Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:31 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s about 1:30. Right on time for all of you. (Laughs.) Oh, boy. Happy Monday. Okay.
Today, President Biden released a statement welcoming Finland as NATO’s 31st Ally. This is a historic day for the NATO Alliance, and it comes on the 74th anniversary of NATO’s founding.
Welcoming Finland to NATO has been a priority for the President. He has been actively engaged throughout this process, hosting Finland’s president here at the White House several times.
The Senate acted in near-record time to advance the ratification process. And Finland’s ratification process, which took less than one year, is the fastest ratification process in NATO’s modern history.
We also look forward to welcoming Sweden as a NATO member as soon as possible and encourage Turkey and Hungary to conclude their ratification process without delay.
Both Finland and Sweden are strong democracies with highly capable militaries, who share our values and vision for the world.
As President Biden said, when Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO. He was wrong. Today, we are more unified than ever, and we will continue to preserve transatlantic security, defend every inch of NATO territory, and meet any and all challenges we face.
Now, to support Ukraine, today the Biden-Har- — the Biden-Harris administration is announcing two critical new packages of security assistance that includes significant new air defense capabilities, more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and anti-armor and motor systems, as well as rockets, artillery, and tank ammunition that Ukraine is using to defend itself.
It is the 35th time the administration has authorized the use of presidential drawdown authorities to send much-needed assistance to Ukraine to meet its immediate battlefield needs.
And we are also providing equipment throughout Ukraine’s Security Assistance Initiative to help Ukraine with its longer-term security assistance requirements.
President Biden’s commitment to supporting Ukraine is clear. We will continue to work with our allies and partners around the world to support Ukraine as they defend their democracy and to impose costs on Russia as it continues its unconscionable, unprovoked war of choice.
And finally, today, as you will see momentarily, President Biden will meet with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The meeting will focus on the risks and opportunities that artificial intelligence technologies pose for individuals, society, and national security. The President will discuss the importance of protecting rights and safety to ensure responsible, innovative, and appropriate safeguards.
The President believes that tech companies have a responsibility to make sure their products are safe before making them public. And so, he will also reiterate his call on Congress to pass bipartisan priv- — privacy legislation to protect kids, limit personal data tech companies collect on all of us.
With that, Seung Min, you want to kick us off?
Q Sure. I have two topics.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q I was wondering — on the pretty remarkable developments in the Tennessee legislature, where Republican lawmakers are moving to expel Democratic lawmakers for their role in gun protests. And I’m wondering if the White House, the President th- — what — what the reaction is to these attempts to expel these members. Do they think it’s justified, not justified? And everything that’s kind of happening in that legislature after the Nashville shootings last week.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, a couple of things. Look, as we know — and you heard me speak to it, you heard the President speak to this, the First Lady speak to this last week — what we saw in Nashville, that horrific event of three kids and three adults essentially being murdered at school, was heart-wrenching and infuriating.
Our hearts go out to their families. We understand that it’s going to take some time to even move forward from such a tragic loss.
Look, as you saw, and I’m sure have been reporting, 7,000 students peacefully marched to the capital to confront their lawmakers for their failure to keep them safe at school.
And what did the Republican legislators do? As you just laid out, Seung Min, they’re trying to expel these three Democratic legislators who joined in the protests.
And so, look, what we’re seeing from Florida to Tennessee, in the United States, are Republican officials who are doubling down on dangerous bills that make our schools, places of worship, and communities less safe.
And so, they are — by doing what they’re doing with these three Democratic legislators, they’re shrugging in the face of yet another tragic school shooting while our kids continue to pay the price. That’s what we’re seeing every time that we hear one of these tragic events.
The President has been clear. Too many lives are being ripped apart, communities are being ripped apart with this gun violence, which is an epidemic in our country.
This is why he’s taken the actions that he has these first two years and continues to have — with executive action, historic executive action. And he’s going to continue to call on Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazine, require safe storage of firearms, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immu- — immunity from liability, and require background checks for all gun sales, and for state officials to take action at the state level.
But again, Republican legislators, to your question, want to play politics and not put the lives of our kids first.
Q And on a second topic, can the White House give us an actual timeline of when they expect the “wrongfully detained” designation for Mr. Gershkovich?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have a couple of thing- — I have some have some updates for you on that. And some of this, you guys already know.
Look, we’re going to continue to call for the release of Evan Gershkovich. As I said, these — these charges are ridiculous.
Evan is not a spy. Evan has never been a spy. Evan has never worked for the U.S. government. And he is an independent journalist employed by the Wall Street Journal, as you all know.
This is a ca- — this is a case that is a priority for this President.
A couple of things that occurred over the weekend that I’ll just lay out for you here: Secretary Blinken spoke directly with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to convey that the United States is gravely concerned that Evan’s detention is unacceptable and that he should be immediately released. The Secretary also urged the Kremlin to release immediately Paul Whelan. And since the administration was first alerted to this case, the State Department has continually attempted to secure consular access to Evan as it relates to the designation of “wrongfully detained.”
And I’ll say this: That process — the State has a process that is currently ongoing; it’s playing out. And so I would refer you to the State on any specifics of that piece.
There’s a couple of things I do want to add, just to — to give some — some folks and the American people just more broadly what that process is, because I know there’s a lot of interest.
I’m not going to get into specifics of the internal delib- — deliberate process, but the Department of State reviews cases of U.S. nationals detained abroad to determine if they are wrongful. The review as- — assesses the facts of the case against criteria laid out in the Levins- — Levinson Act.
And so, again, without speaking to this particular case, a “wrongful detention” determination means that — a couple of things: that the teams at the National Security Council, various offices at the Department of State, including the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and other U.S. government agency will collaboratively work with colleagues inside and outside the government to develop a strategy to secure individuals’ release.
And just wanted to give that kind of broad scope of how this process works and what it actually offers to —
Q Like, is that a matter of days? Is that more — a week, more than a week? Because, obviously, there’s an urgency here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I understand the urgency. There is an urgency for this President. He is — I have just said this is a priority for the President. This is a process that is playing out currently in the State Department. And they would have more specific on timeline.
Q Just to follow up on that, given that you’re reiterating what an urgent priority it is to get him back home: At this point, would the administration say that anything is on the table to try to get him back home?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, we try to be very careful, especially as we are having these conversations. I’m not going to get into specifics on what’s playing out, what’s on the table, what’s not on the table. Just not going to do that from here.
Again, as I just stated, this is a priority for this President. And I’m just going to leave it there.
Q So, at this point, you couldn’t say whether a potential prisoner swap, for example, is or is not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is — that is not something that I’m going to be just laying into from here at the podium.
Q And I did want to ask about the Donald Trump arraignment. I know you’re not going to comment about the legal proceedings. You’ve said that many times. But can you give us any sense of how President Biden is taking all of this in just as a moment in American history? Obviously, he’s a consumer of news. Has he been watching, reading the developments that are unfolding right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first, I have to say this: This — it’s an ongoing case, so we’re just not going to comment on the case specifically itself.
Look, the President is going to focus on the American people, like he does every day. He is not — this is not something that is a focus for him. He is going to focus on things like making sure that the — that we lower — continue to lower prices for the American people.
Of course, this is playing out on many of the networks here on a daily basis, for hours and hours. So, obviously, he will catch — catch part of the news when he — when he has a moment to catch up on the news of the day. But this is not his focus for today.
Q Have you spoken to him in recent days about these developments? Do you know —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not. I have not focused — I have not spoken to him in recent days on these developments. It’s not — again, it’s not our focus.
I will reiterate what I said last week: When — when it occurred, when we first learned about — about the — about the indictment, the President was not given a heads up. He was briefed by his Chief of Staff. And he learned about this, just like all of you, through the reporting.
Again, our focus right now is on the American people. And I’m just not going to comment on any ongoing — ongoing case.
Q In that same vein, do you expect the President will be briefed, though, on the charges once that indictment is unsealed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can tell you for sure is that the President is focused on the American people. That, I know for sure.
Q The President said yesterday he’s not concerned about unrest because he has faith in the New York Police Department. Are you tracking any credible threats at this time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals from here. What I will say is what I said last week, is that we are prepared.
Q And just — you know, the President — can you speak at all to the inflammatory comments coming from Donald Trump against elected officials, including DA Bragg? What’s the message from the White House that the former President is making these kinds of threats and comments?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve been always very clear: Any — any form of violence, that is something that we condemn from here. But not going to get any — anything that is touching or relating to the case, we’re just not going to comment from here. And I’m just going to leave it there for now.
Q Thanks, Karine. Moving to the AI meeting that you referenced, companies that develop AI saw their stocks go down on the stock market today. Do — is there anything they should be concerned about with regard to what the outcome of this meeting may be?
You mentioned that he’s going to make this call on Congress. Are there any other specific policies that he’s looking at that could affect the industry that may result from this meeting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, a couple of things there. Look, nothing to announce from here at this time, as far as actions or — I know there were questions about enforcing a moratorium. There’s just nothing to — to announce from here.
Look, I mentioned this last week — there’s a comprehensive process that is underway to ensure a cohesive federal government approach to AI-related risks and opportunities. And we do believe — this President believes that the tech companies have a responsibility to make sure that their products are safe before making them public. That is something that we believe — as you just mentioned, Jeff — he’s going to call on Congress.
I’m not going to get too far ahead of the President. You’ll hear directly from him moments from now. But, you know, again, we believe that — the President believes that the tech companies do have a responsibility here.
Q And one other economic issue. You were asked yesterday — or Olivia was asked about OPEC. There seems to be an impression that — that the White House is less concerned about this move by OPEC than maybe it has been by others — other moves, rather. Are you not worried about the impact on gasoline prices perhaps going up this summer, which is — which was such a critical issue last year and would have a political impact on this President if they did again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things there, Jeff. Look, our focus is always going to be on the American people, doing everything that we can to make sure that we lower costs and meet the American people where they are, which is why the President took the actions that he has taken this past — this past year.
And if you remember, and I know you’ve covered this very closely, you know, analysts has said last year that prices were going to go up, and that did not happen. If anything, in fact, prices — gasoline prices went down by a buck fifty at — when it was at its peak this past summer. A lot of that is because of the pres- — of the actions that this President took.
And just to give you a little bit more, the price of oil has been trading around 80 bucks a barrel over the last — the past month. They are around $110, $120 a barrel last year. And I just mentioned the prices of gas.
So, again, last year, the analysts predicted prices would go higher. And because of what the President did, because of the policies that he put forward, because of the actions that he put forward, we have seen those prices go down, especially if you — if you think about gas prices. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about the summer or what the summer is going to bring.
But again, that’s the main — the main focus for this President is the American people. We’ll continue to work with all producers and consumers to — to ensure energy markets, support economic growth, and lower — again, lower prices for the American consumer.
Q Karine —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead. I’ll come to the back. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just in that vein, I mean, the President specifically said, you know, when asked about OPEC+, “It’s not as bad as you think.” Can you just clar- –specifically what — what that — what he was saying and why is it not as bad.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I kind of touched on it already, which is, last year analysts were predicting that the prices were going to increase, and it didn’t. And a lot of it is because of the actions that this President took. And we see that in the price of oil per — a gallon; we see that in the gas prices.
And so, you know, that is what the President is going to continue to focus on: on how to — how do we lower the prices for the American people.
That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act is so important, when you think about energy security. That’s why many of the other — like CHIPS and Science Act, all of the other bipartisan infrastructure legislation — those historic pieces of legislation are so critical and important.
So, again, analysts were wrong a year ago. And so — and we have the data to prove that.
Q Is there any thoughts of, you know, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserves again or maybe go into Venezuela? I mean, any those — Biden, in the fall, talked about other alternatives. Are those some of the alternatives that they’re considering now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, especially about any market predictions that have proven wrong in the past, as I just mentioned.
Look, you know, what we know is what the President has done has worked. And again, I’m just going to leave that there and not get into hypotheticals.
Q Karine, has the President been briefed on the security operations underway in New York in advance of the former President’s arraignment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have any preview or conversations to — to share with all of you. As you know, the President daily — gets the daily — the daily presidential briefing every morning. But I just don’t have anything specifically on that.
All I can say is that, you know, the President — is that we are prepared. And, you know, don’t want to get too much into hypotheticals from here.
Q And in this moment where there are some prominent Republicans talking specifically about whether Americans can trust the justice system here, we’ve seen President Biden say he does have faith in the legal system. But can you help Americans understand why this isn’t a moment for the President to come out and speak more forcefully on the rule of law or what this could mean, more widely?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m just not going to speak to this case. The President — I’m not going to go beyond what the President shared with all of you. But I’m just not going to go — speak to an ongoing case. I’m going to leave it there.
Q And finally, on my colleagues’ reporting yesterday on the Chinese spy balloon that was able to get some sensitive information and transmit it back to Beijing in real time, the administration says there’s an assessment underway about just what China may have been able to glean. Can you update us at all on the timeline for how much is left in that review and whether there are any plans to brief Congress or for the President to speak publicly about that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you mentioned, there is a review being done by the FBI. I believe my colleagues spoke to this yesterday. I’m not going to confirm or address that report. But what I’ll say — I’ll say a couple of things from here.
Look, we knew the flight path of the balloon before it crossed the United States. That’s something that I said from here. We took precautions in advance to ensure that it didn’t get sensitive information — aso something that I said from this podium during that time.
When it comes to technology like this balloon, it has limited additive value compared to other means of intelligent collection.
So the bottom line: The administration identified this problem, and it did something about it.
And again, not going to confirm or address it. As you said, there’s an ongoing review. Don’t have a timeline on that.
Go ahead, Andrew.
Q Thanks. Just to follow up on my colleague, Evan Gershkovich. Is the President’s plan to speak to his parents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So don’t — I don’t have any — any calls to read out at this time. As I said, this is a priority for this President, as I said to your colleague last week. Your colleague Evan is — is on our minds, and we are certainly thinking about them and — about him, about Evan. And so, we’re doing everything that we can to — to get a counselor to him. And — and we’ll have more to — to update and share.
Q And just on a different subject. China announced on Friday a cybersecurity probe into Micron Technology. It’s a major U.S. chipmaker. Does the U.S. view that as an effort to undercut — by China to undercut the U.S. chips industry? And do they see any evidence of a broader effort by China to do so?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I — I’m not going to speak directly to China’s actions.
All I can say is the CHIPS and Science Act, as you know, was a bipartisan piece of legislation that was historic. And the President — it speaks to the President’s commitment to bring manufacturers back to the United States, to make sure that we have manufacturing jobs right here. We’ve created, under this President, more than 800,000 jobs.
And you are seeing — you’re seeing companies, like Micron, take action and continue to invest here in America. And that’s what the President is focused on.
And the President has said from the beginning of his administration: We are looking for competition with China, not conflict. And that’s what you’re seeing in this moment as you’re looking, again, at these manufacturing jobs as these companies are investing right here in — in the U.S.
Q Afghanistan, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Give me one — let me go to — one second. Go ahead.
Q The bill that would allow the U.S. to sue OPEC countries for manipulating energy markets, does the White House have a position on that bill yet? It’s known as the “NOPEC bill.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The NOPEC bill? I —
(Addresses reporter in audience.) What did you say? What are you whispering? (Laughs.)
Q I’m not whispering anything.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) No whispering allowed.
So, a couple of things. Look, the President is focused on securing America’s energy independence. And so, that’s the best way to ensure American families aren’t subject to the actions of those halfway around the world.
And his policies are working. As I just mentioned, oil and gas prices have gone down from last year because of the actions that this President took. U.S. oil production is on track to break a historic record this year. And we are accelerating investments in clean energy through the Inflation Reduction Act — again, a historic piece of legislation that — that is going to make a difference when we talk about energy security in — in this country.
Q Afghanistan, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
I’m gon- — I’m going to come to you.
Q Thank you. U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti is now headed to New Delhi. What’s the presidential message that Ambassador Garcetti is carrying forward with himself for the people of India?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is something that I’ve said from here, that the President has said: When we look at the relationship with India, it’s one of the most consequential reli- — relationships that the United States has in the world. And that still stands.
And Ambassador Garcetti will be leading an ambetio- — an ambitious effort to deepen our — our cooperation with India in critical and emerging technologies, expand our defense cooperation, and strengthen our economic and people-to-people ties.
Again, one of — one of the most consequential relationships that we have — that we have in the United States in — in the world. So — that the United States have in the world. So, it’s an important relationship that the President sees.
Q I have one more. What is the U.S. view on China renaming 11 places in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh? This is another attempt by the Chinese to claim of us Indian territory.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this — the United States, as you know, Lalit, has — has recognized that territory for a long time. And we strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to advance territorial claims by renaming localities.
And so, again, this is something that we have long stood by.
Q A few things. Thanks, Karine. On this meeting regarding AI and other technologies. She says — the President himself, have there ever — been shown or used these new AI tools?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get ahead of the PCAST meeting. I think you’ll — you’ll see more and hear more from the President. So I’m not going to get ahead of what the President is going to be talking about and announcing.
Q Okay. So that’s —
Q Afghanistan, please.
Q — that’s a tease. (Laughter.)
Following up on the Even Gershowitz [sic] — Gershkovich case, can you confirm here that the Russian ambassador was summoned to the State Department to discuss this detention?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to confirm from here.
Q All right. You’ve covered almost everything else I wanted to ask about, so I want to ask about this: Nicaragua. This week, Daniel Ortega has banned Holy Week street processions due to unspecified security concerns, meaning people in this overwhelmingly Catholic country cannot participate and, in essence, profess their faith. It comes a few weeks after Ortega detained a Roman Catholic bishop.
I know you were asked and Kirby was asked about this recently. Just wondering if the Biden administration has any response to these (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. Yes, I know that that question, I believe, came up last week. Look, there has been a dramatic deterioration of respect for democratic principles and human rights by the Ortega-Murillo regime in Nicaragua, including the harassment and imprisonment of democratic leaders, members of the political opposition, faith leaders, students, and journalists as well. The United States finds this unacceptable, condemns these actions.
And we have already taken a number of actions, as you know, Ed, to promote accountability for the regime’s actions, including by imposing sanctions, and we will continue to do so.
Q Afghanistan, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to go to the back. Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. So, on the technology event coming up later — so, critics are saying the President has been late on TikTok, to act against TikTok. So what’s the timeframe, then, for guidelines on artificial intelligence or a pause on more powerful artificial intelligence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, when it comes to TikTok, I want to be very clear this is — there’s a CFIUS review. You’ve heard us say that over and over again from — from this podium, and that still stands. And the President has been very — very clear about his concern, his national security concern as it relates to the American people with this app. So just want to be very — very clear here.
And so, look, like I said last time, this question was asked by your colleague here, who was very dramatic about AI. The —
Q But not on the timeframe.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I —
Q Is he going to get to it quickly? Is it another year?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I don’t have a timeframe to share with you. As I mentioned, there’s a comprehensive process — mentioned this last week — which is underway to figure out how we’re going to have a cohesive federal government approach to this. And this is going to — this is incredibly important.
You’re going to hear from the President, he’s going to speak to this. As you know, as I mentioned, he’s going to speak to PCAST. So I’ll let him — let you hear from him directly.
But clearly, this is — this is something that — that his — that the team is looking at and is very focused on.
Q Yeah, one more, if I could. House Republicans are meeting with the Taiwan President today. The top lawmakers, though, on the Hill are calling for information or hearings on information related to Chinese-made cranes at U.S. ports. Should there be hearings or an assessment by the NSC about possible spying by the Chinese at U.S. ports through these cranes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I think you’ve asked me this question before. Nothing has changed from what I shared with you the last time. I’m just not going to get into — get into it from here about hearings.
Q Afghanistan please, Karine? May I ask question about Afghanistan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, but you — there’s a way to do this, my friend. You know that. Give me a second. Let me get around.
Go ahead, Ben.
Q On Evan Gershkovich’s case, how worrying of a sign is it that the U.S. still does not have consular access to him? And what are you doing at a higher level to push for that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just laid out the conversations that Secretary Blinken had with his — with his counterpart just over the weekend. We’re taking this very seriously. This is a priority for this President.
Yes, we are — we are concerned, and we’re working diligently, very hard, to get a counselor to Evan. That — again, this is a priority, and so is Paul Whelan. I want to make sure I lay that out for folks as well.
But, yes, we are — you know, we are doing — the State Department is doing all that they can to make sure a counselor is available to — to Evan.
As you know, these are — these are challenging circumstances, as you all know, and we are doing, again, everything in our power to get counselor access to him quickly.
Q And Journal’s lawyers have been trying to visit him in prison. Is the White House in touch with the Journal about this? And how soon do you expect them to visit him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to read out about a conversation with the — you’re talking about the Wall Street Journal? I just don’t have anything to read out on that.
Go ahead, Raquel.
Q Thank you very much, Karine. I’m not asking about Trump but about the precedent that this opens. Does the White House believe that a former President could or should be indicted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to comment from here.
Okay. All right. Oh, go ahead, Peter.
Q To follow up on that, President Biden is a lawyer. Is he concer- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And the President of the United States and the Commander-in-Chief. But go ahead.
Q He is. But as a lawyer, is he concerned at all that a local DA indicting a former President could, down the line, open up the possibility, set the precedent that local DAs that don’t like former President Biden could indict him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to comment from here.
Q Why don’t you have more to say about the Trump indictment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It is an ongoing case, and I’ve been very clear about that. We’ve been prudent about that, not commenting on ongoing cases. And we’re going to stick to that.
Q But for better or worse, all that anybody in the country is talking about at this exact moment, while we’re in here, is Trump. And they look here to find out what the White House thinks about it. And?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think the American people should feel reassured that when there is an ongoing case, like this one, that we’re just not commenting.
Q And so, does the lack of comment mean that you do not think anything happening in New York today is one of the top issues facing the country at the moment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s your assessment. That’s not my assessment. I’m just laying out the facts that we are just not going to comment on an ongoing case from here. And we’ve been very consistent, we’ve been very prudent, and we’re going to stick there.
Q Afghanistan, please.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Courtney, go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. I wanted to ask you Sena- — about judges. Senator Hyde-Smith said today that she’s not going to return a blue slip for Scott Colom. He’s your nominee for a court in Mississippi. Did you have awareness on that? And are you going to proceed with a nomination?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So this is the first that I’m hearing about this, so I’d have to go back to my team before I can comment fully.
Q And I also wanted to ask you about unwinding the pandemic measures. Can you talk about the travel author- — or, excuse me, the requirement that travelers — foreign travelers be vaccinated? Is that something that you’re reconsidering or that people should expect to unwind, along with the public health emergency, as we head toward May 11th?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’ll say, more broadly, the work that this administration has done since day one, since this President walked into this administration on — on really dealing with COVID-19 and long COVID — and long COVID continues, right? COVID is — is still with us. We’re in a different place than we have been, and that’s because of the work that this President has done.
And thanks to those actions, we’re — we’ve seen that progress has been made. We’re are positioned to transition out of the emergency phase of this response. That is important because of the comprehensive response that we have had, that this President has pushed forward.
And when we have more to say, I certainly will share that closer to May. I don’t have anything to preview or to announce at this time.
Q Thank you.
Q Afghanistan? Afghanistan please, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yep.
Q Thank you so much. Are there any circumstances — stepping back from New York — are there any circumstances under which President Biden would consider a pardon for former President Trump similar to Ford’s pardon of Nixon? And has that been discussed with any advisors?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m —
Q Is it completely off the table?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. I’m not going to get into any of that. I — all I can tell you is that we do not comment from here on any ongoing cases. Anything that’s related to any of those cases, I refer you either to the DA, as it relates to what’s happening today, or the Department of Justice. We’re just not going to comment from here.
Q But if it’s President Biden’s decision, has it been discussed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I hear you and I understand the question. I really do. I’m just not going to comment from here.
Q So I noticed when the President was in Minnesota yesterday, in what was a fairly wide-ranging economic agenda speech, he did not talk much about inflation, combating inflation, and the like. I’m interested in kind of the thought process there, given the strain many Americans have felt because of inflation during his administration.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President has always been very clear: When it comes to lowering costs for the American people, that’s a priority. That will always be a priority for — for this President. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act is so important. That’s why we’ve seen the lower prices at the pump. One — it got — it’s gone down $1.50 — a buck fifty — since — since the peak this summer. A lot of that is because of what this President has done.
Anytime he talks about his economic policy, you always hear him talk about lowering costs. We understand that there’s more work to do. And the President is going to continue to do that. That’s why he went out — he’s gone out there to talk about investing in America — his Investing in America agenda.
And also, that’s why you see his economic policies are working — when you think about job growth and job creation, when you think about the CHIPS and Science Act, when you think about the Inflation Reduction Act, when you think about unemployment at 3.6 percent and wages — real wages are higher than they were eight months ago.
So he has an economic policy that’s going to build — build the economy from the bottom up, middle out. That’s going to be his focus. But also lowering costs for the American people, something he talks about very often.
Q Following up on that, though, I mean, obviously in that speech, he was talking about a lot of his successes. Does he view his combating inflation to be a success?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that again? I — your — your a little dif- —
Q Does he view — does he view that he’s been successful in combatting inflation? I mean, that speech was so focused on what he saw as his successes. Does he view how he’s combated inflation to be successful?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think that lowering prescription drug costs; capping insulin at 35 bucks a month for seniors; helping lower energy bills; again, gas prices going down by a buck fifty from its peak that it was this — this summer, that is the President taking action. That is the President meeting the American people where they are.
Of course — of course, there’s always more work to be done. But this is a President that’s taken action. And so, that’s what you’ll hear from him.
He’s — of course, when he is in front of the American people, he’s going to speak to them about what he’s doing to make their lives better. And that’s what you heard yesterday in Minneapolis.
Or, in Minnesota, to be more specific, as a state.
Q The President has spoken repeatedly about January 6th. He gave at least two major speeches that I can think of, and he’s talked at length — I’m sorry — talked at length in — in various forums. There were more than 500 active legal cases going on during the time that he made those speeches, all of which potentially could have been affected — would have been affected by whatever his opinions were on the circumstances surrounding those cases.
Why — what is different between his being willing to talk about — not the specifics of individual cases, but to talk about the issues presented by — by what happened on January 6th and questions about — just to — just to put a fine point on it — I’m, sort of, going on Peter’s point — it’s like — and, frankly, a lot of the questions here — there’s an understanding about not wanting to comment specifically about this case, perhaps.
But there are issues that are presented — people have been talking about it for weeks now — when a former President — any former President would be indicted for the first time and arrested for the first time. What is the White House’s reticence? And what’s the difference between that and this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Done?
Q I’m done.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)
Q Sorry. Apologies.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s okay.
But with all seriousness, January 6th was a devastating day. Like, you guys — I think — if you guys weren’t there, some of your colleagues were on Capitol Hill. We had — we had law enforcement, police officers who were attacked, who died. And what we saw on that day was an attack on our democracy. It was a devastating, devastating day in our history. And it was — it was a moment for this President to have spoken to. Right?
You had millions and millions of Americans who watched what was happening on Capitol Hill, something that many of us — I’d never seen it and many of us had never ever seen before. You know? And it was something that needed to be spoken to, when you see something like that — our democracy, literally our democracy, under attack.
And so the President will never shy away when it comes to our democracy, when it comes to the fabric of who we are as a country and what makes this country who it — what it is. And so it — it was a different, different moment and a different time. What we’re —
Q But what — I’m sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear — I hear —
Q Well, I was just going to follow up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. But let me —
Q Sure. Go ahead.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When it comes to these types of cases — these criminal, like, specific cases — we’re just not going to comment.
I know there’s a broad- — I get — I get you. I know there’s a broader question of what this means — the precedent and — and what the President is going to decide or make decisions that he might make, like hypothetical questions. I’m just not going to comment from here on that.
Q I get it. I was asking why you weren’t —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I —
Q — going to comment on —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I — and I —
Q — from there and — and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I’m hoping that I laid that out for you. And I just laid out why we commented on January 6th. And we’re just going to be very mindful. These are ongoing cases —
Q So were the 500 cases involving Americans —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — yeah, I —
Q — who — who — whose freedom —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear —
Q — was at —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you.
Q — at risk —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you, but —
Q — right? So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — this is something that all of Americans watch in real time.
Q There were —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: In real time.
Q Karine, there are milli- —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And people —
Q Wait. There —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — people died.
Q I — believe me —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: People died.
Q — Karine, I don’t need a lecture —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: People died.
Q — on the fact that people died.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But you’re lecturing me.
Q But — but what I’m —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But you’re lecturing me.
Q I’m not. What I’m —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, you are.
Q I’m asking questions. And what I’m saying is, there are millions of people out there watching today.
You called January 6th “historic.” It was absolutely historic, and none of us had ever seen that before.
Nobody has seen this before either. There are millions and millions of Americans watching, the first time in 250 years, a former President be hauled into court and — and processed for arrest.
That means something. That has some effect, potentially, I suspect, on — on American democracy and on how the rest of the world — you know, the President has talked a lot about how the rest of the world sees the United States in the wake of January 6th. Totally valid.
Why isn’t that — why isn’t there a similar kind of assessment about how the world is watching us now? Good or bad. I’m not making a judgement —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No —
Q — whichever way.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I —
Q I’m just saying —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I hear your question. January 6th is just — was a different moment. It just was.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It was something that — that was incredibly devastating. People died on that day and were harmed. And it was just — it was just something that we saw visually that we reacted to, and many people were scared in that moment.
And as the President was taking office as the next President of the United States — a President that ran on bringing the country together, on protecting our democracy — it was something that it was important to speak to at that — at that moment.
And also, you know, we know that Americans still very much care about this. When it comes to a criminal investigation like this that is ongoing, we are just not going to comment. We’re not going to interfere. We’re not going to politically interfere from here. And we’ve been consistent. We’ve been very consistent.
I know you’re bringing up January 6th. I just laid out why we believe that was very different. But we’re just going to be consistent on not commenting on any criminal ongoing investigation.
Okay. Go ahead. Go ahead, my friend.
Q Me? Thank you. Wow. Number one, thank you very much for your comment on my traditional dress. The Afghan people showed reaction and say thanks from Afghanistan, although they’re in a Taliban prison. They say thank you. They were happy because Afghan woman made that dress.
And my question is: What’s your assessment about Daesh in Afghanistan? Because nowadays, Daesh is very active in Afghanistan.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of — a couple of things there for you. And — and you’re welcome. I was happy to — happy to do it. It was a beautiful — a beautiful attire.
So, when you’re talking about — can you — your question again. I was giving you a compliment and I —
Q What’s your — your assessment about Daesh in Afghanistan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, got it. So, I know that — you know, we will judge the Taliban by — by their actions and not what they say.
The Taliban wants to be accepted by the international community. And — but its actions over the last year, such as the increasing repression of women — which I know this is an issue that you care about — have only moved the Taliban farther from the outcome.
We will continue to engage the Taliban when necessary to protect the interests of the United States. And any other specifics on that particular — that particular agreement, I would refer you to the State Department.
I’m going to move around.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Just a quick follow-up on Michael’s question. Are you — are you saying that if the former President is indicted related to January 6th, you would comment on that case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m just — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals from here. All I’m saying is we’re just not going to comment on ongoing investigation, as we’re looking what’s un- — unfolding today. I’m just not going to comment on it.
All right. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. You know, the Vice President just came back from Africa, and it appears to be a very successful trip. She went to three nations, and one of them was Ghana. I’m very curious and so are many people commenting online, with regard to Ghana being a nation that still has issues with slavery, I wonder if you could just comment on the U.S. connecting with a nation that has that level of humanitarian crisis.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and we’ve talked about this before, when it comes to humanitarian crisis or when it comes to anything related in that vein, we are always going to speak to that. We are, you know, very — I’ll even step a little bit further back.
When the President held his Africa Leaders Summit, he said to the African leaders at the time that we are all in, and we are.
And one of the things that we believe that’s very important — and you saw from — from — from this Vice President, when she traveled to the continent, the announcement that she made on increasing investments and facilitating economic growth and opportunity, specifically as it — as it — in areas of empowerment for young women, which is incredibly important; empowerment for young girls; empowerment for youth entrepreneurship. And those are the things that is very — what was incredibly important to that trip, as well.
Digital inclusion, increasing food security, including adaptation to climate crisis — those are the things that she talked about. She had deliverables announcing — announcing investments that we were making in the continent.
And so, look, it was an important trip. And — and we think that, again, it was incredibly successful. And — and this is going to be a continuation of our — of our commitment to continue to partner and make sure that that — that continent — African continent is not left behind.
And so you’re — you’re going to continue to see that from this administration.
Okay. Go ahead.
Q Is the administration expecting or preparing for possible Chinese military drills in the event of the Taiwanese President’s meeting with Speaker McCarthy tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’ve been very clear about this. When we — when we talk about the — President Tsai’s transit, it’s private, it’s un- — and it’s — it’s unofficial.
And, look, there should be no overreaction from — from — from the PRC. This is a — this is a trip, when you look at this — the transit that — that is underway, that has been — that has been — for a long time has occurred for — for some time.
President Tsai herself has made this transit about six times before. And again, there should be no reason to — for — for China to — to overreact here. And — and I’ll leave it at that.
There’s no — you know, there’s no change to our One China policy. We’ve been very clear about that. And I’ll leave it at that. Any specifics that you may have about the trip itself, I would — I would refer you to the — to the Taiwan authorities.
Q Karine, on Venezuela. Is the White House looking for new diplomatic channels with the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don’t have anything else to any — any update to share on — on that relationship with Venezuela at this time.
Q This is 78th anniversary of the atom bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the G7 next month will be in Hiroshima. Do you know if there’s a visit planned to the — the memorial? And last time you were in Japan, you never got to see anything, so will you take a little time to see a few of the sites?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, that’s so kind. (Laughter.)
Q And the second — second follow-up is that there’s great shock in Japan about the arrest of the opposition candidate. You know, it’s very common in many parts of the world, but most people, you know, didn’t expect it would ever happen in America. What — what do — just a comment on — on that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, say that last part again? There’s a lot of talk in Japan —
Q There’s been a lot of shock in Japan as to the arrest of the opposition candidate. It’s — it’s very common in many parts of the world —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’re — you’re talking — when you — which opposition candidate? Are you talking about —
Q The upcoming election.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, you’re talking about the U.S.?
Q Yeah, and it’s very com- — many of parts of the world, it’s very common. But people just never —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I see what you’re getting at.
Q — expected that to happen in America. So what — just a view of that from outside.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I love how you guys are asking me this in different ways. It’s ver- — it’s very — of course, you guys are clever.
The first question, I don’t have anything to announce at this time about the G7. Once we — once — once we have something to share, certainly we’ll share that with all of you.
On the second one, I’m just — just not going to comment from here. And so I’ll leave it there.
Okay, everybody. All right. Have a — have a great day. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Q Thanks, Karine.
2:16 P.M. EDT