James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:11 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Tuesday.
Okay, I have a few things at the top for all of you, so please be patient. (Laughter.)
As you all just saw, this afternoon the President was out in the Rose Garden alongside with family caregivers, people with disabilities, long-term care workers, people — long-term care workers, early educators, veterans, and aging advocates. Signed an executive order to expand access to affordable, high-quality care and provide support for care workers and family caregivers.
The — this executive order, which includes more than 50 directives for agencies across the government, is the most comprehensive set of executive actions by — by — any President has ever taken to make care more affordable and accessible for hardworking families and further support care workers and family caregivers.
The reality is that too many families are struggling to access the affordable, high-quality care they need and too many care workers lack the support they need to do their critical work and are leaving the workforce.
The results have hurt our economy and American workers, particularly women. President Biden wants to change our trajectory and transform care in this country. And that is reflected in his fiscal year 2024 budget.
President Biden has also — also wants to ensure taxpayers get the best value for investments we’re already made by making — by helping to make American families access care, all while supporting care workers and family caregivers and growing our economy as well.
And that is exactly what this executive order will do.
Now, this next topper here that I have — it’s just one — it feels like every week, as least once a week, I come to the podium and I talk about this gun violence epidemic that we’re seeing across the country and how our communities and families across America yet again have been devastated by tragic acts of gun violence.
And it is not just devasting for me. I’m sure it’s devastating for all of you and your families, it’s devasting for this President, it’s devastating for our administration, and — to have to continue to do that over and over again.
And — and so, let me just lay out, sadly, what we have seen these last couple of days:
Four young people killed at a sweet 16 party in Dadeville, Alabama.
Two killed and four others injured on Saturday night in a crowded public park in Louisville.
A bright, young, loving 16-year-old kid, Ralph Yarl, shot in the head in Missouri after ringing the wrong doorbell.
And we just learned a few hours ago — about 12 hours ago — about a young woman — 20 year — 20-year-old woman in Upstate New York who was killed for turning down the wrong driveway.
And these are just some of the tragedies that actually have made the headlines.
As you saw from the President, he and the First Lady are grieving for those killed and the many others injured and fighting — fighting for their lives in the wake of this gun violence that we’re seeing across the country.
The President had the chance to speak on the phone with Ralph last night. In addition to talking about Ralph’s success in high school — in high school, his hopes for the future, and wishing him a speedy recovery, the President committed to Ralph and his mom, as he has committed to so many other survivors, that he will continue to fight for gun safety reforms.
That’s because action on gun safety is what we owe — it is what we owe to those who have had their lives stolen from them, and it is what the American people want to see. A majority of the American people want to see us take action.
Despite that, last week we saw many national Republican elected officials stand alongside NRA in a race to the bottom on dangerous — dangerous laws that further erode gun safety. Tho- — the proposals they’re pushing take us in the wrong direction at a time when we’re seeing gun violence surging, particularly gun deaths of our children.
Now, this stat, as you’ve heard me say many times — the President put it in his statement recently — guns is the leading cause of death in our children. Guns is the leading cause of death in our children.
So, as the President has said, he wants to work across the aisle in good faith on federal legislation that will save lives. It is within Congress’s power to require safe storage of firearms, require background checks for all guns — gun sales, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and ban assault weapons and also high-capacity magazines.
And he continues to believe this should happen without delay. This is something that they can do today if they chose.
Okay. On to the next topic. As you saw on Friday, the Supreme Court temporarily paused the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that — just like the Texas district court’s decision — attempts to disregard FDA’s scientific judgment regarding mifepristone. This administration continues to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone and the agency’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen hundreds of pharmaceutical companies and executives, attorney generals from across the country, and members of Congress all speak out against the dangerous precedent this court decision could set if it does stand.
We’ve even seen conservative legal scholars, commentators, and ed boards like the Wall Street Journal all point out the flaws in the court’s reasoning.
I have said this many times: If the district court’s decision or the Fifth Circuit’s decision is upheld, it would put women’s health at risk and undermine FDA’s ability to keep safe and effective medications available for people who need them. And it could open the floodgates of attacks against any FDA-approved medication that Americans rely on for care.
So, today you’ll hear from the Vice President — Vice President Harris — who will host a conversation in Reno to talk about the administration’s work to protect reproductive rights, including new actions she announced last week to safeguard patient privacy.
The stakes of this could not be higher. It could not be higher. And we’re going to remain focused on prevailing in the courts so that women can access the care they need without — without government interference.
All right, next up, as you know, it’s Tax Day. Happy Tax Day. And we have some good news for taxpayers. I know people are always excited about this day.
Yesterday, we learned that thanks to new funding from the President’s Inflation Reduction Act, the IRS has significantly improved customer service. You see this to my left here. (References displayed data on television screen.)
This tax season, the IRS answered 2.4 million more calls than last year; cut phone waits time from 27 minutes to 4 minutes — that’s what you see here in this graphic behind me; served 87 percent of customers who called, up from just — just 15 percent — served 87 percent of customers who called, up from 17 — 15 percent last year — pardon me; and helped 100,000 more taxpayers in person.
So now, MAGA congressional Republicans want to repeal this progress, making customer services worse for hardworking taxpayers and making it easier for wealthy tax cheats and big corporations to get away with cheating on their taxes. So it’s literally the first bill that the House Republicans have passed. That’s how they want to move forward here.
President Biden and congressional Democrats have a different agenda: more help for taxpayers while ensuring the super-rich pay what they owe. That’s what we’re seeing today.
Finally — and finally, a word on the discussion today of the debt limit and the budget.
So you’ve heard the President share his father’s saying, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will…” and it — I will — and that will show us — you, the American people, what you value.” And you hear the President say that over and over again. You’ve heard me say that, repeating the President, from time to time here at the podium.
And here’s the thing: We still haven’t seen a budget from House Republicans. What we have seen from them are trickle-down proposals that would sell out hardworking Americans.
Speaker McCarthy — McCarthy doubled down on many of these proposals yesterday, and the Republican conference has advanced others that would kill jobs by sending manufacturing plants we’re delivering overseas, end Medicare’s new power we gave it to negotiate lower drug costs, increase energy costs while increasing the deficit, take food assistance and healthcare away from millions, make devastating cuts to veterans’ benefit and education, defund law enforcement and border security.
They’re even talking about adding $3 trillion to our debt in wasteful tax giveaways to the richest Americans and big corporations.
Compare that to what we’re trying to do. Compare that to what this President is fighting for.
Today, he’s taking unprecedented actions on behalf of hardworking families to make childcare more affordable, improve home care for veterans, and improve care for older Americans.
He’s laid out how to shrink the deficit by $3 trillion, by ending wasteful subsidies for rich spec- — rich special interests and having them pay their fair share. That’s all we’re asking — for them to pay their fair share.
Also by expanding the power he gave Medicare to reduce lower drug costs.
He’s fighting to pick up the pace of the reshoring trend he’s leading right now.
He wants to support law enforcement with funding for community policing and to ban assault weapons so that we can reduce gun crime and save lives.
And he wants to preserve our most basic rights, like the right of women to make their own healthcare decisions.
So, again, we’d like to see a Republican budget — we have not seen one yet — so that the American people can see for themselves, in a transparent way, what is it that House Republicans want to do.
But one thing that we know that is clear is that this President — President Biden’s budget shows his priority is delivering for hardworking Americans.
And one last thing before I go. I promise I will be taking questions momentarily. (Laughter.) It’s been a while since I’ve been in here, so —
So I want to make sure that I introduce you to a fresh face in our briefing room today. Kelly Scully has joined our team as Assistant Press Secretary from her former role as Communications Director at ONDCP.
She’s a veteran of the Biden campaign and the Senate, and we are excited to have her on the team. And she’ll be covering healthcare and adjacent issues to healthcare.
So, you know, please come back and say hello to Kelly. We’re really excited to have her. But I wanted to make sure that I introduced her while I have that — while I had a second with a very long topper for all of you.
With that, Seung Min, you want to kick off the first question?
Q Sure. Two topics.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q On your last one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q On the limit package, I know the President did a pretty thorough rebuttal in the Rose Garden of the various proposals that have been brought up there. But there is an emerging thought today among House Republicans that repealing the Inflation Reduction Act has to be part of this debt limit package. So I wanted to get the White House’s impression of that offer.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So let’s be clear what MAGA attacks on the Inflation Reduction Act would mean for American families. I’m going to lay this out for you. And I kind of talked about it a little bit, but this has a little bit of fuller — a fuller layout.
So, offshore tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs, including in districts many of these members actually represent. So they’re doing their job there I see. Send investments and supply chains back to China; raise costs for prescription drugs, insulin, and home utility bills. Remember, that’s kind of the core of what the Inflation Reduction Act and what you’ve heard us say over and over. It will hurt American energy independence, protect wealthy tax cheats, and make it harder to get refunds from the IRS. Increase the deficit in the name of special interests like Big Pharma and billionaires — because, as we know, the Inflation Reduction Act actually helps in reducing the deficit.
And so, this is what they would be doing if MAGA Republicans get their way. This is what the attacks lay out and what they would be repealing as well — these really ke- — key, critical, important issues that matter to the American people.
And guess what? This is an unpo- — unpopular agenda that the Americans do not support. They don’t support this. So why would they go against what a majority of the Americans want to do? And this is going to hurt their own district in that — hurt them and the Americans and their constituents in their own district.
Q And a quick one on Sudan. Are there plans to evacuate U.S. embassy personnel from there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a couple things at the — a couple things I want to say about that. And do you mean Americans more broadly? President are you talking about —
Q Both. Both.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So, look, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum’s security alert on April 16th stated that due to uncertainty se- — uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closures of the airport, Americans should have no expectations of a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation at this time. We expect that will remain the case.
We have been urging American citizens not to travel to Sudan since at least back in October of last year, when the State Department Travel Advisory was set at Level 4, which means “do not travel.” That’s what a Level 4 means.
It is imperative that U.S. citizens in Sudan make their own arrangements to safe — to stay safe in these difficult circumstances.
We advise U.S. citizens to remain sheltered in place and to contact the U.S. embassy if they need assistance. And that is currently where we are at this time.
Q And what about the embassy personnel?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we have no higher priority to make sure that our government — to keep — to make sure that the safety of our U.S. government personnel and their families overseas. That is clearly a priority for this administration.
The State Department plans for all contingencies to ensure their safety, depending on local conditions. But we have nothing imminent at this time to announce.
We have made clear to both sides that any attacks, threats, or da- — or dangers — or dangers posed to our diplomats are totally unacceptable.
And you’ve heard from Secretary Blinken directly yesterday on this particular issue.
Q We saw Evan Gershkovich today for the first time since he was detained. Obviously, Russia is denying his appeal. I wanted to get your reaction to that but also ask you about — well, actually, let me get your reaction to that first.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Yeah, we do — we do have something at the top.
Look, we are — we are deeply concerned by the news that Russia will continue to wrongfully detain Evan following a sham judicial proceeding today. And that’s what we saw earlier today.
The Biden-Harris administration is engaging with Russia through every available channel to bring Evan and fellow American Paul Whelan home, who is also a priority for us. And you have — you’ve heard us talk — speak to that for the past several months.
And as we have said before, the charges against Evan are baseless and we call on Russia Fed- — Russian Federation to immediately release him.
We also call for the immediate release of Paul, who has been wrongfully detained on sham espionage charges for more than four years.
We remain in touch with their families and admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.
I know you had a follow-up to that, Mary.
Q You mentioned Paul Whelan. Both he and Evan Gershkovich are being charged with espionage. You just called them “sham espionage charges.” Does the U.S. believe that — that freeing Evan is going to be just as difficult as it has been to bring Paul Whelan home, given the similarity of charges?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to — look, these are always challenging circumstances — right? — as we have known, and we’ve seen this play out under this administration these past two years. Not going to get into hypotheticals. Not going to get into negotiations in public or from the podium.
As you can understand, these are sensitive — sensitive matters, so I just want to be incredibly careful from here but don’t want to get ahead of that. Just know that we are committed to bringing them both home.
Q Whelan’s family is concerned, though, and has been vocal about their concern the administration might leave Paul behind. In fact, his sister, Elizabeth, is now pausing her interactions with the administration because she says she won’t reengage until you, quote, “stop wasting her time and come up with something more than thoughts and prayers.”
What do you say to her?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t want to discuss private conversations or meetings or interactions between the Natur- — National Security Council and families who are wrongfully detained. What I can say is this is a President who’s committed to — to getting U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained and being held hostage home. And so, that is a commitment that you have seen — that you’ve seen from this President the last two years.
But definitely don’t want to go in a back-and-forth in public.
We are — we remain in touch with their families and certainly admire their courage and — in the face — in — in the — in the current challenges that we are — they are currently facing. And it’s certainly unimaginable.
And so — but don’t want to get into private interactions or — or go back and forth with the family.
Q Thank you. Julie Su’s confirmation hearing is set for this Thursday. Given how some Democrats have been talking about their reservations when it comes to her and her record, is the White House confident that she will have the votes needed to get her through?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So look, here’s what we’re — we’re confident and — because of her proven track record, as you have just laid out in your question about talk — speaking about her track record. And her track record, you see it across — working across the aisle, sitting down with business community as well as organized labor, and delivering strong results for the American economy.
And that’s why Julie was unanimously con- — confirmed as a Deputy Secretary of Labor. Let’s not forget: She actually went through this process before. It was done by all Senate Democrats at that time.
And so, that’s why Julie’s nomination has been endorsed by a range of business groups. I’ll list them out for you right now — from business — from Small Business Major- — Majority of — to labor — to LA Chamber of Commerce and labor Leaders, from United Mineworkers to NABTU and to Luna to IBEW.
As you know, she served under Marty Walsh’s — or served as his right hand — Marty Walsh’s right hand for the last two years as they helped produce historic job growth, as we’ve seen. You’ve heard us talk about the 12.5 million jobs that has been created under this administration, 800,000 manufacturing jobs.
This is something that — you know, that certainly Department of Labor — and as herself and Marty Walsh were very directly involved in.
So, we’re looking forward to the hearing coming up on Thursday and feel confident — to your question, we do feel confident about Julie’s confirmation process.
Again, she has a proven track record that she can stand on proudly, and we are proud to have nom- — the President is proud to have nominated her.
Q So, as you’re canvassing for support, I mean, have you heard from Senator Tester? Or — of course, Senator Manchin has privately expressed reservations. What’s the — what’s the, you know, the feedback that you’re getting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:` So, again, I — I’m not going to speak for any senators. I will let the senators that you just named speak for themselves.
But again, she went through this process as deputy and got all Democrats in the Senate. And so, she has been through this process before. And so, again, we’re confident to — to her getting through, and we look forward to the hearing that’s coming on Thursday.
Q And on a different topic, I have a question on the secret police station in New York on behalf of the Chinese government. And two men were arrested yesterday on charges that they helped establish this on behalf of the Chinese government. Have ye- — has the White House and the administration spoken to China? Can you give us an update on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things: The U.S. government has been clear that we will use all available tools to protect American citizens and other U.S. persons from transnational repression and other forms of foreign malign influence.
We will not tolerate the PRC government or any foreign government harassing or threatening U.S. persons. Any other specific questions on this particular arrest — I would refer you to Department of Justice.
Go ahead. And then I’ll come around.
Q Thanks, Karine. I know the President spoke by phone with Ralph Yarl and his family. I’m just curious, from a broader perspective — from the President’s viewpoint, what does it say about the country that a Black teenager could ring the doorbell at the wrong house and get shot in the head?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, it’s devastating. I think the gun violence epidemic, more broadly, is devastating.
And, as you know — as you just mentioned in your question, he spoke to Ralph — spoke to Ralph and his mom. And, look, I don’t want to get too far into it. As you know, there is going to be an investigation, so I want to be very careful from here.
And they spoke at length. As I mentioned, they — they discussed his success in classrooms.
But, look, this is an epidemic that we need to deal with. I’m tired. I’m sure you all are tired having to report on these types of shooting almost every week.
And we can fix this. Congress can fix this. They can take action today and deal with some real issues that we’re seeing to make — to really deal with gun reform. And we’re not seeing that.
You know, the press — we get asked often why is it that the President keeps asking for Congress to take action. Because he’s using the platform that he has to speak directly to Congress and to make it clear that we need to take action.
This is unacceptable. What we’re seeing is unacceptable. You heard the President say this. It is outrageous and unacceptable. It is unacceptable that guns are leading killer in our children. And those numbers are just rising; they’re not declining, when you think about our children dying by guns.
And so — look, I’m not going to get, again, too far into the weeds on this case. But what I can say is that, you know, like the President said to him, we hope for his speedy recovery. And we’re going to continue to do everything that we can to really deal with this epidemic.
This is a President that has put forward almost a dozen executive actions to deal with this issue. And he’s going to continue to use — to use the bully pulpit to call on Congress to act.
Q I think I asked —
Q Before you go on, the — the audio back here is — we can’t — we can’t hear. No one can hear back here. Is that right, folks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m sorry. Maybe someone — maybe — can somebody — somebody on the team get that fixed? I apologize, guys.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no. It’s good know. Maybe — maybe they’ll get to it. Sorry about that. I’ll try to speak louder.
Q I ask the question from a broader lens, because I’m not sure what in the President’s proposal related to gun reform would have addressed, you know, the weapon used in this case or the specific scenario here. That’s why I’m asking, kind of, more broadly: What does it say about the country that this is — that this can happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, there’s an investigation —
(The audio malfunction is resolved in the press briefing room.) I think it just went up. (Laughter.) It just woke up a second — for a second there.
There’s an investigation going on, and we’ll learn more as the investigation goes by.
What I — we can say is — continue to lay out what we’re seeing. Our children, our schools, our churches, our grocery stores, they’ve all become targets. And that is devastating to hear.
When I started out talking about the gun violence that we have seen over the last couple days, I said — and I just said this to you in answering this question, almost — it feels like almost every week, at least once a week, we are having discussion.
There was one week where the President talked about gun reform and gun violence three times. And that’s when we saw that horrific shooting in Nashville, where three nine-year-olds and three administrators were murdered at school.
And so, what I can speak to is that there’s clearly an epidemic. There’s clearly actions that need to be taken. We are asking Congress to take actions, and — and this is something that they can do today.
This is a President that is taking this very, very seriously, not just as President — as Vice President, as senator. His record shows that.
But now, we need legislation. We need courage on the other side of 16 — on the other side of Pennsylvania. And we just haven’t seen that yet from Republicans. Republicans need to act here.
Q Yeah, thanks, Karine. What is the White House’s reaction to Mitch McConnell saying that Republicans would block attempts by Democrats to temporary — temporarily replace Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I want to be very clear here. Let me first say that — and the President and the First Lady has offered up, you know — you know, a speedy recovery. As you have heard me say many times, that — Senator Feinstein is not just a former colleague of the President but a friend. And so was her late husband, Richard. And so, certainly we wish her a speedy recovery.
And, look, this is a decision for her to make. When it comes to the future — her future — that is something that she gets to make and should be allowed to do that.
And what we know and what the President has said is she’s had a — a impressive career. He’s worked alongside her with — dealing with the assault ban weapons. That’s something that they worked on together. And the work that she’s done as a senator has certainly lifted up this country.
As it relates to — I’m not going to — I’m not going to speak to every senator or every elected official that makes a comment. But, look, what we believe — when you think about what Democrats are doing or what their request is, this is a request that is — we think that is reasonable. This is something that Senator Feins- — Feinstein asked for. This is her request.
And it is flat wrong to ask partisan — to take — to seek partisan advantage from — from health issues of a colleague. Right? The American people reject that kind of scorched-earth type of behavior or approach to governing.
Again, this is — this is something that she put forward, and this was her request. So, I’ll leave it there.
Q If her seat on the committee is not filled while she’s away with her illness, I mean, is it going to hurt the White House’s ability to get judges appointed in the Senate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what — we appreciate the efforts that we have seen in confirming judges. And what we believe — look, confirming those judges who will uphold the rule of law is a top priority for the President. Senators should not needlessly deny community judges who can ensure accountability for criminal acts. And so, that’s what we believe, and I’ll just leave it there.
Go ahead. Nancy.
Q Thanks, Karine. Back on Evan Gershkovich, you mentioned that the administration is using every possible avenue to try to talk to the Russians. Have there been any substantive negotiations or even conversations about Evan between U.S. officials and Russian officials yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you can imagine, I can’t get into details from here. These are sensitive conversations. I don’t want to get into negotiating in public or negotiating from the podium.
What I can say is that we are — we are committed to getting Evan home and we are committed to getting Paul Whelan home.
And, you know, that is what you heard from the Secretary yesterday, and that was — is what you’re going to continue to hear from this President.
Q I know that the U.S. ambassador was able to meet with Evan for the first time yesterday. Has any message been delivered from President Biden to Evan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don’t have any direct message to — to report out. They — they report that he was appreciative of the support that he is receiving from — from people at home and that he feels good and is holding strong. And I think that’s important to get a — you know, a state of how Evan is doing. And so, that’s what we heard from Embassy Moscow.
And so, again, I think that’s important, but I don’t have any direct communication that was provided to Evan from this President.
Q How of- — sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, go ahead.
Q How often is Evan going to be able to meet with the U.S. ambassador going forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have any specific timelines on how often that’s going to occur. Clearly, Evan’s health is very important to us, which is why we wanted Embassy Moscow to see him and to — to get to see him for their own — with their own eyes.
Just don’t have a regular cadence of what that’s going to look like, and so I will leave that to the State Department to speak to directly.
Raquel, go ahead.
Q Thank you so much, Karine. Yesterday, John Kirby said that the Brazilian President was repeating Russia and China’s propaganda when he says the United States is somehow responsible for the war in Ukraine. Some officials are saying behind the scenes that Brazil wants — is trying to help Russia in this conflict.
So, two questions: Does the White House believe Lula’s comments undermines these efforts to mediate peace? He was trying to create a group of neutral countries.
And also, another question. Could there be any diplomatic implications against Brazil?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: From the U.S.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this. A couple of things that I do want to say about this is that the U.S. — and you’ve heard us say this many times — has no objection to any country that seeks to try to bring an end to Russia’s war against Ukraine, against — against — against Ukraine. A war that they started, a war of their choice. This is Russia that I’m speaking about, clearly.
But we are — we were struck by — to your question about the comments — we were struck by those tone of the press conference of the foreign minister yesterday, which was not a tone of neutrality, suggesting that the United States and Europe are not interested in peace or that we share responsibility for their — for the war.
We believe — and it is true — that it is plainly wrong. Of course, we want this war to end. Of course, we do. And we support President Zelenskyy’s call for a just end to Russia’s war of choice.
In fact, the United States and EU actively engaged Putin to prevent the war, dating back to at least mid- — mid-2021. And efforts have continued since the start of this war.
Unfortunately, Russia has shown no interest in ending its unprovoked invasion. We will continue to work with our allies, as you’ve seen this President do over and over again this past year — and also our allies and our partners — to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia — Russian aggren- — aggression while supporting Ukraine’s proposal for just and durable peace that respects the U.N. Char- — Charter and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Because remember, this is Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and territorial integrity that Russia invaded.
And to say — and, again, what we heard — the tone was not neutral. And it is not true. And so, we’ll — you know, we’ll continue to speak out against that just like you heard from — from Admiral Kirby yesterday.
Q So, just a follow-up. Do you think — is President Biden aware of those comments? And going back to the implications, do you see any implications against Brazil (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I — I have not spoken to the President. I’m assuming that he is aware of this.
And, look, again, Brazil is a sovereign country and they get to make its own decision, and so I will leave it there.
And — you know, and — again, I’ll just say that.
You know, we’re — I’ll say this: We are confident in the strength of the U.S.-Brazil relationship. Even if we disagree with some of the things that the president — President Lula said, we are still confident in that — in that engagement, in that relationship.
Q And can I just ask very quickly one about Mexico? Because the President of Mexico just accused the Pentagon of espionage against his country. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not seen those — those comments. That just happened, just now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I haven’t seen those comments, so I can’t speak to this at this time.
Q Hey, Karine. I have a question about judiciary, but first I wanted to follow up on Ralph Yarl. I wonder if you can talk about how the President learned about and ingested the news. And a presidential phone call is a significant and rare thing. You know, why did he decide to make this phone call and then to tell the nation that he did it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I think also, the Pres- — the parents spoke to the phone call as well. I think you guys heard directly from the parents, who spoke to the call that the President had with Ralph. And I think you also heard from others who are — who are supporting Ralph in this moment.
Look, you guys heard the news. It was a devastating — a 16-year-old, a sweet kid, as he’s being — is being reported, was shot in the head twice.
This is a President, as we know, understands loss, understands the importance of — of making sure that he’s a President that’s there when a — when a family is suffering and dealing with a hard time. And that’s what you saw.
This is a President having to deal with another shooting, talking to another family about what they’re going through with their kid being shot for ringing the wrong doorbell.
Again, I want to be very careful; there is still an investigation going on, so I don’t want to get ahead of it. But that’s what we know thus far.
And so, the President wanted to reach out to the family and to Ralph and — to say that, you know, we wish him a speedy recovery, have a conversation, let them know that he and the First Lady are with them. And I don’t think that’s unusual or uncommon for this President to do.
Q And turning to judiciary, I wonder if the President or the White House is concerned that committee assignments, which usually have been pro forma before now, or the stalling of judicial nominees is going to just become par for the course in the Senate and kind of stall you guys’ ability to get judicial nominees through.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, I just spoke to this about how important it is to confirm judges and what it means for our rule of law and, you know, to ensure there’s accountability. So we — we believe that is — it is a top priority and will continue to be a top priority for this President.
I can’t speak to what Congress is going to do or not do or what the Senate is going to do or not do. I can’t speak to hypotheticals from here. What I can tell you is what the President’s priority are. And this is — continues to be a priority for this President.
Go ahead, Sebastian.
Q Hi. Thanks, Karine. Is the President following the — all this drip-drip of questionable financial stuff happening from Justice Thomas’s private life?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not spoken to the President about this, so I can’t speak to that.
What I can say is: We’re going to be very careful from here and not comment on that.
Q Okay. And how about — can you give a little preview of the bilat with the Colombian President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I can.
Q What are the main topics they’re going to discuss? Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I can give you a little preview of what that might be. On April 20th, as you all know, President Joe Biden will host President Gustavo Petro of Colombia for a bilateral meeting at the White House.
Colombia is a key partner of the United States. And during the meeting, the two leaders will discuss how the United States and Colombia can continue to deepen our strong bilateral relationship by making progress on areas of mutual national interest, including promoting further economic and security cooperation.
The two leaders will also discuss joint efforts to combat climate change, counter narcotics trafficking, address our regional migration challenge, and promote democratic values and human and labor rights in the region and around the world.
And we certainly will have more to share. As you know, we tend to have these background calls — these preview calls. We’ll have one tomorrow. And certainly, we’ll have more to share tomorrow for all of you.
I’m going to try and take one in the — in the back. Go ahead, Courtney.
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask you about immigration. We’re preparing for — next month, for Title 42 to lift and for more people to be eligible to apply for asylum.
We saw that new border numbers are out for March and that there’s been — the vast majority of migrant encounters are from Mexico and Central America.
I know you’ve got a program separately for a couple other nations where you saw a lot of people coming from there. But can you talk about how you’re preparing for next month and particularly with people coming from these particular nationalities?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So two things — you kind of asked a couple of things. Let me just touched on the March numbers for a second, as you just stated.
Look, what we believe is: Our border enforce- — enforcement measures and what we have seen continued to limit unlawful immigration. So that is important to note.
We typic- — we typically see an increase in border encounters this time of the year as weather — as you — I’m sure you’ve reported — as weather gets warmer.
And we — you know, but what we want to note and what’s notable is that the seasonal increase this time around was the lowest in two years. And the number of people attempting to cross unlawfully last month was down about 23 percent from this time last year. And we’ll continue to do what we can to build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system.
But as you’ve heard me say many times, Congress needs to act and to also show that they truly show — have real concern and not do political stunts when it comes to the border.
As we — as you’ve heard from the Secretary of Homeland Security, they put out a plan back in January on what the process would look like. And — and we’re continuing to implement that plan once Title 42 is lifted.
And as you know — and we’ve talked about this — we’re expanding legal pathways like parole — parolee — parolee program immi- — for migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Cuba. And we have actually seen the numbers come down by more than 90 percent.
We’re working with our partners across the Western Hemisphere to jointly manage migration patterns. We’re surging additional — additional resources, including personnel and technology to the border. And we’re ramping up ex- — expedited removals under Title 8.
So, again, we — the Department of Homeland Security put out their — their plan back in January, and they’re going to be implementing that plan. And I just laid out some of the things that they announced that they’re going to be doing, and we’re going to be really focused on making sure that we have a humane, orderly process when it comes to the border.
Q Another question for you. The Supreme Court Justice Alito put a hold — or not a hold, I should say, but — we’re expecting as soon as tomorrow we could get a decision on mifepristone. Can you talk about how you’re preparing for that, both from a — not necessarily a political perspective but practical one, when so many patients rely on this medication?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. And so, I spoke to — about that a little bit at the top. As you know, the Vice President is going to be in — is — is currently traveling right now in Nevada, and she’s talking — and she’s been — she’s been leading on this for the past week. She’s going to be talking to — at a roundtable to talk about how we’re moving forward.
We — we announced some actions last week. The privacy on HIPAA — what we’re doing to strengthen that. And I think that’s, of course, very important.
For now, mifepristone remains available and approved for safe and effective use. I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the courts.
But this is certainly an administration — the President and the Vice President — who have taken this very seriously and will continue to fight for fundamental freedoms. We’re talking about fundamental freedoms for women. And this is something that the President or this Vice President is not a — going to back away from.
And, again, I laid out some actions that we’ve taken in the past week, but not going to get ahead of the courts. As you just said, they’re going to be deciding at some point tomorrow.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead, Anita.
Q I have a question on migrant issues and on Afghanistan. Starting with Afghanistan, the U.N. says they’re prepared to make the heartbreaking decision to pull out U.N. staff if the Taliban won’t allow women to work for the U.N. You know, what — what is the White House’s reaction to this possibility? And how could this affect assistance to Afghanistan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’ve been very — I’ve talked about this many times about, you know, the Taliban and — and if they want to be taken seriously. If they want us to have a — a real conversation with them, they have to — they have to behave in a way, for example, where the — where women are treated in a respectful way.
I’m not going to — I’m going to let the U.N. speak to — speak to their — to their decisions.
You know — and, you know, again, we’re assessing the situation closely and — with the U.N. and our other partners.
And, look, when it comes to, you know, women not being able to work at the U.N., that is something that we’ve talked about, and we’ve said that we were extremely concerned with — with yet another horrific Taliban action.
You know, women are central to humanitarian and civil society operations around the world. In Afghanistan in particular, only women are able to reach some of the most vulnerable, in part because many of the most — most vulnerable are women-headed households that male aid workers cannot enter.
And so women must be able to work for the U.N., as I’ve talked about, so that millions of Afghans can receive food and medicine and other basic needs for their survival. They are essential to the delivery of this assistance and essential to ensuring women, children, and other members of vulnerable groups receive the necessary types of assistance such as protection and gender-based violence services without risk of exploitation.
So, again, I’m going to let the U.N. speak to their decision on — on how they’re going to move forward.
But we’ve been very explicit about this. We’ve been very clear about our concerns with — you know, with the Taliban’s tragic decision and horrific decision on how they treat women in Afghanistan.
Q And then on migrant issues — these disturbing reports of migrant children being forced to work — how does the White House respond to reports that the administration repeatedly ignored warnings about this? And what are you going to do next?
And then if I can just follow up on Sudan real quickly. What’s the consequence if these two warring parties don’t reach any sort of peace agreement? What — what’s the stick?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the first part is — look, it’s unacceptable that these companies are using child labor. You’ve heard us say this when the first — when the New York Times story first was reported earlier this year, and we’ll continue to say that.
What I can say — a couple of things that I can say since New York Times shined a light on — on these abuses in February.
This administration moved swiftly to crack down on violators and more rig- — rigorously vet sma- — more vigorously vet sponsors of unaccompanied minors. DOL and HHS launched a new task force to heighten cooperation and better share information.
We also called on Congress to provide the resources this administration has long requested to help us crack down on companies that exploit children for labor.
The actions we’ve taken since February make clear that we will continue to investigate and hold companies accountable, but we also need Congress to provide the resources we need to enforce. And we’ve been very clear.
Again, DOL, HHS have taken actions. But we need Congress to also — to also give the — give DOL and HHS the resources that they need to — to broaden these actions that they’ve put forward.
Q And the consequence for the warring parties in Sudan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, we’ve been very clear about the importance of de-escalating. And you’ve heard Secretary Blinken speak to this. You heard my colleague from NSC speak to this as well. And so, I’m just not going to go beyond to what they have said.
I’m going to take a couple more questions. Go ahead.
Q Karine, on the leaked classified documents, the President, when he was traveling abroad last week, said he wasn’t that worried because they weren’t contemporaneous.
But in the days since, we’ve learned that several close allies are furious, and there have been some difficult conversations with high-level U.S. officials about how to prevent this from happening again.
So, can you just speak to what role the President is playing in managing the fallout?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, yeah. Look, the President has taken this — this matter very seriously, to the point where he asked the military to do a couple of things — the military and intelligence community to do a couple of things: to run a high-priority, senior-level interagency process focused on understanding what happened; take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information; and reach out directly to allies and partners to reassure — reassure them about our commitment to safeguarding intelligence.
And so, those are the things that the President has asked, again, them — his — the military and also the intelligence community to do. He expressed his concern that the leak happened. And — and we are — and he is taking this incredibly seriously.
I have to move around because —
Q Follow-up —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just going to move around — make sure I take one or two.
Q Follow-up on Afghanistan, please?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have to take one or two questions before we go. Go ahead.
Q Yesterday, the Japanese Prime Minister Kishida’s wife was here. Could you let us know a little bit how that went? And then the upcoming G7 next month is going to be in Japan. What are some expectations from the upcoming summit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, on the second question, we’ll have more to share. I don’t have anything to share or confirm at this time or what the expectations would be or what the goals are from here. So certainly, we’ll — as we normally do, as we get closer to the date, we’ll have more to share.
I believe we have a — we have a readout of — of the meeting that the First Lady had, and we’ll — I’m happy to share that.
But I’m going to continue to move around. Go ahead, Steve.
Q Thanks. Two questions, if I could, related to electric vehicles.
The first: Senator Manchin has a statement today in which he indicates he would support a resolution disapproval of the EPA’s emission standards that were announced last week when we were in Ireland. He says that they would increase reliance on Chinese-made batteries, make a more energy-secure and powerful China. Do you have a response to that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the measures the EPA propose will, if implemented, do the following:
Save American drivers and truck companies an average of $12,000 over the lifetime of their vehicle, which is incredibly important.
They — they’ll cut nearly 10 billion dol- — 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions. That’s nearly twice annual U.S. emissions.
They’ll strengthen American energy security by reducing reliance on 20 million barrels of oil and — together with the historic investment that the President has already made — has secured — to build more electric cars here in America.
And they’ll put the United States on a path to outcompete China — you hear us talk about that often — for jobs and investments, building the future of transportation.
And so, that’s how we see the President’s electric vehicle program being — his focus on that. And this is what we think it’s going to deliver for the American people, as well as really fighting climate change.
Q And the second question related to electric vehicles: This has been a controversy that’s been bubbling up for months now, but I wanted to raise it to you. The seven last FEMA administrators have objected to and were — raised a serious safety concern about the idea that electric vehicles are not able to receive the stations that have been licensed by the federal government to operate on the — on the AM band.
In addition to news and information, this involved stations that uniquely serve Black communities, Hispanic communities, Asian communities, and other underserved communities.
Last week, Sean Hannity suggested that this had something to do with trying to snuff out conservative voices. And Democrats Ed Markey and Josh Gottheimer have suggested that the administration ought to be doing more to encourage automakers to have some sort of engineering fix, to see to it that EVs can receive these stations licensed by the government to operate on the AM band. What’s your response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, totally hear the questions. Look, while AM stations have — is a critical tool to get information to the American people, there — it’s not the only tool, and there are other — there are other ways of doing that.
FEMA works with dozens of wireless service providers and commercial and public radio and TV stations to get key alerts out. That is something that they have been working on and — again, with dozens of wireless service providers.
What’s important is that any car manufacturer planning to remove AM radio should make sure it is paired with a — a suitable, proven, and free alternative to receive critical information.
Again, this is something that FEMA takes very seriously: working with providers. But it’s not — again, it’s not the only tool to providing critical information to the American people.
Q Because there are parts of this country where there’s still no cell service. So how do you — how does that work if you don’t — if you try to use an app?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I totally understand. This is why FEMA is taking this very seriously, having those conversations with providers, making sure that that critical information that is needed to be provided to the American people occurs and happens.
But again, it is not the only way — AM stations is not the only way to provide that information. We’ve proven that by working with other providers.
And so, we’re going to continue to address this issue. We understand it is important for communities that you just listed to get that information. And this is something that FEMA certainly is taking very seriously.
I’m going to take one more question before I — I got to go. Go ahead, Earl.
Q Hello, Karine. How are you doing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey! Long time — long time, no speak.
Q Long time, yeah.
Listen, just to close the book on Ireland, since we just got back. It was a highly personal trip. There were a lot of cousins there. Did Valerie and Hunter — (laughter) — and Hunter Biden — they flew on Air Force One. Did they contribute? Did they pay for airfare, accommodations, ground transportation? What — I think — did they?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we took — we’ve — this is not the first time. Let’s be very, very clear. It is consistent with other presidents when they’ve had family travel with them abroad. This is nothing new. So I just want to make sure that we make that very clear to the American people.
Q Point taken.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And, of course, we followed every protocol that any other president or every other president has taken when they — when their family has traveled. And so, yes.
All right. I’m going to go. I’m —
Q “Yes” what?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we — we took every protocol that is necessary and needed when a family traveled. We did nothing different than past presidents. And so, yes, they paid — they paid for their way.
Q They paid for their share.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Like every other — this is — this is not unusual. This is not the first time that families have traveled with presidents.
So, there’s — there’s — there’s nothing — there’s no “there there,” as they would say.
All right. Thank you.
4:03 P.M. EDT