [sic] — consistently, again, failed to negotiate in good faith. And you’ve heard us say that before. They need to negotiate in good faith. But I’m not going to get into specifics of the negotiations.
Q Also, Karine, following the issues surrounding Taylor Swift ticket sales this week, some Democrat lawmakers have been calling for more scrutiny over Ticketmaster and Live Nation, questioning whether that merger should continue. Does the White House thinks — think that there needs to be more scrutiny over Ticketmaster? And there’s some reports that DOJ is investigating Live Nation. Are you aware of this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you know, I would refer you to the Department of Justice on any investigation. I’m just not going to comment on any potential investigation from here or enforcement matter from here.
We respect their independence, as we have said many times from here, as a matter of just economic policy across industries. The President has been very clear — he’s been crystal clear on this, and I quote: “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation.”
Q Is there anything the White House is doing? He had talked about concerns about hidden fees recently. Is there anything that you’re doing in this space?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The junk fees?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He talked about that just a couple of weeks ago.
Look, you know, as you all know, you know, the President is a strong proponent of increasing competition in our economy. You’ve heard him talk about this over the past several months, as he said last year when he signed the land- — landmark executive order on competition.
And so, the President’s executive order that he did very recently establishes a whole-of-government effort to promote competition in the American economy, because we know lack of competition leads to higher prices and worse service.
So, as you just mentioned, Lucey, he — he mentioned — Catherine, I should say — he mentioned — (laughs) — I’m like, “Catherine Lucey, two first names.”
Q (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Anyways — people call me “Jean-Pierre.” It’s fine.
He talked about excessive hidden junk fees. He recently called on all federal agencies to reduce or eliminate these fees. And the Federal Trade Commission has now started to work on a rule to crack down on unfair fee practices across industries, which would encompass ticket processing fees as well, among those many junk fees.
So, again, this is something that the President takes very seriously, that he’s taken action. You know, he believes in competition. And — and he’ll continue to do the work on that.
Q If I could ask a broader question on Saudi Arabia. You had mentioned that the President is working with Congress to reevaluate the relationship. What is the timeframe for that reevaluated relationship? And a quick follow-up there is also: On this most recent trip to the G20, did any members of the President’s delegation meet with some of their Saudi counterparts, Saudi officials?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, let me take your first question first. So, following the OPEC+ decision, as you said, the President directed his team to reevaluate the relationship with Saudi Arabia. That’s what we’re doing. And so, in consultation with both parties in Congress; longstanding U.S. allies, partners in the region; and with the Saudi — and with Saudis, there have already been consequences, I should say.
Congress has frozen all arms sales, so we have time to determine the broader way forward. And, you know, we have already had preliminary conversations with the Hill. And now that members of Congress are back in Washington, D.C. — because as you remember, the President was waiting for — for Congress to come back to have a more in-depth conversation after the midterms — we’re going to start picking up those conver- — those conversations.
I don’t have a timeline for you. But we want — as I said earlier, when you look at the relationship with Saudi Arabia, it’s a relationship that has been for the last 80 years. And — and it’s always been done, when we think about that relationship, in a bipartisan way. And that’s what the President wants to do.
Again, we’ve had initial conversation with Congress. There has been some consequences, as I just laid out. And now that Congress is back, we’ll continue to have those — we’ll have those conversations a little bit more in depth, and we’ll let you know when those decisions have been made.
Q And then on the G20 trip, were there meetings with the President’s delegation and Saudi officials (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s a good question. I would have to check with — with our national security team. I don’t have any insight on that at this point.
Q And I have one follow-up on a domestic question here. Is the President intending to travel to Georgia to campaign for Senator Warnock?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, so I want to be careful because that — that runoff election is under the — is covered under the Hatch Act, so I want to be really careful on how I — how I answer this.
But what I can say to you: The President wants to be as helpful as he can to Senator Warnock. And I will leave it there. Don’t have anything to announce as far as any trip or plans to travel to Georgia.
But, again, the President wants to be as helpful as he can be.
Q Hi, Karine. The Supreme Court filing on student loans — this is the same week that Fed Governor Christopher Waller had said that pay increases across the economy should slow because there’s too much money, essentially, in the economy. Are there concerns in the administration about the inflationary effects of student loan debt forgiveness?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I want to be careful — again, the Federal Reserve is a — is a independent body. And so I’m not going to comment on — on the actions by the Fed or remarks from Fed officials as well.
So, again, they’re independent, and we respect the independence of the Federal Reserve.
So I will say this: that the President’s top priority is tackling — especially when it comes to the economy — is tackling inflation and lowering prices for the American families. That’s why he’s taken the actions that he has on gas prices. That’s why he’s taken — that’s why Democrats and the President took the actions that you saw, and signed into law — the President signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act.
So, as the President said today, this week’s data shows sign of progress in lowering inflation without giving up any of the economic gains that we have seen in the past 20 months.
But again, when it comes to this particular federal official that that you’re asking about, I’m not going to comment. Again, I just laid out more broadly where we see the economic situation.
Q But specifically on the loans, has the administration analyzed any potential inflationary effects of student loan forgiveness?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, by — by making those comments, it’s kind of connected to what the — the Federal —
Q It has nothing to do with the Fed. This is — okay, full-blown stop —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q — nothing to do with the Fed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that’s not the way you asked the question, so that’s the way I was answering the question.
Q Has the administration analyzed any potential inflationary effects of student loan forgiveness — the plan that the administration has enacted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a good question that you’re asking. But, look, the President has always — I don’t have any data to share with you on that particular question.
But the President has been very clear: He wants to make sure that he’s lowering cost for the American people. He feels that the student debt relief, especially as we were talking about lifting the pause at the end of this year, he wanted to make sure that he was giving those — those families, those American middle-class families, a little bit of a breathing room, especially as they’re dealing with — with, you know, with — with cost.
And so it was a campaign promise that he had — he had made and that he wanted to keep. But, more importantly, he knows that this is going to help tens of millions of Americans across the country, up to 40 million people.
And again, this is going to — this is going to be — give an opportunity to an American family, a middle-class family across the country to start a family, to buy a house. And that matters.
When you see a number of 26 million people who’s — who went to the website to sign up, that tells you how important this plan is.
Q And, finally, does the former President’s announcement this week have any bearing on the current President’s calculation in his decision as to whether he’s going to run again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, Hatch Act, going to be very careful. You’re asking me about an election that’s coming up in 2024. The President has been very clear that he intends to run, and — and so I’m going to — I’m going to leave it there.
Q Thanks, Karine.
Q Karine, can I follow up on the student debt question? Is that all right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to take one last —
Q Follow-up on the student debt —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to take one last question. Go ahead. Because I’ve answered the student debt question multiple times today.
But go ahead.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. I’m going to take your question.
Q How was the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Modi of India in Bali?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, it was a — we had a successful G20 Leaders’ Summit and a strong Leaders’ Declaration, as you know. I know you follow this very closely.
President Biden spoke with the Prime Minister and Indonesian President on the margins of the summit, and we issued a readout of their trilateral meeting.
India played an essential role in negotiating the summit’s declaration. Prime Minister Modi made clear “today’s era must not be of war.” And — and that’s a direct quote from the
President [Prime Minister].
Among other priorities addressed, we have a path forward to addressing current food and energy security challenges while continuing our efforts to build a resilient global economy.
Prime Minister Modi’s relationship was critical to this outcome, and we look forward to supporting India’s G20 presiden- — G- — pres- — G20 presidency next year. We look forward to — to that — to that — to that next meeting.
But we’re going to get going. Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend.
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