James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:21 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  M.J., you made it.  (Laughs.)  All right.  Good to see folks still here.

Good afternoon, all.  Across the country —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  Good afternoon.  Thank you.

Across the country, as we can see, we’re seeing severe weather warnings and impacts, from blizzards out west to heavy rains and high wind in the east. 

A number of states have already declared state of emergency.  And here in Washington D.C., we know that many schools will send their students home early — like my kid and probably many of yours. 

We are closely monitoring the weather, and we encourage all Americans to do the same.  Do not become complacent, and make sure to heed the warnings of local officials. 

You can also download the FEMA app, which provides real-time weather alerts and can help you prepare. 

As always, we stand ready to support communities nationwide as needed. 

And I do have an update on the President’s week.  This Friday, January 12th, the President will travel to Allentown, Pennsylvania, area to — that area to discuss how communities across America are coming back thanks to Bidenomics and his Investing in America agenda, which have ushered in a small-business boom, creating good-paying jobs with rising wages, strengthened local economies, and lowered costs for hardworking families.  Bidenomics — it’s working. 

And with that, as you all can see, my colleague, Admiral John Kirby, is here to discuss inter- — international response to information we declassified last week on Russia’s use of North Korean munitions.

And, with that, Admiral. 

MR. KIRBY:  Good afternoon, everybody. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  So, yesterday, [Russia] launched a ro- — launched its most recent aerial attack against Ukraine using missiles and UAVs.  Multiple Ukrainian civilians were killed in the strikes, and dozens were injured.

These strikes are horrific, they’re inhumane, and they serve as yet just another reminder of the brutality of Mr. Putin’s war.

Due, in part, to our sanctions and export controls, as we talked about last week, Russia has been forced to look to likeminded states for military equipment.  One of those states is North Korea.

And as I said from this podium last week, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently provided Russia with ballistic missile launchers and several dozen ballistic missiles.  Russia has since deployed these missiles against Ukraine.

Last week, you might recall, I talked about a strike on the 30th, talked about a strike using a doz- — you know, almost 10 more on the 2nd of — of January, targeting Zaporizhian, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and elsewhere.  On January, as I — and then, on January 6th, since then, Russian forces again launched multiple North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine.  We’re still assessing the impacts of these strikes, but we can confirm that at least one of them landed in Kharkiv. 

So, today, I’m announcing that the foreign ministers of 47 countries, Secretary Blinken, and the High Representative of the European Union have released a joint statement condemning the DPRK’s export and Russia’s procurement of North Korean ballistic missiles, as well as Russia’s use of these North Korean missiles against Ukraine.

As the statement makes clear, the transfer of these weapons increases the suffering of the Ukrainian people, supports Russia’s war of aggression, and undermines the global non-proliferation regime, and our governments stand together in resolute opposition to these arms transfers between the DPRK and Russia.

Russia’s transfer of ballistic missiles from the DPRK directly violates multiple U.N. security resolutions. And tomorrow, we will raise these arms deals at the U.N. Security Council alongside our allies and partners and demand that Russia be held accountable for yet again violating international obligations that it signed up to.

We also will continue to impose sanctions against those working to facilitate arms transfers like this and to release information exposing those arms deals.

But I cannot emphasize enough anymore today than I did last week that the most effective response to Russia’s ongoing missile and UAV attacks is to provide Ukraine with vital air defense capabilities and other types of military equipment that it needs to defend itself, its terrain, its infrastructure, its people. To do that, we need Congress to approve our supplemental funding request for Ukraine without any further delay.

Russia is looking to countries like North Korea and Iran for assistance.  Ukraine needs our help.  We’re calling on Congress to help us meet that need and meet this moment.

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Thanks, John, for doing this.  On the news of the day, when did President Biden learn of the Defense Secretary’s cancer diagnosis?

MR. KIRBY:  He was informed today.

Q    Any details on how, what his reaction was?

MR. KIRBY:  He was informed by the Chief of Staff earlier this morning, and I — I’m not going to go into more detail than that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    So, the President has known for, I guess, five days now that Secretary Austin was in the hospital, but he wasn’t informed why?

MR. KIRBY:  He was not informed until last Friday that Secretary Austin was in the hospital.  He was not informed until this morning that the root cause of that hospitalization was prostate cancer. 

Q    Is that because the White House knew and didn’t inform the President or because Secretary Austin chose not to share that with the President?

MR. KIRBY:  Nobody at the White House knew that Secretary Austin had prostate cancer until this morning, and the President was informed immediately after we were informed. 

Q    Okay.  Last week, we learned that Jake Sullivan, I believe, found out about the fact that Secretary Austin was hospitalized on Thursday morning.  So, just want to clarify: Are you saying the President found out a day later than the NSC did?

MR. KIRBY:  No.  Jake — Jake was informed — our National Security Advisor was informed that Secretary Austin was in the hospital and had been for some time.  He found out late Thursday afternoon.  And he informed — he and the Chief of Staff, Mr.  Zients, informed the President later that evening — early that evening.  Not long after they learned, they informed the President directly.

Q    Okay.

MR. KIRBY:  Thursday evening.

Q    We learned also today that Secretary Austin, when he went into the hospital for the first time on December 22nd, he knew he was going to be under general anesthesia, he knew he was going to be spending the night, and transferred authority to his Deputy Secretary.  Was the White House informed then that author- — that the authority was going to be transferred?

MR. KIRBY:  No. 

Q    Is that what’s supposed to happen?

MR. KIRBY:  There — there are — the delegations of authority can happen — I wouldn’t say on a regular basis, but it’s not uncommon for the Secretary of Defense to delegate authority to the deputy, sometimes for very short periods of time. 

But I think one of the things that we’re all going to want to learn from this is — is — is the notification process for that delegation of authority.

Q    Is there an expectation when a Secretary is indisposed or hospitalized and has to transfer authority that the White House will be notified?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I’m going to — actually, I’m going to let Karine take this one because this really gets to the memo that Mr. Zients put out.  And I think I’ll let —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  — Karine talk of that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Sure, sure.  So, as you all know, there was a memo that was released today from the Chief of Staff.  And the memo was sent to the President’s Cabinet — Cabinet on protocols for a delegation of authority. 

And so, the memo does two things.  I just want to lay that out for — for all of you.  First, it asks every Cabinet agency to submit in writing their current existing protocols for a delegation of authority they already have in place for review to the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs and the Chief of Staff by this coming Friday, January 12th. 

And second, in the interim, while the review of each agency’s protocols is completed, the memo directs a set of robust protocols that Cabinet agencies must undertake in the event of a delegation of authority. 

So, that is what the memo says, those two really critical, important things. 

Again, this is something that we — we have said over the past couple of days, that the President believes that we have to have robust protocols and procedures in place, obviously, for — across the Cabinet.  And this is what you’re seeing from this memo. 

Q    So, finally, who does the President hold responsible for this lapse: Secretary Austin, his aides, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs who — who clearly knew about this the day after the Secretary —


Q    — was hospitalized?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will say this.  I mean, Secretary Austin put out a statement and he took full responsibility for this.  So, I would refer you back to the statement.  And Secretary was — Austin was very clear, and we appreciate that he has taken responsibility for this. 

But I also want to say that we certainly hope that he fully recovers and also gets back to the Pentagon.  And so, I’ll leave it there.  But his statement was very clear the other day. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Walter Reed said that he was diagnosed with the cancer last month.  So, just to confirm, the President did not know the diagnosis or that he was hospitalized? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, he did- — he was informed — the President was informed — as the Admiral just stated, the President was informed today about the prostate cancer. 

Q    So, is there a lack of trust between the Pentagon and the White House?  Why did the Secretary of Defense feel that he didn’t need to inform the President immediately, the White House immediately about the diagnosis or the procedure?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we have complete confidence in the Secretary.  That is something that we have said.  The President has complete confidence in the Secretary. 

Obviously, the — there is a review that — that the Pentagon is doing.  They announced that yesterday.  They’re going to take a review of the — of — of how this process went, and we’ll let that review process move forward. 

But, again, the President has full confidence in the — in the Secretary.

Q    Admiral Kirby, when you talked to your former — former Pentagon colleagues, what did they tell you in terms of why Austin didn’t immediately inform higher-level officials here?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, I’d refer you to them to speak to that.  That — but as Karine said, the Secretary’s statement was — was very clear.  He takes full responsibility for the decisions he made with respect to this procedure.  And that includes the decisions about — about how that — that procedure was communicated. 

Q    Does —

MR. KIRBY:  He takes full responsibility for that.

Q    Does that decision mean he had specifically communicated to his close staff not to more widely tell people about what —


Q    — his procedure was?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t have that kind of level of granularity here.  That’s something that only they can speak to. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, St- — oh.

Q    What was the President’s reaction today when he found out?

MR. KIRBY:  His first reaction is, as Karine rightly said, we all want to wish him the very best.  I mean, this is — sadly, this is a disease that affects many millions of American men, particularly at that stage in life.  And the key is early diagnosis, you know, early screening.

I think — look, we’re all going to learn a whole — whole heck of a lot of lessons from this past week.  One of the lessons I hope that everybody takes away is the value of early screening.

Q    And an entire month lapsed from early December when the diagnosis was found out until today when the President even found out?

MR. KIRBY:  Mm-hmm.  Is that a question?

Q    Yes, just triple confirming. 

MR. KIRBY:  (Laughs.)  Well, the Pentagon already talked about when the Secretary was diagnosed.  It was early December.  And as their statement said, in consultation with his doctors, he elected to have the procedure done later in the month to coincide with the holidays. 

And as Karine rightly also said, the President didn’t know about the diagnosis until this morning.  But his — his reaction is he wishes the Secretary all the best for a speedy recovery. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Steve.

Q    John, did the President or the White House instruct Secretary Austin to make this disclosure today? 

MR. KIRBY:  No. 

Q    Okay.  Does the President plan to stick with Secretary Austin through the rest of the term? 

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, M.J.

Q    Has the President spoken with Secretary Austin since their conversation on Saturday?


Q    Secretary Austin, we now know, was under anesthesia on December 22nd.  The White House, at the time, didn’t know.  What would have happened if there had been some national security emergency in the White House, the President had called on Secretary Austin on that day? 

MR. KIRBY:  Well, it’s a hypothetical, and it’s speculative.  But I think it’s important to remember: The whole idea of delegation of authority — you need to have a process for delegation of authority.  No different than on a warship.  You got a captain and you have a second-in-command, and sometimes the second-in-command has to take over.  There’s a process for that. 

An- — but I hate getting into hypotheticals.  But let’s, just for sake of argument, run that through real quickly.  Had there been a need by the Commander-in-Chief to get — to task the Defense Department or to seek greater — greater clarity from the Defense Department about a specific issue, the Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Hicks, who had that authority delegated to her, who had a full communication suite with her while she was on leave and — and fully staffed, would have been more than capable of being the Acting Secretary of Defense for that period of time. 

Q    Right.  But importantly, in that hypothetical, the White House would have learned by not being able to reach Secretary Austin on that day that —

MR. KIRBY:  I mean —

Q    — a delegation of —

MR. KIRBY:  — I — I don’t know how I can prove that that’s the case.  But it didn’t happen.  But there were — she had full authority to — to del- — to run the Defense Department. 

Q    And just one more on this.  Now that the Pentagon has shared that Secretary Austin underwent surgery for prostate cancer, does the White House and does the President believe that he should have been afforded the privacy to not share with the public what that medical procedure was?

MR. KIRBY:  Does the President believe that the Secretary should have been afforded the privacy not to disclose?

Q    The specifics of the medical treatment.

MR. KIRBY:  The President believes and has since the beginning of the administration that transparency with the American people is really important.  And he knows, being a public figure for his entire life, that, as a public figure, you have an added burden to be as transparent about your personal situation as possible.

Now, that doesn’t mean — you don’t — you’re still an American.  This doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to any privacy.  But as a Cabinet official, as a Senate-confirmed official in the administration, everybody, when they sign up for that and raise their right hand, they know that, you know, there — there comes an obligation with that to be as transparent about your personal situation as you can, certainly if it — if it affects, in any way, the administration of the duties that you’ve — you’ve taken the oath to — to do.

Q    So, does he believe that Secretary Austin should have been able to keep this specific detail private?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to get inside the President’s head on — on — on that particular right to privacy on this particular issue. 

He — number one, he’s concerned about Secretary Austin.  Full faith, trust, and confidence in his ability to lead the Defense Department.  Glad he’s on the mend.  Hope that he gets back to work soon.

Obviously, his first and foremost concern is the Secretary’s health and recovery and making sure that he has the time and the space and gets the medical care that he needs to recover fully. 

And, as Karine noted, we’re already taking steps here.  And we’re — and they’re taking steps over at the Pentagon to learn from this episode, in terms of specific notification processes, to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Gabe, go ahead.

Q    Admiral, to pick up on Mary’s point and also because the Chief of Staff Zients sent out that memo today, the President didn’t learn about this for a month after the diagnosis in early December.  Just quite simply, does the President think that’s acceptable?

MR. KIRBY:  It is not optimal, Gabe.  It is — for a situation like this to go as long as it did without the Commander-in-Chief knowing about it or the National Security Advisor knowing about it or, frankly, other leaders that — at the Department of Defense, that’s not the way this is supposed to happen.

The President understands that, and — and that’s why he wants the Chief of Staff to take a look at processes across the administration and agencies here.  And that’s why DOD is also looking at their own procedures to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.

Q    The Pentagon referred to the surgery as an “elective procedure.”  Technically, it may be.  But isn’t that, at best, misleading?

MR. KIRBY:  As — as far as I know, Gabe — again, I barely got a history degree, so I’m not capable of talking about medical stuff.  (Laughter.) 

But as far as I know, that phrase, “elective medical procedure,” came in the statement by the two doctors at Walter Reed.  That wasn’t a Pentagon assessment.  That was the wording chosen by the two doctors.

Q    But isn’t it misleading for the Pentagon to put that forward?

MR. KIRBY:  The — you’d have to talk to the Pentagon and the doctors. 

Q    Well —

MR. KIRBY:  Gabe, I’m not a — I’m not a physician.  The two physicians that are responsible, they used that phrase.  They should speak to what that means.  I’m not an expert.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Peter.

Q    Thank you.  John, what kind of Commander-in-Chief is President Biden that at a time when American forces are under fire in the Middle East, he can go days without knowing that his Defense Secretary is in a hospital bed?

MR. KIRBY:  Peter, there’s a lot to your question.  So, I want you to bear with me for just a second.  First of all, at no time was the ability for the United States military to defend our national security interests compromised.  At no time was the Commander-in-Chief not always in command and control of our military forces around the world.

And over the course of those days, we did take military action — action that he approved — taking out a senior militia commander in Iraq with what we call a dynamic strike, a strike that he had approved many days before, which — for which the theater commander had full permission to execute. 

We did shoot down drones and missiles in the Red Sea — our ships at sea, because he made sure they had the existing authorities and the capabilities and the training to do that. 

So, he has been on — on top of these issues all the way throughout. 

Now, look, what your question kind of gets to is — and I’ve seen some of the sniping out there, you know, that — how effective can the process be if the Secretary can be gone and we — and we don’t know about it?  I think what you need to understand and I hope people will understand is that the national security decision-making process does not require — in fact, should not require — Cabinet-level officials being the sole people in the room making decisions on any given day.

You staff these things from the middle up, and then the Cabinet officials, whether it’s Secretary Blinken or Secretary Austin, come together as appropriate to make the key decisions, which happened.  It happened on the 1st of January.

If you’ll bear with me, because I think your question really gets to a bigger issue, and I’d like to just — if I could, with Karine’s permission, I just want to walk you through a little bit of the timeline here because I think it’s important context. 

So, on the 31st of December, that was a Sunday, Jake Sullivan held — held a lengthy secure telephone conference with the Central Command Commander, General Kurilla, to discuss a bunch of issues, the situation in the Middle East.  And, of course, there’s a lot to that.

The next day, on the 1st of January, President Biden convened a secure telephone conference with Mr. Sullivan, with Secretary Austin, with the Joint Chiefs Chairman General Brown, Secretary Blinken, the DNI, the CIA director, and other members of the team. 

They covered developments in the Middle East.  President Biden directed the NSC, Department of Defense, and the State Department to accelerate work with allies and partners on a joint statement on the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, which was to be issued, according to the President’s direction, no later than Wednesday.  You saw, we did that.  I came to the podium and read that out.

From Monday, the 1st of January, through Wednesday, the 3rd, the National Security Advisor, his deputy, Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk, spoke repeatedly with their counterparts in multiple foreign capitals to secure the support for that joint statement.  Senior NSC officials coordinated hour by hour with senior Pentagon officials who were also making phone calls and securing support from foreign partners.

The President’s final approval on that statement happened shortly thereafter.  And, as you know, it was issued on the 3rd of January. 

Also on the 3rd, there was a principals committee meeting on Haiti, and neither Secretary Austin nor General Brown attended.  They were represented by — by deputies.  That is not uncommon that a — at a principals committee meeting, for whatever reason, a principal may not be able to attend.

Q    Okay.  Thank you for all the detail on that.  But more broadly, why should we believe anything that this administration tells us about anything ever again?

MR. KIRBY:  I think we all recognize, and I think the Pentagon has been very, very honest with themselves about the — the challenge to credibility by what — by what has transpired here and by what — and by how — how hard it was for them to be fully transparent with the American people.  I think we all recognize that.

And — wait, wait — now, just give me a second now.  I know you got another one coming here, but —

But we all recognize that this didn’t unfold the way it should have on so many levels — not just the notification process up the chain of command, but the transparency issue.  We all recognize that.  And I think we all want to make sure we learn from that. 

I — it’s up to you and your colleagues and it’s up to the American people to determine, you know, how much they’re going to ascribe what happened here to our credibility on every single issue. 

But in — in every way, Secretary Austin has been an exceptional Defense Secretary, and he still has the full faith and confidence of the Commander-in-Chief.  He has led the Department at an incredibly dangerous time for our national security interests and those of our allies and partners. 

Q    But if the administration is going to go to such great lengths to keep secrets about the Defense Secretary’s health, how can anybody be certain that the administration would not go to the same lengths to keep secret problems with President Biden’s health in the future?

MR. KIRBY:  If — if you could logically argue — and you can’t — but if you could logically argue that the admin- —

Q    How —

MR. KIRBY:  Wait, wait —

Q    He’s 81 years old.

MR. KIRBY:  Wait a second.  Just give me a second here, bub. 

Q    What’s their re- —

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll get there. 

If — if the administration made some sort of Machiavellian effort across the board to — just to keep this from getting public, then I think your question has merit and — and certainly is a fair one.  I don’t think it’s a fair one because that’s not what happened here, Peter.

What happened here is the Secretary of Defense, for whatever reason — I can’t answer the question why — that information wasn’t shared.  It wasn’t shared widely in the department —

Q    Isn’t that worse? 

MR. KIRBY:  — and it certainly wasn’t shared with the interagency.

Q    You guys didn’t know.  Isn’t that worse?

MR. KIRBY:  It’s not — it’s not good.  It’s certainly not good, which is why, again, we want to learn from this.  We want to — we want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  We got to go around here. 

Go ahead, Jared.

Q    Given that this was suboptimal, as you said, and given the commitment to transparency that the administration has, how do you square that with the confidence that the President expresses in the Secretary?
MR. KIRBY:  The President respects that he took full responsibility for it in his statement.  That — that makes a difference. 

And he also respects the work that Secretary Austin has done on a range of issues since he has become Secretary of Defense, whether that’s helping lead the world in support for Ukraine — it was Secretary Austin’s idea to come up with the Ukraine Contact Group — whether that’s support to Israel, making sure that they can defend themselves against Hamas. 

Look at everything that the Secretary has done in — in the Indo-Pacific.  Do you think it was by accident that the Philippines agreed to let the United States military have additional access to bases there?  No.  That was the hard work of the Defense Secretary. 

I could go on and on and on.  He’s confident in Secretary’s — Secretary Austin’s ability to lead in the future because he has seen how well he has led in the past. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Asma.

Q    Yeah, on the Secretary, I have a question.  You just said a moment ago that you don’t know why the information was rela- — was not relayed.  Has it been privately conveyed to you all about why it was not relayed?
MR. KIRBY:  We have certainly made it clear that we would like to learn more about the information flow process.

Q    And have you received any clarification?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not at liberty to disclose any.  I’m not aware that there has been any — you know, any details provided as a result of the — the why the information was — was so — was so siloed.  But we obviously have conveyed our interest in learning more. 

Q    And then, on a separate topic, on the Middle East.  Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a request from international news outlets to allow foreign journalists.  Many of us probably here in the newsroom here have colleagues who wanted to be able to get in.  That request was rejected.  I’m curious if ever in conversations with the Israeli officials that you all have been in touch with have requests for media access ever been made?  And (inaudible) —

MR. KIRBY:  That is a great question I don’t have an answer to.  But I’ll tell you what, I’ll go back and take a look at that.  I’m not aware that there have been requests made by outlets and denied by the Israeli government to get into Gaza.  Is that what you’re saying?

Q    By the Israeli Supreme Court.  And there was a coalition of —

MR. KIRBY:  They’ve said no.

Q    — international news organizations.

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  Let me go back and do some research on that, if you don’t mind.

Q    Okay.  And then can I ask just one other question?  I know Secretary Blinken had a series of meetings in Israel today.  Were there any tangible results from the Secretary’s meetings today that were received?  I know the readouts provided very limited information.  And I —

MR. KIRBY:  Readouts —

Q    Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  Readouts don’t provide limited information.

Q    Yeah.  So, can you give us any sense of —

Q    They provide zero.  (Laughter.)

Q    — tangible results?  Well, I guess that this has led to the fact that —

MR. KIRBY:  James helping you out here.  (Laughter.)

Q    You know, my colleagues on the ground had presented —

MR. KIRBY:  I know.

Q    — the fact that the — the death toll over the last 24 hours was amongst one of the most deadly days in Israel.  And so, given that and given the Secretary’s visit — and I know civilian casualty deaths were part of this — do you all feel like you’ve gotten any tangible results?

MR. KIRBY:  I think — Secretary Blinken is still on the trip, so I think we’re going to let him finish his trip.  I’m sure he will provide a robust readout to us of what he discussed and what he learned.  And we’ll — we’ll look forward to that report when he gets back to Washington, D.C.

But I don’t want to get in — step on his toes while he’s still in the region.  And certainly, the question, really, is much better put to my colleague at the State Department to speak to.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve got to start wrapping it up. 

Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you so much, John.  Starting with Israel and President Biden’s words yesterday that he was “quietly working” with Israel.  Is he signaling — you know, with these words, is he signaling for a ceasefire?  And does the administration still support Israel’s position that a ceasefire can only be possible if Hamas is eliminated?

MR. KIRBY:  Nothing has changed about our view here that we don’t support a ceasefire at this time.  And there’s no change to that because we don’t believe that that benefits anybody but Hamas right now.

We do continue to support humanitarian pauses but not a general ceasefire right now. 

The President wasn’t signaling any change at all.  In fact, he was signaling very much this co- — a very consistent view that he has had since the beginning of the conflict. 

Q    (Inaudible.)  And then a China question.  Today, China launched a satellite over Taiwan’s airspace.  Yesterday, they sent 10 aircrafts, 4 ships, and 4 balloons — some kind of weird “12 Days of Christmas.”  What is the White House’s message to China for doing this four days ahead of a major election in Taiwan?

MR. KIRBY:  I think — I think these actions raise questions in our mind about what the intent here is.  You mentioned coincidental here in timing to the — the election.  I don’t have proof that that’s what’s driving that, but it sure does raise an interesting question — doesn’t it? — about what their intentions are or what their — what their goals are with this activity. 

I’ll tell you this.  We believe that — that the democratic institutions of Taiwan need to be respected.  We want to see a free and fair and transparent election.  And we’re willing and standing by to work with whoever the people of Taiwan elect into their government. 

Q    I’ve got another one not about the Defense Secretary, if you want to take it. 

MR. KIRBY:  None of your questions have been about the Defense Secretary.

Q    Thank you.  Burundi’s president recently called for gay people to be stoned to death.  In light of the administration’s moves against Uganda for passing a really hateful law against gay people, are you mulling any actions against the government of Burundi for — for these hateful statements?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any decisions to speak to today, but obviously, that — that is a — that’s just — that clearly would be a horrific undertaking, a horrific way of punishing people for something they shouldn’t be punished for. 

And we’ll — we’ll see where this goes.  But I think it’s very clear — should be clear to the people in the government of Burundi and all over the African continent how seriously we take the issue of civil and human rights. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah.  So, more than 100 journalists have been killed in Gaza by Israel.  Isn’t it perhaps contradictory or harmful for the U.S. that defends free speech to keep financing and giving arms to Israel when they’re committing these crimes against journalists?

MR. KIRBY:  Your question presumes that they are deliberately, maliciously going out to kill journalists.  And I’ve seen —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  — we’ve seen no indication that they have done that.  We continue to stand by the protection of journalists that are anywhere in the world, certainly covering conflict.  But journalists and their jobs and their ability to report needs to be protected by any nation waging war.  And we’ve been very, very consistent on that.

Q    But they’re not allowing international press in Gaza.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, as I said, I — I — I’m not aware of that report.  So, I’ll go back and look and — and see what we know about —

Q    Kirby, it is in many of our news outlets.  Right?  It is a number of international news outlets.

MR. KIRBY:  I know, but I don’t — but I don’t —

Q    Okay.  I —

MR. KIRBY:  But I don’t know when you submit a request to go somewhere.  It’s not like it comes through me.  So, I — I take the question.  I — it’s a — it’s a fair one.  Let me find out about it and find out what the ground truth is here. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Peter.

Q    I come back to the December 22nd procedure that the Secretary had.  Did the White House — he was put under general anesthesia at that time.  He was not last week.  Did the White House know about that procedure?  Even if we didn’t know what it was specifically for, did he know at that time he was undergoing a procedure on that day?

MR. KIRBY:  No. 

Q    Okay.  And when you said that the doctor — the doctors used the phrase “elective” in their statement.  The statement they released today does not use the word “elective,” and I wonder whether you think, then, that that is — means the use of that to describe it last week by the Pentagon was fully transparent.  The doctors described something that does not sound elective.

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, well, then, that’s my mistake.  I — I thought that that was in the doctors’ statement.  I — again, I refer you to the — the Pentagon on that. 

I — I’m not at liberty — I’m not a medical expert, Peter.  I can’t — I can’t — 

Q    You’re a communications expert, and you know what “elective procedure” implies to the public that might not sound like what we’re now being told. 

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I’d refer you to the Pentagon. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Does the President believe that there ought to be any consequences for any DOD officials who knew about the condition of Secretary Austin but did not report that information —

MR. KIRBY:  That’s going to be up to —

Q    — to the White House?

MR. KIRBY:  That’s going to be up to the Pentagon leadership to decide.

Q    But what does the President believe?  I mean, he’s the Commander-in-Chief.

MR. KIRBY:  The President believes that —

Q    In terms of —

MR. KIRBY:  — Secretary Austin should get the appropriate care that he needs to get better so he can get back at work at the Pentagon.  He believes we ought to learn from this.  And it — both in terms of notification and about transparency to the American people.  And — and we’re going to — we’re going to do what we have to do. 

As Karine said, we’re also going to take steps here at the White House to make sure that we have a good, tight alignment across the interagency about notification procedures on delegation of authorities.  That’s what the President —

Q    But as of now,

MR. KIRBY:  — wants to focus on.

Q    — in terms of accountability for those who might not have shared that information with the White House?  It’s not their DOD.  It’s the taxpayers’. 

MR. KIRBY:  It is the taxpayers’ DOD, and it’s for the Defense Department leadership to take a look at that and — and see what — what they want to do in terms of accountability. 

The — the Secretary of Defense himself took full responsibility in his statement over the weekend.  I mean, he had put it on his shoulders. 

Q    Thank you, sir. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Aurelia.

Q    Okay.  Thank you.  Just another question, because I — I’m not in the clear about that.  By not notifying the White House on December 22 that he was going under general anesthesia, did Secretary Austin violate existing procedures, or was that in accordance with existing procedures?  What happened?

MR. KIRBY:  Like I said yesterday, I mean, there’s an expectation that if a Cabinet officer becomes hospitalized and for whatever reason, you know, can’t continue to perform the duties, even temporarily, there’s an expectation that that will be notified up — up the chain of command —

Q    I’m sorry.  Did he meet that expectation?

MR. KIRBY:  — to the Commander-in-Chief. 

That — there is an expectation that — that that would be passed up the chain of command.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Akayla.  Then we’ve got to wrap it up, guys.

Q    Thanks.  Is the Pentagon reviewing the security clearance of Elon Musk after these new allegations of drug use, which would obviously violate his agreement?

MR. KIRBY:  You’d have to talk to the Defense Department on that. 

Q    And then a second question on Hezbollah.  Israel now says that time is running out for a diplomatic resolution with Hezbollah.  Is that how the U.S. sees it, that time is running out?

MR. KIRBY:  That — with — for Hezbollah?

Q    Or to reach a diplomatic resolution with them.

MR. KIRBY:  Look, there’s — there’s always time for diplomacy.  And I think you’ve seen us work hard at that.  Secretary Blinken is in the region now.  Other officials here from the National Security Council have traveled over there.  We — we believe there’s always time for diplomatic resolutions.  

Okay.  Thanks.

Q    One more?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We went long — we went long, guys.  I don’t know if there’s any — anything else you guys have in mind.  But go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  President Trump’s lawyers today asserted that he should be immune from prosecution.  What is President Biden’s opinion of the Constitution on this matter? Should presidents be immune for official actions?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I get why you’re asking the question.  I see why you’re asking the question.  We’re going to be really careful here given — given that there is an ongoing case.  So, not going to comment.  Got to be super careful.  And we don’t normally comment on ongoing legal case or make statements that could impact — right? — that particular ongoing case.  Also, that doesn’t even involve the White House. 

So, I’m just going to be super careful.  I would have to refer you to Department of Justice.  Don’t want to — don’t want to get into the middle of this. 

Go ahead.

Q    Sticking with former President Trump.  He also said in an interview yesterday that he hopes that if there is an economic downturn that it’ll happen in the “next 12 months.”  And I’m wondering if the White House has any reaction to that. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be careful, as we all know, that he is a — he is a candidate in this 2024 election. 

So, what I will say is that consumer sentiment, as you all know from the data that came out at the end of last year, is surging and inflation is falling.  And I think that matters.  And all the more reason that we continue to make sure that Bidenomics — you know, continue to move forward Bidenomics. 

And we’ve seen how historically — the success of the economic growth that we’ve seen.  When you think about — when you think about the 14 million jobs, unemployment is at under 4 percent, obviously — obviously, there’s a — also, wages are up — right? — which is incredibly important.  

And — and so, look, one of the things I will say is that the cost reduction momentum over the vola- — volatility — right? — if you think about MAGAnomics, which economists warn would worsen inflation with tax giveaways to — to rich special interest.

And another thing I would say is that, look, when it comes to a Commander-in-Chief’s duty, they’re not supposed to wish an economic downturn.  They’re supposed to make sure that the — we put the American peoples first.  That is what a Commander-in-Chief is supposed to do.

They’re not supposed to hope that American families suffer.  That’s not what a Commander-in-Chief is supposed to do.  They’re supposed to put forward a economic plan that helps all Americans. 

And so, you know, it is — it is a — it is clearly –clearly unacceptable and shameful.  And what Republicans official [Republican officials] should hope for — they should hope for that we continue the economic progress that this President has made.

Q    And then just one more clarification on — on Secretary Austin.  So, when Jake Sullivan was informed on Thursday, who informed him?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It was Jake Sullivan and the Chief of Staff informed the President.  Are you asking who informed —

Q    I’m asking who from the Pentagon told Jake Sullivan.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh.  I — I don’t have that.  I don’t have the timeline of the — or the name of the — of the individuals that may have informed Jake Sullivan. 

What I can tell you is Jake Sullivan was informed by the Pentagon last Thursday.  And from there, they were able to inform the President — “they” meaning the Chief of Staff and the National Security Advisor informed the President.

I don’t have the — who — who actually told the National Security Advisor.

Q    And did whoever at the Pentagon informed Jake Sullivan tell him at that time that they regretted the delay or give any explanation for the delay?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I get the question.  I just don’t have specifics on what was actually communicated in that conversation. 

What I can tell you is that’s when National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was certainly informed about Secretary Austin’s hospitalization, but I just don’t have anything further on specifics of that conversation.  I can also share with you, as we have many times, that the President was informed thereafter.

Go ahead, Gabe.

Q    Has Secretary Austin apologized to the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any specifics into their conversation.  All I can — as you know, as we’ve let all of you know, that they had a conversation on Saturday, the President and the Secretary.  I just don’t have any details into what was discussed specifically. 

The President — as I said moments ago at the top of this briefing, the President obviously wishes the Secretary well and hopes he has a speedy recovery and wants to see him back — obviously, back at the Pentagon.

Q    And, Karine, any reaction to Michelle Obama saying in an interview that she’s terrified about the potential results of the election?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I want to be careful.  Again, we’re talking about an upcoming election this year.  So, don’t want to comment on that.  Obviously, we’re going to let the former First Lady speak for herself.

What I can tell you is that she obviously supports the agenda — this President’s agenda — President Biden’s agenda and how we’re moving forward in making sure that we have an economy that works for all and moving forward, certainly, on implementing some of these important key historic legislation that the President was able to pass.

But I’m not going to comment specifically on what she — she stated.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q    How close are you to a border security deal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as I stated yesterday on — when we were on Air Force One headed to South Carolina, look, we — the President continues to believe that we need to get to a bipartisan agreement to — to really deal with the border security issue.  There has been a productive conversation on the Senate side, Republicans and Democrats.

So, we are hopeful.  This is a president that is optimistic, as you know.  We are hopeful that we will get to a bipartisan agreement. 

I know one of the negotiators, as I stated yesterday, said that it would be — you know, would be likely to have some text this week.  And so, look, this is a negotiation process.  It is a bipartisan one.  We appreciate that conversation. 

The President understands what is happening at the border is something that’s been happening for decades and we need to address it, which is why — again, why he put — you know, the first piece of legislation when he walked into the administration was to be on — on comprehensive immigration and to deal with that issue.

Go ahead, M.J.

Q    Has the President been getting briefed on the Alaska Airlines —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   So, I want to —

Q    — disaster — near disaster?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — yeah, no, I know exactly what you’re talking about.  So, first of all, we are — we are glad to have seen that — that — we were relieved that all passengers and crew are safe. 

The FA- — FAA’s priority is always keeping Americans safe.  That is most important.  And in that spirit, these particular Boeing aircraft will remain grounded until operators completely — complete enhanced inspections. 

The FAA will continue to support the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.  The NTSB is in charge, obviously, as you all know, in investigating these types of investigation.  And I would certainly point you to them on any updates on this particular investigation.

The President, obviously, is going to continue to be updated on these things.

Q    Does the White House primarily see this as a Boeing issue or an FAA issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what I can say is FAA certainly sees this as a priority to make sure that we’re keeping Americans safe.  That is certainly their approach here and what they believe needs — how we need to move forward.

Obviously, the Boeing aircraft — there’s going to be investigation on these Boeing aircraft.  That’s why they’re going to be grounded.  We don’t know yet.  Right?  We have to do an investigation to see exactly what occurred here.

But they’re going to ground them, out of — out of abundance of precaution and safety for the American people, to make sure that we see what — to — to enhance inspectation [complete enhanced inspections] and to see exactly what occurred. 

So, I don’t want to get ahead of that.  But they’re taking, obviously, extra precautions here.

Q    Would President Biden tell the American people that they should feel safe flying?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think the American people should sa- –feel safe flying.  I — like I said, FAA’s number-one priority is the safety of Americans.  I think by the fact that these Boeing aircrafts are going to be grounded is important.  Right?  That is taking — taking the safety of Americans first.

And FAA is — that’s their main priority, is to — making sure that occurred.

Q    So, he believes it is safe to fly now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  He believes it is safe to fly.  But obviously, FAA is going to do everything that they can to make sure that American — American people, American families are safe.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks.  When the White House found out last Thursday that the Secretary was in the hospital, did somebody ask the Pentagon why and not get an answer from the Pentagon?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any specifics to share.  What we know — what we can tell you is that, as you know, the Pentagon is going to do a review on their process and that that is something, obviously, we welcome — a 30-day review.  And that’s what we want to see.  And we’ll get a sense of — of how — how the process went.

And so, you know, that’s something that obviously is important.  And you saw, as I stated at the top, the Chief of Staff put a memo that went to agencies on making sure that we take a good look at the process here.  But —

Q    But beyond —


Q    Beyond, like, a process, just from a human aspect of this, when Jake Sullivan and then Jeff Zients and then the President hear that Secretary Austin is in the hospital, didn’t they ask, “Why is he in the hospital?”  How did the President not know until this morning that it was cancer?  How did five days go without knowing the diagnosis?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is something that we’re trying to find —

Q    Did the Pentagon not give an answer?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I hear you, but that is something that we are going to get a sense of this process, right?  That’s why they’re going to do a review.  That’s why the Pentagon is going to do a review.  That’s why the Chief of Staff put out a memo to Cabinet — Cabinet — to the Cabinets on protocols here to get a sense of what — how they’ve been moving with this process and how we’re going to continue to move forward.  We do not want this to happen again, obviously. 

But, you know, we’re going to get a better sense, once the Pentagon does the 30-day review, to see how this occurred.  Obviously, this is not something we want to see. 

In the meantime, we want to make sure that Secretary Austin is — gets back on his feet and recovers.  And I think that’s really important too. 

Q    But do you see what I mean?  Just kind of on human level —


Q    When the President hears he’s in the hospital —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And, Karen —

Q    — again, doesn’t he —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Karen, I totally — I totally underst- —

Q    — doesn’t he say, “Why?  Why is he there?”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I totally understand the question.

Q    And then you say, “Well, we’re going to review this with a process.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I totally understand the question.  I get it.  I get you’re — you’re wanting to know what — what was the reaction, the emotional reaction of folks here and, kind of, the chain of command — right? — once they learned about the Secretary’s hospitalization.  I — I get the question. 

I don’t have reactions — right? — emotional reactions to — to how people — folk- — folks here felt when they learned about this.  I just can’t speak to that. 

What I can speak to is that we want to make sure that we have a process, protocols — robust cro- — protocols — because we’ve always said transparency is at the center of this administration. 

We want to make sure that we can — that — how we move — how these agencies move forward, that there’s a robust protocol in place.  And that’s what we’re asking.  That’s why the Chief of Staff, Zients, sent a memo to agencies so we have a sense of how are they going to move forward with these types of situations or issues. 

And, again, Pentagon is going to do their review.  They announced that yesterday.  It’s going to be a 30-day review.  And we’ll have a better sense of the timeline here and what had hap- — occurred. 

Q    In the back, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah, thanks, Karine.  When will the President hold another solo news conference?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to preview at this time.

Q    But on communications within the administration, the last Cabinet meeting was three months ago.  So, does the President know where his Cabinet members are and what they’re doing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The Pres- — the President is in regular touch.  And not just the President.  Obviously, there are folks here, whether it’s the Office of Cabinet Affairs, other folks here in the White House that is in regular touch with, certainly, leaders of these — the different Cabinets on a regular basis. 

And I just don’t have anything else to share.  But, you know, the President, when — the President — obviously, this is his Cabinet, and he talks to them on a regular basis.  I just don’t have a specific timeline or specifics on when that happens.

Q    On the Alaskan Airlines flight.  We’ve all seen those pictures.  Where is the Transportation Secretary?  Shouldn’t he be out reassuring Americans that it’s safe to travel?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, the — you saw the Secretary, for weeks and days, talking about how — about, you know, how the airlines were — were being held to account and how we are — we’re in a different place, certainly, than we were last year during the holiday season.  And we saw the Secretary out there pretty — pretty — in a robust way. 

And so, look, the Secretary — I’m sure I can speak for him right now and say that, of course, he wants to make sure Americans feel safe flying.  That is part of — certainly part of his — part of his responsibility.  And so, he certainly can speak to that himself. 

But he has been very, very clear about that.  The Secretary, you know, has been very clear about that over the past three years of this administration, making sure that there — there is safety, that there’s — we meet those safety protocols, Americans feel safe flying.  And that is the number-one priority, certainly of FAA.

Q    One — and one more on the economy, if I could.  JPMorgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, told Fox Business that the extra COVID assistance runs out in 2024, higher credit card balances.  He says the chances of a recession are higher than a soft landing.  How concerned is the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I appreciate the question.  I’m actually glad you asked the question because, look, last year, forecasters said with 100 percent certainty that there would be a recession — 100 percent certainty.  That’s what you heard over and over and over last year. 

That didn’t happen.  And the President never thought — he never thought that we needed to have a recession to bring inflation down.  He never thought that.  And he was right. 

And just a couple of things.  I know you like data.  2.7 million jobs created last year, more than any year under the previous administration.  Unemployment below 4 percent for 23 months in a row and the longest stretch in over 50 years.  Inflation fell to 2 percent over the last six months, and wages and wealth are higher than — than before the pandemic. 

And that is not consistent with a recession.  That — remember — and you — you were asking me this — this question over and over again.  “They say there’s going to be a recession.  They say there’s going to be a recession.”  And it didn’t happen.  It didn’t happen. 

So, I will quote Secretary Yellen here, what she said yesterday, which is: “What we’re seeing now, I think, we can describe as a soft landing.”

AIDE:  One or two more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Can you give us any information about what’s on tap for tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to preview.  I’m sure the team will be sending out our regular — what the next day is going to look like for the President.  Just don’t have anything to preview for tomorrow. 

I just previewed what the President is going to, certainly, be doing on Friday — going to Allentown — and we’ll have more on that as well.  So, I’ll just leave it there. 

Asma, I’m going to try — there’s some folks in the back that I haven’t called on.

Q    Yes.  (Laughter.)  Including the ones you “love,” quote, “so much.”  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Go ahead, Steve. 

Q    Thank you.  Sorry, James.  I’ve got —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  My other favorite person. 

Q    I’ve got two questions. 


Q    The first one.  The First Son’s art dealer today is testifying on the Hill.  And he said that he did not have any talks with White House officials about setting up the supposed agreements to ensure that the buyers IDs were anonymous and that, in fact, many of the IDs were known. 

There was reporting during the President’s first year in office that some White House officials were engaged in setting up this supposed agreement.  Can you just clarify what the case was?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to comment from here.  I would refer you to my colleagues at the White House — White House legal office.  I just don’t have anything to share. 

Q    Before my second one, just a plug for — a request for Ian Sams to perhaps take questions one day. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you have full acc- — you have access to Ian Sams.  He’s very good at responding to all of you and taking your questions.  So, you know, I think that’s important.  He — he’s been very, very good at connecting with — with everyone in this room who has questions like you have about anything that is related to what you just asked.

Q    And my second question —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Third question. 

Q    Well — (laughter) — my second question is that we have new reporting that the mayor of Kyiv, Sitting Mayor Vitali Klitschko, was involved with a business entity called Burisma Geothermal that was formerly chaired by the First Son when he was the Second Son.  The President met with the mayor multiple times, of course, over the years.  And I was hoping that you could say whether the President knew about this business relationship during their meetings.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office. 

Go ahead, James.

Q    Thank you very much, Karine.  With respect to the incident involving Secretary Austin.  From your statements and those of Admiral Kirby, we learned today that President Biden expresses full faith and confidence in this Cabinet officer, even though neither the President nor anyone else on his staff yet knows why Secretary Austin violated the existing rules and withheld this information.  Is it the posture of the President that Secretary Austin’s motivation is irrelevant to the President’s estimation of him in this incident?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I will say is — and we have said this many times — is that Secretary Austin put out a statement taking full responsibility of — of what we — has unfolded over the last couple of days, and the President appreciates that. 

And I have the statement right in front of me, but I’m sure you’ve seen it.  And — and one of the things that’s in here, he said, is, “I also understand the media concerns about transparency, and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.  I commit to doing better.  But it is important to say this is my medical procedure.  And I have — I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.” 

So, Secretary took full — full responsibility.  I think that is important to note.  We appreciate that he’s taken full responsibility.  And one of the things that I’ve stated multiple times at this podium in the past couple of minutes is that the Pentagon is going to do a full review.  We’re going to let that review happen.  It’s going to take about 30 days, as they stated in their memo. 

And — and, also, we’re going to take extra steps here. 

Q    But we have a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As we’ve stated with the — with the memo — as I’ve stated with the memo that the Chief of Staff sent out to agencies.

Q    Just to follow on this before I pose an unrelated second question, the — the motivations on the part of the Secretary for doing this are unknown to the President.  And you’re telling us there’s going to be a 30-day review, et cetera.  Shouldn’t the expression of full faith and confidence in this Cabinet officer await the results of that investigation? 

And, also, isn’t it a key piece of information for the President to know why Secretary Austin did this before he —


Q    — expresses full faith and confidence in him?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think one of the things that’s so important — and we don’t see this enough in these — in today’s world — is for someone to take responsibility, for someone to actually say, “I made a mistake, and I take full responsibility.”  And I think that’s important here. 

Q    But the motivation is not important?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am not going to speak — I’m not going to speak to that.  I’m going to speak to the action of taking responsibility here.  And I think that’s important.  And the President appreciates that. 

And the Admiral laid out some of the — some of the — the — the things or actions and — that the Secretary has taken over the last two years that has been very helpful and that has really played into his leadership as Secretary of the Defense.  And so, he has done a — really a stellar job in that — in that position.  The President appreciates the job that he’s done.  And he’s taken responsibility.  And I think that’s important here as well.

Q    On this event Friday in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that you just disclosed to us.  You’ve told us that it’s going to be a speech about Bidenomics.  How ought the so-called ordinary American at home to distinguish between official events and political events in this season?  I’ve done this long enough to know that the President’s remarks in Allentown on Friday are going to sound an awful lot like a campaign appearance.  So, what distinguishes an official event from a campaign event at this point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, we’ve been very clear.  I’ve — you know, when — when there’s been a campaign event, I’ve said it’s a campaign event, and you have to go to the campaign — right? — to get information.  And usually a campaign event comes from the campaign.  And so, that’s very clear.  That is very clear. 

And so — so, I don’t know how else we could be more clearer than that.  And we’ll have more on what Friday will look like, and we will certainly share that with all of you. 

And we’ve been clear — 

Q    But —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — campaign event — campaign event comes from the campaign.  They lead those events.  They speak to those events.  And we have been very careful to let that live with the campaign. 

Q    But the answer you’ve given me suggests that the same event can transpire in — with exactly the same —


Q    — words and actions — hang on —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, no, no.

Q    — in — in one — you know, twice in a row identically.  But if one is organized by the White House, it’s an official event.  And if one is organized by the campaign, that’s a campaign event. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I want to be very clear here.  What we’re doing has been done by other presidents.  It — it really — when there is a reelection for a president, there tends to be a campaign event and there tends to be official event.  That is not unusual.

The way that we have moved forward with this process over the last couple of weeks — right? — as we’re in this — in 2024, we’re not doing anything different.  We’re not doing anything new.  This is a protocol that has been — that has been — has been existing for some time.  So, I’m — I’m just not going to get into a rabbit — go down a rabbit hole with you.  We’re not doing anything different.  We’re do- — we’re being very clear and following the protocol. 

I’m going to move around.  I’m being pulled here.  But go ahead.

Q    Tomorrow, House Republicans plan to hold an impeachment hearing against Mayorkas.  What’s the White House response to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’ve spoken to this many times.  And I’ve said before, the House Republicans are playing political — political games instead of doing their jobs.  That’s what they’re doing. 

And it’s really shameful.  It’s really shameful that this is how they choose to fo- — what they choose to focus on.  Truly. 

Q    And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What the American people want to see is — is — is Congress to deliver, and House Republicans continue — continue to do these political stunts, and they don’t want — they want to play political games. 

And so, it is shameful.  What we want to see, what Americans want to see is real results — real results to the issues that — that American people have across the country. 

Q    And any more details you can provide on the sticking points right now in the border talks?  Parole has been mentioned by negotiators. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — totally — totally get the question.  Not going to get ahead of — get ahead of the negotiators.  I’m going to let them have those conversations. 

Obviously, if I say anything, then I’m stepping into their process, and we don’t want to do that. 

It is — what we have said is we believe that process is heading in the right direction.  And we appreciate that we’re — both Republicans and Democrats are coming together and — and trying to find a solution to what we see at the border.  And the President has always said we need to see a bipartisan agreement on an issue that has existed for decades. 

Thanks, everybody.  We’ll — we’ll be back tomorrow.  Thanks, everybody. 

4:16 P.M. EST

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