Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
12:41 P.M. EST
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi, guys. I’m so sorry this is so short. Okay. Welcome, welcome, welcome.
But before we get started, I’m going to give you guys a little bit at the top. The President has been briefed on the bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, and the President called both Governor Wolf and Mayor Gainey prior to departure to Pittsburgh. When he called the governor, Senator Casey was with him as well, so he spoke to Senator Casey. Our team remains in touch with state and local officials on the ground to — on the ground on updates and any additional assistance we can provide.
So, really quickly, just to give you some detail on the trip to Pittsburgh — “Steel City” — and the site of the first event during his campaign in 2019: Today, the President is going to visit Mill 19 for a tour of Carnegie Mellon’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative, which is ushering in a new era of manufacturing research and development with a focus on artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics.
The President will talk about the remarkable economic progress we’ve made over his first year in office, including the fastest single year of job growth in American history and biggest unemployment drop on record. The President — on record. As we learned yesterday, the fastest economic growth in 2021 in almost four decades.
The President will highlight the 367,000 manufacturing jobs that our economy has created since the President took office, including the recent announcements of new manufacturing plants in Ohio by Intel and in Michigan by GM.
We’re making the future in America — America again and American workers. And he’ll underscore the vital role that the federal government plays in bringing workers and businesses together and in catal- — in catalyzing big investment in our industrial base.
Finally, the President will call on Congress to act on the competitive — competitiveness legislation that has been introduced in the House and Senate, and which will invest in American innovation, R&D, manufacturing, and addressing supply chain bottlenecks like the semiconductors that are raising prices to working families.
And a quick update on our progress on expanding access to high-level masks and at-home tests to the American people: Since the President’s announcement last week, we’ve shipped out tens of millions of masks to convenient locations across the country. Just today, masks arrived at several community health centers in the DMV area.
Since COVIDTests.gov launched formally last week, approximately 60 million households have placed orders for their free tests. Already tens of millions of tests have gone out the door and households around the country are already receiving tests so that people have tests on hand if a need arises.
We also continue to make strong progress on our booster program. Boosters provide the best protection against COVID of all of our tools against the virus, and the push continues.
This week, we reached 70- — 70 percent of eligible seniors and [with] boosters and 50 percent of eligible adults.
Overall — I’m just going to get to it because we’re about to land.
Q Okay — Karine.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Where’s Colleen? There you go.
Q I’m right here. Sorry. Is the President — is the President going to the bridge? Are we going to the bridge?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any — I don’t have an update for you right now on the scheduling. We’ll keep you updated if anything changes.
Q Has he reworked his — has he reworked his remarks today to mention that? Can we expect to hear him talk about it?
(Air Force One begins landing.)
Q You okay?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I’m okay. I’m holding on.
So, really quickly — so this is a tragic situation, and our team is in touch with Senate and local officials on the ground as they continue to gather information about the cause of the collapse and any additional assistance we can provide.
Look, we are grateful to the first responders who rushed to assistan- — to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time. Too many bridges in communities across the country are in poor condition. Across the — across the country, there are 45,000 bridges in poor condition. That is completely unacceptable.
So, we’ve been chronically underinvesting in critical infrastructure like bridges for too long. This is why President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes the largest investment in our — in our nation’s bridges since the creation of the Instastate [sic] — Interstate Highway System.
So, you know, the President came here to talk about manufacturers and infrastructure. Clearly, he’ll continue to do that, as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was a big part of his plat- — portfolio last (inaudible).
Q President Putin spoke with Macron earlier today about the —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Who spoke to Macron?
Q Putin. Putin spoke to Macron.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, oh. So sorry. Uh-huh.
Q Has the President spoken with Putin after submitting the U.S. position response?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have any updates on you on that — for you on that, on any conversation that the President may have with Putin. You know, we will let you know if anything is scheduled, but there is nothing that I can preview for you.
Q Does the President take Putin at his word when he tells Macron that they are not looking for war?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, if you — look, you know, we have been very clear that we want diplomacy to work, because diplomacy is the only reasonable way to resolve this crisis that Russia has needlessly instigated by Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border.
We have also been consistent in saying that in order for diplomacy to work, it needs to take place in the context of de-escalation.
So, we have not — you know, we have not seen tangible signs just yet that the Russians are in the process of de-escalating. That remains a decision for President Putin.
So, we laid out some ideas in the written response, as you all know, this past Wednesday — and we provided that to the Russian Federation — ideas that we believe would be effective, constructive, and would address our mutual concerns as well. Of course, the concerns of our allies and partners will also considers — of our allies and partners will be also considered.
Q A couple of prominent Democrats from Pennsylvania are not meeting with the President. Apparently, they have scheduling conflicts. This seems to be something of a pattern. What’s going on there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, first, I would — first, I would just say, like, this is an official event. It is not — an official event where we’re going to talk about infrastructure and manufacturing. So, this is not, you know, a campaign event.
The two top elected officials in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf and Senator Casey, who I mentioned at the top, will be greeting the President on the tarmac and will participate in the tour. And the President is looking forward to seeing both of them.
So there’s not a pattern here at all. I just want to make that very clear.
Congressman Lamb will also be participating in a photo line with him today. And also with him today are Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, who I mentioned at the top; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; State Senator and Democratic leader Jay Costa; and State Representative Jake Wheatley.
I would remind you that congressional Democrats are running to the Bi- — are running to the Biden agenda. Late last year, House Democrats held 1,000 events around infrastructure. And we’re going to continue to talk about our accomplishments.
Q Karine, what has the President been told about the potential causes of the bridge collapse?
(Gaggle paused as Air Force One crewmembers depart the plane.)
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, guys. Really quickly. What was your question, Nancy?
Q What has the President been told about the potential — the causes of the bridge collapse?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, you know, what I said today is pretty much what I — you know, he’s been given updates by the governor and the mayor. He’s going to — his team is in touch with state and local officials, and we’re going to just keep talking to them and getting updates as we — as the day goes by.
He — as you know, he’s going to greet — he’s going to greet elected officials here in just a few minutes, and he’ll get more information.
Q Are they going to be able to continue to attend, given this collapse?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There will be — they will be with us today. So, yes, they’ll be (inaudible).
Q Are we going to see more of an urge from this administration to states to get this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law out to localities to start repairs on crumbled infrastructure?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, Mayor Mitch Landrieu is with us today, who, as you all know, is the coordinator who is playing point on making sure that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law gets out there to states.
And we’re very confident –- we’re going to be working hand in hand, as we have been, with state and local officials to make sure that we deliver on this historic piece of legislation.
Q Ukrainian officials have really been urging the President to, sort of, tamp down the way that he is talking about the potential Russian invasion and how it could happen very quickly. Is the White House and the President sort of changing their public messaging on this at all, given those urgings from the Ukrainian government?
Q And have they been too — did they go too hard, too fast?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, Russia has well over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders — amassed on the border — on the border. And they have been surging troops into Bel- — into Belarus. We’re seeing Russia undertake efforts to try to destabilize Ukraine, including through a possible false-flag information. This is part of the Russian toolkit we have seen before. So, this is nothing new.
It’s a dangerous situation. And we’ve been saying for over a week that Russia could invade at any time. This is what — this has been our message, and we’ve been really consistent — the President has been, our administration — his administration has been. So, that’s also why we’ve been providing more defensive security assistance to Ukraine that at any other point in — than any other point in time, which is something that the Ukrainians requested, given the situation at hand.
Q Are you frustrated that the Ukrainian President seems to be more focused on the state of his economy than the state of an imminent invasion?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me just give you a little bit about what they talked about. So, yesterday, as you know, the — President Biden spoke with President Zelenskyy to discuss our current coordinated diplomatic efforts and affirm our support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity.
They discussed President Biden’s commitment to “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” and how we will continue to closely coordinate in the days and weeks ahead.
President Biden reaffirmed that the United States, along with its allies and partners, are ready to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine and the defensive security assistance the U.S. is actively providing.
So they also discussed the possibility of additional micro – macro, excuse me, economic support to help Ukraine’s economy amidst pressure resulting from Russia’s military buildup.
So that was the conversation, just to give you a little bit of a readout.
But, we’re going to end it here, guys. Thank you.
12:52 P.M. EST