Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York
12:43 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just have two things at the top. And then, we don’t have a lot of time. As you all know, just a short flight.
So, because congressional Republicans are choosing partisan politics over our national security and refusing to pass the bipartisan national security agreement that includes significant border reforms and funding, over the coming weeks ICE will be forced to reduce operations because of budget shortfalls.
Since the beginning of the administration, we have asked Congress for additional funding and resources. And every time, Congress has provided less than we asked for or, most recently, completely ignored our supplemental request.
Here is what that means: ICE would be forced to reduce its removal operations, its total detention capacity, and more. When ICE can’t aff- — can’t conduct these operations, our national security and public safety will be harmed.
Speaker Johnson and congressional Republicans should be held accountable. This was their choice. They have picked partisan politics over our national security.
Yesterday, new analysis showed President Biden’s investment in the IRS will reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars by making the wealthy and the big corporations pay the taxes they owe. And — and has enacted — the Inflation Reduction Act’s IRS investment would raise over $500 billion over the next decade. If extended, as the President has proposed, it would raise over $800 billion.
These iventmen- — investments are already paying off. The IRS has already recovered more than half a billion dollars from over 1,600 delinquent millionaires. And it’s easier for taxpayers to get their — their questions answered on the phone, in person, or online.
Congressional Republicans have made their priorities clear. They want to increase the debt by letting the wealthy cheat on their taxes and then cut healthcare, education, and other programs hardworking families rely on. President Biden won’t let them.
With that, we have the Admiral, John Kirby, here, who is going to give us an update on the Middle East.
MR. KIRBY: I actually don’t have a topper for you today, so we can just take whatever is on your mind.
Q On the hostage situation. The President yesterday said something about the Hamas deal, and he expressed some skepticism about it. He said something about their — their response was “over the top.” Is there anything you can do to clarify what he meant by that, like — or anything you could say about what the Hamas response was?
MR. KIRBY: I mean, I’m afraid there’s really not much I can say, J.J. I mean, as we’ve all said consistently, we don’t want to negotiate this thing in public. Hamas did come back with a response. We’re working our way through that. I don’t want to get ahead.
As you know, Secretary Blinken is in the region right now talking to our counterparts in Israel about this. And in order to make sure we have the maximum chance for success, you know, I think the less said the better.
Q Whe- — could you just give us an update on Secretary Blinken’s meeting with Netanyahu? Has he discussed the proposal?
MR. KIRBY: I think they’re just coming out of the meeting, so I — I don’t have — I don’t have anything specific for you. I’d refer you to my counterparts at State.
Q How much of the Hamas offer really reflects the — the proposal that was drawn up by U.S. and Israeli chiefs that was delivered to Hamas last week? How much of what you have gotten back from them reflects that?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to get into the details. I’m sorry.
Q It’s been more than a month since that last U.S. assistance package was sent to Ukraine. Can you give us an assessment of how the Ukrainian army is doing right now in terms of ammunition and supplies?
MR. KIRBY: Well, I talked about this a little bit yesterday in my gaggle. And I’m certainly going to be careful not to get into the inventory levels of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
But battlefield commanders are making some really tough decisions right now. We know that in some units, they are marshalling their ammunition very, very closely because they’re beginning to get worried about running out. There are marshalling what kind of other longer-range systems that they are using.
And the Russians know this. That’s why they keep flying drones and missiles to — to force the Ukrainians to use air defense capabilities that they know are not being replaced right now.
So, it’s causing some tough decisions on — on the commanders’ part all along that front — from the east down to south.
Q And there’s a city, Avdiivka —
MR. KIRBY: Avdiivka, yeah.
Q I want to make sure I — yes. Can you talk a little bit about the concerns about what that would mean if that city were to fall? It would be the first major city taken by the Russians in a (inaudible) —
MR. KIRBY: Well, don’t forget Bakhmut.
Q Yeah, since — I was going to say “since Bakhmut.”
MR. KIRBY: Don’t forget Bakhmut.
MR. KIRBY: But Avdiivka — what we think the Russians want it for is a — a stepping-off point, a logistics hub. And the Ukrainians keep fighting for it. I mean, it’s — it — they’ve — they’ve swapped territory in and around Avdiivka now for a couple of months.
But we believe the Russians wanted to be able to have a base of operations for that area, the Donbas.
Q And because the U.S. hasn’t — doesn’t have the ability now to send more assistance, is that city more at risk?
MR. KIRBY: I think there’s risks all along that battlefront — east down to south. And not just along the battlefront, but there’s risk inside to — in Ukraine because we know the Russians were going after their defense industrial base and other targets — civilian targets as well as military targets. So, it’s — it’s a risk all along.
Q On the Tucker Carlson interview with Vladimir Putin, do you have any thoughts on that interview? And is there any concern in the administration about any disinformation that could emerge from that?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t get ahead of an interview that hasn’t happened yet.
I don’t — I think it’s pretty obvious — it should be very obvious to everybody what Mr. Putin has done in Ukraine and the bogus — completely bogus and — and ridiculous reasons for which he tried to justify it. I don’t think we need another interview with Vladimir Putin to — to understand his brutality.
Q Do you have anything to tell us about the mis- — about Marines gone missing off California — the search for missing Marines.
MR. KIRBY: I’m sorry?
Q Do you have anything to tell us about the Marines that have been missing and that they’re looking for off the coast of California?
MR. KIRBY: All — all that we know right now is that the search is ongoing for — for the helicopter and the crew. Obviously, our — our hopes are of the best here. But this was a MH-53 — Marine Corps MH-53 — a large helicopter that was on its way from the Creech Air Force Base to San Diego, and that’s really all we know.
We’re — we’re watching this closely. And again, our thoughts are for the best.
Q Can you tell —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We can tell you that the President has been briefed on it. So, he’s aware.
Q Can you tell us the White House reaction to Schumer’s plan B?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Do you — do you have any — anything else for the — for the Admiral before we let him —
Q A border question.
Q Just wanted to understand your thoughts on, you know, the kind of proposal in terms of — I mean, it doesn’t really indicate a willingness to negotiate. How would you characterize the Hamas proposal?
MR. KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to get into that. I know — I appreciate the question, but we want to have success here. And the less said about it, the better.
I’ll — I’ll turn it over to Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Admiral. I appreciate it.
So, to your question about — I think you were asking me about the Schumer package in — in more — in more — more specifically.
Look, I mean, you heard what I said at the top, right? We — what we support is making sure that our national — the Americans — American people’s national interests are protected. That is our focus here.
And, you know, House Republicans — Republicans are making a choice here. And this is their choice. And the reason why the President — and you’ve heard me say this; you’ve heard the President say this — the reason why we put forward a national security supplemental is because there was an urgency, a need to make sure that the brave people of Ukraine got — got the — gets the additional help to push back on — on President Putin, to make sure that we keep our promises to Israel, to make sure that we get that really important humanitarian assistance. Let’s not forget the Indo-Pacific.
So, this is their choice. This is their choice. And so, our focus is always going to be our — about our national security interest on behalf of the American people, obviously.
Q It sounds like you’re in favor of something over nothing. Better to vote on a piece of the package.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m certainly not going to get ahead of it.
I want to take a step back. Look, they decided — Republicans decided to choose politics over — over important — important issues — important issues that’s relating to our national security, as — obviously, to deliver meaningful, meaningful changes.
Let’s not forget: What we were requesting in the border — what the border deal — right? — that bipartisan agreement was not just about — was not just about, you know, the challenges at the border and getting those resources, but it was also about meaningful change that we can make to immigration — our immigration system — a broken system that has been broke- — that has obviously been broken for decades now.
So, look, we — the — the Senate worked for a couple of months, Republican and Democrats. They put forth a — a very — a fair — and you’ve heard me say “tough but fair” — you know, proposal that has been — that has been supported by the Border Patrol union, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other — and other Republicans as well.
And so, it’s — it’s — you know, it’s their choice. It is their choice.
Q Does the White House’s support for plan B — this clean supplemental without border policy — indicate that you guys view the border negotiations as done? Or is there a way to resurrect them?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There’s still a process that’s happening in the Senate. We’re going to let that play out. We’ve been very clear what our focus is on. The focus is about our national security — protecting the national security on behalf of the American people. And we’ve been very clear on that.
Republicans have a choice to make. It’s clear they’re — they’re picking politics over the American people — what — what about — mor- — majority of the American people want to see when you think about the border security plan, the bipartisan agreement that was — that was put together. And that’s for them to speak to.
Q Does the White House anticipate — does the White House anticipate that Special Counsel Hur is going to release his report on the President’s handling of classified documents?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s some- —
Q Have you been given a heads up on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s something —
Q Have you been given a heads up on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That’s something for the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel — my colleagues at the White House Counsel to speak to.
Q Will the President address it after the report is released?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not —
Q Will we hear from him on it?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just not going to get ahead of it. That’s something the Department of — the — that’s in the Department of Justice hands and my White House Counsel colleagues to speak to.
Q You’ve got senior policy officials going to Michigan, meet with Arab American leaders. Is it — is this damage control in a key swing state? I mean, is this political damage control?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we’ve always said — we’ve always said that we are going to — to reach out to different communities and hear directly from them, including the Muslim and Arab American community. We have done that. We’ve been consistent on doing that over the past several months with White House officials.
You’ve — you’ve heard the President also — we’ve spoken to the President also meeting with this really — this really important community. And so, that continues. You heard me say, and I — you know, I think it was on one of these Air Force One flights — gaggles that — that we were going to have White House officials go to — go to Michigan to continue those conversations.
And so, that’s going to happen sometime in February. I don’t have anything else to share on that. But obviously, I — we confirmed that that was going to — going to be the case. And we continue — we continue to speak to people in — folks — people in the Jewish community, obviously the Arab community and the Muslim community. We — we believe it’s important to hear from these communities.
Q On — on that. What’s your message to the protesters that we’re likely going to see today in New York City? What’s your message to them that are com- — you know, we’ve seen at every stop, they come out. They’re —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, we’ve been pretty consistent. You know, we’ve been — we’ve always said, you know, we — we think Americans have — have the right to hear their — to give — make sure their voices are heard in a peaceful way. We support that. The President supports that. You hear the President when — when situations do occur.
And that’s where we are. We think it’s important for folks to make sure their voices are heard.
Q Karine, for tomorrow’s meeting in Michigan, you’re not —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not confirming any meeting. I just want to make sure that it’s happening —
Q Okay. We understand the meeting —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — that it’s happening —
Q — that’s happening tomorrow. Just wanted to understand what specifically, you know, is the administration planning to raise with the Arab American community.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, let me just be clear: I’m not confirming anything. We have said that White House officials were going to obviously go to Michigan to continue — this is a continuation of conversations that they’ve been having with the Muslim and Arab communities and other communities, like the Jewish American community as well.
I’m not going to get ahead of what’s going to be said. Obviously, we’re going to listen and hear what leaders of that community has to say. We are open to that — having a real, honest dialogue. I just don’t have anything to confirm on timing and when that’s going to happen.
Q And then one more on the — on the President’s meeting with the Teamsters. Is there, like, a new date when he’s planning to meet with them? Or, you know, are you optimistic of an endorsement landing soon?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I know you’ve asked that question many times, my friend. So, I’ll say this. As it relates to any endorsement, that’s something for the campaign to speak to. Can’t speak for — about that from my perch, obviously, as a federal employee. The Hatch Act. I — and I don’t have any meetings to — to read out to you.
Q Was the President watching things last night? Was he watching what was unfolding on the House — the Mayorkas vote, the Israel vote? How was he getting briefed or paying attention to that last night?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, first of all, let me just say that, as you know, there was the — there was an event at the White House last night, a Black History Month event. So, the President obviously spoke at that, attended that. That happened last evening. More than 500 people attended to celebrate not just Black History Month but what the President has been able to achieve for the — for Black Americans — the Black American community.
Look, you know, I have not spoken to him about this. I’m sure he’s — he obviously caught — caught and obviously pays close attention to what’s happening. But I just don’t have anything to say.
I will say, on the Mayorkas front, the impeachment — look, you’ve heard — you heard me say this yesterday. You’ve heard me say this many times before. It is unfortunate that this is where House Republicans spend their time.
We’ve been talking about this bipartisan agreement. They — if they really want to fix the issue at the border and the challenges that we’re seeing, if they really want to address immigration, a decades — a dec- — a system that’s been broken for decades, they can join us. They can actually deal with this issue.
Mayorkas actually helped — helped with the negotiations on — on the border neg- — on the border security bipartisan deal. But they waste — they’re wasting their — they wasted their time. It is shameful and it is baseless what they — what they’re doing with this impeachment.
And so, I’ll just leave it there.
Q Karine, one more question on the border. You said that Republicans need to be held accountable for this. The President yesterday said that he’s going to go out in the country and talk about it. What — how is that going to manifest? What does that look like? And does the President plan to go to the border?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the President was at the border last year. So, just want to make sure — make that clear.
And so, he got to see for himself what the Border Patrol agents go through — their process. And he got to see the technology that’s used. You guys — some of — I’m sure, if you guys on the plane weren’t here, some of your colleagues were there and got to see the President in action and — and really get a sense for himself what happens at the border. So, don’t have anything to share there.
Look, the President made it very clear. I — you know, he gave a very strong — strong speech and remarks about what he’s — the politics that are being played around the border, the challenges at the border.
Let’s not forget what was — many of the — many of the — of the proposals that was in that agreement — that bipartisan border negotiation agreement had things that Republicans had been talking about for years, things that they wanted to see change.
I mean, when you have the Border Patrol union supporting a piece of legislation, that’s a big deal.
And so, it’s politics that they’re playing. It’s pure politics. And so, they have to — you know, they have to be held to account.
Go ahead. I have to — this will be the last one.
Q On that. Is there any plan for the President to convene the Big Four congressional leaders to come into the Oval again to hash out the aid package?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I don’t have any — any — anything to — to preview at this time. Obviously, you know, early January, he met with congressional leaders — rank and file, obviously, members — to talk about Ukraine and the importance of getting the Ukraine funding, and, of course, the border — border security challenges and — and negotiations came up in that conversation.
I just don’t have anything else to share.
And as you also know, White House officials continue to be in close touch with congressional members. And that will always be the case. And the President has long history and relationships with many members in Congress.
But I just don’t have anything to — to reach out.
Q Real quick, any update on the press conference tomorrow?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Stay tuned.
Q We are.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Stay tuned. (Laughter.)
Q We are still —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Stay tuned. And —
Q We are tuned.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The President — the President takes — takes questions pretty regularly, but stay tuned.
Q Well, he could take questions today.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Stay tuned. Stay tuned.
Well, we have a long day.
Q Are you — are you saying that this is the best deal you thought could be reached?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think it was — just think about this: This was a bipartisan agreement coming from the Senate — Republicans, Democrat — for two months, hatching out how to move forward with a challenge at the border and immigration and also a broken system — the immigration system. I mean, you know, that’s a — that’s really important.
And we’ve heard from Republicans saying that this isn’t really important. What — what this deal brings forth, they couldn’t get anything better. Right? We’ve heard Republicans speak to how important this piece of — this pie- — this proposal was.
And so, it makes no sense. The — you know, you have two sides, two fo- — two sides of the aisle coming together — right? — and putting together this agreement that is really, truly going to make a difference w- — on the immigration — part of some — some immigration proposal, some funding — right? — discussion of funding at the border. And they’re playing politics. They’re purely playing politics.
So, this would have been, if enacted — if they had moved forward — if they move forward — right? — and they enact this, this would be a fair and tough proposal — piece of legislation that would have obviously come in — come into law.
So, that’s where we are.
All right. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thank you.
1:01 P.M. EST