Aboard Air Force One
En Route San Diego, California
2:24 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. I got a quick thing at the top, and then I’ll hand it over to Jake.
So, good afternoon, everyone. As you all know, we’re headed to San Diego, California, where the President will meet with — with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia and Prime Minister Sunak of the United Kingdom and discuss the Australia, United Kingdom, United States — or AUKUS — partnership.
National Security Advisor — as you’ll see, standing to my right — is here to talk a little bit about the AUKUS announcement coming today and take any of your questions.
Before I turn it over to Jake: This morning, we announced that the Vice President will travel to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia from March 25th to April 2nd to strengthen our partnership throughout Africa and advance shared efforts on security and economic prosperity.
Building on our progress at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which President Biden hosted on — in December, the Vice President will expand access to the digital economy, support climate adaptation, and strengthen business ties. She will also discuss our commitment to democracy, economic growth, food security, and managing the efforts of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, as well as engage with young leaders, business representatives, and members of the African diaspora.
Now I’ll turn it over to Jake Sullivan.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thanks, Karine. I know you guys have all participated in various background briefings and other seminars and advanced graduate courses on the ins and outs of AUKUS. So, since you all have your degrees in AUKUS, I’ll be brief.
I’ll just say that we’re excited to be on our way to San Diego to meet with Prime Minister Sunak and Prime Minister Albanese to formally announce the — what we’re calling the optimal pathway, the pathway that will make AUKUS a reality.
When the leaders met virtually in September of 2021, they committed to work out the details of the AUKUS submarine partnership within 18 months. And that was September 15th of 2021; it’s now March 13th of 2023. We’re two days ahead of schedule. So, we will humbly accept all of your congratulations and positive vibes for that.
But — but, in all seriousness, the fact that we have done this in 18 months — this amount of ambition, this amount of detail — to have a multi-phase approach to deliver on the promise of AUKUS reflects not only an enormous amount of hard work, but leader-level engagement to make this a priority and to ensure that the right level of resources, attention, and commitment were there to deliver.
What the leaders will lay out in a trilateral meeting today and then for the public is a multi-phase process that begins over the next few years and begins immediately with the training of Australian sailors, engineers, technicians, and other personnel to be able to take on the responsibility and stewardship of nuclear propulsion.
And a few years down the line in the 2020s, you’ll start to see the regular rotational deployment of U.S. and UK subs in Australia.
And a few years after that, in the early 2030s, the delivery of three Virginia-class subs from the United States to Australia over the course of the 2030s, with the possibility of going up to five if that is needed.
And then, the final phase will be the not just design and development, but the actual deployment of a new boat — a new conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarine, the SSN-AUKUS, which will be built with a UK hull and American technology, with significant investments in all three industrial bases: the U.S. industrial base, the UK industrial base, and the Australian industrial base.
And I would reinforce that for that Virginia-class sale to Australia, the Australians are not only paying for those boats, they are also making a proportional contribution to the U.S. submarine industrial base — to lift it so that we can accelerate the production and accelerate the ongoing maintenance of Virginia-class submarines over the course of the years ahead.
Just taking a step back, what AUKUS represents is a larger long-term investment by the United States in core alliances in the Indo-Pacific and also the actual concrete reflection of President Biden’s strategy of linking allies in the Atlantic with allies in the Pacific. And it also reflects his commitment to ensuring that there is burden-sharing among our allies, as we’ve seen in the way that Europe has stepped up in the war in Ukraine, as we’ve seen how Japan has stepped up with its defense budget.
Here, too, we’re seeing other partners step up and shoulder their share of the burden not just financially and in terms of resources, but in terms of actual capability to bring to bear to safeguard security and stability.
Final point I would make is: The United States has played a historic role in the Indo-Pacific of helping safeguard security and stability to the benefit of all countries in the me- — in the region. And I mean all countries.
And the United States believes that working closely with its allies and partners to ensure that we have the requisite capabilities for the next 50 years, as AUKUS will deliver, will help us continue to serve that important stabilizing role to help continue to safeguard peace and stability in this vital region of the world. And you’ll hear that message from the President directly today.
The President will also have the opportunity to meet bilaterally with each of Prime Minister Sunak and Prime Minister Albanese to cover a wide range of issues, obviously beyond just the submarines. And he’ll look forward to the full agenda involved in — in those two sessions as well.
And, with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Q So, Jake, you didn’t mention China in your opening remarks here. What message does the further development of AUKUS send to China about the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, about countering China’s own growing capabilities in the region?
And are there any concerns that this — about Australia’s, sort of, commercial warming of ties with Beijing over the last several months? Is this — is the President going to raise that with Prime Minister Albanese to, sort of, urge more caution in, sort of, restoring economic ties between Australia and China?
MR. SULLIVAN: AUKUS represents, for Australia, not just a long-term investment in nuclear-powered submarines, but a long-term investment in its alliance with the United States of America.
This is a decades-long — maybe a century-long commitment. And it reinforces the fundamental view, we believe, in Canberra that the United States and Australia, standing shoulder to shoulder for the purposes of safeguarding peace and stability — not to provoke, not to go try to fight wars, but rather to deter conflict and to promote peace and stability — that Australia is stepping up to make that bet.
So, we have, in fact, the opposite of concerns about the orientation of Australia right now. We think today is going to be a reflection and celebration of the deep investment our two countries are making in one another for the long term.
And oftentimes, when we talk about the long term, we talk about the next several years. In this case, we’re talking about the next several decades.
Then, with respect to the PRC: In my opening comments, I made the fundamental point that President Biden is going make today, which is that the United States has played a historic role over decades in the Indo-Pacific to help ensure peace and stability, to ensure that there would not be the repeat of major-power conflict that we saw in decades past.
That was not an inevitability. That was not a foregone conclusion. That was the result of the United States helping to build and safeguard an operating system that has worked to the benefit of all countries, including ASEAN, the Pacific Islands and, yes, the PRC.
And so, AUKUS represents a look forward coming off of that look backward, meaning that continuing to invest in these kinds of capabilities over the coming decades will help us continue to play that role alongside key allies and partners that we have played for the last several decades.
That’s the message he’s going to communicate today. It’s not directed at any one country. It is an affirmative message and agenda to all the countries in the region and, frankly, to the wider world as well.
Q I have a follow-up on that, Jake. I have a follow-up on that. And we’ve seen President Xi make more moves on the world stage. He’s going to Russia again, calling Zelenskyy, getting involved in Saudi Arabia and Iran. How are you guys interpreting his moves? And also, how would you define the U.S.-China relationship right now?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, when it comes to the report on President Xi potentially calling President Zelenskyy, we have been encouraging President Xi to reach out to President Zelenskyy because we believe that the PRC and President Xi himself should hear directly the Ukrainian perspective and not just the Russian perspective on this. So, we have, in fact, advocated to Beijing that that connection take place; we’ve done so publicly, and we’ve done so privately to the PRC.
We have spoken with our Ukrainian counterparts. Today, I saw the news accounts. They have not yet actually gotten any confirmation that there will be a telephone call or a video conference. We hope there will be. That would be a good thing because it would potentially bring more balance and perspective to the way that the PRC is approaching this. And we hope it would continue to dissuade them from choosing to provide lethal assistance to Russia, which is obviously something that we have warned about.
With respect to the recent understanding that was reached between Iran and Saudi Arabia and Beijing, as John Kirby said on Friday, this is something that we think is a positive, insofar as it promotes a goal the United States has been promoting in the region, which is de-escalation, a reduction in tensions. That’s a good thing.
And we were in close touch with Saudi Arabia as they were approaching and engaging in those talks. And they were keeping us apprised of their progress along the way. So, from our perspective, even as we put a lot of muscle into — diplomatic muscle into trying to help promote de-escalation, as with the Yemen truce, having other countries like China promote de-escalation is not fundamentally averse to U.S. interests. Frankly, it’s, in a way, rowing in the same direction.
And we — we’re not in a position, of course, to be a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran, given our relationship with those two countries. We never have been and we aren’t today in such a position.
In terms of the U.S.-China relationship, I would just say that President Biden laid out his vision for this following his meeting with President Xi in Bali. It’s a relationship where we believe there is competition and we welcome that competition, but there is no need for conflict. There is no need for confrontation. There is no need for a new Cold War. And we will look to work with China in areas where it’s in our mutual interest and the wider world’s interest to do so.
That fundamental set of premises and propositions that President Biden laid out in Bali remain operative for us today. And, you know, it’s remains to be seen whether Beijing is prepared to continue down the course that our two leaders said then, but we think that would be in everyone’s best interest.
Q I mean, you talk about “competition not conflict” over and over again, but there’s been a lot of rhetoric in both China and the U.S. in recent months that — that, kind of, looks in the direction of conflict. There’s been a lot of different tension points in recent months. And I’m wondering, first of all: Are you concerned that this big new military agreement announcement today possibly adds to that? And secondly, what is the administration doing at this point to get back to the competition conversation? And are you concerned about, especially as it comes to U.S., the increased hawkish rhetoric about China?
MR. SULLIVAN: Just in terms of the announcement today, we have been transparent, predictable, clear, principled in how we’ve approached AUKUS from the beginning. This is not an announcement we’re springing all of the sudden out of nowhere at this moment. This is an announcement that has been literally 18 months or 17 months and 29 days in the making.
And we have, in fact, consulted closely with allies and partners and countries throughout the Indo-Pacific on it, and we have directly engaged with China to explain to them what AUKUS is and what it is not.
So, we feel very comfortable with the way that we have approached the AUKUS partnership, because we think it is actually a model for how a country can be transparent and predictable in trying to contribute to peace and security and to safeguard that peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.
In terms of the rhetoric, a lot of the rhetoric you’re referring to has come from voices, of course, not within the U.S. administration. That is obviously a part of being in a democracy.
President Biden sets the terms of this relationship, but he sets the tone for this relationship for the U.S. government. And you’ve heard him speak directly to it in a clear and consistent and principled way, and we’ll continue to do that.
Q When do you expect that President Biden will speak to President Xi again?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, we have said that when the National People’s Congress comes to a close, as it now has, and Chinese leadership returns to Beijing and then all of these new officials take their new seats — because, of course, you now have a new set of figures in substantial leadership positions — we would expect President Biden and President Xi to have a conversation.
So, at some point in the coming period — I can’t give you a date, because there’s no date set — but President Biden has indicated his willingness to have a telephone conversation with President Xi once they’re back and in stride coming off of the National People’s Congress.
Q Jake, is there a gap in communications with China related to military affairs?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we don’t have the kind of stable, steady, predictable, uninterrupted military-to-military communications channels that we think would be responsible and most effective for ensuring that there is no miscalculation, no accident, no mistake, no possibility for unintended escalation. We would like to see that.
But we do have plenty of channels to engage in senior levels with the PRC to be able to ensure that we’re communicating each other’s understanding, intentions, priorities, and that we’re reaching a decent understanding with one another.
Q And just to clarify, you said you — the U.S. has spoken to China recently about the AUKUS deal or was this way back in 2021 when it was first announced? I’m just trying to get a sense of it — if you all have speak to them —
MR. SULLIVAN: We’ve spoken with them along the way.
MR. SULLIVAN: The subject of AUKUS has been — has featured in conversations between U.S. and China officials over the last 18 months. But we are specifically briefing them about this announcement so that they understand the terms of this.
Q And do you feel like they understand — they don’t see it as an escalatory action in — or —
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I can’t speak to how they see it. All I can speak to is how we have approached the issue, how we have been transparent and clear and straightforward —
MR. SULLIVAN: — all along the way on the issue.
Q Sorry. On President Xi’s visit to Moscow and what you just laid out on the lethal aid, we haven’t heard much from the administration on this since the Munich Security Conference. Do you think calling them out publicly then sort of sufficiently deterred them? Or what’s the status of what you’re seeing on that right now?
MR. SULLIVAN: I can’t characterize that — what their intentions are, what their decision-making process is. All I can tell you is that we have not yet seen the transfer of lethal assistance of the weapons from China to Russia for use on the battlefield in Ukraine, but it’s something that we’re vigilant about and continuing to watch carefully.
And as I personally said before, we think it would be a big mistake for China to do that because Russia is using those weapons to kill civilians and commit war crimes. And China should want nothing to do with that.
Q Are you worried that a Putin-Xi summit is raising that likelihood of them actually making that decision?
MR. SULLIVAN: It’s something that we will watch for. Obviously, Russia has its own interests in trying to pull other countries into this conflict if it can, but our position is the same whether or not they meet.
It would not be in China’s interests, from our perspective, for them to supply weapons to Russia for use on the battlefield in Ukraine, but that’s a sovereign decision China will have to make for itself.
Q There were some reports out of Iran about a possible prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iran. The NSC has sort of shot down those reports, but I wonder if you’d give us an overall assessment of where that may stand at this point.
MR. SULLIVCAN: There’s no deal. And the last thing that we want to do is give false hope to families that have been waiting for a long time for their loved ones to come home. So, all we can do is be as straightforward as possible. And there is no deal at this time.
We continue to engage the Iranians to try to get the unjustly detained Americans home as soon as humanly possible, but I just can’t predict when that will be.
Q Do you expect the global banking system to come up, particularly with Prime Minister Sunak, in his one-on-ones today?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m not sure. I presume that President Biden will share with Prime Minister Sunak the steps that he has just taken. Prime Minister Sunak obviously is reading about them, probably watching them on — on television. But he’ll have the chance to share it in person, and — and Prime Minister Sunak can share his perspective as well.
But — but President Biden feels confident about the steps that he’s taken.
Q One more on NATO. You met with the Finnish President last week — last — last week, yes. What’s the path forward for their NATO membership? And do you — are you confident this can be secured by the summit this summer?
MR. SULLIVAN: I believe there is no reason it can’t be secured by the — by the summit this summer for both Finland and for Sweden. And we will remain in close touch not just with the Finns and the Swedes, but with the Turks.
I will be meeting with my Turkish counterpart, the Turkish national security advisor, tomorrow in Washington, and we’ll have the chance to talk about this issue, as well as about 127 other issues that are, you know, relevant to the U.S.-Turkey relationship.
Q Is he in Washington? Jake, is he in Washington?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t know if he’s there today, but I’m seeing him there tomorrow.
Q Can we just get your reaction briefly to — the North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile tests, I guess, today — today, our — their time; yesterday, our time. Does it represent a new capability and what are the level of U.S. concerns here?
MR. SULLIVAN: The North Koreans first tested a submarine-launched missile capability in 2016. They’ve been refining it. They’ve been trying different iterations of it. Over the course of the past 24 hours, you’ve seen them announce the launch of two missiles out of a submarine.
We’re still studying it, making an assessment of what it means in terms of their capabilities. But, of course, we’re not going to let any steps North Korea take deter us or constrain us from the actions that we feel are necessary to safeguard stability on the Korean Peninsula.
Q The Saudi government is starting its own airline or starting an airline, and they want to buy a bunch of Boeing jets. Is that something the U.S. government has been involved in? Are you part of those discussions? And do you think it would be a good thing for the U.S. economy if all — all those jets were purchased?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think it would be a very good thing if the Saudi airline purchased Boeing. But I’ll leave it at that for now until they make an announcement.
Q Thanks, Jake.
Q Thank you.
Q Can I ask — Kevin McCarthy is going to meet the Taiwanese President in the U.S. instead of going to Taipei. Do you think this is a good idea and sort of prevents what we saw as a fallout when Speaker Pelosi — then-Speaker Pelosi went to Taipei?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’ve seen reports of this, but I haven’t seen anything officially announced, so I will reserve comment.
Q He’s confirmed it off the record that he — he has those plans.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I — I will reserve comment until we hear from the Taiwan government — or from the Taiwan authorities how they want to proceed.
Q Thanks, Jake.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jake.
All right, I just have one more thing at the top. My ears are — my ears need to pop. Okay.
Okay. So, since we’re headed out to San Diego, I just wanted to say a couple of things that — one of them is that we are — we are closely monitoring the heavy rain and flooding in California, including the breach of the Pajaro River Levee, as the state prepares for the impacts of another atmospheric river over the next few days.
The President issued an emergency declaration for the state of California on Friday and spoke to — spoke with Governor Newsom as well over the weekend.
FEMA continues to coordinate with both California and Nevada as well to address these — their needs.
FEMA has deployed Incident Management Assistance Teams to the California Emergency Operations Center and has established an incident support base in California to prepare and stage supplies.
The Army Corps of Engineers has also been delivering sandbags to California, and Urban Search and Research — sorry, Urban Search and Rescue teams remain on standby to support if needed.
And we will continue to keep you all updated on these efforts. Just wanted to — since we’re headed out there, I wanted to give you all a little bit of what we’ve been doing over the last couple of days.
With that, Zeke, you want to kick us off?
Q Thanks, Karine. On the banking intervention taking over — taken yesterday on the part of the administration, does the — the President today said he wanted stronger rules — strengthened rules on the banking system. What exactly is he proposing?
And does the need for that action last night prove that the 2008, 2009 reforms failed in their efforts to prevent the emergence of new too-big-to-fail banks, because these banks were deemed by the government to be too big to fail?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: The President’s economic team right now is focused. And you heard from him directly on destabilizing the financial — on stabilizing, pardon me, the financial system and protecting depositors, including small businesses and workers while avoiding costs to taxpayers.
And so, the Fed also took temporary actions to provide the market with certainty that banks have the ability to meet the needs of all of their — all of their depositors. And the Treasury Department remains in close touch with regulators to work together on next steps.
The President also said it is important for us to look into what — exactly what happened, and so that’s something that clearly the regulators and the State — the Treasury is going to continue to do.
As far as 2008, look, the President’s — the President said the actions that have been taken should — should give Americans confidence. That’s in- — incredibly important. That’s — should be a message that was taken from the President this morning. And so, that is clearly important of the banking system so that they know the banking system is safe and their deposits will be there when they need — when they need them.
Overall, the banking system is far more resilient and on better foundation than before the financial crisis. Again, this is not the two- — this is not 2008.
The Obama admin- — Obama-Biden administration put in place tough requirements to — to ensure banks have more capital and sufficient liquid assets, depositors have more protection for their deposits, and regulators have the tools to supervise larger institution and deal with disruption.
So, the Fed has taken, again, temporary actions to assure banks have the ability to meet the needs of all depositors. And like the President said, Congress and the banking regulators, like I said, should — should strengthen the rules for — for banks to protect American jobs and small businesses.
And so, we’re going to — we also need to learn what else — just kind of look into what else.
Q What are those rules —
Q Republicans are saying this is a bailout. Is that — how —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, this is not a bailout.
Q — would you respond to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, this is not 2008 at all. The funds — the funds are from fees on banks and not taxpayers. So this is very different than what we saw in 2008.
Q How do you prevent bankers at SVB from getting bonuses, potentially? And is that something that you’re looking into preventing formally?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’ve seen those. We’ve certainly have — we’re looking into that, I can say. And that’s something that — clearly, we’ve seen the reports on that today.
There’s a couple of things I want to add to that. Give me one second.
And so, again, he said this morning — and I just repeated this a couple of times: We need to figure out the full — the full accounting of what happened and why so that those responsible can be held accountable. So that’s something that you heard from the President.
And the management of these banks are already been — or will be fired. So that’s the second thing.
And investors in the bank will not be protected and will take massive losses.
So — so, I don’t want to comment on enforcement. That’s not something that we’ll do from here. And so, just going to leave it there. But clearly, that is something that we’re looking into.
Q And can you give a just general tick-tock of how all this went down this weekend? I mean, the President was in Delaware. Did he get — was he briefed? Was there a sort of big decision meeting or anything like that you can share?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I can you a little bit of a timeline there.
So, look, the President was briefed regularly by his Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and NEC Director Lael Brainard, starting Friday morning and over the weekend into Sunday evening, leading — leading to his action to speak to the American people this morning.
He was updated by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, along with Zients and Lael Brainard, on Sunday afternoon.
As you know, the President — Biden has spoke, as I just mentioned at the top, with Governor Newsom on Saturday about efforts to address the situation. So he had that conversation on Saturday.
And the President stayed in regular contact with other senior staff throughout the weekend, as is the case every day. And he’s continue — continuing paying close attention to what’s occurring today after he made his announcement today.
Q So given —
Q So the government —
Q — given the massive bill, how do you reassure taxpayers they aren’t going to be on the hook for this money? And how do you keep the Americans’ confidence in the banking system?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first of all, the President speaking to this this morning, I think, is incredibly important, hearing from the President on this issue.
The FDIC is using the Deposit Insurance Fund, which is funded by fees not — not on banks, not taxpayers. The DIF — the Deposit Insurance Fund — is more than enough to cover any Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank deposits that cannot be paid using funds from the banks or the sale of their assets.
This means no matter what amount of DIF funding is needed to cover SVB and Signature deposits, it will not come from the taxpayer dollars. And so, that is something that we are — we are making sure that the — the American people understand — again, giving them that confidence that this is not 2008. This is very different.
Q But on that — on that decision, with these two banks, the President has made an announcement that all deposits in the banks are going to be guaranteed and backed by the federal government. Is that setting a precedent going forward that that will be the guarantee if any other bank fails? Or at a certain point, does it go back to the $250,000 FDIC level?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, two things. On the — on the precedent, look, I’m not going to — I’m not going to comment on other institutions. We’re just focusing on what we have. Today, our focus is, again, stabilizing the financial systems, protecting depositors, including small businesses and workers. Treasury and the bank regulators continue to monitor the broader system.
And I know you’re asking about the cap — that 250K cap. So, just a couple of things there. You know, this weekend’s actions were about, again, stabilizing the situation that we’re currently seeing with these two banks. We — there were multiple announcements yesterday, including a temporary,
non [new] Fed program, which will help ensure banks have the ability to meet the needs of all their dep- — depositors. And that will help prevent banks from getting a — from getting into this situation.
So, that’s how we’re seeing that piece as well.
Q But so, how do you then justify — if you’re insuring for Silicon Valley Bank, how do you justify if a Midwestern bank fails, then not doing the same for, you know, people who might have less money invested?
And then, also, how concerned are you guys that this will spread beyond just this one bank? With all the tech layoffs and all that, the tech sector is being hit really hard, is there concern this is going to spread broader than that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, overall, you know, again, we’re trying — right now, the actions that we’re take — we’re taking is to stabilize the financial system and protecting the depositors, including small businesses and workers. So that’s what you’re seeing — that’s what you’re seeing from the actions today.
But overall, the banking system is far more resilient and on a better foundation than before the financial crisis, and I think that’s important to remember. This is not 2008. And so, that’s why the President took these actions.
Again, this is not going to be on the taxpayers. This is the — this is going to be part of the — the insurance funds that the banks pay into. So, just want to make sure that we’re keeping that clear.
And so, the President, again, spoke to the American people to continue to give that confidence.
Q Can I ask a non-bank question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q The event — the gun reform event tomorrow. Could you talk a little bit about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I have something for you here. So — so we’ll have more to share a little bit later today.
The President will speak about his continued efforts to reduce gun violence devastating American communities like Monterey Park, where, as you all know, 11 people were killed and 9 others injured in January.
And, you know, too many lives are — have been — have been taken by gun violence. There are too many empty chairs at the kitchen table that we have see- — that we — you all reported over and over again.
The President, as you know, has taken some actions — executive actions to deal with this issue — to deal with gun violence in America, including the historic piece of legislation that he signed that is on — on gun violence. Something that we hadn’t seen — the first one in a generation — in 30 years.
But he believes we need to do more. So, you’ll hear him talk about that. You’ll hear him call — talk — call on Congress to take action and not to stop where he stopped, that we need to continue.
But again, the President took executive — really, some historic executive actions in his first two years of the administration, and it is now far along — it’s taken too long for Congress to take — to take action on — on commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning — banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on the streets.
And so, we owe this to the lives that have been lost, the families who have lost their loved ones. Again, sitting around the kitchen table and missing that — missing their loved one who was — who taken by gun violence.
Q You mentioned the flooding at the beginning. Is there any consideration or conversation about adapting this trip, since the President is out in California, to address it? Or is — or is it too soon to think about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, there is no change to his trip. As I mentioned, he’s spoken to Gavin Newsom, the governor — I believe, on Friday — as I mentioned at the top. And we are ready. The federal government is al- — already assisting the state of California, and we’re ready to do anything else that might be needed of us. So —
Q Do any senior administration officials have exposure in the SVB Bank — SVB — like, debacle? Do they have large deposits in the bank that you’re aware of?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That — that’s — I’m not aware of that.
Q Do you have any update on if and when the President will sign the COVID intel bill?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything — don’t have anything to share on the schedule on when he’s going to be signing that.
Q And the ESG veto — any sense of when that’s coming?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything on that just yet. No timeline on when the President is going to sign — going to —
Q And on SVB —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — going to sign that.
Q — can you say if the President reached out to any outside experts or Barney Frank or others over the weekend to talk about all this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, when I spoke to him earlier today, he did said that — he did say that he spoke to economists. He clearly spoke to his senior staff, stayed in touch with the Treasury Secretary and his NEC director.
So, he was fully engaged in this over the weekend and really is going to continue to stay very zeroed in and focused on this.
He understands how important this is for the American people, but he did have outside conversations with economists. That’s something that he shared he wanted all of you to know as well.
Q Can you share the economists that he spoke with?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I didn’t — I don’t have names to share.
But — but, again, this is — the reason I’m sharing this is he wanted — I want you to know that he was fully engaged this weekend, since Friday morning, very much in touch with his senior staff, many — well, very much in touch with the Treasury Secretary and — and also just making sure that, again, taxpayers are not fitting the bill for this, that we came up with a plan to make sure that — you know, that these banks are held accountable.
And, look, we have to — we have to look into exactly what happened. But in the meantime, the — the banks are going to be held accountable.
There’s funds that have been put into place because of 2008, because what — of what the Biden — Biden — Obama-Biden administration was able to do. This is — again, this is not 2008, because of the actions that that administration took. And so, we’re just going to move forward with that.
Q And just to circle back on Zeke’s first question, can you point to any specific new regulations that — that the President would be looking at? Or is he looking at specifically walking back the rollback of Dodd-Frank that we saw? Or just any specifics you could offer would be helpful or a timeline for when we might know more specifics.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, as I was stating earlier, after the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama-Biden administration put into place tough requirements on banks to make sure that the crisis would not happen again.
But, unfortunately, as you all know, in
2008 , the last administration rolled back some of those tough requirements. And so, as you saw this morning and you heard from the President, he called on both Congress and bank regulators to strengthen the rules to make it less likely that this kind of bank failure can happen again, to protect American jobs, small businesses.
So, we’re going to actively have those conversations, work on this, and have conversations with experts and regulators.
We need to review what happened exactly to further determine what the changes are needed to make it less likely to happen again. But we have to get a — we have to get an accounting of exactly what happened so we can know how to move forward.
Q And how long do you think it will take to review it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a timeline on this. Just know that the President and his team is — is — this is a priority for them. And we’re certainly going to continue to look into what exactly happened and how do we — how do we respond and work with Congress on this as well.
Q There’s a couple of fundraisers on this trip. What should we read into —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A couple of what?
Q Fundraisers on the trip.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh.
Q What should we read into that about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the — to the DNC on any fundraisers that the President will be doing on this trip.
Q And then, why is Natalie Biden on the trip?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Natalie Biden is on — as you know, the President’s family tends to travel with him — right? — pretty often. So that’s not uncommon.
Natalie is on spring break. And so, she joined her — she wanted to spend time with her Pop. So, she joined her Pop on this trip.
Q Karine, on that question: When members of the President’s family travel with him when he’s on official business and they don’t necessarily have a role, does the President or members of his family reimburse the federal government for their travel expenses?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that’s — that’s a good question. I would have to look into how it works for members of the President’s family. I actually don’t know. But I would look into that and get back to you. I actually don’t know how that works. You might know better than I. I would have to look into that.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Okay.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks.
2:59 P.M. EDT