James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:19 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everyone. 

Q    Good afternoon.

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

So, today, we are grieving the lives lost as the result of deadly tornadoes that ripped through several states across Southern Plains.  Our prayers are with the families that lost loved ones.  We wish those who were injured a speedy recovery.

These tragic storms come as communities across the South and Midwest are still recovering from severe weather that destroyed homes, businesses, and leveled entire communities earlier this month. 

As always, we remain grateful for the first responders.

As the President’s statement indicated, our teams have been directly in touch with state and local officials.

The President also spoke directly with Governors Stitt, Huckabee — Huckabee Sanders, Abbott to offer his condolences for the lives lost and reiterate that the federal government stands ready to support as needed. 

As we speak, FEMA is conducting damage assessments with their state and local counterparts.  And tomorrow, the FEMA Administrator will travel to Arkansas.

As we turn towards recovery, we urge residents in the affected areas to remain vigilant and continue listening to state and local officials.

We also want to encourage everyone nationwide to prepare now for potential severe weather in your area.

Next, just wanted to lay this out for folks and shout this out.  We saw a record number of travelers at airports over Memorial Day weekend.

As you all know, President Biden is taking action to improve their travel experience by taking on hidden junk fees.

The Biden-Harris administration is mandating that airlines show upfront the price of checked bags, seats, and flight changes or cancellations, which will save consumers half a billion dollars a year. 

Two — two airlines, Spirit and Frontier, announced they are ending change and cancellation fees.

Our administration is also requiring airlines to provide automatic refu- — refunds when flights are canceled or significantly changed.

We are proposing that hotels and car rental companies show the full price upfront, banning hidden fees.

And we are al- — also lowering the price of gas, including by selling 1 million barrels of gasoline from the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve.

We know that severe weather yesterday disrupted some flights, which is why the Department of Transportation is keeping pressure on airlines to improve flight operations and help travelers when there are flights delays or cancellations.

With that, we have the Admiral here, from NSC, who is going to speak to the development in the Middle East.


MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, Karine.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Q    Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY:  So, I just want to — just right off the top — talk about these — the devastating images and reports coming out of Rafah over the weekend following an IDF strike that killed dozens of innocent Palestinians, including children. 

And we’ve all seen the images.  They’re heartbreaking.  They’re horrific.  There should be no innocent life lost here as a result of this conflict.

Israel, of course, has a right to go after Hamas, and we understand that this strike did kill two senior Hamas terrorists who are directly responsible for attacks against the Israeli people.

But, as we’ve also said many times, Israel must take every precaution possible and do more to protect innocent life.

Now, as soon as we saw these reports over the weekend about the strike, we reached out to the Israeli Defense Forces at various levels to gather more information.  And we’ve been actively engaged with the IDF and with partners on the ground to learn more about what happened.

I’ll note that the Israeli Defense Forces today released initial findings — initial findings — that point to the fire being caused by a secondary explosion, not the initial strike.

I think this speaks very clearly to the challenge of military airstrikes in densely populated areas of Gaza, including Rafah, because of the risk of civilian casualties, which of course happened terribly in this case.

A horrible loss of life.

We’re glad the Israeli Defense Force — Forces are doing a full investigation, which we believe is going to be very important to try to prevent future such mishaps.

With that, I can take some questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Go ahead, Aamer.

Q    Thanks, Admiral.  Can you explain how the strike in Rafah does not cross the lines that the President has set and many of you have repeated that this — that the operations be targeted and limited?

MR. KIRBY:  We still don’t believe that a major ground operation in Rafah is warranted.  We still don’t want to see the Israelis, as we say, smash into Rafah with large units over — over large pieces of territory.

We still believe that.  And we haven’t seen that at this point.  But we’re going to be watching this, of course, very, very closely.

I want to just end this — this answer by making it very clear that, regardless, every single loss of innocent life is tragic and every single loss of innocent life should be prevented as much as possible.

Q    Has the President seen the images?

MR. KIRBY:  I don’t know.  I can’t speak to what —

Q    But he’s been briefed on them?

MR. KIRBY:  He has absolutely been — he’s been kept apprised throughout the weekend on this.

Q    So, you’re saying the tent — the tent encampment that was first struck is considered a densely populated area?

MR. KIRBY:  The whole area of Rafah, Ed, is densely populated.

Now, there has been a million or so who have evacuated Rafah proper, but it’s not like they’re going all that far away. The whole area is densely populated.

Q    So, how does this not violate the red line that the President laid out?
MR. KIRBY:  As I said, we don’t want to see a major ground operation.  We haven’t seen that at this point.

Q    How many more charred corpses does he have to see before the President considers a change in policy?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t want to see a single more innocent life taken.  And I kind of take a little offense at the question.

No civilian casualties is the right number of civilian casualties.  And this is not something that we’ve turned a blind eye to nor has it been something we’ve ignored or neglected to raise with our Israeli counterparts — including, Ed, this weekend as a result of this particular strike.

Now, they’re investigating it.  So, let’s let them investigate it and see what they come up with.

Q    But the President doesn’t have, like, a personal limit to this?

MR. KIRBY:  The President has been very clear and very direct about what our expectations are for Israeli operations in Rafah specifically but in Gaza writ large.  We don’t support, we won’t support a major ground operation in Rafah.  And we’ve, again, been very consistent on that.

And the President said that should that occur, then it might make him have to make different decisions in terms of support.  We haven’t seen that happen at this point.

Q    And why not have him come out and say that himself? 

MR. KIRBY:  The President has been speaking to leaders throughout the region on a regular basis.  He has been addressing you guys in various fora.  You’ve got plenty of opportunities to talk to the President, including, I might add, in a press conference last week.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Mary.

Q    You’ve said now that you don’t think a major ground invasion is happening in Rafah right now.  But as you know, this is a densely populated area.  It all is.  I understand, you know, this might be a secondary explosion.  The Israelis are describing it as a “tragic mishap.”  But isn’t this exactly the kind of incident that you have been concerned about this whole time?

MR. KIRBY:  As I said in my opening statement, this exactly does speak to the challenge of military operations in a densely populated area — a challenge, I would add, Mary, that we have been sharing and — our perspectives on with the Israelis from our own lessons learned in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  This incident speaks exactly to that challenge. 

Q    And despite the loss of life here, do you still believe that this strike was precise and proportional?

MR. KIRBY:  There’s an investigation.  I think we’re going to let the Israelis do their work.  I don’t think you can expect me to speak to the details of a — of a specific strike by Israeli military forces when we had nothing to do with that.

Q    And just one more.  You know, you’ve called the strike “devastating,” the images “heartbreaking,” but you’ve stopped short of outright condemning this strike.  Can you explain why?

MR. KIRBY:  We have been, I think, very strident in our condemnations about the deaths of innocent civilians.  These deaths are not excused from that.  But we have to understand what happened here.  There’s going to be an investigation.  They’ve already said it’s been — it was a tragic mistake.  They’re looking into it. 

They have been able to investigate themselves and hold people accountable in the past.  We’ll see what they do here. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Asma, go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  I want to be clear.  After this weekend’s strike, is it our assumption that nothing about U.S. policy has changed or is changing in regards to —

MR. KIRBY:  As a result of this strike on Sunday, I have no policy changes to speak to.  It just happened.  The Israelis are going to investigate it.  We’re going to be taking great interest in what they find in that investigation.  And we’ll see where it goes from there. 

Q    And I also want to ask: We saw a good amount of international condemnation after this strike, whether it was from President Macron of France, others in Europe.  We have not yet heard from the President publicly at all about this strike.  Why is that?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, I think I’ve answered his question.  With that, you’ve heard the — the President on numerous occasions in just the last few days about what’s going on in the Middle East and in other places around the world.  And you’ll hear from him again.  I’m absolutely confident in that.

Q    One last question.  Is there any concern that the United States itself is being isolated internationally as we continue to support the — you know, the operation and you’re seeing European allies —

MR. KIRBY:  One — one of the things — one of the things — and one of the things that we’ve talked about with the — the Israelis are about the manner in which some of these operations are being conducted is that — is the real danger that Israel itself could become further isolated from the international community just by dint of the manner in which they are conducting operations. 

So, this is of concern, clearly, because it’s not in —

Q    (Inaudible.)  

MR. KIRBY:  — it’s not in Israel’s best interests and it’s not in our best interests for Israel to become increasingly isolated on the world stage. 

As a matter of fact, one of the things the President came into office wanting to do — and actually, we had made some progress before the 7th of October — was working towards a more integrated Israel into the region.  So, it’s in our national security interests to make sure that that doesn’t happen. 

The President doesn’t make decisions and he doesn’t execute on policy based on public opinion polling or on popularity contests.  He bases his decisions on our own national security interests — what’s at stake for our safety and security here at home and abroad.  And what’s in the best interests of our — of our allies and partners.

Sometimes what’s in the best interest of your alliance and your partnership is to be candid, forthright, even tough with your friend, which we have been able to do with Israel.

Q    Sorry, I just want to be clear on that.  We spoke about Israel’s isolationism there.  I just want to be clear: Are you concerned at all —

MR. KIRBY:  I — I —

Q    — or is the administration concerned at all about the United States being out of step or isolating?

MR. KIRBY:  I thought I got to that in the — in the last part —

Q    I’m sorry.  I missed —

MR. KIRBY:  — of my soliloquy.

Q    No, I —

MR. KIRBY:  I did.

Q    I’m sorry.  I did not catch that. 

MR. KIRBY:  You didn’t get it.  (Laughter.)  Okay.  So, I’m going to try it again, and we’ll see if maybe — maybe take two will be better. 

The President is not making decisions based on popularity or public opinion polls here or around the world.  He’s making decisions about our national security based on those interests and what meets those interests.  And it certainly doesn’t meet our interests.  And it doesn’t meet our Israeli partners’ interests for them to become further isolated. 

But he’s not making decisions based on that being a worry.  He’s making decisions — he’s making decisions based on what’s in — what’s in the best interests of the American people and our safety and security abroad. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Aurelia.

Q    Thank you so much.  So, last week, from this podium, Jake Sullivan was asked about the Rafah operation, and he said, and I’m quoting him, “What we’re going to be looking at is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation.” 

So, if what happened this weekend doesn’t qualify as “a lot of death and destruction,” how would you describe it?  And how would you quantify what “a lot of death and destruction” in Rafah is?

MR. KIRBY:  We don’t — there’s not a — there’s not like a measuring stick here or a quota.  As we’ve said many times, the — the right number of civilian casualties is zero.  We don’t want to see any. 

Now we’ve seen more than about a dozen or so that we can — that we know of, at least from the strike alone.  That’s horrific.  That’s terrible.  We don’t want to see that.  The answer should be zero. 

The Israelis have said this was a tragic mistake.  They’re going to investigate that.  We’re going to let them do that.  But we’ve also said — and this is the other part of what Jake said is that we don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah.  That would really make it hard for the Israelis to go after Hamas without causing extensive damage and potentially a large number of deaths. 

We have not seen them do that at this point, but we’re watching it very closely. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Gabe.

Q    Admiral, you said — you’ve said repeatedly that the U.S. doesn’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah, but Israeli tanks just moved into Central Rafah.  How is that not a major military operation?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, I don’t want to talk about Israeli Defense Force operations.  But my understanding is — and I believe the Israelis have spoken to this — that they are moving along something called a Philadelphi Corridor, which is on the outskirts of the town, not in the town proper.  That’s what the Israelis have said.

We’re not on the ground.  Gabe, we’re not there.  I mean, you know, I don’t have — we don’t have troops that can look at every single soldier and where they are.  We’re going based on what the Israelis are telling us and what they’re saying publicly and what we’re able to discern as best we can — as best we can.  As you and I speak here today, we have not seen a major ground operation. 

And these tanks are moving along a corridor that they have told us previously that they would use on the outskirts of the town to try to put pressure on Hamas.

Q    NBC’s crew in Gaza has described it as being central Rafah.  If it were to be central Rafah, would that be considered a major military operation? 

MR. KIRBY:  A single tank?  A single tank —

Q    No, not a single tank — tanks.

MR. KIRBY:  — with a dozen or so guys?  I mean, we’re talking about — you know, you’re dragging me into a hypothetical, and I hate that.  But one tank, one armored vehicle does not constitute a major ground operation.

Now, I’m not saying that that’s what’s going on right now.  What I’m telling you is what the Israelis have told us about what they’re doing.  They tell us it’s on the outskirts.  A major ground operation is, you know, thousands and thousands of troops moving in a maneuvered, concentrated, coordinated way against a variety of targets on the ground.  The kinds of things we’ve seen, we — we’ve done ourselves.  That’s what we’re talking about here.

Q    And then one last thing on a strike today.  Twenty-one people — at least twenty-one people were killed in a strike that hit a tent camp in Southern Gaza today.  What’s the U.S. response to that? 

MR. KIRBY:  We can’t verify those reports.  The Israelis are saying publicly that there was no such strike, so I’d point you to them.  I can’t speak to it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Trevor.

Q    Thanks.  And just want to make this very clear between what’s happened on Sunday — what’s happened in terms of the ongoing ground operation since.  There is nothing that you have seen thus far that would prompt a U.S. withdrawal of more military assistance to Israel?

MR. KIRBY:  I believe that’s what I’ve been saying here.

Q    Okay.  Cool.  And just want to get your reaction as well to the House Republicans asking for sanctions against the ICC or some of its officials.  Is that something that the Biden administration is going to support?

MR. KIRBY:  No.  We don’t believe that sanctions against the ICC is the right approach here.  No. 

Q    Why?

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, look, we — we obviously don’t believe the ICC has jurisdiction.  But we certainly don’t support these — these arrest warrants, and we have said that before.  We don’t believe, though, that sanctioning the ICC is the answer.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Admiral, please help me to understand.  You just said that, basically, there is no major operation that you have seen by the Israelis in Rafah.  And you insisted that it has to be a viable plan to evacuate all civilians, and that was considered kind of red line, if you do- — if you don’t want to call it a red line. 

So, explain to me how 1 million people who are forced to leave Rafah to no place that’s considered a safe zone with now only 400,000 left, how could it be that different from what you said, that we oppose the plan unless the Israelis give us, really, a viable way to make sure that these one and a half million civilians are safe? 

So, 1 million, they’re not really safe, because we have seen yesterday, they have been attacked.  They’re burned to death, with kids have no heads — headless kids.  You’ve seen the pictures.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, I have.

Q    And then, now, the Israelis ba- — basically, their plan is to let these people leave but not voluntarily.  These people are forced to leave.  So, how could be this any different from your insisting that it has to be a good plan, a viable plan, a practical plan to make sure that these people are going to a safe place?

MR. KIRBY:  I didn’t say that that — that everything that’s happening in Rafah right now is perfect or good. 

Q    No, no, I’m not saying that.  (Inaudible) —

MR. KIRBY:  I’m not saying that at all.

Q    — after what you said before.  You said before that it has to be a viable plan to evacuate one and a half million people.  Now we have 1 million completely in where —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, not — not all the one and a half million are out of Rafah.  Right?  There’s still hundreds of thousands —

Q    Four hundred thousand.  Yes.  

MR. KIRBY:  — that are still in Rafah, that are still in danger.  And we still have not seen a plan to take care of their safety and security, which is why nothing has changed about our view that we don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah that puts those people at greater risk. 

I’m not really sure where you and I are on a different page here.

Q    I don’t know if you answered my question, but it’s okay.

MR. KIRBY:  Well — well, let’s try it again.  Go ahead.

Q    You said that the Israelis have to offer a viable plan to evacuate one and a half million civilians.  Correct?  You said that many times.

MR. KIRBY:  We want to see a viable, credible plan for the safety and security —

Q    But now, we don’t have one and a half million.  One million already forced to leave into places that are not considered safe.  You’re only talking about half a million.

MR. KIRBY:  They’re not —

Q  And this half a million, over the next few weeks, probably will be down to few thousand.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  Well, what happened on Sunday was terrible and tragic.  And you’re right.

Q    (Addressing reporter.)  Can I ask my questions, please?  Do you mind?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  You’re — you’re right.  Not enough has been done for the safety and security of the innocent people trying to seek refuge in and around Rafah.  Not — I’m not pushing back on that at all. 

And I can’t verify where — everyone who left, where they went.  I don’t know if all of them went to a tent compound that was set up by the Israeli Defense Forces, or maybe they went someplace else.  Obviously, it’s still a dangerous place, which is why what happened on Sunday is so tragic. 

And we won’t wa- — we don’t want to see it happen again, which is why we think it’s important for the Israelis to investigate this fully, completely, and be transparent about it and, more importantly, to learn lessons from the investigation so that this can’t happen again.

Q    (Inaudible) question, please.  Please, one quick question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Let’s do our best to respect our colleagues here.

Go ahead. 

Q    Sure.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nadia.

Q    Thanks.  So, just to clarify, how could it not —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.  No, go ahead, Nadia.  You had —

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And then I’ll — and then you can go after that.

Q    Just one quick question, please.

The European Union are considering imposing sanctions on Israel if it does not oblige by the ICJ order to stop the attack on Rafah. 

Is this something that you disagree, agree with?  Do you think there is an isolation now or there’s a rift between you and the Europeans — the whole of EU, because they’re the one who’s want (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll let the Europeans speak to that.  We have no plans for those kinds of sanctions to put in place based on the ICJ ruling, a ruling that we do not — that, obviously, we do not con- — concur with nor do we see that they have jurisdiction. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  So, how can the administration not want to see a major ground operation but not have a measuring stick — you know, your words — to actually measure what is and what isn’t a major (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  No, the question was how many deaths.  It wasn’t a measuring stick about what a major ground operation was.  The specific question was: Well, how many deaths is too many?

As I said, one is too many.  We don’t want to see anymore.  But what Jake was trying to do when he came up here to explain to you what a man- — major ground operation entails: lots of units of tens of thousands of troops or thousands of troops moving in a coordinated set of maneuvers against a wide variety of targets on the ground in a massive way.  That’s a major ground operation.  Pretty simple.

I mean, that — it’s not — it’s not hard to discer- — discern that.  I think it’s very obvious what that is.  And we have not seen them move in that way. 

What — what happened Sunday: tragic.  Very tragic.  It was an airstrike.  It wasn’t the first airstrike that they had conducted in Rafah in recent days or weeks.  Not at all.  But this one had tragic — it had tragic results.  No question about that. 

Nobody was asking me about red lines a week or so ago when there were other airstrikes in Rafah that didn’t cause civilian casualties.  This is — this is an airstrike; it’s not a major ground operation.  It’s different.

Now, again, we’re not taking anything at face value either.  We’re not on the ground.  So, we’re going to watch this really closely.  And we are, as we were since Sunday, staying in touch with our IDF counterparts to make sure we can get the answers to the questions that we have, which are not unlike the ones you have.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Zolan.

Q    I want to circle back to the President’s comments to Erin Burnett earlier this month.  I know you’re saying “major ground operation,” but — but he didn’t say “major ground operation.”  When he was asked to clarify what his red lines were for withholding any sort of — or any U.S. weapons, he said Israel had not yet moved into “population centers” in Rafah.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    Did — does the U.S. currently not consider the strike on Sunday to have hit in a population center?  And how do you define a “population center”?

MR. KIRBY:  The President wasn’t moving the — the stick anywhere.  He was talking about major ground operations in Rafah proper, which is what we’ve been saying all along.  When he was referring to population centers, that’s exactly what he was referring to.

It — as I said in my opening statement, what happened on Sunday shows just how difficult military operations are in a densely populated area.  And, yes, of course, Rafah is a densely populated area. 

Q    It’s like — I guess there is still — I mean, you have the President saying that he doesn’t want, you know, Israel to — to target any population center.  We are seeing — I know you said tanks are moving along the corridor, but we are seeing tanks in Rafah.  We’ve now seen strikes continue to kill civilians, including children.

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    Just for, you know, an average American who’s watching their taxpayer dollars go to this, you know, can you explain to them how this isn’t a major opera- — a major military operation?  Or just maybe it would help —

MR. KIRBY:  (Inaudible.)

Q    — to explain what is a “major ground operation” when it —

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, man.  Look — 

Q    — when it comes to the Biden administration?

MR. KIRBY:  I thought I already did that, but I’m happy to do it again. 

First of all, I am not the IDF spokesman, and this is not Tel Aviv.  This is the White House Press Briefing Room.  And I am not, today or any other day, going to take it upon myself to speak to Israeli military operations — the planning, the intent, and the tactics that they’re using.  You should be asking Admiral Hagari that question.  He’s the IDF spokesman, not me. 

What I will tell you is that what we — what we have seen is essentially, so far, what the Israelis said they were going to do.  They were going to close down the crossing to shut off the revenue to Hamas that comes across that crossing, at least for a while, and they were going to go after Hamas terrorists in as precise a way as possible — that they were not going to, quote, unquote, “smash into Rafah” with a lot of ground forces.

As you and I speak here today, that is still the case.  We have not seen them smash into Rafah.  We have not seen them go in with large units, large numbers of troops in columns and formations, in some sort of coordinated maneuver against multiple targets on the ground.  That is a major ground operation.  We have not seen that. 

What we’ve seen is they have targeted tunnels.  They have — they have definitely done airstrikes — this one with tragic results, but not all of them with tragic results. 

And, yes, they are moving some armored vehicles along a corridor on the outskirts of Gaza — along a corridor, by the way, that they told us they were going to use. 

So, everything we’re seeing — and we can’t see everything, but everything that we can see tells us that they are not moving in in a major ground operation in population centers in the center of Rafah. 

But as I also said in my opening statement, we’re going to watch this hour by hour, day by day.  And we will stay in touch with our Israeli defense counterparts about what they’re doing. 

Q    Just walk me — there’s been different numbers out there.  Can you just clarify: Does the U.S. have an accurate number of Palestinians that have fled Rafah and how many displaced Palestinians are still in Rafah?  And for the Palestinians that fled, just where are they?  I mean —

MR. KIRBY:  So, I’ll —

Q    — there’s no safe place to go.  So —

MR. KIRBY:  So, I’ll — let me go back and we’ll get you some better numbers — the best — the best I can.  Most of the numbers that we’re getting though — again, we’re not on the — we’re not on the ground counting noses.  So, we have to rely on other sources, whether it’s international organizations or the IDF. 

Roughly speaking, more than a million of the million and a half people that were seeking refuge — we estimate more than a million — have fled Rafah. 

Now, again, to Nadia’s question, where did they go?  I can’t tell you every — every tent compound they went to and who’s running that.  I just can’t do it.  But there are several hundred thousand that we still believe are in Rafah. 

However, I will take the question and we’ll see if we can get a better sense of the numbers for you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Niall.

Q    Thank you —

Q    Thanks, John.  You —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No — yeah, go ahead.

Q    I just wanted to clarify an earlier answer where you were asked by someone in the front row about a condemnation of what happened in Rafah.  My transcription of what you said is, “We have been, I think, very strident in our condemnation about the deaths of innocent civilians.  These deaths are not excluded from that.”  So, you do condemn what happened in Rafah?

MR. KIRBY:  We certainly condemn the — the loss of life here, but there is an investigation going on.  And we want to make sure that the Israelis have a chance to do that in a fair, transparent, and credible way. 

Look, there —

Q    They’re — they’re —

MR. KIRBY:  Look — I know what you — look, I know what you want me to say, and I get it.  There should be no civilians killed.  I’m not going to stand up here and make an excuse for any single individual civilian being killed.  There’s no excuse for it.  It should not happen. 

Now, it does happen in war.  It happens sometimes deliberately.  It — sometimes it happens by a tragic mistake.  We will find out soon what was the case here on Sunday, and then we’ll go from there. 

But the —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. KIRBY:  — but no civilian casualty should be acceptable. 

Q    And what is the administration going to do, whether it was a tragic mistake or deliberate in Rafah?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, let’s see what the investigation says.

Q    So, you’re going to wait for the Israelis to investigate themselves?

MR. KIRBY:  Let’s see what the investigation comes up with.  If we had done this, I think we would want the benefit of having the opportunity to investigate it and to figure out what happened.

Q    But it’s not the same thing.  We’re giving them billions of dollars in weapons. 

MR. KIRBY:  We’re giving them the kinds of capabilities they need to defend themselves. 

Maybe some people have forgotten what happened on the 7th of October, but we haven’t.  Twelve hundred Israelis inn- — innocent Israelis slaughtered, mutilated, raped, tortured.  And they’re living right next to that kind of threat.  Still a viable threat in Rafah, by the way. 

If you think Hamas is just gone, they’re not gone from Rafah or from Gaza.  And if you think they’ve abandoned their genocidal intent towards the nation of Israel, think again.  They haven’t. 

So, Israel has every right to not want to live next to that kind of threat.  And, yes, we’re going to continue to provide them the capabilities to go after it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Admiral, the administration has been leaning heavily in recent months into the IDF’s assessments — investigations into — into these attacks.  But on at least two occasions last fall, the U.S. conducted its own investigations into a strike on a hospital or at least gathered its own intelligence to support the claims that the Israelis were making.  Why isn’t the U.S. conducting its own investigations anymore or gathering its own intel?

MR. KIRBY:  We didn’t conduct our own investigations.  We had some intelligence assessments that we felt comfortable with, like the Al-Shifa Hospital many months ago, that we could — that — that gave us a sense of our own — our own individual assessment of what happened.  Our intelligence community was able to give us that level of knowledge and — and awareness. 

But it’s —

Q    So, is that simply —

MR. KIRBY:  — it’s case by case.

Q    — not possible now?

MR. KIRBY:  Sometimes it is; sometimes it’s not.  I don’t know in the case of this.  This just happened two days ago.  So, I don’t know what we know about this that would give us some sort of independently verifiable context about what happened. 

We aren’t on the ground.  We aren’t flying the aircraft.  We’re not choosing the targets.  We’re not providing the intelligence that leads to every target that the — the Israelis decided to hit. 

It is their operation, their troops involved, their capabilities, their pilots.  They have the obligation to investigate this themselves, and they’ll do that.  And we will take a look at it and then see what it says.

If we have some means independently of being able to verify some — some parts of the information ourselves, then I’m sure our intelligence community will — will do what they can to put that together for us.  But it’s not — you shouldn’t expect that in every operation on any given day in Gaza that we’re going to be able to just independently triangulate every single event and — and determine for ourselves what happened. 

Q    And you’ve described at length what a major ground operation, in the administration’s eyes, would look like.  But for many months, there have been discussions behind the scenes about what the U.S. would like to see in terms of alternatives to that major ground operation.  Were these strikes part of those alternatives? 

MR. KIRBY:  Some of the alternatives — I — I can’t speak, again, to these particular strikes.  What these Israelis have said was that they were going after Hamas operatives, and they have said that they killed Hamas operatives in a Hamas compound. 

Hamas itself put out a statement celebrating the martyrdom of two of their fighters in the strike on Sunday.  So, I don’t know how anybody could dispute that they weren’t trying to go after Hamas in a targeted, precise way in this regard.  As a matter of fact —

Q    But why wasn’t that area —

MR. KIRBY:  Wait, wait, wait.  Just a second.  As a matter of fact, the Israelis have said they used 37-pound bombs, precision-guided munitions.  A 37-pound bomb is not a big bomb, and it is exactly the kind of munition — if, in fact, that’s what they used — I’m not verifying it; just saying that’s what they said — if it is, in fact, what they used, it is certainly indicative of an effort to be discreet and targeted and precise. 

Now, obviously, this had tragic results.  And obviously, that needs to be investigated, and we need to know why.  Even using small mi- — small-diameter precision-guided munitions, this was able to happen.

But we’ll have to let the Israelis get to the bottom of that.

Q    So, why not evacuate the area where the strike took place, if it was — if it was intended to be precise? 

MR. KIRBY:  Again, you’re asking me for information about their targeting and decisions that I can’t answer.  All I can do is point you to what they have said, which was they were going after a Hamas compound and that it’s — as a result of that strike, in some form or fashion, they say there were some secondary explosions that led to this fire, that led to these deaths. 

I — I can’t — I just physically can’t connect those dots for you since we weren’t involved in that operation. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead —

MR. KIRBY:  It’s important to let them investigate it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Marek.  Go ahead, Marek.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I have questions on different topics.  But one quick follow-up on Rafah.  Is there a feeling here at the White House that Prime Ministers Netanyahu’s policies put President Biden in more and more difficult position?  And you also.

MR. KIRBY:  Me? 

Q    Yeah.  (Laughter.) 

MR. KIRBY:  I’m perfectly comfortable.  I’m fine.  Thank you. 

No, I mean, the President takes the weight of these decisions very seriously.  He takes his obligation to Israel very seriously and the responsibility that the United States has to help Israel defend itself against a truly genocidal threat.  You want to talk about — you want to throw that word “genocide” around, then read the Hamas manifesto.  That’s there. 

He also takes very seriously our obligations to make sure that innocent Palestinians don’t suffer any more from a war they didn’t start, and they’re not responsible for this.  Mr. Sinwar started this war.  And no other nation, no other leader is doing more than President Biden is to get humanitarian assistance in, to try to get a hostage deal in place, to — to try to find a way to end the conflict.  President Biden is leading on all those scores. 

So, this is — these are — these are tough decisions.  It’s a tough issue.  And — and he’s doing the best he can to act and lead according to his principles. 

Q    On a different topic.  A question about suspected Russian sabotage operation — sabotage operations in Europe, including arsons.  Just yesterday, in response to those activities, Poland restricted movements of Russian diplomats in Poland.  So, what’s going on there?  And what’s your reaction?  And the — are you tracking any similar activities — Russian activities here in the U.S.?

MR. KIRBY:  You talking about, like, election interference, sabotage, that kind of thing?

Q    Yeah, sabo- — yeah, those — those (inaudible).

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, we’re watching this with great concern.  I wish I could say that it wasn’t part of the Russian playbook, but it is.  And you don’t have to look in — too far in the distant past to see that. 

So, we’re working hard with our European counterparts to do everything we can to build resilience not just for ourselves here at home but for them overseas. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Can I ask a question about the talks the President had with the President of Mexico a month ago?  They committed to new actions on the border.  I’m wondering if you’ve seen an impact with that and whether you expect the election and the — you know, trans- — ultimate transition period to have any impact on that.  In other words, a month ago, they pledged immediate action to —

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q    — to — to crack down on the border.  Have you seen anything from that?

MR. KIRBY:  We have.  We have — we have seen —

Q    Can you talk about that?

MR. KIRBY:  We have — I owe you a better answer.  I admittedly don’t have the data in front of me.  But we have seen decreases of the numbers of people at the — arriving at the border.  The Mexicans have stepped up to — to stem the flow along some of those routes, particularly rail and road routes.  And they have also done quite a bit to work with us on cracking down on these — on these criminal gangs that are — that are actually leading these efforts.  

So, I’ll get you a better answer.  But, yes, we have seen a difference.

Q    Do you expect that policy to continue past the election that’s upcoming here on Sunday?

MR. KIRBY:  We have every hope and expectation that it will.  I mean, I’ll let the Mexican people speak to their democracy and — and how and who they want to — to govern them.  But we have — I’ll just put it this way: We certainly have no expectation that Mexic cooperat- — Mexican cooperation and support is going to diminish.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve got to start wrapping up.  Go ahead, Anita.

Q    Thank you so much, John.  Russia’s Foreign Minister has said that they’re considering removing the Taliban from the list of banned organizations, which raises the possibility of Moscow recognizing the Taliban as legitimate.  How does the U.S. feel about this move?  And what message could it send to American rivals, such as Iran or China?

MR. KIRBY:  I think it sends a horrible message.  The Taliban have not met any of the commitments they said they were going to meet when they took over.  And that — not just the way they’re treating women and girls — the way they’re managing their own economy, the way they’re taking care of their own people. 

And we are in no position nor will we be to recognize the Taliban as the official governance of Afghanistan.  And for Russia to do so, I — I do believe — we believe that that would send a bad message to others.

Q    Will there be consequences?

MR. KIRBY:  I — I don’t want to get into hypotheticals at this point.  But it’s an ill-advised course of action.

Q    And then China, today, urged Israel to comply with the ICJ ruling.  They’re, of course, a fellow member of the Security Council.  This can be overturned by the Supreme Council.  But how does the U.S. feel about China taking this step of basically —

MR. KIRBY:  Not —

Q    — (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  Not surprised.  Not surprised.  Not going to change our approach.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Toluse, go ahead.

Q    Thank — thank you so much.  One question on Rafah, just sort of following up on some of the previous questions.

MR. KIRBY:  Sure.

Q    You’ve been very consistent today talking about a “major —

MR. KIRBY:  I try to be.

Q    — ground operation.”  In the past, you and other administration officials have used the term “major ground operation,” but you’ve also used the term “major military operation.”  I’m wondering if what is happening in Rafah right now would be considered a major military operation, which the White House said it opposed previously?

MR. KIRBY:  We do not consider this a major military or a major ground operation at this point.  But, again, we’re watching it very closely.

Q    Would additional airstrikes constitute a major military operation (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  It would have — it would have to depend on what the size and scale and scope that we — what we’ve seen so far.  And, again, this one had tragic consequences, but it was in the use of munitions that they said they used and in the targets they were going after, not unlike and not out of character of the other airstrikes they have participated in in Rafah in recent days and — and weeks. 

So, it wasn’t out of that scope.  Obviously, it had different outcome — a different outcome here, which is incredibly tragic.  But it wasn’t of a different sort or a different character than what we’ve seen them do.

Q    And then a separate question.  There was a readout of the call between President Biden and President Sisi on Friday.  The call said that there would be a major delegation going to talk about opening up the Rafah crossing.  Can you give us a sense of who’s in the delegation, when they’re going to be going over to (inaudible) going to be happening this week, and what the agenda might be for that?

MR. KIRBY:  I’ll take the question.  We’ll get it back to you.  I don’t have that for you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Jared, go ahead.

Q    Can you say whether or not in the — the setbacks of the temporary pier, are — is the U.S. going to increase airdrops for aid?  Is there a way, a mechanism to kind of make up for — for what’s not getting into Gaza because of the pier being out of service?

MR. KIRBY:  You’d have to ask the Pentagon.  I’m not aware that there’s going to be t- — any increase in airdrops to supplement the problems that we’ve had with weather on the temporary pier.  But the Pentagon would know more than I would.

Q    Just more broadly, does the President still believe that the temporary pier is a viable platform to get aid into Gaza, given —  

MR. KIRBY:  Absolutely.  As a supplement — okay?  It was never intended to supplant what you can do on the ground through trucks and getting those crossings open.  We said that from the get go.  We also said it’s going to be tough.  It’s been tough. 

Weather plays a role.  I mean, Mother Nature has a say here, and the Eastern Med, even in the summertime, can be a pretty rough place.  And that’s what’s happening right now. 

But can it be a force multiplier?  Can it add to?  Absolutely.  And I think they’ve so far gotten more than a thousand metric tons in just off the temporary pier alone, which, you know what, considering the weather, considering the complexity of doing it that way, the multi-node stop you have to do to move from — from ship to pier to truck to ground — I mean, considering all that, that’s still an impress- — an impressive record so far.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  ABC in the back, go ahead.  You, sir.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  John, what would the consequence be if there were an American strike on a legitimate terrorist target that ended resulting with 45 civilian deaths and some 200 others injured?  What would that look like, as an American response?

MR. KIRBY:  I can’t answer a hypothetical like that.  But we have — we have taken — we have conducted airstrikes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where tragically we caused civilian casualties.  We did the same thing.  We owned up to it, we investigated it, and we tried to make changes to the way — we tried to learn from it to make changes so that that — those set of mistakes wouldn’t happen again, including as we pulled out of Afghanistan, where we did take a trag- — we conducted an airstrike which tragically killed a father and some of his kids. 

We atone for it, we learn from it, and we put in place procedures to try to prevent that from happening again.  And that’s what our expectations would be in this case.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Karen, you’ve got last —

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, okay.  Sorry.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — question.

Q    Thanks.  Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy had recently said that the ability to use Western-provided weapons to strike military targets inside Russia is essential for their success.  He says he’s appealed to senior U.S. officials to allow Ukraine to do this.  Is the President considering this request?  And, if yes, what is he looking at right now?

MR. KIRBY:  We’re aware of the interest that President Zelenskyy has expressed in this regard.  I would tell you that there’s no change to our policy at this point.  We don’t encourage or enable the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to strike inside Russia.

I would note that the — that the — the Ukrainians have in the past defeated imminent air attacks, such as some of the ones that have occurred in the last few days, on their own since the war began.  And we will continue to talk to them nearly every day about what they need.  And I think I’d leave it at that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you so much.

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you.

Q    Could you just — could you take one more, Admiral? 

Q    Just a few more. 

Q    Would you take a few more, please?

MR. KIRBY:  Thank you, guys.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Admiral.  Appreciate it. 

Okay.  Go ahead, Aamer.

Q    I just had a couple of scheduling questions.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, sure.

Q    You mentioned the FEMA Administrator is —


Q    — going to Arkansas.  How about the President?  Will he be visiting any of these states that are impacted?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I — I don’t have anything to preview on the President’s schedule at this time.  Obviously, you heard me lay out what FEMA has been able to do and how we are there for these — the states that have been affect — impacted by this horr- — horrible storm. 

FEMA is on the ground.  They’re assessing what’s needed.  The President called the governors just yesterday; we read that out.  And obviously, we are here to assist on the federal government side and are ready — ready to help.  And I think it’s important that the FEMA Administrator will be on the ground in Arkansas.

I — I don’t have anything on the President’s schedule to share.

Q    And the — the former President’s trial is coming to an end and there should be a verdict maybe in a matter of days.  Will the President be commenting, delivering any sort of remarks on the verdict?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m going to be super mindful here, as I always am when it comes to especially this.  It’s an ongoing case.  And also, as you all know, obviously, the former President is a presidential candidate.  I’m just not going to comment on that.  I’m not going to speak to — to an ongoing case and to someone who is a candidate for 2024.

Q    And then, finally —


Q    — just on the ICC.  You mentioned that — John had said that the — that the President would not support sanctions.  Has there been a change of heart in the administration?  Because Secretary Blinken said last week at a hearing that he was committed to taking action against the profoundly wrongheaded decision.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, yeah, I — look, I was aware of — I watched, obviously the Secretary’s hearing.  I think, look, as it relates to legislation, as it relates to specific sanctioning, that particular question — this is not something that the administration is going to support.  And we’ve been also very clear that we — the President — and I’ll reiterate what the President said. 

He said this just last week right before an event that was happening right in the Rose Garden: that we fundamentally reject the ICC’s prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders and sanctions on the ICC, however we do not believe it is an effective or an appropriate path forward — appropriate tool to address what our concerns — the United States’ concerns are on the ICC. 

So, we’re going to work — work with Congress on other options — we’re talking about specifically, obviously, sanctions — but on other options to address the overreach that we see by the ICC to apply for warrants against Israel — Israel officials.  So, we’re going to have that conversation, continue to have that conversation with Congress. 

But when it comes to sanctioning the ICC, that is something that we do not support. 

Q    What are the other options?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to have those conversations.  I’m not going to — I’m not going to preview those conversations for you.  But Congress — obviously, we’re going to work with Congress on this. 

Q    Do you have any update on the President’s meeting today with Governor Moore and other officials on the rebuilding of the Key Bridge?  Any updates on estimate of cost or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ll have more to share later today.  I don’t have anything for you at this time.

As you just stated, Governor Moore is here and will have a — a moment with the President.  I just don’t have anything specific on — at this time. 

But I would say, more broadly, as you know, when the bridge collapsed, we were — we were certainly engaged with the governor and local offic- — officials within hours trying to assess and be there for the people of Baltimore, for the people of Maryland more broadly, on what we can do to get things moving and get that bridge going. 

As you know, the — Secretary Buttigieg was here.  And right before he came out here that time, he announced tens of millions of dollars that we were providing, you know, in emergency funds to get that going. 

We will have more to share, and we want to do everything that we can to get the bridge up, to get things moving, obviously, in that area.  And it is important that we get that done for the people of Baltimore and for folks in Maryland.  But I just don’t have anything — specifics to share at this time, but we certainly will have more. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  The NATO Secretary-General said late last week that he thinks Ukraine’s allies, including the United States, should consider lifting restrictions on using weapons on targets inside of Russia.  I just heard what Kirby said about that general issue, but is there —


Q    — a reason why the President’s view is different from that of the NATO Secretary-General and the President of Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I mean, we’ve been very clear.  You heard from John Kirby.  You’ve heard from our National Security Advisor our — on our position on using that militar- — military assistance inside of — that’s something — not something we want to see or something we would obviously recommend doing. 

But we also believe it is important that Ukraine has everything that it needs to defend itself, which is why the national security supplemental that was passed was incredibly important for the brave people of Ukraine to continue to defend their democracy.  We want to see that continue.  And we are very appreciative of NATO and our NATO Allies and the more than 50 countries that this President has been able to bring together and support Ukraine in — in their — in their fight for their own sovereign territory. 

I just don’t have anything beyond that.  We do not want — obviously, we do not want this — this to escalate in any form.  But we do believe that Ukraine needs to have everything that they need to defend themselves, and that’s been our position.  I don’t have to — anything to share beyond what you’ve heard from this podium.

Q    And one more.  President Zelenskyy said today that if President Biden misses this peace summit that’s being organized in Switzerland, it would be like a “standing ovation” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.  I know you haven’t announced anything there.


Q    Is the President going to that?  And does he agree with Zelenskyy’s assessment of what his absence would mean?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just a couple of things I would say there.  And as — and you know this.  We have actively participated in each of the — of the previous Ukraine peace summit.  That is something that this U.S. — the U.S. government has been obviously engaged.  And we will continue to be represented on — in the summit, including the upcoming one, although I don’t —

Q    By the President?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I don’t have anything to share with you today on anything specific, but we’ve had active participation.  That is something that we have been engaged in, as it relates to the summit. 

It’s important we continue to support Ukraine’s effort.  You just heard me lay out why we believe it’s important to continue to — to make sure they have all the capabilities that they need to defend themself but also to secure a just and lasting peace.  But we also must make sure that they have what they need to defend themselves, as I’ve said multiple times already.

And you saw what’s happened in Kharkiv this weekend.  Certainly, that is no- — important to note: Two dozen people were killed.  And — and it was just horrific.  And so, this is why we ne- — continue to offer that assistance. 

We’re surging assistance.  On Friday, we just announced another package to Ukraine.  That’s how quickly we’re trying to get that assistance out there.  And this war — and we all know this, and we heard Jake say this, you heard the Admiral say this: This war could end tomorrow if Putin would just end the war, end his aggression against the people of Ukraine. 

And so, that’s how we see it.  I’m glad that — we are all glad that Congress passed the President’s national security supplemental.  And we’re going to continue to do everything that we can to — to get that assistance out there. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  This is your only scheduled televised briefing this week, right? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, are you disappointed?

Q    Yes.  (Laughter.)  Should we —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m sorry about that. 

Q    When might we get a briefing, then, on the trip next week?  Do you know?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t — I have to take a look at next week.  I do not — off the top of my head, I don’t know what next week looks like.  But —

Q    France.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — obviously — oh, no, I know — (laughter) — France, D-Day — but I’m just talking about the beginning of the week before we head out to France for D-Day anniversary, im- — critical, important anniversary. 

Obviously, we will continue our drumbeat of having someone from NSC here ahead of the trip to — to take some of your questions. 

But you are correct.  This is the only televised briefing of the week. 

Q    Given that, and given something that’s scheduled to begin on Monday, I’m curious, how does the President plan to monitor the federal trial of his son, which is set to begin on Monday?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — I don’t have any — obviously, anything specific to share about that.  I’m always very mindful on speaking to that. 

I will say what I have said many times before: The President and the First Lady, they love their son.  They are proud of how their son has been able to get back on his feet and continue his progress, and they will continue to support him.  Outside of that, I don’t have anything to share.

Q    You don’t know if he’s planning to try to attend in person at all?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have any — I don’t have anything to share.  As you just stated, next week is also incredibly important foreign policy travel, where we are going to, obviously, be in France for the anniversary of D-Day.  So, the President looks forward to doing that, to being in France.  Obviously, the First Lady will be going as well as there’s a state dinner component, as you — as you know, in France. 

But I’m just — don’t have anything to share beyond — beyond what I’m just laying out for you right now. 

Go ahead.

Q    As Ed mentioned, there’s quite a bit of travel scheduled for the remainder of the week.  Is there a plan in place for aides to update the President on the outcome of his predecessor’s criminal trial?  Is he going to be watching any of the coverage of it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President is f- — I mean — I mean, this is truly — the President is focused on what’s in front of him right now, which is dealing with — you know, dealing with what’s important for the American people, whether it’s national security efforts or domestic policy.  And that’s the President’s focus. 

I don’t have anything to read out on the President’s plan on watching a trial.  That is just not something that he’s focused on.  He’s focused on the American people.  And that’s what —

Q    Should we expect him to respond?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — he’s been focused on three — look, I’m not going to speak to a presidential candidate.  Obviously, the former President is a candidate for — in 2024.  I do not speak on trials.  It’s not something that I do from here — an ongoing trial, ongoing proceedings, legal proceedings.  I just don’t — I don’t have a comment on that at this time. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Are you guys here at the White House in full-blown freakout mode?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What are you talking about? 

Q    There’s a —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What are you talking about —

Q    There’s a Politico story —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — Peter? 

Q    It sounds like Democrats outside — the quote is, “Biden’s stubbornly — stubbornly poor polling and the stakes of the election ‘are creating the freakout.’” 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, I’m going to be mindful.  I’m not going to comment on 2024 election. 

I will say this.  The President has never forgotten where he comes — where he came from, who he is.  He understands what the American people are going through as they’re sitting around the kitchen table.  You ta- — you hear the President talk about his time growing up where he watched his family having to sit around the kitchen table making incredibly difficult decision. 

And the President has always said he’s going to fight for communities that have been forgotten.  And you see that in the policies — economic policies that he’s put forward.  He’s going to continue to fight for the middle class.  He’s going to continue to fight in every way that he can. 

You heard me at the beginning talk about junk fees.  Incredibly import- — and he’s going to continue to fight and to make sure, you know, that corporation greed doesn’t continue to take hold.  He is — that is something that he’s been very clear about, while Republicans are doing the opposite.  They put out a policy where they want to give a big tax break to the wealthiest among us — billionaires and — and corporation.  That’s not what the President wants to do. 

Q    On another topic.  Why did President Biden have a private meeting with a witness who plans to testify in court against his son? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Can you say more?

Q    Hallie Biden is a key government witness who allegedly disposed of a gun that Hunter is accused of buying illegally.  President Biden —


Q    — was at her house this week. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think the American people should also be told the full breadth of this, not just a part of this question here. 

As you all know, the President actually spoke to this yesterday during his Memorial — I think, impactful, powerful Memorial Day address where he talked about — he talked about the passing — the anniversary — the ninth anniversary of the passing of his son.  And he visited her as that anniversary is approaching.  He visited her days before the anniversary of the passing of his son.

And she is family.  She was married, obviously, to his late son.  And I think that is something also to mention, as you’re asking your question to me.

Q    So — so, they did not talk about her testimony? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This was not about that.  This was about, literally, the ninth anniversary of the passing of his son —

Q    One more. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — that is upcoming in days, Peter.

Q    We learned today there’s going to be a book coming out this summer by Lunden Roberts.  According to the press release, the book is about protecting the long-unacknowledged grandchild of the sitting President of the United States.  Do you know if President Biden has met that grandchild yet?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share. 

Go ahead, Marek.

Q    Thank — thank you.  On Georgia.  Today, the ruling party in Georgia overruled President Zourabichvili’s veto to so-called foreign influence act — foreign influence bill.  What’s your reaction to d- — to this?  And what’s —


Q    — what’s the President — what President Biden’s message to Georgians who want to be aligned with the West, not with Russia?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we talked about this a little bit last week when we saw the protesters — thousands of Georgians protesting.  And so, I will say this.  We are disappointed to see the Georgian Parliament override the Georgian President’s veto of the antidemocratic foreign agents bill.  Although the — the vote was — was not unexpected, as I just mentioned, we’ve all seen the tens of thousands Georgian protesting this bill just last week, which are some of the largest protests in Georgia’s history.  And we know that many Georgians made their opposition very clear — very clear. 

This legislation will require civil society organizations to register as agents of foreign government simply for accepting 20 percent of their funding from aboard [abroad].  Civil society organizations play a vital role in preserving democracies, and creating this burden undermines their ability to do so. 

Stifling cilver [civil] society is what authoritarian governments do.  And — and it is a tool to quell dissent and silent tactics.  It is not what democracies do. 

So, we are disappointed to see what has occurred. 

Q    Are there any sanctions coming?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything — anything to — to speak to on that at this time.  I would refer you — obviously, the State Department just last week made some announcements, so I would refer you to the State Department. 

Go ahead, sir. 

Q    Two questions.  So, one, do you have any updates on the missionaries who were killed in Haiti?  You know, whether or not their — we’ll be able to get their bodies back to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a great question.  I don’t have any updates for you at this time.  I’m — I’m happy to go back to the team and get some answers. 

Q    And then, obviously, the Chiefs are coming on Friday.  Their last celebration was —


Q    — disrupted by a shooting.  Does the President plan on using this moment to talk about gun violence, particularly since we haven’t seen any kind of legislative movement either at the federal level or even at the state level?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I mean, look, let’s take a full look of what we —

Q    Since the shooting.  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, since the shooting.  Okay, I —

Q    Legislative movement since the shooting. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m glad you made that point, because this President has taken more executive actions than any modern-day president — more than two dozen executive action on gun violence, on trying to prevent this epidemic that we see across our country. 

As you know, there was a bipartisan bill that was passed about two years ago now — or going to be two years ago.  And so, the President has been incredibly active on this. 

And since the shooting, he — he did create an Office of — of Gun Violence Prevention, which is the first his- — historic office to — to happen, and obviously the Vice President is the head of that. 

But it has taken on the different executive actions that we have been able to get through; also, components of the — of the law that was passed in a bipartisan way to move that — to move some of those actions forward a lot quicker and offer, obviously, assistance on the ground. 

And so, look, the President takes every moment that he can, when there’s an opportunity to — to speak on gun violence prevention and to call on Congress to take more action. 

I’m not going to get ahead of — of the event, as you just stated, with the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday.  So, we will certainly have more to share as we get closer to that day. 

Q    And do you know if Taylor Swift might be coming?  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ah, that’s a good question.  I think — I think the Swifties behind these double doors are hoping that — (laughter) — that Taylor Swift makes an ex- — appearance.  I don’t have anything for you. 

Q    So, you’re not ruling it out?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughter.)  I don’t know.  I can’t speak to her schedule.  But I know there’s a lot of interest in this building, on this campus. 

Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Can you give us the President’s latest thinking on the border EO and what actions he plans to take?  You’ve taken smaller, targeted actions in the past few weeks. 


Q    How’s it looking?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you’re right.  The President has taken some actions not just the past two weeks, but over the last three years to deal with what we’re seeing at the border: a decade — decades-long issue with a broken system at the border. 

As you know, just last week, the — that legislation, that bipartisan legislation that we believed, if the President had an opportunity to sign — sign that legislation, would have been the toughest, the fairest piece of legislation that we have seen to deal with the border in some time.  And so, it failed because Republicans, by their own admission, are putting electoral politics ahead of the American people. 

And there were things in that legislation that would have made a difference.  And so, it is unfortunate that that happened.  And you saw from the President’s statement, “Congressional Republicans do not care about securing the border or fixing America’s broken immigration system.  If they did, they would have voted for the toughest border enforcement in history.”  That comes directly from the President in a statement.

We will continue — to your question, we will continue to evaluate all options at hand and looking at what we can do within our authorities, within the President’s authorities.  Don’t have anything to announce at this time. 

But it is unfortunate that Republicans who came to the table, who wanted to work out and deal with an issue — a challenging issue, the border — they voted against their own policies, their own interests, and put electoral pol- — politics first.  And that is unfortunate. 

Q    Are you of the mind, though, that an EO — like, one sort of big move is the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re going to look at —

Q    — option, or a more piecemeal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Like — like we continue to do and we have done — and you just mentioned, just recently, we’ve taken some actions.  We are going to look at all of our options and try to figure out what is the right thing to do on behalf of the American people.  That is something that the President has been consistent on and will continue to do. 

Go ahead, Gerren.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  A recent Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll found an increased number of Americans in battleground states trust the Vice President to fulfill the duties of the presidency.  I know you can’t comment on election-related topics, but this — this poll does suggest that the VP’s travels to battleground states have been resonating with Americans.  Given that increased trust in her leadership, what is the White House’s view of the Vice President’s travels to battleground states?  Particularly her Economic Opportunity Tour, where she’s been selling the administration’s policies to Black and brown communities, in particular — does the White House believe that they have been effective on the ground?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’m just going to be really mindful.   As you just stated in your question to me, you’re talking about battleground states.  Obviously, that’s part of the 2024 election.  I’m not going to speak to that. 

What I will say more broadly — and you hear us say this many times; you’ve heard the President say this many times — he sees the Vice President as a partner, and he feels that she’s been effective in the work that she has done as a team.  This is the Biden-Harris administration, and she is out there speaking directly to the American people. 

And we know when we leave here — leave the bubble of Washington, D.C., it matters.  When we go directly to the American people, it matters.  When we share with them what we have done these last three and a half years, our accomplishments, or listen to them or hear how they’re feeling about the economy, how they’re feeling about their healthcare, it matters.  It resonates.  And that’s why the President himself enjoys being out there and talking directly to the American people. 

She’s a partner.  He believes she’s effective.  She be- — he believes that, you know, he — he — when he — when he talks about policy, when he gets things done on the American people, he’s doing that in partnership with the Vice President.

As it relates to how voters are feeling, battleground states, I just can’t speak to that from here.  And I —

Q    Just one other question.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — know you understand that. 

Q    Legal experts say that the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that blocked a second Black-majority district in South Carolina can make it harder for — to prove claims of racial gerrymandering.  It will have long-lasting implications for Black voters.  While the President, in his statement last week reacting to this ruling, called for the passing of the John Lewis Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, given the makeup of this court and other controversial rul- — rulings that this President has condemned, does the President have faith in this Court?  Does he have faith in the Court, and would he consider publicly supporting what some Democrats are calling for, which is reform of the Supreme Court, whether that be expansion of membership or term limits?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I don’t have any announcement to make at this time on your question about reform.  But you — I think I made this announcement last week about what the President has worked very hard to do in partnership with the Senate — is making sure that we nominate extraordinarily qualified men and women and — who are dedicated to the Constitution and who represent — right? — we’re talking about representation of a di- — the diversity of this country, the diversity of America.  And that’s a commitment that he’s made. 

And just last week, we were able to announce the 200th judicial con- — confirmation, and I was able to do that.  And that’s because the President and his work and what he has been able to do, again, with partnership of the Senate.

It is a monu- — it was monumental news, a monumental moment.  And — and that is for the rule of law for the American people.  We’re talking about over 60 percent are women, and over 60 percent are people of color.  And so, we have more work to do.  And we’ll remain, you know, very steadfast on getting that work done.  But as far as court reform, making any announcement, I just don’t have anything for you. 

AIDE:  Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  I know I have to wrap up.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  The New York Times reported over the last few weeks that a fla- — that two different flags associated with the January 6th attacks on the Capitol flew outside Justice Alito’s home — two different homes.  The President — does the President believes that Justice Alito should recuse himself from any cases related to January 6th or otherwise take any ethical actions related to this reporting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, as it relates to any ethical actions, that’s for the courts to — they have to deal with that.  And so, any recusals, that’s subject to the Supreme Court.  That is something for them to decide. 

And as it relates to any investigations, that’s something for Congress to decide.  And so, that is something that they need to focus on. 

We have said, and I have said from here, and this is something that the President believes: When it comes to the American flag, it should be held and — and be treated sacred — in a sacred way.  We just honored Mem- — we just honored, you know, veterans who obviously lost their lives.  Memorial Day was just yesterday. 

And so, we need to properly respect and honor those brave men and women and — who defended — who have defended our — our country for generations.  And so, it should be — American flag is — it should be held sacred.  And that is our view.

Anything else, obviously, that is for the court or Congress to decide. 

I have to go, guys. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, everybody. 

4:26 P.M. EDT

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