James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:51 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ve just got two things at the top, and then we’ll get going.

Today, President Biden attended the annual Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, where he honored the lives and service of fallen officers across the country.

As the President says, we must do more to protect our brave men and women in law off- — law enforcement.  That means funding for more officers, more detectives, and more technology so officers have what they need to do their job safely and protect us.

From day one, President Biden has taken bold action to reduce crime, bolster public safety, and protect the safety of police who walk the beat. 

And thanks to the American Rescue Plan, this administration has invested the largest-ever federal investment in fighting and preventing crime. 

Since President Biden took office, we have seen historic declines in crime because of the work of brave law enforcement officers and community leaders. 

But we can’t stop there.  That’s why President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass his Safer America Plan to invest $37 billion to support law enforcement and crime prevention.

And second, today, the United States is taking coordination action in response to the Orte- — Ortega-Murillo regime’s continued repression of the people of Nicaragua and ongoing exploitation of the vulnerable migrants. 

The Departments of Treasury, State, and Homeland Security jointly issued a policy alert to travel companies with information about the ways in which smugglers are facilitating illegal migration to the United States to remind the industry of key steps that they should take to avoid complicity in the exploitation of migrants. 

This complements the International Air Transp- — Transport Association and its members’ action last week to — to address irregular migration. 

The Department of Treasury sanctioned a Russian military training center that supports re- — repressive actions by the Nic- — Nicaraguan National Police to prosecute pol- — political opposition and two gold companies that enrich the Ortega-Murillo — Murillo regime.

Additionally, the Department of State imposed by vi- — vis- — visa restriction on the over — over 250 individuals supporting attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms and repression of civil society organizations. 

These actions build on President Biden’s effort to address irregular migration following last — last week’s Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection ministerial in Guatemala, where we pledged $578 million to support our partners integrating millions of migrants in the region. 

Today’s actions also support the President’s aff- — affirmative agenda for a more democratic, secure, and prosper- — prosperous for the Western Hemisphere.

With that, Colleen.

Q    Thank you.  I wondered if you could talk about the timing of the decision to notify Congress about the weapons transfer to Israel.  It came just as the House was preparing to vote on legislation that would have forced the President to distribute that aid.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, when it comes to process on any type of weapons purchases or anything like that, that is something that the State Department can speak to.  They can speak to — about it directly.

What I want to do is reiterate what Jake Sullivan, our National Security Advisor, said here at the podium earlier this week — that the only pause that we have done is that one pause — paused shipment.  And so — and so, just want to be really clear — because of our concerns of what — what could be a Rafah operation. 

And so, we’ve been really mindful of that.  We’ve been really clear about that.  We’ve — we’ve addressed our concerns — our concerns about a major operation in Rafah publicly and privately.

But we’ve always said — we’ve always said that we believe in — in — you know, we believe in — the President believe, obviously, the commitment, and we do as well, to Israel’s security is ironclad.  And we want to make sure that they have what they need — Israel has what they need to defend themselves against their enemies, including Hamas.  And so, we’ve always been very clear about that. 

And when it comes to transfer of weapons systems, they’re — they’re continuing, aside from that one shipment that we paused last week: the 500- and the 2000-pound unguided munitions.  So, that — that is where we are at this moment.

I cannot speak to timeline.  I cannot speak to anything specific about this particular reporting on weapons transfer package.  That’s something for the State Department to speak to.

Q    Okay.  So then Biden is an institutionalist, but he decided to circumvent the nonpartisan group that has done the debates for three decades.  So, I just wondered, you know, if you could talk a little bit about that at all.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  The debates?

Q    I know.  I know.  It’s about his schedule, so I thought I’d try the President’s schedule.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I get it.  I get it.  I get it.  I know there’s a lot of interest in what the campaign announced earlier this morning, obviously, through the — a video from the President. 

I’m going to be really mindful; we are talking about 2024 election.  And so, we are committed to the rule of law here.  I’m going to respect that. 

So, anything specific related to that, obviously, you’re going to have to go to the campaign, as we’ve been pretty consistent here. 

The President agen- — agenda is pretty clear.  He wants to create an agenda that works for all, leaves no one behind, and an economy that — that is built from the bottom up, middle out, an economy founded on strong, growing middle class.  We’ve been very clear about that.

He wants to make sure that we — America — that — that we have an America that is more free.  That’s what he concerns about — right? — including reproductive rights. 

He wants to make sure that we are not — the President has also said that we want to make sure that we’re — we don’t stand for the dark, revenge-based policies put forward by Republican officials.  That’s not where we are. 

We want to make sure that — that we are continuing to — to deliver for the American people.  That’s what this President has been doing for the last three years.

As it relates to the news about the debate challenge, that is something that the campaign has to speak to directly.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Does the President worry that he muddies the message he’s trying to send to Israel by approving this new transfer of weapons so soon after he withheld the transfer of these 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t think — no, to answer your question very directly.  I think what Jake Sullivan did here on Monday, laying out the 10 parts of our commitment and how we’re seeing Middle — the Middle East — obviously, in particular, the war in Israel and Gaza and how we’re moving forward — how we’re moving forward in supporting our friend, Israel. 

We’ve been very clear that when it comes to their security, that continues to be ironclad.  There is no change there.  We believe that they need to be able to defend themselves, just like the President was able to do when Iran — he was able to bring together a coalition.  We saw 300 missiles and drones that were targeted at Israel that we were able to step in and help, obviously, Israel defend itself.  I think that shows how committed we are to their security. 

And we have said that it is one pause — one pause on these bombs — one package, one shipment.  And that is obviously connected to Rafah and the potential — what could happen in Rafah, and we’ve been very clear about that. 

Those conversations continue.  You heard Jake Sullivan say himself, in the upcoming days, he’s hoping to have a in-person, continuing that engagement that they’ve been having.  There’s been two virtual.  But every day, they’re having these conversations with their counterparts.  I’m talking about NSC and — and Jake, obviously, and his team.

And so, I don’t think — we don’t think that the — the — it muddies the waters.  We’ve been very clear.  Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. 

But when it comes to Rafah, where there is a densely populated citizens who are there, who are seeking refuge — more than a million — you heard that from Jake, you’ve heard that from us, you’ve heard that from the President.  We want to make sure that there’s a plan to protect their lives.

Q    Did the decision to approve this weapons shipment now have anything to do with the bill that Republicans have introduced that would force the President to approve —


Q    — all military aid to Israel?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s — here’s what I would say.  I think, again, our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad.  That hasn’t changed.  We’ve been very clear about making sure that Israel is able to defend themselves against Iran, against their proxies.  We’ve been very clear.

Hezbollah attacks Israel almost every day.  Right?  That’s what we’re seeing.  And we have been very clear about making sure that they’re able to defend themselves. 

And I can’t speak to the process, the timing of — of this particular weapons transfer.  That is something for the State Department to speak to.  So, would I — I would have to leave it to them. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, the U.S. has been very clear that it paused the shipment of those 2,000-pound bombs because of fears of how it could be used in Rafah.  But does the President not share any concerns about how the weapons as a part of this $1 billion package could also be used to harm civilians? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we have always been very clear — and we have been clear, certainly very recently, that while our support for Israel is ironclad and we believe that they should be able to defend themselves, we believe that they have the right to go after Hamas, a terrorist organization, and they should do that. 

We’ve also said two things can be true.  We’ve also said that they have to do it in a way that protects civilian lives.  That continues — that continues to be part of the conversation.  That continues in a process for us to make that very clear directly to them.  And we’ve been also very vocal about that privately and obviously publicly. 

So, those two things can happen.  Those two things can happen. 

And so — and so, look, we’re going to continue, again, to have a conversation with our counterparts.  NSC, obviously, is going to continue to have those conversations as we move forward. 

Q    And we have learned from two U.S. officials that Israel has amassed enough troops at the edge of the border with Rafah to launch a full-scale incursion.  If Israel does so, as Netanyahu has vowed to, how will the U.S. respond?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, that is for — whatever the Prime Minister has said recently, that is something for him to speak to.  We — obviously, I can’t speak for the Israeli government.  That is not something that I do from here.

We have been very clear: We’re going to continue to monitor the situation.  We have — we believe that what we’re seeing right now is targeted — a targeted operation.  That’s what Israel has told us.  We have not seen a major operation moving forward. 

But we — obviously, we have concerns that that could happen.  And so, that’s why these engagements continue.  That’s why these conversations continue.  And we’ve been very clear about the fact that, again, more than a million ci- — civilian lives are in Rafah.  We want to make sure that they’re protected. 

But we also believe that Israel has the right to go after Hamas.  We want it to be done in a strategic way, obviously.  And those conversations continue. 

Q    So, just to be clear, the U.S. believes that what Israel is currently doing in Rafah — pushing in deeper with further military operations — the U.S. believes that is both targeted and strategic? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m not going to go blow by blow with every — you know, with every reporting that is coming out and that is being laid out about what folks are seeing.  I’m not going to go into blow by blow about that. 

What I can say is what we understand is those operations are targeted.  They’re limited.  That’s what we’ve been told.  We’re going to continue to monitor the situation.

The conversations continue.  The engagement about Rafah continues.  You heard that directly from Jake Sullivan. 

And so, we are talking about this every day — every day.  Yes, we’ve talked about the two virtual engagement.  Yes, Jake has talked about wanting to have an in-person meeting.  But those conversations happen on a daily basis.  And I think that’s important to note as well. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Did the Israelis give Jake any assurances of no Rafah offensive before he gets there this weekend?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I am not going to speak into private conversations.  What I can tell you is those engagements, those conversations about our concerns about a major military operation in Rafah continue, and they’ve been constructive.  You heard directly from Jake about this. 

And I’m just not going to go into specifics on how — what — what the back-and-forth is.  And I also cannot confirm Jake’s travel.  Like, that’s not something that I can do right now. 

Q    Just to kind of go back to the decision to send, you know, a billion dollars in arms to Israel, and then, you know, what the President said about his decision to sto- — to pause sending some arms to Israel.  I mean, it just appears inconsistent. 

We understand that your position is to make sure Israel can defend itself.  But how do you — you know, how should we sort of think about both of these decisions made at the same time?  I mean, is he — is he not concerned that those billion dollars in arms is actually going to impact civilians in Rafah?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I don’t — I don’t believe it’s inconsistent.  We’ve been very clear — we’ve been very clear here.  Two things can be true, right?  Two things can be true.  We can have tough conversations with our friends and allies.  That is something that you’ve seen from this president in his diplomacy.  Right?  It isn’t — and we can have constructive conversation.

We can also share our concerns.  And that’s what you have seen.  And we can say to our ally that “Look, we want to make sure you’re able to defend yourself.  We want to make sure that….”  We’re going to continue to say that “Our commitment to you, Israel’s security, is ironclad.” 

That is — I mean, I just laid out — we saw what — what Iran did — right? — not too long ago.  We know Hezbollah is going after Israel almost on a daily basis.  We know that. 

And so, they have to be able — Israel has to be able to defend itself. 

But when we see a situation in Rafah, the one — within more — with more than 1.4 million citizens who are seeking refuge there, because they moved there to seek refuge, we’re going to also share our concerns. 

And — but those — and the thing to remember is that those conversations are continuing.  They are happening.  You heard that from Jake: On a daily basis, they are happening. 

And so, we’re going to monitor the situation.  You know, those two things could be true, right?  We can try to make sure that our friends and allies are able to protect themselves against — against their enemies, defend themselves.  And we can also flag and say, “Hey, this is something that we are concerned about when it comes — in this particular instance, obviously, Rafah, and a po- — a potential operations — a major operations — military operation in Rafah.”

Q    But the President’s comments, you know, about his decision to pause a shipment to Israel through — came in the light of campus protests.  I mean, was that — were those comments made in light of —


Q    — you know, kind of appeasing or reaching out to younger voters or how people were feeling in the country at that point?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I would say that we have been very loud and clear about our concerns about a major military operations in Rafah for weeks — for months.  This is something that we have been talking about for some time — for some time now. 

So, I — they are not connected.  The President is — this is not about politics for this President.  This is about the right thing to do. 

Q    And did you have — sorry, on —


Q    — just a different topic.  Do you have a comment on the Putin-Xi meeting that’s coming up this week?  I mean, does the President have any thoughts on that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, here’s our thoughts.  You know, we don’t comment on bilateral — bilateral engagement.  We’ve been always pretty consistent. 

But I want to make one point clear.  We find it unacceptable that the Chinese companies are helping Putin wage this war against Ukraine.  And if China purports to want good relations with Europe and other countries, it cannot continue to fuel the biggest threat to European security right now. 

This is not just a U.S. position.  You also heard it from the G7 partners, NATO, and the EU.  And that’s our position on that.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The IDF says that it has intensified military operations in specific areas of Eastern Rafah.  Can you first confirm whether it’s still the U.S.’s assessment that this is not the full-scale full incursion into Rafah that the President has been warning about?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, what I will say — and I’ve — and I’m going to be pretty consistent from here.  Going to be pretty boring, I guess, for the next few minutes or so at this podium, behind this lectern, which is: We’re monitoring the situation.  We’ve been told and what we see — it is a targeted, limited operation in Rafah.  That is what we’re — we’re seeing.  I’m — I can’t go, like, by report by report here.  That is not something that I’m going to do from here. 

We have made our concerns very clear, publicly and privately, about a ma- — a potential major operations offensive in Rafah.  And so, look, we do not believe they should be dropped in densely — these bombs, right? — should be dropped in densely populated cities.  So, we are talking to the Israeli government about this. 

That’s why we put a pause about — on the shipment for one — one shipment, only one shipm- — shipment of the 500- and 2,000-pound bombs, give- — given our concerns — our major concerns here. 

And so, I’m not going to go blow by blow here.  I’m not going to go to every spec- — specific reporting.  This is what we are monitoring.  This is what we know.  And the conversations, engagement on Rafah certainly will continue with our Israeli counterparts. 

Q    But what you’re seeing right now is not a major military operation —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s —

Q    — into Rafah?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s what I can share with you, yes.  That I can say.

Q    Just to return to a question that I think a couple of my colleagues were —


Q    — trying to ask about.  This new arms deal for Israel, it would include tank ammunition, tactical vehicles, and mortar rounds.  That’s according to our reporting.  Is the President not concerned that those are the kinds of things that could be used in a — a military operation into Rafah?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I would have to refer you on the specifics of what is being talked about, spoken about with the weapons transfer package — that is something that I — that the State Department would have to speak to. 

And I’ve kind of addressed this already about how two things can be true, right?  We can — we believe that our — you know, Israel has the right to defend itself.  Our — obviously, when it comes to their security, it’s ironclad.  And we believe that they have every right to go after Hamas, a terrorist organization.  We’ve been very clear about that. 

And we’ve also said they need to do this where we see a protection of civ- — civilian lives.  And so, those things could be true.  And those conversations are going to continue.

I cannot speak to this package.  That is something that the State Department can speak to.  I can’t speak to the process.  I can’t speak to what’s in it.  That’s for the State Department to — to lay out.

Q    Well, you’ve drawn a real distinction, I think, between offensive and defensive operations.  And the President was clear that the reason for pausing on the shipment of bombs is because those are the kinds of bombs that could be used in a Rafah operation.  So, I’m just asking, again —


Q    — whether tank ammunition, tactical vehicles, and mortar rounds — are those not things that could also potentially be used in a Rafah incursion?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we have been clear.  I can’t speak to the specifics of what is in this transfer of weapons.  I can’t.  What I can say is that we have been clear that Israel has the right to defend itself.  We are — we are committed to Israel’s security.  That is ironclad.  That is t- — true, right? 

We believe that they should have the right to defend themselves against their enemies, including Hamas — including Hamas.  And so, that is what you see here.  That is what you’re — you’re going to continue to see from us. 

When it comes to our potential concern of a major offensive operation in Rafah, we’ve talked about that.  We’ve talked about that, which is why we paused that one shipment, because of our concerns of a major offensive operation. 

Q    I’m not asking you to confirm —


Q    — the details of this specific arms deal.


Q    But the list that I just gave —


Q    — does the U.S. see those — those things as being purely defensive weapons?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What we have been very clear about: Israel has the right to defend itself.  That’s what we believe.  We paused one shipment that we believe could — could be used in a potential offensive operation in Rafah.  And we’ve been very clear about that.  It’s one shipment that we paused. 

But it doesn’t — it doesn’t take away from the fact that Israel should be able to defend itself against its enemies.  And that’s what this is about.  That’s what we’re talking about here. 

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, I understand there’s a group of American doctors who are in Gaza who are looking for the administration’s help in getting out of there, that — they are with the Palestinian American Medical Association.  They traveled to Gaza this month to provide some emergency medical assistance.  Can you detail the administration’s efforts to try to get them out?


Q    How is Israel cooperating with that assistance?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we can say that we’re tracking this matter closely and working to get the impacted American citizens out of Gaza.  So, that is something that we’re working on.  We’ve been in touch with representatives of four doctors and their families and are engaging directly with the government of Israel to make that happen.  So, we’re doing everything that we can.

Q    Is the goal to get them out immediately or before operations expand into Rafah and there’s military movement there that could further put them (inaudible) —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, regardless, if there was an operation in Rafah or potential operation in Rafah, it doesn’t — we need to get them out.  We want to get them out.  And that is our — it has nothing to do with anything else.  These are Americans — impacted American citizens.  And so, we’re working to get them out. 

Q    And then just on the debates.  Can you explain why President Biden feels it’s important to have a general election face-off one on one with former President Trump in late June, which is earlier than in past election cycles?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I can’t speak to the timeline.  I can’t speak to the decisions on the debate.  That is something that the campaign could speak to.  I can speak to what the President has been trying to do for these past three years and make that stark contrast with what Republican elected officials have been trying to do. 

He’s been trying to make sure that we build an economy for all, don’t leave anybody behind; make sure that we’re fighting Big Pharma; make sure that we’re lowering costs for Americans. 

And you have congressional Republicans — actually, that way — who are constantly trying to make sure that — that we — we increase healthcare costs — right? — that we give tax breaks to corporations and billionaires.  That’s what they’re offering: cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. 

That’s what I can provide for you, what — what the President’s policy has been, what he’s been trying to do, and, you know, what we’re up against here.  And we’re also talking about our democracy, our freedoms that are under attack.  And — and so, the President is going to continue to fight for that.

As it relates to the debate timeline or anything connected to that, that is something for the campaign to speak to. 

Q    And just finally, the President put a statement out on this.  But is there anything else you can share about this — what appears to be an attempted assassination attempt on the Slovakian Prime Minister?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, as you just stated, the President put out a statement on this earlier today.  And I will just reiterate that we’re expressing — the President expressed his alarm and deep concern over the attack.  As the President said, he and Dr. Biden are praying for a swift recovery, and our thoughts are with his family and the people of Slo- — Slovakia. 

We condemn this horrific at- — act of violence, and our embassy is in close touch with the government and ready to assist.  And I’m just going to leave it there for now. 

Go ahead.

Q    I want to ask about the inflation report.  But first I wanted to just follow up.  Does the President intend any direct outreach to allies in Slovakia or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any —

Q    — calls or anything like that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any calls to read out to you at this time. 

Q    Okay.  On — on the inflation report.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    Obviously, it was positive for you guys.  But we’re still seeing inflation above normal levels, despite everything the administration and the Fed is doing.  Do you have a sense of when households can expect to see prices stabilize?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, here’s what I can tell you.  What we’re going to continue to do is make sure that we are — when it comes to our priority as it relates to the economy, we want to make sure that we’re fighting inflation and continue to do so.  And so, we understand we have a lot more work to do.  We get that. 

But I wou- — I would state that inflation is down more than 60 percent, with the lowest core inflation in three years, and grocery prices fell over the last three months.  Wages are up more than the prices over the last year.  And since the pandemic, more than 15 million jobs created.  And unemployment is under 4 percent, and that is the longest stretch that we have seen in over 50 years.

So, we are seeing some progress — some macroeconomic progress — but we understand that there are Americans and families that are still struggling.  That’s why the President continues to do everything that he can to lower costs, whether it’s insulin at 35 bucks for seniors and calling for — for that to be for all Americans, and a plan to build 2 million new homes, lower childcare costs.  This is what the President is trying to do and has been very clear about his plan for Americans as it relates to the economy. 

And again, in contrast to what GOP is trying to do — cut Medicare, cut — cut Social Security, cut Medicaid, make sure that — they want to make sure that there’s a tax break for billionaires and corporations — that’s not what this President is about. 

So, the work continues.  We’re going to continue to fight inflation.  We’re going to continue to be really focused on that.  And that’s what you’re going to see from this administration.

Go ahead.

Q    Back to Rafah.  Is there a concern at all that, you know, these targeted attacks would still cumulatively add up to — you know, the amount of civilian casualties or damage — I know that the concern is a major ground operation, but as these more targeted attacks continue by the IDF, is there a worry that that would — would still add up, ultimately, to the kind of civilian casualties you’re trying to avoid?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, what I can say is what Jake said, which is we’re monitoring the situation, and we’re going to continue to do that.  We’re going to continue to have engagements with our counterparts in the Israeli government.  That is something that we’re going to continue.  We believe that it’s been constructive. 

We have not seen a major military operation.  And so, we’ve been clear about that.  Jake has been clear about that from here.  But we’re going to continue to have those conversations. 

I can’t get into cumulative — I can’t — that is not –that’s hypotheticals that I don’t want to get into from here.  But the engagements continue. 

Jake said himself when he was here: He’s hoping in the next couple of days or so to have an in-person meeting to talk about Rafah operations.  He has been — has had regular communications with his counterparts in the Israeli government, and that’s going to continue.

Q    And I know you said you couldn’t preview Jake’s travel, but are there any — any sense of a meeting happening in Washington, when those in-person meetings would happen?  Can you speak to any of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  As you know, when we have had virtual meetings with — with our counterparts in Is- — in Israel government, we have shared that information, including — right? — the virtual — virtual — virtual meetings, including when the President spoke to the Prime Minister.  And we said in our readout that they talked about the Rafah operations.  We certainly will share that with you.  I just don’t have anything at this time to — to speak to.

Go ahead.

Q    With apologies, with the situations in Israel —


Q    — you’re saying that two things can be true at the same time.  Can two things be true at the same time again?  In other words, would the President again decide that the weapons — the most recent weapons package that — that he proposed is being used for a large capacity of civilian deaths, like the 2,000-pound bombs — could he then, again, say, “You know what, we’re — we’re going to — we’re going to hold these back after all”?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I just — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals from here.  I’m just not.

What I can say is that we have been very clear that our — when it comes to Israel’s security, that is ironclad.  We believe that they should be able to defend themselves — we’ve been very clear about that — against their enemies, including Hamas.  Clear about that.

When there are concerns that have — that we see, we will — we will certainly speak to that, as we have done for the past several weeks.  We have been consistent about that too.

In this particular instance, with the Rafah operations, a major military operations, we have said we have concerns.  And those conversations continue.

I’m not going to get into hypotheticals from here.  I think we have laid out how we see — how we see our engagement, obviously  — how we see this moving forward, whether it is the Rafah operations, obviously, our major concerns there, and those conversations continuing.  And also making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.  And that has been consistent here, and that is what we’re going to continue to say from here.

And you heard directly from the National Security Advisor — lay that out in 10 — in 10 parts on Monday, and I think in a pretty comprehensive, detailed way.  Obviously, there’s the hostage deal that we want to make sure that happens.  We want to see a ceasefire.  We want to see hostages come home.  We want to see more humanitarian aid go in.  And so, that is also something that we’re working as well towards.

Q    The President had his big event yesterday on tariffs.  I wanted to circle back to the U.S. Steel situation, Nip- — the offer from Nippon Steel to buy U.S. Steel.  The President has opposed that deal.  Can you give us any update?  Does he plan to try to block it?  Is he hoping the proponent withdraws its offer?  He’s, you know, been on record opposing it for a month or two now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m just going to be — I — there’s a CFIUS review.  I’m going to be super mindful.  It’s an independent review.  So, I can’t comment beyond — beyond that.

Q    There are calls from senators — Republican senators — that he can kill it without that review.  Is it the administration’s position —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I totally — totally understand.

Q    — that he should wait for the review to be done?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We respect the CFIUS review.  I’m just not going to get ahead of that.

Q    And on the border.  Can you give us any update on the President’s thinking on that executive order that you folks are said to be considering?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I mean, this is the same thing that I’ve been saying and we’ve all been saying for the past several months — right? — especially since we — when we first introduced this national security supplemental back in October, that included the border security piece in that. 

And then, obviously, we went to — we took that out, and then went to a place of working in a bipartisan way with senators in trying to come up with a — a negotiation that dealt with border challenges, that dealt with a broken system that we have seen for decades. 

And so, we still want to see that.  We still want to see Congress move forward with that.  We believe it is the toughest, the fairest way to — to deal with the border, to deal with the immigration challenges.  The President wants to sign that.  He wants to sign that.

As it relates to your question about any executive actions, any other — any other, you know, movement that might be there, look, as you just said — said in your — in your question to me, we’re always looking at potential actions that we can take.  But we are going to continue to push Congress to move on this.  We believe that it can happen.

Q    There are — there are two —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We believe that it can happen.

Q    There are two reports today about potential actions.  One from the AP — our friend, Colleen, right here — that the administration might consider sort of triaging new asylum cases to the front of the line to more quickly assess whether they are removed or — or stay to — for a more thorough review. 

Another from the New York Post that the President might consider an executive action to close the border — close the border at a threshold of 4,000 crossings a day.

I’m wondering if you could speak to either of those reports.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, it’s basically the same answer that I gave you in my fir- — in your first question, which is we want to see — we understand this immigration system has been broken for decades.  We want to see that Senate bipartisan negotiation plan that came forward — we want to see that moving. 

And as I’ve stated many times before — you’ve heard it from the President himself — we were ready to move forward.  That was ready to be pushed out of the Senate in a bipartisan way. 

The former President, President Trump, told Republicans to reject it — to reject it.  And that’s what we’re seeing. 

And we believe that Republicans should be where majority of Americans are.  They want to see an answer, a way to fix this — we believe legislatively — to fix what’s happening at the border, the challenges that we’re seeing.

I don’t have anything beyond that.  As I’ve said many, many times before, as you asked me your question, we’re looking at all options.  I just don’t have anything to share at this time. 

Q    And I should specify, it was Seung Min and colleagues.  (Laughter.)  Sorry, I don’t want to get in trouble.

Q    She’ll be — she’ll be grateful.

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good.  A callout — a callout to Seung Min —

Q    Yeah, yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — who is not here.

Go ahead, April.

Q    Karine —


Q    — I have two topics.  One, Marilyn Mosby, we understand that the application for a pardon has been delivered and accepted by the White House as well as Justice.  What’s the movement?  What is the President’s thinking? 


Q    What is he expected to do on this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I want to — and, April, I appreciate the question.  I know we went back and forth on this last week. 

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Certainly appreciate the question. 

I have to be really careful from this podium not to talk about individual pardon requests.  It is inappropriate for me to do so.  And so, I need to be really mindful.

DOJ — and I said this to you last time — applies a thorough and deliberative process.  We’ve got to let them do that process.  And so, that is — certainly, that particular question has to go to DOJ.  From — from this lectern, at this podium, I cannot speak to individual cases and want to be super mindful.  And we never have — we never have over the last three years. 

Q    Okay.  Other presidents have.  But that’s okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But that’s what I’m saying.  We haven’t. 

Q    I know.  I know. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We haven’t because we want to respect that process. 

Q    So — and follow up on that topic.  Is the Presi- — has the President gotten any communication personally from organizations like the NAACP, Win With Women, some of the organizations that have written letters to the President —


Q    — about this case?  Because you got a majority of the civil rights community, a lot of large organizations, Black organizations are really on the side of a pardon for her.  Does he know about it?  Has he talked to anyone specifically on it? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I have not spoken to the President directly about it.  I know — I know the letters that you’re speaking of.  I know we get letters all the time — right? — obviously, in — supporting an agenda.  So, obviously, those letters have come through.  I just haven’t spoken to the President directly about this — about this. 

Q    So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And I want to be careful — right? — we don’t — this is — we — we do not want to speak about individual cases.  We believe it’s inappropriate. 

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We want to be really, really mindful here.

Q    And lastly, on this topic, then.


Q    On this topic.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  On this topic?

Q    On this topic.  Yeah, because I —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, we continue.  Okay.

Q    The 23rd is sentencing.  Are you — it’s — could it be realistic that everyone’s waiting for the 23rd, and then they will think about acting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  I can’t — I — I’m going to be really mindful.  I — I appreciate your efforts.  I appreciate —

Q    I am trying.  I’m trying hard.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.  Clearly, clearly.  (Laughter.)  And I — I appreciate your effort.  I just cannot comment on individual — individual cases here. 

Q    All right.  And lastly, on the next topic. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I thought this was the last one. 

Q    No, I said two when we started. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay. 

Q    All right.  So — (laughs) — at the beginning of the briefing, you talked about a commitment to policing.  And for the last few years, particularly when then-candidate Biden was talking about holding police officers accountable when the George Floyd death happened — we all remember that.  Now there is another call, yet again, from the Mothers of the Movement, who are meeting with the members of the Congressional Black Caucus right now looking for action, particularly in the wake of what happened in Florida recently with the Black man shot by police who was in the military — wrong person, wrong place. 

What are the thoughts of this White House about the push for police reform, as you support police accountability and civil rights at the same time?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  And our hearts go out to any — anyone who — who lost a child.  It is — under any circumstances, it is heartbreaking.  It is heartbreaking.  And our heart goes out to the families who’ve lost loved ones in police shootings. 

And you’ve heard that from this administration.  You’ve heard that from this President. 

As you know, the President signed an executive order to hold federal law enforcement to the highest standards.  And he believes that officers should be held to those standards.  President Biden has been clear about his commitment to doing everything he can to make our community safer,

including by advancing effective accountable policing. 

The vast majority of Americans want the same thing too.  They want — they want trust, they want safety, and they want accountability.  That’s why the President has pushed Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice for Policing Act and signed an executive order to make federal policing the gold standard — the gold standard of effectiveness and accountability.

Let’s not forget, when Congress could not get this done, the President took action and did that executive order.  So, we can’t forget that.  Like, he is going to continue to push Congress, but he took action himself on the federal level of what he can do from here.

And so, he also continues to believe that we need to build a lasting trust between law enforcement and the communities that they are sworn to serve and protect.  And so, we’re going to continue to encourage Congress to move forward with this.

Q    Is this the time to do it, to lean in?  During a political election cycle, is this the time for the President to lean in?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — look, I — I’m not going to — this is not about a political cycle for this President.  He’s been leaning in to this for three years.  Right?  We talked about the — the crises — the President talked about four crises when he walked into this admini- — administration.  One of them had to do with racial inequality. 

And from the beginning, he has pushed for Congress to move forward for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.  It didn’t move forward, and he acted.  And that wasn’t — that — he acted some time ago and moved forward with an executive order.  And we’re going to continue to push for that.

It has nothing to do with politics.  It has — it has everything to do with this being the right thing to do.  When —

Q    Does the White House blame Tim Scott for holding it up?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I’m not going to get into the blame game here, because I don’t even know where the process is.  We believe that Congress should move forward in getting this done in a bipartisan way.  There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  What are the next steps after White House officials met with the Chinese this week in Geneva on AI?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What are the next steps?

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — as you know, the President signed an executive order on AI, which is the most comprehensive executive action that he — he took.  And what I would say with the — China is those conversations are going to continue.  But this is an issue that the President believes that we need to act on and thinks it’s an incredibly important issue to move forward on.

Those conversation with China are going to continue — the dos- — diplomatic conversation.  I don’t have anything to preview beyond that.

Q    A bipartisan group of senators this morning put out a roadmap for their view of legislation on artificial intelligence, led by Senator Schumer.  Does this White House have a perspective on it and have you weighed in at all directly with those four senators?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, this is very similar — similar to the answer that I ga- — gave, but I will say, to this particular legislation, we’re grateful that Leader Schumer and Senators Rounds, Young, and Martin [Heinrich] for their work on this important issue.  We’re very grateful. 

As you know, and I think we may have mentioned this, the — you know, after the President did his executive order — as I mentioned, it’s the most significant action done by a — by a government, he — he — within days of signing it, he met with that exact group of lawmakers to underscore the importance of moving forward with a bipartisan legislation.  So, we are — we’re appreciative of that.  We think it’s important that they’re doing that.

As it relates to, like, their — the exact approach of this piece of legislation, that is something that Congress is going to have to move forward on, but we are grateful — we are grateful that — that they’re moving forward in a bipartisan way.  Again, the President talked to this particular group about this.  And so, we’re — we’re glad to see this moving forward.

Q    Just so I understand.  So, you’re — you’re appreciative of them working on something related to I — AI —


Q    — but you’re not backing what’s in the framework?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well — well, it has to — there’s a process here, right?  It has to move forward.  They’re going to have to figure out the exact approach.  We’re going to let them figure out the exact approach. 

The President said in that meeting that he had with that congressional group that they needed to move forward in a bipartisan way.  We see that.  We are grateful for that.  But I’m not going to get into the specifics.  They’re working through that.  They’re going to figure out the exact approach.  So, we’re going to let them do that.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  You briefly talked on Monday about the President’s meeting tomorrow with the families involved the Brown vs. Board of Education —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, yeah.

Q    — case.  Do you have more you can share about —


Q    — the details: who he is meeting with, how the meeting came about, and what his message will be tomorrow?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I do.  I have a little bit more detail on that — on just, like, the — obviously, these are a couple of days of really important engagement that the President has.  I’ll start with the Bro- — the Brown v. Board of Education.

So, this week, at the White House, we’re recognizing it is the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, becoming the law of the land.  President Biden will participate in a number of engagements that honor the legacy of those who paved the way for progress and hard-fought rights for Black Americans.  He will also highlight his vision for how we must continue to build on these freedoms. 

Tomorrow, President Biden will meet with the plaintiffs from the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case and their families at the White House. 

And then, on Friday, as I stated earlier this week as well, May 17th, President Biden will deliver remarks at the NAACP 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education at the — at the National Museum of African American History of — and Culture in Washington, D.C.  The President and — the President and the Vice President will also meet with — excuse me.  I have a little cold, guys.  Sorry.  Sorry.  (Laughs.)

The President and the Vice President will also meet with the leaders of the Divine Nine historically Black sororities and fraternities.

On Sunday, May 19th, as — also, as you all are tracking, the President is going to deliver a commencement address at the 140th Morehouse College commencement in Atlanta, Georgia.  So, as you can see, there are a couple of engagements that are — that are — that he’s having in the next four or five days.  And so, we will have more to share.  And you’ll — obviously, you’ll hear from him directly. 

Go ahead.

Q    So, according to today’s CPI report, rental inflation continues to be stubbornly high.  How optimistic is President Biden that Congress will approve his, you know, plans to build 2 million more homes or preserve 2 million more homes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I think this is something that the President is going to continue to fight for, obviously.  He’s going to continue to speak towards how important it is for homeowners to be able to afford a home, to be able to afford rent.  And we know what Americans are going through.  That’s why he created — very early on in his administration, he created a task force to deal with that, to deal with how we can — what else we can do from here, from the federal government, to deal with what homeowners are dealing with, what Americans are dealing with when it comes to higher cost. 

So — but the way to actually address this in a more holistic way, we have to see legislation.  We have to see Congress act.  And, look, we’re going to — we’re certainly going to continue to be consistent here in — in calling on Congress to — to make that move. 

You know, HUD has taken a lot of actions on making sure homeownership is more affordable, making sure that there is discrimination taken out of — out of — especially with certain communities that have to deal with buying a home.  And so, they’ve been very effective there, so we appreciate their leadership there.  But we need to do more.  We need to do more.

Q    What’s the progress so far of the 2 million homes?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I don’t have — I don’t have a progress report with you — for you at this time.  But, look, we understand that this action, moving this forward, is important and critical to many Americans and their families across the country. 

We understand how difficult it is and — for homeowners, for renters.  We understand that.  And we understand that lowering —  lowering costs, it has to be at the center of our economic plan, which is why the President continues to fight inflation and do everything that he can to lower cost. 

Q    How worried is President Biden about his reelection bid based on this —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can’t —

Q    — because this affects Americans —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can’t speak to — I can’t speak to that.  I can — what I can say is that the President is doing everything that he can to deliver for the American people every day — every day.  It’s not about politics; it’s about the right thing to do.  That’s one of the reasons why he ran.  He believed that he could do something; he can get things done. 

And we believe, in the last three and a half years, we’ve been able to do that.  We’ve been able to create some jobs; we’ve been able to lower unemployment.  We understand that people are still feeling this and there’s more work to do.  But I — but it’s not — as I’m speaking about this, it’s not in a political lens.  This is on what the President believes is the right thing to do on behalf of the American people as President of the United States. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I was calling — (laughs).  Go ahead.

Q    Yeah, thank you.  (Laughs.)

Q    No problem.

Q    How concerned is the President about the advances the Russian army is making around Kharkiv?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, you saw — you saw Secretary Blinken in — in Ukraine yesterday, and I think he laid out our commitment, obviously, to — to Ukraine.  And that’s one of the reasons that we fought so hard, certainly, to get that national security supplemental done. 

And so, we are focused on supporting Ukraine’s defense.  We’re going to continue to do that in — in Kharkiv, obviously, in that region, where Ukrainian forces are fighting very hard. 

And — and, as you know, on Friday, we warned that we had anticipating — we had been anticipating that Russia would launch an offensive against Kharkiv and we’re anticipating that Russia would increase its attacks in an attempt to establish a shallow buffer zone along the Ukraine border, and we have been coordinating closely with Ukraine to help them prepare. 

And as you’ve heard us say — you heard Jake said this as well, on Monday — how when the — when the national security supplemental became law, the President right away moved forward with a president authori- — authorization for $1 billion of military aid package. 

And so, that continues to flow.  Certainly, the Department of Def- — Defense will have more on that.  And so — and then, on Friday, he authorized a second military package to send more urgently needed weapons, including artillery — artillery ammunition, air defense, interceptors, and aircra- — anti-aircraft missiles, armed vehicles, artillery rounds, javelins, anti-armor systems, and other equipment needed to defend Kharkiv and other areas under threat. 

We are also working on another package to get to — to get urgently needed aid to Ukraine.  So, you’ve seen our commitment.  You’ve seen our commitment through the Secretary — Secretary Blinken, obviously, who was just there.  We’re committed — committed to Ukraine continuing to fight for their democracy, the — and continuing to fight the aggression — Russia’s aggression. 

Q    Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    So, U.S. government will send former senior U.S. officials to Taipei for the May 20 inauguration of the new president there.  How did the President decide the members of that delegation?  Do you think China will respond to the inauguration?  If so, how?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You’re talking about the Taiwan inauguration?

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  So — and you’re talking about the delegation?  So — so, inauguration is happening on May 20th. 

In January, the Secretary of State issued a statement congratulating President Lai on his electoral — President-elect Lai on his electoral victory, and noted that the United States looks forward to working with his administration and leaders of all of Taiwan’s political parties to advance our shared interests and values as well as furthering our longstanding unofficial relationship.

Consistent with pa- — past practice, the United States will send an unofficial delegation to attend the inauguration. 

I don’t have anything more to share about that.  That is something that the State Department is running, as it relates to the unofficial delegation, so they can certainly share more on what that looks like.  But obviously, it’s an upcoming inauguration on May 20th.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  I know you don’t want to talk about campaign stuff.  So, I would just look for your —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I really don’t.

Q    I would just look for your insight, then —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I r- — it’s not even that I don’t want to.  I can’t.  I can’t, Peter.

Q    Then how about your insight as the most prominent political communicator in the world: the White House Press Secretary.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  In the world?  (Laughter.)

Q    In the world.  The White House Press Secretary.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  In the world.

Q    Does a person generally want to debate when they are winning or when they are losing?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I am not going to do political punditry from here, my friend.  I’m just not going to do it.

Q    So —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I used to do that in my old job.  I’m not going to do it from here in this job.

Q    So, should we see this sudden offer from the President to debate as a signal that you guys realized you need to change the subject after some really bad polling?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  You know, we went — had a back-and-forth on polling yesterday.  And I — you know, it just goes back to very — the core of what I said to you, which is, look, this is a president that has had a pretty successful legislative — especially legislative — tenure in the first three and a half years and has delivered on many things that are popular to the American people. 

And we’re going to continue to talk about it.  We’re going to continue to travel the country and talk about investing for America.  We’re going to continue to talk about how we need to do more to lower costs for Americans. 

We get it.  We understand how hard it is.  This President talks about being around at the kitchen table and how hard it is to make those difficult decisions, sometimes, every month on what you’re going to pay for.  So, he gets that.

And I just don’t want to get into polling, any more details on polling.  What I can say is the President is focused — he is laser-focused on making sure we do everything that we can to give people, Americans a little bit of breathing room.  And that’s what the President is going to continue to do.

As it relates to the debate, you’ve got to talk to the campaign about it.  That is a question for the campaign.  And I’m sure they are eager — eager to answer your questions, Peter. 

Q    Then not a debate-specific question, but debate prep —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, gosh.

Q    — is something that, traditionally, can happen here at the White House.  Who is going to stand in during the prep for Donald Trump?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Who’s going to stand in?  Do you want to stand in for Donald Trump?  Do you want to do that? 

Q    I don’t.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I can connect you with the campaign.  That might be fun for you.

Q    Actually, so you’re saying I can go debate Joe Biden behind the scenes —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  You know what?

Q    — for as long as I want?  Actually, yes!  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think — I think that might be fun for both of you.  It might be fun for both of you.  I think —

Q    Okay, sure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think that might be fun. 

I don’t have anything for you on that. 

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But I appreciate the question.  I appreciate you trying.

All right.  I know we have to wrap up.  Go ahead, Ed.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks, Karine.  I want to ask you about how the President talks about inflation.  So, two times over the past two weeks, the President said inflation was 9 percent when he came into office.  Is the President misleading Americans on that?  Or does he just not realize that inflation was 1.4 percent when he came into office?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, you know, Ed — and — and thank you for the question, because I know that this — we got a lot of incoming on this yesterday.  And, look, I — what the President was — the point that he was making is that the factors that cause inflation was in place when he walked in — into the administration, when he took office. 

Let’s — as you know, the pandemic caused inflation around the world to be — by disrupting our economy and breaking our supply chains.  As you know, we had to act quickly on dealing with the supply chain.  He put together a task force.  You saw the President do that. 

And just a couple of examples here — or one example, semiconductor shortages already existed when he took office.  That increased costs on everything from auto parts to washing machines.  By some measures, it accounted for one third of inflation in late 2021. 

Many countries saw worse inflation than we did.  And obviously — and we’ve talked about this — we’ve been able to come out of that economic downturn in better — in a better place than most of our counterparts across the globe.

Reopening after the pandemic unavoidably increased inflation by unleashing pent-up demand.  Inflation increased quickly as we reopened.  Annualized core P- — CPI in the second term of 2021 was 9 percent.  And so, he was talking about the factors that were in place that led to — that lead to that.

And, look — and I said this earlier, going to say it again, we’re going to do everything as we’re — we’re talking about CPI — we’re going to do everything that we can.  This President is committed to doing everything that we can to fight inflation.  And that’s what the President was trying to speak to.

Q    But COVID started in March of 2020.  So, those factors were in place for about a year before the President took office.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look — I mean, look, the pandemic was happening, right?  That caused inflation.  That was happening.  Supply chain was — was breaking our economy.  That was happening. 

And it wasn’t just us.  It wasn’t just us.  It was globally.  And — and they were — in other countries, our allies and partners were seeing worse infla- — inflation than we were.  And we are able to recover, and we are in a stronger position as we’ve recovered.

But he was talking about what was in place, what was happening, the factors that led — and I talked about the second quarter of 2021.  We saw that inflation was at 9 percent.  So, he was speaking dir- — specifically to the factors that led to that. 

All right.  I’ve got to — go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  What is the administration’s reaction to Egypt’s decision to block humanitarian aid from entering through the Rafah crossing?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’ve obviously seen the reports.  We have concerns.  We want to see humanitarian aid.  It is critical to — for humanitarian aid to get into Gaza.

We’re going to continue to have those conversations.  We know how dire the situation is in Gaza, the humanitarian situation.  So, we want to see that.  Those conversations are going to continue.  We’re going to continue to have those diplomatic conversations. 

And so, we’ve got to see that aid flow in, and the President is committed to that.

Q    How has Egypt justified its decision to the U.S. government?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I’m not going to get into diplomatic conversations.  What I can say is our commitment to get that aid in, and we’re going to continue to have those conversations with our — with our — with our —

Q    And I’ve got one more on the U.S. maritime port that —


Q    I believe construction is basically done.  Is that right?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything for you on that.

Q    Okay.  So, but a very specific question.  If a family of Gazans —


Q    — show up at that port as asylum seekers, will the U.S. government turn them away?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything for you on that.  What I can say is that very — when October 7th happened, there were Palestinian Americans that were in Gaza who wanted to get out.  And we brought 1,800 of them.  We did everything that we can to get the ones who wanted to go out — right? — who wanted to leave.  And we did that. 

I can’t speak to that particular question.  I would have to go back to my team.  I just can’t speak to that question.

Q    How many of the 1,800 did we successfully manage to get out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I would refer you to the State Department.  But there were 1,800 Palestinian Americans who were in Gaza.  Not all of them wanted to leave.  Some of them did, and we were successful in getting — getting them out.

I don’t have that number in front of me.  I would refer you to the State Department.

Okay.  You have the last.

Q    Republicans on Capitol Hill have been accusing the president of violating the Impoundment Control Act, which is an impeachable offense, by withholding the bombs for Israel.  Does the White House have a response to that?  And what is the legal authority that the White House is citing for the President to withhold the weapons?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I will say this: The administration — as you saw, we put out a SAP just yesterday and that we — just last night, a Statement of Administration Policy about this particular — the Israeli — I’m sorry, the Israel Security Assistance Act.  We said that we would veto that bill.  The administration strongly opposes this attempt to constrain the President’s ability to deploy U.S. security assistance consistent with U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives.  This bill raises serious concerns about infringing of the President’s authorities under Article 2 of the Constitution. 

So, that is — to answer your question: It’s under Article 2 of the Constitution.  And that is our legal authority here. 

And with that —

Q    A response to the vi- — accusations that withholding the weapons violates the Impoundment Control Act? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I just said that we believe that we were in — it was in our legal authority to do so.  We did.  And we’ve been very clear: This is one shipment — one shipment, as we talk about the Rafah operations and our concerns about a major military operations. 

And you’ve heard us — you know, I went back and forth with some of your colleagues about our commitment.  You heard it from Ja- — Jake Sullivan.  Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad.  We believe that they should be able to defend themselves.  And that is going to be consistent, and we’re going to continue to — to say so. 

And when it comes to something — a potential major military operation in Rafah, we’re going to share our concerns publicly and privately, as we have been doing for the past several weeks. 

All right, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Feel better.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Bye.  Thank you.

     2:49 P.M. EDT

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