2:10 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Before I begin the Cabinet meeting today, I want to give you an update on Ukraine. We continue to impose very severe —
(A chandelier above the meeting rattles.)
(Laughter.) Well, at least it’s in the middle. It will drop in the middle. (Laughter.) I shouldn’t be —
— the severe economic sanctions on Putin and all those folks around him, choking off access to technology as well as cutting off access to the global financial system. It’s had a profound impact already.
And the goal was to maximize the impact on Putin and Russia, and to minimize the harm on us and our allies and friends around the world.
Our interest is in maintaining the strongest unified economic impact campaign that — on Putin in all of history, and I think we’re well on the way to doing that.
In the State of the Union Address, I announced that the Department of Justice is going after the crimes of Russian oligarchs — the Attorney General spoke to that earlier — who line their pockets with Russian people’s money and — while Ukraine and the people are hiding in subways from missiles that are being fired indiscriminately in Russian cities.
Today, I’m announcing that we’re adding dozens of names to the list, including one of Russia’s wealthiest billionaires. And I’m banning travel to America by — by more than 50 Russian oligarchs, their families, and their close associates.
And we’re going to continue to support Ukrainian people with direct assistance.
I had a — a meeting this morning with the — with the quartet down in Southeast Asia, including India and Japan. And we’re going to continue to support the people with direct — direct assistance.
And on Tuesday night at the Capitol, we saw America united in support of Ukraine and in our work to hold Putin accountable.
And now, to today’s meeting, we’re going to discuss how we’re going to keep the economy growing by bringing costs down for the American people as well as — we know that people are feeling the pinch, and we’re going to do everything we can to make everyday things more accessible and more affordable for the American people.
And we’re also going to discuss the Unity Agenda I announced, and there was bri- — broad bipartisan agreement: trying to end the opioid epidemic; ending cancer as we know it; providing support for veterans; and mental health, especially for children.
Response — as you all know, because I read your polls — has been overwhelming on all four of those issues and — because they’re of great concern to the American people.
And today, I have progress to announce on two of them. Just this morning, the House passed a bill to provide healthcare to veterans suffering from toxic exposure, like burn pits. And 34 Republicans joined with Democrats to make bipartisan project — bipartisan progress on this project, keeping our sacred obligations that we have to veterans who we send to war and they come and we care for them.
And when it comes to the mental health of our children, today I’m instructing the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services to develop initial guidance to schools that will help them provide mental health support for students in our schools. And this is going to include enabling schools to use Medicaid funds to deliver those important services.
And because, to me, the State of the Union was more than a speech to me, it was an action plan — an action plan to lower costs, to address our critical needs. And it’s for the American people, because they’re confused out there, understandably. The world is changing so rapidly.
And we have a lot to cover in this meeting today, but — I am going to invite my friends in the press to depart in a minute.
But the bottom line is: I meant what I said when I said I’m optimistic. I’m optimistic if we are — if we use the kind of ability to unite the country, I think, that exists and I think we saw at the State of the Union, I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do. I really don’t.
And we are at one of those inflection points in world history where we have an opportunity. If we act swiftly and we act with courage, we can change the dynamic the world is moving in. If we don’t, we’re going to be in real trouble.
And I am — but I think it presents an opportunity, as well as a problem.
Like I said, my mother used to always say, “Out of everything bad is something good if you look hard enough for it.” We’re looking hard, and I think we found some answers.
So, at any rate, thank you all for being here, and we’re going to get on with the meeting.
2:16 P.M. EST