Aboard Air Force One
En Route Minneapolis, Minnesota
1:30 P.M. EDT
MS. SIMONS: Hello, everyone. We are en route to Northfield, Minnesota, where the President will highlight how Bidenomics and his Investing in America agenda are ensuring rural Americans do not have to leave their hometowns to find opportunity.
While there, the President will announce over $5 billion in new investments to advance rural prosperity, economic development, competition, and sustainability.
The President’s policies are having a profound impact in rural America, from reducing the price of prescription drugs and protecting our nation’s veterans to improving access to clean drinking water, reliable electricity, better roads and bridges, and affordable high-speed Internet.
During his visit in Northfield, the President will tour Dutch Creek Farms, a third-generation family farm that represents what is possible through Bidenomics and the President’s Investing in America agenda.
One more topper before I turn it over. We welcome the Senate’s confirmation of Jack Lew to be the ambassador to Israel.
Ambassador Lew will immediately advance our efforts to support the defense of Israel, including by negotiating to secure the release of all hostages, evacuating U.S. citizens from Gaza, increasing the flow of aid to civilians, leading diplomatic efforts to support our Israeli partners while stressing the need to uphold international humanitarian law, and supporting U.S. efforts to create the conditions for a humanitarian pause to address the worsening humanitarian conditions facing Palestinian civilians.
We thank the Senate for their work to confirm Ambassador Lew.
And just to note that the President officially appointed Jack Lew last night, and tomorrow there will be a small informal swearing-in ceremony in D- — in D.C. so that he can immediately get to work.
And now I’ll pass it over to my friend, Admiral Kirby.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Emilie. Good afternoon, everybody. Just a few things at the top here.
I think you saw the President’s comments. The United States has been able to secure safe passage for wounded Palestinians and for foreign nationals, including Americans, to depart Gaza through the Rafah Crossing.
This is an important first step in a process that we expect to see continue over the coming days. The situation remains very fluid, but this is a significant breakthrough. It’s the direct result of weeks of effort and personal diplomacy by the President, as well as the Secretary of State and, of course, our special envoy on the ground, David Satterfield.
It was certainly a focus of the President’s calls with President Sisi and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday, where this arrangement was discussed in detail.
You’ve heard us say before that we’re working to get Americans — including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and family members — out as quickly and as safely as possible. That continues to be the case. And, again, I think you’ll see more over the coming days.
A handful of Americans are expected to depart today, and we expect to get more to come in future days.
The State Department has communicated directly with American citizens in Gaza over the past 24 hours to tell them to be ready to go and to await further instruction.
I also want to just make one point here on — on departures. There’s been some stuff out in the media space about the United States being willing to support some sort of permanent settlement outside of Gaza for the Palestinian people.
I just want to stress again today, as I stressed yesterday, that is not our policy. That is not what we’re after. We want to make sure that the people of Gaza, should they want to go back home, can go back home. But if they want to get out in the interim, they should be able to get out. There is no U.S. policy or endorsement for some sort of permanent settlement.
On hostages, we continue to work that very, very hard. I don’t have an update for you, but obviously that work continues and will continue until we can get our hostages home.
Humanitarian assistance. More trucks got in today. We’re still getting the exact number; I’ll see if I can get that for you before we get on the ground. But we know that additional trucks got in.
Still not enough. We know we need to do more. We’re continuing to work with our partners in the region to do that. Obviously, that was the focus of the President’s call with the King Abdullah yesterday.
And then, lastly, I just want to draw your attention to — if you hadn’t seen it — comments by a Hamas official by the name of Ghazi Hamad to a Lebanese new- — news outlet this week. And I think they ran it yesterday — the interview.
But he said, “Israel is a country that has no place on our land. We must remove that country.” And then he said what happened on October 7th will happen again and again and again.
That’s what’s at stake for the people of Gaza — that Hamas is willing to continue this fight and will continue to try to slaughter innocent Israelis. And I think it’s important for us all that — those are chilling comments. We all ought to pay attention to them, and we need to take them seriously.
And with that, I’ll take some questions.
Q Question on Jordan removing their ambassador from Israel. What are your thoughts on that step? Are you concerned that the current conflict could lead to deeper isolation for Israel, as opposed to greater integration as the U.S. has sought?
MR. KIRBY: Well, certainly that’s going to be a comment for — or that’s an issue for the Jordanian government to speak to. I — I wouldn’t get involved in that. They — they have a right to manage bilateral relations the way they see fit.
What we’re going to focus on is making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against what is a very real — real and active threat — and you don’t have to look any more than Mr. Hamad’s comments to see that — as well as making sure we’re doing everything we can to get the humanitarian assistance in and get people out.
Q But are you concerned that the efforts at greater integration in the region are being undone by the current war, given that Jordan has had relations for so long and now it’s taking this step back?
MR. KIRBY: We still believe that an integrated Israel is good for the region. And we still believe that that is a path worth pursuing. And we’re not giving up on that. I think you’ve heard me say we’re still interested in pursuing this normalization arrangement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. And as I said yesterday, the Saudi Arabians have indicated a willingness to continue in that regard.
Again, the Jordanian government can and should speak for their own decision. We still believe that — that there is great power and there’s great promise in a more integrated, more cooperative Middle East, and we’re not going to give up on that.
Q John, I wanted to ask you about the —
Q Go ahead.
Q — about the situation in Gaza. So, you know, people have said that you — that the — the people of Gaza need a different solution than Hamas. But what opportunities are being offered now? Like what — what is the end — what — what is the future look like? And how will you ensure that — I know there’s been a lot of discussion about endgame, but this is, kind of, a bigger question about what — what alternatives are there for the people of Gaza?
And, you know, there’s a lot of concern that the constant Israeli bombardment, the massive loss of life is only going to further radicalize the — the population there and create more support for, you know, statements like the one you just read.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, so there’s a lot there, Andrea. I would say we — we do believe that Hamas can’t be the future of governance in Gaza. They can’t be. They just can’t. We can’t go back to October 6th. You heard the President say that.
Now what comes next after the conflict, we don’t have all the answers to that. But we are working with our partners in the region to — to — to explore what governance in Gaza can and should look like over the long term. Whatever it is — it can’t be Hamas.
And it has to be governance that has the best interest and the aspirations of the people of Gaza, the Palestinians of Gaza at its core, at the foundation. Because so many of them — they don’t associate themselves with Hamas. Hamas doesn’t represent them. So, I — we don’t have those answers.
But I can assure you that we are asking those very same questions of ourselves and of our partners. And we are trying to do the spadework to think about post-conflict Gaza and what that looks like. And so, that — that is very much on our minds.
Now, on your second question about radicalization, we have said it repeatedly and we’ll continue to say it: The proper number of civilian casualties is zero. We don’t want to see a single more innocent life lost.
I mean, it’s — it’s heartbreaking what you’re seeing. I mean, I read reports — I’m sure you have, too — of mothers, you know, writing the names of their children on their legs. I can’t even imagine what that must feel like to have to take that step.
So, we all know that the suffering is great and deep, and we are working very, very hard to — to continue to make sure that our Israeli friends are prosecuting these operations with as much due care to minimize these civilian casualties as possible. And that work will continue.
At the same time, making sure that we’re not forgetting the people of Gaza and the great needs that they have — food, water, medicine, fuel — as well as I — today, being able to get some of them who we know were injured — to get them — to get them out into safety. I mean, this has been a priority for the President since the very beginning.
And as I said in my opening statement, what you’re seeing today in terms of the aid getting in and now people getting out is very much — very much a credit to his personal leadership and diplomacy.
Q But why do you keep saying that a ceasefire would only benefit Hamas? Why not stop the killing?
MR. KIRBY: What I’ve said is a ceasefire right now — a general, broad ceasefire right now is not the — is not the right answer.
But what we also have said, Andrea, is that we continue to support the idea of temporary pauses in the fighting so that aid can get in, people can get out, we can get our hostages out. We absolutely think that that’s an idea worth pursuing.
Now, there are many factors and many players in being able to put pauses in place, and we’re working at that very, very hard.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
Q John, can you speak to why wouldn’t a cease- — you wouldn’t support a ceasefire right now. I mean, you — does that phrasing indicate that your thinking is changing on that, that there could be a time soon that you would consider a ceasefire to be appropriate?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I don’t want to get ah- — ahead of where we are. I — it’s not the first time I’ve said we don’t support a ceasefire right now. We don’t think that’s the right answer. But — but we just — we’re just not at that point now where — where we think a general ceasefire is the right approach.
Q Can I ask as well — sorry. The — the idea about af- — you know, you’re talking about after Hama- — you know, life after Hamas, the situation after Hamas. Is there a possibility that U.S. troops could then go in to stabilize the situation somehow or to act as peacekeepers?
MR. KIRBY: There’s no plans or intention to put U.S. military troops on the ground in Gaza now or in the future. But we are — as I answered to Andrea, we are talking to our partners about what post-conflict Gaza should look like.
And clearly, you know, that — if that means some sort of international presence, then that’s something we’re talking about. But there’s been no decisions about that at this point.
Q John, can you speak to this — this — why it’s just — the first tranche? It’s just about a handful of Americans getting out. Is Hamas in particular holding on to Americans for leverage? And what — give us the universe of how many of our people we’re getting out and when.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah. So, I mean, this is just, as I said in my opening statement, the first step in what we consider to be a multi-step process, which will take — which will unfold over coming days.
And I won’t go beyond saying it was a handful of Americans. That’s as sm- — that’s as specific as I’m going to get today. And we’re not going to speak to the numbers of other foreign nationals because it wouldn’t be right for us to speak for other countries and their people getting out.
We do expect to be able to get all our Americans out. But it’ll take — it’ll take — it’ll take a few days. It will take some time.
This was the first step, and it’s a good step in the right direction, but we know there’s a lot more work.
Q Can you identify the main bottleneck? Why are we not getting more out faster given the desperation involved?
MR. KIRBY: It’s not about a bottleneck. This
is a — this is a breakthrough. This is a significant breakthrough. This is not — this is about breaking through what — what had been obstacles to moving people out previously.
So, actually, I think the evi- — I think the evidence shows that — that we’ve — that we’ve gotten through the — a bottleneck and obstacle that we are now moving.
But it’s going to take some time. It’s an enormous population. So, obviously, as you heard Secretary Blinken say that about a thousand Americans, several hundred families — if you count them all, it’s about a thousand — and thousands of others. So, it’s a big population.
And the other thing to remember is, you know, it’s still — it’s still a dangerous area. I mean, it’s still an active zone of combat. And so, as you do this, however you manage the numbers, you got to do it in a way that allows them to get out safely and — and to be — and to be done effectively with nobody getting hurt. And so, safety is going to be one of the prime considerations.
So, I can’t tell you what the next few days is going to look like in terms of numbers. But I can tell you that we’ll — we’ll work with our partners to manage the numbers in such a way that the most people can get out as soon as possible.
But, again, safety is going to be the primary concern.
Q On the supplemental package. Obviously, the House under Speaker Johnson, is pursuing an Israel-only bill, and the President obviously is not supportive of that. It seems like it’s deadlocked right now. The Senate is also not really supportive. What kind of compromise do you see? Is there any you can envision to get this over the finish line?
MR. KIRBY: Well, that’s really for members of Congress to talk to. That’s not — I mean, that’s for them to speak to.
I think you’ve heard the Minority Leader, Senator — Senator McConnell, say that he fully agrees that they should be all put in together, the way the President submitted it; that the situation in Ukraine and Israel are intertwined and serious. And we obviously agree with that.
So, we urge Congress to move forward with the entire supplemental package that the President submitted — all four buckets, which obviously include Ukraine and Israel together.
Q Do you have any other meetings to read out with Jake or other NSC officials maybe —
MR. KIRBY: On the supplemental?
Q — walking them through this again? Yeah.
MR. KIRBY: I don’t anything for you today. But obviously, if we have — we will continue to have those conversations and we’ll read them out as appropriate.
Q John, has the — has the U.S. expressed concern to the Israelis about the multiple strikes on the refugee camp in Jabalia?
MR. KIRBY: As I said earlier, I mean, we’re going to be cautious about reacting to each and every event on the ground. We’re still gathering details about this refugee strike and the degree to which maybe it was struck again. We just — we’re still gathering some details.
But as I said earlier, there’s not a conversation we’re — we’re having with our Israeli counterparts that doesn’t — that doesn’t reflect our continued concern over civilian casualties and urging them to — to be as careful and deliberate as possible to avoid that risk.
Q (Inaudible) this breakthrough to get people out, obviously, from Gaza. What caused the breakthrough? Is it Hamas changing their mind or their posture? What changed? And how confident are you that the numbers are going to rise and that this is, like, actually a real breakthrough and not a one-day thing?
MR. KIRBY: As I said, this was the result of a lot of intense diplomacy, led personally by the President, certainly by Secretary Blinken and Special Envoy Satterfield on the ground. A lot of work went into this. I mean, this has been building now for quite some time.
So, it wouldn’t be — I don’t think it’s accurate to say there was, like, one thing that sort of, like, tripped the switch here. I mean, we’ve been working on this for a long, long time. And it is a complicated process to, you know, identify folks, make sure they have all the proper documentation so that’s not a holdup, and then getting a route available to them to get out that’s safe and efficient.
So, I mean, there’s just a — there’s a lot of moving pieces here.
Q Can you talk more about the weapons production that’s required to supply the weapons that are needed by both Israel and Ukraine? The U.S. has been a little disappointed about the weapons industry, I think, you know, pumping up in time and accelerating production significantly.
Are you able to say anything about your conversations with the weapons industry in the United States and whether they’re going to be able to meet the demand that’s clearly —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — there?
MR. KIRBY: I know Secretary Austin actually talked about this up on Capitol Hill yesterday. And I think I certainly can’t improve upon his assessment. But they have been — “they,” the military, the Defense Department — has been in constant touch with the defense industry about ramping up production for certain types of ammunition and certain types of systems. Artillery shells is a good example.
And as the Secretary said yesterday, he’s confident that the defense indus- — industrial base will be up to that task to improve and accelerate the production of munitions that we — that we need not only to help Ukraine and now Israel but to replenish our own stocks.
And as you saw in the supplemental, there is a significant chunk of funding in there designed to do that — to be able to replenish our own shelves.
But Secretary Austin is confident that that work will continue and that the defense industry is up to the task.
Q Do you have a better estimate of the civilian casualties at the — at the refugee camp?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t.
Q Can you talk about President Biden’s personal reaction when he heard about that?
MR. KIRBY: I — again, I — we don’t want to react to every individual event, so I’d really rather not get into that. But you’ve heard the President, just as recently as the comments in the Rose Garden — you’ve heard us all talk about, you know, how devastating we know this is for families, for — for Palestinian families and for lives.
We know that there have been many thousands of casualties. And as I said earlier, the — the right number is zero.
Now, sadly, we’ve well exceeded that, I mean, as I said, to the tune of many thousands. Each one is a tragedy. And that’s why we’re going to continue to work as closely as we can with our Israeli counterparts to make sure and to urge them to continue to try to minimize that to the maximum degree possible.
So, it’s — it’s not something that we have taken our eyes off, nor will we. And you’ll continue to hear from the President about our — our significant concern over civilian harm.
Q Your SAP on the supplemental had strong language. It had the word “veto,” and it also really went off on — on the offsets dealing with IRS enforcement — blah, blah, blah.
So, my question is: Would the President sign a clean, non-offset Israel package?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t get ahead of the President and — and what he will sign. I think the statement that we put out last night speaks for itself in terms of what he won’t sign.
He — he wants to see this supplemental request approved in full because he believes that all of those priorities are significant, urgent national security priorities. And the key word there is “urgent.”
I mean, that’s what this is. This is an urgent supplemental, because every situation that he talked about is — is increasingly important for our national security.
So, again, I won’t get ahead of what might end up on his desk or what he will sign or he won’t. I think he’s been very clear about what he won’t sign.
Q Are you working with partners about Islamophobia? I mean, are you starting reaching out to allies to try to curb that as we- — as well as antisemitism?
MR. KIRBY: Yes —
Q Because these —
MR. KIRBY: — we have.
Q — are discussions —
MR. KIRBY: Yes, we have.
MR. KIRBY: Absolutely. Yeah.
Q What can be done — like, what — what — I mean, what can you — what can the allies do to sort of push back against this rise in hatred and antisemitism and Islamophobia?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, lo- — as you’ve heard the President say, hate has no place, whether it’s antisemitism or Islamophobia and discrimination and hate and threats to the Muslim community here in the United States or the Arab community here in the United States, the Palestinian community here in the United States. And I think you’ll hear more from us about this soon.
But we’re going to continue to work not only here at home with state and local authorities and with experts from that community, but also continue to work with our — our partners around the world.
Q Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, thank you.
MS. SIMONS: Thank you, John.
Q All right, Emilie.
Q Emilie, you’re on.
MS. SIMONS: Hi, everyone.
All right, over to you guys.
Q I have two questions. One on — on two different topics. The first one: The White House is working on a anti-Islamophobia initiative. What is the timeline for announcing that? And there are some concerns among Muslim leaders that the White House lacks credibility on this issue given what’s happening right now with the White House’s stance on the current conflict. What is your response to that as well?
MS. SIMONS: So, on your first question about the Islamophobia strategy, the President continues to underscore that we will not be silent. There is no place for hate in America, not against Muslim Americans, Arab Americans, Palestinian Americans, not against anyone.
As many of you know, last year, we established the inter-agency group to combat Islamophobia and antisemitism. This is within the last year. And the next step is to release a strategy on Islamophobia.
I don’t have a specific announcement for you right now, but something we’re working towards.
Q And the question of some Muslim leaders is that the White House lacks credibility on this issue. What is your response to that?
MS. SIMONS: So, we know that people are hurting. We know that — especially in Muslim and Arab American communities. And that’s why we continue to be very vocal about the fact that we are heartbroken by each and every loss of life.
We know that communities are feeling the pain of what’s going on overseas in a deeply personal way. And so, we’re going to continue to speak to these different communities, underscore the work we’re doing to get aid into Gaza and the conditions we’re trying to set up to support a humanitarian pause.
Q And then my other question was — several mayors have said the administration needs to do more and help with migrants in their cities, particularly increase the number of work authorizations to get people out of shelters. What is administration’s response to this? What is the administration doing to get more work authorizations out there?
MS. SIMONS: So, we’re committed to supporting local jurisdictions that are hosting migrants that have recently arrived into the country, and we’re going to continue to deliver support every way that we can.
On this, we’ve specifically asked Congress for almost $1.5 billion in additional grant funding to support local communities and build upon the improvements that DHS has already made in processing work permits.
Since last month, DHS has taken steps to reduce the average processing time for certain migrants to just 30 days.
So, this is something that’s on our radar. It’s something that we’ll continue focusing on.
Q Emilie, can you say a word — you know, in speaking about the frustration and anger in the Arab and Muslim community, we’ve heard that there will be protests today — in fact, in Minnesota, when the President arrives, at numerous — several locations. Are you concerned that this, you know, foreign policy crisis and the war will overshadow his effort in rural America? And are you concerned about safety and just, you know, sort of, you know, the concerns that might be raised by having wider-spread protests?
MS. SIMONS: So, the President continues to support Americans’ right to protest. We know that for millions of Muslim and Arab and Palestinian Americans here in America, there’s a deep pain, and people are really hurting. And we hear them. We’re here for them. We’re going to continue having those conversations with these communities.
We’re looking forward to traveling to rural Minnesota today. We know it’s important to continue to speak to Americans across the country from a variety of communities and to speak about the work that the President is doing both on the home front as it relates to our economy, as well as the work we’re doing overseas and with communities affected by it here at home.
Q Did you take any special precautions in terms of the — you know, was there additional police presence or additional security imposed?
MS. SIMONS: I don’t have anything to speak to to that. As you know, we travel with quite a wide footprint anywhere we go. But I would point you to Secret Service for anything on that.
Q Do you have any update on the President’s possible trip to Maine?
MS. SIMONS: I don’t have an update now, but we continue to stay in touch with the governor very closely.
As you know, the Deputy Director of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Greg Jackson, is on the ground right now working closely with the community. And one of the key pieces of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention is additional resources that can go to schools, go to communities in the aftermath of these tragedies.
And if we have more, we’ll share that with you.
Q In a statement that he put out, the presidential candidate Dean Phillips suggested that President Biden’s trip to Minnesota was last minute. Was this trip thrown together at the last minute?
MS. SIMONS: This trip has been in the works for months. We — as many of our trips are.
But we are eager to visit a third-generation family farm in Minnesota. It’s in Angie Craig’s district. She and several — and the two senators from the state were invited. Due to votes in D.C today, they’ll be staying in D.C. But we look forward to seeing the governor, the mayor of Northfield, and other officials.
Q Do you expect the President to at all reference Dean Phillips’s campaign today?
MS. SIMONS: The congressman has voted with the President 100 percent of the time, and we are grateful for his support.
Q Yeah, like, will we hear that from the President?
MS. SIMONS: I don’t expect to hear that today from the President.
Q And then, can you clarify one thing? Yesterday, Karine confirmed that there would be a meeting between President Biden and President Xi in San Francisco. And then the Chinese said there isn’t, you know, plans (inaudible) to such an agreement. And even members of your administration said that there was an “agreement in principle.” I think there’s some confusion. What is the agreement in principle? And are you on the same page with the Chinese? What is or is not happening in —
MS. SIMONS: Yes —
Q — San Francisco.
MS. SIMONS: Absolutely. So, last week, after NSA Sullivan met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, we released a readout where we shared that we are working towards this meeting.
Now that it’s November — this month, coming up in San Francisco — I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in the logistical planning process, but we have agreed to a meeting in principle. We are working closely with the Chinese to put those plans together.
Q And will he give —
Q So, did Karine get ahead of herself by saying that the meeting is confirmed? What — what else needs to happen that you will have this meeting? Because it seems like there is a scenario where it might not happen.
MS. SIMONS: No, Karine was speaking to that agreement in principle, that we are all on the same page, that we would like to see this meeting happen. Both sides have regularly acknowledged the importance of leader-to-leader channels in managing this bilateral relationship. So, that’s where we are today.
Q Emilie, given that the President has drawn a primary challenger from the great state of Minnesota, does he have any regrets? Or was it a good idea to change the primary calendar to take — calendar to take away New Hampshire’s first-in-the nation status?
MS. SIMONS: I want to be careful of the Hatch Act and not get too deep into politics.
But we’re looking forward, from an official perspective, of visiting this farm and seeing exactly how Bidenomics and our Investing in America ag- — agenda are helping communities like this one in Minnesota.
Q Emilie, can I ask you about the funding streams? You’re touting the $5 billion that are going to come in new investments. Obviously, it comes on top of other investments. But still, $5 billion is really a drop in the bucket if you compare it to the trillion dollars that are in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; the, you know, hundreds of hundreds of millions of — that are in — billions that are in the Inflation Reduction Act. I mean, isn’t it a pittance that you’re bringing?
MS. SIMONS: So, today’s announcement — in particular, the $5 billion — represents just a fraction of what we’re doing to support rural communities thanks to the President’s Investing in America agenda, across multiple laws that we’ve passed.
For example, in the Inflation Reduction Act, we’re investing nearly $11 billion to bring affordable, reliable, clean energy to rural communities, which is the largest investment in rural electrification since the New Deal in 1936.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is bringing over $14 billion in rural-specific programs.
And the President’s Investing in America agenda overall is benefiting rural America, including $90 billion across the country to expand access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet.
Q I know — I know the White House —
MS. SIMONS: Danny.
Q Sorry. Do you have any update on whether the President will travel to the COP in Dubai?
MS. SIMONS: So, the President has delivered on the most ambitious climate agenda in history, both at home and abroad. I don’t have any travel updates to share at this time, but we’re looking forward to a robust and productive COP28.
Q I know the White House doesn’t want to respond to every poll. But given the dramatic drop in support for President Biden among Muslim and Arab Americans, is the administration concerned about how the messages you’re sending surrounding the conflict are being received by some communities?
MS. SIMONS: So, once again, we deeply understand that these communities are hurting and how deeply they feel what’s going on overseas and how it affects communities here at home, both in the form of Islamophobia, in the form of concern about family and friends, innocent civilians that are affected overseas.
And that’s why at every opportunity, we’re going to continue having these conversations at the highest level between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu; the President and El-Sisi of Egypt; yesterday, the President and the King of Jordan.
And we’re going to continue sharing that message with these communities because we know how important it is to increase the amount of aid that’s flowing into Gaza and do what we can to create the conditions for a humanitarian pause.
Q But is there any sense that you, as an administration, need to change the way that you’re communicating these things given how they’re being received?
MS. SIMONS: What we think is extremely important is to continue sitting down, as we have been, with these communities, hear from them directly, take their feedback, and continue to build on that.
This is a living, breathing conflict, and we want to be receptive to the communities.
And, you know, we’re hearing from the Muslim communities every day. We look forward to hopefully soon rolling out new pieces of this. And so, we’ll keep you posted on that front.
Q Has the White House got a problem with the federal judge putting a gag order on the former President, limiting what he can and can’t say?
MS. SIMONS: I’m not going to get into any ongoing legal battles as it concerns the former President.
Q The President — on the — on — just on the — on the polling, one of the — one of the findings is that, as a community, Arab Americans have traditionally and historically voted Democrat. That has shifted now for the first time since that poll has been taken — 26 years.
Is it — is it — is there a problem within the Democratic Party? And I realize, you know, you’re representing the President and not the campaign. But is he concerned that the coalition that brought him into office is falling apart and that he needs to do more to, sort of, shore up support in general for the Democrats?
MS. SIMONS: As we know, this is a very difficult time globally. It’s a difficult time for many communities across the United States, including Muslim Americans, Arab and Palestinian Americans, including Jewish Americans.
We know that the Pre- — as the President said in his Oval Office address a couple of weeks ago, he himself is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Palestinian life, and he is calling on Americans together to mourn every innocent life lost and recognize the humanity of innocent Palestinians who want to live in peace and have opportunity.
So, we’re going to continue to underscore the actions he’s taking to secure more aid and his calls to Israel to continue to live up to the rules of war and protect innocent life.
And once again, we want to continue engaging in these conversations with the affected communities and be unequivocal about condemning hate and discrimination.
Q You’ve said this on a number of occasions that you’ve called on Israel to respect the laws of war. Do you — and this might have been a better question for Kirby, but do you have any concern and evidence that Israel is, in fact, in violation of international law, as many experts have said?
MS. SIMONS: So, what I’ll echo is that we consistently — from the President on down and across counterparts across the government — are making known our concern for the protection of innocent life and the respect for the law of war.
Q Now we’re two weeks or so away from a potential government shutdown. Given where we are right now with the supplemental being gridlocked, how does that, like, bode for your talks on keeping the government open with the new Speaker? What’s the current level of engagement with the Hill? And how much do you have to sort of triage making sure that the supplemental and the government funding deadline are both happening smoothly?
MS. SIMONS: Yeah, so, we — as we rapidly approach the next deadline, we welcome the fact that House Republicans have elected their new Speaker. We continue to have conversations at — across our teams to ensure that we’re putting the touches on a potential bill that can come through.
When it comes to the supplemental, you know, the President was very clear and our administration was clear in our statement last night that the bill that they’re currently putting forward inserts partisanship into support for Israel and makes a key ally a pawn of politics.
It also denies humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people, including Palestinian civilians, and it would set a dangerous new precedent by including offsets that we’ve heard today from CBO would actually increase the deficit by $26 billion.
So, we do not think that that’s the right path forward. Many senior congressional Republicans, including McConnell and others, agree.
So, we’re going to continue staying hard at work at this the next couple of weeks.
Q How worried are you, though, that this partisanship that you’re seeing from the new Speaker across the table from you is, sort of, like, the blueprint you’re going into government funding talks with?
MS. SIMONS: I think that’s a question for House Republicans. We continue to work closely with members of both parties. And we’re seeing a lot of reinforcement from congressional leaders, specifically Republicans and high-ranking Republicans from the previous administration, who believe that our path that we’ve put forward to provide funding for both Israel and Ukraine, as well as our border, as well as competition with China to Tw- — to Taiwan is the right path.
Q Do you have any details on the specific identities of the people that have been a- — that have gotten to safety, the Americans?
MS. SIMONS: I don’t. I had seen the reporting that you were referencing, but we can talk to Kirby.
Q Thank you.
MS. SIMONS: Thank you.
2:06 P.M. EDT