Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
2:07 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. Okay.
I want to start by saying a word about the death of Tyre Nichols. Last night, the President extended condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and to the entire Memphis community, and he addressed the pain this is causing across America, as, once again, we grapple with the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement are disparately impacting brown and Black people.
As the Department of Justice conducts a full investigation and state authorities continue their work, the President has joined Tyre’s family in calling for protests to remain peaceful.
Last year, the President called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to his desk. When they didn’t, he signed an executive order that included stricter use-of-force standards and accountability, provisions for federal law enforcement, as well as measures to strengthen accountability at the state and local level.
Today, we all must recommit ourselves to the critical work that must be done to advance meaningful reforms.
The President continues to believe that in order to deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths. And we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement — the vast majority of whom wear the badge honorably — and the communities they are sworn to serve and to protect.
Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we pause to mourn 6 million Jews who were brutally murdered during the Holocaust and to grieve the many other ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and political dissidents who were also killed during this dark chapter in history.
We join together in saying “Never again.” And yet, across the country, we see swastikas on cars, antisemitic banners on bridges, verbal and physical attacks against Jewish businesses and Jewish Americans, even Holocaust denialism. It’s vile. We must affirm over and over that hate has no safe harbor in America.
Today, the Second Gentleman of the United States, Douglas Emhoff, participated in a commemorative — commemoration ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland and will visit Berlin, Germany, in the coming days to coordinate international efforts to combat antisemitism.
This work continues here at home. Last year, we held a historic White House Summit on Combating Hate-Fueled Violence. The President appointed the first ambassador-level special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. And we are developing a national strategy to fight antisemitism.
We’ve secured the largest increase in funding ever for the physical security of nonprofits, including synagogues and Jewish community centers.
As our work continues, we will continue to honor and remember the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust.
Let me start with two developments that speak to the President’s top priority: the safe- — the safety of American people. President Biden is relentlessly committed to protecting Americans from threats to their safety, and he’s equally committed to ensuring justice and accountability to those who threaten American lives.
On Wednesday evening, as you all saw and have been reporting, acting on orders from the President, the U.S. military conducted a successful over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation in northern Somalia that resulted in the death of Bilal al-Sudani, a leader and enabler for ISIS global network, as well as approximately 10 additional ISIS operatives.
Sudani’s activities provided funding to sustain the deadly capabilities of ISIS affiliates globally, including the ISIS Khorasan branch in Afghanistan, one of ISIS’s most lethal branches. Sudani’s removal builds on this administration’s remarkable successes in eliminating the global leaders of ISIS and of al Qaeda.
Also this week, DOJ has taken custody of Rafat Amirov, who was part of a murder-for-hire operation targeting an Iranian American critic of the Iranian government in the United States. As DOJ explain, Amirov was a resident in Iran when this plot developed, but that did not prevent him from now facing American justice.
The government of Iran continues to plot the murder of dissidents and American citizens, including current and former U.S. officials. President Biden has directed use of all elements of national power to expose and disrupt these plots and to pursue those responsible.
Today marks a moment of empha- — to emphasize yet again our relentless commitment to protecting Americans to holding accountable those who threaten American lives.
And here’s a bit on what you can expect from the President in the week ahead.
Today, the President will head to Camp David.
On Sunday, he will travel to Wilmington, Delaware.
On Monday, the President will travel to Baltimore, Maryland. The President will discuss how Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will replace the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel to address the largest bottleneck for commuters on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. The President will be joined by Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
On Thursday, the President will travel to New York, New York, and the President will discuss how Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for the Hudson River Tunnel project will improve reliability for the 200,000 passenger trips per weekday on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.
On Thursday morning, the President will attend the National Prayer Breakfast on Capitol Hill. In the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks to mark the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act in the East Room.
And on Friday, the President and the Vice President will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They will discuss the progress we have made and their work implementing the Bi- — the Biden-Harris economic agenda that continues to deliver results for the American people.
After, the President will travel to Wilmington, Delaware, where he will remain over the weekend.
One final thing — and all of you have seen our statement and the President’s statement on this and our — and you guys have reported — but I wanted to just speak to the President’s announcement today that White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain will be departing in the coming weeks, and Jeff Zients will succeed him as Chief of Staff.
You all have the statement, and you know how much Ron has been a big part of many — so many historical things we have accomplished, the President has been able to accomplish over these first two years of his administration.
But I wanted to zero in on one important piece that we believe matters. The President said, and I quote: “And while we have accomplished an extraordinary amount, the real mark of Ron’s success is that he” beloved — “he is beloved by the team he leads here at the White House. They’re going to miss him just as much as I will.”
If you would just indulge me for a second — because I do, again, think this is incredibly important. In another point of personal privilege, as I did earlier this week, because you know I am a proud Klainiac, as I mentioned here a couple days ago — which is real; just look it up — I just wanted to share a moment that I think perfectly encapsulates how much Ron means to everyone here.
We have a daily senior staff call every single morning. It’s where we run through what’s happening here. And normally, each department head gives an update on what’s going on for them and their teams for that day. But today was a little different. Ron started off by tearfully telling the team how proud he was to serve with them and how he was even prouder to what we accomplished together over the last two years. And then each person went around telling their own favorite Ron story. There were a lot of tears and even — but even more love on the call.
Office of Legislative Affairs Director Louisa Terrell told a story of how she got Ron a rock during a tough period, because he is our rock here.
Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall reminisced about how she had Ron — she had known Ron since they were kids who went to work for Joe Biden in 1986 — a very long time ago.
Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice called Ron the best Chief of Staff she’s ever worked for, which senior advisor John Podesta then concurred with — with after he laughed. As you know, John Podesta was also Chief of Staff here, at some point.
IGA Director Julie Rodriguez noted how consequential the last two years have been under Ron’s leadership, as we pass some of the boldest policies that are improving the lives of Americans every day.
And Counselor to the President, Steve Ricchetti, closed out with, I quote, “You always paid attention to the little things that matter to people. More than anything, you’ve made this group feel like more than just colleagues, but really like a family.”
And I will add just for me personally, one of the things that I love about Ron is that he sees you when no one else sees you. And when he does see you, he lifts you up. And that is what is the definition of a leader is, and that is Ron Klain.
And with that, I’ll say Ron will always be part of the family.
We are also — also very much looking forward to have — have someone like Jeff lead this team. He is someone who many of us know very well and understands how to get big things done. If you’ve seen his résumé, you would totally understand that.
He’s tackled the toughest issues in government all throughout his career, from fixing Healthcare.gov to leading our historic COVID response. He led the National Economic Council during Obama-Biden administration and shares the President’s focus on strengthening our economy and growing it from the — the bottom up and middle out. He led our administration’s transition into office under incredibly trying circumstances — you all were there — and watched us trying to get our — get the administration together at that time.
And thanks to Jeff, we had a historically diverse team in place on day one ready to work.
Now in year three, a big task ahead is ensuring the historic laws we pass are implemented efficiently and fairly. No person — no better person to do that than Jeff Zients. And may I also add, there is no better or kinder human being.
We are also all waiting to see the “Bagel Wednesdays.” I think you all have heard us talk about this. We hope that it makes its triumphant return.
And next week, the White House will host an official transition event to thank Ron for his tireless work and officially welcome Jeff back to the White House in this role.
Thank you for indulging me. I really appreciate this opportunity to do that.
And with that, Darlene, you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. Thank you. One follow on Chief of Staff and one follow on Tyre Nichols. As you know, there are separate videos today that are being released: one on the attack on former Speaker Pelosi’s husband, the other on the beating of Tyre Nichols. Can you say whether the President has any interest in watching or seeing either of those videos, particularly the Memphis one since you mentioned police reform in your opening?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So as I mentioned, the President sent his heartfelt condolences to Tyre Nichols’s family yesterday — he and the First Lady. And he’s going to be regularly briefed, as he has been. He’s going to be monitoring the situation.
I — you know, as — as the case continues to develop, clearly he’ll be — he’ll be keeping a close eye. I don’t have anything further to read out on that piece — on the video. Obviously, the video is not out yet. But again, he’ll be regularly updated.
As far as Paul Pelosi, I have not seen the video yet. I know that that was just released. And I know many — many of the cable news outlets have been showing the video this morning. I haven’t had a chance to check in with him or to ask him.
But I think you don’t even need a video to know how horrific and unconscionable the attack of Paul Pelosi was. And to be very honest, it’s a miracle that Paul was not more seriously injured. And we are grateful that he is on his way and continues to — to recover.
The President has always been clear and continues to be clear — to condemn any sort of political violence. There is no place for it here in our country. And he’s going to always believe that — and ask for people to come together — Republicans, Democrats, it doesn’t matter which party you’re in — to condemn the political violence and violent rhetoric that we have seen over the years.
Q And with the Chief of Staff news today, that position is one of the more powerful ones in Washington that has never been held by someone who is not white and male. Would the President commit to choosing a Chief of Staff who is not white and male if Jeff Zients were to leave before the end of the President’s term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here’s what I say — I’ll say to this. I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the President. That is not something that I can do from here.
But look — and I kind of said it at the top — the Biden Harris administration is the most diverse in history. That is a fact. And we expect to — we expect this trend to continue. The Cabinet is majority people of color for the first time in history. The Cabinet is majority female for the first time in history. The majority of White House senior staff identify as female. Forty percent of White House senior staff identify as part of racially diverse communities. A record six assistants to the President are openly LGBTQ.
And also, of our — if you think about of our 30,000 — about 3,000 appointees: 58 percent female, 51 percent people of color, 6 percent disabled, 31 percent first-generation Americans, 17 first-generation college grads, and 14 percent — when I say — 17 percent first-generation college grads — I forgot to add that “percent” — and 14 percent LGBTQ. And I think that matters.
This is a — this is a — this is a record that the President is truly proud of, and I think not just the President, but all of us here who are members of his team.
Q Thank, Karine. I know there’s been coordination on the law enforcement level. But have there been any conversations you can tell us about between the White House and State officials or governors about how to handle the possibility of unrest this weekend?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So a couple of things there. I just want to reiterate what the family — what the family and the President have called for, which is peaceful — a peaceful protest, protests — for people to please protest peacefully. That is something that the President will continue to call on. And he joined, as I just mentioned, his family.
The White House has been in coordination with the relevant agencies to ensure they prepare if protests become violent.
Look, this coordination is standard practice and in keeping with what the administration has done in other instances, including the anticipation, as you all know, for the Dobb decision, the trucker convoy protests, and Election Day. Those are three examples that I can share with you at this moment.
Administration officials have been and will continue to be in touch with state and local officials on the ground, as — as we watch the next few hours develop.
Q Has the President spoken with the Nichols family directly, or does he plan to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Obviously, when a tragedy happens like this, the President always — always wants to extend personally his heartfelt condolences to the family. I don’t have a call to read out or a call scheduled at this time. But again, I would — I would refer you to the statement yesterday. But our hearts are with Tyre Nichols’s family and the Memphis community as well.
Q And then, can you confirm a report by our friends at Reuters that Elon Musk met with Mitch Landrieu, the Infrastructure Coordinator, here at the White House today about electric vehicles? What were they talking about? I know the White House hasn’t always had the — the nicest things to say about Tesla and its labor practices.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I can — I can confirm that — that Mitch Landrieu and also John Podesta met with Elon Musk to discuss electrification and how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act can advance EVs and increase the electrifications more broadly. So, that meeting did happen today. And so, for sure, I can — I can confirm that to all of you.
Q Does this mark a turning of the page of the relationship between this White House and Elon Musk?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will say that I think the — the outreach and the meeting says a lot of how important the President thinks the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is and how the Inflation Reduction Act is, and especially as we — it relates to EVs and his commitment. And so I will leave it there.
But I think it’s important that his team — his senior members of his team had a meeting with Elon Musk today to do just that.
Q Thanks. On police reform, does the President regret not making it more of a top priority — his work with Congress over these last two years? You mentioned how he called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Act, but it didn’t seem like one of his big priority legislative pushes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I have to say I disagree. One of the things that the President said when he walked in — into the administration, the multiple crises that we’ve had to deal with, that the country was dealing with at the time — as, obviously, there was COVID; there was the economy because of COVID; there was climate change; and the other one was dealing with the racial unrest that we had seen across the country that we’ve all went through and many of you spoke to.
And he took action when Congress was not able to get the George Floyd Policing Act done. He took action — as I just laid out, he took action by doing an executive ac- — taking executive action and doing everything that he could from — with the tools that he had. So he did take it very seriously.
And he’s going to continue to be very vocal. He’s made speeches about this over the past couple of years. And — and he’s talked to Congress and as — has asked Congress to take action. He has spoken to — many times to the — the leaders in Congress who put forth, like Cory Booker and others, who put forth that piece of legislation. And will — our team will continue to have those conversation.
But again, by taking executive action, I think showed and we believe showed the President’s seriousness on this.
Q Just on one more topic. Does the White House have any response to Meta reinstating former President Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we don’t — we’re not going to comment on an individual Twitter account or — or social media accounts from here. That is their responsibility. That is something that the independent, clearly, platforms decide on.
And, you know, we rely on the — on the platforms, that private company, to make sure that — that — that their platform is not used to incite violence. And so that is something that we will continue to — to call on, but we’re not going to comment on individual — individual people.
Q On Tyre Nichols: The negotiations that happened last year in the Senate obviously paused. Does the President want to see those resume on the George Floyd Policing Act?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think, as you saw in his statement, the President was very clear we need to deliver a change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build a long-lasting trust between law enforcement and — the vast majority of whom — who wear the badge of honor in an honorary way — an honorable way, I should say — and the communities that they swear — they are sworn to protect and to serve.
And so, we need — he believes we need to continue to do — to move towards that type of change. And he’s going to continue to call on Congress to come together and to deal with a tru- — a real issue.
I mean, again, we are having the same conversation, talking about the same thing — brutality, a death of a young man — that we shouldn’t be doing. We shouldn’t be reliving this type of hurt and pain and having to, you know, reach out to the families and a community and saying that we’re with them in this time. This should not be where we are today.
Q But specifically, those Senate talks that were happening between Cory Booker and Tim Scott and others, is that something that needs to be restarted at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I’ll say this: We — we think Congress should — should act and take action and put legislation to the flo- — to the floor that deals with this in a real — in a real way. And that is going to be up to Congress on what that looks like and what that ultimately — ultimately materializes to be.
But again, the President is going to call on them, and he’s committed to really seeing — being part of the crucial work that — to advance meaningful reform.
Q And is there any specific provision in that bill or in any other bill that would prevent the kind of death that we — that we saw here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, if you look at the George Floyd Policing Act, which is something that the President supported last year, there were some real important components — provisions in that act that we thought would start the process of binging [sic] — bringing forward meaningful change, as the President is going to continue to call for.
But again, we’re going to work with Congress. We’re going to continue to call on Congress to really move something forward that’s going to deal with an issue that has been disproportionately really affecting the brown and Black community.
Q Thanks, Karine. Legislative issues aside, I think the President spoke publicly about what seemed to be a genuine bond he had formed with George Floyd’s family. And I was wondering if you could talk about, just from a personal side of things for him, how much that has informed or maybe had an impact on how he processes or sees things like what it appears we’re about to see done in Memphis.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, and you know this, Phil. I think you covered — you’ve covered the President or certainly watched the President the last couple of years, especially during that time as his relationship with the George Floyd family developed.
And they’ve met many times, and they’ve spoken many times. And, you know, I — I cannot imagine how conversations like that don’t have an effect on someone — right? — when you see — when you see a family going through so much pain and that pain being captured on video for all the world to see.
So, yeah, I think it’s had an impact on all of us here. It’s had an impact on many across the — across the country, across the globe.
And, yeah, I think he takes this very seriously. He takes — he sees what is going on. He hears the stories. He talks to the families. And he feels that it’s important — it’s important to — to make sure that these families that go through this get swift and full and transparent answers and investigation to the death of their loved ones.
Don’t want to get too far into it because, as you know, the DOJ is looking into this, as also is the local authorities, and there’s going to be a trial. So, I don’t want to get too far into this particular case.
But as you asked me about the George Floyd family, yeah, I think it’s — I think it affected all of us, you know, meeting them and listening to their story and what they’ve had — the pain that they are still going through.
Q And you got at this a little bit in the statement, but in terms of his call for protests, but nonviolence, is he confident that it feels like that’s where things are going at this moment in time? And how will he ensure that that message continues, I guess, to be durable over the course of the next couple days?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, look, he’s going to — he called on — he called for peaceful protest. He joined the family — I think — I think people should listen to the family — as they call for peaceful protest as well. And I think that’s really important.
And we understand — we understand the outrage people have currently and how hurt and painful this is, but we’re going to continue to say violence — but violence is unacceptable.
And so, you know, I just laid out, a moment ago, of what we are trying to do here, meeting — the President has met with the agencies. His administration has been very much in touch with local and state officials to do everything that we can to prevent that.
But again, the President has always been very clear when it comes to — when it comes to violence not being the answer and making sure that when we protest, it’s — when people protest, it’s peaceful.
Go ahead, Joey.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Joey.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q That’s right. I appreciate it. (Laughter.)
I just want to clarify: The FBI Director has said he has seen the videos of Tyre Nichols, said he was “appalled.” Has the President been briefed about the contents of the video? Or has he seen the video footage himself already?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can tell you the President has not — he’s been briefed, but he has not seen the video, nor has anyone at the White House seen the video. So, I can confirm that.
And — but, look, he has been briefed on what occurred and what he knows, what — what he’s able to — to be briefed on from his team, but he has not seen the video.
Q So, who briefed him? Was it the FBI or was it local?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a specific — clearly, senior administration officials have. I don’t have the specific name or person to lay out for you.
Q On a separate topic: Regarding the debt ceiling, Senator Joe Manchin says in his recent private meeting with Speaker McCarthy that McCarthy said he has, quote, “no intention” on touching Medicare or Social Security. What is the White House reaction to hearing that? Do you agree with what the senator is saying there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, for — for months and months and months now — and many of you have reported this — they have been saying that they are going to — they’re planning to cut Social Security and Medicare. This is what Republicans have been saying for months — for months.
And — and, you know, I have a few — a few reporting from — from some of your colleagues — from your esteemed colleagues. Just the other day, the Washington Post headline from — is — is, quote, “House GOP Eyes Social Security, Medicare
and [Amid] Spending Battle.” End quote.
Or Reuters, earlier in January: “Republican House Conservatives Threaten Debt Limit Default to Cut Social Programs.”
That has been consistent with what House Republicans have been saying. They want to, you know, hold hostage the debt so that — they want to default on it so that they can cut Social Security, so that they can cut Medicare — Medicare.
And let’s not forget, these are programs that the American people have paid into. We’re talking about veterans and seniors — senior citizens here.
And here’s another one. For example, here’s a Fox News headline from less than a month ago, before Election Day: “Republicans Eye Using Debt Limit Hike to Overhaul Entitlement Programs if” Trust — “if Entrusted With Majority.”
And this is what we have seen for months and months and months. This is what they have been saying for months and months and months.
Q But doesn’t it seem like McCarthy is signaling he’s not going to be touching those?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hea- — I understand the question, but I’m telling you what his Republican Conference has been saying for some time now. And they continue to say that. I just read an article from earlier this week that said that is what they want to do.
And here’s the thing: You know, as you talk about, you know, the debt ceiling, as we talk of how — about this — this conversation that we’ve been having for weeks, about their responsibility and what they should be doing — Congress, in a — both Republicans and Democrats — in a bipartisan way — to deal with this issue that’s been dealt with 78 times since 1960, we haven’t seen a plan from Republicans.
What’s their plan? We know that — what they want to cut, but what’s their plan?
And so, you know, it’s been very clear to us what they want to do. And — and it’s been very clear all through this week as well.
Q Yeah. May I follow up on that, please? If the Republicans in the House do present a plan for conditions for what they would raise the debt limit under, will you start negotiations with them on that plan? What would be the point of them presenting you with a list of demands?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I’m saying is they want to cut, cut, cut, but they are — they’re just saying this rhetoric that’s incredibly dangerous, that is very dangerous to our full — the full credit and of — of our — of our country. Right?
Think about — when you think about the debt ceiling, when you think about the debt limit, it is something — it is — we’re talking about debt that has been racked up by Congress. Right?
But we continue to say we are not — this should be done — when it comes to the debt limit, the debt ceiling, it should be done without condition.
That doesn’t change anything. I’m just laying out how they’re proceeding here. It’s such in a reckless way. And so, we’re just calling that out. But it doesn’t change where we stand. It doesn’t change the fact that we are not going to negotiate here.
This is something that should be dealt with like it has been many, many times before. In the last administration, three times — three times — Kevin McCarthy, other — other House Republicans voted for it under the last administration.
And again, this is a bipartisan way that it’s been done in the past, and it should be done this way again, this year.
Q Any chance the President would delay his departure to Camp David tonight in order to see the video release when it’s scheduled? And because Camp David is one of the places where it’s actually difficult for the President to immediately address the nation if there were to be a concern, do you expect that he may want to say something in a live way? He’s already spoken through you and he’s spoken on paper, but do you anticipate that this is the kind of circumstance where he’d want to emphasize that by appearing on camera?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any changes for you on his — on his schedule today. I will say, like you just mentioned, you heard from him last night in clear terms and expressing his condolences to the family and the people of Memphis. And he’s going to continue to call for meaningful reforms. He said that last night, and he said that many times before. And he’s going to continue to call for protests to remain peaceful. I just don’t have anything to share at this time on his schedule.
Q Is there anything you can share about his plans for Camp David, since he’s doing Camp David and Wilmington this weekend? Are there any meetings that are scheduled at Camp David or things that are government-related this weekend?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, he tends to have internal — internal meetings, as you all know, with his — with his team. Don’t have anything to read out, as well, at this time. But that is something that he often does, whether it’s virtually or in person, to keep — to keep abreast, especially with the next couple of hours, to certainly continue to be briefed on the situation in Memphis.
Q And we’re running out of January, and you had told us that we’d have the physical and the information about the President’s physical. Any update on whether that might slide into February now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any updates on that at this time. Look, we want to — this is something that we’re committed to doing. As I’ve said, we did it back in 2021 in a very transparent way and shared the doctor’s memo to all of you, for you all to review it. And it was very extensive; it was, again, in a transparent form — fashion. And so we’re committed to doing that. I just don’t have any updates at this time.
Let me go to the back. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Haiti has gone through another tough week. I know you were questioned earlier this week. But we heard Helen La Lime at the U.N. Security Council talk about it. Yesterday, it was the police officers who paralyzed Port-au-Prince, because there were officers that horribly have been killed over there. Any progress? Because people are begging for the United States and Canada to get involved in a respective international force on the ground. Any progress in the discussions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, as you just mentioned, together, the U.S. and Canada have taken action to provide assistance to the people of Haiti while also holding those causing this crisis accountable, including through sanctions. That is stu- — that is something that we have announced in the past several months.
And as you saw at the NALS — the NALS Summit that just occurred recently in Mexico City, that coordination will continue.
During their bilat, President Biden with Prime Minister Trudeau also committed to continue coordination with partners on the
U.S. [U.N] Security Council on the next steps to support stability to Haiti, including support to the national — to the Haitian National Police. And so, that is a commitment that the President has, and we will continue, again, to coordinate to see what we can do.
Q But no new forces on the ground at the moment to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to announce or preview at this time.
Q The other question I have, Karine, is what’s happening in the Middle East and in Israel and the Palestinian Territory. We saw what happened in Jenin yesterday. We’re hearing that five people were killed in a synagogue in Jerusalem today.
I know that the Secretary of State, Blinken, is going — is the area. There’s a commitment to the two-state solution that’s going to be reaffirmed. But is the President — does the President intend to do anything concrete towards the solution this year towards this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we’re aware of the reports yesterday. You just mentioned Secretary Blinken’s travel.
So we — look, we recognize the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That is something that we recognize and condemn: terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against innocent civilians. And that is something that you will continue to hear from us, and we will be consistent on that.
We also regret the loss of innocent lives and injury — and injuries to civilians, and are deeply concerned by the escalating cycle of violence in the West Bank.
Over the past few days, our administration has been closely engaged with the Israeli and Palestinian Authority on the recent violence and to urge de-escalation. We underscore the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, to prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.
Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely — securely — securely. And you’ll hear that from, clearly, Secretary Blinken, as you just mentioned — his commitment that the President has to a two-state solution. And we will continue to call on de-escalation in the region.
Q Can I ask a follow-up to that? I know during May of 2021, when there was violence in the region, President Biden got on the phone with Netanyahu; he was more personally engaged. Is there a reason why we’re not seeing the President himself hop on the phone and be more directly engaged (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President is very committed to the security — the real security challenges that they’re facing here, in Israeli and in Palestinian Authority. And we’re going to continue to condemn, certainly, the terrorist groups’ planning, and we’ll be — continue to be vocal.
Don’t have anything to read out as far as the President calling the Prime Minister.
But as you know, as was just mentioned, Secretary Blinken is in the region. We had National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who was there just last week. And I think that shows our commitment to the region.
And so, we’ll contin- — you’ll continue to see that. I just don’t have anything specific on the President — the President’s involvement.
Q Thanks, Karine. People on the Hill are talking about a debt limit extension until September. Would the White House support such an extension?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve been very clear that the debt limit should be dealt with without conditions. We’ve been very, very clear on that, and we continue to make that clear. And — and we believe that Congress should act in a bipartisan way — as they did three times in the last administration, as they did 78 times since 1960, 49 times with a Republican president, and 29 times with a Democratic president.
This is incredibly important. We have seen reports that if a default happens, 6 million jobs could be lost. Right? We’re talking about an economy that we saw the GDP, just the other day, at 2.9 percent growth, which is better than was antici- — expected.
So we’re seeing a growing economy. We’re seeing record unemployment, 50-year low. We’re seeing almost 11 [million] jobs created under this President.
What we should be doing and what Congress should be working with us on is how do we continue to build on that success, not do political stunts. And so, we’ll continue to be clear on that. It should be done without political stunts. It should be done in a bipartisan way, as it has done — has been done many times before.
Q And there’s going to be a vote next month on a nationwide TikTok ban. Does the White House still have security concerns about the app? And do you have a different stance on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, our positions have not — has not changed on TikTok. I’m not going to get into any specifics. As you know, it’s under review by the committee. So, I’m just not going to get into details on that.
Q Thanks, Karine. David Axelrod, former top staffer for President Bi — President Obama, wrote a piece today for The Atlantic that, “Biden and White House seemingly have violated every precept — speed, transparency, contrition — of crisis communications” in relation to the way that you have communicated about the classified documents found in his possession.
I’m wondering if you agree with that assessment and your take on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I know David Axelrod very well. I was part of his — I was – I was part of his program that he had at the University of Chicago, and I respect him wholeheartedly and got to work with him during the Obama-Biden administration. He has his opinion. I’m not going to make judgments on that. And he’s allowed to — to share what he thinks.
But I will say this — and I’m going to be very careful and prudent here. And we take — we take classified information and classified documents very seriously. And the President’s team is fully cooperating with the current legal process at this time. I’m just not going to say anything more.
Q This is not a question about the handling of classified documents. It’s a question of communication.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I just — I just answered your question. I just answered your question. I —
Q So, you have no comment on whether the White House —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I literally just answered your question.
Q But — look —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But I did. (Laughs.) I did.
Q You didn’t answer the question about whether or not you think the White House has done a good job communicating —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but I answered the first part — I answered it in my first part, which is: I know David Axelrod. He has every right to have his opinion. And I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve worked closely with him. And that’s all I’m going to say.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Is there a specific reason the President is leaving Camp David to go to Delaware just for that one night on Sunday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to preview about what he’s going to be doing specifically. All I can tell you is that he’s going to be leaving Camp David and going to Wilmington, Delaware.
Q And his travel for next week: the Baltimore/New York travel — obviously, it’s infrastructure-related and tunnel-specific; Philadelphia, on the economy. But they’re obviously very blue cities. Why the focus on those three places next week? Why did you guys pick them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think — you know, I — well, first, I’m not going to get ahead of the President. He will lay out the importance of his travels to those particular tunnels and why he wanted to highlight those tunnels. So, certainly not going to get ahead of him.
Look, the bipartisan — remember, it’s a bipartisan infrastructure legislation. We were in Kentucky in the beginning of the year, which was a — a bridge in Kentucky that — that was really important in the region. And we had — you saw Mitch McConnell. You know, you saw a bipartisan effort of folks who — of elec- — of elected officials who came together to talk about a bridge that for decades presidents had wanted to fix and have not been able to.
So, we were in Kentucky not too long ago. This — next week, you’ll see the President in Maryland and in — and in New York. So I think those are important, right?
When you think about what the President has said for the past several years is he is a President for everyone, and you see that in his pieces of legislation because they will benefit people in New York, they will benefit people in New Jersey, they will benefit people in Kentucky and Ohio, just across the country — red states, blue states, rural areas, urban areas.
And I think that’s what you’re seeing. That’s what you’re going to see next week from — from the President, as he tra- — he continues to travel and lay out what — what historic pieces of legislation, like the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, is going to do for the — for the American people. I should say, not “legislation” but “law.”
Q And will he be doing travel right up to the State of the Union with a similar message like this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t — don’t want to get ahead of his schedule. But, clearly, he sees the State of the Union as an important opportunity to speak directly to the American people about how he sees the future of this country. As the President says, you’ve heard him say many times, he’s an optimist. And he said that just yesterday. And he wants to continue to talk about the economy, where we are and where he thinks we need to do — to go, especially as — if we can work together in a bipartisan way to continue to deliver for the American people.
Q Thank you so much. So, is the President going to go to Europe next month to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine? And I understand if you’re not going to comment on concrete travel plans. But going to Ukraine, is this an option for the President today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into the President’s travel from here. And I can say that we currently — and you guys heard us say this already in the last 24 hours — we currently don’t have any travel plans for the anniversary.
What I can tell you is — and what I meant to say at the beginning is I don’t want to — you’re asking me about the security going to Ukraine. I just — I — it is not — it is not appropriate for me to talk about the President’s — any type of security from here.
But what I can say is that planning for how we will recognize the one-year anniversary is well underway here at the White House and across the government. But as a general matter, I’m just not going to — going to get into internal discussions or read out any options that we’re currently looking at. And once we have something — if we have something to certainly share, we will.
But, right now, we currently have no plans to travel for the anniversary.
Q Did Elon Musk request to meet with the President himself while he was in town this week?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I can tell you — I would — I would refer you to Elon Musk. I don’t have any request to share with you right now. What I can tell you is that he did not meet with the President. It was his two advisors — senior advisors, as I just laid out — John Podesta and Mitch Landrieu — who met with Elon Musk today. I just don’t have anything else to share about who — about who asked whom.
Q Okay. Following up — somewhat related to EVs, but gas prices: It could hit $4.00 in the next couple of months — the national average — according to a lot of the experts, like GasBuddy. How likely is it that the President taps into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve again this year to try to lower prices?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Secretary Granholm, as you know, was here, I believe on Monday, and she was asked his question, and so that is certainly something that’s under her purview as well. And we don’t have anything to share on that.
What I can say about gas prices more — more broadly is that while some temporary refinery outages and maintenance are impacting gas prices right now, the price of gas is still down about $1.50 since — since June peak and around where it was when Putin invaded Ukraine.
The Department of Energy is working with refineries to bring capacity back online swiftly and safely.
And the President will continue to do everything he can to keep lowering costs for the American families.
So, look, in contrast to what the White — the House Republicans want to do — we have that SPR bill that they put forward in trying to, you know, stop the President for doing everything that he can to lower cost.
And so we’re doing the opposite. We’re going to continue to do the work to make sure that we tackle inflation, one of the most important economic priorities of this President. And so we’ll continue to do that work.
Any — any additional, you know, tapping of the SPR, I just don’t have anything for you at this time.
Q And what about refilling it? Especially now that oil prices are climbing again, it could get up to $110 a barrel. When do you see the timeline for refilling it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we had laid out the plan of how that was going to work. I don’t have anything updated on that. I would refer you to the Department of Energy for any specifics to that.
Q Thank you. On Tyre Nichols, the — in previous police brutality cases in the past couple years, the officers have been white. That’s not the case in this — in this case. Is the President concerned that within the culture of policing there is a comfort with violence and an entitlement to use violence that would lead these officers to beat a man to death for fleeing from them during a traffic stop? Does he feel that police may feel emboldened to do these things? And what would he do about that, if so?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean, the pri- — the President has called for meaningful reform. He’s called on it very clearly and spoken to it the last two years. And he wants to see real change. He wants to make sure there is accountability with law enforcement officers who violate their oaths.
And he also said that we need to build that long-lasting relationship between enforcement and the vast majority — we understand and he believes — of whom wear the badge honorably. And that is important too. And in those communities, not only they wear it honorably, but they also — to serve the community — to serve the community that they want to protect.
And so, look, we’re — we’re — I’m not going to get into psych- — you know, do any — any psychology here and going into the — the minds of — of — of folks. But what we can say is we believe that we — there needs to be meaningful reform, which is why the President acted and took executive action when — when Congress could not.
Q I would just — just follow up on that. His predecessor, in 2017, encouraged police officers to “don’t be too nice” and suggested that they might hit the heads of prisoners on the tops of their patrol cars. Does the President have any plans to speak to police officers and say that this is — this kind of behavior is not acceptable? Does he plan to address any police groups or anything like that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand the question, Andrew, but it — I think the President has been very clear. He’s been very clear on the importance of having true reform, of the important of making sure that communities feel safe.
He took action — right? — he took executive action to deal with that specifical- — specific issue. And that’s what he’s going to continue to do. He’s going to, you know, use the tools that he can by taking executive action and call on Congress to truly make meaningful reform that’s going to deal with an issue that is devastating, you know, disproportionately, unfortunately, Black and brown communities.
Q In the back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. I’ll come to the back in the second.
Q So, when you talk about infrastructure, you say it’s important for the President to have a chance to speak directly to the American people. Why doesn’t he want to speak directly to the American people now that some big cities are bracing potentially this weekend for riots?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, he put out a statement yesterday. And I think when a statement comes from the President of the United States, it has a powerful impact. And he was very clear in that statement. He offered his condolences to the family of Ty- — Tyre Nichols. He also joined the family in calling for peaceful protests. That is an important statement that the President can make.
And you have me here reiterating what the President has said. And we’re going to continue to do that.
It’s not the first time. I’ve laid out the Dobbs decision was a — was a time where we were calling for peaceful protest. And there’s been other times even before then. So — and let’s not forget Election Day, where we did the same.
So I think the President’s words really matter. They have weight. And it’s important that we — the American people heard from him directly.
Q Okay. On the documents, have any more classified documents been located in any places associated with President Biden?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.
Q Okay. And why do White House officials insist that the President self-reported the classified materials if his lawyers initially called the White House and not the Justice Department?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the White House Counsel.
Q But we heard from this podium the other day that President Biden self-reported the materials. That’s not what — exactly what happened, is it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Who did you hear that from?
Q John Kirby.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I would refer you to the White House Counsel.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. I have an immigration question, but just really quickly, two follow-ups on the West Bank. Is the administration concerned that the current Israeli government, which many observers have characterized as the most right-wing in the country’s history, is escalating the violence in the West Bank? Prime Minister Netanyahu has often said that he is in control of the coalition. Does the administration still have faith in his ability to do that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we have been very clear on looking forward to working with the Prime Minister. As you know, the President has a relationship with the Prime Minister. I’m certainly not going to go into specifics from here of what you laid out.
You know that Secretary Blinken is currently in the region and so was — so was National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
And I’m just going to leave it there. I’m not going to go into diplomatic conversations from here. I’m not going to go into anything more specific than that.
But again, we’re going to, you know, continue to — continue that relationship that we’ve had.
Q And, just really briefly, we just heard that there — there are at least seven people who have been killed in an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem. I don’t know if you’ve heard that or not. Do you have any comment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I have not heard of that.
Q It just broke that that happened.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But — but, clearly, we have been asking both sides to de-escalate, and we will continue to do that. But I — it’s hard to speak on something that I have not read about.
Q And on my immigration question, can we get a reaction on the over 70 Democrats urging the President to reevaluate his asylum restrictions, please?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, if you look at what the President put forward in — most recently, as it relates to the border security and the border security measures — it’s actually working. And we see that with the parolee pre- — program, more specifically. And I think it’s — it’s important that the President is using the tools that he has in front of him to deal with a real issue.
And so, the number of people crossing un- — unlawfully from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela declined by 89 percent in less than three weeks — 89 percent. And, this month, we’re on track to see the lowest levels of monthly border encounters since February 2021.
Our mar- — measures, again, are working because we are treating this matter with urgency. We’re not using it as a political stunt. We’re not using it as a political football. We’re taking this very seriously.
But, as you just mentioned, some states are trying to block or- — our success and measures because they would rather use immigration as a political stunt and — and — for their campaign or, you know, instead of trying to solve it.
So, again, we’re going to do the work. The President is going to do the work on behalf of the American people and deal with a real issue — not just here, but that has been, you know, affecting a global — essentially, a global phenomenon that we have seen this past year or two.
So, again, his meas- — his — his measures or the measures that he just put in, are working. And — and we’re going to continue to focus on that.
Go ahead, Gerren.
Q On Tyre Nichols, you mentioned that President Biden has called for Congress to pass the George Floyd Bill. For Black Americans who are deeply disturbed and frustrated by this continuous — these cases of police brutality, who voted for President Biden in 2020 because of what happened to George Floyd, what would be the President’s message to Black Americans who are feeling like the President is not taking a more aggressive tone when speaking to Congress to pass this bill and move it forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think — and I said a little bit of this moments ago — we understand the outrage that — that the community has. As we have said, it is disproportionately — when you see this type of violence — is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities.
But I think if you look at the President’s actions and what he has been able to do in using the tools that he has: When Congress could not get this done, they could not move forward with the George Floyd Policing Act, he took action. He took executive actions and was — used the tools in front of him to move the conversation forward, to move the ball forward on dealing with an issue that is devastating — devastating communities.
Now he’s going to continue to — continue to do what he’s been doing, is ask Congress to act. And I — I also think I would refer you back to his comments, his speeches. He’s made speeches on this, on what — how this is affecting communities, how important it is to come together to deal with the real issue. He’s talked about this over the last two years.
Again, you know, I would look at his actions, look at what he’s been able to do. And I think that’s important too.
Okay, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. On the Elon Musk’s meeting. Did his Twitter ownership come up at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q And then what about the topic of Hunter Biden’s laptop?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would — I would refer to — to Hunter’s representatives on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian.
Q Thank you, Karine. I want to go back to November 2nd. Why didn’t the President go public on November 2nd when he found out from his lawyers that classified documents were found in the Penn Biden Center?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the White House Counsel, who has —
Q But this is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — who has — who has put out a — statements on this, on their timeline and talking — speaking to this. My colleagues from the White House Counsel has had conversations with many of you answering questions on this. I would refer you to the White House Counsel.
Q This was a time before there was a federal investigation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would —
Q He could have gone public at that point.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to my —
Q Why — why wouldn’t he?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — the White House Counsel.
Go ahead, Alex. Go ahead, Alex.
Q Karine, I spoke with the New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, this afternoon. And he’s just very concerned, as he’s said in media appearances in recent days, that the White House is not doing enough to prepare for a new surge of migrants, many of whom are going to end up in cities like Chicago, New York, here in D.C.
And then, as you know, it’s not just DeSantis and Abbott sending buses of migrants to these cities. It’s Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado as well.
So, what do you have to say to those concerns from Mayor Adams?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here’s what I would say — and I said it — I answered this question with one of your colleagues, which is: We believe and we have seen the numbers and the data that the board enforcement measures have dramatically reduced the number of people attempting to enter the country unlawfully. And I just mentioned the parolee program that was extended to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti, and how we’ve seen those numbers come down by 89 percent. And so, that’s because of the measures that the President has put forth.
And so, look, we’re going to continue to do the work. I just mentioned, as well, we’re going to see the lowest — we’re on track to see the lowest levels of monthly border encounters since February of 2021.
Why is that? It’s because of the work that this President has done, the to- — using the tools, using what he’s able to do from the federal — from the federal govern- — from where he sits.
Look, you know, when the President walked in, the very first piece of legislation that he put forth was an immigration reform bill. That’s how seriously he took this. That’s how important it was for him to secure the border and deal with an — an — illegal migration.
And what he has asked for is to have Congress act. And I know you mentioned a couple of Repub- — Democrats, but the vast majority of folks who have been pushing back against this have been Republicans. We’ve seen very, very — in a stark way — the political stunts that they have taken.
So, look, he’s willing to work on this. He has said this many time. He’s willing to work in a bipartisan way to get this done.
But in the meantime, he’s going to take actions, as we’ve seen, and those actions are actually working. And so, that’s what I — that’s how I would answer your question.
Q Are you encouraged at all by the Tillis/Sinema talks on the Hill?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh — we of — yes, we are encouraged by those conversation. This is what we’ve been asking. Right? We’ve been asking for Congress to — to take action, to really take this in a serious way. And so, we welcome that. We welcome conversations that are currently happening on dealing with immigration reform in a real way.
Q Thanks. I wanted to ask about the student debt relief cases that the Supreme Court is going to consider next month.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that one more time? I’m so sor- —
Q The — it’s okay, I’ll be louder. The student debt cases that the Supreme Court is going to consider next month —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sorry, I still didn’t — didn’t hear you. The first part?
Q Student debt.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, student — (laughs) —
Q Student debt.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s me. It’s not you.
Q Okay. The student debt cases. One of the questions that’s at issue in both of the cases is whether the President went beyond his authority in pardoning all of that debt. Can you talk about more of what these cases mean for your broader agenda?
There’s been a lot of different executive actions that the President has taken that have been questioned by the Supreme Court — outside of the context of student debt, which I know is something you all really care about — but thinking about how these cases could impact, going forward, how the President uses his own authority on other issues?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I — you know, I’ll say — I’ll just speak to this more broadly. And, look, we’re confident in our legal authority to carry — carry out this program as it re- — as it relates specifically to the student debt. And, you know, we’re looking for — we’re looking for a plan — the President — this was a plan that the President put forward to move things forward — right? — to continue to help Americans who need a little bit of a breathing room, as you hear the President speak to.
If you think about the $20,000 of relief that it — that it’s going to give to those who need it the most, if you think about the nearly 90 percent of benefits will go to out-of — out-of-school borrowers making less than $75,000 a year.
And so, this is what the President is trying to do. He’s been doing this with his economic policies that you’ve seen the last two years, continuing to make sure that we help those who are truly in need and building —
If you think — if you think about what the economic theory has been for the past decades — right? — which is trickle-down economics, the President is changing that and saying, “No, we do not need trickle-down economics.” He is saying that we need to build an economy from the bottom up, middle out.
And if you think about his plan, it is working. It is indeed working. And he always is going to take steps and use his bully pulpit to — to make sure that Americans have an opportunity to really — to really not be left behind. That is so important, so that they can —
If you think about loan program, it’ll give Americans who can buy a car, can start a family, can buy a home, and really bring — put back into the economy because they have a little bit of extra — more cash.
And I think that is how we should see this. That is how we should see how the President wants to deliver for the American people. And he’s going — it’s not going to stop him. It’s not going to stop him to continue to do that.
Thanks, everybody. See you on Mon- — see you next week.
3:08 P.M. EST