1:35 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just want to take a moment to address the horrifying reports that continue to come out of Israel.
I know many of us in the room and at home are moms and dads. And regardless, we’re all humans. We’ve heard stories of parents doing their best to shield their babies from danger. These reports are devastating. We are hearing the reports of entire families, innocents, who were killed in the safety of their homes.
We know that, so far, 22 Americans lost their lives and 17 remain unaccounted for. We know that these numbers are likely to increase in the days ahead.
As the President said this afternoon, this attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.
And so, later this afternoon, the President will stop by a roundtable with Jewish community leaders, along with the Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff; National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall; Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden; and Steve Benjamin, Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement.
This roundtable discussion will focus on the Biden-Harris administration’s unwavering support for Israel following the Hamas terrorist attacks and the implementation of President Biden’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, which was released in May.
Today and every day, we are here to reafform — reaffirm the United States will to continue to have Israel’s back.
And with that, Admiral John Kirby is here from the National Security Council to take any of your questions on the situation in Israel.
Go ahead, John.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: Appreciate that.
Good afternoon, everybody. As Karine noted, sadly, the numbers of Americans killed — murdered has climbed. And, you know, we have a better — a little bit better sense today of how many more Americans are — are unaccounted for or missing.
We know that a — a number of those Americans are being held hostage right now by Hamas. I think we all need to steel ourselves for the very distinct possibility that these numbers will — will keep increasing and that we may, in fact, find out that more Americans are part of the hostage pool.
So, as Karine said, our message to all these families affected is that, you know: We’re with you. We’re grieving with you. We’re sorrowful with you. We’re worrying with you. And we’re going to do everything we can — particularly for those who don’t know where a loved one is, to find out where they are and to get them home with you where they belong.
And that includes, of course, being willing to assist in advice or counsel when it comes to hostage-recovery efforts.
Now, of course, the Israelis have a very robust hostage-recovery capability of their own. Sadly, they have had — been forced to perfect that particular kind of capability. But we also have a lot of know-how too, and we’re — we’re offering to share that with the Israeli Defense Forces.
At the same time, we’re sharing additional defense-related support. I think you saw that the Israeli military announced today, with some imagery, the first tranche of U.S. military assistance arriving in Israel. That will continue.
We also, as I think the President alluded to yesterday, were able to replenish some of their Iron Dome interceptor missiles. These were missiles that we already had in stock in Israel. We simply just transferred ownership over to the Israeli Defense Forces.
So, again, more aid, more assistance will be coming in coming days.
As you also know, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and her strike group are now in the Eastern Mediterranean. They arrived yesterday. They are there for deterrence purposes to make it clear to any would-be actor, organization, group, terrorist network, nation-state — anybody who thinks that, with hostile intent towards Israel — that this is the time to widen and expand the conflict that we will take our national security interests seriously.
I would also note that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and her strike group will be departing on a prescheduled — long-scheduled deployment to the European Command area of responsibility. They’ll start that deployment in the coming week or so. They will be going initially across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean, where they will be available if needed.
No decisions have been made. I’ve seen some press reporting out there that — that we’ve already made some kind of final decision that a second carrier is going to be placed in the Eastern Med. No operational decisions like that have been made, but she will be heading in that direction, her ships will be with her, and she certainly will be an available asset if needed.
The bottom line is, as I said, we’re sending a loud and clear message: The United States is ready to take action should any actor hostile to Israel consider trying to escalate or widen this war. And I think Jake said that pretty well yesterday.
We’re also going to continue to talk to our Israeli partners about their needs to ensure, again, that they have what they require to defend their country and their people. And that’s just not going to stop. In fact, it’s almost an hourly conversation that we’re having with our — our counterparts.
Now, I know many of you have been asking about or expressing some interest in the idea of safe passage in Gaza for civilians.
Let me just say right upfront: We’re actively discussing this with our Israeli and our Egyptian counterparts. We support safe passage for civilians. The civilians are not to blame for what Hamas has done. They didn’t do anything wrong, and we continue to support safe passage.
I don’t have an announcement to make today. I can’t tell you a specific route or a corridor. I just want to make it clear that we are actively working on this with our Egyptian and — and our Israeli counterparts.
Civilians are protected under Laws of Arm- — of Armed Conflict, and they should be given every opportunity to avoid the fighting.
Now, if I could switch to Ukraine just quickly. Today, the Secretary of Defense announced at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting over in Europe that the United States is announcing a new aid package, which includes air defense munitions; ammunition for U.S.-provided artillery and HIMARS; counter-UAS equipment — unmanned aerial systems, sorry — to help Ukraine protect their people against Russian and Iranian drone strikes. We’re also announcing additional anti-armor capabilities and more than 16 million rounds of small arms and ammunition.
As Ukrainians continue to wage a very tough counteroffensive and as winter now fast approaches, we believe it is absolutely imperative — you heard me say before time is not our friend — that we continue to do everything we can to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield and claw back some more of their own territory from Russian units on the ground there.
This military aid package that we’re announcing today is another important signal of our continued commitment to supporting the Ukrainian people, and it utilizes funding authorities that Congress authorized for Ukraine during a prior fiscal year under the presidential drawdown authority.
We’re obviously going to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons and equipment they need, but it is absolutely critical that Congress keep its commitment to the people of Ukraine by providing additional funding. We are in active conversations with members of Congress about additional funding for Ukraine and for Israel. And it’s critical, again, that, we believe, Congress sends a clear message to Putin, sends a clear message to the Israeli people that — that the United States continues to have their back.
And, with that, let me take some questions.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aamer.
Q (Inaudible) John, ask just a little bit of a clarification on the 22 Americans who have unfortunately been killed. Were all those Americans killed believed to be killed by Hamas? Were all of them — all the killed in Israeli territory? Or do we know — do you know how many Americans have been killed inside Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: I’m afraid I don’t. I mean, we know the number is accurate as of right now, but the individual circumstances are not exactly clear.
Q So, this group — 22 — it was in Isra- — in Israel that —
MR. KIRBY: I — I don’t have the details on every single one. You could certainly consult the State Department. They might have a little bit higher touch because they’re in touch — or I know they’re trying to be in touch with all the families. But we don’t have that information.
Q If I can just quickly — all signs suggest that Israel will begin a possible ground invasion relatively soon. I know you talked about safe passage, but has the U.S. done anything to dissuade Israel from moving ahead with a ground offensive?
And if it does move ahead, has the President or administration officials directly asked Israel to show restraint in how it goes about such an operation?
MR. KIRBY: We’re going to let the Israelis talk about their military operations, particularly in the future tense. I mean, we don’t even talk about our operations in the future tense.
So, I don’t want to get ahead of where things are. And I certainly am not going to talk about Israeli military planning. So, I’ll let them take that.
You heard the President talk about this a little bit yesterday the — this idea of — you were asking about restraint. I mean, nobody wants to see any more innocent life lost. None. Nobody, no matter who you are. If you’re an innocent civilian, you didn’t cause this. You didn’t ask for this. And you shouldn’t be having to fear for your life. Nobody wants to see that happen.
And I think it’s important to remind that, especially on the Palestinian side, Hamas is directly endangering their lives: headquartering themselves in hospitals and schools, residential buildings, using the Palestinian people as human shields. They didn’t ask for that either.
And Hamas doesn’t speak for the majority of the Palestinian people or their aspirations for peace and security. I think that’s an important place to start this conversation.
Unlike the United States, unlike Israel — as the President said yesterday — who have respect for the rule of law and the Law of Armed Conflict and respect for human life, Hamas has none. None at all.
So, again, we’ll — we’ll let the Israelis speak for their military operations. Our focus is squarely right now, in these still early hours — and they are early hours — is to make sure that the Ukraine — the Israelis have what they need.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Mary.
Q I just want to clarify the numbers here. I think, Karine, you just said that 17 Americans remain missing. Is that the latest number? I think, yesterday, you had said 20. I just want to make sure we’re operating off of the same thing.
MR. KIRBY: There — there is 17 that are missing and — and 22 that are dead.
Q Okay. And is there anything you can share with us about — anything you know about the condition of the hostages? And also, has there been any kind of communication with Hamas, either directly or with our allies or partners, about securing their release? Is there any kind of receptiveness that they’ve shown even to talking about this issue?
MR. KIRBY: So, let me take the second one first. Obviously, we’re in discussions not only with the Israelis about what hostage recovery could look like, but with other allies and partners in the region. And there are some countries, like Qatar, that have open lines of communication with — with Hamas.
So, of course, we’re casting the net wide, as you would expect we would. We want to get these — all hostages back with their families, particularly the American hostages. No question about that.
Now, where they are and in what condition — no, sadly, we don’t know. And that makes efforts very, very difficult — and again, in these early hours. But we don’t know. We don’t know where they are. We don’t know if they’re all in one group or broken up into several groups. We don’t know if they’re being moved and with what frequency and to what locations. All of those questions, we’re working hard to answer.
Q And I’m sure you’re casting a wide net, but has any communication actually been made with Hamas? I mean —
MR. KIRBY: I’m just going to leave it — leave the answer the way I gave it to you. I think, just like in any other case when we’re talking about getting Americans home overseas that have been held hostage and wrongfully detained, the less you say out there publicly, the better.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q Thank you. Two on this region and then one on another in this hemisphere that I know some outlets in this room have questions about.
First, on the humanitarian corridor, is it accurate that the Egyptians have rejected calls to allow for one?
MR. KIRBY: I think you’d have to talk to the Egyptian authorities on that one.
Q Have the talks continued or —
MR. KIRBY: We — we believe that safe passage is important. And we want to see safe pass- — a safe passage corridor opened up.
We also believe it’s important that humanitarian assistance have a way to continue to get to the Palestinian people. And as Jake mentioned yesterday, we’re in active discussions with the Israelis and with the Egyptians about that.
Q There’s, of course, this ongoing intelligence assessment and now political debate over Iran: what it knew, what it may have done to support Hamas in all of this.
Even if there’s no direct evidence linking Iran to this specific attack right now, does the U.S. believe Iran needs to pay some kind of a price or there be some kind of retribution for having supported Hamas all along up to this point?
MR. KIRBY: (Laughs.) I mean, the question almost — and I’m not picking on you, Ed, but it implies that — that we’re just now waking up to the fact that they’ve been supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and other terrorist networks. That — that — Hamas is one of the most highly sanctioned terrorist networks on the planet, largely because of what we’ve been doing here in the United States to target them.
And Iran — my goodness, just since the beginning of this administration, we have sanctioned some 400-plus entities with more than 40 set — different sets of sanctions regimes, 30 of those just this past year alone.
We’ve increased our military presence in the — in the Gulf region because of their attacks on maritime shipping. We have sa- — added additional sanctions because of their support to Russia and the fact that they’re still providing drones and technology to Mr. Putin so he can kill innocent Ukrainians. And now we’ve added our military capability. We’ve added to it from a naval perspective in the Eastern Med.
So, nobody has turned a blind eye to Iranian destabilizing behavior.
Now, I think what you’re trying to get at is this particular set of attacks. What Jake said yesterday still holds: We obviously recognize that there’s broad complicity here by the Iranians, I mean, because of the longstanding support to Hamas. Hamas wouldn’t have been able to function at all had it not been for propping up by the Iranian regime.
But we haven’t seen any specific evidence that tells us they were witting, involved in the planning, or involved in the resourcing and — and the training that went into this very complex set of attacks over the weekend.
Q There’s one other — I mentioned an issue here in this hemisphere that there are outlets in this room, I know, are curious about. There have been several days now of protests in Guatemala that have essentially locked down parts of the country amid the ongoing protracted, difficult presidential transition.
Just curious if you can give us a sense of how the U.S. is monitoring that and whether it has any message for protesters who continue to hold up some parts of society, that have blocked gasoline and food shipments to parts of Guatemala.
MR. KIRBY: We certainly aren’t going to involve ourselves in internal Guatemalan politics. We obviously believe in free and fair elections. We believe in democratic voices. And we certainly believe in the right of peaceful protest. People should have the right to protest whatever they want to do, as long as they do it peacefully and in a way that — that doesn’t put others at harm. I think I’ll leave it at that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Thank you. John, you mentioned wanting to avoid actors in the region taking advantage of this. Can you give us a sense of who you think might take advantage of this that you’re worried about? Is it —
MR. KIRBY: I think there’s a unfortunately long list of actors in the region that are hostile to Israel. Hezbollah is one of them. And — and, you know, we’ve been watching with concern some of the rocket attacks that have come across the northern border of Israel from Lebanon, which obviously were coming from — from Hezbollah. So, we’re — we’re clearly concerned about that.
Q Are you concerned about Iran as well?
MR. KIRBY: We’re always concerned about Iran. And Iran’s hostility to Israel doesn’t need any reaffirmation by — by us. It’s — it’s out there plain to see. So, yeah, of course, we’re concerned about Iran.
Q You mentioned the humanitarian corridor, but more — just staying on the topic of the humanitarian issue, are you — how — what can be done? Or what is the U.S. doing to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza with the situation now about power, water, and food?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, as I said, we believe that humanitarian assistance is important for the Palestinian people that live in Gaza. And we are going to continue to — to pursue options to make sure that they get that humanitarian assistance.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Yeah, is — is the U.S. in conversation with the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian community here in the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: We have been routinely in — in communication with the — the Palestinian Authority. I don’t have — or I don’t — there’s not meetings or discussions, you know, in recent hours that I can speak to. But we have long maintained an open line of communication with them.
Q How — does the U.S. also condemn, perhaps, potential war crimes Israelis are committing in — in Gaza against Gazans?
MR. KIRBY: Well, our focus right now is making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against these attacks.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q If I can ask you, first, just about something that you referred to, which is the reported incursion into northern Israel. There have been reports from the IDF. Do you have any new information to share on that? There were reports of paragliders initially. Any other additional information about that?
MR. KIRBY: I’ve seen the reports. We’ve taken a quick look at them. We are not in a position to corroborate the validity of them. We have — what I talked about with Jeff was rocket attacks that we know —
Q Understood. We’ve seen those. Yeah.
MR. KIRBY: — have occurred in recent days.
Q Then, if I can, I just want to ask you separately about these hostages right now. Presumably 22 dead, at least 17 held hostage — not only the number of dead could rise —
MR. KIRBY: No, 17 that we know are missing.
Q Excuse me. Excuse me. Unaccounted for.
MR. KIRBY: And that number will fluctuate.
Q That number could rise?
MR. KIRBY: It could rise; it could go down. I mean, as people may be — they’re found safe and — safe and sound. So —
MR. KIRBY: — it’s 17 today.
Q Understood. So, about those who remain hostages right now, has the President ruled out sending any American forces of any kind into Gaza at any time to help secure their release, if necessary to get them out safely?
MR. KIRBY: We haven’t made any policy options or operational decisions with respect to hostage recovery at this time. We are in active —
Q So, nothing is ruled out?
MR. KIRBY: We haven’t made any decisions about hostage recovery at this time. We just don’t also have enough information, Peter, to be able to make decisions like that.
But you heard Jake yesterday say and — and the President has said: We’ll do everything we can anywhere around the world to make sure that Americans held hostage have a path home and to be safe with their families.
So, we’re — we’re keeping the — to Mary’s question — obviously, we’re casting a wide net. We’re also keeping the options wide open right now as we get more information, but we just don’t have enough granularity to be able to — to fine tune those options.
Q Has the President spoken to any of those unaccounted for or any of those Americans dead —
MR. KIRBY: I’m not —
Q — the families of them?
MR. KIRBY: I know that the State Department has been in touch with many — most of the families of those that — that we know have been killed. I don’t know if they’ve talked to all of them. I have no conversations from the White House to speak to.
Q Thank you.
Q What’s the level of concern that American troops who are stationed in the Middle East might be a target of Iran or some proxy forces? And are — are there steps being taken to secure military installations?
MR. KIRBY: Well, sadly, I mean, our troops in the Middle East are well familiar with the — the — the ebb and flow of security concerns for force protection. I mean, it’s just part and parcel of being deployed there. And there’s — it’s never not a concern for commanders in the region, when it comes to force protection, because some other event somewhere else could absolutely have repercussions for you and your troops.
So, without speaking to specifics — I’d never do that — what the force protection measures look like, they change all the time. They certainly are adapted to the situation.
And the Defense Department will — would — will, and of course, be able to speak to what they’re doing.
Q And are you seeing any evidence of potential domestic threats that people might be inspired by these attacks to do harm here — here in the U.S. to synagogues or any other places of worship?
MR. KIRBY: I know of no specific threats here domestically based on — like a spillover effect of what’s happening between Israel and Hamas. I know of no specific threat streams here to — to speak to.
But — and you heard the President talk about this yesterday — we’re not going to assume anything. Because of the rise of antisemitism around the world and certainly here at home, it makes perfect prudent sense that we take the kind of action we have taken with local and state authorities to increase our intelligence posture — domestic intelligence posture and to make sure that we’re properly prepared to deter and disrupt any potential violent threat to the Jewish community here at home.
And I think you’ll hear the President talk about this a little bit more today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Jacqui, and then we’ll go to the back of the room.
Q Thank you, Karine. John, this was a massive intelligence failure. Who bears responsibility for that?
MR. KIRBY: You know something, Jacqui, there’s going to come a time when it’s appropriate for us to take a look back retrospectively and see what the intel picture showed us or didn’t show us, whether there’s any gaps that need to be closed. There’s going to be a time for that, and I suspect that our Israeli counterparts will do the same thing. Now is not that time. It’s just not that time.
Q Can you — can you speak to the reports that Israel was warned by Egypt?
MR. KIRBY: I can’t.
Q McCaul, from Foreign Affairs, made that allegation this morning saying that that was something that members were told in — on the intelli- — or on the Foreign Affairs Committee. So, has that been discussed at all, or is that something you’re looking into?
MR. KIRBY: I can’t speak to specific intelligence matters. Again, there will be a time to — to look back at this, as we always do, and we will. Right now, we’re sharpening the intelligence gathering and cooperation and sharing with Israel, as we should, since they’re involved in active operations. And we’re making sure that they get the tools they need.
Q Can you define what the “direct link” is when you guys talk about Iran not being involved, no direct link? What is a — what do you consider to be a direct link?
MR. KIRBY: So, what I’m referring to there is any — any evidence that we have that they were knowledgeable of and aware of these particular attacks.
Now, of course, as Jake said yesterday, you know, it — that they were — obviously have been broadly aware of Hamas’s hostility to Israel and to some of the broad planning that –that Hamas would do, but we haven’t seen anything that tells us they knew, specifically, date, time, method, that they were — that they were witting to this.
It — we haven’t seen anything that tells us they specifically cut checks to support this set of attacks or that they were involved in the training and th- — obviously, this required quite a bit of training by these terrorists — or that they were involved in any directing of the operation.
So, again — I’ll get to your — I promise, I — I don’t want you — I’m not trying to mot- — mon- — you know, monopolize the time here.
But we’re — it’s not a — you know, we’re not one and done here either. We’re going to continue to look at the intelligence stream and see if it leads us to a different conclusion. All I can do is be honest with you about the conclusions we’re coming to today. And we just haven’t seen that.
Q So, you kind of answered my follow-up, which is —
MR. KIRBY: Oh, good. (Laughter.)
Q — is it the position of the administration that, at this stage, Iran was not involved?
I guess my — my question is: How can we know that this was in the planning for over a year, and within a few short days say that Iran was not behind it?
MR. KIRBY: Because that’s what we think. Because we —
Q So, it is your —
MR. KIRBY: — we’ve been looking at it —
Q It is the position then?
MR. KIRBY: No, what — what we think now — again, we have not seen any evidence — specific evidence that Iran was directly involved with these specific sets of attacks.
Q But it’s still —
MR. KIRBY: That doesn’t mean that — yeah, I mean, look, we’re going to keep looking at it. I — what — the book is not closed on it. We’re going to keep looking at that. But that’s just where we are right now.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, we’re going to move on.
Go ahead, Anita.
Q I’m sorry to yammer —
Q Thank you. John —
Q — on the Iran thing, but, just briefly —
Q — was it Iran that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I said Anita.
We’ll get — we’ll try to get everyone.
Q Sorry. What did Iran know and when did they know it? Where are we now? Where is the White House now on, like, what they knew, when they knew it about this attack?
MR. KIRBY: I think I’d give you the same answer I gave Jacqui.
Q Okay. Moving on to China. The Foreign Minister is coming to D.C. soon. Just wondering if you can preview what’s on the agenda, who he’s meeting with, and then let us know, you know, what the prospects are for a Xi-Biden meeting and whether that might be at APEC in November.
MR. KIRBY: I think we’ll have more to say about the specific agenda as we get closer to it. I don’t have any of the — the details for you now, and I don’t have anything to announce or speak to with respect to a meeting between President Biden and President Xi.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nadia.
Q Thank you. John, I’m here.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you.
Q I — yesterday, I saw heart-wrenching stories of testimonies of Israeli families who lost their loved one, similar to the one that made you tear up on — on TV.
One of them is the story of Hayim Katsman. His sister appealed to the Israeli government — who is a peace activist. She’s asking the Israeli government not to kill civilians in Gaza in his name. Is this a message that you encourage and you carry to your Israeli partners, considering that today we have 11 U.N. workers who have been killed, 4 journalists, and 1,100 civilians? How can you make sure that these people are not collateral damage?
MR. KIRBY: I — I’ve kind of addressed this before, but I’m happy to revisit it quickly. Again, we don’t want to see any more innocent civilian life taken or lost. None. I mean, the — the number should be zero of innocent civilians killed or harmed right now. Sadly, that’s not the case.
And — and I can’t stand here — I wouldn’t stand here before you and try to predict that in a war, which is still raging and may rage for yet some time that — that there won’t be additional civilian casualties. I wish I could promise you that’s not going to be the case, but I can’t. We don’t want to see any more, but I can’t promise that.
All I can do is — is repeat what the President said that — that this is what differentiates democracies — modern democracies, like Israel and the United States — from Hamas. Hamas has deliberately — I mean, the whole — the whole purpose of the initial attacks on Saturday were to kill, to murder, to butcher, to slaughter. They weren’t trying to occupy territory. They were trying to kill.
And they are the ones placing the Palestinians at greater risk by — by headquartering themselves in hospitals and schools.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Brian. Brian.
Q Thanks a lot, John. Is the White House putting forward a funding package to Congress that puts together funding for Israel with funding for the border, funding for Taiwan, and funding for Ukraine.
MR. KIRBY: We’re in active conversations with Congress about additional funding that we know we need, specifically for Israel and for Ukraine. I’m not prepared to detail those conversations for you right now or — or tell you what the parameters are — are going to be because, frank- — frankly, those parameters haven’t been yet arrived at or even decided upon.
But we are in active discussions about additional funding. We need it, as I said in my opening statement.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Oh, thank you. Could you give a little bit of an update on what the administration is doing to find out more about the Americans who are being held hostage and what — whatever you’re able to discuss about what those efforts look like?
MR. KIRBY: Tough — tough to get more detail. We’re — we’re obviously talking to the Israelis about what they might know. I mean, they’re on the ground. And they’ve, unfortunately, had to deal with this — this sort of a scenario before.
So, they’ve been tremendously forthcoming with the information that they have. But understanding that the information that even they have right now isn’t all that specific. I mean, we just don’t have a lot of granularity on where these people are or what condition they might be in or whether they’re being moved.
So, I — I truly wish I had more that I could provide, because there’s a lot of families out there really, really worried. And the families, quite frankly, too, for all their grief and sorrow and — and the anguish they’re going through, some of them have been helpful in terms of helping us understand where their loved ones were when they were abducted. Some of them may have even seen it.
So, like, it’s — it’s a conversation that we’re having with family members as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aurelia.
Q Thank you so much. I have a question on the role tech platforms are playing right now. The EU has specifically asked Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg to crack down on misleading information related to the attacks on Israel. Has the administration had this kind of engagement? Is it making the same kind of demands?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any such discussions with tech companies about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. The U.S. has been warning since Saturday that hostile parties should not be escalating the conflict at this time. What evidence do you have about whether that message has been heeded?
MR. KIRBY: It’s not the kind of thing that they, you know, phone in and say, “Okay, got it.” We have not seen to date — we have not seen another actor intentionally try to widen the conflict. All we can go is by what we’re seeing and we’re not seeing.
It’s important that we send that signal. With the arrival of that carrier strike group and with the rhetoric, of course, coming out from our administration, and we’ll keep doing that.
Q And what variables and within what timeframe would the U.S. look to consider when making a decision about deploying additional assets to the region?
MR. KIRBY: I think it’s going to depend on how things are — are going in the region. Again, we don’t want to see this conflict widen any more than it already has. Israel is focused, rightly, on Hamas. Opening up additional fronts for them obviously would — would be just a horrible scenario. We don’t want to see that happen.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Peter.
Q Congressman Lawler just said on TV that they’re — they’re expecting an announcement within 24 hours about an airlift of the U.S. citizens. Have you — can you tell us anything about that?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any details for you on that. I would just tell you, Peter, that we’re in — the State Department is an active touch with American citizens in Israel — many of them, as you well know, are dual nationals — to try to make sure that — that, A, we’ve got the connection, and — and, B, that we know if they have any concerns, like in — in the case that they want to — they want to leave.
So, we’re — we’re in active conversations with — with Americans on the ground there. And we want to make sure — right now, there are still commercial carriers — not all, some — flying in and out of Ben Gurion every day. There are still now viable ground routes. If you wanted to leave safely out of Israel, that is also an option to you.
But neither of those options may necessarily be feasible or affordable to certain Americans. And so, we are exploring actively a range of other options to assist if Americans want to leave. I’m just not at liberty now to go into more detail about that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q You said “dual citizens.” Can you identify — do you know how many of the 22 Americans who have died and the 17 that are unaccounted for — how many of them are dual citizens versus just pure — you know, only American?
MR. KIRBY: The State Department might be able to give — give you that. I — I don’t have that data handy. But as — again, as you know, so many American citizens in Israel are, in fact —
Q Does that mean that we —
MR. KIRBY: — dual passport holders.
Q — defer to the Israelis on decisions on what to do about them if they are, in fact, mostly dual citizens?
MR. KIRBY: I’m sorry, say that again.
Q Does that mean that we would defer to the Israelis in terms of deciding what actions to take if they’re mostly — they’re their citizens as well?
MR. KIRBY: A dual national with an American passport is an American. And we will take seriously our responsibilities to get any wrongfully detained or hostage — American hostage home to their families where they belong. They are Americans.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q John, you talked about the Eisenhower — I believe that it is a prescheduled deployment — to potentially be out there in case — positioned near the fort.
What about reports about the USS George Washington and also the HMS Prince of Wales. Are they also being readied?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t know of any plans for them to be readied. Again, I’d refer you to the Defense Department to speak to other units.
Again, I want to remind: The Eisenhower is preparing for a long-scheduled deployment to the region. And I don’t have any operational decisions to speak to.
I just thought it was important to put that into some context, because I saw some reporting yesterday that seemed to suggest it was a definite decision that she was going to join the Ford.
That could happen, I don’t know, but she will be deploying into the Mediterranean and will be an available asset, as well as her escort vessels.
Q Okay. I have another follow-up here. It seems like you’re — you’ve really been trying to — (clears throat) — excuse me — project the message that you want to contain this, you want to make sure that state and non-state actors get the message that you want to keep this contained.
So, how does it help that effort when you have statements like Senator Graham on Capitol Hill saying, “If Hezbollah in the north attacks Israel in strength, we should tell the Ayatollah we will destroy your oil refineries and your oil infrastructure”? How worried are you about statements like that?
MR. KIRBY: I’ll let members of Congress speak for their comments and — and what they think should be done or should not be done.
The President is the Commander-in-Chief; the responsibility is on his shoulders. And he’s also, of course, a strong supporter of Israel, has been for his entire life in public service.
We have to answer for the policy decisions that — that we make, and we’re comfortable doing that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q John, over here.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you.
Q Yeah. (Laughs.) It’s okay.
MR. KIRBY: Aamer’s head is a big — right there. (Laughter.) Just scoot down a little bit.
Q On the humanitarian corridor —
MR. KIRBY: I’m kidding.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you trying to say he has a big — (laughter).
Q On the humanitarian corridor, I know you said there was conversations ongoing. Could you provide some more detail? I mean, what is — what would the U.S.’s involvement in that be? Are we talking encouraging conversations with Israel and Egypt? Would we have direct involvement in creating some kind of a humanian [sic] corridor here for the 2 million-plus people
to leave? They have — they have no option at this point.
MR. KIRBY: We — we want to see that they have an option. And Israel and Egypt are the two most significant players when it comes to trying to get that corridor open. So, I think you can understand — at least I hope you do — that I wouldn’t want to get into too much of the diplomacy here and the conversations that we’re having. But we are having active conversations about trying to allow for that safe passage.
So, again, the — these civilians did nothing wrong, and so, we — we want to make sure they have a way out.
Q Did the President and Prime Minister Netanyanu [sic] — Netanyahu have a conversation about this this morning or —
MR. KIRBY: I —
Q — yesterday?
MR. KIRBY: I — as I said in my first answer, I’m not going to get into too much of the diplomacy here.
Q And could you get into specifics on the aid that you said the U.S. would want to provide to the Gaza Strip. I mean, with no food, water —
MR. KIRBY: Well, we are —
Q — medications, what kind of aid would the U.S. want to provide here?
MR. KIRBY: The normal kind of humanitarian assistance we’d — we’d provide normally. I mean, we are the — the biggest contributor to humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, particularly there in Gaza. And we want to see that —
Q So, an increase in aid?
MR. KIRBY: — we want to be able to see that assistance continue.
So, it’s — it’s food, water, medical supplies, medicine. I mean, it’s — it’s the whole panoply of humanitarian assistance that we know is — are important because, again, these people are victims, too. They didn’t ask Hamas to do this.
Q Is there an increase though in the amount of aid that’s going (inaudible) —
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any new announcements to make in terms of increases. We want to see the — we are the greatest contributor of humanitarian assistance. We’re obviously proud of that. We want to be able to see that humanitarian assistance be able to continue.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q Yeah. I wanted to ask you about oil, if I could, and the money that it’s bringing in. So, is the amount of oil that’s being brought in by Iran — specifically, records amount, 85 percent to China, more oil being sold above the price cap from Russia — giving the President any pause on changing these energy policies for fossil fuels here in the U.S.?
MR. KIRBY: I would — just let me back up a little bit. I mean, it’s important to remember that Iran gets most of its oil revenue off the black market and evad- — evading sanctions, which they do. It’s costly to them. In fact, our evidence is that they really only receive a fraction of the market value of the oil that they sell, because they have to sell it on the black market.
We will always, as we do in any case, typically, revisit sanctions regimes to see if they need to be changed or adjusted, specifically with respect to Iranian oil.
The President, since the beginning of the administration, has been concerned about making sure we have a viable global market for oil, working hard to keep the prices of gasoline down here in the United States. Part of that is making sure you remove some of the volatility in that global supply and
I don’t have any announcements or decisions to make today with respect to any changes to the domestic oil production.
Q But isn’t it a national security issue when you have countries that are profiting off of oil and the increased price of oil that don’t like Israel, that don’t like America?
MR. KIRBY: We don’t want, for instance, Russia to be able to — to get a windfall in profits from the oil market so that they can then turn that around and — and apply that to weapons in Ukraine. We certainly don’t want to see Iran do — be able to do much of the same, which is why we’re — we’re putting as much pressure on them as we are.
Q So, why not increase oil production here?
MR. KIRBY: I — again, I don’t have any announcements to make today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we got to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go — go ahead.
Q Thanks. Just to follow up on Brian’s question. I know the contours of a congressional package is still taking shape. But can you provide us anything on a timeline or give us a sense of how quickly the U.S. will exhaust what it can provide to Israel before congressional action is needed?
MR. KIRBY: We have existing authorities and appropriations to support Israel in the near term. And I got asked last time, you know, what is “near term,” or what’s “a bit” mean? I — I can’t give you a date certain on the calendar, because a lot of it’s going to depend on their expenditure rate and what the replenishment ability is — or what the need is and what our ability to do it is.
But in the near term, we’ve — we’ve got appropriations and authorities for both Ukraine and for Israel. But you don’t want to be trying to bake in long-term support when you’re at the end of the rope.
And in Ukraine — on the Ukraine funding, we’re — we’re coming near to the end of the rope. I mean, today we announced $200 million, and we’ll keep that aid going as long as we can, but it’s — it’s not going to be indefinite.
So, are we moving with a sense of alacrity? Absolutely. I couldn’t give you a date certain on the calendar.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, a couple more. From this side, go ahead.
Q Can I follow up on that for a second? The lack of a Speaker in the House of Representatives, I’ll venture to say, has probably not had any impact on the situation at the moment. Are there, though, coming to be immediate needs for Israel if Republicans get their act together up on the Hill?
MR. KIRBY: I mean, you — I don’t need to tell you — it’s Civics 101 — the Speaker of the House is responsible. I mean, he’s — that that position is critical in terms of bringing legislation to the floor and moving things forward, so the sooner that there’s a Speaker of the House, obviously, the more comfortable we’ll all be in terms of being able to support Israel and Ukraine.
Right now — you’re right — because of existing appropriations and existing authorities, we’ve been okay. But that’s not going to last forever.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, a couple more.
Q Immediate needs, at all?
MR. KIRBY: Pardon me?
Q Immediate needs at all do you — do you see?
MR. KIRBY: I think in the immediate term, right now, we can continue to support — with the authorities in the appropriations we have — Israel and Ukraine. But, you know, we’re — we’re certainly running out of runway.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, just a couple more. Go ahead, Phil.
Q Thank you, Karine. Two questions. Given the situation in the Middle East, will the White House lean on the Senate to move some of these military promotions more quickly and one by one if necessary? And then second, more generally, given that Hamas has killed 22 Americans and that 17 are still in hostage, I know you said the goal here is not to widen the conflict, but why has the United States only assumed a supplemental role thus far?
MR. KIRBY: Listen, on your first question, the — the
— what’s going on in Israel right now just underscores how important it is that our military has the — the leadership they need in place. And it’s not just the ones that are in the jobs now that are being held up. It’s — it’s the jobs they’re supposed to go to. I mean, right now, the incoming Fifth Fleet Commander — the three-star Navy admiral who’s in charge of the — the naval forces in the Gulf region is — is not confirmed for that job, so the guy who’s in the job is still doing it.
So, these rotations matter. And they do have an impact on — on the military’s ability to — to fleet up and to — and to — and improve the leadership capability across the force.
So, it is having an impact. And it would anyway, but I think now that you’ve got these moves in Israel and you have the need to provide additional military resources from the Navy in the Eastern Med all, I think, just highlights how dynamic the security environment is around the world and how much more critical it is that the leadership of the military be able to address that dynamism through the normal promotion process and the normal assignment process.
I would take issue with your comment about a supplemental role. I’m not really quite sure what you mean by that. But —
Q Previously you said that we were willing to assist and offer advice and counsel to the Israeli —
MR. KIRBY: That’s right. We are. That — that’s right.
And we’re going to continue to have those conversations with the Israelis. If you’re talking about the hostage-recovery efforts, we’ll have those conversations.
But as Jake said yesterday, we’ll do what we need to do for our citizens who are being held hostage. We will — we will do what we need to do. We’ll do what is possible to do. But I think, as you heard in my answer to Mary, we just don’t have a lot of fingertip feel. I mean, it’s hard to come up with a policy option when you’re not really sure where they are, how many they are, whether they’re being moved.
So, we’re working this very hard hour by hour. But I — I’m not going to stand up here and lie to you and say that we — we have it all figured out.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, John. Thank you, Karine. Thank you, John. And Jews across the world are appreciative for this administration’s support, both in words and in deed. I’d like to commune this message to you.
Two very quick questions. I want to follow up on the reports that Hamas was calling for a day of general mobilization on Friday, October 13th. Are there any specific proactive measures that American Jews should take, in your opinion?
MR. KIRBY: You mean here at home?
Q Here at home.
MR. KIRBY: Well, first of all, I mean, you’ve heard the President talk about this. We understand the anxious — the anxiety, the concern, certainly, here in the United States as antisemitism unfortunately rears its head.
But also, we know that the Jewish community is almost like a family. It’s — it’s big, but it’s small. And everybody knows somebody. And we know that there’s so many Americans in the Jewish community here who are worried about friends and family members that are — that are there. And we — we share that worry with them.
We want them to know that we know that there’s fear and that we’re going to do everything we can to reduce that level of fear that they should be able to worship and recreate and work in peace and safety on every street in the United States of America.
And that’s why we’re working so closely with state and local authorities to — to be able to identify any potential threats and disrupt those threats before — before they happen.
But mostly, we — we want the Jewish community over there and certainly here to know that we’re with them.
Q I’ve got one more question, John. In the event Israel strikes Iran, what levels of support can they anticipate from this administration?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t get into hypothetical operations that haven’t happened yet or what policy options might accrue from that. I just — I just want to do it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Mary, you have the last question.
Q Thanks, I appreciate it. I know you said that it was — it’s been so hard to get any information out about U.S. hostages. But have you gotten any proof of life?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any specific proof of life on any individual hostage. And I would say that the — of the 17 that Karine talked about that we know are — are missing right now — and, again, this is going to change — but right now we think the number that we know are — or we believe are held hostage is very small — very small — like less than a handful. But that could change over time. We — you know, we’re — we’re going to get more information every single day.
Q You — you talked about the need to get — how the U.S. was supporting trying to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza. The U.N. Human Rights Chief said that any siege that would cut off necessary supplies, like food and water, could also be a violation of the international law. Is that how the U.S. sees it?
MR. KIRBY: I think I’m just going to not get ahead of where we are right now, if you — if you’ll just let me do that.
MR. KIRBY: Okay, thanks everybody.
Q One follow-up, Admiral?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. All right, guys, we’re a few minutes.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, guys.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral. Well, if you guys have any more questions.
Q I — I just have —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Aamer? Yeah.
Q So, the CBO yesterday said that the budget deficit totaled $1.7 trillion, which is an increase from $300 billion from last year. Why did the deficit increase if the U.S. economy is doing so well, as President Biden has said?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. As you know, the President has — when it comes to the deficit, he has done a record amount of work in reducing the deficit, as you just laid out. And one of the things that we have seen is that congressional
Democrats [Republicans] continue to do the trickle-down economics, which we know — we know it doesn’t work — right? — what you’ve heard us call “MAGA-nomics,” right?
And so, it has increased the deficit. It has — it has — it increased even more than we had — than it was anticipated. And so, this is what we believe is MAGA-nomics deficit.
And the reason why — just a couple of things to lay out here. If you think about the Republican tax cuts, they are responsible for about 90 percent of the increase in the debt as a share of the economy. And that’s over the last two decades, right? This is for — for some time now. And — and that’s including that one-time emergency spending.
And — and so, if you look at 2023 — the increase, as you just laid out — the fall — the falling tax revenue caused 63 percent of the increase in the deficit. And the non-interest spending was not responsible for the increase in the deficit in 2023, but it’s causing just 6 percent of the increase.
So, that’s how we see this — the — the numbers from the CBO. That’s how we kind of break it down. That’s how it’s been broken down and — and how we see why the deficit has increased.
Again, this is decades and decades, if you think about it, of trickle-down economics that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. And we see that in the numbers from yesterday.
Go ahead, Akayla.
Q Thanks, Karine. House Republicans are suggesting that another CR bill could be needed, potentially into next year. Would the President support such a bill in delaying this appropriations process again?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I’m not going to get ahead or get into the hypotheticals of how — how Congress is doing their business. Obviously, the House Republicans have to figure out who’s going to be the next Leader. As the President said, he doesn’t have a vote in that. They have to make that decision as they’re moving forward in — in figuring that out.
But what we want to — to see is — what we want to see happening is that we want the House in Congress to — to get back to work — to get to work so that we can deliver for the American people.
I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, not going to get into their process here. But certainly, they’re trying to figure it out right now in the chaos that they’ve caused.
Q If there is another CR bill, though, does the President want to see Ukraine and Israel aid in that package?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’ve been very clear: We want — we believe — and this is something that Jake said yesterday — like, we are capable — as the United States, right? — to be able to give funding — additional funding to Israel, to give additional funding to Ukraine. This is something that we are capable of doing.
And the importance of doing that is — is clearly important.
I’m not going to get — there is going to be a path forward that the OMB director is going to lay out and — and see the best way to move forward. I’m not going to get into — ahead of that.
You heard the President yesterday saying that he is going to — as you just iriter- — iterated — that he’s going to ask for more funding as it relates to Israel. I’m just not going to get ahead of that process.
But this is something, again, that Jake said: We are capable of doing that, capable of providing the assistance that’s needed.
Q Just before we came out here, Republicans voted to nominate Congressman Scalise as the Speaker. He obviously hasn’t been — gotten the support of the entire caucus yet. I was wondering if the White House is monitoring that and if you have any comment on a potential Speaker Scalise.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — I hope that the House Republicans gets their affairs in order and stops the chaos so that we can — you know, they can select — they can select the Speaker that — of their choosing so that we can move forward and do the — the people’s business.
We’re not part of the process. We’re not going to comment about the process. As the President has said, he doesn’t have a vote in that process. But we want to see the chaos be done with so that the — so that we can deliver on the Amer- — for the American people.
As you heard today, the President made a very important announcement on junk fees — right? — something that Americans care about — wh- — another way to lower costs for Americans.
So, the President is continuing — even with the chaos that they’re causing on the other side of — of Pennsylvania Avenue, the President every day is continuing to deliver for the American people, clearly being a leader on the world stage as we’re talking about the horrific attack in Israel, as we’re talking about how we’re going to — the need to continue the Ukraine funding.
So, the President is doing all of that. And we’re waiting. We’re waiting for them to get their — their business in order.
Go ahead, Kayla.
Q How soon after House leadership gets settled is the administration prepared to send a new supplemental request?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have — I don’t have a timeline for you. I think the President said next week, right? He mentioned next week — what — as it relates to Israel, and when the Senate gets back. I just don’t have anything specific or any details to lay out on — on the exact timeline.
Q And how closely does it hew to what the administration put forward in August with the addition of new funding for Israel?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Again, we’re going to try and figure out the best path forward. I just don’t have anything — specifics to lay out at this time.
Q Thanks, Karine. Do you have a list of attendees for today’s meeting on antisemitism?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, we’ll have a — we’ll have a list for all of you — a readout of that later on. It’s about, I believe, 20 leaders from the Jewish community. I laid out the — the — the staff — the senior staffers who are going to be participating on our end, and we’ll certainly have a more in-depth readout afterwards.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Ed.
Q Thanks, Karine. On junk fees. Most of the fees they talked about are disclosures and don’t reduce. But the ones that do reduce, isn’t this just a game of Whac-A-Mole and those fees will pop up somewhere else?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look — no, not at all. These are — FTC rule covers many junk fees. And just to lay out a little bit — and I think you’ve heard this from — from many of our folks here in the past 24 hours why this is so important. They cost consumers tens of billions of dollars, if you think about junk fees. That’s what they cost consumers.
And this FTC rule would ban many of them, as I just laid out and — including event tickets, hotels, car rentals, delivery apps, and apartment rentals. And so, this is a CF- — CF- — CFPB’s crackdown. It’s important.
The Pr- — the President has been very clear throughout his — when he talks about his economic plan, when he talks about how he’s going to move forward to deliver for the American people in lowering costs. And this is part of that: lowering costs, making people’s lives — Americans’ lives a little bit easier.
So, we do not see this as a Whac-A-Mole. We believe that the junk fees will cover the — will cover many — many of the fees that we see out there, as I just listed out.
All right. Right behind you. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. This is related to the situation in the House. But is — is it the view of the White House that the Gang of Eight has — the intelligence Gang of Eight that receives the top-level briefings from the executive branch has eight members or is — is the Speaker Pro Tem Mr. McHenry getting the security briefings at the very top level or are there effectively only seven members with the Speaker being vacant?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would — I would refer you to this — to the Speaker Pro Tem. I don’t have that information for you. I would just refer you to his office.
All right. I’m going take —
Q You haven’t called on me in two seasons, Karine. Why don’t —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not calling on you today.
Q All right, Karine —
Q You should be ashamed of that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q That shows disrespect to a free and independent media.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m going to clo- —
Q Let’s blacklist one of our country’s largest and most widely read newspapers, Karine.
AIDE: We have a hard out in —
Q That shows contempt for a free and independent press.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. I’m calling on somebody who I haven’t called in a long time as well. Go ahead.
Q Thanks. Why wasn’t the President originally scheduled to attend this meeting with roundta- — this roundtable later this afternoon? It wasn’t on the guidance from yesterday that was published.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, we — the President tends to do drop-bys on the day of. The President’s schedule has been incredibly busy over the last couple of days, as you know — right? — with the — with the situation that’s currently happening in Israel, with making calls, meeting with his NSC — NSC team.
And he believed because the — the leaders were coming in that he wanted to drop by and have a conversation and say that we are — we are there with them.
This happens all the time. It’s not unusual for the — for us to announce a drop-by. And so, this is what you’re seeing today.
And we believe this is going to be incredibly important for the President to be there with the Jewish leaders in the communities. And so, it’s important. It’s going to be an important moment.
Q Is there anything you can tell us about this incident that happened with Congressman Van Orden and White House staff? Apparently, he was belligerent during the briefing on the attacks on Israel, was shouting profanity at them. Is there anything you can tell us about that incident?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I don’t have anything to — to share beyond what you’re reporting or the reportings from out of that. All right.
Q Final question, Karine. In —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we’re going go because —
Q Final question, Karine. Just a final question about Jewish —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — we have to get ready for the Jewish leaders. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thank you, Karine.
2:31 P.M. EDT