2:47 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone.

Q    Good afternoon.

Q    Hello.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughter.)  Hi.  Hello.  Thanks, Weijia. 

All right.  A couple of things at the top before we get going.

The President has been receiving updates on the wildfires that have already scorched over 500,000 acres across the Texas Panhandle.  We are grateful for the brave firefighters and first responders who are working to protect people and save lives.  And we urge everyone in the affected area to remain vigilant and heed the warnings of local officials, especially those who have been ordered to evacuate.

White House and federal officials are in close contact with state and local officials on the frontlines of these fires, and FEMA and the U.S. Forest Service are providing assistance to — to the state.  Specifically, FEMA has issued two fire management assistant grants to support Texas and one grant for Oklahoma. 

The National Interagency Fire Center and the U.S. Forest Service are also providing firefighting assistance, including tanker planes.  As always, we stand ready to provide further support as needed.

And tomorrow, following Secretary Becerra’s trip to Alabama, the White House Gender Policy Council and Office of Public Engagement will host a listening session on the importance of access to IVF following a devastating Alabama Supreme Court decision. 

The Biden-Harris administration will continue to speak out against this ruling; fight to protect access to reproductive healthcare, including IVF; and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in fed- — in federal law for all women in every state. 

And we will have more, obviously, to share on this event later today. 

Also today, President Biden will sign an executive order to protect Americans’ sensitive personal data from exploitation by countries of concern.  This is the most significant executive action any president has ever taken to protect Americans’ data security.  It will authorize the Attorney General to prevent the large-scale transfer of Americans’ personal data to countries of concern and provides safeguards around other activities that can give those countries access to sensitive data.

Buying data through data brokers is currently legal in the United States, and that reflects a gap in our national security.  Today, we are taking narrowly crafted steps to close that gap.

Aver- — as a result of the EO, the Department of Justice will begin a process to put regulations in place to prohibit the scale of data or — the sale of data, pardon me, or put in place a cybersecurity safeguards on the transfer of data.

Of course, throughout this process, we engage heavily with industry and other stakeholders to minimize any unintended economic impacts that will continue as this process moves forward.  The administration is committed to protecting American safety and privacy, and we will continue to take appropriate action to ensure their protection.

With that, Aamer, you want to kick us off?

Q    Yes.  On Leader McConnell’s announcement today.  Did he call or let the President know — he was here yesterday — ahead of the announcement —


Q    — that he would be making it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any — any details to read out to you outside of, obviously, the readout that we — that we had or beyond the rea- — readout that we had from yesterday.  You heard directly from the President just moments ago.  I believe you were in the room, Aamer. 

And I’ll quote the President: “He and I have trust. We have a great relationship.  We fight like hell, but he has never, never, never misrepresented anything.  I’m sorry he’s stepping down.” 

I just don’t have anything outside of that.

Q    So, to that end, what does this mean, if anything, for current negotiations on big items like the — this foreign aid supplemental or even the CR?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I don’t — I don’t presume it means anything, right?  He said he’s going to step down, essentially, at the — by the end of the year.  I don’t think that affects his leadership.  Leader McConnell has been a leader, as you know, for some time of the Senate. 

And he’s been very clear, as well as the other four — the other three of the Big Four yesterday.  They said it was important.  They all agree the importance of making sure Ukraine gets the funding that they need.  They all four agreed with the President and the Vice President on making sure that we keep the government open. 

And I think that’s important — important to note.  And so, I don’t think it affects Mitch McConnell’s leadership in this current time as we’re moving forward. 

Look, we have bipartisan support in the Senate.  And we know that we have bipartisan support on — on the House side as it relates, obviously, to the national security supplemental.  And we want to see the House bring that forward and put that to the floor so we can see that moving so we can make sure that the brave people of Ukraine gets — continues to get the assistance that they need from the United States.

Q    And the Leader also noted in his floor speech that, “Father Time remains undefeated,” and “It is time for the next generation of leadership.”  How does that sentiment resonate, if at all, with the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this.  Look, we — a decision like that that the — that the — Mitch McConnell, the Senator, made is a very personal decision.  And that is for an individual to make and decide on.  And he spoke to it.  So, I’ll certainly let the senator continue to speak to that, if he chooses.  And we know his words.  We heard it on the floor of the Senate today. 

The President has been very clear.  The President has said he wants to continue to deliver for the American people, as he has done in the last three years in a historic fashion. 

This is — this is a historic presidency when you think about how we’ve turned the economy around; when you think about how we’ve been able to — the President has been able to beat — beat Big Pharma and let Medicare negotiate for — for the American people, making sure that we’re getting these prices to be lower; a climate change aden- — agenda; passing an Inf- — the Inflation Reduction Act, a incredibly important piece of legislation, obviously, that is now law that’s going to do — that’s going to move the climate situation in a direction that is in the positive way — right? — and to make sure that we’re dealing with the climate — the climate change issue.

So, there’s a lot of things that the President has done.  He wants to continue that.  And that’s what he’s looking forward to do.  And obviously, you’ll hear a lot more from him next week as he addresses — addresses Congress.

Q    And could you just indulge me on just one non-McConnell question?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Sure.

Q    He’s going to the border tomorrow.  What should we expect him to see and do, and what’s his objective?  What does he hope to accomplish tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know — as you all know, we’ve — we’ve announced and you all have reported he’s going to go to Brownsville, Texas, tomorrow.  He’s going to meet with Border Patrol agents, law enforcement officials, frontline personnel, and local leaders. 

While he is there, the President will be briefed by officials from the Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  And the President will also deliver remarks to highlight the need for Congress to pass the bipartisan border security agreement that was negotiated out of the Senate, as you know, not too long ago and took four months — four months of us, the White House, working with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to get that done.  And obviously, Republicans have rejected that because of politics. 

Go ahead, Selina.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The President said he’s sorry to hear that McConnell is stepping down.  But what impact broadly does he believe this will have on the Republican Party, on the future of the party, and the future of Congress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to get into — you know, into evaluating or looking into how this is going to affect the Republican Party.  That’s for them to speak to.

What we’re going to continue to do is work on behalf of the American people.  We know where the — where — where the Big Four stand as it relates to making sure that we get that national security supplemental done in a bipartisan way.  It was done in the Senate in a bipartisan way.  We want to see that get to the floor. 

We know where the Big Four stood yesterday on making sure that there is not a shutdown, that that is avoided, that Congress do its job and keep the — keep the government open to make sure that Americans get the programs that they need from — from the federal government — important programs, important — import- — important resources that is critical to the American people. 

That’s where we stand.  That’s what we understand.  As it relates to the Republican Party, that’s for the Republican Party to speak to.

Q    And did the President take a mental fitness or cognitive test during his physical this morning? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just say I did see Dr.  O’Connor in — he stopped by my office earlier today, after the President completed his physical this morning, as you all know.  He was happy with how everything went.  And as soon as he finishes completing the memo — it will be a robust, comprehensive memo — we will certainly share that with all of you, as we have done in the last two years. 

And look, you saw the President return to work.  He took some of your questions not too long ago, and you saw he’s going to continue to — to fight for the American people.  And in this particular instance, he was talking about fighting — fighting crime.  So, the President is going to continue that — that process.

As it relates to — you were asking me about a cognitive test — as it relates to that, look, you know, the President doesn’t need a cognitive test.  That is not my assessment.  That is not my assessment.  That is the assessment of the President’s doctor.  That is also the assessment of the neurologist who has also made that assessment as well. 

And, you know — and you’ve heard us say this, and I’ll reiterate this: The President’s doctor has said, if you look at what this President — the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief — he passes a cognitive test every day — every day, as he moves from one topic to another topic, trying — understanding the granular level of these topics. 

 You saw him talk about a fighting crime today.  Tomorrow, he’s going to go to the border.  Next week, he’s going to give a State of the Union Address. 

And so, we have to keep that in mind.  This is a very rigorous job.  And the President has been able to do — do this job every day for the past three years. 

And let’s not forget, he is also leading a historic presidency, which is also important to note in everything that we’ve been able to do — he’s been able to get done over the past three years. 

Q    But given that there’s been so much scrutiny, and you say there’s no problem, he would pass the test every day, why not just have his doctor administer the test and then case closed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Because the doctor doesn’t believe that he be- — he needs one, because his — including the neurologist doesn’t believe he needs one.

Look, I think — I think folks need to understand that the President passes, again, a cognitive test every day.  If you look at what a clinical cognitive test is actually, what it actually does, it is a 15-minute appointment that is — that is administered by someone that, most of the time, people don’t actually know. 

And — and — and the President has a team of doctors that is with him 24/7.  And he is able to do the work every day that is rigorous — that is more rigorous than it would be for any 15-minute clinical — clinical appointment. 

And you think about the job growth, you think about the record small-business action, you think about the bloom in that — in that particular space of 16 million more small businesses have been cre- — created.  You think about delivering historic investment — that has been done by a president who has to deal with these issues every day, again, on a granular level. 

And — and so, his doctor, including the neurologist, do not believe that he needs one.  That is their assessment. 

Go ahead, Jeff.

 Q    Thanks, Karine.  Is the President’s expectation still that a ceasefire will take place in Gaza starting on Monday? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President, obviously, and his team has been working 24/7 for some time now, as you all know, to get to a — to get to a cea- — a ceasefire.  Obviously, that would also include humanitarian aid get — going into Gaza.  That would also include making sure that we get hostages home, including American hostages back home to their friends and families, obviously, which is incredibly important. 

We are working around the clock to get that done.  The President — you heard the President a couple of days ago say that he is certainly — he is optimistic and hopeful in that getting done.  And so, that is incredibly important to this President, to his entire team to secure — to secure that deal — that hostage deal.  So, we’re going to continue focusing on that. 

I wish I had something to share of any news on where we were.  I do not.  But this is a priority for this President. 

Q    I’m just curious if he still thinks that timeline is realistic.  (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think he’s optimistic and he believes that it is — it is important to get done. 

Q    And separately, did the President monitor his son’s testimony today in Congress?  And does he have a comment or does the White House have a broader comment about it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can’t speak to — I can’t speak to the President monitoring that.  Obviously, he was busy this morning.  You saw him go to Walter Reed.  And obviously, he gave remarks and met with — did remarks on crime and met with some law enforcement.

 What I would say is — just going to be, you know, as — anything that’s related to — to Hunter, obviously, Hunter and his representatives can speak to that on any specifics regarding his testimony. 

I’ll say this broadly, and we’ve been very clear here that we think it’s a stunt that has dragged on for months and months and months.  It’s uncovered zero evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden.  In fact, House Republicans’ own wit- — own witnesses have refuted their allegations over and over again and — and the core premise of their inquiry continues to fall apart. 

You all have reported this.  We have seen this for the past several months. 

So, House Republicans would be better off in helping American families.  There’s a national security supplemental that, if it went to the floor, it would pass.  That would help our own national security, that would help Ukraine, that would help other — making sure that we get that humanitarian aid into Gaza, making sure that we’re continuing to assist Israel.  And also, let’s not forget the Indo-Pacific. 

There is a potential shutdown.  The clock is ticking.  They need to do their jobs and get that done.

And so, look, you know, that’s kind of where we are with this.  It’s dragged on.  There’s zero evidence.  We think it’s baseless. 

Anything else, I would refer you to our Hou- — White House Counsel. 

Go ahead.

Q    Just on the news about Senator McConnell.  Does — do you know if the President feels like he increasingly has fewer Republican governing partners that he can work with on Capitol Hill?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, we’re talking about Mitch McConnell, the Leader.  Obviously, he’s been — he’s been in that — in that role as Senator for some time, has worked very closely with this President.  You heard from the President how he views their relationship — a very important relationship. 

But, look, we were able to get a bipartisan negotiation coming out of the Senate on border security, on — on dealing with a broken immigration system, which is something that people didn’t think we were able to do. 

Se- — you know, that is really important.  We were able to get a bi- — bipartisan support on the national security supplemental — 70 to 29 — you know?  And I think that is also important that we were able to do that in the political climate that we’re in. 

Are we sorry to see Mitch McConnell go?  Because, obviously — in November, when he steps down, he still — sounds like he’s still going to be in the Senate.  He’s just stepping down as leadership.  So, I want to make that clear as well.  And the President said he’s sorry to — to see that happen. 

But we believe that there are still ways and still Republicans, certainly, in the Senate that we can work in a bipartisan way.  And we have done that.  We have done that over the last three years.

Q    A little follow-up to Jeff’s question but more narrowly tailored, I guess.  Is the President supportive of his son, Hunter, you know, sitting down for this closed-door deposition today?  Does he think it’s a good idea?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to get into private conversations that the President has with his family.  Just not going to do it from here.  I’m just going to leave it there. 

I shared our thoughts on this.  We’ve been very clear how we think it’s a political stunt.  We would love to work with the House R- — with House Republicans on issues that matter to the American people.  The President has said: It’s — why don’t they focus on the American people instead of his family?  And everything that they have moved forward with as it relates to this, certainly, has been baseless. 

I’m just not going to get into a private conversation with the President.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Was President Biden surprised that more than 100,000 voters in Michigan in yesterday’s primary chose to vote that they were “uncommitted”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’ll say this.  The President is — appreciates the people of Michigan coming out last night to make sure that their voices were heard yesterday.  I think that’s really important.  And he is proud to have received more than 80 percent of the Democratic Party voters’ vote.  And I think that’s really important.

As it relates to the uncommitted, look, I said this yesterday: There has been senior officials that have gone to Michigan, as recently as earlier this month, to hear directly from the Muslim and Arab American community.  And we understand how — how personal this is, how this moment is incredibly painful.  And we’re going to continue to have those conversations.  And we’re going to make sure that we continue to listen and continue to engage. 

And as I mentioned earlier before, this is why it’s important to get this hostage deal.  It will be accompanied with a temporary ceasefire.  And so, we want to see that done.  We want to see that moving forward.  The President is going to continue to work on that 24/7. 

And — and let’s not forget: We’re going to continue to work on making sure there is a two-state solution as well. 

And so, he is — he appreciates folks getting out there, making their voices heard.  But he also got more than 80 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, and that’s important, too, to note.

Go ahead, Jordan.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  It sounds like negotiators on the Hill are making progress toward avoiding a government shutdown.  But it seems like they might need a stopgap spending bill to make sure there’s no temporary shutdown.  Do you see that as a scenario?  And would the President sign one if necessary?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re going to let the negotiators do their job, do their work.  We’ve been very clear: There is no need for a shutdown here.  And, you know, the President and the four — the Big Four made that clear yesterday in their meeting.

And House Republicans need to do their job.  They need to do their job.  It is not rocket sci- — rocket science — right? — what needs to happen.  They need to figure it out, keep the government open, make sure those all-important programs that the American people need continue. 

And so, I’m going to let the congressional leaders
have their conversations, do their negotiations on the exact path forward, and leave that to them. 

Q    The — the House is expected to consider a bill that would transfer the RFK Stadium site in Washington, D.C., to local leadership that would allow it to be redeveloped for, perhaps, another stadium or housing.  Does the White House support that bill?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have anything for you on that.  I would have to — I haven’t checked with the team.  I know — I saw that reporting.  I just don’t have anything to share with you on that.

Q    Then, lastly, Venezuela has proposed some changes to its election that run aground of the agreement it had with the U.S. — moving up the election date, sort of limiting the involvement of opposition.  Is the White House aware of that?  And, if so, would that trigger snapback sanctions if that were the case?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I would have to get back to the team on that — on that particular election question that you just asked me, and just would have to get back to you on that piece — particular piece.

Go ahead, Danny.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The World Food Program has warn- –warned that famine is imminent in Northern Gaza.  Does the White House share that assessment of the situation there, that a famine is imminent?  And has the — has the White House urged Israel specifically to let aid into that — to that particular area?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, this is why we’re trying to get that deal, right?  This is why we’re trying to get the hostage deal, which would be accompanied, obviously, by a temporary ceasefire.  It is important.  It is important to get that aid into Gaza, to make sure that we get the food and the necessary medical needs into Gaza.  And so, that is going to — that is certainly why we’re continuing to push, obviously, to make sure that the hostages get home to their families. 

And so, this is what the President wants to see.  We know that innocent Palestinians are indeed suffering in Gaza.  We understand that.  The President understands that, which is why he’s been working, again, around the clock, 24/7, to get that all-important humanitarian aid. 

You heard from my colleague yesterday, as — as the administrator from USAID was — is in the region and announced $53 million of additional humanitarian aid that will go into — into Gaza to make sure that food is getting in, make sure that sup- — other supplies are getting in — critical supplies.  And so, that announcement happened yesterday. 

So, we are aware of what’s happening on the ground there.  And we are going to continue to work 24/7 to get that hostage deal done, to make sure that there is a temporary — a temporary ceasefire, getting that aid in, and getting those hostages home — hostages home.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Does the President support an extension of the current continuing resolutions to later in March to give negotiators time to come to an agreement and avoid a government shutdown?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I just got a version of that question.  And, look, I think we were very clear that all four — the Big Four that were here meeting with the President and the Vice President were very clear yesterday — the importance of continu- — continuing to making sure or keeping the government open and not shutting down.  The clock is ticking.  And they all agreed that we have to keep the government open.  They have to do that.  Right? 

And so, as it relates to the process and how they’re going to do that, I’m going to let the negotiators and congressional members deal with that.  They can figure that out. 

But it is important — it is important that we keep the government open.

Q    And I hear what you’re saying about Mitch McConnell staying until the end of the year.  But with respect to Ukraine aid, based on his comments today, are you concerned that there just isn’t support for Ukraine aid among many Republicans in Congress —


Q    — and that there — and that there won’t be — that they won’t be able to get the votes for that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I — I disagree.  There is actually support for Ukraine.  There is bipartisan support in the House.  I mean, they got it, certainly, from the Senate, right?  They passed, 70 to 29, a national security supplemental that include — that included aid to Ukraine.  They just did that. 

Now we want to see that go to the floor of the House.  And we have heard from Republicans who have said that if it came to the floor, they would vote for it.  So, that’s what we want to see. 

So, we actually believe there’s support in — in — with House Republicans, obviously with Democrats, to move that really all-important national security supplemental that is needed for — not just for Ukraine and, obviously, Israel and — and Indo-Pacific and what we need to do there in getting that humanitarian aid, obviously, to folks — innocent Palestinians who need it in Gaza, but also for our own national security, it is important that we get done. 

I talked about this yesterday: During the Big Four meeting, we had the CIA Director that was in that meeting that laid out the dire consequences and what we have seen in Ukraine as they have lost — you know, they have lost ground on the battlefield.  And it is because of congressional inaction.  They laid that out for them. 

And so — and so, look, the CIA Director was clear in that meeting.  We have been clear.  And they all agreed.  They all agreed.  All four agreed that we needed to move forward on this.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks.  Can you talk a little bit about the President’s prep for the State of the Union next week?  How involved has he been so far in the drafting of the speech and
where that process stands a week out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we still have a little bit mo- — time left.  The President — obviously, this is a — the President sees this as an incredibly important opportunity not just to address Congress but also to — to address the American people.  Millions of people — millions of Americans are going to be watching and listening to the President talk about the state of the Union, obviously, and how he’s going to move forward with — with his plans for — on behalf of the American people.

As it relates to the draft, it’s always in progress, obviously — almost alwa- — always — almost always to the end, to the final, final minute.  And so, the President is going to be heavily involved, as he has been for the last two. 

He’s looking forward to this moment.  We still will — we’ll still — about a week away.  And so, there’s still time.  There’s still time. 

Q    And he’s going to Camp David this weekend.  Is that meant to be practice sessions?  Is he bringing people up there with him to do speaking (inaudible) —

 MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, he’s going to work — he’s going to work on the State of the Union Address.  He’s going to continue to work on behalf of the American people as he’s there.  And so, look, there’s going to be, obviously, focus on — on the speech.  Just don’t have anything else to share. 

We’ll sh- — we’ll have more color for you as we get closer — closer to next Thursday.

Q    And, of course, wh- — should we expect travel after the State of the Union?  Would he be doing that traditional “take message on the road”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, the President likes to be on the road and talk directly to the American people.  So, certainly, you’ll — you should expect the President to get on the road, as he normally does. 

Go ahead, Andrew.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  On — on the matter of the President’s physical.  I know, in years past, Dr. O’Connor has put out a memo to you that gets released —


Q    — to us.  The President is the oldest person to ever serve as President.  And I know that — you’ve said he takes a cognitive test every day through doing the job and Dr. O’Connor has said that he remains healthy enough to exercise his various responsibilities. 

Having said that, why is — is the President or your office not willing to make Dr. O’Connor available to us to just answer questions here?  Previous presidents —


Q    — have put their doctors up at that lectern.  Why — why not this one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So — so, a couple things, Andrew.  And the President said that they thought he was “too young,” so, you know, you heard from the President.  He talked about this when he was asked. 

And so, look, as it relates to Dr. O’Connor — look, this is someone who has served under Republican and Democratic presidents in the White House as a military physician, extensively in the field as well.  And — and so, he is well respected.  And let’s not rememb- — let’s not forget, there was a — he did this with a team — a team of 20 — 20 doctors who participated in completing the President’s physical at Walter Reed.  So, it wasn’t just him.  There were specialists that were part of this as well. 

Q    Yes, and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And — and I think that’s important to note. 

And I said, at the beginning, when I —

Q    But —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Wait.  Let me finish.  I said, at the beginning, when I was asked this question: It’s not just Dr. O’Connell — O’Connor who said this; also, his neurologist does — do not believe that he needed — that was their assessment — that they did not believe he needed a cognitive test.

As it relates to your question, there is not a precedent for bringing the doctor to — to the podium.  And it — or to the brof- — to the briefing room.

Like, I understand it has happened a few times over the last 35 years, a couple of times, but it is actually not the precedent.  And so, what Dr. O’Connor has done is he has put forward, over the last two years, a comprehensive, robust — robust memo — as you just stated, that is sent to me and then, obviously, we disseminate it to all of you — that lays out — lays out in parts of the President’s physical.  And I think that’s important.  It is — it is robust, and it is comprehensive.

Q    That — that being said, I know it hasn’t been, you know, a yearly thing for every president.  But given the President’s age; given that his age is a concern for Americans, accor- — according to polling, it is an issue; and he — that he is the oldest person to ever serve as president, why would it not help, in your estimation, to put Dr. O’Connor or any of the other medical unit physicians that —


Q    — that saw the President up there to answer questions, not necessarily from, you know, all of us but some of our colleagues who are medical correspondents, people who really know — know the medical field.  Can he be made available to some of them, even if you don’t want to put him up here?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not a doctor.  The doctor — the —

Q    Me neither.  (Inaudible.) 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Right.  And I am — and that’s why I’m telling you and you will see from the doctor himself in a couple of hours.  We will certainly make this robust, comprehensive memo, as we have done the last two years, available to all of you.

And the reason I said I’m not a doctor is because his own doctor — his personal doctor, as well as the neurologist — has said that we don’t need to have a cognitive test.  As it relates to the Pres- — the doctor coming to — coming to the briefing room, it is not a norm.  We’re trying to get back to the norm that it was — it used to be where doctors don’t come to the briefing room. 

It is not — it is not the norm.  It is not.  It has happened a couple times over the 35 years, but it’s not the norm. 

And so, look, the — the doctor has also said that, look, he is — he is a professional here.  He doesn’t want to make this about politics.  He wants to make this about the work.  He wants to make this about making sure that we put forward to — to you — he puts forward to all of you a robust, comprehensive memo.  And that is what we — we’re going to do.  We did it the last two years, and we’re going to do it again.

Q    Okay.  One more on — on Gaza and the Michigan results last night.  There are many, many voters in Michigan — Arab American voters — who have said that they — they cannot vote for the President again because of what has transpired in Gaza.  There are many who voted “uncommitted” to register their disapproval but remain open to voting for the President in November. 

What is he going to do between now and November to assuage the concerns of people who, in many cases, have lost family members, have — have seen horrible things happen to people they love over there, and they’ve seen him literally go over and hug the man that they believe is responsible?  How is he going to clean that up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look — and I have answered this already, and I’ll say it — maybe I’ll say it in this way.  Look, the President understands.  He understands how painful this moment is to many people.  He gets that, which is why he has had conversations with the Arab and Muslim — Muslim community, listened directly to them and heard their concerns. 

You — you’ve heard me say just moments ago how senior officials went to Michigan and listened and engaged.  And we’re going to continue to do that. 

And this is why he is continuing to work on securing a hostage deal.  This is why he is continuing to work to do just that.  And if we do that, which is going to be accompanied by a temporary ceasefire, that is going to be important.  It is going to be important to do.

And his team has made that a priority.  We’re going to continue to get that done.  And let’s not forget, we got to continue to make sure we get to a two-state solution.  And so, those are the — those are the commitments that the President has made. 

And as it relates to the pain that that community is going through, obviously, we’re going to continue to listen, we’re going to continue to engage, and we understand how painful this is for so many — for so many in this country.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Do you know: Will the report from Dr. O’Connor include the rationale for not doing a cognitive test?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I believe that, as I said, the report will be robust and comprehensive.  It will certainly speak to that as well.

Q    And do you know: Does the President have any plans to go to Michigan in the coming weeks or months?  And might that include meeting with Arab American leaders?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t want to get ahead of — of the President’s schedule.  Obviously, the President is going to do a lot of travel over the next several weeks and months.  Just don’t have anything to share specifically on Michigan.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Why go to Brownsville, Texas, specifically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I think the President — and I said this at the top, and I’ve said this many times — he wanted to show that it was important for him to go down there to hear from Border Patrol agents, to hear from first responders on what’s going on on the ground.  He’s been — he’s been to the border before — recently in this administration.

And he also wants to lay out the work that he has been able to do with sen- — with senators in a — in a bipartisan way.  We were able to come — come forward to the American people — push forward a bipartisan bill that dealt with the border — the challenges at the border that also dealt with a broken immigration system.  We were able to do that.

And, you know, as I said — as I’ve said many times, it was support- — it’s supported by the Border Patrol union, U.S. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and that is not something that you see every day.  But what we ended up — what ended up happening is that Republicans rejected it.  They rejected it because of the last president and the politics around the last president.

And so, look, the President is going to — he said — we actually even said that once that bill was killed by Republicans that — that the American people are going to hear directly from the American — from — from the President.

Q    Well, the reason I ask is because Brownsville is one of the slower sectors.  In the month of February, they averaged, I think, 17 illegal crossings a day for a little more than 450 in the month.  The number one sector has — had more than 14,000 in the same time period.  This administration has often criticized Republicans when they go to the border and hold similar press conferences as saying that they’re doing publicity stunts and photo ops.  So, how is this any different?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, it’s very different.  What House Republicans have done is nothing — absolutely nothing.  If anything, they consistently get in the way — they consistently get in the way of what the President is trying to do to get more resources. 

They are turning this into a political stunt by listening to Donald Trump and saying that they need to kill it — this is what they’ve been doing — and making it political, where the President got his team now — directed his team to work with senators, both Republicans and Democrats, to get a bill done.

Q    But the President is not going to actually see the parts of the border where it’s actually really bad.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think — I think you’re missing the point.  The point is the President actually did the work to get a bipartisan bill done that act- — that deals with an issue that the majority of Americans care about.  He did.  It dealt with border security challenges.  It dealt with immigration iss- — policy.  He actually did that.

Republicans got in the way.  They rejected it.  Well, Republicans in the House got in the way, and then it was rejected because of what they were told by the last — by the last president, by Donald Trump, to kill it. 

They literally — literally, Jacqui — put politics ahead of the American people.  That’s what they did.

Q    What do you say to people, though, who think that this is just an election-year stunt — finally hearing about the border —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We worked —

Q    — after it’s been a problem for the last three years?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, here’s the thing.  Here’s what I would say.  On the first day of this President administration, he put out a comprehensive immigration policy to deal with this issue.  He did that on the first day.  That was his first piece of legislation. 

I would hope the American people would see how serious this President was — or is about — about fixing this issue.  Not only that: spent four months — four months having a bipartisan conversation, doing negotiations to come up with a — with a — with a bill, with a pol- — proposal that was, again, approved by the Border Patrol union — right? — that was — that’s supported by U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

We don’t see that.  And that’s because of the President’s direction of what he was able to do because he got involved and worked with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.  And then when we got this bill done — by the way, it included a lot of things that House Republicans wanted — when we got that done, it was rejected because of politics. 

I mean, that’s where we are.  That is where we are.  So, the President is going to make that very clear and take it directly to the American people. 

Q    Thank you.

Q    Karine, has the President spoken to the family of Laken Hope Riley, the young Georgia student who was murdered, allegedly, at the hands of an undocumented immigrant? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first of all, I do want to extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Laken Hope Riley.  Given this is an active case, I’m going to be really careful about speaking to that case more specifically.  Would have to refer any — anything specific to that — to that case to law enforcement and, obviously, ICE.

And I — the President — I don’t have anything regarding to the President speaking to the family.  But it is heartbreaking.  I — I can’t even imagine what the family is going through. 

And so — but anything else specifically, I would have to refer you to ICE and law enforcement.

Q    Just for clarity, when you say you don’t have anything else in regards them speaking: So, we can assume that they haven’t spoken to this point, at least?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just don’t have anything to read out to you. 

Q    Okay.  If they have spoken, will you correct us and let us — let us know that there is something you can tell us?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would — we would — we would let you know.  I just don’t have anything for you. 

Q    Okay.  Perfect.  You got a lot of questions about Michigan.  I just want to ask this a little bit differently.  I know the President understood — understands the way that people of the “uncommitted” community felt in registering their votes.  What message does the President think was being sent by those 100,000 Michiganders?  What do they — what does he believe they want to see him do?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t speak for them.  Right?  I — no, seriously, I can’t.  What I can —

Q    But — yeah, but the White House has spoken to them.  So, I guess, presumably the White House would know what — what they want to see him do.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, what we’re doing, what I can tell you that we’re going to continue to do, is listen.  And we understand how painful it is for the community. 

That is why — and let’s not forget — that is why — and I think that’s what you’re alluding to in your — in your question to me — he’s had his senior advisors — senior officials go to Michigan to have those conversations with that community — Ar- — Arab and Muslim leaders — and we’re going to continue that conversation. 

And he believes it’s important for people to feel like their voice is being heard.  That’s our — our message. 

But let’s not forget: We’re — there’s also work to be done, which is what the President has have been doing for the last — you know, last several months, 24/7 with his team, getting that hostage deal so that it can lead to a temporary ceasefire. 

We want to make sure that happens.  And the President is going to work very hard to secure that — 

Q    And having —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — and getting to a two-state solution. 

Q    Having spoken to the leader of the House — the House Democratic Leader in the statehouse there in Michigan just yesterday, one of the messages that was communicated in that conversation was his desire, A, to communicate this message directly to the President.  So, is that under consideration, A? 

And, B, that the President not just continue to make efforts to get the hostages out but that the U.S. policy change vis-à-vis Israel and what it’s doing is Gaza.  Is the President open to changing course in that regard, which includes the provision of weapons to Israel? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the U.S. policy is not going to change on this.  But what we can do is get to a temporary ceasefire so we can get that humanitarian aid into — into Gaza to the — the innocent people of — of — the Palestinian people who need that aid. 

And you heard me — you heard us announce yesterday about the $53 million that was announced by Administrator Powers [Power].  And we believe that’s also important to do to continue to do that — get that — get the food that’s needed to get in there and, also, incredi- — incredibly important medical supply as well. 

And so, we’re going to continue to work with Israel on getting that done, as well making sure we get the humanitarian aid. 

We believe getting to a temporary ceasefire is important.  Of course, the President wants to see this war end.  Of course.  And that’s what he’s working towards: getting a temporary ceasefire, making sure — there are hostages that are been held in Gaza —

Q    Six Americans.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — their families and their friends — and six Americans, exactly — their family and friends want them to come home.  We got to make sure that we get them home as well. 

So, that’s where we’re focused on.  That’s what the President — he spoke about it just a couple days ago, obviously, when he was in New York.  He’s hopeful.  We’re going to continue to work towards that end. 

Q    Thank you. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  In two weeks from now, there will be third anniversary of the first Quad Summit that the President held here three weeks — three years ago.  In these three years, what has been achieved the Quad for that the challenges remain the same? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I would say — I would say this.  The President is incredibly proud of the progress the Quad has made over the past three years.  To your point, the anniversary is coming up, and we’re — we are hoping to continue that momentum in 2024 under India’s host year, as you just stated.

And we’re talking about not just the United States — obviously India, Japan, and Australia.  And we all have a shared — a shared vision here of a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.  The Quad is helping all of our nations deliver concrete benefits to the Indo-Pacific across a number of critical, important sectors. 

So, we look forward to continuing that progress for the Quad in 2024 — and not just in 2024 but, also, beyond.

Q    As Quad has made significant progress, as you said, President formed another group of four countries called I2U2 — Israel, U.S., UAE, and India.  In the context of the war that goes — going on in Middle East, has this grouping taken a back burner, is no longer active? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, not at all.  It’s still a priority.  I2U2 remains critically important.  And the President is — is deeply committed to making sure that we continue with I2U2, obviously, with our partnership among our four countries and beyond through innovative, inclusive, and science-based solutions to an- — advanced — let’s not forget — enhance food and energy security; space operation; other ventures advancing projects on water conservation, waste management, and other areas. 

So, there’s a strong future for I2U2.  And so, we’re looking forward to continuing that partnership.  It has not taken a back burner.  It is certainly a pri- — continues to be a priority. 

Q    One more question, if I may.  As the President heads to the border tomorrow, on illegal immigration.  There are many groups, m- — mostly Indian Americans, who feel that the President is not much as serious as he is on illegal immigration — not much serious on legal immigration systems.  He hasn’t held any meetings with those groups, what the — what the problems are, what the issues are.  Can you give us a sense what the steps the President has taken to address them?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, one of the steps — if we look at H1-B visa process, we have taken action to improve that: end the process and backlogs for lawful permanent residents who are eligible to become U.S. citizens. 

Just last month, for example, as a part of our efforts to strengthen the integrity of our immigration system and reduce potential for fraud, DHS published a final rule relating to H1-B visas.  So, the changes promote fairer and more equitable outcomes. 

And so, we will continue our work to improve the system within our authorities.  And that has certainly been a priority. 

Obviously, I would refer you to U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services for any specifics on the actions that we have taken.  But we take that very seriously.  And we’re continuing to do everything that we can to improve the visas process.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Janne.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  The U.S. want South Korea to provide more 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine.  South Korea has already provided more artillery shells to Ukraine than Europe.  Why does the U.S. demand more support from South Korea?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to let South Korea speak to their own — their own military decisions and their bilateral relations.  We are grateful — we are grateful for their support to — to Ukraine, obviously, as they continue to defend against the — Russia’s aggression.  So, we are grateful for that.  But I’m not going to speak to their own military decisions.  That is something for them to speak to.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah, thanks, Karine.  I appreciate it.  So, the — on the executive order the President signed today, if I could.  What’s the level of concern of the President that, kind of, apps like TikTok and Temu are sending data now — the private data now to the Chinese Communist Party?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we — we do have concerns, which is why we put out this EO, which we’ve never seen any other administration do before, right?  And it is to protect Americans’ sensitive personal data from exploitation by countries of concern — and the most significant executive action that we have seen from any president — any president has ever taken. 

And so, look, it is important.  I think — I think it — it — as I stated at the top, when you think about the buying data through data brokers is currently legal.  It’s legal in the United States.  And that reflects a gap in our national security. 

So, this is about national security.  This is about people’s privacy — Americans’ privacy. 

And so, what we’re going to do — what this EO is going to do — it’s going to narrow that by — by carefully crafting steps to move forward here where we’re protecting the privacy of Americans. 

Q    Then how come the President’s campaign, then, is on TikTok if there’s such a concern?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m going to let — I’m going to let the campaign speak for itself.  I know this question has come in a couple of times.  I’m going to let them speak for itself.

As it relates to TikTok or the impact of TikTok or any other companies, look, this program does not target any one company or — or cover expressive content.  But if a company is collecting Americans’ data on a large scale that falls under one of the covered categories, such as precise geolocation data, that data won’t be able to be sold to — or transferred to the country of concern once the rulemaking process is complete. 

So, as you know, when the President signs an executive action, there’s a rulemaking process.  But we believe that this is going to make a difference in — for our national security and also for the American people in perfect — protecting their privacy.  So, it’s important.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you very much, Karine.  So, tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of the Doha Agreement between Washington and Taliban.  Following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington has repeatedly said that the Taliban needs to fulfill their commitments in the agreement.  What specific parts of the commitments does the administration want the Taliban to be — to fulfill under this agreement?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things here, and I know my colleague at the State Department was asked this question and spoke to this earlier today. 

So, it has been four years since the previous administration signed, as you know, the 2020 agreement with the Taliban.  This agreement empowered the Taliban, weakened our partners in — in Af- — in the Afghan government, and committed to withdraw our troops a few months after President Biden’s inauguration, as you know, with no clean — clear path, plan for — for what could come next.  That’s what we saw. 

The Taliban have not fulfilled their commitments in the Doha Agreement.  The Taliban has also not fulfilled their Doha commitment to engage in a meaningful dialogue with fellow Afghans leading to a negotiated settlement and inclusive political system. 

So, we continue to hold the Taliban to their commitments.  And we are working tirelessly every day to ensure that this set of commitments is fulfilled.  And that has been how we’re moving forward on that. 

Q    And if I may, is there any plan for VP to do her physical checkup?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You would have to speak to the VP’s office.

Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Jared.

Q    Thank you.  Back on the EO.  So, you talked about how it narrows this — this gap that exist in federal law.  You would need legislation to fully close that loophole?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, we always need Congress to take action here.  But we’re going to take the step to narrow it.  There’s going to be, as you know, a process here.  And so, we’re going to let that process take place.  But this is a step. 

This is — this is — let’s not forget, this is a step that no other president has taken.  And we want to make sure that we’re protecting our national security.  We want to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can also to protect Americans’ privacy.

Q    Is there a sort of engagement now with Congress on what that legislation would look like, what it is that needs to happen?  I guess, what’s that next step after this step, right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, look, we’re going to do — there’s going to be a rulemaking process.  We — as the President signed this — right? — DOJ is going to move forward on this.  And so, it’s important.  They’ll have additional details as the executive — as how it moves with the executive action. 

And we’re always talking to Congress on a — on a — on a myriad of — of important agendas, items, obviously, that matter to the American people.  That will continue.

Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Two questions.  The White House considers Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace.  In fact, it clashes with the President’s vision of a two-state solution.  So, Israel is intending to build 3,000 new unit — one of the biggest settlement in the West Bank, which is Ma’ale Adumim. 

So, do you see this as Prime Minister Netanyahu defiance against the President and making his vision of a two-state solution redundant?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that last part again.

Q    Does Netanyahu — by building the settlements that clashes with the White House vision of a two-state solution, is he defying the President and making his vision redundant?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Is her def- — def- —

Q    Defying President Biden.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look —

Q    Netanyahu.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — we have certainly seen these reports, and we’ve been really clear about how disappointed we are by — by the announcement, right? 

And — and, look, it has been longstanding U.S. policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations that new settlements are, indeed, counterproductive, as you just stated in your question, to — as we try to head to peace.  Right?  They are also inconsistent with international law. 

So, we — we’re going to continue to be firm in opposition to settlement expansion.  I don’t have anything else to share.  Obviously, we continue to have diplomatic conversations with the Israeli government.  But we are going to be very clear about our disappointment in this. 

It is — it is not — that has not been our — our longstanding U.S. policy has been very clear under both Republican and Democratic administrations on this specifically.

Q    And also, in reference to  $53 million in humanitarian aid.  The problem that many people see, especially U.N. organizations and agencies on the ground, is the method: how can you get this — this money or this aid to people who are starving.


Q    Some countries have been doing air dropping of food, like Jordan and other countries.  So, why can’t the U.S. do the same?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything to share with you about the air dropping — if we’re considering that, is that something that we’re going to do.  Just don’t have anything to share about that. 

But, look, this is, again, why it’s so important to get to this hostage deal, why it’s so important to get to this temporary ceasefire.  We need to get all-important humanitarian aid into Gaza, to the innocent people of Palest- — of the Pales- — of Pales- — Palestinian people, to make sure that they have what they need.  Whether it’s food, whether it is medical assistance, we understand that. 

And, as you just mentioned, $53 million was just announced by USAID to — to help in that process.  But we have to get to this hostage deal.  We have to. 

It is important to get the hostages home and that aid in and get that temporary ceasefire.  So, the President is going to work on this, continues to work on this 24/7.  He is committed to this.  He wants to make sure that we secure that deal.

MS. DALTON:  We just have time for one more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead, way in the back.  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, thanks.  The former President and his people are saying that the only reason President Biden is going this week is because former President Trump was going to go, and he wanted to not lose this issue.  So, can you give us a sense of what the planning process was to go this week?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, that’s — I mean, look, you guys have covered this President and other presidents for some time.  We just can’t all of a sudden put something on the President’s schedule.  Right?  It takes time to do that.  The President has been very clear that he was going to take this issue directly to the American people.  He has said that. 

When Republicans rejected that Senate — Senate bipartisan bill on border security, on the immigration policy — right? — to fix a broken system that has been broken for decades, he said he was going to take it directly to the American people and, also, at the same time, hear from law enforcement and frontline personnel who deal with this issue every day.  And, obviously, he’s going to make — he’s going to give remarks. 

But he’s been very clear about this, that he was going to take it directly to the American people.  He is going because it’s important for the American people to hear directly from him.  He is going as — because it’s important to highlight that Republicans are getting in the way here.  They are getting in the way.  They had rejected a deal that — parts of that — that deal, they wanted, and they rejected it. 

So, this is not about politics for this President.  This is about how we’re going to fix an issue that a majority of Americans care about: a broken immigration system, the challenges at the border.  That’s why the President thought it was important to go at this time.

Q    And on that point, does he feel that Republicans’ rejection of the bill — of the compromise bill, of the — the product that the Senate put together, does that allow him to flip the script, to go on the offense on this issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I believe we are on the offense.  We believe we are in the offense.  Four months — let’s not forget, it took four months to get this done and work in a good faith. 

And let — and we have said: If this bill was able to get in — to become law, it would have been, yes, the toughest but also the fairest that we have seen in some time.

And, look, we believe we’re on the offense because we did the work with the Senate in a bipartisan way for four months.  And Republicans rejected it.  They allowed politics to get in the way.    When you work in a bipartisan way — right? — in good faith, you’re putting politics aside, and you’re trying to get something done on behalf of the American people.  That’s what the President did.

All right, everybody.  See you on Friday.  Thank you.

 3:42 P.M. EST

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