James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:39 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I just have a — just something really quick at the top. 

Is the — the mics are always funky.  Is it funky?

Q    It’s normal.


Q    You sound good.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  (Laughter.)  Let’s get going.

With all seriousness, though, it was obviously a very busy weekend at the White House.

The President spent hours in the Situation Room, closely monitoring the latest developments in the Middle East with his national security team.  He was engaged in extensive diplo- — diplomacy, speaking with the Israeli Prime Minister on Saturday night and convening a call with G7 leaders on Sunday morning.

The President also organized a joint statement with the G7 that strongly condemned Iran’s brazen and unprecedented attack.

Today, the President received an updated briefing from his national security team and, as you all know, met with the leaders of Iraq and will meet with the leaders of the Czech Republic later this afternoon.

With that, we have my NSC colleague, Admiral John Kirby, who’s here to do a much deeper dive and also take your questions on the Middle East.

(A laptop computer chimes.)

MR. KIRBY:  Somebody is due soon.  (Laughter.)

Good afternoon.

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  As you all know and certainly Karine restated it, Iran and its proxies operating in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq also conducted an unprecedented attack on the State of Israel with over 300 weapons, including more than 100 ballistic missiles, as well as land-attack cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. 

President Biden instructed the United States to defend Israel to the maximum extent possible and defeat that attack, and we did.

With the support of our partners, the United States enabled Israel to spectacular- — spectacularly defeat it. 

Despite launching more than those 300 weapons from Iran and the region, Israel and a coalition of partners were able to defeat 99 percent of the attacks.  There is virtually no infrastructure damage to Israel. 

But their attack requires an unequivocal condemnation from the international community.  And so, as Karine said, the President convened the G7 yesterday, and they have forcefully condemned that attack and urged for calm and de-escalation. 

And I’d like to take just a few minutes to correct the record on a few points that have come out in the last several hours.

I’ve seen reporting that the Iranians meant to fail, that this spectacular and embarrassing failure was all by design.  I’ve also seen Iran say that they provided early warning to help Israel prepare its defenses and limit any potential damage.

All of this is categorically false.  To coin the phrase from the President — or steal a phrase from the President, it’s “malarkey.”

This attack failed because it was defeated by Israel, by the United States, and by a coalition of other partners committed to Israel’s defense.

So, let’s be straight.  Given the scale of this attack, Iran’s intent was clearly to cause significant destruction and casualties.

Iranian leaders launched so many missiles and other munitions because they knew that many were going to be defeated, but the aim was to get as many as of them through Israeli — Israel’s defenses as possible.  

Now, I’ve also seen this speculation about messages passed forth and warnings.  We did receive messages from Iran, and they received messages from us too.  But there was never any message to us or to anyone else on the timeframe, the targets, or the type of response. 

In fact, before yesterday, it was presumed that 100 ballistic missiles might overwhelm even the best defensive systems.  That was Iran’s intent.  And as you all saw for yourself, it didn’t work. 

This attack was defeated thanks to our preparations, to a coalition of committed partners, and to Israel’s remarkable defensive systems.

And I want to focus on that last point for just a moment.  Israel today is in a far stronger strategic position than it was only a few days ago. 

Iran’s vaunted missile program –- something it has used to threaten Israel and the region –- proved to be far less effective. 

Israel’s defenses, on the other hand, proved even better than many had long assumed.  Israel’s defense was strengthened by a coalition of countries led by the United States and working together. 

The United States has never before so extensively and so directly defended Israel from attack.

To ensure that that continues to be the case, the House of Representatives must urgently pass the national security supplemental, which has already passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.  That supplemental includes funding that the President requested for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling system — systems that saved countless lives this weekend and have saved many lives from Hamas and from Hezbollah rockets over the past six months.

Passing that bill is the fastest and surest way to get Israel the aid it needs.  And we must act urgently to replenish Israel’s air defenses, just as Congress must act urgently to replenish — replenish Ukraine’s air defenses, which also continue to be attacked every single day, with the same Irania- — Iranian-made drones.

Now, finally, much of the world today is standing with Israel. 

When the President spoke to G7 leaders yesterday, they were unified in their condemnation of Iran and their determination to hold Iran accountable. 

At the President’s direction, our teams are now following up with G7 capitals on new multilateral sanctions to target Iran’s missile and other nefarious programs.  G7 countries that had yet to designate the IRGC a terrorist organization are now considering doing so.

And going forward, we will be working to further isolate Iran internationally and increase economic and other forms of pressure.

So, that’s the upshot here: a stronger Israel, a weaker Iran, a more unified alliance of partners.  That was not Iran’s intent when it launched this attack on Saturday night — not even close.  And again, they failed.  They failed utterly.

Now, as you also know, President Biden is welcoming both the Iraqi Prime Minister and Prime Minister Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic to the White House. 

The President and Prime Minister al-Sudani from Iraq will discuss the U.S. and Iraq’s shared vision for our broad, multifaceted relationship.  During the meeting, these leaders will reaffirm their commitment to advancing regional stability, to expanding opportunities for Iraq’s people, and reinforcing Iraq’s sovereignty, security, and stability. 

The Iraqi Prime Minister will be here for almost a week.  And in that time, he will meet a range of administration officials, including both Secretary Blinken at the State Department and Secretary Austin at the Defense Department.  He will have opportunities to share his priorities and vision for Iraq with a variety of audiences here in Washington and in other parts of the United States.  

Now, of course, the President will be taking the opportunity to discuss how we will continue to work with Prime Minister Sudani to defuse regional tensions and to prevent Iraq from being drawn into conflict.  Iraq, the President firmly believes, is central to the region’s stability. 

And then, later, as Karine previewed, he’ll have a chance to meet with President — I’m sorry — Prime Minister Fiala to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Czech Republic as a NATO Ally. 

Over the past 25 years, our alliance has grown stronger and the relationship between our two countries have grown even closer as we’ve deepened defense cooperation, including through the Czech Republic’s purchase of 24 F-35 fighters earlier this year.

The President will congratulate the Prime Minister on legislation that Czechia recently passed requiring it to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense, which, as you know, is the NATO goal.

Lead- — the leaders will also discuss their strong support for Ukraine, and the President will thank the Prime Minister for leading an effort to help secure nearly 1 million rounds of ammunition for Ukraine.

And one more thing, if you’ll just bear with me.  I’m almost done.  Today marks the one-year conflict in Sudan.  Since fighting erupted a year ago, civilians have been forced to bear the brunt of this senseless conflict: thousands have been killed and wounded; women and girls have been kidnapped and assaulted; hundreds of thousands of families have been displaced; communities and livelihoods have been utterly destroyed; and famine, now, is threatening to take hold.

That’s why the United States continues to commit resources to create conditions for a potential peace process, to hold accountable actors who are seeking to sow more violence, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the civilians who urgently need it. 

We reiterate our calls for all parties in this conflict to lay down their weapons and put an end to this intolerable violence for the future of Sudan but, most of all, for the future of the Sudanese people.

Thank you.  Appreciate your patience.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Seung Min.

Q    Israel’s military chief just said, quote, “There will be a response to the attack from Iran.”  So, does the U.S. have any indication of what those next steps are from Israel?

MR. KIRBY:  We would let the Israelis speak to that.

Q    Does the U.S. expect to be consulted in advance of them taking any next steps?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I won’t get into our diplomatic conversations or expectations.  The Israeli government will determine for themselves if there’s going to be a response and what that response is going to look like. 

Q    And are you able to discuss the specific roles played by other members of the regional coalition from over the weekend, specifically Jordan and Saudi Arabia, whether they helped shoot down missiles or what other actions they may have done over the weekend?

MR. KIRBY:  No, I think we’ll let other members of the coalition speak for themselves.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    John, Israel is reportedly looking at options that would send a message to Iran but not cause casualties.  Is the administration presenting alternatives to Netanyahu?

MR. KIRBY:  This is a — these — this is an Israeli decision to make, whether and how they’ll respond to what Iran did on Saturday.  And we’re going to leave it squarely with them.

Q    Their decision to make, but are you making suggestions?

MR. KIRBY:  We are not involved in their decision-making process about a potential response.

Q    And just — is the President — does he have any plans to speak to Netanyahu again?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have anything on the calendar to speak to.  But, look, I mean, they’ve — they’ve spoken frequently over the last six months.  They’ll absolutely speak again at the appropriate time.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  John, just one day before the attack, President Biden issued a warning to Iran: “Don’t.”  And now the U.S. is not taking any part in an Israeli reprisal.  So, does that signal to Iran that it can defy the U.S. without facing any consequences?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know, man.  If I’m sitting in Tehran and I’m taking a look at what just happened on Saturday night, I don’t think I’d be betting that the United States is not willing to get engaged here and help defend Israel.  I mean, you had American fighter pilots in the air, in combat operation, shooting down drones and missiles that were heading towards — towards Israel, as well as U.S. Navy destroyers at sea, knocking them down from there.

So, the message should be very clear to anybody: When the President says we’re going to take our commitments to the region seriously, when we’re going to help Israel defend itself.  We got skin in the game, and we proved that.

Q    I understand what you’re saying about deterrence.  But what about the consequences? 

MR. KIRBY:  As I just said and Karine also lead in, he had a conversation with G7 leaders.  He’ll be engaging with other allies and partners.  We have achiev- — we have seen swift condemnations about what Iran did from the international community.  And we’re going to be working with international partners to — to work up options to hold Iran appropriately accountable.

Q    And then just on the logistics of this.  With roughly 300 drones and missiles shot down, can you talk about how you will assess the debris fields and the shrapnel and how much that impacted people on the ground? 

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we’re not going to be doing any kind of an assessment of the impact on the ground.  The Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli officials have already been out and about looking at the impact on the ground.  There were very few missiles that got through, and the only damage that was done — it was very minor damage to one airbase in — in Israel that did not even put that airbase out of commission.

The Israelis have already spoken to this.  I believe they’ve already released imagery of some of the things they found on the ground. 

Sadly, a young girl — an innocent civilian, less than 10 years old — was severely wounded.  That was the only casualty that we’re aware of.

Q    Thank you, John.

Q    Thank you.  John, a couple of questions on Iran and then on Iraq, on the Prime Minister visit.  You just said that the White House were not informed of the timing of the Iranian attack on Israel, but the President told us that he — the attack is going to be sooner than later, and almost a day after, the attack happened.  So, just can you explain this one?

MR. KIRBY:  I never said we didn’t have an idea.  I never said we didn’t have information that — that we could — that we could act on and speak to our Israeli counterparts about. 

What I said was: Iran never delivered a message giving us the time and the targets.

Q    The exact timing, you mean?

MR. KIRBY:  No, no.  No, no, no.  No timing.  I mean, I want to be clear: This whole narrative out there that Iran passed us a message with what they were going to do is ridiculous.

Q    Okay.  Do you believe that Iranian nuclear sites is a legitimate target?

MR. KIRBY:  You’re — I’m not going to get into targeting discussions here from the podium. 

Q    Okay.  Let me ask you about the Prime Minister.  Is the White House satisfied with the way that the Iraqi government is reining in the militias in Iraq, considering they are one of the proxies of the Iranian regime?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re going to — we’re going to have an in-depth discussion with the Prime Minister and his team about the continued activities of militia groups in Iraq.  And — and we’ll reinforce our views about how seriously we take the force protection of our — our troops and our facilities there. 

And we’ll also expect — I fully expect that — that we’ll talk with the Prime Minister about the counter-ISIS mission in Iraq and its — and its potential future. 

Q    And finally, just when he said, “in the spirit of partnership, we disagree with the United States,” and he mentioned something like “we need a new system for international law — to respect international law, international humanitarian law, protection of civilians, and diplomatic missions.”

So, he’s hinting at the Israeli attack in Damascus.  He’s also hinting about not doing enough to respect international law.  Is this a point of disagreement between you and the Iraqi government? 

MR. KIRBY:  You’ll have to talk to the Prime Minister about what he meant by those comments.  Iraq is a — a key partner, one we really value.  We wouldn’t be having this meeting today, he wouldn’t be having meetings this week if it wasn’t an important relationship.

As I said, the President believe — believes that Iraq is critical to regional stability.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Danny.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Thanks, Admiral.   You said just now that this — that Iran’s attack was a spectacular and embarrassing failure.  Do you and does the President believe that Israel should now take this as a win and show restraint? 

MR. KIRBY:  I — I know where the context of the question is coming in.  During his conversation with the Prime Minister on Saturday night, first of all, he congratulated the Prime Minister for the exceptional effort by the Israeli Defense Forces and, of course, commended, as you would expect the Commander-In-Chief to do, the participation of U.S. forces in this coalition and the great work that was done. 

I mean, it’s easy to — you know, I was looking some — looking at some of the video before I came out here that’s running on some of your networks, and, you know, it’s easy to look at that like it’s some kind of a computer game, right?  It looks so simple — things getting knocked out of sky.

Let me tell you something: It’s not simple.  It’s hard.  And a lot of planning and preparation had to go into that and a lot of coordination.  And the President talked to the Prime Minister about that. 

He also noted that this was an extraordinary success, a military success.  And that that success alone, just for itself, speaks volumes about Israel’s standing in the region — that they — they don’t stand alone, that a coalition came to help them defend themselves.  It also says a lot about Israel’s military superiority, and it says just as much about Iran’s military inferiority when it came to this particular set of attacks.

And the President urged the Prime Minister to think about what that success says all by itself to the rest of the region.  He — he —

Q    You mean in terms of thinking about — I mean, but — think about the restraint about, you know, the — maybe this should not go further than — you know, further escalation?

MR. KIRBY:  All I’ll — all I’ll say is: The President, from the beginning of this conflict on October 7th, has been steadfast and consistent.  We don’t want to see a war with Iran.  We don’t want to see a broader regional conflict.  We will do what we have to do to defend Israel.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Asma.

Q    Yeah, does the — this administration believe Israel will indeed strike Iran?  I mean, is it your assessment that that is inevitable at this point? 

MR. KIRBY:  That’s going to be up to the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet to speak to.

Q    But your assessment or the administration’s assessment?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to provide intelligence assessments from here.  As I — as far as I know, the War Cabinet is still debating and talking about their next steps.  I think I’m going to let them speak to whatever their next steps might be. 

Q    And if I may also ask one question on Gaza.  What is the administration’s assessment of the timeline for a Rafah invasion, given the conversations that you all have been having?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, you’re asking me a question that really should be asked to the Israeli Defense Forces and the Prime Minister, not —

Q    No, but I know —

MR. KIRBY:  — not to the United States. 

Q    — you guys have been having conversations.  I just want to get a sense of are these, like, ongoing conversations still?  Are you (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  (Laughs.)  I — I — yes, of course we’re talking to the Israelis all the time.  Now, obviously, in the last 48 hours particularly, the conversation has been about what Iran did.  But yes, we have — continue to talk to them about what’s going on down in Rafah.  And we expect — hope in coming days to be able to have yet another round of discussions with them about what their intentions are with respect to Rafah, but the focus, rightly, right now is on what Iran just did.


Q    On the U.S. military.  Given whatever the White House and President Biden know about what’s going to happen next in the Middle East, are there any fresh U.S. military preparations?

MR. KIRBY:  Fresh — fresh military preparations for?

Q    Whatever.  (Laughter.)

Q    Wide open. 

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.  I mean — (laughter) — we — we’re always looking at force protection in the region.  We’re always looking at our force posture.  We’re always evaluating it based on the threats and the challenges.  You can expect that Secretary Austin and the entire team over there at the Department of Defense is going to stay vigilant to whatever the threat might be.

Q    Thanks.  You said a moment ago that it’s ridiculous –this narrative that Iran provide — provided some advanced notice about specifics here.  But where we’re hearing that from, you know, specifically is U.S. Ally, Turkey; U.S. partner, Iraq.  That’s where that information is coming from.  So, what is the discrepancy exactly that’s happening there?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t possibly answer that question, Trevor.  All I’m telling you is it’s nonsense.  I — I mean, it — think about this for a minute.  Can you imagine a world in which Iran would pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we’re about to try to swack Israel with 300 cruise missiles and drones.  We just wanted to let you know it’s coming.  And oh, by the way, here’s what we’re going to hit.”  I’m sorry.  It just didn’t happen. 

I can’t account for what sources might be telling you all about what they heard.  I’m telling you what we heard. 

And while we did get a message from Iran and we passed messages to Iran as well, which I won’t get into the details of, none of it was, “Here’s the targets.  Here’s the timeframe.  Here’s the munitions we’re going to put on target.” 

Q    And on that subject of communications with Iran generally, you’ve said, without preconditions, you’re willing to sit down with North Korea.  Does the same apply to Iran and to reopening some diplomatic discussions —


Q    — with them?

No.  And do you want to elaborate on —


Q    — why that is?  (Laughter.)  Okay. 

As far as sanctions in response to Iran, Iranian oil production is now higher than it was two years ago.  Is there a reason that you aren’t taking more steps against Iranian oil exports?  And does it have to do with domestic political pressures around gas prices?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have any — as you know, we don’t preview sanctions.  And I’m not going to start doing that today, except to note what I said in my opening statement, that part of the discussion with the G7 leaders was the possibility of additional sanctions on Iran unilaterally and — and hopefully multilaterally, but we’ll see where that goes. 

Q    And anything on — on where the oil prices or oil — oil experts are coming from Iran and — and whether you want to stop that?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I won’t get ahead of economic pressure tools that we might be applying in the future.  We’re working our way through that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    A U.S. official told CNN over the weekend that the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, asked his Israeli counterpart to notify the U.S. ahead of any potential response to the Iran attack.  Is there a confidence that Israel will provide that advanced certification to the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll just tell you that we are and will remain in very close contact with our Israeli counterparts. 

Q    So, do you expect to get an advance notification?

MR. KIRBY:  We will stay in close contact with our Israeli counterparts.

Q    On the hostage talks.  Hamas rejected the latest proposal.  The U.S. has said that Hamas rejecting it — has rejected the deal.  But do you think Israel needs to allow Gazans to return home unrestricted, and should the IDF pull back so they can do that, that being a sticking point?  

MR. KIRBY:  First of all, we don’t consider it a dead letter.  As far as we’re concerned, there’s a viable proposal on the table and Hamas ought to take it.  And we’re not letting up on the idea of negotiating for a hostage deal so we can get a ceasefire, so we can get more aid in, but that’s still very much an active football in our — in our heads.

And as for movement north, we — what we’ve talked to the Israelis about is you got a million and a half people that are seeking refuge down in Rafah.  It’s by far the largest concentration of Palestinians in Gaza.  They need to be accounted for.  Whatever kind of military operation they’re thinking about doing in Rafah or anywhere else, to your point about moving north, they have to provide safe venues for them to do that.  They have to provide food, water, medicine, shelter.  All that has to be baked in to whatever future military operations happen on the ground in Gaza.

Q    That does sound, though, like you’re saying that Israel should consider allowing Gazans to move up north, which has been a sticking point in those hostage talks.

MR. KIRBY:  We want to see them — we want to see them account for the future safety and security of the more than a million refugees that are now taking refuge down near Rafah with whatever — baked in to whatever military plans they might have for operations on the ground.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Francesca.

Q    On the ceasefire negotiations.  A U.S. official said yesterday that the latest proposal included almost everything that Hamas had asked for.  And so, how is it that the negotiations are at a standstill at this point?  Is the U.S. planning another counterproposal?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know of a new proposal.  There is a very good proposal on the table that CIA Director Bill Burns helped negotiate in Cairo a week or so ago that the Israelis were able to get behind.  And now it’s time for Hamas to step up and take that deal.  It will allow for dozens of the hostages — the most at-risk pool of them — to get out, and it’ll allow for about six weeks of a ceasefire so we can get some calm and we can increase humanitarian assistance.

There’s a deal on the table.  That’s what Hamas needs to take.

Q    And when the President spoke yesterday to congressional leaders, did he receive any sort of a commitment from House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring the bipartisan national security supplemental bill to the House floor this week?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll let the Speaker speak to whatever his plans might be.  Certainly, we heard from Leader McConnell and from — and from Leader Jeffries about the importance of — of mak- — of passing this supplemental and getting it — and getting it on — on its way.

And as I said in my opening statement, the fastest way — I mean, you’ve got — you got two good friends here — Israel and Ukraine — that — very different fights, to be sure, but active fights for their sovereignty and for their safety and security.  And time is not on anyone’s side here in either case.

So, they need to move quickly on this.  And the best way to get that aid into the hands of the IDF and into the hands of the Ukrainian soldiers is to pass that bipartisan bill that the Senate passed. 

Q    I understand that that’s the — your pref- –preference, the bipartisan bill that the Senate passed.  But is the White House opposed to an approach that takes the issues separately — Israel only or —

MR. KIRBY:  We are opposed to a standalone bill that would just work on Israel.  As we’ve seen proposed, we would — we would oppose a standalone bill, yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Gabe.

Q    Admiral, I know you said it was Israel’s decision.  But ask it bluntly: If Israel retaliates against Iran, would the U.S. support that?

MR. KIRBY:  To answer bluntly: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.  We don’t want to see a war with Ukraine [Iran].  We don’t want to see a wider conflict.  As the President said to the Prime Minister on Saturday night, we will continue to do what we have to do to help Israel defend itself.

But you’re asking me to get ahead of, as far as I know, a decision that the War Cabinet hasn’t even made.

Q    But if it were to happen, does —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, it’s a — it’s a terrific hypothetical, Gabe, that I’m just not going to entertain.

Q    Thanks.  John, has President Biden considered maybe beefing up the public Iran posture to be more than just one word?

MR. KIRBY:  You’re — you’re referring to “Don’t”?

Q    Yeah.  Because he said, “Don’t” —

MR. KIRBY:  And so, let’s talk about —

Q    — and they did it anyway.

MR. KIRBY:  And let’s talk about —

Q    So, now what?

MR. KIRBY:  — what we did, Peter.  Let’s talk about “don’t” and “did.”  Let’s talk about Saturday night.  He made it clear that he didn’t want to see escalation in the region.  And —

Q    And then there was —

MR. KIRBY:  Let me finish.  He added military resources to the region right after October 7th.  And then, when we had an inkling that this kind of thing was coming, he added even more military resources to the region: more destroyers that were capable of shooting down ballistic missiles, fighter s- — a fighter squadron that was able to shoot down drones.  And that’s what we did.

So, you can talk about the “don’t” word all you want.  But let’s talk about what did happen.  And what did happen was Iran utterly failed.  And if I’m sitting in Tehran right now, I’m betting that President Biden takes it pretty seriously.  When he says “don’t escalate,” he’s going to act to make sure that you can’t.  And they didn’t.

Yes, they fired an unprecedented amount of munitions.  But how much of a success did they have, Peter?  None, zero, very little infrastructure.  It was an embarrassing failure for the Supreme Leader, for the IRGC.

Q    Now that we know that the Iranians do not listen to President Biden’s public warnings, is there any regret here about unfreezing billions of dollars for Iranian leaders during the President’s administration?

MR. KIRBY:  What unfreezing are you talking about?

Q    He unfroze billions of dollars.  There was a —

MR. KIRBY:  For Iranian leaders?

Q    Yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  Really?  I don’t think so.

Q    Okay.  You guys say —

MR. KIRBY:   So, first of all —

Q    — it’s for humanitarian purposes.  But doesn’t that —

MR. KIRBY:  But you don’t believe me.

Q    On — well, doesn’t that free up money for them to spend on other stuff?  Where do you get the money for an unprecedented number of munitions to — to fire at Israel?

MR. KIRBY:  So, first of all, I’m betting if they’re sitting in Tehran, they’re taking it seriously when President Biden says he’s going to defend Israel.  We put skin in the game — a whole heck of a lot of it — and knocked almost everything out of the sky.  So, I’m betting they’re taking it pretty seriously.

And as for this — this unfreezing, that — none of that fund — none of those funds — funds set up in an account, by the way, by the previous administration — goes directly to the Supreme Leader of the IRGC.  It can only be used for humanitarian purposes.  And we’re watching that account very, very closely to make sure that that’s what happens.

Q    And you guys often defend all the trips to Delaware by saying, “The President is not on vacation.  He’s working.  He can be the President from anywhere.”  So, why did he have to come back on Saturday?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, we got indications — shortly after arriving, we got better, firmer intelligence and information about the specific timing of what we expected to be this Iranian attack, and the President didn’t bat an eye before getting back on that helicopter and coming back.

And he was here all Saturday night in the Situation Room, from mid-afternoon until late at night, getting real-time updates from General Kurilla and from his defense team all throughout the night, including calling Prime Minister Netanyahu right from the Situation Room.

And as Karine mentioned, on Sunday, he was right back at it again, working the G7, calling King Abdullah.  I don’t know what else to tell you.  He had a very busy, full weekend.

Q    John, on Iran.  What is the current thinking on whether Iran’s Revolutionary Guard should be designated as a terrorist organization?

MR. KIRBY:  We already have. 

Q    And then, just do you have any update on getting additional humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza?  You had said —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — last week that you added 300 trucks on Wednesday.  Within where — where the weekend (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.  Forgive me. 

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know if Karine might have already briefed this out to you guys.  But, you know, over the last week or so, more than 2,000 trucks have gotten in.  And even throughout the course of the weekend, as Israel was dealing with a quite daunting attack by Iran, they were still able to get some trucks into Gaza.

So, in these early days, after the previous phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu where the President talked about the need to increase humanitarian assistance, we have seen Israel take steps to in- — to — to do exactly that. 

Now, as we’ve also said, it’s still not enough.  The — the need is dire.  And what we’re going to be doing is watching for a sustained commitment to doing that over time.  But — but thus far, there has been an increase in humanitarian assistance.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just one on the timing of the wa- — of any type of warning.  So, are you saying Iran never told a U.S. partner — Switzerland, Oman, any of them — Turkey, Iraq — never gave them any information about the attack they were preparing to launch and that that information never reached the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  The United States had no messages from Iran or from anybody else, as I said in my opening statement, that — that offered a specific timeframe or a specific set of targets or the types of weapons that they were going to fire.

Q    So, just concretely, why would U.S. partners in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq lie about passing along Iranian messages about any forthcoming attack to the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  Look, I’m not — I’m not calling anybody a liar here.  I’m telling you, from our perspective, what we knew and what we didn’t know.  And we were able to help with Israel’s defenses because we had information that we had received and Israel had received through our own — our own efforts, but it never came as some sort of message from Iran with, I mean, the — the timing and the target.

I — it’s — it’s — it kind of boggles my mind that anybody would believe that Iran would pick up the phone and tell the United States, who — who they know —

Q    (Inaudible) the United States.

MR. KIRBY:  — who — who they know has been very, very directly involved with helping Israel defend itself and very public about doing that, and detail the times and the targets.

Look, this to me seems like a lot of, you know, Monday morning quarterbacking kind of stuff — would have, could have, should have.  And — and maybe they want to make it appear like, you know, this was some sort of small pinprick of an attack that they never meant to succeed. 

You can’t throw that much metal in the air, which they did, in the timeframe in which they did it and convince anybody, realistically, that you weren’t trying to cause casualties and you weren’t calling — trying to cause damage.  They absolutely were.

Q    And just one more.  Is the meeting with Israli — Israeli officials on Rafah still — is that happening this week?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t have a date for you.  We’re still trying to get that nailed down.  As I said earlier, we’d like to continue those conversations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Hi, Admiral.  House Majority Leader Scalise said on Friday that Speaker Johnson was negotiating with the White House modifications to the Ukraine aid package.  Are you — what is being negotiated?  And you just categorically said that the White House opposes a standalone Israel bill —

MR. KIRBY:  That’s right.

Q    — supplemental.  Are you also opposed to changes to the supplemental?  For example, changing —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.  I —

Q    — aid to alone —

MR. KIRBY:  I know it would make your jobs a lot easier if I negotiated this thing up here in public.

Q    (Laughs.)  No, I just —

MR. KIRBY:  But I’m not going to do that.  You’re right.  The President did have an opportunity to speak with Speaker Johnson and other congressional leaders, including — including McConnell and Jeffries.  And he made it clear that the best and the fastest way to stand by our allies and partners is for the House of Representatives to take up the bipartisan bill that the Senate passed.

Q    But are you also opposed to the modifications and changes, as you oppose the standalone?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ve answered the question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much, John.  First of all, thank you for your dedication this weekend in keeping us all informed.  I think we all saw more of us than our own families, which was really cool.  I got —

MR. KIRBY:  You certainly saw more of me than my family did.  (Laughter.)

Q    I got two questions.  First of all, administration officials told us on Sunday that they had help from India, China, and Iraq.  Can you just detail, you know, some — give us some of the details on that?  And does that represent a move forward in U.S.-China relations, that you were able to cooperate on (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, as I said earlier, I think I’ll let other countries speak to their participation and cooperation and the degree that the — that they’re comfortable doing that.  I can only speak for the United States and what we did.

Q    Does this represent a step forward for the U.S.-China —

MR. KIRBY:  I think it — what it — I think what it says is — without getting into the specific contributions of other countries, as I said in my opening statement, it shows that Israel is not standing alone, that — I mean, that, unlike Iran, which is increasingly isolated on the world stage, Israel has friends.  Israel has great skill, great professionalism, great military capability.  And that’s not by accident.  All of that comes from the support that they get, particularly from the United States, but other countries as well.

Q    And then, if the U.S. can — and allies can help shoot down Iranian drones over Israel, why can’t they do the same over Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I knew this question was coming too.  Look, different conflicts.  Different conflicts, different airspace, different threat picture.  And the President has been clear since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, the United States is not going to be involved in that — that conflict in a combat role.  And we haven’t. 

We have been providing Ukraine the tools that they need to help defend their airspace.  And, unfortunately, we can’t do that right now because we don’t have that national security supplemental funding that — that they so desperately need.

Q    The Assyrian Christians are the indigenous people of Iraq.  And before liberation, they had about two and a half million, and they’re down to nearly 200,000.  And just last month, the Iraqi Supreme Court removed all of their — had five seats in the Kurdish parliament for many decades, and those were renewed — were removed.  Have you — has that come up in any of the discussions?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll take the question.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  And thank you, John, for all you did over the weekend.  I have two questions.  First, you mentioned the shipping of aid to Gaza from Israel.  Do we have a U.S. consular official at the border who is confirming that the aid actually gets there?

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not aware of a consular presence at the border.  But we’re in, as I said, constant touch with our Israeli counterparts.  We — you know, we also have David Satterfield, who is the President’s Special Envoy, for that exact purpose.  And, I mean, he’s — he’s like Waldo.  I mean, he’s all over the place — (laughter) — constantly up and down, I mean, making sure that that stuff is getting in and keeping the President and the whole team fully informed.

Q    My other question is that: Given the recent developments with Iran, is the U.S. going to step up its contacts with the opposition to the current regime in Tehran?  And I mean, specifically, exile groups in the United States, plus, on the ground, the Baluchi, Azeri, the Kurds, and the Sunni, who are in opposition to the regime.

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know of any such efforts in the wake of the — the attacks. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  A couple more.  Way in the back, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, John.  Why is the U.S. not going to participate in a counteroffensive?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, I think I’ve answered this question.  The President had a good chat with the Prime Minister.  We talked about the incredible success that the — that we and they achieved on Saturday night and the message that success sends not only to the region but also to Iran as well. 

And as I’ve also said and as the President has certainly said, we’re not looking for a war with Iran.  We’re not looking to broaden and deepen this conflict in the region.

Q    How exactly is he trying to de-escalate this situation?

MR. KIRBY:  Everything the President has been doing since the 7th of October has been designed to try to de-escalate and to try to keep the conflict from widening and deepening.  And that includes the moves that he made in the last 10, 12 days to add resources to the region so that we could help Israel better defend itself. 

And, my goodness, it all paid off.  I mean, instead of having a hundred ballistic missiles land inside of Israel and cause untold damage to infrastructure and to human lives, none of that occurred.  And the reason none of it occurred was because the President was ahead of the problem set.


Q    Thanks, Karine.  John, just a couple of follow-ups.  The coalition to put together limiting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, is that still solid in the face of what’s going on?

MR. KIRBY:  As the President has said, we’d love nothing better than to be able to solve Iranian nuclear progress — nuclear weapons progress through diplomacy.  Unfortunately, that’s not an option right now because the — the Iranians, well before any of this, just weren’t negotiating in good faith.  None of the diplomatic efforts were — were paying off.

And so, that effort kind of fell moribund as we look for other ways to increase pressure on Iran. 

The President has also said that while he would prefer to deal with this threat diplomatically, he also will make sure that he’s got options and choices available to him —

Q    But —

MR. KIRBY:  — to ensure that Iran never achieves a nuclear weapons capability.

Q    But the countries that were backing that coalition — still a member?  They’re all — China, Russia —

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, you’re talking about a process that’s just moribund right now, Brian. 

Q    Okay.  And —

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, it —

Q    And so, the other follow-up: the container ship.  Was there — there have been rumors.  Is there any — the container ship that was seized by Iran, was there anything of a sensitive nature on it?  Do we know what was on it?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I’d refer you to the Pentagon on that.  I don’t have an update on the cargo.

Q    I — finally, I — well, I want to thank you for using which “swack” and — and, of course, “Where’s Waldo?” 

MR. KIRBY:  I’m going to hear about that one from my wife.  (Inaudible.)  (Laughter.)

Q    But the — but at the end, you understand the reason why the question about advanced knowledge, because the President did come back early.  And I think you spoke to it —

MR. KIRBY:  I didn’t say — I never said we didn’t have an advanced sense of what the — I —

What I said was: We didn’t get that sense from the Iranians sending us a telegram.

Q    Right.  But — but, as Peter asked, I believe, there was — we were told not specifics, but that something was going to occur.

MR. KIRBY:  No.  I don’t — 

Q    Clear that one up for me.

MR. KIRBY:  It’s not about being told.  I think you all understand: We have lots of tools and vehicles, through intelligence and other information methods, to glean in- — to glean a picture of what an adversary may or may not do.  Now, sometimes it’s right.  Sometimes it’s not 100 percent right.

We had a good sense of what Iran was planning to do, and we achieved that level of situational awareness on our own and working with our Israeli counterparts.  The notion — the idea that Iran sent us an email or picked up the phone and told us what they were planning to do is just ludicrous.  It didn’t happen.  I don’t know how else to be more clear about it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Andrew.   And then we’ll wrap it up.

Q    Thank you, John.  And Happy Tax Day.  (Inaudible) here.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRBY:  (Inaudible.) 

Q    There’s been reporting — there’s been reporting that — (laughter).

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  She’s right.


MR. KIRBY:  You’re right.

Q    Okay.  So, there’s been reporting that the President suggested to the Prime Minister that Israel take the win and not go further with an offensive response. 

MR. KIRBY:  I’ve seen that report, yeah.

Q    I — I have colleagues who are reporting that Israel is very much in the process of planning an offensive response to — to these — to this weekend’s attacks.  Given the political situation in Israel — Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition, some of which is a bit extreme, and his own situation — does the President have faith that the Prime Minister will not escalate the situation out of his own political interests, as opposed to genuine Israeli security interests?  And then I have an unrelated one for you.

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not going to be able to get into Prime Minister Netanyahu’s psychology or his political calculations or what’s going into his decision-making process.

Q    I’m asking if the President is concerned about this, though.

MR. KIRBY:  What I would tell you is that the President and the Prime Minister speak frequently, certainly as appropriate.  And the President has been consistent publicly and privately that he doesn’t want to see the war between Israel and Hamas escalate any more than it — than it already has and he doesn’t want to see a broader regional conflict.  And he’s certainly not looking for a war with Iran.  And I am confident that the Prime Minister is aware of the President’s concerns.

Q    Okay.  And on — on Gaza.  This morning, you said that Israel has been doing things the President asked them to do, but we really need to see it sustained over time.

MR. KIRBY:  And you want to know how long is that time.

Q    No, sir.

MR. KIRBY:  Okay.  (Laughter.)

Q    That would — that would imply that — you didn’t want to call it an ultimatum, but the — the conditions that the President laid out in his prior phone call with the Prime Minister, that — about the aid workers, the conditions on the ground for humanitarian workers, and aid getting into Gaza — that that needed to change or there could be changes in U.S. policy towards Gaza. 

Can you just lay out here whether the President is considering that — you know, that set of circumstances and Israel’s defense against future attacks from nation-states such as Iran to be — to be separate things?  That that — that when you say we need to see it sustained over time, that that — the possibility of policy changes is still a reality separate and apart from the President’s, as he calls it, “ironclad” commitment to Israeli security?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ve said many times that both things are and can be true.  You can be a staunch defender of Israel’s defense.  And we are — and I think he proved that to a fare-thee-well Saturday night — and still be able to have some tough, candid conversations with the way in which they are fighting Hamas inside Gaza. 

And those conversations are continuing, and, as I said, hopefully, we’ll get to be able to sit down again with our Israeli counterparts about the — whatever their thinking are — whatever the thinking is about — about Rafah.

So, both things are true; both things can be true.  And — and those are the discussions that we’re having.  You can — you can be a good friend of — of Israel.  In fact, I would argue that only a good friend can do what we did Saturday night and yet still be willing to have tough conversations with the Israeli government about the prosecution of the — of the operations they’re conducting inside Gaza.

Q    So, they’re being considered separate matters?

MR. KIRBY:  I think I’ve answered the question. 

Q    Okay. 

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you for your patience.  Appreciate it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No worries.

Q    Thanks, John. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hi.  Oh, I don’t know.  Seung Min.  I feel like you guys got all the news of the day.  (Laughs.)

Q    Yeah, well, Happy — Happy Tax Day to you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy Tax Day.  I did take care of my taxes.  (Laughter.)  I don’t — I don’t have a wife to take care of my taxes.  (Laughter.)

Q    Ouch.

Q    Can you — just on the other sort of big news of the day.  Is the — is the President going to be paying any sort of attention or will be briefed on — on the criminal proceedings of former President Trump in New York?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, the President is pretty busy today.  He has two bilats, as you know, with the — as you just saw, with the Iraqi Prime Minister and one with the Czech Republic.  So, it’s a busy day focusing on, obviously, our national security priorities and continuing the strong alliances that we have with these two leaders — obviously, two separate meetings — and continuing to — you know, continue to deliver for the American people.

I — I’m sure he’ll — he’ll, you know, get an update at some point today, but his focus right now are the meetings that he have — he has and what he continues to do every day.

Q    Right.  And setting aside the fact that the former President is the — is the current President’s general election candidate or challenger for this year, what is the Pre- — what is President Biden, the White House’s reaction to this moment in time? 

I mean, it is a historic occasion — “occasion” is an odd word to say — but it — you have a former President going on criminal trial for the first time in history.  So, what is the White House’s reaction to that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I do want to be super mindful, even me commenting on that.  It is an ongoing case.  I just want to be super, super mindful and not comment on an ongoing case, even if it’s asking an opinion about the, you know — the historic nature of what’s happening and what’s going to occur over the next couple of weeks.  So, do want to be mindful.  And he happens to be, as you just said, a candidate — a presidential candidate for 2024, so going to be mindful.

The President is going to continue to focus on — on the week ahead.  He’s going to be traveling, as you all know, to Pennsylvania.  He has two important bilats today.  And it’s always about the American people for this President, and that’s going to be his focus.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    As you just mentioned, the President is heading to Pennsylvania again this week.  He’s making multiple visits to the state.


Q    Can you just give us a sense of what we can expect in the coming days?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, it’s a three — coming day or coming —

Q    Days.  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, days.  I didn’t know if you said “weeks.”  I’m like, “Wow, weeks.” 

Coming days — it’s a three-day swing to Pennsylvania.  He starts it off tomorrow.  He’s going to start his trip in his hometown of Scranton, where he’ll deliver remarks at — at a campaign event.  So, that’s obviously a campaign event, so they will provide more details.

On Wednesday, he’s going to travel to Pittsburgh, where he’ll deliver remarks again on other pieces of the economic agenda.  So, you can foc- — you can imagine a very strong focus on the economy this week.  And so, we’ll have more on that from us tomorrow on what Wednesday is going to look like. 

And then on Thursday, which is, he’ll — obviously, he’ll continue his swing.  He’ll travel to Philadelphia for more campaign events, and certainly the campaign will provide any details on that particular day.

So, it’s Tuesday and Thursday are the campaign priorities, obviously, and they’ll speak to that.  And then there’s an economic focus on Wednesday, and so we’ll have more to share tomorrow on that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, first of all, with the Iraqi leader here, lawmakers in that country are set to vote on a bill that includes a death penalty or life in prison for same-sex relations.  Would passing such a bill harm U.S. ties?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, you saw the Iraqi Prime Minister and the President have a bilat today, and I think it shows the importance of that alliance and the continued diplomacy engagement that we’ve done — the President continues to do just across the globe, obviously.

The President has been very, very — I think, very vocal about any type of — well, supporting the LGBTQ+ community and has spoken out about any type of humanitarian — or human rights, I should say — any — you know, any human rights violations that we see from here.  And they — we always have those honest conversations with — with leaders, and the President always has, again, those honest conversations. 

I’m not going to get into — I’m not going to get ahead of what’s happening currently in Iraq, but we’ve been pretty — we’ve been pretty clear about making sure that human rights — human rights — any human rights violations or if we see anything that is — you know, that — that we think needs — we need to speak to, we do, but I’m just going to be —

Q    And the President will raise that issue today?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — look, the President always raises human rights issues if it warrants with a — with a leader.  I’m going to be really mindful.  We’ll have a readout, obviously, of these two bilats. 

I’m — I can’t say for sure that that’s going to come up, but the President has never backed down from having these types of frank, honest conversation and where he stands, and we know where he stands with that community — with LGBTQ+ community.

Q    And then one other topic.  Tesla is laying off more than 10 percent of its global workforce — falling sales and intensive price war for EVs.  Does the ongoing turmoil in the EV market and the very slow consumer transition away from internal combustion engine vehicles make you doubt your full-throated commitment to this space?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look — and I think I’ve talked about this before.  You — look, when it comes to EV, we’ve saw an E- — we’ve seen EV sales, obviously, rise — a record high.  And EVs are more affordable than ever, and I think that’s important. 

Last year, EV sales surpassed 1 million for the first time ever, a 50 percent increase.  And under this President, EV sales have more than quadrupled.  Sales of hybrids and EVs are now record high of 18 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales.  Average price of EV is down 20 percent a year ago.

And so, look, the President has always talked about — one of his priorities, as it relates to the economy, is lowering costs.  And we see that with — with these EV sales, obviously, and also creating a — manufacturing jobs in order — if you’re seeing the EV sales go up — right? — you’re going to see a continuation of manufacturing jobs that are needed.  And so, that is important.  We can — we believe it’s going to create jobs. 

I can’t speak to Tesla’s decision.  They are a private — obviously, a private company.  

But we believe what we’re trying to do and what we’ve been trying — trying to do in last couple of years — whether it’s manufacturing, whether it’s dealing with the climate crisis by making sure EVs are — are available and creating EVs — more EVs and lowering those costs — is working. 

And so, that’s what’s going to be the President’s priority.

Go ahead.

Q    House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that he’ll move forward with the vote on additional Israel aid.  If Congress were to pass additional aid for Israel and only that, will President Biden reject it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve been very clear — my colleagues from here just moments ago — that we will not accept a standalone.  A standalone would — would actually not help Israel and Ukraine.  It would actually delay the needs that they — the — the needs that — the needed aid that they obviously need to fight. 

When you see what was happening in Ukraine — obviously, the brave people of Ukrainian [Ukraine] are fighting against a tyrant.  We need to make sure that they have the assistance that they need. 

We saw what happened in Israel just over — over the weekend and the leadership that this President has shown.  It would — it would actually — it would actually not help them if we do a standalone, and we do not support a standalone. 

What we want to see is that bipartisan national security supplemental that passed overwhelmingly, 70-29, in the Senate.  And we believe if the — if the Speaker were to put that on the floor, it would pass overwhelmingly. 

And so, that’s what we want to see.  The President made clear to the — in that conversation that he had just yesterday with Leader — Leader Schumer, Leader Jeffries, and the Speaker, he was very clear about that.  We need — the Speaker needs to move forward on the bipartis- — on the national security supplemental, which we believe would get a bipartisan — overwhelming bipartisan support. 

That’s what we want.  That’s what we have to see.  A standalone, we do not support.

Q    Did the President think that that conversation moved the needle at all?  I mean, this supplemental has been at a standstill in Congress.  So, in that conversation with House Speaker Mike Johnson, did he receive any sort of commitment that these two would move together?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, you s- — you heard from Leader — Leader Schumer.  You heard from Leader Jeffries.  They called on the Speaker to move forward.  We saw what happened over the weekend.  We see what happens every day in Ukraine — every day.  And if they want to move qui- — quickly, if they want to do this in an easy way — if the Speaker wants to do this the easiest way pas- — possible, the fastest way possible, there is a — there is a national security supplemental that is waiting, that is ready to be put on the floor. 

We know it would get bipartisan support.  We know this.  We’ve heard from Republicans.  We know where Democrats stand. 

And so, they have to put this on the — put this on — you know, they’ve got to put this on the floor.  The Speaker has to move quickly — has to move quickly.

Q    On another topic.  The Baltimore bridge crash is now under federal criminal investigation.  Has the President been briefed on that?  And has he been in touch with anyone in the Maryland delegation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I will say is the President is regularly updated on what’s happening in Baltimore.  Obviously, the port, moving forward with that is really important, getting the bridge back up.  As you know, the Department of Transportation, in the early days, announced $60 million to help in that effort.  We’re going to continue to talk with the Maryland delegation of what they need and how much this is going to cost to get that going. 

But the President does get regularly updated.  There’s investigation happening, as you just stated.  I’m not going to get in — you know, I’m not going to comment to that.  I’m going to let that independent investigation move forward.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Earlier this month, did President Biden tell Xi Jinping to stop supporting Russia’s assault on Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not going to get into diplomatic conversations.  We had a readout of that call that he had about 10 days ago with President Xi.  It was an important call.  It talked — it was a continuation of their summit that they had in San Francisco a couple of months ago.  And so, I’m just not going to get ahead of or go into details about private conversation.  I think the President and we have been very clear.

Q    Okay.  So, the U.S. has announced some sanctions and an executive order to address the support that China has given Russia in those months between the summit and now but also said we are prepared to take further steps.  So, is the administration going to do more to deter Beijing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you know, the President certainly is — is — he’s going to underscore — he’s going to continue to underscore the concerns — right? — that he has to China, while also reiterating our readiness to conduct diplo- — diplomacy with North Korea — right?  That’s a part of this too — in our determination to take steps to deter further provocations by the DPRK, obviously. 

And also, you know — so, we’re always going to be very clear about that.  You spoke about the executive action.  I’m just going to be super careful about what — what was said between the two leaders.  We did a readout, and we’ve been always very clear — always very clear to speak — to speak very directly about our concerns and underscore our concerns to China. 

Q    But just to be clear —


Q    — it came up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m just going to be really careful.  You have the readout.  I’m going to leave the readout to speak for itself. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Jared.

Q    Is the White House satisfied with the FISA renewal bill that passed the House and is headed to the Senate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I think it’s important that it moved out of the House, and now it’s going to go to the Senate.  And we’ve talked about that.  There was a deadline, as you know, and it needs to — we’ve got to get going with the FISA.  It’s really important to get that done.

Q    Some of the changes that the White House is okay with — the reforms —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, we’re — we’re — I think we’re — we’re satisfied that it has gone — it is moving.  It’s going to go to the Senate.  We’ll see what happens there.  But it is — we — you’ve heard from us.  You heard from even National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who talked about that the last time he was at the podium.  It’s — it’s important to our national security that we move forward with FISA.  Now it’s in the Senate.

Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah, thanks, Karine.  I want to ask about gas prices.  They’ve been going up: over the last month, 20 cents a gallon.  Is the President considering any new actions, like releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Res- — Reserve?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, don’t have — I don’t have any new actions to read out. 

I will say — I will note that gas prices remain well below their peak back in 2022.  I think that’s important.  And the — the average gas price right now is cheaper than this time last year.  And that’s because of what this President has been doing over the last three years, including the SPR. 

And, look, let’s not forget: Jobs are up, wages are up, clean energy manufacturing is up — all of these things are incredibly important — because of this President’s historic investment that he has made. 

And so — but I would — I think it’s important to note that it remains well below the 2020 peak — 

Q    But —

MS.  JEAN-PIERRE:  — 2022 peak, pardon me. 

Q    But it’s only three cents lower than a year ago.  It’s up 52 percent from when President Biden came into office.  Any, then, talk about changes in policies that — to encourage the future investment in oil and gas (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President is committed to lowering costs.  He is.  That is something that you see at the center of every economic policy.  When he’s here giving remarks, he’s talking about lowering costs.  He understands how the American people are still being squeezed. 

And so, the reason that it remains below 2022 — the gas prices, as you’re asking me — is because of the historic investment that this President has made. 

So, of course, we’re going to continue to monitor and do everything that we can to answer those questions by the American people: What else can we do to lower costs?  But it is important that it is cheaper — it is cheaper to get gas than it was a year ago.  And that’s because of the — of what this President has been doing, because of historic investment that he’s taken. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Is there — to follow up on that, is there any indication that when the President asked for the richest Americans to pay their fair share, that inflation and the rise in gas prices are linked to that request?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that one more time.

Q    Do you think that it — the rise in prices of gas and inflation, which is still rising, is linked to the President’s request that the richest Americans pay their fair share?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, what I — here’s what I will say: The way we see the economy is very different than the way Republicans see the economy and how we make sure we have an economy that works for all.  Making sure that the we- — the wealthiest among us — the billionaires and corporations — pay their fair share we believe is the way to go here, not putting that burden on everyday Americans. 

That’s an economic policy that we believe in and a policy that br- — builds the economy from the bottom up, middle out, not trickle-down. 

And so, we’re going to continue to lower costs.  And we’re going to ask those billionaires and corporations to actually pay their fair share.  That’s something Americans want to see.  That’s something Americans want to see. 

As — as it relates to inflation, we look at a trend here, and we have seen inflation moderate over the past several months.  And that’s important, as well, to note.  But, look, we see it very differently.  We want to make sure we’re protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, lowering costs.  Republicans don’t want to protect that, and they want to give billionaires and corporations a tax break.  That’s not how we see this. 

Q    And to fo- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    Quick follow-up.  Earlier, there was reports that the administration released that the Department of Justice — and they haven’t commented on it — may have reached — the courts are reaching out to Julian Assange for a plea deal.  Any update from you guys here as to whether or not there would be a pardon or you would support a plea deal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s a Department of Justice question. 

Q    But — but the President —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That — that is a Department of Justice question.  I ca- — I’m not going to get into it.

Q    And they’re not responding to it, so would you —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer to Department of Justice. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you.  So, this week, a ton of people will be here for the National Cannabis Policy Summit, and there’s currently still a patchwork of state marijuana laws to regulate the drug safety, including whether there are traces of lead in products.  Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level but becoming more common at the state level, is the administration doing anything to try to improve safety regulations of products or any consideration of legalizing marijuana moving forward at the federal level?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I will give you a little bit of an update.  So, as you all know, the President asked — asked Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review how marijuana is scheduled.  HHS has concluded their independent review, guided by the evidence.  The scheduling review is now with DOJ.  And any input should be certainly directed to them at a time and in a manner they say is appropriate. 

So, this is a matter, at this point, once — now that HHS has do- — has completed their review, it’s in Department of Justice, and they can speak to where — where marijuana rescheduling is at this point. 

All right.  Oh, go ahead.  Go ahead, Jon.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I’m just wondering, looking backwards, the 2020 election cycle — so, you’re not impacting the upcoming election cycle. 

Q    No, no, no.  (Laughter.)

Q    Looking backwards —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Let’s see where this is going.

Q    No, you don’t — actually don’t know where it’s going.   (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I didn’t say that.  I said, “Let’s see where this is going.”  I have no idea where this is going.  (Laughter.)  I have no clue. 

Q    I’m going to help you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — yeah, I know you will. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know you will.

Q    In — in 2020, do you think that the American electorate was helped by seeing Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the same stage —


Q    — at the same time —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I knew this was — now I know where this is going.  (Laughter.)

Q    — at a presidential debate?  Was that helpful, do you think, in terms of people making that decision?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, that — that’s a question for the American people.  I can’t speak to that from here.  I can’t. 

Q    Yeah.  And the — now —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And 2020 was a different time. 

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It was a different time. 

Q    And looking ahead to this upcom- — upcoming election cycle.  Do you think it would be helpful to see these two — (laughter) — candidates who are in a rematch —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So slick.

Q    — on the same stage —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So slick. 

Q    — at the same time also competing against each other in a presidential debate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As the President would say, you can’t kid a kidder.  (Laughter.)

What I will say is that is a question for the campaign.  They will gladly, I’m sure — gladly take — take that question. 

All right, everybody.  Thank you so much. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks for your patience.  I know it was a long one.

 2:41 P.M. EDT

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