James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:21 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Happy Tuesday. Good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, before I turn things over to Jake, I have a couple of updates at the top, and then we’ll get this going.
So, this afternoon, President Biden will award the Medal of Honor, America’s oldest and highest recognition for valor, to Captain Larry L. Taylor, United States Army.
On June 18, 1968, then First Lieutenant Taylor led a helicopter team in Vietnam that rescued a four-man Army patrol unit which had been surrounded by nearly 100 enemy forces.
First Lieutenant Taylor and his wingmen braved intense groundfire for more than 30 minutes to provide aeri- — aerial fire support until they were nearly out of ammunition.
With the enemy still closing in on the patrol, First Lieutenant Taylor courageously decided to extract the team of American soldiers on the ground using his two-man Cobra helicopter, a feat that had never been accomplished or even attempted.
First Lieutenant Taylor landed his helicopter under heavy enemy fire and with complete disregard for his personal sta- — safety. He successfully rescued the patrol team and carried them to a safe location.
First Lieutenant Taylor’s conspicuous gallantry, his found — his profound concern for his fellow soldiers, and his actions, which went above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest tradition of military service.
In recognition of his service, he will be awarded the Medal of Honor here today at the White House this afternoon.
Now, as you all know, the President believes that education beyond high school should unlock doors to opportunity, not leave borrowers stranded with debt they cannot afford.
That’s why from day one, the Biden-Harris administration has been working to fix the broken student loan system, make college more affordable, and cancel loan debt for millions of borrowers.
In fact, to date, the Biden-Harris administration has canceled more than $117 billion in loan debt for 3.4 million borrowers.
And earlier today, the Biden-Harris administration announced that more than 4 million student loan borrowers are enrolled in the administration’s new income-driven repayment plan: the Saving on a Valuable Education — or SAVE — Plan. This includes those who were transitioned from the previous Revised Pay As You Earn — or REPAYE — Plan.
SAVE is the most affordable repayment plan ever and will save millions of borrowers money on their monthly payments.
Student borrowers can visit StudentAid.gov/SAVE to sign up today. The application takes less than 10 minutes to fill out for most.
And finally, an update on the President and the First Lady since she tested positive for COVID-19 last night. I can tell you that the First Lady is experiencing mild symptoms and will remain in Delaware for the week.
President Biden tested negative last night for COVID-19 and tested negative again today. He’s not experiencing any symptoms.
As far as the steps that he is taking: Since the President was with the First Lady yesterday, he will be masking while indoors and around people in alignment with CDC guidance. And as — as has been the practice in the past, the President will remove his mask when sufficiently distanced from others indoors and while outside as well.
The CDC guidelines recommend a combination of masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms. The President is doing all of that in con- — in close consultation with his physician.
There are currently no updates to the White House COVID-19 protocols. We continue to work closely with public health and medical professionals to monitor the virus. We’re in our strongest position yet to fight COVID-19 and the viruses responsible for majority of fall and winter hospitalizations.
As we head into the fall, we have more tools and systems available today to help communities this fall and winter season, including safe, updated vaccines that will be available mid-September; widely available at-home COVID tests; widely available effective treatments, which can reduce the risk of severe illness hospitalizations and death.
We will be encouraging, as I have said before, Americans to get their updated COVID-19 vaccine in addition to their annual flu shot and also RSV vaccines, as you all know.
With that — thank you, Jake, for your patience — Jake is going to talk about the President’s travel to India and any other foreign policy questions that you may have.
The podium is yours.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Karine. And thanks to all of you for giving me the opportunity to be here today.
And Karine mentioned my patience. I’m going to test your patience for a moment because I’d like to take a few minutes at the top just to set the scene for the President’s upcoming trip to Delhi for the G20 and to Vietnam to elevate our partnership with Vietnam.
On Thursday, the President will travel to New Delhi, India, to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit.
On Friday, President Biden will participate in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi of the Republic of India.
And on Saturday and Sunday, the President will participate in the official sessions of the G20 Summit.
As the President heads to the G20, he is committed to working with emerging market partners to deliver big things together. That’s what we believe the world will see in New Delhi this weekend.
The United States’ commitment to the G20 hasn’t wavered, and we hope this G20 Summit will show that the world’s major economies can work together even in challenging times.
So, as we head into New Delhi, our focus is going to be on delivering for developing countries; making progress on key priorities for the American people, from climate to technology; and showing our commitment to the G20 as a forum that can actually, as I said before, deliver.
And thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and India’s presidency, we hope we’ll be able to do all of those things.
We’re also looking forward to warmly welcoming the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 — the newest permanent member. We believe that the African Union’s voice will make the G20 stronger.
Let me say a few more words, stepping back, about what the United States is bringing to the table as we head into this summit.
Here at home, President Biden has worked to rebuild the American economy, as you’ve all heard him say, from the bottom up and the middle out by making smart investments in the industries of the future while tackling climate change and empowering workers. And we believe that those investments are paying off.
We think countries around the world, too, can benefit from a similar type of approach and that we can help them as well by mobilizing investment to support them in tackling the challenges that they face.
And that’s one of our main focuses heading into the G20: delivering on an agenda of fundamentally reshaping and scaling up the multilateral development banks, especially the World Bank and the IMF.
We know that these institutions are some of the most effective tools that we have for mobilizing transparent, high-quality investment into developing countries. And that’s why the United States has championed the major effort that is currently underway to evolve these institutions so that they are up to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Just last month, President Biden asked Congress for additional funds that would have the impact of increasing World Bank financing by more than $25 billion. And we’re working to make sure other partners follow our lead.
And at the G20, we have been leading an effort that we hope will see the G20 endorse this level of ambition and deliver a broader vision of multilateral development banks that are better, bigger, and more effective.
President Biden will also be calling on G20 members as leaders in the global economy to provide meaningful debt relief so that low- and middle-income countries can regain their footing after years of extreme stress.
He’ll be clear that the United States expects real progress on ongoing cases by the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Marrakech next month. And he will be clear that we need all G20 members to be constructive and at the table with no exceptions.
We’ll also be making progress on other key priorities from climate, to health, to digital technology, including commitments with respect to a more inclusive digital transformation and a responsible path and approach to AI development.
In addition, we’ll spotlight the progress that we’ve been making on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment — or what we call “PGI.” We’ll have some announcements that we’re excited about.
Now, we know that there will be continued focus on how the G20 deals with Russia’s illegal and ongoing war in Ukraine. The reality is that Russia’s illegal war has had devastating social and economic consequences, and the poorest countries on the planet are bearing the brunt of that.
As he has done before, President Biden will call for a just and durable peace, one founded in respect for international law, principles of the U.N. Charter, the precepts of territorial integrity and sovereignty. And he will continue to emphasize that the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes to redeem these principles.
Last but not least — and this is important — you’ll see the United States will make it clear that we remain committed to the G20 as a critical forum for all of the major economies of the world to come together for global problem-solving.
At a moment when the international economy is suffering from historic and overlapping shocks, it’s more important than ever that we have a workin- — working forum with the world’s largest economies to deliver meaningful outcomes.
So, in a sign of that commitment, the United States is looking forward to hosting the G20 in 2026.
Now, turning briefly to Vietnam. On September 10th, the President will travel to Vietnam to meet with the General Secretary and Vietnam’s top leadership.
Building on President Biden’s string of diplomatic successes in the Indo-Pacific just this year, this visit is a remarkable step in the strengthening of our diplomatic ties, and it reflects the leading role that Vietnam will play in our growing network of partnerships in the Indo-Pacific as we look to the future.
For decades, the U.S. and Vietnam have worked to overcome a painful shared legacy of the Vietnam War, working hand in hand to promote reconciliation, with our service members and veterans lighting the way — work that is dear to the President’s heart, particularly in light of his close friendship with Senator John McCain.
As we survey common challenges on everything from the South China Sea to critical and emerging technologies, the United States and Vietnam will chart out a vision for facing the 21st century together with an elevated and energized partnership.
And finally, Vice President Harris will be traveling — is traveling, literally, as we speak — to Jakarta, Indonesia, to attend the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit and to engage with leaders from across the Indo-Pacific from September 5th to September 7th.
Her upcoming visit will be her fourth visit to the Indo-Pacific in two years and her third visit to Southeast Asia. Vice President Harris has met with more than three dozen presidents and prime ministers from the Indo-Pacific.
And throughout her work, she has focused on strengthening alliances and partnerships, driving economic growth in the United States, and upholding international rules and norms.
At both summits, the Vice President will underscore the United States’ enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific generally and to ASEAN centrality specifically. And we look forward to having her be able to report back to the President on those trips as the President embarks on his own trip to India and Vietnam.
I told you that I was going to test your patience a bit. I think I made good on my promise. So, with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Q Given what we know about how COVID works — I understand the President is negative now, but are you planning for any contingencies in case he does test positive in the coming days or during the trip? Could he attend any of these meetings virtually? Are you thinking ahead to that?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’ll let Karine speak to COVID planning here at the White House. It’s beyond my ken.
But, of course, we have long experience now, from the early days of the administration, in managing for situations in which COVID plays a role in summits. And, you know, we’ve seen various leaders at various times participate virtually in events.
But in terms of specific contingency planning here from the White House, Karine can speak to that.
Q And just one more. On Sunday, the President said he was disappointed that President Xi was not going to be attending the G20. But then he said, “I’m going to get to see him.” What did he mean by that? Has something been scheduled here?
MR. SULLIVAN: Nothing has been scheduled. But the President has said before that he’s looking forward to picking up the conversation that he had with President Xi in Bali last year, and he fully intends to do that in the months ahead.
Q Jake, thanks so much. Can you — just following up on that point — give us a sense of the timing? Do you think that that conversation might take place in the coming weeks, in the coming months?
MR. SULLIVAN: I can’t give you a sense of timing today.
Q Okay. On North Korea, very quickly. There are obviously reports that Kim Jong Un could be poised to visit Russia. This comes as the White House has recently said arms negotiations between North Korea and Russia were, quote, “actively advancing.” What is the latest assessment of the state of play between those two countries?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, “actively advancing” captures it well. Our current analysis is that discussions between North Korea and Russia, with respect to North Korea providing military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine — that those discussions are actively advancing.
Most recently, we saw the defense minister of Rus- — Russia, Sergei Shoigu, make a trip to Pyongyang, in essence to ask for weapons.
And we also have information, as we have indicated publicly, that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has some expectation that those discussions will continue as we go forward — including leader-level discussions, perhaps even in-person leader-level discussions.
Now, I can’t get into all the details of what we know. But at the broad parameters, that is what we are seeing: ongoing discussions and discussions where we have information that the leadership of North Korea sees this as potentially leading to leader-level engagement.
And I would just add that we have been discussing publicly the possibility of North Korea supplying weapons to Russia for quite some time. And the reason why that there — there is such an intense effort on the part of Moscow to generate this kind of support from North Korea is that we have continued to squeeze North K- — Russia’s defense industrial base, and they are now going about looking to whatever source they can find for things like artillery ammunition.
That’s what we see going on now. And we will continue to call it out.
And we will continue to call on North Korea to abide by its public commitments not to supply weapons to Russia that will end up killing Ukrainians.
Q And any indication they’re listening to those very public warnings that you’ve been issuing?
MR. SULLIVAN: Over time, we have not seen them actively supply large amounts of munitions or other military capacity to Russia for the war in Ukraine. I cannot predict to you what will happen at the end of this.
I can only say that the discussions have been actively advancing and the Russians have imbued them with an increased intensity, as reflected in the fact that their defense minister — their number-one guy in their defense establishment — actually got on a plane and flew to Pyongyang to try to push this forward.
Q Jake, just — I wanted to talk to you about G20 for a second. But — but just to follow up on North Korea, could we get a little bit more analysis of how you think this is benefiting the North Koreans or what they want out of this?
Do you think that part of this has to do with them getting less than they — they want from their traditional patron in Beijing? Do you think that the U.S. has any leverage, in terms of what it can do here — in terms of either providing food aid to the North Koreans or ratcheting up sanctions?
Where’s the — the room for movement there?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I can’t speculate on North Korea’s motives.
What I can say is this: Providing weapons to Russia for use on the battlefield to attack grain silos and the heating infrastructure of major cities as we head into winter to try to conquer territory that belongs to another sovereign nation — this is not going to reflect well on North Korea, and they will pay a price for this in the international community.
We have also imposed sanctions — specific, targeted sanctions to try to disrupt any effort to use North Korea as a conduit or as a source for weapons going to Russia. We did so as recently as mid-August. And we have continued to convey privately as well as publicly to the North Koreans — and asked allies and partners to do the same — our view that they should abide by their publicly stated commitments that they’re not going to provide these weapons.
What has changed in their calculus is not something that I can speak to. That’s in the mind of Kim Jong Un. And he obviously will be the ultimate decisionmaker.
But we will continue to look for opportunities to dissuade the North Koreans from taking this step, to get others to do the same, and to report to the world what we are seeing in terms of the actively advancing discussions that are taking place between these two countries.
Q And then, on G20, just cognizant of the fact that the State Department has blistering human rights reports out on both of the countries that Biden is going to — India and Vietnam — including passages about their restrictions on freedom of expression for the media, threats of violence, arrests, this sort of thing — is that something that the U.S. journalists who are traveling with Biden should expect? And are you taking any actions to ensure their safety ahead of that trip?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, the ability of the American press traveling with President Biden to be able to go to the G20 and cover the G20 in an unencumbered way is something that has been a serious priority for this White House, for me personally, as recently as just this morning. And we are putting our money where our mouth is in terms of making sure that American press will have all of the access that they need and are entitled to as members of the international press, as members of the White House press.
Secondly, President Biden himself has spoken to questions related to democracy and human rights as recently as the state visit earlier this year. The United States, our position on these issues is clear. It is reflected in the statements of our president. It is, of course, reflected in the reports that you’re referring to.
And when it comes to the trip to Vietnam, we believe that we have a powerful opportunity to advance our partnership in a way that will deliver for the American people and will deliver broader security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. But we also always raise issues related to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and other basic human rights that are at the core of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This trip will be no exception to that.
Q Thanks, Jake. What does it say about the state of Russian supply lines that they’re asking, of all people, the North Koreans for help? And is North Korea able to provide artillery and things you were talking about at a volume that can have any kind of meaningful impact on the conflict?
MR. SULLIVAN: We have asked our intelligence community that second question. It is a good question. Our visibility into both the question of quantity of stocks and then, of course, quality of stocks is somewhat constrained. But it’s something that we will continue to look at carefully.
I think there is an open question about how much materiel and what the quality of the materiel is that could be provided if it were to be provided.
And then I think it says a lot that Russia is having to turn to a country like North Korea to seek to bolster its defense capacity in a war that had expended — expected would be over in a week; that in September of 2023, it is going to North Korea to get munitions to try to continue to grind out on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Q And if I could —
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Q — real quick, on the G20. My colleague asked the China question. But is the President scheduled to meet with Mohammed bin Salman or Erdoğan or any of these other leaders that we might be interested in while he’s there?
MR. SULLIVAN: (Laughs.) I don’t know who — I laugh because I don’t know who fits on the list of who you might be interested in.
Q We’re interested in everyone, but those are the two. (Laughter.)
MR. SULLIVAN: It’s like there are two categories: the ones you’re not interested in and the ones you are interested in.
Q We’re interested in all of them. I’m the State Department nerd. I’m interested in all of them.
MR. SULLIVAN: Okay.
Q However, those two specifically.
MR. SULLIVAN: All right. We don’t have bilaterals scheduled with either of those two leaders at this time. I’m not going to speak to how the schedule will shape up over the course of the coming days.
And as you know, there is a certain dynamic element to this, which is all of these leaders in a very confined space with time on the margins. So, some of the bilateral engagements, as you saw last year in Indonesia, will likely be announced at the last minute. And we will do our darndest to make sure that they are done in a way where the U.S. press has the ability to participate in them.
Q Thank you. The Bali Communiqué said that most members of the G20 condemned the war in Ukraine. What progress has been made in the last 10 months to get India and China on board with that position?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, India signed on to the statement — most members. It was, as I recall, Russia who was the main objector to the proposition that so many of the other members of the G20 signed on to.
I don’t expect that Russia is going to flip its position on the Ukraine war this year.
So, to get absolute consensus on a statement on Ukraine is challenging because you’ve got Russia seated at the table, albeit not at the leader level because Putin isn’t going to be there.
But the fact that most members of the G20 — as most members of the U.N. General Assembly — continue to hold the position that Russia’s war was illegal, in violation of the U.N. Charter, and that this war must end on terms consistent with the U.N. Charter — that is the result of months of hard diplomacy by the United States and our partners, and it continues to reflect where international sentiment is on this issue.
Q And what assurances has the administration received from Congress that the U.S. will be able to continue funding Ukraine’s defenses going forward?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we are working closely with the Congress, as you know, right now, on a supplemental funding package that the President has submitted seeking funding through the end of the year.
We’ve been working with both the Senate and the House. We’ve had constructive conversations on a bipartisan basis in both chambers. We believe we will be able to secure the necessary funding as we go forward.
I’m not going to speak to assurances per se, but the conversations have been constructive, they’ve been positive, they’ve been substantive. And — and we anticipate being able to work our way through to a sound package so that Ukraine can get what it needs.
Q Thanks, Jake. On World Bank reforms. On the one hand, you’ve talked about it not being about a specific country, that it’s not about China. On another hand, though, you have said that you need an alternative to the, quote, “coercive and unsustainable lending through the Belt and Road Initiative.”
So, I — I mean, how can it be about China and not be about China at the same time?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, we believe that there should be high-standard, noncoercive lending options available to low- and middle-income countries. That’s a fact.
It’s also a fact that World Bank reform is not about China, in no small part because China is a shareholder in the World Bank. So, growing the size, relevance, capacity of the World Bank to deliver for low- and middle-income countries is not against China. It’s for the entire international community, all of the shareholders of the World Bank — China being one of them.
And we believe that just as the United States would benefit from a more stable, more capable set of low- and middle-income countries being able to deal with their own problems with help from the World Bank and the IMF, China would benefit from that too.
Q But there is — there is at least a part of it that is focused on China — on those coercive practices, on those reforms?
MR. SULLIVAN: This is an affirmative agenda. It is an agenda about providing high standards — transparent, sustainable, resilient funding streams to countries that cut through the red tape and give not just the poorest countries in the world, but middle-income countries who are dealing with the stresses of climate and COVID and migration and — and the war in Ukraine access to capital that they can actually take advantage of and put to work.
That’s not against anybody. That is not a negative agenda. That is an affirmative agenda, a positive agenda, and one that’s been embraced not just by the United States, not just by our closest allies, but by a very wide range and diverse set of countries. And we believe it will be embraced by the G20 as a whole when we go to New Delhi.
Q And if I may, just finally, you mentioned China being the third-largest shareholder. How does it impact that Xi Jinping won’t be at the table when you’re asking for various reforms? Does it — does it change the pitch at all or how does — how does that — how does that change with them not being there?
MR. SULLIVAN: It won’t change our pitch. And — and, you know, our pitch has been consistent working into the summit. President Biden will reinforce it. China will have representatives at the table, al- — albeit not represented at the leader level. But the United States is going to put forward the same straightforward, in our view, clear-cut case for why this is so important.
And more importantly, we’ll also put on the table the fact that we are asking the Congress for financing to be able to make sure that the United States is not just talking the talk, but we’re actually walking the walk.
Q Thank you, Jake. Two on the Saudi announcement today, and then one on China. On the Saudi announcement to extend the supply of oil curbs, can you talk to us about what that means to you geopolitically, how serious it is for the global oil market? We saw crude go above $90 a barrel today.
And then separately, does that up the ante for meeting with the Saudis at fora like the G20 where you want to do big things with (inaudible) as you mentioned?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the first question, I’ll leave it to others to speak to the specific oil market impacts. I would point out that what was announced today was a continuation of an existing policy, not a new set of cuts — just a continuation of those cuts for three months as opposed to for one month.
So, as far as I’m concerned, the most important thing that the President is focused on is just trying to do everything within his toolkit to be able to get lower prices for consumers at the gas pump in the United States. It’s really the price of a gallon of gas for the American consumer, not the — the question of which country is doing what, here or there, that is going to be his ultimate metric for whether we’re succeeding or not.
Secondly, as I said before, we don’t currently have bilateral meetings scheduled at the G20 to announce with any leaders. I don’t think that the announcement today is going to move us one way or another in terms of engaging with leaders at the G20.
So, you know, we’ll make our decisions on that — on the basis of a far broader set of considerations than — than any one policy.
Q Does that change the calculation at all though for communications in the future with the Saudis? I mean, does it make it more pressing to engage with them on this issue?
MR. SULLIVAN: We have, obviously, regular engagement with the Saudis at multiple levels — with their energy minister, with their leadership — and that will continue. And we will make sure that they understand where we stand, and we will come to understand where they stand as well.
And the thing that we ultimately stand for is a stable, effective supply of energy to the global markets so that we can in fact deliver relief to consumers at the pump and also that we do this in a way that is consistent with the energy transition over time.
Q Just one quick one on China —
Q In the back, Jake?
Q — as my Bloomberg colleagues reported that Huawei has reached a breakthrough with its new smartphone and shows it’s using the most advanced chips produced by Chinese chipmaker SMIC. I’m wondering how concerned you are about this development. And does it prove that the U.S. export controls are failing or that they’re violating those export controls?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m going to withhold comment on the particular chip in question until we get more information about precisely its character and composition.
And for my — from my perspective though, what it tells us, regardless, is that the United States should continue on its course of a “small yard, high fence” set of technology restrictions focused narrowly on national security concerns, not on the broader question of commercial decoupling. That is where our emphasis has been. That’s where it’s going to continue, sort of, regardless of the outcome.
But in terms of characterizing the chip in question, that’s something that we need to gain more information from before we make any definitive comments on it.
Q Jake, thank you. Do you see division between India and China affecting cooperation, especially with the climate issue in the summit, and ultimately affecting the — perhaps the results that could be achieved from the summit?
And second, if you allow me: Today, Secretary Blinken spoke to both the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President. Should we read into this as more than just a routine call and maybe a series of steps towards normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia? And will the President meet with the Crown Prince at this summit? Thank you.
MR. SULLIVAN: I think I’ve answered your last question.
With respect to Secretary Blinken’s calls, I wouldn’t describe them as “run of the mill” or “routine.” He speaks with these leaders occasionally, but not every month. But it also does not portend any imminent breakthrough or action with respect to the question of normalization.
It’s an important moment for a check-in at a high level, and Secretary Blinken is well poised to do that, given his relationships with both men and the central role that he is playing in efforts to explore whether in fact a broader normalization is possible.
But beyond that, I won’t characterize the call.
As far as the question of tensions between India and China affecting the summit: Really, that’s up to China. If China wants to come in and play the role of spoiler, of course, that option is available to them.
What I think that the chair, India, will encourage them to do, what we — the United States — and every other member — virtually every other member in the G20 will do is encourage them to come in in a constructive way on climate, on multilateral development bank reform, on debt relief, on technology, and set aside the geopolitical questions and really focus on problem-solving and delivering for the developing countries.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Jake. I have two questions. Recently, North Korea and Kim Jong Un said that it had tested tactical nuclear weapons by launching missiles. How is the U.S. analyzing this?
Second question is: Defense Minister — I mean Russia Defense Minister Shoigu said that the North Korea-Russia maritime joint military exercises are possible. How are you concerned about this?
MR. SULLIVAN: We’re staying in close consultation with both South Korea and Japan on the question of North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile capabilities. I don’t have a specific comment on their most recent characterization. They’re prone to making a lot of statements of a lot of different flavors.
We’re just studying each of their individual tests and making determinations about their capabilities accordingly. And then we’re responding to that through increasingly tight and interconnected trilateral cooperation, as most recently evidenced in the President’s summit with President Yoon and Prime Minister Kishida at Camp David.
And then, with respect to the comments by — by Shoigu on the — the military exercises: As far as I’m concerned, Russia looking to do more military exercises with North Korea, that’s their business if they should choose to do so.
I think if you look at the broader pattern of activity across the Indo-Pacific — the security cooperation; the exercises; the work together on trying to ensure a secure, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific — what the United States has done with a broad network of allies and partners, I believe, has enhanced the stability and security of that region.
And the year 2023 has been a year of substantial progress in that regard, delivered by President Biden — from our relationship with India to Southeast Asia, to Australia, to the Pacific Islands, and then, of course, to Korea and Japan.
So we’re quite hopeful about the progress we have made in enhancing our own deterrent capability, our own security and prosperity. And we’ll let other countries and the relationships they’re developing speak for themselves.
Q Thanks. Brett McGurk is in Riyadh, and so are Palestinian negotiators. Can you update us at all on Saudi-Israel-U.S. diplomacy talks? And then I have a quick follow-up.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, Brett’s trip this time is focused on a set of broader regional issues. One of the main things that has brought him there, along with Barbara Leif, the Assistant Secretary of State of Near East Affairs, and Tim Lenderking, our Special Envoy for Yemen, is to talk about the war in Yemen.
We are entering either our 17th or 18 month — 18th month of a truce — the longest period of peace in Yemen in years — which has been delivered in part through painstaking U.S. diplomacy. We not only want to keep that going, we want to deepen it and get to a permanent peace in Yemen. And that’s one of the main reasons that Brett is there.
He’ll also be meeting with the Crown Prince of Bahrain in advance of his trip here next week.
And then, of course, he will speak to the Palestinians about the whole range of issues relative to the Israeli-Palestinian file.
Normalization will be one of the topics on the agenda, but it’s not the main thrust of this trip. And like I said before, with respect to the phone call Secretary Blinken made today, we don’t expect any imminent announcements or breakthroughs in the period ahead.
Q Does the admin- — just want to follow up — does the administration support Palestinians’ public demand, though, that they’ll accept nothing less than statehood?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m not going to negotiate from the podium on the question of normalization, how the various pieces fit together.
Q Jake, it seems like every administration, when it gets into office, complains about the problems it inherits from the previous administration. But how do you defend this administration’s role with issues like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran? It seems like, in all of those cases, our relationship is worse than it was before?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, Russia decided to launch a massive land war in Ukraine. The United States has mobilized not just the West but a coalition of dozens of countries. And more than 140 countries have voted for a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning what Russia did.
If you look at the U.S. leadership in that regard, we have stopped Russia from being able to take over a sovereign state. We have ensured that Ukraine will continue as a viable, free, sovereign democracy out into the future, you know, in the support we have given to the brave and courageous Ukrainians out there on the frontlines.
I think the story of how the U.S. has stood up to Russia and galvanized the world to do so is a significant achievement of President Biden and one that we expect to continue.
With respect to China, I’m not sure I’d agree with your characterization of the previous administration. But I’m not interested in comparisons. We’re taking our own approach on this, which is to ensure that we compete intensively to put the United States in the strongest position possible while, at the same time, managing that competition so that it doesn’t tip over into conflict. We believe we are managing the competition effectively.
And from the question of what we inherited to where we are today, if you look at the U.S. economy and you look at China’s economy, if you look at the U.S.’s alliances and the strength that we have built up in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, we feel very good about the strategic position of the United States, in terms of the — the unfolding competition.
With respect to Iran, I would just point out that, under the administration before the previous guy, Iran’s nuclear program was in a box. The last guy let it out of the box. We are now trying to manage the results of that decision. And we are doing so while deterring Iran from going for a nuclear weapon. And we have thus far been able to do that. It’s something we remain vigilant about every day.
And finally, with respect to North Korea, the previous administration believed that if it simply engaged in summit-level diplomacy, it could end North Korea’s missile and nuclear program.
By the time we took office, North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs had accelerated dramatically. The most important breakthrough we had seen from them — the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile — that didn’t happen on Joe Biden’s watch; that happened before he came to office.
So, we are dealing with the inheritance not just of the last administration but multiple administrations on North Korea. And we are doing so in a way where we have drawn more closely together the U.S., Japan, and Korea in a historic summit that has strengthened our capacity to deter and defend the interests of the United States and our allies and partners going forward.
So, if you look at the overall position of the United States as it relates to those four countries, as it relates to our broader alliances and partnerships, and as it relates to the underlying sources of national strength — our manufacturing, our infrastructure, our technology — all of this, we believe, we will leave better than we found it by the time President Biden exits this office.
Q Thanks, Jake. I wanted to return to the Ukraine supplemental. And you said that you believe that you’ll be able to secure the necessary funding.
I was hoping you could talk a little bit about why you believe that and whether it’s getting harder to — to get those supplementals through Congress, and also why the administration doesn’t do more to sell the American public on the need for those requests.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, you know, on the first question, our view is that the strong bipartisan support for Ukraine in the Congress — in both the House and the Senate — has been on evidence, has been on display, not just in the past votes for Ukraine funding but in the current public statements of critical members of both parties in really important positions in the Senate, as well as key chairs of committees in the House.
And so, we believe that there is still — while there are some dissonant voices — a strong core, on a bipartisan basis, of support for ensuring that we continue to provide Ukraine with the support that it needs because it’s fundamentally in America’s national interest to do so.
And with the question of — quote, unquote — “selling it,” the President has made clear repeatedly since this conflict began what the stakes are for the American people: that letting Russia run roughshod over Ukraine would put Europe at risk.
And we know what happens when a marauding, aggressive, hostile power places the continent of Europe at military risk. It comes at much greater cost, not just in American treasure but in American lives later. And so, let’s make the investments now to ensure we uphold the fundamental rules of the international order.
The President has made that case repeatedly. We believe, if you actually look at where public attitudes are, that they have been surprisingly resilient, despite the constant assertion that they’re — the bottom is going to fall out from underneath them.
And similarly, we believe support will hold up in the Congress for us to be able to continue to provide Ukraine with the support that it needs.
But we don’t take that for granted. That’s something we need to go work at every day — consult with members, ensure we’re answering their questions, ensure accountability for every dollar that’s spent, ensure that our allies and partners are stepping up and doing the burden-sharing so that they’re carrying their fair share of the load. We’re doing all of those things, too.
And I think in a dynamic discussion with the Congress, we believe that we can secure a good funding package when all is said and done.
Q And you feel like support is still steady, rather than eroding, in terms of monetary support for Ukraine?
MR SULLIVAN: What I will say is: We believe that there is still a strong base of bipartisan support in the Congress to pass a material package that Ukraine needs to be able to not just sustain its gains on the battlefield but also to ensure that those gains can be consolidated and not rolled back as we go forward.
Q Thanks, Jake. A member of your team said in recent days that the administration is actively negotiating with the Maduro regime in Venezuela about exchanging sanctions relief for concrete steps toward democratic elections. Do you believe that Maduro has any actual interest in democratic elections?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I’m not going to speak to promises, pledges, hopes for the future. The administration’s position has been clear and consistent for a long time: We’re prepared to engage in discussions about specific sanctions relief in return for concrete steps that lead us towards a free and fair election.
So, our measurement is not about promises. It’s not about what we get on the come; it is about getting clear, concrete benchmarks and steps along the way.
And I’m not going to characterize any current diplomatic discussions in that regard, just to state that that is our North Star. We’re going to judge by actions, not by words. And that’s how we approach our sanctions relief policy — not just with respect to Venezuela, but other countries as well.
Q And just on Haiti, quickly. With the — with the General Assembly coming up at the U.N., what kind of priori- — priority of it — is it — pardon me — for the administration to pass a resolution through the Security Council that would operationalize a multilateral force in Haiti?
And what kind of force do you want to see? Do you want it to have the ability to actually go out front, into the streets of Haiti and actually secure, you know, key — key ports and bridges, et cetera?
MR. SULLIVAN: What we’re looking to do is to support a multinational force that is fundamentally a policing support mission, not a military mission, and one that is in support of the Haitian National Police, not taking over the sovereign policing capacities from the Haitian National Police.
In terms of the precise operational elements of that — how they will operate physically in Port-au-Prince and other parts of Haiti — I’m going to defer that question, because the experts are engaging to work out what an operational plan would look like.
In terms of New York, it is certainly our priority to get the necessary backing that we feel we need to build for a multinational force and to get the resources necessary. And we’ve said that we’re willing to put forward a substantial investment to do that, and we’re asking other countries to do the same.
Last question. Yeah.
Q Given that you said bolstering the World Bank is not about countering China — in this country, credit card delinquencies have spiked, mortgage rates are through the roof, inflation remains a problem. Meanwhile, the federal deficit this year has almost tripled, and the President wants to increase funding to foreign nations through the World Bank. How is that fair to a citizen in, say, Scranton?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, I think citizens in Scranton recognize that problems that happen overseas don’t stay overseas. They come here, too, at great cost to working people.
COVID came here from overseas. When there’s massive debt or instability or conflict elsewhere, it has a drag on the global economy, and America is part of the global economy.
So, our perspective is that for a modest investment, from the point of view of the overall size of the U.S. budget, to put into ensuring greater stability, greater prosperity, greater capacity in the rest of the world, that is going to end up reducing the costs and burdens on working people in Scranton or Minneapolis or any of all — your all’s hometowns.
And, frankly, that’s not some novel idea. That has been a bipartisan commitment of the United States for decades. And even the last administration — the biggest skeptic of all of this — made investments in foreign aid because those investments are in the naked self-interest of the United States, as well as being the right thing to do.
Thank you, guys.
Q Thanks, Jake.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Jake.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Jake.
I just have two things, and then we’ll — we have a few minutes to take a couple more questions.
The first one — I actually don’t see her in here. It’s April Ryan’s birthday. I thought she was going to be here. She’s not here. Happy 21st birthday, April. (Laughter.)
And then the second thing is: I want to say — I want to say congratulations here to Kristen Welker on her last day. We were talking earlier, and you said you have covered the White House for about a decade. So, which makes you — what? — I don’t know — 30 years old?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thirty.
Q Just 30. (Laughs.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s great.
So, with — in all seriousness, we will miss you. And — and we are incredibly thrilled and excited for you and your new adventure in a — in a — in a different Washington institution, if you will. And so, we will be watching. Please keep in touch. And, of course — of course, book our people —
Q I will.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — as you know.
But seriously, in all — seriously, per- — this is a — just for me, personally, it is a — it is — it has been a joy working with you. And I am so thrilled to have you — to see you in this new rol- — in this new role that is going to, I think — you know, little girls and boys are going to watch you and hopefully be inspired by everything that you do every — every Sunday — so — as they have been these past 10 years.
Q Thank you, Karine. Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, thank you.
Q It’s been an incredible honor to cover this administration, the White House for the past decade. So, thank you for that. I really appreciate it. And thank you to all my incredible colleagues.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, Kristen. Go forward.
Q Can we ask a question now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead, Colleen.
Q Okay —
Q It’s my birthday, too. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, my gosh. Janne, happy birthday.
Q It’s my birthday, too.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, all right. All right, Mr. Shear. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful day.
Q All right. Thank you.
Q Yeah, I know (inaudible) same birthday.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) Go ahead, Colleen.
Q Not to talk about news, everybody, but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) It is news!
Q Okay. The — the COVID protocols —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q — for the President. Is he going to test every day before he gets on the plane? Does he have to mask when he’s in India? I think there are not — I think the protocols for the G20 are that there really aren’t any. So, I wondered, sort of, what’s going to happen going forward with the President while we’re watching.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, what I can tell you is that the President certainly is going to test on a regular cadence determined by his physician. Of course, all travelers — all travelers, including the President — will test before traveling to India. So, that is certainly something that the President will do.
As I mentioned, the CDC — he is following CDC guidelines. The CDC does not recommend testing every day after close contact. That is their recommendation. Again, we are going to follow the CDC guidelines.
They recommend a combination of things, as I mentioned at the top, which is masking, testing, and monitoring for symptoms. He has no symptoms. So — and so, we’re going to continue to follow those guidelines, have those — he’s going to have those clo- — close consultation with his suv- — his physician. And that’s all I can share at this time.
Q Can you be more specific on what a regular cadence means?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Regular cadence is up to — really, in consultation with his physician.
I can tell you right now, as I said, all travelers are certainly going to test — right? — before they head out to India, and that’s including the President. So, that is something that’s happening in — what? — I don’t know. We’re leaving on Thursday. So, there you go.
Q Just a couple more logistical —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — COVID questions. Are these PCR tests that the President is getting?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is something that the — the physician decides on. I just don’t have that information.
Q And just reiterate again to us: What is the current COVID protocol for anyone meeting with the President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Like senior staff, those who meet with him every day, brief him, are you all still tested?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, anytime we’re around any of the principles, we do test. That has been — that has been the way we have moved forward for the past almost two years here. So, that has not changed.
No other — no White House protocol is going to be changing, as I said at the top. But when we do have a close engagement with the President — the senior staff — and, as you all know — or anyone — we do have — we do test.
Q And just a broader COVID question. We recently did an interview with Dr. Deborah Birx, and she said that American leaders are living in a fantasy world amid this latest COVID surge. She said that next month’s vaccine booster is coming way too late.
What’s your response to that assessment, which she shares with — with some other experts as well? I mean, are you confident that you are as prepared as you can be and that this booster is going to — to work?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, we know that we have made historic progress in this nation in this ability to manage COVID — right? — in a way that’s no longer meaningful in disrupting our daily lives. Right? And that is because of the work that this President has done, of the work that this admin- — administration has done.
And we actually believe we are in a better place than we have ever been to deal with COVID. And that’s because we have tools in our toolbelt. Right? We have safe — we’re going to have those midterm — midterm, sorry — mid-September vaccines, which is going to be incredibly important.
We’re going to — we have these home at tests — home — at-home tests, which is absolutely important. We have these treatments that we know are effective so that we can reduce severe illness, we can reduce hospitalization, and we can reduce death.
So, look, we — we listen to the experts, the scientists. That’s what we do here. And — and we’re going to be continuously working with them, certainly in coordination.
CDC and FDA announced these midterm — “midterm” — why do I keep saying that? — (laughter) — these mid-September — yowzer — these mid-September —
Q Hatch Act. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) It passed. It passed. So, I’m safe.
Anyway — so, these mid-September vaccines, which are going to be incredibly, we believe, important. If it’s also d- — let’s not forget — the flu vaccine and also the RSV vaccine, all of those things are important. And this is something that the President had made sure that we are — that is available.
We feel, again, we are in a very good position to deal with COVID-19 in the fall. And — and we’re tak- — and we’re going to continue to listen to the experts as we move forward.
Q And just one more. Jake noted, you know, obviously, you have some experience on attending summits virtually if need be. But when you look ahead to what the next week looks like and could look like, are you actually thinking logistically through this should the President — you know, were he to test positive halfway there —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’m —
Q — or, you know, halfway through the summit?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m certainly — I’m just not going to get ahead of that. What I can say right now is that we do not have any changes to — any updates or changes to his travel. The President tested negative yesterday. He tested negative this morning. And he has no symptoms. He’s feeling good.
You’re all — you all are going to see him in about an hour and see for yourselves. Of course, he’s going to be very cautious. And we’re — he’s going to wear a mask, as — as the CDC guidelines suggest — or request.
And so, you know, that — that’s — that’s how we’re going to move forward. We just don’t have any updates and changes. I’m just going to just repeat what my colleague Jake said, is that, of course, we know how to move forward in these situations.
But, again, you know, we feel — we don’t have any updates in — in any schedule. And the President is feeling fine, and we’re going to move forward.
Q Just — on COVID, just a follow on that. Is there — (laughs) — is there — the President did have a bit of a cough yesterday during his speech, and I’m just wondering if he had any other symptoms or if there is any concern about — around that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no other — no symptoms at all that I can — that’s related — that would be related to — to this — to this current — current conversation that we’re having.
Q Okay. And then you — you mentioned the mid-September vaccines, and I’m just wondering, because there is this spike of — of, kind of, incidents that are happening: Is there any concern that that is coming just a little bit too late in terms of the immunization that is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look —
Q — in the population now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, totally understand the question. That is — you know, the experts feel that — and, again, we listen to the experts — CDC, FDA. They got to go through their process in getting these vaccines done and ready to go. That’s going to be mid-September. We’re — what? — September — I don’t know — 5th? What is it?
Q It’s 5th, yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? Right? So, we’re not far from that — from mid-September. And we’re going to do our job, as we do every time, when it comes to new vaccine or anything — any of the tools that are out there. We’re going to make sure that we encourage — we encourage Americans to get those vaccines.
We know — we know that these vaccines work. Right? We know when people stay up to date with their vaccine, that works. And so, that’s where I’ll certainly leave that.
But look, we have seen — we’ve experienced increases in COVID-19 during the last three summers, so it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an uptick in this long period, right? It’s been a long period of decline — declining rates. So, this is not surprising.
But again, we’re going to make sure that when these mid- — mid-September vaccines are available, that we’re certainly going to let folks know and give them the information that they need and also remind them to take your flu — flu vaccine and also RSV shots. All three are going to be key and critical as we get into the — and get into the fall.
Go ahead, Joey.
Q Yeah, if President Biden does test positive for COVID in the coming days, we can assume he’s not going to travel to India, right?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals. I’m really not. There’s no updates to his — to his schedule. That’s where we are right now. He tested negative last night. He tested negative today. That’s what matters. He’s not having any symptoms.
I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals.
Q All right. Thanks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Karen.
Q Just a quick follow, and then I want to do another topic, if I can.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, for sure.
Q So, when should we expect the next test update from you? You said the CDC is saying not every day, but he’s doing it based on doctor’s recommendations. Would he get tested tomorrow and then again on Thursday before leaving?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is something — this regular cadence is going to be up to his physician — a close consultation with his physician.
As I just mentioned, all travelers, including the President, is going to get tested before we go to India. We leave — leave for India on Thursday. Today is Tuesday.
I don’t have anything else further to share. We just shared with you that he tested yes- — tested, clearly, last night and today. That is — that is up to the physician.
We are going to continue to follow — the Pr- — as — as well as the President — CDC guidance.
Q On the UAW possible strike. The President said yesterday — when he was asked if he was worried about it, he said, “No, I’m not worried about a strike until it happens. I don’t think it’s going to happen.” The head of the UAW said, “He must know something we don’t know.”
Why is the President confident a strike will not happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, as you know, Karen, as someone who’s followed this president very closely for some time now, he — he’s optimistic. He’s an optimistic person. And he’s going to continue to remain opsimis- — optimistic as these negotiations continue, and that it will result in a win-win.
And mem- — remember, this is a president that believes in collective bargaining. He believes on both sides coming to the table. And that with the — you know, with the UAW being at the heart of an electric vehicle future made in America with good-paying union jobs, we believe this is a win-win, right? We believe this is incredibly important.
And so, we believe, as well, auto workers should get the wages and benefits they deserve. This is a president that has been very consistent and — and has been — has said that over — over the last two years.
So, he’s optimistic that both sides are going to come to the table and come to an agreement, as we’ve seen with other — other situations where there was collective bargaining, where both sides came in good faith, and — and resulted in a good outcome.
And so, he’s going to remain optimistic. He believes, again, in collective bargaining. And that’s what we hope to see — that both sides continue to have that conversation.
Q And how is he being updated on the latest on the negotiations?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as I mentioned — I think I mentioned this, and you all know this; I think you’ve reported on this — Gene S- — Gene Sperling has played the lead on — on having those discussions, as well as Julie Su.
So, we’ve been having conversations. And so, he’s updated by his — by Julie Su and al- — also, White House senior staffers here, including Gene. And so, that’s how he’s staying up to date.
Go ahead. Oh, of course I should —
Q Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. (Laughs.)
Q Appreciate it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q One quick one on COVID. When the boosters are available, can we expect that the President and First Lady will get them? Will they do that publicly, as they have in the past?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I can’t speak to a schedule. But, yes, you can expect that both of them will get up- — their updated vaccines, like all Americans who are eligible should do so.
Q Okay. And then, on the potential government shutdown, I understand that the action is largely on the Hill right now. But how does the President see his role in trying to avert a government shutdown at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — and I’ve said this over and over again, and I’ll continue to say this: There is no reason — there is no reason for Congress to shut down the government. Absolutely none.
They should keep their word, and they should do their job, which is keeping the government open. And we have to. It is — it is critical. It is important.
We just heard from the National Security Advisor, right? It is important to — to fund these incredibly vital programs that American people need, and also our troops’ needs and emergency needs that — that we have.
And so, there should not be a reason to shut down the government. We believe Congress should do their job. It is their job. It is their job to get this done.
Q And has the President had any conversations about this in recent days? Can we expect him to? And will you read some of those out if he does?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — I can’t speak to any conversations that he’s had. You know, many of these conversations that the President has, we try to keep them private.
I can say, and you heard from — you’ve heard from Jake, he said that there’s been extensive conversation on the supplemental, specifically, to — to Ukraine on both the House and the Senate side and how we truly want to see this continue to be a bipartisan effort moving forward.
And just more broadly, as you’re asking me about the budget — look, you’ve heard me say that OMB Director Shalanda Young has been very much involved in these conversation, our Legisla- — Legislative Aff- — Affairs Office has been very much engaged in those conversation. And that’s going to — and that’s, certainly, going to continue because it is crucial and it is important that we fund — continue to fund these vital programs.
Q And just very quickly and finally, Karine, there’s been public reporting that he would support a short-term CR. But is that, in fact, the case — that he would sign a short-term CR if that came to his desk?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we believe that it is going to be up to them — right? — up to Congress what they decide to do, so I’ll certainly defer to them.
But look, again, the government should not shu- — be shut down. It should be funded — these vital and critical programs that American people need.
I’m not going to, you know — look, I’ll say this: It’s clear, because the fiscal year is coming to an end, that Congress will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government running. That is clear. That is where we are right now.
And — and I think I’ve said this before: OMB has provided technical assistance — I talked about this last week — to ensure there are no disruptions to impact programs the American people rely on.
As far as how long this should go or — I would have to refer to Congress on that specific thing.
Q Thank you, Karine. President Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history. Why does White House staff treat him like a baby?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No one treats the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief, like a baby.
Q So, there’s this book that says —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s ridiculous.
Q — when staff walked back —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s a ridiculous claim.
Q — what sounded like a call for regime change in Russia, the President, quote, “Rather than owning his failure, he fumed to friends about how he was treated like a toddler. Was John Kennedy ever babied like that?”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’ll say this: There’s going to be a range — always — a range of books that are — about every administration, as you know — that’s going to have a variety of claims. That is not unusual. That happens all the time. And we’re not going to litigate those here. That’s something that we’re not going to speak to.
There is one thing that I do want to — because I think I was asked this question last week by one of your colleagues, about this particular excerpt that they were referring to — and so, I’ll say this: You know, we did see the excer- — excerpt — the context of the excerpt, and it seemed to be making the opposite overall point about how the value of his experience and wisdom resulted in rallying the free world against authoritarianism, which is important — we have seen this; you all have seen this — and passage of the most historic agenda in recent history in his handling of foreign policy, like rallying the world around Ukraine, as you just heard from our Nationally Security — National Security Advisor, who laid out, in really good questions that your colleagues asked, about how the President is moving forward, about Ukraine, about kind of leading into these conversations that he’s going to be having at the G20.
Q Why do you think it is that, in a Wall Street Journal poll, two thirds of Democrats think President Biden is too old to run again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here’s what I know. Here’s what I can speak to. I can speak to that — a president who has wisdom. I can speak to a president who has experience. I can speak to a president who has done historic — has taken historic action and has delivered in historic pieces of legislation. And that’s important.
When the last guy who was in this — in the Oval Office talked about Infrastructure Week, it was a joke. And the President passed a pretty important piece of legislation, in a bipartisan way, because of his wisdom, because of his experience. And now we have a Infrastructure Decade.
And it doesn’t stop there. It’s — that’s — last week, we talked about how the President beat Big Pharma — something that elected officials and politicians have been trying to do for 33 years, and he’s been able to do that. And we introduced 10 — the first tranche — the first 10 drugs that Medicare can now negotiate on, right? And it’s going to save money for our seniors, for Americans across the country.
The — the gentleman that introduced the President, Steven, who is 71 years old, paying $16,000 a month — $16,000 a month just to stay alive because he had cancer and diabetes, and he cannot retire because he’s — because he has to pay $16,000 a month.
And because of the work that this President has done, he doesn’t have to do that anymore.
And I’ll say one last thing. I know you have a follow-up — probably about five more. But let me just say this one last thing — is that the interesting thing about this is that the President has done these historic pieces of legislation, whether it’s the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, whether it’s the American Rescue Plan, whether it’s CHIPS and Science Act, whether it’s the Infl- — Inflation Reduction Act.
There are some Republicans — right? — in the House, in the Senate that did not vote for any of these legislations that I just laid out, who go back to their state, go back to their district and take credit for something that the President did.
So, this is not unusual. They did this in 2019. They did this in 2020. And the Pres- — they did this in 2022. And the President continues to prevail.
Q Okay. Just one more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q The President said over the long weekend that he hasn’t had the occasion to go to East Palestine. “I just haven’t been able to break.” The derailment was on February 3rd. President Biden has not had a break since February 3rd?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President will go to East Palestine. He promised that he would, and he will. You saw him —
Q But was he on — so, he was not on a break when he was in Lake Tahoe?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will say this again: The President is going to go to East Palestine, as he has said that he is committed to do.
You saw him just this Saturday visit a rural area — right? — that was devastated — some parts were devastated by Hurricane Idalia. And he was there with the First Lady. They were able to hear directly from the American people. And he was able to talk about what is it that they need, what is it — what else do they need from the federal government.
So, the President is going to go to East Palestine. I don’t have a time or a — or a date to announce at this time, but he will go.
Q Thanks, Karine. Given recent events, is there any plans to alter the Vice President’s schedule and pivot her, since she’s already in Asia, to have her in place in case the President is not able to go?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just — I just don’t have any details or updates to share on travel.
Q And to follow up on my colleague’s question, my colleague’s question, and my colleague’s question —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — can you explain why you can’t share or won’t share the cadence of the President’s testing with us? It seems like a pretty —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, yeah, I —
Q — basic question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It has — it has nothing to not share the cadence. We — I just shared with you: Yesterday, he took — he took a test, and it was negative. Today, he took a test, and it was negative. The CDC does not recommend testing every day after close contact. That is not my — I —
Q Right, but since you’re —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m —
Q — telling us he tested — you — I’m just saying you’re — I’m just trying to apply logic here. You told us the times he tested previously, so it would be helpful if we know going forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Because it already happened, my friend. It already happened.
Q I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It already happened, right?
Q I understand. I understand.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right? Right?
Q But —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, therefore, I can tell you that he took the test because it already happened, right?
Q Would it be safe to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And I’m telling you right now —
Q — assume he’s going to test in the mornings and the evenings going forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — it is up to the physician and in close consultation with the physician. CDC — the guidon- — the guidance from CDC recommends that the — or says it does not have to test — someone with a close contact does not have to test ev- — every — regularly or every day.
So that is the c- —
Q No, I get that, but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Well, then there should be —
Q — not everybody is the President.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There should be — there should be no confusion. We just explained that he tested — I just explained he tested yesterday. He tested —
Q No, there’s no confusion. I was just wondering if we could have an explanation as to why you don’t want to share — I’m —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just explained it. I literally just explained it. CDC does not —
Q Obviously, I didn’t understand because I’m asking.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, CDC recommends — CDC recommends that testing — does not recommend testing every day. That’s something that CDC — we’re following CDC guidance.
Q Just answer her question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just did. In close consultation —
Q You —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — with the physician. That’s what’s going to happen. The physician is going to decide when the testing is going to happen. That’s it. That’s the answer.
I don’t have anything else for you. That is the answer that I’m giving you: in close consultation with his physician. The CDC does not recommend testing every day. That’s it.
Go ahead. I’m going to call Sabrina. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. I know Jake wouldn’t speak to the components of a possible normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that the issue of Palestine is more of a checkbox in the negotiations. Does the White House agree with that assessment?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I’m not going to go beyond — Jake laid out pretty well about our position there — the — the meeting that Brett is doing in the region, especially as it relates to Palestine as well. I don’t have anything — I’m not going to go be- — beyond or further to what the national advisor shared —
Q Can you —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — he shared.
I’m going to go around. I’m going to take one —
Q Some of us haven’t been called on in months.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. Yes.
Q Back here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian. Go ahead, Brian.
Q (Inaudible) entire season (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian.
Q Thanks, Karine. I was going to ask about deficit.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q The federal deficit is projected to increase this year over last year. During Biden’s term, it decreased in the first two years. It’s going to increase this year. What’s President Biden’s response to that? And what are his — what’s his assessment of the reasons that the federal deficit is increasing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. And I know one of my colleagues have spoken to this before. Deficits from year to year can be volatile, and so that’s kind of how we’ve tracked that.
But the reality is: The President has a real plan — as we’ve laid out multiple times — to reduce the deficit, and we don’t see Republicans having a real plan. And so, the deficit has fallen by more than $1 trillion under the President — President — this President, and he has signed legislation to cut the deficit by another $1 trillion.
So, the President’s budget would reduce the deficit by a — by a further $2.5 trillion by cutting wasteful spending on special interests and making big corporations and the rich pay their fair share. So, that’s what we’re trying to do.
And by contrast, what you’re seeing from our Republicans cou- — colleagues on the other side is that, you know — especially when President Trump and congressional Republicans — what they did during his administration is that they added $2 trillion to the deficit with a tax cut that skewed, obviously, to the wealthy and large corporations.
So, what we are going to do is we’re going to continue to fight for Social Security. We’re going to continue to fight for Medicare, healthcare. We’re going to — continue to make sure we do what we can to — the President believes in moving forward with his economic plan in a fiscally responsible way. And so, that we’re — that’s what we’re going to continue to do here.
Q What’s the reason it’s going up, though? Why is the deficit increasing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just said: It can be — year to year, it can be very volatile.
Q I mean, he said in March, in Baltimore, in a speech —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah?
Q — “our plan is working” to — it’s decreasing the deficit.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Right. And I —
Q — and now the projections are showing that it’s not the case.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — and — and we have seen the deficit falling by more than a trillion dollars under this President, right? But as I stated at the top, it could be volatile. And that’s why the President has taken action — right? — more than $2 trillion — to lower the deficit. And that’s what he’s going to continue to do.
But we know — what we know for sure is that trickle — trickle-down economy does not work. You hear us talk about all the time when we talk about Bidenomics is building an economy from the bottom up, middle out. That’s the President’s plan. That’s what he’s going to continue to do, and he’s going to do it in a fiscally responsible way.
And, again, that’s — all you have to do is watch what the President has done the last two years. And he has done a —
Q (Inaudible) identify the reasons that it’s —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I just laid out, it can be —
Q — (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — very volatile. I just talked about how the President —
Q How do you explain the volatility?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President deficit — it can be — but that’s the way it is. From year to year, it can be volatile. That is something the economy — economies —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — the economy — well, talk to an economist and they’ll tell you specifically.
What I can speak to is — what the President has done over the last two years is — we’ve seen the deficit go down by a trillion dollars. He spent — he signed another piece of legislation where the deficit is going to go down another trillion.
That is the President’s focus. That’s why we believe Bidenomics is so important.
Guys, I will see you tomorrow. Thank you very much.
2:32 P.M. EDT