James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:09 P.M. EST  

(Reporters laughing.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Why are you guys happy?

Q    Because it’s all ladies in the front row!

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The ladies in the front row!

Q    And it’s Friday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my gosh.  So, then I’ll just start in the back, then.  (Laughter.)

Q    Nooo —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the guys — (laughs) — (points to back row.)

Well, Happy Friday.  And, yes, it is an all-ladies crew in the front row.  I wonder if there’s history-making here today.

All right.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Happy Friday.  I’m not sure what’s going on with Andrea here.  You got it?  You’re good?

(Video on cellphone plays.)

Q    Somebody has got audio.

Q    I’m so sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, it’s Andrea.  She’s trying.  She’s trying, folks.

I don’t see you very often.  And when I do, you cause a ruckus.  (Laughter.) 

Okay.  So, today, President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to a true hero of our nation, Colonel Paris Davis, for the gallantry he displayed at great personal risk that went above and beyond the call of duty during combat operations in Vietnam. 

You all heard President Biden tell Colonel Davis’s story in powerful remarks, but I just want to say that Colonel Davis represents the best of America.  Despite being wounded while leading his men in combat, he refused to leave the battlefield until all the members of his team were evacuated. 

His bravery and devotion to our country during this battle has been recognized before in the form of a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.  But until today, he never received the recognition for his extraordinary acts — and well-deserved recognition, obviously — which is a Medal of Honor. 

We are proud to welcome Colonel Davis to the White House today as a Medal of Honor recipient.

Today, the Biden-Harris administration is announcing its 33rd security assistance package for Ukraine using presidential drawdown authorities as we continue to surge weapons and equipment that Ukraine needs to defend itself against Russian aggression. 

This package includes more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and howitzers that Ukraine is using so effectively to defend itself, as well as ammunition for Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, armored vehicle-launched bridges, and demolition mu- — munitions and equipment.

The United States will continue to rally the world to support Ukraine.  We have seen incredible commitment from our allies and partners, and applaud the more than 50 countries, including Germany — as you all know, Germany’s Chancellor will be here at the White House momentarily — and that have come together to provide Ukraine with military assistance.  These contributions are making a significant difference, enabling Ukraine to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Russia alone could end this war today if they wished.  They could end this war today.  Until they are willing to do so, we will continue to strengthen Ukrainians’ military on the battlefield so that they will be in the strongest possible position at any future negotiation at the table. 

Now, before we go to questions, I have a little bit of the week ahead, and I’ll lay that out for you.

On Sunday, March 5th, the President will travel to Selma, Alabama, where he will commemorate the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.  The President will deliver remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge and participate in the annual commemorative bridge-crossing event.

In his remarks, President Biden will talk about the importance of commemorating Bloody Sunday so that history cannot be erased.  He will highlight how the continued fight for voting rights is integ- — integral to delivering economic justice and civil rights for Black Americans. 

In the evening, the President will return to the White House.

On Monday, the President will headline the 2023 International Association of Fire Fighters Legislative Conference.
On Thursday, the President will release his budget.  The budget will show how the President plans to invest in America, continue to lower costs for families, protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, reduce the deficit, and so much more.  We will have, of course, more details to share with all of you next week.

On Friday, the President will welcome President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission to the White House.    The leaders will review the strong cooperation between the United States and the European Union to support Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and democracy, and to impose costs on Russia as — for its aggression against Ukraine.

 They will also discuss U.S.-EU coordination to combat the climate crisis through investing in clean technology based on secure supply chains.

The leaders — the leaders will take — will take stock of the joint Task Force on Europe’s Energy Security that they established one year ago, which has helped the EU reduce its independence — or dependence, pardon me, on Russian fossil fuels and accelerate its green transition.

They will also discuss other international security challenges, including our work together to address the challenges posed by the People’s Republic of Russia [China].

With that, Colleen, good to see you.  It’s been a while.

Q    Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You have the floor.

Q    Karine, it is your 100th press briefing today.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my gosh.

Q    So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m sure you’re thrilled.

Q    Congratulations.  (Laughs.)  How — how do you feel about that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my gosh.  All right.  Well, cheers.

Q    Cheers.

So, moving right along, I wanted to ask about the D.C. crime — criminal code.  Again, we’re — we’ve been hearing that some of the House Democrats feel like they got thrown under the bus a little bit by the President’s decision not to step in on the effort to stop the overhaul — which is a lot of negatives, I understand, but I think you know where I’m going. 

So, I wanted to know, you know: Did the President give them a heads-up on the decision?  Was there any sort of back-and-forth about it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first, let me just say that the White House notified the — notified the members at the House retreat, as you know, back — that was earlier this week — or is still happening — in Baltimore.  So that’s number one.

Number two, I do want to lay out that the President and the administration has a very close relationship with House Democrats and Senate Democrats as well. 

We have worked together.  The President has worked very well with the members on delivering bold, historic pieces of legislation in his first two years of his administration and is very proud of the relationship that he has with them.  And our teams are constantly in communication with them. 

And so, I’ll leave that there.  This is a very strong, important relationship for all of us here, including the President. 

I also want to state that, look, the President supports D.C. statehood.  That is something that you saw in his SAP for this particular D.C. crime bill.  And if Congress sends him a bill making D.C. a state, he’ll always, always be sure to sign it, because he’s been talk- — he’s been talking about that for the last two decades. 

But, you know, vetoing the bill headed to this — his desk now won’t make — make D.C. a state.  And so, those are the things that the President is really — has been very clear about when it comes to D.C. and their statehood. 

And so, I’ll leave it there.  But as it relates to the House, as it relates to Senate Democrats, it is a very important relationship to — for us and, clearly, very important. 

And with the Senate Democratic Caucus, as you know, when he met with them yesterday, he provided what he was going to do and made it very clear to them, and they had that discussion. 

Q    I just also want to ask — so, you know, Biden and the Democrats have talked a lot about the need to stem, you know, rising crime, but also the need to reform a criminal justice system that still disproportionately affects, you know, Black Americans. 

So why not engage in some sort of compromise or why not let the D.C. bill — because, you know, the mayor vetoed the criminal code but she also proposed some changes that she thought would have made the system, sort of, better on the whole. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I just want to be very clear here.  And if you look at the D.C. bill itself — and I know that there was a little bit of — I was asked a couple of questions of what else does it do besides armed carjacking.  And I don’t normally go line by line on — on legislation, especially legislation that we haven’t introduced.  But I did talk to the team, and we have a couple of things that I just want to lay out for all of you and — on what the D.C. bill does.

It reduces maximum penalties for offenses like murders and other homicides; armed — armed home invasion burglaries; armed — armed carjackings, as I mentioned; armed robberies; unlawful gun possession; and some sexual assault offenses. 

And so, look, the President has been very clear we need to do more to reduce crime, to make communities safer, to save lives.  And that’s why he put together — he put forth his Safer America Plan that does just that — that we believe does exactly that.

So, the way that we see this bill, it doesn’t actually reform policing practices.  That’s not something that it does — reform like the ones the President has put forward at the federal level — you know, about the executive order.  When it couldn’t be done on the Senate side, making — doing — moving forward with police reform, the President put forth a historic piece — piece of — an executive order to get — to try to do what we can at the federal level. 

And so, we believe that this bill does not actually do that. 

Q    Question on the meeting today with the German Chancellor.  Not long ago, both Chancellor Scholz, along with President Macron, reportedly told Zelenskyy that he would, you know, soon have to make difficult decisions urging the start of peace negotiations.

Does the President see that as a sign that the united front that he has worked so hard to maintain, you know, may be not that united that much longer?  And how much does he see today’s sit-down as a chance to just urge Scholz to stay the course and stick with this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President is looking forward to — for a productive meeting with the German Chancellor.  They first met — I don’t know if some of you have been tracking this — but they first met when he became German Chancellor early last year — I believe, on February 7th — soon after he, clearly, took office.  And they met here at the White House. 

And over the past — the past several years, they’ve seen each other at the margins of the G7, at the summit in Germany; at NATO; at the G20 Summit; and have talked by phone regularly. 

And so this is a — clearly, a relationship that has been — that has been growing over the last year.  And so, you know, what we’re seeing, what he’s — how we see this meeting is a bilateral cooperation to talk about a range of issues, global security, economic issues.  And at the forefront of the — of this meeting that they’re going to have — this bilat that they’ll pretty soon, it will be on Ukraine.  And that coordination is going to continue. 

You saw the President in Warsaw.  You saw him in Kyiv.  You saw him having a bilat with the B9 and — well, a meeting with the B9, a bilat with the President of Poland. 

And all of those — all of the actions and the meetings that the President has had over the last just several months is showing, I think, the strength — the strength of — of the union, the stren- — the strength of the EU, the strength of their — what you’re seeing with the NATO Allies and Europe and the West.  And so I think that’s going to continue.  We believe that’s going to continue. 

Remember, when — when Russia, when Putin first started out on this war, he thought that NATO would be divided.  He thought that the West would be divided.  And we just have not seen that.  If anything, we’re seeing more coordination and more support for the people of Ukraine, for President Zelenskyy, and the efforts that they’re doing on the ground to defend their democracy.

Q    But you are seeing signs that their approach may start — is starting to look a little bit different, right?  You say over and over again here, the President says, you know, “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”  And yet, you do see some allies saying, you know, “It is time to get — to get to the — to the negotiating table.”  They’re concerned that they’ll be able to do this for as long as it takes, as the President says.  So does that not spark concern and worry amongst the President, around —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But — but, look, Mary, we want this war to end.  We do.  We want this war to end.  But it doesn’t look like Russia is going to do that, right?  And it is up to — they could.  They could end this this war today, but they’re not. 

And so what we’re going to continue to do is support Ukraine the best way that we can.  We just announced, I just laid out a PDA, our 33rd drawdown since this war started.  And we’re going to continue to do that, continue to give them the support that they need on the ground. 

And, look, you’ve heard President Zelenskyy talk about peace and wanting — wanting to move forward with peace.  But at the same time, we have to make sure we strengthen their hand, when those negotiations happen, that they are in a place of strength.  And so that’s what you’re seeing from — from this President.  That’s what you’re seeing from the allies across the globe. 

And you’re going to see the President meeting with the German Chancellor today.  We’re going to continue to show that — that supportive front, that coordination.  They’re going to have that discussion.  And you saw that last week when the President was — was in Eastern Europe. 

Q    I guess, just — it’s a sort of a housekeeping matter, but has the President had a chance yet or does he plan to speak with former President Carter or members of his family, given that I don’t think they’ve spoken yet since the news of his hospice care?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, there’s — I don’t have a call to preview or to announce.  As you know, and I’ve said this many times before and I think you — many of you have reported this, that they’ve known each other since 1976.  It’s a — it’s a relationship that has spanned many — many decades. 

The President, certainly, and the First Lady — their hearts are — are with the — are with President Carter and his family. 

I don’t — I just don’t have a conversation to preview at this time. 

Q    But given the importance of that relationship, is it something — you know, it seems odd that it hasn’t happened yet, I guess.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I mean, look, we — you know, the President, when it’s time — when it’s time and appropriate, certainly that conversation will happen. 

I just don’t have anything at this time to preview.

Go ahead, Andrea.

Q    So, an EU official just said that the two sides are working toward an agreement in principle on a very limited agreement that would create a free trade-like status for the EU that would put it on par roughly with Canada and Mexico, in terms of the IRA.  Can you say anything more about your hopes for reaching some kind of a deal — at least on a very high level — when von der Leyen arrives next week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I don’t want to get in — ahead of — of that meeting.  Clearly, that’s going to be another important bilateral meeting, focusing on the coordination, of course, on Ukraine and other important security issues and economic issues, as you just laid out, that both sides care about — right? — the American [European] Union and, clearly, the United States.

As it relates to the IRA investments, the clean energy future will be invented and built and made in America.  That’s how we see the IRA’s investment.  The President will never back down from putting American jobs and American leadership at the heart of his strategy.  Taxpayer dollars should go to support American jobs and American innovation. 

But the IRA’s benefits expand beyond the U.S.  Our investment will help drive down costs for clean energy, which will help other nations as well.  That’s how we see this important law that the President clearly fought tooth and nail for.  And it’s going to go further and faster in building their own clean energy economies.

I’m not going to, again, get ahead of a meeting that’s going to happen next week.  But the President — and we have been very clear on how important we feel the Inflation Reduction Act is. 

And, again, we’re always going to make sure that we support American — American jobs and, clearly, American tax dollars.

Q    But I think the question is: How important is it to you to remove this irritant in the relationship at a time when you’re looking at a protracted war in Ukraine, potentially China delivering lethal aid?  I mean, is it important to shore up the alliance and, at this point, remove irritants like this trade issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the — clearly, the relationship is important to this President.  You have seen him, across two years, rebuild our relationship with our allies, something that was almost decimated in the last administration. 

We have a President who understands the importance of those types of foreign leadership relationships, who had them for many years before becoming President. 

And so, of course, we want to make sure there’s a good working relationship.  And we’re — you’re going to see — you’re going to see him continue to do that. 

Again, I don’t want to get ahead of what the agenda is going to be or what’s going to be discussed with the — with the EU next week. 

But what I can say: It’s an important conversation that will conti- — that they will have.  It’ll focus on, clearly, Ukraine, that continued coordination and support for the Ukrainian people, as they are bravely fighting for their democracy.

Q    And then, just one on the domestic front, on the budget.  To what extent are you expecting the care economy and all those proposals that got, you know, removed from the previous pieces of legislation to come back?  Will we see those items come back in one by one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s budget.  It’s going to be released next Thursday, March 9th. 

But clearly, the President remains committed to — to fighting for paid leave and childcare policies.  That is something, clearly, he fought very hard for it in the beginning of the year, as we were trying to move forward with that piece of legislation. 

And so — and we believe fighting for what I just mentioned — paid leave and childcare — is going to help grow the economy, is going to help give American families and Americans across the country a little bit of a breathing room. 

But, again, I’m just not going to get ahead of the President’s — of the President’s budget that will be out next week. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just following up on Colleen’s question on the D.C. crime bill.  The House Democrats who are expressing anger and frustration, they are in part saying that they wish they had known sooner what the President’s position would be.  As you know, a whole bunch of House Democrats already voted against the bill.  Why didn’t the White House make this position clear before that vote had taken place in the House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, when we put out the SAP — I think it was around the State of the Union; I think that’s when the SAP came out — we were very clear on where — in what — where the President was, which is making sure that he continues his commitment to D.C. statehood.  And that’s what you saw in that SAP, in that support for D.C. statehood. 

And at the time, you know, many times — many of — even earlier this week, many of you were asking me — I think your colleague was asking me which direction the President was going to go.  And he never made that clear in that SAP. 

And I think as it was becoming — we always let — we always let the process in Congress go through — right? — whatever mechanism they take, however it moves forward.  So we never — we’re always very clear and careful about that. 

But as it now looks like it was going to come to his desk, we wanted to communicate where we were going to go.  We wanted to communicate how the President was going to move forward with — with this particular bill. 

And we did.  And we — we laid that out. 

He — we’re explaining that now — why he — he is moving forward in that way. 

And the White House and congressional Dem- — Democrats, as we have known, have come together on many different things to deliver for the American people, and the President wants to continue to do so. 

Q    But I guess, you know, the President supports D.C. statehood; he’s been clear about that.  But he’s not going to veto this bill from Congress, which does amount to Congress sort of meddling in D.C. own governance.  Right? 

So how do you square that circle?  Both things can’t be true.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, we believe both things can be true.  Look, right now, D.C. is not a state. 

This is coming to the President.  Right?  This is something that’s coming to his desk, and he has to take action. 

I just laid out, a moment ago, to Colleen why we felt that this bill doesn’t actually deal with police reform.  This President has been someone, for many years, many decades, who has always put the safety of American, American families, certainly across the country, first.  That’s why he put together his Safer America Plan that lays out 100,000 cops in communities to work with communities, to make sure that communities feel safe. 

The COPS — the COPS plan, that is something that the President started as senator.  It’s something — it’s actually a policy that Republicans want to not fund and take that away — take away — away an option to make communities safe. 

So this is something that the President cares about very strongly.  And the way that we see it is that this is coming to the President’s desk.  This is not a legislation that he put forward.  D.C. is not yet a state, even though he supports D.C. statehood.  And he had to make a decision. 

And, look, again, we let the process move forward in Congress, and we felt this was the time to make that decision.

Q    And I just had a quick follow-up on East Palestine.  Senator Manchin said this week that the President visiting there would give confidence to the residents. 

Obviously, I know you guys haven’t announced anything — no plans right now for him to go there — but do you think it could make a difference for the President to go, even if all that accomplished was to give some sort of reassurance to many of the residents there who are still very worried and upset about what happened?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I believe you heard from the President just yesterday, who said that he is — he’s planning to go there at some point.  What he’s going to do is he — we’re going to — when that happens, he’s going to — we’re going to coordinate with state and local officials to make that trip occur. 

Look, what the President has been focused on is making sure that we make the community, the people of East Palestine whole again, to make sure that they get what they need to feel safe, to make sure that they feel like their community is healthy again. 

That’s why the air — that’s why we made sure that the air is safe, right?  That’s why we made sure the water is safe. 

But he understands how the community feels about what happened and what occurred in their — in — you know, in their community these past couple of weeks. 

That’s why HHS, FEMA — FEMA, DOT, EPA have been on the ground, and it’s been a multi-agency effort to make sure that they get what they need, to make sure that they have that safe air, that safe water, as I just mentioned. 

And the last part of that is we’re going to make sure that Norfolk Suffolk [Southern] is — is held to account for the mess that they created.  And that’s what you’re seeing.  You’re — you’ve seen the EPA Administrator; he was just there for a third time. 

And so, the President is committed.  He’s keeping abreast — or updated on a daily basis on what’s going on on the ground.  He’s talked to the governor of Ohio, he’s spoken to the governor of Pennsylvania, the senators multiple times to make sure that they are getting everything that they need from the federal government.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  You mentioned the SAP that the administration put out on February 6th.  But it’s not a broad statement about D.C. statehood.  It specifically says that the administration opposes the resolution that would dismantle the crime bill.  So when was this policy reversed?  And why weren’t House Democrats notified about the reversal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, from — I’ll say this: There was never a change of heart on where we were with — with the SAP. 

The SAP, the way that it’s laid out, speaks to the President supporting D.C. statehood.  That is what — that is where we were.  That’s what we were at the time.  Wanted to make sure that we, again, lifted up where the President has been for the past decades, making sure that D.C. — you know, fighting for D.C. to become a state. 

And we actually say in the SAP that if — you know, if — you know, if Congress wants to move forward in that way, we should pass H.R. 51, make D.C. the 51 state.

And so, we never laid out where we — where the President was going to — was going to go once that — once it came to his desk because we wanted to allow Congress to move forward in a way that they normally do with a mechanism — when a — when a piece of legislation moves forward. 

And so, we never said anything at this time.  Now we’re communicating very clearly.  Now that we know that this legislation is going to be in the President’s — at the President’s desk, we’re making very clear and communicating that — where the President is on this — on this legislation.

Q    But do you — wait, I’m sorry.  It specifically says the word “opposes.”  So is it that the administration wasn’t aware of the content, the specifics of the crime bill, and now you are aware and the President says he doesn’t support some of the changes that the D.C. Council put forward? 

Because when you released the SAP, I’m assuming, maybe incorrectly, that you were very aware of what the Council was proposing.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We were aware what the Council proposed — were proposing.  What we’re saying was that we wanted to make sure that we continued the President’s — the President’s continued push for — for statehood.  And that’s what we did.  That’s what we did in the SAP.  And that was what was the most important thing that we believed.

There was no veto threat in the SAP.  There really wasn’t.  We may have — it may have been — I just read it while you were asking me.  We didn’t oppo- — we opposed it, but there was no veto threat. 

So I want to be really clear about it.  It stated our support for D.C. statehood, but it did not indicate what the President would do should the bill come to his desk.  It did not say that.  It did not lay that out. 

Now we’re communicating that very clearly.  We communicated with the House Democrats days ago, when they were in Baltimore.  And — and again, I said this — I said this to MJ.  I remember many of you asking where we were going to go.  And I said we don’t have any — we don’t have a decision yet, we don’t have anything to share on this — on where the President is going to be with this particular bill.  And now we are, because we know that it’s going to come to his desk.

Q    There must be some state laws that the President also disagrees with that have to do with crime.  And he obviously doesn’t have the power to do anything about that.  I’m trying to square his decision to use his power to do something in D.C. while he’s also saying, you know, the federal government shouldn’t — should allow them to be their own state.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because D.C. is not a state. 

Q    So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, this bill —

Q    — he can, and therefore he should?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  D.C. is not a state.  So therefore, the bill is coming to his desk, so he has to make a decision.  It’s as simple as that, Weijia.  Right?  Because D.C. is not a state. 

Now, he wants D.C. to become a state.  We’ve been very clear about that.  He has said that for decades that he believes in D.C. statehood.  But it’s not a — it’s not. 

And so, therefore, because D.C. is not a state, when bills like this come — occur, it goes to the President.  And he has to make a decision.  And that’s where we are.  It’s as simple as that. 

Now, if D.C. becomes a state, yes, the President believes that it should be governing — a city should be governing on its own.  That’s what he believes. 

Q    But until then, they shouldn’t. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But D- — Weijia, D.C. is not a state.

Q    Right.  But, I mean, he has the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

Q    He has the — I’m asking because he does have an option to veto.  That is one action he could take. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right.  But, again, this is a President that believes in keeping communities safe.  He believes in keeping the 700,000 residents in D.C. safe.  And so, he’s taking that action because it’s coming to him. 

We didn’t put this legislation toge- — forth.  This is not our legislation.  This is a legislation that is coming before the President of the United States because D.C. is not a state.  It’s just not. 

So, he has to make a decision, so he’s going to make a decision that will — that will help the residents of D.C., that will deliver for the residents of D.C.  And it’s as simple as that.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    I’m seeing two, perhaps, parallels here in the discussion about the SAP, which is the statement of administration policy.  Isn’t it really boiling down to: There was one train here that was saying that the administration opposed this, and then, really, when the recognition takes place, this would make the President look anti-“tough on crime,” that the wheels stopped, and now you have a new position?  Isn’t that really what happened here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I can tell you what happened is that there was no change of heart.  Yes, in the — in the language — I just read it as — read it again, as Weijia was talking — was asking her question — there was the word “opposed,” but we never indicated — which is not unusual; it is not unusual for a SAP — in the SAP for the President to not indicate if he will veto or if he will sign.  It is not unusual to do that. 

Now that we know that it’s going to come to his desk, we’re communicating that very clearly.  The President communicated that with all of you yesterday.  And so, now we have made a decision on where we’re going to go with this particular piece of legislation.

Q    In — in a bigger sense, because, you know, those of us who cover this read these things all the time.  The general public may not even know what we’re talking about here. 

But it seems like —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I’m pretty sure they are not.  (Laughs.)

Q    Yes.  So, there — but there was a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m pretty sure this is —

Q    — there was a bureaucratic push in one direction on this.  And then, when it reached a certain point — and crime is a big issue in America in certain cities.  We saw it reflected in the election in Chicago.  We know it’s a concern.  It’s been a concern in the city that many of us live in here.  And then, boom, the President has to make a decision, and he’s going a different direction than the administration setup.  Isn’t it really just that simple?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I wouldn’t say it’s that simple.  First of all, let me just step back for a second.  This is — when you look at crime and the rise of crime over the last couple of years, this is something that the President inherited and he took action — right? — with the Safer America Plan and making sure that he did everything that he can, using the tools that he has in federal government, to put forth a plan that will keep communities safe. 

I talked about the 100,000 cops, to put them in communities, working with communities to make sure communities feel safe.  And that’s not just that.  There’s the COPS program, right?  And we’re going to see, from the President’s budget, how his commitment to that — his commitment to cops.

What we are seeing is we saw D.C. Council put forth a piece of — a piece of legislation.  They’re not a state.  They went through their processes, right?  They went through their mechanics.  It ends — it ended up in Congress.  We put out a SAP saying: Yes, we oppose it, but also we support D.C. statehood.  That’s what it says in our SAP.

But we never indicated from that where the President was going to go, because we were also letting that process play out in Congress. 

Now that we know that it’s coming to the desk of the President, the President — we’re communicating where the President stands on this piece of the D.C. crime bill, this piece of legislation.

Q    The other sharp turn, quickly.


Q    On East Palestine: Not going to go.  Not visiting.  No plans to visit. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Not at this — not at this time, as you —

Q    Okay.  But the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — heard from the President.

Q    — himself says, “Okay, I’m going to go there at some point.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  At some point. 

Q    Okay. 


Q    So there’s a political, critical mass that has been building, and it would appear that this is one of those national events where people will not be satisfied until the President himself goes there, even if you have all of your important Cabinet-level officials go. 

So it also appears as if, “Not going to go.  Not going to go.  Okay, now we’re going to go.” 

So what are the factors that will be required for the President to go?  Is it a specific deliverable that he can bring?  Is it a specific invitation from local officials?  Is it a certain kind of window where he will feel comfortable to go?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, he already got a — an invitation from the governor.  I think you heard the governor said he’s welcome to come to Ohio.  He’s been to Ohio many times before during his administration.  So, it’s not unusual for him to go there. 

Look, I don’t have anything to preview.  The President was asked a question.  He answered it very honestly. 

And once we have more to share as to if there is a trip ahead, you know, we’re going to coordinate — it would be coordinated with the state and official — officials on the ground.  And we’ll certainly lay out what that current —

Q    But you see the change?  I mean, the President himself said, “No, I have no plans to go.”  And then yesterday said —


Q    — he’ll go “at some point.”  So I’m just trying to get at —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think he was —

Q    — what is the switch?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — he was asked a direct question.  And he’s been — he’s been updated throughout — being regularly updated on — on what has been happening on the ground by his team, by the local and state officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  And, you know, I will just leave it there. 

We know the President.  He answers a question very honestly.  And he prob- — he said, you know, “Sometime in the future, I will probably go.” 

But I don’t have anything to share.  We don’t have a plan for the President to go at this time.  We don’t have anything to preview to all of you at this time.  It’s just a — he has — he was asked the question, and he answered it honestly.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  Just on the D.C. issue, just one point of clarity. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.

Q    Does the President view this as a one-time interference in D.C. affairs?  Or does he hold out —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s a hypothetical.

Q    — the possibility that that could happen again?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, that’s a hypothetical that I can’t answer from here.  This is — there was a specific issue that came before us —

Q    If another bill comes —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — and the Pres- — and the Pres- — yeah, but it’s — you’re — you’re asking a hypothetical —

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — that I can’t answer at this time.

Q    Senator Menendez urged the President yesterday to appoint or nominate a Latino American to the — as Fed Vice Chair.  Can you say — I know you don’t want to get ahead of the process, but can you say publicly whether a Latino American is under consideration for Vice Chair?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I’m not going to get ahead of the process.

Q    Hey.  A couple of questions.  One is, I wanted to ask for the administration’s response to Walgreens saying that they won’t distribute abortion pills in states where Republican governors have asked them not to.  I want to know what you all are thinking.  And are you concerned that other pharmacies who have been threatened with potential legal action will follow suit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I have a statement here that I want to read out to all of you:

So, elected officials targeting pharmacies and their ability to provide women with access to safe, effective, and FDA-approved medication is dangerous and just unacceptable. 

We’ve said this before, I’ve said this before: Pills — this pill that has been on the market for more than two decades — more than two decades — and is regularly used for both miscarriage and management and abortion, as also it’s used in more than 60 countries. 

The Department of Justice has already independently issued an opinion related to this issue that is at odds with this dangerous effort. 

This is — this is all a part of a continued effort by anti-abortion extremists who want to use this arcane law to impose a door — a backdoor ban on abortion. 

The administration will continue to stand by the FDA’s expert judgment in approving and regulating medications.  And in the face of barriers to access and concerns about safety of patients, healthcare providers, and pharm- — pharmacists, we will continue to support access to this critical medication within the limits of the law, which is why the President issued his January — a recent presidential memorandum that aims to preserve continued access to a safe drug that — and will emphasize, again, it is used for miscarriage management and abortion. 

So that is what we wanted to say on the Walgreens front.

Q    So it sounds like you all think it’s dangerous.  Are there any sort of mechanisms that you see for continuing to provide access in those cases? 

Has the White House been in touch or the administration been in touch with Walgreens?  I mean, it’s a huge pharmacy —


Q    — throughout much of the country. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, totally.  I totally understand, which is why we’re saying this is, unfortunately, unacceptable and dangerous. 

Look, the Department of Justice is — independently issued a — an opinion related to this.  I’m not going to get ahead of that, or I’ll just, you know, make sure — you know, refer you to that. 

But I’m just not going to have anything more than what I just laid out.

Q    Shifting gears totally.  I wanted to ask you about inflation.  The Fed said today, actually in its semi-annual report to Congress — it suggested that more rate hikes would be needed to curb inflation.  And I know you all have been fairly confident that inflation is slowing and that this would all lead to a soft landing.  I’m curious if you will still feel that a soft landing is possible.  And if so, can you help me understand why you are so confident in that assessment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And we have said that it’s — it — there’s going to be a — it’s going to go into a steady and stable growth, and sometimes there’ll be some ups and downs.  Right?  We have been very clear about that.  I think the last — Brian Deese’s last briefing, he actually laid that out for all of you. 

Look, the way that we see it, and the reason why we feel very confident in this, is that the President’s economic agenda — the way that we see it and others have as well is that it’s — it’s making progress to bring inflation down.

You have inflation that’s down by 30 percent from last summer.  But we always understand that there’s more work to do. 

The whole — and we also understand that the way that we got here is because of COVID-19, it’s because of Russia’s war against Ukraine.  All of those things have disrupted global energy, food supplies, and caused inflation to spike around the world. 

But the President is going to continue to do everything that he can to lower costs.  You’re going to see his March 9th budget in less than a week, at this point.  And he — we lowered — we — he — we helped to lower gas prices by a buck-sixty.  It is now at a — by a buck-sixt- — -sixty a gallon from its peak from Putin’s war.

The real wages are higher than they were seven months ago.

And so, we’re going to continue to do that.  Let’s not forget, when we — when we think about the — the pieces of legislations that were passed under this President — capping insulin by 35 bucks per month for seniors on Medicare — those are the things that matter. 

Now, we see pharma companies like Eli Lilly doing — doing the same, but for all Americans — capping at 35 bucks. 

Those are the things that we’re going to continue to work on to lower — to lower costs for people. 

And — and so, again, you’re going to see the President’s budget next week. 

But the data — the data shows us how inflation is — has been moderating over the last six months.  And we think that’s —

Q    But it’s been persistent —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — important to speak to.

Q    — too, though.  I mean, it’s been —


Q    — I would say, rather sticky.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And well — and that’s why we say we have more work to do.  We’re not saying that we don’t have more work to do.  We say this — every time we talk about inflation, every time we talk about the economy, we say that there’s more work to do.  That’s why the President takes extra steps, like the IRA — takes extra steps to make sure that we bring down costs for the American family. 

But the data shows it has indeed moderated.  And so, that’s what we look at.  That — to your — to your question — original question — that — what gives us some encouragement that — that we will get to that steady and stable growth.

Go ahead.

Q    I just want to go back to the bilateral.  Last time Chancellor Scholz was here was just a few weeks before the start of the war.  Back then, in the lead- —   

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, (inaudible).

Q    — in the lead-up to the invasion, there was really an effort by the President to sort of gather up support, unite the allies, and be prepared to sort of react as quickly as possible with sanctions, with help to Ukraine.  Are these similar conversations happening right now between the U.S. and European allies, other allies, to be ready for the possibility that China sends weapons to Russia and to be ready to act quickly the way they were ready to act quickly a year ago?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first of all, as you know, they had a G7 call just last week.  The President was in — in Ukraine, and he was also in Poland.  There’s constant communication with our allies that the President is having.  It doesn’t — it doesn’t — they’re not one-offs here.  They are — they’re consistent, and they’re continuous.  And so, I just want to be very clear there. 

And look, you know, we have said this over and over again: We have not — you know, we have not seen any — we have not seen any — any — we have not seen China do anything yet, as it relates to lethal — lethal weapons.  And we believe that Russia’s war in Ukraine has put China in a difficult position to actually — you know, to actually move forward in that direction. 

Every step China takes towards Russia makes it harder for China with Europe and other countries around the world. 

But, you know, I want to be really clear on that piece.  But you — as I — as I’ve mentioned before: Secretary Blinken met with Wang Yi just recently in Munich and made himself really clear.  They had a very clear conversation.  And keeping that communication — that line of communication open is very important to us as well.

But, again, we haven’t seen China take that action yet.  But we’ve been very clear and had conversations with China.

Q    If I could, another one on the IRA.  This meeting of with Chancellor Scholz is one of several meetings with European leaders. 

When President Macron was here for the state visit in early December, the message of the administration was: We are in listening mode.  We are hearing the concerns of our European allies, and we’re having discussions. 

Has there been any progress?  Any change?  Or is this still hearing/listening mode?  And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I spoke to this a little bit.  These relationships are clearly important to us.  They’re — we’re still in listening mode.  We’re still in discussion.  And just don’t have anything more to share on what’s next with that.

But we think — we think the, you know, Inflation Reduction Act is incredibly important to the American people, to our taxpayers.  We’re always going to make sure that we support American jobs and American innovation.  The President will never back down from that.  And so, I’ll just leave it there.

Q    Tennessee’s governor signed two anti-LGBTQ bills into law on Thursday: one that bans many drag performances from taking place on public property, another bans most gender-affirming care to transgender youth.  What does the White House make of these laws?  And is there anything you can do or planning to do about these laws?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this: The American people are focused on so many issues.  We just talked about economy.  We just talked about inflation.  We’re talking about safer an- — safer communities and schools, and good healthcare.  All of the things that you all ask me every day.  And you all know that’s what the American people care about. 

That’s what — even when they went to vote in November, those were the issues that mattered the most to them.  But instead of doing anything to address those real issues that are impacting American people, right now you have a governor from Tennessee has decided to go after drag shows. 

What sense does that make to go after drag shows?  How is that going to help people’s lives who are thinking about the economy, who are thinking about making sure their kids are going — are going to be safe when they go to school or their communities are safe?  But that’s what he wants to focus on.

So it’s part of a larger pattern from elected officials who espouse freedom and liberty but apparently think that freedom of speech only extends to people who agree with them.  And that’s what we’re seeing from what’s happening in Tennessee and other places, as well.

So, you know, don’t take my words for it and — of — on this issue.  The governor himself hasn’t been able to — if you think about this particular issue, he hasn’t been able to cite any examples, anything to show that drag shows in public spaces are a problem.  He hasn’t.  He hasn’t laid that out at all on why this is an issue for American people.

So I’ve said this before from here.  I said this, I believe, last week, and we’ll — we’ll keep saying it — that these ridiculous policies aren’t just unnecessary, they are dangerous.  They are — they vilify our fellow Americans and — at a time when LGBTQ Americans are facing higher risk and violence, mental health issues. 

And it is unacceptable.  It is completely unacceptable for a governor to be moving in this way to be — with such a bill.  And is — it is also unfortunate.

Q    And what’s your message to the LGBTQ youth in the state, as well as drag performers?  What’s your message to them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the President always has been very clear when it comes to vulnerable communities, like the LGBTQ community, that he has their backs.  And he has a record to show that.  He has a record that — that shows that he supports this community and will continue to be there for the community as — as long as it takes.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I want to go back to something Ed asked you just the other day when you were talking about safer communities — and that is the issue of cartels.

The Attorney General was asked whether or not he’d be open to labeling the top cartels in Mexico as foreign terrorist organizations.  He said he didn’t oppose the idea.

Just yesterday, Bill Barr — his predecessor — Merrick Garland’s predecessor — went a bit further, saying that the U.S. should have a military presence inside Mexico.

So now it’s the two most recent Attorney Generals — one in a Democratic administration, one in a Republican administration — basically saying, “We can do more about this issue going forward.”

So a couple of questions along that line.  Does the Biden administration need to reassess its posture as it relates to taking on these cartels?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to get ahead of what the Department of Justice said, of what Merrick Garland said.  As you know, they — they move in an independent way.  I’m just not going to get ahead of any policies that may be coming out from the Department of Justice.  And I’ll just leave it there.

Q    What about Bill Barr suggesting that maybe we put a military presence or have a military presence inside Mexico?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to comment to —

Q    Has the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to comment on what Bill Barr has said.

Q    But has the President ever thought about that idea or considered that idea?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — but you’re asking me to comment on Bill Barr, who was the Attorney General during Trump’s administration.  I’m just not going to comment.

Q    What about the —

Q    Karine, the pool has to gather.

Q    — general idea though?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  Hold on.

So, the pool has to gather.  What’s the plan?

MS. DALTON:  The Scholz visit is —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, the Scholz visit.  Okay.  All right.  So, what are we — what are we doing?  (Laughs.)  We need to wrap it up?

MS. DALTON:  Wrap it up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  We got to wrap it up.  Sorry, guys.  Have a great weekend.

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

Q    Happy 100.

1:55 P.M. EST

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