Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:13 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey. Good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Happy Tuesday.
So, my colleague, Admiral John Kirby, is here today to answer any questions on — about the President — President Putin and President Xi meeting in Moscow today. And so — and any other questions that you may all have on foreign policy, he’ll be happy to take them.
Kirby, the podium is yours.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you so much.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No problem.
MR. KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MR. KIRBY: I know there’s — I know there’s been a lot of interest around the meeting between President Xi and President Putin in Moscow today, so we’ll get at that. I just wanted to stop by and be available to you for that.
Before I do, I do want to quickly speak to the joint statement between the PRC and Russia that they put out today on deepening their cooperation, including on Ukraine.
On Ukraine, I would note that the two sides just said, quote, “The purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter must be observed, and international law must be respected.” Well, we agree.
Following the U.N. Charter would mean that Russia should withdraw from all the territory inside Ukraine, the territory of another member state of the U.N. — a member that it has invaded.
The U.N. Charter enshrines the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, including Ukraine.
And they also said, quote, parties — “The parties call for the cessation of all steps that contribute to escalation of tension and the prolongation of hostilities.” We agree. One way to stop the hostilities is to pull Russian troops out of Ukraine.
But short of that, Mr. Putin could stop bombing hospitals, could stop bombing schools. He could stop launching Iranian drones into civilian infrastructure. He could stop the forcible deportation of young kids — thousands of them — putting them in filtration camps inside other places inside Ukraine but also inside Russia. He could stop reducing cities like Bakhmut to bricks — to piles of bricks. That is a way to stop the prolongation of hostilities.
So, now, if China wants to play a constructive role here in this conflict, then they ought to press Russia to pull its troops out of Ukraine and Ukrainian sovereign territory. They should urge President Putin to cease bombing cities, hospitals, and schools; to stop the war crimes and the atrocities; and end the war today. It could happen right now.
Now, with that, I’ll take some questions.
Q The statement also says, “The Russian side speaks
positively of China’s objective and impartial position on the Ukraine issue.” Do you see China as having an impartial position on this?
MR. KIRBY: No. We don’t.
Q How do you interpret the statement then?
MR. KIRBY: Well, certainly I’m not going to do a book review on their statement. They can do that. They can speak to their words.
But I don’t think you can reasonably look at China as impartial in any way. They haven’t condemned this in — this invasion. They haven’t stopped buying Russian oil and Russian energy.
President Xi saw fit to fly all the way to Moscow, hasn’t talked once the President Zelenskyy, hasn’t visited Ukraine, hasn’t bothered to avail himself of the Ukrainian objective. And he and his regime keeps parroting the Russian propaganda that this is somehow a war of the West on Russia, that it’s some sort of existential threat to Mr. Putin. That’s just a bunch of malarkey. Ukraine posed no threat to anybody, let alone Russia.
So, no, it can’t be seen that Russia is impartial.
Now, look, if — if he’s willing to talk to President Zelenskyy and willing to get the other side and — and we — you know, if any future potential negotiation can incorporate Ukrainian views and perspectives and can be achieved and pursued with Ukraine — as President Biden said, “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” — if that’s the direction, then that’s something that could be seen as impartial. But I just don’t think right now that they can be seen that way.
Q And lastly, are we watching a budding alliance between China and Russia here?
MR. KIRBY: I think you’ve seen over years now these two countries going — growing closer together. Peter asked a question similar to that yesterday.
I wouldn’t go so far to call it an alliance. Yesterday I called it a “marriage of convenience,” because that’s what I think it is.
In President Putin and Russia, President Xi sees
a counterweight to American influence and NATO influence certainly on the continent and elsewhere around the world.
In President Xi, President Putin sees a potential backer here. This is a man who doesn’t have a whole lot of friends on the international stage; they can count them on one hand mostly. And he really needs and wants President Xi’s support for what he’s trying to do, because he’s running through — he’s blowing through inventory. He’s blowing through manpower. His military is getting embarrassed constantly. They’ve lost greater than 50 percent of the territory that they took in the first few months of this war. He needs help from President Xi, and that’s what this visit was all about.
Now, whether it results in anything, we’ll see.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, MJ.
Q John, two questions for you. Is the U.S. aware if there has now been an official request from Putin to Xi for lethal aid to be used in Ukraine?
MR. KIRBY: I can only go by what we’ve seen them say today, which obviously was not part of their — at least part of the readout and part of the statements they put out today.
I will tell you what I said yesterday and remains true: We don’t think that China is taking it off the table, but they haven’t moved in that direction. We’ve seen no indication that they’re about to or — or fixing to provide lethal weapons.
Q Okay. And my second question: The President considers Vladimir Putin to be a war criminal. I’m just wondering what it means to President Biden that Putin calls Xi Jinping a friend.
MR. KIRBY: I don’t think we’re overly exercised about
that comment. I mean, these are — it wasn’t that long ago, MJ, where they were talking about a relationship without limits — right? — partnership without limits. So, we’re not going to get all hot and bothered about the use of “friends.”
What we’ve seen is these are two countries that are growing closer together, that see in each other useful purposes for pushing back, as I said yesterday, for chafing and bristling at a rules-based order around the world. They want to change the rules of that game. In fact, they would love nothing better — both countries — to see the rest of the world play by their rules rather than the ones that — that are enshrined in the U.N. Charter and what everybody else is — is following.
So that’s what’s going on here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Just — John, to clarify one thing, because this is what Steve asked you — it is regarding the statement. “The Russian side speaks positively of China’s objective and impartial position on the Ukraine issue.” Is the view of this government that China is no longer impartial or is not impartial when it comes to this matter?
MR. KIRBY: We never said — we never said China was an impartial participant here.
Q Does that — and does this statement — does this meeting improve or make it more difficult for President Biden to ever meet again with President Xi, at least anytime soon —
MR. KIRBY: President Biden —
Q — to discuss this and other issues?
MR. KIRBY: The President wants to keep the lines of communication open with China. Nothing has changed about that. And as I said yesterday, at the appropriate time we’ll pursue another conversation with President Xi.
Q And in a semi-related matter, the president of Taiwan has now announced their plans to come to the United States briefly and then head to Central America. Are there any plans for any U.S. officials to meet with the president of Taiwan when they’re in the United States?
MR. KIRBY: This is — as you know, these are called “transits.” Not uncommon. President Tsai has done it six times. Every single Taiwan president in recent memory has done this. It is unofficial and personal in nature in terms of travel. So we would let them speak to their agenda to — to who they want to meet with and — and on what timeline.
It is not uncommon for — in previous transits for there to be discussions with — with U.S. officials and with members of Congress. But again, I’m not going to get ahead. This is really for Taiwan to speak to.
Q So, maybe?
MR. KIRBY: This is for Taiwan to speak to.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, John.
Q Thank you, Karine. Thank you, Admiral. On the idea of Russia seeking weapons and munitions, can you give us an assessment right now as to where things stand in terms of their weapons stockpile — Russia’s weapons stockpile? And what sort of help are they getting at this moment from places like Iran and North Korea?
MR. KIRBY: Well, we know that they have a burgeoning defense relationship with Iran. We already know that they — Iran has provided several hundred drones. And we have every reason to suspect that that sort of transaction will continue.
I don’t have any specific shipments to speak to today. But we know that this relationship from a defense perspective, of those two countries, is — is getting sharper. I came to the podium and talked about that. And that’s a worry not just for the people of Ukraine. It’s a worry for the people of the Middle East and Iran that can avail itself of Russian military capabilities, would make it more lethal and more dangerous in the region.
We did talk about the — the fact that we had evidence that North Korea was shipping, at the very least, artillery shells to the Wagner Group. We still believe that — that that occurred. I don’t have any additional shipments of things to speak to.
But again, I think it speaks volumes to your question about inventory. And I — I couldn’t give you a rundown of Russian inventory on any given type of system, but they have gone through thousands of missiles and, most likely, millions of artillery shells. They have lost, easily, tens of thousands of troops and probably north of 100,000 in terms of killed and wounded.
So this has not been a fight that Mr. Putin has had without cost to his country and to his coffers. And so, he continually wants to reach out for more help internationally. That’s what we’re seeing with Iran. It’s what we saw with North Korea. And there’s no question that’s what — that’s what we’re seeing in his interest in talking to President Xi.
But we know that this — we know this war has had an effect on his inventory. And we also know, Jonathan, that the sanctions and export controls have had an effect on him, particularly when it comes to cruise missiles — that his ability to restock cruise missiles out of the inventory has been curtailed by the fact that he can’t get the — some of the microelectronics because of the — the economic steps that this administration has taken to — to kind of curb his war-making machine.
So, this — this is a guy — you know, for all the ballyhoo going to Mariupol, I mean, this is a guy who — who has to know that his military is way underperforming and — and overspending in terms of its ability — its resource ability.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Justin, and then I’ll go to the back.
Q Thanks. I wanted to follow on Ed’s last question. You guys have obviously made this concerted effort to, ahead of the visit of the Taiwanese president, sort of downplay it as not uncommon, not intended as sort of a provocation.
MR. KIRBY: I’m not downplaying. It’s true. It’s not uncommon. They — they have happened before. It’s not about downplaying. It’s about being factual.
Q All right. Well, there has been this sort of concerted effort, and I’m — my question is that if — does that not sort of tacitly acknowledge concern within the administration that China may overreact or — I assume you think this is an overreaction to this visit. And I was wondering if you can play out, to some extent, what that level of concern is and how the U.S. would react if we see, you know, a “Pelosi redux” and — and how to interpret this.
MR. KIRBY: There’s no reason for China to overreact. Heck, there’s no reason for them to react. I mean, this is something that — that, as I said, is commonplace and has happened before, will likely happen again. It’s personal. It’s unofficial. There should be no reason for Beijing to — to react in any way to this. Again, business as usual here. And we did think it was important to provide that context in light of Mr. Xi’s visit to — to Moscow and all the media attention that that is getting, as well as in the context of — of how they reacted to Speaker Pelosi is no apologies there at all.
We felt that that — this was important context to be out there. And so, we — we put it out there.
Q But is it because you are concerned about the Chinese reaction?
I — it’s one thing to say, “Yeah, we hope they don’t react in any way.” It’s another to be like, “They really shouldn’t react.”
MR. KIRBY: We just felt it was important to put it in proper context.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. Right over here, John.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks. (Laughter.)
Q Yeah. It’s a big room.
MR. KIRBY: I have to keep up with her fingers (inaudible).
Q The — the war in Ukraine has been going on for over a year now. Is it the U.S. position that during the course of all of that time, that China has not provided any lethal weaponry to Russia?
MR. KIRBY: We have seen that, through some Chinese companies, there — there may have been dual-use items that have gone, but we haven’t seen any confirmation or indication that the Chinese have provided lethal weapons, lethal capabilities to the Russian Ministry of Defense throughout this conflict. They have not done that.
And obviously, as I said yesterday, we don’t think it’s in their best interest to do that. And quite frankly, it would be inconsistent with so many of the things that President Xi has said that he wants to see as a result of this war in Ukraine, including their statements today.
Q Why do you think that’s the case? Why do you think that they have not done that yet? And do you think it has a lot to do with what President Biden has told President Xi, what EU leaders have told President Xi? And that is: If they do so, they risk major sanctions being placed upon them by not only the U.S., but also by the EU — their two largest trading partners.
MR. KIRBY: I certainly can’t speak for President Xi. That’s well beyond my writ.
What I would say is we have communicated privately to the Chinese. And you’ve heard Secretary Blinken talk about this. We’ve also said it publicly that — that such a move would — would certainly involve consequences.
But more importantly, we believe — and we’ve said this too — that — that this shouldn’t be seen by the Chinese as something that’s in their best interest to help Mr. Putin slaughter more innocent Ukrainians, to — what’s the word they use? — the escalation of tension and prolongation of hostilities. Well, that’s one way to do that.
And, again, if — if we’re taking them at their word of what they want to see happen, it’s hard to square the circle between that — that statement — and the provision of lethal weapons.
So, we don’t believe it’s in their best interest — a country like China that has a very powerful economy and — and does have influence around the world — to want to see that — that influence stained by helping Mr. Putin murder more Ukrainians.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian, in the back.
Q Thanks. John, I guess, the — over here.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks.
Q Follow-up to that question: Is there any indication that the visitation by Xi to Putin could lead to a de-escalation? Have you all seen anything that the statement that they put out about the escalation, in fact, was a warning to Russia?
MR. KIRBY: We’re still working our way through the language here, so I don’t want to get into a deep analysis. But coming out of what we’ve seen today, we haven’t seen anything that they’ve said, they’ve put forward, that — that gives us hope that this war is going to end anytime soon.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Putin said something to the effect today — or his spokesman, Peskov, I think, said something to the effect today that — that they’re willing to negotiate but it’s the West and Ukraine that is refusing, which, of course, is absolutely false.
So, we’ve seen no — I don’t think the meeting today gives us great expectations that the war is going to end anytime soon.
Q And then, as a quick follow-up of that, is there any indication that we would be willing to talk with — or let me put it another way. Is there any indication that Russia is showing any signs that they would back off at any point in time? Are they still, you know, guns blazing?
MR. KIRBY: No sign at all that Mr. Putin is changing his calculus.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you. John, about the bill President Biden signed yesterday: He says he will declassify COVID origins intel except info that would harm national security. Is there a bigger national security threat than something that killed 1.1 million people —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve seen —
Q — in this country?
MR. KIRBY: I’ve seen some of the commentary on your network about this.
The President obviously has to balance transparency with national security, Peter. Of course, he does.
When coming into office, ordered the declassification of what the DNI had on COVID origins, ordered the entire intelligence community, and added the Department of Energy to that list at —
Q Then where is it?
MR. KIRBY: Hey, let me finish my answer.
Q If we’re talking about the beginning of his term —
MR. KIRBY: Added the Department of Energy and the National Labs. Told them to keep studying it.
We have kept Congress informed. Some of that has to be in a classified way right now.
But it’s always a balance between the public’s right to know — right — not need, but right — and our obligation to protect national security.
So, one should not read into that statement that he’s, sort of, laying a foundation here to be overly secretive. He believes strongly that we’ve got to find the roots in the origins of COVID so that we can prevent a future pandemic.
And through his actions — just judge him on what he’s done through his actions — he’s proven that he’s willing to be as transparent as possible with the American people because he believes that’s important.
Q Then does the White House hope that the lab leak theory is not true?
MR. KIRBY: We don’t have a hope one way or the other, Peter. What we want is the ground truth, wherever that takes us — wherever the science takes you, wherever the facts takes you.
President Biden wants to know so that he can help work with the scientific community to prevent a future pandemic. We’re not — there’s no thumb on the scale here, Peter. It’s not about not wanting a certain outcome. We just want the best possible outcome that we can get.
Q Okay. And just quickly, about the meeting today — the Xi-Putin meeting. In November, when President Biden met with Xi, he said, “I want to make sure that every country abides by the international rules of the road.” Does he think China is abiding by the international rules of the road?
MR. KIRBY: In some cases, we have significant concerns about China’s behavior, particularly their coercive and aggressive behavior, for instance, in the South China Sea and pursuing false maritime claims; concerns about intellectual theft and some trade practices.
And the President has been very open and honest about that, and he was when they met in Bali.
But there are other areas where we believe there’s room for cooperation with China, and we want to be able to pursue that too. But in order to do that, Peter, you got to keep those lines of communication open. You got to have that ability to talk, particularly when things are tense like they are right now. And that’s what the President wants to get back to.
Q Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Kirby. In that joint statement today, Russia and China warned against the war transitioning to a, quote, “uncontrollable phase.” Ukraine is preparing a counteroffensive. Does the U.S. see that part of the joint statement from Russia and China as a specific warning to Ukraine and the West?
MR. KIRBY: It’s difficult to know what they mean by an “uncontrollable phase.” Certainly, we noted that language ourselves. I can’t tell you for sure that we know exactly what they’re referring to.
I will not — I will not speak ever about future operations, particularly for the Ukrainians. That’s for them to speak to, and I wouldn’t get ahead of anything that they might or might not do.
We do know that President Putin is making plans to go back on the offense. I mean, he’s already — he’s got Wagner continuing to throw literally human flesh into Bakh- — Bakhmut to try to — to take that town. And we have every expectation that he’s going to plan for other offensive operations as the weather gets better.
What we want to make sure we’re doing — and we just announced another package yesterday — is that Ukraine is ready to defend themselves against those offensive operations and, if they choose to, be able to conduct offensive operations of their own.
Q And to follow on that potential Ukrainian offensive, does Xi’s support for Putin increase the stakes of any potential Ukrainian offensive?
MR. KIRBY: It would depend on what that support looked like. I mean, does his visit to Moscow? I think it’s hard to get to — I think it’s hard to square that circle just by going to Moscow and proclaiming that they’re dear friends.
But if — but if the — if the tangible support changes, certainly if it changes in a lethal way, then obviously that would be additive to Russian military capabilities, which of course would — we would all have to take seriously.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. And, John, thanks for doing this on back-to-back days.
Today marks the 100th day of the eco-protests along the Lachin Corridor in the Karabakh region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. So I’ve got two questions on that.
First of all, what is the administration’s position on the ongoing conflict? And does the U.S. view the presence of 2,000 Russian soldiers in the Karabakh region as a cause for concern?
MR. KIRBY: I would just — broadly speaking, what we’ve
said before is we — we urge all sides here to deescalate. We don’t want to see any of this violence, and we want to see all sides take — take appropriate steps to deescalate the tension and to — and to stop the violence.
But beyond that, I’m really not prepared to go today.
Q And what about the Russian troop presence in that region?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not prepared to go beyond that today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Emily.
Q Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Kirby. I wanted to ask about the upcoming trip to Canada and what does the President plan to bring up? Is he prepared to talk about the problems that Canadians are having at the northern border? But is he also concerned that Canada is behind on its contributions to NATO, especially as the war in Ukraine goes on?
MR. KIRBY: I think we’re going to have more to talk about tomorrow on this, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of where we are. Canada, as you know, is not only a neighbor to the north but a NATO Ally. And the President and Prime Minister Trudeau have a terrific relationship. He’s looking forward to getting up there.
There are a range of issues that you can imagine they’ll talk about — everything from NORAD and modernization of NORAD capabilities, as well as, of course, I think, the military security and national security issues writ large, migration concerns, climate change. There’ll be certainly issues of trade to discuss. There’s a lot. But I think we’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Karine. Mr. Kirby — Annie Linksey of the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, when you were here, you were asked about Harris — Vice President Harris’s trip to Africa, and you said that it’s a trip that’s about Africa. But it’s also a part of the country — or part of the world where the Chinese have been investing billions upon billions of dollars. And can you talk at all about whether countering that influence is important at all to the administration?
MR. KIRBY: Our focus on the continent is, as I said yesterday, about the continent. We’re mindful, of course, of Chinese efforts to improve and deepen their involvement in Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere around the world.
And one of the things that came out of the African Leaders Summit was a growing recognition that we perceived by African leaders that they’re beginning to realize that China is not really their friend. They get these loans — high interest, can’t pay them. China says “Hey, bill is coming due. So I guess I’m going to take this and this and this from you.” And that’s starting to happen across the continent.
And African leaders are beginning to see that China’s interests in the region are purely selfish, as opposed to the United States.
We are truly committed to trying to help our African friends deal with a spate of challenges — food insecurity, energy insecurity — both of which, by the way, have been drastically exacerbated by this war in Ukraine, by Mr. Putin, contrary to what Foreign Minister Lavrov would say; counterterrorism, where we are still partnering with some of our African partners to go after terrorist networks; climate change. I could go on and on.
And that’s why the President, coming out of that summit, assigned Johnnie Carson as the implementer. An implementer. A guy whose whole job is to go out and take all the things we talked about in the summit and make it true.
And part of that, of course, is going to be principal-level travel. And the Vice President will be having discussions with African leaders on all those issues when she travels, and she’s very much looking forward to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Anita.
Q I have a follow-up on the Africa trip. In countering China’s influence on the continent, is the Vice President going to take on some of the human rights issues that are present in Ghana, Tanzania, and in Zambia? Because that’s something that we know that China does not do as a matter of policy. How is she going to negotiate that difficult position?
MR. KIRBY: The Vice President will, of course, raise human rights concerns everywhere she goes. That’s — that’s part and parcel of American leadership around the world. We’re not afraid.
And, in fact, it’s a sign of — of how much we care about other nations and partnerships that we are able and willing to have those kinds of conversations.
So, of course — of course, she will raise human rights concerns appropriately everywhere she goes.
Q Privately or publicly?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t get ahead of the Vice President’s meetings or how she’s going to couch this. But, of course, that’s part and parcel of every conversation that we have with foreign leaders around the world. It has to be.
Q And can I follow up on something you just said about China’s ability to be impartial? You just said if China can truly be impartial and Ukraine is on board for talks. Is that something that the U.S. would support if Ukraine were interested in trying to broker talks?
MR. KIRBY: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. If President Zelenskyy — if there’s a path put forward that President Zelenskyy can get behind and he believes will help lead to a “just peace,” as he refers to it, then he’ll find no better friend in that effort than the United States.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Mr. Kirby —
Q Thank you, Karine. Hi, John.
Q — over 10 months, not a single opportunity is given —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait. Hold on a second. That’s — this is not how it works.
Q Mr. Kirby, I have attended your dozen press conferences.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s not — this is not —
Q Not one opportunity —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This is not how it works, sir. This is not how it works.
Q Hi, John. Today, the Ugandan Parliament voted in favor of anti-homosexuality bill and is set to host a summit soon with other African nations on potentially passing other bills across the continent. It’s my understanding that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield spoke to the Ugandan president about this bill.
I — I ask this question because I — sources tell me that Russia may be playing a major role in the influence of this larger anti-LGBTQ movement and is using it as a wedge between the U.S. and Africa.
Considering the U.S. is currently engaging with Africa on other issues, is this a concern for the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: Oh, of course it is. I mean, and — and President Biden has been nothing but consistent about his belief — foundational belief in human rights. And LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.
And we — again, back to the earlier question — are never going shy away or be bashful about speaking up for those rights and for — for individuals to live as they deem fit, as they want to live. And that’s something that’s a core part of our foreign policy, and it will remain so.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, in the back. Go ahead.
Q To follow up on what you said yesterday on the — on Iraq and the anniversary, is there a message for the — some of us who were actually there and remember — to the families; the 4,000 (inaudible) that lost their lives, the 35,000 injured, and the two — two and a half million that served?
And then, second, Japan is hosting the upcoming G7 in Hiroshima. The Japanese Prime Minister is currently in Ukraine. This is a big step for Japan. Are there some ways that Japan — Japan hosts — Japan hosts the largest number of U.S. military in the world. And as a partner, what role do you think they can play, especially with the upcoming summit, to be part of the partnership moving forward?
And then, finally, the Japanese is the biggest partner. They’ve never had an interview with the President yet. So hopefully, before the summit, if that can be worked out.
Q Maybe before the end of the briefing. (Laughter.)
MR. KIRBY: I will defer to — to Karine on issues of interviews with the President. That’s — that’s — that’s your job, not mine.
Look, on your second issue, I think you saw Mr. Sullivan put out a short tweet about this. We welcome the Prime Minister’s visit to Kyiv. It’s another example of just how strongly Japan is standing up with the rest of the international community to support Ukraine.
And, certainly, as a close ally of the United States, we’re very appreciative of all the things that Japan continues to do — not just in supporting Ukraine, but in promoting security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
I mean, they have rewritten their national security strategy. They have taken a more assertive role in terms of sec- — security operations. And all that’s — all that’s to the good, and we’re very grateful for that.
I know I have — I don’t know that I have more than I can say than — than yesterday for — some of you, I’m sure, maybe covered the war and saw more of combat than — than you probably care to remember.
And, of course, we know, as I said yesterday, so many families here in the United States are still living with the war. The war is not over for them. And we all need to — we all need to keep that in mind.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.
Q Thank you. I also — I also have an Africa question. President Putin said that he will write off debt for African countries with over $20 billion, which is a substantial amount of money. And he said that Russia will meet this commitment to provide them with food supply and energy, et cetera.
Do you think this is — comes in the equation of the Russia-Ukraine war and trying to sway Ukraine over the vote, especially in the U.N.?
And do you think the U.S. is doing enough to counter Russia’s influence — not just China, but Russia’s influence?
MR. KIRBY: I think this is a cynical effort by Mr. Putin to try to convince nations in Africa that — that the West is the reason for their food insecurity and further energy insecurity.
And if I was any leader in Africa, I would take anything that President Putin says about assurances of financial, economic, or energy assistance with a huge grain of salt.
I mean, it is Mr. Putin’s war that has contributed to the food insecurity on the continent. It’s his war that has contributed to the energy insecurity on the continent.
And he might like to gloss over that and send Foreign Minister Lavrov on field trips all over Africa to say that it’s the West’s fault or it’s the United States’ fault, but it’s not. It has — it can be tied directly —
Now, it’s also due to drought, climate change, eco- — and, you know, even domestic instability. I don’t want to overstate other factors here.
But make no mistake, his war in Ukraine is having these kinds of effects on the African continent. And if he’s serious about addressing it, if he’s serious about winning over African audiences, about making things better, rather than throwing out false promises of — of loan relief, he ought to just pull his troops out of Ukraine. Then, if there’s no war, energy and food insecurity would be a lot less worrisome for everybody.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Way in the back. Way in the back.
Q Thanks, Karine. Thanks, John.
MR. KIRBY: There. Thanks.
Q Way in the back.
MR. KIRBY: Appreciate it.
Q The bill that the President signed yesterday on COVID origins, it calls for the declassification within 90 days. Can you give us a better sense as to when that information will actually be declassified? Are we talking about days, weeks, months?
MR. KIRBY: I can’t give you a date certain right now. I mean, he just signed this yesterday. We’re mindful of what the legislation says in terms of the 90-day time- — timeframe.
We’ll work on this as diligently as we have been working on it, and we’ll be fully transparent with the American people — again, appropriately to our own national security concerns. But I couldn’t give you a date certain on the calendar.
Q When it’s out there, people will be able to see it for themselves and form their own opinion. At this point, has the President formed an opinion as to what he thinks happened — he think happened?
MR. KIRBY: No, he has not, nor would he. Why would he? He wouldn’t form an opinion before he has access to, you know, more and more intelligence about — about what happened.
I’ll tell you what he has formed an opinion on. And that is that it’s important that we get to the roots of it so that we can prevent another pandemic and that — that scientific research labs, who do important work, also know that they need to be as accountable and transparent as they can be with the research that they’re conducting.
That, he has formed a strong opinion on. But he’s made no conclusions, nor would he, until — until more information is available.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And a couple more. All the way in the back.
Q Karine, there are journalists on this side as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All the way in the back. Go ahead. Go ahead, Owen.
Q I’m a journalist for 22 years, Karine.
Q Thank you, Admiral. Appreciate it. In the back here. Thank you.
Q This is so unfair.
Q If I may —
Q Mr. Kirby did not ignore me —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead, Owen.
Q — once when he was in the State Department.
Q If I may turn your attention to Nicaragua, sir.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’re being disrespectful to your colleagues.
Q I don’t mean to. But —
Q Nicaragua —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you are.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Owen.
Q Okay. Nicaragua is my —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The floor is yours.
Q — is my question. Okay. So, you may know that Daniel Ortega recently threw into prison Bishop Rolando Álvarez — well-known, well-respected bishop throughout the world. But in Nicaragua, that’s where he was — he (inaudible) bishop.
He was thrown in prison for 26 years on trumped-up charges. The question: One, are you aware of any efforts the U.S. is making to free Rolando Álvarez, the bishop?
MR. KIRBY: I’m going to — I’m going to have to take the question and get back to you, sir. I’m not tracking that particular case.
Q Okay. And, two, would you have — would the Biden administration have any message for the Ortega regime that continues to persecute Catholics in that country?
MR. KIRBY: We have been clear and consistent with nations all over the world about the — the importance of religious freedom and proper human rights and civil rights for not only their citizens but certainly for ours as they travel abroad.
But I don’t have anything more specific on that.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, two more. SV, way in the back.
Q Yeah, thanks. Admiral, you talked about how Russia’s forces are going through ammunition, going through personnel. We’ve seen reports about them increasing the draft to get more soldiers. At what point do they start ru- — do they start running out of ammunition? I mean, do you have an assessment on how long they can continue what they’re doing before either someone resupplies them or they’re — they have to (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: I think you can see in his own efforts — right? — to hire Wagner and — for Wagner and Mr. Prigozhin actually bragging about going to prisons and getting more — more convicts.
I think you can see it in what they’re doing in Bakhmut.
I think you can see it in their outreach to Iran and now trying to forge some sort of transactional relationship where Iran actually gets access to Russian military capabilities.
I can see the outreach to North Korea for artillery.
And, of course, this meeting in Moscow — which, make no mistake, Mr. Putin was hoping would lead to additional support from — from China.
You can see it in what Mr. Putin is doing. The fact that he goes to Mariupol on the eve of President Xi’s visit, what is that other than trying to cast some sort of signal that — that he’s large and in charge there and that President Xi should take note of that?
You can see in what Mr. Putin is doing that he knows he’s having resource difficulties because of what he’s blown through over the last year, in terms of actual ammunition and missiles, the tanks and aircraft he’s lost, and absolutely the — the soldiers that he has literally thrown into a meat grinder and continues to do so.
By his own actions, you can see very well that he knows that he’s got shortage issues, and he’s trying to overcome them.
And that’s another reason why, quite frankly, we don’t want to see a ceasefire right now. Because a ceasefire right now, freezing the lines where they are, basically gives him the time and space he needs to try to re-equip, to re-man, to make up for the — that resource expenditure.
Q Can you quantify the ammunition issue, or do you choose not to in front of the world?
MR. KIRBY: I choose not to in front of the world.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Last question.
Q Thank you. Two, if I may. On this U.S. claim to have intelligence that China has been considering providing lethal aid to the Russians, and without expecting you to divulge classified information here, can you at least say that you have any insights or some window onto what kind of lethal aid the Chinese have been considering providing?
MR. KIRBY: No, I’m not going to go there, James.
Q You don’t know?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to go there.
Q And my second question. I want to draw on your long experience in the Navy and in the national security apparatus. You’ve served — I don’t know how many administrations. How many administrations?
MR. KIRBY: Well, over the course of my entire Navy career?
MR. KIRBY: Oh, gosh. I don’t know. Six or seven, probably.
Q So, I wonder if you could share with us any observations you might have as to the current Commander-in-Chief and whether you observe anything distinct or unique about how he approaches the central business of the presidency, which is decision-making.
MR. KIRBY: James, I don’t know that that’s a fair question for me. I’m just the — I’m just the guy talking for the NSC up here.
But, look, I didn’t — I didn’t know the President before I — I took this job. But I’ve since got a chance to get to know him. And I’ll tell you, his fine feel and touch, particularly on issues of foreign policy and national security, is very, very distinct.
And he asks great questions. There’s not a single engagement that I’ve ever had with him where he wasn’t pushing and pressing and wanting more detail and wanting a deeper level of context.
He thinks these things through carefully. And I can tell you — this I know for sure, certainly, because of my job at the Pentagon, too, before I came here — that when it comes to putting America’s men and women in uniform in harm’s way, you won’t find another Commander-in-Chief who thinks more carefully, deliberately, and consciously about that than President Biden.
Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
Q Thanks, John.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks. Thanks, Admiral.
Okay. I know folks have to gather at, like, 4:15. So, we’ll try to do this super quick.
As you just heard from the President earlier this afternoon, this administration is taking historic action to protect our nation’s most cherished landscapes.
Today, President Biden established two new national monuments: the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada, also known as the “Spirit Mountain,” and the Castner Range National Mountain in Texas — Monument, pardon me — Monument in Texas.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Together, these new monuments protect our over half a million acres of public lands that honor a Tribal site and our military veterans.
In addition, the President directed the Secretary of Commerce to consider initiating a new National Marine Sanctuary designation to protect all U.S. waters around the Pacific Remote Islands.
These actions continue to deliver on the most ambitious land and water conservation agenda in American history. In his first year in office, President Biden has protected more lands and waters than any President since JFK. Over the last two years, he has secured the largest investment in climate, environmental justice, and conservation ever. And he has put the entire U.S. Arctic Ocean off limits to new oil and gas development.
President Biden’s aggressive climate agenda could not come — could not come at a more important time.
Yesterday, the United Nations issued a sobering report on the state of our climate, underscoring the critical importance of President Biden’s Climate Leadership at home and also abroad.
Now, remember, when President Biden came into office, he talked about how climate change was one of the most important crises that we needed to address. And that’s what you’ve seen from him over the last two years.
He rejoined the Paris Agreement and rallied more than 100 countries to join the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions. He secured the most ambitious climate legislation, which has sparked a clean energy manufacturing and jobs boom here at home while accelerating the jo- — the global clean energy race abroad.
He put the United States back on track to reach its clean energy goals, reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and reaching net zero goals.
And on the President’s watch, u- — EV sales has tripled and domestic solar capacity is on track to increase five times by next year.
But here’s the thing: MAGA House Republicans want to reverse that progress. They want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which is helping Americans save on solar panels, electric vehicles, energy-efficient windows, and so much more. And the extreme MAGA Freedom Caucus is proposing draconian budget cuts that will raise costs for hu- — for hardworking families.
The House Republican proposal will increase healthcare premiums by an average of 800 bucks per year for nearly 15 million Americans; eliminate Pell Grants altogether for 80,000 students, and reduce the maximum Pell Grant by nearly $1,000 for — for the remaining 6.6 million students; cut childcare access — access for 100,000 children; cut vital nutrition assistance for 1.2 million women, infants, and children.
And as we said yesterday, the MAGA Republicans’ proposal will be a five-alarm fire for hardworking families.
While President Biden is focused on giving those families more breathing room, MAGA congressional Republicans will — would increase costs and worsen inflation.
And, with that — hello, Josh.
Q Hi, how are you, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good to see you.
Q Happy Tuesday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Tuesday indeed.
Q Two questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q Today, Treasury Secretary Yellen said the federal
government could step in to protect depositors at banks if there is a risk of contagion. What does the administration think about that risk of contagion? Is that about fundamentals in the economy or the psychology of the markets?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you mentioned, Secretary Yellen was at the American Bankers Association, and she delivered remarks early this morning. And as she said — I just want to quote her for a second: “The federal government delivered…decisive and forceful actions to strengthen public confidence in the U.S. banking system and protect…American economy.”
And that’s what you’ve seen from this administration about almost two weeks ago when they stepped in, when — when we saw this — the — this crisis happening.
But our focus has been very clear, the President’s focus on this has been very clear, which is strengthening and — strengthening the banking system and protecting depositors. That has been what has been at the forefront of the minds of the federal regulators and also the Department of Sec- — Department of Treasury.
And there’s evidence our actions are indeed working. They’re restoring confidence in the safety of deposits. Treasury has said — has seen deposit flows stabilized, which is incredibly important, in regional and also small banks, in some cases, mostly — mostly reversed.
And so that has been the focus of this administration for the past 10-plus days.
Q And then, secondly, the Los Angeles School District, the second-largest in the country, is shut down for a three-day strike. Should school staff be paid more money?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and, you know, we’ve talked about this before. We respect the process and employ- –employees’ right to engage in protected concerted activities. That is something you hear the President talk about how he supports the collective bargaining process. And that is something that he will continue to do.
We urge both sides to work in good faith toward a mutually acceptable solution so that there can be a quick resolution and the kids and school employees can get back to where they want to be, which is in schools, especially the kids.
And we, the President — as you’ve heard him say, this is incredibly important to him, making sure that kids get — go back to school and get their education.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q To follow up on Josh’s first question, can you insure all deposits in the U.S. banking system? And do you need legislation for that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, there are many things — and I have talked about this — that — well, let me step back.
You know, the President and the administration, they took quick — quick action when — when this happened a couple of days ago.
And, of course, there’s things that Congress can do. We’ve talked about how the President has already called for Congress to make it easier for regulators to claw back compensation, impose civil penalties, and ban executives from working in the banking industry. So that’s something that we’ve asked for.
But as I was mentioning a moment ago, there are quite a bit that we can do without Congress. And this is what you have asked — we’ve — the President has asked regulators to do in the last two years: to take actions over — over the last few years — to reverse the last administration’s deregulation, which we know happened back in 2018, after the Oba- — Obama-Biden administration put in stronger — strengthening those — strengthening regulations back after — after what we saw in 2008.
So, look, we don’t want to let Congress off the hook. We want Congress to continue to — to certainly — to take action. And so, we’re going to call on them to do just that.
Q Karine, I know the — this White House doesn’t weigh in on the Fed’s policy deliberations, so not asking you to do that. But just in the bigger picture, can you give us a sense of how the White House is watching Jerome Powell’s statement tomorrow, as well as the interest rate decision that is coming?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I just want to be very, very careful here. I’m just going to go back to what we have said many times. The Fed — the Fed is indeed independent. We want to give them the space to make those monetary decisions. And I’m just not — I don’t want to get ahead of that. I don’t even want to — I don’t even want to give any thought to what they might — what Jerome Powell might say tomorrow. I just want to be really, really mindful and careful here.
Q Just totally different topic. Does President Biden believe that it is appropriate for a person who is indicted to run for office?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — nice way to ask, MJ. Very clever.
So I’m going to be, again, really careful for here — from here as it relates to any upcoming elections. And specifically, I’m assuming you’re — you’re talking about the 2024 election. We just — I’m just not going to give any analysis, any foresight, any — any type of — kind of decision or thoughts on that because we are covered by the Hatch Act. So not going to speak to politics. And I’m just going to leave for — leave it there.
Q Thanks, Karine. Has the President seen the video that seems to show the moments during and after Irvo Otieno was — died while in law enforcement custody at Virginia Central State Hospital? Has he been briefed on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we’ve seen — we’ve definitely seen the reports. I know the President has been tracking this. Look, I said this last week when I was asked by TheGrio, by — I believe by April Ryan. Our hearts certainly go to — go out to the family on this devastating — devastating event that occurred. The President is indeed — he saw the reports. We’ve been paying attention to reports. We’re just going to be incredibly mindful on speaking on this as there’s a current investigation.
Q And has he been in touch with the Otieno family?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have a call. We don’t have a call to preview or to speak to at this time. But clearly, this is — it was devastating, again, what we saw. And our hearts go out to the family.
Go ahead, Justin.
Q Thanks. I just wanted to follow up on Steve’s question. In — in your answer, you highlighted the President’s past actions, said Congress shouldn’t be off the hook, but you today and yesterday avoided talking about what, if any, unilateral actions that the President is considering going forward to sort of stabilize the financial system.
And I’m wondering what the strategy is there, especially after we saw this sort of robust response a little over a week ago. Is it because you think the crisis is over, that you’re worried that talking about what you’re talking about could — could fuel the panic? Is it that you want to set a precedent ahead of the debt ceiling fight of not really entertaining unorthodox solutions? Is it a combination of those three things?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — no, totally understand the question.
Look, when it comes to specifics about the debt ceiling and — and — and all of those things, that’s something that Treasury, certainly, and the Secretary has spoken to this many times.
I would say that, and I will quote her here, “The actions we have taken…” — this is from the Secretary, “…to protect depositors and the stability of the banking system have not affected the X-date for the debt limit.” So just want to reiterate that from — from the Secretary.
Look, you know, as — as it — you know, if we’re worried about unorthodox interventions? No, we’re not. We’re going to use every tool that we have to make sure that the American people have the confidence. That’s what we’ve been trying to work through these last almost two weeks — is that making sure that they feel that their deposits will be safe and will be there when they need it. And that’s what’s important in the actions and what the President has asked the regulators to do and also the Treasury Department to do.
Q So it’s fair to say that those conversations are ongoing, but — but you don’t necessarily want to detail them because of conf- — that confidence issue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, this is something that lives in the Treasury Department. This is something that they have been tasked with, as it relates to dealing with this issue that we have seen. That — that’s the directive that the President has given the Secretary and the regulators. So that lives there. So that’s something that I would — that’s why I’m referring you to them.
But we’re going to do everything that we can to use the tools that are given to us to make sure that — again, that the American people feel confidence. And they should, right? That’s kind of what you heard from the Secretary today — that we see a stabilizing, that the banking — the banking system is resilient. And a lot of that is because of the work that this President has done.
I know you’ve — you’ve — you’ve mentioned the current things that he’s doing, but let’s not forget what occurred in the Obama-Biden administration and how they were able to strengthen that — the regulations. And so that work will continue. And — but again, we can’t let Congress off the hook. They have to take some actions as well.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, go ahead. (Laughs.) Yes.
Q We know that Chicago, Atlanta, and New York City are in the running for the Democratic convention. And ultimately, the decision is up to President Biden. What are the factors he’s looking for? And will the host city be announced before the President makes the second-term announcement official? Or is the timing not related?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so first, let me say — let me answer your — your last question first, which is the President has said many times that he intends to run. I’m not going to go beyond that. That is for the President to decide, clearly.
And, look, that question that you just asked me is a — is a political question that lives with — with the DNC, the — the Democratic National Committee. So, that — I would refer you to — to them.
But, you know, all of — all of us are probably tracking that a decision hasn’t been made on that front. Again, that’s for the DNC to decide. But just like many of you — all of you here, we will all find out at the same time which city gets chosen. I just can’t speak to this — to that from here.
Q I wasn’t asking about the DNC.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay.
Q I was asking because the DNC does the vetting and the site selection, but then they give a recommendation to the President, who is the decider. Just like when the primary happened, the news came out from him. So that’s why I’m asking you a little bit more how this may work out.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the President is the leader of the Democratic Party. But from here, I cannot talk about politics, so that’s why I’m referring you to the DNC.
Go ahead, Alex.
Q Karine, San Francisco just held a hearing on reparations for decades of — of institutional racism. And,
you know, other cities and states are considering, you know, paneling similar commissions. D.C. is one of them. Where does this administration stand on reparations for slavery and segregation and similar historic wrongs, specifically pertaining to Black Americans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we understand that there’s a legislation on the Hill currently on this — on the study of represe- — of reparations, pardon me. And we think Congress is the — the appropriate venue for considera- — consideration on such action. And so we’re going to leave it there for Congress to decide, to let them go through their process that they’re taking at this moment.
But I would — I would lay out and speak to what the President has done over the last two years. When he came into office, he talked about the different crises that this country is dealing with, and one of them was racial equity and racial equality, and fighting for that, for — for communities like the Black community.
And one of the things that he did right away — straight away in the beginning of his administration — is he signed an executive order that — that made sure that across the — across the govern- — government, that we had an approach that dealt with inequality, that we had — that made sure that — that — that political appointees in — in those agencies put that in — put that equality lens as they were moving forward with dealing with policy.
And so, that’s — that’s important in really getting to the root of that issue. Clearly, that’s on the federal level. And — and just last month, he issued a second order reaffirming the administration’s commitment to deliver on that equity.
So, the President has shown his commitment. He’s spoken to this issue that — that, in particular, this Black commu- — the Black community has to deal with for generations upon generations.
So, he is going to continue to lift that up. But as it relates to the legislation, we — we want to leave that in the hands of Congress.
Go ahead, Courtney.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask about the Supreme Court. The American Bar Association, last month, passed a resolution urging the Supreme Court justices to agree to an ethics code, given how consequential their decisions have been over the last year. And there are bills in Congress considering this. What’s the President’s position on a mandatory code of ethics for the highest court?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m just not going to speak to that from here. I — that is something for SCOTUS to work through and to speak to. I’m just not going to make a comment from here about that.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steven.
Q Thanks, Karine. On Friday, the President — when the Taoiseach was here, the President said he looked forward to going to Ireland to celebrate the Good Friday Agreement.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q The actual anniversary is less than three weeks away. Can you give us a sense of where things are in the planning for this trip and when we might get a formal announcement on it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a good question. And so — you know, I don’t have anything more to share — any plans to go to Northern Ireland and the Republic to acknowledge the anniversary of the Good Friday Accord.
The President said he looks forward to doing that. But we’re still in process of hammering out what — what those details will be. And as soon as we have more information, we’ll — we’ll certainly share that, understanding that that’s three weeks away. But as the President said, he’s looking forward to it.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Are you new — you’re new to the room?
Q Yes. Allie Raffa with NBC.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nice to meet you.
Q Nice to meet you, too.
Earlier this month, President Biden said he spoke with the family of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after his fall. Has the President spoken directly with Leader McConnell since then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have any — any conversations to read out at this time. Yes, the President called the family of Leader — Leader McConnell, clearly, wishing him a speedy recovery, which we continue to do. Just don’t have anything beyond what we — what we laid out a couple weeks ago.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask you about some comments by the President of Mexico, who’s been very critical of the administration recently. Just today, he suggested that the U.S. had blown up the Nord Stream pipeline, suggested the administration was trying to derail Donald Trump ahead of the 2024 election. And then, recently, he said that fentanyl is a U.S. problem, not a Mexican problem.
This, of course, is — comes just a couple of months after the two leaders met in Mexico City. I’m wondering what this says about U.S.-Mexico relations — how you go forward when he’s — you know, when he’s saying these kinds of things?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you said a couple things that I want to address. Clearly, the first two are not true. And — and so, I’m just going to put that on the record.
As it relates to the fentanyl, this is — this is not a U.S. problem, it’s a global one. The trafficking of illicit drugs is causing a societal — societal damage, needless death and suffering — and not just here, but also in Mexico.
And so, you know, we want to be really mindful about that. Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall recently — the President’s Homeland Security Advisor and other high-level U.S. delegation, they went — they were in Mexico, and they — they discussed concrete opportunities to detect and dis- — and disrupt and prosecute those who manufacture and traffic fentanyl. And that is a conversation — a delegation that went to Mexico to have this conversation.
And so, you know, just want to be really clear about that. Because that is something that — when we think about fentanyl, it’s something that is affecting many communities.
Look, we see our relationship with Mexico a vital one, an important one. They are a close neighbor.
As you just mentioned, the President was just recently in Mexico City in January to do the summit, not just with the President of Mexico, but also the Prime Minister of Canada. You saw them; they had a very good — a very good summit. You know, good discussion bilaterally when they had that opportunity during the summit.
And so, we’re going to try and continue to grow — to grow that relationship. But, you know, I’m certainly going to speak out and make sure we correct the record on some of the things that have just been said.
Go ahead, Molly.
Q Thanks, Karine. You spoke about that sobering U.N. climate report earlier. Has the President read the reports, been briefed on the report?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s a good question. I would have to ask to see if the President has been briefed on the report. I don’t have an answer for you at this time.
Q You also talked about, you know, the steps this administration has taken on the issue of climate change. But this report indicates that what’s being done so far is not enough to, you know, avert these catastrophic temperatures. Does the administration feel that enough action can be taken in time to avert the Earth from reaching this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s — it’s a great question. And what I will say to that is: This is why the President has made climate change — tackling climate change a priority. And this is why he has done more on climate change and protecting the climate and reversing — trying to reverse the damage that we have seen. He’s made that a priority, and he’s taken more actions than any other President. The re- — his record speaks for that.
There’s always more work that needs to be done. And so, the President is going to continue to focus on — on all the things that we can do to deal with this issue.
At the top, I laid out the different — the different — the different actions the President has taken. And clearly, we’re going to continue to — to move forward.
But again, yes, does more work to — need to be done? Absolutely. And that’s why the President has made this a priority. One of the crises that he mentioned — one of the four crises that he mentioned when he walked into this administration and took action right away.
And so, that’s going to continue. He’s never going to back down.
AIDE: Karine, we have to wrap.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have to wrap? Okay, last question.
Q On the climate announcements today, Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo put out a statement saying that they were not consulted on the Avi Kwa Ame site and that he opposes it being designated as a national monument. Did the White House consult the governor? And if not, why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any meetings to work — to talk through or — or conversations.
So, look, I mean, this is something that I was saying before. This is a President that has taken an aggressive stand on climate and made this a priority.
This is the most engaged — when you think about the engagement that we’ve seen on this issue, is — is important because there’s still much more that needs to be done to tackle this climate crisis. And so, we’re going to continue to do the work.
I can’t speak to any conversation that has been had with the governor. But I can say that the President is taking — taking his — taking — tackling the climate crisis as a — as a priority.
And we’re doing — we’re doing the work like no other President has done. And so, we’re going to continue — continue to move forward in doing that.
Q Does the President usually consult governors on these kinds of decisions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President and — and his Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which deals with governors and deals with mayors and also local elected officials, is in constant communications with — with a — with — to your question, with governors. I just don’t have a readout to give you on that particular conversation or engagement.
All right, everybody. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Q Thanks, Karine.
4:16 P.M. EDT