James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:39 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon!
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, so nice. Okay.
So, a short while ago, as many of you saw for yourselves, President Biden convened Cabinet members and agency heads from across his administration for a briefing on the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, a meeting he has convened each year since taking office.
The President was also updated on the ongoing wildfires across the nation and federal efforts to reduce wildfire risk in the United States.
During the meeting, the President and his team discussed ongoing preparations for these extreme weather events, response plans for when they occur, and resources in place to help communities recover.
The President thanked the brave first responders who work around the clock and put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe, and highlighted how the historic investments that are being made through his Invest — Investing in America agenda will make our communities stronger and more resilient.
With that, my colleague, Admiral Kirby, is here to talk about our Ukrai- — the support that we are — we continue to give to Ukraine and any other foreign policy questions that you all may have.
MR. KIRBY: Afternoon, everybody.
MR. KIRBY: (Laughs.) I’m just not ever going to get used to that.
Q They don’t say “good afternoon” to you at the Pentagon?
MR. KIRBY: No, it’s not quite as enthusiastic. (Laughter.) Maybe that’s just because of me, not because of them.
I think this week, as you all have seen, Russia has continued to wage just a brutal, completely unprovoked war against Ukraine, launching yet more airstrikes and bombarding Am- — Ukrainian citiz- — cities all across the country. In fact, in just this — this here month of May, Russia has launched 17 different air assaults against Kyiv, harming civilians, devastating civilian areas, hitting civilian infrastructure.
In response, the United States is going to continue to support Ukraine, help give them things they need to better defend themselves. And as part of all that effort, we’ve got an upcoming package here, which will be the 39th drawdown of equipment from the Department of Defense inventories using presidential drawdown authorities.
We will use that package that we’re announcing today to provide Ukraine with additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems, which Ukraine has been deploying quite effectively, as well as more Avenger air defense systems, Stinger anti-aircraft systems, and ammunition, of course, for the HIMARS, artillery, and anti-armor systems that the United States continues to provide to Ukraine.
I think as you all saw on full display in Hiroshima, at the G7, our allies and partners stand firmly behind us in this effort. And we can continue that su- — we can continue to expect to see that that support will continue going forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Okay, go ahead, Kristen.
Q Thank you so much. Can you give us your reaction to the Chinese fighter jet that conducted what the Pentagon described as a, quote, “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” over the South China Sea? What are the implications? What are the potential ramifications? And what could the fallout be for the U.S.-Chinese relationship?
MR. KIRBY: Well, it was unsafe, and it was unprofessional. You heard the Pentagon speak to that. And you all saw the video for yourselves. You can see that they forced that RC-135 to go through the jet wash of the Chinese fighter, which just tells you how close it was — several hundred feet. That’s dangerous.
And, you know, one of the reasons we want to keep the lines of communication open — in fact, one of the reasons why we want to make sure we can get that military-to-military — military channel back open is so that, you know, we have a way to talk to the — to the Chinese about incidents, like this one, that could lead to miscalculation and misunderstanding and maybe getting somebody hurt.
Q What is the status of trying to reopen those talks, particularly in the wake of, you know, dust-up of defense (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: Well, right now, unfortunately, the military-to-military vehicle is just not open to us. It’s one of the reasons why Secretary Blinken is so eager to get back over to Beijing.
We want to get back to that spirit of Bali. We want to — there are lines of communication open, and certainly we have used the diplomatic channel to convey our concerns over this particular intercept, but that’s not the same as having mil-to-mil comms and having that available to you, especially when tensions are so high and the risk of miscalculations are also high.
Q If I could just ask one on Ukraine. There were obviously the drone strikes in Moscow. Ukraine has denied that they’re responsible for that.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q What is the latest U.S. assessment? And could this be a sign that Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive has begun?
MR. KIRBY: Well, we’ve seen the Ukrainian denial that they had anything to do — you’re talking about the drone strike on the apartment building in Moscow?
Q Moscow, yeah.
MR. KIRBY: So we’d refer you to the Ukrainian government to speak to that. We don’t have any specific information that tells us who was responsible, and it’s not like we’re going to go out and investigate this. You know, it’s not — that wouldn’t be appropriate for us to do.
And then, to your second question on the counteroffensive: Again, I — we would let President Zelenskyy speak to this. Wherever, whenever the Ukrainian military is ready to step off here and get started, that’s really going to be up to them to talk about and to — and to explain.
I would just tell you that over just the last few weeks alone, there has been a lot of fighting and a lot of back and forth here. And I think I need to leave it at that.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Hi, John. I just want to follow up on China. I think from our conversations with administration officials, including Jake Sullivan, there’s a clear message that both the U.S. and the Chinese want to move forward beyond the spy balloon incident. My question is, what about the investigation? Where are we? When can we expect the result of the balloon investigation? Will it be made public?
And then I have a follow-up on North Korea.
MR. KIRBY: So just to be clear, there’s not an investigation going on. There was forensic analysis done on the material that we recovered from the payload of the spy balloon. That was done by the FBI in Quantico, largely. And I don’t know the status. I don’t know whether they’re complete or — or — or they still have things they’re — they’re sort of looking at.
But I wouldn’t expect — and I’ve said this before — that, you know, we’re going to lay all that out for the public. This was a espionage piece of equipment, and we want to get a better handle on it, understand it for our own national security purposes. So I would not expect that we would, you know, lay some sort of public summary of everything we’ve learned.
This was a capability — a surveillance capability that we — we certainly knew and were tracking that the Chinese were trying to develop and to improve. And we — we exploited it when it was in the air, and we exploited the material that we recovered.
Q Okay. And on North Korea, in the context of the spy satellite that they just launched, can you give us an update on where we are in terms of the U.S.-South Korea Nuclear Consultative Group that President Biden and President Yoon agreed on under the Washington Declaration? Is that all set up? Is it operational? And did the spy satellite incident kick off any elements of that?
MR. KIRBY: The answer to your second question, as far as I know: No, that the spy balloon didn’t have an effect on us — you’re talking about the Washington Declaration and the Consultative Group —
MR. KIRBY: — with South Korea. I don’t believe that the spy balloon had anything to do with that. I’ll go back if I’m —
Q Spy satellite, sorry.
MR. KIRBY: Oh, I’m sorry.
Q The spy satellite that North Korea just launched.
MR. KIRBY: That North Korea launched.
MR. KIRBY: So, I think my answer still would be — would be no. I mean, this was put in place before they decided to try this launch over the weekend.
That said, the Declaration and the Consultative Group was certainly established as a result of the continued provocations by the DPRK over so many, many months here, if not years. And it’s a way to help improve our ability to be responsive to whatever threats there might be.
Now, as for the status of the group, I’m going to take the question for you. I don’t know exactly, like, where they are in the process. I mean, it was announced when President Yoon was here, and the teams are — have been working on it. Where they are in the timeline, I just don’t know.
Q And just really quickly, on the diplomatic side of it, I mean, we know that there’s this whole extended deterrence push for both South Korea and then also Japan. And on the diplomatic side of it, you’ve mentioned and other officials have mentioned that the invitation is open for North Korea any time, but has there been any kind of specific push on the diplomatic side to entice them to come back to the negotiation table?
MR. KIRBY: We have been clear and consistent since the beginning of this administration that we’re willing to sit down with the DPRK without preconditions to talk about the denuclearization of the Peninsula. We’re — we make that case all the time. I don’t have, like, the last conversation to read out to you, but it’s — it’s been a consistent message that we have delivered in various ways to the DPRK. And to date, they’ve yet to take us up on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Trevor.
Q Thank you, John.
Q So, just following up on some of the President’s remarks regarding Turkey, he said that there would — there would be another call or another engagement with Erdoğan within — in the next — next week. Can you — do you have any finer detail on when exactly that call is going to happen? And is it fair to say that the main agenda item on that call is a deal where the U.S. will provide F-16s in exchange for Turkey agreeing to let Sweden into NATO?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have an update for you on when that conversation will occur. Certainly, as we get closer to another conversation with President Erdoğan we’ll keep you informed.
And the President has been long supportive of providing F-16s to Turkey and to helping their air force modernization. That’s something that — that he’s talked to many, many times. That has not changed, and that is not linked to whether or not Turkey accedes to Sweden’s membership in the NATO Alliance.
We also want to see Sweden as a NATO Ally. Very capable military. We’re used to operating with them. They’ll lend terrific capabilities to the Alliance.
We want to see that happen, and the President expressed those concerns as well when he talked to President Erdoğan over the weekend, congratulating him on his win.
But to suggest that there’s some sort of linkage there would be — would be erroneous.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
MR. KIRBY: We want to see them get F-16s.
Q On Ukraine, can you clarify for us again the U.S. policy here? Because it says that, as a general matter, Ukraine shouldn’t strike inside Russia. What exactly does that mean, “general matter”? And does Ukraine — you know, a country that’s been under attack for more than a year — not have a legitimate right to — to attack its aggressor back on its own territory?
MR. KIRBY: We don’t tell them where to strike. We don’t tell them, you know, where not to strike. We don’t tell them how to conduct their operations.
We give them equipment. We give them training. We give them advice and counsel. Heck, we even do tabletop exercises with them to help them plan out what they’re going to do.
But ultimately, President Zelenskyy and his military commanders decide what they’re going to do from a military perspective, and they decide what they’re going to do with the equipment that has been provided to them and that they now own.
All that said, we have been very clear with the Ukrainians privately, we certainly have been clear publicly, that we do not support attacks inside Russia. And we do not enable and we do not encourage attacks inside Russia. And we certainly don’t want to see attacks inside Russia that are — that are being propagated, that are being conducted using U.S.-supplied equipment.
Q And the President said recently that he has a flat assurance from Zelenskyy not to use the F-16s that we’re providing, you know, in Russian territory. Are you confident that that assurance still stands?
MR. KIRBY: Yes. And we have gotten that assurance at various levels, not just from President Zelenskyy but from other senior military and defense leaders in Ukraine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jordan. And then I’ll go to the back.
Q Thanks, John. Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon were among several U.S. business executives who have recently traveled to China. They’ve met with some high-level officials there. Is the administration going to reach out to them to glean what they said, given your difficulty in communicating with senior officials there?
And also, is there any hope that this business-level engagement with Chinese government officials might help thaw the current state of U.S.-China relations?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t know of any plans to reach out overtly, proactively to these business leaders specifically about their trip. Certainly, if they choose to — to share some insights and perspectives, we’d obviously be willing to — to hear what — what they learned, but it would be really up to them to decide whether they want to do that. We’re not — I don’t have — there’s no plans that I’m aware of anyway to reach out, you know, actively to pull that from them.
We’ve long said that we know our two economies are interconnected and linked. And we have to figure out how best to manage that so that that interconnectedness doesn’t put our own national security at risk, you know? You talked — one of the outcomes of the G7 in Hiroshima was a discussion about outbound — outbound investments and whether and to what degree certainly the United States is going to take a look at how much is being privately invested in China that could have national security implications for the United States.
So that’s something that we’re going to have to continue to work through. Whether or not this visit is going to help us along in managing that economic competition, I think that remains to be seen.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Emel.
Q Yes, thanks, Karine. John, are you in talks currently with the Iranians? Did you send any message through the Omanis?
MR. KIRBY: Sorry, can you repeat —
Q Are you in talks with —
MR. KIRBY: — the first part?
Q — the Iranians? With the Iranians. With Iran. Did you send message through Oman?
MR. KIRBY: We have — we have multiple ways of communicating with the Iranians. I’m not really sure I understand what you’re getting at.
Q About the nuclear deal.
MR. KIRBY: Look, the JCPOA is just not on the agenda right now. We’re not — we’re not focused on that.
Now, nothing has changed about the fact that we want to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapons capability. The President still believes that a diplomatic solution to that would be highly preferable. But the Iranians were not negotiating in good faith. They’ve shown no inclination to move in that direction. And given all the other domestic strife inside Iran and the support that Iran has given to Russia in Ukraine, then we — we haven’t prioritized talks on the JCPOA.
Q And on Sudan, the army walked away from the negotiations taking place in Jeddah. What implications —
MR. KIRBY: You’re talking about the Sudanese Armed Forces?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, look, that’s — that’s unfortunate. You know, we — we want to see the fighting stop. We want to see the aid get in. And it’s hard for that aid to get in to people in Khartoum and around the country that desperately need it — food, water, and medicine — so it’s highly unfortunate that they chose to walk away.
We want them to take the opportunity for peace seriously. We’re certainly serious about it. We’re — we’re helping represent and facilitate these conversations. We want to see them act accordingly.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Thanks, John. Tara Reade, who was an aide to then-Senator Biden back in the ‘90s, and then in two- — 2020 accused him of sexual assault, she announced yesterday she’s seeking citizenship in Russia and she feels safer there. Does the White House have any reaction to that announcement, given the accusations that she’s made against President Biden?
MR. KIRBY: We (inaudible) the comment on the — on the musings of a potential Russian citizen. That’s really up for her to speak to.
Q Does the White House believe that her allegations may have been motivated by her allegiance to/affinity for Russia?
MR. KIRBY: Difficult to say. I mean, I can’t get inside her — her head and speak for her motivations or intentions. That’s really for her to speak to.
The one thing I will say is that the allegations that her life was at risk by the United States government: absolutely false, baseless; there’s nothing to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday about these discussions among European leaders and the Ukrainians about the potential for a Ukraine peace summit —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — ahead of the NATO Summit in Lithuania this summer. Is the White House involved in any of those talks? And is that something that President Biden would potentially attend?
MR. KIRBY: Oh, well, we’ve been talking to the Ukrainians for many, many months now about President Zelenskyy’s 10-point proposal for what he calls a “just peace.” And we’re helping — trying to work with his team to help actualize that, operationalize that, see if we can’t get that moving.
We o- — obviously, we support moves towards peace. But in order for any proposal, no matter who it’s nominated by or put forward by, it’s — in order for it to be credible and sustainable, it’s got to have the support of President Zelenskyy.
So, what we’re focused on is working with our Ukrainian counterparts on operationalizing their 10-point proposal for a just peace. And we’ll see where that goes.
Q And would there be any value in holding that kind of peace summit if Russia wasn’t invited and wasn’t involved?
MR. KIRBY: I think you first got to — you got to work with the Ukrainians — as the President said, “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” — to make sure that we — that there’s a credible proposal that can be moved forward.
But where and when, or even if, the Russians can be brought to a table, that’s got to be President Zelenskyy’s decision. That’s not something the United States is going to litigate on him. He has to be ready to sit down and talk, and the conditions have to be amenable to him. And then you can move forward with — with seeing whether the Russians can be a part of that.
I would remind here that Mr. Putin has shown absolutely zero inclination. It’s a great academic question. “Shouldn’t the Russians be at the table?” Yeah, eventually, if you’re going to — if you’re going to — if there’s going to be a negotiated peace, of course. But again, President Zelenskyy gets to determine that, and the Russians have shown no inclination of being interested at all in a negotiated settlement.
I just, in my opening statement — just this month of May, 17 strikes on Kyiv alone, let alone other places throughout the country. So, this is not the act of a — of a leader. This is not the act of a nation that’s — that has any serious design on diplomacy right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael. And then we’ll go to the back.
Q Could you give us an update, John, on efforts to — that the United States is making to get Evan Gershkovich back and any other prisoners? There’s U.S. prisoners in Iran. There’s folks elsewhere that have been, you know, the potential subjects of potential prisoner swaps. Are any of those efforts coming to fruition or advancing in ways that make you all optimistic?
MR. KIRBY: All I can tell you, Michael, is that we’re working on all these cases very, very hard.
I know that’s an unsatisfying answer to you, but I hope you can understand why we wouldn’t publicly negotiate here and publicly disclose the conversations that we’re having — certainly, Evan, Mr. Whelan. And there are, as you right — as you are right to say, there are wrongfully detained Americans elsewhere around the world, and we’re working on that very, very hard.
Each and every case is important. Each and every one is a priority. And we’re doing what we can. Each case is also unique and different and has to be handled differently. And what you put forth is going to be obviously different in each case, in terms of its palatability to the other side. So we are working them all hard.
Q Are — is there anything that makes you optimistic on any of those cases at the moment?
MR. KIRBY: I would just say that we’re working each one very, very hard. I — I don’t know that I could stand here and give you a — you know, a grade level in terms of optimism.
What I — what I am confident about, what we are confident about is that — that we’re — we’re putting a good-faith effort in on each and every case, because each and every one is important.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, John. Quick question about Kosovo. As you know, there’s been quite a few tensions there over the last few days.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q The Prime Minister said today that the U.S. response has been an “overreaction.” I’m wondering if you could react to that and then, secondly, whether the U.S. feels that the Serbs have a point that the low voter turnout suggests that this may not have been a legitimate election — or these elections, I should say.
MR. KIRBY: I didn’t see the Prime Minister’s comments about our reaction. So I’ll just reiterate our reaction, which obviously we believe in — and that’s that all parties should take immediate actions to de-escalate the tensions. We strongly condemn yesterday’s attacks against troops from the NATO-led KFOR mission. These attacks, which injured numerous peacekeepers, are absolutely unacceptable.
Prime Minister Kurti and the government of Kosovo should ensure that elected mayors carry out their transitional duties from alternate locations outside municipal buildings and withdraw police forces from the vicinity.
Likewise, President Vučić and the government of Serbia should lower the security status of the Serbian Armed Forces, and urge Kosovo Serbs to halt challenges to KFOR and to refrain from further violence.
We want to see this de-escalated. We want to see the violence stop. That’s — that’s our reaction, and I think it’s difficult in any way to look at that and think of that as shrill or hyperbolic in any way whatsoever.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thank you. Two questions, John. First of all, my colleague’s question. You said that the Ukrainians could start their counteroffensive wherever and whenever. I just want to clarify: Do you really mean “whenever”? Because they’re running out of springtime to start a spring offensive.
MR. KIRBY: It’s going to be up to President Zelenskyy. Yeah, I meant whenever.
Now, I was talking in general about all their operations. We haven’t been dictating to them since the — you know, the beginning of this war where they’re going to operate and how they’re going to do it. We’ve been helping them — giving them advice, giving them tools, training — but it’s up to them to make those decisions.
The counteroffensive is no different than other operations they have conducted, whether they’re defensive or offensive in nature, throughout the course of this war. President Zelenskyy is the commander-in-chief; he gets to decide how his troops are going to behave on the battlefield, where they’re going to fight, where they’re going to defend, where they’re going to go in the offense. And the “when” is absolutely a part of that.
I mean, any — any offensive operation done by any military, the timing is crucially important. And it’s also one of the things that you want to protect as much as you can — your sense of timing.
And so, yes, it’s absolutely up to him.
Q And you also mentioned that the administration opposes any attacks on Russian territory, including using Ukrainian equipment. Why is that?
MR. KIRBY: We’ve spoken about this for so long. In the — the President has had three main priorities here for the last 15 months.
One is obviously to support Ukraine. I just announced another package today. I think it’s pretty clear that we’re doing that.
Number two is to support our NATO Allies. And we have bolstered down, increas- — increased our footprint to 100,000 troops on the European continent alone, and kept them there to protect and to help — to make sure we’re meeting our commitments to NATO’s eastern flank.
And the third one is to avoid World War Three. I think we can all understand that a war that has already escalated way beyond the level of violence justified — in fact, there was no violence justified against Ukraine. I think we can all agree that — that a war that escalates beyond that, that actually does suck in the West and NATO and the United States is not only not good for our national security interest, it is not good for the Ukrainian people. It’s not good for the people across Europe. It’s certainly not good for the Russian people.
So we have had that as a — as part of the thinking since — since the beginning.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q John, just on the Ukraine aid. The value is about 300 —
MR. KIRBY: That’s right, $300 million.
Q (Inaudible) drawdowns do you expect before you’ll have to seek additional funding from Congress?
And then, just lastly, how does the debt ceiling process — the struggle that we’ve seen — bode for getting additional Ukraine funding in the fall?
MR. KIRBY: So, on the future drawdowns, we’ve been doing one about every two weeks or so. And this one is consistent with the last three or four in terms of the amount and the kinds of material that’s in it. We’re going to be able to keep that up based on the funding we have available to us throughout the rest of this fiscal year.
So when would we go back to Congress and ask for additional appropriations? I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, we’re just now here at the beginning of June, so we’ve got some time to figure that out. And I just don’t have, like, a date certain on the calendar to do that.
And as for the — the debt ceiling deal, it won’t — no matter what happens in the halls of Congress, there won’t be an effect on our ability to support Ukraine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, James.
Q Thank you, Karine.
Q Karine, thank you.
MR. KIRBY: Which James?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: James — James, right here.
MR. KIRBY: Yes, sir.
Q James Rosen. Thank you, Karine. And, Admiral, two questions. First, on Ukraine: When the American people hear you say and they hear the President say that the United States will support Ukraine in this conflict as long as it takes, and we further hear you and the President say that the decision-making — as to how long the conflict goes on, when negotiations will be entertained — are all left up to President Zelenskyy, why shouldn’t the American people conclude that critical decision-making about our national security, our taxpayer resources, our military are in fact being outsourced or utterly given over to a foreign leader instead of being made by our President?
MR. KIRBY: These decisions are being made by, certainly, the Commander-in-Chief, but with the full support from not only both houses of Congress but both parties up on Capitol Hill. There has been tremendous support for that.
And I think the American people are smart enough to realize that — that if we just walk away from this and we just let Putin take Ukraine — which by the way, James, he hasn’t given up on as a strategic goal — then — then what’s next?
And if you think the cost in blood and treasure right now is high, think about how much exorbitantly higher it would be if in fact we just simply — all of us — walk away from this, because it’s not just the President that says “as long as it takes.” Every G7 leader repeated that same phrase in Hiroshima.
We all want to see this war end, and we’d love to see it end right now. And as you’ve heard me say a gazillion times, it could end right now if Mr. Putin would do the right thing and pull his troops out. But short of that — and he’s shown no indication of being willing to do that — we got to make sure that Ukraine can continue to succeed on the battlefield so that if and when it comes time to talks, President Zelenskyy can do that with the wind at his back.
Nobody — nobody, except maybe Mr. Putin, wants to see this war continue. You think the Ukrainian people want it to go on for one more day after all the suffering that they’ve gone — gone through? But we can’t just walk away from this. And the American people, I think, understand that.
Q On the other subject, if I might, I want to return to a colloquy that you and I had on one of your Zoom briefings. And I know everyone in this room is very grateful that you conduct those Zoom briefings.
What’s puzzling to me, and I suspect others, is that those briefings are not transcribed and the transcripts are not disseminated. And they’re on the record. So if I could just use this opportunity, first, to register mild protest that we should receive transcripts of those briefings. We’re not currently.
Secondly, the colloquy you and I had was about whether China and Russia, or either one, should be considered an evil regime. President Reagan described the Soviet Union as the “locus of evil” in the modern world. George W. Bush referred to an “axis of evil” after 9/11. If you have governments that are running concentration camps or launching unprovoked wars where hundreds of thousands of people are being killed, and the President of the United States calls the leader of that regime a war criminal, I don’t see what it is that prohibits you from calling a spade a spade and saying these are evil regimes, which you refused to do in our earlier colloquy.
MR. KIRBY: Well, I appreciate your advice on policy, and I’ll take that back, James.
But the President’s never been one —
Q It’s a simple question. Why —
MR. KIRBY: The President — no, no, no, it’s not —
Q Why don’t you consider these evil regimes?
MR. KIRBY: It’s not — it’s not a simple question, James. It’s a criticism that you’re posing as a question. You’d like to see us put a label on these two countries, and President Biden just doesn’t conduct foreign policy that way.
I think — go look at the National Security Strategy. Go look at the National Defense Strategy. Take a look at anything that the President has said over his time as Commander-in-Chief about Russia and China. And you’ll — and you’ll see that we’re speaking pretty plainly to the American people and to those countries and those leaders about how we view these — their behavior, their conduct on the world stage, and our relationships with them. We’ve been very, very honest about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q On North Korea. According to the initial statement on space launch yesterday, it said the President and security team are assessing the situation with Japan and South Korea. But I wonder why it didn’t go well.
MR. KIRBY: Why the test didn’t go well?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t — I don’t really — I wouldn’t pretend to know specifically what happened. I saw the statement that the DPRK put out about technicality — technical problems with the second booster or something like that.
I don’t — I don’t know. We know it failed.
And, frankly, why exactly it failed shouldn’t be the major concern right now. The major concern is that with each and every one of these launches, whether it fails or succeeds, Kim Jong Un and his scientists and engineers, they learn and they improve and they adapt, and they continue to develop military capabilities that are a threat not only on the Peninsula but to the region — which is why we’re going to continue to work with allies and partners on holding Kim Jong Un and his regime accountable and why we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we have the proper military capabilities in the region, including training and readiness to deal with those threats.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian.
Q Thank you, John. Right over here.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks.
Q I wanted to ask a follow-up about Tara Reade. Does the White House believe that Tara Reade is part of a Russian influence operation?
MR. KIRBY: I’ve seen no evidence or proof of that.
Q Is there — she’s in Russia now. Is there any thought that maybe she’s in Russia because — and she was interviewed by Maria Butina, who was a — who was jailed in the United States for being a Russian agent. Is there any concern or thought that she may have been influenced by the Russian government?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I would let this prospective Russian citizen speak for her intentions and motivations. I mean, look, we — it’s a matter of record that Mr. Putin and the Russian government have tried to interfere and actually did interfere in our elections going back as far as 2016. And that’s a matter of record.
It should come as no surprise to anybody that Mr. Putin would show an interest in making it hard for President Biden to win election and to try to interfere in his ability to govern as President of the United States.
But whether this particular move by this particular individual is some sort of Russian information op or propaganda campaign, I just — I just don’t know.
Q Have you seen any information that would link her to Russian information operations?
MR. KIRBY: I have not. I have not.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Josh. And then we’ll keep going in the back.
Q I wanted to circle back on — on Russia, John, and what you would say to Moscow’s criticism that the West is effectively offering a wink and a nod to Ukraine when it comes to the drone strikes, like the ones we saw in Moscow.
MR. KIRBY: Well, they’re not going to believe anything I have to say, but I would — I’ll say it again: We have communicated privately to the Ukrainians, as recently as last week or so, that we don’t want to see U.S.-supplied equipment used to strike inside Russia, that we don’t support attacks inside of Russia, and that we are not going to change our policy about not enabling or encouraging those attacks.
Q Do you feel like you need to communicate that directly to the Russians as well?
MR. KIRBY: We have made it clear to the Ukrainians. Certainly, we’ve made it clear publicly. I don’t think we’re going to take it upon ourselves as a burden to privately communicate that to the Russians.
We have been nothing but consistent on this. And as the President has said himself, the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy himself has given us assurances that they respect those concerns. They understand them, and they appreciate them, and they respect them.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, we’re going to take a couple more in the back. Go ahead. Go ahead, sir.
Q John, just wanted to ask a follow-up. The White House released a statement in February about President Lula’s visit here. Apparently, President Biden, at that time, accepted an invitation to go down to Brazil. Haven’t heard any updates since then. Of course, since then, Brazil’s President, you know, talked to Russia. Has the U.S.-Brazilian relationship cooled? Is that why President Biden hasn’t set a date to go down there?
MR. KIRBY: No. We’re comfortable with the — with the U.S.-Brazil relationship. Quite comfortable, as a matter of fact.
Look, we’re not going to agree with everything President Lula says or does. That’s — that’s why you have bilateral relations. And — and friendly nations can disagree — disagree publicly if that’s — if that’s called for.
But we’re very comfortable in the relationship.
And as for a visit, I just don’t have anything on the schedule to speak to right now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, to your left. Go ahead.
Q Oh, thank you. Thank you, John. Last week, Microsoft and mas- — Western intelligence agencies reported a state-sponsored Chinese hacking group targeting U.S. critical infrastructure since 2021. And Microsoft described it as one of the largest Chinese cyberespionage campaigns. Do you know what has been targeted? And how does the administration plan to address this with China?
MR. KIRBY: No. I’m going to have to take your question. Sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q I want to ask you about the CEOs, again, that are over in China for the investment conference. We saw that — that cyberattack she’s talking about, the spy balloon that flew over. The Chinese have not implemented the intellectual property protections they said they were going to do under the phase one trade deal. So, this level of representation in China right now, does that send a bad message that there will be no repercussions no matter what China does?
MR. KIRBY: These CEOs really should be allowed to speak for themselves and for their — their travel. There’s never been some sort of fiat by the White House or the U.S. government that American business executives can’t travel to China and can’t conduct business as they feel is appropriate.
We view our relationship with China as a competition. And we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the security component of that, but there’s also an economic component to that.
You also heard in Hiroshima — you were there — that these G7 leaders, they have concerns about unfair trade practices, employment practices, intellectual theft, and certainly the potential risks of outbound investments in China. And they came away from Hiroshima unified about those challenges presented by the PRC and about acting, again, according to their own dictates.
Every country has got to do it for themselves — we will do it our way — to pro- — to protect national security in a way commensurate with — with these outbound investments concerns. So —
Q Is there a timeline?
MR. KIRBY: Is there a timeline?
Q Is there a timeline for when we will address what you’re talking about?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have a timeline for that, no.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. Thank you, John. This is Mushfiqul representing South Asia Perspectives. Very quick question on Bangladesh.
Bangladesh government filed cases against Nobel Laureate economist Professor Muhammad Yunus, who is also a recipient of the Presidential Fre- — Medal of Freedom. And the United States announced visa restrictions just ahead of election to support free, fair, and credible election, but Bangladesh regime is filing cases — Nobel laureate — not only Professor Muhammad Yunus, all other political leaders, one after another. So what is your comment?
And they’re describing that piece of the restrictions announced that this is their (inaudible), and the government — the U.S. is supporting the election, which will be held under Prime — under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Where is the opposition and the civil society groups demanding an election under a neutral caretaker government? So what is your comment about all this?
MR. KIRBY: You’re going to have to let me refer you to the State Department on that one, buddy.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, Rob.
Q On the Chagos Islands, what representations has the administration made to the British government about talks it’s holding with Mauritius over handing over the Chagos Islands?
MR. KIRBY: I’m going to have to refer you to State Department on that one, too. I was not ready for Mauritius today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.
Q Well, and — I mean, are there any concerns at all about encroaching Chinese influence around (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: You’re going to have let us get back to you one that one.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, Owen. Go ahead, Owen.
Q John, good afternoon. And thanks, Karine. Good afternoon, Admiral. Two questions. One on Nicaragua, the other on Ukraine.
First, Nicaragua. The dictatorship there continues its persecution of Catholics. The latest: accusing the Catholic Church in Nicaragua of money laundering. Human rights defenders say that it is absolutely baseless; it’s B.S. This — Ortega — Daniel Ortega has imprisoned Bishop Álvarez for decades, expelled 32 nuns from the country, confiscated church buildings, shut down media outlets. Quite simply, what is the White House’s message to Daniel Ortega?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah. So, look, there’s been a dramatic deterioration of respect for democratic principles and human rights by the Ortega-Murillo regime, including the harassment and imprisonment of democratic leaders, members of political opposition parties, faith leaders, as you rightly said — including from the Catholic Church — students, and journalists.
This is all unacceptable. We condemn these actions. We’ve already taken a number of actions to promote accountability for the Ortega-Muri- — Murillo regime’s actions, including by imposing sanctions. And we’ll continue to do so.
Q And separately, the — in Ukraine, Pope Francis, as you know, has put together a peace mission to try to end the war in Ukraine. Simply, does the White House believe the Vatican can help achieve peace there?
MR. KIRBY: We believe that — that — as I said earlier, that — that there could be many helpful interlocutors in trying to get to a peace proposal.
It doesn’t have to be any one country or any one entity. The Chinese have expressed an interest. The Brazilians have expressed interest. And, yes, I’m aware that the Vatican has put for- — forward some interest.
We would welcome any and all proposals to try to end this war as quickly and as diplomatically as possible. But as I said earlier, any proposal, if it’s going to be seen as credible and if it’s going to be sustainable or enforceable, it’s got to be supported by President Zelenskyy.
Now, President Zelensky has put forward his own 10-point plan for a just peace. We support that effort, we support that proposal, and we’re working closely with his team to see if that can’t be operationalized and move forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, two more and then I’ll let John go.
Q One more?
Q Far back?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. John, the Center for Artificial Intelligence Security issued yesterday a new statement signed by dozen experts warning that artificial intelligence could lead to human extinction. Is this warning something that the National Security Council takes seriously at this point?
MR. KIRBY: We have taken seriously both the promise and the challenges of artificial intelligence since coming into office: the National Security Council, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, certainly the President.
As a matter of fact, I think you know, not long ago, the
President [Vice President] convened a meeting here at the White House with CEOs from various tech companies that are involved in either AI research or — or an actual production of capabilities.
There is promise, and there’s peril. There is both. And the President wants to see a strong private-public partnership to get after both those — the promises and the perils and the threats and challenges.
So, yes, we’re taking this extremely seriously.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Last question. In the back.
Q Thanks, Karine.
Q One more?
Q Thanks, Karine. Perhaps we can have (inaudible) get the last question after me.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right.
Q And so —
MR. KIRBY: You just got rolled over.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I totally got rolled over. (Inaudible.)
Q Well, I got a press freedom question for you. I — thank — thank you for calling me. And I have a press freedom question for you, and then I have an international polling matter question for you.
On press freedoms, this one was actually teed up for Karine, but I’ll repurpose it a bit for you as press office-adjacent person. The press office has —
MR. KIRBY: You can ask it to Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll take that question.
Why don’t you ask him the foreign policy question.
Q I’m sorry, I’ll go to the second one. I’ll ask you the press freedom, Karine. And, John, I’ll ask you the international polling question.
There have been many developments in the House investigations into the First Family’s international business dealings recently. There is one committee trying to get an FBI file alleging that President Biden took bribes. There’s another IRS whistleblower who’s alleging there’s a cover-up in the investigation.
Amid all of this, there was a Harvard/Harris poll this month that found that 53 percent of the public, including a fourth of Democrats, believe, quote, “Joe Biden was involved with his son in an illegal influence peddling scheme.”
There’s, of course, evidence that the President interacted with his relative’s associates from China, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine.
So what do you say to the majority of Americans who believe that the President is himself corrupt?
MR. KIRBY: Wow.
Q Can I take that question?
MR. KIRBY: President — the President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we got to wrap this up.
MR. KIRBY: The President has spoken to this.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We got to wrap this up.
MR. KIRBY: The President has spoken to this, and there’s nothing to these claims.
And as for the — the whistleblower issue that you talked about and the document — I believe the FBI has spoken to that, and you’re going to have to go to them on that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, let’s go.
Q And question about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let’s go. Let’s go.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
All right, thanks ev- — thank you so much, Admiral. Appreciate your time. He spent about four- — 40 minutes out here, so we try to get to as many people as possible.
All right, Josh, kick us off. And I get to see you, like —
Q Yeah, it’s great to see you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — twice in like six days.
Q It’s amazing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Let’s get back to everyone’s favorite subject.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What is that?
Q The debt limit.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh.
Q We can’t do enough stories about it. (Laughter.) House Speaker McCarthy — he appears to have proposed forming a commission to find ways to address the federal debt. Did this come up in the budget talks? And does the White House support the idea?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So here’s — as you know, Sh- — Director Young was here. She was part of the negotiation process. So, not going to go beyond what she shared here to all of you just yesterday. Certainly not going to go in depth into what was discussed.
What I can say and will share is that — and you guys have heard us say this many times: We are proud of this agreement, this bipartisan commonsense agreement, that we believe that should get passed out of the House and the Senate and to the President’s desk.
You all saw the CBO score just yesterday, where it talked about how it’s going to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion, which is incredibly important as we talk about the deficit. This is something that the President takes very seriously. $1.7 trillion that he was able to reduce the deficit in his first two years.
So, again, takes this very seriously. He thinks it’s incredibly important to deal with that issue in a real way, which is why he has put policies forward — economic policies forward that deals with the deficit in that way.
I’m not going to speak to what it is the Speaker is trying to do — the commission or whatever he is trying to put together. That is a question for him and how he — the path that he chooses to take.
What I can speak to is what the President has done and what we hope to see in the next day or so.
All right. Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you. What is President Biden’s top domestic priority?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve always — we’ve always been very clear that his economic — clearly, his economic policy is something that’s important; especially when he walked into this administration, the economy was on its head because of the COVID response that was — that was not ex- — that was not existing — and not his — with the last administration. And what the President had to do — right? — to make sure that we were dealing with COVID, to make sure that we were dealing with the economy.
And so he put forth, along with Democrats and also in a bipartisan way, some — some historic pieces of legislation that turned the economy around. When you think about 12.7 million jobs created, when you think about unemployment at the lowest that we’ve seen in 54 years, that — that has been a top priority for the President. And it continues to be.
And lowering prices, as it relates to the economy, certainly is something that the President takes very seriously and continues to work on with his team.
Q And so, today he’s talking about climate. There’s a lot of action with China, and you mentioned high prices. So what is the — what is the top priority overall?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: This — he is the President of the United States. There are multiple issues, multiple topics that the President has to deal with. That is the job of the President, right? He talked about climate. It was not just about climate. It was about how we foresee the season coming up with hurricanes, the fires that we’ve seen across the country; how we’re dealing with that in this country in a serious way, protecting lives, protecting communities, thanking — thanking the first responders. That’s important. And Americans care about that across the country.
We’ve talked about the bipartisan inf- — the bipartisan — pardon me — budget negotiation, which is incredibly important — right? — because we’re talking about how to deal with the economy for the American people in a way that helps all and also make sure that we do not default.
All of those things are important. All of those multiple issues are something that the President has to deal with on a daily basis.
Q And one more. Why hasn’t TikTok been banned yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, as you know, there’s a CFIUS review. I’m going to just leave it there. That is — it’s being reviewed by that — by that committee. And so the President thinks it’s an important issue to deal with, but I just don’t have anything else to add beyond that.
Go ahead, Kristen.
Q Thank you, Karine. Congresswoman Jayapal has said she’s going to be a “no” on the debt limit and budget deal. What is the White House’s reaction to this? And how confident are you that this is going to pass the House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President actually talked about this a little bit right before — at the end of his meeting with the Cabinet members, as he spoke about how we’re going to move forward with dealing with these hurricanes and, clearly, fires that we’re going to see this season. And so the President talked about how he sees the plan is moving forward, as it relates to the — to the bipartisan commonsense budget negotiation. And he said that when he lands, he — by the time he lands in Colorado, that he hopes that the House would have moved forward.
So we are — we believe it’s going to happen. We believe this bipartisan agreement, clearly, should get both Republican and Democratic votes in both the House and the Senate.
As it relates to your question about the congresswoman: Look, we’re not going to speak to any individual member and how they vote. What we can say is that we’ve had conversations with Democratic members across — across the ideological spectrum to talk about the bill.
You know, we had — we had Director Young here talking about what her job — she sees her job being is giving him the information about what came out of this bipartisan agreement.
Look, it prevents catastrophic default, as you’ve heard us say. It protects the gains that this President has made over the last two years, as it — as it relates to the economy. It protects programs that American families need to make ends meet. So that is how we see this process moving forward. We think it’s an important — important piece of legislation that the President wants to see at his desk so he can sign it.
Q And let me follow up with you on the process. The President was asked a little bit about this the other day, what his message is to skeptical Democrats. He said, “Talk to me.” And I’m wondering if you can help fill in some of the blanks. How many Democrats has he actually spoken to one-on-one? Can you give us any names? And will he be making calls aboard Air Force One?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the President — the President has been involved in this President — in this process throughout, right? He’s been involved — personally involved. We don’t read out calls, private conversations. We’re very careful about that. And — but it’s not just him. It’s his team. I’ll give you a little bit of an update. I gave this rundown yesterday of what it included, the outreach that we’re seeing from him and his team — more than 120 calls, one-on-one calls with members of Congress.
That includes calls to all House Democratic leadership, all committee ranking members, all Tri-Caucus and ideological caucus chair and all appropriation leaders.
Eight briefings for the entire house caucus, including one today as you all have been reporting, which was in person on the Hill by the key negotiators who have been closely involved with this process these past several weeks. Six of those briefings were on energy policy on appropriations and TANF and SNAP.
We’ve also briefed or offered to brief each of the Tri-Caucuses and ideological caucuses. In addition, our policy experts as well have had numerous conversations with members on the Hill.
So, we have been fully engaged through today — you know, through these last couple of days, and we’re going to continue to do so.
Q Can you give us a sense of those more than 120 calls that were made, how many of those the President made himself?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have specific numbers to lay out of which of these 120 that the President made. But that’s — you know, that’s a significant amount, 120 one-on-one. These are one-on-one — those are the 120 that I’m talking about — calls that he and his team have made.
And so, the President, as you know, he was Vice President, he was senator. He takes these — these conversations and relationships very seriously. He has relationships with members of Congress that he’s had for some time now.
And so, that — I can — I could tell you that it will continue throughout the next couple of days.
Q And just give us a sense, because he’s going to be — as he said, you folks will be landing at the time that this is passing — what is that going to look like? Will we hear from him tonight? Will he have a war room set up when he lands in case the vote hasn’t passed?
I know you all have said you’re going to be making phone calls from here –-
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we —
Q — at The White House, but how is he going to stay connected to this process?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we believe that this is going to happen — get out of the House tonight. The President will have a statement this evening. In what form it would look like, certainly we will — we’ll — certainly you all will know.
But there will be — you will hear from the President, whether it’s a written statement or from him directly. Certainly, we will let you know. But he will have something to say about the passage of this out of the House.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q A follow-up to that: Is the President confident enough in passage in the Senate that he might spend the weekend outside of Washington or will he stay in town this weekend?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don’t have anything to – to preview on his — on his travel this weekend. What I can say to you is that the President is confident — or he believes — he said this, his words — he believes that this is going to — this is going to get out of the House, it’s going to get out of the Senate, it’s going to be at his desk before June 5th, and he’ll get to sign it on behalf of the American people. Because this is incredibly important to make sure that we do not have a — a – a catastrophic situation on our hands as it relates to the economy.
This is about protecting almost 8 million jobs. This is about protecting — you know, protecting healthcare. This is about protecting programs that the American people truly need and depend on.
And so, he believes that we’re going to get this done.
(A member of the press corps coughs.)
Is someone okay? Someone is coughing out there. Is it you? Are you okay? I don’t know who it is. I don’t know if they want water. Okay. All right, just checking in. Check in.
Go ahead, April.
Q Karine, I had a chance to do a compare and contrast to yesterday to today on the debt limit and SNAP.
I talked to a former New York Congressman Ed Towns, who was once the head the Congressional Black Caucus, who was in the House when this happened with work requirements for welfare recipients during the Clinton years. He said, “It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.” He said, “It’s going to create pain and suffering.” And he said, “This should have been done during the budget process versus now.”
What do you say to this congressman who was there, who actually was congressman who –- Hakeem Jeffries filled his seat.
What do you say to that congressman and others who feel that this is pain and suffering that you are eliciting on those who are the least of these in this nation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that is not how we see this process. We believe that we protected the economic gains that this President made.
If you think about the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act –- I mean, if you look at the Inflation Reduction Act, for example, it is going to help lower costs for families — healthcare costs.
It is going to help our seniors when it comes to insulin, ta- — cap that at — at 35 bucks. That’s going to help many, many seniors in those very communities that we’re talking about that truly, truly need it. Energy costs. Those are incredibly important for American families across the country.
Think about the CHIPS and Science Act, right. You think about the PACT Act and our veterans. This is what the President was able to do is to protect those types of historic pieces of legislation that has made — that is going to make a difference in American lives.
And not only that, it’s going to protect programs that hardworking Americans made. Right? We were talking about potentially cutting Medicaid, which would have taken healthcare away from 21 million Americans. We protected that. Right?
So, all of those things are important. Veterans Affairs — protecting that. That’s important.
When you think about creating SNAP eligibility expansion for veterans, for homeless people, for young people coming out of foster care of all ages, it’s going to protect — it’s going to expand that.
So, there are things in this budget — bipartisan budget agreement that is so important to those everyday people, to those hardworking Americans — that is incredibly important.
Look, here’s the reality: When you negotiate in this way, you’re — no one is going to get everything that they — that they want. That is just the reality of negotiating.
What the President tried to do is protect the gains that he made — historic gains that he made these last two years and really key — key core Democratic values that we believe is important to American families. And that is the promise that this President made, and that’s what we’re hoping will move forward as we look at the House and we look at the Senate. And the President wants to get this done before June 1st.
Q And lastly, a follow-up on this, though: Did the White House do a compare-and-contrast to yesterday, understanding Republicans had asked and received work requirements during the Clinton years? Did the administration look into that to see the successes, lessons learned, et cetera?
And also, to the congressman who was also the former head of Oversight –- the first Black head of Oversight and Government Reform — he questions, once again, what efforts — how exhaustive were the efforts to not have this in this moment instead of dealing with it in the budget, putting it in the budget discussion moment? Why now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the reason we’re — we’re in this situation now, if we remember correctly — right? — if we remember that on March 9th the President put forth his budget — he was very clear about how he saw the values for — showing the values to the American people, how we move forward with our economy.
And about six, seven weeks later — it took Republicans six or seven weeks to put — to pass their budget on April 26th.
So, this is a conversation that we were ready to have weeks ago, but it took some time for Republicans to put forth what their budget looks like or what they perceive their values are and showing that to the American people.
Look, I want to go back to the workers’ requirement question that you asked.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mentioned the 21 million Americans who we protected — the President was able to protect from losing their healthcare. There’s food assistance that was at risk for nearly 1 million Americans, and it put critical support at risk for 1 million vulnerable children.
That’s what we were — that’s what the House Republican bill — that’s what it threatened. And so these are the things that the President was able to protect.
Look, again, you know, it is important, we believe, for — for Americans to not lose their healthcare. And that’s what the President was able to do.
You know, and — look, the President’s insistence that the GOP proposal for SNAP is temporary. And — and the bill includes a major expansion, again, for van- — for veterans; for — for homeless, for people who are homeless; for former fost- — foster youth. All of those things truly matter.
And the combined impact of these provisions is that the number of people subject to SNAP work requirements will likely stay roughly the same, and so that’s another thing that’s important to note.
When you look at the TANF policies in the bill, it maintains states’ ability to support vulnerable children.
So that’s what we were able to do. That’s what the President was able to protect. And those things are incredibly important as we talk about — as we look at working families, hardworking families across — across the country.
Q Is the President planning a signing ceremony for this if it passes? And will he invite the Speaker to the White
House for that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any ceremonies or anything to — to lay out at this time.
What the President wants to see — he wants to see this passed out of — out of the House; he wants to see this passed out of the Senate so he can sign it as soon as possible.
Don’t have anything to — to lay out for you at this time.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. Let me take — go ahead.
Q On — on press freedom.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Oh, yeah. I’ll take that. Go ahead.
Q I was just going — so, last month, the President signed an executive order to address current and historical environmental injustices. Could you describe how your support for the Mountain Valley Pipeline — which runs through 303 miles of rural, low-income, and Indigenous land in Appalachia and is inpos- — opposed by a number of environmental and community groups — fits with the President’s environmental justice agenda?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple things on that. And I’m glad you asked the question because the permitting reforms in — in this agreement fully preserved the bedrock protections of the Clean Water Act, of the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. And it also delivers a key bipartisan priority by accelerating environmental reviews, all while protecting the full scope of those reviews. So, that’s really important to note.
And, you know, I have some — some quotes here from organizations who have said — who have — who have said the “agreement includes an important down payment” — this is a quote from the American Clean Power Association — “payment on much-needed reforms to improve the efficiency of the permitting process for clean energy projects.”
This is from Duke Energy: “This legislation helps us meet our customers’ demands for reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean energy by modernizing the permitting process.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council said, and I quote, “The President — President Biden stood up to extremist attacks on clean energy and climate investments.”
So we also have seen a — a long list of support for — for this agreement. And we think that’s important, and it is going to protect, again, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act — all critically important to what the President is trying to do moving forward.
Q And did — did Kevin McCarthy put that pipeline in the deal or did the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — look, I believe — I think Director Young was asked this question. I just don’t have anything more to add — to speak to specifically on — on what was agreed or discussed. I want to be very careful with that.
But what we can say, again, and have been very clear on this — that we think it’s important that this bipartisan, commonsense piece of legislation moves forward. We think it’s important for the American people. We think it’s important to get this done as soon as possible, avoiding any — any catastrophic econo- — catastrophic, you know, results to the economy.
And so we’re going to be very clear on that. We’re steadfast and continue to having conversations.
I think I was going to call on Ed, and then I’ll — I’ll take your question.
Q Thanks, Karine. So what happens if the debt ceiling bill comes to the President’s desk next Tuesday, a day after the X-date? Did — would the U.S. then technically be in default?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what we’re going to focus on is getting this done. That’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going focus on the House — as we believe, the House is going to pass this and take this out of the — the House. It’s going to go to the Senate; its going to go out of the Senate.
And so we believe that this is going to get done. And that’s what we’re going to focus on, and that’s going to be our main priority.
Q Have there been any conversations between the President and the Senate Majority Leader Schumer to try and speed it up in the Senate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to leave that process, the mechanics of how this is going to move through the Senate, up to Leader Schumer. Obviously, we are in a short timeframe here, and it’s important to get this done as quickly as possible — as you just mentioned, the June 5th X-date that — that the Treasury clearly spoke to recently.
Q Karine, the White House Press Office, your office continues to pre-screen reporters allowed into large indoor events that formerly, under past presidents, were open to all journalists.
Last June, almost a year ago, 73 journalists, including reporters from nearly two thirds of the seats in this room, signed a letter calling the process “antithetical to the concept of a free press.” And the Correspondent’s Association also has lobbied for it to be done away with.
Last July, you said that ending the restrictions were a — was a priority, yet they remain.
So I was wondering if you could commit to once and for all doing away with this mysterious pre-screening process.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I appreciate the question, Steven. Look, every event, as you’ve heard from my team — I think you’ve asked my team this question and they’ve responded to you multiple times about how this process work. Every event is different. But no matter what the venue setup, we always credential as many reporters in the room as possible. That’s what we tried to do here.
I know you’ve been in many of those — of those events. I know you’ve had an opportunity to ask the President a question multiple times. And so, you can — you can speak to that for yourself as well as the opportunities that you’ve had to be in these events.
So, we’ve also been able to substantially increase — as you’ve seen us do these last two years — the number of credentialed press in events on campus as COVID has eased.
And so — and so, that is something that we have been consistent about. That is something that we have done.
And — and so, look, we want to continue to make sure that you guys have access to him — to the President. We think that’s incredibly important.
And you’ve seen us take actions. You have. You’ve seen us take action over the past several months, and you have been — yourself — have had the opportunity to be in those rooms.
Q But can you explain why —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to — I’m going to —
Q — there’s often so many empty seats? And are you going — are you still committed to rolling back this restriction and ending the pre-screening process?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There — but, here’s the thing: There is no — there is no restriction. Every event is different. Every event plays to the room that we’re in.
We have expanded credentials over the past several months. You — you are aware of this. You have experienced this. We have talked to you outside of this briefing room multiple times about this.
And this is something that — clearly, as COVID has waned, we’ve taken this very seriously and have taken in the comments and the requests that’s come from this room.
And also, I just want to answer James’s question about the NSC.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on. I — I — there’s another –there’s another question, too. NSC — we’ve heard those — those requests. We’re going work through that with the NSC comms to make sure that you guys have a transcript of those gaggles.
All right. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thanks, Karine.
2:45 P.M EDT