Aboard Air Force One
En Route West Columbia, South Carolina
11:20 A.M. EDT
MR. BATES: So I have one thing at the top for you. President Biden promised that he would be a president for all Americans, regardless of where they live and regardless of whether they voted for him or not. He also promised to rebuild the middle class.
The fact that Bidenomics has now galvanized over $500 billion in job-creating private sector investment is the newest testament to how seriously he takes fulfilling those promises.
The President inherited an economy that was down more than 9 million jobs since the pandemic began, with the pace of job growth slowing. He took bold action to turn things around, delivering the strongest economic recovery in the world — when it comes to similar countries — from COVID and creating more jobs in two years than any previous president did in four: 13.2 million new jobs.
During that time, President Biden passed historic, breakthrough laws to realize his Bidenomics agenda, which means turning the page on failed trickle-down tax welfare for the super-rich and big corporations, and instead squarely focusing our economic policy on growing the middle class.
The major laws that make up his Bidenomics agenda have achieved the biggest manufacturing surge in modern American history, like the 1,800 jobs Enphase is announcing today.
Under President Biden, manufacturing plant construction has doubled, whereas under Donald Trump’s administration, it barely grew at all — by 2 percent.
Today’s announcements by Enphase is especially significant because, previously, their solo [sic] micro — their solar micro inverters were only made in China, in India, and in Mexico.
Now, for the first time, they’re going to build them in the United States, including in South Carolina, which is going to net up to 600 jobs for the community we’re visiting today.
Bidenomics is also rebuilding our infrastructure, cutting costs for families, and ensuring we outcompete the world when it comes to industries of the future, like clean energy, like manufacturing.
There’s a long list of numbers that demonstrate how the President is rebuilding the middle class. Jobs are up, incomes are up, economic growth is up, energy costs are down, healthcare costs are down, and the inflation that has impacted every country around the world due to COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is down.
But the most powerful endorsement of Bidenomics is this: Every signature economic law this President has signed, congressional Republicans who voted “no” and attacked it on Fox News then went home to their district and hailed its benefits.
The President is excited that they have seen the light, because what could speak to the effectiveness of Bidenomics more than these conversions?
There’s no shortage of examples of this among South Carolina’s delegation. For example, Senator Lindsey Graham called the Inflation Reduction Act “a nightmare for South Carolina.” Just two months later, he called BMW’s electric vehicles announcement “one of the most consequential announcements in the history of the state of South Carolina.”
Representative Joe Wilson blasted the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law but later announced, “I welcome Scout Motors’ plans to invest $2 billion and create up to 4,000 jobs in South Carolina.”
Nancy Mace called Bidenomics legislation a, quote, “disaster,” then welcomed a RAISE grant to Charleston.
Again, those are just a few of many examples.
It is impossible to argue that a policy is not getting results for the middle class while simultaneously rushing to associate yourself with it. Like the President said when this happened with the Rescue Plan, he’s not even mad because it proves they know it’s working.
And then lastly, on a personal note, let’s please keep today aboveboard and steer clear of regional differences between North Carolina barbecue and South Carolina barbecue. (Laughter.)
I’m happy to field questions on more appropriate subjects like national politics, religion. I’m happy to be a theological resource if that is helpful. But we’ll ste- — steer clear of barbecue.
I’m happy to take questions.
Q Thanks. One quick one and then a little bit longer one. On cluster munitions, has the President made a decision on whether to send cluster munitions to Ukraine?
MR. BATES: As Chairman Milley indicated, that is under active consideration. I do not have an announcement to make at this time.
Our focus is on continuing to equip Ukraine with a wide range of munitions that they are using effectively as they bravely defend their country and their sovereignty against Russia’s illegal onslaught, which has included war crimes and atrocities. That is our main focus.
We have executed over 40 drawdowns to ensure that they can be as strong as possible, continue to defend their territory as effectively as possible.
Q And if I could just ask on yesterday’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Sweden: Did they engage on the Quran-burning situation? And then, more broadly, coming out of that, does the President believe that Sweden’s accession can be completed, that an agreement could come to terms before the NATO Summit next week?
MR. BATES: When it comes to the Quran burning, we found this action offensive, and we agree with the government of Sweden, which called it inappropriate. Demonstrations such as this one could create an environment of fear that impacts the ability of Muslims and members of other religious minority groups to freely exercise their right to freedom of religion or belief.
The United States also supports freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, which are elements of any democracy.
As the Swedish Justice Minister said, Sweden has strong protections for freedom of expression. At the same time, quote, “The fact that it is allowed does not in any way mean that we have to support what is said.” That is something the President identifies with as a proud member of faith himself. He respects other faiths. He respects everyone’s right to exercise their faith. He wants people to respect his faith.
And when it comes to Sweden and NATO, the President continues to strongly support Sweden joining the security alliance. I’m going to underline that they have met all of the commitments they made on the margins of the Madrid NATO Summit last year, including when it comes to counterterrorism policy. He hopes that Turkey and Hungary will support them joining the security alliance because their values are aligned with NATO’s values. They will contribute to the security of every member and to the security environment in Europe.
I am not going to put a timeframe on it, but he wants that to take place as soon as possible for our mutual benefit.
Q Andrew, can you —
Q Go ahead.
Q Thanks. Is the United States tracking the location of Wagner leader Prigozhin after the Belarusian leader said that he was not there and had returned to either St. Petersburg or Moscow?
MR. BATES: I am not going to address his whereabouts. You will need to consult other sources for that.
We continue to monitor the Wagner Group, as we’ve disclosed to all of y’all. We have — we have applied biting sanctions to them. They commit a wide range of crimes in the countries in which they are active. But I do not have new details to provide about whereabouts or anything else concerning Prigozhin or the Wagner Group.
Q On a separate topic, do you have any new details on the investigation into the cocaine found at the White House? Can you confirm that it was a “small baggie” and that DNA testing is taking place?
MR. BATES: I respect there is interest in this. To be transparent with you, I do not have additional information to provide beyond what Karine laid out in the briefing room yesterday, which is: This is something we take seriously. The law enforcement professionals in the Secret Service are investigating after this substance was discovered in a highly traveled area. We’re willing to assist in any way needed. Beyond that, I’m going to respect their process.
Q On — another one on Russia. There was a report from NBC News that said senior U.S. off- — former senior U.S. officials at the Council of Foreign Relations had made outreach to Russian nationals, including Foreign Minister Lavrov, about laying the groundwork for peace talks with Ukraine. Was the administration read in on those talks? And do you support them?
MR. BATES: I’m not going to speak for any private citizens who are not members of the administration. I would suggest you contact those individuals who the reporting concerns.
Our focus is on continuing to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield so they can negotiate from a position of maximum strength on their terms and on no one else’s.
Q One more. You know, President — former President Trump has made some pretty wild posts recently on social media. One of them was that the cocaine found in the White House was — had belonged to either the President or his son. Are you willing to say that that’s not the case, that they don’t belong to them?
MR. BATES: I don’t have a response to that because we have to be careful about the Hatch Act.
What I will say is that I have noticed there does seem to be some increasing frustration coming from that corner in general. And I think it is probably rooted in the contrast between their substantive policy records.
As you have all covered, there is a long list of areas where this administration succeeded for the middle class where our predecessor did not. For example, infrastructure is no longer a punchline. And now the biggest infrastructure investments in 70 years are rebuilding America.
President Biden is bringing manufacturing jobs back at the fastest rate in modern history. And like I mentioned, we have doubled the construction of manufacturing facilities in just two and a half years. Whereas during the previous administration, it only grew at an anemic 2 percent.
Medicare is now negotiating lower drug costs. I’m old enough to remember when that was someone else’s campaign promise.
The economy we inherited was in freefall. We turned it around by creating more jobs in two years than any other president in four.
So it would be unsurprising if there’s a little bit of frustration on the part of people who worked in the last administration.
And, of course, this dovetails with today’s announcement from Enphase. It comes at a moment when we have crossed the threshold of $500 billion in private sector investment due to Bidenomics, which is about growing our economy by growing the middle class. There is no better way to do that than giving people good jobs coming to America, thanks to policies like the Inflation Reduction Act.
Q Do you have any comment on pretty downbeat statements coming from Zelenskyy and other high-ranking Ukrainian officials, where they seem to be linking, you know, the rather slow, difficult progress of their offensive to — specifically to, you know, what — what they — what they’re kind of characterizing as foot-dragging on important weapons systems, i.e. F-16s, ATACMS, and other stuff.
You know, they’re — they’re basically saying, “It’s not all our fault that it’s going slowly.”
MR. BATES: I am not going to speak for President Zelenskyy. Tomorrow, Jake Sullivan will be in the briefing room, and he can provide more details about next week’s travel.
I’m going to highlight that under President Biden, we have rallied the world to support Ukraine, making NATO the strongest in its history for that purpose.
Like the President often says, we are seeing the NATOization of Finland, not the Finlandization of NATO.
We have executed over 40 drawdowns of military equipment to Ukraine, giving them a huge range of capabilities that they are bravely using to defend their sovereignty.
And I will say that we understand where they are coming from. They are on the frontlines. They are on the receiving end of an illegal war that has been characterized by atrocities, by the targeting of civilians, by war crimes; one that is a war of ego and of choice, and that could end at any moment, that is — that is senseless, and that we are going to continue to make sure they have what they need to continue competently defending their country.
Q Andrew, just to follow on Jordan’s question, NBC is also reporting that the NSC has been briefed by these private individuals who have been taking place in these Track Two talks with people, including Lavrov. Has the President himself been briefed? And does this go in counter to the White House policy of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”?
And then, I have one more.
MR. BATES: I don’t have private conversations to read out one way or the other. As you mentioned, our North Star is “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” And our top focus is to continue equipping them so that they can keep successfully defending their country so that they can negotiate from a position of maximum strength.
Q And then, my next one is: Does the White House plan to use Threads? (Laughter.)
MR. BATES: So, I do not have an announcement to make about Threads today. We can keep you all posted if we do.
Q Yeah, please do.
Q Andrew, we reported yesterday that — that China’s spy facility in Cuba dates back decades. Is this something that the United States, at this point, accepts: that China has a permanent intelligence capability in Cuba?
MR. BATES: I don’t have new information to provide on that subject right now. I appreciate the interest, but I don’t have any new details to give.
Q A question, here. Some members of Congress — bipartisan delegation of members of Congress are proposing a bill to audit the Pentagon. And if, in fact, the Pentagon fails a certain audit, they’d have to give that money back to the Treasury to go towards deficit reduction. And they cite this because the Pentagon has failed multiple audits over the years. Is that something the administration is open to or have they not looked at it yet?
MR. BATES: This is the first that I have heard of that legislation, so I’ll need to take the question. But since you raised deficit reduction, this President has already achieved record deficit reduction since he took office — $1.7 trillion.
He also passed the Inflation Reduction Act to further reduce the deficit by having the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.
And building on that progress continues to be a top economic objective of ours, like we laid out in the budget. That is central to Bidenomics: that we can invest in our country, bring the deficit down by having rich special interests pay their fair share, and make the kinds of investments that you’re seeing bring job-creating expansions to places like West Columbia, South Carolina, where folks are going to get up to 600 new jobs thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, something that Republicans in Congress keep trying to repeal.
They keep trying to send those jobs overseas, and they keep trying to repeal the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that reduced the deficit, like Medicare’s new capacity to negotiate lower drug costs.
Q Now, on the Inflation Reduction Act, obviously one thing that we hear a lot of criticism about when it comes to the IRS is the fact that some of the most audited places in the country are some of the poorest states, like Mississippi. Is the administration pursuing any reforms to the IRS so that those resources are, you know, focused on actual people of wealth and not poor and lower-class citizens?
MR. BATES: I’m glad you raised that, because as soon as the Inflation Reduction Act was even on the cusp of passing, Secretary Yellen and other authorities within Treasury gave directives to their staff that these new resources would be used exclusively to crack down on wealthy individuals who are gaming the tax code to the — at the expense of everyone else who tends to pay their taxes as they are owed. That is another effective way to reduce the deficit.
But as — as you mentioned, I want to make sure everyone is aware. Before the Inflation Reduction Act even became law, we were giving very clear instructions: Those funds are to be used for one reason, and that is cracking down on wealthy people cheating on their taxes. And that is what they’re for.
Q Can I just ask one more? Were any Republican lawmakers invited to the event today?
MR. BATES: We made Congressman Wilson aware of today’s events. And if — if he would like to join the ranks of other congressional Republicans who’ve had a “road to Damascus” experience about the benefits that are being yielded by Bidenomics, we would welcome that. We made him aware.
Q Have you talked to the governor at all?
MR. BATES: I can check. I don’t have conversations to read out. He has also noted some of the benefits that have resulted from Bidenomics investments in South Carolina.
Q To go back to your Sweden comment, you noted that the President was offended by what happened. Is the President going to convey that directly to President Erdoğan?
MR. BATES: I don’t have any conversations to preview one way or the other. When it comes to next week’s travel, Jake will join us in the briefing room tomorrow. But I don’t have anything to preview right now.
Q Andrew, one more on the cocaine. I understand the Secret Service is conducting an investigation. If the Secret Service is able to determine the individual responsible, will the Secret Service and the — and — will the White House commit to transparency in this, in making that information public?
MR. BATES: I’m going to defer to the Secret Service professionals who are carrying this out. I’m just not going to engage on hypotheticals about it. I would — I would suggest you contact them for anything more.
MR. BATES: Thank you all.
11:38 A.M. EDT