Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:05 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, just have two quick things at the top. We’ve seen the breaking news reports of the tornado damage in Selma. First, our hearts and thoughts go out to the Selma community and everyone impacted by the storm.
Our team here is monitoring and assessing the situation and reaching out as appropriate to local and state officials to offer our support.
And before I start and turn over to my colleague — who is going to be giving you all a preview of the bilat that the President is going to have with the Japanese Prime Minister, and also do a preview of next Tuesday with the President’s bilat with the Prime Minister of Netherlands — I just want to say a couple of things and make sure that everyone saw this. It’s a statement from Richard Sauber.
His statement reads:
“As the President said, he takes classified information and materials seriously. And as we have said, we have cooperated from the moment we informed the Archives that a small number of documents were found, and we will continue to cooperate. We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the special counsel. We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovering of this mistake.”
With that, my colleague is here, John Kirby, to talk through the bilat tomorrow and also — with Japan, the Prime Minister — and also the bilat with the Prime Minister of Netherlands next Tuesday. And then I’ll come back.
MR. KIRBY. Thanks, Karine.
Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MR. KIRBY: So, I think, tomorrow, you know, President Biden is going to be welcoming the — Prime Minister Kishida of Japan here to the White House. He’s looking ver- — very much forward to that.
The two leaders have already gotten to know each other quite well during in-depth discussions over the last year — Cambodia at the East Asia Summit and in Tokyo for their bilateral meeting and the Quad Summit in May of 2022, as well as through their work together at the G7.
Since taking office, President Biden has invested in our alliances to better equip us to collectively take on the 21st century challenges we face, whether that’s the DPRK’s pursuit of weapons of mass destructions — weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile — and their ballistic missile program; China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region and globally; or, of course, Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine.
Now, on each of these challenges and on many more, Japan has proven a steadfast ally, ready to step up and do its part to advance our shared national security interests and values.
Now, just let me set a little bit of the backdrop here for this particular visit. Last month, Prime Minister Kishida released Japan’s new National Security Strategy and committed to boosting Japan’s defense spending to two percent of their GDP, in — that includes investments in new defensive capabilities. And that’s a historic commitment by Japan.
Prime Minister Kishida will arrive in Washington after a set of extensive — actually, he has arrived — after a set of extensive discussions with European partners from Italy, to the UK, to France, of course, to Canada. And he and President Biden are going to have the opportunity to debrief on those discussions as well.
And then, of course, yesterday, you saw the two foreign ministers and two defense ministers of our countries get together and announce some significant new improvements to the alliance: upgrades, in fact, to U.S. force posture in Japan, which will now include the stationing of a Marine littoral regiment in Okinawa, as well as advance capabilities from intelligence collection, to analys- — analysis, to anti-ship capabilities.
We’ll be modernizing the alliance by announcing that attacks to, from, and within space could lead to the invocation of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.
Expanding bilateral exercises between our two countries and training, which includes in Japan’s — in Japan’s Southwest Islands.
And, of course, deepening cooperation in the region to include trilateral training and exercises with Australia, and increasing cooperation with republican — Republic of Korea on ballistic missile defense, anti-submarine warfare, and maritime security.
All these moves are not only going to strengthen our combined ability to defend Japan but also will allow the United States and Japan together to provide for peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and bolster deterrence in the region and globally.
Now, I do think that tomorrow will also give President Biden an opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister Kishida progress that we’re going to be able to make together in this coming year on a range of national security and economic issues.
Japan, I think you know, holds the G7 Presidency. They’ve just taken a seat on the U.N. Security Council. And while we’re going to be hosting the APEC this year, as well as seeking to make swift progress on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, there’s a lot of overlap there, and we’re looking forward to that. We’ll discuss how we’re going to align these agendas going forward.
So, tomorrow’s program, we expect, is going to be a full one. But from our perspective, the message is absolutely clear: Japan is stepping up and doing — doing so in lockstep with the United States.
Our investment in our alliances is paying huge dividends, and we look forward to celebrating that tomorrow.
Speaking of alliances and partnerships, I’m also pleased to announce that, next week, President Biden will welcome Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands to the White House on Tuesday, the 17th, to further deepen the historic ties between our two nations.
As strong NATO Allies and global partners, these two leaders are going to reaffirm our shared efforts to strengthen transatlantic security and economic prosperity. They will discuss our steadfast support of Ukraine, and the Netherlands has been a very key supporter of security assistance in Ukraine.
In fact, they’ve already provided a bill- — a billion dollars of that and are committing more — I’m sorry, almost 3 billion committed and committing almost a billion more going forward.
They’re going to be able to discuss all that cooperation going forward on critical technologies and a shared vision for a swift end to this — to this war in Ukraine.
They also plan to talk about a range of issues that are essential to strengthening democracy, whether that’s respect for human rights, rules-based international order around the world, and including as co-hosts of the upcoming second Summit for Democracy.
So, a big week next week, too, with a very key ally and partner. We’re looking forward to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. John, I understand that the leaders will be focused on deterring the threat from China, as well as other adversaries, including Russia — nuclear-powered adversaries North Korea, Russia, China. But what would the leaders be thinking about in terms of this latest reac- — this latest announcement from South Korea saying that they’re open to acquiring nuclear weapons? Will President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida be focused on this? And does the administration believe that a nuclear South Korea contradicts U.S. policy of denuclearization in the entire peninsula?
MR. KIRBY: The United States remains committed, President Biden remains committed to the complete denuclearization of the peninsula. And — and that hasn’t changed. The Republic of Korea has made clear that they are not seeking nuclear weapons. But what we are going to seek, jointly together with them, are improvements in extended deterrence capabilities. So we’re going to move forward on that.
Q Okay. And while we have you here, Ukraine has confirmed that they will be receiving tanks from the UK as well Poland. And during President Zelenskyy’s visit, I think President Biden made it clear that the reason that the U.S. is not providing all the weapons that Ukraine is asking, including these kinds of, you know, tanks, is to ensure that the U.S. is avoiding an escalation to the war and ensuring NATO unity. Does the President believe that UK and Poland’s decision to provide tanks to Ukraine will work against those goals?
MR. KIRBY: The President fully supports those decisions. And those are sovereign decisions that those nations make about this kind of security assistance they provide. That’s been the case throughout this entire length of the war.
We respect that sovereignty. And we certainly are grateful for all the additional security assistance that nations are providing.
I talked to you about the Netherlands. They’ve provided air defense capabilities, as well as howitzers.
So we’re grateful for that. And — but these are decisions that they have to make. The President believes — and these announcements, I think, reinforce this belief — that there is terrific solidarity by the international community behind Ukraine in finding ways to support Ukraine.
Just next week, the Secretary of Defense will be hosting yet another contact group meeting over in Europe to contribute — to find ways to contribute more security assistance from more partners. Those have been very, very successful.
So the President believes that these — that all these decisions are actually mutually reinforcing of a larger issue here, and that is solid international community support behind Ukraine.
Q (Inaudible), on the visit tomorrow, if there’s going to be any more announcement outside of the defense aspects of this visit?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of the meeting that hasn’t happened yet. I’ll let the President summarize it. We’ll have — we’ll have a readout afterward.
Q Thank you. A non-Japan question, since we have you here, John. An or- — an organization called Hostage Aid Worldwide has sent a letter to the President asking for a meeting with him regarding the hostages being held who are dual national who are being held all over the world but particularly in Iran. Until now, they have not got an answer. Do you know why the White House is not giving them the attention they’ve been giving to other hostages?
MR. KIRBY: We take each case seriously, and we take each case individually.
And just to be clear: Dual national citizenship has nothing to do with it. If you have a blue passport, if you’re — if you’re an American citizen, whether you’re a citizen of another nation or not, it doesn’t matter. That means you’re going to be treated the same. All Americans are treated the same, regardless of whether they have citizenship in another nation. Paul Whelan is a great example of that.
So we work each case individually. We work each case seriously. And we try to keep the families as informed as possible.
I won’t speak to specific meetings that have or have — or have not occurred. When we get requests for meetings, we take those seriously, too, and do the best we can to accommodate it.
And certainly, we want to make sure that — that in our communications with family members, that we are not doing or saying anything that actually makes it harder for us to establish a release mechanism for them. And you have to be mindful of that when you’re in the public talking about these cases. That you — you’ve got to be careful that you’re not putting anything out there in the public space that could make it harder.
So each one is reviewed individually and sincerely. And if — and if a meeting can be done and should be done, then, you know, then then we certainly will work to accommodate that.
Q So you would follow up with this letter?
MR. KIRBY: I’m sorry?
Q Would you follow up with the letter that the (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: We’re certain — we’re familiar with the letter. I don’t have a response to the letter for you. I wouldn’t do that from the podium. We’ll certainly respond appropriately.
Q Is Ridge Alkonis on the agenda for tomorrow, John?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t get ahead of the President’s discussion with the Prime Minister Kishida, James. We — certainly the President is aware of the lieutenant’s circumstances in Japan, as is leadership across the military in the Defense Department.
But I’m not going to — I won’t preview or get ahead of the President’s specific agenda.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kristen.
Q Thank you. Thank you so much. Can you give us your reaction or the President’s reaction to reports that Russia is building up its forces in the east? What’s the significance of that, and where do things stand in terms of any potential effort to try to get the two sides to sit down at the table and negotiate?
MR. KIRBY: You mean the east of — inside Ukraine?
Q Inside Ukraine. Yes.
MR. KIRBY: Inside Ukraine.
And I have one more follow-up.
MR. KIRBY: We are — we’ve obviously been watching, very closely, military operations, particularly in eastern Ukraine, the Donbas area. And as I’ve said, even from — from here in the briefing room, the violence, the fighting in areas around Bakhmut and, now, this town called Soledar has been — has been — has been significant and severe. And the fighting has been sharp between both sides.
We’ve talked about, in Bakhmut specifically, this is largely private military contractors. It’s Mr. Prigozhin, largely, and the Wagner Group that had been involved in much of the ground fighting there.
But it has been vicious. And that’s why, going into the winter, knowing that the fighting isn’t slowing down there, that we have been so focused on providing additional security assistance to Ukraine. Just last week, Karine announced for you, you know, nearly $3 billion worth of systems. And there will be more coming, Kristen.
I can’t speak to Russian intent here or specific unit movements or what their goals are. I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t presume to speak for the Russian Defense Ministry.
I would just tell you that as they continue to literally throw bodies at the fighting in Bakhmut — because they have lost an extraordinary amount of, largely, convicts in this fighting — as they continue to do that, they need to know and understand that the United States as well as our allies and partners are going to continue to make sure that Ukraine can defend itself in that area and do so effectively.
And, I mean, I don’t mean to belabor this, but look at the area, right? This is the Donbas area. We’ve talked about this. It’s a lot like Kansas. It’s farmland. It’s open ground. And so we want to make sure that we are providing the kinds of capabilities to Ukraine to be able to succeed in that environment. That’s why Bradley Fighting Vehicles were part of the package that Karine announced. That’s why the Pentagon will very soon be — DOD and our allies will be starting some combined-arms maneuver training outside of Ukraine for up to battalion-level units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to help them in this fight.
Q Can I just try one more? We’re going to direct 99 percent of our questions about the classified documents to Karine, but I —
MR. KIRBY: It would be okay with me if it was 100 percent. (Laughter.)
Q — I do have one for you. Has there been an assessment about any potential national security risk of having these classified documents in the President’s private think tank here in Washington and his home in Delaware?
MR. KIRBY: That would be a question for the Justice Department, because they are conducting — they are conducting a review now. And you saw that they’ve announced a special counsel. That issue would be for them to speak to.
Q Can you speak broadly into the national security concerns about having classified documents in private spaces?
MR. KIRBY: The President has spoken to how seriously he takes the handling of classified documents. And he — as somebody who’s aware of the process myself, did exactly the right thing, which is to have them immediately turned over.
And that’s — that’s where this appropriately lies. And again, the Justice Department would be — would be the place to go to answer your question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, sir. I have one question on Japan and then maybe one on Ukraine.
On Japan, are you — are they going to be discussing the semiconductor exports to China and efforts to restrict those exports? Is that going to be a topic?
And is it — do you see this as very important to have a country like Japan join those efforts to have some sort of chips control, if not a ban — but to have efforts in that area to control (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I want to be careful not to get ahead of President Biden. I think, as I alluded to, it’s going to be a very full and robust agenda. But I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to issues he discusses routinely with his counterparts, bilaterally and in multilateral settings, supply chains — resilient supply chains to include, with respect to high technology, is always a part of the discussion.
Q And then —
MR. KIRBY: But I won’t, again, get ahead of — of what they’re going to say.
Q And on Ukraine, I know you’ve said many times you don’t want to talk about the intent of the Russians. But what do you make of —
MR. KIRBY: It’s not that I don’t want to; I can’t. I mean, I —
Q But what do you make of the new assignment — if you could call it — of Valery Gerasimov? And what does that say maybe about the Russian strategy, as he’s been named the new man in charge of the war efforts?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, they’ve gone through quite a few leadership changes — haven’t they now? — in 10 and a half months. And again — I think Karine said this very well yesterday — we’ll let the Kremlin speak to their decision making here.
But — but they’ve gone through a lot of leadership changes, clearly in an effort — almost from very early on — in an effort to overcome the sorts of difficulties they’ve had in this war, difficulties which remain, whether that’s logistics and sustainment; ISR — intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance — the ability to gather information, to communicate; command and control between units; certainly unit morale and cohesion; and without a doubt — I mean, just look at what’s been going on in the last couple of weeks — battlefield performance.
So, interesting that they have now gone back to Gerasimov, who was in charge at the very beginning, who is essentially the chief of their army staff, not an operational commander. It’s an interesting selection. You know, they — they should speak to that.
But I think it’s indicative and it shows the degree to which the Russians continue to struggle to get it right in terms of just leadership command and control problems.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ariel.
Q Thank you so much. I had a question. Tensions are rising again between Sweden and Turkey. How confident are you that these two countries can resolve these tensions? And how confident are you that Sweden would be able to join NATO soon?
And I would have a follow-up (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: We firmly support their ascension. I think you know that. President Biden has made that very, very clear. And — and so too does the vast majority of NATO nations.
I’ll certainly let those two nations speak for themselves in terms of the discussions that they’re having. You saw, yesterday, Swedish officials said publicly that they believe that these discussions are actually on a positive track. And we certainly hope that’s the case.
Q And on the classified documents, have there been, you know, any other countries in touch with the administration expressing some kind of concerns about how secure classified documents are and how, like, confidential information about those countries could have circulated?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any such discussions or concerns.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Alex in the back.
Q Thank you. The family and supporters of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny are increasingly concerned about his health. In fact, even Russian doctors are —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — openly putting their name to a letter.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q Is there anything you can do to let the Kremlin know (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: We share their concerns and continue to believe that he should be immediately released, obviously. And, short of that, to make — to insist that he gets proper medical care.
So we’ve seen those concerns and share those concerns. And we’ll continue to make plain those concerns to Russian authorities.
Q Is the United States — over here.
MR. KIRBY: Sorry.
Q Is the United States concerned that Soledar has fallen to the Russians or is — could be falling to the Russians?
MR. KIRBY: Can’t confirm the reports that it’s fallen. I mean, I’ve seen the Russian proclamations about this. The Ukrainians tell a different story. We’re not on the ground, so I’m not — we’re not in a position to confirm it.
It’s a small village in the Donbas. We believe that the Russian interest in it is sort of twofold. One, because they see it’s — securing it as key to their ability to hold and — secure and then to hold Bakhmut.
There’s also salt mines there. So we also think that there’s a bit of an economic incentive, particularly by Mr. Prigozhin, to take possession.
Q And if Russia were to take Soledar, what would that say about Russia advances in that area?
MR. KIRBY: I think we —
Q How would that change the dynamic?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, a great question. I think, look, we got to take a little — we got to keep this in perspective. We don’t know how it’s going to go, so I’m not going to predict failure or success here.
But even if both Bakhmut and Soledar fall to the Russians, it’s not going to make a — it’s not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself. And it certainly isn’t going to stop the Ukrainians or slow them down in terms of their — their efforts to regain their territory.
And I would remind — I mean, I know we’re all focused on those two towns right now, but just, again, take a couple of steps back. And if you look at what’s been happening over the last 10 and a half months, particularly in the Donbas, towns and villages have swapped hands quite frequently.
So, my last comment would be: Don’t count the Ukrainians out.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you. I would like to follow up on Patsy’s question on the tanks for Ukraine. Poland says that it will deliver the tanks only as a part of a larger international coalition, and it’s encouraging other countries to join. So, I’m wondering if President Biden is considering joining this coalition by sending U.S. Abrams tanks and if he’s encouraging other countries, including Germany, to do the same?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t get ahead of decisions on security assistance that haven’t been made yet. We have been, I think, very effective at providing security assistance that evolves with the way the war has evolved.
And, you know, now, you know, two weeks ago, we were talking about Patriots and air defense and today, you know, we’re talking about armored vehicles and tanks. So, I won’t get ahead of the President — decisions he’s going to make.
As I said to Patsy, we’re grateful for the support that other nations are — are providing. They each do it in their own way, on — in a size, scale, and scope and a pace that they’re comfortable with. These are sovereign decisions, and we respect that.
President Zelenskyy has said he’s interested in tanks, and now you have some countries that are showing a willingness to provide tanks. That’s all to the good.
The United States will continue to provide our security assistance in — in the same way we have for the last 10 and a half months, working in lockstep with the Ukrainians, and making sure that we’re meeting their needs as best we can and, if we can’t, that we’re working with allies and partners to do the same.
And again, you asked about this coalition or alliance –again, we believe that there has been an incredible framework established already internationally to provide assistance — security assistance, specifically — to Ukraine. And that’s through this Ukraine Defense Contact Group. There’s another meeting next week. We’re very excited about that and looking forward to it.
Q May I follow up? Because the President says that the war is in a critical point. If the war is at a critical point, why wait? It takes time to train Ukrainians to operate those tanks.
MR. KIRBY: Nobody is waiting. Nobody is waiting. I mean, almost every two weeks, like clockwork, we’re getting up here and talking to you about billions of dollars of more assistance that are going to Ukraine. The United States is the leader of the wor- — I mean, we’ve — almost $25 billion since the start of this war. No other nation comes close to providing the kind of security assistance that we have.
It’s not about waiting. It’s about working in lockstep with Ukrainians, making sure that we understand their needs and capabilities, and delivering those capabilities the best way that we can.
And when I say “we,” I don’t just mean the U.S.; I mean the big “we.” And sometimes those assets are not going to come from the United States. Sometimes, they’re going to come from other nations. And maybe that’s better for the Ukrainians, either because they can get there faster or because it’s a — it’s a capability that they’re more comfortable using and won’t need quite as much training and operation and maintenance on it.
There’s lots of reasons that — lots of things that go into these decisions. Yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, Justin. You have the last question.
Q Oh, I was, in fact, going to ask — not that we don’t always appreciate your appearance in the briefing room, but if we could maybe get to the — the main event?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, we’re trying to keep (inaudible).
MR. KIRBY: That’s fine with me. I will depart. All right. Thanks, everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Justin, jeez. (Laughter.)
MR. KIRBY: Justin —
Q We love — we love having you here, but there’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my goodness.
Q — a million (inaudible) today.
MR. KIRBY: (Inaudible.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wow, Justin. Justin did not hold back at all. (Laughter.) I think that you that did that on the plane last week, too. I remember.
Q It’s — you know — all right. All right.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m keeping track. I’m keeping track.
Q I’m trying to be mindful of time. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Chris, it’s yours.
Q So, a few questions about the classified documents. First off, is the President willing to be interviewed by federal investigators about his handling of classified documents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first, let me just say: I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals. This is something for the Department of —
Q It’s not a hypothetical question. There’s an investigation ongoing. Will the President speak to investigators?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s in the re- — it’s — ongoing review. Right? You’re asking me about something in the future, and I am telling you that I’m not going to get ahead of what the Department of Justice is going to decide.
Look, I want to reiterate what you heard from the President today. It is important for the American people to know this — is that the President has said he takes classified documents and information very seriously. This is something, as you all know, that he — that he will not shy away from saying and has continued to say this, this week.
And again, he was surprised that these records had been found. He does not know what’s in them. And his team, once they identified that these documents were — were there, they immediately reached out to the Archives and the Department of Justice and did the — rightfully so — did the right thing by turning that over. And they have been cooperating very closely with the Department of Justice.
You actually heard AG — Attorney General Garland say today that they heard from his team really shortly after the discovery.
And so, you know, I just want to make sure that this is understood: that he takes this very seriously.
Q So, speaking of him taking this seriously, this is the kind of thing that can cause government employees to lose a security clearance. This is a serious matter, as the White House has said. Was the President sloppy in his handling of classified material if there are multiple locations where classified documents are being found?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I said this in my — I said that in the statement. It’s in the statement of — from his lawyer, Richard Sauber. And at the end, he said, “We are confident that their thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake.”
I’m going to leave it there. That’s what his lawyer said. But again, this is something that the President takes very seriously and we have been coordinating — they have been coordinating — his lawyers have been coordinating very closely with the Department of Justice.
Q Last thing is — the initial statement from the White House came out with on Monday, the President addressed us on Tuesday in Mexico City — all the conversation was about the documents in the office.
However, according to the Attorney General, documents were found on December 20th in his garage in Wilmington. Why was it not immediately addressed? Is the White House being transparent about that if that was already known and not discussed upfront?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to — you said “transparent.” I want to say that we have been transparent here. That is why the minute that his lawyers found those documents, they reported it. They reached out to the Archives and the Department of Justice. And they did that voluntarily. And they were not compelled to do it. They did it voluntarily.
Now, I want to step back a little bit, as you’re asking me about the timeline. Look, the lawyer said we have been working closely with the Department of Justice and coordinating a search that was still ongoing to ensure any additional documents were in the proper possession of the government.
After that search — after the search concluded last night, we released a statement disclosing the facts from that search, as you all know, this morning. This is all part of the Justice Department process. And you heard the Attorney General speak to this today.
So, we are being very careful to be fully cooperative with the Department of Justice and providing details as appropriate, as part of that process.
Q So why didn’t you fully describe the documents when you were first asked this week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because — and I actually answered that question. I said because there was a process happening that was currently ongoing. And — and I’ll refer you back to my comments that I made just yesterday.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q Thanks. Just a couple things I want to clarify just to make sure that our reporting is as accurate as possible. The special counsel’s — the White House Counsel’s statement this morning said that documents were found in the President’s Wilmington residence garage and in an adjacent room. But when the President mentioned this himself in person earlier, he said they were found in storage areas and in his personal library. So, can you just clear this up? Which room? Where were the documents actually found in his residence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so let me just step back, because I know all of you will have a lot of questions. So, I’ll lay this out very clearly and precisely. I don’t want — clearly, we want to make sure no one is confused, as you just said, Mary.
As soon as the President’s lawyers found these documents, they immediately contacted Archives and Department of Justice, as I’ve said many times already, to ensure that they were handled properly. The President has said this.
We are being fully cooperative with the Department of Justice throughout this process, as part of the President’s lawyers look through the places where documents could have been stored and the Counsel’s Office released, as you said, a statement explaining that. So, I would refer you back to the statement. I don’t have anything more to say.
But that search was completed last night. And now this is in the hands of the Justice Department. So, look, I want to be very prudent here. As I said yesterday, as you all have reported over and over again, so — about any questions about this, any specifics. There’s a review going on, and I would refer you to Department of Justice or my colleagues in the Counsel’s Office.
But, again, I’m just not going to go beyond what the President said. We just laid out where — we just laid out the process that was taken.
Q It sounds like you’re saying we should go off the Counsel’s statement saying it was found in the garage and in an adjacent room, not the personal library.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying — no, I am just saying I’m not going to go beyond what the President — the President said. I’m not going to —
Q But they’re conflicting, right? What the President is saying is conflicting with the Counsel.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I completely — Mary, I completely understand. I just want to be very careful because there is an ongoing investigation. I want to be prudent here and make sure — if you have any additional questions about where things were found, again, I’d refer you to the statement. I’m not going to go beyond what the President has said.
Q And one other point of clarification. The President said Tuesday he was surprised to learn about the documents at the Penn Biden Center, that he didn’t know what was in these documents. He didn’t, sort of, repeat that this morning about the documents found at his residence.
So, was he also surprised to learn that there were classified documents at his residence? And does he know any information about what’s in them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, he — again, he was surprised that the — that the documents were there. And that is — that is also in line with what we — what we shared this morning. And, again, he takes this very seriously, when it comes to classified information, when it comes to classified documents.
And, again, it still stays the same: He was surprised that the records were found. He does not know what’s in them. That has not changed. And, again, his team, when they identified that they were — that they — that they were there, they immediately reached out to the Archives, reached out to DOJ, just as they did last night and as we have pretty much laid out previously.
Q And one more, just because much has been made up of the differences here between the way you all have handled these documents and the way that the former President handled the documents that were taken from the White House.
When the FBI went — the FBI — I’m sorry — Garland said when the FBI went to the location, being the President’s residence, and secured these documents, did the FBI just retrieve documents, or was there a search of the residence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just not going to go into those particulars or the specifics of what the Department of Justice did. I can speak to what we have done and what is already out there. We laid out a statement pretty extensively on Monday. We’ve been — laid out a statement this morning on what was found last night. I’m just not going to go beyond.
I would refer you to the Department of Justice to give you the specifics on that. As you know, there’s an ongoing process. There’s a review currently occurring.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you shed any light on how the documents got to these places and why?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, there’s an ongoing process. It’s being reviewed. Don’t have any — don’t have more to share. I’m going to let the Department of Justice answer any questions, as they’re looking at this.
Q Does the White House think that the appointment of a special prosecutor was warranted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into the decisions that were — that was made by the Attorney General. I will say this, and you’ve heard me say this many times before: This is a President that believes in the independence of the Justice Department. This is something that he has been saying since the campaign, and you’ve heard me say this over and over, and restoring that independence.
So, look, we have been very, very careful here not to appear, from the White House, to influence their decision making on — on — on any number of issues, as you’ve heard me say over and over again. I’ve said this many times. I’m sure someone has counted the amount of times that I’ve said that the Department of Justice is independent and we respect their independence.
I am certainly not going to comment on or give my opinion or we — or are we are we going to give our opinion on what the Attorney General laid out today.
Q What, broadly, does the White House make of comparisons between President Biden’s handling of documents and former President Trump’s handling of documents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into politics from here. What I can say is what I’ve laid out, which is the President takes this very seriously. He does. He said this twice. And he did not know that the records were there when they were found. He does not know what’s in them. And what he did and what his team did is the minute that they realized that the documents were there, they reached out to the Archives, they reached out to the Department of Justice.
And I’ll just leave it — I’ll leave it — I’ll leave it there, and I’ll leave you all to — to pontificate and do your punditry. I will not do that from here.
Q Thanks, Karine. In the statement from the special counsel about the second set of documents, it said the lawyers have completed the ongoing review by the President’s legal team last night. Does that mean there are no other locations where documents can be stored, there is no other search underway at this moment in time for documents from the Vice President’s time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as — as — I’m just going to — again, that statement pretty much lays — lays that — lays it out, that they — they have — as far as the lawyers, they look through the places where documents could have been stored, and the Counsel’s Office released a statement on that. Now it is in the hands of the special counsel.
Q So we should assume that it has been completed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It — it — you should assume that it’s been completed, yes.
Q Okay. And then I just want to square something that Chris was asking about. The review was underway when you guys gave a detailed statement about the first set of documents. The review was underway when the President spoke about the first set of documents. You’re now saying that you didn’t talk about the second set of documents, discovered almost a month prior, because the review was underway.
Like, I don’t unders- — it doesn’t make any sense.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I think —
Q The review was underway the entire time. The only difference was that reporters had information on the first set of documents and, therefore, you chose to exclude the second set of documents until reporters got information on the second set of documents.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me unconfuse you for a second, Phil.
Look, we are trying to do this by the book. And I said yesterday this was under review by the Department of Justice.
And the process is as such: When the — when the President’s lawyers realized that the documents existed, that they were there, they reached out to the Archives. They reached out to the Department of Justice — rightfully so, may I add. That is what you’re supposed to do as lawyers; that’s what they did. And they have fully been cooperating with — with the Department of Justice.
And, again, I said this earlier in answering a question: You heard from the Attorney General. He said shortly after the documents were discovered, they — they — that we did outreach — the President’s lawyers did outreach to — to the Department of Justice and Archives.
Q But nobody is — nobody is question that. That’s not what we’re asking about. We’re asking about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m telling you, though, there’s a process. I just laid out what the process is.
Q I understand. And I’m asking about the public process of —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I’m telling you that we were trying to do this by the book, and it — it was ongoing process. I’m not going to get beyond that. But that is how this works.
Q How can you say this was transparent —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine.
Q — when you sat on this information for more than two
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Ed.
Q We are seeking information, and I appreciate and
understand why the Press Office can only say so much. So help us understand this: Who are the President’s personal counsel that the Attorney General referred to today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have to get — I was asked that question earlier. Let me get back to you. I actually don’t have that answer. I think I know who it is, but I want to make 100 percent (inaudible).
Q There’s names that have been — we have Bob Bauer is one, potentially Dana Remus, James Garland, Robert Lenhard.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look —
Q Are they the ones that have been contacting the Justice Department?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again, I don’t want to — I want to say the right thing from here, so I — we would have to — I would have talk to the White House Counsel, or you would have to reach out to the White House Counsel to talk about who is his personal lawyers — who are.
Q And to button this up, the first set of documents were found in November at the Penn Biden Center here in Washington, but why did it take until yesterday and until this morning, apparently, for whoever it was to inform Robert [sic] Lausch that that final document was found? Was that because there were press reports earlier this week —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, there’s —
Q — and the hope was that nobody would find out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again —
Q Or was it because —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — there’s a process — an ongoing process that is occurring. We did this by the book. And what I mean by that is: The moment that the lawyers discovered that the papers were there, or the documents were there, they reached out to the Archives, they reached out to Department of Justice, and they immediately — rightfully so — reached out to them to let them know what — what they had discovered.
And that is the process. That is what we — that is what his lawyers did. And, again, it’s an ongoing process.
As you stated in your question, I am limited in what I can say. It is now in the hands of the Department of Justice. They are reviewing this. As you know, the special counsel was announced by the Attorney General. And so I will leave it there.
Q What was the President trying to say when he referenced his Corvette earlier today? Because it sounded like he was implying that because his garage is a safe place for his car, the documents were safe and, therefore, it was a — if it was safe for the car, it was safe for the documents. Is that what he meant?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — I’m going to just leave his statement as is. I think you — your colleague was having a back-and-forth with the President. You can read the transcript of what was asked of him and why he responded that way. I’m just not going to get into specifics.
Q And you talk about “we are being transparent.” Who is “we”? And what is the definition of “transparent” in this case? Is it the lawyers being transparent legally with the Archives and the Justice Department? Or is it the White House writ large being transparent with the general public?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, number one — and I’ve said this multiple times already — we take this very seriously. The President takes this very seriously. He was not aware that the records were there. He does not know what — what is in the documents. Again, classified information, classified documents, he takes very seriously.
When they were discovered — and this is the right thing to do — right? — his lawyers reached out immediately to the Archivist, they reached out to Department of Justice to let them know that the papers, or the documents —
Q Who was it? Was it the Archivist or the Justice Department? Because the Attorney General, this morning, said that the attorneys reached out to the Archives. It was only later, in December, when the second batch was apparently found —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I will —
Q — that then they were reaching to the Justice Department.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I will leave it — I will leave it to what the Department of Justice is laying out. What we are saying is that we reached out to the Archivist, we reached out to Department of Justice. That is what is the right thing to do in this case. And not —
Q And you withheld it from the public.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — and — and — and — so I can finish here — what has been transparent in this as well is that the White House Counsel has le- — has laid out in detail, on Monday, to all of you —
Q But they haven’t laid out everything, Karine, and you know that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: First of all, I can’t talk about this — right? — because it is — the Department of Justice is reviewing it. There is a review happening, Ed. Right? You know this. We just heard from the Attorney General. There is a review. I am limited in what I can say to this.
Q Then could Richard Sauber perhaps come here or Stuart Delery come here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think you should — I think you should reach out to the White House Counsel.
Q We’re reaching out on a constant basis —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. And —
Q — but why not have them come here, to the room —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, I am saying to you —
Q — to take questions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — that we have put out lengthy statements. And you can reach out to them, as you all have been doing. And I will leave it there.
Q But why are they subjecting you to this, Karine, then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Justin.
Q Why not have them come and answer the questions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — they have been — they have been talking to you all pretty regularly the last couple of days. We have put out — they have put out lengthy statements on this. I just read out what Richard Sauber had to say. And I would refer you to the White House Counsel.
I am limited in what I can say because — because the Department of Justice — we see them as being independent when it comes to these types of issues.
And so, I’m not going to go beyond what the President say — said. And I’m not going to go beyond what the lawyers said.
I have to go around. You’ve asked about —
Q But can there be —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’ve asked me —
Q Can there at least be an acknowledgment then —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Ed —
Q — that there’s going to be a limit in transparency — public, non-legal transparency — in what can be shared and said by this White House —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I disagree. There has —
Q — given what we’ve learned today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I disagree, Ed. There has not been a limit of transparency. That is —
Q These statements were lacking —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is —
Q — information on —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is —
Q — when exactly these —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There has not been a —
Q — things were found.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — limit of transparency. That I will — I will disagree with you on that.
Q You sat on it for two months.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Justin.
Q Thanks, Karine. I did want to kind of follow up on what Ed and Phil were asking, which is: Putting aside the question of whether the President’s lawyers acted properly in handing the documents over, there’s this lingering question of why there wasn’t an acknowledgement of the second set of documents earlier this week.
And you’ve said that you’re working through a process and going by the book. And I’m — what I’m curious is if you’re trying to, sort of, hint at the idea that the Justice Department asked you not to reveal the second set of documents or you were told in some way not to disclose anything that had not been made public (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I would not jump to those two conclusions. That is not what I’m stating.
I am genuinely saying to you: There is an ongoing process that we are going to follow, and I am limited in what I can say from here. That is why my White House Counsel colleagues are the — we referred to them these past couple of days.
Now this is in the hands of the Department of Justice —
Q So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — as we — as — as you all heard from the Attorney General himself.
Q It — I think it — I guess I remain confused.
If the Justice Department didn’t ask you not to disclose these documents, why — on Monday, as this news was coming out; Tuesday, as the President was talking about it, you didn’t say, “Here’s everything we know at this point. You know the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look —
Q — the first set was found at the Penn Biden Center. The second set was found at his office. We’re searching to make sure that there’s nothing else.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because there’s an ongoing process. And you heard directly from the — from the Attorney General today. And that is the process. That is how this is going to go.
It is not going to come from here — from me at this podium. It is going to come from the Department of Justice. And that is just the process that’s happening currently.
Q I feel slightly bad about chasing Kirby from the room. So I’m going to ask you one thing not about the special counsel, which is — (laughter).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What? No, now you can’t —
Q Yeah —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You can’t now ask a question that you could have asked to Kirby.
Q Well, it wasn’t for Kirby. It was —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh.
Q — it was for you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q You got a question yesterday, actually, about Moderna raising the prices of the COVID vaccine and said that you would take the question. I was wondering if you had a follow-up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I did, I actually did. And Michael is not here. I was going to provide this information to him today.
So I don’t want — first, I don’t want anybody to be confused here. As you know, this is incredibly important.
So you can go to 90,000 locations and get a Moderna or any COVID-19 shot for free. That is currently what folks can do. And they are our best protection against the XBB1.5 right now.
So, please — if you haven’t, please go get your shot, as you’ve heard from me, as you’ve heard from — our COVID-19 team here has been very clear on why this is important and why folks should get their shots.
What — and when — as it relates to the question, what Senator Sanders is talking about is future shots and the process of moving forward — moving toward a commercial market for COVID shots. So we share this concern that those shots should be affordable. That is something that we tru- — we share the concern with Senator Sanders.
The price hike here is hard to — to understand or to justify. Again, we — we are — we do have those concerns as well, and we believe that shot should be affordable.
Go ahead, Tam.
Q Yeah, a couple of basic geography questions you may not be able to answer. But is the library a room adjacent to the garage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I — I don’t have any — any of this information that I can provide. I would — this is under review. I would — I would refer you to the Department of Justice. I’m just not going to go into specifics here. Not something that I can do from here.
Q And is the President’s Corvette stored in the garage where the documents were found? Just for pure fact purposes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I will basically repeat what the President said. His Corvette is in the garage. I’m not going to go beyond what the President said.
Q On a different topic?
Q Okay. And on the transparency issue: Would you admit that, earlier this week, the White House shared incomplete information? I think that when we all heard Merrick Garland say that these documents at the residence were found on December 20th, that they were notified — that was pretty surprising to all of us based on the statements that you and the President and the Counsel’s Office had made.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as I’ve just said, the — as you saw in our statement, the documents that were found last night — right? — they completed the search with documents being found last night.
And then, this morning, we put out — we put out — you heard from the White House Counsel. You — we put out the information on specifically what was found.
Q But just one document was found last night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The search was continuing. It was ongoing. The process, as I have been saying, was ongoing.
And the search is clearly complete, and therefore we shared the information with all of you.
Again, this is an ongoing process. I would refer you to Department of Justice on any other specifics or particulars, even on timeline or any other questions that you have.
Q Does Biden have any regret?
Q Right here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to go back. Go ahead.
Q Just some — more of a follow-up to a couple of questions. But is the President confident — you said that the search has been completed, but is the President confident that there are no additional documents with classified markings that remain in any other additional locations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I can just refer you to what his team said: The search is complete. He is confident in this process. And I will leave it there.
Q And —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And they’ve been cooperating very closely with the Department of Justice.
Q And we’ve gotten this statement that the White House did not get advance notice that Garland was appointing a special counsel.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is correct.
Q When did the President learn? How did he learn? Was it from the press conference? Did he get a heads up before that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We learned from the press conference.
Q The President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President. We — we were not given a heads up, and we learned from the press conference.
Q So, he was in a funeral at the time. When did somebody tell him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — look, he was at a funeral, to your point. Maybe one of his — one of his senior advisors may have told him. I actually don’t know specifically when he knew.
But what I can say to you, he was — we were not given a heads up. That I can confirm, as you all know, already.
Q And have you had a chance to talk to him since then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I —
Q Can you give us his reaction to this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not had a chance to talk to the President about this or his reaction.
Q Does the White House feel like House Republicans have a right to conduct an investigation on documents issue? They’ve, of course, started sending requests and saying they’re going to look into this. Does that fall in the realm of, sort of, legitimate requests from — from House Republicans right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to speak to the — what the House Republicans decide to do. What I can speak to is that we are — the President’s lawyer is — is complying, and they are working on this with the Department of Justice as they have been.
Again, this is something that the President takes very seriously when it comes to classified information, when it comes to classified documents.
I’m just not going to go into what — what the Republicans on the House do or don’t do.
Q And then — sorry, just separate from this, I was wondering if the White House had any thought on the Senate primary in California that’s shaping up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, the President sees Senator Feinstein as a long-time friend and also a colleague who he deeply respects and has collaborated on historic pieces of legislations over the years and — such as the last federal ban on assault — assault — assault weapons. So, he respects the talented officials in California who are expressing interest in running for her seat.
And we are prohibited from here, as you know, about talking about campaigns or elections. Not something that I can do from — from the podium, so it would be inappropriate for me to weigh in with more specifics on any forthcoming Senate race, including — including the one in California.
But clearly, he sees her as a long-time friend and colleague.
Q Yeah, the President, when he was in Mexico City and asked about the classified documents that were found in the — in the private office at the Penn Biden Center, said that he didn’t know what the documents contained or what was in them. Is that the case also with the documents found at his Wilmington residence? That he didn’t know — he doesn’t know what those documents involve?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I already answered the question. And he does not know. He is not aware of the — that the documents or records were there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll come over.
Q Sorry. Could you just clarify a little bit more about — when you say that “we informed the Archives immediately or the Department of Justice immediately,” since this happens in various points in time, what exactly was said at which juncture? Because it seems to be there’s some conflict there in some of the (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again, I will refer you to the Department of Justice.
What I can tell you is that his lawyers reached out to the Archivist, to the Department of Justice, which is what you’re supposed to do, which is the right thing to do.
I’m not going to get into specifics of time, of who — who they reached — reached out to first. I would refer you to the White House Counsel to get more specifics. It is an ongoing process.
You — and I would again refer to either the White House Counsel or the Department of Justice for that — for that specific question.
Q Just a couple of outstanding clarifications before I get to questions. Sauber said there were documents in the garage and one document in an adjacent room. Merrick Garland said the DOJ was informed of one additional document this morning. Is that the same document — the “additional document” and the document found in the “adjacent room”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just say: During the review –and this is so that folks know — the lawyers discovered, among personal and political papers, a small number of additional Obama-Biden administration records with classified markings. All but one of these documents were found in storage space in the President’s Wilmington residence garage. One document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room. No documents were found in the Rehoboth Beach house.
Look, I just want to underscore that this is something, again, that — that the President takes very seriously, underscores how we executed the search with the DOJ to make to make sure that they continued cooperating fully with the review. And I think that is — what we’re trying to be — to be very clear about is that we have been — the President’s lawyers has been cooperating fully. Fully.
I’m not going to get into the specifics as to — you have the statement. I would refer you to the President’s lawyer or anything else specifically on this, or the Department of Justice, because they are actually reviewing this currently.
Q Karine, a couple more. To go back to something we were trying to pin down yesterday, can you tell us today when did the President find out initially about that first batch of documents and then the second batch? Our reporting says he was told on November 2nd. Is that true?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what I can say to you is that the President has been kept in — has been kept informed by his counsel throughout this process.
Q (Inaudible) date the documents were found in each case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t — I don’t have a specific date, but I can tell you that the President was kept informed throughout.
I don’t have a timeline to share for you right now. Again, this is under ongoing review, and so I want to be careful and prudent on what I share here at the podium.
Q Can you tell us when the search started and why they were searching in the first place? Was the President concerned that there may be classified documents? Did someone tip them off? What sparked this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m just not going to go into details from here. I’m not going to go into specifics from here. This is undergoing — un- — this review is continuing, is ongoing. I would refer you to Department of Justice.
Q Karine, you have said repeatedly and the President has said he takes classified documents very seriously. If that’s the case, why were these classified documents being stored in his garage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again — and not just me, he has said this — you’ve heard the President say this twice already, and he’s said this before: Classified documents and information, he takes that very seriously. And —
Q Does he think a garage as an appropriate place to store classified material?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to go into — into what he thinks or how he feels about what is currently happening. What I can say for sure, when it comes to this specific issue about classified documents, about classified information, he takes that very seriously.
He did not know — right? — he did not know the records were there. He was surprised that the records were there. So, let’s be very clear. That is something that the President shared with all of you on the world stage and also recently today.
And so, what he — what occurred was, as I’ve said multiple times before, is when his team identified that these records existed, they — they handed them over to the Archivist and also the Department of Justice.
Q Do — just one more, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q Do you acknowledge that the fact that the White House did not reveal this to the public, despite the fact that you’ve known about it for months, undercuts the President’s promise of being transparent with the American people?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But we — but here’s the thing: They were transparent.
Q But not to the American people.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There was — there was transparency in doing what you’re supposed to do when these — when these items were discovered.
Q But not with the American people.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we — I am here, standing in front of you, answering these questions. Right? The President took two questions this week on this. You’ve heard — wait, let me just answer. You’ve heard from the White House Counsel, who put out multiple statements on this.
And so, again, this is an ongoing process. We want to respect the process, and we have laid out very clearly what occurred.
And, again, I don’t want to get ahead of this. The Department of Justice — you — you all can — will get your questions answered from them during — during this time. And so, I would just refer you to Department of Justice. And now, as you all know, there’s a special counsel dealing with this.
Q Thank you, Karine. Another one on “garage gate.” What is the White House trying to hide?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nothing.
Q Someone gave the President a statement to read on Tuesday that was incomplete at best, misleading at worst. Who?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have read out the President’s statement. I read it out yesterday and what he said. He said that he we- — he respects — or he takes classified information and documents very seriously. That’s what he said.
He said that he did not know that the records were there. He does not know what’s in them. He said that. You heard from him directly on this.
And his team has been cooperating fully. Fully.
And not only that — again, I’ll say this: The Attorney General said this himself that he heard from the team shortly after.
So, we have laid out — laid out what has occurred here. You have heard from the White House Counsel. I just read the statement from his lawyer. And again, you know, we take this very seriously and the President does as well.
Q When will the White House release a log of visitors to the Wilmington house?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, Peter, you’ve asked this question or your colleagues have asked this question before. Let’s not forget what we did here in this White House. We instituted something that the last administration got rid of, which is putting out the White House — putting — making sure that there was a White House log — an extensive White House log — so the American people got to see —
Q I mean at the Wilmington house where there is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again —
Q — potentially unsecured, classified material.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I am telling you: We did something that the last administration got rid of, which is instituting the White House logs.
Did you ask the last administration why they got rid of the White House logs?
Q I was the campaign reporter —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, let’s go. Let’s go.
Q — covering Joe Biden in Wilmington. We don’t know who had access —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, did — Fox did?
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Do we have the records for the Delaware residence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I’m sorry. I was calling the gentleman who wanted to ask a question that was not related to this. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. I appreciate it. I know I’m a little behind the news cycle here, but I want to go back to yesterday’s op-ed from the President on big-tech regulation.
In Washington State, we’ve got the chairs of both the Senate and House Commerce Committees, and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers put out a statement saying, essentially, “Great. Let’s do it. Let’s put forward this bill” that passed her committee almost unanimously last Congress — the Data Privacy Protection Act. I just want to know if the President supports and the White House supports that bill.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President has long called for strong privacy protections. That is something that he’s been doing and calling for since almost the beginning of his administration. We are heartened to see bipartisan cooperation continue on this important issue, on this critical issue.
As the President said in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, as you mentioned, as you were referring to the op-ed that came out recently: Democrats and Republicans need to come together to pass serious federal protections for Americans’ privacy, including the strongest possible protections for minors. That means clear limits on how companies can collect, use, and share highly personal data.
We welcome — to your question — we welcome the partnership of Senator Cantwell, Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers, Congressman Pallone, and others in getting a bipartisan product to the President’s desk that protects our privacy and also protects the privacy of our children. We think this is a critical, important issue. And again, we’ll continue to call for this.
Q A sticking point on that has been, specifically, pushback from California lawmakers worried about preempting state laws, like California. Does the President believe that it’s important to have a strong — like a national standard for data privacy, even if it’s weaker than individual state laws?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have — I don’t have any news to make about specifics of the pieces of — that’s what’s — of the specific pieces of the legislation.
I’ll just say — I’ll just say this: We work — we look forward to working with both parties and both houses to get privacy and other tech legislation done. We think, again, it’s important for the protection of — the protection — protection of privacy is important for Americans across the country, but also let’s not forget our children.
Q Karine. Was the Corvette searched, Karine?
Q Thank you. Thank you, Karine. I’m sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. I have a couple of questions here, but I wanted to follow up quickly. You have said repeatedly that the President’s lawyers did the right thing. But you also said earlier during the briefing, of the President’s lawyers immediately reaching out to the National Archives, that, quote, they were not “compelled” to do it; they did it “voluntarily.” Is it the position of the White House that legally the President could have just held on to these?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying they did the right thing. Period. I wouldn’t read into it. I’m saying that they did the right thing, and they did it voluntarily. Because it is the right thing to do when you find these types of documents to indeed reach out to the Archives and reach out to the Department of Justice.
So, they — and — and outside of that, they have been cooperating very closely with — cooperating very closely with the Department of Justice. It is the — and rightfully so they did this.
Q But I guess I — I’m just a little confused, and I want to move on, but what did you mean when you said that they, you know, were not “compelled” to do it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They did it — they did it — they did the right thing. That’s it. I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t go into — down into a rabbit hole on this. They did the right thing by reaching out to the Archivist and to the Department of Justice.
Q And then, does the White House know how many stops these classified documents made before they ended up in his home in Delaware or in the Biden Penn Office? For instance, can you rule out that there was a third stop between a secure location and the garage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I would refer you to Department of Justice.
Q And then, there was a question that was asked about the visitor logs with regards to folks who have come in and out of the President’s home in Delaware. Does the administration have any idea, between the garage and the Biden Penn Office, just how many people could have gotten their hands on this? Or, you know, are we to assume that the White House doesn’t have an estimate, that they don’t know?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s an ongoing review on this, and I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q Okay. And then, you know, just finally, the President has said that his lawyers have advised him not to ask what was in these classified documents. I don’t understand the purpose of that. He’s the President of the United States. He has (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because we’re trying to do this by the book. We’re trying to do this in the appropriate way. And so that’s what I would say to you.
We have — we have — his team has been complying — right? — cooperating with the Department of Justice. And I will leave it there. I’m not going to go beyond.
Q Well, what in the book says that he can’t look at this? What would compel him or push him in that direction? Because you’ve said that repeatedly. What, I guess — as he tries to do this by the book, as he tries to do the right thing — you know, what are his lawyers looking at that says, “Yeah, don’t look at this classified information that was found”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, there’s a process here. The process is that when the lawyers found that these documents existed, they reached out to the Archive and also the Department of Justice. That is the process, and they have been — they have been cooperating closely, working closely with the Department of Justice.
And now, as you’ve heard, the Attorney General made a statement today, and so I would refer you to them.
All right, everybody. Thank you.
Q Can I just ask you one last question, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, go ahead, Steve.
Q Twice in the last six months, the FBI has had to visit the home — the private home of a current and a former President to collect classified material. Does the federal government have a records retention problem that needs to be addressed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to get into the politics of this or the specifics of this. All I can say is the President has been very clear on this. He takes this very seriously.
Again, he was surprised that the records were there — that the documents were there. He does not know what’s in them. His team did the right thing — right? — which is, as the moment that they realized the documents were there, they reached out to the Archive and they reached out to the DOJ.
I will see you all tomorrow. Thank you, everybody.
4:08 P.M. EST