11:07 A.M. EDT

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  I know we’re loading briefing after briefing with you guys today.  But, okay, happy Friday. 

I have a couple of items for you at the top.  Like all of you, we’re horrified by the shooting overnight at a FedEx facility.  The President has been briefed by his team this morning.  And key aides, including the White House Chief of Staff and Homeland Security Advisor, have been in touch with local leaders and law enforcement officials on the ground.  There obviously is a press conference that’s ongoing right now.  I would expect we will put out a statement from the President shortly after that — after it concludes. 

The President has spent his entire career working to address gun violence, and his determination to act has been redoubled by senseless killings we’ve seen — both in mass shootings, like this, and in the lives lost to the epidemic of gun violence every single day in communities across our country.

We can’t afford to wait as innocent lives are taken.  That’s why the President laid out a set of initial actions last week that the administration can take now, that we can take now to address gun violence: stopping the proliferation of ghost guns and better regulating stabilizing braces, making it easier for states to implement red flag laws, increasing investments in proven community violence intervention programs. 

There’s more we can do and must do.  The Senate should take up and pass the three bills strengthening background checks that passed the House with bipartisan majorities and have the overwhelming support of the American people.  They should heed the President’s call to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and end immunity for gun manufacturers.

Congress should act to pass the priorities laid out in the American Jobs Plan, including providing $5 billion in funding for community violence prevention programs — something that is of great interest in — to a number of the groups that work hard on this issue.  They should speedily confirm David Chipman to lead the ATF, where he served honorably for 25 years as a special agent. 

Again, there’ll be a statement by the President out shortly. 

Another item just for all of you: Yesterday, we released a factsheet outlining the ways the American Jobs Plan would benefit veterans.  The American Jobs Plan will help meet th- — this — our obligation to veterans by creating —

(The briefing is disrupted by a plane flying overhead.)

There’s a plane right overhead, just for anyone — anyone tuning in online. 

The American Jobs Plan will help meet the obligation by creating millions of good jobs for veterans and their spouses; growing opportunities for small, veteran-owned businesses; and helping ensure the delivery of world-class, state-of-the-art healthcare. 

Here’s what the Jobs Plan means for veterans and their families: $18 billion to modernize VA health facilities; quality job creation for veterans and their spouses — it outlines steps the federal government can take; expanding opportunities for small, veteran-owned businesses. Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. 

I also wanted to let you know — I’m jamming through this because we have a time- — we have a timeframe on the end — or a time limit on the end.  I also wanted to let you know that the President was tested for COVID-19 this morning, and COVID-19 was not detected. 

Finally, for the week ahead: On Monday, the President will meet with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to discuss the historic investments in the American Jobs Plan, including in highways, drinking water systems, broadband, and the care economy. 

On Tuesday, he will meet with the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  Later in the week, the President will deliver remarks on the COVID-19 response, providing an update on that front and the state of vaccinations.  And, of course, at the end of the week, the President will participate in the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate. 

I wanted to just outline a little bit on that, which I know is of great interest to many of you.  He — the President wanted to convene this summit early in his presidency to ensure close coordination with key players in the international community and at the highest levels of government.

Obviously, the United States is one of the world’s largest emitters, but so are a number of countries who will be represented by leaders next week.  It’s aimed at setting the world up for success on multiple fronts as we work to address the climate crisis, including emissions reductions, finance, innovation and job creation, resilience, and adaptation. 

The summit will convene the world’s major economies and other key voices — as we’ve noted, 40 leaders have been invited — to galvanize efforts to keep the vital goal of limiting global warming.  And we know that objective is within reach. 

During the summit, leaders will also discuss mobilizing public- and private-sector financing to drive the net-zero transition and to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts.  The economic benefits of climate action, with a strong emphasis on cred- — job creation and the importance of ensuring all communities and workers benefit from the transition to a new clean energy economy will be central to the discussions, will be part of what the President will be focused on. 

The full summit will be live streamed through public — for public viewing.  More information related to the agenda, speakers, and media opportunities will be announced in the days ahead. 

And as many of you have been asking about, I’m certain we will have more news from our end on what we intend to do from the Biden-Harris administration to address climate moving ahead.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  In addition to the awful situation in Indianapolis — yesterday, in Chicago, there was a video released of a really — there isn’t no proper word, but chilling video of the police shooting death of Adam Toledo. 

There’s — tensions are running high in Brooklyn Center.  The George Floyd trial is still going on. 

I was wondering: Does the President regret, you know, prioritizing infrastructure at this point when this — racial equality and the adjacent issue of gun reform, sort of, fit in those four buckets that you have talked about — right? — from the beginning?  Is there any regrets on the prioritization?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, I would say the President believes that we — leaders can do more than one thing at one time.  And, yes, we’ve proposed an American Jobs Plan — something that will put millions of people back to work, that will make historic investments in our economy, put us on a path to sustainability and competing with China over the long term. 

At the same time, as I just reiterated at the beginning, the President has used the power of his office to put in place — takes executive actions, pull his own levers to ensure that we are doing more to address gun violence. 

At the same time, he’s also working with Congress to move forward on the George Floyd Act.  He also believes that is a — that can put in place long-overdue reforms that are necessary.  But it also will require Congress moving forward, and sometimes that is a process.  It can be unsatisfying.  It can take longer than we all think it should.  But in order to get enough members together to support police reforms, we feel that the George Floyd Act is the right step forward. 

So I would dispute the notion.  I would say that, in this building, the legislative team, senior members of the White House staff — we are working on multiple fronts at the same time, even as we have introduced a major piece of legislation.

Q    Point taken.  And on the George Floyd Act, can you offer any details on how exactly — what — who is making the calls?  What’s being done from the White House end — from the President and Vice President on down — to lobby Congress and make it happen? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, it’s going to require Congress and leaders in Congress to move that forward.  And the President is eager to sign the George Floyd Act into law; eager to sign a police reform bill into law.  He thinks those reforms are long overdue. 

There are conversations happening on Capitol Hill that we’ll allow them to brief you on.  There are leaders who have been outspoken, whether it’s Senator Cory Booker, Senator Tim Scott, others in the House who are engaged in discussions about what the path could look like moving forward. 

We certainly understand and know that the initial bill that was passed, there could be changes.  That’s democracy in action, and that’s how legislating happens.  And again, the President is eager to sign that bill.  We will continue to have senior officials engage with members of Congress on it.

Okay.  Mike Memoli, I haven’t seen — I’ve not seen you in the briefing room yet.  So welcome to the briefing room in the Biden-Harris administration.

Q    I am glad I found my way back.

MS. PSAKI:  Yes.

Q    To follow up on the issue of guns: By some measures, this is at least the third mass shooting of this President’s young administration.  He has described this as an “epidemic” — gun violence in this country.  And we’ve seen, in terms of the response to COVID-19, what an all-of-government response from this administration looks like to a pandemic. 

Why not the same level of response to this ongoing issue of gun violence than appointing of the senior czar, for instance — beyond just the efforts that are being made on legislation?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, let me say or reiterate, as you said and the President has said: He believes gun violence is an epidemic.  It’s a public health crisis.  It’s destroying communities across the country. 

He’s also been working on this issue for decades.  And if he were standing here — and I know there’s a press conference later today, and you all may ask him about this — he would tell you that we can’t give up just because it’s hard; just because the politics are perplexing — which they are, given more than 80 percent of the public supports universal background checks and yet the Senate has not moved forward and because bills aren’t sailing forward; and we need to keep at it.

And so I would say the way he approaches this is one where he has used the levers of his presidency, put in place — already announced, last week, executive action — steps that the Department of Justice is going to take.  We will continue to review additional options.  Those are steps he can take. 

In order to put permanent changes in place, in order to put permanent gun safety measures in place, that is going to require Congress acting.  States can also take action.  We’ve seen red flags laws put in place in 19 states across the country.  More states than that have universal background checks. 

He also believes that working with advocates — many of whom he invited here last week to have those discussions, encourage them, lift up their efforts — is part of how we can move things forward. 

I will tell you that this is a priority to him.  It’s a priority to the Vice President.  It’s a priority to Susan Rice, who’s leading the Domestic Policy Council; to Bruce Reed, who is a Deputy Chief of Staff; to Ron Klain, who’s the Chief of Staff and is from Indianapolis.  And this is a constant discussion and issue around this White House. 

So it’s not going to require a czar.  It is ultimately a priority to the President of the United States, which is the most important factor.

Q    On legislation, just a few weeks ago, I asked the President if he was going to be making phone calls to Republicans, in particular in the Senate, to try to advance the background check legislation there.  He said he would be willing to.  I know the jobs bill has been the priority.  Is there more you can say about the kind of outreach he’s been doing on background checks specifically?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I don’t have any calls to read out specifically, but I can tell you that, in his conversations — and he has been talking with Republicans about a range of issues — but there are a lot of topics that certainly come up. 

And, you know, he believes that — you know, you mentioned the third mass shooting.  It’s actually the third mass shooting in Indianapolis this year, just to give you all a sense.  Today is also the 14th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, when 33 [32] people lost their lives. 

So, in the President’s view, this is an issue that is not partisan.  It should not be political, despite the efforts of the NRA over time.  This is an issue that Democrats, Republicans, independents across the country believe universal background checks should happen, and that certainly is the message that he will continue to send publicly and privately in conversations.

Q    On Russia, I wanted to follow up on the announcement yesterday of at least the intention to hold a summit with —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — President Putin.  The President himself yesterday afternoon said that he expected or hoped that that meeting would happen.  I wonder, though: Why would you announce a summit intention if — without a commitment?  We still haven’t heard one from Moscow. 

As you know, a high-level meeting of this sort is often a point of leverage with a world leader to try to, you know, bring back — change behavior, as it were.  Why was that — why are there no conditions on this meeting if there has been one asked?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, it was raised in the call.  And so it was in the readout of the call that the President had made this — made this offer to have a discussion and a meeting with President Putin.  And that call also included a discussion and the President being clear that there would be consequences for the actions, whether it was the hacking and SolarWinds or other problematic behavior by Russian leadership.

And the President offered that to give — to send the message that we will have disagreement.  We’re not going to hold back on that.  But our objective is to have a predictable and stable relationship.  We can disagree in areas where we will continue to; we’re not naïve about that.  But we also believe that there’s an opportunity to work together in some areas.

So we are certainly hopeful that we will be able to put together the details on that meeting, but it wasn’t precooked or preset before the President’s discussion with President Putin, and it was just providing transparent information to all of you about his offer to President Putin,

Q    What if he says “no,” though?  Wouldn’t that indicate some weakness on the part of the American administration here?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think the President’s view is that Russia is on the outside of the global community in many respects, at this point in time.  It’s the G7, not the G8.  They have — obviously, we’ve put sanctions in place in order to send a clear message that there should be consequences for the actions; the Europeans have also done that.

What the President is offering is a bridge back.  And so, certainly, he believes it’s in their interests to take him up on that offer. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  Earlier this week, you said that the U.S. had secured commitments with the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to bolster security forces at their border.  But yesterday, the Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle testified on Capitol Hill that there were no agreements.  So can you explain the discrepancy?

MS. PSAKI:  I’d have to look back at his testimony, Kristin.

Q    I have it — I have it right here.  He said — he was asked by Congressman Castro — he said — Congressman Castro asked him, “I just want to confirm, were there any agreements reached in relation to increasing border security in these countries?”  And the Special Envoy said, “No, there were no agreements concluded with governments regarding border security.”

MS. PSAKI:  Well, whether or not it was a formal agreement — which it was not, and I never conveyed that it was — these were steps that these countries indicated they planned to take to increase personnel and security to reduce the number of migrants coming across the border.  Those are steps they’ve taken on the ground.

Q    Just to be clear, are there — are these new commitments that the Biden administration has secured?  Or were they already in existence?

MS. PSAKI:  We — we never described it as a formal declaration or a formal agreement, but additional steps that they were taking to increase personnel at the border.  And those are steps you can confirm with those countries that they have taken. 

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.

Q    Okay, one more question about —

MS. PSAKI:  I — I just — I just have to get around to everyone.  So I just — I’ll come back to you.  I promise. 

Go ahead. 

Q    If I can go back to gun safety legislation on the Hill. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    You know, what — we’re hearing you talk over and over again about the President’s support of the House bills, but right now it just doesn’t seem like they’re — you guys have those votes in the Senate.  But we’ve heard, from some Republican senators, a willingness to work on a more limited package around background checks.  So why not pitch something a little bit more limited, try to get something across the finish line?  Is the President willing to engage on a more targeted background check bill?

MS. PSAKI:  I would say that we should — I would punt that question back to the Republicans who are not supportive of universal background checks or an extension of that, which 80 percent of the public support. 

So our question to them would be: Why don’t you support what the vast majority of your own constituents support?  And this is an expansion of background checks, which prevents guns getting into the hands of people who should not have them.  So that’s where I would point you.

Q    And you’re saying that the executive actions the President took on gun safety were initial steps.  You said — you used that phrase over and over.

MS. PSAKI:  Yep.

Q    So what’s — what’s next?  Give us some preview of what other executive actions you guys are considering.  Because otherwise, it’s just passing the buck to Capitol Hill.

MS. PSAKI:  I think it’s hardly that.  And again, I would say the President has been working on these issues throughout his career for decades.  He helped get the assault weapons ban passed.  He helped get background checks passed as a part of the Brady Bill.  He helped lead the effort to get two dozen executive actions in place when he was Vice President, and just took actions on his own. 

There is a responsibility and a role for the Senate to play.  There’s a separation of powers here.  And also, he’s looking forward to signing that legislation. 

So I would say that advocates should pressure Republicans in the Senate, that all of you should pressure Republicans in the Senate and ask them why they are opposing universal background checks when the vast majority of the American public supports it. 

Go ahead, Jennifer.

Q    Thanks.  On the cyberattacks and the sanctions on Russia yesterday. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    A spokesman for the Kremlin says that the U.S. has been informed about what their response is.  Can you share what Russia’s response is, please?

MS. PSAKI:  I will let them share what their response is on their own.  I am, blissfully, not a spokesperson for the Kremlin.  But they have indicated they were going to have a response.  I don’t have more I can — I can react to it once we know what the details are.

Q    Can you say: Has the White House been informed about what their response is going to be?

MS. PSAKI:  Not as of earlier this morning, but I can check with our national security team if there are more details. 

Q    Okay.  On infrastructure, is there anything that you can update us on about the negotiations?  Any serious negotiations happening with the GOP on payfors?  Anything you can share on infrastructure?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say that what we’re — what we’re waiting for is a counterproposal from Republicans in Congress.  And they’ve indicated that they’re working through that, so we look forward to seriously considering any — any proposal that — any good-faith engagement, I should say, that comes our way.  But we’re waiting.  We’re on the receiving end for that.  So we’re looking forward to it.

On payfors, I would say there are basically two options to pay for this job-creating plan.  The President believes it should be done by having corporations pay their fair share.  That’s what he’s proposed: an increase in the corporate tax rate, a global minimum tax.  Some in Congress think that it should be paid for by putting the burden on the backs of Americans.  We’re happy to have that debate.  But that’s the fundamental disagreement.  Those are the two major options.

Q    One last thing on the American Families Act — on the American Families —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    Can you — any guidance for us on when we’ll see that, what might be in it?  Any update on that?

MS. PSAKI:  Not quite yet.  But again, we remain on track to having more to share with you in the coming weeks. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you very much.  About summits, Ukraine’s President, just this morning, called for a summit with France, Germany, and the U.S. 

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    Has the — is the President going to sign up to that?

MS. PSAKI:  I had not heard that from our national security team.  I’ll see if there’s — if we have any plans or have made any decisions about participating.

Q    Okay.  It’s very new. 

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.

Q    And on Japan, with just less than 100 days to go to the Olympics — and even the Torch Relay seems to be in all sorts of trouble — what is the President’s feeling now about the advisability, safety, et cetera of the U.S. team going there?  And will he be going there if the Olympics goes ahead? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any plans to announce as it relates to travel or any international travel today.  I can say that we understand the careful considerations that the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee are weighing as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics this summer. 

The Government of Japan has stressed that public health remains the central priority as they plan to host the games.  Tokyo has assured us they will keep in close contact with Washington as their plans develop. 

But I don’t have any more beyond that.  I’m sure it will be discussed today.  And you all may ask them during the press conference later this afternoon.

Q    Okay, can I ask just one more Japan question, since it’s Japan —

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead. 

Q    The President obviously has the environment high on his list of priorities. 

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    So will he be talking to the Prime Minister about the plan to discharge — I think it’s like a million tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima Plant, which a lot of countries in the region, and I think the U.N. as well, have said is not a — not a great idea.  What’s his position?

MS. PSAKI:  I expect that will be discussed.  I will also convey that the Prime Minister has announced that he will join the United States in announcing a new 2030 target by the April 22nd Leaders Summit on Climate.  And Japan is committed to this target and being a part of the effort to reach 20- — to net-zero targets by 2050.  But I expect there’ll be more of a readout following the meeting today. 

Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks, Jen.  I was wondering if the President had actually watched the Adam Toledo video.  And then also, what his reaction was to it?

MS. PSAKI:  I have not spoken with him this morning.  I expect I’ll see him later this morning.  I will say, for those of us who did watch that video, it is certainly chilling and a reminder that, across the country, there are far too many communities where there is violence that is impacting — that too often in this country, law enforcement uses unnecessary force, too often resulting in the death of Black and brown Americans.  

The President, again, has repeatedly said that he believes we need police reform.  That’s what he says he’s calling for Congress to send to his desk. 

There’s an independent investigation as you well know, and certainly we’ll see that play itself through.

Q    And then also, have the Bidens been in touch with Prince Harry or any members of the Royal Family ahead of Saturday’s funeral?  And do they plan to send flowers or a wreath or any sort of gestures of goodwill?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m not aware of any points of contact.  I will — I’m happy to check with our team and see if there’s anything that will be sent ahead of time.

Trevor, I’m sorry.  I missed you.  Go ahead. 

Q    No.  So there’s kind of a historic moment that’s playing out in Cuba, in terms of Castro stepping down from the Communist Party and a moving — a changing of the guard, in terms of the Castro family moving on and new leadership.  Do you have any reaction to that?  And why haven’t we seen anything from the President as far as sanctions are concerned?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, broadly speaking, our policy, as it relates to Cuba, is going to be governed by two principles.  Support for democracy and human rights will be at the core of our efforts, through empowering and — empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future.  And second, our belief that Americans, especially Cuban Americans, are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity. 

A Cuba policy shift or additional steps is currently not among the President’s top foreign policy priorities.  But it is an issue, of course, we will remain engaged in and focused on.

And I can see if there’s more of a reaction to that change in leadership.  Absolutely.

Q    And then just on the Japan visit today.  Any update on any assistance that can be given to Japan?  They’re very early, in terms of their vaccination effort.  Is that something that’s going to be discussed?  Do you have anything to offer them on that? 

And then is there an update on North Korea as well?  There’s an indication that they have additional reprocessing capabilities that will allow them to produce more fissile material for nuclear weapons. 

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, first, I — we do expect that President Biden and the Prime Minister will discuss COVID and efforts to address and get the pandemic under control.  They’ve also discussed — as a part of the Quad, of course, there’s been a discussion about increasing cooperation and support through COVAX.  But we expect they will discuss that and that will be a part of the readout following the meeting. 

As it relates to North Korea, as you know, there has been an ongoing review, which we’re nearing the end of that review.  Japan has been consulted all along, but the two leaders meeting in person is obviously an opportunity to discuss that in person, which will certainly be a part of the discussion. 

We understand — we will — what I would underscore: Japan’s interest in this issue — not only the nuclear program, but, obviously, stability in the region. 

So they will discuss that, and we expect it will be part of the readout as well.

Go ahead, in the back. 

Q    Thanks, Jen.  Today’s meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister is, of course, the President’s first face-to-face meeting —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — with a foreign leader.  Given that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, can you talk about why you decided that it’s now safe to hold these kinds of meetings and what kind of safety protocols will be in place?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I can assure you that we — we make these decisions very carefully and thoughtfully and that we ensure that there is adequate testing, social distancing, processes that are put in place to ensure that all participants are kept safe and that we’re taking into account the pandemic. 

There won’t be a meal, as an example, which would be standard and traditional for a visit like this.  And, of course, they will be spread out at the press conference and also even in their meetings and expanded bilateral meeting.  And also, it, of course, impacts the limited number of reporters that we will have there for the press conference. 

So there are a number of steps we take.  It doesn’t look exactly like the bilateral in-person meetings that many of you have attended in the past.  And, you know, we look forward to returning to normal on many fronts, but certainly this one as well. 

Q    And one more thing.  I know that you said President Moon of South Korea will be coming to Washington in — I think you said late May.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.  Mm-hmm.

Q    What other visits can we expect by foreign leaders?  And I know you’ve been asked this before —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah. 

Q    — but again, when can we expect the President to start traveling abroad?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m ready too.  You know, I would say that it should send a strong message about the first two visits that the President will have in person — the leaders of Japan and South Korea; send a message about how vital and important the relationships in the region, the stability in the region, security in the region, economic partnerships in the region are to this White House. 

I don’t have additional foreign leader visits to predict quite yet.  Of course, there will certainly be more. 

And in terms of the President’s foreign travel, I just don’t have anything yet.  Hopefully, we’ll have something more soon.  I understand the interest. 

Go ahead.

Q    Jen, Iran today announced that it had enriched uranium at a 60 percent level.  Does the White House view this as a worrisome development?  And also, how does it affect the President’s plan to revive the Iran nuclear deal?

MS. PSAKI:  I believe they made the announcement earlier this week.  But — but regardless, as we stated earlier this week, we take seriously Iran’s provocative announcement of its intention to begin enriching uranium to 60 percent, which the P5+1 should be unified in rejecting.  This step both calls into question Iran’s seriousness with regard to the nuclear talks and underscores the imperative of returning to mutual compliance. 

Now, there are indirect talks that are happening right now, that started last week, that were ongoing through today.  And while we know these talks — we expected these talks to be difficult, to be long, we still feel that they are a step forward in moving towards — you know, leading with diplomacy to find a path forward.

Q    One more on Russia.  The President yesterday did not mention Aleksey Navalny in his remarks at all.  Obviously, the U.S. had taken earlier action —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — the President had spoken earlier.  Was there a reason why there was the omission of Naval- — Navalny yesterday?

MS. PSAKI:  He was announcing steps in reaction to the other parts of the review.  We had already announced sanctions as it related to Aleksey Navalny.  And so — and we had previously announced those — which I know a lot is happening.  So —

Q    All right.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.  Oh, let me just go around — get around to everybody.  Go ahead. 

Q    Yesterday, you said that President Biden remains committed to raising the refugee cap to the higher levels you —

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.

Q    — you previewed.  But advocates have been questioning whether the delay to that move is based on the situation in the border.  Is it true that President Biden doesn’t want to raise the refugee cap while the situation at the border is like it is right now?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I actually expect we’ll have some more news on this today, so stay tuned.  But I would say that it is a factor.  ORR, the — which is a part of HHS — does do refugee — does do management and has personnel working on both issues, and so we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both. 

Now, I will say that the other piece that has been a factor is that it took us some time to see and evaluate how — how un- — how ineffective or how trashed, in some ways, the refugee processing system had become.  And so we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place.

But I expect, again, we’ll have more news on this today, and we’ll share that with all of you.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q    Thank you, Jen.  I have a question about the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Suga.

MS. PSAKI:  Yep. 

Q    Yesterday, (inaudible) Taiwan will be on the joint statement.  Can you talk about more about Taiwan?  Or are you going to say “be patient.  Stay tuned.  Wait until the joint statement”?  Or —

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’ve been clear, publicly and privately, about our growing concerns about China’s aggression towards Taiwan.  China has taken increasingly coercive action to undercut democracy in Taiwan, and we’ve seen a concerning increase in PRC military activity in the Taiwan Strait, which we believe is potentially destabilizing.

Our common position on Taiwan with the Japanese aligns — aligns.  And the Secretary — our Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State have made statements to that — that are consistent with that over the past weeks, as well, to elevate that. 

But of course, we’ll have, again, a press conference, we’ll have a joint statement, and I’m sure they will address that following the meetings. 

Go ahead, in the back. 

Q    Thanks, Jen.  The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, talking to her group on Wednesday, said that white — essentially said that white supremacy is woven into our founding documents and principles. 

Now, this statement is getting widely criticized as essentially parroting Chinese Communist Party talking points.  So is the President going to remove her from her position as the representative before that body to promote United States values?

MS. PSAKI:  Is the President going to remove an African American woman with decades of experience in the Foreign Service who is widely respected around the world from her position as ambassador to the U.N.?  He is not. 

He will — he is proud to have her in that position.  He — she is not only qualified; he believes she is exactly the right person in that role at this moment in time. 

I have not seen her comments.  I will say that there’s no question that there has been a history of institutional racism in this country, and that doesn’t require the U.N. Ambassador to confirm that. 

Q    So that’s essentially the same lecture, though, that the Chinese delegation gave Secretary Blinken in Alaska last month.  So does the President think our founding documents are racist?

MS. PSAKI:  I would say that I will — I will leave my comments to speak for themselves.  And, certainly, I think most people recognize the history of systemic racism in our country, and she was speaking to that. 

Go ahead.  And I promised Kristin I’d get back to her too.   Go ahead.

Q    Sure.  A quick question, and then a longer one.  In terms of — you said the President had been tested for COVID-19 today. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah. 

Q    Has that been regular or was that specifically part of the protocols for today’s foreign leader visit?

MS. PSAKI:  He’s tested every couple of weeks, and we try to provide those on a timely manner — the updates.  Today was the most timely, so we will continue to try to do that moving forward.

Q    And then I wanted to ask you about some new reporting from one of my colleagues —

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.

Q    — Carol Lee.  She has a new piece about secret Facebook groups that are primarily composed of special forces, which includes some of the postings — very racist language, criticism of the government, even some QAnon-type conspiracy theories.  I wonder if you had a reaction to the report. 

And also, if you could give an update on the tasking that the President had issued for us in the Intelligence Community as well as DHS on domestic extremism. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, so the — it is a 100-day review, which we are getting close to the conclusion of, and a lot of the analys- — or the review has been done, and now we’re working on the policy phase of that.  And I expect we’ll have more to say after that 100-day review concludes. 

And, certainly, that review is looking at areas where we see the rise of domestic violent extremism not through a political prism, but places where we’ve seen it in the country, places where we’ve seen it online.  And they’re looking at all of those forums.  And hopefully, we’ll — we’ll have more to say on that — we will have more to say on that, I should say, when that review concludes.

Q    And then just specifically about the reporting from a colleague: Have you —

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, yeah.  Sorry, we have another — we have a new — another friend today, but yes.

Q    What does it say — is — would the President have a reaction to this kind of language among some of our most highly trained special forces in the U.S. armed services?

MS. PSAKI:  I would certainly point you to the Department of Defense.  But I would say that there’s no place for racism; for the projection of that in government or out of government, on forums or — or publicly speaking; and certainly that is of concern — seeing that to — to all of us, and to the President.

Kristin, did you have another question before we go back?  Oh, I’m sorry.  And we didn’t get to you, and I didn’t mean to, but we can quickly go and then we’ll go to Aliyah. 

Q    Okay.  Just really quickly: I know we’ve talked about, perhaps, the possibility of splitting up the infrastructure bill —

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    But just yesterday, one of the President’s allies on Capitol Hill, Senator Chris Coons, really floated the idea of splitting it between, you know, just a traditional roads and bridges infrastructure package, and then another one with — with everything else in the American Jobs Plan.  Is that something that the White House is seriously considering?

MS. PSAKI:  I would say that the President is going have a bipartisan meeting next week and a number of meetings next week where the Jobs Plan is going to be central to that.  There are a lot of proposals floating around there.  One of them is from Senator Coons, who, of course, is a close ally of the President.  But there are a lot of different proposals out there. 

So he is very open to hearing different ideas, hearing different ways to get these — these big ideas he’s put forward; this historic investment to modernize our infrastructure, create millions of jobs forward.  The mechanisms for that, the construction of it, the pieces that it could flow through — he’s very open to what that looks like. 

Go ahead, and then we’ll go to our friend.  Go ahead. 

Q    Yeah.  Thanks, Jen.  I just had a quick question from another reporter, but does the assessment of the Russian bounties include whether or not President Trump and his senior advisors had been briefed on those? 

MS. PSAKI:  I’m sorry.  I can never — sometimes it’s hard to hear with the — with the masks. 

Q    Did the assessment of the Russian bounties include whether President Trump and his senior administration officials had been briefed on the threat?

MS. PSAKI:  The assessment was done by the Intelligence Community to look at available intelligence.  So it wasn’t looked at briefings or who has been briefed; it was looked at available intelligence.  A lot of that came from detainees.  Some of that — and hence, we announced it was low to moderate confidence.  But it’s really not done through the prism of politics or the prism of current and past, you know, political appointees, but done through the intelligence available and what can be assessed on that basis. 

Okay. 

Hello.  So as we’ve — as we have announced last Friday, we’re going to try to bring more people into the briefing room to ask questions and bring the White House perspective out to more parts of the country. 

So, Aliyah is from Indra- — Indian Country Today.  Aliyah Chavez, thanks for joining us.  And what can I help you with?

Q    Thanks for having me.  I’d like to follow up on the factsheet that was released this morning from the White House regarding its investments in combating COVID-19 in Indian Country.  The plan for $2 billion for third-party billing in the Indian health system shows the significance of Medicaid and other insurance programs. 

We know that some states are stingy with Medicaid regulations.  Does this plan demonstrate the need for Tribes to be treated like states so that they can develop their own eligibility rules and priorities?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, let me just give you all a sense — because everybody may not be aware of the announcement that we made this morning.  So we — let’s see here. 

The recently passed legislation from Congress — we announced additional funding, additional resources that will be made available.  And so, today, we announced $4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to support COVID-19 response and healthcare in Indian Country.  And we will continue to partner and we will work directly with Tribal nations in distributing critical resources and ensuring that funds meet the needs of Indian Country. 

So I would say that just as we are working with states directly — we are working with local communities, we have our own federal programs, pharmacy programs, and other programs — we will work directly with Indian Country to ensure that they have the resources, the funding, the vaccine supply needed in order to get the pandemic under control. 

Thank you so much. 

Q    Another question.

MS. PSAKI:  Go ahead.  Yes, go ahead. 

Q    Another question about a key campaign promise of President Biden to Tribal leaders, which was to immediately reinstate the White House Tribal Nations Conference.  When can we expect to learn more about when that conference will happen, whether it would be virtually or in-person?  And how much of a priority is it to President Biden to make this happen in his first year in office?

MS. PSAKI:  It is certainly a big priority.  And obviously, we’ve been impacted, of course, by COVID and the pandemic because, to have a conference like that — we’d love to do that in person and have people meet in person to make it that much more constructive and productive.  It is — so we hope to aim for late 2021.  And we will — we will keep working toward that. 

I will say that, as you know, Secretary Haaland traveled last week to Utah.  And our Second Gentleman has also traveled twice to Indian Country.  And we just announced that Secretary Haaland and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice will convene the first White House Council on Native American Affairs meeting at the White House as well.  And this is an interagency, principals-level committee, so that shows you how important this issue is.  But we look forward to having that conference, that meeting hopefully soon. 

Q    Thanks so much.

MS. PSAKI:  Thank you again.  It was lovely to meet you.  Thanks for joining us. 

Okay.  Well, I’m sorry, I have to wrap up because I have a hard out.  But we have a press conference today, so you can hear from the President. 

Thank you, everyone so much.  Have a wonderful Friday and weekend. 

11:46 A.M. EDT

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