James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:51 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have a few things at the top, so please brace yourselves.
Q Uh-oh. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on tight to those new seats. Okay.
So, during his first State of the Union Address, President Biden announced his Unity Agenda, which focused on issues where members of both parties can come together and make progress for the American people: ending cancer as we know it, delivering on our sacred obligation to veterans, tackling mental health crisis, and beating the overdose epidemic.
Today, we continue to deliver real progress across all four areas, including significant action over this past week.
This morning, the President marked a significant milestone in the fa- — in the fight to end cancer as we know it by launching the first program dedicated to driving breakthroughs in the way we treat cancer through the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.
The VA also announced this morning that toxic-exposed veterans are now eligible for breast cancer risk assessments and mammograms regardless of their age, symptoms, family history, or whether or not they are enrolled in VA healthcare.
Additionally, the agency will conduct a scientific review to determine whether there is a relationship between three types of cancer conditions and toxic exposure for service members — another important step to further expand benefits for veterans and their families through the PACT Act.
With these key actions, we continue to deliver on our sacred obligations to our veterans and they build on our progress to expand medical care and housing guarantees for veterans, invest in VA medical facilities, and expand employment protections for military spouses.
Now, as you all know, the President also announced this week a landmark rule to strengthen mental health parity requirements for more than 150 million Americans. This week’s monumental news on health — on mental health parity builds on steps we’ve already taken to tackle the mental health crisis, including launching the 988 Lifeline — a confidential line Americans in crisis can call any time. And if you are someone out there who is in crisis, please do call 988. As I just mentioned, this is a federal government program that is there to help all of you or any one of you.
Investing historic resources to remove barriers to care. And making sure servicemembers and veterans can men- — can get the mental health care they need.
We also recently announced additional steps to address the overdose epidemic and save lives. We introduced a whole-of-government response against the emerging threat of fentanyl combined with xylazine; Vice President Harris convened attorneys general to discuss state and federal coordination; and we — we announced additional resources for law enforcement officials working to disrupt drug trafficking.
Because of decisive actions that this administration has taken to remove barriers to addiction treatment, expand access to naloxone, and target drug trafficking operations, we have seen a leveling off of overdose deaths for an entire year.
It is hopeful — it is a hopeful trend we are working to ensure actually continues.
Finally, I do want to talk about a recent trip our team took to further address the illicit fentanyl global supply chain.
As you all know, the opioid epidemic is a global challenge as well, and we’re engaging at high levels with other countries to fight it together.
So, this week, Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall led a senior delegation to Mexico City to further cooperation with Mexico and Canada on countering illicit fentanyl and arms trafficking.
Our three countries are committed to working together to promote the safety and security of our citizens, prosecute drug traffickers, target the supply of the precursor chemicals used for illicit fentanyl production, prevent these drugs from coming across borders, and promote public health services to reduce harm and demand. We also have deepened cooperation with Mexico on the related challenge of Southbound arms trafficking.
All of these issues — ending cancer as we know it, delivering on our sacred obligation to our veterans, tackling the mental health crisis, and beating the overdose epidemic — matters to Americans in both red states and blue states.
We are taking meaningful steps to deliver on the President’s Unity Agenda for our nation.
Now, tonight, as you all know, the President will deliver remarks at the Truman Civil Rights Symposium to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the desegregation of the military and the forward march to redeem the soul of the nation.
He’ll talk about the courageous action President Truman took to respond to the mistreatment of Black veterans that led to creating the greatest fighting force in the history of the world that is also the most — the most diverse fighting force in the history of the world.
And he’ll talk about how, 75 years after President Truman’s courage, today in 2023 a senator from Alabama is blocking more than 300 military nominations with an extreme political agenda.
The senator’s action and the failure on the part of the 48 Republican senators to do something about it are dangerous. They are harming our military readiness, they’re undermining national security, and they’re hurting troop morale.
And tonight, President Biden is going to make that clear. So I suggest that all of you tune in.
Today’s G- — GDP report shows Bidenomics at work. After a year of recession predictions, we saw the economy grow at a 2.4 percent rate last quarter while inflation fell significantly. Business investment increased by nearly 8 percent. And construction of factories contributed more to growth than it has in 40 years.
As you can see from the chart behind me, that’s what the President’s Investing in America agenda is all about. Bidenomics is growing the economy from the middle out and bottom up, not the top down.
Unemployment remains below 4 percent. Inflation has fallen by two thirds. Wages are higher than before the pandemic. And businesses have invested more than half a trillion dollars in clean energy and manufacturing.
In short, the President’s economic plan is indeed working.
And finally — and finally, we have some goodbyes today.
First, I want to give a shout-out to Sebastian Smith, aka Thor. If you guys missed that briefing — (laughter) — you should go back and check it out. Probably one of the most — funniest briefing that we’ve had in the last two years. And as well, we want to say goodbye to Ket Gorjestani, as well. Thank you both for your time here with us at the White House Press Briefing Room. And we are very sad to see you all go. And we’ll miss you both.
Additionally, I wanted to congratulate Ket on your service as — on your service as the president of the foreign press group. And we’re looking forward to working with Richard, who is going to be taking — taking on the responsibilities in the new role.
We also want to share another devastating, devastating farewell that I want to share on our team. Our very own Abdullah Hassan is leaving us next week, and he’s heading to law school. Abdullah deferred law school by a year in order to continue working in the White House, and we are grateful — grateful for his dedications — dedicated service to the country, to the President, and our press team.
I did promise his mom that I would — that I would not keep him longer than a year. And I kept my promise to his mother. Hi, Mom. (Laughter.) And we are very sad to let him go. And if I could, I would hold — hold him for another year or more. But we do keep our promises here, Mom. We do.
Abdullah has had an extraordinarily important portfolio here as our spokesperson, as you will know, on immigration, student debt, climate, and more.
Abdullah, we know you’re — you’re going to do great things and amazing things. I think you are going to be a fantastic lawyer because you are a good human and you care about people. So I can’t wait to see what you — what you do after law school.
And so, with that, we are also thrilled to welcome Angelo Fernan- — Fernandez to fill Abdullah’s shoes. He comes from DHS. And we hope that you take a minute to say hello to Angelo and also say goodbye to — to Abdullah.
With that, Seung Min —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The floor is yours.
Q I wanted to ask about the President’s reaction to the legal developments yesterday and with the initial plea deal for his son appearing to fall apart.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m really not going to say anything more than what I shared yesterday. This is a personal matter for Hunter Biden. This is, you know, a personal issue. And as you know, this has been done in an independent way by the Department of Justice. It has been led by a Trump-appointed prosecutor. And I’m just not going to comment beyond — beyond what I said yesterday.
And, of course — and we have said this multiple times — the President and the First Lady, they love their son and they support — they support him as he is working to rebuild his life. I’m just not going to say anything beyond that.
Q And on Leader McConnell, he mentioned that the President called him yesterday. Can you talk a little bit about that conversation, what the President’s message was to Leader McConnell, and whether the President believes he is able to serve, considering his medical conditions, as the Republican
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m not going to get into the medical condition of — of — of the Republican Leader in the Senate.
What I can say is the President respects Senator McConnell. There’s — there is a lot that they disagree on, but they have found ways to work together to find common ground. And I think that’s important for the American people to see that bipartisanship and how they’ve been able to work together.
Obviously, the President has known the senator for some time now. Like the — like the Leader mentioned, they — the President called him yesterday. I’m just not going to go into details on that conversation. As we — as you know, and we say this often here, we try to keep those conversations private. And so, I’m just not going to go into details from here.
Q Thanks, Karine. To follow up on Hunter, is the President concerned that his son’s legal challenges will continue to take attention away from the White House now that this plea deal has fallen apart?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to speak to the politics of this. I’m not going to speak to — characterize any of this for the President.
What I can say is that — and I’ve said this before — this is a personal matter. This is a — Hunter Biden, as you know, as a private citizen. And this was done in an independent way. This investigation is being led by a Trump-appointed prosecutor.
And so, the Department of Justice is independent. We give them the space to be independent. And we respect the rule of law. I’m just not going to get into details of characterizing (inaudible).
Q Has he spoken to Hunter?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to speak to any private conversation that the President has with his family.
Q And one other one. In — in December 2021, President Biden told ABC’s David Muir that accountability is necessary for the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol, no matter where it goes. Does the President stand by those comments, even in the case of former President Trump?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just don’t have anything additional to add. Is — the President spoke — was very candid when asked that question, and I believe his word still — still stands today.
Hey, Andrea, good to see you.
Q Yeah, good to see you too.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, Andrea.
Q It’s okay. On Niger: Is the U.S. considering, you know, making a plan to remove troops from Niger? Will you have to evacuate U.S. citizens? And is there any indication at all that — that Russia could be playing — have a hand in — in what’s happening there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. So, the U.S. Embassy released a se- — a security alert on July 26th advising U.S. citizens — which was yesterday, as you all know — to limit unnecessary movements and avoid the affected area until further notice as the situation develops.
We continue to monitor the situation and will continue to provide information to U.S. citizens in the region through the travel advisories, alerts, and Travel.State.gov.
We strongly encourage U.S. citizens in Niger to enroll in in — in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at — at Step.State.gov to receive important emergency information and — and be careful. Be careful about where they are and what they’re doing. We will certainly determ- — determine on what is needed as we get further information.
To your — to your question about Russia, Putin. I know there has been question about Wagner Group as well. Until now, we have not seen incred- — incredible indications of Russian or Wagner involvement.
But to the U.S. citizens who are — who are in the country, we, again, continue to tell them to — to be mindful, to be careful. And as I just stated, we did put out an alert yesterday.
Q Just another one on international stuff. In, I think, the subpoena, you were supposed to provide information on Afghanistan and the withdrawal by Tuesday at 10 o’clock. That hasn’t happened. Are you concerned that you could be held in contempt if you don’t provide that information?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything — I don’t have any comment on that at this time.
Q Okay. And then just real quickly on Meloni’s visit today: To what extent will you be talking about China and particularly the Belt and Road Initiative? Do you have any indication that the, you know, Italians are — are — will accelerate moves to get out of that arrangement with China?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t want to get ahead of the conversation that they’re going to have. As you know, they’re going to be meeting fairly shortly. As it relates to the Belt and Road, I — I presume, is that what you’re speaking to — towards?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know my colleague was asked a couple times yesterday from NSC. What I can expect is they will discuss the benefits of closer transatlantic coordination regarding our approach to the People’s Republic of China, among other topics, but I don’t want to do anything more to confirm any specifics.
Obviously, that conversation is going to happen in less than an hour. So, I want to give the President and the Prime Minister the opportunity to go through their — their agenda.
Go ahead, Jeremy.
Q Thanks, Karine. I know that so far, you guys have been unwilling to say exactly where President Biden invited the Israeli Prime Minister to here in the U.S. Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that President Biden, in a phone call, invited him to the White House for this visit later this year. Can you confirm that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is they both agreed to meet in the United States later this year. Both teams are working through what that’s going to look like, the timing. I — I don’t have anything else to share beyond that — beyond —
What I — we have said last week and continue to say after that conversation is that they both agreed to meet in the United States later this year.
Q So the President did not invite Netanyahu specifically to the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just want to be very clear: It was a conversation that they both agreed that it would be in the United States. Don’t have anything further. Both teams are indeed talking and going — and working —
Q Right. But the one side is now —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — working through —
Q — claiming the White House — so —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is the U- — the United States, that’s what they both agreed on. And both teams are having that conversation on what that would look like —
Q And then —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — on the details of that.
Q Thanks. And then separately, Senator McConnell said that he spoke with the President yesterday, that the President reached out after this apparent medical episode that — that the Senate Minority Leader had. Can you confirm that and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think I just did with Seung Min when she asked that question. Basically, you know, the — the senator mentioned that the President called. And certainly, you know, the President and the senator have known each other for some time and have — as I mentioned to Seung Min — have — have had a lot of disagreements but have found common ground to move forward with the American people.
I’m not going to go beyond what the — what the senator has said — Senator McConnell has shared.
Q And then, lastly, Yevgeny Prigozhin was apparently spotted at this Africa Summit that Russia is hosting. What does that tell the White House about Prigozhin’s standing in Russia and the importance of the Wagner Group going forward in Africa?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m not going to characterize or speak to Prigozhin’s appearance or, you know, participation in the Summit. That’s something for the Russian government to speak to.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Sebastian.
Q Thank you very much. And thank you for the shout-out, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: “Thor.” I’ll never forget “Thor.” (Laughter.)
Q And — and — and if you’ll allow me, I just want to say thank you to the unsung heroes of the White House, which are the stenographers.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, they are. I agree. They are the unsung heroes.
Q The amount of mumbling they have to deal with — (laughter) — (inaudible) my questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We appreciate you. We appreciate you.
Q Yeah. So, two questions, if I could. One: Could you comment on the — there is a report in the New York Times that the government — the President has, you know, asked to move ahead — for the government to move ahead with cooperating with the ICC on collecting evidence against the Russians for war crimes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And what was your second question?
Q The second one — can you just answer that one first? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh. Okay.
Q It’s very different. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. Since the beginning of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the President has been very clear: There needs to be accountability for the perpetrators and enablers of war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. He’s been very clear about that.
We support a range, as you know, of international mechanism to identify and hold accountable those responsible, including through the office of Ukraine Prosecutor General, the joint invest- — investigative team through Eurojust and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission, the expert missions established under the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism, and the International Criminal Court, among others.
So, we have deployed teams of international investigators and prosecutors to assist Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General in documenting, preserving, and preparing war crime cases for — for — for prosecution, and the Department of Justice has entered into a memorandum of understanding to cooperate with Ukraine on investigations and prosecutions of war crimes committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
So — but on the ICC specifically, which is your question, we’re not going to — we’re not — just not going to get into specifics of cooperation, which is in- — which is consistent with the court’s practice of treating requests for cooperation in a confidential manner. So, we’re going to just be very careful and continue with that tradition that has been around for some time.
Q Is there any policy change in that, in — in the sense that the U.S. doesn’t — isn’t really part of the ICC, obviously?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I totally understand. We’re just going to not — not discuss any specifics. I just laid out the — the United States’ role over the past 15, 16 months, as it relates to investigations, the multiple different entities that are — are looking into this, the unjust war that Russia has started in Ukraine. And I’m just not going to get into what has been common when it comes to ICC specifically.
Q Okay. And then — and then one, if I could, on the heat or climate change.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q A bit of a 40,000-foot question. So — you know, the President has got so much focus on climate change. He talks about it all the time and the IRA and so on. Is he — how does he assess the broader acceptance of U.S. society to getting on — getting on with all of the changes to daily life that a lot of the experts who talk about the climate crisis say should be happening — you know, things that really get into your — you know, every individual’s life?
Because compared to Europe — for example, in Europe, there’s a lot more, say, grassroots-type of participation in, you know, recycling and energy-saving and driving little tiny cars and being told to bicycle instead of driving and being told to take a train instead of a plane. I mean, this is — I have a reliable source tells me that, in France, when you go on — at a holiday camp, there was a sign saying you couldn’t have showers for more than two minutes. I just don’t know if that would work here.
Does the President feel that the American society is on board with that level of a push that — that some parts of the world are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s what I’ll say. And I’ll say what the President believes and how he’s taken this climate change crisis very seriously.
Since he walked in day one in this administration, as I’ve laid out many times before, he’s done more to move forward on dealing with crimi- — climate crisis than any other president. He’s been — he’s had an ambitious policy.
You just mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act, which is the — the most investment that we have seen from any president as it deals with a piece of legislation that is now law to deal with a real issue — a real issue.
And let’s not forget, he rejoined the Paris Agreement. He rallied more than 100 countries to join the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions.
So, he’s been a leader, as well, globally, on this issue, and he’s going to continue to do that. I mean, we — he just talked about, as you mentioned, the extreme heat and how climate is very real — climate change is very real and how we have to take serious steps to continue to deal with this issue. Look what’s going on across the country.
And so, you know, it is an issue that he takes very seriously. It is an issue that we see, if you look at polling, that Americans are — are taking very seriously, especially young people.
And so, look, the President is going to continue to be a leader. I can’t speak to every American here, but I can speak to what the President is going to continue to do. You talked about small cars, right? When you think about electric vehicles and what the President is going to be able to do with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and also the Inflation Reduction Act on electric vehicles across the country, making sure that it’s available to people at a discounted rate — right? — making sure that it’s — it is the wave of the future. And so, he’s making investments there.
So, this is an important issue. We see climate change, especially this summer, as it relates to extreme weather, and so we’re going to continue to move forward in dealing with climate change here.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just to follow up on Sebastian’s question: So, you know, today’s measures were aimed at explicitly helping Americans to adapt to extreme heat and mitigate the harm it causes. Should — I guess another way to ask is: Should Americans expect this to be the new normal in terms of —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, I’m not an expert in climate change, so I can’t speak to it — what — what — what it’s going to look like. But we know — we know climate change exists, right? We know that there is a real problem here. And we know the President understands that we have to be ambitious and ambitious with our policies as we move forward as a country and globally. I just listed out how the President has been a leader globally on this issue.
So, look, it’s — climate change is a problem. It’s here. How bad it’s going to get, that is for experts to speak to. But we know — we know that we have to do everything that we can. The President wants to be aggressive here in dealing with this issue.
Yes, he announced some thr- — really three important ways to deal with the extreme heat that we’re seeing this summer, because he understands that Americans are suffering. Americans are dealing with this issue — millions — tens of millions of Americans across the country.
So, as president, he put forth four real key ways to — for — for us to deal with that on the federal level. But, of course, Inflation Reduction Act is going to bring resources forward to make sure that we also deal with this issue. How do we move forward as climate change is — is taking over every part of our lives almost?
Q And then, just quickly: Is there any update on the summit with Japan and South Korea?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any updates for you at this time.
Q Just a question about Niger. The U.S. embassy has received reports about the borders and airports currently being closed, and commercial flights to and from Niamey have apparently been suspended until August 5th. One, has the White House confirmed this? And two, does this hamper future rescue or evacuation efforts in the short term?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, just a couple of things on that. We understand what happened earlier today. The Nigerien Foreign Minister stated that he was the interim head of government, the President Bazoum was still the legitimate president, and that negotiations were still ongoing. And so that’s important to note.
The situation remains fluid. It is too soon to characterize the nature of ongoing developments. We are monitoring the situation closely and are in communication with the U.S. embassy there. We strongly support the democratically elected president. And we condemn, in the strongest terms, any effort to seize power by force and disrupt the constitutional order. We call for the immediate release of — of — of the President and respect for the rule of law and public safety.
And so, we echo the strong condemnation of yesterday’s action by Economic Community of West African States and other regional and international organization. We are monitoring the situation closely, and we are in communication with the U.S. embassy.
And so, as — as I just mentioned earlier, we have put out a alert to the U.S. via the U.S. embassy. They released a security alert on all Americans who are there and how they should move forward. And so, we’ll continue to keep — keep a close eye on what’s going on there.
Q And one more question. How does this administration reassure Americans who worry about the health of leaders in Congress and here at the White House because of their advanced age?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to speak to leaders in Congress about age or about anything like that. That is for them to speak to.
Q And here at the White House.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what is your question exactly?
Q I was just wondering how can the administration reassure Americans who are worrying about these leaders, like you said, in Congress and here at the White House.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, is your question about Congress or is your question about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — the leaders here?
Well, I’m not going to speak to leaders in Congress.
Q Here at the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What about your — what about your — your leader — the leader (inaudible)?
Q I’m just asking, is there a way that this administration is reassuring Americans who have these concerns?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve been asked this question multiple times. And you have a president who — I just went through his Unity Agenda — what we’ve been able to do in a bipartisan way as it relates to issues that really matter to the American people — right? — the Cancer Moonshot, which is actually going to make a difference with people and family — fam- — Americans who have family members dealing with cancer.
That is something that this President has been able to do.
You look at the record that he’s been able to lay out, when you think about the economic — when we think about the ec- — the economy right now, the GDP. We just laid out the good news from the GDP and how the economy is growing.
This is a president who has done historic amount of — of policies, of changes in this administration that has mattered to the American people. And so that’s what the President is going to continue to — continue to focus on.
You know, since 2019, the age — the age comment has been out there. And what has this President done? He beat — he beat Republicans in 2020; he beat Republicans in 2022, leading with the message that American people actually cared about. When you think about lowering costs, when you think about getting the economy back on its feet, that’s something that this President has been able to do.
And so, if you look at the work that he’s done, if you look at the historic amount of — you know, of changes, as he’s been able to make: 13.5 million jobs created under this President, unemployment under 4 percent, wages are up, inflation is — is moderating.
That’s what we care about: what — if we are continuing to deliver for the American people in a way that truly, truly matters.
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thank you, Karine. It’s been almost two years since the administration launched that rulemaking process to develop a federal standard for heat. And — and this week, you said that the work is ongoing to develop that national standard. So, can you give us an update on where that stands and — and what’s taking so long?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we knew that the federal law would require OSHA to go through a few steps — additional steps — right? — in order to make regulatory changes, including a required small-business review and consultation process that the agency is in process of — right now of completing.
And so that’s why the Department of Labor kicked this in — this process so early in the administration, because we knew it was going to take some time. And so, they have been working urgently to get this done.
But I want to be clear: The department — this is Department of Labor — has been taking action to protect workers this entire time under existing law, because there is an existing law. That’s how we were able to do the heat alert, under existing law. And so, the President also recognizing protecting workers is important — from heat. And that can’t wait. That cannot wait.
And so — so we asked the Department of Labor to do this heat alert, which is going to have an — which is going to matter and make sure we protect those very workers. But it’s going to take some time on the new standard that you just asked me. That’s why, again, the Department of Labor did it so early. And so, they’re working very diligent- — diligently to get this done.
Q So, no timeline on how much time?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a timeline. But — but, again, it’s — we understood that OSHA was — there’s going to be some additional step to get there, and it’s going to take some time, especially getting small businesses to — you know, in changing regulations.
And so, again, the Department of Labor is on top of this. But we want it to take a step — in-between step — as we’re waiting for that process, and that’s why this heat alert is so incredibly important.
Q Got it. And secondly, you’ve said before that, as it relates to two-by-twos, it’s a conversation that’s had between the U.S. and the second country. It’s not a unilateral decision.
Today, Prime Minister Meloni is coming to the sticks. She’s having a press conference at the Italian embassy. So, it appears that it’s the U.S. that does not want to have a joint press conference. Is that true? And if it’s not, why aren’t you having one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would not say that is true. I was not part of the deliberation on this with the — with our National Security Council. It is a conversation, as you stated at the top, that happens between two countries. I have not asked the National Security Council on this and how that — those conversations went, but usually it is both countries that agree on how to move forward.
You would have to really speak to — speak to the Prime Minister and how they’re — on how they’re proceeding and doing what they’re doing today.
Q So, I’m sorry, just to be clear, as press secretary, you’re not part of the conversation about —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The diplo- — diplomatic conversation —
Q — joint press conferences?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Diplomatic conversation with another country? That goes through the NSC.
Q Okay, thank you.
Q Karine, Senator Tester said today that he expects a Ukraine supplemental request to come from the White House by the end of the month. There’s not a lot of days left in the month. So I’m wondering if that timeline is accurate and if you have more specific timing or any sense of size and scope of that request.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I’ve heard — I’ve heard this. I — we don’t have anything to share at this time on any supplemental request.
Q Kim Jong Un today met with Russia’s defense minister; it was one of his first meetings with a foreign dignitary since the pandemic. He showed off some of his ballistic missiles that violate international law. I’m wondering what — if you have any reaction to this meeting and if it has raised concerns, whether about Russia or North Korea.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any comments about — about their meeting. We — I’ve always said that we leave the two countries to speak for themselves about those — any conversations that they have.
We’ve been very clear about the — about North Korea and their — and their ballistic missiles. We’ve always been very clear about that. The lines — we are ready to have conversations with them — with Russia. We’ve been very clear about their — their aggressive war on Ukraine. And we certainly have been very clear about that.
And you’ve seen that in the Alliance — the NATO Alliance being stronger than it’s ever been before. You’ve seen this leadership of this President globally. You’ve seen how he’s brought in our partners, not just our allies, in making sure that we stand behind Ukraine as they’re fighting this unjust war. Not going to speak to that meeting.
Q And then just one closer to home. Congressman Comer and Delegate Holmes Norton have introduced legislation — bipartisan legislation, obviously — that would turn the RFK site back over to the D.C. government and allow for possible construction of a new stadium and additional, you know, building on that site. The President has waded into D.C. politics a few times over the last couple of months. So I’m wondering —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I know. You guys have reminded me of that many times.
Q (Laughs.) Yeah. I’m wondering if he is supportive of this bill.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have not talked to the President about this or the Office of Leg Affairs, so don’t have anything to share on that at this time.
Q As you know, Congress is about to go out of session for several weeks. It won’t be returning again until beginning and middle of September. What would the President like to see Congress do before it wraps up, possibly very late — late tonight or maybe tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean, more broadly — and I — I’ve stated this many times before — when it comes to bipartisanship and working with Congress in a way that we deliver for the American people, of course, that’s always the priority for the President. We’ve been able to do that. The President has signed more — I believe more than 400 bills that were bipartisan, that — and many of them have been historic that have helped the American people.
I don’t have a list of bills in the last, I don’t know, less than 24 hours before Congress — Congress goes off to — to — to a recess.
But, you know, our focus is always going to be — always going to be on what we can do to make the lives of Americans better, give them a little bit more breathing room, making sure that no one gets left behind. And that shows — that shows in what we’ve been doing the last two years, and we’d like to continue to do that.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. There’s a report in the New York Times that the President is considering possibility of a mutual security pact with Saudi Arabia that would involve Israel norma- — Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel. Is this something that’s under consideration? And how are human rights considerations being weighed on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, don’t have anything to share on that particular reporting that you’re — that you’re referecing — referencing.
I mean, as — as the President has said multiple times, anytime he meets with a leader, human rights is always — is always something that he is not — he doesn’t shy away from and speaks to, whether it’s a friend or someone — or any head of state. I just don’t have anything to that reporting that you’re reading out to me at this time.
Q On Italy’s visit, there is precedent for a joint press conference when they come to the White House. That’s happened under President Obama, President Trump. Is there something different here with this particular prime minister?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nope, nothing different here. Again, when we do these bilateral visits, it’s usually between — there’s a diplomatic conversation that happens with our folks here and the — and the visiting — the visiting country. And a decision is made on if there is a two-plus-two or how that country wants to move forward in communicating with the press.
I just don’t have anything. I just don’t have anything for you.
Q And to be clear, would you be able to tell us at a later date why there isn’t one? Are you saying that we need to go and ask the Italian officials why there’s no press conference?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as the — I was asked — they’re doing — they’re doing their own press conference. She’s going to the sticks. You can ask them why — why they chose that path. Not everybody — not every head of state that comes here does it that way. They just — they decide to do it differently themselves.
What I can speak to is that we do have a conversation with that visiting head of state, and a decision was made. It is not made unilateral — unilaterally. And the decision was to not go that route, and I leave it there.
Q If you could — just to follow up on that, will you circle back to us? Because I know our briefings will be limited with the President going out of town tomorrow —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — and the President traveling. If you could circle back to confirm, as you’re our conduit.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But that’s —
Q Just to be clear, if —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — if the White House offered the opportunity to the Italian Prime Minister for a two-and-two or for a press conference to take place.
And similarly, while you at — while you’re at it, if you could ask about all the other ones that have come previously, because there’s been a lot of foreign leaders who have now come to the sticks, which many of us in the room in the past have not had that experience before, certainly not on a 100-plus-degree heat index day. Right. So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I forgot about the weather. That’s a good point.
Q So, as our conduit, if you would find out —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — those answers and also what the White House — what the official policy is on those matters and why it has changed over this administration versus years past. I’ll leave that to you to circle back to us on.
But let me ask you about Vladimir Putin. And — he has now pledged to provide free grain products to at least six African nations right now, nations that were not going to be able to receive that because the Russians are blocking the Ukrainians from providing that grain to those countries.
Vladimir Putin is saying that this is a function of Western hypocrisy. Trying to get the U.S.’s response to that, how the U.S. will proceed in this situation most broadly.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just really quickly, just to reiterate on your first question: It is not done unilaterally. This is a conversation that happens — a diplomatic conversation that happens with both — both teams — right? — with the visiting country and also —
Q That’s why I just wanted to know if you could ask if we offered them the opportunity —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear- — I heard —
Q — which would mean they said no.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I heard your question.
Q And I heard you. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying that it is not done unilaterally.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — but I hear your question. And as you said, I am the conduit and happy to circle back. I haven’t said that word — (laughs) —
Q Thank you very much. On Vladimir Putin.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Vladimir Putin. So — Putin.
So, first, the — Russia’s unilateral withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, as you know, which had been instrumental in reducing world food prices as well as Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s grain shortage and transportation infrastructure, have caused, as you know, significant volatility in grain and food prices.
The Black Sea initiative had resulted in more than 32 million tons of grain being exported to world markets. Russia’s actions to take such a significant amount of food products off the world markets will exacerbate hunger in some of the hardest-hit areas of the world, including Africa.
So, while we would welcome any actual contributions to alleviate global food insecurity or, to paraphrase what U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said just now, just moments ago, and I quote, “A handful of donation to some countries cannot replace” — “it cannot replace the millions and millions of tons of grain export that helped stabilize food prices around the world.”
And I’d also add: Despite Russia’s rhetoric, they actually invest very little — very little in Africa, accounting for a mere 1 percent of the foreign direct investment that goes to — goes to the continent.
And as Secretary Blinken noted, and he said this earlier today, they also contribute about 0.02 percent of the budget of the World Food Program.
So, as far as we’re — we — we’ve considered, the onus is on Russia to show that it’s — it isn’t empty — it isn’t an empty promise, if that is exactly what they’re going to do. After all, they began the Russia-Africa Summit with significantly diminished influence as a result of their actions, as we have seen. And more than half of the countries who had attended the previous summit are not attending this one. And so, we’ll see.
Q Thank you. If I can go back to the first question of the briefing. I know you said not a lot has changed since yesterday and that it’s a personal matter, but from presidential perspective, is there any possibility that the President would end up pardoning his son?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No.
Q Well, is there (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just said no. I just answered.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. And thank you for your nice words. And thank you to the whole press team.
I’ve got two follow-ups. One on Niger, one on Russia. On Niger: Just more broadly, can you talk a little bit about the concern of the United States about instability in Niger given what a partner it is for U.S., the Europeans in the fight against extremism in the Sahel region?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it’s all unfolding right now. Just don’t want to get into hypotheticals. You’re right, Niger is an important partner. So we’re closely monitoring the situation. I just don’t want to get into hypotheticals from here. It is unfolding, and we’re just going to continue to monitor and keep a close eye.
Q And on Russia, a follow-up on the grain announcement. When you look at the six countries that Vladimir Putin chose — among them there’s Mali, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Eritrea — these are mostly — I think five of the six were ones that refused to vote against Russia in their U.N. resolution. What do you — how do you interpret that move by Vladimir Putin? Is it a sign of strength with the African continent, a sign of weakness? How —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into Mr. Putin’s head. I’m just not. I’ve just laid out what our thoughts are on this and how he’s lost standing, obviously, globally. If you even look at this summit, how a good majority of folks who were there the first time did not attend.
I’m just not going to get into characterizing why he did this, the direction that he wanted to take this. It’s just not for me to do.
Q Thanks, Karine. And thanks, Abdullah, for your help over the years.
So, my question: The House Judiciary Chairman, Jim Jordan, tweeted out a series of internal Facebook emails today showing the influence of the White House to remove some posts the administration didn’t like. It’s been about three weeks since the judge restricted access from certain agencies communicating with social media. How much is the White House now working with social media companies to removed concerned posts or things they
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So what I can say is — honestly, on this, because it’s an ongoing case, I would refer you to the Department of Justice on this and the status of this case.
As you know, we’re not going to — we’re going to be very careful here about speaking about this. So, I will just let them — let them deal with this.
Q But is the White House still communicating with social media companies?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as I’ve repeated many times from here, we have promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and — and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections.
And we have consistently made clear that we believe social media companies have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects of their platforms that they have on the American people, while making independent decisions about the content of their — of their platforms. That continues to be the case. That has not changed, on what we believe here.
But this is a — there’s a specific case ongoing, and so I would refer you to Department of Justice.
Q And — and on the GDP statement today — over the 2.4 percent growth in the GDP, it said — the President said that he’s touting real wages are higher than pre-pandemic. Real wages are up 0.4 percent in the last 30 months, and that’s less than 1 percent increase over the past two and a half years. It doesn’t really help folks buy food. So, what do you say to those people who are seeing their wages not pay for as much food and such?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just to be very clear: We are accounting for inflation when we say wages are at 1.2 percent higher and — than they were last year, which was at 0.7 percent — higher than before the pandemic. So, that — that is indeed that — something that we’re ac- — accounting for.
And so, you know, there’s a strong job market that exists. The — inflation, as you know, has been easing for the — for 12 months straight — in a row, 12 months in a row. And so, wages are — are rising and — and there’s even more low- and middle-wage workers, which is also important as we look at the data, as we look at the direction this economy is going. And that’s helping us catch up from decades of widening wages that we have seen.
Q Thank you — thank you, Karine. There are new reports about the back-channel talks, negotiations between the U.S. and Russia supposedly conducted by former U.S. officials. Are you aware of any such regular contacts? And is there any involvement on the U.S. government’s part in those negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to go into — I’m not going to get into reporting on conversations outside of — of the gov- — the government. And I’m certainly not going to get into diplomatic conversations that we may be having with Russia. That’s not something that I’m going to do from here.
Q Hey, Karine. The — the tax matter that had Hunter Biden in court in Wilmington yesterday — it had criminal information, saying that he hadn’t paid $1.2- to about $1.5 million in taxes owed. So, my question is: Number one, I know the President doesn’t talk to him, you say, about his business, but was he aware at the time that he wasn’t filing his returns in a timely fashion?
And, also, you know, did he ever advise him to pay? Because one — Hunter testified in court that one year he was sober when he didn’t file. So, did they ever discuss the tax situation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into the specifics of the case.
Q Does he think, in light of the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I — I’ve al- — I’ve answered this question over and over again. Nothing has changed from the statement that I made yesterday. Nothing is going to change from the few times that I’ve gotten this question in the briefing room. We’re not going to comment on this.
This is — this is an independent investigation that is being led by a Trump-appointed prosecutor, that is being led by, clearly, the Department of Justice — right? — the prosecutors I just mentioned. And I’m — we’re just not going to comment on this.
Q Just last one. I know (inaudible) you mentioned DOJ. Does he have any concerns that the pros- — the deal prosecutors put together fell apart and couldn’t (inaudible) judge?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re just not going to — we’re not going to comment on specifics of the case.
Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thank you, Karine. I just want to ask you, if you could, to preview tomorrow’s trip to Maine. What’s going to be accomplished, or what do you hope will be accomplished? And, also, why was Maine chosen for this event?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, he’s going to visit a manufacturing facility, which I think is important — right? — as we’re talking about bringing manufacturing back to the country and creating jobs — good — good-paying jobs.
And so, he’ll discuss how Bidenomics is revitalizing the American manufacturing and bringing investments, like I said, and jobs back to communities: big investments — investments that many communities have never seen before as it relates to jobs and as it relates to making sure that we’re making things in America again. And so, he’ll — he will announce new actions promoting domestic manufacturing of new technologies in America.
And, as you know, we’ve announced more than $1.5 billion in investments in Maine infrastructure, including $570 million for funding for high-speed Internet. And so, public investment from this President’s legislative accomplishments are helping to revitalize local legacy industries like textile.
So, that’s what he’s going to be doing tomorrow. It is going to be his first time in Maine. He — like the President said, he goes — he goes — he’s a president for everyone. And so, we’re excited to go there. He’s excited to — to be there to make this announcement — a critical, important announcement to not just the constituents of Maine, the American people of Maine, but also to the country.
Q Karine, separately, you suggested reaching out to the Italian embassy as it relates to why there is no press conference today — no joint press conference.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, that’s not what I said. Why they are — why they are proceeding to move in the direction that they are moving.
Q Okay. I — I did. I reached out to them during the briefing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, great.
Q And what they said was: We didn’t insist, knowing that you would not accept. Is that accurate, what you said?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I have no idea. I — I mean, you’re asking me to comment on something that they said. I haven’t even spoken to the team yet. So, I can’t comment on what you’re reporting right now. I have to talk to the team.
What I can say: It’s not a unilateral decision. It’s a conversation that happens with the visiting country. Don’t have anything more to share on that. As they are proceeding with the way that they want to communicate, that’s on them to speak to; that’s not on — on us to speak to.
Q Is there any —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian.
Q Is there any reason — I’m just — just to tie this up.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, sure.
Q Is there any reason why it would be rejected — that idea of a joint press conference would be rejected?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — like I said, it is a unilateral — it’s not a unilateral decision. It is a con- — conversation that we have with the other country. So, I can’t speak to specifics on that.
Go ahead, Brian.
Q Thanks, Karine. Two and a half questions. And thanks to all the colleagues and all the — the members of the staff that are leaving. I want to get all that in.
As for climate change, I just want to drill down a bit on that. In Lithuania, the President said that it is the greatest existential threat that we face and the window is closing. Since then, there’s been no meaningful legislation introduced in Congress. During the congressional break, will the President be working with his allies in Congress to up the legislation to address climate change?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Inflation Reduction Act that was a —
Q I mean other than that. Yes, I understand.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, but we can’t — we can’t pooh-pooh that. That was an incredibly important piece —
Q Not pooh-poohing.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — important piece of legislation that we are currently implementing.
Look, the Inflation Reduction Act is going to make — it’s going to make a — a real significant investment as we are talking about climate change. We have never seen that type of piece of legislation before under any administration. So, that is important. That is important. That is critical.
Of course, the President is always going to take steps to move forward as he sees crimate — the climate crisis — the climate change as a crisis, as he said from the beginning of this administration. And so, of course, we’re always going to look on ways. But he has had the most ambitious policy — not just legislation, but also policies as well.
Q Okay. Well, I — I just wondered if he was working toward — on additional legislation, but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re always looking on ways —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — and we’ve already have had a — ambitious policies to deal with climate ch- — crisis.
Q On the second one —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q — I just want to drill down a little bit on — on the Hunter Biden thing. Can — and I think this will cut to the — I don’t — not going to ask you to speak to anything other than this administration. Can you state categorically that the administration has neither sought nor received favorable treatment from the DOJ for any investigation into the President, members of the administration, his family, or former President Donald Trump?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely not. The Department of Justice is independent. The President respects the rule of law. He has been saying that since he was — before president. And that will remain the case.
Q And then, finally, just a — as far as the questions about the President’s health, I think that would be all cleared up if — once again, if we could just ask him to step out of that door into this — into this room for 45 minutes. And so, I ask you, again, to pass that along to him, to ask him to come out and see us.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I appreciate the request. Thank you for the request.
The President, as you know — you know, again, I — I appreciate the question, and I get it, and the President understands. You guys want to ask him questions and have the opportunity for him to answer your questions.
I do want to say: This is a president that has done more in the first two years — two and a half years when it comes to the economy, when it comes to really giving the American people a little bit of breathing room than any other president. All you’ve got to do is look at the data. All you got to do is look at where we are in this country.
There was a conversation for almost two years about a recession. And now you have — you have economists saying that because of the work that this president has done these past two years, we’re not heading in that way.
And so, you know, this is a president that wakes up every morning thinking about the American people and doing that job and doing the work. And you see that. You see that, again, in the historic pieces of legislation, whether it’s the bipartisan infrastructure legislation — that use — that was a joke. “Infrastructure Week” was a joke. And now we’re talking about
You know, CHIPS and Science Act — we were able to do that in a bipartisan way.
You’re going to see the President in Maine tomorrow talking about how to bring jobs back to this country, how to bring manufacturing back to this country — things that the last administration was trying to do and it was a joke. And this president is actually making it happen.
So, I’m going to just keep talking about that, keep laying that out, but —
Q We would love to see him talk about it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I get that —
Q That’s what I’m saying.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — but you — you’ll hear him talk about that tomorrow.
AIDE: Karine, we have the final question on the screen.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
AIDE: Screen. On the screen.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh.
AIDE: And then we have to wrap for the bilat.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. I don’t see anybody. Oh, there we go.
Q Hi. How are you? This is Biden’s first time coming to Maine as president. Can you share why he chose to come to M- — to Maine now and specifically to Auburn?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, goodness. I think I just answered that question. (Laughter.) So, he —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I’m —
Q It’s not his first time ever in Maine, is it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, as president.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As president. This is the first time that he’s visiting Maine as president. He’s going to — and hello. Hi, what’s your name?
Q Sorry. My name is Lana Cohen.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And you — which — which publication are you from?
Q I work for the Portland Press Herald out of Portland.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, thank you for joining us. As you just mentioned, this is the President’s first time visiting Maine as president, as Andrea, clearly — cleared for up us — cleared us — up for us. So, he’s going to be visiting a manufacturing facility to discuss how Bidenomics is revitalizing American manufacturing.
As you know, for the past couple of months, we’ve been talking about investing in America and how the President’s really key piece of his legislation — like the CHIPS and Science Act, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, and so many others — have helped create union — good, union-paying jobs. And so, this is part of that conversation that you’ll hear from the President, promoting domestic manufacturing of new technologies in America.
And we’ve announced, as you know, $1.5 billion in investments in Maine’s infrastructure, including $570 million for funding for high-speed internet.
And so, you’re going to hear directly from the President. He wants to make sure that the American people get to hear from him directly. And the people of Maine are going to be able to do that.
We’re going to have the governor of Maine, Janet Mills, who will be in attendance as well. And so, the President’s surely looking forward to visiting tomorrow — his first time as president.
Q Could — could you provide any more information about his — his visit? Is he going to be attending anything else besides that Auburn Manufacturing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’re going to have a call later today to kind of preview the visit, as we normally do the — the day before each visit. And so — and also we’ll have a — after that call, we’ll certainly release more information so we can do a little bit deeper dive on what the President is doing tomorrow.
Q Great. Thank you so much for your time.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Lana.
All right, everybody. Have a great weekend. Or we’ll see you tomorrow and have a great weekend. (Laughter.) Still one more day to go.
Q Thank you.
2:47 P.M. EDT