James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:37 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy Monday.  I do have a couple things at the top. 

So, today we mark seven years since the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting.  In the middle of Pride Month in 2016, our nation suffered what was then the deadliest mass shooting in American history.  Forty-nine people, predominantly Latino members of the LGBTQI+ community, lost their lives in a senseless act of gun violence. 

Today, we pray for the families of the victim and every survivor who still carries the trauma. 

In 2021, President Biden signed a bill designating Pulse nightclub as a national memorial, enshrining into law that is hallowed ground.

The President is continuing to fight to the — to end the gun violence epidemic and continue to urge Congress to make commonsense reforms to keep our communities safe.

This Pride Month, the Biden-Harris administration is going to continue lifting the LGBTQI+ community up and honor the victims who aren’t here with us today.

Tomorrow, the house will mark up the GOP Tax Scam 2.0, which they released on Friday.  This bill makes House Republicans’ values clear.  Their priority isn’t reducing the deficit; it’s giving handouts to rich special interests and corporations that make the debt even larger.

Just weeks ago, House Republicans were demanding devastating cuts to programs hardworking Americans count on, from healthcare to public safety to Meals on Wheels, in the name of fiscal responsibility.  But now they are proposing to spend hundreds of billions on tax breaks for big corporations, and they’re laying the groundwork to spend trillions of additional tax cuts skewed to the wealthy and big corporations. 

They would do that while repealing clean energy tax credits that are fueling our manufacturing resurgence, creating jobs, and lowering energy costs for working families.  That would ship jobs overseas and raise taxes for the sa- — the — some middle-class families.  And they’re prioritizing restoring expi- — expired tax breaks for big corporations over restoring helping working families that need — that need a little bit more breathing room as it relates to childcare and other things that are important to American families.

Those are not the President’s values.  Instead of failed trickle-down policies, President Biden is growing the economy from the middle up and — middle out and bottom up.

His economic plan would cut taxes for working people, families with children, and it would pay for those tax cuts and reduce the deficit by ending the taxpayer subsidies for extremely profitable industries and making the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.  That’s an agenda the American people support.

So, just moments ago, we made an announcement from here, and we are very excited to announce that Tom Perez will be serving as Senior Advisor, Assistant to the President, and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Tom will build on the tremendous work of Julie Rodriguez.  He brings decades of experience to the White House, having served in local, state, and federal government.  His perspective and relationships as a former county councilman, a top civil rights attorney, and Secretary of Labor will be invaluable as we continue to work on government to — to implement our Invest in America and continue to make our government work for the people and for communities across the country.

With that, we have the Admiral in the room today to take any foreign policy questions that you all have.  I know it’s been a couple of days.

Admiral, the podium is yours.

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, Karine.  How you all doing today?  I don’t have any opening statement.  So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  Wow.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  Over to you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I forgot you told me that.

MR. KIRBY:  I did.  I did.

Q    Hi, John.  Thanks for doing this.  So, I’m wondering if you’ve completed or if you’re in the process of a review to determine how the documents at Mar-a-Lago have impacted national security.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, so I think the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has already spoken to the fact that they were conducting a national security assessment, and I would refer you to them.  I don’t have any update on that one way or the other.

Q    So, today during an interview, Senator Rubio said that there’s no allegation that there was harm done to the national security.  Does that stand as of now?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I’d refer you to the Director of National Intelligence.  They are working with the Justice Department on this, and they did say that they were going to conduct a national security assessment.  I don’t know the status of it.  They’d be the ones to talk to you about that.

Q    Okay.  Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Mary.

Q    The administration now says that China already does have this intelligence facility in Cuba.  What can you tell us broadly about the threat posed by this facility?  And, just, bottom line, how concerned should Americans be that the Chinese are listening to us from this facility?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.  So, look, I think you can understand why we’re — we’re not going to be able to get into too much detail about our own counterintelligence efforts. 

But as we communicated over the weekend, this is not a new development that China has been trying to achieve some intelligence-gathering capabilities in Cuba and, frankly, elsewhere in the hemisphere, and that, from day one, when we came in, we took this issue seriously.  We’ve taken some steps to try to mitigate the vulnerability of those activities.  And we’re going to keep — and we’re going to keep doing that.

And the last thing I’d say is we’re confident that we can continue to protect our nation’s secrets in this hemisphere and beyond and that — that we can continue to defend the country appropriately.

Q    And can you just explain why you didn’t confirm all of this when it was first reported last week?  You said it was “inaccurate.”  But what was inaccurate seemed to basically be the tense that they, you know, weren’t “going to establish” but “had already established” this facility.  Why wait until Saturday to put this out there?

MR. KIRBY:   I’m actually really glad you asked that question.  I can tell you that — that we were as forthcoming as we should have been at the time the first stories appeared.  There is — the sensitive nature of this information is such that we just simply couldn’t go into more detail, even before the first story appeared, to try to better inform that reporting.  That’s how sensitive this stuff is.  We just couldn’t be more detailed.

And then, after the first stories that appeared, we worked very, very hard — as expeditiously as we could — with the intelligence community to try to get some context downgraded so that we could provide it over the weekend, and we did that.  But we were as forthcoming as we should have been given the nature of this information. 

Sadly, not everybody seems to take it as seriously as we do, because, clearly, there’s a source or sources out there that think it’s somehow beneficial to put this kind of information into the public stream, and it’s absolutely not.  And there’s a limit, even now, to what we can say about — about our knowledge of these activities. 

And I can just tell you, as somebody who works with all of you on lots of different sensitive stories, I wasn’t about — in any way, shape, or form — to violate operational security by talking in any more detail either before the first story or after the first story.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia. 

Q    Thank you.  Two questions — first on Iran, and second on Sudan.  On Iran, the Israeli Prime Minister is saying that any potential deal between the administration and Iran is not going to be binding for Israel.  I know the White House denied the talks.  But how can — how will it complicate the bigger pictures if Israel actually is not cooperating with you and not on board?  And how close do you consult with them?

MR. KIRBY:  We consult with Israel very, very closely.  As a matter of fact, I think you know the coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, was in the region not long ago and — and had meetings with Israeli counterparts.  We consult with them very, very closely.  We have a shared idea of the continuing destabilizing behavior and threats coming from Iran in the region. 

Again, I’m not going to confirm press reports about deals or no deals.

We are laser-focused on the destabilizing activity, and it crosses a lot of realms — not just the nuclear ambitions, but the increasing ballistic missile capabilities, the burgeoning defense relationship with Russia, the support to Russia in Ukraine, the harassing of maritime shipping, the support of terrorist networks in the region.  I could go on and on. 

And we talk with the Israelis all the time about this.  We have a common sight picture about these threats. 

Now, the Israelis can speak for themselves — as any nation should speak for themselves — about how they’re going to deal with the threat.  All I can do is tell you what we’re doing.

Q    On Sudan, the administration efforts along with the Saudis have not succeeded of ending the bloodshed or even sustaining the — the ceasefire.  Is this anything more that can be done to stop what’s happening now?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re still in Jeddah.  We still want to see a ceasefire.  We still want to see a transition to civilian authority.  We still want to see both sides put their guns down.  And we’re going to stay at that work through diplomacy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jeremy.

Q    Thanks.  Hey, John.  The Amer- — an American citizen, Travis Leake, was arrested in Russia on drug charges.  I’m wondering if you have any comment on that arrest and to what extent you’re working to determine whether this is a similar wrongful detention case?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have a lot more information on the arrest itself.  I’d really refer you to the State Department.  I know that the State Department is, at least as of my coming out here, trying to get in touch with the family, and they’re looking into this case.

The — as far as I know, consular officers were present at his arraignment in — and did get a consular visit with him. 

We’ll obviously continue to monitor this and stay in touch with his case as — as much as possible.  But it’s just too soon for me to be able to characterize it one way or another. 

And then I think you asked about a wrongful detention.  That’s going to be up to the State Department to look at.

Q    Was the President briefed on this case?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know — I don’t have an update on the degree to which the President was updated. 

Q    And then, secondly, President Zelenskyy has now confirmed that a counteroffensive is underway in Ukraine.  The Ukrainian military says that it took back three villages in eastern Ukraine, but they also appear to be taking heavy losses, including of U.S.-provided equipment.  So I’m wondering what the U.S.’s assessment of this counteroffensive is thus far.

MR. KIRBY:  We’re — we’re going to refrain from providing an armchair assessment of this offensive.  I’m going to still stay true to that.

Look, offensive operations — combat is happening.  There’s no question about that.  But it’s up to President Zelenskyy to characterize it, not us.  And it’s certainly going to be up to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to speak to the give-and-take on any given day.  It — it’s war.  And it has already proven violent. 

What we’re going to stay focused on is making sure that Ukraine can succeed on the battlefield.  You saw a package of assistance coming through the USAI program, announced at the end of the week.  I think very, very soon, you’re going to see some additional drawdown packages coming from the United States.  It won’t surprise you that the kinds of things you’ll see us continue to give Ukraine are the kinds of things that we know they need in this particular fight. 

Q    Can you now tell us whether the Ukrainians provided you any notice that this — these operations were underway?  Now that they’ve confirmed — I know you’ve been cagey about saying whether or not this is the counteroffensive.

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not cagey.  I’m careful.  That’s it.  (Laughter.)

They — they had no obligations to give us any kind of heads up or inform us of their operations, nor have they ever, in the last 15 months.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Trevor.

Q    Just quickly, to close the loop on the China-Cuba story.  You know, there are many times when we come to you with stories that are based on classified information, and I’m sure often to your chagrin.

MR. KIRBY:  Much.  Too much.  Yeah.

Q    Going — going forward, should we expect that the administration is not going to be fully forthcoming when — when we do have stories like that?
MR. KIRBY:  What you can — what you can take to the bank, Trevor, is that we’ll be as forthcoming with you as we can.  There’s all kinds of different classified information out there.  You know that.  Different labels, different classifications on it. 

Sometimes there’s information that is — is so classified and so secret that there’s a real limit — in fact, there’s a real danger to somebody like me trying to provide you a steer before you report.  And that was the case here.  We were careful. 

And all I can promise you is that we’ll be as forthcoming with you — with you as we can. 

The fact that we came out a couple of days later and provided some clarifying information does not mean and should not be taken, as I’ve seen in some of the press reporting, as some kind of walk-back. 

The original reporting, as we said, was inaccurate.  And we did the best we could in the moment to be as forthcoming as we could.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to prevent some inaccurate reporting. 

After the first reports, which we worked to get some additional context downgraded, but even that had to be carefully scrutinized. 

It’s shameful that somebody, or somebodies, somehow think it’s okay to put this kind of information in the public bloodstream. 

Now, you’re just doing your jobs.  I get that.  You got to ask tough questions, and people are going to come to you with all kinds of sensitive information.

We’ll do the best we can to — to provide you a steer and to let you know what the vulnerabilities are. 

Obviously, you and your bosses make the decision about whether you’re going to report on it.  But I’m comfortable that — that we were as forthcoming as we should have been and could have been in the moment and remain that way right now.

Q    Understood.  Just — and just on the Stoltenberg meeting that’s tomorrow now.  Should we expect that President Biden will be prepared to address any concerns that the NATO Secretary General might have about the handling of classified information related to the Trump — the Trump indictment?

MR. KIRBY:  The agenda for the meeting with the Secretary General is going to be pretty wide-ranging; obviously, it’s going to be very, very focused on Ukraine and what the Alliance is doing to support Ukraine, what the United States is going to continue to do to support Ukraine.  And certainly, it’s in keeping with the Secretary General’s pre-summit travel.  He’s making his way to all the capitals, including Washington.  And that’s really going to be the focus.

Q    And will the President ask the Secretary General to stay on for another term?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s decision making with respect to the — who would be the next Secretary General.  We’re grateful for Secretary General Stoltenberg’s leadership.  Now, he’s gotten extended three times, and he’s led the Alliance at a very, very critical time, not least of which, even without the war in Ukraine, it would be a critical time.  Certainly in that context, he’s just done a superb job.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Matt.

Q    Thank you, John.  The — I wanted to take another stab with the Mar-a-Lago documents.  Given that we’ve seen images that some of them had the Five Eyes on it, have you guys done anything or can you walk us through what you have done to assure allies about this type of intelligence?  And if there’s any intelligence — you’re not getting the intelligence assessment; I’m trying to ask about the diplomacy part.

MR. KIRBY:  No, I know.  I appreciate — I appreciate the question and where you’re trying to go, Matt.  I’m just not going to be able to talk with any detail about — about those documents or this case. 

I mean, it’s really for — something for the Justice Department to speak to.  And in terms of the — any national security assessment, that would be up to the Director of National Intelligence.

Separate and distinct from all of that — and this kind of gets to my answer to Trevor — we obviously take very seriously our responsibilities to protect classified information and to protect the nation’s secrets.  And what we’re focused on is doing exactly that: is protecting the nation’s secrets, protecting our ability to both collect intelligence and to analyze that and to use it to help better defend the country.  That’s what we’re focused.

Q    So — but you were just talking about it’s “shameful,” regarding the Cuba-China thing, for that information to (inaudible) —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to characterize —

Q    You don’t want to get into —

MR. KIRBY:  This is a — this is really for the Justice Department to speak to.
Q    Okay.  And then just quickly on the — the meeting tomorrow with the Secretary General.  Can you walk us through sort of where the President is on Ukraine and whether the President thinks an invitation should be sent for NATO membership to Ukraine?  Is there any updates as you guys look toward the NATO Summit?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, without speaking to the conversation with the Secretary General that hasn’t happened yet, our policy with respect to NATO membership hasn’t changed.  We obviously still support the NA- — NATO’s open-door policy.  And that’s — those are discussions that have to be had with all 31 Allies and, of course, the nation in question here. 

So we’re — you know, we’re not — we’re not taking a position one way or another. 

I think you know that at Bucharest there was a declaration that — that made very clear that — that NATO should be in Ukraine’s future at some point in the future.  Nothing has changed about that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Seung Min.

Q    Are you able to characterize at all what about the initial Wall Street Journal report was inaccurate?


Q    Okay.  And can you be more precise on when precisely China established a base?  I know — I know you guys said it was at least 2019.  That’s as far as you can go, in terms of how long? 

MR. KIRBY:  That’s as far as I’m going to go today. 

Q    And trying again on Stoltenberg, does the President believe it’s important for the next NATO Secretary General to come from a country that has hit the 2 percent GDP in defense spending?

MR. KIRBY:  The President believes that whoever is the Secretary General of NATO should be an individual who the entire Alliance can get behind and lead the Alliance into the future, because the — there is a transformative future ahead for the Alliance. 

And whenever this war ends, however it ends, NATO is going to be different.  For one thing, it’s going to be larger.  And Ukraine is going to be different, given the scope of westernization of their military. 

So, whoever the next Secretary General is going to be — again, it has to be somebody that the whole Alliance can get behind and can be a transformative leader.  And I think I’ll leave it at that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Beatriz.

Q    Thank you.  I wanted to follow up on Cuba.  Has there been any conversation with the Cuban government about the base or the Chinese trying to spy (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  We’ve made our concerns known.

Q    To the Cuban government?

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, we have.

Q    On Colombia, if you could have — do you have any comment on the ceasefire announced between the government and the ELN on Friday?

MR. KIRBY:  No.  We’re aware of those developments, but we don’t have a — you know, we don’t have a position to take right now.  We refer to those parties. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, April.

Q    John, a couple of questions — two, to be exact.  One, Shanquella Robinson.  We know that former Domestic Policy Advisor, as well as the head of Public Engagement, met with family and attorneys about the possibility of extradition of the suspects.  Anything new?  Because Mexico is saying that they’re waiting for the United States to move on the extradition of these — the suspect or suspects.

MR. KIRBY:  I’m afraid I don’t have anything for you, April.  Let me — if you’ll allow me, we’ll take the question and see if we can get you a better answer. 

Q    I will allow it, for sure.  Make sure you get back to me.  Okay?  (Laughter.)   

MR. KIRBY:  You mean you — you mean you don’t think I will?

Q    I know you will, John.  I know you will. 

But the next question, really fast: As we’re in this unprecedented moment — and the White House is very aware, I’m sure the President is very aware — and we’re waiting for tomorrow, how would you qualify the mood here, as this is such a serious moment with very sensitive information and a former President of the United States? 

MR. KIRBY:  The President is focused on his tasks as Commander-in-Chief, April.  Again, we’re going to let the Justice Department speak to this. 

His focus is on making sure, as Commander-in-Chief, that he can continue to defend the country, continue to advance our economic competition with competitors like China, make sure that we can advance our foreign policy around the world.  That’s where his head is.  It’s — it’s squarely on the work in front of him.

Q    But you can’t ignore this moment, though.  As this President is someone who is a student of history and part of history, to see the person that he was the next in line for, to be going through this moment. 

MR. KIRBY:  The President respects the rule of law and the democratic institutions of the United States of America and takes very seriously his role as President of the United States and — and advancing that. 

And he also, as you’ve heard Karine say much better than I can, he fully respects the independence of the Justice Department and allowing the Justice Department to do their job unimpeded and uninterrupted, certainly by him or anybody on his staff. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Sorry.  Last Friday, during the press conference between President Biden and the Prime Minister, President Biden again emphasized the solar facility investment in Angola.  Is there any possibility, in the future, President Biden visit Angola to see firsthand this solar facility that he keeps emphasizing?

MR. KIRBY:  He’s very proud of the work we’re doing on the continent and in — in implementing so many of the things that we agreed to implement at the Africa Leaders Summit last December.  And as you heard him say many times, he does plan to visit the continent.  I just don’t have anything on the schedule right now to speak to in terms of when and where and what that would look like. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, is there an effort to find the source of the leak on the Cuba base now?

MR. KIRBY:  Not that I’m aware of. 

Q    And I guess the reason why this has been characterized as a walk-back is that saying that the report was inaccurate left all of us with the impression that this base didn’t exist or would not exist.  Having heard you saying that you went as far as you could on that, was a reason for your statement at all related to Blinken’s travel to China next week?


Q    And then, John Ratcliffe said that the allegation that there was a Chinese spy base in Cuba under the Trump administration is not true.  What do you say to that?

MR. KIRBY:  Not an allegation.  True.  And our assessment is that the previous administration would have had the same access to that intelligence as we did.

Q    Do you think they knew about it?  And —

MR. KIRBY:  That’s up to them speak to.  They would have had the same access to the intelligence that we would have.

Q    When you were briefed on its existence, were — was the administration told whether or not this was — this information was embraced by the previous administration or anything had been done about it under the previous?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know about what was transferred in, as far as the transition between the two administrations with respect to this particular issue.  I just don’t know.

Q    So how do we — how should we understand him saying it didn’t exist and you guys saying it did?  What should we take away from that?

MR. KIRBY:  All I can tell you is that it’s our assessment that the previous administration would have had access to the same intelligence that we did.  Now, whether they availed themselves of that access, whether any one individual saw it and others didn’t, I can’t speak to it.  We weren’t here at the time.


Q    Given the events in Miami tomorrow, we all understand that this administration has tried — or at least this White House has tried to distance itself from anything related to the Trump indictment.  But if this were a different defendant and a different set of facts, there would always be some oversight from the White House or concerns about larger security issues outside of the courtroom — you know, the kinds of event-related things.

Is the White House monitoring that, in terms of homeland security, beyond just at DHS headquarters or just at DOJ?  So is there the normal interface?

And my larger question is: Because you’re trying to not talk about it, does that make this more vulnerable to not have the oversight from the White House or the resources or the attention to it?

MR. KIRBY:  Does it make security more vulnerable because —

Q    The White House is trying to stay out of it.

MR. KIRBY:  The short answer that, Kelly, is no.  I mean,
look, without getting into the specifics of this case — I won’t do that — of course, we are — we maintain, as a routine matter — every day, we maintain connective tissue with state and local authorities for any potential of civic disturbances that could turn violent.

So we — that connective tissue still exists.  It exists right now; it exists today.  And we’ll keep it going.

But I won’t be able to speak with any more granularity about what security precautions might be taking place down there.  But as a matter of course and standard procedure, we stay in touch with state and local authorities as appropriate.

Q    So the Sit Room would monitor things tomorrow, like it would any other —

MR. KIRBY:  We — like any other issue, we would certainly be paying close attention and making sure that, to the degree that federal assistance is needed, you know, that it’s provided.  But, again, I — I don’t want to go beyond that, and I don’t want to speculate about what might or might not happen tomorrow.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  A few more.  S.V., in the back.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks.  Admiral, the administration, like —

MR. KIRBY:  Where are you?  (Laughter.)  Oh, there you are.

Q    This administration, like all administrations, share information for oversight with the Gang of Eight.  There are two members of the Gang of Eight so far, that I’ve seen — one of them who says what happened with the documents at Mar-a-Lago is really not a big deal; another one says it’s okay because there’s a lock on the bathroom door.  So is there a reason, perhaps, to have a discussion with some folks on the Hill about
stuff?  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  Is there a reason to have a conversation with people on the Hill about stuff?  (Laughter.) 

Look, I appreciate where you’re coming from.  I appreciate where all of you guys are coming from on this.  I’m just simply not going to talk about this ongoing case.  That is really for the Justice Department to speak to.  And I’m just not going to be able to go beyond that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thanks.  I have a China/Cuba follow-up, and then some Iran questions.  So, does this mean that Secretary Blinken’s trip is still on?  And does this just change any of the —

MR. KIRBY:  You’ll have to talk to Secretary Blinken and the State Department about his travel plans.

Q    Does this change any of the priorities or the objectives?

MR. KIRBY:  It doesn’t cha- — look, I won’t speak to his travel or plans; that’s for them to speak to.  But nothing has changed about the fact that we understand the bilateral relationship with China is tense right now.  And nothing has changed about the fact that the President wants to keep the lines of communication open with the PRC.

Some of the — and we talked about this last week — some of the important lines of communication, the military-to- military, are not open.  And we want to get them back open.

So, all of that still tracks.  But as for whether this recent reporting out of Cuba is going to affect Secretary Blinken, I would — and his travel plans — I would not expect so.  But, again, I would let you speak to the State Department to talk about that.

Q    And then on Iran, I’m sure you know the President of Iran is doing a tour of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.  Just your reaction, your thought on, you know, what he can achieve there and how the U.S. might be countering whatever he’s trying to achieve there.

And then also —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m sorry, who is traveling?

Q    The President of Iran.

And then, just on the report that China supplied some drone ingredients to Iran to be sent to Russia, is there any veracity to that report?  Is that true?  And if so, what can —

MR. KIRBY:  I cannot confirm that reporting.  And as for the President’s visit to Central America, they can speak for their — their — their travel habits and their agenda.

We don’t ask countries in this hemisphere or any other to choose who they’re going to associate with or who they’re going to talk to or who they’re going to allow to visit.  That’s for them to speak to.  We’re focused on our own national security interest in the region.

Q    Does it concern you?

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, look, I can’t speak to the agenda or what he’s doing or what he’s going to meet with.  Are we concerned about Iran’s destabilizing behavior?  You bet we are.  And we — and we have and will continue to take steps to mitigate that behavior.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Admiral, you were talking about the close coordination that the White House has with the Israeli government.  Can you confirm reporting that the Israelis have spoken with the White House about intentions to announce later this month about the building of thousands of new housing units in the occupied West Bank?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t speak to that.  I don’t — I certainly wouldn’t be in a position to confirm reports of that nature, except to say we have long made clear our concerns about additional settlements in — in the West Bank, that we don’t want to see actions taken that are going to make a two-state solution that much more difficult to achieve.  We don’t want to see steps taken that only increase the tensions, and we’ve been very clear about that.  Nothing has changed about our policy.

Q    Would the White House consider using any of its leverage to discourage a plan of this nature?  For example, limiting military aid, anything of that nature —

MR. KIRBY:  Well —

Q    — or suggesting to Congress perhaps that that be something it would consider.

MR. KIRBY:  Again, nothing has changed on our policy on settlements.  And let’s not get ahead of where we are right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, just a couple more.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  What does the U- — what does Ukraine need to accomplish in its counteroffensive for to be considered successful by the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  That is a great question for the Commander-in- Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, President Zelenskyy, to determine what his objectives are and what he wants to achieve. 

What we’re focused on, what our objective is, as I said earlier, is to make sure that — that he and his troops have all the tools, capabilities, training that they need to be successful.  That’s what we’re focused on. 

Q    Is there some action that stops short of full membership in NATO that the U.S. and its allies could take in Vilnius that would satisfy President Zelenskyy’s concerns?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I — again, that’s — you’d have to talk to President Zelenskyy about — about that. 

What — again, nothing has changed about our support for NATO’s open door.  Those are decisions that have to be made by the entire Alliance and the country in question. 

However, we have talked about and we are continuing to talk to the Ukrainians about some of their long-term defense needs and what that needs to look like going forward.  Because at some point, this war is going to end.  Don’t know when.  Don’t know how.  And we don’t know what the — what it’s going to look like. 

But Ukraine is still going to have legitimate security needs, with a long border with Russia.  We understand that, so do our NATO Allies.  And so we’re having active conversations with Ukraine right now about what that long-term defense environment looks like, what their long-term defense capabilities need to be.  And those are active conversations.

Now, how much of that is going to come home to roost in Vilnius, I just — I just don’t know, and I wouldn’t get ahead of that.

Q    And lastly, next week, President Biden plans to host the Indian Prime Minister for a state visit.  Is the President committed to holding a joint news conference with his counterpart when he visits?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t believe that the full agenda has been fleshed out for the state visit, but we are very much looking forward to have Prime Minister Modi here.  As you know, the United States has a significant defense partnership with India and terrific cooperation inside the Quad, across the Indo-Pacific with India.  There’s a lot to talk about.  We’re looking forward to the visit.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much.  So the Messenger has a story today saying that the administration is drafting plans to evacuate U.S. citizens from Taiwan.  Can you confirm that?  And that it — does it mean that — according to your assessment, the situation there could escalate sooner as predicted? 

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, so, look, as you know, it’s not routine for U- — it’s not routine U.S. policy to evacuate private American citizens from areas of conflict.  And there’s no indication at this time that current conditions in Taiwan would warrant any reconsideration of that policy. 

As always, we take our responsibility for the safety of our citizens and personnel seriously — wherever that is — all around the world.  And we have routine procedures in place to make sure that we’re prepared for any type of emergency.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  If we could just take two more.  Go ahead, Janne.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, Karine.  And thank you, John.  I have a quick questions about the South Korea, China, and Russia. 

First question.  Chinese ambassador to South Korea, Xing Haiming, said that South Korea would regret it if it bet China loses.  And he also criticized that if South Korea sided with the United States, it would regret it.  Do you see this as an attempt to retaliate against South Korea? 

And second question on Russia: Russian President Putin moved to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus next month.  Do you think that this will affect the international crisis and increase in North Korea’s nuclear threat?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Okay, Janne.  Look, on the — on the first question, I mean, it — it certainly appears as if there was some sort of pressure tactic here used.  South Korea is a sovereign, independent nation; a terrific ally; and a great friend not just in the region, but around the world.  And they have every right to make the kinds of foreign-policy decisions they deem as appro- — are appropriate.  We’re grateful for the support that they continue to provide, particularly with respect to — to Ukraine.

On Belarus, all I can tell you is we’ve seen no indication of anything that would force us to change our own posture with respect to nuclear readiness or capabilities.  The constant rhetoric — in this case, out of Lukashenko — just is in keeping with reckless and irresponsible ways of talking about nuclear capabilities. 

But, again, we haven’t seen any indication that movement of nuclear weapons is imminent or happening.  And we certainly haven’t seen anything that would cause us to change our own posture. 

I can’t speak for what that irresponsible, reckless rhetoric — impact that might have on Pyongyang.  I just — I haven’t seen anything that would connect the two.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, James.  You have the last word.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  And thank you, Admiral.  I should like first to take one more stab at getting you to say something substantive about the Trump case.

MR. KIRBY:  Go for it.  (Laughter.)

Q    And then —

MR. KIRBY:  I will be just as unsatisfying to you — (laughter) — as I have been to everybody else today.

Q    That’s so prejudicial.

MR. KIRBY:  But I also want to be — I got Mauritius up here — (holds up a page from the briefing book) — and nobody asked me.  (Laughter.)  Nobody.  And I was ready today.  (Laughter.)

Q    That’s — that is not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know he’s not (inaudible).

Q    — the subject of my — of my second thrust.  But first on the Trump case, and then I want to ask about Americans detained in foreign countries. 

President Biden, in a speech that was an official speech and not a campaign speech last year in Philadelphia, identified Donald Trump and his supporters as threats to the American homeland.  And you amplified those comments in one of your Zoom briefings that you held not long thereafter.

Does the enrollment of Donald Trump in the American criminal justice system as a defendant, which necessarily entails certain restrictions on his movements and so on, provide for the American people some reassurance that he is less of a threat than he was when the President made those remarks?

MR. KIRBY:  James, I’m just not in a position to speak to that one way or the other.

Q    And then, finally, a short series of questions about Americans who are detained in other countries.

MR. KIRBY:  “Short series”?  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  “Series”?  There’s no- — there’s no such thing as a “short series.”  Those two words don’t go together.

Q    Your interjections do not make things shorter.  (Laughter.)

All right.  First question is this —

MR. KIRBY:  (Exhales.)  (Laughter.)

Q    You’ve spoken often about your efforts ongoing to secure the release and return of Americans who are wrongfully detained in foreign countries.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    That very formulation implies another category of Americans: the opposite category, whatever you’d want to call it — Americans who are rightfully detained or lawfully or justly detained. 

First question of three short questions: Does the administration recognize the existence of such a category of Americans?  And if so, are they also the object of your efforts to get them —

MR. KIRBY:  (Inaudible.)

Q    — released and returned?

MR. KIRBY:  Sorry, I was going to write on her book and I shouldn’t —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)

MR. KIRBY:  — do that.  You’ll get mad at me.

Look, I’d refer you to the State Department on categorization here.  I don’t know that there is something — like, I don’t know that there’s a separate legal category of — of somebody who is not wrongfully detained. 

But you’re right, there are — you know, some Americans are designated “wrongfully detained” because we know they’re being detained for political purposes or on trumped-up charges.  Sometimes Americans get into trouble overseas by violating local laws, and — and they — they have to and should answer for their transgressions to those laws. 

But I don’t know that there’s a separate categorization.  I really would refer you to my State Department colleagues on that.

Q    In terms of the first category — Americans wrongfully detained in foreign countries — is there a ballpark figure as to how many there are around the world?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have that figure.

Q    Is it somewhere between half a dozen and 200?  I mean —

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know, James.

Q    Okay.

MR. KIRBY:  State Department is the right place to go for that.

Q    Last question.  Does the administration consider Lieutenant Alkonis to be an American who is wrongfully detained?

MR. KIRBY:  The President is certainly mindful of and — and has been briefed many times on Lieutenant Alkonis’s situation.  And what I can tell you is we continue to work with the Japanese government here to — to try to address this in the — in the most appropriate and legally feasible manner. 

That’s as much as I can say on that. 

Q    Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you.  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you.

Q    Thanks, Kirby.

MR. KIRBY:  I just want it on the record that I was ready for Mauritius.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  For Mauritius.  Yes, yes.  For the record, Mauritius was ready.  I saw it.  (Laughter.)

Okay.  I guess whatever you all have left.  Not much, I’m sure.

Q    Can you — has the root canal procedure been completed by this point?  Can you confirm that?  The doctor’s note said it would be underway.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yep.  So I can confirm that the procedure has been successfully completed.  The President is doing just fine.  And he’ll be certainly working in the Residence this afternoon. 

Q    Were there any complications that you (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a — as you all know, for — some of you may have had this — this procedure.  It’s a general routine dental procedure.
Q    And can you talk about why the White House didn’t disclose it yesterday when he got his first root canal and only disclosed it today after he would miss a public event?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look — look, the initial procedure, as you just stated, Seung Min, occurred — was last night.  And as you also just stated, we — we released the memo that was written to me from the doctor this morning, or earlier today, from his physician. 

And, look, along with the plan for his root canal procedure today, we also included that as well.  Look, I’m not aware of any other administration that has put forward or has talked about a, you know, related dental procedure. 

So, again, this is a routine dental procedure, as we’ve stated.  You all have read the Pre- — the President’s physician’s memo.  And there is nothing unusual about this.  Millions of Americans go through this process.  And — and so, as soon as we were able to — to hear from the — from the physician about where the President’s status was today, we certainly shared that with all of you.

Q    And can you just — is there any more information you can give on why he needed the root canal?  Like, is he not good at brushing his teeth?  (Laughter.)  Or does he need to floss better or anything else?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wow.  Are you talking to the millions of Americans across the country?  You going to ask them that question, too?

Q    I did a little research this morning.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, I am certainly not a dentist by any means, so I cannot speak to what leads to a root canal.  I know that it is a regular dental procedure.  It is not uncommon. 

What I can certainly tell all of you, and I think we’ve said this — you all know this already; we’ve shared this: He was not put under general anesthesia.  The 25th Amendment certainly was not invoked.  And he received local anesthesia for the procedure.  So I can certainly share all of that. 

As far as the health of the President’s teeth, I cannot speak to that. 

Q    Tooth follow-up. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Karine, thank you.  So local anesthesia —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, my goodness.  Quick follow-up?

Q    Tooth follow-up.

Q    Tooth follow-up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, tooth follow-up. 

Q    Tooth.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Cute.  (Laughter.)

Q    So the local anesthesia —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Everybody is a little giddy today.

Q    I know.  I feel it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What is happening? 

Q    It feels — it has, like, Friday vibes.  I’m not sure why.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know, not Monday — not Monday afternoon vibes.  (Laughs.)

Q    But on the tooth — (laughter) — can you — can you describe sort of the local anesthesia, what exactly does that mean?  What was the President’s demeanor, his ability to govern as he was getting this root canal that made, you know, you decide not to invoke the 25th Amendment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So — gosh, I hope you guys — I never — I should never get a root canal here, because then I could see the judgment that comes — coming my way. 

Look, all I can say —

Q    We thought you regard every day here as a root canal.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Mr. To Wit.  (Laughter.)

So, it — look, it’s a routine — routine dentistry.  There’s nothing unusual about this.  We wanted to share as much as we can.  So, clearly, he wasn’t under general anesthesia.  He was under local anesthesia. 

And so, as you know, it’s a numbing medicine for the local area, which does not have any broader effects, and so just to give you a — just to give you and everyone else who’s listening in or watching a little bit of that detail. 

And, you know, the President is now — he went through the procedure.  He — it started, clearly, last night.  He went through the procedure today.  It’s successfully completed.  He’ll be in the residence working this afternoon.  And that’s the best that I can say.

I have never gone through a root canal, so I’m sure others who have gone through that process can actually share more of what that’s like.  But, again, this is something that Americans just across the country, it is — go through — many of them do.  And it’s routine, and he is fine.  And it was —

Q    Is he allowed to talk?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — complete. 

Q    Is he allowed to talk after the procedure?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That — I — honestly, I have not spoken to the President, so I cannot say if he’s —

Q    That might be why, for the root canal.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, well, have you had a root canal, April?

Q    Yes, I have. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So there you go.  Root canal —

Q    (Inaudible) horrible.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So you want to share?

Q    (Inaudible.)  I — you want?  Oh, hey.  Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Local anesthesia.  Nothing — local, you know, shot.  That’s it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, there you go. 

Q    And I wasn’t allowed to talk. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, there you go.  Thank you so much, April. 

Q    So one more on — on the Trump docs.  This is not a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.

Q    — graceful segue.  But given —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Different segue here.

Q    — given the severity of — of, you know, the case that a former President was charged, and the sensitivity of the documents, are you concerned that the intelligence review has not been wrapped up yet?  I mean, shouldn’t it be expedited?  And what can you share with the American public about, you know, whether national security was threatened or not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not going to — as you’ve heard from my colleague moments ago, I’m not going to speak directly to the case.  What I can say — and also, the Admiral spoke to, you know, the — the national security pieces of this.  I’m certainly not going to go beyond what he stated here at the podium. 

What I can say, and you’ve heard us say this over and over again: This is a President that respects the rule of law.  This is the President that wants to make sure, and has proven that to be in his actions, to make sure that the Department of Justice is truly independent.  And — you know, and he said that during the campaign. 

He’s restoring, certainly, the integrity of the Department of Justice, and that is something that’s important to this President.  And I’m going to just leave it there.  I’m just not going to — to speak to the case at all or comment on the case.  And so I would refer you to the Department of Justice on anything specific or ODNI on — on the national security aspect of this. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  CPI is supposed to come out tomorrow. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, that’s right.

Q    Yeah.  I was just wondering, there — there seems to be a bit of a debate on Wall Street about whether it’s going to come in hot or softer than we’ve seen.  And I’m just sort of curious what expectations are here at the White House. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I know it’s coming out tomorrow.  Certainly not going to, you know, predict from here.  As you know, and you’ve heard us say this many times before, we believe that the plans that the President — the economic policy plans that the President has put forth, and also as it relates to the historic pieces of legislation that has — that has passed under this President, certainly has — has helped the economy get back on its feet.

Annual inflation, as you’ve heard us say, has fallen for 10 months in a row, down more than 40 percent since last summer.  So that is incredibly important as we talk about lowering costs. 

And, look, in addition, the President has taken this very seriously.  When he looks at his economic policy, at the — the number one thing that he wants to do is continue to lower costs for the American people.  Hence, as I just mentioned, the historic pieces of legislation: Inflation Reduction Act does that with energy, does that with healthcare cost.  And so, certainly, that is going to be something that the President is going to focus on.

When CPI numbers come out tomorrow, I’m sure, as we always do, our economic experts will look into it.  We’ll go into the data, and certainly we’ll have more to share tomorrow. 

Q    And I just wanted to ask about your topper.  You were, I think we could say, very critical of the Republican tax proposal.  I’m wondering: Last year, lawmakers were sort of unable to strike a deal that would see some business tax cuts restored or go into effect in exchange for things like the Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit the Democrats have wanted.  Should we read your comments at the top as you guys think that the Republican proposal is sort of so far out there that you’re not going to see a deal this year?  Or do you see a potential negotiation this fall?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, it’s a very good question.  Look, the way that we see this process, the way that the President sees this is like he’s always open to a conversation about lowering the deficit.  Absolutely.  That is something that the President wants to do.  We talk about bipartisanship a lot.  He has signed more than 350 pieces of legislation that were indeed bipartisan — most recently, as you all know, the budget — budget agreement that was critical in making sure that we did not default for the first time ever in the country’s history. 

But he also is going to make sure that we speak clearly about when we’re reducing the deficit, we got to do it.  Also, by making sure that the wealthy pay their fair share.  We cannot — we cannot just put this on everyday Americans, working families.  And we have to make sure that we continue to lower costs as it relates to — as you’re talking to me about child cu- — cutting child poverty.  That is something that’s incredibly important. 

But unfortunately, we see that — and I said this at the top — that Republicans are more interested in trickle-down economics.  And that is not what this President is for. 

We want to have a conversation.  We do.  We want to have a conversation about lowering the deficit.  That — the budget that we just — that budget that we — the budget agreement that we just signed, it does that by a trillion dollars, and that was in a bipartisan way. 

So let’s continue to have those types of conversation on how we can really deliver for the American people, lower costs, and make sure that the wealthy pay their fair share. 

Q    Just to very clearly (inaudible) though, would a — a tax deal have to lower the deficit for the White House to sign off on it?  Because, you know, if business taxes are cut and earned income tax credit or Child Tax Credit come in, most likely that will, in combination, raise the deficit, but it might have sort of positive effects that the White House is interested in.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, that’s why we say lowering the deficit and making sure the wealthy pay their fair share, right?  I think that’s why we — we say those things in conjunction, because we think that’s how you really move forward with some type of — with that type of policy in a fiscally responsible way.  That’s what the President is about: fis- — doing things fiscally responsible. 

And you see that — you see that in his actions.  You see that in his economic policy, right?  (A reporter sneezes.)  We did it in a fiscally responsible way. 

I think that’s a “bless you” for the person back there.  (Laughter.)  

And also, you see that in just the budget agreement as well.

Go ahead.

Q    The air is much clearer today, but the Canadian wildfires are still ongoing.  Do you have any update on the coordination between the White House and the Canadian government?  Where do things stand right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Do you — are you new to the Briefing Room?

Q    I’m Kelsey Snell from NPR. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  But are you new to the room?

Q    I am here for the time being because our good friend Scott Detrow is now hosting. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s — well, welcome. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well — okay, so I do have a couple of things to share.  The US- — USDA is in receipt of the senator’s letter; there was a letter from Senator Schumer.  And so, just wanted to make sure that you all — just, you know, focusing on that because he wanted to know what else we’re doing as well. 

But since May, more than 600 U.S. firefighters and person- — personnel have been on the ground to help Canada battle these fires.  We’ve mentioned that.  The President — I’ve mentioned that from here.  The President has mentioned that as well in his press conference last week.  And then, more on the way.

President Biden has also directed the National Interagency Fire Center to respond promptly to any requests from Canada for additional firefighters and the fire suppression equipment, such as air tankers.  So we are continuing to be in touch with the Canadian government. 

We also spoke about — I think the President said that — at the top of his press conference last week on Thursday — that he spoke directly to the prime minister as well, offering up our resources, offering up assistance. 

And so, this is — again, this has been happening since May.  We’ve — the President has been regularly briefed.  We have certainly provided resources, personnel, firefighters.  And so, we are — we are at the ready to assist if there’s any additional — additional help that is needed from Canada, for sure.

Go ahead, Karen.  I haven’t called on you yet.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A couple questions if I can on the I-95 collapse.  Has the President now spoken with the Pennsylvania governor or Philly Mayor Kenney about this?  And will he visit the site when he goes to Philadelphia on Saturday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can say that I don’t have any calls to read out from the President as it relates to the governor or the mayor.  I can say for sure that Secretary Buttigieg has been in touch with the governor and the mayor.  I don’t have any — I don’t have any travel — amended travel to — to lay out from the President this week.

Q    Secretary Buttigieg said today that there’s going to be a major disruption for the Northeast region in terms of supply chains and movement of goods.  Is there something the federal government can do — something that’s been learned from previous supply chain challenges and disruptions — to ease issues now in that area over the next couple of months?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, it’s a — it’s a really good question.  What I can tell you is that, you know, as I mentioned, we are certainly prepared to offer any federal support. 

The F- — FHWA, which is the Federal Highway Administration — Administrator will be — administrative, administrator — something like that — will be in Philadelphia today on the site to kind of take a look at exactly what happened with the collapse.  And so, he certainly will be, you know, kind of investigating, taking a look. 

And so, look, this is why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is so important.  This is why the President fought so hard for it.  As I was asked about, “Can we do things in a bipartisan way?”  Not really asked that way.  But I laid out that, yeah, this is something that the President really wants to do. 

And so that law is going to address crumbling roads and bridges across the nation, and let’s not forget broadband and so many other things that’s important to communities across the country. 

So with that — with that law, I think that — that we can hopefully get a — be in a place where we are addressing these types of issues in a — in a real way.

But again, the Administrator is going to be on the ground today.  He’s going to take a look at exactly what happened.  I don’t want to get ahead of that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Do you have any reaction to the death of Silvio Berlusconi?


Q    Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, yes, I do something to share about the Italian — the former — I do have something here.

So, the former Italian Prime Minister — so we extend our condolences, certainly, to the former Prime Minister’s family and friends and to the government and people of Italy upon his passing.

Italy is a longtime friend and ally of the United States, and Prime Minister — and the Prime Minister worked closely with several U.S. administrations on advancing our bilateral relationship. 

We stand with the people of Italy today as they mark the passing of their former Prime Minister.

Go ahead, Jeremy.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I understand that you’re not going to address the indictment of — of the former President directly, but I wanted to ask you about some of the rhetoric that has emanated around it.  And, in particular, you know, several Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates have talked about this idea that the federal government — in this case, the Justice Department — is being weaponized against the President’s political opponents. 

And so, I wonder what you can say to Americans whose faith in the Department of Justice and its independence and its nonpartisan nature may be shaken.  What — what would you tell those folks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, two things.  I think — two things I want to say in answering your question, Jeremy. 

The first part is — and I — and I just stated this earlier before and — because the President has said this; we have said this from this administration.  And — and I want to be careful that I am actually — I’m not going to speak to the case directly, just to the — this is a broader statement here: He respects — the President respects the Department of Justice.  He respects the rule of law.  He has said this during the campaign.  He has said this multiple times during the last two years in this administration. 

And we want to make sure — he particularly wants to make sure that we restore the integrity of the Department of Justice, that we do not politicize the Department of Justice.  And, you know, that is something that he’s going to continue to do. 

That is why, when I’m asked about the specific case — anything related to that case, we refer to the Department of Justice.  Because we are not going to politicize it from here.  The President is not going to politicize it from here.  And we’re going to be certainly very, very, very diligent and very straightforward about that.

The second part that I do want to say — and you didn’t — you didn’t really ask me, but in — as it relates to what we’re hearing, the criticism that we’re hearing, look — and this is a little bit — there’s a theme here of what we’ve been talking about this — at least the last couple of questions.  This is a President that wants to get the job done for the American people.  He wants to lower costs.  He wants to make sure that we deliver for American families, for American workers, for American people.  And that’s what he’s been doing the last two years.

And so, he would love to work in that, you know, good faith — in a good faith with congressional leaders, Republicans across — you know, Republicans in the House and the Senate to do just that: continue to create jobs; continue to build on the successes that we’ve seen in the last two years, as we talk about the economy; continue to make sure that we’re strengthening Medicare, Social Security. 

Those are the things that the President really wants to do, and he wants to do it in a bipartisan way.  And that’s going to be our — that — our focus.  That’s what the President is going to continue to focus on.

Q    So — so, in addition to attacking the integrity of the Justice Department, some of the former President Trump’s allies have also talked in pretty bellicose terms about what’s happening.  Congressman Andy Biggs said, “We have now reached a war phase,” saying an “eye for an eye.”  Steve Bannon said, “We’re at war.”  Kari Lake suggested that President Biden, the Attorney General Garland, and the Special Counsel would have to go through millions of gun-owning Americans to get to the former President. 

Do you have any response to that kind of rhetoric?  And what — what danger do you think it presents in our country?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what I will say is what I just kind of reiterated: what the President’s focus is on.  He’s focusing on delivering for the American people. 

As it relates to any kind of protest — we have said this before; we have said this in other iterations of this — is that we are always prepared and don’t want to speculate from here. 

And I think the Admiral kind of stated this as well, is how we just function on a day-to-day basis.  And we’re just going to stay prepared.  And we’re going to just continue to give the Department of Justice its independence, make sure it continues to have its integrity.  We’re going to continue to believe and — and certainly respect the rule of law.

And we’re just not going to comment beyond that.

Q    To — to that end, has the President been briefed on preparations for the former President’s appearance at a federal courthouse tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, the President regularly — regularly gets braf- — briefed every morning by his National Security Council and his intelligence — the intelligence community.  Every morning, as you all know, or — or every day, to be more — to more precise.  I just don’t have anything else to share.

What I can tell you: certainly not going to speculate from here, and we will be prepared. 

Q    And then very quickly on another topic, Senator Blumenthal today announced that the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations has opened an investigation into the proposed PGA Tour and LIV Golf merger.  At this point, does the White House have any comment on that?  Do you — do you support that investigation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I have not talked to my colleagues about this, so I just don’t have more to share from here.

Okay.  I’m just going to go — who haven’t I called?

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, go ahead.

Q    Yeah, hey.  Thanks.  Kamala Harris stood in for the President today at the event with college athletes, and she seemed very polished.  Was she briefed?  When did she find out about — that she would be subbing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  She found out when we all found out this morning, internally.

Q    But she was not told yesterday? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I mean, it was a — it was a routine procedure.

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It is a de- — regular, routine procedure.  So, this is something that — you know, that — that when you do something like that, that’s something that’s between the physician and certainly — and certainly the President.  And so I’ll just leave it there.  But we all found out this morning. 

Q    (Inaudible) go under anesthesia or something unexpected?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m sorry? 

Q    Wouldn’t it be a good idea to let her know in advance?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But he — it’s a regular, routine procedure, right?  There’s no general anesthesia needed.  It’s a local anesthesia. 

Q    Yeah, but, I mean, you have —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, it’s a — it is a — it is a —

Q    — when you’re on the table —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sir, it is a root canal.  Millions of Americans go through this.  There’s — there’s nothing mysterious about it.  It is a regular thing that many people go through.

Q    Understood. 

And back on the indictment.  Jack Smith, he encouraged really any American to read it.  Has the President read it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to comment on any — anything related to the — to that.

Go ahead, G- — go ahead.

Q    Karine, thank you.  Has the White House had any progress or made any progress on getting Senator Tuberville to back off his hold on these dozens and dozens of senior military officials who can’t be confirmed by the Senate because of Senator Tuberville?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’ve talked about this many times and how dangerous — what the Senator is doing.  I would — I would refer you to the senator directly and ask him those questions about why he’s doing this and what his next move might be.  I just don’t have anything else to share from here.

But certainly, we have talked about our disappointment in — in his reaction to getting our nominees forward who — which are incredibly important for the American people, as we talk about national security, as we talk about moving — moving the agenda forward.

AIDE:  Karine, we should wrap up.

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

Q    Jared Bernstein’s vote in the Senate is expected this week.  Does the administration have an outlook on the vote?  Do you have any concerns that he may not be (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have an outlook on the — on the vote count.

As you know, this is — Jared Bernstein has been in the administration for the last two years as the President’s economist — one of the President’s economists.  Jared has had a — a long — long relationship with the President as Vice President.  So we look forward to getting him through.  Certainly, he has the full support of this President, and so I’ll just leave it at that. 

But, clearly, we are — we are all in on getting him — on getting him through the confirmation process.

All right, guys, I’ll see you tomorrow.  Thank you.

3:39 P.M. EDT

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