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Washington
Friday, June 14, 2024

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

2:03 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey.  Good afternoon, everyone.

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, thank you — Thursday afternoon.  (Laughter.)

So, a couple of things, and then we’ll go into the Q&A.

I — do I — I sound like I — do I sound like I have an echo? 

Q    Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Can we — can we fix the sound?  Does that sound — does that sound better?

Q    Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  Great.

So, from Buffalo — from Buffalo and Kansas City to Uvalde and Monterey Park, we have seen the epidemic of gun violence tearing apart communities nationwide, leaving empty seats at dining room tables across the country. 

The President and the Vice President have spent countless hours with families who have lost loved ones to this senseless violence, and they all say the same thing: Do something. 

These same families and other survivors of gun violence turned their pain into purpose.  They organized, demanded action, and marched for their lives. 

And thanks to their collective efforts, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun safety law in nearly 30 years. 

Today, we are building on that progress and announcing a new rule that saves lives by requiring background checks for all gun dealers engaged in the business of firearm — firearms dealing, including for guns sold at gun shows and online. 

This new rule implements the only significant expansion of background check requirements since then-Senator Biden helped shepherd the Brady Bill over the finish line in 1993.  

Today’s new action furthers the Biden-Harris administration’s historic efforts to stop the illegal flow of guns and hold those who supply firearms used in crime accountable.  But there is still much work to be done.

President Biden and Vice President Harris continue to call on Congress to enact universal background checks and finish the job.

Now, as you all have reported, overnight Russia launched another lon- — loun- — large round of aerial assaults against Ukraine’s energy grid, as Vladimir Putin continue[s] to try to break the spirit — the spirit of the Ukrainian people and plunge them into darkness. 

Russia struck the largest power plant in Kyiv Oblast, as well as power facilities in five other regions across Ukraine. 

As President Zele- — Zelenskyy said in the recent days, Ukraine needs more air defenses and interceptors to protect its people and critical infrastructure against Russian missiles and Ir- — Iranian-supplied drones. 

We need the House of Republic- — House of Rep- — Representatives — Republicans specifically, obviously, but the House of Repre- — Representatives — to take urgent action to pass the bipartisan national security supplemental bill so we can send Ukraine more air defenses. 

And let me correct myself.  It’s actually the House of Representatives.  We need Speaker — the Speaker to put that bill on — on the floor because we know we would get overwhelming support on — from Republicans and Democrats, obviously.  So, we need to see that bill put on the floor that was passed overwhelmingly in the Senate. 

The strikes in Ukraine over the past 24 hours are another terrible reminder that Ukraine’s need is critical. 

And now, turning over to Gaza, I wanted to provide an update on our efforts to do all we can to increase the amount of humanitarian assistance reaching Gaza and ease the humanitarian suffering. 

As you know, when President Biden last spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu just last week, he was clear that Israel must announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, measurable steps to address humanitarian suffering.

The past few days have shown some pra- — some promise.  Israel made the commitment to open the Ashdod Port for the direct delivery of assistance into Gaza, to open a new crossing for a new route for assistance to reach North Gaza, and to significantly increase deliveries from Jordan directly into Gaza. 

And over the past few days, over 1,000 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid have gotten into Gaza and with over 300 trucks going into Gaza yesterday — just yesterday alone. 

That’s good progress, but it’s still not enough. And we hope to see the progress continue and accelerate. 

This afternoon, President Biden will welcome President Marcos of the Philippines to the White House for his second meeting at the White House in as many years.  I know the National Security Advisor — Nat- — Jake Sullivan spoke to this on Monday, but I will reiterate what he laid out as well, which is that the President later will host the first-ever trilateral leaders’ summit between the United States, Japan, and Philippines. 

During President Biden’s meeting with President Marcos, the two presidents will mark the unprecedented strength of the alliance between the United States and the Philippines.  The leaders will discuss initiatives to enhance economic and energy security, bolster maritime cooperation, invest in critical infrastructure, and deepen people-to-people ties.  And President Biden will reinforce the ironclad U.S. alliance commitments to the Philippines.   

Following the meeting, the President will host the historic trilateral leaders’ summit.  As — as leading maritime democracies, the United States, Japan, and the Philippines share a joint vision for the future of the Indo-Pacific.  And with this — with this leader-level trilateral, we are — we are taking our cooperation to new heights. 

Our national security advisors met in Tokyo last June to initiate our trilateral cooperation, and officials from across our three governments have met on topics as varied as economic security and maritime cooperation. 

Today, the leaders will announce new initiatives to accelerate and surge high-quality infrastructure investments in the Philippines, enhance energy — energy security, deepen maritime cooperation, and strengthen partnerships on technology and cybersecurity. 

Our three countries embark on this new era of trilateral cooperation as trusted equal partners, guided by shared values and an unwavering commitment to a free, open, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

With that, Darlene, it’s good to see you.

Q    Good to see you too.  Thank you.  To jump off of what you were saying in your topper about Gaza, the USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, has said that she accepts as credible reports that famine is already underway in Northern Gaza.  Does the President and the White House share that assessment?  And if so, you know, you were talking about the progress —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — is good, but more needs to be done.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Exactly.

Q    What more can be done?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Exactly.  The progress is good.  More needs to be done.  I talked about the commitment that Israel had — the Prime Minister gave to the — to the President just last week, and we talked ab- — I talked about the port, and I talked about the new border crossings in Northern Gaza.  We need to see that open up, that move forward. 

But we’ve seen some progress — right? — the opening of more routes and also more trucks.  As I just laid out, we’ve seen more than 1,000 trucks in the last three days. 

Look, specifically to Samantha Power and her comments, our an- — understanding is that the latest reporting from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification indicates that the famine is imminent in Gaza.  And that’s why we’re trying to do everything that we can to uptick, obviously, the humanitarian aid. 

We know how dire the situation is in Gaza.  So, we are certainly deeply concerned about these reports.  And so, we’ve been working around the clock — around the clock to get more of that aid into Gaza.  And so, we’re going to continue to do this.  We’re going to continue to push Israel to increase the flow that is getting into Gaza. 

And like I said, we — I’ve laid out their commitments.  There are two other ways that we want to see their commitment continue, which is that port that I just mentioned at the top and just moments ago, and — and so, also those — the routes — the routes in — in Northern Gaza.

So, there is more work to be done.  But, again, a thousand trucks over the last three days is an improvement.  It’s good promise.  We need to see more. 

Q    Second, was there any reaction from the President to O.J. Simpson’s death?  Do you know if they ever crossed paths? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    If so, how?  When?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this.  Our thoughts are with — with his families during this difficult time — obviously, with his family and loved ones.  And I’ll say this — I know that they have asked for some privacy, and so we’re going to respect that.  I’ll just leave it there. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks.  Iran is threatening a significant attack against Israel.  With all of the U.S. assets in the region, will the U.S. provide assistance in thwarting this attack?  How is the U.S. preparing to respond?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, you heard from the President directly yesterday.  He mentioned this at the top of his press conference and laid out our concerns, certainly, about these threats that are being made.  And he made very clear as well that America’s support for Israel’s security is ironclad, especially against these threats against — that’s coming from Iran and their proxies. 

And so, the President made that clear as well when he spoke to President [Prime Minister] Netanyahu just last week.  As I mentioned moments ago, I want to be really careful.  I’m not going to get into operational procedures from here. 

Beyond that, we’ve made ourselves very, very clear.  The President made himself very clear just yesterday.  And so, just don’t have anything else to add beyond that. 

Q    But we certainly have done joint strikes against Iranian proxies in the recent weeks and months.  Should we be braced for joint strikes against — in response to an Iranian strike against Israel?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I want to be super mindful.  I don’t want to get into hypotheticals here.  What we have made very clear — obviously, we’ve seen the threats coming from Iran.  And so, we have made ourselves very clear where we stand in supporting Israel’s security.  That is ironclad.  Does no- — that does not change.  I’m just not going to get into — into details about our operational procedures from here. 

Q    Just one more on this.  General Kurilla is in the Middle East.  He’s making a stop in Israel.  He’s reportedly there to help, you know, coordinate with Israel ahead of this expected attack.  What does that coordination look like?  What does — what does that mean exactly?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I will refer you to CENTCOM. 

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q    Karine, just to follow up on that topic.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Has Iran been in touch via intermediaries with Washington to indicate that when it responds to Israel’s attack on — on its embassy — on its Syrian Embassy that it will not escalate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, obviously, we don’t want this conflict to spread.  We’ve been very clear about that.  And we’ve been very clear that in — you know, to Iran that we’re not involved in the Damascus strike.  Right?  We’ve been also very clear.

I’m not going to get into public back-and-forth.  We communicated to Iran that the U.S. had no involvement in the strike, as I just mentioned, that happened in Damascus.  And we warned Iran not to use this attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region or attack U.S. facilities or person- — personnel. 

I’m going to be super mindful not to — to speak beyond that from here or elaborate further.  But we’ve been very clear.

Q    Can you say whether Iran has responded to your or the U.S.’s indications?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to get into public back-and-forth from here. 

Q    And following up on something that the President said yesterday with regard to Julian Assange.  He indicated that the U.S. is considering a deal.  To what extent does the White House and the President weigh in with DOJ on this, considering that it’s a DOJ-led run — or a DOJ-led issue? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, from here, from the podium, I’m not going to go beyond what the President said.  I’m going to refer you to the Department of Justice.  I’m just going to be super mindful from the podium from here. 

Q    But he weighed in.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know.  I’m — I’m going to be super mindful from the podium.  I’m just not going to go beyond what the President — the President sa- — shared yesterday.  I would refer you to the Department of Justice. 

Go ahead.

Q    I have questions on two topics, Karine.  First on abortion.  Vice President Harris is going to Arizona tomorrow to talk about the need for abortion access in the state.  I know the President’s own views on this topic have been evolving over the recent decades.  Should we expect him to be talking in public about this issue? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So — so, want to be super mindful.  Tomorrow’s event is a — is a campaign event.  So, going to let the campaign speak to the Vice President’s engagement. 

Q    Is tomorrow a campaign event?  I thought it became official.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  From what I understand, it’s a campaign event. 

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I would refer you to her team, at least — at the le- — at the least.  But from my understanding, it’s a campaign event.  So, I’ll leave that there. 

But, you know, the President spoke to this.  He was shouted a question about — about what occurred in Arizona, how devastating and how wrong the decision to go back to 1864 to make it more difficult for women — millions of women. 

And, you know, he — he talked about that.  So, I certainly will — will refer you to his comments. 

The President has consistently been very clear about where he stands.  He stands for women’s rights.  He stands for women to be able to make decisions about their bodies, right?  He — he stands for reproductive freedom.  He put a statement out right after Arizona made their decision.  

So, he’s been very — you know, very steadfast and out front on this.  You’re going to hear from the Vice President.  So, you’ll hear directly from her.  We’ve been really clear.  And all of this — what we’re seeing right now in states — we have 21 states that have some se- — that have extreme bans — 21 states across the country. 

And a lot of — and that has been caused by the chaos that we have seen from the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  And that’s because, obviously, of the Dobbs decision.  It was a — it was a constitutional right for almost 50 years, and that has been taken away from women. 

And so, it’s caused chaos.  And we’re going to continue to call that out.  We should be fighting for women’s rights, women’s freedom, Americans’ freedom.  And that’s not what — that’s not where Republicans are. 

Q    I know other colleagues have questions.  But I also just want to ask about the State Dinner, because regulators in the Biden administration have sued both Amazon and Apple alleging anticompetitive behavior that has caused public harm.  So, why were executives from those companies invited to the dinner last?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, when it comes to the State Dinner, we invite an array of folks to come in.  And — and obviously, you know, it’s — it’s an important night of — especially when another country comes, it shows bipartisanship.  It shows the strength of that alliance that the U.S. has with that particular country.  The — the list varies, you know, and it — we — it’s always — it’s always different types of people that come to — to the —

Q    But the Justice Department said, just —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — less than a month ago, that Apple uses its control —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — over the iPhone to engage in a broad, sustained, and illegal course of conduct —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — saying that that lawsuit should send a strong signal to other companies. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And —

Q    So, what signal is the White House sending?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I hear your question.  That’s the Department of Justice to decide.  I do not —

Q    But the White House choose —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, I — 

Q    — who to invite to the dinner.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I — no, I’m not saying that the DOJ invited — invited people to the White House state dinner.  That’s not what I’m saying.  I’m saying DOJ moved forward with that particular case — that particular lega- — legal action.  I can’t speak to that.

We always invite an array of — of people.  We bring people from all corners of different industries here to the White House.  That’s what we do.  And I just don’t have anything else further to share.  And we — you know, I think it’s important that — that we do that, but I can’t speak to a DOJ legal case.  They took —

Q    So, the President doesn’t think that those companies did —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I —

Q    — anything wrong?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is a legal action being taken by the Department of Justice.  I can’t speak to that.  They have their reasons of moving forward on that.  I — I can’t speak to that.

We invite a — a diverse group of people when it comes to events — not just state dinners — when it comes to events here — from even different sides of the — of the aisle.  That’s what — that’s what this President has done. 

I — I can’t speak to what DOJ — and their legal action.  I just can’t speak to that from here. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  Picking up on abortion.  When the President was asked yesterday what his message was to the people of Arizona in light of the ruling, he said, “Elect me.”  So, can you elaborate on what —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — he meant by that?  What can he do for those people?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things.  I — I’m going to be careful because obviously he was talking about 2024.  I mean, look —

Q    Actually, he was talking about the 20th century, as I recall.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Mm-hmm.  Yeah, okay.

So, this extreme abortion ban, as we know, that we see was made possible because of the Supreme Court.  And we know what the last previous President said.  He said that, you know, he would — he would make sure that Roe v. Wade was no longer constitutional law, and he made that happen and — which has led to — to chaos — to chaos across the board. 

And so, I want to be careful for — for, you know, talking about an upcoming election, so I’m not going to speak to that from here. 

But we have seen what’s happened in last almost two years since Roe v. Wade has been overturned.  We’ve seen women having to be turned away from emergency rooms, not being given lifesaving — lifesaving needs that they — they have to get in order to — for their lives to be protected.  That’s been turned away. 

And so, what this President has done is he’s taken executive actions — as I’ve talked about, we’ve talked about.  He’s created a task force.  He has done and taken action to do everything that he can from the executive branch to protect women, but we need more to be done.  We need more to be done. 

And so, you know, we have to get Congress to act to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land.  And so, that is where we are right now.  But this is — this is — chaos was started by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  And we’ve seen where extreme Republican elected officials have been on this issue.  We’ve seen that. 

And so, that is something that we’re going to continue to make very clear to Americans, but I’m not going to speak to the upcoming election from here. 

Q    Okay.  And also, on an interview that the President recently did, he said, “I think what he’s doing is a mistake.  I don’t agree with his approach,” talking about Netanyahu.  Can you clarify: What is the mistake?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we’ve talked about how the President spoke to President — Prime Minister Netanyahu just last week; they had a 30-minute conversation.  It was direct.  They have known each other for some time.  They have spoken over more than a dozen times since October 7th — the tragic, tragic attack that we’ve seen from Hamas, a terrorist organization.  And they said October 7th — they said October 7th would be something that they want to see over and over again.  So, they’ve had those conversations. 

Look, the President has been very clear.  I started out this briefing talking about how humanitarian aid has increased, and that’s because of conversation — the conversation that the President had with the Prime Minister.  That’s important. 

We need to make sure that civilians are protected.  We need to make sure that humanitarian aid workers are protected.  The President has said that.  That is what our focus is going to continue to be, as well as making sure that this hostage deal gets done — working around the clock to get that completed so we can get hostages home to their loved ones. 

The President has always been very honest and direct with — with leaders, including the Prime Minister. 

Q    So, does — just one more quick one.  Does the President believe Netanyahu’s approach, as you sort of just laid out there, is to blame for the famine that we are now seeing in Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I will say is I — that is not what the President is saying.  The President has been very clear that more needs to be done to pro- — to protect innocent civilians.  More work needs to be done to make sure that humanitarian aid workers — who are doing incredible work, who are being incredibly brave — are protected.  And so, that is what we’re speaking to. 

And, unfortunately, we’ve seen more than 200 of humanitarian aid workers die, and that is something we do not want to continue to see.  That’s why the President had this conversation with the Prime Minister last week — a 30-minute direct conversation with the Prime Minister on what needs to be done to continue to protect innocent — innocent civilians.  That’s why we’re having conversation about that Rafah operations.  Right? 

And our two sides are committed to — con- — moving forward with those conversations.  They’ve been pr- — they — we’ve seen some progress.  We’re going to continue to have those conversations. 

And Israel has made commitments.  The Prime Minister kept — is — has made a commitment to the President.  We’ve seen an uptick of trucks — more than a thousand over the last three days.  That commitment is continuing.  We want to see more.  That’s good progress.

Go ahead, Justin.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I also wanted to ask about the Univision interview.  The President said that he was “examining” ways to potentially shut down the border.  It’s a phrase that can mean lots of different things to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — lots of different people, so I’m wondering if you could maybe explain what the President means when he talks about shutting —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I think the bottom line with all of this, and I’ve said this many times: The — the number-one way to really deal with what’s happening at the border is — is to move forward with the bipartisan agreement proposal that came forward out of the Senate and that obviously was rejected by Republicans because of what the former President told Republicans. 

That’s what we want to see.  That’s how we deal with the broken system — the immigration system obviously being broken for decades now — and dealing with the challenges at the border. 

We’re always going to look at executive actions.  We are, and we have been.  But really — really, truly to move forward, we have to make sure that we get this proposal done.

Q    I — I understand that your preference is obviously for that legislation to —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — Frankenstein back to life — (laughter) — but since the President himself said that you guys are looking at those executive actions, can you talk —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    Is it — is the, sort of, universe here just trying to restrict asylum claims?  Is it changing processing times?  Or is it as extr- — you know —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So —

Q    — President Trump, when he talked about it, talked about le- — ending legal travel or legal trade across the border.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think what — here’s what I can say.  We evaluate all options.  Right?  We do.  We evaluate all options as it — as it regar- — as it relates to executive actions.  We just have not made a decision on this yet.

But we believe, the President believes it’s important to evaluate those options to see what’s at our disposable — our disposal to move forward. 

And we haven’t made a decision.  But what we will continue to do is — because there is a proposal out there that is bipartisan, that is — would deal with what — the challenges that we’re seeing at the border, we think it’s important.  It was supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the — the Border Patrol unions.  It is a bipartisan, again, proposal that we think would be tough and fair.  We want to see Congress move forward with it.  And — and so, we’re going to continue to call for that. 

But as — as it relates to what we’re looking at, we’re always looking at options.  I just don’t have anything.  We’re always going to evaluate our options.  I just don’t have anything to share.  We d- — haven’t made a decision.

Q    And really quickly.  The trilateral today is open to the press, but the —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — bilateral beforehand is not.  I was wondering, first, of course, to request that it be possible that we get in there.  But if not, if you could walk through why the White House decided — because normally those meetings are —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, no —

Q    — open.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — it’s a meeting between — obviously, between the two countries.  I think it’s important to note it shows the strength of the U.S. alliance and how important it is for these two countries to — to speak with one another and have this meeting.

Look, I will say this.  Their schedules, the — both schedules were — were, you know, the President and the Philippines leader have a very packed schedule.  And so, we weren’t able to make it into — open that to the press. 

But what is important is there is going to be a trilat, which is a historic meeting that’s happening later today.  And you’ll have an opportunity — obviously, that is open to the press.  And you’ll have an opportunity there to see the three leaders together.

Go ahead.

Q    Two quick ones.  First, following up on Weijia.  In the White House’s view, who is to blame for the famine or imminent famine that we’re witnessing right now in Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Here’s our focus.  And — and I — I get the — the question.  And — and, you know — and the humanitarian situation in Gaza, obviously, is dire.  And that is why the President is doing everything that he can to get more humanitarian aid in.  And that’s what our focus is going to be.

Q    Was it a mistake —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Our focus —

Q    Was it a mistake not to push Benjamin Naten- — Netanyahu sooner to open Ashdod and Erez crossing, which would have allowed the prevention of what Samantha Power agrees is famine in Northern Gaza right now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But here’s the thing.  For — every time the President has spoken to the Prime Minister, there’s — part of that conversation has been to do more on humanitarian aid.

Q    So, why did it change now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It didn’t change.  It is a — it was a continued — it was the conversation that — that —

Q    Why did Netanyahu respond differently now?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s a c- — that’s a conversation with — for the Prime Minister.

Q    It wasn’t the potential that the U.S. would change policy —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It —

Q    — as the President said?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That is — that is a c- — that is a question for the Prime Minister.  But what I want to make sure that is very clear here is that we have seen a thousand trucks go — go into Gaza over the last three days.  That is important.

They have — the Prime Minister made commitments.  They are upholding their commitments.  We want to see more.  We’ve seen good progress.  And what we’re seeing in Gaza — obviously, we have said over, over again that the situation — the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire.

Q    Can you help me — last question.  Can you help me understand one thing?  Yesterday, the President made very clear that the U.S.’s commitment to Israel is, in his words — he said it twice —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — “ironclad.”

How can the U.S.’s commitment to Israel be, quote, “ironclad” when, in the statement released on behalf of the White House last week after his conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu, he said that the U.S. would reassess its policy as it relates to Israel given the way it prosecutes the war in Gaza?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the Pre- —

Q    How can it be ironclad and be reassessed?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, this is an important relationship that we have with Israel.  It is a — they are our friends.  And we have always said that we are committed to make sure that Israel’s security, especially against these threats that we’re hearing from Iran, that they are protected. 

And we — and that is ironclad.  We’ve always been consistent there.  And we’re going to continue to be very clear about that.

The President made sure to put that at the top of his press conference because he wanted to continue that message, continue the message of making sure that America — we support Israel’s security, especially against these threats that we’re hearing from Iran and, also, their — their proxies.  And so, that hasn’t changed.  That hasn’t changed.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.

Q    Just another on Israel.  House Republicans are expected to bring up this resolution that’s critical of the President’s work with Netanyahu.  They say in the resolution they oppose efforts to place one-sided pressure on Israel with respect to Gaza, including calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Does the White House have any view on the resolution?  Is this constructive?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we believe the entire premise of — of the resolution is — is certainly flawed — is flawed, as — as it — as it claim of one-sided pressure against Israel, which this administration has supported militarily, diplomatically, and in — in myriad of other ways, both since October 7th and from our first day in office. 

So, we oppose it.  And we call on members to vote against it.

Q    And just one more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    The steelworkers union David McCall — leader — David McCall, was at the dinner last night.  You know, he obviously opposes this — this deal with Nippon Steel.  Was — was he invited because of this pending deal?  Was it —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No.

Q    — an opportunity to allow him to speak to Japanese leadership?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I wouldn’t make that connection.  I wouldn’t make that connection.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Karine.  I just want to clarify one of your earlier answers.  Did the administration send a direct warning to Iran not to attack Israel?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’ve been very clear.  I’ve — I’ve — we’ve been — I mean, you heard from the President — right? — and laid out our commitment to Israel and make sure Israel’s security — that continues.

And so, we’ve had those conversations.  I’m just not going to go into back-and-forth publicly.

Q    Well, the reason that I think it’s important to know is because you — you just shared earlier that, you know, the U.S. was quick to tell Iran directly that we had nothing to do with the strike in Damascus.  The President hasn’t minced words on his feelings about Netanyahu.  But we haven’t gotten a very clear answer on whether it was communicated directly to Iran, “Don’t attack our ally.”

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I just said we communicated to Iran.  I just said that.  I said we’re not going to go into b- — public back-and-forth on this.  But I said we communicated to Iran and we said had no involvement.  That’s what I said — right? — on the strike in Damascus and warned Iran.  We warned Iran.

So, I said that at the top and I’ll say —

Q    That was my only question.  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.

Q    On the issue of inflation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    There was a report in Politico on Tuesday that the former Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, was teeing off on the President’s, you know, talking about bridges all the time when he’s out on the campaign trail and not talking enough about the prices that people are paying.  We didn’t get any statement today on the PPI index.  You know, why — why aren’t we hearing more from the White House about the issues that people are facing at grocery stores and paying rent?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, the State of the Union, the President made very clear about what — he understands what the Americans are facing.  And he’s talked at almost every — every event that he’s had — crisscrossing the country after the State of the Union — about lowering costs, how important it is, and how there’s more work to do.  You hear that.

In New Hampshire and North Carolina, he spoke about his work to lower healthcare costs.  In La- — Las Vegas, he discussed his plan to build and renovate — renovate 2 million homes to lower housing costs.  In Madison, he announced his student debt re- — relief plan. 

He also spoke with Senator Sanders just last week about his progress lowering costs for prescription drugs and inhalers. 

This week, he spoke about plans to lower costs for childcare, home healthcare, eldercare.  He talks about lowering costs almost every event.  I just laid out the events that he did in March and in early April about how he’s making sure that — the number-one economic concerns that American have are lowering costs. 

And just like Ron — Ron said this.  He said that the President has been — he believes — he believes in what the President has been doing in crisscrossing the country and talking about the state of the Union and talking about how we’re going to continue to cut costs for Americans and making sure that we do not give big tax giveaways to corporations. 

That’s what Republicans are talking about.  They put out their — their budget, and their budget is to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.  That’s what they want to do.  And we’re doing the opposite.  We’re trying to protect that and lower costs for Americans.

Q    Is it at all inappropriate for the President to be commenting on what the Fed might or might not do with interest rate cuts?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, the President, unlast — unlike the last one, has been very clear about giving the Fed the space to make independent decisions about how they’re going to move forward on their monetary decisions.  The President has always been very clear about that, and he’ll continue to do so. 

And in his comment yesterday, he was also clear.  He said, “We don’t know what the Fed is going to do.”  And he was simply reflecting on public interpretation of recent datas, but he also said, “We do not know what the Fed is going to do.” 

And we’ve always given them the space to make those decisions — those monetary decision independently and make sure that, again, they have the space to do that. 

Go ahead.

Q    There’s been some discrepancies between what Israel is saying in terms of the number of trucks getting into Gaza that are full of aid versus some other aid groups, including the United Nations.  So, how is the White House exactly measuring what “good progress” is? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I — I’m not going to get into the nitty-gitty — -gritty here.  I will leave it up to — up to — up to — up to them to speak to what they’re seeing.  But we believe — I mean, we’re talking about a thousand trucks in over three days.  That matters — a thousand trucks.

Q    But a lot of the U.N. folks are saying that some of those trucks are not completely full.  There are trucks that are half full that are being counted.  So, what are the measurements here in terms of what is effective aid delivery? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think when we are hearing more than a thousand trucks and we’re seeing that — we’re — I just said 300 trucks just yesterday — that matters.  There’s more — there’s more access being allowed.  The trucks are being allowed to come in.  That matters. 

And so, look, that’s what — that’s what we are — we’re continuing to see.  We believe that Israel is keeping their promise. 

There’s more work to be done.  Right?  We need to see the ports open.  We need to — we need to see that as well. 

But we’re seeing progress here. 

Q    And in —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re seeing progress.

Q    And in terms of the distribution once the trucks are in — I mean, northern Gaza, obviously, experiencing a lot more famine that’s setting in, as was talked about earlier.  What is the White House tracking?  Or how is the White House, if at all, trying to facilitate some of the distribution?  And are — are there concerns about how it’s getting to the regions where it most needs to be?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re going to continue to have conversations with the Israeli government on how they’re — how these — how this aid is being distributed.  We want to make sure — it is important.  Here’s what is important: It is important that the innocent people in — in Gaza, the Palestinians, get that im- — all-important aid.  We know what’s going on there.  Obviously, it’s dire. 

And so, we’re going to continue to have those diplomatic conversations, be very straightforward with our — with our Israel counterparts here. 

But they made a promise.  We’re seeing a difference here.  We’re seeing aid getting in.  Of course, it’s not going to be enough.  Right?  Of course, we need to see more progress.  Of course, we know what the — how dire the situation is in Israel — and I’m sorry, in — in Gaza. 

And so, we’re going to continue to have those conversation with Israel government. 

Yeah.

Q    Yeah, thanks, Karine.  You said President Biden still hasn’t made a decision on taking executive action on the border.  Why is there a holdup on making a final decision on this?  What factors are being considered before the White House makes a call on this matter?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I mean, look, Joe, we — we spent a couple of months working with the Senate Republicans and Democrats to make sure that we came up with a bipartisan solution to deal with the border — right? — to deal with the challenges at the border.  We believe that that was the best way — we still believe that’s the best way to move forward because it would be tough, it would be fair, and — and it’s gotten support from places that you would never think — right? — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Border Patrol union.  That’s important. 

And so, we believe that is the best way to move forward here.  We’re always going to evaluate other options as it relates to executive action.  But we are continuing to be clear here: The best way to move forward is to get that bipartisan proposal forward and for, you know, Republicans to not pick politics here, to pick a majority of the American people.

Q    I mean, is a matter of there being concerns about opening the administration up to litigation on this with executive a- — action, or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, that’s why we came up with the bipartisan proposal — right? — because we believe that the way to actually deal with this is legislation.  The — the way to actually deal with this is to turn legislation into law, obviously. 

And so, that is the best way to move forward.  And no executive action is going to have the full — the full resources that we need to — to get this done — to get this done. 

We’re going to evaluate all of our options, as we’ve been saying, but we have to continue to be really clear here.  Republicans need to act.  They need to move forward. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  Following up on my colleagues Weijia and Peter.  You said earlier that the President is doing everything he can on getting humanitarian aid into Gaza.  I have to respectfully suggest that that’s not true, because it took until seven aid workers were killed last week for the President to even suggest that he would change U.S. policy and possibly condition humanitarian — condition defense aid on the humanitarian situation in Israel. 

So, how can you stand there —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — and say the President is doing everything he can when, for weeks and weeks and weeks now, even as NGOs and aid groups warned that famine was imminent, he continued to refuse to pull on that lever and link defense aid to humanitarian aid. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, first of all, the President has done airdr- — we’ve done airdrops.  We’re going to do this pier.  We’ve talked about, for the past several months, how we need to do more and how we’re going to uptick our efforts to get that humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

We understand what’s going on.  We understand that the dire — it — what it — the dire needs there are.  And so, the President has — we’ve announced we’re going to do this pier.  Right?  We’ve done — done this airdrops. 

And so, we have had the conversation with the Prime Minister multiple times, with the Israeli government almost every day on what needs to be done.  And we’ve had those conversations with them. 

And so, now we are seeing an uptick.  That is important.  That is indeed what we want to see.  We’ve also been working on doing this hostage deal.  The President has been working around the clock. 

So, I take — I take offense to what you’re saying because it isn’t true.  The President has been working on this hostage deal for months now — for months now. 

Q    Respectfully, the hostage deal that —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, wait — for months now.  And that is a way to make sure that there is a temporary ceasefire that could pr- — hopefully lead to something longer, get those hostages home, and get humanitarian aid. 

And so, that is what we have been also focusing on really diligently —

Q    But — but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — for the last t- —

Q    But with all due respect, Karine —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    With all due respect —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah. 

Q    — my question was on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the famine, which has been something that aid groups —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But that’s the same —

Q    — have warned about for weeks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The hostage deal includes humanitarian aid getting into Gaza. 

Q    But —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s what he’s been working on — this humanitarian aid to get into Gaza — and, also, get those hostages home. 

Q    But why — why is it — because it sounds like —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But you’re saying that we haven’t done anything.

Q    No.  No.  I —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, but — no, but it’s what you’re saying.

Q    You said the President has done — has been doing all he can. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  He’s been working 24/7, around the clock — 

Q    I have — I have —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — to do what he can —

Q    — no doubt. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But —

Q    But he has not — he has not until recently even suggested that he would condition military aid, which Israel needs, on them allowing food and humanitarian aid into Gaza, which the people of Gaza need.  That has been — I hate to use the term —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — a red line every time I or any of my colleagues have asked —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m — I’m not —

Q    — in this briefing room about this.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And you’ve heard from the National Security Advisor.  I’m not going to get into red lines from here. 

Here’s what I can say: The hostage deal includes getting the humanitarian aid in.  We’ve been working on that.  We’ve been working on getting that hostage deal done.  We’re going to continue to do that. 

You’ve heard us say that we’ve worked around the clock to get those hostages home — which, by the way, includes American hostages as well — and getting that aid in.  We know how dire the situation is — is in Gaza.  We are very aware of that. 

And we’ve had conversations almost every day with our counterparts in the Israeli government.  We’ve had conversations, more than a dozen, with the Prime Minister. 

And so, it is important — it is important to get that aid in.  We understand that.  We understand that, and we’re going to have those conversations every day to make sure that it continues.

Q    Thank you.  And one un- — one more, unrelated. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Earlier this week, the former President met with Lord Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary.  He has, in recent weeks, met with Viktor Orbán, the leader of Hungary.  He has said he’s spoken to Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia.  There is a long history of Republican presidential candidates meddling in foreign policy to undermine their Democratic opponents.

Without getting into Hatch Act territory — you know, telling people to vote for or against someone — is the administration concerned that this private citizen could be working against U.S. interests in the interests of his own political ones?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And you’re talking about his meeting specifically with —

Q    With — with foreign leaders: Lord Cameron, his talking with MBS, Viktor Orbán, and others possibly.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, a- — look, as it relates to other — other leaders and those types of meetings — specifically, let’s — let’s talk about David Cameron.  The UK noted earlier this week it is common for officials from other countries to meet with representatives of different parties.  That includes the United States, as we routinely meet with political leaders of different parties as well. 

For instance, we hosted Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid yesterday — at the beginning of the week — at the beginning of the week.  And so, it’s not uncommon. 

I am going to be really careful here, because you’re talking about a presidential candidate.  I’m going to be really mindful.  I used David Cameron as an example.  But I’m going to be really mindful.  I’m not speaking beyond that. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Governor Moore is apparently on the Hill today.  He was there earlier this week meeting with lawmakers.  Is — has he been down to the White House to meet with officials to talk about funding for the bridge?  And can you give us an update on the President’s conversations with lawmakers to get that funding moving forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, we — yeah, look, we have said to Congress that we want to continue to work with them to make sure that the Key Bridge is back up and that the — Baltimore gets what it needs, certainly, to — to be whole again.  And obviously, we’re getting that port open. 

We’ve been in regular touch with Governor Moore.  You know the President was with him very recently.  And they have had continuous conversations about what Baltimore needs. 

The President said, when he was in Baltimore: We will be with Baltimore and the — and the state of Maryland for as long as they need to get this done. 

I don’t have a specific readout to share with you.  But we’ve been in regular communication.  Our Office of Leg Affairs has been in regular communication with members of Congress.  Our — our Intergovernmental Affairs folks, Tom Perez, has been leading on this issue as it relates to Baltimore and the needs there. 

And also, let’s not forget our — our Department of Labor has been very involved, as well, in making sure — you know, dealing with the economic situation and how we can help on that front as well. 

So, don’t have anything to read out as far as the conversations, but —

Q    And —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — we’ve been there for them. 

Q    And is there any better sense now that we’re, you know, a coup- — another week passed this — and the President’s conversation last week and the briefing he got there — on an estimate of how much this is going to cost?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have an estimate for you.  We’re going to talk to our — our — the Maryland delegation, have those conversation.  Don’t have an estimate for you to share — to share. 

DO- — Department of Transportation announced $60 million really right — right aft- — the week after the — the bridge collapsed.  And so, we know that’s — that’s there to help.

Don’t have a — a final estimation.  Obviously, we’re going to continue to talk to the delegation.

Go ahead, Jon. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Back in late December, President Biden, in response to a question that I asked him, said that he could not think of one reason for presidents to receive total immunity from prosecution.  Four months later, does the President continue to have that same belief?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Don’t have anything beyond what the President shared with you. 

Q    And in two weeks’ time, a Supreme Court case will happen.  It’s Donald J. Trump vs. the United States. 

Earlier this week, there was an amicus brief that was filed by more than a dozen retired generals and admirals opposing this legal theory that Donald Trump and his lawyers have that he does have total immunity from criminal prosecution.  Does the White House, the administration plan to file an amicus brief of their own on this particular issue? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the Department of Justice.

Q    Is there any effort to have the former presidents — that you know of — to file an amicus brief taking one side or another on this particular issue?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say that one more time.

Q    Is there any effort that you are aware of of the former presidents, the predecessors of President Biden — President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter — to file a joint amicus brief, either taking a position one way or another on this particular matter?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I’m going to ask you about inflation.  So, yesterday in the Rose Garden, the President said that when — when he came into office, inflation was skyrocketing.  But it was 1.4 percent in January of 2021, and that was the 11th consecutive month, at that time, under 2 percent.  So, was the President misleading Americans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, when — when the President took office — and you know this — there was a pandemic.  It was closing down businesses, closing down schools.  And so, it was drastically disrupting the supply chain.  Let’s not forget about that.  And — and so, that’s what was going on.  And that caused inflation around the world to increase.  We know that. 

And — and then further increasing inflation was the — the Russia’s war — Russia’s war in Ukraine.  And in fact, many other countries are even worse off because of — of that — of — because of what we seen with Russia’s war. 

So, the President took historic action to deal with the disruption of the supply chain.  Let’s not forget what he did with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

And so, we have made progress in lowering costs.  We’ve made progress in dealing with inflation. 

But that’s what was happening when we walked in: the pandemic, the disruption of the supply chain.  All of these things were happening when the President walk — took office.

Q    But the President didn’t say “the supply chain was being disrupted.”  He said “inflation was skyrocketing.” 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  But that’s what he was referring to.  Right?  That’s what was going on.  Those were the things that were happening right before us.  The pandemic — it was taking thousands of lives a day when he — when he took office; schools were closed — were — a majority of schools were closed; businesses were closing; and we had a supply chain that was disrupted.  And so, that’s what the President was speaking to and laying out. 

And then inflation — down the road — became even more — increased even more because of the war that Russia had t- — had — had taken on into Ukraine. 

Q    But the Fed’s — the Fed’s supply chain measure actually went down in November at that time.  So — so, is the President being honest about inflation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  The President has said what — he — he said what he saw when he was — when he took — when he took office.  The pandemic was happening, right?  It disrupted the supply chain.  We know — you know what happens when the supply chain is disrupted.  You know what that leads to.  And so, that’s what he was speaking to. 

And not only that, we — he had to — we also saw a war in Ukraine that — that Mr. Putin, an aggressive — aggression that Mr. Putin was — was putting into Ukraine — set forth.  And so, the President had to take historic action, take aggressive action in dealing with the disruption in the supply chain.  He had to — he released the Strategic Petroleum Reserve so that we can deal with the supply chain. 

And he continued to take action to lower costs.  And that’s what we’ve seen — whether it’s healthcare costs, whether it’s dealing with junk fees, whether it’s prescription drugs — lowering those costs.  That’s what the President took action in.

But we saw what was happening when the President took office.  We did. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Okay. 

Q    Thanks, Karine.  As you know, there — there’s a tradition, dating back to the Truman administration, of offering intelligence briefings to major party presidential nominees.  President Trump was declared the presumptive nominee on March 6th.  Has the White House offered intel briefings to former President Trump?  And if so, how — have they begun?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I would refer you to the ODNI.  That’s for them to speak to.

Thanks, everybody.

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  See you tomorrow. 

2:51 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/04/11/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-56/

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