James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:31 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon.  Good afternoon, everyone.

All right, I want to make something clear at the top, because I understand how important moral clarity is, especially at this time.

So, when Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or their identity, when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism, and that is unacceptable.  There is no place for antisemitism.  Full stop.  Period. 

This is important to the President.  It’s important to me personally and to everyone in the administration.

Following the Hamas terror attacks in Israel, which were the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust, the President has been consistent and clear: We must all do our part and forcefully — forcefully speak out against antisemitism, and we must ensure there is no place for hate in America — not against Jews, not against Muslims, not against Arab Americans, not against Palestinian Americans, not against anyone.

So, I wanted to start there today. 

And with that, I’d like to call up my colleague Admiral John Kirby to take any additional questions that you have on Israel or any other foreign policy questions that you have.  He agreed to come back today.  And so, thank you, Admiral, for being here. 

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, ma’am.  Thank you very much. 

Good afternoon, everybody. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  Just — I don’t have a whole lot of new information here, but I do want to just stress that the President continues to get briefed regularly by his national security team on what’s going on in the Middle East. 

As you know, he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, again — a continuation of this dialogue and conversation that he’s having with the Prime Minister as things unfold there. 

And, of course, we still have Ambassador Satterfield on the ground continuing to work to try to get humanitarian aid in and to get safe passage for people out. 

I don’t have a lot of progress on either front to speak to today.  Unfortunately, there — there were no more trucks that got in.  And we haven’t, again, secured passage for folks out, but we’re obviously working that very, very hard, as well as the hostage piece.  So, not a lot to update you on there. 

Just a real quick note on the state visit.  I mean, I — because I’m — I’m certain I’m going to get asked, but, yes, we expect the situation in the Middle East to come up in the conversations with Prime Minister Albanese tomorrow.  The President is looking forward to the state visit.  There is an awful lot on the plate with this important ally and key partner in the region. 

I just want to just quickly go — blow through, if I could, highlighting some of the key initiatives that we’re going to be announcing.  The leaders will have more detail tomorrow, so I will probably not be able to go into more detail than when I’m going here with you today, but I just thought it’d be fair to give you a sense of some of the things they’re going to be announcing.

And I think the theme, the current running through this visit is really going to be on innovation. 

So, they’re going to be announcing new advanced technology cooperation, particularly on artificial intelligence.  You might have seen the Prime Minister inking a deal with Microsoft on a $3 billion investment for a — for AI.  We welcome that. 

This tech innovation piece will also be highlighting a new space agreement that will allow U.S. companies to launch into space from Australia — so, pretty exciting there. 

We’re going to be committing to clean energy by building resilient, sustainable, and secure critical mineral supply chains.  The Secretary of Commerce was over at the embassy today talking about that and getting us closer to finishing that critical minera- — minerals piece.

Obviously, tackling the climate crisis, including by mobilizing funding for businesses across the region to transition to clean energy.

Advancing connectivity across the Pacific through investments in undersea cable infrastructure and maritime infrastructure.

Enhancing our defense cooperation between us to include trilateral cooperation with Japan. 

And, again, continuing to work on this AUKUS implementation.  AUKUS, as you know, is the — is the trilateral agreement between Great Britain, the United States, and Australia to provide for Australia a nuclear-powered but conventionally-armed submarine capability. 

And then, of course, there will be other deliverables as well.  I won’t — I won’t belabor my time here, but a very exciting visit.  The President and the First Lady are very much looking forward to it.  Lots to discuss.  Lots going on in the world.  And — and we’re excited about it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Danny.

Q    Thanks.  Thanks, Karine.  Thank you, Admiral.  French President Emmanuel Macron called today for Hamas to be added to the targets of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.  Is that something that the White House would support?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we’re just aware of these reports coming out from — from the Élysée. 

I would say, first and foremost, we’re focused on helping Israel go after Hamas right now, making sure they got the capabilities, the security assistance to go after Hamas.  And we’re certainly in discussions with our allies and partners. 

As you know, President Macron was on the call — actually, two calls that the President has had with European leaders in just the last several days.  And we’ll — we’ll continue those consultations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia. 

Q    Thank you.  I have two questions.  Amnesty International said that they found evidence that Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza.  Any confirmation from the U.S. on this?

MR. KIRBY:  I cannot confirm that.

Q    Okay. 

And just now, as you know, the U.N. Security Council had a meeting.  The Arab Groups condemned killing civilians but also said that we “should support a peace process” instead of sending more weapons to Israel if you want to support Israel. 

Do you envisi- — envisage a scenario whereby hostages will be released, Hamas will be disarmed, and some kind of international conference will take place soon?

MR. KIRBY:  I couldn’t begin to speculate on that.  I — you know, that’s — that — those are potential steps that haven’t happened yet and may not happen. 

All I can tell you is we’re going to continue to make sure Israel has the tools and the capabilities that they need to defend themselves.  We’re going to continue to try to get that humanitarian assistance in, and we’re going to continue to try to get hostages and — and people out of Gaza appropriately. 

And as I think you’ve heard us say, a ceasefire right now really only benefits Hamas.  That’s where we are right now. 

And I — I understand the question, but I’m just not going to get ahead of where things are. 

Q    So, just — there’s no scenario to avoid — to avert the war now?  That was my point, really.  There is no other no scenario to avoid — to avert any war?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s already combat between Israel and Hamas.  If what you’re saying —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  — to avert a ground incursion —

Q    Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  — that is a question for the Israeli Defense Forces.  They get to make the decisions about what operations they’re going to conduct or not.  We don’t believe that a ceasefire right now is — what — we would leave that — a ceasefire right now is only going to benefit Hamas.


Q    Thanks, Admiral.  There was some reporting overnight that the U.S. is planning for mass evacuations of Americans if the war were to spread.  Can you kind of give context of how likely you guys are viewing that scenario and whether this is very top-level planning or if there’s some sort of granul- — granular detail that you guys are going into on this or —

MR. KIRBY:  I won’t go into granular detail on operational planning one way or another.  But it would be imprudent and irresponsible if we didn’t have folks thinking through a broad range of contingencies and possibilities and — and certainly evacuations are — are one of those things. 

I mean, there’s not a place in the world where the Pentagon doesn’t have contingency plans on the shelf — they may need updating, but have them on the shelf to help with the — the evac- — evacuation of American citizens. 

And given what’s going on in the Middle East right now, I think it’s perfectly reasonable.  I think it would be imprudent and irresponsible if we weren’t doing some kind of contingency thinking.  But we’re not at a point of execution right now.

And there are still plenty of opportunities, for instance, even in — even in Israel, for people to get out.  We’re still — we’re still doing contract charter flights, and there’s still commercial flights going in and out of Ben Gurion.  And, frankly, the demand signal for our contract charter flights hasn’t been very high.  We’re — they’re still going, but they’re not all filled.  And the same could be said for places like Lebanon. 

But each — each country is different, and the threats and challenges in each will — will change over time.  And we’re doing all the right, prudent thinking that you — you would expect us to.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead —

Q    I know that we’ve — that you’ve thanked Qatar for its role in helping to secure the release of some of the hostages so far.  But I was wondering if the U.S. believes that Qatar should expel the Hamas leaders that are in the country right now.

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t think — well, I’ll just say we’re — we’re having conversations with partners across the region.  And we know that Qatar has an open line of communication with Hamas.  And, as you saw, we thank Qatar for their support in helping to get those two Americans out. 

I would just tell you that those discussions and — and those conversations are ongoing and — and critically important.  And I think I need to leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Thanks, Admiral.  President — former President Obama shared some of his views about the conflict, yesterday.  One of the things he said was that the Israelis haven’t done enough to avoid killing or injuring civilians as they seek to take out Hamas in Gaza.  Does President Biden share that view?

MR. KIRBY:  President Biden has, since the very beginning of this conversation, been talking to the Prime Minister, and we have been talking to Israelis at various levels — at the Cabinet level and below — about the — what separates us from Hamas — as two democracies — and that’s respect for human life, that’s abiding by the law of war, that’s by doing everything you can to try to prevent civilian casualties and collateral damage.  And that’s an active conversation we continue to have with them.

Q    Are you urging them to be more respectful of human life?  What exactly is the message that he’s conveying?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I think I just conveyed it.

Q    Okay.  And then, another thing that President Obama said is that “the Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water and electricity to a captive civilian population” has the potential to “erode global support for Israel.”  I’m wondering if President Biden agrees with that as well.

MR. KIRBY:  He’s been — he’s been talking, again, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we’ve been speaking to the Israelis, again, since the very early hours of this two weeks ago — that respect for human life, respect for the civilian population in Gaza, making sure that they can continue to get access to food, water, medicine, and electrical power remains critical.  It’s important. 

And that’s why he worked so hard on this last trip last week to do exactly that by — by getting the Israelis and the Egyptians to agree for humanitarian assistance to get in.


Q    Just to make sure we’re all using the right numbers — 33 Americans dead right now.  How many unaccounted exactly?

MR. KIRBY:  Ten.

Q    Ten total.  Okay.

Let me ask you, if I can, the President, when he was departing the event that just took place a short time ago, was asked by a reporter if enough is being done to let —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — aid out.  He said, not fa- — it’s not going in “fast enough.”  Who is the obstacle right now?  What is the primary obstacle of the ability for that aid to arrive at the pace the President would be satisfied by?

MR. KIRBY:  I know it would be very tempting and satisfying for us to just sort of pin the tail on the donkey here.  But there’s — there’s a lot of factors at play here.  And if it was easy, my goodness, there’d be a hundreds of trucks flowing in every day. 

It’s combat zone, Peter.  It’s a warzone.  And that greatly complicates the ability to move safely and to the right recipients — the customers — that kind of humanitarian aid.  So, it — there’s — there’s lots of players involved here. 

Hamas is obviously a player, and Israel is a player.  Egypt is a player.  The U.N. is a player.  And Ambassador Satter- — Satterfield is working this as hard as he can. 

Unfortunately, today, we haven’t seen any trucks go in.  We’ll see what — we’ll see what the hours to come bring.

Q    One quick follow-up, if I can, on a separate topic here.  Broadly speaking, we know the Israeli War Cabinet has been meeting with the Prime Minister.  The — the President and others who have spoken to members of that cabinet often — the President to Netanyahu often. 

Is the President confident that the Israeli War Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, Benjamin Not- — Netanyahu, will do the right thing as he views it in carrying out this war?

MR. KIRBY:  He is confident that we are going to keep doing what we need to do to get Israel the capabilities that it needs.  He’s — the — the War Cabinet can speak for themselves.  Prime Minister Netanyahu can speak for his government.

Q    But, to be clear, I’m not hearing you saying that he has confidence in Netanyahu and that War Cabinet to lead this war effort to the U.S.’s liking.

MR. KIRBY:  It’s not — it’s not our place to decide the competency of the unity government that Prime Minister Netanyahu put in place.  That’s for him to speak to and for his Cabinet officials. 

The President left Tel Aviv confident that he had the opportunity to be candid and forthright with Prime Minister Netanyahu privately and with the War Cabinet writ large, and that he had the opportunity to ask them the hard questions that he wants them to be asking themselves before they start some sort of major ground offensive. 

Q    Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Certainly. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Annie.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, sir.  Kirby, I wanted to get a sense — there have been a spate of attacks on U.S. forces in the region.  And can you characterize the threat that the U.S. faces in the region right now as Israel poises itself to invade Gaza? 

And then I have a question about Australia.

MR. KIRBY:  We remain deeply concerned by the potential for future attacks on our troops, because you’re right, we’ve seen — and I’m guesstimating here, but it’s about a dozen over the last several days.  And as a result, tragically, one U.S. contractor died as a result of a heart attack from sheltering. 

So, it’s potentially a dangerous environment, and we’re taking it very, very seriously. 

The — our commanders on the ground have the right to defend themselves and their troops and can take the appropriate — and are taking the appropriate force protection measures. 

And, as you know, the President has added additional military force to the region, and now one of those carrier strike groups is going to go on through to — to — to the Gulf region to make sure that we send a strong signal of not only deterrence, but our willingness to protect and defend ourselves and our national interests.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Seung Min —

Q    Oh, but I just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, oh —

Q    — had a quick question about Australia.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, go ahead.  I’m sorry.

Q    Apologies.

Sir, as you have the Australian Prime Minister coming tomorrow in the midst of all of this activity around the Middle East, can you just give us a sense, from the President’s perspective, how is he balancing these two sort of immediate foreign policy objectives versus sort of his longer-term foreign policy obje- — objectives that the Prime Minister’s visit sort of embodies?

MR. KIRBY:  Well.  (Laughter.)  He’s balancing it well.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Could you —

MR. KIRBY:  He’s doing it —

Q    — say a little bit more? 

MR. KIRBY:  He’s doing it — I mean, if you want to give him a — you know, a report card: A+.  (Laughter.)  I mean that — you know, it — the — he is Commander-in-Chief.  That never stops, and the — and the — and the duties and responsibilities are literally global.  I mean, we are one nation that has truly global responsibilities, and he’s managing it all. 

Now, it would be really helpful if he could also get the support of Congress up on Capitol Hill, particularly for this supplemental funding.  It will be immensely simpler and easier for the President to manage all these multiple crisis if we could get that funding for Ukraine, the funding for Israel, the funding for the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and, of course, down at the border.

Q    But even, sort of, today, you’re seeing things that are being delayed.  I mean, surely, as you —

MR. KIRBY:  What’s being delayed?

Q    I mean, this briefing, for example was delayed by quite a —

MR. KIRBY:  That’s my fault, not Karine’s.  (Laughter.)

Q    Right.  But — and you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you.  I appreciate that.  (Laughter.)

Q    The national science thing was delayed.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s true.

Q    Good move.

MR. KIRBY:  It is true.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It is true.

Q    But, you know, we’re trying to get a sense of — you know, presumably, the President is going to have a number of calls he has to make tomorrow that he wouldn’t have otherwise had to make if it had not been this crisis in the Mid-East.  And how — you know, you — are you going to keep the Prime Minister of Australia waiting while Bibi — you know, Netanyahu is on the phone?  How — how is that going to work?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t anticipate keeping the Prime Minister waiting on anything tomorrow.  They got a pretty full agenda.  And as I said at the top, the President is looking forward to that. 

But being President of the United States means balancing an awful lot of priorities and challenges, whether they’re domestic or foreign.  And oftentimes, the line between those get — gets blurred pretty dang quickly, as Karine was talking about at the opening, in terms of the spillover of domestic potential threats here in the United States.  But the President is managing it really, really well because he — of his long experience in government, the wisdom he brings to the job, the relationships that he has.

Look, Prime Minister Netanyahu and him — they’ve known each other for decades, since the Prime Minister was working in the embassy here in D.C. as the deputy chief of mission. 

The — the — all of that comes into the way he executes the job and — and he’s on top of it all.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Seung Min.

Q    Thank you.  So, two questions.  Can you tell us specifically what the U.S. government is doing right now to get Palestinian Americans out of Gaza?  Because, understandably, there are some logistical issues, but we’ve talked to people who are at — who are stuck at Rafah and who want to leave.  And so, what is the government doing right now?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, this is something that Ambassador Satterfield is working really, really hard.  I mean, obviously, a prime focus for us is the several hundred Americans that we know are there.  And, actually, I don’t know exactly how many are down at Rafah, but we know there are many American citizens down at Rafah that want to get out.  And he’s working that very hard.

We also believe — and he’s also talking to partners, particularly Egypt, about the possibility of others getting out through Rafah.  Again, innocent civilians of many different nationalities, certainly Palestinians, that want to leave and should be allowed to leave an active warzone for their own safety and for the safety of their families. 

I wish I could tell you that, you know, we got the recipe cooked here and — and they’re all going to get out at a certain time and place.  I just don’t have that right now. 

But I can assure you and all of them that we’re working on this very hard in real time.

Q    And the second one.  So, the Gaza Health Ministry, obviously run by Hamas, said about 700 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike today.  First of all, is that a figure that the U.S. government can verify?


Q    Okay.  And —

MR. KIRBY:  And I think you was right by you saying that the Ministry of Health is run by Hamas.  And I think that all needs to be factored into anything that they put out publicly.

Q    Right, right.  And it — this is sort of related to Nancy’s question, but setting — you know, setting aside whether that 700 figure is correct or not, I’m wondering if the administration is having concerns that the Israeli response has been disproportionate in response to the obviously horrific attack that we’ve seen from Hamas.

MR. KIRBY:  We’re going to avoid trying to react to every single event on the battlefield.  We all saw last week how quick reactions to events on the battlefield turned out to be inaccurate.

So we’re — for our part, we’re not going to jump to conclusions on every time there’s a report of something.  We’re not going to react in real time, certainly, to a conflict to which we are not a part, in terms of being a presence on the ground. 

All I can do you — all I can do is say what I’ve said before: that we have and will continue to talk to our Israeli counterparts about the importance of avoiding and minimizing civilian casualties and respecting innocent life and trying to prevent collateral damage as they go after legitimate Hamas targets. 

I said this the other day, and — and I think your question prompts me to say it again, because I think it’s an important notion: This is war.  It is combat.  It is bloody.  It is ugly, and it’s going to be messy.  And innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward. 

I wish I could tell you something different.  I wish that that wasn’t going to happen.  But it is — it is going to happen. 

And that doesn’t make it right.  It doesn’t make it dismissible.  It doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to still express concerns about that and — and do everything we can to help the Israelis do everything they can to minimize it. 

But — but that’s — that’s, unfortunately, the nature of conflict.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Selina.

Q    Thank you, Admiral.  So, going off your earlier exchange with Peter, to be clear: The U.S. cannot say if they’re confident that Israel has a clear and achievable military plan?

MR. KIRBY:  That is a question for the Israeli Defense Forces. 

Q    You’ve said you’ve asked them tough questions, but has the U.S. set or discussed any possible red lines?

MR. KIRBY:  No. 

Q    And following on that, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had just said “humanitarian pauses must be considered” to protect civilians in Gaza.  Can you expand on that?

MR. KIRBY:  Can I expand on — I’m sorry.

Q    Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “humanitarian pauses must be considered” to protect civilians in Gaza.

MR. KIRBY:  We want — as I said from the beginning, we want to see all measure of protection for civilians.  And — and pauses in — in operation is — is a tool and a tactic that can do that for temporary pe- — periods of time. 

Q    So, does that mean that —

MR. KIRBY:  That is not the same as saying a ceasefire.  Again, right now, we believe a ceasefire benefits Hamas — a general ceasefire.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Trevor.

Q    And just to follow up on that.  So, could you clarify just a little bit how you would define the difference between a humanitarian pause and a ceasefire?

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, I think it’s really — it’s a — it’s a question of duration and scope and size and that kind of thing.

Q    Got it.  Okay. 

And then, you said yesterday when asked about kind of what the future of Gaza might look like that that’s something that the Israelis are going to need to figure out subsequently. 

MR. KIRBY:  And I think that they — they are.  They’re exploring th- — those questions about what governance in Gaza looks like long term.  I just don’t think that — understandably, their focus is much more on the here and now and the operations.

Q    And does the U.S. have a view about the legality of a reoccupation of Gaza by Israel and whether that’s a temporary thing or a more permanent thing?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t believe we’ve taken a position on that.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Do you believe that the current level of bombardment allows for the extraction or transfer of hostages?

MR. KIRBY:  Difficult to answer the question given that
we’re not completely sure about the location of each and every hostage.  And we’re working to get more granularity on that. 

And we have seen now — just yesterday another two got out.  Now, obviously, that’s just a tiny fraction of — of the — the pool that we think Hamas is holding.  But we think it’s — we think the effort to continue to negotiate for the release of additional hostages is worth — is worth the effort. 

Obviously, we’ve got four now — families who are going to get reunited.  That’s a good thing.  And we think that work needs to continue.

Q    If a pause rather than a ceasefire is what’s necessary, how long do you think is reasonable to expect some of that information to be obtained?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I couldn’t begin to answer that question right now.

Q    And then, Israeli officials have told CNN that they do not support any transfer of fuel into Gaza, which Hamas has said is required for any sort of deal to release hostages.  Does the U.S. support that position?

MR. KIRBY:  Separate and distinct from the hostage situation and what we’re doing to try to get them out. 

I — I want to be careful that I’m not talking about the specifics of the conversations that are going into getting these people out, lest I say something that makes it harder to do it in the future. 

Put that aside for a second. 

We have said, continue to say that fuel is an important commodity for life and sustainment in Gaza for the Palestinian people that are still there.  And we know that fuel is a precious commodity that’s running out.  And you need it for generazor — generators in hospitals.  You need it to run the desalination pumps so that you can drink fresh water and not seawater.  All of that is important.

And so, we’re going to continue to work with partners in the region.  We’re going to continue to push for — for fuel to get in.  And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, let’s —

MR. KIRBY:  — now, look, that said — and I said this, again, yesterday — we certainly understand Israeli concerns about the possibility for Hamas to abscond with fuel and use it for their own purposes and not allow it to be used in hospitals and desalination plants.  We understand that.  That is a legitimate concern — no question about it — which is why, again, Ambassador Satterfield is on the ground working this so hard.

It — there’s a — there’s a balance here that has to be achieved.  Obviously, we haven’t achieved it yet.  But we still believe, just in general, that fuel needs to be able to get into the — to the people of Gaza.


Q    Oh, thanks.  Of the 10 that are presumed, you know, missing or hostages, can you tell us whether or not all 10 are presumed to be hostages or are some still missing?  What are — what’s the percentage there?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t know.  They’re unaccounted for.  Some could be hostages; some could unfortunately be — be dead.  We just — we don’t know.  That’s why they’re still in the unaccounted-for category. 

Q    Okay.  And then the — just to pivot back, because lines get blurred on everything.  The Australian Prime Minister has a meeting with President Xi of China scheduled for next month.  So, I’m just wondering how much is countering China expected to come up tomorrow?  And also, just what is the position on having such an important ally that needs to do business, as we also do, with China?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, I think we fully support and understand that the Prime Minister wants to — to meet with President Xi and travel to Beijing.  We have traveled to Beijing — three Cabinet Secretaries and Special Envoy Kerry.  Of course, Jake Sullivan is going to be having — and the Secretary of State is going to be having meetings later this week with their Foreign Minister, Wang Yi.

The — so, conversations with the Chinese and keeping the lines of communication open is really important.  The President has said that many, many times.  And, of course, Australia is — you know, their relationship with China is incredibly important to them as well, to manage it. 

Now, to your first question, there is no question in my mind that the challenges and the opportunities in relations with the PRC will be on the agenda tomorrow.  No — no question about that. 


Q    Thank you.  John, does the administration agree with the U.N. Secretary-General’s statement today that the Hamas attacks, quote, “Did not happen in a vacuum”?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know what he meant by that, so I’m not — I —

Q    I can read you the full (inaudible) —

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, I’m not sure — I didn’t see the comments, and I’m not sure what the context is. 

Q    He — he said that “It’s important to recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.  The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.  They have seen their lands steadily devoured by settlements, plagued by violence…”  It goes on. 

That statement infuriated a lot of Israelis.  I want to know if the administration disagrees with what he said. 

MR. KIRBY:  The President has spoken very clearly and, I think, very forcefully on who’s to blame here for October 7th.  It’s Hamas.  It’s not the Israelis.  It’s not the innocent Israeli people that were slaughtered going to a music festival.  It was Hamas. 

They planned this thing for many months, maybe even as long as a year.  Hamas is to blame.  Hamas is to blame. 

Q    On that note, is the assessment still the same that Iran did not directly play a role in this attack?  Because you had Senator Blumenthal saying —

MR. KIRBY:  I did not say —

Q    — over the weekend —

MR. KIRBY:  I never said that Iran did not play a role.  What we’ve said — and there has been no change — what we said, Jacqui, is Iran is certainly complicit here.  Without them, there is no Hamas.  Without them, there is no Hezbollah.  Without them, there is no militia groups firing rockets at our troops in Iraq and Syria. 

And as I said yesterday up here, we recognize Iran is monitoring all these events, and in some cases, they’re encouraging some of these attacks.  No question about it.  Now —

Q    Did they —

MR. KIRBY:  We —

Q    — encourage this event?  

MR. KIRBY:  You’re talking about October 7th?

Q    Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  We still haven’t seen any direct, specific intelligence that says they were witting or participating or directing the attacks of Octo- — of October 7th.  But as I said: Broadly complicit, no question about that. 

And I’m sure that our Israeli counterparts will, in due time, take a harder look at the intelligence picture and what might have been missed, what gaps there were.  But I’ll let them speak to that.

Q    And real quick.  Can you just speak to the shift in language we heard yesterday out of the Pentagon?  You know, last week, no one would confirm on the record that these attacks were coming from Iranian proxy groups.  But then Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the U.S. holds Iran responsible.  Is the U.S. taking this as a signal that Iran is, in fact, trying to widen the war?

MR. KIRBY:  We see that they are backing these groups — no question about that.  We have sent a strong signal of deterrence.  There’s no indication right now that any other nation state or actor is — is preparing or — imminently to escalate this conflict.  But we’re watching this very, very closely. 

And again, I want to be clear here: Nobody is turning a blind eye to Iran’s complicity.  Their support for these ba- — these — these militia groups in Iraq and Syria, their support for terrorists throughout the region, we have addressed that through additional sanctions.  We have addressed it through additional military force posture.  We’re obviously going to do what we have to do to protect ourselves and our — and our troops. 

Nobody is — nobody is at all turning away from that threat or their historic and sustained support for these terrorist groups. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Brian.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, just a follow-up to what Peter asked earlier — I’d like two questions, but one to drill down.  I assume when the President said aid isn’t getting fast enough to — to Gaza that he’s not critiquing our efforts to get it there.  Sa- — and without hanging a hook on who is responsible, is he saying that more can be done from our end?  Is there more that can be done to get the aid to them?

MR. KIRBY:  I think he was referring to actors in the region. 

Q    And then, the second question is, it’s — for many years, the Aus- — you’re going to meet with the Australian government, and they have supported the release of Julian Assange.  Now, we haven’t done so, saying there were national security reasons.  But for the reasons that he has been charged are basically the same efforts that many reporters use.  So, is there any change of heart in this administration’s efforts to free Julian Assange?

MR. KIRBY:  I won’t be able to talk about extradition matters, Brian.  And, as you know —

Q    I’ve got to ask.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  No, no.  Fair question.  But this is something the Justice Department is handling, and I think it’s better if you go to them on that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We have to wrap up.  Go ahead, Lisa [Laura]. 

Q    Thank you. 

Q    Thanks.  Thanks, Admiral.  So, the — you’ve talked in here about contingency plans for this conflict potentially escalating, even though the administration wants to prevent that.  So, is the U.S. military really planning for possible evacuation of hundreds of Americans from the Middle East?

MR. KIRBY:  There is prudent planning and then there’s sort of the tactical-level planning right before you execute. 

What we’re talking about here is just prudent planning and thinking.  There are no active efforts right now to evacuate Americans from the region, other than what we’re doing in Israel in providing charter flights.  There’s no active efforts.  We’re not parking ships off the coast and getting ready to send Marines in to get people out of — you pick the place over there.  That’s not happening right now. 

But what was reported in the press is nothing more than prudent contingency planning.  And as I said at the outset, given everything that’s been going on the last two weeks, it would be irresponsible if we weren’t taking pen to paper and taking a look at what that might look like.  But there’s been no orders given, nobody pre-positioned to do it, no moving in that direction. 

But if it should get to that, my goodness, you’d want to make sure we were ready to do it and — (snaps) — do it like that. 

Q    And if I could just ask a quick follow-up on — the longer it takes for the House to agree on a Speaker, how concerned are you, how concerned is the President that the administration is going to be able to get the necessary aid to Israel as well as —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — humanitarian aid to —

MR. KIRBY:  It’s a concern.  As I said earlier, we’ve got appropriations to support Ukraine and Israel for a bit longer.  How long is “a bit” is going to depend on these — the pace and the scale of these combat operations in both countries. 

But, yeah, we — we wouldn’t have put a supplemental request in — which, oh, by the way, says right in the first line it’s an “urgent request.”  We wouldn’t say it was an urgent if it wasn’t urgent.  We want them to act as quickly as possible. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  I think we have to wrap it up.

Q    John, I wonder if — we’ve heard numbers of “several hundred Americans” who are in Gaza — “up to 600.”  Do you have a more specific number of the actual number of Americans who are —

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t.  State —

Q    — in Gaza right now?

MR. KIRBY:  State Department is a better place to go for that.

Q    So we’re at “several hundred”?

MR. KIRBY:  Several hundred — several hundred I know is accurate.  I wish I could be more detailed than that.  But you really got to go to State.  They would have a better count probably than I would. 

Q    And then in the prudent planning process, I mean, for these several hundred Americans who are in Gaza right now.  If it’s in a prudent planning stage —

MR. KIRBY:  No, no, no, no, no.  No, don’t — please don’t mix — mix up the two. 

What — what — the question I was getting was on the Washington Post report about regional evacuation planning. 

We are actively trying to get Americans out of Gaza.  Ambassador Satterfield was appointed for that purpose — well, also to get humanitarian assistance in, and we’re — and we’re doing that.

But we — we know there is Americans in there.  We know they want to get out.  We’re working very hard to find safe passage for them. 

That is different than a noncombatant evacuation operation.  That’s safe passage out of a warzone. 

Q    Is there a current — I mean, advice, I guess, for — for folks who are kind of trying to gather near the Rafah Crossing in case that is where they would evacuate?  Is it advisable for Americans in Gaza right now to — to be at a certain location?

MR. KIRBY:  I got this question yesterday.  And I — I really should refer you to the State Department.  They manage and handle our communication with American citizens overseas.  And I think it’s better for that question to be posed to them. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Matt, you have the last question.

Q    I — thank you.  John, I want to make sure that I understood the — the idea of a ceasefire versus a humanitarian pause.  And — and you guys clearly are opposed to a ceasefire, thinking that would be a victory for Hamas.  But on the humanitarian pause, is it something that the U.S. is actively pursuing or calling for that to be the case?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, you heard the Secretary of State talk about the — the need to look at that, to consider the — the possibility of a humanitarian pause to allow aid to get in and get in unfettered and to allow for the safe movement of people out.

But again, there’s a lot that goes into that, Matt.  You got to — we got to — you know, we — the Rafah Crossing is open on the way in, it’s not open on the way out.  There’s — there’s a lot of spadework and diplomacy to get that to happen. 

Q    So, you’re not calling for it at this point?  You’re saying it should be an option —

MR. KIRBY:  I think it’s —

Q    — that (inaudible) exploring?

MR. KIRBY:  — again, I would refer you back to what Secretary Blinken said.  But it’s certainly something that ought to be considered for the purpose of humanitarian assistance. 

Q    Okay.  And then, one last thing on — on the 10 Americans that are unaccounted for.  Is there any confirmation that some number of those are currently being held hostage, or is it completely the U.S. has no idea where those people are?

MR. KIRBY:  No, the fact that they’re unaccounted for means we truly don’t know.  We — we know, again, as I said, a handful — less than 10 — are being held hostage. 

But when we give you the number of unaccounted for — and the reason that number goes up and down is because you get information.  Sometimes it’s really bad news; sometimes it’s not.  So that number fluctuates.  It hasn’t fluctuated much over the last several days.  It’s hung around 10 — 10, 11.  Today, it’s 10. 

But what I can tell you is we’re working real hard to try to solve those mysteries and — so that the number is zero — and at least families know, at least they have information.  And then, we’re — we’re working hard on that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.

MR. KIRBY:  All right, thank you.  Thanks, Karine.

Q    Thank you, John.  

MR. KIRBY:  Sorry, I was late. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no. 


MR. KIRBY:  It was my fault.  (Laughter.)

Q    That’s twice now you’ve said it.

Q    Noted for the record.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, noted for the record, indeed.  (Laughter.)

All right, Seung Min. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A couple of topics.  On the expanding UAW strike, obviously, you had 5,000 workers all walk off the plant in Texas today.  The strike is in the sixth week, and you had Ford laying off workers in Michigan and Ohio. 

And I’m wondering how concerned the White House is right now that you can get a reso- — resolution that’s in a timely enough fashion that you avoid significant economic damage. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, obviously, we’re — we’re monitoring all of this — everything that you just laid out — very closely.

Yesterday, I was asked about Gene Sperling and also Acting Secretary Su — who have been obviously playing point from this administration and helping in any way possible — not — clearly, not part of the negotiation, but certainly helping communicate with the parties — both UAW and the Big Three. 

Look, the President continues to believe that collective bargaining is incredibly important.  The options that are under collective bargaining, UA- — the UAW has the right to — to — to — to, you know, kind of think through those options. 

And so, we believe that if all — everyone comes together in good faith that there could be a win-win agreement.  And so, we’re going to let them have those negotiations, continue to have those conversations. 

Obviously, everything that you laid out we’re going to monitor very closely.  I don’t have anything beyond that. 

Q    And on the supplemental packages.  Obviously, you sent up the national security-focused supp last week.  We have reporting — others have reporting as well — that there are plans to send up a domestic-focused supplemental.  And I’m wondering if you could talk through kind of the idea of sending it in two different packages, especially because you have people like Bernie Sanders saying Congress can’t pass just tens of billions for priorities abroad without addressing the priorities at home.  So why did the White House choose to do it in separate packages?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I mean, look, in Director Young’s letter, she said that there would be a domestic supplemental as well.  It’s coming this week.  So, certainly, it’s going to lay out the presidential’s — President’s — the President’s priorities as it relates to disaster relief, as it relates to childcare.  And so that’s coming.  That is forthcoming. 

We did the — certainly, as you heard from the Admiral with the supplemental that we released last week, the — the foreign po- — the foreign one — the international one, it said “urgent” on it in the first line — right? — because we believed it was incredibly important as we see the war in Ukraine, as we see what’s happening with Israel and Hamas.  We wanted to make sure that — certainly, that we got out — that out there as soon as possible. 

But the domestic one is coming this week.  That’s what Director Young said in her letter to — that you all — I’m sure you all saw that there’s going to be an additional request on the domestic front.  And those are going to be priorities and as — just as — just as important, but also priorities for the President as well.  That is critical to domestic — to domestic push or platform that he has. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  We’ve heard from Senate Republicans that humanitarian aid to Gaza is an issue for them in the aid package.  Are there any modifications to the aid package that would be red lines for the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into any — any hypotheticals or any red lines.  We believe there is no reason for Congress shouldn’t pass or support this — this — we believe this national sec- — it’s a national security priority — right? — which includes, as you know, critical aid to Ukraine as well.  And that’s not just — and that’s just aid to — to Is- — to what’s happening to Israel, with what’s happening in the region. 

But we also believe there is strong bipartisan support.  We’ve heard it from Mitch McConnell.  We’ve heard it from McCaul — right? — Chairman McCaul.  We heard it from Chairman Turner. 

So, we believe there is actually strong bipartisan support for this supplemental package that — that was introduced by the President last week.  And we believe that there is no reason — no reason at all that Congress can’t get it through. 

Go ahead.

Q    Does the President have any reaction to the reporting that Congressman Dean Phillips is going to be seeking the Democratic presidential nomination?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to be careful from here.  Not going to speak to electoral politics — upcoming electoral politics — 2024. 

I — if — one thing I would say outside of that is we appreciate the congressman almost 100 — 100 percent support of this President as we — as he’s moved forward with some really important, key legislative priorities for the American people. 

I just don’t have anything to share on that — on the — on the 2024 from here.

Go ahead, Kayla.

Q    Republicans have selected Tom Emmer as their Speaker nominee.  I know you’ve said very often that the White House does not have a vote in this.  You’re not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ad nauseam, I’m sure.  (Laughs.)

Q    You’re not involved in this process, but Emmer has been one of the more supportive Republicans for Ukraine aid across the board.  Do you see that as a positive signal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to speak to their process.  I’m sure there’s more — more steps to go — right? — before we get to the end here. 

I think it’s important and critical that — that the Republicans in — in the conference get their — get their act together, get their business in order, and figure out who’s going to lead — lead not just the conference — obviously, it’d be — since they have the majority in the House, have a Speaker for the House. 

I’m just not going to get into it. 

I have said just moments ago, we have seen bipartisan support for U- — for — for the supplemental package that the President announced last week, that we announced — that we spoke thr- — to last week.  And so, we believe that Congress should move forward with that.

As it relates to their process and finding a Speaker, that is up to them. 

We do not — as the President has said himself, just quoting him, we do not have a vote in that space. 

Go ahead, Brian.

Q    Just a follow-up.  I — I know you don’t want to talk about their process.  But once the House picks a Speaker, your process — considering the global situation, has this administration considered, A, asking the House Speaker to speak before a joint session of Congress?  Or would you consider having them over to — members of the GOP and the Democratic leadership in Congress over to the White House to talk about the situation since you’re asking for additional funds?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, there are conversations that have been happening and will continue from this administration to folks on the Capitol.  That has been happening via the director of OMB.  That has been happening with — with the Legislative Affairs Office.  That conver- — those conversations with congressional members have been ongoing what — as it relates to making sure we get this additional funding. 

And so, that hasn’t stopped.  That’s going to continue.  We’re going to have — we’re going to continue to make sure that we talk to folks, whether in the Senate or in the House, about the importance — the critical importance about getting this — getting this aid, especially as we talk about our national security. 

And now we’re going to talk — we’re going to announce pretty soon the domestic piece of this as well. 

So, those conversations continue.  That’s never stopped.  And they will — they will certainly move forward with that regardless — right? — regardless of what happens. 

Q    Right, but will the President become personally involved?  I mean, it — the situation that has been outlined here in the White House is how dire it is in Middle East and how dire the situation is in Ukraine.  So, in order to sell it or in order to make the deal, is the President willing to do it himself to talk to — 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We believe we have bipartisan support.  We believe we have bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate to get this done. 

I just mentioned a couple of — of — you know, I just mentioned Chairman McCaul.  I mentioned Mitch McConnell.  They’ve been very supportive of getting this moving forward. 

So, we believe the bipartisan support is there and there is no reason for Congress not to move forward. 

Go ahead, Karen. 

Q    The President spoke with the families of unaccounted Americans 11 days ago.  Are there any plans for him to have another conversation with those families?  And if not him, can you talk about the contact between senior White House officials and those families right now?  We’re told that there has been daily communication.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I don’t have anything to read out to you on — on any further conversations.  So, I just don’t have anything to share at this time on anything that’s going to — moving forward on — on — as it relates to the President speaking again to those — to those families.

Q    And how about people in the White House, like who is talking to the families?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I just don’t have a — I don’t have specifics.  Obviously, we have had connection and — and conversations with them.  I just don’t have the specifics on who is — is talking to the families. 

Go ahead, Justin.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  We’re only a couple of weeks away from government funding also running out again.  At this point, do you guys have a preferred strategy for how you’d like to see the government funding bill, the supplemental — the two supplemental requests go through?  Do you want to see one sort of collective piece of legislation or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have a direct process on — on — on that.  But certainly, we want to see both of them get through — both the domestic supplemental, which we’re going to announce this week, and obviously the urgent supplemental, as it relates to our national security, that we announced last week. 

Certainly, we think Congress should move forward with both of them.  They should move forward on getting those passed. 

As I mentioned, as it relates to the national security request that we made with Ukraine and also Israel, we’ve seen bipartisan support.  We don’t believe there isn’t — there is not — there should not be a reason for Congress to move forward with that once we get the domestic supplemental request out there. 

Obviously, we’ll have conversations with — as we are now, continue to have conversations with members of Congress to talk about that piece as well.

But we want to see both of them move — move forward.  They’re both critical.  They’re both important.  If you think about the domestic, we’re talking about childcare, right?  We’re talking about dome- — we’re talking about Disaster Relief Fund — all incredibly important to the American people.

Q    When the negotiations were going on before, you guys referenced pretty frequently the — the deal that Speaker McCarthy — former Speaker McCarthy and — and the President had out of the debt ceiling talks.


Q    Given the state of Republican leadership right now, do you guys still see that framework as sort of operative?  Or do you think we’ll be starting sort of from square one when — when they go into the negotiations (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not going to get into — certainly, into hypotheticals from here, how the process is going to go. 

You know, we — if we go back to the budget agreement a couple of months ago, it was something that, again, House Republicans — two thirds of them voted for it.  It got bipartisan support.  It was something that the American people wanted to see — both Republicans and Democrats coming together and delivering for the American people. 

And so, that was incredibly important to the President.  We — we believe that they needed to stick to the deal that they voted on.  The President signed that bill. 

And now, we’re at a point where we’re talking about the supplemental budget — right? — which is something that is common.  It is not unusual for the administration to ask for a supplemental — supplemental requests.

Q    Well, the reason I ask —


Q    — is because you — you had said that, in addition to sort of disaster relief, it might include childcare and other priorities.  And so, I’m wondering if —


Q    — you know, this — this may push beyond the sort of deficit cuts that — that you had agree to as part of that deal.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I understand the question.  Look, supplementals are, as you know, not unusual to ask.  And these are domestic priorities that the President thinks are incredibly important, that the American people need and want to see.  If you think about childcare, if you think about the American Rescue Plan — how important it was to have, for example, the CTC and what — the difference that made to communities across the country. 

And so, this is something that’s been part of the President’s platform for some time. 

And so, he’s going to — he’s going to put out his domestic supplemental in the next day or two.  He’ll lay that out for Congress.  And we’ll continue to have those conversations.

But he thinks — the reason he’s asking for it: because he’s — actually believes it’s very important.  And it’s not unusual for the administration to ask for a supplemental budget.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q    I want to ask you about current energy prices and Iran, if I could.  So, Iran makes 70 percent of its revenue from oil.  It’s doubled that oil output since 2019, adding $40 billion to revenues.  So, are the President’s current energy policies giving Iran enough money to fund terror groups?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that —

Q    Because the price — well, the price of oil has gone up under this president.  The former President Trump — the average price of Brent oil was $58.  Under this president, it’s $83 a barrel.  So, the price of oil is more.  Is that giving Iran enough money to fund these terror groups in the Middle East?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I mean — I wholeheartedly disagree that we’re — we’re — you know, we’re — our actions are giving — is that what you’re saying?  Can you say that again?

Q    The current energy policies in the U.S. —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  From — from our energy policies?

Q    From — from — yeah.  Yes, seeing the price of oil go up.


Q    Because when you — when you restrict supply here in the United States, it’s forcing to get the global supply from somewhere else.  OPEC is cutting prices of oil.  So, the price of oil goes up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, and we’re not part of OPEC, as you know.

Q    Right.  Right, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And so, they’re going to make their decisions on — on whatever they decide.  We are not a member of OPEC.

Q    We’re — but the administration has decided to regulate the oil industry here in the U.S. and restrict investment — future investment in the oil supply in the U.S.  And so, is — is — as the price of oil goes up, is that giving Iran enough money to fund these terror groups?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That seems to be a big jump.  And so, I’m certainly — I’m not going to speak into that type of hypothetical.  It sounds like a hypothetical that you’re asking me.  So, certainly, I’m not going to wade in — weigh in to this.

Q    So, no changes to the U.S. energy policies?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to weigh in to — weigh in to a hypothetical here.  

Go ahead, Phil.

Q    Thank you.  Just to quickly follow up on something that John Kirby said about the Gaza Health Ministry, because I think this will be helpful for Americans who are watching this conflict from afar: Does the administration see the Gaza Health Ministry at — an at all credible source of information concerning the crisis on the ground in Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He literally just spoke to this.

Q    I —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But he — he just — he just answered this question.

Q    He said that — he seemed to — he said that they
were associated with Hamas.  But does the administration —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He — he —

Q    — think that they are at all credible?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He just — he literally just spoke to this and answered it.  I don’t have anything else additional to say.  He just said we should question, right?  Right?  He — he actually answered the question.  I don’t have anything else to say.

Q    All right.  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  No problem.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On a visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister — Wang Yi is coming to D.C. for three-day’s visit.  So, besides the prote- — potential meeting between President Xi and President Biden at the APEC Summit, is China’s stance on Israel and Ukraine on the agenda? 

And also, in the wake of those attacks in Europe and Middle East, I’m assuming U.S. doesn’t want to see any other conflicts happening in Asia.  So, in this visit, will U.S. reiterate to Wang Yi that United States will not stand aside if China attacks Taiwan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things, just to say at the top.  As you know, Wang Yi is also — is going to be meeting with Secretary Blinken and also our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan.  And so, it’s going to happen.  He’s going to be in town on Friday, and so that’s when those meetings are going to occur. 

It’s going to — this is about engaging face to face.  You hear us talk about — all the time how diplomacy — face-to-face diplomacy, especially as it relates to foreign policy, is incredibly important. 

So, we’re going to raise the challenging issues, obviously.  We’re going to address miscon- — misconception — mis- — misperceptions and also miscommunications and explore working with PRC where our interests intersect.  That is something that we have — have said from — certainly, from the beginning of this administration. 

And so, our strategy toward PRC has been consistent here.  And — and our assessment of the challenges that we have with — PRC po- — pose — that they have with that — that are there — that poses has not changed. 

And, you know, we have been very clear: We want to see competition.  That’s what we want to see with PRC — competition.  And — and so, we seek to manage that competition in a responsible way.

And so, again, you’re going to see a diplomatic engagement, a face-to-face engagement with the Secretary and our National Security Advisor.  We think it’s important to have those conversations.  You heard the Admiral — how there’s been three Secretaries that have already gone to Beijing, had those face-to-face diplomatic conversations. 

Now, Wang Yi is going to be here on Friday.  And so, we’re going to continue those important — we believe — important discussions.

Q    Is Israel and Ukraine going to be on the agenda?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get ahead of the — of what’s on the agenda.  But, obviously, we’re going to talk about challenges, ways to work together that better our interests, obviously.  And we’re going to continue the engagement that we’ve had at various levels at the PRC.

Q    And a second question, on the Global South.  So, of course, he highlights U.S. call for Israel to follow the — the law of the war and effort to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.  But we’re also seeing from the Arab world and Global South, and we’re seeing protests in Indonesia, in Malaysia, against the United States support to Israel, which — those are important allies in Indo-Pacific and ASEAN.  Is United States concerned about the strategy right now might alienate those allies that might be important in the Indo-Pacific?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, you know, we have important allies and partners across the globe.  And we — you know, we certainly — those relationships are very important. 

But the President — the President and this administration has been very clear in our support for Israel and how we want to make sure that they are able to deal with a terrorist organization like Hamas and protect — to protect their people, right?  We are — been very clear: make sure that humanitarian aid, as you’ve heard us say over and over again, gets into Gaza. 

And so, that’s going to be our focus.  We have someone — an ambassador on the ground, who’s focusing on that, making sure that we get — we do everything that we can get — to get the hostages out. 

So, that is our priority right now.  And that’s going to be our focus.

Go ahead.  Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

Q    Thanks.  On the House Speaker race —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’ll be the last one.

Q    — the odds are whoever Republicans end up electing, one, is not going to have much of a history with the President and, two, is not going to have done much in terms of, you know, major negotiations over legislation. 

So, I wonder if that heightens any level of concern the White House has about being able to get these priorities done by the end of the year, being able to kind of have that familiarity in those conversations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I mean, I’ll say a couple of things there. 

Look, we believe it is important to get the work done on behalf of the American people.  It is important.  It is important to have a functioning House, which isn’t — right now is not functioning because they cannot figure out who is going to lead — “they” meaning the House Republicans — who’s going to be the leader of — of their conference, who’s going to be the Speaker of the House. 

And that’s a problem.  We see that as a problem. 

But we’re going to continue to do everything — once they decide — and we hope they do it very quickly, because we have a lot of business to get done — just talked about two supplementals — one that — one that — we — the national security one that we announced last week and a domestic one that we’re going to announce this week, obviously, and to make sure the government stays open. 

And so, there’s a lot of work to be done — a lot of work to be done.  And we hope that they get their — their — you know, their — their priorities in order, they get themselves in order so that we can get this done on behalf of the American people. 

We are going — we are willing to work with them in a bipartisan way to get things done.  We see bipartisan support for the national security supplemental.  That’s important.  And then we’re going to be announcing our domestic supplemental.

Look, we think it’s important that the House Republicans get their affairs in order so that we can continue to deliver for the American people.

Q    And then just real quickly —


Q    — in the interim, in an urgent situation, in an emergency situation, who does the White House consider the Repub- — the leader of the Republican Conference in the House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, right now, as you know, there’s the Speaker Pro Tem, obviously, right?  So, he is — he’s — he’s —

Q    By default.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  By — right — by default is there.  But, I mean, look — I mean, we say this — I know we say this ad nauseam.  We were joking around with Kayla — oh, I think it was Kayla; I can’t remember — on this.  And it is — it is for them to fix, right?  It is for them to decide who is going to be the Speaker — “them” meaning the House Republicans.  They’ve got to — they’ve got to get to work here.  The American people is counting on us.

And the President is doing his job.  He’s doing his job domestically and as Commander-in-Chief.

We have to see House Republicans do their job as well.

Thanks, everybody.  See you —

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — Thursday.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

2:27 P.M. EDT

Stay Connected

Sign Up

We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.

Opt in to send and receive text messages from President Biden.

Scroll to Top Scroll to Top