James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:15 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Happy Monday.
Okay, I’m just going to get —
Q    Tuesday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Is it Tuesday?  (Laughter.)  Holy cow.  Happy Tuesday.
Q    We also lost track every day.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my gosh.  Tom- — time is —
Q    Speak for yourself.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  It’s Tuesday.  Happy Tuesday, everybody.
Okay, we’re just going to get straight to it.  As you — as you know, we’re going to do a trip preview for the President’s upcoming OCONUS trip.  The Admiral is here to do that preview, so I’m just going to invite him straight away.
MR. KIRBY:  How you all doing today? 
Okay.  I think as you know, tomorrow, President Biden will be heading to Hiroshima, Japan, to participate in the G7.  Since the President took office, revitalizing our alliances and partnerships, and reestablishing America’s leadership around the world has been one of his top priorities.
Thanks in no small part to his hard work during the G7, you will see that our allies and partners are more united than ever.
Over the last 15 months, the G7 has stood in solidarity with Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion, rallying the world to support Ukraine and cutting Putin off from the key technologies and financing around the globe.  That solidarity with Ukraine is even stronger now than it was last year.  And you’ll see concrete action to further isolate Russia and weaken its ability to wage its brutal war.
Of course, this display of unity will extend to other key economic and security issues as well.  G7 leaders will demonstrate that we share a common approach to the challenges posed by the PRC, an approach that is grounded in common values. 
And we will also rally the world — we will also rally around the need for bold action to accelerate the clean energy transition, including by making President Biden’s economic agenda a blueprint for G7 action to address the climate crisis and create good jobs.
Finally, we will present an affirmative agenda to take further action to support developing countries around the world.  That means we’re going to showcase how we are scaling President Biden and the G7’s flagship infrastructure initiative — the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, otherwise called PGII — which has attracted major investors to better respond to the global demand for high-quality infrastructure financing.
And we will reaffirm our commitment to help institutions like the World Bank evolve so that they can more effectively address global challenges that directly affect its core mission of poverty reduction, including climate change.
Now, the President will also have an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Kishida on the margins, where they will discuss ways to further strengthen our mutual security, economic multilateral cooperation, and, of course, look for ways to continue to improve our alliance with Japan.
And he will also have the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the other members of the Quad — Prime Minister Modi of India and Prime Minister Albanese of Australia — as well. 
So a very packed agenda here for the G7.  The President is looking forward to — to getting out there and having those discussions and, again, showing how united the G7 really is ar- — around a common range of security challenges and opportunities.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Zeke.
Q    Just a scheduling question there.  You mentioned the President is going to meet Quad leaders in Japan.  Does that reflect a change to the back — the back half of the trip?  Is he not going to go to Australia anymore?
MR. KIRBY:  That would — would’ve had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Albanese anyway at the G7.  I don’t have any additional changes or additional schedule items to speak to today.
We’re working through, thinking through the rest of the trip right now.
Q    And then, so, the rest of the trip is still — is now up in the air because of the debt limit negotiations?
MR. KIRBY:  What I can speak to is the G7 and going to Hiroshima; the President is looking forward to that.  We are —
we’re taking a look at the rest of the trip.
Q    And then, just a substantive question there.  Can you speak a little bit about the implications of the debt limit showdown here at home on the President’s credibility on the global stage? 
Is it — you know, how can he rally the world if he can’t rally lawmakers here in Washington about something as simple as, you know — and fundamental as the full faith and credit the United States?  How does — you know, how — what message does that send abroad?
MR. KIRBY:  These leaders — all leaders of democracies, they understand and they want — they respect American leadership on the world stage.  And they know that our ability to pay our debts is a key part of U.S. credibility and leadership around the world.  And so, they understand that the President also has to focus on making sure that we don’t default and on having these conversations with congressional leaders.  And he’ll be able to do that and have his team do that while we’re at the G7.
But — but these leaders of all around the world understand how important American credibility and leadership is, and that’s why they understand how important it is that the President stay on top of this issue.
We wouldn’t even be having this discussion about the effect of the debt ceiling debate on the trip if Congress would do its job and raise the debt ceiling the way they’ve always done.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Kelly O.
Q    Admiral, typically when you do a trip preview, you talk about all the planned stops.  And there were other stops — Papua New Guinea and Australia —
MR. KIRBY:  That’s right —
Q    — that have been announced.  You did not do that.  Is the President calling Prime Minister Albanese?  Is he doing something that would perhaps lead to a change in the itinerary?  Should we anticipate that?
MR. KIRBY:  It’s difficult for me to tell you exactly what to anticipate at this point, Kelly.  As I said, we’re reevaluating the rest of the trip right now.  I can speak to Hiroshima; I can speak to the G7.  We’re evaluating the rest of the trip. 
And as you might expect, should there be changes made or need to be made to the rest of the trip, we will absolutely
make proper notification. 
Q    And there were some calls from Republicans in both the House and the Senate for the President to adjust his foreign travel due to the debt ceiling issue.  And should we assume that that is the reasoning for this reevaluation?
MR. KIRBY:  No.  You should assume that, first of all, we’re going to the G7 and we’re looking forward to that.  It’s an important forum for a lot of important issues that I just detailed.  And given where we are right now, it’s also incredibly prudent and responsible for the President to take a look at the rest of the trip and evaluate whether it makes sense going forward. 

Again, when we have something to speak to, we certainly will.  But the President of the United States can do both things.  He can travel overseas and manage our foreign policy and our defense policy and look after our national security commitments in an important region like the Indo-Pacific and also work with congressional leaders to do the right thing, raise the debt ceiling, avoid default so that the United States’ credibility here at home and overseas is preserved.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Well, yeah, I mean — thank you.  In essence, you’re — you’re sort of teasing us here over what could transpire in the next two hours.  If this meeting doesn’t go well, he’s not going to Australia, is what seems to be — that you’re saying.

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not teasing anything, Ed.  I’m just trying to tell you what’s going on.  And what’s going on right now is we’re hopping on Air Force One tomorrow, and we’re heading to Japan, and we’re going to have a good meeting at the G7.  And we’re going to evaluate the rest of the trip, and we’ll see what happens.  We’ll see where things go.

Q    But what would cause you to not go to Australia then at this point?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get into a hypothetical.  I think we’re going to evaluate where the situation is here and make a — make a determination relatively soon.

Q    On Japan, many previous American presidents have been pressured or asked to apologize for the U.S. using a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Does the President plan to do that when in Japan or make any comments at all over —

MR. KIRBY:  The President —

Q    — what transpired?
MR. KIRBY:  The President plan- — plans to visit the memorial and to pay his respects to the lives of the innocents who were killed in the — in the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. 

But the focus of the trip, Ed, is what I just talked about in my opening statement.  It’s about the future.  It’s about getting the G7 together to talk about some common challenges and opportunities and to lay a framework down to address those challenges and opportunities together.  And I think you’re going to see that in the readouts and the discussions after each of these meetings.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  I got to take some from the back.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  On Africa — Kirby, good to see you.  The President has explicitly acknowledged Africa’s role in the world and in accomplishing and facing global challenges.  And I’ve heard you say several times already this week that the leaders of the G7 will be talking about some initiative about how to work with other regions to face global challenges.  Could you speak a little bit more about that and Africa’s role, where leaders’ minds will be focused, and what they’ll interrogate further on this trip?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  I talked about that a little bit in the opening statement when it talked about the PGII, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, as a practical and useful and, quite frankly, more effective alternative to some of the infrastructure and investment programs that other nations have been — have been trying to sell on the continent.  And many nations on the continent are realizing that those opportunities, those financial deals, are not necessarily all that they’re cracked up to be.  And the PGII represents an alternative. 

And we’ve already seen, since the President spearheaded this at the last G7 — we’ve already seen millions and millions and millions of dollars of investment in — through PGII into some of these lower- and middle-income countries on the continent and beyond.  And so we’re looking forward to advancing that here at the G7.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

MR. KIRBY:  The next G7.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Hi, John.  I want to ask you about Lebanon.  Does the administration support the French judge decision to issue an arrest warrant — a warrant against the head of central bank, Mr. Riad Salameh, since the administration always wanted transparency in Lebanon and they always push for anti-corruption laws and regulations?

MR. KIRBY:  That’s really for the French to speak to.

Q    Yeah, but do you support this?

MR. KIRBY:  We support?

Q    Do you support the decision that — the holding him accountable, the head of the central bank who has been accused of corruption?  And you’ve been calling for Lebanon to fight corruption.  Now they are indicting him.  Why can’t you support that decision or —

MR. KIRBY:  It’s a —

Q    — or —

MR. KIRBY:  It is a French decision to speak to.  Look, of course, all around the world we speak out against corruption and try to hold leaders accountable as best we can.  That’s — I think that goes without saying.  But in this particular case, I’m going to have to point you to the French authorities.  This is for them to speak to.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jeremy.

Q    Thanks.  Hey, John.  So you said a few moments ago that the President can do two things at once.  He can do foreign policy, he can do domestic policy.  You guys have said repeatedly before that the President can be president anywhere.  So why then would he cancel part of this trip?

MR. KIRBY:  I didn’t say he was canceling part of his trip.

Q    No, no, but you said you’re reevaluating it.  So —

MR. KIRBY:  I said we’re reevaluating, but we may — you know, there’s not been a cancellation as yet, but that could happen.  We’ll see where it goes. 

I think — to get to, I think, the gist of your question is: The President often has to make tough decisions about how and where he’s going to spend his time.  And as I — and as I think we’ve also made clear — Karine has made clear a gazillion times up here — how seriously the President takes this priority about defaulting on the national debt and what that says about the United States not just here at home but around the world, and how that can affect our own international reputation.  Because there’s countries like Russia and China that would love nothing more than for us to default so they could point the finger and say, “You see, the United States is not a stable, reliable partner.”

So, the — that is a high priority, as it should be for the — for the President. 

So, look, we’re going to reeval- — reevaluate here the rest of the week after the G7, and we’ll see where it goes. 

But — but if the trip gets truncated or changed or modified in any way, it — it should be nothing more than a statement of making — of the President putting his priorities where he believes they need to be.  And, again, I want to say we wouldn’t have to have this conversation, I wouldn’t have to answer these questions, if Congress just did the right thing.
Q    Well, and — and to that point, though, you guys have been building up this trip — you know, the Papua New Guinea, the historical significance of that, the Quad, and the extent to which it shows the importance of U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific at a moment of tensions with China.  So if you were to cancel that portion of the trip, what message would that send to the region and about the United States’ commitment to leadership in the Indo-Pacific?
MR. KIRBY:  I think I answered that question before.  It — it — again, I don’t want to get ahead of where we are, but — but modifying an overseas trip to deal with this particular issue, an issue which is central to our international standing around the world, would — that — that’s the message: that we understand how important it is that the United States not only say we are but prove we are a reliable, stable, strong partner for our allies and partners around the world.
And that stems from — and the President understands this — it stems from the reliability of our — of our ability to pay our debts.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Raquel.
Q    Thank you so much, Karine.  Hi, John.  Hey.  Hi.  So what’s going to be President Biden’s message to the G7 leaders who are worried about the possibility of unprecedent default in the United States? 
And also, on another topic discussed here in D.C. today: Do you anticipate that you will discuss artificial intelligence and also the ChatGPT during the meetings there?  And how can the U.S. work with other countries on this matter?
MR. KIRBY:  So, on your first question, the President’s message to the G7 will continue to be, as I said to Jeremy, that the United States is a strong, reliable partner and that he’s working hard to — to get the debt ceiling raised, as it should be, because he understands the importance of that to our international reputation and our credibility and that — and that they don’t need to worry about that part of it. 
And — and, look, as I said in my opening statement — and it wasn’t just some accidental line I threw in there: Since day one, the President has focused on revitalizing our vast alliances and — and our network of partnerships.  No other nation in the world enjoys that network the way the United States does, and the President has put an awful lot of personal capital into revitalizing those — those partnerships.
And just look what that has done.  Just pick a — pick — just pick one thing.  Look at Ukraine: the convening power of the United States under President Biden and what we’ve been able to do internationally for Ukraine.  That needs to continue.  Ukraine will be on the agenda, of course.
And so that will be the — the President’s message.
Now, as for AI and — and — and the —
Q    Chat.
MR. KIRBY:  — chat — yeah — function — the — the — sorry.  I can’t — I don’t know if that specific application is going to come up, but I — but you can expect that as — in the course of the discussions that they will be having, that these leaders will have a chance to talk about science and technology and the importance of — of appropriate behavior in that space.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  A couple more.  Go ahead, Nandita.
Q    (Inaudible) and Ukraine.  Just very quickly, follow-up —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re running out of time.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Nandita.
Q    Thanks.  Thanks, Karine.  Reuters has reporting showing that the G7 countries are set to discuss concern about China’s use of economic coercion in its dealings abroad, and — and that’s going to be part of the larger joint statement that will be released in Japan.  I’m wondering if you can confirm that.
MR. KIRBY:  The PRC and the — and managing that competition with them, as well as dealing with the full scope of challenges that the PRC presents in the Indo-Pacific region, will absolutely be on the agenda for the G7.  And as I said in my opening statement, I think you can expect to hear at the end of those discussions that all the G7 leaders are of a common mind about how to deal with the — the challenges that the PRC presents. 
I don’t — I won’t get ahead of — of what’s going to be said after those discussions, but I — it absolutely will be on the agenda.  And I absolutely think you’ll see at the end of it that the G7s are all like-minded — G7 nations are all like-minded.
Q    So economic coercion, specifically, will be a part of it?
MR. KIRBY:  I think — I think they’re going to talk about the broad scope of coercive activities by the PRC, and economics is certainly a part of that.  Yes, that will be part of the discussion, but so will be the security coercion that — that we see coming out of the PRC, whether it’s in the East China Sea, whether it’s in Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea.  All of that will be discussed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Steve.
Q    Thanks.  John, I want to ask you about a developing story.  We’re just now hearing reports about an American convoy in Nigeria —
MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.
Q    — coming under attack.  What can you tell us about it?
MR. KIRBY:  Don’t know a whole lot.  I just got informed about that here before coming on out to talk to you all.  It does look like a U.S. convoy of vehicles was — was attacked. 
What I can tell you is that no U.S. citizens were involved, and therefore, there were no U.S. citizens hurt.  But we are aware of some casualties, perhaps even some killed.  But I don’t want to get too far ahead of where we are right now.  It just happened, and the State Department is looking into this.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.
Q    What’s — given the number of questions you’ve taken on the debt limit here as it relates to the G7, how much do you expect that issue to kind of cast a shadow over these conversations?  I mean, do you expect the President to answer questions about the process and the fallout and what may happen “if” with — with G7 leaders?
MR. KIRBY:  Look, I’m not going to speak for other G7 leaders and what they may or may not want to ask the President, but we do not expect that this will, as your — to use your phrase, “overshadow” the G7. 
There’s an awful lot on the agenda.  I just walked you through it.  These are several full days of discussions about real meaningful issues to our national security and to that of our G7 partners. 
I do not believe — I do not expect that this is going — that this is going to dominate the discussion.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, J.J.
Q    Can you comment on the report that a U.S. Patriot battery system may have been damaged in Ukraine in the latest Russian mis- — missile barrage?
MR. KIRBY:  I cannot, no.
Q    So you can’t say whether — so, if — if it were damaged, would the Ukrainians be able to repair it on their own?  Or would the U.S. have to —
MR. KIRBY:  First of all, I can’t confirm the reports.  But — but, you know, it would depend on — it would depend on the scope of the damage as to whether or not it could be repaired by the Ukrainians or whether we might need to help them.
I think you know that in — particularly in howitzers, oftentimes, when we gave — howitzers are an artillery piece, firing an artillery round — and many of them have been damaged in the fighting or just worn out by the fighting.  And some were able to be repaired onsite, some we assisted the Ukrainians with repairs outside Ukraine.
I just can’t speak to this.  But obviously, if — if there was damage done to a Patriot system that needed to be repaired outside Ukraine, we would certainly assist with that.  I just can’t confirm it.
Q    The video that the U.S. has released asking Russian intelligence to share its secrets with the United States, what — why now?  Why would any Russian share that kind of information?  And what assurance and safety assurances is the U.S. offering?
MR. KIRBY:  You’re talking about the video that the CIA released?
Q    Yeah.
MR. KIRBY:  That’s not uncommon for them to do this, for one thing.  They — they look for recruits same as the — same as the U.S. Navy does.  And — and so, it’s not uncommon for them to use video as an opportunity to see if they can encourage others to — to help them out.
I’d refer you to CIA to speak to the efficacy of — of that process and that program.  But it’s not atypical for them to do that, and, frankly, it would be irresponsible if they weren’t doing that.
Q    Are you offering safety assurances, though?  I mean, why would —
MR. KIRBY:  I would refer you to the CIA to speak to the details of the program.
Q    Japan is very much hoping that the U.S. will resume — joining the TPP.  Has there been any thought of that coming up?
MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have anything on the agenda with respect to TPP to speak to.
Q    And this time, will you — this time, will you have a little chance to visit Japan?  Last time, you didn’t get — get out of the hotel.  But —
MR. KIRBY:  Me? 
Q    Her. 
MR. KIRBY:  Are you going to visit Japan, Karine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, yeah, hopefully.  We’ll see.  We’ll be busy.  We’ll be very busy.
Q    And — and, real quick —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, we have to wrap this up. 
Anita, you have the last question.
Q    Thank you so much, John.  First of all, we just heard South African President Cyril Ramaphosa say that both President Zelenskyy and Putin have agreed to six-party talks with African leaders aimed at hammering out a peace deal.  Just wondering how the White House feels about —
MR. KIRBY:  Peace deal for —
Q    In Ukraine.
MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, look, I’ll say what I’ve said before: We would welcome any credible peace proposal put forward, even by a third party or third parties. 
Q    Even from a country who’s —
MR. KIRBY:  Hang on.  Let me — let me finish.
Q    — who’s commander of the armed forces is in Russia right now meeting with ground forces?
MR. KIRBY:  We would — we would support any third-party peace proposal as long as it can be seen as credible, enforceable, and sustainable.  And for those three things to be the case, it’s got to be supported by President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people. 
Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.  I’ve said it a million times.  We’ll keep saying it.
We’re not — we’re not pooh-poohing other peace proposal opportunities as long as they can be credible and sustainable and enforceable.  And, again, that means that the Ukrainians have to be 100 percent behind it. 
And it has to start — it has to start with Ukrainian perspectives.  It has to start with the U.N. Charter being a foundational element.  And it has to — it has to start with President Zelenskyy’s support and his 10-point proposal at least referencing and be a part of that frame. 
So that’s where we are.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And one more person. 
Go ahead.  Go ahead, sir. 
Q    Thank you so much.  The situation in Pakistan has gotten worse from the last time that we spoke.  I’m just — last time you said that the U.S. does want to see a stable Pakistan.
MR. KIRBY:  Of course, we do.
Q    Things are getting from bad to worse.  Anything to update about that? 
And second question —
MR. KIRBY:  When you say “bad to worse,” what are you referring to?
Q    The 7,000 political party workers have been arrested.  Journalists are missing.  I mean, this is all happening.  Supreme Court — there was yesterday a protest in front of the Supreme Court, you know?  So —
MR. KIRBY:  We want to see Pakistan be a success.  And we want to see Pakistan — the — the government live up to the strongest aspirations of the Pakistani people. 
Pakistan is an important partner in the region.  They’re suffering from the threat of terrorism every single day.  And we’re mindful of the challenges that they’re facing politically and economically as well.  And in the United States, they’ll continue to find a good friend.
Q    Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you.
MR. KIRBY:  Thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much, Admiral.  Appreciate it.
Okay, we have a couple minutes left.  Zeke?
Q    So, the President, over the weekend, made a bit of news when he said that he was open to discussing work requirements as part of this negotiation with Republicans that’s underway.  So can you clarify exactly what the President is — is negotiating on here, particularly when it comes to work requirements.  He’s under fire from a lot of Democrats right now on the Hill.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, also as the President said on Sunday, he — he will not accept proposals that take away people’s healthcare, health coverage.  So that is incredibly important to the President.  He’s been very consistent about that.  As he — we’ve been having conversations with Republicans or, kind of, the back-and-forth with Republicans as it relates to health coverage.
And, look, MAGA Republicans have been attacking, as you know, Affordable Care Act — that’s been for many years now.  They’ve tried over and over again to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, and trying to take away healthcare from hardworking families and — again, for years now.  And so, clearly, they haven’t given up.
And so that’s what the President was speaking to.  The bill, as you all know, threatens the healthcare for 21 million Americans — 21 million Americans. 
So, the President has said for this — not just for years but specifically the past couple of months — that he’s going to continue to fight — fight for — fight for healthcare and fight for Americans and American families to make sure that they have that healthcare and that’s what he was specifically speaking to.
Q    So the President, though, is willing to discuss work requirements when it comes to TANF but not for Medicaid or SNAP?  Is that — that’s — that’s what we’re talking about here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, when you think about the work requirements, that has — that’s something he voted for back in the 1990s.  So it’s been around for some time, clearly.  Their program already have — have work requirements and still have that because of the law today.  So I just want to make that really clear.
What we’re talking about is making sure that — something that the President has been pretty consistent about for these past several months is continuing to fight for healthcare coverage.
Q    And (inaudible) because, you know, what you’re discussing right now is negotiating with congressional Repu- — Republicans that they want done in order to raise the — to raise the debt limit by this deadline at the 1st of the next month.  So how are you not negotiating about the debt limit if you’re negotiating about something that’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, we’ve been —
Q    — is it contingent on them agreeing —
Q    — to raise the debt limit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear you.  We are right now having a conversation negotiating on the budget.  That’s what the President has been very clear about.  We want to go back to regular order and talk about appropriations.  That’s what we have — and we’ve been very clear that the debt limit needs to be taken care of.  Congress needs to do their constitutional duty.
And if you think about it, Republicans — MAGA Republicans have laid out how they see the vision for the American people when it speaks to the budget.  Right? 
And so, we’ve been very clear about that — that 22 percent cut that they want to do to healthcare.  Just talked about the 21 million Americans, right?  They — the cut that they want to do to veterans. 
All of those things are conversations that his team and the teams of the four — four congressional leaders, they’ve been having for the past couple of days on the budget, on how we move forward with the budget.
Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  Vice President Harris was not in the room last week when the President met with McCarthy and congressional leaders, but she will be there today.  Can you tell us why she’s part of this meeting and the role she’s playing, and whether or not she’s going to step in over the next couple of days when the President is traveling overseas and take on a bigger role in his absence?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the Vice President — this is not about the President’s trip to Asia, so — just want to be very clear.  This is — she — and I said this last week — she has been a partner in this.  She — she has been consulted multiple times on — on the budget, on preventing default.  This is something that — the President clearly respects her view.
And for this meeting, we — she — he wants to — she — she wants — he wants her to be part of this meeting so they can continue to consult.  But now, of course, she’ll be part of the meeting with the four congressional — meeting.
Look, he wants her input in this.  And that’s what we’re going to see with this meeting today.
Q    But will she step in while he is overseas and do meetings?  Like, what might she be doing now while he’s in Japan?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — well, look, I — the Vice President is a close advisor.  She’s a partner to the President.  That has been consistent the last two years.  That’s what you’re going to continue to see.  And she’s been part of this process throughout — throughout these conversations about the budget, about not defaulting.  So that is not going to change.
And as I’ve said, as my colleague just said moments ago, the President could be President anywhere.  He can do the work of the American people abroad, and certainly he does it every day here when we’re in the White House.  So that’s not going to change.
As we know, every President has said this before this President; he can be a President everywhere.
Go ahead, Joey.
Q    Yeah, thank you.  What is the White House’s response to concerns already expressed from progressive Democrats that President Biden is giving too many concessions in debt ceiling talks with Republicans? 
Zeke noted the consideration of work — expanded work requirements for some federal aid; the future spending on — future spending caps on discretionary funds that has been discussed; as well as permit reform.  All this, we’re hearing, is coming out of these — these debt ceiling talks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m going to be very careful; I’m not going to negotiate from the podium.  As you know, there’s going to be a meeting very, very shortly that the President is going to have with the four leaders. 
And also, the President’s team has been — and the congressional members, their team have been meeting for the past several days.  And it’s been, as we see it, very productive.
The Pres- — this is a President has been around the block a few times — right? — when you think about negotiations.  He knows how to make deals.  He knows how this works.  And he — there’s no one more experienced in knowing how to get this done.
And if you look at what — if you look at the record of this President, if you think about the Inflation Reduction Bla- — Act of the last two years, you think about the gun safety legislation, you think about the PACT Act, you think about the bipartisan legislative — bipartisan infrastructure legislation that’s clearly now law, those are things that shows that the President understands how to get through these negotiations, how to bring people to the table.  And that’s what you’re going to continue to see from this President in the next — at least today.  We’ll see what happens.
Go ahead.
Q    Thanks, Karine.  I just wanted to ask what you guys felt about some of the timing that has been discussed with Republicans saying they need — that a deal would need to be completed by this weekend.  Obviously, the President knows Congress well.  Does — do you agree with that timing?  Do you feel there’s more time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, we’ve been very clear: This is — when it comes to the debt limit, that’s something that should have been done.  They c- — a while ago.  We’ve been very clear about that. 

The fact that Republicans in Congress, MAGA Republicans are threatening — are threatening default, holding our economy hostage, that shouldn’t be.  That is not regular order.  That is not what is supposed to be happening. 

We’ve done it 78 time since 1960.  And so, this should have been done some time ago.  And so, if they are so concerned about the timeline, then they should get to work and do their constitutional duty.

Q    Do you feel — do you feel like there is a chance or how much of a chance is there that you guys could reach an agreement by the weekend?  You know, obviously, the President would be in Asia.  But could you — could you reach the agreement by — do you have any level of confidence that you could finish by this weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.  The President is going to be meeting with congressional members in the next 15, 20 minutes. 

Look, the way that we see this process going — as you asked me about a deadline, a timeline — it should be done right now.  The sooner, the better.  We should get this done.  There is no reason for Congress to wait any longer to do their job.  There’s no reason to be (inaudible).

And just a couple more.  We heard from economists — the urgency from economists; business leaders, including small-business leaders across the country; and more CEOs.  We’ve heard from them saying how catastrophic this could be if — if Republicans get their way. 

So, Congress needs to prevent default, and they need to do it before the X date.  And that is critical, and that is key.  And that is important to do. 

Go ahead, Jeremy.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Last week, when the President met with the congressional leaders, you know, most folks emerged from that meeting saying this was essentially both sides restating their positions, not much progress was made.  Can you set expectations for today?  How much progress do you expect to be made?  Do you think that there will be more progress than there was last week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to get ahead of — of this meeting.  Certainly not going to get ahead of what’s going to come out of it.

I will say this: When you think about the four leaders, what they came out and said, three of the four said that we needed to avoid default.  So three of the four were with the President about avoiding default.  And so, that’s also very important, and that’s also really key.  And that’s what the President has been stating over and over and over again. 

And so, we’ll see what happens.  The meeting is going to — is going to, kind of — kind of, happen in the next 20 minutes or so, right after this briefing is done, I presume.  And — and we’ll let the leaders talk amongst themselves.  And the President is going to make it very clear that they need to do their job and do their constitutional duty.

Q    And then following up on something Zeke was asking about.  You know, you’ve said that the White House isn’t negotiating over raising the debt ceiling.  But the President and his team have been actively negotiating with Republican congressional leaders over spending.  They’re rushing to get a deal before June 1.  How is that not negotiating over default?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The way that we see these conversations — and we continue to be clear — default is not negotiable.  It is — they sh- — it should be done without conditions.  That has not changed with us. 

We are having conversations about the budget.  We are having conversations about appropriation, which is regular order, which is what is supposed to be happening.  Year after year, this is the conversations that have occurred —

Q    And typically that wouldn’t be happening until September, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look — look —

Q    So what — what is —


Q    — what is the what is the time pressure on doing negotiations now over spending?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, there are many examples of — of simultaneous conversations on spending and preventing default.  That is nothing new.  What we are saying is that they should not connect the two, that they should get the job done, and that we’re going to have a conversation about budget.  And we’re going to continue to say — hold the line here and be really, really firm and say that negotiating on default is not an option. 

And so, that’s what the President has said.  You’ve heard from him directly over the last couple of days, as many of your colleagues have had the opportunity to ask him that very question. 

You’re hearing from the President of the United States, who has said that this is not about the debt limit.  There’s no negotiating around the debt limit.  They should do their constitutional duty and move forward.

MS. DALTON:  Karine, there’s time —


MS. DALTON:  — for two more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  The White House keeps saying that Republicans are manufacturing a crisis by refusing to do a clean bill to raise the debt limit.  Right now, the nation’s debt exceeds 100 percent of its GDP.  This has happened twice in U.S. history: once during World War Two and once now, over the last couple of years.  How is it not a crisis when the country literally owes more than its worth? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You should ask the — you should ask the Speaker this question.  This is his job.  This is his constitutional duty to move forward and get the debt limit done.  That is a question for him. 

They are the legislative — it is a co-equal branch, as you know.  They are the legislative body, and this is what they’re supposed to do.  That is a question — seriously, that is a question for the Speaker and the MAGA Republicans, who are literally holding our economy hostage. 

I have to move on. 

Q    So you accept that the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I promised to take one more. 

Q    — that the debt is —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll take one —

Q    — a crisis?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll take — I’ll take one more.

Q    You’d accept that the debt is a crisis?

Q    Thank you, Karine.  What is the White House reaction to Special Counsel Durham’s report on how the FBI handled the Trump-Russia probe?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would leave it to the Department of Justice to speak to.

Q    So the President talks often about how he wants the DOJ and FBI to remain independent and, you know, above the fray.  That report seems to reflect the opposite.  Is — does he agree with Special Counsel Durham that there needs to be wholesale changes at the FBI?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, that is with the Department of Justice.  That’s not something that I’m going to speak from the podium. 
As you just stated in your question, we believe in an independent Department of Justice.  That’s what the President said when he was running.  And that is what he — the President has said the last two years. 

Thank you so much.  I’ll see you guys in Japan.

2:50 P.M. EDT

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