James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:02 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So much excitement out here.
Q It’s the jacket.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, all right. All right, class, everybody — (laughter).
Okay. All right, everyone. It is — it is a serious day indeed.
So, good afternoon. Today, as part of our “10 days of 10 Drugs” series, we’re highlighting Januvia, a drug that treats diabetes and that was selected for Medicare price negotiation as part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
Last year, around 885,000 seniors were prescribed Januvia and spent, on — on average, up to 500 bucks a month for this lifesaving drug.
One of those seniors is Stephen from North Carolina, who wrote to the President that he pays over 500 bucks a month for this lifesaving medicine.
For years, politicians talked about taking on Big Pharma to lower drug prices for seniors. All the while, Big Pharma continued to rake in record profits and spent $400 million on lobbyists to keep prices high for seniors.
President Biden and congressional Democrats finally changed that by passing the Inflation Reduction Act without a single Republican vote.
As a result, for the first time ever, instead of drug companies charging Americans whatever they want to — whatever they want to for — for saving drugs like Januvia, Medicare will be able to negotiate low- — lowering drug prices for Americans like Stephen.
As we announced a short time ago, President Biden will host President Joko Widodo of Indonesia for a bilateral meeting at the White House on Monday, November 13th.
During the visit, President Biden will reaffirm the United States’ commitment to deepening our nearly 75-year-long partnership between the world’s second- and third-largest democracies.
The leaders will explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on the clean energy transition, advance economic prosperity, bolster regional peace and stability, and reinforce our people-to-people ties. The two leaders will also coordinate on efforts to reinforce ASEAN centrality and uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.
With that, my colleague from NSC, Admiral John Kirby, is here to give any update that we have on Israel and take any of your foreign policy questions.
With that —
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine. Good afternoon, everybody.
Q Good afternoon.
MR. KIRBY: So, today, obviously, marks one month here since the horrific Hamas attacks on October 7th. And we all just want to take a moment to acknowledge all the victims of that horrific act of terror: people slaughtered at a music festival, murdered in front of their kids in their home. Just a — it was a horrible day.
And also, it was a day where dozens and dozens of people were taken hostage — many of them still being held hostage. So, we also want to say that our thoughts continue to be with all of them and — and their families and their loved ones.
I can only imagine the anguish that these families are still going through and have now for the past month — the pain that they’re feeling, the strong desire to get that seat filled at the dining room table again.
We are going to continue to pursue every possible measure that we can to get those hostages released and to get those folks back with their families where they belong. And again, we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
We’re also keeping in our thoughts and prayers, this one month in, the many, many thousands of innocent Palestinians who have been killed in the conflict since October 7th and the many more who are injured and wounded in the conduct of this — of these operations and, quite frankly, the million and a half that had been displaced internally from their homes. We’re — we’re mindful of that suffering as well.
And one month in, it’s good for everybody to take a knee, take a pause, and remember the scope of the suffering here and the terrible images many of us have seen coming out of both Israel and Gaza.
Now, on the humanitarian side, I can tell you that over the last 24 hours, 93 trucks were able to enter Gaza through the Rafah border. That was as of yesterday. That brings the total to 569 trucks since October 21st. And as we’ve said many times before, we know that’s not enough. It’s a trickle.
I mean, as a matter of fact, before October 7th, that’s about the number that was getting in every day. Now it fluctuated a little bit, but it was several hundred — up to 500 a day.
As you all saw yesterday, the President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he certainly discussed the need to continue to try to accelerate and increase the amount of humanitarian assistance that’s going in. He also talked about the importance of pauses in the fighting to allow for aid to get in, people to get out, and for hostages to be released. We’ll keep those — that dialogue going, obviously, with — with the Prime Minister and his War Cabinet.
On the idea of people getting out — so, we do expect more individuals to depart Gaza today via the Rafah crossing. To date, there’s been over 400 U.S. citizens and their families who have been able to depart and have been seeking the assistance of our consular team at the embassy in Cairo.
In just the last 24 hours, about 96 — so, just under a hundred — U.S. citizens and family members were able to — to move across that border.
And as I said, it’s very fluid. We won’t get the final count until the end of the day today, because the day is still going on. But we do expect that there will be more Americans to come out today.
So, keeping that Rafah crossing open for aid to enter and Americans and other foreign nationals to leave has been a major priority for the President and will remain so going forward.
And as I said, we’re going to be focused on getting folks out, getting aid in, and getting those hostages released.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Go ahead, Selina.
Q Thank you, Admiral. The U.N. Gen- — Secretary-General said Gaza is “becoming a graveyard for children.” He said the IDF is hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches, and U.N. facilities, including shelters.
So, if a warzone is “becoming a graveyard for children,” can you still say that Israel is following the laws of war?
MR. KIRBY: What I’ll tell you is that we continue to stress to our Israeli counterparts that they be as discriminant and careful in their targeting as possible. And it is sad to see — it’s horrible to see the images of young kids being pulled out of rubble and — and so many of them not making it.
Hamas is putting those children and their families in greater danger by not letting them go; by encouraging them to stay, by sheltering in their homes; they’re building tunnels under their hospitals; and by holding children hostages.
We know that there’s a portion of the 240-plus that they’re holding as hostages are kids. They’re kids.
And we’ve been trying mightily to get those children released. We’ve had no success so far.
Q And Israel’s Prime Minister told ABC News that Israel will have, quote, “overall security responsibility [over Gaza] for an indefinite period.” But the President said that it would be a big mistake for Israel to reoccupy Gaza. So, how much daylight is there between what Israel and the U.S. see as the future of Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: We’ve been having active discussions with our Israeli counterparts about what post-conflict Gaza ought to look like.
The President maintains his position that a — a reoccupation by Israeli forces is not the right thing to do.
We’ll let them speak to their intentions. But we are definitely having conversations about what the post-conflict environment ought to look like and what governance in Gaza ought to look like.
One thing there’s absolutely no daylight on is: Hamas can’t be part of that equation. We can’t go back to October 6th.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, M.J.
Q A senior U.S. official told us last week that the U.S.’ expectation is that, in the coming days, we should see a decrease in Israel’s air campaign and more of a tactical ground offensive. Can you tell us a little bit more about what led to that assessment? And have you seen that in the past few days?
MR. KIRBY: I can’t speak for what an anonymous official said about Israeli military operations. I’m not going to get into the habit of speaking of a tactical nature to their intentions, plans, or activities here from the podium.
They have obviously gone in on the ground with the intention of putting pressure on Hamas leadership and to find, fix, and finish some of that leadership.
I’ll let them speak to those operations.
Q And — and, John, you said yesterday that you wouldn’t want to overstate the efforts that Israel is making to limit civilian casualties. That’s a change from a week ago when you said that it was obvious Israel was trying to minimize casualties. Can you just help us understand that shift in the language?
MR. KIRBY: No shift. Both can be true.
There are — we have seen indications that — in certain operational environments, that they are — they are making an effort.
For instance, let’s go back to the ground thing. And again, I don’t want to be armchair quarterbacking another military, but — but they — they’re — they’re moving into and onto and into Gaza with smaller units than what a lot of people thought they would do. They thought it was going to be this big, massive formation into North Gaza. And that’s not what they’ve been doing.
And when you are on the ground, while you — the risk to your troops gets — is higher, you can be more discriminant. You can be more careful in — in your formations and your targeting and what you’re going after than you can be from the air.
But it’s also true that airstrikes continue. And it’s also true that civilians keep dying from these airstrikes.
Q Is there any scenario where future aid to Israel would be contingent on how they conduct themselves in terms of minimizing civilian casualties?
MR. KIRBY: We’ve been crystal clear since the very beginning of this conflict that — that one of the things that separates us from Hamas, who actually did try and intend to kill innocent civilians, is that democracies like the U.S. and Israel observe the law of armed conflict, that we respect civilian life. And we’ve been clear since the beginning with them that we want to — we want to continue to urge them to do that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Trevor.
Q There’s hundreds of USAID employees that have signed onto a letter disagreeing with U.S. policy towards Israel. There’s some dissent cables floating around the State Department. Why are so many federal government employees at odds with the policies that you’re talking about?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I — I think one of the great things about, certainly, work- — working at the State Department and at other agencies is that multiple perspectives and multiple opinions are — are respected.
And there’s an avenue, like you said — the dissent channel. And I can’t speak for what is or what isn’t in the dissent channel. But having worked at the State Department, I can tell you that’s a time-honored and tradition — traditional way for employees there at the State Department to voice their concerns. And I think that’s a good thing.
The President understands that there’s strong emotions and feelings here, all around, all across the board. And here inside the administration and in the federal government, that’s certainly the case as well.
And he appreciates the fact that people feel strongly and that there are multiple perspectives. And we’re going to continue to listen to them, Trevor, both inside and outside the government.
And we have been engaging with — with partners and organizations and experts and analysts and people with different perspectives to listen to their concerns, make sure that we understand them as we develop policy.
Q And is the — the President frustrated at all with — with his inability to prevail upon his Israeli counterpart to engage in these humanitarian pauses?
MR. KIRBY: There have been humanitarian pauses. Already, there’s been some. I mean, one of the ways we were able to get those first few hostages out was a pause in the fighting.
And Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe, in a — in an interview last night, also talked about the fact that he has approved certain pauses throughout the country.
So, there have been. And we are going to continue to work with our Israeli counterparts going forward to make sure that — that we can continue to do them.
But the idea here is, you know, they’re localized in terms of geography, they’re limited in time and duration, and they’re usually for a specific purpose or purposes: getting stuff in, getting people out. And we have every expectation that we’ll be able to continue to have those conversations.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Seung Min.
Q Just to follow up on what you just said about the Prime Minister’s comment about the little pauses. So — so, does the U.S. see that as sort of a satisfactory response to the humanitarian pauses that President Biden has been calling for? He’s talked about, like, an hour here, an hour there.
MR. KIRBY: It’s in keeping with the conversations that we’ve been having with our Israeli counterparts about the need for humanitarian pauses in the fighting.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Seung Min.
Q I wanted to ask —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Asma, sorry.
Q Oh, sorry.
Q Oh, no, that’s okay.
Q I figured. (Laughter.)
In late October, you had referred to the fact that the administration is not drawing any red lines for Israel. As the death toll for civilians in the Gaza Strip has gone up, I wanted to ensure: Is that still the case, that the administration has no red lines at all?
MR. KIRBY: That is still the case.
Q Okay. And then, also, a follow-up. You all have spoken a number of times about a two-state solution. And I — this is not so tangential to the immediate conflict, but I wanted to understand. Coming in, you all have maintained a policy of recognizing Israel’s control over the Golan Heights. That was a move that your predecessor made, reversing, you know, U.S. policy after half a century. Is that still the Biden administration’s policy, that you have — that you believe that Israel has sovereignty over the Golan Heights?
MR. KIRBY: Let me get back to you on that specific policy question. I don’t want to freelance it from here.
But you said something at the beginning that — that — talking about a two-state solution —
MR. KIRBY: — seems tangential to what’s going on, and I would respectfully disagree. It’s actually — what’s going on underscores how important it is that we continue to try to make progress towards a two-state solution.
But I will get you a better answer on the Golan Heights.
Q On the Golan Heights. Okay, thank you.
MR. KIRBY: I’d rather not just spitball that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Nadia.
Q Thank you. I want to follow up on the previous question, and I have another question.
So, why are you not embracing these dissident voices who calls for a balance between private and public message and criticize Israel when actually it is in violation of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention? With due respect, John, some people think that you repeat what the Israeli army spokesman is saying. It’s exactly what they’re saying, you repeat in here.
So, how can you — why not — these dissident voices — not just understanding them and we have a channel because we’re a democracy — why not — what’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with standing here and say, when Israel do something wrong — because you’re the best friend, you have leverage on them — why not criticizing them?
MR. KIRBY: Your question presupposes that we’ve made some determination that the law of armed conflict has been violated. And I don’t think —
Q But the U.N. says —
MR. KIRBY: — we’re not at that point.
Q So, you disagree with the U.N.?
MR. KIRBY: I — I would just tell you that we’re — we’re not going to react in near real time to every event. Israel has a right and a responsibility to defend itself, and we’re going to make sure they have the tools and capabilities to do that.
Again, we’re one month after this. And we ought not forget what happened one month ago: 1,400 people slaughtered in their homes, at a music festival. And when Hamas decided to conduct operations, it was with the intent of killing people.
You know, I he- — I heard this word “genocide” toss- — tossed around. But Hamas actually does have genocidal intentions against the people of Israel. They’d like to see it wiped off the map. They said so on purpose.
So, that’s what — that’s what’s at stake here. And we’re going to keep making sure that Israel has that ability to do that.
Now, as for the voices, of course we respect all different voices and perspectives on this. And we know that there’s a lot of — there’s a lot of high emotion here when it comes to what’s going on.
We have never shied away from criticizing our friends and partners when we believe it’s warranted. And we’ll continue to do that.
We also believe that — that — that the best diplomacy, the best progress in diplomatic pursuits is to do it privately and outside the public eye. And we’ll continue to do that as well. We’ll continue to have those tough conversations with our good friend.
Q I don’t think anybody forgot what happened on October 7th. But regardless —
MR. KIRBY: I’m not saying — I’m not saying you did forget, I’m just saying it’s all good for us — we should — we should not forget; we should all be reminded of what happened. And it happened a month ago today.
Q You talked about settlers violence in the West Bank. The President spoke about it. But there’s also violence by the Israeli army. There is many Palestinians who have been shot dead in the West Bank. It’s 163 since October 7th. There’s also been massive arrests. It is 1,350 have been arrested under what the Israeli called an “administrative detention,” i.e. they can arrest a person without a trial.
So, is this something that concerns you? Is it something that you convey to the Israelis, considering the situation in Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: Yes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Weijia.
Q Thank you, Karine. Thanks, John. I have a follow-up on M.J.’s question because I didn’t hear an answer about the potential suspension of aid. I know that you’ve repeatedly said that you’ve talked to the Israelis, that the U.S. talks to them every day about minimizing civilian casualties. But do those talks include laying out any consequences if they do not, including a suspension of aid?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not going to get into private diplomatic conversations that we’re having with our Israeli counterparts.
I will tell you this: We’re going to continue to make sure that they have the tools and the capabilities that they need to defend themselves against what clearly was an existential threat to their society and to their people.
We’re going to continue to make sure they have what they need. We’re also going to continue to urge them to be as careful and deliberate and discriminant in the targeting as possible.
Q But Jake Sullivan, Finer, you have all said that anytime that the U.S. transfers weapons to another country, it requires assurances that those weapons will be used within the accordance of law.
MR. KIRBY: That’s right.
Q So, just to be very clear —
MR. KIRBY: That’s right.
Q — the U.S. does —
MR. KIRBY: That’s different than —
Q — not believe —
MR. KIRBY: That’s different than what you’re suggesting in your question, which is that we’re going to layer on more restrictions on the security assistance that they’re getting. And that’s not what I’m — that’s not what I’m alluding to —
Q Right. No, but I’m asking about —
MR. KIRBY: — or we’re not talking about that.
Q — the — the transfer of weapons that have already happened.
Just to be clear, the U.S. has not determined that Israel has violated any of those boundaries?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q And one more point of clarification on what the Prime Minister said about playing a security role in- — indefinitely in Gaza. Does the U.S. see a distinction between that and reoccupation, or is it one and the same?
MR. KIRBY: I’ll let the Prime Minister speak to his comments and what he meant by “indefinite.” President Biden has been very clear: We don’t support a reoccupation of Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces. We do think that there needs to be a healthy set of conversations about what post-conflict Gaza looks like and what governance looks like. What we absolutely agree with our Israeli counterparts on is what it can’t look like, and it can’t look like it looked on October 6th.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jacqui.
Q Thank you, Karine. John, on the proxy attacks on U.S. troops, it — we’re now up to 40 since October 17th, with 46 service members being injured or reporting traumatic brain injuries. Does the President think that the action that was taken a couple of weeks ago to push back on this was enough?
MR. KIRBY: The President felt like those were two legitimate targets directly tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that supports these militia groups, and they were ammo weapons facilities — certainly, legitimate targets that — that we believe not only had a practical effect on limiting some of their capability but sent a strong signal of how seriously we’re going to look after our troops and facilities.
If and when we decide to respond again in the future, we’ll do it at a time and in a manner of our choosing. We will absolutely take the action that we need to take. The President as Commander-in-Chief will order that action to protect our troops and facilities as he sees fit.
Q Has there been any additional warning from the President since the last time we responded that this needs to stop? Because, clearly, the attacks on our troops didn’t stop.
MR. KIRBY: I will not get into the decision-making process or options before the Commander-in-Chief. I would just tell you that we will continue to take the action we believe is appropriate to protect our troops and our facilities.
Q And then on the apparent disagreement between the U.S. and its ally, it — to some of the other questions that you’ve already gotten, it — it is notable that we’re seeing the U.S. more readily acknowledge some space between what we’re advising and what Israel is — is doing, like Israel appears to be resisting the humanitarian pauses still.
The President, the administration has been calling that for a couple of weeks, saying that we don’t support indefinite occupation. That was the State Department briefing today after Netanyahu said that Israeli forces could be there for an indefinite period of time. And even in the readout from the call with the Prime Minister, the White House readout, you know, used, again, the language “extremist settlers.”
This is somewhat notably different than the kinds of language we were hearing immediately after October 7th. So, can you characterize the closeness of the relationship right now?
MR. KIRBY: It’s extremely close. And — and —
Q Any distance?
MR. KIRBY: And we’re — as was transmitted by the President in the call with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, we remain solidly behind Israel as they continue to try to eliminate this threat to their people and to their sovereignty, and they’re going to continue to get security assistance from the United States. There’s no daylight there whatsoever.
Now, look, we’re friends. And friends don’t have to agree on every single nuance and every single word.
The Prime Minister speaks for a sovereign nation and for a sovereign people. And he should, obviously, you know, be queried about the points that he’s making. But it doesn’t mean that we’re somehow backing away from our friend and our ally, Israel — the strongest ally we have in the Middle East — or we’re backing off our support for what they’re trying to do to protect their people.
Q Or Netanyahu, in particular, given the Politico —
MR. KIRBY: No. Not at all.
Q — reporting from a little while ago that there — that was a point of discussion, whether he’d be —
MR. KIRBY: I — I’m not going to get into, you know, the — the — confirming that kind of — those kinds of press reports.
I would just tell you that these are two men that have known each other a long time. And I don’t think it’s any shock to anybody that, on a political spectrum, they’re not exactly always in the same place on every issue.
But one thing they do agree on is that Israel has a right to exist as a country and they have a right and a responsibility to defend the — that country and their citizens against that threat — the threat that was posed to them, like on October 7th. And in the United States, they will continue to find a true friend that will continue to support their ability to do that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Then we’ll go — go ahead, Peter, and then we’ll go to the back.
Q John, we know about the strikes that took place in northeast Syria a matter of weeks ago. Just to be very clear, have there been any additional U.S. strikes against targets — Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq or in Syria — beyond those?
MR. KIRBY: You mean from the United States?
Q From the United States.
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q There have not. So, just to be clear then, there have been at least 17 attacks on bases that house Americans since that last set of strikes. Will you agree that those strikes did not deter these Iranian-backed proxies from continuing their assault on American bases?
MR. KIRBY: I would certainly agree that there have been continued attacks. I would also note that none of them have been effective — and, in many cases, thwarted before they could pose any kind of a direct challenge. And that, again, Peter, we’ll — we’ll make the decisions on our own about —
Q But to be clear, if you agree that there have —
MR. KIRBY: — how and if we’re going to respond.
Q But to be clear, if you agree that there have been continued attacks — these 17 — isn’t that evidence alone? Do you agree that that’s evidence alone that it has not deterred them from continuing?
MR. KIRBY: It’s — it’s certainly evidence that some of these militia groups still believe that there’s value in — in continuing to try to strike at our troops and facilities. And our message to them is: You need to be careful because we’re going to do what we have to do to protect our troops and our facilities.
Q Let me ask about the situation in Gaza then, if I can, very quickly. In Ukraine, the U.S. put restrictions on how some U.S.-provided munitions could be used. There couldn’t be any targeting in Russia, for example. Has the U.S. put any restrictions on how Israel can use U.S.-provided munitions in its war with Hamas in Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: As is keeping — in keeping with U.S. law, we — we provide security assistance to any foreign nation, including Israel, with the expectation — the full expectation that those weapons will be used in keeping with the law of armed conflict. That’s no different here for Israel than it is for anybody else.
And I want to go back to what I said before about the — the message to these groups is: Don’t and stop. These attacks are unacceptable.
Q Then if I can ask — just to — to punctuate the last thought that we were just talking about: To be clear, does the U.S. — and they have to be within the laws of war, then, is our position on this armed conflict. So — so does —
MR. KIRBY: All mat- — all security assistance is governed by the law —
MR. KIRBY: — and governed by a requirement that it’d be used in keeping with the laws of armed conflict.
Q So, acknowledging the wide belief and understanding that Hamas has built tunnels underneath a variety of different locations, including hospitals, is the U.S. comfortable in knowing that — that Israel would or continue to target hospitals in Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t speak to specific targets, Peter. I think you can understand why I won’t do that.
It’s not a military operation that we’re running or leading. The Israeli Defense Forces are conducting these operations —
Q So, just as — that means we’re okay with the Israelis making their own decision that could include hospitals, right?
MR. KIRBY: As — as I’ve said before, when you’re fighting in urban warfare, you’ve got to make some tough choices about your targets.
Something could be a completely legal target, but because the civilian casualty cr- — count is too high, you — maybe you don’t do it. Maybe you make a policy decision not to do it. These are the kinds of tough decisions that Israeli commanders are going to have to make for themselves.
We’re going to keep urging them to be as discriminant and careful and cautious as possible.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, April.
Q Thank you. Thank you very much.
Q No, I’m sorry. You said —
Q Oh, I’m sorry.
Q — you said April.
Q Okay. Sorry, April.
Q John, going to the military installations that had these drone attacks. You talk about protections. What are the protections that you can tell us about which are —
MR. KIRBY: I —
Q Seriously. I mean, because for the United States to have military bases attacked and then military personnel injured —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — is there also a concern that these attacks can spread beyond Syria and Iraq and here and anywhere else in the world?
MR. KIRBY: There’s no indication right now that — that there’s specific threats to specific installations throughout the region.
That said, we do have a sizable force posture in the Middle East beyond Iraq and Syria. And in light of what’s been going on the last month, of course the Defense Department is taking a look at that posture and looking at force protection and making adjustments as necessary, depending on where you live in the region and what the — what the threat level might be. So, I won’t speak for our commanders.
And we never talk about force protection specifically, but we obviously make adjustments as needed.
And then to your first question — again, without getting into too much tactical detail about how we attempt to thwart some of these attacks: There are capabilities that we have that — that permit us to eliminate threats further afield, further away from our bases. And, you know, we — we employ those as — as appropriate.
But that doesn’t mean — and we’ve seen in just the recent weeks that occasionally attack could get through —
MR. KIRBY: — and get close to a base or even land on a base.
Q So, that protection has to be stepped up? Because as you just said, there’s some that have gotten through and this has happened over —
MR. KIRBY: It —
Q — a three-week period over and over.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, it’s an iterative process, April. We’re constantly looking at the threat streams and constantly trying to adjust force protection measures to deal with it the best we can.
Obviously, in a perfect world, there — you know, we wouldn’t want any attacks on our troops and facilities.
The — the next near-perfect world is that you can eliminate these threats before — you know, (inaudible) you could say, “left of launch” — right? — before they’re launched. And if — if you can’t do that, then as far away from your people as possible.
It’s — it’s called “layered defense” — you know, air and missile defense. And the Defense Department is constantly evaluing — evaluating what — what that looks like.
Q And last question, on genocide. Let’s go to Africa and the Congo. What is the White House doing — or National Security or State doing about this genocide that’s happening in the DRC?
MR. KIRBY: I — I’ll tell you — well, I’m going to take your question, because I don’t have a lot of context for you on that today. I’ll take the question, and we’ll get something back to you.
But, obviously, we’re in close touch with African par- — partners across the continent and mindful of a range of these kinds of security threats. And, certainly, we don’t want to see anybody subjected to — to genocidal intentions or actions by any group.
But I’ll — let me get back to you with more specifics.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Anita.
Q Thank you so much. I have a Russia question and then an East Asia question. Starting with Russia, the U.S. and NATO criticized Russia for pulling out of the CFE. This is the conventional arms treaty.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Q And now the U.S. and NATO are pulling out of the CFE. How do you —
MR. KIRBY: Right.
Q — square that? How do you justify that?
And is it the intention of the U.S. and NATO to use that space to expand the footprint of conventional arms, perhaps in Ukraine or elsewhere on the European continent?
MR. KIRBY: My goodness, I — I don’t know how we could justify not pulling out of it. And given that the Russians have decided unilaterally to just — just throw it in the trash heap — I mean, the — technically — not technically — they actually did violate it when they invaded Ukraine.
So, it’s disappointing. I wish I could say it was surprising, but it — but it’s not. And they left the United States and our NATO Allies with no choice but to — but to cease our accommodations and — and compliance with the — with the treaty as well.
As for future force posture, I certainly won’t talk about that from this podium. We’ll do what we need to do to make sure we can meet our Article 5 commitments to our NATO Allies. And that — that could require force posture changes, but I’m not prepared to speak to that today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jon.
Q So, on —
Q Go ahead.
Q — East Asia. Is it okay on East Asia?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead.
Q All right, sorry. Can you just update us and bring us up to speed on this Biden-Xi meeting: when it’s happening, if it’s happening — (laughter) — if the military channel has been reopened? And also, when President Biden meets with President Widodo, is he going to be bringing up the Israel-Hamas conflict and in what context?
MR. KIRBY: No. No. And I don’t know. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jon.
Q Thanks a lot, Karine. John, the fact that the Israeli Prime Minister is talking about what the security situation would look like in Gaza right now, would that lead you to believe that this conflict is in the end stages in any way?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I — that would really be up to the Israelis to speak to. This is their operation, so I’m not able to give you a date certain of when things are going to be complete.
And Prime Minister Netanyahu has talked about that, you know, he — he foresees potentially lengthy operations here to rid themselves of the threat that Hamas poses.
But I think it just makes good sense, no matter how long you think this conflict is going to go on, for people to be thinking about what post-conflict Gaza needs to look like. And it’s just — it’s the prudent, responsible thing to do.
Q The Prime Minister has also said definitively: No ceasefire unless there is a return of all hostages. Is that a reasonable position that he’s taken?
MR. KIRBY: You’ll have to talk to the Prime Minister. Again, we’re not going to characterize or armchair quarterback everything he’s saying.
We still believe that a general ceasefire is not appropriate at this time. And by “general ceasefire,” we’re talking about everybody laying down their arms, you know, for an indefinite period of time in the anticipation of peace talks and some sort of a negotiated settlement. And we just don’t believe that it’s the right time for that right now.
We do think it is the time to continue to pursue pauses in the fighting of a temporary nature for specific purposes.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Akayla. Go ahead.
Q Thanks, John. Does the U.S. have a better sense of how many Palestinians have died in Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: We don’t have an exact figure. We don’t — won’t have the capacity or the capability to provide you an exact figure.
We still don’t believe that taking the Ministry of Health’s numbers at face value is — is wise. But we can’t provide you with an alternative number.
We do know that it is in the many, many thousands. I mean, it’s — there’s no question about that. There have been many thousands killed. And each one is a tragedy. And we grieve and mourn for each one of them.
And we want, again, to stress that no civilians should be hurt. These people are victims too of the fighting. They’re certainly victims of Hamas.
Q The count of 10,000 people over the weekend — would you be confident in that estimation?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to get into providing some sort of independent verification of those numbers. We’re not able to — to validate those numbers.
But we are not — not walking away from the idea that many, many thousands of innocent people in Gaza — mostly Palestinians — have been killed, injured, displaced. A million and a half displaced from their homes. And all of that tragedy weighs heavily on the President and all of us here.
Q And just one more question. My colleagues reported that the President has been briefed on a possible military facility from China in Oman. Are you able to confirm that?
MR. KIRBY: I am not able to confirm the veracity of those reports.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead —
MR. KIRBY: I — I would just say that, from the beginning of this administration, we came into office mindful of the fact that the PRC was trying to expand its influence overseas in various ways: militarily, diplomatically, economically. And we have been working hard, through diplomatic channels and diplomatic means, to — to address the challenge of that influence that they’re trying to expand.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aurelia.
Q Thank you so much. John, you said many, many thousands of civilians dead. Do you have an estimation of the number of Hamas fighters or officials who have been killed?
MR. KIRBY: No.
Q And another one on the President’s upcoming international trips I’d like to ask. The President has said he intends to go to Africa this year. Is this still the plan?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any updates on his travel schedule.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Brian.
Q Thank you. I — I just want to circle around this — I guess April and Jacqui and Peter kind of touched on it — but circling around back to that — that issue. Is containment working? Because we’ve seen numbers of — of large numbers of — we’ve got — what? — two aircraft carrier groups, nuclear submarine. It would be counterintuitive for some if — with us moving all that in to think that we have it contained. But the idea that not letting it spread — do you feel confident that U.S. military has done that well?
MR. KIRBY: Well, we wouldn’t associate ourselves with the word “containment.” But I think what we’ve been trying to do is send a strong signal, Brian, of deterrence to any other actor in the region, be that a nation state or a terrorist group, that now is not the time to think about widening and escalating — deepening this conflict.
That there have been additional attacks on our troops, that there have been additional rocket launches from southern Lebanon into northern Israel doesn’t necessarily mean that the war is widening and that these other actors have decided to go two feet in, all in, to — to help Hamas out. We — we haven’t seen that happen.
Now, why — I — you have to talk to them about their decision-making process. But we do believe we have sent a strong signal about how seriously we take our national security interests in the region.
You mentioned a couple of carrier strike groups. Got a Ohio-class submarine now that’s in the Central Command area of responsibility. We don’t normally talk about submarines that way. But we felt it was important to lay that out there. We’ve added air and missile defense capabilities to the region, fixed and — fixed-wing fighter aircraft to the region.
I think the President has made it very clear how seriously he takes our interests.
Q And how — and how would you char- — categorize our diplomatic efforts in that region? W- —
MR. KIRBY: Well, Secretary Blinken just left from yet another whirlwind tour around — around the region, his second in almost as many weeks. And, you know, we’re — we’re — we’ve got officials going in and out of the region all the time. We’re very much focused on that. And now we’ve got a brand new ambassador to — to Israel in — in Ja- — Jack Lew.
Q And do you feel confident in the efforts that have been put forward?
MR. KIRBY: Confident in —
Q In those efforts that have been put forward with Blinken and — and going forward. Do you feel confident with what’s gone on —
MR. KIRBY: We feel confident that we’re doing everything we can to support our ally and partner and to make it clear that we’re going to protect and defend our interests in the Middle East.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. A couple more. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Could you talk about what — what metrics or if the White House does have metrics to — to determine what Israel is accomplishing? You said you don’t know or you can’t — is it that you don’t know or you can’t say how many Hamas leaders have been killed? Do you know — are you — to what extent Israel has destroyed military capabilities of Hamas? What — what are the metrics that the White House is looking at?
MR. KIRBY: We — we can’t independently verify some of these numbers going around on casualties. We’re not on the ground. We don’t have — it’s not like in Iraq and Afghanistan where we had the facility to measure the impact militarily against the outcomes we were trying to achieve.
These are operations being conducted by a sovereign military: the Israeli Defense Forces. And they and only they should be speaking to the outcomes, the — the results that they’re having. We’re not in the business of — of analyzing and measuring what — what they’re doing in their operation. These are their operations.
Q So, does this White House not then have metrics to — to determine what Israel is accomplishing?
MR. KIRBY: We are not — we are — we are not measuring, analyzing, independently assessing. These are Israeli Defense Force operations. It’s no — you know, not that — I don’t want to make too much of the comparison, but we don’t do that for Ukraine either.
We’re not every day measuring, analyzing, assessing everything that Ukraine is or is not doing on the battlefield. Do we have a sense? Yes. But we let the Ukrainian military speak for what they’re doing.
We — we don’t make it a habit to speak for — for foreign militaries.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Annie.
Q Thank you. I just want to follow up on my colleague’s question here. If the United States is not analyzing the, sort of, impact on the ground, how can you be confident that the laws of war are not being broken?
MR. KIRBY: When I say “analyzing,” I mean — it’s not like we’re creating a stack of PowerPoint slides every day on every operation that the Israelis are conducting. These are their operations. Now, we’re in constant communication with them. And so, the sense we get from how they’re doing is from our — our communications with them.
But — but we aren’t — I couldn’t, you know —
Q You don’t know how many civilians —
MR. KIRBY: — produce a —
Q You don’t know how many —
MR. KIRBY: — produce a set of sheets for it.
Q — civilians have been killed?
MR. KIRBY: We have —
Q You don’t feel confident in the number of civilians that have been killed?
MR. KIRBY: We — we can’t independently verify, to a person, how many have been killed. We know that many, many thousands have been.
Q Then how in the world would you know? Are you sort of assuming that the — what the Israelis —
MR. KIRBY: We have —
Q — are telling you —
MR. KIRBY: We have ways of collectif- — collecting information. We — we can talk to humanitarian aid organizations that are on the ground. Certainly, we’re talking to our Israeli counterparts.
It’s not like we don’t have an idea. But I — we don’t have a number that I would feel comfortable giving you from this podium with — you know, with some exactitude. But, of course, we have an idea of what — of what’s going on because now that more humanitarian aid is going in, we have the ability to talk to those aid organizations to get a sense of what they’re seeing on the ground.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Way in the back.
Q Thank you, Karine. John, Amos Hochstein is in Lebanon today. He — Amos Hochstein is in Lebanon today.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q And you met with the former (inaudible) chief, Abbas Ibrahim, who was invited in the White House in 2020 for mediation for the Americans detained in Syria. So, are you seeking a mediation from the Lebanese on the hostages?
MR. KIRBY: I — I don’t have — I don’t have much more detail about Amos’s agenda. He — he is in the region. He frequency — frequently travels to the region. And — and we certainly look forward to hearing from him, you know, what he’s learning from — from his — from his discussions.
I would just tell you, on the hostages: We’re working on this every day, if not by the hour, to get, certainly, the American hostages out but also to help get released everybody who’s being held hostage by Hamas, and that’s something that the whole team is working on.
Q And one second question to follow up on Brian’s question. When, yesterday the Prime Mini- — Israeli Prime Minister contradicted what the — what Secretary Blinken said (inaudible). He said that you don’t see Hamas ruling Gaza, you don’t see Israel ruling Gaza.
Also, we saw this public disagreement between Secretary Blinken and two Arab prime ministers in a press conference in Jordan. We’re seeing also the Iranian not deterred and keep on attacking. As to what is the — does this concern you regarding the leverage of the United States in the region?
MR. KIRBY: People say things publicly that they don’t always say privately. And I’ll let foreign leaders speak for themselves and their countries.
American leadership has been key here since the attacks of October 7th. And American leadership — President Biden’s personal involvement — has led to this humanitarian aid getting in. Obviously not enough, but it wasn’t happening before he personally got involved.
It was President Biden’s leadership and this team’s work here at the National Security Council in the White House that helped get American hostages home as well as those two Israeli citizens and that is continuing to work to get our — our citizens out from Rafah crossing, hopefully more today.
We — we have been at the center of — of trying to make sure people in Gaza are getting the aid they need and getting out those who need to get out and can get out as well as making sure that Israel has the capabilities it needs to defend itself.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jake.
Q Thank you, Karine. And thank you, Admiral. As we sit here, hundreds of rockets are raining down on Israeli cities, and I’m wondering if — if you would know: Is this all from the original stockpile, or are rockets being smuggled in somehow?
MR. KIRBY: I — I couldn’t answer that question. I don’t have the information or the context to be able to answer that.
Q Okay. You’ll look into it, right?
MR. KIRBY: (Laughs.) I’ll look into it.
Q Admiral, on Rafah, you’ve said multiple times that family members of Americans will be able to get out. Could you kindly define “family member,” please?
MR. KIRBY: The State Department is probably a better place to go for whether there’s a textbook definition for “family members.” But — but we do know that family members, spouses, children, in particular, are able to get out.
Q The State Department has been in contact with — with some people through congressional offices, and the understanding that my colleagues have from talking to those people who are trapped in Gaza is that “family member” definition is being used very narrow.
For instance, parents of U.S. citizens may — only one parent may accompany a U.S. citizen if they’re under 21. If they are not a minor, then — if the citizen is not at minor, then they can only go out with a spouse, not siblings, not parents.
What — why such a narrow definition of “family”?
MR. KIRBY: I’d have to refer you to the State Department. They’re — they’re the ones that are handling the list of people that are qualified to get out and making sure that they’re keeping them informed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Ed, last question.
Q So, on the Iranian proxies, why isn’t the President’s message of “don’t” getting through to them?
MR. KIRBY: You’d have to talk to the — the proxies there. What I would tell you is that they continue to attack American troops and facilities at their own peril. And we will — we will do what we need to do. The President will make decisions on his own terms and in his own way about better protecting those — those troops and facilities. They continue to do this at their own peril.
Q So, I want to get your take on this. Backing out a little bit, is — do you see — does the President see the new “Axis of Evil”: Russia, Iran, and China?
MR. KIRBY: The President is not slapping bumper stickers on axes of evil. What he’s concerned about is making sure that we can protect and defend national — our national security interests around the world, and that includes in the Indo-Pacific.
And I don’t want to — Karine will kill me if I stand up here and talk much longer, but I — I mean, there’s a — you and I could have an hour-long discussion about the things that this President has done to shore up alliances and partnerships all over the world to look after our national security interests.
But we’re not slapping bumper stickers on countries. We know that Russia presents an acute threat, certainly on the European continent. We know that China represents a strategic competing- — competitor challenge in the Indo-Pacific and around the world. And we certainly are not blind to what Iran is doing supporting Putin’s war in Ukraine and supporting these terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Admiral.
MR. KIRBY: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Appreciate it.
MR. KIRBY: That was- — that wasn’t too long, was it? (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, John.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: See you, guys.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral. Appreciate it.
All right, Seung Min.
Q Thank you, Karine. Leader McConnell said moments ago that he spoke with President Biden yesterday and told the President that the national security supplemental has to have what he called a “credible” border solution to be able to pass the Senate.
First of all, do you ha- — does the White House have any readout of that conversation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have a readout of that conversation. As you know, the President, being — having been vice president and, of course, a senator for 36 years, he has many relationships with folks in Congress. Just don’t have anything to read out. He has a very close working relationship, obviously, with Leader McConnell.
What I will say is I know that — and as you all have reported, the Senate did — the Senate Republicans did push forward a border security legislation. We certainly think that if they are going to be serious, then they should have a serious conversation with us about it.
It is not something that we see it as — that particular legislation they put forward as being all that serious. And we have been very clear, there’s a reason why the President included a supplemental that had border security, right?
And if they are — if they want to have that conversation, you know, we would love to have that conversation on how we can move forward in a real way, or they should just support what the President put forward. And so, we just don’t see anything in their proposal about creating, for example, an earned path to citizenship for DREAMers and others. There are things that are fundamentally missing.
And we want to have a serious conversation, but we need to see something a lot more serious than what they put forward.
Q Right. So, obviously, the White House doesn’t like that specific proposal yesterday, but is the White House open to any sort of policy changes as it relates to the border? In conjunction with the supplemental, are you only entertaining negotiations on the funding side of border issues?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as it relates to the border, you’ve heard us say time and time again, our immigration system is broken. It’s been broken for some time now, for decades. And Congress, they have the power to change that. They have the power to put forth a comprehensive piece of legislation, like the President did on his first day in this administration, putting forth a comprehensive immigration legislation. And so, they can address it. Only they can do that.
And so, look, we — that’s — we want to have a serious conversation. We want to be able to talk to Republicans and see how we move forward in a real way. But, you know, we believe that if Congress is serious, they should fund what the President put forward. And that’s how we believe should be moved forw- — how we should move forward on this. But this — they’re not serious. What we saw from Senate Republicans is not a serious piece of legislation to put forward.
Q Is that sort of serious policy conversation possible in the next two or so weeks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, I’m not going to negotiate from the podium here.
But what I can say is that the President took this very seriously. When it comes to the broken immigration system, put forth a — a comprehensive piece of legislation to deal with this. He obviously included this in his emergency supplemental — border security. And we’re asking Congress to fund that if they are going to be very serious as it relates to policy changes.
Look, the President already put forth what he believes — how to move forward in fixing a broken immigration system — a system that has — that has been broken under a Democratic president and also a Republican president.
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thanks, Karine. Has President Biden seen the polls from CBS News and New York Times that were out this weekend that show he’s trailing the former President if they were to go against each other in 2024?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first, let me just be clear: I’m not going to speak to any — anything related to 2024. And I also want to be very clear here, like, we have to really take these polls with a grain of salt, as we should really be very mindful here.
And one of the reasons why is just a year ago — right? — back in 2022, there was the red wave that never materialized, right? And in — back in October of ‘22, there were multiple stories about how we were — there was going to be a red wave. Democrats were going to be wiped out. And, you know, we’re not talking about that — what we were seeing back in 20- — in October of 2022.
Look, and — oh, and I’ll take it even further: In 2011 — this time in 2011, we — we saw — you know, we saw Senator Romney — we saw polls of Senator Romney beating President Obama. And that’s where those polls were.
And so, look, what — our focus, obviously, is going to be doing what the President was elected to do, which is focusing on delivering for the American people.
And, you know, there’s going to be a lot of polls out there. There — until — now, until the next couple of months, there’s going to be a lot of — dozens and dozens of polls. It’s not my job — or my job from here to analyze these polls. Obviously, there are going to be folks on TV who are going to be doing that. It is a — it’s a whole cottage industry out there when it comes to — when it comes to polling.
So, just not going to get into it. Obviously, we see the reporting, just like you all, obviously, are either reporting it or see the reporting yourselves.
Q So —
Q So, President Biden has seen them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh — obviously, we’ve all — here at the White House — has seen — have seeing the polling.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying that we have to take them — as a general rule, we should take these polling with a grain of salt.
Q Thank you. And one more on the poet from Canada, Rupi Kaur. She recently posted that she has rejected the White House’s invitation to the Diwali celebration, adding that she was “surprised” that the “administration finds it acceptable to celebrate Diwali, when their support of the current atrocities against Palestinians represent the exact opposite of what this holiday means to many of us.” Do you have a response to her?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I did not — I did not see that reporting. So, not — I can’t really comment to it directly.
What I can say is the President has been very, very clear on the conflict that we’re, obviously, currently seeing in Israel and Hamas in the Middle East.
And I’m just going to, you know, stick there.
And everybody has their own opinion. We respect folks’ opinion. That is her opinion.
But the President has been very, very clear on — and just like the Admiral said at the beginning of this — of the briefing — how when — one month ago, what we saw — what all of you reported and the atrocities that we saw on that day, and 1,400 souls were slaughtered.
And so, the President has been very clear. I just don’t have anything else to add.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q Karine, can I ask you, there’s been — on social media and, frankly, on news broadcasts — a lot of videos of individuals who have been tearing down signs, many of these taking place in New York City, of Israelis presently being held hostage in Gaza. There have been some tense confrontations that have taken place there. Is the White House’s view that these actions should be condemned, the pulling of — the pulling down of them, or that that’s a form of peaceful protest?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I — I haven’t — I’ve sort of, kind of, seen the reporting here and there. I think it was from last week, right?
Q There’s been, like, 30 million videos that have gone around of it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I know —
Q So, it’s very widespread.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you. I hear you. I’m just not going to — we’re not going to —
Q I guess, is it okay —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to —
Q Is it okay? Is that peaceful protest to pull that down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — it’s — I —
Q Or should you not be doing that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to go into specifics on that particular thing.
What I can say: There are real vi- — violent protests and threats that are happening right now, and senior administration officials are — are aware of these reports, which are deeply concerning. And that is something that we’re focused on, right?
Q So, to be clear, it’s deeply concerning that people would be pulling —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying —
Q — these things down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — when it — as it relates to — a lot of reporting out there about violent protests and threats, and — and so, I can speak to that.
I can speak to how FBI is tracking an increased volume. I can speak to the frequency of threats that we’re seeing to the Jewish community —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — to the Arab American community, to the Muslim communities in the United States since October 7th. That is something that I can speak to. And obviously, DOJ and FBI are working with law — local law enforcement on those — on those threats. And, of course, that is deeply concerning to us. And so, that is what we’re going to work on — focusing on that.
Q I’d be grateful if you’d take the question just to see if there is a position the White House has on that, just for going forward, because it’s created a lot of divide in this country right now —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m happy to.
Q — as to what’s appropriate.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m happy to.
Q Then, if I can follow quickly on a different form of protest: vandalism that we saw take place outside the White House. Is the President concerned, is the White House concerned that these protesters — in this case, vandals — could get so close to the White House that they could vandalize it, that they could get their hands on the gates outside of the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I would have to refer you to the Secret Service on that and the Park Police for questions about — about the way the prote- — the protest was handled. And so —
Q Is the President comfortable with the way it was handled?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I would have to tell you to — to refer — I’d refer you to Secret Service. That is their focus. That is their job. And so, I would refer you there.
Q Does the President think it’s appropriate for people to put red blood-stained hands on the outside of the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Obviously not. Obviously not.
Q Hi. Thanks. Does the President plan — plan to attend the U.N. Climate Summit this year in Dubai?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything on the schedule to read out to you today.
Q And is there — is the President at all concerned that having set a precedent and gone to the last two U.N. Climate Summits that if he doesn’t attend this year, it will send —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I don’t —
Q — a signal that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — I don’t have anything to share, so I don’t —
Q — it’s not a priority right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m can’t — I can’t answer that question. We don’t have anything to share about the President’s schedule for the rest of the year, as it relates to any foreign travel.
Go ahead, M.J.
Q Karine, a potential government shutdown is now 10 days away. It seems like we’re hearing far less from the White House this time around just about how potentially painful that could be for the economy, for the country if there were to be a shutdown than the last time around when we were this close to the deadline. Is there just more optimism this time around that that can be averted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would say, M.J., there’s just a lot going on, as you know, in the past month, right? As you all have — we all — you know, we had my NSC colleague here take about 45 minutes of — of questions on what’s been happening this past month. So, there’s been a lot going on, right?
The President has to do multiple things at once, and that’s what he’s doing.
As it relates to a potential shutdown, the CR — look, House Republicans have — have work to do, right? It is their jobs and their — and they have to stick to their promise and — and honor their word to avoid a shutdown. Period. It is their job to avoid that. We cannot be dealing with political games or brinksmanship.
Obviously, all of the concerns that we had leading up to the last potential shutdown still is a concern of ours, right? There are programs — vital programs that Americans need, and they should be able to con- — we should be able to continue providing those programs.
It would not — it would be not beneficial to our — our economy, obviously, if this were to occur. It would hurt our economy. It would hurt our national security and — if a shutdown occurs. And it would have extreme cuts to law enforcement, as well, our public health, and education — all of the things that we’ve talked about, that still exist.
And so, Republicans in the House has — have a job to do, and they need to get the job done on behalf of the American people. That has not changed.
Q Is there a little more optimism this time around than —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I — I’m not going to get into — into the level of optimism. Obviously, the President is a optimistic person, right? You’ve heard him say that many times.
But we believe it is their job to get this done. That has not changed. House Republicans have to get this done. This is a job that Congress needs to do. There are vital programs, as I just listed out to you, that need to be funded and continue to get funded that Americans need — American families need. And it would be detrimental to them if there was a shutdown.
And we should not be — we should not be, you know — you know, a week away from this or two — I know it’s two weeks away, but we should not be looking at this a week from now or, you know — I don’t know — 10 days from now and be talking about a potential shutdown. This is something that they should get done.
Q And anything you could say about how the White House has been getting to know the new Speaker?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have anything new to share. As you know, we — we’ve — we’ve talked about — we’ve laid out some readouts about their con- — initial conversation when he became Speaker. I just don’t have anything else to share beyond that.
We, obviously, been work — been — I can say that OMB Director and the Office of Leg Affairs have been in close contact with senior leadership, obviously, in Congress, including his office, about the importance of getting the two supplemental emergency funding done, which is obviously the national security and also domestic part of it as well — the importance of getting that done for the American people, and also making sure that they avoid a shutdown.
Those conversations has been going on for — obviously, for — as it relates to the supplemental funding, for the past several weeks. As it relates to funding — funding the government, that’s been conversations that we’ve had for months now.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks, Karine. On the supplemental funding, the administration is putting some new pressure on Congress to immediately approve $11.8 billion in direct budget support for Ukraine. There was a letter sent from the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, and the USAID Administrator. Why separate out that $11.8 billion for Ukraine from the overall Ukraine funding request? Why push for that specifically like this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I — I don’t want to get into, certainly, legislative negotiations. I’m just going to be very careful from here.
But we’ve been very clear: There’s a lot at stake, as I was just telling M.J. And Congress — we believe that Congress must pass the emergency national security and domes- — and domestic needs, both of them. And that is something that we both very much stand strongly behind.
I’m just not going to get into the specifics of the negotiations that are happening as it relates to the supplemental funding.
Q So, would there be any opening of the door to working with congressional leaders of, like, breaking up certain things that the administration would prioritize of that $106 billion more than others, like taking something like this and saying,
“Get this done more quickly”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I’m just not going to get into any negotiations from here.
What I have — what I will continue to say is that both the national security — supplementals for our national security and domestic — there’s a lot at stake. We need to get there’s — that done. We’ve been very, very clear about that.
I’m just not going to get into specifics from here.
Go ahead — let me call on somebody else.
Colleen [Courtney], do you have — go ahead.
Oh, sorry. Yeah, yeah. No, yeah. I don’t know if you had a question.
Q Oh, sorry. I was like — sorry. (Laughter.)
Q We wondered.
Q So embarrassing.
Q I’ve got a question, Karine.
Q Hi, hi.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Behind you afterwards.
Q Can you provide a readout — Ambassador Jack Lew, who was confirmed last week — can you provide a readout? Has he arrived in Israel? What his first few days have been like on the job?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s a good question. I have not talked to NSC or — or the State Department about — about his last couple of days. Happy to check in with them to see what — what — what his last couple of days have been — been like.
But obviously, there’s a lot going on in the region. And so, he’s been, certainly, very focused on — on what’s going on, the negotiations on the ground, the conversation — the diplomatic conversations, certainly, with — with the counterparts on the grounds.
But I don’t have anything specific on what his day-by-day has looked like.
Q And Seung Min asked about the immigration proposals, whether you were willing to negotiate on policy or funding. It sounded to me like you were saying funding. Is that accurate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we put — yeah. What I’m saying is that in the n- — in our national security — right? — supplemental, which is — our national — which is emergency funding, there is border security there. We think they should fund it. We think they should pass that.
So, if they are very — if they are serious about moving forward in — in dealing with a broken immigration system, what’s going on at the border, then they should — they should certainly support that. That’s what I’m saying.
Go ahead. Right behind you.
Q Are you saying that you’re willing to negotiate one of the proposals that came from Senate Republicans —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we — no, I —
Q — (inaudible) asylum?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — was very clear. We — we don’t — we don’t think that’s very serious. We don’t think that’s serious at all.
Q Any of that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, we do not.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we’re very clear about is — look, on day one of this — of his administration, the President put forward a comprehensive immigration proposal — a comprehensive immigration proposal. And so, we’re happy to have conversations as it relates to what the President put forward. But what we saw from Senate Republicans is not serious.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Right behind you.
Q Yeah. Karine, are you all aware of or concerned about these voting machine problems that have been reported in Northampton, Pennsylvania?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don’t have anything for you on that.
Obviously, we’ve been very clear about the importance of — and I want to be careful because, obviously, this is an upcoming election — but we’ve been very clear about the importance of people having their right to vote and the freedom to vote, obviously. And so, I’m just going to leave that there.
Trying to c- — call on people I haven’t called yet. Go ahead, sir. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. So, on the — on the previous question about the letter by Secretary Blinken and Austin and Yellen. Does that mean that you are concerned that this, you know, might be — this economic aid for Ukraine might be in question, might be doubtful? And the letter states that — basically, that if Ukraine doesn’t get this aid, it will lose; it won’t be able to defend itself. Is that the stakes, in your — in your observation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we’ve been very clear the importance of Ukraine getting that funding. We’ve been very clear about the importance of — of the brave people of Ukraine who have been fighting this — this war, this aggression from Russia, you know, coming up on two years now and how they need our assistance, how they need to make sure that they’re continuing to get that security assistance from the U.S.
And not just us — from our allies and partners, too, across the globe, right? Which is something that — it’s been more than 50 countries that the President has been able to bring together to support the needs of Ukraine. And so, that needs to continue. This is about fighting their — for their democracy.
So, we’re — we have seen bipartisan support — right? — bipartisan support for that funding. Not just for Ukraine but also the funding for Israel.
And so, we’ve seen — we — I — just last week, I called out a couple of quotes from Republicans in both the House and the Senate who have said that they believe — they — they believe in supporting in a bipartisan way and getting that national security supplemental done, especially for — obviously for Ukraine and Israel.
And so, look, that’s what we believe. That’s what we want to see. We think it is important for Ukraine to continue to get that funding.
Q But do you feel it’s threatened, this ec- — this particular piece, the economic —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what I will say is there’s bipartisan support for it. That’s what I would say. And I think that’s an important piece, right? That is an — an important piece that we’ve heard from senators — Republican senators. We’ve heard from House Republicans, saying that they are — they are behind this additional request that we’ve made.
And so, there’s bipartisan support. So, I think that’s important to note too.
AIDE: Karine, maybe one more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead. I haven’t called on you. Go ahead.
Q Can you give us any preview about what’s on tap for tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any preview for you at this time. But certainly, we will have more to share later today.
All right. Thanks, everybody. See you tomorrow.
Q Thank you, Karine.
Q Thanks, Karine.
3:07 P.M. EST