James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:40 P.M. EDT 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Hi, everyone.  Good afternoon. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Thanks for having me back. 

So I have a little bit I’d like to do at the top here and then —

Q    Do we get to vote on who we’d prefer?  (Laughter.)

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I’m not going to take that personally.  Thank you. 

Q    No, I thought that’s what you were saying. 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Thank you so much for — thank you so much for that.  (Laughs.)

So I have a little bit at the top, and then I’m, of course, happy to take your questions.

So, as the President remains focused on lowering costs for American families, we have a number of announcements today that will help households save money on utility bills.

First, the Department of Energy announced over $3 billion from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is now available through the Weatherization Assistance Program for states and territories to retrofit households, make homes more energy efficient, and save families money. 

The President’s Infrastructure Law increased this program’s resources ten-fold, which means more homeowners will be able to improve insulation, upgrade lighting and appliances, and electrify heating and cooling systems — all of which save families hundreds of dollars per year while making homes more resilient to climate change and extreme temperatures.

Second, the Department of Energy is proposing new energy-saving standards for household appliances and equipment as part of a roadmap to complete 100 actions this year that would save families more than $100 annually on their utility bills.  And that’s actually a very conservative estimate — $100 annually on their utility bills. 

To give one example of the impacts, U.S. households buy over 7 million room air conditioners ever year, and today we’re proposing a new efficiency standard that would save consumers up to $275 over the life of the product. 

Energy also announced new codes that will make federal buildings more energy efficient, reduce operating costs, and ensure we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Together, these efforts can save more than $15 billion in net costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and advance environmental justice. 

From implementing his Infrastructure Law to updating important standards, these actions show the President following through on his mission to lower costs for working families and help them save money each month on their energy bills.

And then secondly, I’d like to say: Yesterday, the full Senate took its first vote on the nomination of Lisa Cook — an important step forward toward confirming her and our other qualified nominees for the Federal Reserve.

We need to confirm Dr. Cook, along with the other three qualified nominees — Jerome Powell for Chair, Lael Brainard for Vice Chair, and Philip Jefferson for a seat on the Board of Governors — so that the Federal Reserve can move ahead in its work to help address inflation.

We call on senators on both sides of the aisle to support these nominees because they are eminently qualified to serve.  This is important, and we hope the Senate can get it done soon so they can get to work.

So, thank you very much.  And with that, AP.

Q    Thanks, Kate.  AP is reporting plans by the administration to end Title 42 by May 23rd.  Is the Biden administration prepared to deal with the aftermath of ending Title 42 and the expected influx of migrants?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So, first, what I would say is that this is a decision that we have long deferred to CDC.  Title 42 is a public health directive; it is not an immigration or migration enforcement measure.  So the decision on when to lift Title 42 we defer to the CDC. 

That being said, of course we are planning for multiple contingencies, and we have every expectation that when the CDC ultimately decides it’s appropriate to lift Title 42, there will be an influx of people to the border.  And so, we are doing a lot of work to plan for that contingency. 

I think you saw yesterday the Department of Homeland Security did a briefing walking through some of the planning that they’re doing to increase efficiency, to ensure that we have the capacity, to ensure that we are operating in a way that’s — that is treating migrants humanely, fairly. 

So you heard from them yesterday on some of the planning that they’re doing more broadly — now, not specifically tied to Title 42 or an ultimate decision to lift it, but just more broadly to the work that they’re doing to continue to build up our migration system and ensure that we are restoring order at the border. 

Q    And then secondly, if Putin has bad information, per declassified U.S. intelligence, what does that mean for the war in Ukraine and the prospects for negotiations right now? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, I certainly am not a spokesperson for the Kremlin and cannot speak to what is in Vladimir Putin’s head. 

What I can say is, of course, we have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership. 

We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth. 

So it is increasingly clear that Putin’s war has been a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker over the long term and increasingly isolated on the world stage.

Q    On that — I mean, in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the administration declassified information like this to sort of lay out what Putin’s intentions were.  You seem to be doing that again now by making it clear that he’s being misled by his advisors.  Can you just discuss what’s the hope and the goal in going public with this now?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So, again, I think what this does is paint a picture of what a strategic error Putin and Russia have made here.  We saw from the outset that they, for example, made a aggressive push toward Kyiv at the beginning of the invasion.  They are now publicly trying to redefine the goals of their invasion to be — to be different than they were at the outset. 

I think putting forward this information simply contributes to a sense that this has been a strategic error for them.  Again, I’m not going to characterize, you know, what they are thinking.  I’m certainly not going to characterize how they may or may not use this information to make decisions.  That’s not my place.  But I do think that making this information public contributes to an understanding that this has been a strategic failure for Russia. 

Obviously, we will continue to pursue our strategy of imposing severe costs on Russia and trying to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.

Q    And if Putin is being misinformed like this, then who is really pulling the strings here?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  That’s not a question that I’m able to speak to from this podium.  I think this is a — again, I don’t speak for the Kremlin. 

What I can speak to is what — the information that we see, which, again, as I say, shows that he has felt misled by the Russian military, and it has resulted in this persistent tension.

Q    And just lastly, how does this impact concerns about whether, you know, any deal that may be negotiated with Russia — between Russia and Ukraine — can be trusted?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, again, we are not negotiators in that process.  We are obviously in close contact with the Ukrainians as they work through this process. 

Again, our role is to do everything we can to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield, as we’ve done with the security assistance — the unprecedented amount of security assistance and weapons that we’ve flowed to Ukraine and also to strengthen — strengthen their hand at the negotiating table by continuing to apply incredibly severe costs and sanctions on Russia. 

Q    And on the intelligence, is your — is your expectation that releasing this information is — are you hoping that it changes Putin’s calculus or the military’s calculus as they approach these things?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  It is — that is not our intent.  Our intent is simply to make the information available so that there is a full understanding of what kind of strategic blunder this has been for Russia and for the Russian people. 

Q    And is there anything more that you can share just about, you know, whether this is an assessment that you’re extremely confident in?  I know, you know, typically, there’s a range of views among analysts across the intelligence agencies about how solid information is.  Is there anything you can tell us about how solid this is?  And what is underlying this that gives you the confidence that this is the right reading?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, I can’t speak more specifically to the intelligence because we obviously do not do anything to compromise sources or methods.  I will simply say we have made it public and allow you to draw conclusion from that.

Q    Thank you.

Q    So does the U.S. believe that Putin is now fully aware of the misinformation, that he now has a clear picture of Russia’s military operations and how badly it is performing?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, again, I would just say that we obviously have information, which we have now made public, that he felt misled by the Russian military.  We believe he’s being misinformed by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because, again, his senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth. 

Beyond that, I can’t characterize — I can’t characterize any further than that. 

Q    Are there any examples that you might be able to offer us — other than Putin not knowing initially that his military was using and losing conscripts in Ukraine — that show how Putin was potentially being misinformed by his advisors?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I don’t have any detail beyond what we’ve made public already.

Q    Just fin- — one more.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Sure.  Of course. 

Q    U.S. officials have obviously been saying since yesterday that the U.S. is not going to be fooled by Russian claims about a withdrawal from Ukraine until you all see it happen on the ground.  Does President Zelenskyy share in that skepticism?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I’m sorry.  I apologize.  Ask that one more time. 

Q    You all have been saying that you’re not going to be fooled by Russia’s assessment or promises that it is going to start withdrawing and start pulling back on military attacks in Ukraine.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Right.  Right.

Q    Wondering if President Zelenskyy — since he spoke with President Biden — does he share in that assessment?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Right.  Well, I won’t — I won’t characterize President Zelenskyy’s thinking, but I will say that we continue to see evidence today of Russia attacking, advancing — attacking in places where they had previously said they would not.  So I think that is self-evident. 

And obviously we continue to do everything we can to flow assistance, security assistance to the — to the Ukrainians.

Q    Hey, Kate.  Back to Title 42 for a minute.  Back in the spring of last year, there was a very large surge of families — record surge of children at the — migrant children at the border that overwhelmed Border Patrol stations.  It took a long time to get them moved into HHS — into sort of temporary shelters and then, ultimately, to HHS. 

Since then, there hasn’t been a major overhaul of the immigration system.  Legislation that the President proposed is completely stalled in Congress.  You know, there have been some sort of tweaks and — and changes around the edges, but there hasn’t been a wholesale kind of rethinking or change of the asylum system at the border.  The MPP program that Donald Trump put into place is back in place by a court order, but it’s also at a very low level. 

So what is there in place now if there is another surge in the next month or two when this is lifted?  What is there in place that gives the administration confidence that — that some different result will happen than happened a year ago?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, I think if you look back to the spring — to the time period you’re referencing — there was an effort to move those unaccompanied minors as quickly as possible out of Border Patrol custody and into facilities that were more suited for children. 

And we were able to dramatically reduce those numbers — they were in the thousands — over the course of a couple of months through the work of DHS and others — and HHS, I should say.  We were able to dramatically reduce those numbers, move those kids quickly out of Border Patrol — Border Patrol custody and into the system.

So I think, you know, if you look at what we were able to do last spring, there was — there was an ability to move those numbers and move those children quickly into a more — into facilities that were better suited for them.

Writ large, I would, again, point to the things that the President has done to try to rebuild what was — if you remember when we came into office — a system that was decimated by the previous administration.

The previous administration spent four years trying to tear apart a lot of the pieces of our immigration system.  And so we were, in many ways, building from, you know — I won’t say scratch, certainly — but we were building from a place where a lot of this — these pieces had been torn down.

So what we focused on and what the President has focused on is working with the Department of Homeland Security to give clear guidance for internal enforcement; extending and newly designating TPS — Temporary Protected Status — for a number of countries; restarting the Central American Minors Program that the previous administration ended; putting together the Family Reunification Task Force, which we have made some progress on reunifying some of those families who were torn apart under the previous administration; of course, ending the Muslim ban and the public charge rule; and protecting DACA recipients. 

So this President has taken numerous important, substantive steps.  Of course, there is more work to do.  There is absolutely more work to do.  But we’ve taken serious strides forward since we took office last year.

Q    Okay.  And then one quick follow-up.  You said again the line that the administration has used a lot, which is that the Title 42 isn’t an immigration policy; it’s a public health policy.  Has the President, has Ron Klain, has anybody else in the senior administration tried to overrule the CDC over — during the past year in its efforts to lift Title 2 [Title 42] prior to now?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  No.

Q    Okay.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Yes, Ed.

Q    Thank you.  On COVID, can you help us understand — you guys have laid out sort of what happens if the money runs out that you’re requesting.  Can you remind us: What, in the view of the White House, is the most urgent item on that list that runs the risk of not being funded?

And Republicans again today are saying the money for this is there in previously passed legislation.  There’s one figure they’re saying — is $160 billion is there from the COVID relief bill.  What is the White House response to that suggestion?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So, firstly, this is funding that’s going to be used to provide tests.  It will fund additional vaccines — for example, as we were talking about yesterday, should there come a time where a fourth shot is recommended for the broader population.  It will — it will also fund lifesaving treatments and also our ability to additionally provide vaccines around the world, which is another piece of ensuring that the virus is not able to — to move around the globe.

So, you know, this is critically important funding.  The stakes are very real and very high.  You have heard the President state this repeatedly — that this is critical in order for us to continue our progress.

The other thing I would say about this funding is that it will allow us to prepare for the eventuality — the possibility — I shouldn’t say “eventuality” — the possibility of another variant, another wave.  It will give us the funding that we need to be prepared for the future.  So it is critically urgent in that way.

And I’m sorry, what was the second part of your question?

Q    Well, the idea that they say the money’s already there — that there’s unused funds from previously passed legislation.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So, obviously, we initially proposed this as emergency funding, but we are working with the Congress — the Congress is working to get this done.  The President has been very clear that it should get done.  How the — how the mechanism of finally coming to an agreement on this works out, we’ll leave that to the Congress.  But the President has been very clear that we need this funding and that it’s urgent.

Q    And to follow up on something he said earlier — that he may have a meeting with the family of Trevor Reed, and they’re trying to make that happen: Is that happening today or at some point soon?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Don’t yet know if it’s happening today, but I spoke to the President about this earlier.  You obviously all heard from him.  He is very eager to meet with the family, and we’re working through when that’s possible.

Kristen.

Q    Thank you, Kate.  I want to ask you about the call with President Zelenskyy, but just a couple more on this new information about Putin being left in the dark by his military advisors.  Who authorized the release of that intelligence?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  That’s not something I can speak to.  Obviously, it was declassified and put forward into the public sphere.

Q    Can you say — did the President sign off on this?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I cannot speak to that, except to say that this is information that we declassified and made public.

Q    Okay.  There has been so much discussion about the concerns over whether Putin would use chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, biological weapons.  Does this increase the administration’s concern that Putin might lash out in that way?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, as I say, I’m not going to characterize what Vladimir Putin is thinking, what the Kremlin is thinking, or how this might impact their calculus.  That is not the intent of putting the information forward.  What it does is underscore that this has been a strategic blunder for Russia. 

But I am not going to — I’m not going to characterize how, you know, Vladimir Putin might be thinking about this.

I will say that we are prepared for any and all contingencies.  As you know, there’s a lot of work going on to be prepared for contingencies.  And we’ve also been very clear that should Russia act in that way, there will be severe consequences.

Q    On the call, Kate, the readout that the White House put out says, “The leaders discussed how the United States is working around the clock to fulfill the main security assistance requests by Ukraine.”  We don’t know what specifically the President of Ukraine asked for of President Biden, but publicly, at least, he has called for those Polish MiGs; he’s called for anti-aircraft.  Are — has the President changed his decision in that space?  Is he now potentially more open to providing those Polish MiGs, given that statement?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  We have propi- — excuse me — we have provided an unprecedented amount of security assistance to Ukraine, including anti-air, anti-tank systems, small ammunitions — things that our military have assessed are the most impactful weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine.

So, as the President is making a decision about what to send, he takes into account two things.  First, the assessment of our military about what is most impactful, what is best able to help the Ukrainian armed forces turn back Russian aggression.  And we’ve seen that the weapons that we have provided have been instrumental in helping them. 

And then secondly — and then secondly, as he has said many, many times, he is not looking for direct American military conflict with the Russian military.  He has been clear that providing the planes makes this — there are logistical complications to providing the planes.  And he’s not going to make decisions that is going to lead to direct conflict between the United States military and the Russian military.

Q    And yet President Zelenskyy has been clear, including when he addressed NATO: He doesn’t think it’s enough.  He doesn’t think that NATO is doing enough.  He thinks that there, yes, has been a lot of assistance, but it doesn’t go far enough for him to achieve the goals.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Again, the scope — the scope and scale of the assistance — the security assistance that we have provided to the Ukrainians is unprecedented.  We have worked very, very closely with them — again, as they discussed on the call today.  We’ve worked very closely with them to provide them with the weapons that they need.

And again, the President takes into account those two factors that I was just talking about when making decisions.

But that being said, he — we have sent $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.  And we continue to supply them those — those deliveries are happening daily.  Every day, they’re — those weapons are being delivered. 

So we are doing everything — the President is making every effort to ensure that they are getting what they need.

Q    Very quickly — any reaction to former President Trump calling on Putin to release information about Hunter Biden?  Are you concerned about that?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So what I would say about that is: What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks that this is the right time to enter into a scheme with Vladimir Putin and brag about his connections to Vladimir Putin?  There is only one, and it’s Donald Trump.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Kate.  Earlier today, Germany said it is willing to act as a security guarantor for Ukraine as part of the peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.  Is the U.S. willing to become a guarantor of Ukraine’s security or considering that option?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So we are in constant discussion with Ukrainians about ways that we can help ensure that they are sovereign and secure.  But there’s nothing specific about a security guarantee that I can speak to at this time.

Q    Do you have any more information on the $500 million in budgetary aid for Ukraine that was mentioned as part of the readout between the President’s call with President Zelenskyy?  Did President Zelenskyy specifically ask for this to help pay for salaries and other government functions?  And is it coming out of the $13.6 billion in Ukraine-related funding in the omnibus or is it separate from that?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So it is financial assistance the Ukrainian government can use to bolster its economy and pay for budgetary expenses, such as paying salaries and maintaining government services.  We don’t yet have additional detail on where the money is coming from.  That is being worked through.  But it is a commitment that the President made today.

Q    And lastly, what is the administration’s current view of whether the U.S. Embassy in Moscow should remain open?  And how is the administration going about evaluating whether or not to keep the embassy open?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So I don’t have any additional news to make on that at this moment.  Obviously, we will come back to you if there’s development on that front, but there’s nothing new that I can announce from this podium at this moment.

Thank you.

Q    Thanks, Kate.  On the economy, the yield curve for the 10-year Treasury note has inverted.  Historically, this is viewed as a sign that investors are pessimistic about the long-term view of the economy and they expect a recession is nearing.  So can you tell us what the White House believes is the prospects for a recession nearing and how concerned you might be about it?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Sure.  So, you know, as Chairman Powell said after the last Fed meeting, “All signs are that this is a strong economy” and “the probability of a recession within the next year is not particularly elevated.  Our team looks at a broad range of indicators to understand the health of the economy now and going forward.  This is one, but there are many, many others. 

And the other important indicators to include, as we’re assessing where the economy stands, are things that, frankly, because of the President’s economic plan, you know, we’re able to confront from a position of strength. 

So that’s, for example, the fastest economic growth in nearly 40 years, a record 7.4 million jobs created, the fastest decrease in unemployment on record to 3.8 percent, and the first major economy to return to pre-pandemic levels.

So while historically this has been one indicator, it is far from the only one.  And many of the other fundamentals that we look at to assess where we are economically are incredibly strong and getting stronger. 

Q    And then on the meeting later today between President Biden and moderate and progressive House Democrats: What should we see as a sign of this meeting?  Are we — should we expect that there’s going to be some kind of consensus around a plan on the domestic side that is going to be ready to ship over to the Senate?  Or can you tell us more about what they’re going to discuss on the executive action front?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Sure.  Sure.  So this is part of his continued engagement with the Hill.  He’s been meeting with a number of different caucuses over the course of the last month — he and the — and our senior team here at the White House. 

We are obviously constantly in close contact with the Hill.  I would not — I would not view this as a decision-making meeting; this is a discussion of our shared priorities.  I would not anticipate a deliverable coming out of it.  This is, again, a continued discussion of our strategic priorities as we try to move forward on our agenda.

Q    And then just really quickly on India.  Daleep Singh is there for the next couple of days meeting with officials.  Is the U.S. frustrated with India’s response to the — to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?  And what kind of message is Daleep and his team going to be delivering to the Indian government on that front?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Sure.  So, as you note, Daleep will be in New Delhi to continue our ongoing consultations with the government of India and advance a range of issues in the U.S.-India economic relationship and strategic partnership.  He will meet with the government of India to deepen cooperation; to promote inclusive economic growth and prosperity, and a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

He will consult closely with counterparts on the consequences of Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine and mitigating its impact on the global economy. 

He will also discuss the priorities of the Biden administration, including the promotion of high-quality infrastructure through Build Back Better World and the development of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.

Q    Hi, Kate.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Hi.

Q    I know this was asked yesterday, but in the last 24 hours, has this White House learned anything about why there is that gap in call logs on January 6th from the Trump White House that was given over to the Select Committee?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  We have not — my answer has not changed from 24 hours ago, which is that I would refer you to the Archives on that.  But certainly, where we can cooperate, where we are needed to cooperate to fill in that gap, we will.  But I would refer you to the Archives on that.

Q    Okay.  And then regarding the $500 million to Ukraine,

what is the current explanation of why the President hasn’t sent over a nominee to the Senate to be the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine right now?  What’s the current thinking on that?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  That’s an excellent question, and I’ll have to circle back with you on it.  Thanks.

Q    Hey.  On the pandemic: The President got his second booster shot today, but more than half of American — adult Americans have not gotten their first booster shot, even as public health, you know, officials warn about a fall increase of BA.2 variant.  I wonder: Is the White House concerned about that?  Like what is the White House doing to sort of help close that gap?  What’s the message to Americans? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, our message to Americans, first and foremost, is to get vaccinated and get boosted.  It is the best way to protect yourself from the virus and to protect against the spread of the virus. 

What I would say about — what I would say about the BA.2  is that — you know, it is certainly more transmissible than the original Omicron strain, but there’s no evidence that it’s more severe than Omicron. 

Our vaccines continue to work well against BA.2, particularly, again, with the high level of protection provided by boosters. 

So, we continue to both encourage people to get boosted, but I would also point to all the work that we’ve done to make boosters available, to make vaccines available.  There are 90,000 free locations nationwide where you can get — where you can get vaccinated and boosted. 

And then, lastly, I would revisit something we were talking about earlier, which is that we need Congress to pass the 22 and a half billion in emergency COVID funding immediately so that we can maintain our tools to protect people and to be fully prepared for the possibility of any new variants.

Q    Yeah.  One more on that last part.  Has the President or the White House reached out specifically to any of these legislators who have lobbed criticism that, you know, you haven’t used the money that’s already been allocated for pandemic — the fight against the pandemic?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I don’t have any specific engagements to read out, but obviously we continue to work closely with the Hill.  The President has stated very clearly that there’s an urgent need for this money and wants to see it — he wants to see it done. 

Q    Well how, after printing trillions of dollars — taxpayers might want to know — is there not enough money to continue fighting the pandemic?  Trillions of dollars and now —

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  We have —

Q    — you’re out of it?  Is all of the accounting done — every single dollar?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So, we have the resources that we need in this current moment.  What we need is this funding to be able to plan for the future; to prepare for, as I say, the possibility of a new variant, the possibility of a new wave.  We don’t want to be caught flat-footed. 

We currently have, for example, all of the vaccine supply that we need to vaccinate and boost every American.  But what we need to have this money for is to prepare to be ready for the future. 

As we — as we know, the — you know, the virus can be unpredictable, and we need to be prepared.  And there’s an urgent need to do that.

Q    Right.  But can you see why taxpayers would be skeptical?  I mean, trillions of dollars and, all of a sudden, you need billions more.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I think taxpayers want to be prepared for the virus, and they want to make sure that we have the resources that we need to keep them safe.  And that’s what this administration is focused on.

Q    And separately, why (inaudible) —

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Jacqui.

Q    Thank you, Kate.  Sorry.

Q    — hide protections in (inaudible) —

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Sorry. 

Jacqui, yeah.

Q    The President, Kate, has called — the President has called Putin a “war criminal.”  He said that he believes he will “meet the legal definition” of a war criminal.  And the U.S. has vowed to pursue all accountability measures, including prosecution.  Sentencing for war crimes is long-term imprisonment.  So how does all of that not equate to calling for regime change? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  The President has been incredibly clear about this.  He is not advocating for a policy of regime change.  He — what he said a couple of days ago was a statement of personal moral outrage, but we do not have a formal policy of regime change. 

What we are doing is continuing to impose unprecedented costs on Russia.  We are ensuring that the Russian — that Russia is paying for this choice.  You know, Putin himself has said that the cost, the impact of the sanctions has been significant. 

So, we are continuing to focus on our strategy of making sure that we are providing security assistance to Ukraine and imposing significant costs on Russia for these choices. 

Q    So when he said that he believes Putin will “meet the legal definition” of war criminal, was he not saying that he believes he will be convicted of that crime? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  He was not, in fact.

Q    And then does the President and the national security team here believe that Ukraine can win and push Russia out of its borders?  And if so, has the U.S. adjusted its strategy at all in helping Ukraine since they started to win? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, I would argue that, from the outset, that we’ve done everything in our power — a tremendous, tremendous amount — to provide Ukraine with what it needs, to provide it with the resources to turn back Russian aggression.  That has been the focus of our strategy.  Again, a two-pronged strategy to impose costs and provide the — both the security assistance and the humanitarian assistance to support Ukraine.

Q    Is there any reason why no one from this administration has just plainly said, “We think Ukraine can win this war”? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  We — I think in our actions and in the support that we’ve provided, we’ve been very clear that we’re doing everything we can to stand with Ukraine and ensure that they are able to push back against Russian aggression.

Q    And just one more on the southern border.  Has DHS requested National Guard troops to be sent to the border?  Is that something the administration is considering? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  As far as I know, that is not currently under consideration, but I’m happy to check in on it and come back to you.

Yes.

Q    Thanks.  First, Senator Susan Collins came out in support of Judge Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court today.  Do you have a reaction to the, kind of, confirmation that you’ll have a bipartisan vote there? 

And then also, you know, in her statement, she said that the process is broken and it should go back to kind of being based on qualifications, experience, and not ideology.  And I’m curious what you think about that.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  The President is incredibly grateful to Senator Collins for her thorough and fair consideration and her support.  The two of them spoke earlier in this process, and he appreciated her thoughts and her insight.

Obviously, her support speaks to the qualification of Judge Jackson to sit on the Supreme Court.  She — Judge Jackson has been working hard to earn support and, you know, as you well know, responded to Republicans’ requests for in-person meetings by promising to sit down with any senator who wanted.  And she has engaged very directly.  She answered over 20 hours of questions. 

And, you know, she has earned the support of some of the most respected retired conservative judges in the country, and the Fraternal Order of Police, and so many others in law enforcement. 

So she is an incredibly quality nominee for the Supreme Court.  And the President is very grateful for Senator Collins’ measured, reasonable, thorough, and fair consideration, and, ultimately, support for her.

Q    What did he make of the other part of the statement or the White House make of the other part of the statement that the process as a whole is broken?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, I think what we’re seeing in immediate — in the immediate case is that the process is moving forward.  She’s receiving fair consideration.  I think she was — the President was incredibly proud of the way she handled herself during the hearings and thought she very effectively spoke to her judicial philosophy and handled incoming criticism.

So, I won’t speak to the — whether the process writ large is broken, as we are focused narrowly in this moment on the process in front of us. 

And I would say the process in front of us is working.  And I think, again, you know, Senator Collins’ support today — that the President was very grateful for it.

Q    Yeah.  Back to the intel release.  I’m wondering if this is partially just an effort to embarrass Vladimir Putin — to, sort of, publicly shame him or something.  It comes across as — you know, you say that you can’t speak for the Kremlin, but then you’re saying he feels misled by his advisors.  It seems like there might be something going on here. 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  No.  No.  Our aim — again, our aim is to show that this has been a strategic blunder for Russia, that there is — ultimately, this is going to leave them weaker; it is not going to leave them stronger.  And I think making this information public simply contributes to the picture that, strategically, they are having to reorganize, to refit.  And that shows that, again, this was a terrible decision for them. 

And at the end of the day, as we’ve long said — as we’ve said from the outset, as we said even before they invaded — we said that this would be a strategic mistake for them.  And I think that that has borne out.

Q    And going back to the COVID funding — I think it was your answer to Ed — I’m trying to read between the lines just a little bit.  But you had said, “Previously, we asked for $22 billion as emergency funding that wouldn’t need any offsets.  Now we would like Congress to get us this money.”  Are you saying that you’re willing to accept offsets?  That — and also, are you willing to accept less than the $22 billion?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, what I would say is we have been very clear that we need this money now.  And we’re hopeful that Congress is nearing a solution.  And, you know, again, the President called for this initial 22 and a half billion as emergency funding. 

But at the end of the day, we need the money.  It’s important.  It’s critical for our preparedness for the next — you know, the next phase of COVID and being prepared so that we’re not caught flat-footed. 

So ultimately, we are — we are hopeful that Congress is nearing a solution on this.

Q    So we should take that as you’re willing to accept the offsets.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  You should — no.  You should take it as what I said, which is that we’re hopeful that Congress is reaching a solution on this and Congress will determine, ultimately, where we net out on this. 

Q    Thank you very much, Kate.  Going back to her question: Who the White House believe is winning this war?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I think that — the White House believes that Ukraine has been — has fought valiantly, has been incredibly brave and resolved in the face of atro- — of atrocious, brutal invasion from Russia. 

I think what you’ve seen in the actions from this White House is that we have provided weapons, we have provided assistance, we have been there every step of the way and will continue to be.  And we’ve put enormous, enormous economic pressure on Russia in order to — in order to hopefully drive this conflict to a solution. 

So, you know, I think — again, I don’t know that I have to say it — I think that our actions show and the support that we provided shows that — that we believe that Ukraine has been incredibly, incredibly brave, incredibly strong, and we’re going to continue to support them as they move forward. 

Q    And just one —

Q    Kate — did you — do you want another one?

Q    Yeah, do you mind?  Because President Zelenskyy just tweeted also that President Biden and him talk about a new package of sanctions.  Could — do you have anything more specific on that?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So I don’t have anything that I can preview in this moment.  But certainly, we are continuing to look at options to — to expand and deepen our sanctions.  And I anticipate that we would probably have more for you on that in the coming days. 

Q    Okay.  Thank you, Kate.  Two quick ones, hopefully.  Could you give us any steer on the additional capabilities bit of that readout in — from the Zelenskyy call?  Is there — is there a shift in thinking, perhaps, that Ukraine needs a different category of weapons — not just enough to hold the Russians back, but actually to push them back and out?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So — so an example of one of the — one of those additional capabilities — something that we talked about a little bit last week while we were in Europe — you know, shore — ship-to-shore capability, anti-ship capability — that’s just one example. 

You know, beyond that, I’m not going to go into further detail on what’s being discussed, except to say that we’re doing everything we can to ensure that Ukraine has what it needs on the battlefield. 

Q    Thank you.  And the other one is: Today, Boris Johnson said — very black and white — he said sanctions — Western sanctions, not just British or G7 sanctions — should stay in place until the Russian troops are all gone.  That was a lot more black-and-white than anything that’s come out of the White House.  Did you — does the White House share that kind of maximalist goal with sanctions?  Are they going to stay there until the last Russian troops are gone?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  That’s not something that I’m going to be able to pre-state in this moment.  I will let — I will let Boris Johnson and the UK government speak for themselves. 

Yes.

Q    Yeah.  Thanks, Kate.  There have been some reports recently that some Democratic senators on the Hill have expressed concerns about Eric Garcetti’s nomination to be Ambassador to India.  Does the White House still have confidence in him and its ability to get him confirmed?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  We do.  We do have — the President has confidence in Mayor Garcetti.  He believes he will be an excellent representative in India. 

I would remind you that his nomination advanced unanimously with bipartisan support in committee, and we’re continuing to engage with senators and working to earn bipartisan support for his nomination and believe he should receive a vote in the Senate expeditiously. 

Q    Yeah.  And earlier this month, President Zelenskyy signed a decree to combine Ukraine’s national TV channels into one platform, saying he wants to create a unified information policy.  Ukraine also announced it was banning 11 political parties with ties to Russia.  Is the White House concerned at all about these moves by the Ukrainians?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So this is the first that I’m hearing of it.  I will look into it.  I’m happy to talk to our national security team and get back to you.  Thanks. 

Q    Kate —

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Yeah, Karen. 

Q    Thanks, Jen — (laughter) — excuse me, Kate. 

Q    Oops.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  High praise. 

Q    Red hair.  (Laughter.)  You had mentioned that the administration encourages boosters.  You talked about the work you’ve done on that.  But given that COVID cases are down and that the pace of boosters has been sluggish, will there be an actual public campaign by the President or the administration — more of an outward effort — to get people to get their boosters?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, I think we’ll — we will continue to do the work we’ve been doing.  And today, we launched a new website, COVID.gov, which gives people what they need to track transmission in their community, to find a test-to-treat location — so, an opportunity, a location where you can go; you can get a test; and if you’re positive, you can get an antiviral. 

So this website is part of our effort — our continued and ongoing effort to make sure that people have what they need to deal with COVID as we move into potentially the next phase of this — of this disease. 

You know, from the outset, we have said and continue to believe — because the science shows — that getting vaccinated, getting boosted is the best thing that you can do in order to protect yourself from the virus.  So, that has been a big piece of our public messaging.  That’s been a big piece of our message to the country.  And it will continue to be.

Q    The President today described this new moment where he said COVID “no longer controls our lives.”  How critical is it that Americans get boosted to stay in this new moment right now?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  It’s — it’s important.  And our message has consistently been that it is important to — it’s important to get boosted.  The science shows it is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus and to — and to protect you and your loved ones and your family and your friends from getting sick. 

So, our message will always be: It is important to go out and get boosted.  We have — we are doing everything in our power, we have done everything in our power to make sure that boosters are free and available to everybody in the country. 

Yes.

Q    Thank you.  Regarding the President’s budget proposal, which was released earlier this week, Senator Manchin is already saying that he can’t support this so-called “Billionaires Tax,” because it would tax unrealized gains on certain assets.  I wanted to hear your response to that. 

And I’m also wondering if he sticks with that — you know, if it — given his opposition, does that mean this — his proposal is DOA?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, what I would say is that the President’s budget is a classic Joe Biden budget.  It is focused on security, it is focused on our — on security in our communities, security abroad.  And it was designed in order to help ensure that we have the money in reserve to pay for and bring down the deficit, even after Congress sends us — whatever they ultimately send us on the proposals that he very much wants to see passed to lower prescription drug costs, to lower the cost of childcare, to tackle the climate crisis.  So the key priorities in this budget are those and ensuring that the wealthiest pay their fair share. 

Obviously, I think Senator Manchin and President Biden share a belief that the rich should pay their fair share. 

And we’ll allow the process of negotiation to work itself out.  We’re not — I’m obviously not going to negotiate from the podium, but I do think that Senator Manchin and President Biden share that fundamental belief that the rich should pay their fair share — the wealthiest, I should say, should pay their fair share.  And so, we’ll continue to work with him and to work with Congress to move these forward. 

Q    Twenty-one states have filed a lawsuit against the government because of the mask mandates on transportation.  I wonder if the White House is prepared through the CDC to issue some new guidance to lift these mask mandates.

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  So I don’t have any news to make on this at this moment.  I will say these are conversations that are underway.  And certainly, when we have news to make on this, we’ll come back to you. 

Q    Thank you, Kate.  When I asked Jake Sullivan the question of why no one in the administration had said definitively whether or not the White House thinks that Ukraine can win this war, he referred me to the Pentagon.  And moments ago, when the same question was asked to you, you said, you know, “I don’t know I ha- — I don’t know I have to say it.”  But the President has said, “I don’t care what Putin thinks.”  So why isn’t the administration being more definitive on this question?  Is it for fear that this might provoke Moscow?  Is it that you don’t have a clear definition of what victory might look like over there?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  I think what is important here, as I said in my previous answer — I think what’s important here is our actions.  I think we have — we have provided the security assistance.  We’ve provided the weapons to Ukraine.  We continue to support Ukraine.  We continue to do everything in our power to ensure that they have what they need. 

So, I think if there’s — I don’t think there should be any question about whether this White House and this President is doing everything in his power to support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. 

Q    But towards what end?

Q    Thank you, Kate.  I have two questions, one on Iran and one on electric vehicle.  So on Iran, today, Secretary Blinken announced new sanctions against Iran over the ballistic missile activities.  Will this endanger the nuclear talks?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Sorry, the second part of the — I’m sorry, the second part?

Q    So, will this endanger the nuclear — the nuclear talk? 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  No, not at all.  In fact, these sanctions are not connected to the Iran deal.  They demonstrate, in fact, what we have always said, which is that we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its missile proliferation and support to proxy networks, as we work diplomatically to place strict limits on its nuclear program.

So that will be true whether we are back in the nuclear deal or not.  And the sanctions that we’re applying today will remain in place whether or not we’re back in the nuclear deal. 

But as you know, it is our firm view that getting out of the deal was a disaster.  And second, that these other problems — missiles and proxies — are better addressed without Iran at the nuclear breakout threshold. 

So, ultimately, we are able to hold Iran accountable on issues like the missile program, while continuing to work toward a potential deal to limit their nuclear program.

Q    Second question, on the electric vehicles. So, yesterday, you announced investment in electric vehicles.  And this week, actually a Chinese company called SEMCORP, which is Shanghai Energy New Materials Technology, just announced a new electric vehicle battery investment in Ohio which will create around 1,200 jobs. 

We know pushing cutting-edge technology and preserving supply chain is Biden administration’s priority.  But would you also worry about national security aspects and future supply chain concern over a Chinese investment on those items?

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Well, as you say, a significant economic priority — a significant plank of the Biden economic agenda is bringing our supply chains to America, making more in America, manufacturing in America.  The President has been very focused on taking steps to ensure that we’re doing that. 

And we’re seeing investment.  You know, you’ll all remember the investment that Intel announced a couple of months ago.  You know, these are investments that are happening in part because President Biden is creating an environment where companies feel like they will get the support and they will therefore bring their jobs here.

On the national security question, I would only say, of course, we would always review and undertake all of the necessary steps.  But I don’t have anything beyond that to say.

Q    Thanks, Kate. 

MS. BEDINGFIELD:  Oh, okay.  Thank you all.  Appreciate it.

3:26 P.M. EDT

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