James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:38 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, boy. Good afternoon, everyone.
Q Good afternoon.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. A couple of things at the top before we go into questions.
This month is Black History Month, where we celebrate and recognize Black Americans and their contributions to the core of who we are as a nation.
Today, the President and the First Lady will host a Black History Month reception attended by the Vice President and the Second Gentleman. There will be a performance by R&B singer Tank, and the President will be introduced by Ni- — Nijel Murray, a Las Vegas high school student who founded a non-for-profit that provides foster kids new clothing and basic necessities.
This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Arts.”
Whether it’s through music, written and spoken word, fashion, film, or other forms of creative expression, African American and Black culture anchors American culture in every passing moment, setting — setting trends both in the U.S. and around the world.
Since taking office, President Biden and Vice President Harris have ensured that our governments look like America, from the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the Cabinet, to the nearly one third of judicial nominees who are Black Americans. In fact, President Biden has appointed more Black women to the federal circuit courts than every other administration in history combined.
Under the President’s leadership, Bidenomics has ushered in a historic economic recovery, creating 2.6 million jobs for Black Americans.
2023 marks the lowest year for Black unemployment and the smallest gap between Black and white workers over decades of — of record. Black wealth has increased by 60 percent since the pandemic, fueled in part by a Black-owned small business boom not seen in over 30 years, a historic over $7 billion in investments for historically black colleges and universities, and the increase of Black homeownership since January 2021.
In the spirit of Black History Month and the icons we honor in February, the Bl- — the Biden-Harris administration will continue to create opportunities and ensure equity for Black Americans in order to realize a nation that truly and fully works for all.
As you all heard from the President just moments ago, there are important issues our country is facing today.
Our immigration system has been broken for decades, and it’s long past time we fix it.
That is why the President instructed his team to negotiate in good faith with a bipartisan group of senators to seriously address the immigration system. The bipartisan agreement we have come to is the toughest and fairest reforms to our immigration system in decades.
You heard the President. He described what it is — what’s in the bill. A couple of things I’ll — I’ll call out is 1,500 CBP personnel and 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to catch fentanyl; improving our ability to process asylum claims, dropping the processing time from five to seven years to six months; and so much more.
Now it’s time for Republicans to choose: Will they support the Border Patrol union who have endorsed this bipartisan agreement, or will they continue to play games with our national security? Will they show some spine and do what they know is right, or will they put partisan politics ahead of our national security?
As the Border Patrol union put it, this bill is a step in the right direction and is better than status quo. Republicans should listen to them and pass this bipartisan agreement.
Zeke, you want to kick us off?
Q Thanks, Karine. Following up on the President’s comments earlier regarding the Hamas response on the ceasefire and hostage deal talks. The President described it as “over the top.” Does he believe that there’s a workable path forward with Hamas still — still demanding a permanent ceasefire as a condition for the release of the remaining hostages?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s what I’ll say — and Secretary Blinken spoke to this and as the President said today as well — you know, Hamas has — has responded to the framework of a hostage deal. This is as we — we speak to — speak towards a hostage deal. The United States is re- — is going to review that response. There’s still a lot of work to be done here before we have a deal.
So, we are not going to get in the way of that. And it’s very —
Q But the President called it “over the top.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, they have a deal. They’re — they have responded to a framework hostage deal. We think that’s actually incredibly important. We’re going to review that response.
And, look, there’s a lot of work to be done here. We’re going to be really, really careful. These are sensitive negotiations, as you know. This is a negotiation process that has been also led by Qatar and also Egypt — those leaderships there. And so, we’re going to be really c- — careful in not telegraphing that information about the response from here.
But, look, the President has been very clear. You heard from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan when he was on multiple networks doing interviews, talking about the next steps here. It is important that we get to a humanitarian deal.
The President has been — and his team — has been working around the clock to get this done. We want to make sure we get those hostages home, including the American hostages. We understand there are about six of them that are part of that — that are part of the — the folks who are still part of the Amer- — hostages — I should be more clear — that are being held. We want to get them home.
We want to make sure we get that all-important humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
That’s what we’re working on, and I’m not going to stay here — stand here and telegraph any- — anything there.
But, look, there’s a — they have responded — Hamas has responded to a framework of a hostage deal, and that’s critically important in doing what we need to do in getting these hostages home and getting humanitarian aid in.
Q On a different subject, two more ships came under fire today in the Red Sea: the attack — the deadly attack on Kurdish fighters; a base that housed Americans a couple days ago. Does that signal that the President’s strategy now of striking these Iranian-backed militias but not Iran directly has not had its deterrent effect or even reduced their capacity to carry out these sorts of attacks?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we believe — and you heard again from the National Security Advisor on Sunday — that it has — our response has degraded they ca- — their capabilities, and we think that’s incredibly important.
Look, the United States — the President has said this; you heard this from — you heard this from our NSC — NSC colleagues here. The United States will not hesitate to take further actions to defend against these unlawful, reckless attacks against the U.S. ships and international — international commercial vessels. We’ve been very clear about that. We will act.
And, as you know, we have formed a coalition with other — obviously, with other countries to make sure that we — you know, we respond — we respond to this.
Q And then on the supplemental. The President, in his remarks, laid the blame for this seems-to-be pathway to failure of this legislation at the feet of Donald Trump, the former President.
He is the current occupant of the Oval Office. Doesn’t he bear some responsibility? He didn’t engage with House Republicans. He negotiated with the Senate but not the House, the other branch of the legislative branch.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q You know, where is he taking responsibility here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President has — has taken this issue incredibly seriously from day one. You heard us say this over and over again. You heard this from the President. On the first day of his administration, he said — he said, “I’m going to put forward a legislation — a comprehensive immigration legislation.” That was introduced more than three years ago — more — more than three years ago, and they have failed to act — failed to act.
And just a couple of quotes here. And you’ve heard me say these quotes, and I’ll say them again.
This is from Speaker Johnson in October of 2023 — not too long ago, just a couple months ago. He said, “We must come together and address the broken border.” In November of 2023, “I think we can get a bipartisan agreement” on border security. That’s what he said — the Speaker of the House.
In December of 2023, “Statutory reforms designed to restore operational control at our southern border must be enacted.” He hims- — himself has said we need a bipartisan agreement; we can get there. This is Speaker Johnson.
So, what changed? And that’s a question for the Speaker. What has changed that now there is — there’s actually a bipartisan agreement coming — we saw the text — it was released; it’s coming out of the Senate — that they have worked on for two months — for two months now. And he has an opportunity. It has been called the fairest and the toughest agreement — border deal that we have seen in decades.
The Border Patrol union said that we should move forward. It’s better than status quo.
And so, what has changed? This is something for the Speaker Johns- — Speaker Johnson to speak to.
We have — the President has said he wants to get work done. And they keep getting in the way. House Republicans keep getting in the way. And that’s where we are today.
Q And so, what’s the President’s plan once this bill goes — goes down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’re going to —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here — here’s the thing — well, it is a bipartisan agreement that is the fairest, the toughest agreement that we are going to see or has — we have seen in decades. The text is out there. The text is out there. The Border Patrol union supports it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports it. Republicans — governor — a Republican governor and a — and — and Democratic governors have put a letter to- — together — an op-ed supporting this bill. It could not be stronger or more fairer.
And this has taken two months — two months. And I just don’t understand, again, why Republicans are getting in the way of this. They should not. They should not.
And so, look, the President — again, they’re — by the direction — direction of President, sent his team to work with the Senate. He’s taking this very seriously. He put forth a border security supplemental, obviously, that’s part of the national security supplemental. We have a deal. There is a deal there — a deal that is supported by Border Patrol union. That says a lot.
So, why can’t they move forward on it?
Go ahead, Weijia.
Q Thanks, Karine. So, to follow up on that. This deal looks like it’s going to fail. So, without getting into specifics, is there a plan B?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to get into — again, as you just said, get into specifics of a plan B. There is a border that exists right now in front of congressional members — in front of senators and in front of House members — right there, a bipartisan agreement that has been endorsed by the Border Patrol union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It has — it has been worked on for two months.
And the President laid out in a very comprehensive way what’s in that deal. You know?
Speaker Johnson has said, just the last three months go- — before we headed into 2024, how important it was to get a bipartisan deal.
We’ve heard from Sen- — Senator Tillis, “You don’t normally make this country less safer for political points.” This is coming from one of their colleagues.
Senator Cornyn, “It makes no sense to me for us to do nothing when we might be able to make things better and stem the flow of humanity across the border for the next year.”
This is what Republicans have been saying. So, you know, it is up to them to answer this question.
Q President Biden pointed out that Trump spent the last 24 hours reaching out to Republicans, pressuring them not to support the agreement. So, what has the President done to personally engage with lawmakers? Or what does he plan to do?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as you know, early January, we had key lawmakers here at the White House from both sides of the aisle. It was obviously a meeting on Ukraine and importance of moving Ukraine funding to make sure that the brave people of Ukraine were able to continue to fight against Putin’s aggression. And he had that conversation.
Some of that — obviously, some of the folks there were from the National Security — Security Council team and other parts of his — of his international security team as well. So, look — or the international community.
So, in that — during that time, it came up. Border security came up. The President laid out how important it is to get something done, how this immigration system was — has been broken for decades. And so, he brought it up then.
We’ve had — White House officials, including the President, have been in contact with members of Congress. We don’t read out, obviously, every conversation that the President has. He has long relat- — long-time relationship — decades of relationship with some of those members on the Hill.
So, we’ve been engaged. We have been engaged. When the President directs his team to go up to Congress and to really work through this negotiation process with both Republican and Demo- — Democrats, that is the President acting, the President taking this very seriously.
Q And then, finally, the President said on Thursday that he would stand here and answer all the questions that we want about this issue.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.)
Q So, can you confirm that there is a press conference on Thursday?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What I will say is: Stay tuned. And — I’ll say: Stay tuned. I’ll leave it there for now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Steve.
Q What — what happens now to the Israel and Ukraine aid?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, right now, we believe that there is, again, a bipartisan agreement that includes aid for Israel; that includes much-needed aid for Ukraine; that includes humanitarian aid; obviously, this border security deal; Indo-Pacific, also, a component in that national — national security supplemental. We think that it needs to move forward.
We’re still going to stand pretty — pretty — pretty steadfast and say this needs to move. This needs to move. There is a bipartisan deal on — on — right there in front of them.
Q So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And they need to move it forward.
Q So, do you separate it out or just hope for the best?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.
What we’re saying right now is there bi- — there’s a bipartisan agreement. There’s a deal right now in front of them — in front of congressional members in the House and in the Senate.
Q And, lastly, the New Hampshire Attorney General identified two Texas-based companies of being behind the fake robocall that circulated in New Hampshire. What — did they give you a heads up? Do you have any reaction to this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I don’t have any — any reaction to that. I would refer you to the campaign since that was related to, obviously, the New Hampshire primary. So, I would refer you to the campaign on that specific question.
Q Follow-up on Zeke. What exactly did the President think was “over the top” in the Hamas response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I do- — I’m not — I — again, these are incredibly sensitive — sensitive negotiations that are happening. I’m not going to telegraph any of the conversations. I’m just going to be super careful here. This is incredibly important that we get this done, obviously.
I’m just not going to go into — go into it any further.
Q Because the Secretary of State called the deal — the proposal from Hamas “serious,” so it seems like there’s a little bit of a disconnect.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to go into it any further. I laid out that, obviously, Hamas has responded to — to the deal. It’s important that we get this done. It’s important we get — we get hostages home to their family. And it’s important that we get this critical humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Q All right. And, on October 4th, President Biden said he thought that there was another means by which we may be able to find funding for Ukraine that would bypass Congress. You guys weren’t able to talk about what he meant back then, but now that this deal has collapsed, what is that alternative means? Is there work behind the scenes —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean —
Q — to come up with something?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — I think they still have to vote on this. Right? I think tomorrow.
Q Well, President Biden said that the deal wa- — wasn’t moving forward. So, it seems like he’s moved —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s —
Q — past that.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I think we’re still going to be steadfast and continue to — to push forward and ask — and say to Congress, “It’s time to act.” That doesn’t stop us from that — from doing that. That doesn’t stop us for say- — laying out what’s in the deal and how critical and important it is. It doesn’t stop us from saying, “Hey, you got to stop playing political games.”
This is something that majority of Americans want to see: get — making sure that we get on top of dealing what is happening at the border, making sure that we fix a broken immigration system. Doesn’t mean that we stop talking about it. Doesn’t mean we stop pushing.
The votes haven’t happened yet. So, we’re going to keep calling this out and saying, “Hey, it’s time to act. It is time to act.”
This is an agreement that took two months that had both Republicans and Democrats at the table negotiating this. This is important. This is about securing the border. This is about trying to start the process and fixing a broken immigration system. And this has been around for decades — for decades.
So, until the vote happens, we’re going to continue to move forward and speak to how important — how important it is to get this bipartisan agreement done.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. What is the administration’s response to today’s court of appeals ruling on presidential immunity?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not going to comment.
Q Thank you. So, you guys talk a lot, including today, about how the border wouldn’t be such a big deal if Congress would have just passed your immigration bill on day one. Who was in charge of Congress on day one?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, it’s been three years. It’s been three — three whole years — more than three years, more than a thousand days. And, look, this is a difficult issue, obviously. This is a difficult issue. And what we have said is that Congress has to act, right?
Congress — Democrats, Republicans have to act. But in those three years, it is true that Republicans have gotten in the way. They just have, Peter. They have
constistently [consistently] used immigration — the immigration system, the broken system — as a political stunt. That’s what they’ve done.
They’ve gotten in the way in trying to get more Border Patrol agents. They’ve gotten in the way in actually trying to fix what’s happening — the challenges at the border. They did.
Q So, did the Democrats —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, they voted —
Q — that were in charge —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — they’ve actually voted —
Q — for the first two years, no responsibility?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It has — I’m not saying that Democrats have not been in control the first two years. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying House Republicans have gotten in the way. They have. They have purposefully gotten in the way in trying to fix what’s happening at the border.
Q Okay. And how is President Biden ever going to convince the three quarters of voters who are worried about his physical and mental health that he is okay, even though, in Las Vegas, he told the story about recently talking to a French president who died in 1996?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not even going to go down that rabbit hole with you —
Q Why —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — sir.
Q What is the rabbit hole?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re going to go — go ahead. Go ahead.
Q He said he talked to Mitterrand in —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You saw the President in Vegas, in California. You’ve seen the President in South Carolina. You saw him in Mic- — Michigan. I will just leave it there.
Q How is that a rabbit hole?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. On the border deal, McConnell just said, “We have no chance to make a law here.” So, the President earlier was just outlining how urgent the stakes are — especially with Ukraine, saying they’re in dire straits. So, assuming the President must be very eager to get something to Ukraine, if this fails, as all indications show, what might that pathway look like —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Say that —
Q — for Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What — what pathway?
Q Essentially, it looks like this — this is going nowhere. The President was laying out the stakes here for Ukraine. So, assuming this doesn’t go anywhere, as all indications show, what’s the President’s plan for Ukraine?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President’s plan for Ukraine is to — telling Congress they have to act. We need Congress to act in order to help the Ukrainians who have been fighting bravely — fighting bravely against Putin’s aggression.
He laid that out. He laid out what we’ve been seeing from Putin the last couple of months, how much more aggressive that he’s gotten.
And so, these are critical — critical, needed military — military aid that — that Ukraine needs to help them continuing their fight on the ground. And, you know, it is important. It is important to get this done.
But not just that, we have to remember the President put forward a coalition of more than 50 countries to help Ukraine. He gathered and make sure and brought together our — our partners and a- — and our allies to help Ukraine.
We have to make sure that United States continued to stand with this coalition. And so, we’re going to continue to tell Congress they have to act. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals. I’m not going to get into a plan B.
What I’m going to talk about is there’s an agreement in front of Congress right now — a bipartisan agreement — that is the most fair — which is incredibly fair, which is also very tough. Something that we haven’t seen — a bipartisan agreement we haven’t seen in decades. And we got to get this done.
Q Senator Chris Murphy had some strong thoughts. He said, “What the hell just happened?” “I can’t believe this is happening.” Does the President feel the same way? How is he processing what’s going down?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you heard from the President. He spoke to this very — very — very sternly and laid out what he thought he saw was going on.
We — I don’t think he could have been any more clear. He called out the politics around this, political stunts around this. He even said — I said it at the top — Republicans need to have a spine here. They need to have a spine.
This is not about their politics over there. This is about the American people. Amer- — a majority of Americans want to see Congress work for them on this issue, on the border, on this broken immigration system. So —
Q And just lastly, what’s the White House’s reaction to that controversial Wall Street Journal op-ed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, a couple of things about that — the op-ed that — that we saw. It is — it is unacceptable to actually put fo- — put to- — put together a bunch of people, honestly, and — and write an op-ed that is actually dangerous.
And so, obviously, the President spoke to this. He — he spoke to this — well, not spoke to this. But you saw a tweet from this President over the weekend about how unacceptable that type of language is. And that you cannot — obviously, what a small group of people have said is — is — is we have to call out that — call that out. But to — to group an entire community is unacceptable.
And, obviously, we will stand with the — we will stand with the people of Dearborn on this issue.
Q Two questions. What is the — a number of Republicans have insisted that there are unilateral actions that this administration could take on immigration. Do you all see additional unilateral actions you could take around border security? What are they?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this is an opportunity to do this in a comprehensive way, to not do this piecemeal. That’s what this — that is what the border agreement shows. Right? It is a negotiation with Republican and Democrats in the way that we need to move forward with policy — right? — in a bipartisan way, and there’s no reason to do this piecemeal. There isn’t.
Q But if it potentially fails, as the President —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — you know —
Q — articulated today —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I —
Q — that it’s likely going to do (inaudible)?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’re going to continue to push Congress to move forward. That’s what we’re going to do. And that’s one of the things that the President was trying to do today. Right?
He laid out the politics on — around this. He laid out what was in the bill, what is in the text that came out on Sunday, and said how important it is to have — to move forward with — with this — with this bipartisan agreement.
And so, we’re going to continue to do that. They have to still move with their process. “They,” meaning the Senate. They have to vote. They have to move with this process.
And so, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals because this is — we believe this is the best way to move forward in dealing with the border. This is the best way to move forward in dealing with an immi- — with an immigration system that has been broken for decades.
Q And then, separate topic, on the hostage negotiations. You know, our team who’s been covering this all in the Middle East says that Hamas is still insisting on a permanent ceasefire. Is it still this administration’s position that it opposes a permanent ceasefire?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: What we have been working towards and you’ve heard a say over and over again: We want to see a humanitarian pause. We want to make sure that we get these Am- — American hostages home and also hostages more broadly, obviously, home to their families. And we want to make sure that we get that critical aid — the critical aid that Palestinians need — into Gaza. It is important to get that aid, whether it’s medical, whether it’s food. We have to get that in.
And so, we believe a humanitarian pause gets us there. You know, there is a — as I stated at the top, Hamas has responded to the framework of a hostage deal. And so, we’re going to review it. And I’m going to be really, really careful; I’m not going to dive into or telegraph information about their response from here.
But we’ve been very clear that we believe that we need to get to another humanitarian pause because that humanitarian aid needs to get in. And also, we need —
Q But to be clear, humanitarian pause — it is the administration’s position that a permanent ceasefire is —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have been very clear.
Q — not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have been very clear on where we stand on the ceasefire.
Q And that hasn’t changed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That has not changed.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.
Q Thanks, Karine. Senator McConnell, when he was talking today about the, sort of, collapse of the deal, suggested that Senate Democrats should draft a new — new legislation that would handle Ukraine, the Pacific, and Israel. Is that a process that the White House would be engaging with —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I’m just going to —
Q — Senate Democrats on?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals or a plan B from here.
There is literally a bipartisan agreement that has taken two months to get done, and we believe it is the fairest and toughest agreement as it relates to, certainly, the border — the border component and the immigration system — something that Republicans in Congress — many Republicans in Congress have been wanting to see that type of — that type of agreement for decades, and now they have it.
And it’s important that we move forward with the national security supplemental. It’s important we move forward with Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific.
And so, there’s a deal. There’s a deal in front of them. We should move. We need to act. We cannot play politics with this.
Q And then, I wanted to look back on your answer to Weijia on the press conference.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q “Stay tuned” sounds like Karine for “no.” (Laughs.) So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, say that one more time.
Q I said “Stay tuned” sounded like Karine for “no.” So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You said Karine for “no”? (Laughter.)
Q Yeah. Yeah.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wow.
Q So, I’m just —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: A translation.
Q Is there — (laughter) — is there any question? I mean, the President seemed pretty explicit.
And I — I ask this in addition to the context of Friday, where he’ll be hosting the German Chancellor, and it doesn’t appear like there’s a press conference on the schedule. That’s another one of these foreign leader visits.
And skipped his Super Bowl ad — or Super Bowl interview. So, it just seems, again, like we’re in one of these instances where the President is not communicating with the press, and —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, look, seriously, stay tuned. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That is — that is the — that is the — that is the answer for you.
Look, I mean — look, the President took questions yesterday. He took questions today. So, I wouldn’t say that he is not engaging with the press. I would not say that, because he does.
And when I have — if — when we have more to share on, later this week, what Thursday might look like or Friday with the German Chancellor coming — certainly, as it relates to the press component, certainly, we will share that. It really, truly is “stay tuned.”
Q I guess, the criticism — and you look not only on engagements, which now the President trails his predecessor in terms of that, but interviews where it’s, you know, half of most of his recent predecessors at this point in his term — interviews, where it’s less than half.
It — can you, kind of, flesh out — I mean, there’s no kind of denying this — the strategy in what your —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look — I — look, I’m not going to stand here and deny the — the numbers. I’m not — that’s not what I’m going to do here.
But I will say that the President — one of the things that the President has been able to do is communicate in non-traditional ways. That is true.
And he’s done that in a way we have not seen other presidents do. That is true, right? Whether it is podcast; calling radio — into radio programs more often; speaking to digital creators; and — and taping interviews and local — local — local news stations. That is something that he has done in a more, I would say, regular way.
And so, look, we’re — we’re trying to do everything that we can to meet — to meet Americans, also, where they are and try to do it a little bit differently. Doesn’t mean we’re not going to sit down and do interviews, right? It doesn’t mean we’re not going to sit down and do networks’ interviews.
We are going to do that. We’ve done them recently, whether it’s David Muir — Muir or Fareed Zakaria or Scott Pelley and many others. We have been able to have some of those sit-down interviews, and we’ll certainly continue to do that when we feel the time is right.
But the other (inaudible) is we have found some non-traditional ways, as well, to communicate with the American people.
Q Just to follow up on that. Anything specifically on why you’re not doing the Super Bowl interview? I mean, that’s a massive audience in an election year of people who may not be tuned into the White House or this election at this moment.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, as you know, Super Bowl is a great annual tradition. And the President certainly — President Biden looks forward to — to watching the game this Sunday, just like millions of — as you just stated, just like millions of Americans are go- — are going to be doing that.
And, look, you know, we hope that the viewers who tuned in — you know, we know that the viewers who tuned in, they come — they tune in to watch the game. Right? And so, obviously, you know, that is — that is just a fact. They want to see the game. They want to see their favorite team. They want to see a halftime show. That is what the Super — it’s that type of tradition.
The President will find many other ways to communicate with Americans — the millions of Americans out there. And we will find those ways to do it where we think the time is right.
Q Also, in February of last year, the President had his annual physical. Is he going to have it this February? Is that scheduled yet?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have a timeline on it. Obviously, he is going to have his annual physical. When we have more to share, we certainly will do that.
Go ahead, Gabe.
Q Karine, to ask it more bluntly and also more broadly —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — can the President do business with Speaker Johnson?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, that’s a question for Speaker Johnson. And I say —
Q I’m asking you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And the rea- — no, no, no. No, no, no. Let me finish my question. The reason why I say that — or let me finish my answer.
The reason why I say that is because the President has directed his team to work with Senate to come forward with a budget — a budget agreement. They worked really hard on it the last couple of months. It answers a lot of the questions that Speaker Johnson and many House Republicans have wanted to see. Right?
It actually addresses a lot of the issues that they have with border security, that they have with the immigration system. It actually brings forth a real — a real bipartisan way in dealing with that. When you have the Border Patrol Union supporting this, I don’t know what the problem is. I really don’t know.
Why cannot — well, I do know what the problem is. Let me — let me answer my own question. It’s politics. Politics. And they’re putting politics ahead of getting things done for the American people. It really is a question for Speaker Johnson.
Q And I know the Speaker was here a couple of weeks ago, but why not invite him here over the next couple of days to hash this out? Does the President believe that wouldn’t be fruitful?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, hash out what? The agreement is in front of them — a bipartisan agreement. You know, again, Border Patrol, U.S. Chamber — U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It has Republicans from the Senate who worked really hard on this, as well as Democrats. It answers a lot of the questions that he has had, that other Republicans in Congress have had — Republicans in the House, more specifically.
You know, it is — you know, to not — the President said this. I’m going to repeat it. To not have the spine to deliver for the American people and to play politics, how do you get things done? This is their job. They’re supposed to legislate. They’re supposed to legislate.
Q And, finally, a question on another topic. For an administration that has focused so much on gun violence, what is the White House’s response to the Jennifer Crumbley verdict today? And does the White House —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Q — believe that parents should be held accountable in these instances — in school shootings?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, obviously, we — we saw the breaking news just not too long ago. And that said, other related cases are ongoing. So, without speaking specifically on today’s verdict — want to be really careful here — I can say that the President remains committed to stopping tragedies like these happening in the first place. That’s what he’s committed to doing.
That’s why recently we announced a new executive action to help promote the safe storage of firearms. We know that most students who carry — carry out K-to-12 school shootings are using firearms they obtain from home, from a friend or a family member. We know that to be true.
The importance of safe firearm storage cannot be overstated. And the administration will continue to use every tool at our disposal to implement these and other commonsense gun safety measures to protect our children, our schools, and our communities.
Look, when it comes to — when it comes to gun violence, the President has said this is an epidemic. It is the number-one killer of our kids. It truly is.
And so, the President has taken action these last couple of years. He’s done more than two dozen executive actions. Obviously, you know that he signed a bipartisan deal to deal — a bipartisan legislation to deal with — to deal with gun violence, a legislation that we hadn’t seen in — or hasn’t passed in 30 years.
So, he takes this very seriously. We do not want to continue to see gun violence happening and our kids — being the number-one killer, it shouldn’t be. It just shouldn’t be.
Go ahead, Michael.
Q Thanks, Karine. Can you talk about the actual consequences at the border itself if this bipartisan agreement doesn’t proceed? And is it the administration’s position that if it doesn’t pass, that the border is not secure from national security threats?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I mean, look, this is stuff that the President has talked about before. I mean, look, there are challenges at the border. You all report that. We see that. It gets overwhelmed at the border.
So, this is why, the first day of his — of his administration, the President put forth a comprehensive immigration policy, because he wanted to deal with that. That was his first piece of legislation. That was the first piece of legislation that the President put forward.
So, obviously, this has been an issue not just the last three years of this administration but for decades, including the last administration — for decades. So, we leaned in, we worked with the Senate for this bipartisan agreement, and it shouldn’t be — and what we’re seeing now — and you heard directly from the President, obviously — is politics — politics getting in the way.
And Americans see this. They want to — us to deal with this issue. And the majority of Americans do.
Q And just on East Palestine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Do you have any update on the President’s plan to travel this month?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, as you know, the President is planning to travel to East Palestine this month, in February. When we have more information on the date and what that day is going to look like, obviously, we’ll — we’ll share that.
Go ahead, Anita.
Q Thanks. Quick scheduling question before I hit my two questions. Has the Speaker invited the President to give the State of the Union on March 7th, and has he accepted?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, we already did. That — that happened a couple of weeks ago.
Q All right. So —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: It’s all ready to go.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’re ready to go.
Q Wouldn’t miss it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: March 7th, here we come. (Laughter.)
Q What is the administration’s message to Black voters who are already disillusioned over slow progress on racial justice and who are now upset over the situation in Gaza?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, it is Black History Month. I just actually, at the top, laid out promises that the President has made to the Black community and promises that he’s kept, we believe, to the — to the Black community in making sure — for example, when we walked in, the President wanted to make sure that the White House used the full force of the federal government to deal with racial equity, to deal with racial justice.
He signed an executive order to make sure that the agencies within the federal government, as they move forward with policy, had equity at the center of it. And so, that is really important too.
And under this President, we’ve seen 2.6 million more Black Americans have jobs. That’s because there is — make sure there is equity at the center of all the policies — again, economic policies.
And so, look, you know, the President wants to make sure that all communities are not left behind, right? He wants to make sure that — that we create an economy from the bottom up, middle out. And that’s really important.
And, you know, when you think about Black wealth is up — it’s up a record 60 percent since 2019 — and that’s accounting for inflation — that’s because of the work that this President has done.
Look, he’s going to continue to speak directly to the American people about all issues — all issues. He’s going to continue to hear from the American people about all issues, including —
Q How about the experience over Gaza?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I was going to say including — including concerns that many people have of what’s going on in the Middle East, including Gaza.
Look, the President understands that people have — there’s a lot of emotions out there, a lot of feelings out there. He gets it. A lot of opinions out there.
And that’s why we always say — right? — when — when we do see protesters, we — we say, “Okay, it’s good for — it’s okay for them to protest, just as long as they’re doing it in a peaceful way.” And, certainly, we’re always here to listen.
And so, the President believes in that. Obviously, he’s been very steadfast on — on his support for Israel, especially after what we saw after October 7th when you have a terrorist organization like Hamas saying that they want to do — they want to see October 7th happen over and over again. You know, he believes that they have the right to defend themselves.
At the same time, we also need to make sure that, you know, we have those conversations with — with Israel on protecting innocent lives in Pales- — Palest- — in Pale- — the Palestinian lives in Gaza and many people who are very much innocent, right? They are innocent.
And so, that’s another reason this humanitarian pause is so important: to get that much-needed aid into Gaza as well.
Q Quickly, on El Salvador. What is the White House’s reaction to the reelection of Nayib Bukele, who used a little bit of, you know, creative interpretation of the constitution to get a second term and describes himself as the world’s cutest dic- — the “world’s coolest dictator”?
I’m so sorry. (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Is that — was that your opinion? (Laughter.)
Q He calls himself the “world’s coolest dictator.” (Laughter.) I apologize.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m —
Q Sorry. Yeah, so, what is the administration’s reaction to the reelection of a guy who calls himself the “world’s coolest dictator”?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So — (laughter) — so, look, we respect, obviously, the — the Salvadoran people. This was their decision to make, obviously. And so, we look forward to working with the President-elect on a various — various issues of mutual interest. I don’t have anything else to add. I can’t speak if he’s the coolest or the cutest. I don’t know.
Go ahead, Nadia.
Q Thank you. Just to follow-up on Anita’s question.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q The question for many voters — minority voters, like Arab Americans and African Americans — it’s not about protests and emotions and opinion; it’s more of the justice and equality and human rights that this administration held very high —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — when it came. So, how do you address this disparity between what the President’s message has been and his people who actually disagree fundamentally with the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And we understand. We understand that people are going to fundamentally disagree, not on just issues — this issue, many issues. That’s — that’s what a democracy is all about — right? — for people to disagree and agree. That’s how it works.
What I am saying is that the President’s — look, the President’s commitment continues, right? It stands. He’s been very steadfast about that.
What I am saying is that — and what I was trying to say is that, yeah, people are going to have different — difference of opinion. We get that. And what I’m saying is that we value that. We value the fact that people are going to have difference of opinions.
And the reason why I brought protest: because that’s what we’ve been seeing. Right? We’ve been seeing — that’s how people have been expressing themselves. And just as long it’s peaceful, obviously, people have the right to express themselves.
The President is going to continue to speak directly to the American people, as he has, to talk about the importance of the different decisions — policy decisions that he’s making, just like today.
He laid out why it’s important, he believes — right? — to make sure that Ukraine has the funding that they need. He laid out why it’s important why Israel has the funding that they need. It’s important to also make sure that we have those humanitarian aid. It’s important to have that border security and try to start fixing the immigration system.
So, look, we can’t — I can’t speak to everybody’s — you know, I can’t speak to every group or everybody’s, you know — their disapproving of how we’re moving forward with an issue, right? But what we’re saying is we understand what people are going through. We understand that this is a difficult time. We get that. And that’s what I’m speaking to.
Q And one more question on Gaza. Did the White House receive an ironclad evidence that actually the UNRWA staff member — 12 of them — were involved in the October 7th attack? Because four news organizations, including Financial Times, Channel 4, and Sky News —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — found no evidence to support the Israeli claim. They said, actually, what they provided was just cellphone messages and cards that been found after Israel went to this —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You’re talking about UNRWA?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well —
Q So, where are you in the process of re- — of reviewing that?
And, second, considering the disaster humanitarian situation in Gaza, what’s the alternative if you’re wai- — if you’re waiting for the results to come out or the review to come out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The alternative of — of —
Q To the funds —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The UNRWA funds.
Q — that the White House suspended.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, a couple of things there. As you know, there’s an investigation happening. So, we’re going to let that investigation move forward.
And, look, you know, funding for Palestinian civilians is a — is a team effort. And so, for example, while we continue to provide funding to organizations like WFP, other countries may continue to fund UNRWA, which is their own sovereign decision. That is their right.
As we’ve said before, it is important for UNRWA to complete its internal review. As I just stated before, the U.S. will provide any additional funding. We got to get to the bottom of this. To your point, we got to get to the bottom of this. But there’s no denying that UNRWA does critical, lifesaving work here. And we get that, and we understand that.
So, we’re going to — as I said, it is — getting that critical — critical need to Palestinian civilians is a team effort. And there are other — obviously, other avenues that we have used. But they have to have this investigation. We got to get to the bottom of this.
Q Thanks, Karine. A clarity question on the border, and then another topic —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.
Q — if I can. Mitch McConnell did just say, “We have no real chance here to make a law.” Does the White House still think that there is a chance that this border bill gets passed?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You know, it is — it is deeply disappointing, if that is indeed the case. Obviously, Mitch McConnell is — is part of leadership there. And so, obviously, what he — what he says has weight. But it is disappointing to hear, right?
As the Pre- — President stated, there is no reason why politics should get in the middle of this, really. There really isn’t.
We are dealing with an issue that a majority of Americans care about: fixing the — starting the process to fix the immigration system, dealing with the challenges at the border. It’s there. It’s right in front of them. The text came out on Sunday.
We don’t understand why they won’t move forward. I keep saying — and I actually do understand, which is they’re getting pol- — they’re letting politics get in the way.
They need to show some spine here. They need to show some spine and deliver for the American people — what a majority of American people want. And it should not be about politics here.
You know, it’s taken more than two months where folks were working — people in the Senate were working around the clock to get this done, through the holidays to get this negotiation done. And, you know — and they did it in a bipartisan way.
You know, it is — it is — it is unfortunate, if that is indeed the case that it doesn’t get out of the Senate or, you know, just doesn’t move forward, period.
Q And then, on another topic. Expanding access to affordable Internet has been a priority for this administration, but the Affordable Connectivity Program is going to expire soon unless Congress takes action. We’ve been talking a lot about how difficult it’s been for Congress to move forward on things. Is there any sense that the administration thinks that that program will be extended? And if it isn’t, does the administration have other ways to keep that program going without congressional action?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Karen, it’s a great question. I would have to g- — talk to our Office of Leg Affairs to get a better sense of where they are with this and what their read is.
Obviously, this is why the bipartisan infrastructure legislation was so important. We had the broadband component to it and getting technology, getting that access to all Americans across the country. Whether it’s rural America, urban America, suburban America, whoever you are, it is important to make sure that they have that access.
It’s important — it is so important. That’s why the President wanted to make sure that it was included in the bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
But, look, I — as I’m reading out “bipartisan” — that was done in a bipartisan way — right? — the infrastructure legislation. So, it’s not like we can’t get this done. You know, we have had some pretty historic — historic pieces of legislation that was — been done in a bipartisan way.
And so, look, I have to talk to Office of Leg Affairs. We’ll look at — we’ll have more to share for you.
Go ahead, right in the middle.
Q Thank you, Karine. On the joint letter nine ambassadors sent to the Congress today. Can you explain what is the White House role behind it? How much do you think it helps?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, this morning, nine — as you just stated, nine of our ambassadors to countries across the Indo-Pacific, including to Japan, China, India, and Ph- — and the Philippines and the Republic of Korea, wrote a letter to the four leaders in Congress — this is Schumer, McConnell, Johnson, and Jeffries — urging them to act quickly to pass the President’s national security supplemental funding request, including the funding it contains for, obviously, the Indo-Pacific, as well as for Ukraine and Israel.
We were in contact with ambassadors thr- — although they wrote the letter themselves, we have been in contact with those ambassadors.
Q And one quickly on upcoming President Biden, President Xi’s call. Do you have a timeline? Are we expecting days or weeks or months?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, boy. (Laughs.) I don’t have a — I don’t have an update on a — on a scheduled call with President Xi and the Pre- — President Biden. I just don’t have anything to share at this time.
Q And was it President’s first bubble tea yesterday? And why did he choose to do that? (Laughter.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I want to be careful. That was a — that was technically a campaign event. So, I certainly will leave it to the campaign to answer that question more specifically.
Q Thank you so much. There’s a — there’s a report just came out like two hours ago. I’m not sure if you give us more information or a comment: The U.S. and four of its European allies hope to announce in the next few days a series of commitments made by Israel and Hezbollah to diffuse tensions and restore calm to Israel and Lebanon border.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m not going to — I’m not going to comment on report — reporting on a potential deal. I’m just not going to (inaudible).
Q One more question, if you don’t mind. So, we’ve been hearing a lot that this administration might claim, officially, Palestine as a state. This is something that we’ve been hearing a lot as a source — as sources from the White House or from the State Department. How serious is this — is this administration considering that the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The two-state solution?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We’ve been very serious. The President has talked about this multiple times. That’s what he wants to see: a two-state solution.
Q But we were talking about directly to claim Palestine as a state. So, Israel is a state already, but the — the administration is going to go and claim it after the war as a state and — and act with it as a straight — as a state.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, my answer is the same. The President has been very clear: He wants to see a two-state solution. He’s been clear about that for many, many years, and he’ll continue to do so.
Q Thanks, Karine. I’m going to ask you about layoffs. So, UPS is cutting 12,000 jobs. Wayfair is cutting 13 percent of their workforce. Macy’s, Amazon, Google, Citibank, Blackstone, they’re all announcing layoffs. The President talks about how he’s added back all the jobs lost in the pandemic and created 5.4 million jobs.
What’s the level of concern that 2024 will be that wave of layoffs that we’re going to start to see?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I — I’m certainly not going to speak to every company that you just named. But if you look at — and you just stated, if you look at under this — obviously, he takes that very seriously — any layoff. Right? He understand what that means to a family and how that could affect a family.
But the President has also done a lot of work to get this economy going again. Right? He’s done a lot of work to make sure that this economy is — is being built from the bottom up, middle out. He’s put — if — some of this piece of legislation that I’ve talked about talks about making sure that, you know, workers are — are being paid fairly — right? — that wages are — are competitive — right? — that — that there are good-paying union jobs. And we see that. We see that.
So, it’s not just those 14 million jobs. Many of those jobs are good-paying jobs — right? — that meet the moment that — that the Americans need.
And re- — let’s not forget, when the President walked into this administration, the economy was in a tailspin. He had to turn that around. He had to turn that around.
So, obviously, we’re always concerned hearing about layoffs, but at the same time, we are trying to build an economy that works for all and leaves no one behind. And you see that whether it’s the — in the — in the CHIPS and Science Act, whether it’s the bipartisan infrastructure legislation — make sure that those jobs are good-paying jobs, good union jobs. And many of them you don’t need a college education, so that’s really important as well.
Q The New York Federal Reserve just released a report today saying that Americans have $1.13 trillion in credit card debt, which is now another record. Is there an affordability crisis in the U.S.?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what we have been seeing, as you know, from the data — the data has been very clear here — that wages are going up, consumers are spending a lot more, and — this is important — wages are meeting inflation. That’s important. And — and obviously, inflation is — it has gone down. And I think that’s important as well. You got to look at the holistic components of the data. And I think that tells you a story of where we are as an economy.
Go ahead, Phil.
Q Yesterday, the White House Office of Management and Budget said that the President would veto a standalone Israel aid package coming out of the House. Is that still the case?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, that’s still the case. I mean, this particular — this particular — you’re talking about what the House — the House put — put forth?
Look — and you heard — I — I tweeted about this. As you sa- — you know, the SAP came out, as you just stated. Look, it — the President put forward — and I said this before — a — a national security supplemental. And the reason why a president puts forth a national security supplemental is because every — like every other president, it is an emergency request. It is an important request on behalf of — of Americans and our national security, and that included the support of Israel, Ukraine, and our partners in the Indo-Pacific — as I was just talk about — as well as a robus- — a robust humanitarian assistance as well. They are all important so that we can tin- — can continue to — to move forward in these elements in — in a way that is important to our national security.
And instead of working in good faith to address the most pressing national security challenges, the Isr- — the Israel-only supplemental is n- — is another cynical — it truly is a cynical political maneuver. That’s how we see it.
There’s a way to deal with this in a comprehensive way. Right? That’s what this national security supplemental — not do it in a piecemeal. That’s not how we want to do this. We want to do this in a comprehensive way.
And it does not help — this bill — this — this bill that we — that has been introduced, it doesn’t help the people of Ukraine that really need it. It doesn’t aff- — offer humanitarian assistance to people who need it. It does- — it’s not including Palestinian civilians who have nothing to do with Hamas and makes a political game of Israel’s — Israel’s security. That’s what we’re seeing.
So, we don’t want to see politics here. We want to do this in a way that — that meets our needs at this moment — our national security needs.
Q And then a second question. The President said last month that there was a crisis at the border. I know the White House is calling on members of Congress to — I think, in your words, to put policy about politics. In the absence of that, though, is the President evaluating any executive actions that he could take on his own to address that crisis? Is he looking at, perhaps, a menu of things like, you know, maybe a state of emergency or new policies that he can enact on his own?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We have a bipartisan agreement that the Senate put forth. Republicans and Democrats came together. There’s actually a piece of legislation. Text came out on Sunday. Folks have been working on that for two months, and it is the toughest and the fairest piece of legislation that we’ve seen in decades. There is something out there — right there in Congress for them to answer those questions that you just asked me. It is — it is a — you know, it is unfortunate that politics is getting in the way.
The Border Patrol Union, Phil, supported this —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — supported this legislation.
Q I — I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce —
Q I — I hear —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — support — supports this legislation.
Q I hear all of that — absolutely —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q — and that’s all been well reported.
Q Do you support it? (Laughter.)
Q But the — in terms of, like, generally, the consensus is that this thing is either imploded or it’s dead on arrival. And — and we can wait until there’s an actual vote. But is there anything that the President himself is evaluating that he could do, assuming what we all expect is going to happen happens, which is that this bill does not pass?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We want to see this agreement move forward. That’s what we want. I don’t have anything else to speak to.
Go ahead, George.
Q It’s been two weeks since the Court gave the President a victory over Texas on the border control. Two days ago, Governor Abbott said he’s going to expand Texas’s control of another stretch of the border. Has Texas won this showdown? When can we expect to see any action by the President in response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I mean, I’ve — we’ve been — I’ve been pretty clear about what Governor Abbott continues to do, which is play politics, which is — doesn’t make the lives of people who live Tex- — in Texas any safer. And it certainly doesn’t make the lives of migrants any safer, either. It’s inhumane, and it’s — it’s dehumanizing. And it’s unfortunate that’s what the governor wants to do.
Obviously, this is something that the Department of Justice — is a legal issue that they’re handling. So, I’m not going to get ahead of that. But we have seen how — how the governor has treated the immigration issue. We’ve seen how he’s treated the border issue. And instead of talking to — maybe he should talk to his congressional colleagues in the state and tell them, you know, “Hey, do your job. Act. Let’s really figure this out in a legislative way that can become law.” That — maybe that’s what he should be doing.
But I don’t have anything else to say.
Go ahead, Steven.
Q Hi, Karine. Thank you. I’ve got a Russia-Ukraine question and then a border question. Tucker Carlson is in Moscow and just confirmed that he’s going to be interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin. He argues that Americans have a right to know all they can about a war they’re implicated in. Carlson contended in his preview video that the Biden administration has opposed and even attempted to hinder his attempts to interview Putin. Do you have —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Wait, say that — say that last part again.
Q He said that the Biden administration has allegedly attempted to prevent him from interviewing Vladimir Putin. Do you have a comment on either the interview or that allegation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely not.
Q And for the border —
Q Absolutely not a comment or absolutely not that didn’t happen?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely not a comment, to be more clear. Period.
Q Thank you.
Q Thank you.
On the border. President Biden said today that the immigration system has been broken and that he intends to drive home the message that, quote, “The only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends.” Secretary Mayorkas repeatedly said that the border is secure, and that’s one of the reasons House Republicans are trying to impeach him.
Did President Biden just confirm that Mayorkas gave Congress false information when he said that the border was secure?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Can I — I actually want to go back to your question. It’s a ridiculous premise and a ridiculous statement that was made about this administration. So, I just want to be very —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — about — yes. I just want to be very, very clear. It’s just ridiculous.
So, going to Secretary Mayorkas for a second, to your second question. We believe what House Republicans are doing — and I’ve said this many times — nothing new here — it’s shameless. It’s — it’s baseless. There’s no merit for it.
And as I’ve been talking about this bipartisan agreement that came together with Republicans and Democrats over the last two mon- — two months, Secretary May- — Mayorkas was involved. He was part of that.
And what they’re doing is — you know, is all politics here — politics. And as the President said, our immigration system is broken. And he has repeatedly asked — repeatedly asked Congress for resources to take more action and secure the border. The administration, as I just mentioned, including Secretary Mayorkas, negotiated in good faith with Congress. And we believe that that bipartisan legislation should be passed, should be moved forward.
But what House Republicans continue — want to do is choosing to play politics instead of doing their jobs. That’s what House Republicans are doing. And it’s really shameful, as I just started saying, and they should focus — they should focus on what multiple — and here’s the thing — multiple House Republicans have said this too — that — that there’s no impeachable offenses committed here. That’s what some of their colleagues have said.
Just yesterday, Republican Congressman Ken Buck wrote an op-ed saying that weaponizing impeachment undermines both the Constitution and the seriousness that an impeachment ought to have. That is one of their colleagues said this. So, we really shouldn’t even be talking about this. We really shouldn’t.
It is a political play. It is a political ploy. And we’d encourage these House Republicans to drop these stunts that do nothing to address the serious issues and serious concerns that the American people have, including immigration systems, including the border.
Q Is there not an inherent contradiction, though, with the President saying today that the border is not secure and Secretary Mayorkas saying under oath to Congress that it is?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Here is what I will say: Secretary Mayorkas has done everything that he can do and — to deal with what’s going on at the border and to deal with a broken immigration, to the point where he was part of this negotiation process that we saw the Senate — the Senate go through. The President has confidence in the Secretary, and I think that’s what matters.
Q Thanks, Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks, guys.
3:39 P.M. EST