James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:40 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so I wanted to provide an update on the wildfire smoke impacting millions of Americans across the country right now.
The President was briefed on the wildfires in Canada last week and has been regularly updated since. He directed his team to provide impacted communities whatever support they need.
Our team here at the White House is in touch with the government of Canada. We have already deployed over 600 U.S. firefighters and personnel, as well as equipment like water bombers to help Canada battle the fires.
We also have been in close touch with state and local leaders, including — including in Michigan, Illinois, and New York. And multiple agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, CDC, and FEMA, are coordinating with state, local, and Tribal governments to get timely and accurate information out to communities about local air quality conditions and what steps they can take to protect themselves.
We encourage everyone in the impacted areas to listen — to listen to their state and local officials.
Check in on your neighbors, check in on your — your friends and your family.
Take precautions, especially if you are — if you have health conditions.
You can also go to AirNow.gov. That’s A- — A-I-R-N-O-W-dot-gov. Again, that’s AirNow.gov to get real-time information about air quality and precautions you can take. Or download the app, the AirNow app, from the App Store as well. And you are able to do that.
Now, I know for many communities out West, this is nothing new. They experience this every year, but it is certainly getting worse. It is yet another alarming example of the ways in which the climate crisis is disturbing our lives and our communities. That’s why, from day one, President Biden rightfully recognized the climate crisis — climate change as one of — one of the four crisis facing our nation as he was coming into the Oval Office after being inaugurated, and why he — why he made tackling climate change one of his top priorities and has done historic investments in doing just that: taken — taken — moved forward with historic — historic policies.
And so, with that, I’ll go to the — we’ll continue to keep — keep up and continue to get updated on what’s happening.
So the next thing I have here is I also wanted to take a moment to highlight important progress states are making with President Biden’s full support to make our community safer from gun violence.
Over the past week, Connecticut, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii have all enacted commonsense gun safety bills that will save lives.
And here are a few examples that’s what’s happening in those particular states.
In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont signed a gun violence prevention bill that will strengthen safe storage requirements, close loopholes in the state’s ban on assault weapons, expand accountability for gun dealer, and more.
And in Colorado, Governor Jared Polis signed a law cracking down on unserialized firearms known as ghost guns.
This progress comes as 10 states and including D.C. have now passed statewide assault weapons ban.
With every tragic shooting we see across America, we see the urgency of action at every level of our government. The President thanks and applauds the advocates and state leaders who worked tirelessly to enact these latest gun safety measures and continue to urge others to follow their lead on Congress to act at the federal level.
Today, the Council of Economic Advisers released a blog showing grocery inflation is indeed slowing, with prices of eggs and produce, such as vegetables and fruit, falling in recent months.
As you know, grocery prices rose because of the global supply chain bottleneck and unforeseen supply shocks like avian flu and war in Ukraine and also poor weather.
As we’ve worked to address those bottlenecks and supply shocks, inflation for groceries is indeed cooling. Of course, we still have a lot more work to do, as you hear from us, from this administration, which is why the President’s team is responding quickly to avian flu outbreaks among bird populations, increasing competition in meat industry, and strengthening supply chains that were weakened by COVID and Putin’s war in Ukraine.
And finally, I’d like to make an announcement that the President will welcome Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as NATO, to the White House on Monday, June 12th, to discuss the upcoming NATO Summit that’s going to be occurring in Lithuania.
President Biden and Secretary General Stoltenberg will review preparations for the summit, including the work to further strengthen Allied — Allied deterrence and defense, build on the 2014 Wales Summit Defense Investment Pledge, and deepen NATO’s partnership. They will also discuss Ally support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression.
With that, good to see you. Go ahead.
Q Good to see you. First on — ask on Ukraine. Does the administration have any better insight on who or what caused the collapse of the dam?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re still assessing what happened. We’re — we are indeed in touch with the Ukrainians. It is — the damage, obviously, and the devastation that we’re seeing is heartbreaking. We will do everything that we can to help the people of Ukraine, certainly.
But I’ll say this — and you’ve heard us say this before, just yesterday: Russia has no business to be there in the first place. And, you know, Russia — this was — this dam was under Russia’s control, and they bear responsibility for the destruction caused by this war. And we will do everything that we can to support the people of Ukraine at this difficult time.
Q And if I could just ask on the smoke. Is the White House, and particularly the President, taking any sort of further precautions, just for your own personal safety? And is this going to change at all — I know earlier today, at least, it sounded like tomorrow might be worse in the Washington area. And there’s supposed to be a big event on the South Lawn. Is anything being changed up at the White House as a result?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So in regards to the Pride event, as you just mentioned, Aamer, which is going to be on the South Lawn tomorrow, I don’t have any logistical updates to share at the moment. But, of course, we’re going to continue to monitor the situation. Just don’t have anything to share at this time.
As far as if we’re going to be changing our approach here at the White House, we just don’t have any changes and updates to — to report at this time.
Q Just, I guess, to follow up on that: Has been — the President been advised to wear a mask if he’s outside, given that the D.C. air quality is Code Red today?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’m aware that the D.C. qa- — quality is Code Red. And I would — and for folks who are watching at home or at work, you can go to the EPA — certainly, the EPA website, and there’s a map of what your area — what code — color your area is.
I just don’t have anything to share on what the President is going to be — any changes to how the President is going to be approaching this. So just don’t have anything at this time.
Q And two questions, if I can, to follow up from yesterday. Does the White House now have any reaction to the merger of the PGA and LIV Golf? And did this issue come up during Secretary Blinken’s meeting yesterday with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I can say this: The State Department — my colleague at the State Department, they put out a readout of the meeting that Secretary Blinken had with the Saudi Arabia government. So I would refer you to their readout. I’m sure it’s available online at the State Department.
So, again, we’re just not going to comment on this deal. We are — the — we’re going to let the two parties speak for themselves.
What we’re going to focus on from here is — is we’re going to continue to meet our commitment to the American people at home and abroad. And certainly — certainly that includes the Middle East as well.
We’re just not going to comment at this time.
Q Just one more try at this. Some Senate Democrats are not really happy with the announcement of this merger. The Senate Finance Chairman, Ron Wyden, said they’re going to launch a comprehensive investigation into this. He said it looks like a cash grab, pla- — plain and simple, and it raises troubling questions.
Does the White House support Senate Democrats doing —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re just —
Q — that investigation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re just not going to comment. The House, the Congress is going to move forward the way that they are going to move forward. This is co-equal government, as you all know. I just don’t have an assessment on this. I don’t have a comment on this. This is a private entity. And we are being consistent here on not commenting on the actions of or mergers of private entities.
Q Thanks, Karine. Does the White House have a position on whether Florida sending migrants to California, or any other state for that matter, is — amounts to false imprisonment and kidnapping of those migrants?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, one of the things — and you’ve heard me say this multiple times from here — is about what these political stunts and what they mean: They’re dangerous, and they’re unacceptable. I said this yesterday, and I’ll say this again.
And we’ve seen them happen over the last couple of months, and all they do is cause confusion. And why is it they want to cause chaos and confusion? It doesn’t make sense to me.
And so all unlawful border crossing, as I mentioned yesterday, are down. They’re down by 70 percent since the President enacted his plan after Title 42 was lifted early — or mid-May.
And so we’re addressing the challenges, as we have done. We’ve — we’ve done that through deterrence. We’ve done that through diplomacy. And we’ve done that through enforcement.
And so, again, the plan that he’s doing is working. And so I just don’t understand what are these governors doing. Why are they causing chaos? Why are they causing confusion? What does that actually do for their constituency or for the people who are being put on these planes or on the buses? And it just doesn’t make sense.
They’re playing games, and political stunts just are not going to actually deal with the issue at hand. And they can come — they can come meet us at the middle. They can come and do a bipartisan piece of legislation or look at the legislation that the President put forward on day one — a comprehensive immigration policy that he put forward, legislation.
Why not look at that and come to the table and have that discussion with us, instead of, again, doing these political stunts? And it hurts. It only hurts local governments. It only hurts other states. And they’re doing this without reaching out to those local government or sta- — and states. And it is putting people at risk. And it’s dangerous and, again, unacceptable.
Q Beyond — or in addition, perhaps — to being a political stunt, do you think or does the White House think that it’s breaking the law?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m going to be careful here. I cannot speak to the law. I know that — I know comments have been made about a particular governor, who’s now a candidate, who have been accused of sending these migrants, so I want to be really careful because he’s a candidate, so I want to follow the Hatch Act. So those are the two —
Q But he did that in his action as a governor, not as a candidate.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I just want to be — I still have to say this and be very, very careful. And what I will say more —
Q Yeah, but just to clear, it’s about his action as a governor.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right. I’m just also being clear that he’s also a candidate, and so I want to be careful and also just put that out there for the American people.
But I will say, more broadly speaking, if folks are eager to see firsthand the significant drop in unlawful border — border crossings since the President put in his plan and that went into full effect, you know — so, I mean, that’s what they need to look at. They need to look at the numbers and the data that we have seen. Seventy percent. Seventy percent that it’s come down.
And so, you know, it is — you know, it is — what they’re doing is completely — completely dangerous. And so I cannot speak to the legal action. I cannot speak to if it’s legal or not.
What I can say: It causes confusion, it’s dangerous, and it is unacceptable. And it doesn’t solve the actual problem that we have at hand.
Q Karine, thanks. Questions on two topics. But first, I just want to quickly follow up on the question about LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. President Biden has been very direct in the past about expressing his concerns about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, about the Crown Prince’s role in the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Do you really mean to say that you have no comments on this massive investment by Saudi Arabia taking a huge foothold in one of the U.S.’s biggest sports?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve been very clear, when it comes to mergers, when it comes to a private entity, we do not comment. I mean, that is not — that is not unnatural, that is not uncommon from us here at the White House.
Look when it comes to human —
Q This is involving a foreign government that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait. Wait, let me finish.
Q — the U.S. has massive equities with.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Let — let me — let me finish. When it comes to human rights, we have been very clear: This President has not shied away on calling that out, and he’s done that with Saudi Arabia, he’s done that with other countries. We’ve been very clear about that. We will speak out. We do not shy away from that and been, again, very, very clear: When it comes to a merger with these two entities, that is something that we are just not going to comment on.
But when it comes to human rights, we’ve been very clear. We’re going to call that out. We are going to call that out with countries just across the globe. And the President has done that in these last two years.
Q Okay. And then in terms of the first topic, dockworkers are disrupting operations at major West Coast international ports over a labor dispute. The National Retail Administration is calling on the administration to intervene in negotiations to solve that labor dispute. We also have UPS workers that are currently voting on whether or not to strike if they don’t have a new contract by August 1st.
Does the administration plan to intervene in any of those labor disputes?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So when it comes to the West ports, I can say that the President respects the collective bargaining process as the best way for workers and employers to reach mutually beneficial solutions, which he — we have said before. And Acting Secretary Su and others in the administration are regularly engaging with the parties, encouraging them to stay at the negotiating table and finish their work.
But the path forward is for the port workers and their employers to resolve the negotiations so that workers get the wages, benefits, and quality of life that they so deserve. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to call for: asking both parties to come to the table so this can be — so this can be dealt with.
As it relates to the UPS, you know, we’re, of course, aware of the strike authorization vote that — that occurred, which is not a vote to go on strike. But, again, to be clear, strike authorizations votes sometimes occur during collective bargaining to demonstrate the — the solidarity of the union members in support of their negotiation team. So we’re hopeful the parties can reach an agreement and satisfy both sides.
And so, again, the President respects collective bargaining process, and he believes that the best way for workers and employers to reach an agreement that ensures workers get their fair — fair benefits and quality of life and wages that they deserve. So I’ll leave it there.
Q Can the administration play an effective role with an acting secretary at the helm of the Labor Department?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. Remember, this is an acting secretary that was a deputy secretary under — under Secretary Walsh for the first almost two years, and so we have complete confidence in — in Acting Secretary Su. And she has, as you know, strong relationships with these different labor organizations. And we — we believe that with her leadership, certainly, she’ll — she’ll engage in a way with the parties that will be effective.
Q And then real quick, this is not a question about — to weigh in on these presidential candidates. I understand you’re going to respect the Hatch Act. But in terms of the President’s schedule and how he’s been monitoring this — you know, we have three new candidates for president in the Republican race — Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Governor Doug Burgum — is the President monitoring these announcements? Is he carving out any time in his schedule to watch these announcements? Any — any thoughts on — on (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All I can tell you is the President is focused on the American people. That’s his job. That’s his job day in, day out. And you see that as he talks about investing in America, as he talks about his economic policy for American people, as he — as you saw him do — negotiate a fiscally responsible bipartisan budget. And that is going to be his focus.
As it relates to the campaign and schedule or what he’s going to be doing next, certainly, I would refer you to his campaign or the DNC. But I know for sure the President is — is zeroed in and focused on the American people, and that’s what he’s going to continue to do.
Go ahead, Tyler.
Q Thanks, Karine. When the President walked from the Residence to the Oval Office today — he walks along the Colonnade outside — do you know if he wore a mask?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nobody is wearing a mask walking from – on the Colonnade.
Q I’m just saying, outside given the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m just telling you —
Q — the smoke.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — I don’t have any changes to — as I mentioned earlier, I don’t have any changes to what he’ll be doing. But we’ve been walking back and forth on the Colonnade, and no one is wearing a mask. It’s a short walk.
Q And then a question on the Prime Minister’s visit tomorrow. Can you give us a little bit of a readout of what we should expect from the two leaders, whether there are certain things the President is hoping to accomplish? Obviously, this is Prime Minister Sunak’s first visit the White House. The two have met at other locations, but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — just wanted to hear a little bit more about the visit tomorrow.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They certainly have met a couple times, as you just laid out, Tyler.
A couple of things I will lay out: The President is looking forward, obviously, to welcoming Prime Minister Sunak to the White House to further deepen the close economic relationship between United States and United Kingdom, and to discuss key challenges and opportunities.
This will be the fourth consecutive month the President has met the Prime Minister. Already this year, they’ve met in Hiroshima at the G7, in Belfast in April, and in San Diego in March at the AUKUS trilateral event about our long-term defense and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.
So during this visit tomorrow, the two leaders will review a range of global issues, including our economic partnership, our shared support for Ukraine, and it- — and its defen- — as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal war of aggression, as well as further action to accelerate the clean energy transition.
The President and the Prime Minister will also discuss the joint U.S.-UK leadership on critical and emerging technologies — technologies, as well as our work to strengthen our economic security.
They will also review developments in Northern Ireland as part of their shared commitment to preserving the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. And certainly, we will have more to share in a readout once their meeting occurs and ends tomorrow.
Go ahead, Joey.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I like your tie.
Q Sticking with the British Prime Minister’s visit, one of the things that he supposedly is going to bring up during the meeting is this idea of a creation of a global watchdog agency over AI. Is that something the President thinks is needed? Is that something that he would support?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you’ve — you’ve heard from the President and from us on how we see this growing technology, AI, and we believe that how it moves forward should be done in a responsible way.
The Vice President had a meeting with four CEOs recently. The President has held other — other meetings with his staff to discuss AI.
I’m not going to get ahead of what conversation is going to be had during this bilat that they’re going to — that’s going — that they’re going to have tomorrow with the Prime Minister. I’ll let them have their conversation. We certainly will have a readout.
But we’ve been very clear about how we see moving forward with AI and how it needs to be done in a responsible way. We need to make sure that we’re protecting the privacy of Americans, and so we’ll definitely continue to speak to that.
Q Thanks, Karine. I’m hoping you can clarify as it relates to the LIV-PGA merger. Yesterday, the President was asked about this merger during the Cabinet meeting, and he said, “I’m going to be in the PGA.”
Can you clarify: Had he been briefed about the merger before? Was he aware of what he was being —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — he had been. Yes.
Q And what did he mean, then, by it? Was he just laughing off the question?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just think that he was basically saying, “I’m not going to comment.”
Q Okay. On — Pope Francis today underwent successful surgery, we’re told. I’m wondering, given the close relationship the President has built with him, has there been any outreach to the Vatican or between the two men themselves?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, obviously, I don’t — I don’t have any call to read out, but obviously, our thoughts are with — with the Pope. And certainly, we are hoping that he has a full and quick recovery.
Q And then, on your announcement about the Secretary General’s visit in a couple of weeks, has the President ruled out asking Mr. Stoltenberg to extend his tenure again with NATO? And is this a subject that he might raise with the Prime Minister tomorrow? Pres- — Prime Minister Sunak has been advocating for his defense minister as a potential successor.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get ahead of the conversation that they’re going to have.
I can say, and we’ve said it here yesterday, that the President believes that the Secretary has been — has done an outstand- — outstanding job, a superb job as Secretary General, especially in this critical moment in history, leading the Alliance that we have responded to — in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
And so we’re very, very grateful for his leadership. I’m not going to get into speculation from here. I’m not going to get into what the process or how the President is thinking about the next steps here.
But certainly we are incredibly — incredibly grateful to the — to the Secretary General.
I’m just going to go — go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. So you noted in your topper that climate change is making wildfires worse. Just to put a finer point on it: Should the public expect this kind of thing to be happening more often, where large parts of the East Coast are covered with smoke?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I — I’m not an expert. I can’t predict how this is going to move forward or how this is going to look in the future.
But certainly we’ve seen — I mentioned the West Coast has dealt with this for some time. So this is not uncommon, sadly. It’s only getting worse.
But this is why the President has made climate change a priority. This is why he’s taken the aggressive actions that he’s taken, historic actions. And he’s certainly going to continue to — to stay focused on how we move forward in dealing with climate change.
But, again, I’m not an expert. But, clearly, as we have seen over the last couple of decades, climate change has been a real problem. It is the science that shows us that.
Q And if and when Secretary Blinken goes to China, is it the President’s goal or hope that he meets directly with President Xi? And is that sort of what the conversations that are happening behind the scenes are leading up to?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m not going to — certainly not going to get ahead of what — what a conversation or what — what that will look like. The President has said he wants to talk to President Xi. Certainly don’t have a call to preview for all of you at this time.
And as it relates to Secretary Blinken, I would refer you to the State Department. But we have said, you know, we’re hoping that — that he will be able to travel to China when — when the time is right. Just don’t have anything at this time.
Q Thanks. One follow-up on the Ukraine dam situation. You said that you’re still assessing who’s responsible. But can you say in your conversations with the Ukrainians what they’re telling you in terms of what additional aid they might need to respond to this situation? And will the President be discussing it with Prime Minister Sunak tomorrow?
And then separately, is there any plan at all for the President to talk to President Zelenskyy? And if not, why not?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, of course, Ukraine is going to be at the top discussion tomorrow. It is NATO. And, as you know, NATO — the NATO Alliance has been a strengthened because of the President’s — because of the President’s leadership.
And so, of course, Ukraine and Russia will be top of mind and discussed. I’m not going to — I’m not going to go into details of what they’re going to be talking about. Certainly we’ll have a readout that will lay — lay more of the conversation.
I don’t have any specifics to share on what the conversations that were had with Ukraine in regards to the dam. I just — I could just tell you we’ve been in touch, and we’re ready to help in any way that we can. Just don’t have — don’t have a list of what they’re asking for and what was discussed.
Q Okay. And then, on a separate topic, a couple of months ago, we were all talking about TikTok, and there was legislation put forward on the Hill that three months ago Jake Sullivan came out in support of, and then we haven’t really heard much since.
Can you say whether you’re working at all with the Hill on making this become law? Are you working with the Senate, the House? Or have you sort of given up on any authority to restrict TikTok and other apps that you think are harmful?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it — certainly this is important to the President, to the administration, this type of legislation that Jake talked about a couple of months ago.
I don’t have an update for you. We are always in constant contact on different pieces of legislation with the House and the Senate. I just don’t have an update on where we are currently with this particular legislation.
Q Thanks, Karine. So Walgreens unveiled a new look for their stores; they unveiled that in Chicago. And it has basically everything locked up, in part because of the theft that they have seen. A recent study shows that 50 percent of retail workers have seen some sort of retail theft, and another nearly 50 percent are afraid to go to work. So is the President aware of retail theft? And how come the problem has become so persa- — per- — pervasive under his tenure?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what I can tell you is: Unlike congressional Republicans, the President has taken action. He has taken action to deal with — with the crime, hiring police officers. We’ve — you’ve seen that from his actions that he’s taken to cut crime.
And he — and it started with the American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan had billions of dollars that went into communities to hire police officers, to make sure that we held — we had accountability, as well, on the ground. And let’s not forget his Safer American [sic] Plan to fund the police and invest in crime prevention.
So we have taken actions. We have made sure that we do everything that we can to try and protect communities and to make sure that police officers are hired.
And so, look, instead of Congress, you know, passing legislation or wanting to cut or defund the police, we’re doing the opposite. And so we would love to work with Congress and see how else we can be helpful to communities.
But the President has taken action — again, the American Rescue Plan, the Safer communities — Safer community — America Plan — and he’s going to continue to do what he can to make sure that we keep communities safe.
Q I want to ask you quickly about the visit tomorrow. The United Kingdom left the EU in 2020. The UK remains our closest ally — or one of our closest allies, as you said. How come we’re not negotiating a trade deal with them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I think in that conversation that they’ll have tomorrow, for sure, the economy will be part of that conversation. Look, they have the largest bilateral investment relationship in the world, when you think about the UK and United States. And that’s a source of strength and has been an important foundation of economic growth over the years in both of our countries. And so I’m sure when the two leaders meet, they will take — they will continue to take steps to deepen that economic partnership.
And so I’m not going to get ahead of what the President and the Prime Minister are going to speak to. But, again, they have one of the strongest — largest bilateral investment relationship in the world, and I think that matters.
Q Is the com- — the President comfortable with the UK leading on artificial intelligence? Because that’s one of the things the Prime Minister is (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to get ahead of — again, of what they’re going to discuss. I’ve laid out when we — what we have done here and how we see moving forward on artificial intelligence.
But, again, I’m just not going to get ahead of it. We’ll have a readout tomorrow.
Q Thanks, Karine. You mentioned the governments — U.S. and Canada — working together, talking about the wildfires. Have — but has President Biden spoken with Prime Minister Trudeau about this? Any — any offers of anything different that has not already been offered or long-term plans they’ve been discussing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I can tell you this: Our Deputy National Security Advisor, Liz Sherwood-Randall, has been in touch with her counterparts, and she has been for the — since last week, in offering and — listening to them and offer — making sure we’re offering any assistance that they might need. We mentioned the 600-plus firefighters and personnel that we have provided to Canada to help them deal with this wildfire.
I don’t have a call to read out between the Prime Minister and the President.
We’ve also, as I mentioned, been in touch with governors and — and local government as well to make sure that we are offering any assistance that they might need.
Q And can I also just ask: Is the — is the President washing — watching some of the pushback from kind of more conservative Republicans in the House regarding the debt ceiling vote? There are concerns. Does he have any thoughts about that effort and also how it might impact future dealing with the House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — and I mentioned this last week — I — I — even earlier this week. The President has done — has signed more than 350 bipartisan pieces of legislation — signed them into law. And I think that shows how the President has been able to work — work with Congress in a bipartisan way. And I think that’s important.
And we hope that continues, because there’s so much more that needs to be done as far as lowering costs, making sure the wealthy pay their fair share. There’s a list of things that we would love to work in a bipartisan way with Congress.
And so the President — certainly, he’s an optimist; he believes that we can continue to do that work, and certainly we’re going to try.
As it relates to what Congress is saying or congressio- — congressional Republicans are saying: Look, this was a bipartisan, fiscally responsible piece of legislation. It was important to the American people. We believe they — they are the ones that won because we were able to protect some of the programs that they truly need just to make ends meet. We were able to protect some of the — all of the historic pieces of legislation that the President put forward to deal with an economy that doesn’t leave anybody behind.
So the President is very proud of what he was able to do with Speaker McCarthy and the other leaders, and we hope that type of bipartisanship continues.
Certainly I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of how that’s going to look down the road. But we have a record. We have a record in the last two years to show that we have been able to get that done.
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask you about — we are two weeks away from the state visit. Secretary Austin was in Delhi this week. And I guess there’s some other high-profile visits happening between then — now and then. Would defense be an important part of the discussions with President — Prime Minister Modi and President Biden?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that last part.
Q Would defense be an important part of discussions between the two leaders?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, defense.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have anything more to say at this time about the visit. As we get closer, certainly we will have more to share.
What I’ve said is the upcoming visit, we believe, will affirm the deep and close partnership between the United States and India, and the warm bonds of family and friendship that link Americans and Indians together. So that is incredibly important.
The Prime Minister and the President will discuss ways to strengthen our two countries’ shared commitment to a free, open, prosperous, and secure Indo-Pacific and our shared resolve to elevate our strategic technology partnership, including defense — so that certainly will be talked about — and clean energy and space.
But I’m just not going to get into details on what the particulars will be. And as we get closer to June 22nd, we’ll certainly have more to share.
Q And also, have the guest list gone out for the state dinner and the welcome ceremony? And how big?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we’ve done about — this will be our third state dinner. We usually don’t release those guestlists until closer to the date. And so I suspect that we will do — we will do the same process with this.
Q Can you give us a sense of number of people?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a number to share.
Q And has the First Lady decided on the menu and the entertainment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share. What — what is today? It’s, like, so early. It’s —
Q Just two weeks (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) We still have about two weeks left, and we — that’s plenty of time. That’s like multiple years in this — in these types of amini- — administration — in presidential administrations.
So as soon as we have more to share, we certainly will. But I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t expect that it will happen before the week of the actual — actual event.
Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. Yesterday, the World Bank issued a report in which they indicated that the global economy is slowing down dramatically. They’re forecasting an annualized rate of growth of just 2.1 percent for this coming year. Is that something that you agree with? Do you see the U.S. economy similarly slowing down at a substantial rate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I haven’t seen the report. Certainly have to talk to the — our economists about the report that you’re speaking to.
What I can share with you is what we’re doing here and how we think it is going to be important to strengthening the global economy — right? — in making sure that the debt limit was dealt with. I think that was an important way to dealing with the global economy. Having a bipartisan, important budget negotiation that was, clearly, signed into law — that is incredibly important. Making sure we’re protecting jobs, protecting retirement accounts for Americans, which is what the President was — was able to do. Making sure people stay on their healthcare, and protecting other incredibly important programs, like veteran programs, for example; Social Security; Medicare.
So because of the work that this President has done the last two years and just most recently, we are in a better place with our economy, with the American economy.
I would have — again, would have to speak to the economists about this particular piece of data that you’re sharing.
Q The U.S. economy has been incredibly resilient. Do you expect that can — to continue over the course of the remainder of this year? And what is it that this White House can do to prevent the slowdown in the economy, given the fact that there is a divided Congress?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and you’re right, the U.S. economy has been very resilient. And that is a lot because of the actions that this President has taken in making sure that we turned the economy around from when he walked in. As you know, it was a crisis.
And so we’ve been saying this. We’ve been saying that we believe that we’re — we’re transitioning to a more steady — a steady growth, stable growth. And that’s what we’re seeing when you look at the job numbers that come out every month. And that’s what we believe we’re headed to.
And so the cre- — the President is certainly going to continue to do — he’s going to now implement those historic pieces of legislation where it’s going to create more jobs, and it’s going to help continue to make sure that the economy stays resilient.
Q The Minority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has said that the budget caps for defense spending in the budget agreement are insufficient to meet the challenges as it relates to Russia, Iran, China. Does the President share those concerns? And does the President intend to submit any sort of supplemental spending package as it relates to either pumping up defense spending or specifically providing additional military assistance for Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as the President said last week, and I’ll quote him — he said, “If there’s any existential need for additional funding, I have no doubt we’ll be able to get it.” That’s what the President said when — when the budget agreement was done.
We have been grateful for the widespread bipartisan support for Ukraine and expect that to continue. And — and so it doesn’t rule out — the budget agreement does not rule out additional emergency funding, whether it is for Ukraine or extreme weather. And so, the President is very confident on that.
As you know, there’s now an appropriations process, as — as Director Young spoke to. Certainly not — we are now in — back in regular order — right? — which is why it was important about getting this budget agreement done. So I’m going to let the appropriation process move forward. Not going to get ahead of that.
But the President, as he stated himself, he is — he’s confident.
Q But — so more generally speaking, he is okay with where the budget caps are for defe- — defense spending?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not — I’m — look, there’s an appropriations process that’s going to get going. That is regular order. That is where we’re supposed to be. We’re going to let that process go.
As you’re asking me about more defense funding, as the Minority Leader, as you just stated, feels like there’s not enough in defense, the President has said he — if there is — if there is need — existential need to additional funding, he believes that we will get there.
So that’s what I can share with you on that part.
Let me see. Go ahead, Alex. I haven’t called on you in a while.
Q Hi, Karine. The United States, as you know, has far higher incidence of car fatalities, both of drivers and pedestrians and cyclists, than almost all — I think all other wealthy nations. And we’re about to enter the most dangerous time of the year for car accidents, the summer months. Has this administration done enough on that front? Or has maybe the — I don’t know, the automotive — the highway lobby sort of had its way, as it has had with many other administrations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and you’re right, we face a crisis here in America when it comes to — when it comes to driving passengers — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists. Each year, more than 40,000 people have to — or die in these types of crashes. And so — and this is comparable to gun deaths, and it should not be this way.
So the Department of Transportation launched a National Roadway Safety Strategy in early of 2022 that — to tackle this type of crisis at every level. And so while it’s encouraging to see the deaths level has kind of — the death leveling off somewhat in the last two quarters, because we have seen that occur, it is no time to let up. And so we’re going to — DOT is going to continue to take major steps to keep people safe. And I think that’s important.
Again, they’ve put a plan together to try to tackle this incredibly unfortunate situation.
Q Thanks, Karine. I know you won’t comment on the case involving the President’s son, but the President previously criticized the Supreme Court ruling that his legal team is preparing to use, should he be charged, as an affront to common sense and the Constitution. I just want to know if that statement from June of last year still holds or if he is viewing that ruling in a new light.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to comment on this.
Q Okay. And on the merger. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board said this is more than just a private deal. It’s really about MBS sort of thumbing his nose at the President. They point out that the Saudis entered a China-brokered deal with Iran; they’re cozying up to Maduro; cut oil production ahead of Blinken’s visit, helping Russia, driving up prices, hurting Biden. And they write, “Is Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman trolling President Biden?” Call it “the revenge of the ‘pariah.’”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can’t comment to or lay out what the thinking of — of the Saudi Arabia official or government are.
As it relates to this merger, we’re just not going to comment on this deal. It is two private entities, and we’re just not going to comment.
Q Doesn’t that risk making the President look weak if there’s no comment? When you have Democratic senators saying that the President’s Justice Department should be looking at this with respect to antitrust questions, foreign registration questions, doesn’t “no comment” fall short?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s — first of all, the President does not look weak. This is a President — because of his leadership, has brought together our allies and partners again, which certainly was our — our foreign policy relationship with heads of states was gutted and destroyed by the last administration.
And this is a President that has been able to strengthen the NATO Alliance again because of his leadership, has been able to bring more than 50 countries together to help support Ukraine as they’re battling the aggression from Russia, and that is occurring because of this President’s leadership. And so I think that is important.
And because we’re saying that we’re not going to speak to a private merger — a company’s merger, a private entity — does not make the President weak.
Q You said he was briefed on it though, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That does not make the President — of course he’s going to be briefed on it. He’s the President of the United States. But it does not —
Q So why can’t you comment on — on it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But that — but we’re not going to comment on it because it is a private entity. We’ve been consistent —
Q Then why would he be briefed on it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’ve been consistent —
He’s the President of the United States. He kno- — he — he gets to know everything that’s going on in the — in the world and in the country — right? — that is important for him to know. He is — he is one of the leaders of the free world.
Q Is it typical to get briefed on private —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, this is —
Q (Laughs.) I mean —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ve — I’ve answered your question. We’re going to move on.
Co- — go ahead, Courtney.
Q Thank you. Will the President withdraw his nomination of Dale Ho for a judgeship in the Southern District of New York? Today’s cloture vote in the Senate was canceled.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President is proud to have put him forward, and we’re going to continue to support his nomination.
Q Do you have an expectation of when another vote will be scheduled?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a — I don’t have a timeline on when that vote will happen. I can tell you that the President continues to support.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. I have two questions about events at the White House tomorrow. Firstly, on the Sunak visit. The Prime Minister has echoed some of President Biden’s strong words on Taiwan. So I’m wondering if the two leaders are going to discuss related China issues like investments, semiconductors, supply chains. And is it a priority for the administration to get U.S.-UK alignment on these issues?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get ahead of their conversation tomorrow. I just laid out what they’re looking forward to particularly — particularly discussing. This is the fourth time that they’ve met in four months, and it is a — it is a — our closest relationship, an important relationship, especially as we talk about Ukraine and — and the war in Ukraine that was clearly an aggression by Russia.
I’m just not going to get into specifics of what — what they’re going to speak about.
I talked about the economy. I talked about Ukraine. And certainly — and clean energy, which is going to be incredibly important, but just not going to go into spec- — any more specifics. And we’ll certainly have a readout.
Q Cool. Then moving on to the Pride event tomorrow. This is likely to provoke some political or politicized pushback, especially from, you know, some of the states that have passed legislation targeting sexual minorities or from countries that have done the same. So could I just hear from you why does the White House feel that this event is important, especially in this context?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So we’ve had multiple events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. Multiple. And this is a President that has been a strong ally; a Vice President that has been a strong ally; a Second Gentleman, a First Lady that has been a strong ally of the — of the community. And it is important — he feels it is important, they feel it’s important to lift up a community, to lift up their accomplishments and what they’ve been able to do for the community. And so we think it’s an important moment.
And let’s not forget what we’re seeing across the country from statehouses: more than 600 pieces of legislation, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. A few hundred of those are against transgender youth. And so we have not seen that type of “anti” sentiment, anti — against this community in decades.
And so we believe that not only does this community need to be celebrated and continue to be celebrated, as he’s done many times before in this — in this past two years, but we also need to make sure that we let the community know that the President has their back and we’re going to continue to fight for them. And so that is important.
And I think that is important to be able to bring a couple of thousand Americans here to the White House to let them know that this President is going to continue to fight for them. And that’s the message that we want to make sure that gets out there.
Okay. I haven’t — go ahead.
Q Oh, on the issue of asylum seekers arriving in New York. Recently, Governor Hochul and New York City Mayor Adams, you know, pressed — called upon the federal government, the Biden administration, to somehow work on relaxing some of the work permitting requirements, easing restrictions so that some of these asylum seekers can get their work permits before this six-month waiting period. I’m wondering if the White House has any update on that, any, you know, just, stance on — on those discussions?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I don’t have any updates on the work requirements. I know that’s been in the news for some time now.
What I will say is that we have — have had direct communications and conversations with these interior cities and states who are dealing with the — with an influx of immigrants in their city and in their state. And we’ve had very — multiple conversations not just with New York, but also Chicago and other — again, other interior cities and states.
And what I will say is that we have — we have offered assistance and resources. I have announced and I’ve — and it’s been announced not just by me, but by DHS — the more than 200 million — I believe more than 300 million of resources to those — to those particular inter- — interior states.
And also, I have said — I even said this yesterday — that a large com- — piece of that has been provided to New York. And so we’re going to continue to have those conversations. We’re going to continue to assist the best way that we can, as we have been doing for the past several months.
Go ahead, Owen, in the back.
Q Good afternoon, Karine. In Chicago, over Memorial Day weekend, over 50 people were shot; several killed in separate incidents. And I know that you discussed the action this administration has taken to try to reduce gun violence, but I want to know what the President has to say to individual Chicago residents living in neighborhoods where bullets are flying and can’t wait for laws to take effect — what the President would tell that person.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We will say that we are doing everything that we can to make sure their communities are safe. And the President — and it’s not just our words. Our actions show that.
The President signed into — two — two dozen — almost two — more than two dozen executive actions to deal with gun violence. And the President has also continued to call on Congress to take additional action.
We are very proud of the bipartisan piece of legislation on gun violen- — to fight gun violence that was signed just about a year ago. And that was something that we had not seen in 30 years. And because of the President’s leadership, we were able to get that done.
The President also has made clear that Congress needs to do more. And so, he’s taken action.
And certainly, our hearts go out to families or individuals who have lost loved ones. It is — it is devastating to see. When you hear a statistic where guns is — is — is the — is — guns are — are — is — are what is taking the lives of our children, the number one killer of our children, that’s devastating to hear. That is something that the President wants to prevent and wants to deal with, which is why he took those actions.
So, we’re going to continue to call on Congress to take action. And — and I will say — and we’ll be very loud about that and very clear about that. And I will also say again: Our hearts go out to folks who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Go ahead, Brian.
Q Thank you, Karine. I wanted to ask about Ukraine and NATO. The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, last week said that Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO. Will this be something that the two discuss when they meet tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — I’m not going to get into specifics of what’s going to happen. Again, I know you guys have asked me a couple of questions, but our commitment to NATO’s open-door policy stands. And so, just not going to get ahead of that.
Q And given the meeting tomorrow and that the NATO Secretary General is going to be here on Monday, is President Biden thinking about a renewed push toward Ukraine’s admission into NATO?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’ve been — I mean, nothing has changed on how we’ve answered this question before.
You know, an Alliance decision is between the 31 Allies and — and aspirant country. That’s how it’s dealt with. You have to — there’s a process, and there’s an open-door policy. That’s what we support. We’ve been — we’ve supported that for some time now.
But, right now, we are focused on making sure that Ukraine has everything that it needs to fight Russia’s aggression. And you heard us, just about last week, announce another PDA of $300 million. We’re going to continue to do that every other week or so and continue to show our support for Ukraine, whether it is aid or (inaudible) systems. And — and, you know, we’ve done that the last 15 months.
And so, we’re going to — you know, we’re going to do everything that we can to support the Ukrainian people as they fight in a — in a incredibly impressive and brave — brave fight.
All right, everyone.
Q Could I just clarify one thing, Karine? You said repeatedly here that the White House didn’t want to comment on a private entity. A quick search back through briefings in recent months finds that you commented on JPMorgan’s merger or purchase of First Republic. And then you were asked last November about Elon Musk buying Twitter, saying: “We’re going to keep an eye on that decision.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I —
Q Does the decision to not comment today have anything to do with the fact that the Secretary of State is in Saudi Arabia right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, not at all. Not at all. We’re just not going to comment on this. And — and, look, I also said with the mer- — the — the Elon Musk — I also said the same thing that I said today: is that we’re not going to comment on a private entity. I actually said those words, as we talked about Elon Musk and Twitter.
And so that’s going to continue. We’re not going to comment on this. We’re going to focus on the American people. We’re going to focus on — on what their needs are as it relates to, you know, American families and as it relates to abroad and also the Middle East as well. And so that’s the President’s focus right now.
But I’ve always been very clear: We just are not — not going to comment on — on any types of mergers. And I know you pulled out those — those specific things, but I also continued and said I’m just not going to comment on mergers or private entities.
Q Thank you, Karine.
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