Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, January 17, 2023
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:52 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wow. Such a quiet day. Nothing going on here.
Come on. Come on, guys. Here. Please, right here. Come on. And Steve.
COACH KERR: Thank you.
MR. CURRY: Can we flank you from the center?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Yeah, please flank me. I love it. (Laughter.)
Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Come on, there’s a lot of people here. Good afternoon, everybody!
Q Good afternoon!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so as you can all see, we have a couple of special guests here today in the briefing room. I am proud — so proud to welcome to the podium Coach Steve Kerr. Hello.
COACH KERR: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Head coach of the Golden State Warriors and nine-time NBA champion as both a coach and a player.
And Steph Curry —
MR. CURRY: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — four-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
Coach Kerr and Steph will say a few words about their visit to D.C. today and an issue that’s close to their hearts. And so I’m going to let them take over.
But, you know, I almost — Coach, I almost went pro — (laughter) — but, you know, being five-foot-two —
COACH KERR: Just — yeah, right there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — five-foot-three didn’t make it happen. But there’s this great video of me and Sue Bird — an amazing icon in the —
COACH KERR: Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — WNBA. You should check that out.
COACH KERR: We’ll do that. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But anyway, I’m going to let you guys take over.
COACH KERR: All right.
MR. CURRY: Absolutely.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, thank you.
MR. CURRY: Thank you very much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No problem.
COACH KERR: Thank you so much for having us today. On behalf of the Warriors, I want to thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for the invitation to come to the White House today to celebrate our championship from a year ago.
It’s a great reminder of how lucky we are to be Americans, to live in a country where we can chase our dreams and enjoy the fruits of our labor and the celebration of all those around us. And to come here today with members of the organization to — to celebrate is really something special.
It was also very fulfilling for me, just a little while ago, to take part in a roundtable on gun violence and gun safety with some senior White House staffers, along with Klay Thompson and Moses Moody. Over the last hour or so, we learned a lot about what this administration is doing to — to help create a safer environment in our country, something that’s very close to my heart. And it’s wonderful for me to learn a lot more than — than I knew.
So coming in today is — it’s a great day on many fronts.
So thanks for the invitation. And I’m going to turn it over to Mr. Curry.
MR. CURRY: Thanks, Coach. To echo what he said, I want to thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for the invitation to come here. It’s something that we don’t ever take for granted. Seven years ago, I believe, we were here last, celebrating our first championship, and now back to celebrate our fourth.
So, to have this opportunity to reflect on the accomplishment last year, to bring everybody together to celebrate that, to also acknowledge the place sports has in bringing people together from all walks of life, all backgrounds to provide inspiration, hope, love, togetherness — and that’s what our journey was last year — so to have another opportunity to celebrate that means a lot.
And a great opportunity for us from the basketball community to thank President Biden and his staff for all their hard work and diligence on getting Brittney Griner home, who is a big part of our basketball family. And it meant — it means a lot to know that she’s here and home safe with her family and all the work that went on behind the scenes to make that a reality. So I just wanted to say thank you there.
And we’re very excited to be here and celebrate the day, celebrate with our families. And I appreciate the invitation. This is truly, truly special. So thank you to everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, guys.
MR. CURRY: Appreciate it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much. Thank you, guys.
MR. CURRY: Absolutely. Thank you.
COACH KERR: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much.
Q No questions, Karine? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s up to them. (Laughs.)
Q Bring Steph back. We need to (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, they have — they have a — they — as you can imagine, they have a tight schedule. I think they’re on their way to meet with the President right now. And then as you know, you’ll — some of you will get to see the two of them and the rest of the team at the event that we’re having for the Warriors in about an hour — or less than an hour.
Okay, folks, thank you so much for joining us today. And it was great to hear from two people who have really been passionate voices on the issue that you heard them talk about, which was gun violence prevention. And we really, really are thankful to them for using their platform — their very, very big platform — to talk about an issue that is truly, as you all know and report, that is destroying many families across the country, many communities and, as you know, that the President has worked and been a leader on for many decades.
And this — the bipartisan gun prevention bill that was signed this summer just showed the President’s commitment to this issue. And as you all know, it continues. It doesn’t stop with that legislation.
On Friday, it was reported that Republicans have a so-called “plan” to prioritize payments if Congress fails to address the debt ceiling. So I want to be very, very clear here, as I have been, as the President has been: This is not a plan. It is a recipe for economic catastrophe.
As President Biden has made clear, Congress must deal with the debt limit and must do so without conditions.
But congressional Republicans are threatening to hold the nation’s full faith and credit, a mandate of the Constitution, hostage to their demands to cut Social Security, to cut Medicare, and to cut Medicaid. Brinksmanship that threatens the global economy.
Their latest idea is that rather than paying its bills, the United States should make payment to wealthy bondholders, including foreign investors, and stop payments for border security, food safety, nursing homes, school lunches, the FAA, drug enforcement, and other programs Americans rely on every single day.
This so-called “prioritization” scheme makes Republicans’ priorities pretty clear — crystal clear, if I may add. They want to put wealthy bondholders over ordinary Americans who want safe food, safe skies, safe communities, and secure borders.
And it does not — it does nothing — absolutely nothing to change the fact that failing to deal with the debt limit would cause economic catastrophe.
Bipartisan former Treasury secretaries and independent experts have called out how dangerous failing to raise the debt ceiling would be.
For example, I’ll give you a couple: The Chamber of Commerce said it “would have catastrophic economic consequences.” End quote.
In 2011, then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner called it “unworkable” and also “harmful.”
And a former economist to Republican Senators Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney called it a “really bad idea” and, I quote, “disaster.”
This is just another attempt by congressional Republicans to force unpopular cuts on programs critical to seniors, the middle class, and working families. Congress needs to act and do so swiftly.
There is no excuse for political brinksmanship when American jobs and economic safety is on the line here.
I also wanted to highlight that, this morning, the White House released the first-ever National Strategy to Advance Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities. The strategy details much-needed investment from 32 federal agencies including improved data, language access, and combating anti-Asian hate.
This unprecedented plan builds on the administration’s broader equity agenda and President Biden’s historic executive order to establish and reinvigorate the White House Initiative on AA and NHPIs.
And we’re proud that the Biden-Harris administration reflects the rich diversity of America, including the first Asian American Vice President. Fourteen percent of our appointees and nominees identify as AA and NHPI, double the share of the population.
You can read the full strategy and more about the initiative on WhiteHouse.gov.
And finally, this morning, as some of you have — have already either covered or wrote about, the Census Bureau released data that show that President Biden’s first two years in office have been the two greatest years for new small-business applications on record, with 10.5 million total new business created, with unemployment at a record low, and the two strongest years of job creation in our history. There are reasons for economic optimism all over the country.
Today’s new data is the latest confirmation that President Biden’s economic plan is indeed working and is building our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
Zeke, you want to take it?
Q Thanks, Karine. Just two questions for you on Ukraine to start off with. Over the weekend, the British government confirmed it was sending tanks to Ukraine for the first time. Will the U.S. follow suit to meet Ukraine’s request there?
And then, separately, Prime Minister Rutte had a meeting in the Oval Office a few minutes ago. At the very end, he alluded to potentially joining the U.S. and Germany in sending a Patriot missile system to Ukraine. Can you confirm that that was the announcement that’s coming out of the meeting? We haven’t got a readout yet.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so we’re going to have a readout very, very shortly. So once we have that, I will share that with all — we will share — the team will share that with all of you.
As far as Patriot missiles, I can say they discussed that, the war in Ukraine and the importance of all the ongoing security assistance. But I would refer to the Dutch for any specifics about their own plans as it relates to that specifically.
As it relates to the conversation on — I’m sorry, I forgot the first question.
Q Tanks to Ukraine after the British movement on that over the weekend.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we are always very — very careful on what — on what our — you know, we don’t like to tell our allies what they should or should not do.
But as you know, we have been — we have been partners with them when it comes to Ukraine, partners with our allies and partners with them on how we are continuing to provide assistance to Ukraine in this aggressive war that we have sou- — we have seen, this brutal war that we continue to see by Russia. But certainly, that is not something that we will direct.
We will continue to focus — we have been the country that has provided the most assistance, as you all know, when it comes to security assistance, when it comes to humanitarian aid. And we are in constant conversations with Ukraine on what their needs are. And so, we’re going to continue to do that alongside our partners and also our allies.
Q But this is an area where the UK is going to be ahead of the U.S. sending Western tanks to Ukraine. They’re going ahead with sending more than a dozen of them in the coming weeks and months. The White House still hasn’t approved that. So, is that in the offing now for the U.S. to leapfrog ahead, back into the lead, in providing assistance for Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, look, we are in constant conversation with the Ukrainian — with the Ukrainians on — on their assistance. We have given the most assistance than any other country. The President — when he walked into the administration, he made sure that he brought the NATO together, he brought our alliance and partners together to make sure that we had the backs of the Ukrainian people. And so, that is something that we’re going to continue to do.
Certainly, I’m not going to get ahead of any announcements from here. But again, this is — we will be with the Ukrainian people for as long as it takes for them to defend themselves, for them to defend themselves against the brutal — the brutality that we are seeing from the Russian aggression.
Q And just on a different topic. Regarding the discovery of classified and official documents at the President’s residence and former office. Last week, you told, I think — I believe it was Phil — that we all can assume, the American people could assume that the searches were complete and all the documents have been recovered.
On Saturday, the White House Counsel’s Office said that five additional classified documents had been found. Is it safe to assume now that all the documents are — have been recovered — all the official records, all the classified documents are back in the custody of the National Archives? Or are more searches underway to find out if there’s anything else there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I understand your question. We have addressed multiple questions from here. Multiple questions have been answered by the President. I know that you all just spent about — some of you, some of your colleagues — maybe you yourself, Zeke — was on the phone with my colleague for about 45 minutes that addressed a lot of your questions.
I’m just going to continue to be prudent here. I’m going to let this ongoing review that is happening, this legal process that is happening, and let that — let that process continue under the Special Counsel.
We’re not — I’m not going to comment from here. I’m not — one of the things that we have said for the last two years: When it comes to the Department of Justice, when it comes to legal matters, when it comes to legal issues, we have been very clear that we are not going to comment, we are not going to politically interfere. And — and that continues with this also — this legal issue.
And so, I would refer you to the Department of Justice, refer you to the Special Counsel as it relates to specifics on this issue. And also, my White House Counsel colleagues are engaging with all of you, and we’ll certainly continue to have conversations on this.
I will say that we are consistent with what we have said on cooperating fully with the Department of Justice on this issue. And we will continue to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel.
Q Thank, Karine. On Friday, you stood here, though, and were asked about this documents issue, by our count, some 18 times. At that point, the President’s lawyers had found these five additional pages of classified documents. So, did you not know on Friday that those documents had been found when you were at the podium? Or are you being directed by someone to not be forthcoming on this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have been forthcoming from this podium. What I said yes to was what the statement at the time that we all had. Right? You all had the statement. And I was repeating what the — what the Counsel was sharing at that time. And so —
Q Right. And we had that statement, so we knew what was in it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly.
Q But you also knew — did you not know that the other documents had been found?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m telling you — I just answered the question. I just said that I was repeating what the information that we had at that time — right? — that you all had — I was confirming from what the Special Counsel had provided to all of you and that we knew as well from here. So just to be very, very clear.
And, look, I’ve also been very clear about being prudent from here. I was also being very clear about being consistent from here and not going beyond what is currently happening. Right?
And again, this is an ongoing — I also said this was an ongoing review that was happening with the Department of Justice and, as we know, with the Special Counsel. I’ve been very consistent about that as well.
And that’s one of the reason — your question to me is one of the reasons why I’m — I — we are being very, very careful and very mindful and — to not interfere here and to make sure — to make sure the Department of Justice has their independence.
Your question actually proves that, and that’s why we’re going to continue to refer you to Department of Justice and refer you to the Special Counsel or my colleagues —
Q Is the President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — at the White House Counsel.
Q Does President Biden have confidence in the way his team is handling this, with this trickle-out of information and the documents being found day after day?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can tell you this: The President has confidence. I can tell you this: that the President and his team rightfully took action when they learned that the documents existed. They reached out to the Archives. They reached out to the Department of Justice. That is the steps. We have been very clear about that — the steps and the process that we took here.
And — and, look, we’re going to continue — we’re going to continue to, as we have said, fully cooperate with the Department of Justice. We’re going to fully cooperate with — the President’s team is — going to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel. That does not stop, and that will just continue. Again, we’re going to respect the independence of the Department of Justice.
Q Can you describe his mood to us and the conversations you’ve had with him on this issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: His — his mood has been very clear. I saw him this morning. He’s very focused. I was with — I traveled with him this weekend. He wants to make sure that he’s continuing and we are continuing to deliver for the American people. And we’ve been — you know, we’ve been pretty consistent on that.
If you think about last week, you heard from him about his — how his economic plan is working, how we have seen inflation go down for six months straight, how we have seen unemploy- — unemployment numbers at its lowest level in 50 years. That matters. That is also the things that this country — that people in this country are also very, very concerned about and want to hear what this President is doing every day. That’s his focus, and that’s what he’s going to continue to talk about.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q What’s the White House reaction to the news in the Dnipro where the Russians bombed an apartment building and killed dozens of civilians?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this weekend’s strikes are another example, as you’ve heard us say, of the brutal and barbaric war that Russia is waging against the Ukrainian people. And we have seen this over and over again, for about 10 months now — 11 months now.
The United States will continue to provide, as I said at the top, Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself. That is incredibly important. That is a promise that the President made to President Zelenskyy when he was here not too long ago. And that’s including air defense system.
Along with our allies and partners, as I just said, we will continue our work to hold Russians’ forces accountable for the atrocities that they’ve caused and also the war crimes.
But one of the things that we continue to see Russia do is that they underestimate the strength and the courage and the resolve of the Ukrainian people, and they will be proven wrong again in their latest attempts.
Q And the debt ceiling — it’s supposed to reach its ceiling on Thursday. How do you see the debt ceiling fight playing out? What’s your strategy for getting an agreement?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we have been very clear on this. And I said it at the top, I said it on Friday, and I’ll say it today — so has the President: This should not be political brinksmanship. We should be dealing with the debt ceiling without — without conditions. It is important. We’re not going to work our way around this; we’re not going to negotiate on this. This is the basic — the basic duties of Congress is to deal with this issue.
And let’s not forget: In the last administration, they — “they,” meaning Democrats and Republicans — were able to deal with the debt limit three times. Three times.
So, this is something that needs to be done, that should be done. And we call on Congress to act.
Q And, lastly, is the President going to sit down with Republicans and talk about this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, this is something that should be done without conditions. We have been very, very clear about that. We are not going to be negotiating over the debt ceiling.
But I’ll say this more broadly: At the start of the new Congress — and I actually spoke about this last week — we’re reaching out to all members in both parties to build relationships and establish points of contact. That is something that the Office of Leg Affairs has done for the past couple of weeks.
But, you know, this has been done — when you talk about the debt ceiling, it has been done in a bipartisan way, and there should be bipartisan cooperation to address this. It should not be a political football. This should not be a political football. And we should do it without conditions.
Go ahead, Phil. And then I’ll come to the back.
Q The President and his team had a pretty clear strategy and list of goals heading into this year. Is there any concern that that may be kind of overtaken by what’s been happening over the course of the last week with the investigation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I just talked about, last week, what — what we saw about with the economic plan. We saw the CPI data, and it’s showing that inflation is indeed going down because of the President’s economic policy.
We have seen the President do bipartisan work, bring both sides together — when you think about going to the bridge in Kentucky. And you saw that for yourselves, how the President was able to bring both sides together to talk about an issue that was so important for that region in Kentucky; to talk about infrastructure, something that many presidents before this President had tried to do and were not able to do it.
In the last administration, it was a punchline. It was a joke when we talked about Infrastructure Week. And now, under this President, we’ve been able to do it in a bipartisan way.
Look, we’re going to continue to do the work. We’re going to have mayors here in a couple of days. We’ll share more information about that event, and the President will talk to them about the work that we are doing and the work that we’re going to continue for the American people.
We went to Mexico City just about a week ago. We were in Mexico City — feels like two weeks ago — but, yes, we were in Mexico City about a week ago. And you saw the President on the world stage talking to our closest partners in North America about how we’re going to deal with issues that matter to the American people. And you saw the friendly engagement. You saw how successful the NALS — the NALS — that summit was.
And so, that’s not going to stop the President. He is very much focused on what are we going to do to lower cost, what are we going to do to continue to lower cost, what are we going to do to continue to deliver for the American people.
And let me add, too, what Republicans are putting forward. House Republicans — the extreme members of the House, the MAGA Republicans, are talking about raising taxes for middle-class Americans. They’re talking about giving a tax break for the wealthiest among us. That’s what they want to do. They’re talking about attacking women’s rights to choose. That’s what they want to put forward.
And the President is going to speak against that as well and try to make sure that we deliver for the American people. We can do both.
Q And should we assume — the President weighed in on the issue a couple of times last week — but given the limitations, given what you’ve talked about from the podium — that we shouldn’t expect the President to give his thoughts or opinions on the ongoing investigation, going forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is a — and you just said it’s an ongoing matter. Right? This is an ongoing legal process that’s happening currently. And we are going to continue what we’ve been doing for the last two years, which is: When it comes to the Department of Justice, when it comes to legal issues, we will not comment. We are going to be prudent from here. We are not going to political interfe- — politically interfere.
Because one of the things that the President was very clear during the campaign and has been for the last two years is that we want to give back the independence that the Department of Justice has.
Go ahead, Peter. And then, I’ll come to the back.
Q Karine, just to follow up, if I can, very quickly on this. The White House says Republicans are “faking outrage” on this issue. Why shouldn’t Americans be outraged about classified documents being found in a garage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — and I think I’ve been very clear about this. We have answered questions on this at this podium. You’ve heard, as Phil was saying, twice from the President talk about this. He said that he didn’t know. Right? He said that he was surprised. And he said that he takes classified information and documents very, very seriously. We heard directly from the President on this issue.
Now, anything else — anything beyond that, we’re just not going to talk about. There is an investigation going on. There’s a legal process here, as we’ve been very, very clear about. I will let the White House Counsel talk about any specific details about that. But we’re going to be prudent here and make sure that we are not interfering in this process.
Q I guess that’s why I’m asking, though — because you’ve said that you don’t want interfere here and be prudent about the process, but the White House did post a statement saying that Republicans are “faking outrage.” So, to that point, why shouldn’t Americans be upset about documents found in a garage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And that’s for — that’s for the American people to decide. Right? That is for — you all are, I’m sure, going to talk to many folks out there and have this conversation.
But what we do know — right? — what we do know from polling that we have seen over and over again, from your coverage, from what we hear when the President goes out and talk to the — talks to the American people: They also care about the economy, right? They also care about what is the President doing to lower costs, which is why he took histeric [sic] — historic action in making sure that gas prices went down at the gas pump. And we saw that happen by more than a buck seventy cents.
And that’s the work that the President is going to focus on. You think about the Inflation Reduction Act. That’s going to lower — lower prescription drug costs, lower medical costs, right? When you think about that — lower energy costs.
So, that’s going to be our focus here. We know that’s what the American people truly care about as well. And it is very important for them that we do that work.
I’m going to try and go to the back. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Just back on the tanks. It seems that everybody is talking about tanks the last few days. In Europe, there’s been a bunch of countries saying they either want to give tanks or people should give tanks. And then the Germans have been, you know, on the fence about it. Everyone is talking about it, but nothing is actually happening, apart from the Brits — but, of course, they’re not part of the European Union.
The President has positioned himself as, you know, the leader of this whole alliance, pretty much. Right? Is this a moment when he feels maybe he should step in as the leader and either, you know, cajole — well, you probably wouldn’t want to use that word — but, you know, talk to the Germans, or go with the U.S. tanks, the Abrams?
Is something going to happen, you know, in — shortly? Because this feels like a bit of a boiling point.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things here. And the President’s view hasn’t changed. And I kind of said it when I was answering Zeke’s question, which is: He believes that it’s up to each country to make their own sovereign decisions here on what types of security assistance and what kinds of equipment they’re able to provide Ukraine as Ukraine defends itself against Russia’s brutal — brutal aggression.
For instance, we welcome Germany’s recent announcement that they will send infantry fighting vehicles and Patriot missiles battery system to Ukraine. We also support the decision by the UK, as I was asked over the weekend, to send Challenger tanks to Ukraine. We welcome that.
We have seen incredible solidarity by nations around the world to support Ukraine. And — and also, I know that Secretary Austin is hosting another meeting of the Ukrainian — of the Ukraine Contact Group. That — it was just happening just this Friday, this week.
And we look forward to further discussions on how this broad coalition of allies and partners can continue to support Ukraine as Russia continues — again, continues this brutal war and barbaric war against the Ukrainian people.
But again, as I said at the top, you know, we — it’s up to each country to make their own decisions on this.
Q So, no — no Abrams?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again, when it comes to — when it comes to these types of security assistance decision, it is up to each country to make that decision, and we leave it to them.
Q Okay. A very quick one on documents, if you don’t mind. Given these documents have shown up in very personal spaces — we all know that the President loves his Delaware home and it’s an extremely personal space for him — is he physically joining in the search for these things, rummaging around, you know, these boxes in the garage and wherever else — I mean, literally?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you — are you listening to your — the question that you’re asking me?
Q No, it’s a — no, it’s a — it’s serious matter —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean —
Q — where are these documents.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, look —
Q It’s a serious matter.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look —
Q Is he taking part in searching for his own documents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m going to be very consistent here. I am going to be very clear here, as I have been for the past couple of days — almost a week now — dealing with this.
You know, we are going to — any specific questions that you have about this issue, I would refer you to my colleagues at the White House Counsel’s Office, who spent almost an hour taking these questions from all of you, many of your colleagues.
I’m going let you ask that question to the White House Counsel’s Office. And anything else specific to this, I refer you to the Department of Justice, I refer you to the Special Counsel.
Q On Mon- — thank, Karine. On Monday, in regards to police shootings, the President said, I think, “I did…the only thing I
can [could] do.” Is it the opinion of the White House that there will be no more progress on the issue of police reform going forward, that there’s just nothing more to do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, the President has been very clear in asking Congress to take action. He has taken executive action. I’m sure you’ve covered a lot of the actions that he’s taken the past two years. And he believes it’s — it’s now in the hands of Congress to take action. And it is important to do just that. And I will leave it there.
Q One more. Stephen Curry — I’m on a first-name basis now, apparently —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. Buddies. (Laughter.)
Q He —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You guys are bud- — they don’t even let me call him Stephen Curry.
Q He mentioned the freeing of Brittney Griner. But does the White House have any comment on the detention of Siamak Namazi, who’s in Iran and on hunger strike and sent a letter to the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we received the letter, and our thoughts are with Namazi and his family. We remain committed to securing his freedom. And the U.S. government is continuing to work to bring him home, along with U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran, including Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz.
Iran’s use of wrongful detention as political leverage is outrageous. The U.S. will always stand for our citizens overseas. We’ve been very clear about that and committed. And you’ve seen the President take action, and you’ve heard the President say that directly.
One of our highest priorities is bringing all of our wrongfully detained citizens home safely, as soon as possible, and resolving the cases of missing and abducted U.S. citizens. So, this will continue to be a priority for the American people — for the President.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Does the White House have any reaction to the arrest in New Mexico of a former Republican candidate for the state house there who was allegedly organizing men to shoot at the homes of four Democratic elected officials?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a comment on that at this time. I’ve heard the stories; I just need to check with the team to get the full rundown. But I don’t have a comment at this time on that.
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thanks, Karine. I want to follow up on Cecilia’s question, and sorry if I missed it. But on Friday, did you or did you not know about the additional five pages?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I already an- — I literally just answered that question. I just —
Q Was — but I — I missed it. So, was it yes or no?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I — I mean, you’re — you’re not too far sitting next to her. So, I was very clear. I provided — I provided the information that you all had at the time. And I confirm —
Q But I’m asking, “Did you know?”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I did not know. I’m saying I had the information — I actually said this to Cecilia — I had the information that you all had at the time, right?
And so, this is why — I also said to Cecilia — this is why we are trying to be very prudent here and we are trying to be very consistent and say this is an on-going legal process. And this is why I say we’re just not going to comment from here. That is a perfect example in Cecilia’s question, and I was very clear about that.
Q When did you learn about the documents found at the Penn Center in November and in Wilmington in December?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When your team was — was doing a story on it.
Q Got it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because I was also asked a similar question about if our team has been engaged on this. And I’ve been very clear this is something that the White House Counsel is handling. This is something that is being handled by the President’s lawyers. I’ve been very clear. And that’s why we are — this is why we are being prudent here. This is why we are being consistent with what we have done the last two years when it comes to DOJ — the Department of Justice — investigation. We are just not going to interfere.
Q Well, on that note —
Q But did the President —
Q — on that note, you’ve repeatedly emphasized the need, just as you did today, for independence, for integrity of the Department of Justice investigation — one reason why you continue to point us to the DOJ. So I wonder why, then, did the White House Counsel go to Wilmington to facilitate the handing over of documents to the DOJ?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is a —
Q How is that separate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is —
Q How is that separating the White House from the DOJ?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And, Weijia, I appreciate the questions. I know there’s going to continue to be dozens of more questions, probably, today. And I will say: Reach out to the White House Counsel’s Office. That’s one of the reasons my colleague was on the phone with many of you, taking questions today.
And I’m just going to leave it there. That is something for them to answer.
Q Okay, but it’s related to something that you keep telling us, which is how much it is important to this White House to separate the White House from the DOJ’s investigation. But the White House Counsel was the one to go and facilitate the documents, to look for the documents.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, they have been working very closely with the Department of Justice. I would refer you to them. If you want to know specifically about their actions, specifically about what they’re doing, I would point you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
Look, guys, you guys can ask me this 100 times, 200 times, if you wish. I’m going to keep saying the same thing.
I hear your question. It’s been asked. It’s been answered. It’s been noted. And we’re just going to try to move on here.
And we’re going to move on. We’re going to move on.
Q One more.
Q Do you feel badly that you gave out false information?
Q One more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to move on.
Q One more because Ian did have that call today, and he said that the White House would, quote, “fully cooperate” with the investigation. Does that mean that President Biden is willing to be interviewed if called?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to — you’re asking a question that should go to the White House Counsel’s Office. As you just said, Ian — you spoke to my colleague just moments ago. That is something that the White House Counsel’s Office should be answering.
Any speci- — anything specific to the DOJ or Special Counsel, what they’re doing, you need to reach out to them.
Go ahead, Tam.
Q Yeah, are you upset that you came out to this podium on Friday with incomplete and inaccurate information? And are you concerned that it affects your credibility up here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I’m — what I’m concerned about is making sure that we do not politically interfere in the Department of Justice, that we continue to be consistent over the last two years, and — and that is — continue to refer you all, when it comes to an ongoing process. And — and I’ll just leave it there. And let’s not forget — there was actually a statement from the Counsel’s Office that you all had at the same time as well.
I’m — I’m just not going to go down any rabbit hole here. I’m going to be very consistent. I’m going to be very prudent.
And, again, I’ve been asked — just asked that question. I’ve answered it. It’s been noted, the question. And we’re just going to move on.
Go ahead, JJ.
Q Thanks. So just to clarify on the debt ceiling again: So the White House has no intention of sitting down with Leader McCarthy on the debt ceiling in the coming month or at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we’re saying here is that — we’ve been very, very clear. It was clear at the top. It was clear when I was just asked this question. Congress is going to need to address the debt without conditions. And — and it’s just that simple. This should not be — there should be no hostage taking here. There should be no attempts to exploit the debt ceiling or to leverage it. We’re going to be very, very clear about that.
And again — and I said this before — this was done three times under the last administration in a bipartisan way. This is the duty of Congress. This is something that is their basic duty: to deal with the debt ceiling.
And so we’re going to continue to be consistent here about that. And again, there should be no po- — this should not be used as a political football.
Q So we can accurately report that the White House isn’t doing any outreach to Republicans at this time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well — well, I — I have said — I said just moments ago, one of the things that we did — and I laid this out pretty clearly — when the new Congress started, we reached out to Republicans and Democrats alike to talk about who their point of contact is, to have that conversation, to figure out how we’re going to work together. And so I’ve — I’ve — there is constant conversations happening with — with members of Congress and their — and their team. That is something that we are doing almost on a — certainly on a weekly basis. And that always is going to happen. Those conversations are always going to happen.
I’m certainly not going to read out every conversation that we’re having with — with congressional members or congressional staff.
What I am saying is that we have been very clear that this should be done. We’re talking about the debt ceiling. It should be done without conditions, and it should not be used as a political football.
Q I just wanted to go back to the bilat earlier and the one last week with the Prime Minister of Japan. These are two countries that are huge players in the semiconductor chain. Have you made any progress in getting those countries to join the efforts that the U.S. has started to restrict China’s access to those semiconductors, to that technology?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I just want to be very clear on this as well: We don’t push any of our allies or our partners. We consult with them closely, and they make their own decisions. And this is how we move forward with our relationship, again, with our allies and partners.
We all recognize the importance of this issue to national security, and the President did discuss it along with a host of other important regional and global issues.
Look, this is going to be a continuing part of a group consultation here. And I don’t have any announcements to make or anything further to share on this.
Q But does the President feel that the U.S. can be successful in preventing China from getting that technology if these types of countries, like the Netherlands, like Japan, don’t join — even if it’s not exactly the same restriction, but don’t join in those types of efforts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, we’re just not going to push our partners and allies here. I — again, the President — it did come up in their conversation. I’m just not going to — getting into a specific conversations of what happened or what was said.
What we believe is that our close allies and partners make their own decisions on these types of things.
Q Karine, is there a bipartisan plan for our youth today? Do we have a focus on either education? Are we looking at — I just wanted to soften the mood a little bit in the room. (Laughs.) But is there anything that we’re focusing on, in terms of education, in terms of funding, funding programs that we’ve come to the table to agree upon?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, thank you for your question. Look, the Department of Education, which — which is leading on that — on education and what we’re doing to deliver for young people — certainly is a priority for this President and for the Department of Education.
I don’t have any specific programs or new programs to announce from here. But that is — you know, making sure that young people have the — what they need for — to have a good, strong education — of course is a — is a priority from — for this President.
And let’s not forget the First Lady is an educator herself. And she — and she talks about that and has done the work as well, as First Lady, on the things that this administration is doing to move — to move that ball forward.
Don’t have — again, don’t have anything specific to share. But clearly, it’s a priority for us and our young people across — millions and millions of young people across the country to make sure that they have, you know, just and fair opportunities that they should have.
Go ahead. I’ll come to you in a little bit.
Q Yeah, thanks. Yeah, thanks, Karine. So I want to ask you about trade. We’re days away now from the President being two years in office, and there have been no completed trade deals. Why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So a couple of — a couple of — a couple of things here. So when the President was running, he made clear that we will invest in American workers and communities before pursuing new trade deals. And this is exactly what we’ve been doing. You’ve seen it for yourself. You’ve heard the — heard the investments that have been made, especially as you think about manufacturing coming back to the U.S., and that is exactly what we’re going to continue to do.
So you’ve seen our economic agenda spur a historic recovery and a manufacturing boom at home. More than 750,000 manufacturing jobs were created right here, under this President.
At the same time, we’re working —
Q Most added back, though. Most of the jobs added back.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We — we go — we —
Q It created 149,000.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We — we — we go back and forth on this, Ed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I hear you. I’m — I’m — 750,000 jobs. Let me finish your — your answer.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You asked me a question.
But, at the same time, we are working swiftly to finalize the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which represent 40 percent of the world’s GDP and will address the core issues that will define much of our success in the coming decades, like clean ener- — energy and the digital economy, while fortifying our economies against a range of threats from fragile supply chains to tax havens.
We are committed in every region of the world to strengthen trade and investment in a manner that promotes good-paying American jobs and also high standards and supply chain resiliency. And that has been the President’s priority.
At every step of the way, we will work with Congress to negotiate and develop trade policies that advance the interests of all Americans, support U.S. innovation and workers, and enhance our competitiveness. And that has been the President’s priority. That is what he talked about during the campaign. And that’s what he’s been doing and delivering on for the past two years.
I’ll go around. Go ahead, April.
Q Karine, two questions. You just, from the podium — in an answer to one of the reporters, you said something about not wanting to politically interfere when it comes to this investigation on the documents.
I asked you, when we first heard about the documents, there is a political component and a legal component. But can you expound upon what you don’t want to interfere on politica- — politically?
Because many pundits, many lawyers, many politicians are saying that this is also an issue that could prohibit a lot of work in this one hundred — with the 118th Congress, a lot of work for the American people in this moment. Could you expound on what you were talking about?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I’m not going to get into politics from here, and I’ve been very clear about that. I’ve answered that question multiple times already.
What I can say is that the President is going to stay laser-focused on delivering for the American people. And that’s going to continue to be the work that he sees at hand.
When it comes to the economy; when it comes to the bipartisan infrastructure legislation; when it comes to implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, which we announced a couple of items last week on how important it’s going to be for Medicare to negotiate — that is something that is going to be critical for the American families, for American people across the country: being able to negotiate the price of drugs and tap it — cap it at — you know, at $2,000 a year.
That’s going to make a difference in people’s lives — right? — continuing to do the work that he has been doing to lower costs.
And we’ve seen that. We’ve seen that the President’s economic plan is indeed working. And so, look, that is not going to stop us. That is something we’re going to continue to talk about.
And you’re seeing — you’re seeing how the work that he’s put in the last two years — his administration, the work that he’s done with Congress in a bipartisan way, in historic fashion — is actually working. And so that’s going to be our focus.
Q And last question. In this moment, there are Democrats who are saying they’re looking to tomorrow — it’s a bright spot for Democrats — with the inauguration of Wes Moore as Maryland’s first Black governor, as the third Black elected governor in the nation.
What does the President say and what does this White House say about his elevation — this citizen who rose to the highest heights in the state of Maryland, especially as he campaigned for him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the President is very much looking forward to working with Governor Wes Moore. And, you know, you saw the governor — I don’t even know — is he a governor-elect yet, or has he been —
Q He’s governor-elect right now. Tomorrow, he’s governor.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He’s a governor-elect. So I want to be — I want to give him the right title here.
And you saw — you saw Wes Moore — Governor-elect Wes Moore and the President many times over the last several months. They developed a friendship. The President is very much looking forward to working with him.
And we think it’s important — it’s important to have that representation. It’s important to have someone as — you know, someone who is qualified and passionate about the work as Wes Moore be — you know, be in a position where he can make a change and make a difference for Marylanders. And so, that is critically important.
Look, you know, there is bright spots. There are — just if you look across the country, what we saw in state elections and what we saw with governorships, what we saw in — in other really key, important states — state — state offices, it was a bright spot.
And let’s not forget, one of the reasons that we saw that is because of the President’s plan, the President’s agenda, and what he was able to set forth for the midterms.
Remember, everyone was talking about the red wave, and that didn’t happen. And that didn’t happen because of the President’s leadership.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thank you, Karine. I just wanted to ask you — sorry — I just wanted to ask you about something you said last week.
Last week, you were pretty insistent that you believed the President’s attorneys did the right thing. Do you still believe that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, they did the right thing when it comes to making sure that when the documents were found, they handed it over to the Archivist and it was handed over to Department of Justice.
But, again, Steve, I’m going to be very prudent here. I am going to be very consistent. It is an ongoing legal process. I’m not going to say more.
Q But the reason I ask is — is that what we now know — and the President’s Counsel’s statement, the President’s personal lawyer’s statement shed a bit more light on this, but they raised more questions. Namely, the first call that the President’s personal attorneys made on November 2nd was not to the FBI that they had found what we now know were top-secret documents out in the open. The first call was to officials here at this White House in the West Wing. How is that the right thing?
Isn’t it the right thing, when you see some- — if you’re a lawyer and your — you don’t have a security clearance and you see a classified document, shouldn’t you call the Justice Department’s National Security office right away?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I’m going to refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office. That is something for them to answer. That is a very specific question that they should answer, that they will engage you with — engage with on — you on this, just like my colleague did for almost an hour and had this conversation with all of you.
Q It was about a half hour, but let me — let me widen now. Why is it the matter of this White House Counsel to deal with documents from two administrations ago? These are — we’re not talking about presidential records from this White House. Why is this White House Counsel involved in this matter at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, this is something for the White House Counsel to address. I am not going to address that from here. I will refer you to them, and I will refer you to the Special Counsel and anything that’s — that is specific to this particular issue.
Q Karine, we —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re being pulled.
WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Folks have to gather.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have to — folks have to gather. Okay, folks have to gather. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.
Q You told us something six times that turned out to be false. Are you sorry about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll see you tomorrow. Come talk to me. I’ll see you tomorrow.
2:40 P.M. EST