James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:34 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon. Happy Friday. Going to be really quick here at the top. As you can see, we have our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, here. He’s going to preview the President’s trip next week to the U.N. General Assembly and also take any foreign policy questions you all may have.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thanks, Karine, and good to see you all of you guys again, including those of you who made the around-the-world trip just a few days ago.
As you all know, next week world leaders will convene in New York for the opening of the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly. President Biden will be in New York through Wednesday. And he’s eager to use this trip to advance U.S. interests and values on a range of issues from mobilizing financial resources for the Global South for development and infrastructure needs, to galvanizing cooperation to tackle the climate crisis, to strengthening global support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal invasion.
At the G20, President Biden announced initiatives that will mobilize significant additional financing for international development from multiple sources, public and private, domestic and international.
And he also reafformed U.S. — reaffirmed U.S. support for reform and evolution of the multilateral development banks, especially the World Bank, to better serve the needs of poor and middle-income countries.
At this year’s General Assembly, the President will build on this theme. He will also reaffirm and advocate for the principles at the core of our international order, including the U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And he will underscore the need for the U.N. and all multilateral institutions to be more representative, democratic, and effective.
So, on Tuesday, President Biden will deliver his annual address to the General Assembly. And in that speech, he will lay out for the world the steps that he and his administration have taken to advance a vision of American leadership that is built on the premise of working with others to solve the world’s most pressing problems.
We put a lot of points on the board and the President will talk about how those steps — how all of those steps he’s taken so far ladder up to a larger vision.
In addition to speaking before the General Assembly, the President will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, and they will cover both immediate hotspots and the longer-term trends.
The President will also meet with the presidents of five Central Asian nations: Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This will be the first-ever C5+1 presidential summit.
The C5+1 actually began in 2015. It has been strengthened in the years since. And now we will see it come together at the leaders level for the first time.
And this inaugural presidential summit will allow for the leaders to discuss a range of issues, from regional security, to trade and connectivity, to climate change, and ongoing reforms to improve governance and the rule of law.
The President will also host the traditional reception with world leaders, where he’ll have the chance to engage with dozens of heads of state in government from around the world.
On Wednesday, the President will have the opportunity to hold a bilateral meeting with President Lula, as well as join him in an event with labor leaders from Brazil and the United States to highlight the central and critical role that workers play in building a sustainable, democratic, equitable, and peaceful world.
Also on Wednesday, President Biden will sit down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues focused on the shared democratic values between the United States and Israel and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as to compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran.
President Biden will then return to Washington to host President Zelenskyy of Ukraine here at the White House on Thursday. And this will be their third meeting here at the White House, and it certainly comes at a critical time, as Russia desperately seeks help from countries like North Korea for its brutal way in Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces continue to make progress in their counteroffensive, and just after the next Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting that Secretary Austin is organizing with dozens of our allies and partners in Europe earlier next week as we continue to coordinate the provision of arms and equipment to help Ukrainian forces.
President Biden looks forward to hearing President Zelenskyy’s perspective on all of this and to reaffirm for the world and for the United States, for the American people his commitment to continuing to lead the world in supporting Ukraine as it defends its independence, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity.
Let me close with this. President Biden is going to head to New York, head into next week with the United States in a position of strength of confidence; with strong allies, with new partners; with a vision for institutional reform at the U.N., at the World Bank, and elsewhere; with initiatives to deliver on infrastructure, on health, on climate, and other global public goods.
And we see, at this point, more — a strong demand signal for more American engagement, for more American investment, for more American presence in — across all continents and all quarters of the world.
So, he is very much looking forward to the opportunity that next week provides.
And, with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.
Q What will President Biden’s message on Ukraine be at his U.N. speech? And are you preparing a new military package for Ukraine?
MR. SULLIVAN: We are always preparing a new military package for Ukraine. As you know, we do these presidential drawdown packages essentially every couple of weeks. And I think you can anticipate that there will be a further announcement of additional resources and capabilities, additional weapons to go to Ukraine — as they continue this counteroffensive and to defend against Russian attacks — at some point next week.
With respect to his speech, the President will have a substantial section of the speech devoted to the war in Ukraine. He will talk about the fundamental fact that the United Nations Charter — the charter that founded the organization that everybody is gathering next week in New York to engage with — speaks to the basic proposition that countries cannot attack their neighbors and steal their territory by force.
That was also a proposition that was at the core of the G20 statement last weekend. It will be a set of principles that he lays out in the speech as he continues to advocate for the very large number of nations that have stood with Ukraine in the U.N. General Assembly to continue to stand with Ukraine.
And he will connect the kind of cooperation we’ve seen across both the developed and developing world to support Ukraine at the General Assembly — that we need to take that same kind of cooperation and apply it in other contexts as well where we can deliver for people on the hard global challenges that will be at the center of the agenda for next week.
Q Jake, what is the message that the White House believes that President Zelenskyy needs to deliver to Congress, particularly Republicans in the House, while he’s in town to convince them to continue supporting U.S. military assistance to Ukraine?
MR. SULLIVAN: Frankly, I don’t believe President Zelenskyy needs our advice to be an advocate for what Ukraine needs. He has proven over the course of the past 18, 19 months that there is no better advocate for his country, for his people, and for the urgent and continuing need for countries like the United States and our allies and partners to step up to provide the necessary tools and resources that Ukraine needs to be able to effectively defend itself. He will come do that this time, as he has done before.
He’s had the opportunity in Kyiv over the course of the past several months to host both Democrats and Republicans from both the House and the Senate. So, he is very much abreast of the perspective and the discussions that are taking place up on Capitol Hill.
And I think he’s looking forward to the opportunity not just to see President Biden here at the White House, but also to see congressional leaders from both parties to make the case that the United States has been a great friend and partner to Ukraine throughout this entire brutal war and that United States should continue to do that.
We have confidence that there will be bipartisan support for this. I think President Zelenskyy does as well. And he wants to build momentum towards that as we head to the end of the month.
Q To that point, how do you have that confidence given the showdown on Capitol Hill? How can the President give assurances to President Zelenskyy that there will be additional funding?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, President Biden doesn’t build his Ukraine policy on assurances or promises; he builds it on delivering. And we have delivered multiple rounds of supplemental funding that passed with large bipartisan majorities.
We believe, based on our consultations on the Hill, that there continues to be strong bipartisan support in both houses for continued funding because, frankly, Republicans and Democrats both recognize that the United States cannot — in its own naked self-interest, let alone the moral obligations we have — walk away from Ukraine at this critical moment.
So, we believe that whatever other to-ing and fro-ing there is in the legislative context — that at the end of the day, the United States will be able to continue to deliver for Ukraine and continue to be able to lead a diverse coalition of countries that are also stepping up to deliver.
I — I mentioned in my opening that Lloyd Austin is hosting another contact group meeting next week. And we expect to see other countries stepping up on air defense, on ammunition, on other capabilities increasingly — that they are sharing the burden, our European partners and others, alongside the United States.
And we’re showing that to the Congress to say, “This isn’t just about the United States alone. This is about the United States with the free world and friends of the free world stepping up together to continue to deliver for Ukraine.”
Q Thanks, Jake. So, just to clarify: So, you’re n- — are you not concerned at all about Ukraine funding and extra aid getting kind of wrapped up or kind of mixed into the shutdown situation?
MR. SULLIVAN: I spend my life concerned about everything under the sun. As those of you who know me know, I never sleep easily at night about anything.
The point I’m making is not about what’s going to happen on a particular day, a particular vote, or, as I said before, the to-ing and fro-ing of the legislation. The point I’m making is to look at the bigger picture.
In the bigger picture, I do believe that the United States will be there on a bipartisan basis to continue supporting the fight.
Q And I don’t know if you can say this, but can you talk — do you anticipate that Zelenskyy will be meeting with McCarthy and Republican leaders as well on this trip, on this visit?
MR. SULLIVAN: I — it’s not for me to announce his meetings up on the Hill. I will say that we have every expectation that he will meet with both Democrats and Republicans from both branches of government on the Hill.
What the nature of those meetings will be, who exactly will be in them, I will leave it to the leaders in the House and the Senate to — to make their announcements.
Q Thank you, Jake. I know you said the President is going to be meeting with Netanyahu next week when he’s at UNGA. Is there a possibility that he’ll meet with the Saudi Crown Prince as well to discuss the potential peace deal?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m not aware that the Saudi Crown Prince is coming to the U.N. General Assembly, but we do not have a meeting scheduled with him for next week.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thanks, Jake. A little change of topic. In the UK, there was a staffer in the British Parliament who was arrested and charged on the suspicion of being a Chinese spy. Are you guys worried there might be such an infiltration here on Capitol Hill or in one of the U.S. agencies?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t have any specific information with respect to that. But, of course, the United States takes very seriously the possibility of espionage by a wide range of countries, whether that’s cyber-enabled, human, signals intelligence, you name it.
And, you know, we have a counterintelligence enterprise across the U.S. government precisely to deal with that.
But nothing specific to speak to at this time.
Q Thanks, Jake. A couple of questions. First, on the Houthi visit. You issued a statement welcoming that. How significant is this? And do you see the Saudis’ role now moving from being a party to the war to more of a moderating — or medi- — mediating, rather, in the conflict in Yemen?
And I have a question on Iran.
MR. SULLIVAN: We believe that the Houthi visit is a significant step. It is the first time we have seen this happen in a very long time. It comes in a moment when we are 18 months in now to a truce that has abated the violence in what had been the most violent and catastrophic conflict going, you know, a couple of years ago.
And it has been a paramount priority of the Biden administration to deescalate and ultimately end that war.
And we commend the government of Oman for what they have done to help facilitate this.
We are working closely with the Yemeni and — the Yemeni parties and the United Nations.
And as far as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is concerned, we commend their leadership as well, because this is a big step forward for them. And we believe that they are trying to work to help bring about an end to this conflict.
That would be good for everyone. It’d be good for Saudi. It’d be good for the rest of the countries in the region. It would certainly be good for the Yemeni people. And it would be good for the cause of peace and stability across the Middle East.
Q And on the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death, you also issued a statement reiterating everything that you have done in the last year — whether it’s keeping Iran out of the U.N. Human — Human Rights Council in New York or putting 70 other officials on the sanction list. But we haven’t seen anything to coincide with this one-year anniversary.
Do you think that anything that the administration might have announced would complicate the prisoners deal? Or do you see it separately? And why didn’t you issue anything new?
MR. SULLIVAN: In fact, we are issuing today additional sanctions: more than two dozen additional entities and individuals involved in repression in Iran. And we’ll continue to do that. We’ll continue to sanction Iranian behavior, whether it is flouting basic norms of human rights contained in the Universal Declaration or it’s relative to the work that Iran is doing to provide weapons to Russia to kill Ukrainian civilians. And — and we’ll have more designations on that in the coming days.
So, we believe that we are capable, on the one hand, of taking the necessary steps to bring American citizens home — who belong here at home, who have been wrongfully detained — and also to hold Iran accountable for actions that they take that are contrary to international law and to the basic norms and principles that even Iran has signed up to at the United Nations.
Q Follow on Iran. Follow on Iran.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Q On Ukraine, Ukrainians had hoped to come to New York after severing the land bridge in Crimea. What message does President Biden hope to send about calls in the developing world to negotiate settlement — a sense of openness or no interest in that? And then on the Security Council, will President Biden and President Zelenskyy attend?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, with respect to calls for peace or negotiations, President Biden has been clear and will continue to be clear: The United States supports peace in Ukraine. But we support a just peace in Ukraine, and a just peace has to be based on the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty.
And incidentally, many of those countries that you’re referring to in Africa and Southeast Asia and Latin America have actually reinforced the idea that they’re not just generically calling for peace, they are calling for peace based on the very same principles that the United States supports: sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the proposition that you cannot simply rip off another country’s territory by force and you can’t attack civilian infrastructure and try to destroy grain or energy capabilities that are — are sustaining human life and — and the economy of Ukraine.
So, we actually believe that we have, over the course of the past several months, built a strong engagement and dialogue with the Global South on what ultimately a just peace looks like. It does not seem that Russia is particularly serious about that at the moment.
And so, our job, from our perspective, is to provide Ukraine with the tools it needs to be in the best possible position on the battlefield so that it can be in the best possible position at the negotiating table.
And the last thing that I would say, and we say this not just at podiums, but to our partners in the Global South: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. Nobody is going to negotiate Ukraine’s future without Ukraine being the ones being the judge of their own decisions. Not us or anyone else imposing outcomes upon them.
Q On the Security Council —
Q So, just to follow up —
MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, I’m sorry. What was the Security Council question?
Q On the Security Council, will President Biden and President Zelenskyy attend?
MR. SULLIVAN: We don’t currently have plans for the — the President to be there, but I can’t rule it out. But at the moment, I don’t have anything to announce on that.
Q And to just follow on those two questions —
Q Thank you, Jake.
Q — Jake. You mentioned the Global South, and I think there’s a lot of concern from the Global South that Ukraine is taking up a lot of oxygen at this and previous UNGA.
And so, wh- — how would the President balance the needs of the Global South countries — particularly, you know, on debt reduction and climate change, and so on — and rally support for Ukraine at the same time?
And also, just to follow up on your point about making the General Assembly a more — making the U.N. a more representative and demo- — democra- — democratic and effective body, where are we in terms of the President’s support to reform the Security Council?
MR. SULLIVAN: The President, in his U.N. General Assembly speech last year, actually laid out his view that we need to add additional both permanent and non-permanent members to the U.N. Security Council and that we need a wider geographic represent- — representation on the Security Council. He will reinforce and reiterate that commitment this year as well.
And then, with respect to the question of how, on the one hand, we continue to support Ukraine full-throatedly and, on the other hand, we also make sure we’re addressing the needs of the Global South developing countries, I’d say two things.
First, these are connected. Because of the war, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has caused ripple effects that impact food security, energy security, and other forms of harm to countries around the world. And so, ending this war on just terms, on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity would serve the benefit not just of the Ukrainian people, but people everywhere.
Secondly, we have shown we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We have strongly supported the Ukraine at the same moment that we’ve put forward ambitious proposals on World Bank reform, that we have led at the table on debt relief, that we have mobilized tens of billions of dollars for infrastructure needs in developing countries, that we’ve announced new significant projects in every significant corner of the world that is meant to deliver for the needs of people in those countries.
And we’re going to continue to do that. And the President’s speech will reflect that as well.
Q Thank you, Jake. Yeah. Moscow said there was no agreement reached after the meetings in — with North Korea and Eastern Russia. What’s your evaluation of what we’ve seen during the last days?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, we’re not going to take their word for that or basically anything they say. We’ll see what ex- — actually ends up happening.
Our view has been before the visit and after the visit that talks about the provision of weapons by North Korea to Russia to kill Ukrainians have been advancing and continue to advance. We don’t — I can’t name a specific agreement for you today. But we take a look at that with a heavy dose — heavy grain of salt.
Q And as for the meeting with Lula next week, will we — will there be a moment to talk about the situation in Venezuela? What’s your evaluation of how much progress has been made on the Venezuelan side for a change in the sanctions and the — concerning progress in the elec- — electoral — on the electoral side in Venezuela?
My question — I rephrase it: Have you heard anything from Venezuela that brings you closer to reconsider sanctions?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m not going to handicap the progress or characterize the progress. I’m just going to say what our position is and what we’ve communicated to the Venezuelans and have said publicly — which is we are prepared, on a step-by-step basis, to provide sanctions relief to Venezuela as long as they are meeting milestones towards credible elections. And this has to be on the basis of reciprocity.
They understand where we are on this. And time will tell whether, in fact, there is the possibility of moving forward along a roadmap that involves this kind of step-by-step set of actions on both sides. Time will tell.
Q Thank you — thank you, Jake. I have a question on Russia, China, and North Korea. First question is Russia and China will work together to neutralize all sanctions against North Korea currently being posited by the U.N. Security Council. Are you satisfied with the current (inaudible) of the U.N. Security Council?
And second question is: At the meeting between the President Putin and the Belarusian President Lukashenko yesterday, President Putin announced that cooperation between Russia and North Korea and Belarus. What signal do you think this sends?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, it’s hard for me to characterize this trilateral cooperation. We’ll — we’ll see what comes of that. That, at the moment, feels like words, but we’ll see what it translates into in terms of actions.
With respect to the U.N. Security Council, there are a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions that, as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, both Russia and China have legal obligations to enforce and uphold. And it is the case that we have very real concerns based on what Russia has just done that they are going to live up to their basic responsibility as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council on the basis of those resolutions.
So, we will continue in New York and here in Washington and working with both Tokyo and Seoul to continue to raise the fact that these resolutions are on the books and that they need to be enforced.
I would not put Russia and China in precisely the same box on the question of North Korea. Obviously, Russia has taken this step forward. We are continuing to communicate to Beijing that we expect that they will uphold their responsibility with respect to the enforcement of these resolutions. And we will continue to press for further action in New York in response to provocations and — and other steps that North Korea takes that are in violation of international law.
Final point I would make: Yesterday, we held the first of our commitment to consult mechanism engagements at the National Security Advisor level in response to this meeting between Kim Jong Un and Putin. So, I spoke with my counterparts from Japan and South Korea. The three of us had the opportunity to compare notes on this and to coordinate what steps we will take in the coming days and weeks.
So, we are very closely aligned on a trilateral basis to respond to anything that Russia chooses to do with North Korea on a going forward basis.
Q Thanks, Jake.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Q Thanks a lot, Jake. I want to ask you about the communiqué concerning Ukraine that came out at the conclusion of the G20. The communiqué reads a lot differently than the communiqué that came out the prior year at the G20 in Bali, Indonesia. It is more neutral; it’s tepid versus the prior communiqué that was released.
What is the reaction that you’ve received from your Ukrainian counterpart to that statement that came out at the G20?
MR. SULLIVAN: I — I have not received any kind of formal or, really, informal reaction from Ukraine with respect to the G20 communiqué. What they’re focused on — what Ukraine is focused on is the process that began in Copenhagen, continued in Jeddah, which is an opportunity for Ukraine itself to be able to engage with the countries of the Global South and find a way forward towards a common understanding of the principles upon which the just peace should be based.
And actually, the conversations in both Copenhagen and Jeddah bear a strong resemblance to the propositions that are laid down in that communiqué. First, the paramount centrality of territorial integrity and sovereignty. Second, the statement that it is totally unacceptable for any country to use force to violate the territorial integrity of another country. Third, that attacking grain infrastructure or civilian infrastructure should be totally off-limits. And fourth, the threat or use of nuclear weapons in a conflict like this should be inadmissible.
Those four things, which all showed up in the G20 communiqué, all are powerful and, I would argue, in a way, not neutral statements in this context because those are all four things that really say to Russia, “What you are doing is not acceptable” — are the — are the same kind of four principles or premises that have been core to the conversation that Ukraine is having with its partners.
So mainly, what they wanted to talk to me about in the aftermath of the G20 was: What was the nature of the conversation in the room? What is the attitude of key Global South countries about a just peace? And then, how do we take and build upon the engagements that Ukraine has had in that process and move forward from there consistent also with the principles that are laid out in Ukraine’s own peace formula?
So, that’s how we’ve had the conversation so far. I think we’re very much aligned on how we think about a constructive, effective engagement with Global South countries. And when I say “we,” I mean Kyiv and Washington.
And so, we’ll continue to work down that line accordingly.
Q And then just one other one here at home. With this push to get additional Ukraine funding, you acknowledged this year heading into the U.N. General Assembly, the dynamic is different. Last year, Democrats controlled both the House and Senate at this time. Now Republicans control the House.
The dynamic being different — does that make your job, the administration’s job that much more difficult to move forward with trying to get the aid that you think is necessary for Ukraine?
MR. SULLIVAN: Last week, I had the chance to sit with the leadership — Democratic and Republican — in the Senate, the leadership and the chairs and rankings of the major national security committee — committees.
Yesterday, I had the chance to sit with the Democratic and Republican leadership in the House and the chairs and ranking members of the — of the key committees.
And I’ve got to say, in those conversations, I felt the basic vibe, so to speak — the idea that the United States needs to come together on a bipartisan basis to support Ukraine — felt as strong as it did a year ago on both sides of the aisle.
But, of course, I acknowledge that there’s a difference between this Congress and the last Congress. And we’ll have to contend with that as we go through the discussions that will continue in the days ahead on how to get Ukraine the resources it needs.
Q Thanks, Jake.
Q On the C5+1 summit at the U.N., are there specific asks or deliverables that the administration is seeking from this bloc? And secondly, should that be viewed as a signal to China that this — this summit is happening?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, this summit is not against any country. It is for a positive agenda that we want to work through with these countries. And so, on your question of deliverables, we do expect to have a joint statement at the end of it that will lay out, in key areas, concrete things that we intend to work on and do together, and the United States will bring to the table some resources to be able to do that effectively.
Q Jake, I — apologies if I missed it. But is the President not participating in Wednesday’s Climate Summit? And if not, who will be dispatched from the U.S.?
And then, more largely, I know the Secretary-General said he wants folks to come with something ambitious and new. Will the U.S. have something ambitious and new to offer at that summit?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, currently, the President is not scheduled to participate in the — in the U.N. Climate Summit on Wednesday. I will have to come back to you on who the U.S. representative is going to end up being, and I’ll let that person speak to what the United States brings to that summit.
Q Thanks, Jake. Yesterday, we saw a report on China that the defense minister has been the subject to an investigation. We also saw the U.S. Ambassador to Japan quoting Shakespeare about something being “rotten in the state of Denmark” and saying that this minister hasn’t been seen for three weeks. Do you have any information on that? Anything you can tell us?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t have anything for you today on that.
Q Given the complex issues you’ve been talking about that the President is dealing with and given your role being such a close advisor, I want to ask you about how you would describe to us the impact on a personal level that the President is going through with the indictment of his son? And does it have anything that you can see that affects his ability to prepare or his focus on these issues as he’s going into a consequential week?
MR. SULLIVAN: You don’t have to take it from me; you heard directly from the President that he’s focused on delivering for the American people. That’s true in terms of what he’s trying to get done here at home, and it’s definitely true in terms of what he’s trying to deliver in the way of security at the U.N. General Assembly in supporting Ukraine and moving forward.
So, that’s what he’s focused on. That’s where his mindset is.
I had the opportunity to participate in the President’s Daily Briefing today. And he was dialed in on the key issues that we’re confronting and will continue to be as we head into the New York week next week.
Last question. Yeah.
Q Thank you, Jake. Back on MBS. Did the President have an opportunity to speak to the Saudi Crown Prince in New Delhi, specifically about oil production over the next year?
MR. SULLIVAN: The President had a brief exchange with the Crown Prince. He didn’t have a formal meeting, and I did not get into details on that topic or other topics. What he was really focused on at that meeting was the announcement of this economic corridor.
But, of course, we are in regular contact at senior levels with Saudi Arabia about ensuring a stable and affordable supply of energy to global markets. And we’ll continue that conversation in the days ahead.
Q The Chinese Vice President is going to be there. Are any U.S. officials going to meet with him?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t have an announcement for you today. But stay tuned in case, you know, there is a — a U.S. official who ends up seeing the Chinese Vice President.
Q Thank you, Jake.
Q One more?
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.
Q On food security, just finally, the U.N. leadership is expecting to have talks on reviving the Black Sea grain deal. Does the White House have any optimism on the likelihood of that happening?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think I said earlier I’m never optimistic about anything, which remains true in this context, as well.
But, no — look —
Q We’re worried about you, Jake. (Laughter.)
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you.
Q Are you getting enough sleep? I mean —
MR. SULLIVAN: It — (laughter) — thank you. Although —
Q He needs a vacation.
MR. SULLIVAN: It’s — you know, it’s what Joyce said about Irish people, that they have an abiding sense of tragedy that sustains them through temporary periods of joy. (Laughter.) It’s — that’s my existence.
Look, we don’t see an immediate pathway back to this because, you know, Russia’s excuses, answers on this just keep shifting. And what they all sort of betray is a base of — a basic lack of willingness on their part to allow grain to free flowly — flow freely to the world.
We are going to continue to press on them. We are going to call on the rest of the world to do the same. We know the Turks are working hard at this; Guterres is working hard at this. So, we hope that they can generate an outcome.
But the Russians are not giving us a huge amount of cause for optimism at this moment.
Q Thank you for coming.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Jake. Okay, a couple of things before we take additional questions.
The President, his senior staff, and officials across the federal government are monitoring the path of Hurricane Lee.
Late last night, the President immediately approved Maine’s emergency declaration to help the state prepare for the impacts of Hurricane Lee.
Additionally, FEMA Administrator Criswell has been in contact with governors from New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. And FEMA has staged resources across New England to provide rapid federal assistance if needed.
Now, we encourage all of those in the path of this large and dangerous storm to remain alert, listen to local officials, and prepare for the impact. Visit Ready.gov for tips on how to prepare.
The President and his entire administration stand ready to support communities which may be impacted.
As you all know, today is the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month. It is a time to honor the history and contributions of the Hispanic community to our nation.
Next Thursday, September 21st, President Biden will attend the 46th Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala, and Vice President Harris will participate in a moderated conversation with young Latinos during the CHCI Leadership Conference.
The First Lady will celebrate the start of Hispanic Heritage Month in Atlanta, Georgia, today at an event honoring trailblazing Latino leaders hosted by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
And later today, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Small Business Administrator Isabel — Isabella Casillas Guzman will also be visiting
Latino small owned businesses [Latino-owned small businesses] in Washington, D.C., to highlight how Bidenomics is delivering for Latinos.
Stay tuned, as we will have more to come through — throughout the month about how the President’s agenda is delivering for the Latino community.
And finally, as Jewish communities in the United States and around the world prepare together at sundown for Rosh Hashanah, the President and the First Lady are extending their warmest wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.
Last night, the President spoke to over 2,000 rabbis across the country, wishing them a happy New Year. To every Jewish — Jewish family across America, Israel, and the world celebrating this evening and observing the High Holidays ahead, shana tovah.
With that — that’s it. Go ahead, Aamer.
Q Thanks. Why did the President think it was important to dispatch Acting Labor Secretary Su and Gene Sperling now? The targeted strike is about a half — half-day old now. Does this early action suggest that the President is worried about this situation quickly spiraling —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — and impacting the broader economy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. Let me just lay out a couple of things that the President said, and let me just start by saying, like, no one wants a strike, right? No one wants a strike.
But the President respects workers, as you heard from him. He respects workers’ rights to use op- — to use their options under the collective bargaining system and understands their frustration.
The President believes the UAW, the Big 3 contract must lead to a vibrant auto — auto future made in America that promotes good, strong middle-class jobs that a worker can raise a family on and where the UA- — the UAW remains at the heart of our economy.
So, the President appreciates that the parties have been coming together and working 24/7 and that companies have made their significant offers, but he believes that they must go further to ensure that record corporate profits mean a record contract for the UAW.
And so, the negotiating parties are continuing their work. That’s what we’ve heard from them.
The UAW has made clear their desire to continue negotiations with the company on Saturday morning. That is tomorrow, as you all know.
And as the President mentioned, to your question about Julie Su and — the Acting Secretary and Gene Sperling, as you know, they have been active in this from very early on — very early — early days of — of the negotiating process. They’ve been — made themselves available for — for conversations. And so, we have mentioned that multiple times. Gene Sperling has certainly played as a coordinator — coordinator role from the White House.
So, look, they are not — I want to say one last thing is that negotiations are up to the parties to work out. That’s why there’s co- — collective bar- — bargaining system. They’re not going to intervene or mediate — or mediate. They’re here to help in any way that is needed.
Again, we have engaged with these parties from almost the beginning. It is — want to make sure that we continue to be clear that we’re — we’re here. The team stands — the President’s team stands to assist.
But certainly, we are — we are glad to hear that tomorrow — that they’re going to continue to have the conversation.
Q So, it shouldn’t be seen as a reflection of the President being overly concerned about the situation? This is just: They’ve been involved —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: They’ve been involved.
Q — and this is just a further —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And we have said this before. We have — we have — we have talked about the President’s engagement, how he has talked to the Big 3, how he’s reached out to UAW. We have been — we have — we have been engaging with them for some time now.
And so, look, this is — this is something that we are going to leave to the parties, to continue to have these negotiations, to continue to have these — these conversations. And I think it’s important to do that.
This is part of the collective bargaining system. This is what we believe has worked, right? We have seen it worked in the past. And we’re going to encourage all the parties to continue to have this conversation.
Q And just a brief second one. Would the President pardon or commute his son if he’s convicted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ve answered this question before. It was asked of me not too long ago, a couple of weeks ago. And I was very clear, and I said no.
Go ahead, Mary.
Q Thanks. The President said today record profits for the automakers should mean record contracts for the UAW. Does that mean that he supports a 40 percent raise in these new contracts?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into the specifics.
I mean, the President has always said that there should be — that he believes in fair wages and fair benefits for workers. That is nothing new, right? He believes in making sure that workers are able to raise their family — right? — to be able to — to have what they need to do that in a way that is very fair.
And so, that’s nothing new. The President has said that.
Look, what we’re going to continue to say is the President is going to urge the parties back to the table to hammer out a win-win agreement. That’s what the President wants to see.
We appreciate the parties continuing to do that on a 24/7 basis. And the President believes that the companies must go further, as — as you just mentioned, to ensure that record profits mean a record contract. And it’s simple as that.
He wants —
Q Further than what they’ve already proposed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into the specifics.
What — the President made himself very clear. We have always been really clear. He respects workers’ rights to use their options for — for collective bargaining. That’s what we’re — we’re seeing.
The collective bargaining system works. We’ve seen that happen multiple times in the last two years under this president.
And — and certainly he understands their frustration, but he’s going to encourage — continue to encourage to have that conversation and continuing to negotiate.
Q And can you tell us if the President has talked to his son since these charges came down yesterday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. There’s nothing new here. As I’ve — as I’ve been asked that question many times. I’m not going to get into private conversations that the President has with his family. I’m just not going to speak to it.
Q Will those conversations, though, have to change given the heightened scrutiny —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just —
Q — over these charges?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just — I’m just not going to get into private conversations that the President has with his family.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q How damaging do you expect the strike to be to the U.S. economy?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to — certainly not get into hypotheticals from here.
Look, we are going to continue to monitor — that is something that we do here — to see what — what is going to be happening here. And we’re closely monitoring the situation.
But no decision have been — has been made on any path forward.
And so, again, we’re going to monitor. We’re going to encourage. And we’re actually — we’re happy to see that the negotiation is continuing to happen, to continue to occur. We’re going to see them — as the UAW stated: They’re going to get back together tomorrow, Saturday morning.
And so, that’s what the President wants to see: collective bargaining happening at this level, at this time.
Q And are you hoping for a quick agreement? Is that what Gene and Julie are going to try and get?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, Gene and Julie, as I mentioned, the — the Acting Secretary of Labor and also Gene Sperling, who has played coordinator throughout this process, is — is going to do what they’ve been doing: engaging, offering assistance if they — if — if they need it.
And — and so, we’re going to continue to stay engaged. We’re going to continue to monitor.
This is nothing new. They’ve been engaging for some time now. But, of course, this is up to the parties to come up with a win-win, we believe, agreement so that — so that we can move forward.
Go ahead, Kayla.
Q Thank you, Karine. The President’s remarks today were seen as a pretty firm endorsement of the workers’ position. Previously, the White House had avoided taking sides, encouraging both parties to stay at the table. What changed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think anything has changed. I mean, the President has always been a pro-union president. I mean, you have heard to say that he is seen as the most pro-union president that we’ve had thus far.
And so, you know, the President respects workers’ rights. He does. He respects their rights to collective bargaining. We believe it is something that is important that they have the right to — to choose to use. And he understands their frustration. He believes that workers should have — should be able to ask and to get fair pay and fair benefits. And that’s nothing new. That is nothing new.
So, again, you heard directly from — from this President: the negotiation — negotiating parties are continuing to work. That’s what is really important here. And — and they’ve made clear — UAW has made clear that they’re going to continue these conversations on Saturday morning, and that’s what we’re — we’re going to see.
We — we are offering, you know, Senior Advisor Gene Sperling and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, they’re going to go to Detroit. But ultimately, these negotiations are up to the parties to work out. And we understand that, but we are offering any assistance that we can provide.
Q But to say that the negotiations are up to the parties to work out and also have the President say that the companies have not gone far enough, it appears that the President is — is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No —
Q — taking the side of the workers here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — I don’t think so. I mean, look, the President respects workers’ rights. There — there is a collective bargaining system happening, and he understands their frustrations. He understands the frustrations of the workers. Absolutely.
Again, this is nothing new. We have said they should — they should be able to ask and receive fair pay and fair wages — I’m sorry — fair benefits. And so, that’s what we want to see.
Those conversations, those negotiations are continuing to move forward. We appreciate fo- — what they’ve been doing for the past 24/7 — you know, the past — the past, you know, 27 — period of time, right?
And, you know, we want to see them continuing to work this out. And that’s what they’re doing.
Q Can you speak to some of the difficult intersections here for the President. He obviously supports electric vehicles and development of that. He clearly supports labor, as you’ve discussed. Michigan is important. And that, of course, is a big part of where the Big Three resides.
So, these sort of different points of pressure on the President when he is trying to send a message that really has different audiences here. And they’re at odds in some ways when you’re talking about management and labor.
Could you just speak to the sort of unique set of circumstances here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, there are always unique sets of circumstances when we are talking about collective bargaining with unions. Right? We saw that with UPS and Teamsters. We saw that with other — with the West Coast ports. I mean, there are always interesting circumstances that are — that lie in front of — lie in front of us that needs to be worked out.
But, again, the President has been very clear: This is why collective bargaining, we believe, is important here. This is why we appreciate all the sides staying at the table and continuing to have this conversation. Because what the President — and what I have just said: We believe that they can hammer out a win-win agreement. We think that could happen.
And so, this is — I don’t think there is anything unique about this. We have seen this before. But we encourage –continuing to encourage them to — to — you know, to move forward in a way where they are at the table; they’re hammering this out, with — doing it in good faith; and they come — come — come forward or end — end in a place where it’s a win-win agreement for — for everyone.
And so, that’s what the President is going to continue to do. Again, we’ve seen it with the West Coast ports. We’ve seen it with the Teamsters and — and UPS. We’ve seen it with the railroads — right? — we’ve seen it with rails. So, we’ve seen this before.
And so, again, all of them are interesting circumstances. The President is going to continue to — to speak for workers’ rights and also continue to say, “Let’s continue to have those conversations. Collective bargaining is really important.”
Q Thanks, Karine. You’ve spoken about past outreach that the President had done to President Fain and to the Big Three leaders, and Gene Sperling and Acting Secretary Su’s involvement. But now that the strike is underway, can you just clarify: Do you anticipate the President reaching out personally, again, to the UAW and to the Big Three leaders?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I — I don’t have anything to read out at this time. You heard directly from the President and how he wants to see a win-win agreement for folks to continue to stay at the table.
Just don’t have anything to read out, as far as a call, a conversation that the President is going to have.
Q And can you confirm the report that the Biden administration is considering options to provide aid to auto suppliers who are impacted by the strike, including potentially Labor Department grants and small-business loans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we’re monitoring this situation. I just don’t have any — any announcements or decisions to make or anything to confirm at this time.
Q Thanks, Karine. Is the White House planning to have a news conference next Thursday when President Zelenskyy visits the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you just heard from the National Security Advisor. He just announced the visit — the zi- — the visit from pel- — President Zelenskyy. We’re going to hammer out what that day looks like, what the logistics are going to be. I just don’t have anything at this time.
Q And second question for you: The President is reportedly going to be having a democracy speech in the next couple of weeks. What can you tell us about that? What’s the message he hopes to deliver? And why now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement of a president- — of a presidential speech. Once we have something to announce, certainly we will share that, just not going to get ahead of it at this time.
Q On Su and Sperling’s deployment to Detroit, can you clarify the timing of that? What — did the President ask them after the deadline? Are they there yet?
And when you say they’ve been “active in the conversations,” what has the help that they’ve provided look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So I’m —
Q And then I have a COVID question after that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, totally. So, look, we’ve been engaged with the parties on a regular basis. We have. And I’ve mentioned this multiple times over the past several weeks, certainly. So — probably even more, a couple of months.
And so, we are making it clear that, if it’s helpful — right? — the President’s steams [sic] — team continues to stand ready to assist. And that is what the President was laying out in — in having — in having the Acting Secretary, Julie Su, and his Senior Advisor, Gene Sperling, go out to Detroit.
But they have been regularly engaging for some time now. This is just a continuing — a continuing engagement that we’ve seen. And I’m not going to get into point to point — point by point on what’s been discussed, what’s been — what’s been put forth in front of anybody. This is a conversation that is happening amongst the folks who are, certainly, at the table negotiating. But I’m not going to get into specifics from here.
Q The President asked them to go to Detroit after the deadline —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have — I don’t have any timeline. But what I can say is, they have been engaged for some time now — both Gene Sperling, both Julie Su — at the direction of the President for some time. And so, this is a continuation of that engagement.
Again, the President wants to — is urging parties to continue to have those conversations, to stay at the table. And he appreciates what they have been doing for 24/7.
We’re going to see, as the UA- — A- — UAW has made clear, their desire to — to continue those negotiations and — with the companies. And we’re going to see that tomorrow morning.
That’s all I have.
Q And then, on COVID, what is the White House’s reaction to Governor DeSantis’s announcement advising against COVID boosters for people younger than 65? Is the White House concerned about this, especially considering snowbirds are going to be heading down to Florida —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — soon? And also, will the President get boosted? Will he do that (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I’ve answered the second question already, which is the President is going to get the updated booster. That is something that he is planning to do. So — so, answered that question a couple of days ago.
Look, the fact that — the fact is that we know that these vaccinations against COVID-19 remain effective. They do. And they protect — they protect people from — from avoi- — from going to the hospital, avoiding the hospital, long-term health challenges, and death.
And — and as we head to the fall and winter season, these — this is the best way to protect yourself from COVID. And so, this has been — and let me add, this has been thoroughly reviewed — right? — by scientists, by the experts, leading public health agencies. And they are safe, and they are effective.
And this is a — you know, this is a message that we’ll continue to push. And we know, since this administration’s launch of the largest — the largest vaccination program in our nation’s history, for COVID-19 vaccines, it has saved — those vaccines have saved millions of lives. That is something that we know.
So, this is a — when you when you look at the vaccines, that — that — these new boosters, this is something that public experts have approved. And that’s what’s important. It’s important that, as we go into the fall and winter months, that the American public is safe, that they get updated on their vaccines.
And let’s not forget, there’s the flu — the flu vaccine, as well. There’s RSV.
All of these things are going to protect the American people. And so, we’re going to continue to encourage Americans to — to make sure they do everything that they can as we’re providing — or as we’ve seen these vaccines being provided now to protect themselves as we get into the winter.
Go ahead, Ed.
AIDE: We have time for one or two more.
Q Thanks, Karine. I’m going ask you about the strike, if I could.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q So, is the automakers’ strike and the contract impasse partly a result of the President’s forced transition to electric vehicles?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No. We don’t believe that to be — look — and we’ve — you’ve heard us say this. Jared was here just the other day. He talked about the President’s policies as it relates to the future of auto industry and how it’s going to build — how it’s going to rebuild America — right? — making sure that we’re making things in America — right? — by — by American workers. That has always been the President’s focus.
EV — EV sales, if you look at it, hit a record high last quarter, increased by nearly 50 percent from the same time last year. And EV prices are down 20 percent year over year, being driven in part by Inflation Reduction Act credits.
So, again, thanks to the President, thanks to congressional Democrats, sales are going up and costs are coming down. And that’s what we’re seeing.
Q But Ford says it’s going to lose four and a half billion dollars this year on its EV division.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But, look, I just laid out how important this part — this provision is, as it — as it was part of the Inflation Reduction Act, how important it is, how sales are indeed going up. Right? That’s Ford. Right? Sales are going up while costs are going down. Really important — important to bringing — bringing manufacturing jobs here, making sure we’re building in America, also making sure that we’re dealing with the climate crisis.
This is what the President’s focus is on — right? — making sure that we rebuilt an industry back in America, as well as bringing jobs back here, too.
And so, that’s what we’re seeing. Again, sales are going up and costs are going down.
Q One more quick thing. I wanted to get your reaction. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce president released a statement saying — and I’m going to read this, the quote — “The UAW strike and indeed the ‘summer of strikes’ is the natural result of the Biden administration’s ‘whole-of-government’ approach to promoting unionization at all costs… For the 94 percent of American private sector workers not in a union, the costs are stacking up.” I want to get your reaction.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: My reaction is this: The President believes that collective bargaining works. That’s what he believes. And we’ve seen that work. And it is important that workers are able to have benefits and wages so that they can raise their family. That’s what the President has always talked about, whether it’s his economic plan or in this — in this instance, as we’re talking about unions and making sure that workers — right? — come together with — with the companies and have these real — these businesses — and have these win-win, hopefully, agreements.
And so, it’s important that workers’ rights — right? — they have their rights, are able to ask for fair pay, fair wages. And that’s what we’re going to continue to say. That’s why col- — we believe the collective bargaining system works. And we have seen that happen. And it’s important that we move forward in that direction.
Q Thanks, Karine. Just a couple on COVID. Will the President get that shot on camera like we’ve seen him do with his previous vaccination rounds?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything to share about — about how that’s going to look, if it’s going to be in front of camera or not. What I can say for sure is the President is going to get the updated booster. I just don’t have anything to announce at this time.
Q Okay. And the administration has said that there will be free vaccines this round for uninsured Americans and through the Bridge Program. But there are certainly concerns among experts about the rollout over the next couple of weeks being — having disparities for people that have insurance getting out to pharmacies or to the sites where people without insurance would go. And already we’re seeing that there isn’t availability at the Bridge sites just yet — through Vaccines.gov.
What is the administration doing to make sure that there isn’t a difference for people who don’t have insurance — where they can get it, how quickly they can get it — versus those that do have insurance?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is something that, as you know, from the beginning of our comprehensive vaccination program, we’ve always made sure that we do the microtargeting, making sure that we don’t leave communities behind. That has been incredibly important. In order to fight the pandemic, to fight this — to fight COVID, you have to make sure that all communities are getting — are certainly getting this vaccine. So, that is not going to change in this regard.
And so, look, HHS has a number of initiatives underway, including community stakeholders and digital outreach. That’s going to continue.
Let’s not forget the physicians and the — and the healthcare providers; they’re going to play a critical role here, as they have in other kinds of campaigns that we’ve had around these COVID vaccines as they’ve been announced.
And so, look, we’re — HHS is going to make sure that we are continuing to be public facing here, having events with administrators. We’re going to do that. We’ll have more to announce on that. And so, this is a priority for this administration. We want to make sure that people are aware on how to get these vaccines and that, again, communities — that all communities are able to have access to this.
This is something that we have done throughout the past two years of this administration as we’ve tried to move forward with our vaccination program.
Q And it will get to the places at the same timeline?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re — we’re going to do everything that we can. As I mentioned, HHS has a — a few initiatives underway. We’re going to use not just — we’re going to make sure we do — continue to do what we’ve done before — right? –the experts on the ground, the physicians on the ground to get the information out there.
But, again, we’re going to do everything that we can, as we’ve done with every other campaign around the vaccination program, to make sure that communities — all communities have access to this.
Q Thanks, Karine. You’ve seen all the public polling, people concerned about age. How does the President plan to convince the American people over the next year that 80 is not too old for someone who’s running for re-election?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Eighty is the new forty. Didn’t you hear? (Laughter.)
But look, it is — let’s — let’s — you know, I get asked this question about once a week, maybe twice a week. I don’t know. I’ve lost track.
This is a president, if you think about it — in 2019, he got the same criticism; in 2020, he got the same criticism; in 2022, he got the same criticism. And every time, he beats the naysayers. Every time, he does above and beyond and makes history in doing that — that others are not able to — others are not able to do, right? And I think that’s really important, too.
When you look at his record, you look at how he’s been able to bring both sides together to get some really important things done — that matters.
You know, if you think about what the President and the Vice President was able to do in 2020, 80 million votes — 80 million votes; more than any other — any other ticket in history. In history. And they did that in 2020.
And so, you know, I get the — I get the question on age. Certainly, we all do. But what we’re going to continue to talk about is the record that this President has had. It’s been a historic record.
It is — it is something that’s going to change the lives of Americans. You think about his economic policy. You think about the infrastructure plan. You think about — I was just talking about the Inflation Reduction Act — whether it’s EV, you know, fighting climate crisis; whether it’s lowering drug costs, because now Medicare is able to fight Big Pharma.
All of these things are things that the presidents before this president had been trying to do for years and years and years and have not been able to do that. And so, that’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on how can we continue to do big things and how we’re going to build on the successes that this President has had in the last two years.
Q And so, given all that — everything you just listed — why do you think so many Americans still say they have concerns about someone in their 80s being President?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, I can’t speak to every American out there and their concerns. What I can speak to is what this President has done, right? I can speak to his experience. I could speak to the wisdom that he has. I can speak to his record.
When it comes to — when it comes to how Americans — what they’re saying about your particular question to me, that’s for them to speak to. I can just stay on — on our message — the platform that we’re trying to push forward, and that is delivering for the American people. We believe that we’re doing that.
You just heard the President talk about Bidenomics and how it’s building a middle class — right? — from the bottom up, middle out, and how — because of the economic policies that we have seen, we’ve seen some historic growth, right? The
3.5 [13.5] million jobs. Unemployment under 4 percent. All of these things matter. And making sure that inflation is being — is being, you know, moderated, and that’s what we’ve seen. So, all of these things are important.
I get — I get the question, but what we’re going to focus on is how we’re going to continue to build on this President’s record, and that’s what I can speak to.
All right. Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend. See some of you in New York.
2:33 P.M. EDT