Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:32 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President was briefed this morning on the troubling reports that Evan Gershkovich has been detained in Russia. Last night, senior White House officials spoke directly with Mr. Gershkovich’s employer, the Wall Street Journal. The State Department has also been in touch with the Wall Street Journal and his family on this matter.
This espionage charges are ridiculous. The targeting of American citizens by Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest — in the strongest terms. We also condemn the Russian government’s continued targeting and repression of journalists.
Embassy Moscow has engaged the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this matter in the — seeking consular access. I want to strongly reiterate that Americans should heed the U.S. government’s warning to not travel to Russia. U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately, as the State Department continues to advise.
Now, it’s been three days since the tragic school shooting in Nashville, and we’ve heard nothing from Republicans in Congress about what they will do to stop our kids from being murdered in our schools and in our communities.
In fact, we’ve now heard a number of Republican members of Congress that they don’t intend to do anything at all. And in North Carolina yesterday, the Republican-controlled state legislature didn’t skip a beat in overriding Governor Cooper’s veto on a dangerous bill that makes communities less safe. That’s the opposite of common sense, and it is outrageous.
As the President has said, we need Congress to act now. Doing nothing when guns are the leading killer — the leading killer of our kids in America is absolutely unacceptable.
We need to pass an assault weapons ban, mandate universal background checks, require safe storage of guns, hold manufacturers accountable. These are just commonsense policies with broad public support.
And Republicans owe — they owe answers to the American people about why they won’t protect our kids. They owe answers to the Nashville families who lost their three kids, the nine-year-olds. They owe answers to Uvalde — the parents of Uvalde. Nineteen kids. They owe answers to the people in Buffalo who, like every other American on a Saturday, went to the grocery store. They owe answers to them and their families — that community.
Again, this is completely unacceptable. And we need to do everything that we can to protect our communities and to protect our kids.
As you all know, tomorrow the President and the First Lady will travel to Rolling Fork, Mississippi. They will visit with first responders, state and local officials, and communities impacted by the recent devastating storms. They’ll survey recovery efforts and reaffirm their commitment to supporting the people of Mississippi as long as it takes.
As you know, President Biden spoke with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and members of the Mississippi delegation over the weekend. The President also approved an — and expedited — an expedited — pardon me — major disaster declaration for Mississippi and ordered federal funding be made available to support emergency response efforts.
Secretary Mayorkas and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell were also on the ground over the weekend.
And we’ll certainly have more — more details on the trip before tomorrow.
Finally, we are heartbroken over the tragic loss of nine brave service members. Our hearts and our prayers go out to their families during this very difficult time, as well as those who served alongside them at Fort Campbell.
The men and women of the 101st Airborne Division represent the best — the best of our nation and play a critical role in our security.
We will always honor our commitments to our service members and their families, and we stand with all who are grieving in the wake of this terrible — truly terrible accident.
And with that, Colleen, you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. Karine, can you tell us any more about the negotiations to get the Wall Street Journal reporter out of Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, due to privacy concerns, we are — we don’t have much more to share at this time. We want to be very mindful of this. I know you’ve guys have heard us say this before. So, again, we just want to be really mindful.
There is a process in place that the State Department is running. You just heard from my colleague, or might be still speaking at this time, at the State Department. And so, again, we’re just going to be very mindful.
Q Okay. On another topic: On the Republican-led measure to end the COVID emergency, the White House had initially signaled opposition to the measure, prompting House Democrats again to — to oppose it. And then, you know, once it ca- — went to the House — or, sorry, the Senate — the President said that he wouldn’t oppose it.
So, I wondered, you know, why was — is the White House signaling opposition again and then coming back around and changing minds? Should there be improved communications, particularly for House Democrats who are — this is the second time now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we — I’m going to do a little bit of a laydown because nothing has changed here. We have been very consistent on this process.
So, look, if the President was planning to veto this legislation, the SAP would have said so. That’s how the SAPs work. That is incredibly consistent in that way. And — and certainly members of Congress know that. They understand that works — how that process works as well.
But that being said, the SAP was issued in January for two bills that would have lifted both the public health emergency and also the national emergency immediately, which, as you know, we oppose; we were very public about that. The bill that just passed would only lift the national emergency, which doesn’t impact Title 42 or COVID authorities, like for testing and for treatments.
We are in a different place and time than we were in January. So that is something that you all know and have reported. We’ve been winding down authorities over the last two weeks — I’m sorry, over the last two months. And the national emergency lifting just a few weeks before the public health one will not impact our efforts to do so in an orderly way.
And that’s what we’ve been very clear about when we talk about Title 42, making sure that we do that process in an orderly way.
Again, nothing has changed. We were very clear with the SAP that we put out back in January. And so, we have been very consistent with how we use the SAP and how we move forward with it.
Q Do you think that House Democrats — somehow the House Democrats aren’t getting the message, I guess. So, is there better communication that needs to happen between the White House and the House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll say this, Colleen: We have been in regular touch and tracking this with the — with the House and also the Senate leaders since we issued the SAP back in January. And that was — you know, we’ve always been very clear with them as far — as I said, as far as — as early as January.
Look, the President is not going to veto a bill. It will say — if the President is going to veto a bill, we will say it in the SAP. And that’s how SAP works, and we’ve been very consistent in this past two years.
I’m going to go ahead to Lucey. I just want to let you know we are thinking about your colleague. And clearly, he’s in our thoughts. And so, I’m going to give you the second question.
Q We appreciate that. Thank you, Karine. Can you tell us anything about the President’s reaction to the detention of Evan Gershkovich? And has the President engaged with State on next steps or reached out to the family at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I will tell you that — as you all know, as I mentioned in my statement, the President has been briefed. He learned about this during the President’s –presidential daily briefing with his national security team and advisors, who normally provide the daily briefing. I don’t have anything else to share outside of that.
Q And are you concerned at all? Obviously, this is the first detention of a U.S. reporter on espionage charges in a very long time. Do you think this marks a turning point or a new low for the relationship with the U.S. and Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we don’t — we didn’t — we don’t have any specific indication that journalists would be targeted.
As we know, this is incredibly, sadly, common for Russia to detain Americans. And that’s why we’ve been very clear about — about Americans not going to Russia. It is not safe for Americans right now in Russia. It is a Level 4. My colleague at the State Department spoke to this just moments ago.
Again, we’re going to continue, the State Department is going to continue to reiterate that it is not safe at this time to be in Russia or to travel in Russia.
Q Thank you. In regards to the Wall Street Journal reporter being detained, would the administration call this a hostage situation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Same — same — I mean, he’s being wrong- — he’s being detained. And — and we have been very clear there’s — you know, there’s no reason to believe that those charges are accurate, the espionage — are accurate.
I don’t want to speak beyond that. And certainly, we will have more information when we get it. There are privacy concerns, so we just want to be very mindful on how we speak about this.
Q And John Kirby mentioned this earlier. This is not a new tactic —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — from Putin and Russia, but this is the first time we’ve seen Russia detain an American following the prisoner swaps that secured the release of Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner.
Is there a concern here at the White House that if the U.S. continues to engage in prisoner swaps, Russia will be emboldened to detain Americans as leverage?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, detaining Americans, as my colleague said — my NSC colleague said — is a tactic Russia has used for a long time. It is nothing new.
When you think about Paul Whelan, you think about Trevor Reed, they were taken prior — to the prior administration — under the prior administration.
And so, as you all know, we’re still working very hard to bring Paul home. That is something that we are committed to. You heard that from the President. You heard that from the Secretary of State. You’ve heard that from my colleagues at NSC.
And so, right now, our best tool to prevent this is to make sure that we are discouraging anybody to travel to Russia, and we’ll continue to be clear about that.
But again, this is a tactic that they have been using for some time now.
Q Does this complicate Paul Whelan’s situation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, as you know, those conversations are incredibly sensitive, and so we’re going to be very mindful. We are still very much committed in bringing Paul home. He was wrongfully detained. We have been very clear about that. But not going to get into details on — on those conversations.
Q Yeah. And last one. Is the administration reaching out to others for support — for instance, Governor Bill Richardson, who has been involved in other releases before? Is that something the administration is (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any outside conversations to speak to. You heard directly from the State Department. This is something, when it comes to these types of events, that the State Department runs and leads. So I will — and also with our NSC team here. So I will leave it to them to speak to that.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Karine, is it the administration’s view that this reporter is being wrongfully held? Or is that still a determination that’s in progress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So there’s a process that the State Department runs, and we’re going to let that process move forward. So, I’m not going to get beyond that.
Q Okay. And then, another topic. Do you have any response to the article that was written by Senator Joe Manchin, where he — particularly the conclusion that he made that the administration is improperly putting the Inflation Reduction Act measures into place right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let me just first say we have a respectful, a productive relationship with Senator Joe Manchin. And we are very proud of the Inflation Reduction Act and our shared goals and values that the President signed into law, as you know, this past summer.
And a couple of things that we are incredibly proud of: promoting America’s energy security, strengthening supply chains, creating good-paying manufacturing jobs, and investing in energy communities and towns across America that have been left behind.
You hear the President talk about building an economy from the bottom up, the middle out, and making sure no one is left behind. This is what the Inflation Reduction Act shows and proves.
And so we’re going to continue to work with Senator Manchin on those shared priorities and values, including reducing the deficit and the permitting reform, which are both — both part of the President’s budget.
Again, we are — we are very proud of the work that we’ve been able to do with the senator. And I’ll leave it there.
Q And finally, do you have any reaction to the federal judge striking down part of Obamacare, in particular the part about providing certain preventative care to people?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, a couple of things. We do have some things that we want to put out there. DOJ and HHS are reviewing the decision made by the judge in Texas earlier today.
But we want to be very clear. This — this case is yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act, which has been the law of the land for 13 years now — 13 years. In fact, as all of you guys know, the Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the ACA three times. They’ve had to do that three times in those past 13 years.
And because of the ACA, you see 150 million Americans have access to preventative care, like cancer and heart disease screenings. Sixty percent of people use a preventive care service under the ACA every year. That’s 60 percent of Americans across the country.
Preventive care saves lives. It saves families money and protects and improves our health.
This case gets between patients and their doctors. That’s what it get — it gets involved in a decision that patients and their doctors should be making. It’s yet another attack on the ability of Americans to make their own healthcare choices.
Efforts to undermine this requirement are wrong, and they take us backwards, not forwards. So, the administration will continue to fight to improve healthcare and make it more affordable for working families, even in the face of these attacks by these special interest groups that we see out there.
Go ahead, Phil.
Q Hey, Karine. One on what happened with Russia and then one on banking. The first one: Can you give us a sense of when the administration was first informed that this happened? And then also, what the timeline was for the first time you guys reached out to your counterparts in Russia to flag this as an issue as your pushed for (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have a specific timeline for you at this time. I can tell you that the President was — was briefed about — on this during his presidential daily briefing this morning. Besides that, don’t have any specific breakdown on — on when the counterparts — when State Department or NSC connected with their counterpart.
But look, this is a priority for this administration. Regardless of whether someone has received a “wrongful detention designation,” the State Department seeks consular access for all Americans held abroad. And that’s what we’re waiting to do. That’s what we’re fighting for, to get — get that consul representation for Evan at this time.
Q And then on the — the bank regulatory proposals the President directed towards the banking agencies today, it was made repeatedly clear that you guys — that the agencies have the authority under law to implement those without any congressional legislation. If that’s the case and if you’re attacking the former administration for rolling it back, why did it take until a crisis to decide that these are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —
Q — things that needed to be done?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just say: Unfortunately, the Trump administration regulators weakened many important commonsense requirements and supervision for regional banks, like Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, whose recent failures led to that — to — to that.
We have experts out there who have said those rollbacks were a cause of a recent — of the recent bank failures. That’s what we’re hearing from experts out there themselves.
So, just want to be very clear. It’s not just us who are saying that. That’s what the experts, as well, are saying.
So, today, the President is urging the banking regulators to consider reforms that will reduce the risk of future banking crisis, stronger liquidity and capital requirements, annual — annual stress tests, living wills, and stronger supervision.
So, again, because of what we saw done by the Trump administration back in 2018 —
Remember what happened in 2008 and what the Obama-Biden administration were able to do. They were able to strengthen some of those requirements, make it stronger. And the Trump administration rolled that back. And experts themselves say that because of those rollbacks that we saw in the Trump administration, it led to these recent failures.
Q No, I understand that. But experts were saying that before the Silicon Valley issues as well, that this was potentially problematic. And you guys have been in office — in office for more than two years. Why did you wait until now to send these suggestions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. Look, the Trump nominees had the supervision portfolio at the Fed for much of those past two years. So that’s one reason.
The second reason is the Fed Vice Chair Ba- — Barr only arrived in July of 2022. That’s a — that’s another part of that.
But, you know, I am — I’m glad, you know, folks agree with the — with the regula- — regulations and supervisions that need to be strengthened. That’s what we need to see. And that’s what the President has asked the bank regulators to do and the Treasury Department. And that’s what we’re seeing today.
And so, the President is committed to make sure that we keep our banks resilient, and that’s what you’re seeing today.
Q Karine, we heard from the Pentagon — excuse me, we heard from Vladimir Putin’s top spokesperson in Russia today saying that Evan Gershkovich was caught in his words, quote, “red handed.” Just from this podium, to rebut that, can you say declaratively that Gershkovich never worked for and does not work for the United States government?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just said the — the charge of espionage is ridiculous. We — we cannot — that is not accurate, and we find that incredibly ridiculous. And so, we’re going to be very clear about that.
This is something that Russia has done all the time — many times before, right? Which is —
Q But just for clarification for the question. Has he ever worked for the United States government or does he right now in any form — even to put to bed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is: The charges against him are ridiculous. We have been very clear about that. I’m not going to go — get into more specifics. We’ve been very clear in my topper, in — I was very clear in my statement that those are ridiculous and they’re not accurate.
And right now, we’re going to do everything that we can to — to get more details and — on this — on the circums- — on the circumstances, and that’s where we’re going to be at this time.
Q Let me ask you one other question if I can, following up on a briefing that just took place across the river at the Pentagon. We heard from the Pentagon now that an additional six American service members were wounded, suffering TBI — traumatic brain injuries — as a function of those Iranian-backed, in the words of the White House, attacks on coalition bases in Syria right now.
How — because Iran continues to attack United States targets and American service members right now, the effort has been to deter them, to stop them. It has not deterred them. So how is that strategy working? And shouldn’t there be a higher cost for Iran to pay?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’ll say this: We — we have a variety of tools to protect U.S. personnel and deter attacks.
And we’ve been — we’ve — we will use those tools. We work every day to protect our people and deter attacks.
President Biden has taken a deliberate approach, using a variety of tools, to reduce risk to our personnel and make clear that we will hold anyone who attacks us responsible. And you’ve heard that from the President. You’ve heard that from the administration on down.
The President will not hesitate to take action to protect U.S. personnel and interests overseas, and he will always take action at a time and place of his choosing. And that is the commitment that the President has to service members and to the American people.
Q I want to defer to my colleagues, but just to — just to push a teeny bit on that, I recognize that that is his priority and his commitment that he will do it at the time and place of his choosing, and the intention is to deter them. But clearly, it hasn’t deterred them because it continues, as evidenced by us learning about six more Americans who were wounded during those attacks. So does there need — in simple terms, does there need to be a higher cost for Iran to pay?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again, we have a variety of tools that — that — that we can use here to protect our U.S. personnel and our U.S. and — and our U.S. service members, and we’re going to use them. And that’s what we’re going to do to deter these attacks. And so I will leave it there. Will not get into —
Q Thanks for indulging me. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — specifics.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask why the Biden administration wants the FDIC to spare community banks from the special assessment to cover, you know, the insuring — insurance deposits for Silicon Valley and Signature Banks. I mean, the default is that all banks pay. Why not broaden the base?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I just want to — are you asking about a particular bank in — a particular bank here?
Q No, I mean — I mean, the Biden administration earlier was talking about the FDIC sparing community banks from the special assessment to cover the costs of insuring deposits at Silicon Valley and Signature Banks. Since the — since the default generally is that all banks will pay, to broaden the base — the FDIC does have some discretion, I understand. But I — I wanted to understand why is — why is the administration encouraging that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: Look, the D- — the DIF — the DIF has more than enough to cover — right? — any — any Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank deposits that cannot be paid using funds from the banks or the sale of their assets. And the FDIC has said any losses that the DIF will be — will be recovered by special assessment on the banks, not the taxpayers.
We think it’s important to make sure that these community banks, these regional banks, are also put in a strong place, in a resil- — are also resilient as well. And so I’m going to leave it there. I’m not going to go into specifics onto what the FDIC is doing. That is something for them to make that decision.
As you know, DIF is an important fund — insurance fund that the big banks pay into. But I’m not going to get into specifics on — to their — to their process.
Q On immigration, if I may. Title 42 is coming — or, the end of Title 42 is a few weeks away. Before — a few months ago, before announcing some of the asylum changes, the administration was warning that illegal crossings could climb up to about 13,000 a day. Do those numbers — are those concerns for those kind of numbers still stand? Or does the administration feel that with some of the changes involved that — that you guys have this under control? I mean, are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So one of the things that I talked about very recently is how the policies that the President has put in for- — forth recently are working. If you think about the parolee program, you think about Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Cuba, it’s down by more than 97 percent. And it’s down by 70 percent for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
So what we’re seeing is the President is using the tools that have been presented to him that he’s able to use from the executive level without the help of Congress — Republicans in Congress who have gotten in the way and have not helped at all to deal with this issue — the program that he’s put forth, we see them working. The data shows that.
Now, is there more work to be done? Absolutely. That’s why we are always asking Congress to — to act. The President, again, put forth a comprehensive immigration reform on day one. That’s how seriously he took this issue. And they refused to come to the table.
So there’s a — there’s a way to move forward and really deal with this issue, but Republicans in Congress refuse to do that.
But again, the programs that we have put forth are working. And — and now we are — we’re — we are moving forward, and DHS is moving a process forward to what it would look like once Title 42 is lifted.
Q I mean, just simply, does the administration feel prepared for the end of Title 42?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that is what DHS is working on. That is what — that is what — what their — their processes are going to show and be. As you know, it’s going to be lifted on May 11. And that is something that the President is looking towards DHS to make sure that we’re ready to go by May 11th.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. On Evan Gershkovich, has he been designated as wrongfully detained? And is Roger Carstens working on his case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first of all, there’s a process that the State Department is running. We got to let that process go. My colleague at the State Department spoke to this already, moments ago.
So we got to let that process — we have to make sure that we get the information — the most important thing at this moment is to — to get a consular to Evan, and that’s what we’re working on.
Q There’s actually a big push by the Foley Foundation and the families of other detainees from — those who believe their family members have been wrongfully detained abroad — for the Levinson Act to be reformed on Capitol Hill to provide it with more resources and for wrongful detainees to be designated more quickly. Is that something the administration supports?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share about the Levinson Act. What I can say is — and I said this moments ago: Regardless of whether someone has received a wrongfully detention designation, the State Department seeks consular access for all Americans who are held abroad.
That is a commitment that you will see from the State Department, and that is a commitment that you’ll see from — from this President. And that’s what we’re working on right now for Evan.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two questions. First, related to the President’s trip to Mississippi, Rolling Fork is a city that is predominantly Black, and the median income is $38,000. There are many communities like Rolling Fork that are, you know,
susceptible to these type of natural disasters caused by climate change. What is the administration’s — what does the administration say to these type of communities who are concerned that they could see the same type of devastation that we saw in Rolling Fork?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we — we’ve been very clear: Our hearts go out to those families who lost so much. As we all know, it is one of the — unfortunately, one of the poorest areas in the country. And that is something that the President understands and that his administration understands.
And I think it is important to also note that that’s why the President’s economic agenda is so important. That’s why the President has been very clear on how he sees this economy growing, making sure we don’t leave communities like Rolling Fork behind. And you see that in every policy that the President has been able — piece of legislation that he’s made available to get passed, that it does not leave anybody behind. It invests in communities like Rolling Fork. It invests in making sure that we have — that we are creating good-paying jobs.
And that’s what you’re going to hear. Especially as we talk about the Invest in America tour, that’s what you’re going to hear from our secretaries across the administration who are traveling this week and the next three weeks. That’s what you’re going to hear from the President, the Vice President, the First Lady.
And we’re going to make it really clear that this is how we’re going to invest in America, this is how we’re going to invest in communities like Rolling Fork.
And also, it makes it so important. If you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, we think about fighting climate change, that is one of the most — the biggest — it’s so historic — right? — because it does the most — piece of legislation, now law — to fight climate change.
And so, this is something that we’re going to continue to fight for and continue to work towards, as we — as we move forward in this administration.
Q And Kentucky — the Kentucky legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a bill that restricts aspects of trans youth
gender-affirming care and the use of bathrooms.
I know that the White House released a proclamation for Trans Day of Visibility. There is a march happening tomorrow to commemorate this day but also to protest these types of bills that are continuing to be passed and advanced in legislatures across the country.
What is the White House’s message to these lawmakers that are passing these bills and to those who are taking to the streets to protest them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, first of all, we — we support peaceful protest. We think it’s important for Americans and people just across the country to make their voices heard, just as long it’s peaceful.
And we’ve been very clear about these anti-LGBTQ bills that we’re seeing in state legislators — state legislatures across the country, in particular these anti-trans bills, as they attack trans kids, as they attack trans parents. It is — it is shameful. And it is unacceptable.
As you mentioned, tomorrow’s Trans Visibility Day. On a day that we should be lifting up our trans kids, our trans youth, and making sure that they feel seen, we’re seeing more and more of these hateful, hateful bills.
And that’s what Republicans want to spend their time on. They don’t want to talk about lowering costs. They don’t want to talk about actually making Americans’ lives better. They want to take away people’s freedoms.
And one of the things that we saw during the midterm elections is that people don’t want their freedoms to be taken. They want us to fight for their freedoms. And so, it is shameful. It is disturbing. And our hearts go out to those — the trans community as they are under attack right now.
But this is a President who has said many times before he has their backs. He will continue to have their backs. And he will continue to fight for them. And his record shows that.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the President plan on vetoing the House bill that would overturn D.C.’s police reform law?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, that is something that he is planning to do. And, as I’ve mentioned — I’ve mentioned many times before that — that we — I think a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that he was looking at it.
But the President believes that building community trust is integral to fighting crime. That is something that you’ve heard him say. The President believes that we should fund the police and give law enforcement the resources they need for effective accounta- — accountable community policing, and at the same time should not weaken penalties for gun crimes.
So while he does not support every provision in the D.C. policing bill, he will not support congressional Republicans’ efforts to overturn commonsense police reforms such as banning chokeholds, limiting use of force and deadly force, requiring the timely reas- — release of bodily-wor- — -worn camera footage, and requiring officer training on de-escalation and use of force. So Congress should respect D.C.’s rights to pass measures that improve public safety and public trust. And the President will veto this resolution if it does reach his desk.
Q You said — quick follow-up. You said that he doesn’t support all of the provisions in the bill. Could you be specific there? Just because the police unions are saying that this would strip their ability to collectively bargain around disciplinary hearings.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have the specifics to share with you at this time. But, look, the President has been clear that he believes this is an integral — is very integral to have the trust — the community to have the trust in fighting crime. And that is something that is very important. Trust should be at the center of this as we’re talking about police reform.
And so, again, he doesn’t agree with all the provisions, with every provisions, but if it comes to his desk, he will indeed veto.
I’m going to continue going to the back. Go ahead.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Thanks, Karine. So, earlier, you mentioned in your opening statements Republicans not taking any action when it comes to gun violence. Well, Se- — I know the President talked with Senator Blackburn earlier this week.
We got an email today saying that Senator Blackburn is introducing the SAFE School Act with the other Tennessee senator. The bill establishes a $900 million grant program. It would allow both public and private schools to train and hire veterans and former law enforcement officers to protect schools. Does the administration have a stance on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to be very clear here. The President has — has said over and over again — look, let me even step back a little bit further. We have done two dozen executive orders in the past two years — this President has — to do everything that he can to protect communities and our kids. And as we know, we can’t do it alone. The President is limited on this. So we need Congress to act.
And the things that we know are very popular that it will actually assist or help prevent gun violence is — one of them is banning assault weapons, right? That — that we know for a fact — when it was done in 1994, for those 10 years, gun violence went down. And when that — when that — when that law sunset, it rolls back up for — again. So we know what works.
And that’s why we’ve been calling — the President has been calling for the assault weapons ban. And this is something that Republicans won’t move on.
And not just that. There’s other commonsense gun laws — reform: requiring background checks on all gun sales, requiring safe storage of guns, eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on the streets.
These are weapons of war. Weapons of war. They should not be in our communities. They should not be in our schools. They should not be in streets.
So that’s what we’re calling for. We’re calling for actual real solutions here — real solutions that we actually know work and the majority of Americans support.
Q But is more funding for school security guards a solution that you would consider?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I — look, the President signed the Safer Communities Act — right? — this — this — this summer. It was a bipartisan piece of legislation. And when — even when we celebrated signing that — when the President celebrated signing that into law, he actually said we need to build on that and do more. So, yes, we need to do more.
But we know what needs to happen: Banning assault weapons is one of the — one of the clearest ways — that’s what the data shows us — that we can get weapons of war off the streets. And that’s what we’re asking for.
Go ahead, Aurelia.
Q Thank you so much. You just said that the majority of Americans support banning assault weapons, but, like, the most recent polls are not very clear about that. There are even polls saying that a majority of Americans actually oppose assault weapons [ban]. And there is a gun culture in this country that is unique in the developed world. So what makes the President so confident that he can make the case that these weapons of war, as you say, don’t belong in civilian hands?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because the — it’s the President’s — he believe, as President, he needs to do everything that he can to keep communities safe. He needs to do everything that he cans to keep our kids safe. And we actually know what works.
And what I just listed out are actually popular. These are things that Americans want to see. We’ve seen that poll after poll after poll. And not only that — you actually see some gun owners who want to see some commonsense gun reform. We’ve seen that in polling as well.
And so, look, we see — we believe — the President believes that we have to do everything that we can to stop this epidemic that we’re seeing in our streets, to stop this epidemic that we’re seeing in our schools, to stop this epidemic that we’re seeing in our churches.
And this is one way that we — not even “way” — multiple ways that we feel that we can get to a place where we’re doing — we’re keeping that promise in keeping Americans safe.
Q So, earlier this week, Reuters reported that the administration has become increasingly frustrated with Mexico in a dispute over energy trade. You know, Reuters reported that USTR is planning on making a final deal. Is the U.S. prepared to use tariffs if Mexico won’t budge?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share on that. I’m not going to — I’m not going to comment on — on —
Q I guess, more broadly, is the administration at all frustrated with Mexico, kind of, over energy, kind of, also, you know, fentanyl? How are they working with Mexico in that sort of realm? And, you know, those are pretty big policy areas. I guess, just where — where does the administration stand with Mexico right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we — the President was just
in Mexico recently, back in January. You saw him at the summit with the President of Mexico, AMLO, and also the Prime Minister of Canada. And you saw them interact. They had a very, you know, productive meeting, a productive summit. And Mexico is one of our closest ally. There are things that we’re going to agree on, and there are things that we’re not going to disagr- — we are going to disagree on.
I don’t have anything more to share on those specific items. What I can say is that, again, they are one of our closest allies, and we will continue to — to have a close relationship.
Go ahead, Molly.
Q Thanks, Karine. Yesterday we saw the First Lady in Nashville attending a vigil in the community that just saw this shooting take place. Does the President intend to also go to the community to meet with families and pay his respects to the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t have anything to share on travel to Nashville at this time. As you saw, the First Lady was in Nashville yesterday to of- — to mourn with the families, offer her condolences.
She thought it was important to go and to be there with the family. This is something that she and the President has done far too often in the first two years. And the message that she sent — that we sent clearly to Nashville is that we will be with them today, tomorrow, and the upcoming weeks.
We know how difficult it is to — when a community deals with that type of devastation — gun violence devastation — and you never fully recover. And we will be with them for as long as it takes.
Q Speaker McCarthy also spoke with reporters on Capitol Hill about the shooting. And he said there needs to be a conversation on mental health and that he doesn’t think a piece of legislation can solve this. “I think [the] nation, working together,” to solve problems that are much bigger than us.
Does the White House have a response —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, say that last part. Problems that are — say that last part.
Q “I think a nation, working together,” — “working together solves a problem that is much bigger than us.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we agree that working together — Congress and — Republicans and Democrats working together to solve a big problem, like our kids being killed, is important.
Look, this is a President that he — you’ve heard him talk about mental health and how important it is to deal with that issue. This is an administration that’s put that front and center in — in how we — we see the needs of Amer- — of Americans across the country, especially of what Americans have gone through with this — the pandemic over the last three years.
But when it comes to this issue, when it comes to gun violence, it’s just silence from the other side. When it comes to banning assault weapons and actually doing the work to deal with getting weapons of war — again, weapons of war off the street — they come up with excuses.
And so, we’re ready to work with them. The President has always said he’s ready to work in a bipartisan way to deal with an issue, again, that’s killing our kids.
So, if he wants to have a good-faith conversation on that, we’re willing to have it.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I’ll come back — I’ll come back.
Q I wanted to also ask about some comments that Speaker McCarthy made on Capitol Hill. He was talking about the debt-limit talks, and he said he didn’t know how much more easier he could make it for the White House. And then he said would bring lunch to the White House and, quote, “would make it soft food,” if that’s what the President wanted. It’s being interpreted as a dig at the President’s age.
So, I wanted to give you a chance to respond but also just to ask, like, what kind of effect comments like this have on these talks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, I think the President is able to pick out his own Starbucks. So I’ll say that.
And what we really need from — from Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans is to see their budget. Where’s the budget? They come up with excuses. And we — we — I’m sure you guys — you guys saw this morning how it’s going around about what the Speaker said in January, how important it is. And I’ll quote: “We should have to pass a budget so the country can see the direction we’re going.”
Remember, the President said, you know, we want to see what they value, we want to see exactly what it is that they want to cut. So let’s have that budget discussion. What does the — what does the Speaker want to discuss? What are the specific cuts? What taxes does he want to raise?
It’s been three weeks. We’ve had our budget out. The President put out his budget on March 9th. Three weeks, and we have seen nothing from the House Republicans. Nothing.
Q So you’re saying you want to see, like hard figures before you would sit down —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it’s not just us. It’s the American people. We need to see transparency. Where’s the — where’s their budget? Where is — what is it that they want to do? What is — how do they see being fiscally responsible? How does that look for them?
We have our budget. And not only that — the President put a budget, we — and it says — the budget shows that — how he’s going to lower the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years. And we laid that out for the American people. They keep coming up with excuses.
Q And does a comment or quip like this from the Speaker make you guys think he’s serious about talks? (Inaudible.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s up to him? I mean, he — I mean, he’s speaking to the — to the American people here. Right? That’s something that he has to answer to the American people: if he’s serious or not. We are. We showed our values by putting out the President’s budget.
So that’s — that’s for him to respond to, not for me.
Go ahead, George.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This is not a life-or-death question, but since it’s Opening Day, I have to ask.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh.
Q This is the third Opening Day the President has not gone to throw out the first pitch. Will we see him at a game at all this season? Or is that one presidential tradition that he’s casting aside?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I agree with you, it’s not life or death. (Laughs.)
I don’t have anything to preview or announce from here about that particular question.
Okay, go ahead.
Q Thank you. On artificial intelligence. One thousand of the world’s smartest people are saying that AI (inaudible) pose profound risks to society and humanity. They want you guys to regulate it. Will you?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’re talking about the letter that was released yesterday?
So, look, it highlights a number — a number of challenges addressed directly in — in the administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, which was released last October, as I’m sure you’ve been following, Peter. It includes principles and practices AI creators can use to ensure protections related to safety, civil rights, civil liberties are integrated into AI systems from start to finish.
Right now, there’s a comprehensive process that is underway to ensure a cohesive federal government approach to AI-related risks and opportunities, including how to ensure that AI innovation and deployment proceeds with appropriate prudence and safety foremost in mind.
And so, we’re going to — I don’t have anything to announce at this point at this time. But there’s a comprehensive process in place.
Q So, announcements aside, there is now a — there’s an expert from the Machine Intelligence Research Institute who says that if there is not an indefinite pause on AI development — this is a quote — “literally everyone on Earth will die.” Would you agree that does not sound good? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Your delivery, Peter, is quite — it’s quite something.
Q It sounds crazy. But is it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All I can say is that there’s a comprehensive process in place. We put out a blueprint back in October, as you know. I don’t have anything to share.
We have seen the letter. We understand what their concerns are. Again, a comprehensive process. We’re going to let that — we’ll let that flow.
Q So is President Biden worried that artificial
intelligence could become self-aware?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we are — again, there’s a comprehensive process. We are taking this very seriously. We put our blueprint out back in October. I just don’t want to get ahead of our findings and what that — what that’s going to look like. But it is a cohesive federal government approach to AI-related risks, as you just laid out in a very dramatic way. But clearly — (laughter) — we’re tr- —
Q Is there anything more dramatic than (inaudible) —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you just read it and —
Q — literally everyone on Earth will die? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Pretty — pretty dramatic. Pretty dramatic. (Laughter.)
We’re going to move on. But thank you, Peter. Thank you for the drama.
Q Can I ask a — can I ask a follow-up about Evan? Sorry, a little more serious topic. You’ve said that you’re pressing for consular access. I assume that means it hasn’t been granted yet and he hasn’t — no one from the U.S. government has been able to be in touch with him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I — I’m just not going to get into any specifics from here. All I can say: It is our commitment to any — any American who is — who — someone who — who has received or not — who have not received wrongfully dict- — detention designation. That’s what we’re going to fight for. That is the thing that we’re going to fight for to make sure that they have a consular access.
Q Of course. But just the language from here and the State Department has been that you’re “seeking it.” So the — the assumption would be —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And —
Q — that you haven’t gotten it yet. Is that correct?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I’m — I’m just going to leave it to what you’ve heard from me, what you’ve heard from the State Department. I’m just going to just leave it there.
Q Okay. Have you summoned the Russian ambassador in for discussions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything to share on that.
Q And are you — you were asked this a little bit earlier, but I just wanted to clarify: The White House is not concerned that the Brittney Griner swap made Americans in Russia a more appealing target for the Kremlin?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we want to be very careful here. We do not want to politicize this. This is not about politics here. As I said earlier, detaining Americans is a — is a Russian tactic that we — that they have used for some time now.
And I mentioned this earlier as well to one of your colleagues: Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed were taken under the prior administration. And as you all know, we’re working very hard to get Paul home. We are committed to getting Paul home.
And our best tool right now is — to protect American — Americans is prevention. That’s why we’ve also been clear about not traveling to Russia and to leave Russia if you are currently an American and you’re currently there. Russia is not a safe — is not a safe place for Americans.
The State Department just, also earlier, said if there are Americans in Russia who want to leave, the State Department will assist in them leaving the country. And so that’s what we’re going to focus on, is prevention. And we should not — we should not be politicizing what is currently happening to Evan.
Q Do we have any idea what precipitated this? I mean, I’m assuming he’s been working there for quite some time. Do you have any idea about the motivations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t —
Q Why now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — don’t — don’t have any further information to share.
Go ahead, JJ.
Q Two questions. One on Tesla and one on Russian grain. I’m wondering if you have a reaction on these two news stories.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q Some new reporting from us that Tesla is looking to build an EV plant in the U.S., and its plans include a Chinese battery company. Any reaction on that one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not seen that reporting. I would have to check in with the team before I can respond.
Q And then on Russian grain, any reaction to the news that U.S. crop traders are stopping some operations in Russia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, I would have to check with our team on that particular story about Russia grain and the U.S. — the U.S. companies connected to that.
But thank you for the question.
Q Hi. I have two questions. One about Colombia. But first, a follow-up on Mexico —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q — about these reports from Reuters. In July 2022 — that’s when the — the United States requested consultations with Mexico over the — the new energy policies. Do you have a sense of if these conversations are advancing, if there has been progress or if there is a stalemate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again — well, I’ll say this: Our relationship with Mexico is very important. They are a close partner, one of our closest allies, right? The geo- — geography — you know, as you think about that.
But just don’t have any updates on those particular conversations at this time.
Q Thank you. And about Colombia, do you have any reaction to the attack by the ELN group to — nine government soldiers died, and the attack took place yesterday. Has there been any conversations with the Colombian government?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we offer our condolences to the families of the nine soldiers who lost their lives as a result of this attack. The U.S. condemns this attack against the public forces of Colombia and stands in solidarity with the government of Colombia. I don’t have any conversations to read out at this time.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. So H.R. 1 passed the House earlier today. And the House Speaker said it would open up permits for drilling and lower energy prices. And it was bipartisan. So if it’s bipartisan, why wouldn’t the President sign it if it hits his desk?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I le- — I talked about this earlier in the week about — specifically about our thoughts about H.R. 1. I don’t have anything else beyond that to share.
You know, what — what I stated, I think two days ago, stands. Just don’t have anything else to share.
Q So then, on the debt ceiling. It’s been 58 days since there was a meeting between the House Speaker and the President on the debt ceiling. You know, we’re talking about the full faith and credit of the United States. We’re talking about, you know, a serious issue. Why not — why doesn’t the President just call for a meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we’re talking – you’re right. We’re talking about the full credit —
Q Well, why doesn’t the President just call for a meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, let me — let me answer. I heard your question. We are talking about the full credit of the — of this nation, which is why we believe that Congress should — should — should not hold — hold this up. It should be done without conditions. There should be no negotiations.
Both — Democrats joined Republicans the — the — three times in the last administration to lift the dea- — debt ceiling. That’s what should be happening.
It is their constitutional duty to get this done. We should not be negotiating on the debt ceiling. We should just not be doing that. The President has been clear.
Now, again, if — if Republicans in the House want to talk about the budget and how they see moving forward with the budget in a fiscally responsible way, we’re happy to have that conversation. We’ve said it over and over again.
It has been three weeks. Where is their budget? Show us the budget. They have not been able to do that.
Again, two separate issues. The debt ceiling is something that is their constitutional duty to do on behalf of taxpayers, on behalf of the American people. They should get that done without conditions and without having to negotiate.
Q Thank you. I think I only need one question. I have a question about the Taiwanese President Tsai. I understand the White House thinks this is not uncommon, this has happened several times before. But my question is that — this is the very first time the Taiwanese President is meeting Speaker of the House on U.S. soil, who is the third in succession of U.S. leadership hierarchy. How do you explain that this the same as things that happened before?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, President Tsai’s visit is going to be private and it’s unofficial. So, I’m not going to speak to who she’s going to be meeting with. And so that is something for — for her — for her office to speak to, the Tai- — Taiwanese authority to speak to, and for any of the congressional members. So I’m not going to speak to that.
What I can speak to is that we see no reason for Beijing to turn this transit — this transit, which is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy and practice, into something that is not. They should not overreact.
We have seen this happen, at least with this current President, six times. Six times she has made this transit. There has been no change to our One China policy; it still stands. And, again, there is no reason for China to overreact.
Q Just a quick follow-up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q I understand that the White House does not confirm there was a phone call between National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Wang Yi of China. I understand that. My question is that — and I also understand that the White House does not issue a readout for every single call. My question is that: What is the criteria when it comes to the White House, that values the transparency so much, that — the ones that issue a readout and one — ones that don’t, in general?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just first say I’m not — I’m not — I’m not going to be confirming a call from here. I just want to be very clear. My colleague said this — my NSC colleague said this very thing at the podium yesterday. And, yes, we do believe in transparency. But, again, I’m not — I — I don’t have a call to confirm at this time.
Q Thank you, Karine. I have two questions.
First, another readout thing. So the Vietnamese newspapers have been reporting that President Biden had a call with the head of the Vietnamese Communist Party. And we haven’t seen the White House release anything yet just, you know, to see if that call did happen. And will there be a readout? Because it’s kind of a big — big deal.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just check with the — with the team on that. I don’t have anything further.
Q Second question on Russia.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q So, on April 1st, this Saturday, Russia is set to take on the presidency of this Security Council in the U.N. Does U.S. believe this is acceptable? And how are you preparing to deal with Russia’s new presidency next year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I do have a couple of things to say about that. We urge Russia to conduct itself professionally during its scheduled presidency in April and for the Council to continue to impor- — im- — to — to continue its important work on a number of issues of peace, security across the world.
That said, we expect Russia to continue to use its seat on the Council to spread disinformation and to try to distract from the attempt to justify its actions in Ukraine and the war crimes members of its forces are committing and its outrageous violations of the U.N. Charter. A country that flagrantly violates the U.N. Charter and invades its neighbor has no place on the U.N. Security Council.
Unfortunately, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, and no feasible international legal pathway exists to change that reality. That is what we are living with, currently.
As unpalatable as it may be to see Russia presiding over the Council, the reality is this is a largely ceremonial position which rotates to Council members month by month in alphabetical order. And that’s what we’re seeing in April.
The United States will hold the Council presidency in August of 2023, which I’m sure you are tracking.
Let’s try and call on somebody I haven’t called on before.
Q One more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, one more? Okay, straight in the middle. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine.
Q Thank you.
Q Oh. Me or —
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You guys decide. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Karine. The President did express great happiness about the release of Paul Rusesabagina from Rwanda. Does he plan to meet with the hero of “Hotel Rwanda,” now just released from prison, at the White House any time in the two — next two weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So don’t — don’t have a meeting to preview or to — to announce at this time. But we were — we were — to your point, we were very satisfied with the release, but don’t have anything to share about a meeting — an upcoming meeting with the President.
Q Does the President play any significant role in this in talking to President Kagame?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have — I won’t have anything to share about the process and the specifics of his release at this time.
Okay. Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend.
3:28 P.M. EDT