1:28 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon.  Hello. 

Hi.  I have a few things at the top before we get started.

As the Presi- — as the President and his team continue working to deliver a historic bipartisan agreement on the border, House Republicans have a choice to make: They can keep playing po- — politics or they can work in a bipartisan way to secure the border.

Sadly, this is not new.  For years, they have refused to heed the President’s requests for action on much-needed funding for border security. 

For example, in the bill the President introduced in his first day in office, more than a thousand days ago, he requested funding to develop and deploy exped- — expediting screening technology to improve our ability to catch narcotics and contraband at every port of entry.  Republicans never acted on the bill. 

Each year in office, President Biden has requested record-breaking border security funding into law.  But without exception, House Republicans have tried to stop the President from delivering the resources we need at the border.

As recently as October, President Biden submitted a supplemental request for additional resources for border security; House Republicans did not take it up. 

Now House Republicans are going further and signaling that they may refuse even to consider a historic bipartisan border security deal that would strengthen America’s national security.  

Perhaps Speaker Johnson and House Republicans should reflect on what they’ve had to say over just the past few months. 

In October, Speaker Johnson said, “We must come together and address the broken border.”  And in November he said, “I think we can get a bipartisan agreement” on “border security.”

But suddenly, we’ve heard a change of tune.  One Republican member from Texas even said, why would they do anything to help President Biden? 

This is about helping the President — this is about helping the American people.  It’s not about helping the President.  It’s about the American people.  This is about securing the border. 

Republicans in the Senate are working with us to do just that.  Republicans in the House should as well.  

Look no further than their effort to impeach Secretary Mayorkas, an impeachment that even conservatives say is unconstitutional. 

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board said, “Grandstanding is easier than governing, and Republicans have to decide whether to accomplish anything other than impeaching Democrats.  Impeaching him accomplishes nothing beyond political symbolism.  A better idea is to strike a deal with Mr. Biden on serious border security reforms.”  That’s from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. 

Former President Trump — Trump’s own impeachment lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, urged Republicans to vote no.

House Republicans’ own impeachment witness, Jonathan Turley, said there is no basis for impeachment. 

And former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served in Bush administration, said House Republicans should “drop this impeachment charade and work with Mr. Mayorkas to deliver for the American people.” 

Members of the House Republican Conference have said this is baseless.  Congressman Ken Buck said, “Secretary Mayorkas did not commit an impeachable offense.”  And Congressman Tom McClintick — McClintock said, “These are not impeachable offenses.”

So, our challenge to House Republicans is this: Will you go against the very voices you typically listen to play a dangerous, unconstitutional game, or will you listen to what many of you yourselves have — have been saying?  Come to the table, work on a bipartisan border security solutions, finally fund our needs at the border, and actually tackle the problem instead of playing politics with it.

So, this is not about politics.  This is about bipartisan solutions to help the American people and secure the border. 

We hope, for the sake of the country, House Republicans challen- — change course from their years of playing politics with this issue.

So, now , yesterday, a new IMF report found that the United States is leading the global economic recovery.  As Axios put it, “the U.S. is winning the world economic war.”  The United States economy grew faster than any other large, advanced econo- — economy last year by a wide margin and is on track to do so again in 2024.

And the Washington Post wrote earlier this week, “Falling inflation, rising growth give U.S. the world’s best recovery.”  That’s thanks to strong actions taken by this President to recover from the pandemic and invest in America. 

And yesterday, we got new evidence Americans are seeing the results, with consumer confidence at the highest level in more than two years and inflation expectations falling to the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

And before I turn it over to my colleague, Admiral John Kirby, as you all know, this Friday, the President and the First Lady are honored to attend the dignified transfer of the three U.S. Army soldiers we lost in Jordan.

As the President said, these service members represented the very, very best of our nation. 

The President spoke to each of the families yesterday to offer his heartfelt condolences, and he and the First Lady will have an opportunity to meet with them in person in Dover on Friday.

As the Pentagon announced yesterday, the President and the First Lady will be joined by Secretary of Defense.

And so, with that, Admiral.

MR. KIRBY:  Thanks, Karine.  Just very briefly here at the top, I just want to note that the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, had a chance to meet today with the Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs, Ron Dermer, while he was here in town. 

They, of course, discussed the situation on the ground in Gaza; also had an opportunity to talk about continued efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance in to the people of Gaza.  And, of course, they talked about our ongoing collective efforts to get all the hostages released, get them back home with their families where they belong.  And those negotiations and discussions are — are certainly ongoing right now.

Now, this meeting comes on the heels of Jake’s meeting yesterday with the families of the American hostages and his discussion yesterday as well with the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Al-Thani, again, all really around trying to see what we can do to — to get another deal in place, another pause in place to get those hostages back with their families.

And with that.

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

Q    Admiral, I want to make sure I get this right — Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. warned today that Iran, quote, “would decisively respond to any attack on the country, its interests, and nationals under any pretext.”  One, do you have any reaction to that warning? 

And, two, more specifically, could that be read as a tacit acknowledgement by Iran that the U.S. can keep the Mid-East conflict from expanding if President Biden shows restraint in his response that may be forthcoming?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, the folks that need to show restraint are these groups that Iran backs.  But nevertheless, I would just say a couple of things.

  First of all, as we’ve said many times, we don’t seek a war with Iran.  We’re not looking for a broader conflict.  We’re not looking for a war with Iran.  That’s number one. 

Number two, we have obligations in the region, including those to our troops and our facilities.  And now, as Karine reminded everybody, those attacks have taken the lives of three of them.  We will have to do — we will do what we need to do to make sure that — that those responsible are held properly accountable. 

Q    Is there attribution yet of who — which militant group or groups were behind this?

MR. KIRBY:  We believe that the — the attack in Jordan was — was planned, resourced, and facilitated by an umbrella group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which contains multiple groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah. 

Q    And was KH the principal behind it?  They seem to have the fingerprints of this sort of precise attack.

MR. KIRBY:  As I said, I mean, this certainly has the earmarks of the kinds of things that Kata’ib Hezbollah does. 

But, again, for our purposes today and the question you’re asking, the attribution that — that our intelligence community is comfortable with is that this was done by the umbrella group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Thank you.  John, can you tell us more about the latest hostage proposal that is supported by the U.S. and the Qataris?  The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. said today that it — it envisions a much longer humanitarian pause than we saw back in November, plus more food and water and medicine.  What details can you tell us?

MR. KIRBY:  Not a lot.  And that’s on purpose, because I don’t want to say anything from the podium that could torpedo these very sensitive discussions.  Nothing is negotiated until everything is negotiated, and not everything is fully negotiated at this point, Nancy.

I will tell you that, in broad strokes, we are looking at an extended pause is the goal.  How long?  That’s all part of the discussions, but longer than what we saw in November, which was about a week. 

We’d like to see a longer pause than that not just because that helps facilitate the movement of so many more hostages out — you can get more people out if there’s a longer cease in the — a longer stoppage in the fighting — but so it can also give us an opportunity to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance in.

Q    We’ve heard 45 days.  Does that sound about right?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to talk about the details.

Q    And can you talk also about — it’s been shared that this would be a multistage process where civilian women, the elderly would come out first, then, perhaps, soldiers, corpses after that.  What can you tell us about the notion of a multistage process and why that would be preferable?

MR. KIRBY:  The goal of an extended-level pause is so that you can get the maximum amount of hostages out.  The modalities of that — should we be able to get this in place — of who’s coming out when and in what sequence is all part of the discussions right now.  So, I’m just not going to get into that.

Q    Well, how has Hamas responded, if at all, to this latest proposal?

MR. KIRBY:  I would just tell you that the discussions that we’ve been having and will — and are continuing to have have been constructive.  They’ve been — we believe they’re moving in the right direction. 

But, again, I — I don’t want to — I don’t want to come across as too sanguine here.  And I certainly don’t want to get into the actual details of it.  And I — I hope you all can understand that.  I mean, the last thing that I’d want to do is say something up — from here that all of a sudden gets inserted into the negotiations and becomes a sticking point. 

We want to see this deal in place.  We want to see it in place as soon as possible.  These families are grieving, and they — they want to see their loved ones again.  And we want to see if we can facilitate that.  But — but obviously, you know, we’re mindful of time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  It has been three days since the attack in Jordan that killed three service members.  The President said yesterday that he had decided how to respond, but we haven’t seen any public action — you know, at least publicly, we haven’t seen any action.  So, with every day that passes and no response, are you missing an opportunity to signal resolve?

MR. KIRBY:  I think we’ve signaled resolve pretty well.  And as I said the other day, we’ll respond on our own time, on our own schedule.  And — and we’ll do that.

And I would — I would also caution you not to — not to think that the first thing you see — you talked about publicly seeing not — the first thing you see won’t be the last thing.

Q    Can you confidently say that Iranian-backed forces have not begun moving assets out of the region in anticipation of a possible retaliatory strike?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re monitoring as best we can.  I’m not going to speak about what the intelligence assessments tell us.  But — well, I’ll just say that we’re confident in the planning.  And we’re confident in the — in the response that —

Q    Is it possible that —

MR. KIRBY:  — we’re primed to undertake.

Q    — we’re moving assets out of the region as they’re getting ready for the U.S. to respond?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to talk about intelligence assessments. 

As the President said, we’re going to respond.  And we’ll — we’ll respond in an appropriate way.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Kelly O.

Q    Admiral, can you give us a little understanding of the process?  When the President said “yes,” very definitively, he’d made a decision, and yet we know there’s still ongoing work related to the attribution and assessment of potential targets and those sorts of things.  Is it a multipart decision process for the President?  Or is the “yes” he gave already put into, kind of, the action that the Pentagon would need to go forward?  Or would he come back and review the specific targets and that kind — can you shed any light on that longer process?

MR. KIRBY:  Just in — in terms of process, the — the — his decision to move forward was based on discussions that he had with his national security team over the previous three days, including yesterday.

And when you’re talking about what we’re anticipating here, which won’t just be a one-off — as I said, the first thing you see will not be the last thing — there’s a lot of moving pieces in that in terms of what you’re going to choose to go after and what you’re electing not to go after and why.  And — and he asks all those questions.  He did that in this case.

But it’s a — it’s an iterative process.  And I would fully expect, Kelly, that because, as I said, this — this will be a response over time, you should expect that the President will continue to weigh options ahead of him, continue to ask tough questions, continue to talk to his national security team as things go forward. 

Q    And does he want this to be a U.S.-only response, or would he welcome military action from partners who’ve been a part of some of the other work in the region?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re — we’re focusing on a U.S. response.  They killed American troops.

Q    When the Kata’ib Hezbollah says that they will suspend the attacks on U.S. forces, do you believe them?  Would that spare them retaliatory strikes?

MR. KIRBY:  I’d say a couple of things.  Number one, you can’t take what a group like Kata’ib Hezbollah says at face value.  Number two, as I said in my answer to Aamer, they’re not the only group that has been attacking us.  And they’re certainly not the only group that is a participant in this Islamic Resistance of Iraq. 

So, they’re not the — they’re not the — the sole proprietors here of the violence that had been — has been visited on our — on our people. 

And number three, back to that point, there are three families that are going through the worst possible grief right now.  And let me tell you something.  The — Karine talked about Dover.  That’s — that’s a tough day.  That is a tough day.  They killed American soldiers.  And I’d leave it at that. 

Q    And just secondly, John, the Ron Dermer meeting, did Jake ask him about post-conflict Gaza, and do you have a better sense of how long this conflict is going to last?

MR. KIRBY:  I couldn’t tell you how long it’s going to last.  The Israelis have spoken about this themselves, that this could go on for months.  I’ll let them speak to their operations and where they see it — it going. 

We obviously want to see this conflict end.  And — and certainly, we’d like to all see it end as soon as possible, but it has to end in a way that doesn’t imperil the Israeli people from the threat of Hamas, which is right next door.  So, we’re going to continue to support them in their efforts to do that. 

As for the discussion with Mr. Dermer, I know that was focused on humanitarian assistance, on the hostages specifically, and the general situation in Gaza.  I don’t have more detail than that. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, M.J.

Q    I just wanted to clarify Kelly’s last question.  The U.S.’s response, whenever it happens, it will be unilateral.  It would not be, sort of, the joint exercise we saw with the Houthi assets earlier this month? 

MR. KIRBY:  That’s our expectation. 

Q    Okay.  Does the President believe, John, that it is important for the U.S. to strike back immediately and quickly following the deaths of the three U.S. service members?

MR. KIRBY:  The President believes that it is important to respond in an appropriate way now that three American soldiers have been killed.  And what’s appropriate?  Well, you know, it depends on what your — what your response is going to look like and what you’re going to go after. 

And as I said earlier, we will respond in a time and in a manner of our choosing on our schedule.  And just because you haven’t seen anything in the last 48 hours, that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to see anything. 

And as I said earlier, when you see the first thing, don’t come to be thinking that that’s going to be the last thing.

Q    Is the President open to maybe holding off on whatever strikes may come to give time and sta- — space for the ongoing hostage negotiations to continue moving in the right direction?  Is — is that a consideration at all?

MR. KIRBY:  As I said a few days ago, there should be no impact — we — there’s no reason why what we’re trying to do in terms of getting hostages out and what we have to do to respond appropriately to this latest attack in Jordan to be affe- — for one to affect the other.  So, we are going to respond.  We are also going to continue to work on trying to get the hostages out.  Both can be done.  Absolutely, both can be done.

Q    Well, it could certainly be a complicating factor, though, right? 

MR. KIRBY:  As if it’s not complicated already, M.J.  I mean, this is hard work.  This is hard diplomatic work that’s going into trying to get those hostages out.  It’s hard. 

But that doesn’t mean that you — that you put on — you put the brakes on that because you feel you have to respond, which we do.  And it doesn’t mean that you don’t respond to the attacks in Jordan because this diplomatic work is — is still going to remain difficult ahead of us.  We — we can and we will do both.

Q    So, you’re saying the hostage negotiations, that those are not a factor in the President’s thinking and deliberations over how to strike back — that those two things are totally separate in his mind? 

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t think I’m going to parse out the President’s decision-making process here.  I think, though, I — hopefully, I’ve adequately answered the question: We’re going to respond to the killing of our three soldiers.  He’s already — he told you that yesterday.  He’s made his decision.  There will be a response. 

We are also going to continue to have the conversations that are needed.  And they have been good.  They’ve been — there have been — it has moved in a constructive way. 

And, again, we’re not — nobody is doing a touchdown dance here.  We got a long way to go.  But we still think that there’s — there’s real significant ability here to — possibility to get an extended pause in place to get these hostages out. 

Q    And can I just quickly get your read on Kata’ib Hezbollah’s statement yesterday saying that they would suspend military and security operations against U.S. forces?  What was the administration’s read on that statement?

MR. KIRBY:  I think, as I said to Steve, we — we certainly read it, but we’re not going to take it at face value.  And we recognize that they’re not the only group that has been attacking our troops and our facilities in Iraq and Syria. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ken.

Q    John, just — separate the topic.  The FBI Director was on the Hill today.  He said Chinese hackers are preparing to wreak havoc and target critical U.S. infrastructure.  Has the ad- — administration seen any evidence that critical infrastructure could be compromised?  And what are you doing to strengthen those systems?

MR. KIRBY:  I would just tell you that this is something we’re moni- — we monitor very closely all the time, and we take all these threats seriously.  You have to, each and every day.  There’s not a day where we’re not taking a look at cybersecurity, particularly when it comes to critical infrastructure.  And I think that’s as far as I’m going to go on that. 

Q    And Jake met with the Chinese Foreign Minister recently in — in Bangkok.  Did that issue come up at all?  Did he bring up cyber in their discussions?
MR. KIRBY:  I won’t get into the specifics of the conversation.  This was a follow-up to the meeting out in San Francisco between President Xi, Pre- — President Biden and really meant to look at the ways in which both our countries are meeting the commitments coming out of that discussion, including the work on counternarcotics; the military-to-military communications, restoration of that; and a whole range of other issues, including cross-Strait tensions. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Michael.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, do you have confidence that the Kenyan government has satisfied the requirements from the Kenyan Supreme Court outlined for this multilateral force to be sent to Haiti?  And if not, what is your plan B?  Obviously, the U.S. has been pushing for this multilateral force to be led by the Kenyans for some time, and the U.N. Security Council resolution was predicated on their leadership.  So, do you have a plan B if that doesn’t work out?

MR. KIRBY:  We were very grateful that Kenya had agreed to step up to lead that multinational security effort.  I’ll let the Kenyans speak to where they are in the judicial process.  That’s really not for us to speak to.  We’re grateful that they had stepped up and volunteered to do that.

We still believe that that kind of multinational security presence in Haiti is important.  We’d still like to see it move forward.  And we’re — we’re obviously watching closely what happens in Kenya, but it’s really for the Kenyans to speak to.

It won’t change — regardless of how this comes out, won’t change our central position that we believe some sort of multinational security force presence on the ground is important for the people of Haiti.  I mean, they still are suffering the violence of these criminal gangs and thugs and organizations that are just literally making life almost impossible for the people of Haiti. 

So, we — we still believe that’s important.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Cristina.

Q    Thank you.  Admiral, given the Chinese hacking warning, can the American people be — feel a confidence in the electoral system?

MR. KIRBY:  What I can assure the American people of is that we take cybersecurity extremely seriously.  We put a new strategy out just last year — a cybersecurity strategy.  We — we are always mindful of the threats to critical infrastructure. 

And one of the things the President believes is critical infrastructure is, of course, the — the free and fair election process here in the United States and making sure that — that that can — that can occur.  We — we were able to do that in 2022. 

The President is confident that the national security team, the folks over at Cyber Command are all taking this as seriously as they — and the intelligence community is taking this as seriously as possible and that we will be able to ensure that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you so much, John.  I’ve got a question on Turkey and another one on Venezuela.  Just starting with Turkey, we’re seeking an update on their possible return to the F-35 program once or if they scrap their Russian defense missile system.  But I just wanted to ask you, you know, what this process would look like, would sanctions needed to be lifted.  And what does the White House want here? 

MR. KIRBY:  There’s no change to our view that the F-35 program for Turkey is incompatible with their use of the S-300 and S-400 missiles.  So, we’re still having those discussions.  And should Turkey be able to resolve our concerns about that, then there could be a restoration of — of moving into the F-35 program.  But — but that’s — that’s where we are.  There’s no change in that.

Q    On Venezuela.  Their leadership now says they’ll suspend U.S.-Venezuela repatriation because of the U.S. threat of sanctions that you outlined on Monday. 

Sorry, I was just trying to catch your eye. 

How does the White House —

MR. KIRBY:  No, I’m listening.  I’m — I’m listening.

Q    Just texting somebody?  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  No, no. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.) 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  I’m taking notes so that I don’t screw this up.  (Laughter.)

Q    — see that affecting movement on the southern border, and what are you doing to prepare for that possible challenge?

MR. KIRBY:  So, I really don’t have much more to give you today than what I gave you the other day.  They made — the Maduro regime made commitments back in the fall about what they were going to do to allow free and fair elections and allow for the active participation of opposition parties.  They have until the spring to move forward on those commitments, and we’re going to be watching that closely. 

I’m not going to preview any economic levers at this point.  We’re looking for the Maduro regime to step up and meet the commitments that it made in October.

Q    So, the President will host the Japanese Prime Minister Kishida for the (inaudible) on April the 10th.  It’s still January, but what should we expect from the meeting?  And speaking with Japan, Japanese company Nippon Steel offered to buy U.S. Steel last December.  I know the President always welcome the investment from the foreign countries.  So, what is the President’s opinion on this offer?

MR. KIRBY:  So, the President is looking forward very much to having Prime Minister Kishida here.  Japan, as you know, a terrific ally and great friend not just in the region, but the effect that they have around the world.  So, there’s going to be a lot on the agenda. 

It is January, and the — the state visit is in April.  I have no doubt that you’ll hear more from us in greater detail as we get closer to it.

But, look, tensions in the Indo-Pacific; opportunities to improve our alliance, the capabilities; opportunities to improve trilateral cooperation with South Korea, Japan, and the United States together — there’s going to be a lot to talk about. 

I don’t have anything new to say about this U.S. Steel potential purchase.  That would be inappropriate for me at this time.  But I would just tell you that the President is the most pro-union president we’ve had.  He absolutely wants to make sure that there’s a level, fair playing field for steelworkers in this country.  That will always be foremost in his mind.  That’s about as far as I think I can go.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q    Thank you so much.  I will have a question on Ukraine.  So, the E.U. said today that they would only be able to supply half of the million artillery rounds that they had pledged for Ukraine.  And this comes at a time when U.S. assistance has stopped.  So, how bad is all this for the Ukrainian forces?  And do you see an impact on the battlefield already?

MR. KIRBY:  It sure as heck ain’t good.  And this is why we need the supplemental funding.  It’s critical.  And artillery rounds are one of the most expended munitions on the battlefield — continue to be.  It’s absolutely critical that we get this funding for Ukraine so that we can get back to leading the world in supporting Ukraine and their ability to defend themselves.

So, I can’t speak for the European Union or other European nations.  I — but I — I have said in the past that — that other nations will be looking to us for our leadership.  They will be looking to us for decisions and certainty about what support for Ukraine is going to look like going forward.  It’s absolutely vital we get that funding.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  A couple more.  Go ahead, Andrew.

Q    Thank you.  Admiral, right now, obviously the U.S. is contemplating retaliatory strikes that could be in Iraq or in and around Iran or other countries.  U.S. and British planes have hit targets in Yemen.  U.S. forces have come under attack in multiple countries in recent weeks.  All these are part of the same larger conflict.  At what point would the administration consider this to be at least a small regional war?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I absolutely don’t agree with your description of a “same larger conflict.”  There’s a conflict going on between Israel and Hamas. 

Q    I didn’t even mention that one.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I’m mentioning it.  And we’re going to make sure that we continue to get Israel the support that they need to defend themselves against a still viable threat. 

We were being — there were attacks against our — our troops and facilities in Iraq and Syr- — Syria well before the 7th of October — certainly in the last administration as well. 

And as for the Houthis, they can claim all they want that this is linked to Gaza, but two thirds of the ships that they’re hitting have no connection to Israel whatsoever.  So, it’s just not true.  It’s a falsehood. 

And we’re going to continue to do what we have to do to protect that shipping.  And as we did just today, if we see an opportunity to prevent a missile from getting launched, we’ll take it out.  We’ll do what we have to do. 

Q    And on the subject of Gaza.  Officials with the World Health Organization, the U.N. World Food Program, and UNICEF are all warning that the humanitarian situation there is quickly approaching the point of being a famine and that the decision by the U.S. and other countries to pull UNRWA funding will make the problem even worse because of UNRWA’s unique capabilities in Gaza.  Does the White House share these concerns?  And what’s the administration prepared to do to fill any gap in aid to Gaza caused by the decision to defund UNRWA?

MR. KIRBY:  We absolutely share the concerns about the humanitarian crisis that’s in Gaza right now.  Certainly, we know that severe hunger is one of those issues, which is why we’re working so hard to get more security assistance in to the people of Gaza, which is why it’s so important that these discussions that we’ve been having about an extended pause actually come to fruition.  Because it’s not just — it is primarily about getting those hostages out, of course, but it also will give you a longer opportunity to increase that — that aid.  So, absolutely, we’re concerned about that.  No question about it. 

Now, look, we suspended funding temporarily to UNRWA as they do this investigation.  We believe it was the right thing to do to stop that funding while they investigate.  And we’ll see how that investigation goes.  We’ll see what they learn.  And we’ll see what accountability measures they put in place. 

I would remind that — that it is a suspension.  It is not a termination.  We’ll take a look at what our options are depending on how the investigation goes.  And the money that was suspended — there wasn’t a lot left in the allocation.  And the money that was suspended was really designed more for their efforts in Jordan, not in Gaza.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  If the border bill plus Ukraine aid fails, is there an alternative legislative vehicle to get aid to Ukraine?  And do you believe that House Republicans, in killing the bill, are helping Vladimir Putin?

MR. KIRBY:  On your first question, no.  The supp- — th- —

Q    No other alternative?  No other —

MR. KIRBY:  The — the national security supplemental is what we need.  It was thoughtfully calibrated, thoughtfully arrived at through discussions with our Ukrainian counterparts.  We need that funding.

Right now, as you and I are speaking, we aren’t sending additional security assistance to Ukraine.  There’s nothing left.  We’ve got to have that funding. 

And on your first question — do I think House Republicans are supporting Vladimir Putin? — I — I’m not —

Q    In effect.

MR. KIRBY:  I — yeah, look, I’m not going to get up here and impugn members of Congress. 

We believe that there is strong bipartisan support and bicameral bipartisan support for Ukraine.  And the leaders of the — on the House side of those oversight committees for national security, intelligence, foreign affairs — they all support supporting Ukraine. 

But it is a matter of getting there, and there are active negotiations going on.  Now, I’m going to — I’m not going to get into Karine’s lane here, because this is really what she’s been talking about, but there are active negotiations going on, and we’re doing that in good faith.

Q    But if — if that supplemental is the only vehicle for aid to Ukraine, if that fails, there’s no aid to Ukraine.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, look, that —

Q    Is that what you’re saying?

MR. KIRBY:  What we need is a national security supplemental funding.  That is the discussion that’s going on right now.  Your — I can’t put myself 2 or 10 steps ahead of where we are right now and what that would look like.  We want to get the funding for Ukraine.  The President submitted the supplemental in October.  We believe it’s the right amount and we believe that that’s the right vehicle to get it — get it to them.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve got to wrap it up.  Way in the back.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, you’ve been saying since October 7th you don’t want to escalate.  And when you’ve been asked last time what do the Iranians want, you referred us to the Iranians.  But what’s the strategy behind repeating the message, “We don’t want to escalate”?  Did the Iranians convey a message — a private message to you that they don’t want to — to escalate also? 

MR. KIRBY:  I — I don’t have any private communications with Iran to speak to.  I’m not really — I probably don’t understand the question as well as I should.  Nothing has changed.  We don’t want to see the conflict widen or escalate.  And almost everything the President has done since the 7th of October has been designed to prevent that escalation. 

Now, of course, I’m mindful of the attacks by the Houthis.  We’re mindful of the lethal attacks in Jordan, which is why he is taking the actions that he’s taking and it’s why he’s about to take the actions we’re going to take.

Q    One more question on the (inaudible) statement yesterday.  Was it — the Kata’ib Hezbollah statement yesterday in Iraq.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, yeah.

Q    Was it a result of a diplomatic engagement with the Iraqi government pressure?  Were you in contact with the Iraqis on this statement?  Or did you pressure them, something like that?


MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Last question.  Go ahead.

Q    I want to go back to Dover for a moment.  If — in the past, when there has been the transfer of remains, it has been done late at night and there’s been some photographs but no actual press coverage of that event.  Is this going to be a different situation, given the fact that the President is about to — or has already decided what his response is going to be to the drone strike that took out those three Americans?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not sure I follow.  What — why would the — why would the dignified transfer be different —

Q    Will the President be —

MR. KIRBY:  — because the President decided to make a response?

Q    Will the President be making any statement at that event?

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, oh, oh.  No.  Just to level set here, the — the way these dignified transfers happen, they — you talked about some coming in in the middle of the night.  They come in — it — it’s not — the arrival time is set by the military.  It has nothing to do with who’s going to be there to meet them.  That’s number one.  So, they come in at whatever hour the U.S. military system has that plane arriving.  It’s completely independent of any other factor.  That’s point one.

Point two, on the press coverage, that is determined by the families — not by the administration, not by the U.S. military, not by the folks at Dover — the families get to determine whether they want media to be there.  And in some cases, when you have — when you — we’ve had multiple families involved, some families want it, some families don’t. 

And so, the media are allowed to witness a transfer or two and then they are taken away for the ones that the families don’t want.  It is up to the families, not to — not to — to us.  We have nothing to do with that. 

And, no, the President won’t be speaking at Dover.  That’s — that’s not the appropriate venue for anybody to speak.  It is a very, very solemn, dignified ce- — ce- — well, I think you could call it a cemetery — the- — ceremony.  We call it a — a transfer. 

But — but there is a ritual to it.  And it’s very somber, and it’s very solemn.  And — and that’s not the place for speeches. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much, Admiral. 

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Appreciate that.  Thank you.

Q    Thanks, John. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, Aamer. 

Q    Thanks.  On — on East Palestine.  Why — why did the administration decide that things have, I guess, coalesced and it’s now time for President Biden to go? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the mayor and community leaders invited the President to meet with East Palestine residents and also assess the recovery progress that’s been going on for some time now, as you all know.  And so, the President had always said that he would go when it is most helpful to the community. 

And with this invi- — invitation — obviously, very recent — and the current status of the recovery, we felt that the time was right.  Again, we got an invitation from the mayor and community leaders to — to come a- — very, very recently, and so we are working with them to figure out the best time to do that in February. 

Q    And there is- — there isn’t a date yet that you’ve —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There’s no date yet, but obviously, we’re working with community leaders, we’re working with the mayor, elected officials to find the exact time and day to — to go in February.

Q    And can you just square — you know, the mayor has made some comments — reported comments that seem less than inviting to President Biden to come while praising former President Trump as actually having more impact on helping the situation and getting the ball moving as things have happened.  Does the mayor, one, want President Biden to come?  And, two, why is — from what you’re saying —


Q    — he’s inviting him. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, he is.

Q    But at the other end, he’s —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I’m assuming he wants him to come if he’s inviting him. 

Q    Yeah.  But wh- — what’s — why is he also at the same time — have you got — have you guys gotten a sense, and does it matter —


Q    — to President Biden, that he’s — at one end, he’s, sort of, I don’t know, dunking on him while also calling him to come and visit, from what you’re saying?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the — the invite came from — from the mayor —

Q    Right.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — and — and other folks on the ground.  So, I think that’s important.  Right?  The mayor obviously wants the President of the United States to be there. 

The President has always said he is a president for folks who live in red states, folks who live in blue state — doesn’t matter if you’re in rural America, urban, suburban — he is a president for all.  And so, let’s just never forget that. 

And I will — also want to take a step back.  Look, the mayor is allowed to say whatever he wants to say.  But he also invited the President — this — this President, this current President to — to come.

Look, this is — if you think about what happened in East Pales- — East Palestine, on day one — on day one, within hours of the derailment, we were on the ground, at the President’s direction — within hours. 

And — and he sent personnel there — this is the President — sent personnel — personnel there.  EO- — EPA, DOT, FEMA, HHS have all been on the ground to support the community until this day.  They’re still on the ground today. 

And so, look, the President has been very clear.  Anytime there is a situation that happens in a community that is devastated by what — whether it’s a — whether it’s a derailment or a natural disaster, obviously, the President says this all the time: He is there for that community for as long as it takes.  And he’s proven that.

So, he’s looking forward to going to East Palestine in February.  We’re going to find the day that works best for the folks on the ground.  He always said that when the time was right, when it was the most helpful for him to be there, he was going to be there.  

Q    Just very quickly.  Tomorrow, is there any official business in Michigan for the President or is this solely a political trip?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a political trip tomorrow.

Go ahead, Steve.

Q    Your topper about the border deal — are you now pessimistic that a border deal will get done?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, we’re not pessimistic at all.  I mean, look, the conversations in the Senate with Republicans and Democrats that’s been going on for about two months now, we believe have been going in the right direction.  They’ve been productive.  I’ve — I’ve said this before.  The President says this.  He’s optimistic, and we appreciate that they have been doing this in good faith. 

But we’re also going to call out House Republicans.  And we’re going to call out Speaker Johnson.  And I think it’s important for us to do that because it’s like upside-down world over there.  You know, they’ve been flip-flopping over there. 

This is going to be a deal, if it is — actually goes into law, that is, yes, going to be tough.  But it’s also going to be fair.  It is a bipartisan agreement.  That’s how we move policy forward.  That’s how we move legislation forward on behalf of the American people. 

So, we’re always going to be — we’re always going to be very clear-cut and straightforward on how we the- — see things.  And so, that’s why we — we’re going to call out what we’re seeing with House Republicans. 

It is not in line — it is not in line with what they have been saying for years about what they wanted to see. 

Q    The President has faced a lot of criticism in Michigan from the Arab American community.  What does he say that — what’s his message to them — those who feel disenchanted by the Gaza operation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  Obviously, as — as I — as Aamer was asking me, tomorrow he’s going to be going to Michigan.  It’s going to be a political-organized trip that is going to be done by the — the campaign.  So, any itinerary or pieces like that or related to that particular trip, the campaign could — could answer to that more broadly, obviously. 

But what I wo- — want to say is that, you know, the President has met with Americans with varying — varying opinions about the conflict that we’re seeing, sadly, in — in Israel and Hamas.  Officials at the White House have had numerous conversations and in regular contact with Muslim and Arab members — (aide coughs) — Americans — Americans leaders in — in Michigan — (aide coughs) — and across the country — hopefully Sam is okay.  Get some water.  Concerned for him.  (Laughter.)  

And, look, the President is going to continue — continues to believe that Israel has a right to defend themself.  They have a right to defend itself, as long as they continue — they — it is done in accordance of humanitarian — international humanitarian law.  So, we will continue to have those conversations with them.

At the same time — at the same time, he is heartbroken –heartbroken by the suffering of innocent Palestinians.  That is, you know — you know, who have — who have who have been caught in the middle of this conflict, sadly, and — between, obviously, Israel and Hamas. 

And he — you know, he continues to press for humanitarian aid.  You’ve heard the Admiral speak to that when he was getting a couple of questions on that.  And when we’ve had the humanitarian pauses in the past, we’ve been able to get about a hundred — a hundred hostages home to go back to their family and friends, right?  There are families and — families and loved ones who are heartbroken right now waiting for — for their loved ones to come home.  That is very important.  And also to make sure we get that much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza.

And so, this is what this administration has been doing around the clock, trying to get to another humanitarian pause so that we can get that much-needed assistance into Gaza and get those hostages home to their loved ones.

Go ahead, M.J.

Q    Karine, is the White House open to a separate bill that funds Israel and Ukraine and tabling the current supplemental package, as some Senate Republicans are discussing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what we want — and to answer that question very straightforward is that we want the national security supplemental to be passed.  That’s what we want. 

As you know, we introduced that in October.  I’ve said this very, very often: When a president asks for a supplemental bill, it is because it is a emergency request.  This is an emergency request that we believe is important for our national security, hence the name of the supplemental, for — for — not just for — for around the world but for us here — for Americans here in this country.

And so, we are going to be very focused on getting that done.  We appreciate the conversations, the — that’s happening on the border secur- — on border security in the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats.  But we want to see the national — national security supplemental bill move forward as it stands, as it is al- — altogether.

Q    I understand that’s your preference, obviously.


Q    But is the White House open to a separate bill that just deals with Ukraine and Israel?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s — that’s not the discussion we’re having.  That’s not what we’re looking for.  That’s not what we’re moving towards for.  That is not the discussions that we’re having.  That is not what we want to see.

We want to see the entire national — we want to see that national security supplemental move forward.  That is what we’re working towards. 

Q    Just to clarify, when you just said, “That’s not the discussion that we’re having,” do you mean that the White House has not been engaged with Senate leaders — Senate Republicans, in particular — about that idea, which is being discussed right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what we have focused on — I mean, the answer is we’re focused on getting the national security supplemental moved forward as is, in the way that the President requested it.  That’s what we want to do.  That’s how we’re moving forward.  And that is, we believe, what has been asked in that bill.  Those different components, those different pieces are incredibly important.  It is what’s needed for our national security.  And we need to move forward with it as is.

Q    But has anyone at the White House had discussions —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — look, I — 

Q    — with members about that idea?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  There — look, I don’t have any discussions to share with you about — about that.  I can tell you what we’re moving towards.  We’re moving towards on making sure that we get that national security supplemental moved forward as it is, as the President requested from Congress. 

That’s one of the reasons we’re having these really important bipartisan conversation in the Senate to see what we can do at the border security, but we want that national security supplemental to move forward.  That’s what we want.  We want that request to move forward.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Boeing’s CEO said today that the company caused the problems with the 737 Max and needed to return focus to safety.  Obviously, in addition to the administration’s role on ensuring air safety, the government is one of Boeing’s biggest customers.  So, are you guys confident that the leadership at Boeing can execute that pivot back to safety?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — what we want to make sure and what FAA wants to make sure and it is their top priority that we make the safety — obviously, the safety of Americans as they fly across the country, obviously, and beyond is safe.  And that is what we want to be very, very clear about. 

I can’t speak to — obviously, there’s an investigation going on.  They’re looking into it.  I’m going to let that investigation go — go forth.  I don’t want to get ahead of that.

But obviously, we’re concerned.  You know, obviously, we’re concerned.  We want to put Americans’ safety — we put Americans’ safety first.  That’s what FAA does.  But I’m not going to get into the leadership of Boeing.  I’m not going to get into specifics of that. 

FAA has acted.  They’ve taken action.  And we’re going to let that process move forward.

Q    And in addition to the Max, the Osprey, which is made by Boeing, is under review.  I was just wondering if you have any update on the review there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have any — we don’t have any updates for you at this time, Justin.  What I can say is that the Department of Defense is better to answer those specifics as it relates to the Osprey.

Q    And one last one.


Q    A judge in Delaware yesterday ruled that Elon Musk’s pay package at Tesla was excessive.  Elon then tweeted that companies shouldn’t incorporate in the President’s home state.  So, I’m wondering if you have any reaction to the ruling.  But barring that, thoughts on Delaware’s corporate governance, legal system, anything you might want to share?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be really careful.  I’m not going to get into a private company’s legal cases.  Look, this ruling — and I’ll just add a finer point: This ruling has — doesn’t involve this administration at all.  It just doesn’t.  So, I really don’t have anything more to share from here.

Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  There’s some big protests planned tonight in Dearborn, Michigan, on the eve of the President’s visit to Michigan tomorrow — Arab Americans protesting the administration’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas.  Does the President have any plans to meet with any Arab American community leaders when he’s in Michigan tomorrow? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as I stated, this is a political event.  They can — the campaign certainly can speak to — can speak to — you know, can speak to the different parts of the trip directly. 

I’ll say this, and I kind of said this at the — at the top when I was asked this question.  The — you know, the President has had meetings with Muslim and Arab leaders.  Obviously, we don’t — we don’t read out every meeting.  So, those — so has — White House officials here have been in regular contact with Muslim and Arab leaders, folks in those community.

Don’t have anything else to share beyond — beyond that.  And I — you know, I’ve laid out that we understand — like, we get this is a very difficult time for people.  We get that.  We get that it’s a very difficult time for folks. 

And, you know, we — we always believe it’s important, the President believes it’s important for — for Americans to feel like their voices can be heard and to — and to do that in a peaceful way.  And so, that is where we’re always going to be on that. 

I laid out just moments ago, like, how — how — how heartbreaking it has been to see Palestinians — innocent Palestinians, you know, have been caught up — caught up in the middle of — of what we’re seeing between the — obviously, Israel and Hamas. 

And — and so, we’re going to continue to push for these humanitarian pauses to make sure hostages come home to their loved ones and families and get that all — very important, needed humanitarian aid into — into Gaza.

Go ahead.

Q    Does the President believe he may alienate Arab Americans with his policy?  And is he willing to sustain that kind of difficulty because he believes in his view about Israel’s right to defend itself?  Is that a cost of this war that he’s willing to sustain?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, you know, when the President thinks about things, it’s not about the politics, right?  It — it truly isn’t.  It is — and we always do this — right? — we do a step back about what happened on October 7th. 

Israel was attacked by a terrorist organization, Hamas, and those leaders in that organizations have said they want to see October 7th happen over and over and over again.  And the President is going to continue to believe that Israel has a right to defend themselves.  Of course — of course, they need to do it following the international humanitarian law.  We’ve been very clear about that. 

And, of course, we are heartbroken by what we’re seeing with innocent Palestinians being caught up in the middle of that.

And, of course, we understand how folks are feeling in the community.  And it’s important for them to have their voices be heard.  And we respect that.  We respect that. 

But we cannot forget what happened on that day and what has led us to where we are today.

Q    On a separate topic.  There have been notable exchanges on Capitol Hill today with some of the tech company executives being questioned about their content and about protections for users and so forth.  Do you know if the President has had a chance to see any of that?  Does the White House have a view about how forthcoming these CEOs have been and if there’s more they need to do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a couple of things on that.  Obviously, we have been monitoring the hearing.  The country is experiencing an unprecedented youth mental health crisis.  That’s a fact.  That’s what we see in the data.  And there is now undeniable evidence, as I just stated, that social media and other online platforms have contributed to that. 

It is exactly why this President, the Biden-Harris administration has made tackling the mental health crisis part of their Unity Agenda, which you’ve heard the President speak to in the last State of the Union and you’ve heard him speak — speak about this throughout the past three years.  It’s a key priority.  And that is a key priority for the nation, obviously.

It’s an issue that cuts across political — politics and affects red states and blue states.  You heard from the different — different congressional members — from Republicans and — and Democrats — speak to this today very passionately, asking difficult questions.  And it’s why this administration has invested historic resources and launched new tools — new tools to ensure the safety of Americans here. 

So, we know there’s a lot more work to be done.  The work is far from over.  This administration is going to remain to be committed to providing Americans with the support and the resources needed as we’re dealing — as we’re dealing with this crisis right now.

Go ahead.

Q    Following up on that.  Senator Lindsey Graham said specifically to these CEOs, “You have blood on your hands.  You have a product that’s killing people.”  Is that the view of this administration?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to — I’m going to let the Senator obviously speak to — for himself. 

What I can state is that the data, the evidence — there is evidence that showed that — that, you know, this — these — these platform has been devastating to our young people’s mental health.  And it’s — it has been part of a mental health crisis that we see here, and that’s why this President has taken action. 

And look, we have to do everything that we can — this President believes we need to do everything that we can to have the resources to make sure that we — we as- — we help Americans as we’re dealing with — through this mental health crisis. 

We believe that particular issue is a — is a unity issue.  It brings people together.  Both Democrats and Republicans, they support this.  And it has been a key platform of this President.

I’m not going to dive into every — everything that congressional members said — a senator, specifically, said today.  But obviously, we are — this country is experiencing a crisis amongst our young people.  And we have to do something, and the work is far from over.

Q    At least one of the CEOs endorsed the Kids Online Safety Act.  Anything about that bill in particular that the White House might like?  Have you had conversations with Senator Schumer about trying to get it for a floor vote?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I can’t speak to that.  I haven’t spoken to our legis- — legislative team on that particular piece, that act.  But obviously, we think Congress has — has a — has a place here to act, to move forward legislation, to strengthen protections for a child’s — children’s privacy.  We think that they can do that to protect the health of kids, to protect safety online for children.  They can act, and they can certainly do things to move forward the — move forward on that. 

Q    And if I could ask just one on the immigration negotiations.  We’ve learned from some of our Senate sources — and it’s been talked about a lot in a lot of other outlets — about part of the deal, including — the deal that is still being worked on, including these numbers, you know, that — that the border could be shut down specifically if migrant crossings increase above 5,000 per day.  Were those numbers acceptable to the White House?  Were they the numbers that the White House or the President was pushing for?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to get into specifics or details.  I just don’t want to get involved from here — the podium — on what is being discussed, what is being negotiated.  I think it’s just — it’s just the right thing to do to give folks the space as they’re doing this in good faith in the Senate.  I think it’s important to do.

We’ve been very clear: We think the system is broken — the immigration system is broken.  We have to do everything that we can to deal with the challenges at the border. 

And it’s good that we’re — there are — there’s bipartisan support in moving forward in that way from the Senate. 

And so, that is what we’ve been very clear about.  I’m just not going to get into numbers or specifics or dive into policy discussions from here. 

Q    I get that.  But from a messaging perspective, House Republicans are diving into these numbers.  They’re responding to them —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Yeah. 

Q    — and they are calling them out and saying this is a reason they can’t support this kind of bill.  So, are you guys doing yourself a disservice —


Q    — by not talking about some of these specifics?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to be very clear here: House Republicans are actually getting in the way.  They’re not part of the discussion.  They’re not.  They’re not part of trying to figure out how to come to — to a bipartisan agreement.  We would like them to be, but they’re deciding not to. 

And it’s on them.  The question to them is: Why aren’t you all interested or wanting to work with your colleagues over at the Senate?  We have said, if this law passes, it will be, yes, the toughest and the most fairest set of reforms to secure the border and deal with real, real solutions to — to reform the immigration system.  That is what we believe. 

And let’s not forget what the President put in his supplemental.  Right?  He wants the border agents, drug detection equipment, immigration judges, and asylum officers.  He wants resources. 

And so, that’s what the President is looking forward to doing — looking forward to do in the supplemental.  He laid it out very clearly.  But House Republicans are — you know, they’re flip-flopping on this.  They’re truly flip-flopping on this issue. 

Go ahead, Jared.

Q    Is there a timeline or deadline for these talks or are you happy to just have them be open-ended as long as it takes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we think — again, we think it’s moving in the right direction.  We think it’s happening in good faith.  We appreciate the conversations that are happening on the Hill with the bipartisan legislators in the Senate more specifically.  And we want this to move as quickly as possible, obviously.  Yeah. 

Do we want it to happen today?  Did we want it to happen two weeks ago?  Obviously, yes.  But we want to give them the space to do this. 

This is an issue that we have been dealing with for decades, even in the last administration, obviously — for decades — for decades.  And so, now we’re at a moment where we can come to a bipartisan agreement, where this is happening in the Senate.  And so, we think that’s a good thing.  We think that’s a good thing. 

As you heard me call out House Republicans — because it’s important to do.  They’re being disingenuous right now with where they are, where they’ve been on this issue.  And we’re going to call them out.

Q    I ask because a lot of times these bipartisan talks that deal with, like, fiscal issues or whatever have a date certain — whether that’s a government shutdown deadline or something else — right? — a trigger.  That’s not the — so, there’s not, like, a date circled on your calendar?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have a timeline for you, Jared.  I don’t.  We want to get this done, obviously, as soon as possible.  Let’s not forget I — I talked about three year- — more than three years ago, more than a thousand days ago, we put forward — the President, his very first piece of comprehensive legislation was to deal with immigration.  That’s what he wanted to do on the first day.  So, it’s been three years.  So, obviously, we want to get this done. 

Go ahead, Phil. 

Q    Two questions on East Palestine.  First, has the White House coordinated or discussed with DOJ any type of damage settlement or compensation for folks there who were affected by the derailment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any specifics.  I would have to refer you to Department of Justice on that piece.  Obviously, we want to make sure that Norfolk Suffolk [Southern] is held to account.  We’re going to make sure that happens.  We are determined to — to get that done. 

I think you’ve heard that from the Department of — of Transportation, as well, from Secretary Buttigieg.  You’ve heard that from us many times.  We want to make sure that they pay — they pay for the derailment that they caused.  And so, it’s — obviously, that is — that is a priority. 

Q    And then, next month, when the President is in East Palestine, will he drink the water there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, what I can tell you is the President’s focus has been to do everything that he can to support this community from day one.  We get what’s going on on the ground.  We understand what’s going — that’s why we’ve had the EPA, that’s why we had DOT, that’s why we had HHS, that’s why we’ve had FEMA on the ground. 

You know, this is not about some sort of, like, political stunt here.  This is not about — this is not what this is about.  This is about this President being a president for everyone and showing up — showing up for this community.  That’s what this is about. 

I’m not going to get into some sort of political stunts —

Q    But — right.  (Inaudible) —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — about drinking — about drinking water.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we’re going to focus about is making sure they have what they need.  And the President was invited by the mayor, by community leaders.  He’s going to show up.  He always said he would be there when it was the most helpful.

Q    The reason I ask is despite some of the — the federal assurances, there — there are folks on the ground who are not political —


Q    — and are just very concerned, and they — they doubt some of the assurances they got from federal regulators.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And we — and we understand that.  We get that.  We get that.  Something horrible happened to that community — a derailment happened in that community that caused a lot of — you know, some damage — real damage to folks who live there.  We get that. 

That’s why we’ve had, again, EPA, FEMA, HHS, DOT on the ground within hours by this President’s direction.  So, we’re taking this incredibly seriously, Phil, and the President is going to go down there in February when the time permits — right? — the best time to do this.  We’re working with folks on the ground — to visit the community and be there. 

And it’s not going to be about politics.  It’s not about being in a red state or a blue state.  You hear this — us say this over and over.  You hear it from the President over and over again, because he wants to be — make sure that he’s there for this community. 

I have to go.  I actually have to go into the Oval Office.  Thank you, everybody. 

2:28 P.M. EST

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