James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:57 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone. Okay, so I wanted to start today, once again, by calling out an unprecedented harm that Senator Tuberville’s actions have to our famil- — have to our military readiness and military families, to every branch of our armed forces, disrespecting those who serve and the families who serve with them.
As Se- — Secretary Austin just said moments ago, and I quote, “I would imagine our adversaries would look at something like this and be pretty happy that we create this kind of turbulence within our force.”
As CNN reported this morning, the sen- — the senator’s own constituents in Alabama are speaking out against this attack on our military. This is what Greg Black said — an Air Force veteran who supported Senator Tuberville in 2020. This is what he had to say, and I quote, “When you start politicizing how to promote, I think we’re stepping into the wrong territory,” end quote.
I’ll also quote Gary Counts, another veteran, who described himself as a conservative to CNN. And I quote, “I just don’t think that you would hold the national security hostage over an abortion issue.”
Now, the former commander of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, Retired General Jim Rogers, highlighted that Senator Tuberville is right now depriving that base of a confirmed commander — commanding officer, saying, “I am very concerned our senator is getting led down a path that he does not understand the full impact for the military, and I just recommend that he reconsider that.”
And the sister of a man currently — currently serving in uniform, who withheld her name out of concern for her brother’s career, told CNN, and I quote, “He is very proud of his career in the military. But he was telling me that he’s still in limbo. Nobody wants that stress and that pressure of not knowing if you’re going — where you’re going within the next couple of months.”
Across the nation across the political spectrum, Americans are deeply concerned at the damage Senator Tuberville’s holds can have on our armed services and our military spouses and the children of service members with this disrespect to our national security and our military.
As the President said in Helsinki last week, Republicans in Congress should step up and speak out.
As you all know, today the Department of Education is holding a hearing to get public input on the new debt relief that President Biden announced a few weeks ago right after the SCOTUS decision. As you all know, the hearing is a key step forward in our work to get relief out to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible.
The Department of Education also released state-by-state data showcasing who stands to benefit from the thir- — from the over $39 billion in debt relief we announced last week for over 800,000 borrowers. These are borrowers who had been making payments for decades but were never given the relief they were promised. So that’s what we saw with our announcement last week.
These borrowers are owed this relief, yet Republican-elected officials, including those who had no problem with the government forgiving billions of dollars in business loans, are still objecting to including their own constituents.
A couple of examples here: Representative Lisa McClain of Michigan said, “Come hell or high water, I will fight this.”
Now, there are — more than 26,000 borrowers from Michigan are eligible for this relief.
Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said we’re “hurting borrowers,” but more than 24,000 borrowers from North Carolina stand to benefit from this relief.
So congressional Republicans have made it clear they will stop at nothing to block relief for middle-class borrowers, including their own constituents. But President Biden isn’t backing down either. No president has fought harder for student debt relief. And guess what? He is not done yet.
Also, today, Russia attacked Ukrainian ports in Odessa, Mykolaiv just one day after Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. By attacking Ukrainian ports and effectively establishing a naval blockade to prevent Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs from going to global markets, Russia is exacerbating food scarcity in some of the most food-insecure regions of the globe, like the Horn of Africa and the Sahel and Yemen.
As U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said, Russia’s action will “strike a blow” to people who need it the most.
The United States will continue to support Ukraine’s effort to get Ukrainian grain to the people that desperately need it.
And finally, I’m excited to share with all of you the latest action under President Biden’s leadership to protect American consumers. Today, in partnership with the FCC, we’re launching a cybersecurity certification and labeling program, the U.S. Cyber Trust Mark, to help Americans more easily choose smart devices that are safer and less vulnerable to cyberattacks.
We’ve all heard concerns about the security of wireless devices. This new program will help give Americans greater peace of mind that the devices they’re bringing into their homes, classrooms, or workplaces are safe — safer and more secure.
Already, 19 leading manufacturers and retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Google, Samsung, Logitech, and more have — have announced their support for the program. In 2024, the program will be up and running. And soon after, Americans will be able to look for the Cyber Trust Mark’s distinct shield — just like the logo on the screens behind me — across common household devices, such as baby monitors, home security cameras, fitness trackers, and smart TVs and refrigerators of all price ranges.
The logo will indicate to Americans shopping online or in stores the device they’re buying meets the U.S. government’s cybersecurity requirements and is less vulnerable to cyberattacks.
This is another key step by the Biden administration to ease the concerns of hardworking families, from cracking down on hidden junk fees to strengthening cyber protections and protecting the privacy of people in their own homes.
With that — oh, you are not Zeke. You are Josh.
Q I am. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. Hi, Josh.
Q But if it — if it makes it easier, you can just call me “Zeke.” That’s fine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) No, I’m going to call you by your given name.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Josh.
Q Three subjects. First, the U.S. soldier who crossed the border into North Korea. AP is reporting that he had been held in a South Korea prison and was supposed to fly to Fort Bliss, Texas, to face disciplinary actions. How did he escape the airport? And is he a security risk?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. And I know that the Department of Defense — the Secretary, more specifically — spoke to this moments ago. So I’ll have a couple of things to share. And this is something that Penta- — Pentagon obviously has already shared.
In the afternoon of July 18th, local time, a U.S. soldier on a private JSA orientation tour crossed, willfully and without authorization, the military demarcation line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. And we believe the soldier is currently in DPRK custody and are working with our North Korean counterparts to resolve this incident.
DOD is in the process of notifying next of kin. Until that is complete, they will not release identification of the soldier.
The White House, the Department of Defense, the State Department, and also the U.N. are all working together to ascertain more information and resolve this situation.
I don’t have more to share beyond that. We are looking into this. We’re trying to get more information.
As I mentioned, the DO- — DOD has been in touch with their counterparts as — as well as — as others who are certainly working on this together. Been in touch with the Korean People’s Army, as the Department of Defense has done.
Just don’t have any more to share beyond that.
Q Secondly, the Houston Chronicle is reporting that Texas troopers were told to push migrant children into the Rio Grande River. What steps is the administration taking to verify this report and address the findings?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I saw — we saw those reports, clearly. If they are true, it is abhorrent, it is despicable, it is dangerous. And we’re talking about the bedrock values of who we are as a country.
And the indecency — the human indecency that we’re seeing, potentially, if this is true, is just wrong. It is just completely, completely wrong.
But I would say, sadly, it would not be surprising from a governor, who, let’s not forget, on Christmas Eve, put migrant children on the streets in below-zero-degree temperature. That’s what we saw from this governor.
But again, we don’t know if this is true, if the reporting is true. But it is — it is truly troubling to hear this type of reporting.
Q And then, lastly, former President Trump received a letter from the Special Counsel that he’s being investigated for his role and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the Biden administration has decided to, quote, “weaponize government to go after their number one opponent,” end quote.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’ll say —
Q Have you weaponized government?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here’s what we have done: The President respects the Department of Justice, their independence. He has been very — very steadfast on making sure that the rule of law comes back in this administration, comes back in the White House, and clearly the administration more broadly. And that’s what you have seen.
I’m just not going to comment on this particular case.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q On the service member who crossed into North Korea. I know you’re still gathering information; this is unfolding. But, I guess, big picture, you know, what lengths is this administration willing to go to? How much diplomatic capital are you willing to spend to get this service member back, given that he willfully crossed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re looking into this. We’re looking into — clearly, there’s an investigation on th- — in this incident. And this is something that the Secretary said himself, which is our primary concern at this time is ascertaining, clearly, the wellbeing of this individual. And so, that’s going to be certainly our primary focus here.
As I mentioned, the Department of Defense is certainly reach — has reached out to their counterpart at DPRK. I’m just not going to go beyond that at this time.
Q And at this point, though, do you know if North Korea is asking for anything in return?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share. This is — and this is something that the Secretary said as well: This is a very early stages of — of this issue, of this incident. And so, we’re trying to gather as much information as possible.
Go ahead, Jeremy.
Q Thanks. On the soldier who crossed into North Korea, do you know what the misconduct was that he was being disciplined for?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any information beyond what you already know.
Q And do you know exactly where within the Joint Security Area that this occurred? Was it within one of those buildings at — at the Joint Security Area? Was it outside?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All very good questions. As I said, this is the beginning — very early stages of this investigation. We’re going to look into it. I just don’t have anything to share beyond that.
Q Okay. And on — on January 6th. I understand that you guys aren’t going to comment specifically on this case. But the President has held former President Trump responsible for the events of January 6th previously in his rhetoric in a number of ways. So I’m wondering how does he feel about the fact that the former President may now be held accountable for the events of that day?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is an ongoing case. I’m just not going to respond to — to any hypotheticals that’s currently, you know, out there in the world. I’m just not going to — be very, very mindful and give the Department of Justice their space to do — to do this investigation. Just not going to comment from here.
Q And then, just quickly, on a last topic. My colleague, Priscilla, reported that the U.S. has been holding migrants at detention — CBP detention facilities for more than 10 days. This is as a result of some of the administration’s policy changes, even though it’s U.S. government policy to not hold those individuals for longer than 72 hours.
So what is the administration doing to rectify this? And to what extent do you believe the President’s policies are responsible for this (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have to look into that reporting. It’s the first time I’m hearing about this.
As you know, we have our policies as it relates to holding migrants. I just have not seen that reporting, and I would have to get back so I can actually give you the correct information.
Q Thank you, Karine. NSC’s Kurt Campbell is in Seoul attending a U.S.-South Korea meeting currently. Is he getting involved in any capacity in getting the American soldier out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share about specific individuals’ involvement. What I can say is the White House, the Department of Defense, State — the State Department, and, certainly, the U.N. are all involved and have — and as I mentioned, DOD has reached out to their counterpart. I just don’t have anything on anyone specifically being involved.
Q But can you share anything on whether there has been a request to the North Koreans for the return of this soldier?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — all I can say is that we’ve done outreach to our — to the respective counterparts and, in particular, the Department of Defense. I just don’t have anything else to share.
As I mentioned, even the Secretary of Defense said we are in the early stages of this. And so, we’re looking into this incident and obviously want to get it resolved.
Q Quick one on Israel. Will President Biden be asking President Herzog to, sort of, take any kind of message back to Prime Minister Netanyahu about the need for him to back off the Knesset vote or get back into talks with the opposition to reach a compromise or potentially some kind of consensus on the issue of judicial overhaul?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think in our readout, that is certainly something that the President spoke to the Prime Minister himself yesterday. So, that is a topic —
Q It was mentioned towards the end of the readout, so can you give us some details?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But it’s in the readout, correct?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s in the readout. Okay. So, a couple of things I do want to say and just pretty much reiterating what the President just said moments ago during the pool spray, which is: His love for Israel is deep-rooted and longstanding since his early days of — of government. So that’s important.
And one of the reasons — one of the reasons this conversation is so important is this — Israel is clearly celebrating their 70th — 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. And this was an opportunity to — to lift up, continue that partnership at a higher level, certainly.
And they’re going to be talking about the advance — advancing a more integrated, peaceful, and prosperous Middle East, which is something that the President has certainly led on and talked about over the past — past — more recently, past — this past year.
And a couple of things. Preserving the path of negotiating a two-state solution is — is going to be on the table for discussion.
The administration’s new plan to counter antisemitism. As you all know, this past May, we announced a very comprehensive once-of-a-kind antisemitism plan, which we think is incredibly important at this moment.
The importance of upholding democratic princip- — principles, including the checks and balances as we talk about judicial reform. And the cha- — and the changes have the broadest possible — if that — if there are changes, that needs to have the br- — the broadest possible consensus within our system.
So, certainly, the President is going to talk about how the President of Israel himself has been involved in brokering a compromise as it relates to judicial reform. So those are the conversations that’s going to be on the table.
But the President has certainly — has had that conversation directly with the Prime Minister, as recently as yesterday.
Q And can you confirm a venue for the meeting? Israelis are saying it’s going to be at the White House with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but the White House hasn’t confirmed the venue.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is the — both the Prime Minister and the President talked about certainly continuing to be in touch. And so, they’re, you know — both — both of their sides — right? — are — both governments are going to — staff on both governments are going to have those conversations. I just don’t have anything to preview for you at this time.
Q So why the hesitation in confirming the venue?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s no — there’s no hesitation. I mean, we have said — we have confirmed yesterday that they said they were going to see each other later this year. We just have to — we just haven’t worked that out in some time. This takes a little bit of time on where that’s going to be and how that’s going to look.
Go ahead, Kelly O.
Q It does appear that there’s a hesitation to confer a White House meeting on Netanyahu, based on just a lack of willingness to be explicit about that.
I mean, I would imagine the Prime Minister will also be at United Nations General Assembly, and that would be another potential venue that would fall into what you were describing yesterday.
Is there any reason why the White House wouldn’t make it explicit that a White House invitation has been extended?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you just laid out: There’s potential other opportunities for the two leaders to meet with each other. As I — as I stated — as — as I’ve stated, the — you know, the details are going to be worked out by the — by the different teams on where — what that’s going to look like and where that’s going to be. But they have committed to meeting and seeing each other in the United States later this year.
I just don’t have a specific on location. It’s going to be worked out. And as soon as we know, we’ll certainly share it with all of you.
Q Can you walk us through how the President was notified about the North Korean incident and if that generated any kind of a separate meeting for him, or was it part of the PDB? Something like this is certainly unusual, so if there’s any detail you could give us about how that came about today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That — that’s a very good question. I can tell you for sure that there’s — clearly, the President has been briefed, obviously. This is the type of incident that he would be briefed on, as you all know.
I don’t have the specifics if it was part of his PDB or a separate briefing. But certainly this is something that the President is watching very closely and will be — will be kept updated.
Q Should we anticipate a call to South Korea or other partners in the region as a result of this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, one thing I can say is that I don’t have any calls to read out to anybody that the President is going to be calling, specifically in — in — in either North Korea or South Korea.
I can say that as it relates to our partners, we have been engaging with — with — certainly with Sweden and South Korea, but I don’t have any calls to lay out specifically for the President.
Q Karine, thank you. On the matter of the U.S. soldier, you said that the U.S. is working to resolve this matter. Can you just clarify what a “resolution” is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean, relo- — resolve this incident, resolve this matter to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
There is an investigation that’s currently occurring. There has been outreach from the Department of Defense — right? — as I mentioned, to their counterparts over at the Korean People — People’s Army. You have the State Department, you have the Department of Defense, you have the U.N. and the White House all working together to resolve this. Resolving this is basically getting to the bottom of exactly what happened. And that is important for us to know.
I just don’t have more to share. And once we do, we’ll certainly share the information.
Q So he doesn’t mean bringing him home? Because —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we have said — we have also said — look, he’s an American citizen — that is important to note — right? — as we know, as a soldier. We have also said our primary concern at this time is ascertaining his wellbeing and getting — getting to the bottom of exactly what happened and what occurred.
I’m just going to say what Secretary Austin said moments ago. He’s absolutely concerned about the welfare of his troops. Right? That is something that, as the Secretary of Defense, that he is concerned about. And this will — will develop in the next several days and hours. And certainly, we’ll keep you posted. And that is coming directly from the Secretary of Defense.
Q Are you working under the assumption that this soldier wants to come back to the U.S., or do you know that for certain?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not working under any hypotheticals or any assumptions. What we’re doing is trying to — there is going to be an investigation into this incident. I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals, speculations of what occurred or — or how — how we ended up here. We just want to make sure that we get to the bottom of this.
Q And then, quickly, on another topic. We were informed shortly before going into the Oval Office that several members of the Israeli delegation tested positive for COVID. Can you tell us whether President Herzog was tested before his meeting, given the close proximity to President Biden?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, we have testing protocols when — anytime somebody meets with the President. So I can tell you that anybody who meets with the President does indeed get tested. I do. We all do.
Any specifics, additional questions about the — you know, what occurred amongst the Israeli delegation, I would certainly refer you to them.
Q Thank you.
Q We’re not in danger though, right? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Alabama state lawmakers proposed a congressional map that would — a secondary map that would have a district that will be 42 percent Black — not quite a majority, as the plaintiffs in the case have said. They say this is a violation of the Supreme Court ruling.
Does the White House take that position that this proposed map does not fulfill the ruling of the Supreme Court to have that second district majority Black?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So that is something that I would have to refer you to the Department of Justice. I’m just not going to speak to that from here. I have not seen the secondary map of what — what it is that they — that’s being done in Alabama. But I would refer you to Department of Justice.
Q And on voting rights, Senator Warnock and Senate Democrats today are reintroducing the Freedom to Vote Act, something that the President has called for Congress to pass, repeatedly. Though we know the political reality in the House for that bill, what is the White House’s message to Americans more broadly about voting rights with the reintroduction of the Freedom to Vote Act?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you just stated, this is something that the President sees as a priority and making sure that Americans have the right to vote, have those freedoms intact.
And so, that is something — a message that the President will always continue to share. He’s going to continue to call on Congress to act. It sounds like they’re moving forward in the right direction, and we think that’s incredibly important.
And it is our — it is our constitutional right to be able to — to vote, to vote freely; to be able to make sure our voices are heard. But just not going to go beyond that.
Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q Thank you, Karine. Did the President address at all Congresswoman Jayapal’s comments in his meeting with Herzog?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that one more time?
Q Did the President have to address Congresswoman Jayapal’s comment that Israel is a racist state? Did that come up?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What do you mean “had to address”?
Q Did it come up all in the conversation with President Herzog?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, they’re currently having a conversation right now in the bilat.
Q Did he plan to address it? Did it come up in his call with Netanyahu yesterday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the President has been very clear — right? — and I kind of stated this at the at the beginning: The United States and Israel’s relationship is a special one. There’s a special bond. There’s a commitment, and it is a commitment to Israel’s right to exist, Israel’s security and its legit- — legitimacy.
I mean, that’s one of the reasons that the President spoke to the Prime Minister yesterday and is having this important meeting with the Israeli President. They’re going to have a conversation on how we continue to grow that special relationship.
As I just laid out, 75 years of Israel’s independence is being celebrated this year. And we think it’s important to continue that relationship.
Q The reason I ask is because, yesterday, Kirby had said that, you know, there were — you guys were glad that she apologized. But what we didn’t hear was any condemnation of her comment from the White House. Does the White House condemn that comment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — I mean, look, the apology was the right thing to do. And we’ve been very clear: When it comes to antisemitism, this administration and the entire Biden — Biden-Harris administration have been clear that when Israel is — is singled out because of anti-Jewish hate, that’s antisemitism, and that is unacceptable.
One of the reasons — and I just said this moments ago — back in May, the President put forward a comprehensive plan on how to — how to counter antisemitism.
It is something that is one of — it’s a first-of-a-kind strategy that we’ve not seen before. And — and it is comprehensive and is — and is ambitious.
So you already have seen the commitment from this President on how to deal with an issue that we feel is incredibly unacceptable.
So we have been — we’ve been clear on our record. We’ve been clear on speaking against antisemitism throughout — throughout this administration when we see it.
Q So the White House does condemn that comment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I just said, if it is — if — anytime anti-Jewish hatred is — is said, that is antisemitism, and we — and we find it to be unacceptable.
But at the same time, we think it’s important that the congresswoman did indeed apologize for her comments, and we’re glad to see it.
Q Okay. I didn’t hear whether it was a “yes” or a “no” to that question.
But in another vein, there’s a vote happening in the House today, a resolution saying that Israel is not a racist state or an apartheid state. Does the White House want to see strong support for that resolution?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: First of all, we condemn antisemitism. Anytime there is any anti-Jewish hate, we condemn it. We’ve been very clear. That is answering your question.
As it relates to anything that’s going on on the House, I’d refer you to the House.
But, again, I cannot be more clearer: You have the President right now meeting with the President of Israel, a very important meeting that they’re having. They’re doing a bilat right now. And one of the things that the President is going to make very clear is the special bond and our commitment to Israel. And it is unwavering, it is unshakable, and the President finds — finds that relationship, again, very deep. And it — it — it started when he first walked into government.
Q I hear you, and I’m sorry to push on it. It’s just because —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’ve already —
Q — there are — there’s been criticism —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We just went back and forth.
Q — that Democrats don’t want to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We g- — we just —
Q — take action against other Democrats when they have to apologize for something like this. There has been criticism —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We just — we just —
Q — that you —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We just said that we’re glad that she apologized. Congresswoman — Congresswoman Jayapal did indeed apologize. And we have been very clear: Anytime Israel is singled out with anti-Jewish hate, which is indeed antisemitism, it is unacceptable. It is unacceptable.
You have an administration that has put forth a comprehensive plan to counter antisemitism, something that we have not seen in this way from any other administration. That shows the President’s commitment to this issue.
I’m going to move on.
Go ahead, Andrew.
Q Thank you, Karine. Two questions. Is the President satisfied with the pace at which Afghan allies are being processed to enter the U.S.? There are a lot of folks who were left behind, who were in third countries who served with the U.S. during the years we were there, and they’re still waiting. Is he satisfied? And would he push the Senate to include the Afghan Adjustment Act in their version of the NDAA?
And then I have a second question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I think what I can say is our commitment continues to stand — right? — to make sure that we take care of the folks who helped us during the longest war in this country that we have — we have seen, that we have supported. And — and the work continues. The work is going to continue.
Any specifics on, you know, data, or any specifics on how fast it’s moving and where we are currently, I would certainly refer you to the State Department.
Q And then, on — on what the former President said on his social media site today. Has President Biden asked for any sort of intelligence estimate or inquired as to preparations for potential violence in reaction to any further indictments of the former President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I could say this: We are always prepared. I don’t have anything to share beyond that.
Go ahead, Anita.
Q Thank you so much. On Taiwan, the Vice President of Taiwan is coming through the States soon. He is currently the front-runner in Taiwan’s presidential election. Just wondering if any American high-level officials plan to meet with him and what messages they plan to convey to this leader as he comes through the States.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. So, we expect the Vice President Lai will transit the United States on the outbound and return legs of his trip to Paraguay in August. That’s what we’re expecting. This is a routine, given the distances involved.
Transits are not visits. They are, as you know — we’ve talked about this many times from here — unofficial. Transits by Taiwan vice presidents are common. They have been about 10 vice presidential transit in the last 20 years. All have occurred without incident. This would be the 11th transit, and it would be Vice President Lai’s second. He previously transited in 2021.
I don’t have anything else to — to share. And, again, this is consistent and longstanding practices. It is the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan and our One China policy, which remains unchanged.
Don’t have anything else to share. I would refer you, certainly, to the Taiwan gover- — to Taiwanese government on anything — on any meetings that they may be having.
Q And just clarifying on the engagement between Washington and North Korea on this — on this soldier. Is this military-to-military communication between the U.S. —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. Department of Defense. Yes.
Q (Inaudible.) And then, are — is the U.S. engaged in any direct communication with Pyongyang or any political leaders in that country?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything outside of what the Department of Defense have shared and what we have shared. As I mentioned, the Department of Defense is certainly in touch with their counterparts.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. Much of the country, and parts of Europe especially, are experiencing extreme heat or severe weather right now. Will the President use this moment to focus on climate change with an event or remarks? And is there something that the federal government is doing with some of these states — Arizona, Texas — to help people as they’re experiencing this heatwave right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things, Karen. Look, we saw the multiple reporting and ex- — of extreme weather over the past couple of days, especially this weekend. We’re talking about flooding; we’re talking about wildfire smoke, extreme heat. So, we know climate change has an effect, and you — as you know, this President has done more than any other president to deal with climate change, to deal with the crisis that we’re currently seeing.
A couple of things that we are doing to help communities deals with — deal with these different extremes and ex- — extreme weather is: FEMA is opening cooling centers. We’re strengthening the power grid to be more resilient to extreme heat. We’re bringing local officials together to discuss preparedness measures. And we’re doing everything that we can to tackle the root causes of climate change.
This is why the Inflation Reduction Act is so important. It is a — it is a historic legislation that is going to do the most than any other piece of legislation to deal — to tackle with this crisis that we’re seeing currently.
Q Karine, where is FEMA doing the cooling centers? And is the extreme weather right now and this heat — is this part of the President’s briefings that he’s getting right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President has been kept pretty much up to date on the extreme weather situation that we have seen over the past couple of weeks. So that’s going to continue.
As far as where the cooling centers is, we can — we can certainly get that for — for all of you to share — to share.
Q Thanks, Karine. So, I’m curious — in Congress tomorrow — so will the President be monitoring at all or get updates on the House Oversight Committee where the second whistle- — IRS whistleblower is going to be testifying?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the President has a busy day tomorrow. As you all know, he’s convening the — the Competition Council to a new — to announce new actions to — to increase competition in American economy, to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to lower — lower costs for consumers, and also to help entrepreneus- — entrepreneurs and small businesses thrive.
And that’s what the President is going to be focused on tomorrow. These are pillars, as you can imagine, of Bidenomics. It’s something that we’ve been talking about, certainly, the last couple of weeks. So he’s going to have a busy day. That’s going to be the focus.
Q So is the President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s going to be focused on the American people.
Q Is the President concerned about the impartiality of the IRS in terms of their work and their investigations that they do then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to speak to — to speak to the hearing that’s happening tomorrow. No comment from here.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. Back on the Houston Chronicle article on the border. What, if anything, is the administration doing to verify those reports?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The reports on —
Q The border. Yeah, the — the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The numbers?
Q Pushing the migrants.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q Yeah, yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Which — which part? The — can you say more?
Q The part about the — you know, the — the pushing — (clears throat) — excuse me — the pushing them in the river.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. So this is about Abbott, you’re talking about? I just want to make sure, because there is a lot of things happening at the border.
Okay. So, look, I think what we have done — the President has dem- — demonstrated leadership on how to — how to deal with — how to make — put — put forward a plan that’s humane — right? — that’s humane, and actually is also effective. And you saw that in the past couple of months.
What we’re seeing right now, if you’re denying migrants water, isn’t — that’s not enforcement. That is abusive. That is atrocious.
And so, we don’t know if these reports are true. Clearly, we’re hearing them just like you are. So, certainly, we’re going to call that out.
And so, we have repeatedly said — we have repeatedly said that we are willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to deal with this issue. The President, on his first day, said that he would put forth a comprehensive — put forth a comprehensive immigration plan. And that’s what we want to work on.
The President has done everything that he can, with the tools that he has, to put forward a humane process. And we see that that process is working. But when you do this in an inhumane way, we’re going to — we’re going to call that out. And it is abhorrent, if this is indeed true.
Q Johnson & Johnson has filed suit against the administration over the Medicare provision in the — in the Inflation Reduction Act. Do you have a response?
And is there any concern from the White House that that provision, now facing multiple lawsuits, may be struck down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what we’re going to continue to do is make sure that the President does everything he can to lower costs for the American people. And that’s what we saw in the Inflation Reduction Act. The President is proud of that. The President is — has always said he’s going to do everything that he can to give Americans a little bit of breathing room.
And, look, what we’re seeing now, that Medicare is allowed to — allowed to be able to have those — have those conversations to lower costs, that’s important. That’s important.
We want to work with pharmaceuticals on how do we — how we move forward on continuing to lower costs. But we’re certainly not going to shy away from what the President has promised when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to drug cost. And that’s why, again, Inflation Reduction Act is so critical and so important.
I’m not going to get to the legalese of this. I’ll let the Department of Justice deal with it.
Go ahead, Courtney.
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask about Julie Su. What precedent does it set to have a Cabinet official doing the job of — or, excuse me, have an acting official doing the job of a Cabinet secretary, when she can’t get confirmed or have the votes to do it? I know that you all know that there aren’t votes at this point to confirm her, yet she’s still doing the job in an acting capacity, and it seems like it will be for a while. So what precedent does that set?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can’t — I can’t speak to the timeline. What I can speak to is we are committed — the President is committed to get her — get her through. He nominated her because he believed that she was eminently qualified to do the job. And she has done it in a — in a brilliant way.
Let’s not forget the major labor agreements that she was able to do with the West Coast ports. That’s something she did as acting. And let’s not forget that — what that would have done. That would have hurt our supply chain. And so, she has been able to do that.
And so, she has strong support from businesses. She has strong support from labor. This should not be held up. She was unanimously, as you all know, confirmed as Deputy Secretary by all Senate Democrats. And so, we’re going to continue to push forward.
I can’t speak to the precedence of this or unprecedence of this. What I can speak to is our commitment to getting Julie Su through. And that’s something that the President has said. It is — he — it is — his commitment to her is unwavering. And she is more than qualified to be the Secretary of Department of Labor.
Q And is the President okay having someone in a job that can’t get confirmed by the Senate — basically going around the Senate and putting the the person you want in anyways?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I do want to say this, as you asked me about your first question: There is no time limit for federal vacancies. Reform Act that she is serving under — that is the act that we have — were able to do this, to make her Acting Secretary.
We think, again, that she is more than qualified. That is the reason why the President appointed her. And we want to see her get through swiftly. We want her to — to see her get confirmed swiftly. And that’s what we’re going to continue to call for.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Yeah. Senator Rand Paul is holding up about five dozen diplomatic nominations right now. He’s saying it’s because the Biden administration is not providing documents related to the origins of COVID. What is your message to Paul? And do you plan to provide those documents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things, because there are some stats here that are important as what we’re seeing here. The State Department currently has 62 state nominees outstanding with the Senate, including 38 ambassador nominee — ambassadorial nominees on the Senate floor, awaiting confirmation for posts in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, where U.S. leadership is desperately needed. This is what’s happening.
And of the 38 nominees awaiting a floor vote, all but three of the individuals are career Foreign Service. The nominees are highly qualified. They’re — they are Foreign Service officers who have served under multiple administrations and received bipartisan support. So there’s no reason why we should not be moving with them.
Holds on State Department nominees are leaving critical posts unfilled. This summer, for the first time ever, you have Egypt, you have Jordan, you have Lebanon — will have no confirm U.S. ambassadors. And we remain without ambassadors in other countries as well, like African Union, UAE, Rwanda, Somalia, and Haiti.
So unfortunately, these nominees are under a blanket hold, as you just stated, from Senator Paul. The Department of State has cooperated extensively — extensively with the senator. They have provided documents and other information. But he continues to block all State nominees for no reason. Because they have — they have worked with the senator, they have provided documents, and he continues to block them.
Q Great. And one other topic. Congressional Republicans have been asking for more information about why Rob Malley was put on a leave of absence and had his security clearance revoked I think about a month ago. Do you have any information on that for us?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would refer you to the State Department. They would have more information on that.
Go ahead, Alex.
Q There are, I think, four members of the House who are going to boycott President Herzog’s address tomorrow. And one of them, Representative Cori Bush, said that the Israeli government is “enforcing an apartheid state” and that it “shows no respect for human rights.” So, by your definition, is what Representative Bush said antisemitic?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, what I can say is that the President has a longstanding relationship with Israel.
It is — he is committed to their security, committed to continuing that relationship — hence why he is meeting with the President of Israel. And so, that is what’s important.
I cannot speak to other — other congressional members in the House. That is for them to speak to why they choose to boycott or to do whatever it is that they’re doing today.
But what we can speak to is our commitment — our longstanding commitment to Israel, our longstanding support to Israel. And that is something that the President will continue to be committed to.
Q The Congressional Picnic is tomorrow. And I’m just wondering: Are — are all members invited, including — including those that may share — may have some different perspectives from the White House on investigations, in particular?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to speak to — just be careful here and not speak to investigations.
Look, we — we have consistently invited not just Democrats but Republicans to the White House. You all know this. You have seen them walking around or them invited to events here. That is not unusual. So that is something that we will continue to do. I just don’t have anything else to share beyond that.
Q Thank you, Karine. Media reported today that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are holding secret talks to return Ukrainian children taken by Russia. Are you aware of —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I —
Q — these talks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All I heard is Turkey and —
Q Saudi Arabia — are holding secret talks to return Ukrainian children taken by Russia. Are you aware or in contact with these two countries?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share on that — on that particular question.
Q Okay. One more question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q South Africa asked the International Criminal Court to be — to not arrest President Putin, who is supposed to visit the country next month. What do you make of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can you say the beginning of the — the question?
Q Yes. South — South Africa asked the International Criminal Court not to arrest President Putin, who is visiting the country —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Not to arrest him?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
Q Because they are a signatory to the International Criminal Court. What do you make of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve — we’ve all seen with our own eyes and your reporting what Putin has done to Ukraine, the devastation that he has caused. And this is an aggression of his own doing into a country’s own freedom and democracy.
And what we’ve seen from the Ukrainian people — and you’ve heard us speak to this — is how bravely they are fighting for that democracy, for their freedom.
And we have seen Putin commit war crimes. We have seen him do that, and that’s what he continues to do.
And let’s be very clear, you know, this war can end at any time. It can end at any time if Mr. Putin decides to.
And what we are committed to, what we will say and speak to over and over again, as you heard from the President during his press conference in Helsinki, is our commitment to the Ukrainian people as long as it takes to help them fight for — fight — continue to fight bravely for their democracy and for their freedom. And that’s our commitment.
Q Thank you.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: See you tomorrow.
2:40 P.M. EDT