James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, everybody. Good afternoon. Happy Friday.
A couple of things for you at the top — or, actually, one big thing at the top.
This week, we saw more evidence that our economy is strong and inflation is falling under President Biden. Inflation has now fallen back to pre-pandemic levels, and the economy grew 3.1 percent last year, stronger than during the Trump administration.
At the same time, wages and household wealth are higher than before the pandemic. In 2023, we also saw prices fall for key household purchases, like gas and milk, eggs, toys, appliances, and airfares.
While experts predicted a recession — we heard that over and over again last year — President Biden helped grow the economy from the middle out and bottom up, and Americans are feeling the results. 2.7 million jobs were created last year. And consumer sentiment surged 29 percent in the last two months, the biggest jump in more than 30 years.
We know our work is not done. President Biden will never stop fighting to lower costs and give hardworking American families more breathing room.
This stands in stark contrast with House Republicans, who don’t have a plan to lower costs and whose MAGA-nomics fails the middle class with ta- — tax giveaways for wealthy and big corporations; cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare; and higher costs, from prescription drugs to utility bills.
Now, tomorrow, as you all know — have been tracking, tomorrow is international Holocaust Remembrance Day, a time we mourn one of the darkest chapters in human history, when 6 million Jews were systematically targeted and murdered. We also mourn the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution.
As the President said in a statement this morning, this year our charge to remember the Holocaust is a press- — is as pressing as ever in the wake of the evil attacks by Hamas terrorists on the people of Israel, which amounted to the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust.
Additionally, since October 7th, we have witnessed an alarming rise of despicable antisemitism at home and abroad, which must continue to be met with our unequivocal condemnation.
We must continue to call out Holocaust denialism and efforts to minimize the horrors that Hamas perpetra- — perpetrated on October 7th, including the horrific use of rape and sexual violence to terrorize victims.
President Biden will continue to stand up to antisemitism and hate-fueled violence at home and abroad, including through the first-ever National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism he announced last year.
This is our charge: to ensure we cannot continue to say “never again.”
All right. Now, as you can see, we have two guests in the room with us today. Since day one, President Biden has led the most ambitious climate agenda in history, unlocking clean energy breakthroughs, advancing environmental justice, and rallying the world’s leaders to transition away from fossil fuel.
And our — and whether it’s historic hurricanes, floods, or wildfires, the science is clear. Climate change isn’t — is the existential threat of our time.
So, today, the Biden-Harris administration announced a temporary pause on pending decisions on exports of liquefied national — natural gas to — to certain countries until the Department of
Education [Energy] can update the underlying assessments.
And to talk a bit about — more about this is today — today with us is the President’s Na- — National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi.
Ali, thank you for coming back.
MR. ZAIDI: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The floor is yours.
MR. ZAIDI: Thank you.
Thanks, everybody. Today, as Karine noted, the Biden-Harris administration is announcing a pause on pending applications to export liquefied natural gas to non-free trade agreement countries from here in the United States.
The department’s pause will remain in effect until the agency updates key economic and environmental analyses. These are the analyses that underpin the way the Department of Energy makes decisions about these authorization applications.
Specifically, the Department of Energy has said that it will focus on better understanding energy costs and the implications of future exports on energy costs for American consumers and manufacturers; on energy security for the United States here and around the world; third, on greenhouse gas emissions — and in particular methane emissions, which we now know are more potent than previously understood; and also on the burden that export potentially places for the frontline communities where this gas is chilled, liquefied, and then exported.
We need to do that accounting with the benefit of also a sharper and more current read on the market, both on the demand for global LNG as well as the projections around long-term supply.
Let me be clear: The U.S. is already the number-one exporter of LNG, and we have been and remain unwavering in our commitment to support our allies and partners around the world. But we have to absorb — at this moment, we have to absorb very clearly all that is in front of us.
From day one, President Biden has listened to the science, he’s looked out for frontline communities, and he’s followed the facts. That’s absolutely critical.
And that’s really been the story of the President’s leadership on climate from day one, whether it was signing us back into the Paris Climate Agreement, reversing countless rollbacks that threatened public health and our energy security, passing the biggest climate investment in the history not just of the U.S. but of the world, and rallying everybody around the whole world to raise our climate ambition.
In Glasgow, just a few years ago, that meant bringing people together around the Global Methane Pledge, which now over 100 countries have joined.
And just weeks ago, at the United Nations Con- — Climate Conference, that meant bringing the world together on the need to transition away from fossil fuels.
So, today, from President Joe Biden and DOE Secretary Granholm, we hear more steps in the right direction as we work to tackle the climate crisis and to protect future generations.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. (Inaudible.) Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Karine. And thank you, Ali, for being here. So, why is this pause coming now and not on day one? It’s almost three years into the President’s term. And since he took office, the administration has approved thousands of oil and gas projects. So, why didn’t you take this pause on day one to do all the critical analysis you just talked about?
MR. ZAIDI: So — great question. The Department of Energy — this analysis that the agency is undertaking, it’s not unprecedented. It’s routine. And the analytical basis for these decisions — the economic analysis, the environmental analysis — is, at this point, in most cases, about five years old. We’ve also seen the market change dramatically over this period of time.
If you look just at the United States, which has now become the number one exporter, we’ve seen massive buildout here of LNG, as well as approvals that would double — just if you look at what’s under construction — double the export capacity just if the projects that are under construction, when they come to fruition.
So, the — that dynamic has changed. The second thing that we’ve seen change is our evolving understanding of the environmental implications of this.
Look, over the last 10 years, for example, we’ve started to really understand the potency and threat that methane presents to the environment. Methane is this super-polluting greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than CO2. And, in some instance- — some scientists believe that it represents about half a degree of the warming we’re seeing here.
And so, one of the things that we need to do is take in and integrate some of that additional learning around lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis. It’s really important that the department does this routine work. And I think this will inform how we approach this program going forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Justin.
Q Thanks, Ali. I — the — I know the administration has said this review is expected to take several months. Can you be a little more specific about the length of time this might take?
MR. ZAIDI: The department is going to move with speed. They’re going to really take this head on. It’s a commitment from the Secretary. What we know is that there’s important information to collect. I just spoke a little bit about the market dynamics.
We need to understand, for example, also, the impact of potential costs on our consumers here in the United States, on manufacturers here in the United States. A large group of manufacturers that have thousands of facilities across the country, making things like steel and aluminum, actually sent in a letter to the department saying they have a lot of input they’d like to provide.
So, the department will be doing that work. It will be engaged in a public comment process. This has to be a transparent process and engaging one. And — and they will continue to — to move that forward.
Q And — and, as you mentioned, this — there’s been several reviews. In the past, those generally haven’t involved pauses. So, why this time is there a pause on these pending sales? Some of your critics are saying it’s because of politics — trying to please environmental activists ahead of the election. What do you say to that?
MR. ZAIDI: I think we’ve got to be clear-eyed about the challenges that we face. The climate crisis is that: an existential crisis. And we’ve got to be, I think, really forward-leaning into making sure that we’re taking that head on.
But here’s — here’s, I think, the critical context for your question. And that is that if you look at the approvals already that have been completed, you’ve got the number of projects that are under construction set to double the existing capacity, and then approvals beyond that that would double it yet again. So, there’s a long runway here. And we’re taking a step back and thinking, “Okay, let’s take a hard look before that runway continues to build out.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Monica.
Q Can you share the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that this rule would cut in the short term? Can you detail that in any specific way for people to understand?
MR. ZAIDI: That’s a really — I think that’s part of what this review is all about: is to understand what are the implications of LNG.
We’ve started to learn more about leakage rates at different parts of the supply chain — upstream, midstream, downstream. We’ve started to learn a lot about what happens to LNG as it’s chilled and then shipped overseas. We’re also seeing major shifts in the demand for this product. What is it backing out on the other end?
You think about a lot of our allies and partners who use that LNG today actually are on a trajectory to back out that demand, to replace it with things like clean energy and energy efficiency.
So, this will take all of those factors in and, hopefully, produce a — an answer that helps us answer this — this really important question.
Q And is there a specific benchmark that the administration is trying to reach when it comes to renewable scaling that gets to where you could restrict natural gas exports even further?
MR. ZAIDI: I think the President has been very clear about his targets and ambition for the United States on climate as a whole. That’s getting to an economy that does not put greenhouse gas pollution into the sky by the middle of the century — net zero by no later than 2050 and getting halfway there by the end of this decade.
The way we do that is by deploying clean energy. We’ve already doubled the pace of deployment of technologies like solar and wind here in the United States.
Under the President’s leadership, we’re really seeing a renaissance in the use of technologies, like advanced nuclear folks announcing commitments to invest in that and plants that were slated to retire staying on to continue to produce clean power.
We deployed over a million electric vehicles last year in the United States. So, I think it’s a sector-by-sector strategy pinned down in this North Star goal of getting to net-zero emissions economy wide. And part of that conversation needs to be, as it was at the United Nations Conference, how we globally transition away from fossil fuels.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aamer.
Q This also comes at a time when the world is still grappling with a two-year-old wa- — war in Ru- — with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What assurances on U.S. LNG can you give allies?
And, second, can you just also just respond to the criticism we’ve heard today, particularly from the industry, that essentially the administration has handed a win to Russia?
MR. ZAIDI: Look, we have, I think, beat expectations in terms of our — the speed and alacrity with which we’ve moved to be a forceful ally to folks facing down energy challenges, especially our partners in Europe.
Just to rewind, in the — right after the invasion — the Russian invasion, the U.S. and the EU got together — we launched a task force to focus on energy security. And what that looked at was short-term needs, medium-term, and long-term.
As part of that — and I think the numbers are really important here — we set targets for how much gas would be delivered to Europe to help it deal with the Russian aggression. In 2021, we delivered 22 bcm. The task force set a target of 37 bcm in 2022, 50 bcm in ‘23, and 50 in the years that followed.
We overdelivered in ‘22 — 56 relative to the 37 target; in ‘23, 65 relative to the 50 target. And the capacity that we have online and that will come online will allow us to be a really strong partner to our allies.
And let’s all — I mean, before we make an assessment or draw a conclusion based on what the industry is putting out, let’s listen to what our allies are saying. We got a letter from 60 members of Parliament from across Europe saying, “Hey, be a partner to us in the short run — and you have been — but also be a partner to us in the long run as we all take on this existential threat.”
And that’s what President Biden, I think, has done so effectively. He’s — he listens to the science. He follows the facts. He stands with our allies and partners. He deals with these near-term challenges without taking our eye off the ball on the existential threat that we all face. The President has, I think, delivered exceptionally well on that.
Today’s step moves us continuing in the right direction.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. We kind of have to wrap it up. Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Thanks, Ali. The President in his statement today said, “We will heed the calls of young people in frontline communities who are using their voices to demand action from those with the power to act.” To what extent is this a response to activists who have expressed some displeasure with the President’s overall record on climate so far?
MR. ZAIDI: You know, young people have been such a central part of the coalition that really helped, I think, the President imagine this climate agenda and secure it every step of the way. You see it in him standing up to the gun lobby, you see it in him with student debt cancellations. But you really see it in the President’s climate agenda, where he’s launched an American Climate Corps, where he’s delivered the largest investment in climate — not just in the history of the country but of the world.
He’s done it by bringing everybody in — farmers, ranchers, now part of the solution; folks who work upgrading buildings; electricians, auto workers, all powering this future. And that’s the vision that I think young people are excited about — one that’s not about just getting sucked into the doom and gloom of the sky turning orange and the smoke that we breathe into our lungs but of what we can see together if we get this right.
I think young people know they’ve got, in Joe Biden, a partner and ally, a leader who is willing to be forward-leaning and fearless and taking on this crisis and unlocking the massive, massive opportunity that sits on the other side of that.
Q And what’s your message to activists who say you have to — you should move beyond the pause to actually reject some of these projects?
MR. ZAIDI: Look, if the question is does the science urge us to find every single way to move as quickly as we can faster and faster each day to take on the climate crisis, it does. It’s code red. That’s what the scientists say.
And in Joe Biden, from literally day one, every single day of this administration, we’ve been creative, innovative, and, I think, intrepid in finding ways to move faster and faster in taking on this crisis.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Last question, Ed.
Q Yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Karine. Thanks, Ali. So, 32 oil and natural gas industry groups have signed on to a letter saying that the pause sends the wrong message to the allies but also that it will push countries specifically in Asia to turn to coal plants when they can’t get that increased LNG, you know, which we’ve seen in India, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Germany when they couldn’t find enough natural gas. So, what’s your response to that criticism?
MR. ZAIDI: I think we’ve got to be really thoughtful about the interaction of energy supply and demand as we manage through a transition to a clean energy future. And look, I hear you. The industry that produces fossil fuels has a perspective on how to manage that supply and demand. So do the industries that populate our economy and economies around the world — folks who are making steel and cement, folks who are making solar panels and batteries, folks who are just focused on delivering good products at a good price.
We’ve got to look at all of those things. That’s part of the department’s analysis: economic and environmental.
And in the meantime, you’ve got a system that is ready to meet our allies and partners where they are, provide that energy security. But we’ve got to do both of these things at the same time: meet our energy security needs and look at the challenge that we face on climate change. That’s what the President has been, I think, uniquely able to do is manage those near-term challenges, be really, really strong in standing with our allies as they work through the challenges that are right in front of them, and then work on this energy transition to a clean energy future.
And, you know, we can — we can sort of go through where different groups are. And that’s exactly — that’s exactly what the Department of Energy process is all about is making sure U.S. manufacturers, U.S. consumers, they’re all at the table, providing the input, providing the analysis so that we can come to the right bottom line.
Q But does the pause then push other countries towards coal?
MR. ZAIDI: That — I don’t think that bears out in fact.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Ali.
MR. ZAIDI: Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Appreciate you. All right. Okay. Now we have the Admiral here, who’s going to — Admiral John Kirby, to be precise — (laughs) — who’s going to give an update on the Middle East.
Go ahead, Admiral.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Karine. I just got a couple of things to get through here with you all.
Today, President Biden spoke with Qatari Amir Sheikh Al-Thani and Egyptian President El-Sisi. As a matter of fact, that second call with President El-Sisi just wrapped up here a little bit ago — to discuss the latest developments in Israel and in Gaza, including our efforts to secure the release of all the hostages taken by Hamas.
Now, we’ll have readouts of those conversations soon, as I think you can expect. But to give a brief update of — of where things are, we continue to do everything we can to facilitate
another hostage deal, just like we did back in November.
Our Coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, is actually returning this afternoon to D.C. from a good set of discussions with counterparts in the region, to include, of course, Qatari officials.
We’re hopeful about progress, but I do not expect — we should not expect any imminent developments. And I certainly won’t get into negotiating here from the podium or speculating about possible outcomes.
Suffice it to say that at every level — from the President right on down — we’re doing everything we can to bring these moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters back home to their — their families.
Our thoughts remain with them and, of course, their loved ones, as well as all the innocent Palestinians that continue to be caught up in this war that Hamas and Mr. Sinwar started on the 7th of October.
Now, shifting topics, if I can, to another part of the world. As you may be tracking, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is in Bangkok today meeting with senior Thai officials and his Chinese counterpart.
Yesterday, Mr. Sullivan had a separate meeting with the Thai Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. In those meetings, Mr. Sullivan reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Thailand treaty alliance and partnership, and discussed opportunities to strengthen cooperation across a range of bilateral and global issues.
And, of course, when he has the opportunity to meet with his Chinese counterpart, it will be a follow-on to the discussions that President Biden had with President Xi over — back in — in San Francisco and to continue to work for ways to — to improve our bilateral relationship, but also to make clear and — and be firm about issues where we don’t always agree with China.
And then, finally, I’d like to just take a moment to welcome Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s application to join NATO this week.
As many of you know, the Turkish parliament voted to approve the articles of ratification on Tuesday. President Erdoğan signed those documents yesterday. And we’re expecting the instruments of ratification to arrive in Washington, D.C., very, very soon to be deposited at the State Department, as per process.
We certainly encourage Hungary to move forward with their process quickly so that the Alliance can welcome Sweden into NATO without further delay.
And with that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Nandita.
Q Thank you, Karine. Kirby, I wanted to ask you about the World Court decision ordering Israel to prevent acts of genocide, but it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire. You have suggested multiple times that South Africa’s claim does not really have merit. And I’m wondering: How does the U.S. repair relations with South Africa, which is a big voice for non-aligned countries in the Global South?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t believe that our disagreement over the founding claim of the allegation causes any permanent damage to the bilateral relationship with South Africa. We just happen to disagree on that point. But we’re also going to keep working to — on that relationship, as we do many others.
Q So, you fundamentally believe the U.S. — they claim that the U.S. is supporting a genocidal state. That is not going to impact relations with South Africa?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t — I don’t believe I heard that from South Africa. South Africa filed a case based on allegations that they believe genocide was being conducted by Israel in Gaza. I don’t believe it was directed at us at all.
We simply have said consistently we find that that — that that claim is — is unfounded. And, you know, the — the court also did not find Israel guilty of genocide.
Q Sorry. One quick question on President Biden’s top migration advisor at the NSC departing the White House next week. How does her departure impact border policy negotiations and asylum talks if (inaudible)?
MR. KIRBY: She — Katie has done an amazing job as — particularly, helping us in the — in our Summit for Democracy and getting the L.A. Declaration on human migration going and really working on a truly hemispheric approach to trying to get at the root causes of migration.
She’s just been absolutely critical. We’re all going to miss her. She’s just a — a great professional and has — has been a true public servant in that regard. And she wants to head on back to Chicago to spend more time with her family, and we — she certainly has earned that after three years with the administration.
I don’t have anything to — personnel announcements to make in terms of who’s going to replace her. But I can assure you that — that we’ll find an appropriate professional to come in and — and take those duties. And I have no doubt that the foundation of the great work that Katie has done will stand as well no matter who comes in behind her.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aamer.
Q Just to follow on the ICG — ICJ. Is the President disappointed that the court did not definitively dismiss the genocide claim?
MR. KIRBY: Actually, I mean, I think the court’s ruling is consistent with many of our — our — many of our positions, ma- — and — and much of the approach that we’ve taken with Israel.
For instance, in, you know, the view that Israel has the right to take action against the terrorists of that — on the October 7th attack; that — that they have an obligation to be mindful of minimizing civilian casualties; that they have an obligation to assist the international community to get humanitarian assistance. And all of these are things that we — that we have been pushing and urging for as well.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q In his phone call today with the Qatari Amir, did the President speak with him at all about these leaked comments from Netanyahu calling the country problematic? And what kind of assurances did he offer?
MR. KIRBY: The main purpose of the call was to continue to discuss the possibilities of another hostage deal and a humanitarian pause that would go along with that.
Q So, you can’t say if that came up?
MR. KIRBY: The main purpose of the call was to talk about the — the possibilities of getting us back into another hostage deal.
Q And the U.N. Relief Agency said that they have fired some of their staff after Israel has accused them of being involved in the Hamas attack. What is the White House thinking on this? I know the State Department have said — has said that they’re suspending aid temporarily. Are there other steps the U.S. is considering taking on this?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, we have suspended any outlying or yet to be allocated funds for — for UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, pending the results of this investigation. We’re obviously going to be watching this very closely.
We welcome the U.N. Secretary-General and the Commissioner-General of UNRWA — their comments today calling for a full investigation.
As Secretary Blinken made clear in his call with the Secretary-General yesterday, we expect that that will be a complete and thorough and transparent investigation — we all want to see that; it’s good for everybody — and that those who are — who are — who — who should be, are properly held accountable for that. And as — as you saw, the U.N. said even including the potential for criminal prosecution.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.
Q Thank you, Karine and Admiral. The death toll in Gaza is staggering, reportedly now more than 26,000. Is there anything at this point that would stop the President from supporting Netanyahu?
MR. KIRBY: We continue to believe that Israel needs to get the support that they need to defend themselves against a — a still viable threat by — by Hamas, an organization that wants to wipe them off the — the map. So, we’re going to continue to support Israel.
At the same time — and we can — we can still continue to urge Israel to be more careful and more precise. We can continue to urge Israel to get more humanitarian assistance in.
Q Does the President still believe his personal diplomacy with Netanyahu is as effective as it was earlier in this war?
MR. KIRBY: It is as vital now as it was on the 7th of October, and I fully expect that you’ll continue to see the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu engage appropriately.
Q So, to clarify, there is no red line, there is no point at which the President would stop his —
MR. KIRBY: I would just tell you —
Q — support?
MR. KIRBY: — that we continue to believe the approach that we’ve been taking — on behalf of Israel to help them, as well as on behalf of the people of Gaza to help them — is — is showing results. And we’re going to continue that approach.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thank you, Karine. And thank you, Admiral. When the President spoke with Netanyahu one week ago, did he press him to scale down the Israeli military option? And did he talk about any timeframes for when he would like that to be done? As an example, the President stressed that he is “not in it for a year of war,” according to reports.
MR. KIRBY: Gee, could it be that you’re referring to some certain press coverage? Huh? I —
Q Can you confirm that?
MR. KIRBY: I cannot. And I’m not going to get into more detail about the call. We gave you a — a pretty fulsome readout. I was up here talking about the call.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and the War Cabinet have a big job in front of them. We’re going to continue to make sure that they have the benefit not only of American security assistance, but American — American advice and counsel, which we have been providing since the very, very beginning.
Q How much of the President’s asks to Netanyahu have to do with his concerns about how the war is impacting his chances of reelection?
MR. KIRBY: It’s not about American asks. It’s a conversation that we’re having with Israeli leaders about how they’re prosecuting this conflict, this war against Hamas. And from the very beginning, we have not been bashful about offering our insights, our perspectives, our lessons learned from our own experience with urban warfare in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and we won’t be bashful going forward.
And does that mean that there are going to be things that maybe we don’t see exactly the same way that the Israelis think — look at it? Yeah, it probably will. It has and it will going forward. That’s what friends can do. That’s what allies can do.
Q But I’m asking how much is the President concerned that this war is impacting his chances of reelection?
MR. KIRBY: The President is concerned about Israel’s right to defend itself from a legitimate terrorist threat. The President is concerned about the humanitarian crisis that’s going on in Gaza right now — people in desperate need of food, water, medicine, and fuel so that they can drink fresh water and — and subsist.
The President is concerned, as I said at the very outset, with the hundred-plus hostages that are still being held by Hamas and other Islamic Jihad groups there in Gaza and making sure that they get home to their families. I mean, my goodness, just today, those two calls — he’s working at this personally at his level to see if we can’t get them home. That’s what he’s concerned about.
He’s not looking at the clock and the electoral calendar. He’s looking at the clock in terms of the lives that are at risk in Gaza right now: hostage lives, Palestinian lives, and — you know what? — even Israeli Defense Force lives because they keep taking casualties. That’s the clock he’s worried about.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Patsy.
Q Thank you, Karine. John, this ICJ ruling, it’s going to be part of a global conversation on this conflict. Does it — does the ruling and the subsequent proceeding — will it impact U.S. policy or messaging at all?
MR. KIRBY: Policy or messaging on — on what?
Q On the conflict in Gaza. I mean, I know that you’ve stated — or the statement that said that this goes in line with what you’ve been saying.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah
Q But going forward, do you believe that it will change — it will sway the President one way or —
MR. KIRBY: It gets hard — it’s hard to see that. I mean, I think we’ll have to watch this — this is obviously just the — a provisional order by the court. We’ll have to watch how the process plays out.
But it’s difficult to see that it alone is going to change the approach. As I said, the President believes the approach we have been taking has been getting results. And we’re going to keep at that.
Q And I understand that the ICJ order does not call for a ceasefire, but more than 150 countries have. And more than 1,300 Americans scholars and the majority of American voters are also calling for a ceasefire. So, how would you respond to criticism that President Biden, at this point, is really out of touch with what Americans want and also what the U.S. — what the world demands of U.S. leadership on this issue?
MR. KIRBY: The President would like this war to end too. He would like to see the people of Gaza, the Palestinian people, live in peace and security. He believes in that too.
And we are pushing for pauses in the fighting so that we can get hostages out and — and aid in. I mean, absolutely.
We don’t believe that right now a general ceasefire is the best approach. But that doesn’t mean that the President isn’t respectful of the wide range of views out there or — or the desire to — to end the violence and end the war. Of course, he doesn’t want to see the war go on one more day than it — than it needs to go on.
But it — but they do face a very viable — continued viable threat from Hamas that they have every right and responsibility to go after.
Q And just really quickly on the Jake Sullivan meeting. What was Jake’s message to Wang Yi on Taiwan? Was there anything new that was conveyed, anything that’s more urgent in light of Beijing’s intimidation — increased intimidation on Taiwan?
MR. KIRBY: As far as I know, the discussions with Wang Yi are just beginning and ongoing. So, I mean, I can’t talk about it in the past tense. And I’m sure when Jake gets back, we’ll be able to give you a little bit better sense.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Sabrina.
Q Thank you. The fact of the matter is that ICJ has not dismissed the allegations of — against Israel, wi- — with respect to genocide. They do believe that those allegations warrant further investigation and deliberation. So, do you stand by the words that you used earlier this month to characterize those allegations — that they are “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever”?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, ma’am.
Q And what are you basing that off of if the U.N.’s top court believes that there is a plausible risk of genocide? They’re specifically directing Israel to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide and, again, have not —
MR. KIRBY: It was not found that they are committing genocide.
Q But they — they do — they are not dismissing the case.
MR. KIRBY: And we have not found —
Q And they do believe —
MR. KIRBY: — that they are committing genocide. We have no indication that that’s — that that’s going on, Sabrina. And we have no indication that they are deliberately trying to exterminate the people of Gaza.
Q Well, the ICJ specifically cited inflammatory statements that were made by Israel’s defense minister, referring to human — Gazans as “human animals,” the President of Israel saying the entire population of Gaza is responsible. Do you not see that as risking incitement?
MR. KIRBY: Comments like that are certainly also counterproductive and unhelpful. No question about that. But we haven’t seen indications that the Israeli Defense Forces are getting up out of the rack every day, putting their boots on the floor, and saying that they’re designed — their whole effort is to go exterminate the Palestinian people. They’re trying to eliminate the threat that Hamas poses.
I want to be very clear — and I know I’ve said this a million times, and you’re all probably sick of me following up on this — but that doesn’t mean that we excuse any single innocent life lost. The right number of civilian casualties is zero.
But there’s no indication that we’ve seen that validates a claim of genocidal intent or action by the Israeli Defense Forces.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.
Q Thank you. John, you said this month about the UNRWA, “You can’t hold them accountable for the depredations of Hamas.” How about now?
MR. KIRBY: Certainly, it — it looks as if, Peter — and again, there’s an investigation going on, so I’ll be careful — but it certainly looks as if there’s cause to be concerned about the actions of some of the members of UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. But that does not, nor should it, impugn the entire agency and the entire — all the body of work that they’re doing.
They have helped save literally thousands of lives in Gaza. They do important work. Doesn’t mean that there aren’t some folks in that group that — that need to be punished for, potentially, these kinds of behavior. But that doesn’t impugn the entire organization.
Q That’s bad, though. If there are 12 people who are accused —
MR. KIRBY: It’s bad — it’s bad if there’s one. It’s bad if there’s one.
Q That’s bad. And the U.S. is giving them money. How much money?
MR. KIRBY: We have suspended the — they have su- — we have suspended —
Q How much before the suspension?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have the dollar figures here, Peter.
Q John —
MR. KIRBY: It — I’ll take the question and get back to you. But we have suspended unallocated funds pending the outcome of the investigation.
Q Who does this White House vet? Because we know that people coming across the southern border are not vetted. Now we know that people that are getting hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. money are not being vetted. So, who do you guys check out?
MR. KIRBY: It’s — it’s interesting that you’re combining the two — the border and this. But let’s just — let me — let me — just give me a second.
It’s not like — it’s not like we don’t have a process at the border. And there is a challenge there. And the President does want to get more Border Patrol agents. But this idea that just there’s no vetting and there’s no proper immigration enforcement going on at the border just does not — does not comport with reality.
There’s — a lot of work needs to be done to get better at that. But that’s — put that aside, because that has nothing to do and you know it has nothing to do with UNRWA —
Q (Inaudible) big picture —
MR. KIRBY: — and Gaza.
Q — of what this administration is doing and how —
MR. KIRBY: It is a U.N. —
Q — resources are being used.
MR. KIRBY: It is a U.N. agency. And, yes, we have contributed to their work. And that work has been meaningful, and it has been important in places like Gaza. But we also are willing to hold them accountable for this particular incident and before the pa- — alleged behavior by these particular employees.
Q So —
MR. KIRBY: And as I’ve said — wait, just give me a second now. As I said, we want this investigation to be complete and thorough and transparent. And if it — if the — if in the investigation it’s determined that people need to be held accountable, then obviously we want to see that too.
Q But up until today, the U.S. policy then has been: We don’t negotiate with terrorists, but we will give them hundreds of millions of dollars.
MR. KIRBY: Come on, now. That’s — that’s conflating here. This is not — you’re — you’re — that’s like saying the whole UNRWA is a terrorist organization. You know who is a terrorist organization? Hamas, not UNRWA.
Now, if they have — if the investigation proves that — in this case, I think it’s about a dozen employees were assisting Hamas, and even to the point of maybe even, you know, involved in hostage taking, then absolutely, they need to be held to account.
And we will — although we’ve already suspended any additional allocations to UNRWA, we’ll certainly consider additional — you know, what it — depending on the investigation, whether that requires any additional changes in the way we support UNRWA going forward.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Asma.
Q Thank you. I’d like to ask about the logistics of moving people from, kind of, place to place within Southern Gaza. We have reports that the Israeli military ordered evacuations from Khan Yunis and some of the places where people had already moved to. What is the guidance for where these Gazans are — go at this point?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t know that I’m qualified to — to speak to that. I mean, the — the Israeli Defense Forces have been doing the best that they can to try to inform people about where to go and where not to go and — and where safe passage is.
But I’m not — we’re not privy to that process. And I — I don’t think it’s an appropriate question for me to answer.
Q Okay. One —
MR. KIRBY: What we do just in general — I want to make sure — that they have provided safe corridors and safe passage for people to get out of harm’s way. They — they’ve done that in the past. Our expectation is that they should do that going forward.
Q And I wanted to go back to something that Selina had asked earlier about the relationship between Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. Is there a sense thus far that the advice that you are giving, I guess, is being counseled and heard and listened to?
And I guess I ask this in part because we’ve had, you know, in our ear, someone like Senator Chris Van Hollen, who has been rather outspoken that it seems like Netanyahu is — is not really abiding by the respect and guidance that has been given by this administration.
And so, is it your sense that he’s listening? And if not, how do you adjust or change behavior if there are no consequences?
MR. KIRBY: We believe that the — the Israeli War Cabinet and the Israeli Defense Forces have been receptive to our advice and counsel on our lessons and perspectives. And we know that in many cases, it’s led to actual changes on the ground — opening up Kerem Shalom, providing safe passage from the north to the south when they were operating in the north, moving in on the north in smaller forces than they were, relying less on airstrikes. I could go on and on.
They have been receptive to a lot of the things that we’ve wanted to see them do. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to see eye to eye on everything and every aspect of the way they’re prosecuting this operation — their operation. They are a sovereign nation.
We provide our advice and counsel on the lessons learned. They have to make these decisions, and they have to answer for the decisions that they’re making or unmaking. That’s really for them to speak to. But we are confident that we have the connective tissue with our Israeli counterparts to be able to provide that perspective.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Aurelia.
Q Thank you so much. I have a question on Haiti. So, today, a court in Kenya blocked the government’s decision to send police forces —
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q — to Haiti as part of an international mission.
MR. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q So, the — the administration has been very supportive of that move. So, what are the next steps here? Are there alternatives? What are the next steps for Haiti?
MR. KIRBY: As we understand it, the government of Kenya is appealing that — that court decision, and I think I’d let — let it stand there. That’s really for them to speak to. It’s an internal legal and judicial process in Kenya.
We still — we’re still very grateful for the government of Kenya’s willingness to participate in a multilateral — multinational, sorry, security posture there in Haiti. We still think that’s really important because the — the gangs and the thugs and the criminals are still causing a lot of chaos, mayhem, killing, violence. And the people of Haiti deserve a whole lot better than that.
So, we’re still supportive of the mission set, but I’ll let the government of Kenya speak to this appeal.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thank you. Thank — thank you. Admiral —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, this gentleman right here.
Go ahead, sir.
Q Thank you. Coming back to Taiwan, Taiwan’s defense ministry has reported that, since December 7th, 54 Chinese balloons crossed the median line, roughly half of those entered Taiwan’s airspace, and 16 crossed over the island. Are you aware of these incursions? And what do you think is the purpose?
MR. KIRBY: Yeah, we — we’re aware that there were some of these surveillance balloons that were flown, particularly in — before and around the time of the election. And, as I said at the time, these are questions that the Chinese government need to answer — what was the purpose and — and what they were doing.
I don’t — we — it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to answer that question. Clearly, we made — at the time, asserted that there should be no interference in the people of Taiwan’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Janne.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Karine. And thank you, John. I have two questions. It is known that North Korea is planning to (inaudible) provocations for targeting this year’s general election in the South Korea and the presidential election in the United States. What are the United States’ pre- — preparedness measures for the possibility of North Korea intervening in the elections?
MR. KIRBY: No foreign actor, state or no- — or — or non-state should interfere in our elections, period. And we’re going to be just as vigilant in this election cycle as we have been in past about doing what we can to identify and thwart any attempts for election interference.
Q Based on the North Korea’s missile pro- — provocations so far, do you believe that North Korea actually has the ability to attack the United States?
MR. KIRBY: I think I’ll refrain from getting into intelligence assessments. We know that the North Koreans continue to pursue advanced capabilities, including ballistic missile capabilities, that — that they want to ha- — they want to be able to achieve long-range outcomes.
And I think — but, look, obviously, we’re going to do what we have to do to make sure we can protect the United States, protect our allies and partners. And the President has devoted more capabilities into the region and has worked really hard with our counterparts in Japan and South Korea, particularly on trilateral cooperation, to be able to defend ourselves.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Got to start wrapping up. Go ahead, Nadia, in the back.
Q Thank you, Karine. Back on the ICJ. I want to follow up on Sabrina’s question. There is a ruling that says 15 to 2 that Israel should not destroy evidence of crimes against Palestinians. Do you agree with that ruling, at least? Number one.
MR KIRBY: Again, without — making it clear that we haven’t seen such crimes and we’ve seen no indication of such crimes, obviously we respect the court’s role as an arbiter of — of solving peaceful disputes. And we would not want to see anybody, should there be that kind of evidence in any situation, move to destroy that evidence.
Q Okay. And all of the collective incidents that we’ve been asking you over the month, whether it’s a civilian who was carrying a white flag that’s being shot dead, whether desecrating of graves, whether journalists who’ve been killed or targeted, can you tell us, when you said that you relayed this message to the Israelis, how can we get some kind of accountability? How can we get answers for all these questions that, collectively, you call “incidents” and you cannot comment on each individual incident?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not really sure how you want me to answer the question, so I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before. We’re not going to react in real time to every single event. When we —
Q But my question — sorry. My question is: Do you relay this to the Israelis? Do we — can we get an answer from you about the Israelis been responding — whether they are really responding to you positively and they’re saying, “We are aware of this, and we’re investigating it,” et cetera? Do you get an answer for us, from them?
MR. KIRBY: To the — to the best of our ability, if we have something that — that we can speak to in terms of what the Israelis are doing, I’ll do- — we’ll do that. But it is really for the Israelis to speak to their operations and what they’re doing and — and if they investigate what their investigation is finding.
Doesn’t mean that we’re going to be bashful about speaking out if we have concerns. We’ve done that in the past. We’ll do — we’ll do that in the future.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Brian.
Q Thanks, John. On Hungary’s bid — on Hungary holding up Sweden’s bid for NATO. Is the President — what’s the President’s understanding for why Hungary hasn’t approved Sweden’s bid for NATO?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t know that we agree necessarily that, you know, Hungary is holding it up. I mean, they’ve already indicated that they’re going to move on this. And, as I said in my opening statement, we urge him to do that quickly now that Turkey has.
So, we’re — we’re very, very optimistic that Sweden will soon become the newest NATO member. And — and Hungary has said that they aren’t going to be the holdup, quite frankly.
Q Is — is the President aware of any demands that Hungary has made before it moves the process forward?
MR. KIRBY: I’m not — I’m not aware of any specific demands made by — by Hungary. Again, they have said clearly that they’re not going to be the holdup, and we urge them to move quickly now that Turkey has.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Monica. Last question.
Q Thank you so much. Admiral, we know that Director Burns is traveling to Europe for these potential hostage talks. But you said at the beginning of your remarks that we shouldn’t expect any imminent developments on that front. So, is that your way of just lowering expectations for any outcome? Is it —
MR. KIRBY: No, that’s just my way of being honest with you about where we are in the process. I mean, I’d love nothing better than to be able to stand up here on a Friday afternoon and tell you, you know, we’re — we’re there. We’re not. And it would be irresponsible for me to — to say otherwise.
What I’m hoping you get away — and I won’t speak to the CIA Director’s travel one way or the other. But what I hope you take away from all the work we’ve been doing in recent days and weeks, including the phone calls that the President had today, is how seriously we’re taking the issue, how hard we’re working to try to see if another hostage deal can be put in place.
Q And is there anything else the NSC can share on the Russian plane crash that was carrying those Ukrainian POWs?
MR. KIRBY: I’m afraid I don’t have additional context or information to — to share on that, just we’re watching this and we’re — we’re certainly interested in getting as much information as we can. But I don’t have anything more.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you so much, Admiral. Thank you. Have a good weekend.
MR. KIRBY: You too.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Got a couple minutes. Aamer.
Q Thanks. Speaker Johnson said in a letter today if the details of the Senate deal were true, it — (coughs) — excuse me — it would be dead on arrival in the House. So, how do you go forward with the Sen- — Senate legislation knowing it can’t pass the House? Are — are negotiators trying to make adjustments to make it more palatable to House Republicans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, the administration has been working for some time now with the Senate to work in a bipartisan way with Republicans and Democrats to find a solution, to find a way to deal with a broken immigration system and, obviously, the challenges that we’re seeing at the border. And we feel that it’s been happening in a — in a good-faith — good-faith nature.
And these — these negotiations about policy changes, obviously, and also funding resources, that will be important in dealing with that issue.
Look, House Republicans, they have a choice to make, right? They have to choose whether they want to solve a problem — actually solve a problem, like the Senate is trying to do in a bipartisan way, and — or, you know, get in the way and score political points.
That’s a decision that House Republicans have to make. It’s clear that senators, both Republicans and Democrats, have made their decision. They have said, “We’re going to do this. We’re going to try and figure out — negotiate in good faith and try to figure out how do we come to a bipartisan agreement.”
And, you know, the — the President has been very clear. He asked in his supplemental request what he needed — what he think we needed as a country, what was the emergency ask that he had for our country in a nat- — as it relates to our national security.
House Republicans, they have to choose: Do they want to help, or do they want to score political points?
Q Okay. And then just one thing quickly. The year anniversary of the East Palestine derailment is, I think, about a week away now. When is he going to go? And is — you know, it’s been almost a year.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Is this becoming more of a hindrance to the President and a sign of, almost, insensitivity by not going?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not sure it’s a — it’s a sign — I wouldn’t say it’s a sign of insensitivity. Let’s be clear here. From the moment — the day of the derailment that we saw in Eas- — East Palestine and what the community had to deal with, within hours — within hours, we’ve had federal assistance, federal employees on the ground — within hours. And that was because of this President — right? — because he understood what that community would be going through.
So, he was — he was ver- — we were proactive. And we got folks there within hours. We’re talking about EPA, Department of Transportation, talking about FEMA, HHS, CDC. And we’ve been on the ground — folks have been on the ground sin- — since that day — since that day. And this is a whole-of-government approach — whole-of-government approach.
So — and the President is going to continue to ask Congress to act. Obviously, there’s a rail safety act that needs to be strengthened. And the President is going to continue to do that.
As it relates to the President’s trip, if — obviously, don’t have anything to announce at this time. When it is — when it is appropriate or helps — help the community for him to be there, obviously, he will be there. He’s done that.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in a rural area, urban area, suburban area, red state, blue state, the President has always been there to — to as- — to — to assist and be there for the community. So, when it is helpful, he certainly will do that.
But I want to — you know, you asked the question about insensitivity. But the President did do exactly what the community wanted him to do — that was right for the community — was give assistance within hours of the derailment.
And we’re holding — let’s not forget, we’re going to hold accountable Norfolk
Suffolk [Southern], like we are going to make sure that they — they actually, you know, stay to account what they caused on the ground with this derailment.
Go ahead, M.J.
Q Thank you, Karine. Back to the border negotiations. Can you share anything about where the President stands on scaling back his parole authority?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I want to be —
Q Is that a —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I —
Q — red line?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no. I hear you. And I — and I get — I get the — the red lines and I get where we stand maybe policy-wise on particular issues.
There are negotiations happening, as you know. You hear me say this almost every time I’ve been at the — at the podium for the past month or two as we talked about this. But we want to be careful because we want to give them the space to have a good-faith conversation, to have a good-faith negotiations about what policy — real policy changes, you know, subs- — you know, I won’t say “subst-” — “substantial” — but real, meaningful policy changes that they can make to deal with the broken system that we see in the immigration system.
I just don’t want to get into characterizing or laying out or — or, you know, thinking through what our policies are any — are on particular issues, because we just don’t want to get in the way of that.
The moment I say something, the moment it goes into the room of the negotiations. And we just don’t want to do that.
Q Okay. Got it. And then, does the President have any response to at least 25 Republican governors signing a joint statement supporting Texas in its standoff with the U.S. at the border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s what I would say. My message to those — how many governors in that letter?
Q I believe it’s 25 —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Twenty-five governors.
Q — at least.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would say to them that — are they Re- — you said Republican governors?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I would say to them that if they truly want to help with — with the issue at the border, with the immigration system, that they need to talk to their — they need to talk to the congressional members, the senators in their state. That’s what they need to do. They need to ask them to make sure that they have the resources they need within their respective states to take action — right? — to actually deal with a broken system.
The way that we deal with this is legislatively. The way that we deal with this is for Congress to act. And so, that’s what those 25 Republican governors need to do.
They ne- — they really want to help? They really want assist? They really want to see change with the immigration system? They really want to fix the challenges that we see at the border? Then they should talk to their senators and the conger- — and their congressmen or congresswomen who are in their states. That’s how we get this doing — going.
And we are appreciative of the senators right now, both Republican and Democrats, who are doing just that. And we want to come to a bi- — bipartisan agreement.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Monica.
Q Last night, Alabama executed a man with nitrogen gas, which is the first time that that new method has been used. I’m wondering if the White House has any reaction to that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we do. The reports of Kenneth Smith and the — and his death last night, obviously, is troubling. It is very troubling to us as an administration. It is very troubling to us here at the White House. It underscores why the President support the — support the Attorney General’s mora- — moratorium on federal death penalty, pending review of the policies and procedures governing its use.
The President has — long had said and has had deep — deep, deep concerns with how the death penalty is implemented and whether it is consistent — consistent with our — our values.
So, we are deeply troubled by it, by what we he- — by — about Kenneth Smith’s death. And so, you know, it is just troubling to hear.
Go ahead, Selina.
Q Thank you, Karine. How concerned is President Biden about Trump weighing in on these border negotiations, especially considering how much influence he has over the Republican Party? Does he think it’s appropriate?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, that’s for the Republican Party to speak to. Seriously. It — I mean — I want to be really mindful, because that’s candidate Trump speaking, right? So, I want to be careful — there’s upcoming elections, as you hear me say as often as I can. Got to be careful, as a federal employee. There’s something called the Hatch Act, as you all know. So, don’t want to comment specifically on — on him.
But, look, there is a real issue, a real challenge at the border. There truly is. The President understands that. The President has said that himself. And we know that the immigration system is broken, and it has been for decades now.
We want to get that done. We want to fix that. We want to take steps to get to a place where we can — we can deal with the issues at hand. And that’s why he put forth, on his first day, a comprehensive immigration policy.
The President is taking this very seriously. He’s taking this very seriously on behalf of the American people.
Q But in terms of what’s happening right now, is the President concerned that politics is getting in the way, given the circumstances here, what he was just saying about what Speaker Johnson had said? How can there still be optimism that this can move forward (inaudible) —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s optimism because what we have seen in the Senate are Republicans and Democrats coming together in a bipartisan way to find an agreement. That is optimism. That is optimism. This has been happening for the past couple of weeks, couple of months now. And we feel that is an optimistic look on, you know, both — folks from both sides of the aisle coming together and having those negotiation conversation on real ways to fix the problem — to fix the broken immigration system.
So, yeah, I think that’s — and — you know, you all — you all see this, in the way that politics is today, the fact that we’re seeing that in the Senate, that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.
And I already said, House has to make a decision — they have to make a decision — House Republicans have to make a decision if they want to be part of the solution or part of the problem.
Q Has the President spoken with McConnell since inviting him to the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any calls to read out. As you know, as you just laid out, they were here just last week. And this was obviously a conversation — the border — border security was a conversation for — in during that meeting. Obviously, it was about Ukraine and getting that all-important, continued funding for Ukraine.
But obviously, that came up. I just don’t have anything else to read out.
But I would say, folks here in our administration, and ov- — obviously the Office of Leg Affairs have been in constant communication with senators — senators over the border security bipartisan agreement negotiation. And so that has continued and that will continue.
Go ahead, Karen.
Q Thanks. A couple of questions on artificial intelligence. There were fake sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift all over social media this week, likely generated by AI. How concerned is the White House about the misuse of this kind of technology? And does the White House want to see Congress move forward on legislation that would make sharing, posting images like that a federal crime?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m glad you asked that question, because it is alarming. We are alarmed by the reports of the — of the circulation of images that you just laid out — false images, to be more exact, and it is alarming.
So, while social media companies make their own independent decisions about content management, we believe they have an important role to play in enforcing — enforcing their own rules to prevent the spread of misinformation and nonconsensual, intimate imagery of real people.
Sadly — sadly, though, too often, we know that lax enforcement disproportionately impacts women and they also impact girls, sadly, who are the overwhelming targets — the overwhelming targets of online hara- — harassment and also abuse.
So, the President is committed, as you know, to ensuring we reduce the risk of gener- — generative AI producing images, like through his latest executive order that we announced just — just in the fall of last year.
So, this problem is not new. And it’s one that the Biden-Harris administration has been prioritizing since day one. We have taken this very seriously. Again, this is alarming to us.
You — as you know, he launched a task force to address online harassment and abuse. And he did that just this fall. The Department of Justice launched the first national 24/7 helpline for survivors of image-based sexual abuse.
And so, our commitment and that we will continue to do and continue to take action and make sure that we continue to work on this.
And, again, this is very alarming. And so, we’re going to do what we can to deal with this issue.
Q Should there be legislation, too, moving forward?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, there — there should be legislation, obviously, to deal with this issue. But as I just stated, the President is taking action — whether it is a task force, whether it’s Department of Justice doing what it’s can with the 20 — 24/7 online assistance. And so, we’re going to continue to do what we can from here.
Of course, Congress should take — should take legislative action. That’s how you deal with some of these issues, obviously. But, you know, it is alarming to us, and we’re going to continue to do what we can from the federal government.
AIDE: We got to (inaudible).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Francesca.
Q Thanks, Karine. Following up on the border talks. I assume there have been no conversations with Speaker Johnson since they were at the White House either.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t — I don’t have any conversations to read out since last week.
Q Okay. Sure. And in his letter —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It would be just over the last week.
Q — in his letter today, he also said that House Republicans would move forward next week with impeaching Secretary Mayorkas. Given these strong differences of opinion on the border, how realistic is it really that there is a deal that it can even pass — that would pass the Senate and the House at this point?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we have to be optimistic because there is actually conversations happening in the Senate — there are — in a bipartisan way. Right? And so, we feel confident about that.
It’s been happening in good faith. Right? In order to have negotiations, you have to have it in good faith, and that’s what we believe. There has been progress in their conversations.
And so, we are optimistic about that. Now, as I stated moments ago, multiple times already in this past couple of minutes, House — House Republicans have to make a decision here. They have had to make a decision on if they want to be part of the solution or part of the problem. That’s on them. That is on them.
I’ll say one thing about the impeachment of Mayorkas or the proceedings to impeach Mayorkas: It is shameful. It is shameful that’s how they want to use their time to — you know, wasteful time to — to try to impeach Secretary Mayorkas. I think it is shameful.
And what they should do — they should do, which is the premise of your question, is work with us, work with Democrats, work with Republicans, you know, work with the senators who are actually trying to do something to find a solution.
Q Does the White House believe that House Republicans are intentionally dragging out these negotiations until after November’s election?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: House Republican — which negotiations?
Q On the border — on border security.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, they’re not even —
Q That they want them to drag out until —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — I mean —
Q — until after the election.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, they have a choice to make. The negotiations right now are happening in the Senate. They’re working towards a bipartisan agreement, and we appreciate that. They’ve been happening in good faith. We think it’s headed in the right direction. They’ve been doing it for the past couple of weeks — past almost months now. And so, we think that’s important.
House Republicans have a decision to make. They do. They have a decision to make.
Q If I could go back to the execution from last night. Could you talk in a little bit more specifics about what exactly the White House finds so troubling about it? Was it the prolonged death and the pain? And then also, did President Biden himself have a reaction to this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have not spoken to the President about this. So, I — I don’t have a reaction for — for you on him specifically.
But, obviously, the President has spoken to this. This President has spoken to this — he’s spoken to how it is — it is indeed — he had deep concerns with how the death penalty is more broadly, right? The death penalty is something that he has deep concerns, and he feels like is implement — when it — the way it’s implemented, it — and he questions — right? — deep concerns on whether it is — whether it is consistent with our values. So, that is something for sure that he’s been consistent about.
It is troubling — the — you know, the use of nitrogen gas. Of course, it is troubling — it is troubling to us.
And so, there’s been a moratorium from the Attorney General on federal death penalty — a pending review. We need to look into this pending review of the policies and procedures.
And so, yes, there’s a more broad — more broad, obviously, concern of the death penalty. And the President has been very consistent about that, has been very clear about that.
Q Thank you, Karine. Just back to the border. Does the administration think Texas is failing to comply with court orders around the placement and removal of razor wire?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I mean, the Supreme Court is the highest, you know, law — you know, court of the land. It is. And they made a ruling.
And, you know, on Tuesday, as — as you guys probably saw, DHS sent a — Texas a letter outlining the access Border Patrol needs in Shelby Park, for example, to do their jobs and demanding Texas confirm this access will be honored. Border Patrol needs to have access in order to do their job. They just do.
And, you know, what we’re seeing from Governor Abbott — you’ve heard me say this over and over again — they’re making harder — they’re making it harder — he’s making it harder for Border Patrol to do their jobs. They need access. They need access. And right now, they don’t have that.
And it’s under the Constitution of the United States, a federal law is the supreme law of the land, and any conflicting state is preempted. That’s the law.
Q So, you think they’re failing to comply with the court’s orders?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, it’s the law. It is literally the law. I mean, they — you know, it is the law.
And we are — what we want is Border Patrol to be able to do their job. And right now, Governor Abbott is getting in the way.
And you saw it — you see it — DHS sent a letter on this. I would refer you to their let- — to — to what they wrote.
Q Is DHS still trying to work with the Texas National Guard?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, DHS wants the Border Patrol agents to have access. They want them to be able to do their job so that they can follow the law. In order — when Border Patrol is trying to have access to that — to that area, they’re actually trying to enforce the law. That’s what they’re trying to do. And Governor Abbott is getting in the way of that.
And so, they’re trying to do their job, enforce the law, and make sure that, you know, they — they are able to — to do what they are meant to be doing as Border Patrol agents.
Q So they’re communicating with the Texas National Guard?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I would ref- — I — honestly, I would refer you to the DHS on communication. I’m not — I’m not tracking every communication that they’re having. What I’m saying more broadly, which is true, which is Border Patrol needs to be able to do their job, and they’re getting in the way of that.
Q And — and just a quick one on the border talks. We understand — we and others have reported that the White House has said that they would accept limiting parole at the border as a condition in the Senate border talks. Can you confirm?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I cannot confirm that from here. I’m going to let the negotiators have their — their process, go through their process. We appreciate — we think it’s happening in good faith. We think there’s been progress. And we want to see a bipartisan agreement here.
Go ahead, Asma.
Q Karine, if I can also go back to the death penalty. I just wanted to seek clarification on the administration’s position broadly on this, because I do know that federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the Buffalo shooting incident that, of course, was a horrific tragedy. But I wanted to understand: Is it the administration’s position that the death penalty as a whole should not occur? And if so, how do you reconcile —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So —
Q — that with the Justice Department’s case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s — what I will say is there is a moratorium currently — right? — on the federal executions while the Department of Justice is reviewing — right? — they are reviewing this process, reviewing the policies, reviewing procedures governing in this — in the use. And I think that’s what’s important.
And the President always has had deep concerns with how the death penalty is implemented. He always has.
So, there is a moratorium. There’s a review happening. We’re going to let the review continue via the — obviously, the Attorney General’s Office.
Q Does the administration support the seeking of the death penalty in the Buffalo case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There — there is a moratorium. There’s a review on that. I’m just going to leave it to that. I’m not going to speak to any particular case at this point in time.
Go ahead, Gerren.
Q Thanks, Karine. A recent Joint Center for Housing Studies report from Harvard found that a record half of U.S. renters are renting — their rent is, like, t- — more expensive than they can actually afford. And for those considered to be most burdened — obviously, Black and Latino households — they’re paying as much as 50 percent of their earnings on — on rent, and rent is still higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Considering some of these successes that the White House has lifted up, whether it be the GDP report or this recent inflation report, how do you weigh that success compared to this type of data where renters are — are clearly needing relief?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let’s talk through the Harvard study for a second. It goes through the end of 2022. So, I want to be clear about that.
And over the course of 2023, this past year, we saw incomes rise faster than prices and many market-based measures of rents stabilize, which I think is important to note.
But we know that housing, you know, affordability remains a challenge for — for families, as you just laid out, families –in particular, poor families, Black and brown communities, obviously.
And so, while for decades there has been no action at — at all, as we — as we talk about housing affordability, and this President has taken some action to — making sure that we’re lowering housing costs — a couple of things: putting policies in place to build more housing, for example; reducing mortgage insurance premiums by 800 bucks per year for hundreds of thousands of first-time buy- — homebuyers; expanding rental assistance; and taking on unfair junk fees that drive up the cost of rent.
So, those are actions that we have taken. Remember, there’s been inaction on this for decades, but the President has taken some action.
So, we have a plan that — that the President put forward on continuing to low- — lower housing costs. And so, we want to House Republicans — you know, Republicans more broadly in Congress to take action. There’s ways to — to really deal with this in a legislative fashion. And so, we want them to take action.
There’s a plan that the President put forward. And so, look, we’re going to do what we can from here, but we need Congress to act.
Go ahead, Kirstin.
Q Yes. Thank you. This week, some senators say they’re planning to hold hearings that would investigate the root causes of safety lapses at Boeing after this most recent incident. And, of course, this isn’t the first time that the Boeing Max program has faced review. With all that said, has the administration considered expanding its quality control inspections for other Boeing planes? And if so, what could that scope look like?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. As you know, safety is the number-one priority for FAA. So, that’s important to note.
And let’s not forget, FAA actually recently launched an investigation and increased its oversight on Boeing. So, that’s also important to note.
This week, the FAA informed Boeing that it will not grant any production expansion of Max, including the 737-9 Max. And additionally, added to that, the FAA approved a thorough inspection and maintenance process that must be performed on each grounded Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft.
And so, any specifics on that, obviously, you would have to go to FAA to get more information on those particular things. But there is an investigation. FAA has launched one. We want to make sure that — we want to make sure that safety — when it comes, obviously, to flying — is safe. That is their number-one priority.
Q Is the administration satisfied with what Boeing has done so far?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, there’s an investigation. We’re going to let the investigation move forward.
Obviously, FAA is on top of this. And so, we’re just going to — I don’t want to get ahead of — of that — of — of what’s currently at hand right now.
Go ahead, Jared.
Q Given the urgency on the Ukraine aid portion that I know the President has been pressing upon members of Congress and where they are in talks on the border and immigration, has there been any consideration or is there a thought that at a certain point in time, these two issues are going to have to be separated from the supplemental?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We are — very much continue to be where we’ve been for the past couple of months since the President put forward his supplemental — his national security supplemental back in October, which is — this supplemental ask is — all of it is important. All of it. And we want Congress to act on every part of the request that the President has made.
We’re having these border security negotiations in the Senate in a bipartisan way. We want to come up with an agreement. But border security was also, obviously, in the supplemental.
So, that is where we’re focused on. We’re focused on moving all of the supplemental request that’s been asked by this President that was asked back in October. That has not changed.
Q So, there’s not a concern that as these talks continue and even make progress that you’re going to run out of time to kind of get Ukraine what it needs?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think — I mean, look, I think you’ve heard from NSC, you’ve heard from the Admiral: We’ve already run out of time. We have. As it as it relates to Ukraine, you know, the funding for — for Ukraine ended last year — at the end of last year. So, we have.
And we’ve seen what Putin has done — right? — he continues to — the barrage, the attacks on Ukraine has just intensified. It’s intensified.
And so, that is what — that’s been the consequence of the lack of action. So, we have to continue to work with Congress and — and be very clear with Congress. That’s why the President brought — one of the main reasons the President had every — had the leaders — some of the leaders and committee chairs here last week and ranking members here last week is to talk about Ukraine funding and how important it is that Ukraine has the funding that they need and the security assistance that they need to defend themselves against — against Putin’s aggression — and what that means not just for their national security and their democracy, but for our national security too.
We know very well what happens if you don’t stop a dictator. We’ve seen history. If you don’t stop a dictator, what could happen? Right? And so, the President has been very clear about that: We need to help Ukraine.
Q And I guess that’s what my question is: Why not separate the two then if —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re — right now, we’re moving in a fashion where we want to see the President — national security supplemental move forward. There is a reason — and I said this moments ago — there is a reason why the President puts forth a supplemental plan — right? — it’s because he sees it as an emergency. He sees it as an important request on behalf of the American people.
Go ahead, Toluse.
Q Thanks, Karine. President Trump — former President Trump yesterday said that he was encouraging all states to send their National Guard troops to the border to help Texas and to move migrants back across the border. Do you have any response to this effort to have states take on federal immigration policies?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I’ve been pretty clear about — you know, these states, if they really want to help and assist, if they want to help get more resources, to — to deal with the border — the challenges at the border, they should be calling on their senators and representatives to join the administration of working in a bipartisan agreement to get that done. That’s our message. That’s what we’ll tell all the governors — the Republican governors, obviously, in particular.
Look, Border Patrol needs — they need res- — they need resources. They need to be able to have these resources to do their jobs.
The immigration system has been broken for decades. You hear me saying this over and over again — not just me. It is the truth; it is a fact. And so, in order to deal with this, we need policy changes. We need funding and resources.
So, that’s what we would tell them. We would tell these governor — Republican governors to talk to their representative, call on them to take action — call on them to take action.
I know I have to —
Q Can you speak to President Biden’s relationship with Governor Abbott? I know there has been a lot of back-and-forth — there are court cases. How is that relationship, and what can you say about it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, you know, they’ve — they’ve had opportunities to meet a couple of times. The President has been in Texas. You’ve seen it for themselves — for yourselves how they have engaged with one another.
And, you know, we’ve been very — we will not shy away from calling out what we see as political games from the governor because it is not safe. It does not protect our communities. It’s not — it doesn’t help Border Patrol to do their jobs. So, we will continue to call that out. That’s not going to hold us back.
But the President — you know, he is a president for all Americans. You know, it’s not about the governor of Texas. It’s about the people of Texas, because — you hear me say this, and he has said this — he’s gov- — he’s a governor for — I mean, he’s a president — pardon me — for red states, blue states. And that’s who he cares about. He cares about the people of Texas and the American people more broadly across the country.
I know I have to — I have to start — I have to start going.
Go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah, go ahead.
Q Thank you so much. In the letter that you mentioned that DHS sent to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, they asked, you know, Texas to give CBP full access to Shelby Park by today. As of, you know, a couple of hours ago — about an hour or two ago, Texas National Guard hadn’t take down the — taken down the razor wire. They still had these barriers up.
I guess, is the President concerned that, you know, Texas doesn’t seem to be backing down or listening to the letter that DHS sent? And I guess, would it — how does the administration plan to respond if they don’t, you know —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — give DHS access?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m going to let DHS speak to how they’re going to respond — obviously, DOJ speak to how they’re going to respond. What I will say, it’s — it’s shameful. It’s shameful that politics is being played here, political stunts are being done here as — as we’re trying to deal with an issue that Americans really care about. Right?
And all we are asking for is Border Patrol to have access to an area so that they can enforce the law. That’s what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to actually do their job to enforce the law. That’s what Border Patrol agents are meant to do, and that’s what they’re trying to do. And you have politics being played. And you have a governor getting in the way of that — in the way of that.
And so, it is a — it is — it is shameful that we continue to see these political stunts, and we continue to see these political games. It is not safe. It does not help solve the problem. It does not help solve the issue.
Q On India? On India?
Q A follow-up?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right, then I have to wrap it up.
Go ahead. Go ahead, Brian.
Q Thanks. Thanks a lot, Karine. I had a question on the border. With the President’s emergency ask — you know, he’s asked Congress to — for more money to hire more Border Patrol agents, to hire more officers to vet people who want to come in to make sure they have legitimate claims. Should the American people be prepared for the situation on the border to get worse if that money is not approved?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, I’m not going to get into — you know, read the future of what things — of how things are going to turn out.
What I can speak to is what we’re trying to do right now to deal with the challenges, to deal with the broken system — the immigration system. That’s what I can speak to.
What I can speak to is what the President has asked for. You just laid out, he asked for more border agents. Obviously, he’s asked for 2,000 — to hire 2,000 more Border agents and law enforcement officers; install new drug detention — detection and technology to stop fentanyl from coming into — into the country, going into communities; hire more immigration judges and asylum officers. That’s what was in his — in his plan. That’s what he’s asked for. That’s what he wants to see.
Now, we’re having a very important conversation with the Senate — Senate Republicans and Democrats. We appreciate that. We think Congress must act; they need to act. And that’s how we’re going to deal with this issue.
If you think about it this way too: Three years ago — more than three years ago, the President, on his first day, put forward a comprehensive immigration legislation and put it forward toward to — to Congress. If Congress had taken action three years ago — if they had taken action, worked towards that, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We just wouldn’t.
But now we’re having these conversations, and hopefully we can get to a bipartisan agreement.
Go ahead, Andrew. You have the last question.
Q Thank you. On the subject of the border and the Texas Guard. I understand, you know, you want to refer some of these questions to DHS, because DHS, you know, controls the Border Patrol, but at a certain point, Texas Guard — Texas National Guard soldiers and National Guard soldiers from other states are being used to frustrate federal authority. They are being used to get in the way of federal immigration enforcement and to flout a court order from a federal court.
At what point does the President step in and say, “Enough of that. These are American soldiers. I am federalizing the National Guard and ordering them to let the Border Patrol do their jobs, because they took an oath to the Constitution and I am their Commander-in-Chief”? When does that — when does enough become enough?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ll say this: I’m not going to speculate on any actions the President is — could — could use. I’m just not. I’m not — I’m just not going to do that. It is very clear, and I would remind everyone that the circumstances under which the federal government can mobilize a state’s National Guard are outlined in the law. Right? So, that — I’ll leave that there. But I — just not going to get into speculations on any actions the president is going to take at this time.
And I’m going to reiterate — I’m going to reiterate: If these Republican governors actually cared about doing something to — to deal with the challenges at the border, about doing something — real, meaningful actions — right? — to deal with the immigration system that’s been broken for decades — under Democrats, under Republicans, not just this president — then they would — they would reach out to their representative — their congressional representatives, you know, their senators and congressmembers in their state who they — I’m assuming — they know well. I’m assuming they’ve worked with them on issues that deals with the federal — the federal — the federal government.
They should talk to them, and say, “Hey, we need you, Congressman X. We need you, Senator X, in my state, to work with Congress to work — maybe with the senators who are — the Republican and Democrat senators who are doing this process, going through the negotiations. We need you to work with them so that we can fix, so that we can deal with the challenges at the border.” That’s an — that’s an easy ask. That is not difficult. That is something actually easy to do. It does not take much work from them —
Q I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — to make those requests and to talk to their congressional members that they probably talk to and speak to about many other issues as it relates to their state and the federal level.
Q I — I understand that, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q I understand you’re talking about the political process. But —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s not a political process.
Q But what I’m talking about is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, hold on a second. It’s not a political process for a governor in their state to talk to their congressional members about taking legislative actions. That’s not politics. That’s just the right thing to do on behalf of their constituents.
Q I — I understand the point you’re trying to make, but —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is not politics.
Q — what I’m — what I’m saying is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I — go ahead.
Q — that this appears to be a concerted effort, led by the governor of Texas and joined by Republican governors, encouraged by the Republican likely nominee for president — who I know you cannot talk about up there — to flaunt — to flout federal authority, to undermine federal authority. And you — you don’t seem to be willing to say the President will uphold the authority of the federal government.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’ve already answered this question multiple times. And I’m happy to repeat myself to you, Andrew.
Number one, the President has taken this incredibly seriously — incredibly seriously. When you have a president — for their first legislative action is to deal with immigration and put forth a comprehensive plan to Congress, because that’s the way you’re going to actually deal with this issue, three years ago — three years ago, Andrew — and no action has been taken by Congress.
When you have a president that has been working with negotiators — via, obviously, his team here — with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to have a real conversation to talk about — in good faith to talk about comprehensive ways to deal with policy, comprehensive ways to deal with funding, to deal with the immigration system — that’s a president that’s taking it very seriously.
The President had Republicans and Democratic leaders here — and ranking members of those committees — and that conversation was — had to deal with Ukraine, but that came up as well. And the President said it is important for Congress to act. We have been saying this.
If you have a Republican governor that is playing political stunts and continues to do that, and put, actually, the Border Patrol agents in harm’s way and preventing them to do their job, that’s a political stunt. We’re going to call that out too.
DHS has taken action. DOJ has taken action. That’s a president that’s taking it really seriously. I can’t speak to DOJ actions, obviously. But the — those things are being taken very seriously, because Border Patrol agents need to get to the area to do their jobs to enforce the law.
So, if you think about it, you’re asking about our legal authority. The governor is literally getting in the way of Border Patrol agents to do their jobs, enforcing the law. That’s a problem, and that’s something for him to answer.
Guys, I got to go to a meeting with the President. Have a great Friday, guys.
2:46 P.M. EST